#TAW2018: Day 12 – Kilcrohane to Kinsale (FINISH)

The earliest the inn would do breakfast was 8:30, so I got up early to cycle up to the Sheep’s Head point and back before then. It was raining again and I had to cycle into a headwind when riding out to the point which made it tough.

I bumped into Joshua and Lachlan coming the other way. They were going to head to the finish today. If I felt good about the hills and the weather I would do the same, and estimated a late night if that was the case.

After breakfast it was a challenging ride along the coast into the wind and rain and over hills to Mizen Point, Ireland’s most South-Westerly point. Had to put a lot of effort in and sometimes felt that I was hardly making any progress at all. Also because of the rain / mist, I was not able to have much of a view for a lot of it.

Had a coffee and sandwich at the tourist centre at Mizen Head. After which I had the wind behind me for most of the day, which was fantastic.

Late-afternoon and I got beeped at by a car going past. At the next garage the car driver was waiting – It was Don who had been following my progress online and had come to say hi – really nice to have a chat and a break.

The last 100km was tough because at this point I just wanted to be finished and the hills kept on coming. The rain by this point had stopped. The last three big hills were tough ones.

When I got to 5km from the finish I had a big sense of relief. If anything happened to the bike at this stage I would be able to push it back, which gave me reassurance that I was going to complete this race.

The finish was at a group of holiday cottages. The road up to the holiday cottages was incredibly steep but I managed to (just) zig-zag my way up the road. At the top of the hill Adrian, the race organiser was filming me cycle up the hill. It was really great of him to stay up to welcome me over the line at 2am! I had a beer and something to eat and chatted to Adrian about the race. It’s been really tough but I’m so glad I did it. The scenery has been amazing and after the problem developing with my Achilles heel halfway through the race I was so pleased I managed to make it to the end.

So that’s how you complete one of toughest bicycle races on a folding bike 🙂

Thanks to family, friends, London Brompton Club, the organisers, participants and the friends I have met on the way for your support.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1647516657

#TAW2018: Day 11 – Kenmare to Kilcrohane

After having breakfast at the b&b I headed out into the rain. A persistent spray which was to remain on and off (mostly on) throughout the day.

After a gentle start, my route soon turned onto the coastal path of a peninsula. The road around the whole peninsula was very hilly. Lots of mainly short but sharp hills that were really energy-sapping.

About half-way round the route went off to the South-West corner where there is a cable car to an island, but I was more interested in the burger van that sold veggie burgers. The lady in the van proudly showed me their entry in the good food guide. They and the van at Malin’s Head are the only two vans in the guide.

There were some fast main roads leaving the peninsula and with the wind behind me made good progress and managed to get a few easy miles in. I booked a room at an inn that I could make it to for 10pm and cycled hard for a few hours to make it.

A large hill just before the inn ensured it was a challenging day right until the end, and the downhill was hampered by loose gravel on the road which meant is was not safe to get any decent speed going down.

My room at the inn was massive with a huge bed and the customary unceasingly large mountain of pillows.

Things that are hurting:

– my Achilles heel

– A couple of sores on my feet from sandal strap rubbing

– Blisters underneath the foot from cycling all night in the rain

– Slightly sore right knee

Everything else is all good!

Thought: All these roads with ‘pass’ or ‘gap’ in the title are ideal candidates for tunnels

https://www.strava.com/activities/1645489196

#TAW2018: Day 10 – Waterville to Kenmare

Woke up in the field in light rain after 3ish hours sleep. I got back on the bike. Lots of things are hurting so progress was slow and tiring!

A couple of American tourists I bumped into the preceding day and had chatted to spotted me and pulled over to say hello again which was nice.

A little later on I was pushing the bike up a super steep slope and a car slowed down as it passed. “Are you doing the Transcontinental?” – it was Paul, who had just completed the race and his parents who were doing a spot of sightseeing. We chatted for a few minutes – it was really great to meet them all.

Then when I reached the top of the slope and was taking a rest for a few mins, up the slope came another TAW racer Jakob. We’d actually shared a flat together at the uni on the first night in Dublin. He has been having knee problems. It was good to catch up.

The rest of the day was fine, just a little slow.

The hill towards the end of the day was great, an enjoyable climb and descent, not too busy.

Checked into a b&b. Didn’t need any encouragement to get to sleep.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1643005295

#TAW2018: Day 9 – Ballybunion to Waterville

299km, 3,322m elevation

The day started very well. A nice breakfast of toast and cereal at the B&B, then out into a nice, overcast day – perfect cycling weather. The first 40km were a dream – after that the roads weren’t so good, but I still made good progress.

After that came Conor Pass, the highest climb in the race. Actually pretty good, I was able to ride it all in first gear. The slope average 7.1% gradient at the bottom and 7.7% at the top, so a bit of a grind but one that doesn’t me out.

The view at the top was amazing, as was the long downhill into Dingle. Then a ride around the Dingle peninsula with more amazing views at every turn.

When I got back to Dingle I took a look at my options. There were free b&bs or hotels at the distance I wanted to cycle to and I didn’t really want to cycle a shorter distance. I checked the weather forecast and there was about an hour in total forecast around midnight. So my plan was to cycle on top about 3am then bivvy somewhere for a few hours and start early the next day.

The first bit of cycling around the ring of Kerry road was nice. I made a wrong turn which took me half a mile down a hill following the route where a new road had just been built making the map out of date.

It started raining about midnight which I was prepared for. Things then went rapidly downhill as I went slowly uphill, climbing the Dunloe Gap. It was dark at this point and I was the only one around. As the climb got higher the weather really deteriorated becoming driving rain and a very high wind that I was climbing into. Not being able to see my surroundings I had no idea what was coming up. Some parts were too steep to cycle so I had to get off and push. When I do this my dynamo lights go onto their dim ‘stand’ lighting which means I then can almost see nothing. At one point I found three sheep sheltering under a ledge.

I was soaked through. I eventually got to the top and tried to take a picture of a signpost there but my phone couldn’t detect my wet fingers pressing the buttons. Worse still the light on the phone had stopped working and I had to fumble my way back to where I’d left the bike in the dark.

The rain then continued for four hours. Temperature was around 13 degrees so not cold but I just had to keep on cycling to stay warm.

Another feature of the landscape here is there is nowhere really to shelter. No bus stops or anything like that and it was raining too hard for trees to be of any benefit.

After a few hours of cycling I stopped when a solitary lamppost appeared. This provided a small bit of comfort and meant I could find a chocolate bar in my bag for energy.

I cycled on. Eventually it stopped raining and I carried on cycling in the windy conditions and slowly began to dry out.

The sky started lightening around 4am. By 6am I was looking for somewhere to shelter and bivvy that was a bit out of sight and out of the wind.

It took a long time to find somewhere suitable but I eventually found somewhere, set up the bivvy bag, inflatable mat and midge head net, climbed in and didn’t need any encouragement to fall asleep.

#TAW2018: Day 8 – Kinvarra to Ballybunion

173km, 1,522m elevation

I didn’t get much sleep last night. There was a flagpole outside my bedroom window (🙄) and the halyard was ferociously flapping against the metal pole in the strong winds.

I got up and left the hotel before breakfast and headed out into the wind. Today has been hard work.. cycling into a strong headwind for most of the day. It was especially strong first thing and it was a real fight to make good headway.

The clouds soon parted though, so at least it was warm and everything looked good!

I had breakfast at a small cafe in Doolin. Veggie fry-up.. was very welcome!

The route was undulating all day with just a few sharp hills. One of these was the hill up to the Cliffs of Moher. I had to get off and push for a short section at the bottom which was too steep for my set-up. With my bad Achilles heel I found it incredibly difficult to push the bike along without a lot of pain. Hence I think the injury may originate from push my bike up one of the passes.

Which brings me on to passes. Best avoid any hills which have the word ‘pass’. These are basically roads which should be rebuilt as tunnels.

Part of my route today was a trip down memory lane as I’ve spent a fair few holidays in Lahinch and Liscannor Bay. I popped into Egan’s bar for a shandy. I was the only customer there but the barman was complaining about the amount of cleaning up he was having to do after whatever went in last night.

Also memories of Frawley’s bar in Lahinch.. Frawley sadly passed away a few years ago but served in the bar his whole life up until his 90s. The bar still exists, closed up, gathering dust.

As I cycled on I realised I should be able to make the 6pm ferry easy. Two hours 10 to ride 30km should have been super-easy, even with the heavy bike, but the headwind was a real killer. Eventually the route turned perpendicular to the wind and I was able to catch up on lost time. I made it to the ferry ok, and with time for a coffee and cheese sandwich before boarding the ferry as a one-way foot/bike passenger for 5 euros.

I booked a b&b from the ferry, 30kms on. Whilst cycling there more headwinds zapping my energy, and a section of ‘this pathway occasionally floods’, which turned out to be true anc I had to cycle through water that went over my toes. I even saw a crab in there as I cycled through.

As I neared my destination I popped into a Chinese and had some veggie noodles – delicious!

Am now checked in. My host will be making the effort to get up an hour early to get me some breakfast. Seems like a very nice place.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1638946614

#TAW2018: Day 7 – Clifden to Kinvarra

125km, 699m elevation

Whilst I could barely walk yesterday, I awoke and the pain had pretty much gone. Must be all the well wishes I received, but I’ll be writing to the Journal of Medicine with a note on the healing powers of two pints of Guinness and two Ibuprofen. In seriousness, I have spent the day nursing the ankle.. keeping it fairly rigid whilst walking, less getting off the bike (as pushing off is painful) and continuing to ride with the saddle lowered and foot placed way forward on the pedal. I stayed late at my room until checkout time at 11 to give a decent amount of rest. It is the thing I’m most worried about and will continue to do my best to keep it rested as best I can whilst continuing to make progress.

The blue skies have gone, replaced by strong wind and rain. I ate all the leftover food I had in my bag for my breakfast (a couple of protein bars and an apple), put my jacket on and headed out.

The first 30km were spent cycling out in the exposed windswept Galway landscape. There is no shelter, houses or even any sheep for many miles. I’ll have more of this tomorrow too. After a couple of hours cycling I came across a fairly large and new visitor centre. I have no idea what it was for (!) but it gave me a chance to get a hot drink and food and warm up a bit. I put on my arm warmers, leg warmers and insulated gilet and went out again into the rain and wind.

After a while the route turned onto a popular main route for motor traffic. Constant flux of fairly fast moving traffic. Had to pay lots of attention to positioning etc and the time went by quickly. A few stops at petrol stations to warm up with a hot drink.

I reached Galway but passed through the centre without stopping. After the main town I stopped in at a Spar which was serving hot fresh food and had seats where I could drip (I was soaked through), eat and keep my eye on the bike.

Didn’t see any other TAWers today. Did see a few commuter cyclists near Galway.

Booked a hotel room in Kinvarra – somewhere I could get to by 10pm. The winds are going to be very high overnight so I wanted to get in somewhere at a decent hour. This hotel is the largest thatched-roof hotel in Ireland. Hoping the wind doesn’t blow it off tonight 🤔

Had this song in my head today after it was played in the pub last night! https://youtu.be/9B3_of9CY24

https://www.strava.com/activities/1636943491

http://www.jameshouston.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/img_3417.mov

#TAW2018: Day 6 – Mulranny to Clifden

158km, 1,483m elevation

Despite usually serving breakfast from 8, my hosts got up early so I could have breakfast at 7. I’m burning lots of calories with all this cycling, so really need to eat. I opted for granola, marmalade on toast, pancakes and eggs. All amazing!

I set off and it wasn’t long until the route took me along a long traffic-free greenway through field with sheep grazing. There were also a lot of cattle grids to negotiate, which meant stepping off and walking the bike through. This went on for several miles.

It soon became apparent that my left Achilles’ tendon was quite painful. To ease the pain I lowered the seat a couple of inches and pedalled with my foot forward on the pedal, and pedalled more with my right foot. I did this for the rest of the day and he left foot is still a problem. I’m hoping for some magic overnight 😬

I made it to Checkpoint 2 around 4pm and stayed at the hostel for an hour or so. Good to catch up with Tomas there and great to sit down fora bit.

In the afternoon I cycled to a room I had booked in Clifden. I’m now in Connemara and the beautiful landscapes keep on coming. There was a nice end to the day with a rise up to the Sky Road with amazing views before a rollercoaster descent into Clifden.

Self-checked in to my self-catering apartment (for the price of a room) and visited Supermacs once again to sample the amazing veggie burger.

Really hoping my left ankle gets better tomorrow or progress will be slow and painful, at best.

At the local trying some traditional medicine.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1634789166

#TAW2018: Day 5 – Killala to Mulranny

217km, 1,806m elevation.

After leaving the hotel I thought I’d skip breakfast at the local garage and wait for the next opportunity to build up an appetite. The next opportunity wasn’t for 70kms, when a mini supermarket sprang up like an oasis.

It rained for about 30 mins during the morning.. other than that a mostly cloudy day, with a headwind which proved great for drying out my clothes on the way round (the b and b’s radiators has switched themselves off in the night!).

Bumped into a tourer, Patrick from Gap in the French Alps, on a six week trip wild-camping. Patrick has now been convinced to buy a Brompton 😉 Where’s my commission for this stuff?

County Mayo sure is beautiful! A rolling landscape of rich green interspersed with abundant pink rhododendron blooms and yellow gorse. Oh and the Atlantic coast!

I saw the course looped back on itself so booked into a B and B at the neck of the loop before heading out on the loop around Achill Island at 7pm.

I hadn’t checked the route and was expecting more or less flat, but what I got was more or less hilly. It was a tough evening and I got to bed about 12:30/1.

It isn’t easy and lots of things are hurting – I won’t bore you with the details but will press on. Next stop.. Check point 2!

https://www.strava.com/activities/1632769105

#TAW2018: Day 4 – Killybegs to Killala

202km, 1,858m

https://www.strava.com/activities/1630806866

Having gone to sleep just in my cycling clothes I awoke a couple hours later when my body’s need for warmth overtook it’s need for rest. I fumbled around and put on some leg warmers and a second gilet. Will add woolly hat to the list of things to bring bivvying next time. I do have a merino buff with me so that’s a good substitute. Slept reasonably well and decided to get up earlyish as my bivvy spot was quite exposed to passing traffic and I just wanted to get on.

I cycled on for a bit on main roads with little scenery. I had a few bits of food with me but was really hoping for a hot drink. I saw a Texaco garage open and popped in. It was brilliant! I loaded up with proper porridge with honey and cinnamon, and got a baguette made with egg and salad for later, a coffee and some fruit. I ate it all except the fruit which I had later in the day before a hill climb. Joshua came by. He’d had an awful night getting bitten by midges. I was so glad I’d brought a midge head net… A last-minute addition after reviewing other people’s pack lists.

I cycled through nice countryside then up past a really interesting giant geological bowl. A bit too much climbing for my tired knees so progress was slow. Would like to have hiked this area.

A bit more cycling.. paid a quick visit to Yeat’s grave then feeling peckish I popped into a fast-food place called ‘supermac’s’. Very happy to see a veggie burger on the menu I ordered a large meal. I can honestly say it the best veggie burger I’ve ever had hands-down. Didn’t get a photo as too busy eating it. Would consider visiting Sligo again just to visit this place. Hoping it’s a chain restaurant so I can try it again on this trip.

I then looked at the time and route and booked a b&b somewhere that would give me a decent days mileage. I picked one that I could just make it to before last-checkin to give me some motivation to cycle fast. If I cycled fast for a loaded bike) for 5 hours I’d make it in time.

On the way I passed through Easky. Had a really nice feeling to it. Added to my places to visit properly.

When I arrived at the b&b I see another TAW competitors bike in the lounge. 7am is too early for the owners to make breakfast, so I traded my breakfast for beer and crisps 🙂

My room had two radiators that I can control, so I’ve done my laundry 🙂

#TAW2018: Day 3 – Manorcunningham to Killybegs

200km, 2,725m

Great breakfast from the b&b then hit the road 8ish. Really pleased it was overcast so a bit cooler.

I’m the morning I met Andrea who is competing in the TAWR along with her husband; they are riding their own races. Andrea has been camping each night. We had a great early lunch together at Glenveagh national park. Later on down the road I met her again – her gear cable had snapped. She had brought a spare cable and was going to have a go at the repair. Later on I saw she had checked in at a nearby campsite so I hope all went ok.

I also bumped into Tomas, a courier from London on a very nice Canyon bike.

And then later on at the top of a pass I met Joshua from Sydney. He had set up a bivvy but giving up on the camp spot as he was being attacked by midges.

We rode on through the countryside at night – good fun.

I had to get the miles in so rode until quite late and then eventually found a spot to bivvy. I put on my midge head net (SO glad I bought it!) got into the bivvy bag and even without airmat or pillow I soon fell asleep.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1628518573

http://www.jameshouston.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/img_2939.mov