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WILD ATLANTIC WAY AUDAX Sligo Mountains near Drumcliffe

tube; on the drops my vision falls down to my front wheel and maybe a few feet in front of it. I catch him up, and he’s pleased to see it working. I cannot describe the joy in being able to continue. It is near impossible to get out of the saddle unless I want become a nodding donkey. I remain seated. I’m unable to reach my water bottles thus set up, and so stop every time I need a drink. The fixed position, and rain showers blowing in and out, begins to lead to moisture build up, rubbing, wrinkled skin, and thus saddle sores. About once an hour I need to stop to apply Aloe Vera Vaseline. I try and drink during these enforced stops. I’m unable to turn my head to look at the view. My view forward perhaps 30 yards in front of my wheel. I start getting off the bike for uphill to give myself a break and have a chance to take in the scenery denied me. After 6 hours making steady but hard progress I’m in need of a doze. I lie down on a grass verge. This is Ireland, every few mins I’m woken by a concerned driver asking if I’m alright. John and another Irish rider pass and ask if I’m alright, yes just trying to catnap. Eventually I find the entrance to a golf club and lie on the grass propped against the sign. Broken chain in the pitch black, Ghleann Gheis

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Arrivée Summer 2016 • No.133

I am left undisturbed here and manage to grab my 30 mins at last. The strain of the fixed position, and not being able to turn my head is taking its toll. I haven’t taken any photos at all today. I barely know where I am, not being able to focus on landmarks, other than following the pink line on the GPS. I get a sense of Deja Vu, like I’ve already cycled the Wild Atlantic Way, and for some reason I can’t fathom I’m riding it again. My neck is getting weaker and I’m putting a lot of pressure on my hands to now try and keep a forward view. I’ve lowered the seat, which strains my legs, though they and the rest of my body is still in good shape. I’m trying to ride as though on a sit up and beg bike. I’m pushing down with my finger tips on the nearest bit of bar, then changing that to my palms; to try and keep a forward view. I’m sat on the top tube, a leg braced to prevent a shimmy for the descents so I can see further ahead at speed. The rises and falls and twists and turns of the road begin to blur. The villages I pass through I barely register so constrained is my vision. I lose all concept of where I am. I do not see the signs of Creeslough and pass without stopping for a control receipt. An hour later I stop and check my brevet card. I realise I have passed though. A confusion falls upon me. I now think I’m out of time, the last rider on the road. The black tape holding my GPS on hides the average speed display of a screen and I can’t get it to show it in another field. John catches me up, I didn’t realise I’d passed him. I ask him about our overall average speed, and he looks at his GPS and says 14-15 km/h. He confirms we are still in time. I mention I forgot to get a receipt at Creeslough. He says not to worry he saw me go past back there, another rider tells me the same. A fog occupies my head but I take comfort in their words. I walk more uphills to give my neck a break. I’m still keeping pace with John and a couple of

others and we overlap from time to time. That gives me further comfort. I find myself alone again and the Déjà vu returns. I feel I’m going round in circles, though I am not. I take this to be symptom of my increasingly restricted vision. My lack of interaction with the landscape around. My neck drops further in pain, my world shrinking to 20 feet in front of my wheel. I begin to cry, the tears splashing on my GPS then needing to be wiped away. The tears turn into sobs. Before the event Jim Fitzpatrick had talked about when it gets hard, to visualise yourself at the finish. This is my hard moment. As I sob, I visualise myself on the Peace Bridge in Derry. I’m sobbing there as well, bent over my bike. The lyrics from Mad World enter my head “the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had…” My emotions rise and fall carried on the Atlantic waves I can hear but not see. I continue forward but the neck is getting worse and the inner tube strapping is ceasing to give enough support. The saddle sores are getting worse and Vaseline needs applying more regularly. My hands and wrists are hurting from the effort to keep some forward vision. The tears come and go, I have no control over when or where. Terry another Irish rider catches me up when my emotions are somewhere in the middle. He asks if he can help in any way. We stop and he provides me with a fresh roll and some ham that he’s just bought. In my confused state I’m forgetting to eat. He takes pictures of my setup whilst I eat and promises to send them privately not publish on FB. I thank him and he carries on, as I drink some water. I have no more tears left to give, and my emotions settle. I roll into Letterkenny, at 8:45pm on Thursday 23rd June. The inner tube is no longer working that well. My vision is restricted and on the busy roads of Letterkenny, with rain falling again, I walk the last bit and find a pizza place I can eat in. I order a large hot and spicy

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Arrivée 133 - Summer 2016  

Arrivée is the free magazine of Audax United Kingdom, the long distance cyclists’ association, which represents the Randonneurs Mondiaux in...

Arrivée 133 - Summer 2016  

Arrivée is the free magazine of Audax United Kingdom, the long distance cyclists’ association, which represents the Randonneurs Mondiaux in...

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