Carn centurions conquer the Inishowen 100 mile challenge

Gathering up before the event
Gathering up before the event

Well, the long wait, the weeks of hard slogging up the local mountains, the nose-holding whilst downing the beetroot juice and the Ascension Monday sessions had all been completed, and Saturday was the day to take on the challenge which is the Inishowen 100.

An early rise, and we all made it over to the Templemore Sports Complex for the start of the cycle. It was when we were all in the carpark waiting to set sail that I noticed Tommie was behaving particularly anxiously.

There was a look of shear panic on his face and then I realised the reason – there were no flags flying in the carpark. The look of panic changed to one of excitement as Tommie caught sight of some woman’s tea-towels flapping from her clothes line in her back yard. But the look of excitement was only temporary, to be replaced my one of utter dread. The flapping tea-towels indicated that we would be coming back into a head-wind, something that our strict training regime had not contemplated. It was too late to request the sportive organisers to alter the course.

Now if you talk to anyone about the Inishowen 100, they are sure to mention two items - the climb up Mamore Gap, and the ascent off Kinnego Bay. Mamore comes fairly early in the ride, with less than 20 miles on the clock. The weather was unkind to us as we turned left onto An Mam Mor Road and it started to rain. By the time we were half way up, there was a serious wet gale battering us from the left. But, on up we went.

The ascent of Kinnego Bay was achieved in more pleasant climatic conditions.

Now I must apologise to the good car drivers of Donegal. You see, these “idiots” of drivers kept trying to squeeze past us on narrow roadways, and would slow up and holler what sounded like abuse at us as they passed. After a few episodes of this, I noticed that these bad drivers all seem to drive the same sort of car -- wee black slopey back cars (as my mother used to describe them). Later I realised that it was the same car everytime, as I saw that it had a short number plate. Well I must say that I was embarrassed with myself when I finally realised that this one bad driver was in fact our own Pat Purvis, accompanied by Fiona. They were stouring ahead and grabbing photo opportunities as we cycled past, then they would overtake us again and repeat the process. The problem was that, even though I had placed my spare tube and packed the peanut butter and honey sandwiches into the boot of Pat’s new car earlier that day, I still associated Pat with having a big “square back” car.

Although the route has the two big ones (Mamore and Kinnego), there is lots of other climbing to be done throughout, as testified by Strava. In the flat lowlands between two of these “wee hills”, at about 65 miles done, Ciaran quizzed us all “Is this the calm before the storm?”.

Anthony probably got it right when he said “No, this is the storm before the storm”.

There was some really nice periods of sunshine throughout the day, and it was during one of these sunny spells that Ali whooped “Boys, will yees look at that!”.

Eoghan and Marc – aaahh the innocence of youth. The two youngsters then started discussing the outstandingly beautiful sandy beaches, the lovely heather and peat crested mountains and how this was a truly magical place to go for a bicycle ride. Ali and the rest of us, meanwhile, were googly-eyed starring at the two cutie pies jogging ahead in front of us in their tight fitting ….. running shoes.

It was on the first bend of the Kinnego ascent, the one that occurs just after the rapid descent over the bridge, that the angry Dura Tubus, the Roman god of over-pumped tyres, struck out with a lightning bolt at Gareth’s back wheel. Such was the fury that he unleashed that two things happened: Gareth’s wheel was still red hot to the touch when changing the tube; and the shock waves sent Vinney’s bike into a tizzy, causing him to have to perform a power glide halt – impressive control was indeed demonstrated

The route that the Inishowen 100 takes offers the naughty opportunist lots of scope for taking shortcuts. For example, you could bypass Mamore Gap and head straight for Ballyliffen. You could turn left at Carndonagh and bypass the whole of the Malin area altogether. You could turn left after the first tea stop and save yourself about 7 miles. Or you could turn right when you come down into Greencastle, instead of doing the loop around Shrove. Indeed it was the last of these deceitful ideas that exercised the minds of some folks. Thankfully, the prospect of receiving a certificate that says “Inishowen 98” was enough to banish all fraudulent thoughts from the would-be felons minds.

And so, with tired limbs, but delighted spirits, we got back to Templemore. A first century for Canice (maybe others as well) – he certainly picked a tough one to set the counter going. A nice cup of tea and a chance to slap each other’s backs and recall the efforts of the day. I know am only speaking for myself here when I say that everyone will look back on this day with fondness and sure the driving rain on Mamore and the blustering headwind from Greencastle to Derry only adds to the folklore that was indeed Inishowen 100 – 2013.

All hail the centurions: the four Bradleys – Anthony, Ciaran, Jim and Vincent. The two Heaneys – Marc and Tommy. two more Toms - Tommie McGrath and Tommy Evans. Eoghan Harkin, Tony O’Doherty, Canice O’Kane, Adrian Glass, Gareth Skelly, Ali Gribbon and myself Barney Mulholland.

The day would not have been such a success without our support car team of Fiona Glass and Pat Purvis. With timely interceptions of big pumps, tool kits, food and drinks, and lots of photographic memories, we simply would not have made it round without them.

Ride stats 104.5 miles, 7374 feet (70.5 feet per mile). On a day like this, the real meaningful stat is that we counted 15 cyclists out, and we counted 15 cyclists safely back in again.