Congratulations to Owen O’Sullivan and Andrew Gleeson for their amazing record attempt and a new WUCA record
Record Attempt : South – North ( Mizen to Malin Head ) Ireland
Riders names : Andrew Gleeson & Owen O’Sullivan
Country : Ireland
Start Time & Date: 14.30 31st July 2021
Starting Point : Mizen Head, Co Cork. Most Southernly point in Ireland. Start line at the visitors centre
Conditions : Cross winds turned to strong head winds, 2 small rain showers. Sunny spells on day 1, calm night, cloudy on day 2
Reason for Record Attempt : As a relay team we had a successful record attempt from East to West of Ireland and this attempt was another level up to challenge us
Equipment : 3 standard road bike’s
Nutrition : Foods : Oats, fruits, pasta, flapjacks, sports bars ( on the bike ) cliff bars and cliff blox.
Hydration : High5 sports drink with a separated electrolyte drink.
Best Part : Andrew : Primarily finishing the ride within the 24hr time frame but like most long rides there were moments when you feel like you are hitting your best level and that feels very satisfying at the time.
Owen : we gave ourselves 24 hrs to complete the route so opted for 1 judge. If we went over the time allowed, we were finished. Working to a strict time brings its own challenges so the best part was being a part of a team with 1 focus. Given we had a touch over 45 mins to spare any mistake would have cost us everything. The crew got it spot on the whole way, no navigation errors and both Cian and Niall were in total control the whole way. We learned from our last few outings and applied it when it was most needed. This was a team effort and very special to be a part of.
Hardest Part : Andrew : Despite leading up to the finish, the final section was the worst part. It was due to fatigue and lack of sleep, every ache and pain seemed to become that bit more noticeable just when I needed it to be the least. The lack of sleep made things that bit more difficult.
Owen : Being defeated by the head wind during the night, having to drop down a gear and pushing as much as I could and still losing time. I had to rely on Andrew on his next session to get the extra km or 2 an hour average speed above target to make it up for me. My lowest point was when I got off the bike in the middle of the night after giving it all and I was told I hit 21km p/h for my session, needing and average of 25km p/h, I was gutted.
Unusual Event : Nothing
Finishing Point : Malin Head, co Donegal. Most Northerly point in Ireland, Finish line by the tower.
Finish Time & Date: 13.44 1st August 2021
Time Elapsed : 23 hours an 14 minutes
Distance : 374.5 miles
Official : Orlando Salmerao
Team account of the 23hrs 14 minutes tackling our toughest cycle challenge to date. As discussed around the dinner table the following day.
The main theme of the discussion was tiredness and how 24 hours (plus the pre-race prep) was a lot more challenging than we anticipated. Myself and Andrew had trained though the night as part of the build-up so I was confident we would actually make up time in this supposedly flat section of the race. The race actually unfolded a lot differently then planned.
We started at the start line outside the visitors centre at Mizen head, we set out our game plan to be conservative through the first 200km of the race and then attack the route a bit more in the middle 300kms, save a bit for the final 100kms of hills.
What actually happened was that we had cross winds for the first part of the race and the wind map showed us that from 300 kms onwards to the finish line was head winds. We pushed for the first 10 hours and we were feeling great, we had gained 2 hours on our pace sheet and things were looking good. The wind hitting our shoulder didn’t seem to slow us down much and we were full of beans, the atmosphere in the car was great.
We were lucky we had time in the bank as we needed every minute of it. I (Owen) struggled over night with the now head wind, it pushed me back as hard as I pushed forward. My average speed dropped dramatically and I needed Andrew to make up some time, which he did, he gave us everything every time he climbed on the bike which is one of the things, I have come to admire about him, he is as relentless as the wind was and he found a way to keep us on track.
The night time was long and dark, an obvious statement given it was night time but when your losing time and the clock is still ticking everything changes. The positives I took from the night was that the crew, Cian and Niall had full control over everything, from shouting out the directions over the walkie talkies, to change overs and keeping us fed and watered before our next session. Myself and Andrew could focus on turning the pedals best we could. From reading other reports everyone shares the view that the riders couldn’t succeed without their crew and it’s true again in this case. We wouldn’t have done it without Cian, Niall and our judge Orlando. Another great thing was there wasn’t a cross word between us through out the whole race, easier said than done when tiredness gets its claws into you. Both myself and Andrew felt the heartbreak of dropping gears to fight against the rolling hills and headwinds overnight, something we had a good laugh about when talking about the whole event the day after.
We all hoped that when it was daybreak that we would get a jolt of energy but unfortunately it never really came, we had lost a lot of the time we gained in the first 10 hours over night so it was a fight to the finish. The clock and average speed became more important and that allows the doubts creep in. A lot of this is between the ears and what your mind is telling your body what it can and can’t do. What cycling with Andrew means to me (shared by Andrew as we talked through thing afterwards) is that I’ll give it 100% not to let him down, we weren’t going to give in, more for the other then ourselves. You know you have a great team mate when you don’t feel down that the other picks up your slack when needed.
As the morning progressed so did we, we battled back over the midlands, not flat by the way! we got back into our rhythm and ticked off the km’s. By the time it was late morning we had a bit of time back and the mood in the car and on the bikes improved every time we celebrated the required average speed dropping. We were not going to miss our cut off time, but we still had something like 70kms of the Donegal hills to tackle. Our legs were hurting, we were struggling to eat properly and all I could think of was advice from our friend Jason that we would knock out the last bit on stubbornness and adrenalin, it’s kind of how it worked, probably not the professional game plan but it worked for us.
The final 50 kms of the route was tough, I faced a 6 km climb towards the end of my session, we knew about it and had planned for it, from what the guys were to say to me to get me up and what way I was going to cycle it, it wasn’t easy but it wasn’t a surprise either. Andrew noted above that he found his final session the hardest, to be expected in a way but the drive to finish line is often a time of celebration but in this case, it was a battle between Andrew and a stretch of road 31 kms long. There was a time or two he questioned himself if he could see it out to the end, the hills kept coming at him but he kept moving. A sight I won’t forget in a hurry is watching Andrew climb the last hill to the finish line at Malin head, dodging cars and tourists to cross the line. We did it with 46 minutes to spare. It could have been 1 minute for all we cared. The challenge was to beat the 24 hours together and we did it.
We celebrated on top of that hill as a team who set out an ambitious task for ourselves, a big step up from our last challenge and we succeeded. It was a full team effort from start to finish, I can’t stress that enough.
Myself and Andrew would like to thank Cian and Niall for an amazing effort that saw though the ups and downs and Orlando, our official who kept a close eye on us throughout our adventure.
And to my wife Phiba who kindly let Andrew and I use the kitchen as race headquarters for the past year and put up with the race gear all over the house, I love you to bits hun xx.
Thank you to WUCA for the amazing job they do year in year out.
Finally, Thank you to Jason Black and his continuous support and encouragement. Especially the chat a week before, put in perspective why we were doing this and what it meant to myself and Andrew.