Late last month, seven members of the UCD Triathlon Club met outside the UCD Sports Centre to tackle their biggest challenge of the summer: A gruelling 600km round trip cycle to Cork and back in an effort to raise funds for YMCA Dublin.
I have been involved in endurance sports and triathlons for the past three years. With Covid wreaking havoc across the sporting calendar, myself and two other members of the triathlon committee hatched a plan. We would organise a big charity cycling event; a means of giving back and at the same time creating a new training goal.
We prepared as much as we could. We were doing this trip unassisted, meaning all our gear was carried on our backs or strapped to our bikes. We had no one following us in a vehicle should something go wrong. The biggest factor of all, as we all knew, was going to be the weather.
On Day 1 we had 160km to complete, cycling from Dublin to New Ross in Co. Wexford. Despite one fall very early on in the ride, and two members taking a wrong turn, the first day went fairly smoothly. We got some good sun going along the coast, and while it was longer and more mentally challenging than we anticipated, it was manageable. On that day, we learned alot about nutrition for this type of event. The 160km took us seven hours of moving time, most of us burning a day’s worth of calories or more just from cycling alone. We had come equipped with jellies and sweets thinking that the burst of sugar would keep us tipping over, however, we quickly learned that the sugar spike would lead to a pretty dramatic crash. Going forward, we saved the jellies for the last 50k or so of the day, and tried to put down solid food wherever possible, multipacks of Lidl brand cereal bars becoming our best friend.
On the second day, we were due to cycle from New Ross to Middleton in Cork – roughly 170km. We arose with heavy legs and the first hour or so of riding was rough, everyone tired and pushing through the lactic acid barrier. We took turns leading the pack and drafting, and despite having the weight of gear on our bikes and backs, many of us got PBs for 20, 40 and 50k distances. About 90k into Day two, I got a bad puncture in my rear tyre. It took us an hour and a half to get it sorted, and we did not cross the county border into Cork until 4pm that day. Losing daylight, and the Cork coastal weather worsening, we cut the cycle 40k short and only ventured as far as Youghal before heading the last 45k to our Airbnb.
Getting moving on Day 3 was the hardest. While the weather was dry, covering nearly 300k in less than 48 hours had started to take its toll. While all of us were athletes in our own regard, we found the mental challenge of the sheer time and distance we had to spend on the bike to be one of the hardest things we had ever experienced. We had to cycle back from Cork to Waterford, then up through Kilkenny and end in Carlow for Day 3, another 170k day. 120km in, the derailleur on my bike snapped (what changes the gears). I had to cycle a bike with no gears and unclip to carry it up hills for 2.5 hours to the nearest town. I ended up having to get a train to meet the rest of the group in our final destination. Needless to say, this was not how we predicted the trip going.
On Day 4, with me on a borrowed bike, some fresh gear and the promise of being back to Dublin by dinner time, we set out for our final 100km. In true Ireland fashion, it down poured for the whole 4 hour journey.
As triathlon tends to be an individual sport, this trip was a great way to spend time as a team in a way we really can’t in a traditional race. We were able to support each other through all the highs and lows of being on a bike for over 25 hours that week, and in addition to this, when the fatigue would settle in, we would remind ourselves that we raised nearly €1,500 for a great cause. This was also a great way to see parts of Ireland we would never have otherwise seen, taking a whole new meaning to a staycation summer. Despite everyone’s range of athletic experience, we all found this challenge to be one of the hardest things we had ever done.
While I am not too keen to get back on a bike anytime soon, I feel very proud of myself and our club members for tackling the cycle. Lockdown has been tough on all aspects of our sport, and despite all the challenges we faced along the way, we managed to make the most out of our summer.
Our Go Fund Me Link will close shortly. Anyone who still would like to donate can do so here.
To check out the cycling route and find out more about the charity read here!