Lap of the Lough – the latest from Donal

“There is no feeling to beat that natural buzz of overcoming an adversity – Without adversity and challenge we would lead very boring monotonous existences. 

  •  The Galway Ladies Team in the race around Ireland,
  •   Donal Mahon doing the Moycullen Hill no less than 120times,
  •   The 4 lads who done Mizen to Malin in 21hrs,
  •  Brendan and the 2 lads that done the Ring of Kerry on High Nellies
  • …..down to I know of a lad who is winding up to do 50km.

You need to challenge yourself – It don’t matter what others do or have done in the past, this is your challenge and your achievement and no-body can take that away from you.”

Read about his latest escapade up North – Three Buses and a Fixie

lap lough

Three Buses and a Fixie

All good ideas begin with a challenge I say. There is a chap Donal Mahon recently enough done 120 repeats of the Moycullen Hill in 24 Hrs. That’s some feat and a superhuman effort for a good cause. There are the 4 Galway Girls racing around Ireland. Non-stop night and day again a massive achievement. The 3 Old Velo’s vintage lads who completed the Ring of Kerry on High Nellies.  Well, Sportive season is in full swing at the minute so I decided I was going to do sommit a bit different. I love going to the UK or “The North” to go on events for a few simple reasons. They treat you really well, they have lovely roads and the feed stops are not some Mickey Mouse affair where you are queueing up for some water for 30 mins. The reason I like to cycle in the north is it’s a more gentlemanly affair. Everybody has time for each other and have time to engage in my favourite pastime of all. … talking with people !! They are well organised well sorted affairs even if the roads are not closed or marshalled. Its proper miles as well nobody talks in eurotrash at all. Every junction is marked with 3 or 4 advance direction arrows on the approach and 2 on the way out so you just can’t go wrong. The women of the North also are well able to feed a hungry cyclist with the best variety of home cooked carbohydrate filled wares I have ever had the pleasure to indulge in at a feed stop. This skill is passed from mother to daughter and I’ll just upset all the feminists as well by saying that they are a different breed and really look after the menfolk…!

Personally I am sick to death of the same old Tour de Bullshite where you pay €80 to ride an open road and are lucky if you know what way you are going. All the “Big Boys” start at the same time as the normal folk and it ends up being an open road race with the ensuing mayhem leading to insufferable willywaving carbon fibre arseholes barging and barking their way up the field. Woe to he who stand in their way. Get out of my way peasant, I spent €13k on my Pinarello Dogma.  I booked the Lap the Lough on a total whim about February or so along with the B+B. I did not publicise my escapade too much either.. Preferring to try sommit new myself..! I had a look at it all and it seemed to be a fairly flat 100 miles course. I was going to take the vintage bike but the brand new tubular tyres I had ordered were a little tardy on arrival. You need at least a week to glue them correctly so common sense prevailed. I thought to myself “What will make this a memorable occasion …? The carbon bike nah …. Too common… The other winter and training Peugeot ? Needing a bit of work but deffo an option. Or the newly acquired €308 Wiggle Chinese Imported Fixie…? Well just to put a bit of a challenge in I took the latter.  The tyres she came with were too light for the job in hand and I had suffered 2 punctures in 10 days – One with a piece of glass and the other an errant thorn so 2 new Bontragers were fitted along with a higher gear ratio of 44×15. At about 90 rpm this gives around 23mph… Plenty I thought. Uphill doesn’t matter for you have to bull your way over it and a few extra inches of a gear doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Ignorance is bliss I say

The logistics involved were quite a challenge. I got the Red Setter glass lorry to Sligo at 6am then Sligo to Enniskillen then the Ulsterbus Goldliner from Enniskillen to Dungannon. It took around 6 or so hours to complete this mission. First stop “The Bike Shop” in Dungannon. Johnny the proprietor is a cyclist himself wasn’t long equipping me with a set of tyre levers and a few gels. A quick check over the fixie and quite a detailed conversation around tubular tyres and I was half an hour in the place… Cyclists were coming and going all asking the same… “Are ya going tomorrow big maun?” This bike shop is much like Nigel’s was .. A drop in centre for like minded individuals !.

It’s that season again up North …!

Got checked in along with 3 other intrepid cyclists and went up the town to have a nosey around. Up being the operative word. It was climb after climb. Well the O’Neill’s built Dungannon so they could keep an eye on the surrounding area in case of attack from rival families not thinking about a poor sod who was on an 11kg bike with a 79.2 inch fixed single gear trying to negotiate the hill starts from traffic lights. My decision to embark on such an escapade was not a great one. If I was feeling it now when I am fresh whats it going to be like tomorrow when I have a ton under me ?

I got a feed in a lovely spot called Ellie’s, a few bits for the morning and back to base for the evening. Next morning was a little damp but warm – One massive breakfast from the lady of the house (The Northern Ireland women excel at this) and it was off to registration. Very fast I must say. Everybody in alphabetical order. How many times have we done The Tour de Bullshite only to wait while some poor girl goes up and down a list of names trying to find yours while the crowd gets bigger and bigger.

Down to the start line and once a wave was full off you went nice and steady with nobody shooting up the outside. Clouds starting to clear tail wind and a flat well surfaced road. Onwards toward Portadown. The whole field was well opened up as everyone found their own pace. I found the fixie was easier pushed the more of a pace you carried. Made me think at all the time about carrying the speed along. So a fixie isn’t too bad at all in this respect. In fact this is easy enough…!!

First feedstop took no time to complete and was a big enough affair with 4 bike mechanics with 2 stands fettling the machines and sorting small issues – even doing an impromptu bikefit on one lad ! Medics and masseur. Sugars checked bottle filled, a bar and onward. I didn’t delay long and got in with a few lads from Ards Cycling club – I done a bit of pulling at the front as the lads all swapped stories of foolhardiness and heroism. The terrain was a rolling affair so the knack is to keep the momentum and don’t let the revs drop as the road goes up. This was too easy – 40 miles in and feeling good. The Ards lads put the hammer down the whole way to Antrim. We went through a village called Crumlin – I used to see a girl up there about 25 years ago .. I told the lads to keep going as I remembered why we parted company – The lads laughed “You’re a rascal big man…!” Nuff said…..!

First Feedstop

Onward tword lunch in Antrim and we all pulled in. Soup wraps crisps and again the women of The North looked after us pedalling their wares – A vast array of homemade cakes and treats. The Ards crew told me they were going to push hard the whole way home so I told them lads to go on as I had to take it fairly steady. I was only 50 miles in at this half way stage and the wind was starting to turn against the whole lot. By my reckoning the terrain was going to get a bit more rolling so no time for heroics please…!!

Then between Antrim and Randlestown I decked a crowd of around 6 or 7 gathered with a stricken cyclist. The poor critter had got a fly in his eye and tried to pull off the road not realising the height of the kerb. He went over the bars and broke his collarbone. I stopped up for a few minutes to see if there was anything I could do. His mates had the paramedics called and all was under control so no point in hanging about like a fart in a spacesuit. Turned left in Randlestown and into the only climb of the event – More of a drag so I pushed the fixie hard trying to maintain a steady fast pace. I was going well, feeling good and the fixie was singing. ¾ the way up and I was soon feeling the burn but kept pushing hard. Overtaking about 30 others who were in the small gears and relaxing their way up. I bulled and bulled until I eventually crested the climb.

After I got up the hill the legs were well burned and I attempted to recover. A fixed gear is ideal for this as you don’t have to push the pedals around just let the pedals spin your legs. I then came across the Steady Cycling Club – Seriously what a great name for a club. I got chatting to Keith, Trevor, Johnny and Rossey. Nice lads and in the same boat as myself. We all worked together to the final feed stop and pulled in. They have a sort of grading systein the club where there are fast fellas and not so fast fellas. They have 55 members and I’d say a good 20 were at the feedstop.

We decided to all leave together as one big group but soon the fast fellas were pushing hard. I noticed that Keith, Trevor and Johnny had dropped so I waited up. They told me to push on but I just wanted to roll in and these lads were of the same mentality.

The last 15 miles were sore as the terrain went up and down and the wind was strong. Each one of us had moments where we would drop off – the other lads would wait up and we all felt the burn together. Quite a few times I lost the momentum as I just couldn’t dig deep enough to keep going – A fixie is a very hard task master in this respect – She makes you pay for the slightest loss of concentration and when the tiredness kicks in you can lose the rhythm in a heartbeat. This is no longer easy…!

Into Dungannon we went – Past the B+B and I knew what was coming… Up past Moy Pork Chickens factory then a climb up to 2 sets of traffic lights – I got in hard to keep going and shouted at the traffic lights to please stay green – well a different sort of language was used at this moment. Over that and a bit of respite for 150 yds then a left and up a climb and another left and another climb. Top of the street and right and a small respite. The street lane was coned off for cyclists. A left turn and up the cobbled street to the finish at the Hill of O’Neill. What a finish .. A proper finish, a proper all out finish where is all left on the road. Boys walking their bikes but that’s not my bag – It was a complete all out effort to the finish. Legs completely burned. The spectators cheered and shouted every intrepid cyclist that went up that hill. You know this is one of the best events I ever took part in. Great atmosphere, really nice people, well organised

Going back to my steed on the day. We all try to better ourselves in anything we do. If you don’t give your all you feel totally unfulfilled. Yes I could have taken the carbon and done it at least ¾ hour quicker and had it easy all day – Years down the line I would have forgotten the event as my memory would have been totally non-descript, boring even… There’s a very true expression “ You will never be the man of your father” and this is true. In our fathers and grandfathers time a bicycle was a means of transport. People worked hard labouring on farms all day then perhaps rode 20 miles on a single speed bike that weighed 35kg to a football match – played the game and cycled home. These were tough folk. – Every generation gets softer and more dependent on technology – I decided to take a step the other way, back in time if you like where you have an uncompromising simple machine that you are totally connected with and the rewards and the feeling of achievement having braved and survived 100 miles cannot be underestimated.

Why did I take the fixie last weekend? Why the hell not. I started at 8:20 and I was finished 100 miles at 14:45 so that’s around 6 hours 20 all in – Just to put things in perspective, I went to Ellies again that evening for some food and ambled out of Dungannon to the B+B at around 7:15 and guess what? – There were still cyclists coming back in  – completely buckled and battered from a long day. They were all smiling ear to ear that they had completed 100 miles and the feeling of achievement was all too evident in their tired faces !! There is no feeling to beat that natural buzz of overcoming an adversity – Without adversity and challenge we would lead very boring monotonous existences – The Galway Ladies Team in the race around Ireland, Donal Mahon doing the Moycullen Hill no less than 120times, The 4 lads who done Mizen to Malin in 21hrs, Brendan and the 2 lads that done the Ring of Kerry on High Nellies – down to I know of a lad who is winding up to do 50km. You need to challenge yourself – It don’t matter what others do or have done in the past, this is your challenge and your achievement and no-body can take that away from you.

PS 1 mile = 1.609344 km so the kilometre average speed bunnies can read through this piece and convert all the distances and times so that they can satisfy their misguided appetite for results – Me, I came, I saw, I got over it and that’s all that I need to know….!!

 

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