Charity Cycle: Malin Head to Mizen Head - Nailed it!

Dom deliberately stacked the cycles so on his last day he would "just" have a easy 60 miles to crunch out before he hit Heaven (aka Mizen Head). What he didn't realize was the brutal hill at the end, there ain't no way to heaven without climbing some stairs, that's what the song says. 

He left Macroom on a blistering hot day and swung by Dunmanway which according to our roving reporter is "Ireland's cutest town". With 40km to go he spotted a sign for Malin Head and stopped to take a photo of it, I don't think he shed any tears but I would have. At this point I think Dom's cycling has taken on so much meaning it really is now a pilgrimage. It's up there with the old dears scraping around Lough Derg on their bare knees, or the hardy hikers who launch themselves up Croagh Patrick without even a slippeen of a sock.  

"Lean on me, when you're not strong, I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on"

Dom made it to Mizen Head, the chap that kindly took his photo turned out to be an 'old boy' from Dom's old school in London (another kind sponsorship given). A tourist bus loaded Dom's bike up and took him back to Cork city via the byroads and highroads of West Cork. The tour guide told many tales of Ireland's murky history and invincible warriors - I'd love to do that tourist trip in the future because I have a feeling young Dominic Foley and his tale of triumph over adversity will now feature heavily. As one of our friend's Finn summed it up 'Dom, you are a legend in your own lifetime'!

Update on Roisin - her first visit to the Fracture Clinic was a long one, but on the up side her bone has started to knit. As Roisin stared at her x-rays she turned to the doctor and said "Well, I think what we've got there is some visible progress. I've been waiting a long time, do you have snacks?"

Dom got an earlier train from Cork city than we expected, he cycled himself home from Connolly station to find his wife and daughter ensconsced in the attic under a blanket, camping gear spread around us as night fell, watching a documentary about a man who was trying to climb an unclimbable mountain.  

A huge CONGRATULATIONS to Dom and to all of you for helping us raise thousands for the Irish Heart Foundation. 

In total Dom cycled 375.69 miles (604km) in 3 and a half days. 

Don't let others deter you, what's impossible for them, could be possible for you, the biggest gift you can give yourself is a belief in yourself.

Now, enough with the soul coaching, over to Dom to see how the last leg went on his last legs...

Mal to Miz reflections

Day 4

I woke up in a panic that I'd miss my connection. At that point, the connection wasn't for another 7 hours, but being my own logistics and support guy, it was my job to worry about these things. 

I knew I needed to be in Mizen by 1pm, so it didn't leave much time for hanging about. After the usual routine, I managed to get going before 8am. I can't tell you much about the scenery outside of Macroom, because there was a blanket of fog covering Cork this morning.

The chilly start encouraged me to speed on to Dunmanway, which turns out to be (a) Where the Sam Maguire cup is from (b) Probably the cutest town in Ireland and (c) Full of extremely friendly people. 

The first friendly person was an old guy walking with a stick, coming out of Centra. He introduced himself by looking me in the eye and coming straight out with, "As the 60s song goes, 'its going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day'."  He went on to tell me he was sad the Rolling Stones drummer had died, but in his later years he'd grown to be more of a Beatles man. This is all in the doorway of Centra!

Lots of people in the town saw the sign and wished me well. One guy down at the square enquired after my route, and how much it averaged each day. "About 90 miles" I told him. "Ah yeah, I could do that" he said with a smile. He was 80 years old, if he was a day… I'm not entirely sure if he was joking.

As seems to be the way with these things, my fastest times always seem to come right after an upbeat conversation, so I sped on to Durrus where the Wild Atlantic Way starts up again, and views of the ocean begin. I hadn't seen that tourist trail since the Donegal-Derry border early on day 1, and it gave me another boost. I was flying, with just over 20 miles to go. What could go wrong?

Ok, you know those horror films where you think the monster is dead, but they come back for one last scare? That's what the last 20 miles were like. The 'beautiful cliff road' quickly turned into 'the beautiful, but extremely tough climb around the cliffs'. Then Google maps told me I was on the wrong side of the peninsula and had to climb over the ridge (you had *one* job, Google maps cycling mode!). 

To cut a long story short, I ended up climbing the steepest hill of the ride 10 miles from the finish. (For my fellow Strava geeks, it was something utterly ridiculous like a 1 in 3, it's the section called 'Sharp Turn and up' and only 47 people have ever tried it.)

After that, the ride down into Mizen was a breeze. I knew we were surrounded by tourists because of the lack of 'finger greetings'. For those of you not familiar with Irish country roads, there's a custom where everyone greets everyone else on quiet roads. Presumably this used to be an actual greeting, and then when cars first arrived it became a wave. Now with so many more cars, going so much faster, it's just a finger lifted off the steering wheel -usually the pinkie. Even writing this down, I know it sounds nuts, but check it out.

Riding in to Mizen Head I got the same bittersweet feeling I had setting off from Malin. Of course I was pretty happy to get there, 600km in distance and 5000m of climbing in 4 days… blah blah blah. But it was more than a little tempered by the fact I wasn't with the family. The tourist part of the head has loads of different walkways to explore, and I could imagine Roisin's burst of energy running up and down them. Maybe next year.

All the same, the job was done. I felt some sense of closure, and I understand exactly why sheilagh might not. I made sure to take plenty of pictures and take it all in. I'm a sucker for a wild cliff face, and Mizen delivers in spades. In fact since you're probably wondering, West Cork just about pips it for best scenery. Getting the scenic tourist bus back to Cork city felt pretty appropriate.

In the end, I just felt grateful. Grateful for the chance to do it, grateful it was over, grateful for all of the sponsorship, and encouragement I got through texts, phone calls, Strava, beeps from cars, grateful to have a kid who was willing to give this a try, and extremely grateful to my wife for looking after Roisin and foregoing her own Mal to Miz (for now) when that didn't work out.

To all of you, Go raibh míle maith agaibh. Catch you next time.❤️

Dom Foley.