Sunday, 24 June 2012

Ireland Days 7 and 8

Day 7 – Derry to Carrickmacross

Up early again for breakfast but today was going to be wholly different for a number of reasons.  At the breakfast table there was a discussion going on between Chris, Mark and myself.  We were debating whether to just catch the bus down to Dublin with the rest of the lads and forgo the last two days of the trip.  It was very close to call but I think there was a nagging voice in the others heads saying what the voice in my head was.  If we don’t finish these last two days we are falling short of what we promised people when we were collecting donations and raising money for the trip.  On top of that we would be dropping the mileage significantly.  The final contributing factor to why we had even started the discussion was the weather.  We had awoken to find the weather setting in with winds and the threat of rain from some ominous looking clouds.  There was no going back now though and we all knew it in our heart of hearts we were going to troop on and finish the whole eight days.  The conversation had occurred in a near empty dining room as most of the Irish boys where still sleeping off their party from the night before.  The main people I wanted to see however had made it down to breakfast even though they did look worse for ware.  Keith, Jody and eventually James had come to make sure we left their country and to have a good chuckle at the unfortunate state of the weather outside.  We said goodbye to the guys from Team Aldi who had lightened up our entire week with some very funny comments and their positivity whilst out on the roads.  Today was the first day I donned my full wet gear.  Turns out I would have needed scuba gear for some of the trip.  After a bunch of farewells and promises to meet up and ride again in the future twelve of us set out from the hotel.  We had made a promise that we would all stick together and pull each other through today however long it took.  Around 20 miles in to the trip it became apparent that this wasn’t going to happen.  The group splintered and six of us went on our way.  This may sound harsh but by the twenty mile marker two of the lads where already in the van with knee injuries and the rain had started in earnest.  The wind again had made an appearance and though it had started out in our favour had decided to turn against for most of the rest of the day.  The one morale boosting moment came as the coach full of the Irish lads went passed beeping its horns with all the lads banging on the windows and waving.  I would have given my right leg to have been on that bus.   By the rest stop at the 30 mile marker the weather had turned really ugly.  The support vehicles had dwindled to two and it felt like we had been cast off even though we still had water, glucose drinks and some mars bars left the supply of sandwiches which had been plentiful during the rest of the ride had dwindled to nothing.  After this we got going again but the roads turned into dual carriageways and major trunk roads and it was the most tedious leg visually of the ride so far.  This coupled with the fact that by about 45 miles we were all soaked to the bone, cold and riding into a vicious head wind meant that I was going through a major mental battle in my head.  A large proportion of the argument was that I was cold, wet and no where near the end of the 93 mile day.  The other half was a mixture of the kid’s faces from the autism centre and school, the people who had donated and my responsibility to them and my two girls who I don’t think I could have faced if I had got off the bike and took the van.  The other thing inside was that I wouldn’t get a chance again to complete the ride if I sat today out.  By 60 miles the mental fight was raging we stopped for our second rest stop and I had to give myself a stern talking to away from the group.  I was very close to stopping and getting in the van but my stubborn side wouldn’t let me thankfully.  We cracked on from 60 miles and every single sign post seemed to be so slow in coming.  Every kilometre dragged on and on.  The terrain had gone back to long drags but today there would be no respite on the down hills the wind saw to that.  I was not doing much for the group which I felt bad about but it was all I could do to keep myself on the bike with my legs turning.  We did it though we made it through one hell of a day.  Just as we were arriving at the hotel the sun decided to make an appearance.  It was not well welcomed by six cold and wet cyclists.  I think we shocked the ducks with some of our choice words directed at the sun.  We made it through the toughest day I have spent on a cycle and the toughest time I have had doing any sport.  Of the twelve that had set out eight of us finished the day.  The six of us and two very brave lads back down the road that rolled in an hour and a bit after us. 

All smiles but inside was a tired and mentally weary soul!

The hotel was spectacular though as was the evening meal and breakfast.  We had to walk through the reception looking like bedraggled tramps whilst someone’s wedding party where waiting for their function room to open.  The smell of us and the sight must have been horrific for them.  I was proud of finishing today and I was proud of the others who finished to.  It was a really gritty day.

Day 8 -  Carrickmacross – Dublin

We arose to a nice morning with the sun breaking through the clouds and a fantastic breakfast probably the best of the whole trip.  That is saying something as by now even I was sick to death of cooked breakfasts.  The food was excellent though and we where in high spirits for the last day.  As soon as we got outside though the sun disappeared and a fine drizzle set in.  We had all got out wet gear on anyway, which had remarkably dried over night.  Eleven of us started the day and we set off from the hotel to complete the 60 or so miles into Dublin and the airport.  We met some solid rain after about 10 miles, which persisted to the first rest stop at around 30 miles.  Ian our organiser had stopped at a Bistro and we all piled in for some coffee and sandwiches.  The food was excellent and boosted our morale considerably for the rest of the trip.  We cycled on and where in excellent spirits for the remainder of the day as we knew it were the last day and our crowning achievement.  We arrived at the hotel later on that day and a lot of back slapping ensued.  After the initial celebration between the twelve of us the reality started to set in that the adventure was finished.  The actual achievement of doing the ride wasn’t sinking it but with two of the remaining Irish lads leaving us there and then to go home it was a muted feeling.  The hotel again was very nice and the food was great… they had pasta on the menu I was sooooo excited not to be having carvery!  We also had a chicken wings starter instead of Vegetable soup.  Someone was smiling down on us!  After dinner most of the lads wanted to go into Dublin but I just fancied chilling with a few well deserved beers/ciders and winding down so I stayed in the lobby in close proximity to the bar.  The night passed quickly as first the football was on then some of the other residents who where staying at the hotel the bodybuilders appeared.  It was fun looking at the guys and trying to distinguish which ones where the women, even when they were wearing dresses.  I went to bed about 00:15 which was the latest time I had gone to bed by far for a bout eight days.  Adventure complete!

The eleven finishers of the 593 miles.


The whole experience was exceptional from start to finish.  Someone asked me on the eighth day at the hotel if I would do it again and without thinking it was a yes, tomorrow if you like.  Firstly the setting was amazing.  Ireland as a country was beautiful and there wasn’t a day went by where some scene or other didn’t make you say wow.  Often there where multiple bits of the most beautiful scenery.  It was also great that the weather held for as long as it did for us so we could get the best pictures and views of all the different places.  The next thing was the people.  The group, the organisers and generally public and hotel staff where so friendly and helpful.  The group had an amazing spirit about it with people talking to each other like old friends after a couple of days.  No one in the group had a bad word to say all week about anyone else and it was such a nice event to participate in.  The organisers did a great job on the logistics and the hotels.  The only criticism I could level at the whole thing was that the marshalling was non existent.  Saying we only got lost twice was probably a vindication of this though.  As the marshals were volunteers also it would be overly harsh to criticise too much.  I would love to do something like this again and am already trawling the internet and bike magazines looking for 2013’s challenge. 

Ride Facts:

592.73 miles cycled
44 hours 43 minutes in the saddle
23,660 feet in elevation climbed
23,382 calories burned
14 mph average speed

I would just like to say a massive thank you and well done to all involved in the Big Red Bike Ride of 2012 it was amazing and I will remember it and you all for the rest of my days.  I would also like to thank all of the people again who helped raise funds for such an amazing cause.  I would like to thank all the people who donated also.  Altogether we raised approximately £144000 (or Euros), which will really help the children by getting them a new Centre.

These kids are some of the children you helped.  Thank You.


  1. Well done! And I bet your worst weather day turns out to be your best day!


  2. Well done big man. It was a pleasure meeting you and great crack cycling with you also. Hopefully we'll all meet up again. Cheers mate Jody.