The theme of yesterday’s spin was checkpoints and road works. Officially the country is in the last week of Level 5 lockdown and we’re supposed to stay within 5km of home unless it’s an essential journey. This also applies to exercise. For cycling this is totally nonsensical, as well as impractical. Compared to Lockdown v1 virtually nobody on my Strava feed is paying any heed to this restriction including some of the most compliant people I know. I’m still cycling solo but seeing as I meet so many people through work I don’t see the point of cycling close to home. Part of the non-compliance is the lack of enforcement. I passed through 3 “Operation Fanacht“ checkpoints and barely got a glance from the Gardai at any of them. The multiple stops for roadworks created more of a restriction and annoyance, especially the last one which I only realised was a hedge cutter at work at the very last minute. Glad now I’m riding tubeless tyres.
The aim of yesterday’s spin was to reverse my November ennui and keep my 2020 Metric Challenge streak alive. I’d been watching the forecast all week and despite some fluctuations Wednesday looked about as good as could be expected for the end of November.
I finally made the break and removed the Brooks C17, going back to the factory fitted Selle Royal Seta RS. Before leaving I took the time to get it perfectly levelled and exactly back to the same position as the fit done at the shop when I bought it. It meant I was an hour later leaving than planned but definitely time well spent despite spending more time in the rain at the end of the ride.
When I did get away shortly after 1030am it was bright and cold but I was kitted out in wooly socks, Winter shoes, overshoes and Winter tights over my normal bibshorts. Three layers up top, base layer, Perfetto jacket and Club gillet. Extremities protected with a skull cap and Buff and a double layer of gloves meant I was well insulated.
I’d decided to ride pretty much the same route as August with a small adjustment. The first 30km was very enjoyable with a slight tailwind all the way to Nixon’s Corner before turning for Newtowncunningham. I didn’t really feel the breeze with the protection from the high hedges for most of the road. The good weather lasted until the last 5min when I was hit by a short, heavy shower just before my lunch stop at Kernan’s at the 50km mark.
While making my tea an older American guy was making some small talk and when he followed me outside I thought I was about to share my lunch with a bit of a PITA. I was wrong. Turns out my talkative friend was pretty interesting. Bob is originally from Washington State, close to Seattle and living in Ireland for just over 30 years. He’s retired on a disability pension after a nasty accident involving his right arm and a printing press. He showed me the gruesome result which must have been insanely painful at the time. We had a good yarn while enjoying our sandwiches in the cold November air. One of the interesting stories was the origin of the name of “Seattle’s Best Coffee” brand and their rivalry with Starbucks.
Leaving Bob I was feeling the cold and added an extra layer using my Sportful gillet. The lingering dampness of the shower, disappearance of the sun, spray from the passing traffic and an increase in the now cold breeze was multiplying the cooling effect of the food stop and the extra windproof layer was much needed.
The road from Newtowncunningham to Letterkenny is a busy main road. Its only saving grace is the wide hard shoulder almost all the way. I wasn’t looking forward to it as I figured it would be a slog into a stiff breeze but it wasn’t too bad after all. The biggest challenge was spray from passing lorries as the road was now quite wet.
Dropping down past Manorcunningham towards the start of the dual carriageway is where my route diverged from August. I’d decided to use the back road I was familiar with from the Audax route, albeit from the opposite direction and avoid the busy dual carriageway. I’d also decided to go on further and climb out of Letterkenny via the Cullion Road instead of Dromore. This is a much better surface and only my second time up this road by bike. It means crossing the main road close to the top of Lurgybrack but traffic was reasonably light and getting across wasn’t a problem.
Shortly after this, with approximately 75km done, was when the rain started in earnest and I really started to feel Winter’s bite.
The showers started coming pretty heavy and close together. The road was very wet spraying my feet and legs and spray from passing traffic killed any breaks between showers. It was at this stage I was really cursing not having stuck on the mudguards and not packing a proper rain jacket. The cold was biting and slowly but surely the wet was soaking into my feet and hands as the overshoes and gloves became overloaded. It was a long 25km back to home but at least I had a tailwind for about 12km between Stranorlar and Castlefinn before finishing with a slow 5km into the headwind and the usual climb to home.
Despite the final conditions it was a great spin. It was mostly comfortable and even with the wet and cold finish I was soon sorted with a hot shower and food. I was just glad to be able to finish having let my mileage slide over the last 6 weeks or so. Only December to go and that will be my 2020 Metric Challenge complete.