Day 7 – Time is the thief, the trick is stealing it back
Pallets are great insulators, sleep came easy but disappointingly I didn’t get on the road until 5am. A brief battle with narrow twisty roads brought the main N70 of the Ring of Kerry Loop. It was quickly obvious this was the Ireland tourism in theme park mode, Sneem was comical. I sat there in the centre of a glossy town straight out of a film set, of course nothing was open, I ate most of the food I had left for breakfast wondering how far up the road Paula and John were, I could only guess. John was the main interest was his huge engine failing it would be nice to see him just once to rekindle a friendship started at the TCR. Chain lubed, shift cables tweaked trying to calm the messy gears and back on the quiet roads.
I can’t hide the fact I didn’t enjoy the Ring of Kerry, early morning blues, the 5 mile Cookamista climb into the mist along with the killer grind all the racers will remember the steep zig-zag over from Coomann to Portmagee it sure wore me down, 50 miles and bonking all ready. I walked into Skelly Mist coffee shop a broken man and walked out ready to take on the world. A full morning service; great breakfast and a good wash and with the bike loaded with plenty of great cakes, their whiskey cake was like rocket fuel. The place was full of people boarding boats to visit the nearby Skellig Islands, tourism in full swing. If anyone was on the road behind me they would have stopped here, I was now certain they were ahead somewhere.
Riding along the coast now looking over the bay back to Inch beach thoughts turned to heading back up to those killer hills of last night. The route crossed here, so I knew where I was going but how did it cross those hills ahead, with 100 miles in the legs I found out. First up a lovely scenic climb to Ballaghbeama gap and then a steadier drag to Molls gap. From here at the very busy café, you could see the track of last nights dark passage cut into the hillside opposite, the memory made me shudder.
At the Balla gap I sat on a rock, cleared my head and considered what lay ahead. It looked like I was on course to arrive at the finish around midnight tomorrow (Friday) earliest. No way that didn’t sound like fun how could I get that down; well take out the 4 hours sleep and that makes for a proper evening of celebration, a plan was formed. There and then I didn’t care where anyone else was, I know I can do 280 miles in 24Hrs so the target was set, ease back and ride non stop to the finish.
The long drop to Kenmare returned to civilization and the coast along with the symbolic crossing into Cork the final county. Another big supermarket feed and set off with intent into the evening along the Lambs head peninsula and trouble; My rear bar end shifter mounting screw came loose, stopping on a steep climb as the shifting failed I watched in horror as several bits fell into the grass below. Panic, a million thoughts flashed through my mind of struggling on with 3 gears, exploding knees, time to calm down.
Slowly finding all the bits, fixing a cross threaded thread with the tip of my knife, making a large screwdriver by scraping my multitool metal tyre lever on the tarmac until it was thin enough. This was proper McGuyver time, I was so happy this didn’t happen in the dark last night. It did answer the question about the poor shifting for the past day, but even though I didn’t find one part it was luckily back to sweet reliable changes.
This was a harsh isolated area, at 7pm in Alihies at last some life, noting a rare hostel on the way through, it was play safe time At the combined garage and market, I had at least 12 hrs Jack fuel to buy. It was comedy service, they offered to make fresh sandwiches then preceded to serve everyone’s petrol ahead of me. I’d drank a coffee, finished some cakes and checked the tracker before finally watching them raid the shelves for the bread and meat.
Wow, John was in that hostel (turns out he watched me ride past as he ate) he definitely was suffering how could I possibly have caught him. Paula a few hours back was also to stay here, John tells a great story of how his plan was blown apart that night, you could say it was slightly unsporting behaviour from a competitor, but he came out of it with great honour. I was honestly surprised that I was now in 2nd, or dismissing BP in the lead, but it gave me great resolve to keep plodding on.
And resolve was needed, not long after setting out the first of many mind funks appeared. Out and back rides down narrow rough tracks to the heads of several peninsula’s. Lambs Head was first up, the pic above shows a dodgy looking cable car over to Dursey island. There was a lovely BnB at this dead end. 9pm and the owner was mowing the lawn, it was so tempting to ask how much to rest in this idyllic location.
Onward these roads were tougher than ever, no flat, constant steep rising and falling rough surfaces. Past Bere island, back to the main land, then SW again down Sheeps head as full darkness fell earlier here.
Sheeps head was first a long tough climb up the North coast, boy that wind, and a fast hairy descent in the dark and wet to Kilcrohane. A very long exposed out and back, was mentally and physically draining. passing a lovely sheltered pub outside seating area twice I found it drawing me in. Resting from the elements, I was so close to getting my head down but fought the urge after a food stop.
Rounding to start the long finger of Mizen Head a race for 200 miles before midnight began. This was important to me I’m involved in a challenge to complete as many imperial tons in a year “the YCC” I wasn’t wasting being this close to a double ton. It was crazy I was racing to meet the midnight deadline, luckily it coincided with a rare flat section round Glengarriff and I made it with 2 minutes to spare. Time for a celebration food stop on the sea front, the first can of red bull came out.
Day 8 – Why are the roads lined with crowds
Mizen Head was next up, there were views of both Bere island and Sheeps head as dawn broke this was a killer, once again riding for so long just to see where you had been hours ago to the North. The final approach was another navigational challenge to a tired brain, don’t mess this up now.
The views around the coves here were a delight, and finally a slight South westerly wind helped progress, but tiredness was taking a grip. I could see people leaning over walls, hiding behind trees watching me, animals jumped out from ditches, oh boy my eyes were playing big tricks, my first ever encounter of hallucinating. I started counting my yawns per minute, fatigue was catching me up, this could only end in a crash.
The first open shop in Schull came to the rescue, I restocked on hot food and coffee with added Redbull, how much caffeine dare I ingest. Down the road I sat on a bench enjoying the beautiful view of the bay, I knew I would fall asleep despite all my attempts, I closed my eyes. All of five minutes later it started raining, back on the road with my emergency high caffeine SIS gel brought all the way from England I still had doubts it would last.
I can’t possibly explain what happened going forward, giving in to the urge to sleep, the act of closing my eyes, it was like a reset. The brain had been conned, I never felt tired or considered sleep from that moment on for the rest of the whole day.
The final day was solid, it was hot, we all got pretty burnt. The first sign for Kinsale said 21Km, bizarrely I started to attack I was loving it, some super fast descents hitting over 50mph, the euphoria of reaching Kinsale dampened by the realisation there was still a drag to cork. Those last miles through Cork were tough but finally I arrived at Blarny castle, my phone bleeped, someone was tracker watching, and there was George Cordall standing out front.
George captured my arrival, he’d just arrived himself on his cut short route, his knee finally giving up on him, I was so glad to see a friendly face, without him it would have been a very lonely empty finish to an epic week, I’m forever grateful buddy.
I’d been awake for just under 38 hours and had ridden 380 miles with 23,000 feet of climbing, the plan worked, arriving before 7pm. A big meal and six celebration pints of Guinness later I was still buzzing as we saw Paula surface after arrival, how is that possible!
Did I win, who the hell knows, I was far from the fastest, I wasn’t the first rider to finish, but I was the first rider to complete the Transatlantic Race 2016, and wasn’t that what we came here for.
It’s a shame and one big mess that only Adrian can unravel. Unofficial Tracklogs timings say; Bernd Paul 6:04:48 Jack Peterson 7:10:03 Paula Regner 7:12:41 John Suter 7:15:40
All the riders who experienced those fantastic views over an epic week will consider themselves winners. It was great to spend the next day resident in the Blarney Castle Hotel bar welcoming riders in and sharing the experiences. George, John, Paula, Daniel, Stephen, Michael, Cristian and Adrian it was a pleasure to share time and experiences with you.
It was pure comedy at the finish, after getting over the shock of not having a room at the hotel we had paid for, me and George could barely stand up let alone walk to our BnB. The day after my ankles had swollen dramatically and I could hardly put my shoes on. Luckily elevating them that second night seemed to drain the fluid retention, but it took many days to recover fully. My legs were fine pedalling to the train at Cork by Sunday, even if I had to force my fat feet in my shoes. This has never happened to me before and the cause remains a mystery!
If your interested in my set up, it was pretty much as I did the TCR in 2015, I don’t obsess over weight and like backup plans. The Salsa Colossal has proved itself superb in my quirky spec. My advice ride your own race and equipment, I’ve lost count of the number of riders who have lusted after my low gearing when the going gets tough, and my hands don’t get numb.
Seatpack: sleeping and waterproofs
Framebag: odds and sods, on the move space for food
Top tube bag: constant refilled trailmix sack, lipbalm and gum
Food Pouch: bars and the odd redbull/coke can
Under Tribar stuffsack: clothes space when removing layers
Apidura grab bag: All the stuff that is never left on the bike, quick release security.
For tons of information on unsupported ultra cycling check out Blue Dot Riders