Kerrane sets new longest ride on Red Line, Red Lane audax

August 4, 2014 – A rider amongst us is the purest cyclist of them all. Helen Kerrane rides and rides and rides. She does not drive a car, her white Rose rarely leaves her side and her daughter Roisin is already clocking dangerous times on Strava segments. 

In just over seven months she has ridden upwards of 8,000km, tackling six 200km rides, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, one 400, the Easter 404 and this weekend she is tackling a 300. All of that pales against the blinding light of the sunrise over Bray Head though; a sight she saw twice in 48 hours at the end of July as she took on the Red Line, Red Lane 600.

Here is her account of the grueling audax, taking in 454km on day one and getting up for 183 the following morning to complete her longest ever ride.

Red Lane/Line 600 – Day 1 Saturday July 26, 2014

Summary: I rode a stupid amount of distance and got up and did it again the next day!

Watching dawn break for the second time over Bray Head in 24 hours is an experience to be savoured, especially when you have cycled 450km since the first time you saw the sun rise.

I probably didn’t have the best preparation for this ride. On Wednesday I’d ridden a hilly 55km (1,300m), on Thursday I did the Inter-Club League race in Brittas and was dropped after three laps. I hadn’t rested enough in the lead up to the weekend and I definitely didn’t sleep enough on Friday night.

The alarm woke me at 04:15am. I dressed and packed the last items into my rack bag and back pack. I had to ride 20km to Bray before the start with a change of clothes, towel, toiletries and a sleeping bag for the overnight in Bray Wheelers clubhouse.

I arrived just as the pre-ride briefing was taking place. Noel and Paul told us about the information controls and wished us good luck. I didn’t do a head count but I’d guess that there were about 20 riders. I was the only woman, I scuttled into the clubhouse and dropped my bag and signed on.

The climbs started immediately, down into Enniskerry and up to Glencullen via Killegar Road. I met some familiar faces from previous rides and small groups of us would form and re-form over the course of the day. The sky had clouded over and, although it was warm and humid, the rain would threaten us eventually, starting near Athy.

My house is about 5km from Cruagh Road and as we swept down the descent from Glencullen I was sorely tempted to go home and back to bed, it was only 7:00am and I’d even get a lie-in! The nearly constant climbing over the hills of South Dublin and Kildare meant that we had climbed over 1,000m by the time we reached 60km. It also meant my average speed was only 20km an hour.

Near Kilcullen the route sheet sent us awry and we waited for a larger group who navigated the narrow country lanes with certainty and rode with them as far as Athy and the first control at 100km. The westerly headwind was a problem once we turned onto the N78 to Athy and our group turned it into a team time-trail with the strongest riders pushing into the wind. After Athy the group splintered and I paired up with one other rider who will henceforth be known as “The Windbreak” – because he rode his socks off into that westerly wind all the way to Kinnity

“I felt like Rocky Balboa, I should have punched the air as I crested the summit”

As I have noted before on audax rides, life is happening around you while you get on with the business of riding your bike. At Cadamstown there was a massive country funeral with a huge outpouring of people and cars on the way to Kinnity. We tried not to interfere with the cortege and remained a respectful distance from the front.

After Kinnity the road turned upwards once more over the Wolftrap climb and the Slieve Bloom mountains. That was the first time I’ve ridden the bike down there and I’ll go again. The Wolftrap is a testing climb, the hardest part being the false flats on the way to the summit. When I’d ridden the last one I felt like Rocky Balboa running up the steps and I should’ve punched the air as I crested the summit.

The descent is great, nice roads and not too many blind bends. By now it was mid-afternoon and the rain remained on the north side of the mountains. We encountered a wedding party with bridesmaids in coral dresses outside a church near Coolrain, again we tried not to get in the way of the bridal procession.

The rolling hills of Kilkenny took their toll and we were flagging by the time we reached the next control at Callan (254km). We stopped for food, reckoning that as it was 6:00pm it would be worthwhile stocking up before nightfall. Having cleared out the remaindered stock from the deli-counter we set off into the evening, only realising that we’d gone the wrong way for 5km and had to double back.

Re-finding the route we pressed on through Kells and another outdoor mass near a round tower and church with a large crowd standing outside listening to the priest give the blessing. Again my companion acted as a fine domestique and pulled me along at a great pace through Gowran and Paulstown. We saw some other audaxers that we’d passed earlier near Bagnelstown and we stopped soon after to add lights and night time clothing.

“Our companion was found ensconced in the pub,
getting on grand with the locals”

On through Rathoe(Rathtoe?) into the dusk plagued by insects and moths fluttering past our lights. We skirted Tullow and at 11:00pm encountered an open chipper in Rathvilly. The counter staff were really helpful, re-filling our water bottles and even going back to their own house for milk when they ran out! Some other audaxers caught up with us and we persuaded them to join us for chips. The next control was only 10km away at Hacketstown and it was good to have a bigger group.

At Hacketstown the cards were signed off and one of our companions was found ensconsed in the pub getting on grand with the locals. By now it was midnight and I was very tired. I was finding it hard to concentrate on following wheels and let the group slip away from me on the cool night-time roads on the way to Laragh. It was easier to ride on my own. At one point I stopped to change batteries in my light and looked up at the Milky Way and caught the brief streak of a shooting star.

The whirr of my wheels was my only companion on the road to Laragh when I met another participant and rode behind him on the way back to Roundwood. I could see his light in the distance every now and then. By now the sky was beginning to lighten in the north-east and the Sugar Loaf was silhouetted against the brightening horizon.

The last 10km into Bray involves the descent of Red Lane, not easy in the dark and then a convoluted climb around the back of Bray Head to the last information control 4km from the finish.

I rode back into the clubhouse at 4:10am to be met by sleeping bodies and the prospect of spaghetti carbonara and a shower. I slept on the floor of the women’s toilets, setting my alarm for 7:50am but I woke up to the sound of voices at 7:30am.


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