Stages 4 and 5: Gortagowan Circuit and Time Trial

Gortagowan Circuit – Sneem – Tahilla – Letterfinish – Sneem (x4)

Time Trial: Waterville Road – Sneem Post Office

Stage 4 details:

Miles: 40.9

Winner’s Time: 2 hours 2 minutes

Results: 2nd , 23st, 33h, 39d, 49h

Team Position: 6th

Stage 5 details:

Miles: 1.8

Winner’s Time: 3 min 38 seconds

Results: 10th, 26th, 39th, 45th , 50th

Team Position: 6th

When I think of my childhood, what I miss most is the feeling of being able to do anything, to be so innocent and oblivious of the concept of limit other than the words of my parents.  At six, I wanted to be a world famous painter.  At seven, I wanted to be a farmer’s wife.  And then somehow over the years, slowly, the concept of a limit formed.  The concept shaped itself from the external forces of “what you should”, “what you cannot”, and mostly, “what is impossible”.  So somehow, we each shed those mysterious childhood beliefs that we can fly, become rockstars, become astronauts, live on Mars, in exchange for an acceptable desk job, income and lifestyle.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  Having an anchor to the everyday – I have come to believe – keeps our sanity sustainable.  But once in a while, we want to loosen the rope a bit, let the tether drift, and we search (perhaps out of some nostalgia or need for adventure) for the limit.

Perhaps this is what I was thinking with the rain and head wind came down during the 4th stage and when Helen and I lost the group only the first lap in.  I came into this race with intentions to write (as the Introduction stated) about the challenges and the stories of every day people during a stage race.  I somehow found myself, with the encouragement of Mr. Moriarty and Ger, chasing alone – a few behind and with the bunch ahead – with nothing in the “tank” other than training prior to March and a whole lot of belief.  It was that type of strange belief that fuels this desire to prove that the limit doesn’t exist, what I’ve always called a “search for immortality and childhood.”  It’s some kind of odd, stubborn feeling of trying to tell everything and everyone, “I want to know where the edge is, and I’m going to look over it and see that there’s nothing there; It was just something I had made up.”

Every time during that circuit race, while riding alone in the rain, when I could put the bike in a bigger gear, I did.  Every time the rain changed directions and came down harder, I wished for it to continue.  It was strange.  It was the same type of feeling that I think got us all to the start line for the time trial only a few hours after the rainy circuit race.  Every single person in the race was facing her own personal discomfort at the time, and as I stood in line waiting for my number to be called for the 3K sprint down the road, the rain began to pour down [note to reader: it literally just rained hard for about 5-7 of us].  It was a cold rain, and I thought of Jo, whose entire face had turned blue from the sudden drop in temperature.  Or Anna, who was silent for hours, but who I know had gone through the race in her mind over and over again.  Our feelings were confirmed when Helen nearly shook herself off the bike, she was shivering so hard, and when the official let go of her seat, she shook herself into an attack and screamed down the road.

* * * * *

That morning, as Louise sat on our couch, gearing up for the race, I saw that her legs were still completely bruised from a fall earlier in the week.  A few hours later, she would attack every lap during the race, and each of her attacks would be chased, and despite it, she’d end up 2nd in the field sprint. Every single person, regardless of their speed, searched for a limit during the stage race, and it showed on day 4.  The exhaustion and pain felt by the first rider tremored down to the last rider.  You don’t ask for an easy ride when you enter into a stage race; It’s just not how it works.  And if you do find it easy, perhaps you’ve signed up for the wrong thing.

* * * * *

I’m not sure how or why we muddled through the rainy time trial after the rainy 36 mile circuit race with the slight drag uphill each lap.

But if anything is worth trying to find, wouldn’t it be a feeling of that childhood, “I can”?

* * * * *

One of the most pleasant parts of the race has been the children.  Each town we pass through, we’re greeted with hordes of six to ten-year-olds jumping and screaming for us.  They think we’re rockstars or astronauts or super-athletes.  They have no idea that each of us think the same of them.  It was with that spirit that we completed the hard, rainy 2 stages on day four.  It is with that spirit we carry onto the last stage.

Until tomorrow when this all concludes, and after we fly back to London.  Yours truly, from Sneem in Co. Kerry, Ireland

Pan Pan Fan

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