Leading on from my last post, I started to pedal along the Wicklow Way. I followed the first sign, then followed on along, a little bit more, hey wait – there are no more signs. I had taken a wrong turn – in Marley Park. Not 150 meters into the huge ride and I made a mistake (which I noticed a few minutes later). I returned back to the parking lot, reset everything and at 10:22 I started off on my trip to Clonegal.
The trip through Marley Park went fine the second time along and I started up the Kilmashogue Hill Climb. The climb had been rerouted since my sub 12 minute time trial up it last year, needless to say, I was not going to go very fast up it anyway. It would be the first 300 meters of elevation gain over the whole 4,000 meters and really my warm up. The previous few days of rest meant that my heart rate rose up pretty quickly and I felt pretty good. The extent of the ride that I was hoping to accomplish was still only hitting me, but at this point, I felt pretty good. A nice morning and an epic ride in front of me.
I rode across the side of Two Rock and really tried to dodge the puddles – I really didn't want to get my feet wet and looking back on that, it's kinda funny (more on that later). As I descended down to the road from Johnny Foxes to Cruagh I met Mel standing taking photos – she asked how I was, but 40 minutes into the ride I had no issues. Life was still good :)
The pass over Prince Willies was unremarkable – I would usually try to ride as much of the newly laid slab path as possible but as I had a long ride ahead of me which was against the clock, I took the safest and quickest option and just walked the top section. I used to really love that descent but I now find that I'm a bit of a chicken on it since it was 'resurfaced' – hopefully, if I get a non 'whippet' bike I'll ride down it a bit quicker.
At the bottom of the descent Mel and I met for our first designated stop. It was simply a quick hello, a new bottle, bar and gel and off I went. The following section was uneventful to the goats track that runs alongside Djouce mountain. The last time I had ridden along it, about a month ago, it was a real joy. Reasonably dry and fast – well, fast enough for a mostly uphill trail. Today, it was wet and soggy – hopefully not a sign of things to come! I ended up having to walk a few sections but got through it okay. I met a few groups of school children hiking along the way who had a great laugh at my “Eat Me” shorts – I don't think they got the whole TorQ Bar side of things. When I hit the boardwalks, the thing that had almost stopped my attempt before it started hit me, the wind. Previously it was just an annoyance – now, riding along the narrow boardwalks, it was pretty dangerous. I took it pretty easy and half way through it, when the boardwalk turned further south the wind moved to being a direct headwind – controlling the bike became a lot easier at that point. At Lough Tay I met Mel for the second time – again, a fresh bottle, another gel, a gel there and then, but no bar this time (I still had one in my pocket). I had covered 34 kilometres, 1350 meters of climb and was only 2 hours 20 minutes into it – the most technical terrain was behind me. I knew all these trails very well so it had not really felt like I left home yet. The next 25 kilometres or so I had ridden twice before, and from there on it would all be new to me.
After a quick road descent I hit more fireroads and cruised along towards Oldbridge – pretty uneventful really. After Oldbridge and some dual track climbing I hit what was probably my favourite sections of the day. A fast open grassy descent and lots more twisty quick single track that eventually drops you down to Glendalough. A real pleasure to ride and worth the trip in itself. As I arrived in Glendalough, with about 3 hours 30 minutes of riding in my legs I thought that this would have been a great spin to just stop there, have lunch and get a lift home. Not today though, the 30 minute climb out of Glendalough awaited.
I took it pretty steady up the climb and enjoyed my surroundings. This region of the world, really is beautiful and I was so glad to be in the position that I could go out and spend time in it – I really am lucky and so thankful for my health. The trees where changing colour, it was not too cold and it wasn't raining...
As I started on the boardwalk section above Glendalough the wind (and rain!) picked up and it was the first time I put on an extra layer above my base and jersey, a Gilet. The boardwalk and the following grassy section and super technical descent was much tougher than the last time I rode it but I reached the fireroad with no incidents so a fast descent down to our third meeting position was upon me.
I arrived down to Mel in Glenmalure, 4 hours, 20 minutes into the ride still feeling pretty fresh. My legs felt okay (considering), I was eating well and although it was raining a little and windy, I was pretty warm. I had covered around two thirds of the climbing which was on the most technical terrain – a sub 8 hour seemed to be on the cards and I felt good. Again, a bottle, bar, and gel with a quick kiss good luck and I passed the half way point of my task and started the climb up Slieve Mann.
Moving into the second half of the challenge, and hitting 1,000 words is a good point for me to stop, and leave the next section until another day.