Sometimes you just need a little bit of divine inspiration…

I was racking my brain all week, wondering what am I going to write about this Thursday, which is my official blogging day. Luckily, I stumbled across a title from a blog called “Running: An aid to the creative process?” by Running blogger David Hindley. So, after reading his interesting post I put my runners on and set off this morning in the drizzling rain for a long, slow run. Snail city eat your heart out. While I plodded along for 12k, the right hemisphere of my brain fought with the left. The latter winning as my mind conducted an arithmetic class. To start I wondered how many strides was I was turning over? 180 per minute being the ideal number apparently. I’ve come the conclusion that when I count, I tend to do it in an infantile fashion. As when I reach the next set of tens just like this sixty-six, sixty-seven, sixty-eight, sixty-ninnnnnne..pregnant pause….seventy! in the meantime I’ve missed the last 2 or 3 strides! Then I have to start all over again! While glancing down at my Garmin, checking my pace, pulse and working out how fast I hope to run my first marathon (Dublin 2015, there I’ve said it) The grey matter becomes a bargaining space, by the end of my run, my imaginary marathon finish time is half an hour slower than I was predicting at the start of my run!

So, this evening as I finished off a landscape painting in my studio of the beautiful town of Graiguenamanagh, Kilkenny, I still hadn’t decided what to write. I glanced over at a shelf and noticed a copy of a pen and ink drawing I had done many years ago. 20 to be exact. The picture was done from a photo of my late buddy Dave Garland who passed away nearly a year and a half ago. Anyone involved with Irish cycling in the 80s and 90s and later again would have heard of Dave. Another Northside Dubliner who resettled in rural Ireland. He was one of the stalwarts of Dublin Wheelers Cycling Club. Not only was Dave a talented rider, he was also a brilliant masseur who support many Irish International cycling teams on races abroad. When it came to work he was a gifted stone mason and gardener. But,  most importantly at home he was a loving husband to Louise and fun-loving, caring Daddy to Maud and Ella. He was taken from us way too soon and will remain in all our hearts forever.

Dave Garland
Dave Garland racing in the 80s for the Dublin Wheelers CC

So, I do feel I got a bit of divine inspiration this evening from Dave. This drawing was done in graphic pen and ink. Using fine lines, cross hatching and other methods to build up the picture. Black and white can be very effective in conveying an atmosphere and perhaps it adds a vintage feeling to the image. It is one way of drawing that I really love. It can be a rather slow process but there is often a very rewarding result at the end. Dave is wearing a “hairnet” which was the old name for the helmets of the time, made from strips of leather.

1960s racing helmet

Underneath the hairnet he wears in a backwards fashion a cotton cycling cap or casquette as the French call it. The gear shifting levers which are visible on the downtube of the frame where to be later replaced by the more anatomically efficient STI (Shimano Total Integration) levers which would be combined with the braking system.

sti levers
STI Levers

Woolly jerseys, shorts and gloves that he wears have been replaced by lightweight fabrics that are now made with modern technologies that are more efficient and comfortable. Toe straps were replaced with clipless pedals and steel frames with alloys, titanium and carbon. It is incredible to look back and see that despite how dated the gear and bikes are, in current times the look is classy and would be considered trendy and “retro” now.

So thanks Dave, I dedicate this short blog post to you, also my late Fiancee John Sweeney and good friend Stephen Byrne. Three late great Dublin Wheelers. Gone but always loved and never forgotten. Rachel


Making a mole hill out of a mountain on The Blackstairs…

I remember many moons ago coming down to Carlow to do a women’s cycling training camp with the dedicated and hilarious to boot manager Mick Lawless.  We had great craic and we learned an awful lot on those weekends. We stayed outside Carlow town in a fabulous guesthouse where we ate like royalty. We were then set off on training spins that covered 4 counties Carlow, Wicklow, Wexford and Kildare on each outing. So, which place sticks out in my mind the most?   Borris, of course, where I now live.  Why? Because Borris lies in the foothills of the very beautiful Blackstairs mountains and also being a rookie/fred (see for reference!) at that time, I was unprepared for the first major climb of the day and keeled over forgetting to change down gears in time as that first section of the road was so damn steep. Those roads are now my nemesis, its a love/hate relationship without a Nidge in sight….

Anyway the An Post Rás (Ireland’s premier cycling stage race) has graced these roads many times and this year the infamous Corrabutt Gap featured in one of the hardest stages towards the end of a week of tough racing. I ventured up to catch the action and was hopeful of getting a few shots of those guys suffering on my now local climbs.  I encountered two of my buddies Pat and Therese who work as the ‘Blackboard’ on the race. Not only are they very experienced cyclists they are  part of the motorbike crew who work on the Rás and many other races. Their main purpose is to give time gaps to different groups of riders. This is chalked onto the blackboard and held by the pillion passenger so riders can see where they are in the race. They have to constantly whiz up and down the bunch, passing big groups of riders, a perilous job that is not for the faint hearted.

And here they are below in action…Ehhh not really…No my son Evan created their Lego alter egos after our trip to the Corrabutt Gap.

Therese & Pat immortalised in Lego
Therese & Pat immortalised in Lego

And here they really are looking very happy with themselves having climbed the almost 11% gradient Corrabutt Gap…Oh wait they have an engine…..

Pat and Therese the Blackboard King and Queen of the Rás
Pat and Therese the Blackboard King and Queen of the Rás

Anyway artistic inspiration always flows for me at cycling races, I use my camera as a tool for the first step in creating a new painting or drawing…I picked one of my images from that epic day which shows a loan rider edging forward while leading the race on the road. His legs and lungs are probably screaming out in pain, with lactic acid flooding his muscles. But he doesn’t show it….I’m not sure if I can convey how severe that climb is, this old cycling adage might explain it…”Jaysus, You could hang wallpaper off that one!”, (The climb to the  mast on top of Mt. Leinster is 796m above sea level and is an even harder climb, Ill talk about that one again!) A lot of these guys are amateurs and some are pros, they make the climb look easy,  they turn the mountain into a mole hill….What you don’t see is the 1000s of training kilometers they have to endure on lonely cold and wet Winter roads, these being the rehearsal for the big production. I hope you enjoy this drawing and enjoy the climb without the pain…just like Pat and Therese;)Rás ascent up Corrabutt Gap

My work can be viewed in my newly opened Etsy shop called Drawn to Sport and my facebook page of the same name. If you are interested in getting a unique painting or drawing done of yourself or that special person, please feel free to contact me at phone number +353 (0) 87 6397210 or click here for  my email address…Thanks for reading my blog, Rachel