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To hell or to Ma’am Trasna


Diary of a home bird
Ciara Galvin

THE 64km cycle I’ve been raving about these past couple of weeks has come and gone and the lycra has been cast aside for slightly more flattering attire.
After weeks of training, carb loading and an expert bike fit by Padraig Marrey, the day arrived and the stomach was nauseous. Was it nerves? Nope, it was just a nice mild dose of food poisoning, the second bout in as many weeks.
Suffering from the usual dilemma of not knowing what to wear, I pulled on some of the very kindly donated cycling gear from event organiser Patricia Harte.
Turns out my choice of ensemble wasn’t the best choice (I missed the memo about extra layering) but thanks to cyclist extraordinaire and local publican, Martin (Inch) Jennings, an extra layer to warm the bones was organised and delivered to me at the starting line.
In the face of a headwind later just outside Finney, I was thankful for Inch’s earlier concerns.
Just outside Partry I was lagging behind, badly, blaming it on my overzealous start and that blasted spaghetti bolognese (mild food poisoning culprit), I decided to take it at my own pace. Whether it was guilt or good intention, I was very thankful that two experienced Western Lakes members Deirdre and Monica stuck by my side ‘til the bitter end.
Maam Trasna (my Everest), was the major focal point of the cycle. A series of short climbs just outside Finney.
If I hadn’t thought it was a big deal in the weeks before the cycle, it sure turned into one days beforehand, with many offering their advice on how best to tackle it.
“Take it bit my bit,” offered one seasoned cyclist. My reply, “How many bloody bits is there to this hill?”
Gearing up (literally) for the ‘main event’ I turned to my right and caught a glimpse of a Croagh Patrick-sized mountain and taking a big gulp (nerves this time, not aforementioned mild food poisoning) I warned the women that it better not be the infamous Maam Trasna I was looking at. Thankfully it wasn’t. No, Maam Trasna sneaks up on you.
Not wanting to completely scare me, one of the ladies very tactfully mentioned that we were nearing our food stop. Having been previously told that the climb was just before the food stop I knew what she secretly meant, ‘Prepare yourself’.
I won’t bore you with the detail of me crawling up it but I’m proud to say I got to the top without passing out.
Feeling like I had conquered the world, I got off the bike to survey the magnificent view over Lough na Fooey and got a picture of course (it’s a right of passage for every cyclist apparently). Next thing I knew my thunder was being nonchalantly stolen by a woman in her seventies who had travelled all the way from Laois to do the cycle. Granted, she was a bit out of puff, but there was me over forty years her junior still trying to regain my breathing!
Next it was on to the wonderful Larches in Finney for a food stop, and boy was there food.
From lemon drizzle cake, to chocolate fudge pieces, Bríd and her team of helpers would give any Parisien patisserie a run for its money.
Back on the saddle and coming out of Clonbur, I was already dreading the thoughts of dealing with Milehill on the outskirts of Ballinrobe, until the marshals ushered us left, straight to Ballinrobe. Finding out we didn’t have to cycle to Cong and on to The Neale was like being told I won the lottery.
I was never so happy to see Ballinrobe and I don’t know what I was most proud of, completing the route, or not vomiting! Food poisoning aside, well done to Patricia Harte and all involved for a fantastic event.

In her fortnightly Diary of a Home Bird column, Ciara Galvin reveals the trials and tribulations of a twenty-something year old trying to get used to living away from her parents.