Race day 2 – from the graveyard to somewhere past the epic Mamore Gap.
Up I got around 7am and quickly got my bike packed. I pedalled off feeling like s**t but pretty excited as I would be going up along the north coast and I love the sea. The first big climbs of the race were today so it would be a good test. I made it up a good chunk of the slopes but did hike-a-bike a bit now and again. I get knee problems from time to time since I rather carelessly broke one in a car crash 10 years ago.
Stunning scenery all the way along the route. As I got to Malin Head I cycled all the way up the pointy bit. ALL small wins need to be celebrated so I had a Star Bar that I had grabbed earlier. There was a lovely little store at the start and end of the Malin Head loop and so I had a little nap on the grass out the front while I dried my bivy bag out in the sun. This also meant I had a good chat with James ‘The Brompton’ Houston before he headed off around the loop. I don’t need to say any more other than – he rode the TAW on a Brompton #legend!
L – Malin Head R – A slope (one of many!)
After my power nap I felt loads better and eventually got to the first monster slope – Mamore Gap on the Inishowen peninsula – around dusk. I didn’t really check the route elevations before I left but this was a pretty big one. I was beginning to feel tired and passed a rocky enclave which I now know was Eigne’s Holy Well. I began thinking about my dad and wondering if he’d have been proud of me cycling around Ireland. He lived in Ireland until he was 5 years old and I reckon he would have been pretty chuffed I was doing it – he’d have loved the dot watching since he was pretty immobile in his final years. Anyway, I hadn’t had much time to think about his death and going past these beautiful statues made me think of him and consequently made me a little sad. I discovered quite early on in the race that I really struggle mentally with lack of sleep and will need to address this if I ever do something like TAW again.
Mamore Gap and Eigne’s Holy Well
Anyway, on I went, up and up some more – hiked the bike a fair bit but I didn’t mind as it was such spectacular scenery, great sunset, and I wouldn’t have been pedalling up there all that much faster anyway to be honest. The descent was most excellent – whizzing along. I wasn’t entirely sure how reactive my brakes would be with so much weight on the bike. I decided not to go full tilt which was just as well since the sheep were lurking on the edges of most of the roads ready to leap out unexpectedly at any moment.
I pitched up at a B and B somewhere and there was Keith, this wouldn’t be the first time he’d have guessed where I was staying and let me catch him up! We ate some biscuits and chatted about Mamore and what might lie ahead tomorrow, I had toast for supper and I rolled into a nice comfy bed, no bivy tonight, and slept like a log. I wanted to make the most of breakfast so decided to wait until 7am and then crack on.