I must admit that writing my first race report on a non-triathlon event feels somewhat disloyal, however, our recent “Tour de Meath” was hands-down the toughest activity I have completed in my time racing endurance events. A quick who / what / why to provide some context –
What / Where: Tritanium’s “Tour de Meath” – a 300 km ultra cycle around the border of the Royal county.
Why: One month on and I’m still asking myself this question…
When: Naturally, the day with the worst weather conditions I’ve seen over the past 2 years.
Who: Myself, Erik VdV (every ultra needs a Chocolatier), Steve M (figured having a qualified doctor was a smart idea come 200 km), Neil R (Steve seemed to have a hold over Neil in our WhatsApp group so I thought there was a chance he could convince Neil to ride 250 km at the front – I was right!) and Richie P (every event needs a Richie).
And finally How…
With the late withdrawal of Olivia and Dave, the team of 5 met at the Maxol garage at 07:30. My decision to wake at 03:30 to watch the Katie Taylor fight and subsequently cycle the 17 km across from Ashbourne probably wasn’t my brightest idea. Anyhow, spirits were high amongst the group despite the lashing rain and we set off on our adventure.
Richie and I were initially at the front so, of course, it took no more than 500m to receive our first “off course” warning on the Garmin – the first of at least 20 on the day. Bear Grylls is safe in his day job! Like any 12 hour event, a lot of the roads/riding blend into one large overall memory, however, I did thoroughly enjoy the first 90 -100 km of our ride taking in the seaside towns of Laytown and Balbriggan as well as some very scenic side-paths along the Boyne exiting Drogheda. The rain was relentless but there was great energy amongst the group.
Just as we were looking forward to our first scheduled stop at Kingscourt at the 120 km mark, we experienced our first setback. One of Erik’s shiny new tubeless tyres that he had been harping on about like a used-car salesman went pop on a country road. The knowledge of tubeless tyres amongst the group wasn’t high (an understatement!) so 50 minutes, 5 tubes, countless CO2 canisters later and our spirits were getting as low as Erik’s tyre. At this stage, we were all covered in sealant making us resemble something out of Ghostbusters but at least we were riding again… for 5 minutes! Erik’s other shiny tubeless wheel decided to give way. We were really low on supplies at this stage so had to dip into Steve’s stockroom (he brought one tube!) to save the day. In a funny way, the next 10 minutes actually served to lift our spirits and got us through a lot of the subsequent riding. Steve’s precious tube had more holes in it than the K Club but somehow Houdini Richie salvaged it enough to get us back on the road. We just had no spares for the remainder of the ride and there was 200 km to go.
The stop in Kingscourt was enjoyable and we definitely needed the food to refuel. The look on the owner’s face as 5 drowned rats covered in a mixture of mud, oil and sealant rocked into her pearly white establishment is another brilliant memory for me. Somehow we were allowed in and inhaled the food in record time. If I’m being honest, the next 3 hours of riding for me personally were very tough. The cold had set in during our food stop and I found it very hard to push enough watts to get the body heat back up. If I had been riding solo, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have reached for the phone and made the call most cyclists know only too well. I know it is somewhat cliche but those 3 hours really illustrated the benefits of group riding. I knew the fitness was there but without the group being in high spirits, the conversations and jokes, the fitness was pointless. It was without a doubt the team dynamic that got me through that period. Another highlight of this stretch was one particular downhill road. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that seasoned MTB riders would look at this thing and ride on by. Of course, the 5 musketeers built up the courage and bound down a -10% gradient lane which was 90% potholes and had a few hairpin bends thrown in for good measure. Great craic! The others might not agree 🙂
Our second stop was at the 210 km mark just shy of Athboy. It was a relatively quick stop in a local shop as we were really all keen to attack the remaining 90 km and get ourselves home. Unfortunately, Richie Pogacar attacked a little too hard and he would cramp quite badly in his right leg for the remainder of the ride almost at perfectly cyclical 5 km intervals. A terrible thing to admit but there is something about grown men cramping that serves as a brilliant source of comedy and therefore energy for me. Sorry, Rich! On a more serious note, we were never going to leave a man behind so we worked hard as a group (Neil no doubt muttering to himself reading this, “yeah right!”) to ensure we all got back to base as a team. It felt like it actually helped in ways as we were no longer clock watching and the time passed relatively quickly.
After 11.5 hours of riding and 2,200m of climbing, the team rolled back into Maxol with an enormous sense of pride. My earlier decision to commute over from Ashbourne meant I called for my lift home a little earlier than the others at my own 300 km mark. I’m a month on from the event now writing this and still feel a great sense of accomplishment for getting through the day as a team despite the mechanicals, brutal weather and injuries. For me, the actual bike riding is a distant second to what was a super fun day spent with like-minded, brilliant people and the memories will live long. My final words are for anybody reading this who has perhaps put off a similar challenge not thinking they are ready whether that be their first 100km or a Sportive or an Ultra – the support of your team will give you an extra 50% on the day. Sign up and get out and do it. Riding your bike in great company is one of the best things you can do in life!
Erik, Steve, Neil and Richie – thank you for a thoroughly enjoyable day and see you all next year for the 400 km event! 🙂 You are all legends!
Strava Link https://www.strava.com/activities/7073102433