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.
So why would I and did I expect on some level for there to be flat riding in Ireland?
- Because I believe in kindness.
- 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.
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.