Sunday 17 December 2017

'I asked how far we had gone – 18km, my heart sank...'

Mark Barr and Sligo Champion reporter Emma Gallagher at the food stop.
Mark Barr and Sligo Champion reporter Emma Gallagher at the food stop.

Emma Gallagher

When I signed up for the 100km cycle a few months back, I thought that there was plenty of time for arduous training ahead of the big event itself.

Skip through to last week and the opposite was actually true.

Training had taken a bit of a sidetrack and then, wham, the countdown was on to Saturday's event.

The weather forecasts had indicated slight rain and I was crossing my fingers and toes that howling winds would not appear that morning.

Or else I would be screwed completely.

Whatever about tackling the coast road to Enniscrone with a bit of drizzle, if there was a gale blowing, it would probably feel like 200km plus!

Thankfully, the weather gods must have been listening as conditions were fine.

The crowds were gathering outside the starting point at the Sligo Park Hotel from early morning.

I tried to ignore those who seemed to know what cycling was all about with their top attire and bulging muscles.

Scruffy Duffy was gleefully dishing out helpful words of enthusiasm as cyclists on both routes prepared at the starting line.

The excitement was buzzing as 9.30am approached.

The 100km bikers were first off.

Having an idea that I was not exactly vying for the podium, I kept out of the would-be race leaders' way and positioned myself toward the back of the pack.

There wasn't a mountain bike in sight as riders certainly knew what they were doing.

Then we were off, energy gels and drinks at the ready.

The route along by Ballysadare, was quite okay, however we would think differently on the way back.

The hill close to the Beltra country market was the first of many that was extremely challenging.

I tried to get the right gear and looked, awestruck, at fellow riders zooming up it, not a care in the world.

And some of them weren't spring chickens either, which was even more admirable.

Soon afterward, we were directed onto the coast road, which was a welcome scenic change, I thought.

Until more niggly hills appeared in the distance that were not easy at times. I asked my co-rider, Mark, how far we had gone, it was only 18km – how my heart sank.

Negative thoughts started to appear as I totted up how much more we had to do to complete the thing, 82km! Damn!

Eventually the road straightened out, the ocean scenery was beautiful, and it was clear that Enniscrone and the much-needed food stop was on the horizon.

Here, we clambered off the bikes and grabbed essential fuel.

Halfway there, sure it looked likely now that finishing the thing may actually happen.

From Ennsicrone we went toward the main road, a bit of a climb, but I felt like finally I was finding my rhythm.

There were cyclists up ahead who we aimed to keep in our sights.

The long straights were a delight and I was actually enjoying it.

The thighs that I thought were ready to seize earlier on, were not as strained.

Looking at the roadsigns, Ballysadare was 38km in our midst.

Then it was down to 34km, it felt like we were doing quite alright.

The waves of determination came and went, depending on fatigue.

Some parts were rather difficult.

Then, miraculously, a sign told us there was 15km until the finish line.

Was I going to finish?

Last year's memories of chronic bike trouble reappeared, it would be so heartbreaking having to bow out at this time.

The stretch into Ballysadare was a drag altogether but finally, we were in the town, next stop Sligo.

At this stage it was pretty clear that the finish line was close-by.

A few more strides and then the Carraroe roundabout appeared.

Wow, one more push uphill and we were practically there!

Back to the Sligo Park and plenty of welcome cheers from spectators.

We had done it – big smiles all round! Then for the exhaustion.

Sligo Champion

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