Name of Rider – Joe Barr
Record: North – South – North / (Malin Head to Mizen Head to Malin Head) Ireland.
Date: 3 / 4 / 5th November 2017
Start Time: 09:10am GMT.
Start location: Malin Head, Co Donegal, Ireland
Conditions: Strong Winds – Rain – 5 degrees Celsius
Equipment: Colnago Time trial bike, 4 spoke carbon wheels.
Nutrition: BRL Sports Nutrition products – Tifuel and Invor8.
Best Part: Overcoming 24 hrs of darkness in the cold.
Hardest Part: The cold.
Unusual Event: Nothing.
Exact location: Malin Head, the most northerly point in Ireland. Finish line by the tower.
Finish time: Sunday November 5th 2017 – 09:48:47s
Total Race Time: 48hr -38mins -47s
Distance: 735.8 miles
Officials: Mr Mark Beggs and Mr Ian Struthers.
Dear Records Team
Here is my account of the Irish N – S – N record I have just completed over the weekend of 3 /4/ 5th November 2017. As is normal in Ireland and especially in November the weather is never kind to cycling but I wanted to conclude a great year for my team and myself. We have raced as many UMCA races as possible this season again and have enjoyed great success both in Europe and indeed in the USA at the Silver State 508. Having started this record back in July and having to abandon due to the extreme weather conditions at Mizen Head, completely exhausted and unable to continue. This time it was unfinished business for me.
The record attempt started at Malin Head the most northerly point in Ireland at 9.10 am, it was very bleak conditions which forced us to wait from our scheduled 9am start due to the rain. As it eased off at 9.10 we started, I always knew this was going to be a difficult race and certainly a painful one in the cold conditions. Ireland did not disappoint, it was horrid conditions start to finish. The first 100 miles are very hilly and usually very wet as the climbs are over the empty mountain ranges before descending into the flat lands of the centre of Ireland where we travel over the famous bog roads.
This time prior to starting the event we carried out a lot of course surveying, and we found a shorter route than when we rode it in 2015, however shorter can sometimes be hillier. In this case it was but we decided to go ahead and hope I had the strength needed to climb the shorter route especially at the point in the route where this change was. Thankfully all went to plan but not without its toll…around the 440 mile point I was in a little trouble and had to take an unscheduled stop. We did get going again after my crew intervened and talked me back on the bike.
The downward section was pretty event free other than the weather, the wind had a constant pressure, but the night opened into a clear moon light night with an image of the moon that was majestic as early morning was on the horizon. I pushed on to the turn point at Mizen Head hoping for a mist / fog free car park at the Head, it was perfect and we were inside the record time and the N-S leg was won, after a short stop and change of clothes I set off on the homeward journey, within one mile the weather had closed in and the hailstones started to hammer down in the gale force wind that had just hit the coastline .. over the next 70 miles the cold became a huge factor, both wet to the core and frozen by the buffeting wind. This is where I faltered and started to think it was not possible again, but as I said the team got me back on the bike and going again. I pushed on to the 500-mile point at Limerick and was then entering a second night of heavy rain and a lot of road flooding. The flat land in the middle were a little respite before we crossed into Northern Ireland and the two big climbs before descending back to Southern Ireland and my home county of Donegal. This final 150miles were to be the most difficult of the complete race. The cold had over take me, and I struggled to stay warm enough to keep pushing, another unscheduled stop, clothes change again and some hot food / drink. After setting off I navigated the flooded roads of Northern Ireland and after Enniskillen I was soon on the climbs, the first took its toil and the second soon after almost brought me to a stop with the wind howling over the crest. The 10-mile decent into Donegal was welcome but again freezing cold. These were my childhood training roads and I felt an easy arrive, 60 miles to the finish and the record was in the balance of minutes. The team never stopped with the encouragement even though they knew I was in trouble as the wind became direct head with once again the hailstone, felt like they had arrive from Mizen Head to try one last time to stop me, two more Donegal climbs awaited, the first just after Buncranna , 1 mile with 25% gradient then no decent over the top, just flat open bog land past the mountain top lake. Soon I would be in the last 12 miles however the wind and hail continued to hammer my face and the average speed slowly dropping. My tank was empty 10 miles to go, again the undulation of the Irish coast line, the howling wind in the bays as I threaded through the wind and hail I thought the finish was impossible, but I managed to keep the bike moving forward even though it was painfully slow. Suddenly as I came over one of the steep crests the tower at the top of Malin Head appeared, the people were like birds perched on the top wait for a glimpse of this battered rider trying to do nothing more than finish this incredible journey. As I swung hard right onto the 25% hill to the tower I could hear people screaming to keep going it was still possible to break it … As I crossed the line all I remember was it was over, the pain had stopped. I lay on the ground, I could not feel my body, all I know I was being comforted by my beautiful lady as held me in her arms until my breathing had settled. Soon after I was put in a car and driven one-hour home. Only then could I get out of the cold wet clothes and sit in the base of the shower to look back on the last two days of my life and what we had achieved.
At 58 years old and 48 hours and 38 mins of racing, 27 hours of it in darkness, freezing cold and wet November weather in Ireland and we had beaten the clock.
I would like to dedicate this race to my crew who were just amazing.
To everyone at UMCA for their continued support I hope we have represented our governing body in a manner that will showcase our sport in the best possible way.
To all the people who were on the side of the road shouting encouragement throughout the complete course and at all hours of the night – A huge thank you from the team and myself.
Finally, to my beautiful partner Jillian, there is support and then there is support! Thank you.
Thank you to all