Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.T.S. Eliot
In early September 2015 I cycled the ring of Kerry. I was the longest one day cycle of my life and I felt such a sense of achievement when I finished it.
I left Killarney round 6.30am in a grey and heavy mist full of intrepidation and excitement of the adventure and challenge ahead of me.
I stopped in Sneem for breakfast. When I was finished the mist began to lift and the rest of the day was cycled in lovely bright sunshine with the odd puff of wind at my back. I so enjoyed the freedom of the bike, meeting other cyclists passing me, the stunning views of the Atlantic coast line. I lunched in Cahersiveen, had afternoon tea in Kilorglin and dinner back in Killarney. I was so amazed that I had cycled 170km and still felt so good physical and mentally!
I continued on to Dingle for a camping week in my favourite spot on earth -Campail Teach an Aragail.
As I cycled around Slea Head and the Connor Pass that week I began to reflect on my up coming 60th birthday. I wondered how I would mark it. As I’m not a party person that was not on the cards. Each day on my cycles I passed the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW) signs and slowly found myself formulating the question-would I be able to cycle the whole of the WAW to mark my birthday?
I decided to give it a try. I felt as if I was making the first personal goal of my life. Most things I have done in my life I have kinda fallen into them. This felt different. I would have to get maps, check the routes, sort distances, accommodation and most of all set aside time to practice long cycles. I decided this cycle was for me, not for charity, not me organising for a group but just for me …I would cycle the thoughts of being selfish out of myself over the next 2 years!!!
I also did something else quite different I began to tell people about my idea. I am someone who does things and then eventually tells of my achievements, when I know the outcomes. But something about this adventure felt very different. I was going to challenge the mindset of “maybe you will fail”; “you are too old for this” “who do you think you are ” by actually sharing the idea.
I had 2 years to plan and practice. I set about checking circular cycling routes around Galway and Mayo that would make it possible for me to cycle 100-120Km regularly to build stamina and fitness. That in itself opened up to me so much of the area I have lived in for 27 years.
Each day I was at home I cycled at least 50 km and on one day week I did 100-120km. I found myself trying to think up deep and meaningful excuses as to why I could not attend meetings or do work on the long cycling days, as inside my head it felt like self indulgence doing something I loved when there where “serious” things to be attended too. I found myself wondering was there a PhD course I could make up that would render these days as very important study days!
I did use many of the cycles to listen to books I use in my work to “justify” to myself that I could work and cycle the same time!!!!
I practiced regardless of the weather. I had to learn to cycle in relentless wind and driving rain as well as warm sunny days. This stood me well when the time came for the actual cycle. My bike was well tested and I acquired excellent rain gear. I mapped out my route starting in Moville in Co. Donegal and ending in Kinsale, Co. Cork. I checked out accommodation along the way and decided on distances and rest days.
Bit by bit my fitness grew. As did my fantasy and excitment of days meandering the Wild Atlantic Way in sunshine and light breezes, stopping at coffee shops to rest and revive myself, meeting other cyclists, exchanging stories and helpful hints, dropping in to stay with friends along the route. All in all having a great month with nothing else to do but cycle from one place to the next. My own personal “Camino” on the bike.
Nothing could have been further from the reality of how the cycle actually turned out.
This is the first entry to my WAW diary made the day before leaving home for Donegal:
“About to head to Donegal to start the WAW -on the day when there are rain and wind weather warnings….Is this what is ahead of me? Will I be able for it? Give me strength in mind and body. And on this one of the biggest adventures of my life I feel more depressed than I have for years-the weather actually matches my inner life, full of sadness and emptiness.
As I watch walkers on the Western way pass my window soaked and tired -if they can do it I will do it …..I have to find some belief in myself.”
To be continued……