The Ring of Kerry- The Finale!

After months of training around the roads of Wexford the Ring of Kerry
Cycle weekend finally,arrived. I had thought about this for a long
time-would I be able?, was it too much of a challenge?, would I raise
the target I set for Console?, would I get two punctures?, would I
give up half way round? And was I feckin mad at 46 years of age???. I
knew I had done the enough for a 120k cycle but this was another 60k!
that’s depending on who you believe – the road signs, the website or
other cyclists who had already done it. The Ring of Kerry (ROK) is
anything from 165-180km and by my Garmin it is 169.5km! No matter what
the distance it is a long way and up big hills! So many people had
sponsored me and sent good wishes I could not back down now (note to
self –don’t tell anybody about future mad plans!). So myself and my
new cycling buddy, Tony who up until last Friday the only time I had
spent with was however long it takes to pay for petrol. Tony owns the
local garage and like me is a fairly novice cyclist. But we both seem
to have the same warped sense of humour and got on very well on the
spin down. We were laughing and joking but would we be the same on the
way home!? Actually we were and it was great to have a likeminded
lunatic to do our first big spin together (that’s what us cyclist call
it. It macho bullshit really pretending it’s no big deal!)
After an eventful night of not much sleep and a stomach bug (thanks
Arret for helping me out!) in a haunted B&B (haunted by the present
owner who hasn’t even passed on yet or had she………….?) we met up with
some relations of Tony’s who varied from veterans to novices at 6am on
Saturday morning. We were watching hundreds of others flying past us
as we tried in vain to sell the bikes but unfortunately most people
who do the ROK already had bikes! There was no turning back now. Some
people have routines before cycles- putting their left sock on first,
a certain breakfast, stretching, praying…….ours was standing by a
stream and getting savaged by midges who drove us so mad so we just
hopped up on the bikes and peddled to get away from them!
The first 60k (depending which measurement you believe) is flat and
downhill. I could get use to that and there is even a food stop at the
end of it. Fair play to the sponsors and volunteers for being able to
feed, tea, coffee, sandwiches and brack to several thousand hungry
cyclists very efficiently. After a bit of grub it got bloody serious
with a climb of about 8-10k zig zagging up unrivaled stunning scenery
and the sun even came out. I remember looking up to my right and
seeing tiny little coloured helmets about 5k away and hoping that
there were two separate cycles on that day and the ROK was taking a
different route! But in all seriousness I didn’t struggle as I thought
I would. Now I was not flying up these climbs like some of the Tour De
France wannabes in their head to toe team gear but I kept a steady
pace and didn’t look up to often. Tony who was quite a bit ahead of me
didn’t look up either with a fairly nasty outcome! (but you will have
to read his blog for that story!)
As I was doing this cycle for Console in memory of our great pal
Trevor, who tragically took his own life in March, I was wearing a
t-shirt highlighting this and several people came along side me and
chatted about Trevor and Console and the blight that is suicide in
this country. It was an incredible and very emotional experience
talking to these people and I completely forgot about the cycling and
was nearly half way around before I noticed! One particular marshal
pulled alongside and got chatting and noticed I was on a hybrid bike
(a cross between a road and a mountain bike) which is not the usual
choice of riders on the Ring but there were a few other lunatics on
them. He looked at the width of the tires and said something like ‘are
you planning to go the whole way around on that?’ but in a friendly
good humoured way! I said I would meet him on the infamous climb to
Molls Gap and off he went. By the way I saw probably 30-40 riders
stopped with punctures, some getting help from a fantastic team of
volunteers who either sorted the bikes or brought them to designated
points to have them fixed, but not a single hybrid!!! Let that be a
lesson to all you cycling snobs!
The hours and km’s fly by when you are in a cycle as big as the ROK
because there are so many different shapes, sizes, ages,
sponsor,bikes, logos and mad names of teams (Fatheads Cycle team, the
biscuit club…!)to look at and wonder what the hell we are doing on a
Saturday morning. In what seemed like no time at all we were in
Kenmare for the final food stop before ……….Moll’s Gap!!!. There are
all sorts of horror stories about it. There is a sign at the bottom
that warns people of the distance and a says it’s a 3% climb. I took
great comfort in telling myself that if it was a 3% climb that the
other 97% must be flat!!! But I can say hand on heart that Trevor was
with me because the wind was actually behind and blowing us up it! My
new pal the marshal came up alongside and said ‘Fair play boy you said
you’d see me on the climb to Moll’s and here you are!’ I asked him was
it my imagination or was the wind behind us and he said it definitely
was. Once you reach the top of Moll’s Gap and stop for a few minutes
to admire the view and see where you have just come from it is all
downhill to Killarney. My marshal pal was there again to congratulate
me and I wondered was he going around and lapping me or did he stop
loads of times and then catch up?!? Fair play to the people of
Killarney who came out in their (and I’m not kidding they were 4/5
deep in places) thousands to cheer us over the line………We had done it!
169.5km in 8hrs 20mins.
So as I sit here the day after on 3 cushions! thanks to everyone who
supported me financially and otherwise, to Bren for being a cycling
widow, to Tony for waiting for me at the end and most especially to
Trev for keeping the wind on my back and guiding me safely around the


2 thoughts on “The Ring of Kerry- The Finale!

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