Gaelforce Cycle West done and dusted

What a HOLIDAY! Hardly!

Just before the race

Back in Zurich from a whirlwind visit to Ireland which took in my Postgraduate exams in Public Relations, a 24 hour race, a presentation and a couple of meetings in Kerry!

The exams went well.

The race went even better. 4th Place soloist out of all the mountain bikers and 1st (and only) female

I got an A in the presentation too

So if thats anything to go by, the hat trick of good luck should make up for the hat tricks of bad luck I had all summer.

Gaelforcecyclewest was the first event of its kind in Ireland. The first ever 24 hour mountain bike race and the first ever road bike race also. Forget about centuries and double centuries, going solo for 24 hours is out of this world. Literally.

It was a great race, probably the toughest thing Ive done regarding having to motivate yourself while out there all alone in the darkness. Held near the Glen of Nephin in Co. Mayo, the course was a long and never ending 20km fireroad interspersed with some unchallenging single track and a hike a bike (which I was cursing in the beginning but soon realised that it was a welcome break for the back pain which started to set in around lap 4)

I met up with the rest of my AR team there, Eoin Keith, Chris Caulfield and Brian Keogh. If it werent for their company and comradery I dont know how I would have kept going.

Eoin, Me, Chris and Brain
Eoin, Me, Chris and Brain

The race started at 2pm with a long le Mans start, a 1.7km run in a loop to get our bikes and the first lap was completed in 1hour and 8 mins. I knew we were going too fast entirely in the beginning, but I also knew that was to be expected and that it would slow down soon enough.

I didnt take too many breaks until about 7pm when I stopped to put on my lights and I met up with Chris and Brian after they had stopped so we were on the same lap together. We stayed together for that lap then I stopped to get some food before they closed the hot food stall at 10 pm. I was getting really annoyed with my lights because the mount kept on loosening on the downhills and the lights would turn upsidedown to blind me so I decided to go in and tape them to my bike, but everytime I went to transition I got distracted by coke and sweets that I kept forgetting to tape them. Thats the type of confusion induced by sleep deprivation.

Brian and CHris were a lap ahead of me, Brian had suffered a technical problem when a stick lodged in his rear derailleur and we ended up doing another lap together at about 10pm but I was feeling better than he at the time and I carried on alone. When I got back to the van to refuel and take a little break I saw Brians bike but there was no sign of him around the van or in the team tent. On closer inspection inside the van I saw two feet sticking out from beneath a duvet and lo and behold our superstar was in bed. I decided to take a nap too as I was exhausted and I roused him to consult and agree on a time to set the alarm to get up again. We said 1.30 or 2am would be fine so I set my alarm.

I woke up at 2.30 am in shock and to bright lights in the van from Eoin who was shivering and complaining and not in good form at all, only wishing that the rest of the soloists came to a general consensus that we would all sleep for 5 hours to even the playing field. I realised that in my exhausted deliriousness I had set my alarm for 13.30 instead of 1.30 am and quickly revived myself, hopped out of bed, put some more clothes on and got back on the bike, shakily.

The next few hours were very slow, as I waited for sunrise. It was so difficult being on your own so much of the time. I really wished the course had been shorter so there would have been more activity but I spoke to Mary and Jamie of Killary ADventure Centre afterwards and Im sure they will take our suggestions on board when planning next years event.

At about 6.30 am I went back into the van to get Brian out of bed but no amount of cajoling, bribing or threats would rouse him. I left him for dead and continued on my own. About 2 laps later I was on my favourite boggy sticky almost unrideable section of the course when I fell over (going too slow) and landed on a piece of wood. At that stage, tired and fed up, it didnt take much for the eyes to fill up and I felt a hissy fit coming along. I was about to pick my bike up and throw it in a tantrum when I noticed someone coming towards me with a yellow helmet and red windbreaker. Recognising Brian, I just got back on the bike and kept cycling, I didnt want anyone to see the state I was in, least a teammate. I waited for him after the bog section and when he caught up I got a “are you alright missus?” and I grunted some profanities and off we went, I was so relieved I had company and from then on things were looking up, Brian was finally back on the bike and it was great to have him going around with me and cracking jokes, it made such a difference!

I was in joint second place in the race with Chris Caulfield until I took my break at 12pm, and I lost 2 laps to him and Declan Hanrahan over those 2 hours that I slept. If I had kept going I may have been in with a chance of 2nd or 3rd, but I also know that I was hardly able to keep my eyes open at around 12.30am so it was necessary to take a break (or caffeine pills)

The last 2 laps of the course were so easy, I seemed to have kicked into a another gear and I was flying around in great form. Finishing at 23 hours with the option of doing a last lap which would have brought me up to 15 laps in total but as I wasnt going to get 3rd place I decided to call it a day and stop, as I had had enough!

It was a positive experience in the end, a tough, long slog but such a nice achievement and very beneficial to see how I would cope over 24 hours, to become familiar with the ups and downs and the mood swings and be able to recognise the cause of slumps being because of lack of food more than actual personal morale.

It also reinforced that racing over that length of time is so much more fun in a team and that I really do enjoy the company of being surrounded by buddies. 24 hours was a long time to go solo and if I were to do it again, I would hope the course was more compact or that I had someone to pace me also.

Well done to Killary Adventure Centre for organizing their first 24 hour. I hope there will be a repeat next year and that it turn into an annual fixture on the mtb and road racing circuit!


Write up from Irish Cycling

The date is set for the 19th of June 2010. Register here


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