Sunday 19th June
I slept until 2.45am, then dozed with a ‘resting’ heart rate of about 90bpm as the body tried to repair some of the damage done to it over the past few days. Got up hungry at 3.30am and had another steak and kidney pie! Lashing rain during the night, amplified by the metal roof on the community hall, made me dread the day to come. The rain was still on when I was wakened at 5.45am, and as the forecast was for rain for most of the day, I went about protecting as many of my belongings as possible with plastic bags.
I had had a ‘lie in’ this morning, since the first ferry at Tarbert didn’t depart until 9.30am, and by my estimation I therefore didn’t need to leave Ballyheigue until 7.00am. Quite a number of riders had set off around 6.30am, and I wondered at the sense of this. When I got going just before 7.00am, I started off at a fair rate, then amended my speed down and up over the next two hours so as to arrive at Tarbert about ten minutes before the ferry was due to sail.
Little did I know that this would lead to much shouting at computer screens in homes across Ireland as folk following my progress on the live tracker site thought that I was going to miss the ferry! I cycled some of the way with an American called Catherine Shenk, one of four women attempting the Wild Atlantic Way audax. I left her after a while, since I was getting cold, and pressed on a bit to warm up.
When I did arrive in Tarbert at 9.20am, I saw a group of miserable-looking cyclists, some shivering with cold. The ferry was just docking, and I have to confess feeling very slightly smug at getting my timing spot on.
Although I had used the ferry once before, I hadn’t remembered that there was a small café on board, and some of those aforementioned cyclists were soon filling their cold bodies with hot tea, and smiles were replacing the grimaces on their faces. As the ferry began to cross the Shannon I was very glad to see that Catherine had made it in time.
At the other side I was one of the first off, and set off in pursuit of Jim Fitzpatrick, the only rider of the current contingent who had previously completed the WAWA, riding it in April. He was going like the clappers, and I wondered if he knew something that the rest of us didn’t, namely that there was only enough breakfast for the first few at the control in Kilrush! Much later I hear that he had been keeping his powder dry for the first two days, but was now launching himself at the finish line with all guns blazing.
My fears were unfounded, as there was no shortage of food at Kilrush control, and I was soon tucking in to a plate of pasta bake, curry, rice and peas. Suitably fuelled, I began to head out to Loop Head, where the next control was to be a photograph of the lighthouse. It soon became evident that the recovery day would have to be put on hold as I cycled into the mother of all headwinds. The 40km to the lighthouse from Kilrush were some of the hardest I rode during the entire week. By the time I was at the last five kilometres I was struggling to average 17kph, or 10.5mph, despite riding at my threshold, which is the effort that can be sustained for a protracted length of time. At Loop Head, the rain was blown horizontal and stinging the side of my face. Those last few kilometres felt endless, but eventually I arrived at the lighthouse and got another rider to take a photo of it and me together as proof of passage.
Once I turned at the lighthouse to retrace my steps the wind, of course, was on my back, and suddenly I was flying. While the previous 40km had been ridden at an average of 21kph, the next 40 were covered at a 31kph average. I was still riding fairly hard however, just to stay warm and get out of the clutches of the bad weather.
The rain had stopped by the time I was riding round Spanish Point, but the sea mist was still in evidence. The next control was at the foot of the climb up to the Cliffs of Moher, and it was good to have a rest before the climb up to the cliffs, which were barely visible in the mist.
At this point an odd thing happened, and I don’t really remember how, but neither 810 nor 500 recorded the remainder of today’s journey from the Cliffs of Moher to Oranmore. From memory I think that the Edge 500 simply ran out of power, and the 810 probably threw its toys out of the pram and crashed at the end of the day’s ride, but when I got home at the end of the ride, I could not find this part of the route recorded on either device.
Anyhow, the route took me through Doolin, where I stopped to buy some postcards, and then wasted 15 minutes cycling up and down the village looking for a post box. Why are they painted green, which is the worst colour, since it blends in with the surroundings so much more than red?!
The remainder of the day’s route pretty much hugged the coast and was flat, and proceeded without incident. At one point I caught up with Linda and Rachel, who were riding two male companions into the ground! We cycled together for a few miles until they had to stop to feed one of their flagging colleagues some Coke. What a strong pair of riders! I arrived in Oranmore shortly before 8.00pm – a nice short day, but not the easy one I had been hoping for.
The shelter control was a community centre, and all that separated the eating area from the sleeping are was the stage curtain, so the amount of noise that night was greater than usual. The sleeping ‘mattress’ was also the worst yet, being like a judo mat, giving no cushioning at all. I was up every 90 minutes during the night, stretching my back and taking the opportunity to grab carrot cake, biscuits and fruit salad from the eating area.
Route: WAWA day 3 Ballyheigue to Oranmore 265km (last 77 km not recorded)
Next: Day 4