Dreaming in Green: Peak a Boo-Boo

When was the last time you experienced absolute and utter joy? 

Maybe you felt it on your first sip of your morning coffee, or it was puppy kisses that made you smile, but for me it happened when I finally reached the summit of Healy Pass in Ireland!

This is pure joy!

Except, as it turns out, the hill I just climbed was not Healy Pass. I just thought it was.

I would actually reach the summit of Healy Pass an hour and a half after this celebratory dance on the side of a random highway. What I had conquered were two smaller climbs.

And there’s nothing worse than a pair of falsies.

While riding up Not Healy Pass I reached the blazing speed of 3.1 mph which is very likely the bare minimum speed anyone can go without actually falling over on your bike directly into traffic. All of this due to a fairly steep grade and a headwind blowing at approximately a zillion miles per hour.

At the end of this effort I was ecstatic! I couldn’t believe that I did it! I made it to the top without falling over and I DANCED from the sheer joy! I suspect the tourist busses passing by were confused, but probably appreciative of my interpretive Irish jig of happiness too!

After my celebration and when I was able to breathe normally again, I got back on my bicycle and went on my merry way totally thrilled that I had gotten through the hardest part of my ride so early in the day.

Until approximately 40 minutes later when I saw a mountain of switchbacks rise up the countryside in front of me. And I knew I had messed it up.

But this is the view from the top of the real Healy Pass.

Healy Pass itself was beautiful. It was a challenging climb in where I looked down those switchbacks to see the tremendous, albeit slow progress I had made. Along the way many fluffy sheep gave me a creepy side-eye stare me (with their disturbing sideways eyes) as I slowly rolled by. That alone was a little motivating to get to the top.

Finally, the celebration at the top was still pretty good, but a lot more cautious. Just in case.

Because, every now and again, even a seasoned cyclist sometimes gets it wrong.

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Dreaming in Green: Tea and a Toasted Special

The first thing I learned while in Ireland is that the locals will tell you a rule, and the immediately disregard it. They are habitual line crossers!

They will tell you all about the rule, and then they immediately break it! And I love this! I absolutely adore it, and hope that I can bring a little more of this Irish spirit to my own life.

The following is one such story:

It was about 10:00 in the morning, and it was the first day of my trip in which the intermittent Irish rain arrived. I was about 31 miles into my ride and had just climbed the Ballaghisheen Pass.

The cold and soggy ride up the Ballaghasheen Pass

After conquering this challenge the reward is riding downhill! But, speeding down a wet road on two skinny tires at high speeds is scary! 

I was white-knuckling it and riding the brakes hard through beautiful wide open landscape. By the time I reached the bottom of the hill I was soaked and was cold in my bones.

Shivering, and with my toes in a puddle that used to be my shoes, I pulled into the small hamlet of Glencar. I noticed a few cars in a parking-lot next to a little hostel/pub, a good sign that it was open (something I had rotten luck with throughout my trip!). I leaned my bike against the building and shuffled inside.

I started peeling the soggy layers of bike clothes off my frozen limbs and a weathered man enjoying his morning Guiness immediately questioned my sanity for riding my bike in that weather. “Doesn’t look like a fun thing to do.”

Well, he wasn’t exactly wrong in the moment.

The barmaid appeared:

Barmaid: What can I get you?

Me: Do you serve lunch?

Barmaid:  Well, I can’t serve you lunch. But I can make you a toasted special.

After explaining to me that a toasted special is in fact, a sandwich, I thought about the barmaid’s statement:

You can’t serve me lunch, but you can make me a toasted special?

What?! How is that not the same thing? Is this a rule? What does this even mean?

Oh I don’t even care! YES PLEASE A SANDWICH!

I silently thanked my lucky stars to have this line-crossing rule-breaker here to help.

Barmaid: Would you like: ham, ham and cheese, or ham, cheese and tomato?

Me, starving and sopping wet: Yes, please, ham and cheese would be lovely!

Barmaid: Toasted?

Me: Oh yes please!

Barmaid: And would you like tea with that?

Me: Yes, yes that would be amazing. Thank you.

Can we talk about tea for a moment?  Oh tea. Where have you been all my life?

Maybe I should have led with this because many of you dear readers are British, but this was the first time I really understood the wonderful, comforting and warming power of tea. And now I get it. Tea has officially become a constant in my day-to-day life.

I am so grateful for that small pub on a soggy day for introducing me the glory of a toasted special and tea.

So it seems that Irish silver linings are served with ham, cheese and tea.

 

Cycling deep in the heart of Texas

One of the best things about riding my bicycle through the Texas countryside is making new friends.

Sunday’s weather for my replacement ride turned out beautiful, and this guy even let me tousle his hair. It was a great day!

Horsin_Around

Dreaming in Green: Irish Flat

What a lovely cycle! ~245 miles of the lushest, greenest, and possibly the wettest quilt of colors making up the Irish landscape. Around every corner it felt like one section was prettier than the last. Breathtaking!

Actually I should rephrase that to say: It wasn’t just breathtaking, rather it was breath gulping! All of it required sucking in massive amounts of oxygen into pitiful, panting lungs.

Before my trip to Ireland, my last minute additional training schedule, unbelievable heat and humidity and an unexpected massive hurricane interrupted my normal training, so I hadn’t been on the bike in the three weeks preceding my trip. I knew there would be some fitness to recover, but honestly I still felt MEGA confident in my previous training for the AIDS/Lifecycle. I knew I could do the ride, it might just be slower than normal. Besides, we were going to ride the Southwestern Irish coast, I mean how hard could it really be to ride on the coast?

Now let me tell you about a few of the ways that I’m an idiot:

Fail #1: Had I given any actual thought about literally any of the pictures I’ve seen of Ireland’s gorgeous green scenery, I would have realized (but didn’t) there is almost nothing flat about Ireland.

Honestly, what about this gorgeous picture tells you to expect any amount of flat terrain?! Nothing.

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So why would I and did I expect on some level for there to be flat riding in Ireland?

  1. Because I believe in kindness.
  2. Because I reasoned (illogically) that I would be riding on the Irish Coast – therefore, 0 degrees of elevation, therefore FLAT.

Does this look like a flat coastline sitting at 0 degrees elevation? No. no it does not.

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No, this is Irish Flat.

That’s what I started referring to it as. Irish Flat. While the hills started shortly after I left Killarney, the descriptor came on Day 2 of my ride.

Day 2 ~ 56 miles / + 3172 feet — This is the day we had to combine two routes into one, and It turned out to be a very big day.

Normally this day is broken into 2 to allow for some additional sightseeing and overall pleasantness. Here is how the two routes were described (so I wasn’t worried really):

Part 1: Gougane Barra to Glengarriff (~20 miles / + 1010 feet) was described as “a very easy ride, being both short and mostly downhill.”

Part 2: Glengarriff to Kenmare (~36 miles / + 2162 feel) “Here you leave the coast, turning north towards Healy Pass. The climb is steady but not too steep and the views from the top are glorious. The little gift shop / refreshment halt may be open, but don’t depend on it if the weather is inclement.”

I read the first description more than once and thought: AWESOME! Love me some downhill! No problem this is going to be totally cool.

Fail #2: What I failed to put together, is that this mostly downhill doesn’t mean that it is actually downhill if the ride also includes 1010 feet of climbing. Meaning, if this ride is described as “mostly short and downhill,” then there is going to be some seriously steep uphills to get that elevation gain. Otherwise it would say – Elevation, not + Elevation. Cheeky fail.

Anyway, the lovely tour company provided route maps, elevation profiles of the route and even a topological map of the area (this really should have been clue #1 that flat would not be an Irish descriptor). I studied these and deduced that this level of climbing would be totally reasonable because I had already done 3500-5000 feet of climbing during the California AIDS/Lifecycle, and this climbing would only be. between 2000-3000 feet a day. No problem.

Fail #3: My previous climbing experience for AIDS/Lifecycle stretched over 85-90 mile days, so big climbs, but generally at a reasonable grade. But in Ireland, they like to do ALL the climbing in as short of distances as possible! Which means, these elevation gain would be up STEEP hills! Another Cheeky fail.

But everywhere I went the lovely locals told me with their beautifully lyrical accent’s – Oh don’t worry girlie, it’s much flatter that way.

Sure. Irish Flat.

Dreaming in Green: The beginning of a cycling adventure in Ireland!

One of the best things about riding a bicycle is that by your own power, you can get yourself to an entirely new place, it just takes the time to do it, and a will to keep moving your legs.

This past June, I rode my bicycle for 7 days in beautiful California, cycling 548 miles ( from San Francisco to Los Angeles. This experience that showed me how much I am capable of, even if slow. Like a good Sous Vide, I ride low and slow, but I keep moving! This challenge opened my eyes to the realization that if my legs could take me through the hills and valleys of California, my legs could take me anywhere!

I have always been enamored with the lush greenery of Ireland, or at least what I knew of Ireland from pictures or movies. And since I always enjoyed riding my bike, a friend in college once gave me a bicycle guide-book for Ireland. “Someday!” she encouraged.

But I never thought that riding a bicycle through Ireland was something I could do; it was something for those extreme adventurers, not a weekend rider like me. I was resigned that if I ever visited this beautiful country it would be seen through a car’s windshield. But after my experience riding the AIDS LifeCycle a seed was planted. I thought, I just road 548 miles through hilly California! Maybe I could ride my bike around the Southwest coast of Ireland too.

I immediately started researching companies that could help me do what I have for years thought to be an impossible dream. Now to be entirely clear, because this was a late-planned trip my research hit the level of “just enough to get it done.”

I was drawn to a company called IronDonkey bicycle touring company because their services included  setting up custom routes for a self-guided tour in the Southwest of Ireland. After some back and forth setting exchanging ideas and requirements I was sold on the possibility of gorgeous cycling vacation. They would provide the routes, some digital route maps for my Garmin 820 Edge Cycling Computer & GPS (this was the greatest tool for the trip, turn by turn instructions!), and IronDonkey set up cycle-friendly B&B’s along the way.

And just like that, the vacation was planned and the countdown began.

Shout out to all the procrastinators reading this – the silver lining of last-minute travel is that you don’t have to wait very long for your adventure!