I find the third day in an ultra endurance event probably the hardest. My Day 3 in the TAW19 was particularly hard.
Strava says that I left the hotel I was in Altan at 4:45. It was still pitch dark. Two of the restaurant service ladies and the night guard where smoking at the main door and did not seem to be surprise to see a cyclist leaving at that time. A “small german guy” (refferring to Michel Sutter, the other TAW participant from Basel) had left 15 min before me, they informed me. Although he is much stronger that me, ant the Transatlanticway is NOT a race, in my mind, “the chase was on”.
I had done my research and mentally I was well prepared for what was ahead of me that day. Being 90Kg and not much of a climber, my program for the Transatlantic was was basically don’t bite more than you can chew.
I knew that Glendesh Passaround at around Km 95 and the “Silly Hill” later on the day would test my limits more than enough, so set up to enjoy the day. I had to take it easy if I wanted to reach the end of Day 3..
I actually enjoyed trampling up Glendesh Pass in light rain. It is not that bad. Steep ramps and great views. Rich Marshall was at the last hairpin and did his magic and made me look like I know what I was doing.
The rest of the day was quite peachy actually, with Mallin Bay being the highlight. I remember meeting a very stressed TAW participant with a very nice bike (Moots?) telling me that he just got a 12 hour penalty for inadvertently taking quite a shortcut.
I developed a lot of pain in the back of my left knee during the early afternoon. The kind of pain you have when you have torn your Meniscus. I know this kind of pain well and although is quite disturbing, it does not worry me much. I already have had surgery on both knees for the same reason. (1998 and 2002) I am familiar with the pain aI know that the torn cartilage tends to break off after use. I knew I just had to be patience. I do not carry any “drugs” with me. So I rode pain killer free for two days.
While planing the route back home, I had noticed a very interesting horse-shoe loop that the route takes before Sligo that did not make any sense on paper. I had actually checked it out in Google Street View and realised that Adrian had prepared another “road candy bit” for us.
Although after 235Km the route went up into an amazing cliff-surrounded natural amphitheatre, the visit seems totally unnecessary. After leaving the main road, you are welcome by a 8% climb that feels like 35%.
I was alone. My bottom bracket was squeeking. My knee was killing me… but everything was so incredibly beautiful. The view from the top and the sense of solitude are absolutely priceless, and honestly up to today one of my strongest memories of TAW19.I did not care.
After hitting the top, I stop to rutinuisly put my jacket on, like most cyclist do at the top any hill. Something colorful on the floor caught my attention. A gummy bear on the road!. Like a detective, I felt that I was not alone. I hat totally forgotten about my chase. I checked my phone and to my surprise I saw that Michel was only about 7Km ahead of me. I started the descent and headed to Sligo like a madman. (Day later he told me about his descent into town blasting Heavy Metal in his headphones! )
The amazing Gleniff Horseshoe drive.
But Sligo did not seem to want to show up. Those last kilometers extended. I took a photo of a cementery in the warm light of the sundown. Everything started to slow down.
There is a point when your brain just stops. And then all the planning, all the visualising do not help.
In retrospect, I have to laugh, because I gave up only 4Km before the town. I was hungry, I was tired and I was pissed off. Where was fucking Sligo.
I stopped at the first road side shop. Got some food. … rode 2Km … stopped at a big gas station, got more food, asked for help. BnB? Hotel? … rode another 2Km… big steep hill right before the town, … cursed at Adrian … finally got to Sligo.
Shit town I though. …I was welcomed by an ugly big tower hotel with the price in big lettering on a window, … shithole, … I am not gonna spend any money here. … asked around … there is a Hostel around the corner. … cheap they said. … found it. … old lady … only 14GBP for the night … shared room. Deal old lady.
Big mistake. 14GBP of mistake. I forgot to ask about towels before the old lady left. Cold shower. Dried myself with my stinky trickot. No soap, could not wash my clothes. Small bunk bed. Smelly room … I should have stayed on the road.