When I checked in at the hotel the night before (after a four hour drive) I was told they only have cereal and continental breakfast from 5-7:30am and hot food after that. As I was planning on starting at 6 that shot my plans a bit - I don't eat any grains and minimal carbs. I ended up buying cheese, nuts and fruit in a local shop.
I got to the Friday afternoon registration just when it opened, only to find a few hundred others had the same idea. Good to get it done early though. That evening I had dinner, with no carbs. After that I made sure the bike and my clothes were good to go for the morning and got to bed early. Of course I didn't get a lot of sleep, to be expected.
I really felt undertrained going into this a 180k cycle. I was lucky to get out on the bike more than once a few weeks this year and only once got over 90k in a day (that was another charity cycle).
I got up at 5:30, had some cheese, nuts and a coffee with double cream and got going, getting to the start line around 6:10 or so. No grand send off, just lots of cyclists hanging around for friends and a good few cycling straight through the start, which I did too. There was a misty rain/drizzle for the first 50k on and off, but there was a good atmosphere. I stopped at the 65k mark or so and got coffee and water. At this point I decided to pop some electrolyte tabs in my water bottles. I find that water can get pretty bland when going for hours on end, so if for no other reason these are a good investment. Stopped again at 80k and had a couple of bananas and coffee after the first big climb. It was about 4-5k long, but only 3%, so it was just something you had to keep pushing away at. The downhill on the other side was excellent though!
By the time I got to Kenmare (140k), my rear end was getting a bit tender and I took to standing on the pedals on downhills a couple of times. I took a short break here (my last actual stop) and had another coffee, two more bananas and refilled the water bottles again. The roads had been open up to now, but from Kenmare they got pretty narrow, so they were closed for most of the journey back to Killarney to all but the cyclists.
Straight out of the food stop was the last big climb - Mol's Gap. I had seen online a lot of people saying how steep it was, how hard it was etc. Gotta say, it was about the same as the earlier hill - about 5k climb and 3% incline. Other than that it was fine. I got to the top (almost got thrown off by another cyclist not looking) and wondered where the hard part was! From there it was another excellent downhill almost all the way back to Killarney. The last 2k were tough, partly because you knew you didn't have much longer to go so you could start relaxing a bit I think.
Going over the finish line was great, but as it wasn't officially timed it felt a bit anti-climactic. Great feeling to finish though. My longest cycle in one day ever. There was a stall selling not too cheap beer at the finish, I got one, but after having about half of it I threw it away - remembering why I don't like beer! There was another stall giving away free fruit on skewers, which I devoured, until I started thinking I was hogging it a bit too much...
I was happy to get around in 7 hours 38 minutes (cycling time). Not sure I'd do it again, as there were a few too many on the road for my liking. Apart from the crowds, I really enjoyed the event.
Big thanks to all the volunteers and marshals!
At each food stop there was piles of sandwiches, biscuits, cereal bars and cake, but I don't consider them real food as they are full of grains and/or sugar. So the only real food available were bananas.