Wednesday 22nd June
With access to my second drop bag I had fresh clothes for the morning, including my WAWA jersey, which I packed away in the dry bag – It was still a reward not yet to be collected. After some bran flakes (all that was left to eat by 10.00am) and sweet black tea I set off again. I was still in with a chance of finishing within the time limit, but was really on the back foot now, and would have to ride through the two remaining nights to make it, which had definitely not been in my original game plan.
Today I had something to look forward to, namely that I was meeting my friend and work colleague Andrew in Mullaghmore, and he would be cycling with me as far as Bundoran, where I would have access to a proper bed for a while.
The first part of the day’s ride was flat, and should have been easy, but with not having eaten anything substantial the previous day, my energy levels were low, and I couldn’t get going. At least my bowels weren’t going either, which was a rather large mercy. I just couldn’t find a good rhythm on the bike, and it really felt like a stop-start kind of a day.
All of Ireland’s worst drivers were out in force as I passed through Sligo at around 4.00pm, leaving me next to no room as they sped past or turned left in front of me. I was glad to be out of the town, even if it meant heading into the wind again.
A very brief detour at Drumcliffe to see WB Yeats’ grave didn’t hold me up too much, and I was with Andrew by about 6.30pm. It felt good to relax and chat as we cycled to Bundoran, where I faffed about looking for a shop in which to get a receipt, and then we went for a meal in a noisy pub. In hindsight this was a mistake on many levels. They didn’t have the food that I really wanted (steak sandwich) and the fish that eventually arrived had the worst, soggy batter on it that I have ever come across. I picked what I could of the fish out of the batter and had some of the chips, but I just wanted to get out of there.
I went a few kilometres off course in order to get an hour’s blissful, quality sleep at the house of Andrew’s girlfriend’s parents, and was back in Bundoran to restart the second, hilly part of the day’s ride at around 9.45pm.
The night was milder and drier than the previous one, I was glad to find, and I was plenty warm enough as I made my way through Ballyshannon and Donegal towns to the control at Killybegs, where I took a photograph of the petrol station at which I then bedded down. Having found sitting on the concrete the previous night rather cold, I thought that I had struck gold when I saw a large doormat slung over a wall. I laid it down and stretched out for a nap, setting the alarm on my phone for forty minutes time. Waking up, I found that my backside was wet, for I hadn’t put my overtrousers on and the doormat had been damp. Lesson learned for the next time.
From Killybegs the road soon rose up, and before long I was climbing the first of three long ascents, this one inland of Slieve League, the highest sea cliff in Europe. Nearing the top, I could feel the tell tale signs of sleep creeping up on me. I didn’t dare tackle a big descent while tired, so I found a likely looking spot by the side of the road, donned my overtrousers, lay down on the grass, and went to sleep.
Looking back at the GPS data, it was only 15 minutes, but it felt like the best sleep I had had all week. I woke fresh enough to safely negotiate the steep descent into Glencolumkille, unfortunately leaving half a bottle of flat coke behind at the scene of my blissful slumbers.
By the time I was descending the third and largest of the climbs it was getting light, and I was getting tired again. This time I found an old stone hut with a corrugated iron roof that had some plastic sheeting in it. Only the dog in the farm across the road was aware that I slept there for half an hour.
Following the remainder of that descent, it was a flat run into Dungloe which was fuelled by a double caffeine gel, and accompanied by forty minutes of my talking mindless drivel aloud to myself in an attempt to stay awake. I was feeling hungry by now, which was a good thing, but stupidly didn’t have anything else to eat with me. I was really glad to find an open shop in Dungloe, where I got lots of chocolate and coke. This healthy mixture saw me safely into the final sleep control at Lackenagh by 8.00am. This time, my monosyllabic utterance was “food”.
Route: WAWA day 6 Ballina to Lackenagh 302km
Next : Day 7