Coast 2 Coast – Across Ireland on 2 Wheels / By Justin Lambourne

Author: gatelesis

I have always enjoyed cycling, its sense of nostalgia takes me back to being a child roaming the streets on my BMX during the endlessly rainy school holidays (I grew up in the UK, remember). Its shared history with aviation inspires me, the Wright Brothers were bike mechanics that learnt to fly (one of the Wright Brothers innovations – the left-handed pedal thread, is still used on almost all bikes today). In the golden ages of aviation and cycling of the 1920s and 1930s, eccentric pioneers undertook challenges across continents and oceans. My challenge was not quite across a continent but a country.

Gerry, a good mate from a European carrier called me out of the blue; “I’m signing you up for the coast to coast in Ireland again this year, it is in 6 weeks’ time”. The challenge involves cycling from Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Coast to The Irish Sea, 220km (140 miles) with the Ashbourne Lions club, a charitable organisation active all over the world.

“Erm… it’s been a while since I have been in the saddle” I stammered.

“Ah sure, you’ll be grand” the typical nonchalant Irish response. I was unsure if I would be able to do it, the last time I took part in the challenge was 2019, before having a daughter retired me from long days on the bike to long evenings looking into a pringles tube. My head was full of “whataboutisms”; am I fit enough? Is there enough time to train? Can I fit it into my already busy schedule? I cautiously approached my wife about the subject, and she instantly had an answer for all my doubts.

“Yes, of course, you are. Yes, of course, you can. Yes, of course, you do” – within a day she had planned my training schedule.

It was this encouragement that sealed it for me. We require encouragement in our daily lives, at work and at home, from our peers and colleagues. It is easy to second-guess yourself when faced with an overwhelming task, be it a physical or mental challenge, we fall into the trap of giving up before beginning to even prepare. When we are encouraged, and when we encourage others, to take on tasks, our confidence grows, we can visualise the steps further down our path and we move from being doomed to fail, to destined to succeed.

So, I dusted off the bike, inflated the tyres and oiled the chain. I squeezed into my ill-fitting cycling bib, it seemed to be a lot more snug than the last time, I had transformed from an athletic young man into a MAMIL (Middle-aged man in Lycra). Nonetheless, training had officially commenced, starting with the daily commute. Immediately I began to reap the benefits. It gave me time to mentally prepare myself for the day in the morning and reflection on my return, something as simple as taking a couple of hours of solidarity improved my output at work and at home. Problems that used to keep me up at night, were solved before I walked through the front door. I implore anyone who feels overwhelmed to take the time for themselves to think and ponder, be it on a bike, in your running trainers or hitting a few balls at the driving range.

The day finally came, almost 40 of us in total, a rag tag bunch of cyclists with mixed abilities, young and old, seasoned athletic veterans to novices who had borrowed bikes from their neighbour’s sheds. We geared up and got ready, my wife always says “the sun shines for the righteous” well it didn’t for us. The first chapter was absolute torture, the wind was beating against us, the rain felt like bullets and the cold coursed through our veins.

After what felt like every few miles, we stopped, and waited for stragglers to catch up, we felt like we were making very little progress. With every stop, my frustration grew, “if they can’t keep up, leave them behind”. The sobering reality soon hit me, that was defeating the object of the challenge, we were there as a group, and we would overcome this test as a group. Too often we blinker ourselves with an individual approach, but it’s the team’s success that is what gets us to the finish line, an ethos GA Telesis hold dearly.

As we continued our journey, the camaraderie grew, cycling in pairs we switched partners sporadically. With this I learnt other’s storied reasons for joining the event, some for fitness, some for the “craic”, and a lot for its charitable core. I had almost overlooked the true reason for the event, to raise money and awareness for truly worthy causes, the Meath Hospice, St Francis Hospice and Meath Women’s Refuge. It hit me that we were making a difference to these charities and to people’s lives, and it spurred me on to get to the end of the road.

We persevered through the perpetual rain for what felt like an eternity. When we approached the last stretch, a group of tired and dishevelled bodies congregated for the last pitstop be

fore our descent, the end was in sight. Just as we clipped into our pedals the sun broke through the ominous rain clouds and beamed down on us, “the sun shines for the righteous” I thought.

As we crossed the finish line, we were welcomed by family and well-wishers, my brother, who lives locally, had my niece on his shoulders cheering and clapping for me as we came into land, I felt a sense of pride for “the team”. The champagne bottle popped as we all gave each other a big pat on the back for our achievements Amongst the rowdy cheers Gerry leapt over to me and gave me a hug, “sure, didn’t I tell you, you’d be grand”.