I hadn’t planned any more 140km+ stages on the cycle since doing Dunmore East to Cork city in a day. That nearly killed me. But when my planned visit to the Organic Centre in Leitrim didn’t work out, I had to improvise. I decided to rest on the second half of day 15, relaxing and reading the weekend papers in a pub in Kilala. I’d stay the night with Arlene in Crossmolina again and try to make it to Belturbet in Cavan in a day. This was the route I took:
I was chatting to a woman in a shop in Carrigallen in Leitrim (near Belturbet) that evening and I was telling her where I’d come from. She didn’t believe me for a while and then told me that she’d be knackered if she’d driven that distance.
It was frosty and bitter cold first thing in the morning on the road from Crossmolina to Ballina. As the sun came up, the side of my body facing it thawed while the other remained freezing and numb. I couldn’t figure it out for a while; I was thinking: how the hell is it that it’s only my left toes, fingers and ears that are numb. Then it dawned on me, literally.
While leaving town I could have taken some beautiful shots of the frost on the fields shimmering under the rising sun but just couldn’t bring myself to get off the bike. I was so cold and stiff that I feared I wouldn’t be able to get going again.
The other side of my body caught up after an hour or so and the busy road to Ballina gave way to the country lanes around Bonniconlon. Those lanes led me up in to the mountains and at one point it was getting so remote that I had to flag down a passing car to make sure I was on the right road. “Tobercurry?”, “Yeah, straight on”, “Cheers”. It was tough going in the mountains and I was relieved to start the descent down by the banks of Lough Talt. Fecking gorgeous around there, really beautiful country. And no better place to get a puncture! The first one was in East Clare overlooking Lough Derg and now this. Much better than the side of a main road anyway. I was almost starting to enjoy getting them.
I took great satisfaction in overtaking a Roscommon farmer on his tractor between Gorteen and Boyle. Move over slow-coach. Meep meep.
The fun was short-lived though, as my legs started to seize up on the way in to Carrick-on-Shannon. I couldn’t straighten them fully without getting severe muscle pains, and to stand up on the bike was agony. I was starting to think that I’d bitten off more than I could chew with this 150km in a day lark. I thought I might have to abort. And by the time I’d gone for a walk around town to loosen up, gotten some food and spent an hour on the internet, the sun was setting over the Shannon. I still had 65km to go. Luckily, the rest had done wonders for my legs and with a full stomach and a pocket full of chocolate bars I took the road for Mohill. It was pitch dark by the time I got there and I still had 45km to go. Night cycling carrys some lessons applicable to other areas of life: you don’t really have to see very far in front of you, just be relaxed in your immediate surroundings and calm enough to deal with what comes in to view.
Avoiding the Cavan boy-racers helps too.
I got a third (or maybe fourth, I’d lost count) wind on the way to Carrigallen and was chuffed to see my ‘distance covered’ go over 1000km.
That’s when I met the woman in the shop. I had a coffee and four mince pies while we chatted. She asked me if I didn’t get lonely and if I wouldn’t prefer doing the cycle in a group. I told her that if I had been in a group I probably wouldn’t have struck up that conversation with her, which was one of the things I’d enjoyed most about the cycle. She offered me a free re-fill.
I got in to Belturbet to meet Declan Fitzpatrick around 7-30pm, 11 hours after leaving Crossmolina. I’d been in 5 counties!