Monday 28 May 2018

Cyclist Jim Cuttriss: 'When we're in bed my wife wants to kill me'

Jim Cuttriss (47) is a businessman and a former rugby player. On August 28, he will do the Race Around Ireland. From Mayfield, he lives in Waterloo, Co Cork, with his wife, Fiona, and their children - Megan (16), Abbie (12) and James (10)

Former rugby player Jim Cuttriss is all set for the Race Around Ireland. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney
Former rugby player Jim Cuttriss is all set for the Race Around Ireland. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney

Ciara Dwyer

In the mornings, I'm always up before the rest of my family. I'm married to Fiona, and we have three kids - Megan, Abbie and James. The time I get up depends on my training. Some mornings, I'm out of the bed by 4.30am, so that I can go for a cycle at 5am. I'm out for two hours, then I go home and have a shower. Other times, I cycle through the city to the depot where I work. There's a shower facility there. I've got my own company - JC Products, which supplies glass and cutlery and crockery to pubs and restaurants.

The concept of getting up early to do these cycles is easy for me, because I'm used to doing it for work. I like being at my desk at 5am, clearing emails, so I can start the day fresh. The main thing about the training is that it's all about planning. If I'm in bed by 9.30pm, then I can get up at 4am, not a bother. I usually have breakfast before I get on the bike - porridge made with water - and after the cycle, I go into The Coffee Pot in Blackpool, which is local to me. I'll have more porridge, egg whites, and one of the two cups of coffee that I'm allowed during the day. Diet is so important.

On August 28, I will be doing the Race Around Ireland (RAI) in aid of Down Syndrome Cork. The distance is 2,150km and it's a five-day cycle. The crucial thing is that you have to finish it in 132 hours. After that, the finishing line disappears. I'll be cycling for 22 hours a day. In the beginning, I was doing it purely for myself, and I wanted my family to see me finish it. That was my motivation. Then I saw that all the racers were doing it for charities. I decided to do it for Down Syndrome Cork, because I'd been to a fundraiser, and they do great work.

All this training started two years ago. Up until then, I didn't know much about cycling, because rugby had always been my sport. I played from an early age up until I was 36. I was a flanker with Sundays Well Rugby Club in Cork, and in 1995, I was about to get my first cap for Munster. The day before the game, I was playing poker upstairs in the Silver Springs Hotel with some of my team mates, including Mick Galwey and Peter Clohessy. I won, and when I put all the money in my pocket, the lads jumped on me. It was all great fun. They were going downstairs in the lift, but being quite excitable, I decided to race them, going by the stairs. I tripped, twisted my ankle, and my leg went up like a balloon. So, I never got my Munster cap, even though I had the jersey on. I carried on playing with Sunday's Well.

When I finished playing rugby, I trained once a week. I thought I was fit until I went out cycling with my brother. He was at the top of a hill and I couldn't even hear him breathing, whereas I was panting; my heart-rate was up around 160, and I couldn't get it down. From then on, I went out cycling, and finally I bought a racer. My fitness levels became fantastic. The only problem was that I was cycling, but I had no goal. My brother did all these endurance cycles, and I decided to do the RAI in 2014.

This event gives amateur riders the opportunity to compete with elite riders. In 2014, I didn't prepare for it properly, and the night before, I had been working up until midnight. That's no way to begin a race - and it got worse, as I got food poisoning along the way. I ended up getting DNF - did not finish - and I did not like that at all. So, this year I am doing it again, and I'm fully committed. I have a team to support me. They'll be in a van behind me and they will pass me food, cheer me on and let me talk to my family on a mobile.

I try to incorporate my training around my work and my family. In the evenings, after my working day, I drive my daughters to their rowing club, and then I take my bike out of the van. For the two hours that they are on the water, I do speed sessions. Recently, my wife suggested that I take Mondays off to train. That's when I try to replicate the race. The other day, I left the house at 11am, and didn't arrive home until 5am the following morning. I'd been cycling all that time. I had three hours sleep and then I headed into work. I was a little tired, but I felt good.

During these long training sessions, when I'm cycling into a headwind, really feeling the pain and my legs are aching, I think of my brother's advice - it will always get better. Then, all of a sudden, the wind is behind you and the sun comes out and you're fine. There are moments where you are so low, that you have to dig deep and then three hours later, you're flying.

I won't be listening to music during the race, but I'll have podcasts. I love Bobby Kerr's Down to Business. I'm so fit that I'm at my natural weight. It really shows in my face, but people look at me, and ask me if I'm OK. They think I'm sick. We've become so accustomed to people looking overweight, that when you're fat, everyone thinks you're looking healthy. I'm always going to keep up the cycling because I love it.

When I go to bed at night, my wife Fiona does a bit of reading on her Kindle. At this stage, she's probably reading loads of Mills and Boon because she's getting very little affection from me. As I go to sleep, I'm visualising finishing the race and also, cycling up Patrick's Hill, with my family and Down Syndrome Cork there to cheer me on.

When we're in bed, my wife wants to kill me. She tell me that while I'm asleep my legs are up in the air, stretching my hamstrings and it's as if my feet are turning the pedals. She says that she can't wait for this race to be over. When I played rugby I was 95kg, and since I took up cycling, I'm down to 83. I've been shrinking so much that she can put her arm around me. She says, 'Where has my big husband gone?' We have a good laugh about it.

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