10 Things I Think About The Donegal Atlantic Way Ultra Cycle:
I think Donegal is ages away. Ages away. When you look at a map you see that Ireland is not a big country in the grand scheme of things. It doesn't feel like that when you left Dublin three hours ago and are still only in Omagh.
I think Donegal is massive. 200km to cycle around only the Inishowen peninsula. 555km around Donegal altogether and still nowhere near Ballyshannon or Bundoran. Parts of the place are pretty desolate too. Very pretty but seriously out there.
I think the song Hills of Donegal is unbelievably well named. I can scarcely remember a flat part of the entire course. The elevation profile looks like a fine tooth comb. This may be obvious but beware of roads that have gap or pass in the name. You don't get called a pass because your at sea level. Particularly watch out for Mamore Gap and Glengesh Pass. They are disgusting.
I think I should have brought more spares. A spare tyre would have been nice. As a general rule for an ultra cycle: bring spares. Lots of spares. Bring more than you think you'll need. Just bring everything. Something will break or go wrong. Have a spare parent floating around? Throw them in as well. Thanks to Seán McFadden who saved me from having to change a tyre by just putting an entire new back wheel onto my bike. What a gent.
I think wind can ruin you. Few things will demoralise you more than trying to cycle around Bloody Foreland at 4am in the morning, seeing a new hill every time you turn a corner and a 9m/s wind blowing relentlessly into your face. A southwesterly wind that had 4,000 miles to practice before it hits me in the face and tries to send me back from whence I came. On the other side of things, even when you've been cycling for 26 hours and 5000m of ascent and you turn so the wind is at you back you’ll suddenly feel like you have fresh legs and someone attached a rocket to your bike.
6. Nighttime Cycling:
I think this is both great craic and grim. On the one hand you can't be worried about the next 2km of upwards climbing because you can only see 2m ahead of you. On the other hand you should be in bed like a sensible person. I'm glad I practiced cycling in the dark at least once too, even if it brought me closer to the dodgy characters who populate the Phoenix Park at midnight than is good for me.
I think caffeine is awesome. I don't drink tea or coffee so don't really get any caffeine on a daily basis. Caffeine gels and tablets had a huge impact on me mentally from about 20 hours in. Just cleared a foggy mind and blew away some tiredness. For about an hour or so anyway.
8. Be sound:
I think this is important. It doesn't take much effort to say hi to people you cycle past or who cycle past you. I can't really understand people who ignore you. You don't have to have a chat like, just lift a hand in acknowledgement. This goes for crews too. Every little beep, clap and cheer helps keep the spirits up. Can't understand the crews who see someone approaching, figure out it's not 'their' cyclist and then basically turn their back on them. Thankfully they are the minority.
I think 555km is a long time on a bike. Even if I wasn't carrying 3 stone I don't need and could finish in less than 24 hours it's still a long time on a bike. Spirits will get low at some point. Have something to keep your mind busy. Think of a puzzle or something. Music is your friend. You might even end up writing an unsolicited piece for your mates blog in your mind...
I think the organisation was excellent. Fair play to Sean McFadden and Shaun Stewart, and all the rest of the organisers. Everything ran smoothly from the time we arrived on Thursday night for registration. Thanks to Mam and Dad too for their organisation as my support crew. It's a big ask to get people to take that much time off work to go to Donegal for basically three days and have zero sleep for one of the nights while they drive behind me. I couldn't have done it without them. Thanks.