Achill Island loopy loops
I cycled on through the night, keeping an eye out for the sheep, until the sun started coming up. I was struggling a lot at dawn, just knackered, so whacked on the Billy Connelly podcasts I had downloaded. It was a good plan and it kept me going and lifted my spirits as the south side of Achill Island started to get a bit hilly again. It was at this point that I really wanted just to stop and skim stones on the beach more than anything but decided I couldn’t. Perhaps I should have but I wanted to get to CP2 that day and so pushed on. I thought I saw some dolphins but I think my eyes may have been playing tricks on me a bit!
By the time I got back to Achill, having done my loops, it was nearly breakfast time and I really needed some breakfast. I popped into the hotel there. I was feeling pretty ropey (and probably looking pretty ropey too) but I asked the kind man who seemed to be in charge of breakfast if it was possible to just buy breakfast and he said it was no problem – another win! The other residents having breakfast seemed to be a little intrigued about where this rather weather beaten ragged traveller had come from but were very polite and just continued on with their breakfasting. After a full veggie breakfast I felt a bit shaky and decided I wouldn’t be very safe to ride. I decided to ask the receptionist if they happened to have a sun lounger anywhere that I could rest on for an hour – a sun lounger in Ireland? – I know she probably thought I was delusional. Anyway, they didn’t, but she said not to worry as I could use the resident’s lounge that nobody used in the morning and have a nap there. She even got me a blanket!! I was sooooooo grateful as I had no other plan at that precise moment and really needed to lie down.
On waking, I still felt a bit odd but decided I needed to vacate the hotel as I had already been there over an hour and needed to keep going. When I got back on the bike I felt better again. The next few hours went by pretty quickly, I found a lovely café for a stop along the Greenway towards Newport I think. Right on our route too. I stocked up on a delicious array of cakey things there.
L – Miracle – only 1 puncture
R – Greenways are great
I had my first puncture towards the end of the Greenway, felt pretty lucky that this was my first one really, so set about changing my inner tube at the side of the track. A few fellow cyclists passed by and we had some chats which was great and lifted spirits. I had become quite good at puncture repair after the thorns in Africa! So on I went finally getting to the N59 and the final push to Checkpoint 2 at the Connemara Hostel. You would think this would have been a bit of a breeze but it proved one of the toughest moments of the ride. A mixture of tiredness and mental exhaustion possibly but I got to a service station and felt I just could not go on. As I write this I get a bit teary, I guess the emotion of it all and the struggles I was dealing with at the time are still pretty raw. I texted my pals, and chatted with my friend Anna for a bit too.
I knew then, sitting at the little table outside a petrol station, a few tears in my eyes and eating skittles in the sunshine, that I might not make it. I absolutely loved the ride but had been beating myself up with internal struggles day after day, never wanting to be defeated by anything but feeling weak in my mind and unable to even get myself to get back on my bike. It had been a long 4 months and there were other things I wanted to learn from this race and the other riders. I would sleep on it when I reached CP2, after another ice cream, and see what presented itself in the morning.
‘Just cheer up and get on with it’ food !
Having devoured a second highly colourful packet of Skittles I launched myself back onto the bike, I really needed to get to CP2. My aim was for 5 or 6pm but in reality it would take me a little longer.
Shortly after my mini-meltdown at the service station I came to one of my favourite roads of all time! Along the R335 through the Doolough Valley – incredible, just takes your breath away with its mountains and water rippling on your right as you pedal along. After another hour or so I decided I needed to just sit still for a while, now my meltdown had decided to bugger off for a while I could just enjoy my surroundings….it was too stunning not to.
I wasn’t in race-mode at the moment anyway, I was purely aiming for the checkpoint and then I would continue racing next day when I felt stronger. I contemplated a few things as I sat there in the sun but mostly just sat quietly and tried to clear my mind a little of the rubbish that was lingering in my brain, it just needed some filtering out! I took a couple of pics before heading on again.
Doolough Valley Road
I had heard that there was no food at the Checkpoint and so stopped for a bowl of pasta at a super fancy restaurant. In I went in my baggy UV protected lucky shirt and cycle shorts – didn’t feel in the least bit self conscious :-).
Onwards again, finally I made it to a little village, a couple of kilometres from CP2. I stopped at a wee café that was just about to close. I picked up as many scones and cookies as I could fit into my bag as I knew Keith was at CP2 and perhaps hadn’t eaten. Then……there it was….CP2 – phew! I couldn’t believe I had finally made it there.
REACHED CHECKPOINT 2 – pretty chuffed. whoop whoop
The day had been such a massive challenge for me but Freddie and I had actually made it. When I arrived it was amazing to see Mick Dolan there. He welcomed me and told me I was the last rider to get to the CP before it closed. I felt so pleased to have made it. Keith was sleeping and so I just got myself sorted out. Had a few cups of tea, the boys had given me the big bed and were using the bunkbeds. It was great to see Keith again, he’d made good time and had arrived a few hours ahead. I checked Trackleaders to see where folks were. Karen The Toast was nearing the finish, I think she’d had a broken gear cable but was still flying. Jenny T and Meg were also going great and Lucy, Phillipa, Laura, Issy and Rishi up ahead too. Julie looked like she had headed back towards Dublin, and Andrea wasn’t far behind me. I slept like a log that night. I knew Hurricane Hector wasn’t far away but that would be the adventure for tomorrow.