Day 3: Killarney to Killkee (119.5km)
On really tough long days of cycling, as this was, the 3rd day of my attempt to cycle end-to-end Ireland along the Mizmal, logic can sometimes become a little scrambled as looking for psychological shortcuts that overtake sound reasoning.
For instance, the sight of a large and most unexpected Dutch-style windmill at Blennerville set me thinking the winds (which were buffeting throughout a long tiring day) must magnify significantly due to the presence of the structure. I imagined I was cycling into a headwind. A few weary hours later paused by a grotto of the Virgin Mary and immediately after I sensed a tailwind. Divine intervention? Unlikely. More likely clutching at any straw of mental comfort to help me through the day.
This was actually the day when it dawned upon me that this 12-day challenge is a serious undertaking. As we left Kilkenny, mizzle joined coastal breezes, presenting a stiff challenge to my endurance. Kilkenny was having it worse, however. Suffering from a huge collective hangover as we left having lost (as Team Kerry) the all-Ireland Gaelic football final the previous evening to this city slickers - Dublin (I was told to say that).
Cycling quietly to avoid undue stress to any prevailing hangovers, I set off on a nonstop rollercoaster ride along often straight Roman roads - even though the Romans never conquered Ireland - that were warped into endless rises and dips, which is fine with a tailwind but when the headwinds buffet, it proved tough going.
But there were some fine distractions during a 4-hour cycle to the banks of the River Shannon. A large bowl of croissants greeted us a the first pitstop in Tralee Bay where curlews pecked at the exposed tidal mudflat. While the most spectacular natural highlight was billowing mist tumbling like an avalanche down the low green hills of Dingle. It was a beautiful sight in an otherwise fairly cloudy grey day.
Lunch thereafter was on the southern bank of the Shannon at Tarbert - Ireland's longest river at 360km. Its a measure of how wide it is that the crossing takes 30minutes - thirty minutes of scything winds that had those clad in lycra hiding anywhere with a bit of shelter.
But the ferry delivered us into County Clare - our third county in three days. The remaining 22km to the end of the day at Killkee was a white-knuckle ride against roaring westerlies on the Loophead Peninsula. The two day heatwave we'd experienced previously was over. But now comfortably collapsed on my bed about to imbibe drinks (not those recovery electrolyte things but real drinks) and good food, my evening's mental shortcut was a sense that with the longest day was over and I'd crossed the rubicon and it was all plain sailing from hereon!
I'm sure I'll eat those words.