Ended up back at home (ie Ballybunion) for the weekend, fortunately I brought the bike. Ran out of time on Sunday, but considering it was the third spin of the year I was happy with it.
Considering the weather (20-30 mph winds and with the wind chill it was 3c) it was hard to get out. But after some motivation (big cheers to Gerry for the encouragement!), I picked a route that was about 30 miles. I was planning on only doing 20 milers for another few weeks, but after realising that I need to keep getting the miles in I decided on Ballybunion->Listowel->Ballylongford and home.
It’s funny, 2 years ago I thought that kind of route would be the equivalent of doing a week on the Tour de France! Even when i was fit (you know, 15, 150lbs etc) I had never even tried cycling to Listowel before, thinking it was a day expedition. But with the 25 mph tailwind I was there in 25 minutes on Saturday! Of course I knew that the return leg would be much tougher. Because Ballybunion is located right on the Atlantic coast, any time I cycle home it is inevitably into the wind. And trying to keep the heart rate down, it meant having to spin VERY slow, 30×25 at times.
So, so far for the year I’ve managed 2 x20 mile cycles, and 1 x 30. The really surprising thing is that the speed (about 12 mph) is very constant, but the the average heart rate over the 3 cycles was 168, 168 and 167! About 40 bpm higher than I’m aiming for, but really surprised that they’re so close! Anyway, I’m happy to be at least getting out once a weekend, although there is plenty of scope to get in both days at weekends, and the food intake is atrocious. But at least I’m more active than I was this time last year.
Between the hangover and infection I wasn’t feeling 100% when I got up. But once I saw the state of the 2 lads who stayed in my sister’s house morale quickly improved! Understandably it was a slow enough start, but the spin to Tarbert to get the ferry was lovely, good way to blow out the cobwebs and a chance to catch up on the previous few days.
We made a good pace to the ferry almost 16 mph and had a few minutes to kill waiting for the next one. The journey over was fairly uneventful, although there was an unsuccessful attempt to mount the ferry initially (we won’t mention names, but someones wheel hit a wet, steel plate in the concrete and there was a fall). Fortunately there was no injury, unfortunately I was the only person to not see it!
And given the previous fall, and the very steep ramp on the other side of the ferry, we were all a bit nervous cycling off, especially with all the staff watching, waiting for a repeat performance. But a bit of momentum, and up out of the saddle and we were off. Lovely spin to Kilkee, but by the time we arrived there everybody was knackered. We had coffee and sandwiches overlooking the beach, but given that we took over an hour, it meant that by the time we left after 2 o’clock we had only around 30 miles done. But the weather in the afternoon was the best in the week, the scenery was stunning and morale was good.
The only thing I was concerned about was that the map showed a Cat 4 climb into the Cliffs of Moher, but since none of could remember a climb we dismissed it. Oh, it was a climb alright! Not too long, but pretty steep, about 10% or so. Nasty!
Once we got to the top we went to the cliff top, just to take in the view and a few pics, then off to enjoy the descent into Doolin. Once there we were pretty tired after our longest day. So a nice pint in the shade, then check into the B&B (Cullinans, restaurant seemed fantastic but was full), before some dinner. Our quietest night of the tour, after some diddly-eye Oirish music, we were back in bed at the earliest time, just barely after midnight.
This was our first full day, and after a decent nice sleep and a cracking breakfast, we ended up rolling out of the B&B at 10:20A.M. (only 20 minutes behind target!). We had good eather, no wind or rain, and not too hot. We stocked up on bananas and jaffa cakes, and then it was pretty much straight into the Cat 4 climb up to Molls Gap.
I was pretty nervous about it, because the only other time I did it was during the Ring of Kerry, where I ended up stopping maybe 3 or 4 times on the way up (granted it was after about 85 miles the last time!). But this time, even with the bags on, we were able to spin away up at about 9 or 10 mph, so not too bad (Donal was disappointed it wasn’t harder, I might have overstated it before!).
We stopped at the Avoca cafe, as agreed. Mainly because I thought I would be spent, but given how early it was (maybe 40 minutes in) it was probably a bit early. The descent down the Gap was pretty hairy, mainly because I found out the night before that my rear brakes hadn’t been working at all. Not sure why, but I think the mudguards were the cause: every time I hit the brakes there was a squeak but no stopping!
About an hour later we were in Killarney, where we stopped for water. Next we headed for Tralee via Farranfore, and as expected this stretch of road as very unpleasant, mainly because the roads were so busy with Bank Holiday traffic. A few close calls, but not too bad, and once most of the traffic branched off in at Farranfore the road into Tralee was alright.
Another stop in Tralee for sandwiches at a petrol station, and then the final 20-ish miles back into my home town of Ballybunion. After leading the team through the town I almost came to an end at a roundabout where I couldn’t clip out. Fortunately I fell onto Donal, and he broke my fall! There is a very short climb out of Tralee, only a mile or so, but around 10%, and to be honest it absolutely blew me away: heart rate was 170-180 all the way, very unpleasant (even though the day wasn’t too hilly my heart rate averaged around 160, very high)! The rest of the road in was pretty flat, although there were a LOT of complaints about the poor road surfaces. Coming from Kerry I knew there were bad, but the others didn’t really believe the difference between North and South Kerry (Jackie Healy Rae land)
The road in was pretty uneventful, but because I was pretty weak after the climbs the pace was fairly sedate, although there was a breakaway with around 5 miles to go (same culprits led a similar break-away into Malin Head). We set up camp at my parents, where we were able to do some repairs on the bikes (I decided brakes were more important than being dry, so the mudguards were removed!). The rest of the evening was spent with my family at my sisters, and then a solid nights worth of entertainment. People got to bed at varying times, the earliest being around 3A.M. Tomorrow was a heavy day!