I often equate ultra races to childbirth, as soon as the race is over the pain is all forgotten. If you look at the
stats of the race – 300km with 3, 300m of climbing, it looks very easy, but you then add in the infamous
Achill wind and its a whole different beast.
I had never cycled a self-supported race before, so I was very nervous going into it. Punctures, mechanicals,
carrying enough food and water for over 12 hours, and of course the Navigation. I know I have been blessed
with lots of gifts in life, but navigation is not one of them. I could genuinely get lost going round a roundabout!
I actually drove the course the day before on my way from Galway – seven plus hours in a car the day before
a race was probably not the best race plan. In fairness it was not necessary, my Garmin kept me on course
for the entire race.
The course is a cracker – my favourite part was the ‘Furnace’ and the ‘National Park’ at the beginning of the
race. I was conscious of not pushing the pace as I knew the race really only started when we reached
187kms, at Achill Sound. From here we had to contend with over 2,000m of climbing. As I turned at the cliffs
in North Mayo and headed down to Mulranny and around the peninsula, I was hit with a horrendous headwind…..for well over a 100kms. At times my head got rattled by it, but a few guys passed me and I could see
they were equally mithered, which in a way provided me with some comfort!
As soon as we turned on the peninsula we were guided toward Achill Sound by the most glorious tail wind.
Mary was there to greet us at the only check-point of the race. She sorted out my bottles while I inhaled her
fabulous flap-jacks. 20 minutes later I was on the road and heading into Achill. We went up around the
Atlantic drive, which is a fabulous climb along the cliffs, and then headed to Minaun Heights, a 4km vertical
climb averaging around 14%. As I only had a 28 on the back I had accepted the fact I’d be walking most of it.
I definitely felt a certain relief when I reached the base of it and headed towards Keem beach. Keem climb
was tougher then I remember, having done it a few times before. I had a block headwind which at times felt
like I wasn’t moving, however on the return to Westport, I had a fantastic cross tailwind which was a great
relief at this stage of the race.
Throughout the day I had said to myself “Never Again” this is not enjoyable, but as I crossed the line and was
met by Padraic Marrey, my husband Noel, and youngest son Jack, the pain was quickly forgotten. Roll-on
2024, a super race run by Padraic and his team, and I will definitely be back again next year… with a few
Not too sure I am converted to self-supported races, I definitely missed my wing man Padraic Benson and
the Galway Baybes crew who always look after me. A big shout out to Padraic Marrey & his race crew for a
supper event, to my patient hubby Noel, and to the best mechanic and good friend Pat Dirrane who has had
many a sleepless nights looking after my bike