Day 4 – Ardara to Strandhill (past Sligo)
Up at 4:30am and off I went again, sneaking out of town around 5am. I’m not usually a morning person except for when I’m travelling on my bike. When my cycle buddy, Anna, and I cycled Africa we would get up as soon as, or before, dawn so we would get as many miles riding done as we could when it wasn’t so hot. The sun usually went down about 6pm in Africa and so it was easier in Ireland with it never getting dark until 10:30 or 11pm. Even with a lighter bike and less stuff, I did find I was struggling to get the miles in early on in this race though. I also knew that others were quite far ahead of me now and that I was behind in terms of how many miles I wanted to get into each day to make it to Kinsale in time for the deadline I had set myself. This was on my mind and weighed me down a little. I had forgotten that Donegal was a pretty tough county, in terms of climbing. If I had remembered this, and appreciated that I could probably push on more miles later in the race, I was actually probably doing OK in hindsight.
Anyway – next came Glengesh Pass. Another whopper! Up I went, it was overcast that morning which I was grateful for. I cycled a bit…then pushed a bit, got to the top then whizzed down the other side. I was really struggling with my head this day. Just feeling a bit sad a lot but then whizzing along the downhills and flats managed to get myself going again, pulling myself back to my generally optimistic nature. There wasn’t much in the way of food stops for miles that morning either (probably didn’t help with my mood). Up and down, rolling along I went. The landscape mirroring my own wonky mental state. I knew there was no current reason for my sadness but sometimes days are just a bit like that…..I just needed to wait for the clouds to hopefully pass.
Glengesh Pass – a tough but beautiful morning climb.
Freddie fondriest was doing a brilliant job, his back derailleur was a little jumpy but nothing major just needed to be gentle. Eventually I got to a lovely little village (I remember now, it was a Sunday and not much was open). Lucky for me the village shop was just opening and so I bought some delicious bread and cheese, I actually found a protein bar – thanks everyone for leaving one for me! I had a coffee and a few other treats then found some more flippin’ duct tape.
Breakfast time – nearly managed to eat the whole lot.
My saddlebag was constantly dropping and then rubbing on my back wheel. Being vertically challenged has it’s slight drawbacks when bikepacking. In the end I decided the only option was to put loads of duct tape under the bag where it rubbed and replace every now and again. I got so bored checking it I just left it sometimes, nothing like a bit of extra resistance on a slopey ride. It held up ok most of the time though.
[I’ll definitely try to make sure I’m entirely happy with my set up before I go if I ever try again….will save a lot of agro when I least need it – haha.]
I knew that I would see the legend that is Adrian O’S that evening and he would have a shiny new tracker for me. I had quite enjoyed my stealth rider status and so wasn’t that bothered I didn’t have my tracker early on. I wasn’t at the pointy end but it would be nice for friends and family to see where I was so that would be good. Later in the day my buddy Anna texted me to let me know that I was apparently in the top 10 and first women…she knew I wasn’t and so was finding it a bit confusing and probably quite amusing. It turned out that Adrian was checking that my new tracker was working up ahead somewhere and it had registered on trackleaders. I felt a bit bad that Karen and others up ahead must have wondered when on earth I had snuck past them without them seeing me.
I found a guesthouse that night after a few wrong turns. Had a delicious plate of pasta (and a Guinness) in a cosy pub and the tracker was delivered that evening, it was great to see some friendly faces (even if it was a struggle walking down the stairs to greet them!) and order was restored.
CURRENT POSITION – no idea but nowhere near the front, pretty near the back and miles away from the party 🙂 The women at the pointy end were absolutely smashing it. The best thing about my TAW was the friends I made along the way. It’ll probably be one of my proudest moments ever, just getting to the start line with everyone!
This crazy crew 🙂 (Credit – Richard Marshall)