Charity Cycle: Malin Head to Mizen Head - Put a Cork in it!

Third day on the road and feeling strong, Dom raced across Tipperary through Limerick and on to Cork. 'Only' 92 miles he announced on the phone. 

Before he had left Dublin myself and Róisín had created a little sign for him to brandish like a banner as he pedalled furiously across the country. It boasted of his challenge 'Mal 2 Miz' explained why 'Cycling for my wife' and who the money would go to 'The Irish Heart Foundation' with the sponsorship link. We hoped it would be like carrying a little cheer squad on his bike and encourage those who saw him to wish him well and maybe even donate. 

It seemed to do the trick as he was beeped and bipped throughout Tipp (we can only assume it was the sign and not because of some dodgy cycling). The encouragement continued throughout Limerick as he finally enjoyed some cycling lanes and had folks in cars throw comments his way as they passed "Aren't ya great altogether!", "G'wan ya mad thing", "Fair play to ya!" and other only-in-Ireland cheers. 

So far we have raised very close to 7,000 euro, within spitting distance, very proud and grateful. 

Dom's grandfather was from Cork so crossing the border was a return to his tribe. He had his lunch made for him in the village of Freemount in Cork by two 'lovely women'. In their 70s (he was swift to add) they made him a ham and cheese sambo and a cup of tea and asked him all about himself (he loved it of course). At one point on the cycle he did garner a bit of a fan club when a cluster of sheep nearly stampeded the fence to get a closer look at him. (Some of his country cousins perhaps - I'm kidding!)

Not completing the cycle myself weighs on me a little but my focus is Róisín right now. I'll virtually clip through the miles next month when time allows, and maybe just maybe at a future date I'll pull away from the gravel in Donegal and come to a stop on the misty coast of Cork. 

Day 4 will close out the journey and Dom will screech to a halt in Mizen Head. 

But enough from me, let's see what Dom had to say about Day 3...

Mal to Miz reflections

Day 3

Picking a route for these kind of things is a monkey's paw of a choice. Go with the google maps cycling suggestion, and you'll definitely avoid traffic -or in fact any vehicles or humans at all. But inevitably, it also means you'll be stuck on a potholed track, far away from any support you might need if you land in one of those potholes.

Conversely, pick the fastest route, and although that often proves to be a new-ish, flat surface, it probably means riding on 3ft of tarmac beside a busy road, with cars passing within 5 or 6 feet of your right shoulder at 100kph.

This morning, I opted for the fast road. In fairness to the local councils, there is a bike track all the way from Nenagh into Limerick. Yes, they did buzz by, alarmingly close, and at an alarmingly fast pace, but I made a lot of ground very quickly. As my brother Tim said, every mile behind you, is one less in front of you. The dream is to get above 20 miles an hour and stay there (dreams are small on distance events!).

Before I left Dublin, sheilagh and Roisin made me an A4 sized sign to stick on a couple of mini flagpoles poking out of my pannier bags. It says what I'm doing, which charity and why, and a link to the blog in case they want to sponsor us. It's had loads of beeps and friendly waves out of window, and one advantage of the busy road is that increased ten fold.

In limerick city itself the bike paths continued (kudos to limerick CC). However, now the cars had slowed down enough that people could actually talk to me. Several people wound down their windows and engaged me in conversation, whilst we were both moving!

Two people told me they'd done Mal to Miz cycles (or vice versa) and enquired about my route. One told me he thought what I was doing was amazing, and someone else said something in a really strong accent that I totally didn't catch -i gave him a thumbs up anyway, and we both smiled as he sped off tooting his horn.

The last guy said something disturbing. "Are you going via Musheramore?" To be honest, I hadn't checked my route too clearly, but I told him, "I think so" and he looked wistfully into the distance (as much as you can when you're driving a car in city traffic and trying to conduct a conversation out of the window), "ah yeah… nice hill, that" and he sped off.

It sounded ominous, but at this point, I was only 30 miles in. I'd heard there might be hills after the Cork border, but that was 40 miles away. No need to worry at that moment.

One thing I will say about Limerick (aside from having nice cycle paths, and chatty motorists) they sure are proud of their GAA team. The team just won the Senior Hurling title at the weekend, and from county border to county border, it seemed like every house had a flag or a bit of bunting out. To be honest, I only knew I'd crossed into cork because the flags finally changed from green to red.

Over the border, I spied what looked like an enormous mountain to my left. With 15 miles left to Macroom, I chuckled to myself -wouldnt it be funny if that was the hill your man was talking about earlier…

It quickly became apparent that it was, and that it really wasn't funny. I like a good climb as much as the next cyclist, but after 75 miles, hauling bags, on day 3 of a long trip? Oh man… that hurts. Suffice to say, if you don't cycle regularly… skip to the end here, cos it's gonna get geeky.

For the cycling enthusiasts who may be reading this (McCorry? McElligot? McDonagh? -i only make friends with Mc Cyclists, obviously) you know what comes next. 45 mins of hauling the bike up hill, hoping the next brow is finally the one. Eventually you reach the crest and then… the pay off. Musheramore drops over 800 ft in less than 4 miles, with stunning views throughout. The road is wide and empty, the weather was perfect, and I couldn't think of a better way to finish the last full days cycling. That is definitely one of my favourite descents anywhere in the world.

After that, I checked in to the Abbey Court hotel in Macroom, with a huge smile on my face, and genuinely not too sore. I can't wait to get this finished tomorrow, and get back to the family who should have been here to see this.

Fingers crossed the weather holds up.