Day 5 – 287km
After spending a night doing sit-ups in an attempt to stay warm, unsurprisingly, I had a tough morning. Besides being tired, I had an upset stomach, which forced me to stop a lot. It got really annoying and I promised myself that on my next big trip I’ll take Imodium tablets with me. I was glad however to be wearing cycling shorts and not bibs!!! I also realised I couldn’t feel some of my fingers and toes anymore because the pressure of the handle bars and shoes had damaged the nerves. Numb fingers is a common problem for long distance cyclists, but numb toes? I never heard of anyone getting numb toes before. Neither my numb fingers or toes concerned me much. I knew it would go away at some point after the ride. My saddle sores also felt worse than on previous days. But I guess I just going through a slump that morning.
Late morning the sun came out and I started to feel all warm and cosy, which made me really really sleepy. I started talking to myself to keep myself up. I even tried singing, but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. I pulled over and had a nap on the side of the road. It felt like the best wee nap I’ve ever had until a concerned driver woke me up to see if I was ok. It’s weird how it is normal for drivers to park up on the side of the road and take power naps in their car, but it looks odd when a cyclist power naps next to their bike. I assured him I was fine and got back on my bike. The power nap kept me going for another couple of hours. I managed to get through the day on a few more short naps and a lot of coffee and Redbull (to save money and time I’ll take a packet of ProPlus with me next time).
My Scott and I
The TransAtlanticWay Race is an unsupported cycling race from Dublin to Derry (checkpoint 1), then along the Wild Atlantic Way to Kinsale (checkpoint 2), and then to Blarney Castle (or the pub). That means I had to carry all my sleeping gear, repair stuff and extra layers with me on my bike.
I entered this race only 2 weeks before the start date, and 3 months after breaking my ankle. I entered the race with no expectations, and thought that if I finished in 10 days that would be ace. I also knew I could always get the ferry and train back home if my ankle was causing me problems.
In the 2 weeks before the race I had to order and test quite a lot of new kit (an intact helmet, cycling shorts, light-weight sleeping bag, bivi bag etc), familiarise myself with the route (turns out I didn’t have time for that), organise transport and insurance and get a little more confident on the bike again.
Before I set off, my bike was my main worry. It’s a Scott Foil, a carbon aerodynamic road bike with an aggressive geometry, and not a good fit for my long legs and short reach. But I’d been on long rides on it before and was keen to just get on with it, so I did!🙂
On the way to Dublin, at Chester train station, I spotted a guy who had a suspiciously bikepacking-ready bike with him. Turns out Jesko was another TransAtlanticWay Racer! I was ridiculously tired from my journey down (I had less than 3 hours sleep) and couldn’t stop giggling about what we were getting ourselves into.
Just off the ferry in Dublin and cycling to Trinity College. Photo Credit: Jesko von Werthern
A few days ago I decided to sign up to the TransAtlanticWay race. It’s a self-supported, one stage, 2500km bike race that starts in Dublin on the 17th of June (yes, yes, that’s only two and a half weeks away!) and finishes in Cork via The Wild Atlantic Way, along the west coat of Ireland.
I’ll be given a GPS tracker for people to follow my progress.
Having only been back on the bike for a little under 4 weeks, I’m trying not to expect too much!
The views made up for the midges!
I feel I’ve only really kick started my training this weekend, when my friend Elizabeth and I went on a bike packing trip on the lovely roads of Argyle! Argyle really knows how to maintain their roads – take note, Glasgow!!! We left on Friday night, and cycled 115km somewhere past Inveraray to camp. I had planned to sleep in my Bivvi bag, but had forgotten how awful nasty midges can be in Scotland, so I gave in and joined Elizabeth in her tent!! The thought of midges in Ireland kept me up half of the night and I decided to sew a midge net on my bivvi bag as soon as I’d get home. The next morning we set off on a 250km ride on predominantly single track roads.🙂 I was sun burned, tired and itchy when I got home, but I’m glad to have done that the distance! Will I be able to do this sort of distance for 10 days? I don’t know, but that’s the challenge!🙂 I’ll also be working on building up strength of the ankle muscles. I’m hoping to get another long ride in before the race, who fancies joining me? Continue reading
Laughing at the how weird my ankle looks
So, a few months ago I broke my ankle. I was on a speedier ride then usual, rushing to get back to Glasgow, and stupidly chasing some cyclist up one of the hills south of Glasgow. As I descended this hill, just before I got to a crossing, the traffic lights started to change. I was thinking, “Can I still make it?” I was going quite fast so I probably could have made it, but I decided to stop. My cleat on the left shoe (the side I usually unclip with) was super worn, and I was worried it would break, so I unclipped on the right side, but because I was tired and had no time to think about the stopping procedure, I leaned to the left side. I realised I would fall, but I didn’t want too. I tried to get out the pedal, but couldn’t. Then I fell.
Next thing I knew, I was lying on the street feeling pain in my left leg, and tears started flooding down my face. Not because of the pain, but more because I was scared about what that meant for my around the world cycling trip. The cyclists that I had overtaken previously came to help me and moved me on to the pavement. They also waited till I had called a friend to pick me up. Although I wasn’t sure it would be necessary, my friend Ross drove me straight to A & E. Thank you so so much Ross!
A few weeks ago, I met up with Ian Barrington, who is a keen bikepacker and long distance racer. Here are his bikepacking tips:
1. Ian and I are both very aware of how frustrating it can be when you notice how much time you have spent faffing around on a bike ride. Even if I don’t take a long lunch break, my long rides often take me 12 hours, with only 10 hours of of actual cycling, and I often wonder where those two hours have gone. When Ian races, he sets up his Garmin to show the actual riding time and the total time. He actually makes it his challenge to keep the gap between riding time and total time as small as possible. He sees that time as time that is lost and can never be made up again. Concentrating on that gap gives him focus and encourages him to use is time off the bike efficiently. Continue reading
My fantastic coach Vicky Begg was kind enough to write about my progress in this guest post. I’ve been supported by her for the past 2 years. Vicky is a very supportive, positive and realistic coach, who helps me and others to achieve our goals, while reminding us about why we got into the sport in the first place- because it’s fun! Thanks to Vicky for her kind words and her support.
My coach: Vicky Begg
Here is what Vicky has to say:
Paula has been an inspirational young lady to coach. Originally from a non-sporting background, Paula has gone from strength to strength as both a triathlete and cyclist.
From learning ‘how’ to ride well and how to progress without (too many) injuries or illnesses, this has been a 3 year journey which will culminate this coming year with Paula’s attempt at the Round the World solo female record attempt.
Every individual has their challenges to face and Paula has successfully completed a PhD in Psychology along the way. Clearly for the majority of us, this would be a big enough challenge in itself, but seeing the PhD to its conclusion has been the light at the end of the tunnel allowing Paula to plan for this next big thing. Continue reading
To follow up my last post, here is some more advice from Emily Chappell that I got when I met her last week in Edinburgh.
Apologies for the bad photo
6. McDonald’s might not be aware of it themselves, but they have excellent laundry facilitates (i.e., a sink, soap and a hand dryer)! If you are stealth camping in the wilderness, McDonald’s can be one of the best places to wash yourself and your clothes. On top of that, most McDonald’s have free wifi!
7. I can be a last minute kind a person, and because there is so much preparation and planning involved in this trip, I sometimes worry I wont get it all done in time. Emily assured me that she often feels the same way, and that it can be impossible to plan everything in advance. We agreed that it’s better to have a date set for your trip and get as much done as possible ahead of time. After that, there’s no point worrying, just do what you can!