Sandra's gearing up for a time trial of a lifetime
A BALLISODARE garda will become the first Irish woman to compete in a 24-hour cycling time trial in the UK this summer.
Sandra Deery will be taking part in the mammoth challenge in Chester in July.
Alongside her will be two fellow Sligo men, Liam Kelly and Stephen Mullane. She certainly does not sound daunted by the test that lies ahead.
"The idea was mooted to do it last September. It was mentioned to me that I should do it and after thinking about it, I said that I would give it a go."
As a youngster, she was an avid cyclist, and competed in a few races locally and around the country. "In my teenage years I was very much into cycling, although I took a break from it for a while."
She most definitely has the active bug however. "I am involved with the Triathlon Club and I have also done the Lough Gill swim so I am constantly doing bits and pieces whenever I can."
Sandra's husband, Padraic, has been a big support. "Padraic has been encouraging me along the way. He is also big into sport, and enjoys swimming and cycling.
"He managed four local riders for the race around Ireland last year too."
The training for such a challenge has to be immense, and must be particularly difficult finding the hours with a full-time job.
"Yes it can be hard, particularly with taking into consideration work and family commitments. I am based in the office, so I work 9 to 5, Monday to Friday which helps."
Over Winter, Sandra trained mostly indoors, on her Turbo Trainer.
"Now that spring time is arriving and with the extra daylight hour, I will be out on the road again. It is about building up my endurance and trying to get quicker."
Determination is certainly evident with Sandra. "How the 24-hour time trial works is that the clock keeps going over that time.
"You try to cover as many miles as you can. I would like to stay on the bike as long as possible. It really is an unknown quantity as to how many miles I'll cover.
"Obviously, you have to take food breaks and you will be off the bike for those, but I will try and limit them to as few as possible.
"It will be hard to get back on the bike with each break."
She currently trains between four and six hours at weekends and has two hour outings throughout the week.
"Anything longer than six hours would be counter productive. It gets beyond the physical and into your mental state to keep on going."
Sandra will be taking part in a time trial in Sligo on April 12th.
"There are six and 12-hour options. I will be doing the latter. It will be a good indication of where I am at. I aim to do around 280 or 300 miles. That would be good for me, some of the lads doing it would cover more.
"When I tell people the distance they say I'm mad, maybe we are!"
She said that nutrition is hugely important and local coach Ronan McNamara is on board with useful advice.
Hydration is another big factor.
"With this, I have to make sacrifices, I have three young sons and most of my weekends are taken up with training, hopefully it will be worth it when it's done."
She added: "There is no record set of another Irish woman to do the challenge, so it will be rather special to be the first to do something like this."
Her fellow Sligo competitors are also a big support. "Stephen runs Chain Driven Cycles and he's a good help."
The bike Sandra has is a Bottecchia, from Italy. "It would be a similar bike to what people doing triathlons would use."
The big day itself is on July 19th.
The group plans to travel over the previous day in a van with the bikes. The race begins in the afternoon so we will be going through the night and into the following day.
"It will take about a week to recover!
"There is still a lot of time and a lot of work to be done. We're doing it for two charities close to us.
"Acquiried Brain Injury, which has an office in Sligo; some cyclists use this service after coming a cropper on the road.
"The second charity is Friends of Sligo Regional Hospital."
The team are keeping their fingers and toes crossed hoping that dreaded injuries don't hamper their schedules.
"We have a physio and it is important to keep on top of any niggles, however small."