Galway to Kinsale (via some really random hills and trails, a reindeer (that’s right!) and then the most boring road in Ireland!
I headed off at first light after munching my emergency breakfast pack of oats, milk powder and hot chocolate powder. Chuck in some water at night and shake it up – it’s ready in the morning – easy peasy!
I was doing really well on the ‘don’t get lost’ front for a while until I decided to follow my Google maps which then took me slightly west, off the main road, and into the wilderness. Up inclines and through a nature reserve (lovely on a sunny day I’m sure) and through a never-ending sea of potholes, now full of water since it was peeing down with rain! Wetter and soggier I got but it really was a lovely road then, whoosh! a reindeer leapt right across the road in 3 bounds and into the woods at the other side. I couldn’t believe my eyes! What an incredible sight it was. Who knew there were wild reindeer in Ireland? It was enormous!
L – Just before I was leapt on by a massive reindeer!
R – Nope, not this way (but there’s the road over there?!?!)
Anyway, I continued on this MOST ridiculous route and eventually came to a dead end – I could see the road I wanted to be on but couldn’t figure out exactly how to get there (having already gone along a mile or so of gravel). I’m always getting lost, not usually a problem though. I was getting kind of hungry so really hoped to stumble across a main road somewhere and find a service station. An hour or 2 later I did find the road that went direct to Cork and there I would whizz on down and into Kinsale. I ate at the services and cracked on but, blimey, this road was SO boring. My penance for not sticking to the designated route I guess – that’ll teach me. Got close passed all day and there were loads of road works but I had some tunes on which helped. In Cork I found Supermac’s (a bit like the Irish McDonalds really). It was the first one I had found but I had heard much about these havens of calories, milkshakes and icecreams. In I went around 7 or 8pm by now. I’d done around 200km and was feeling it in my legs but I would make Kinsale no problem – just not fast!
On I rolled, lights on and tunes on again. By the time I saw the bright lights of Kinsale it must’ve been 11pm, new pals Meg and Lucy were knackered and had to hit the hay but I decided to head to the pub where I knew Phillipa might still be up and a few others! Into the White Hart I went, ordered a Guinness and had a wee sit down at the bar.
Fellow crazies at the finish in Kinsale (and some more Guinness!)
Don’t know if anyone ever found my other glove, lost in a field near Limerick I think?!
A lot of the other TAW riders had stayed up and were drinking and chatting about their adventures. It was so nice to be around people who knew what it was like and no one judges you if you don’t make it. You just accept that everyone’s journey is different.
After a Guinness or two I had to find my way to the village where everyone was staying and the official finishing point. Around 1am I went up the wrong side of the monstrous hill the first time which I think brought me out at the wrong side of Lidl, which was locked up. I considered jumping the gates but I figured there would be cameras so back down I went. Eventually I found the, even more monstrous, correct hill and pedalled my way up it. A miracle! Must have been the Guinness or something :-). I think Jack wondered where I had got to as he was still up waiting for me to arrive. Thanks Jack!
The following days I enjoyed hanging out with other riders drinking Guinness floats and having a little rest. Apparently on arriving in Kinsale, Bjorn (the winner) had bought oodles of ice cream so it seemed only right to help eat it and wash it down with Guinness. Hearing everyone else’s tales from the road and seeing their set ups and kit and things was so interesting to me and I know, ultimately, that I did make the right decision about cutting myself some slack and heading off route (even though it still bugs me). I learned so much and, if I had continued on the TAW path, I would have possibly made it back in time but most likely at a heavier price.
I pushed myself pretty hard but ultimately I wasn’t mentally strong enough this time round – and I’ll try to do a load more Audaxes and long distance multi days before attempting the next one. It’s one for the unfinished business list that’s for sure. A truly beautiful ride with brilliant people.
Having said (as I sat sobbing into my skittles) that I wouldn’t ever do that to myself again I do need to finish it…I’m kind of daft like that. So who knows!
Thank you Ireland, thank you TAW riders and thank you Adrian and team for such a brilliant ride. xx