Scratchy scratchy – TAW Race day 1 to Derry Peace Bridge and beyond!

DAY 1 – Dublin to Derry Peace Bridge – Checkpoint 1

Race day Thursday – still bricking it!

L – James ‘The Brompton’ Houston

R – Lucy and Laura checking route to the start (I luckily managed to follow the crowd!)

In the knowledge that I was 1 of only 12 women to start the race, I found my way to the start line around 10km from our Trinity College base. Luckily I managed to follow Jason Smith and a lovely chap called Jamie who came from Devizes which is only 10 miles from my home in Pewsey – small world.  Jason recently had a run in with an angle grinder to try and get out of riding the TCR but luckily it healed up just in time!

I still wasn’t entirely sure how well the ‘Ride with GPS’ app would work, if at all, having never used it before but it seemed ok.   I had the route on my Garmin Touring Edge as back up too which proved useful. We pedalled out in groups together, I loved meeting other riders and it was nice to have the company for that first spin out, if for no other reason than to distract me from the butterflies launching an assault on my stomach.

As you can see, I wasn’t exactly aero (I added extra gear to make others feel better about their set-ups), but I was wearing my UV protected lucky shirt (vital for tropical Ireland) and had managed to get myself and all my gear to the start line – so it was going very well to this point I thought.

L – super chuffed to have made it to the start line with these legends.  #bikenotveryaero!

R – me wondering how Ride with GPS works (Meg doesn’t use RwGPS so no help at all haha!)

Photo credits – Richard Marshall.

A few pictures were taken with the melodious tones of the pipes and cahon playing.  I got my little card stamped, lined up with Wave B and off we went.

My mission for the day was to make it to Checkpoint 1 – Derry Peace Bridge.  My route to the bridge was 237km and, although that was quite a lot of daily kilometres for me, I knew I could do it.  I would need to do around 250km every day to avoid disappointing kids parents back at work (I teach the violin and viola) and make it to Kinsale in a maximum of 10 days.  Off I went.  I decided not to worry about people whizzing on ahead, it’s a long way and, having dot watched and chatted to others, I knew that anything can happen.  I just needed to do my own thing and try not to worry too much about what anyone else was doing, although I was always quite curious where they might be.

I came across loads of cyclists on Day 1, it was almost like a social ride which was nice.  The delight of finding a Spar on route started early on.  Chocolate or banana milkshake, tuna sandwiches or croissants, and restocking with masses of sweets never failed to be exciting.  I also found protein milks – sadly these became less available as naughty riders ahead of me (nearly everyone) seemed to be gobbling them all up before I got there – and the Fulfil protein bars too.  If there’s a next time, I’ll definitely be getting to the front of the pack to make sure there are still vital snacks in stock when I get there!

L – I love Spar       

R – Only one thing better than a Spar…a Spar with a chip shop round the back (in Omagh)

As the sun went down I found some Fish and Chips in Omagh and had a chat to a chap who, despite his frame breaking, had managed to get to Omagh and had arranged for a new frame to be delivered to Derry the next day.  That’s dedication for you.

Refuelled, I headed to the bridge. Little did I know that Adrian’s suggested route went up a fairly steep hill on the approach to Derry.  My lights went on, I needed to get the helmet mounted one on which I’d borrowed from a friend and it was awesome.  It was super bright so I felt confident that the night riding would be fine….and it was, except for being bounced on by bats, dogs leaping out of the bushes and the lack of sleep which was a whole other ball game.

It was on this climb that I met another new pal, perhaps one of the most incident prone cyclists in the race, Keith Donegan from Ireland.  We would see each other throughout the race, cat and mouse the whole time.  At one point Keith even got himself knocked off his bike by a car so I could catch him up – unbelievable!  Everyone knows that the best stories are always far away from the glamorous pointy end of the race eh!?  I also met Julie from France who I saw a few times on day 2 and 3 but then lost track of sadly.  We did have some good banter on that first night, including having a midnight feast in a small village we all ended up in – fig rolls have never tasted so good!

Anyway, nearing Derry and having crawled up Adrian’s special treat (the hill) at around the same pace, eventually we made it to the bridge and Check Point 1 at the same time, around 1:30am.  Amazingly there were still people on the bridge to welcome us which was so nice.

Race Day 1 - Peace Bridge

Checkpoint 1 – Derry Peace Bridge at 1am with Julie Bienvenue and Keith Donegan 

(Photo credit: Jim Imber)

We rolled off the bridge and had been told that the pizza place would still be open if we got a wiggle on!  We stocked up on pizza and I put my leg warmers on.  WHY ARE THEY SO UNCOMFORTABLE! After a while I decided I’d rather be cold than wear them ever again. We headed out around 3am into the dark knowing that it would be light very soon.  Luckily I found a gate to a church open on the way out of Derry so I wheeled my bike in, pitched up as quietly as I could at the end of the graveyard where another cyclist had pitched his tent and got into my giant plastic bag aka Bivy.  I hadn’t taken a sleeping bag and decided just to put on my jumper and puffer jacket and get in.  I made a little pillow with my spare clothes and it was possibly the most uncomfortable 3 hours sleep I ever had…but still…I had survived to ride another day!


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