Borris Viaduct

Borris Viaduct
Borris ViaDuct

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Winds Prevail - Part 1

This was a strange weekend - I was planning to get a few fellow cyclists down to cycle Dublin to Inistioge and back on this weekend while the parents were away but nobody could make it so we postponed it by a week. As it turned out I had to go down anyway, to check the mail for my little brother's Leaving Cert Results and clear the mail so there was room for potential college offers! There was no real convenient way of getting down and back so I (eventually) decided feck it, I'll cycle down and back anyway! I had been out for a few drinks with JJ till late the night before hearing tales of his cycle to Berlin, and so I groggily and reluctantly left Lucan at 2pm, about 4 hours later than the latest time I would prefer to leave at for a 140km cycle, with 1 fully packed pannier on the hybrid. 

The Dublin - Inistioge route I take is via the N81 and Blessington Lake, and after an initial climb to Blessington, is predominantly downhill for the rest of the journey and quite scenic. However, to my dismay I noted as I cycled east to the Wicklow mountains, that they were covered in rain clouds (and were clearly emptying away) and worse still there was a heavy south westerly wind - this was not going to be a pleasant cycle. 

One little blessing was that in the 20 minutes it took to get to the start of my climb, I could see the clouds clearing on the mountains and making way for blue skies as I approached. The winds however were not as forgiving and made for a tedious cycle down. The worst moment was nearly getting blown off my bike with the rain washing sweat, sun lotion and hair gel into my eyes midway between Blessington and Baltinglass, 40km from Lucan & 90km from Inistioge and wondering "what the hell am I doing here?!". I tried the keep to the touring philosophy of pedalling lightly and get where you're going, but this was sometimes psychologically difficult when you're on your own, and feel like you should be going faster on a downhill route! 

While stopping in Baltinglass to refuel, I made some decisions of self preservation, keeping in mind that I'd have to cycle back the next day. I decided the take a shorter, flatter & less scenic route from Borris to Graig, saving about 2km, and instead of taking a route around Brandon Hill from Graig to my house I decided I would take the direct route, over the hill which would save me another 12km, all in all saving me nearly an hour of cycling. 

 From Baltinglass, the headwinds didn't seem so soul destroying. Maybe I was getting used to it, maybe I was just getting over my hangover or maybe I didn't mind as much as long as the sun was shining, but I felt more of a sense of progress as I steadily got through Rathvilly, Tullow, Myshall and onto Borris. Some really wonderful little descents between Myshall and Borris really gave me a 2nd wind and I got to Graig in good spirits, the 1st part of my plan to trade off scenery for a flatter shorter route felt justified, and I arrived in Graiguenamanagh in good spirits - in fairness it's generally hard not to - you can't approach Graig from any direction without coming down a wonderful descent - it's leaving Graig that's the difficult bit...... 

The second part of my timesaving plan did not appeal to me greatly. I had only went this way once before - on my 2nd ever cycle home to Kilkenny - and there is a nasty 1.5km long incline that I had to walk the majority of, and truly beaten, I barely made it the remaining 6km of descents and climbs home - This time I was feeding off my good vibes and stubbornly decided I was not walking my bike anywhere today! I felt I needed to do it, to make the remaining 6km of hills manageable by comparison. 

The approach to this climb is actually quite a steep descent but because of the headwinds it was hard to build up any momentum. In any case I was trying to preserve my legs and I was more focused on changing to the lower ring on the front chainwheel at the right time, as my gears were feeling a bit sticky. My momentum seemed to be dead and buried before I even got to the climb which was not a great start and the gears quickly came down - 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Uh oh, lightest gear, and legs were burning, a 3rd of the way there! At this stage my heart was about 150 and I was going a magnificent 7km/h up the hill. I thanked the cycle gods that there was no cars (or even pedestrians) going up the hill at the same as me to emphasise just how slow I was going for the effort I was putting into this. I persisted though and kept saying to myself, possibly out loud, "just get to the top, just get to the top" and finally after what seemed like a lifetime (probably about 20 minutes) I finally made it, a champion! I cycled the remainder in celebration - there were actually other difficult climbs on the way, but they didn't compare remotely to that and I had home in my sights. 

I got back at about 8pm, and quickly got changed and walked down to the village to get to the shop before it closed. Here I found out why I should not shop hungry, getting a cornetto, a lucozade, 2 frozen pizzas (!!), 2 litres of coke, a half pan of bread and a large jar of chocolate spread! I consumed all but the last two items and a litre of coke in a pretty gluttonous 2 hours - I wondered if I maybe kind of overdid it, but with that day behind me and knowing I had the return journey ahead i figured maybe not. My legs were sapped of energy and I wondered how the hell I was going to get back to Lucan the next day....

My Route