Firstly I must confess I'm a very unfit individual - active but unfit and when I first thought about this trip; cycling some 200km, I don't think I really knew what 50 km would feel like on the body let alone 200km. On deciding a destination, I didn't factor in, West Ireland is the hilliest part of Ireland you can encounter. By the end of the trip I knew this fact- ouch.
Before the trip, I managed to find a great team mate to complete the journey with me. A good friend and a previous team mate for the Rickshaw run across India. Once we'd booked our flights, we began putting together kit we'd need. I ended up scouring many cycling blogs such as Tom Allen's & Alastair Humprey's as both are complete pro's at putting together kit lists.
Once we had our kit, we plotted a rough map of the route we'd take- it really was beginning to look like some serious distance. Both of us had never cycling that far so it was going to be a great test for our stamina, endurance and perseverance.
We decided beforehand, that hiring a bike would be the cheaper option than carting our bikes over from the UK for a 4 day trip. So we found a nice little cycle shop Emerald Alpine in Limerick city centre, it also mean't we could drop our bikes off in Galway at the end. It was a great hassle free plan.
So I feel I must set up the reason for this whole trip; I see a lot of great adventurer's completing epic cycle trips and I've never really cycled further than Sainsbury's (at the end of my road) in London. So I really wanted to experience this activity that seems to make so many people laugh and cry and make people want to continue to do it over and over again across the world. And where better than Ireland - a beautiful country with great scenery. So we started off this taster adventure with a mere 200km to get the juices flowing and see what all the fuss is about.
Our first day on the road started off fun then fell into tiredness and spiralled into self-doubt and despair while questioning why people love it so much- it was hard work, tiring and hilly. No sooner had we toiled and sweat to the top of a hill & sailed to the bottom, we'd hit another giant hill. The walkie talkies we took with us really helped to pre-warn our partner of the pains that lay ahead.
Once we'd reached our first destination exhausted and ready for bed, I felt a level of accomplishment- this must be that feeling that cyclist's love so much. Dinner tasted better, a shower was amazing and everything just felt and looked better than before. Although the next morning I really felt like someone had snuck in during the night and smashed my kneecaps with a hammer. The pain was unbearable, I couldn't move. Where had my ecstasy & euphoria gone? I was in pain and dreading the return to the bikes.
After a few hours of pain killers and stretching we were on the bikes again and on the road- once an hour had passed it didn't feel so bad and I felt myself getting into a better rhythm as the hills became less frequent - Does Ireland really have so many hilly roads?
We managed to stop off at some awesome castles and tea shops- I can see why this landscape is a must for the traveler by road. When I wasn't thinking about wanting to throw my legs in a bucket of ice water, I could admire the beauty. And if you're going to eat anything near the West Coast- sample the Seafood chowder- chatting about the dinners that lay ahead would sometimes get us through the last 10 km of the day. On average we were covering about 50 km a day which after bumping into some pro-cyclist we realised that was pretty poor compared to their 160km a day.
As the days went on, it definitely got easier and more bearable. Although we both suffered with chaffing and painful legs but all in all we had a ruddy good time in Ireland. Once we'd returned to the UK and I'd had time to process my pain and emotions, the strangest thing happened. I missed it. As days went on I really missed it. I missed the small things; the morning packing up the bikes, the bell on my bike, the sound of the spokes turning on my bike, the pain; I actually missed the pain - the feeling of been alive as every inch hurts. And I missed the process of moving town to town- arriving somewhere new to unpack and explore the local environment.
As I sat in my confined house I thought...was this it? Is this what makes cycling so addictive. Is this why so many people put themselves through this pain for months at a time. The way it makes you feel? The beautiful places you pass? The anxiety of needing to be back on the bike? Feeling like you've worked for every meal?
And there it was- I was sold. Now I plan to cycle the Danube river source to sea- dates to be confirmed - just to feel the wind in my hair once more and the perpetual motion of progress...
I had caught the cycling bug!