A Big day in the Blooms

by Lorna from Athlone Library

It’s the week before Christmas, I have very little organized for the big day- there is shopping to be done, presents to be wrapped, and a house to make presentable.  So, with one day’s leave left, I decided to do the sensible thing and ignore my responsibilities for another while and to head for the hills.  I packed up the van-with the bike, plenty of clothes and an army of snacks and headed for Kinnitty.  Nestled on the Offaly, Laois border, the Slieve Bloom mountain bike trails are a wonderful amenity and have been a little piece of nirvana for me over the past few years.  Having spent an untold amount of time up the hills recently, I have had plenty of time to think.  Like most people I felt a little like 2021 had simply passed me by- and although I have been very busy workwise- I hadn’t really achieved anything on the bike.  I threw myself into a few bike races- with the usual degree of success and I had clocked up plenty of miles.  So, with the hope of a good level of fitness and armed with bundles of enthusiasm, I set the clock for the crack of dawn and eagerly awaited my big adventure. 

The trails in Kinnitty are a mix of fire roads, gravel trails and woodland with plenty of climbing thrown in.  I decided 100 km of off-road cycling, with 2000 metres of climbing would be a big enough challenge and I hoped I would manage it in eight hours.  With the shortest day looming, my first battle was going to be with the dark.  I departed the castle grounds on my beloved Angie at 7.30 am under the cover of darkness.  It was a wonderful feeling to get to the top of the first climb and look down over the surrounding countryside dotted with little lights, as the rest of the world awoke from its slumber.  Herds of deer crossed my path all morning, birdsong filled the air and it felt good to be alive.  By the time I had climbed that hill for the third time, some of that exhilaration had left me, replaced by lactic acid…but I was still feeling good. 

Every big adventure needs a good friend, and my pal Roberta is the hero in this story, joining me for a painful third lap and waiting for me to finish the spin armed with coffee and cake.  She helped to keep the spirits up… as did the little drop of whiskey we had to warm us up.  Buoyed on and knowing the end was in sight we chatted our way around the short blue loop and I swore to myself that I never wanted to see that climb out of the castle grounds again.  

A bunch of bananas, a bag full of flapjacks, dates, nut butter, tuna sandwiches and dark chocolate were just some of the delights I enjoyed over the day.  I thought back on all the turbo sessions done in my cold shed this past few weeks and silently thanked Daire, my online bike coach for pushing me on.  The body is able for so much more than we give it credit for!

And so, just as the light started to dwindle, I hit the magical 100 km marker with 7 hours 40 minutes of cycling in my legs.   There was no cheering crowds or medals, but I think the quiet castle grounds and fading light was more fitting of this particular adventure! 

Further reading

Find books about cycling in your library, or try a few recommended cycling routes around Ireland with our ebook collection.

Read more about the Slieve Bloom mountains