Chapter 1 – A Brief History Lesson
January 23rd, 2017 – I did my usual, and wintered well. I believe my mince pie count was somewhere in the high sixties, after doing the dog on it food-wise over Christmas.
I’d long had a niggle in my head about doing an Everesting ever since I read about Barry Meehan’s massive day on Tickincor. I knew I needed to lose weight again, and what better way than to associate it with a goal.
I could feel the spongey insulation of overindulgence wrapped around my waist, and when the scales reported 81.8kg I knew it was time to crack on, to have any hope of achieving this goal.
I knew it would be a long way off and had set my sights on sometime in 2018. I wasn’t going to rush it, as I was recovering from some ankle tendonitis, and knew it would be a step by step process to avoid injury.
So I started with regular walks, and gradually added more jogging, and after about 3 months I was back doing 5k trots. Nothing earth-shattering, but the ankle was sound, and it was a good exercise in patience.
August 28th, 2017 – The JJ Reddy Half Marathon was coming up soon, so I was doing a fair bit of running (not enough mind) to ensure I competed better than I did the previous year. I weighed 77.2kg which considering I hadn’t adjusted my diet yet I was pleased enough with. Once I had the JJ done, it would time to tackle the diet side of things.
October 24th, 2017 – I love exercising outdoors in the wind and rain, under blue skies or grey. Indoors, gym, are you mad! I guess I was. I decided to leave no stone unturned, and joined Fennelly Fitness to work on body strength. My main aim was basically more strength on the bike (legs, core, arms), with the end goal being a body less susceptible to getting injured.
By the time I joined the gym, I’d already adjusted my diet. Bread was pretty much gone, apart from the odd morning treat of some buttered toast. Fruit and veg intake went up, and takeaways went from being rare to almost non-existent. When I joined the gym I was 74.1kg.
November 18th, 2017 — I was driving to compete in The Stook 10 mile road race with my brother Kevin. I don’t remember the exact reason why but I told him I was going to try and complete an Everesting. That was the first time I verbalised my thoughts to anyone other than my wife.
I was in running mode at the time, and doing a nice bit on the bike. Less than a month later we had the Ballyroan 10 mile, so I had to keep up with my running training. I didn’t mind too much, leg strength and weight loss were the current focus, the bike could wait a little longer.
At this stage I had my weight down to 73kg and was very pleased with how things were progressing.
December 8th, 2017 – At my work Christmas party, I skipped the alcohol, and was still being disciplined with my food. An early test of resolve, but I was focused, so in the end it was quite straight-forward. Plus I had the Ballyroan 10 mile the following day.
When I drove home from Dublin that night it was the first time I told myself I was going to do this.
I was going to Everest.
I’d dropped to 72.4kg. Regularly measuring my weight was a constant reminder of progress which motivated me even more.
December 11th, 2018 – With my distance running events finished it was time to concentrate on bike related training now. I saw Halfords had a good offer for a Tacx Smart Trainer, so I bought one of those and signed myself up for Zwift.
I’d fallen off my bike recently after getting the trainer, so I spent most of my Winter training indoors working to specific training sessions to increase my power. This took some adjustment to get used to, as I love being out on my bike regardless of the weather. Now, I was sitting inside, soaked in sweat, looking out and wishing I could be out there.
The smart trainer records the amount of power you generate when cycling. Seeing the power numbers grow again validated all the hard work being put in.
January 6th, 2018 – I didn’t weigh myself over Christmas at all. I had given myself a week of going mad, and a week of going a little mad. It wasn’t totally crazy though, as I self-enforced a ban on mince pies. My mince pie count for the holidays was zero. For me, this was the biggest acknowledgment of my determination to succeed.
Despite my indulgences my weight remained stable at 72.4kg. Pleased but a bit disgusted with this. I mean I could have eaten at least a half dozen mince pies.
April 21st, 2018 – now I needed to spended as much time in the saddle each week as I could. The general idea being to make my body more comfortable with cycling for long periods of time. Since this day, I averaged about 12 hours per week in the saddle. I’d have loved to have had more time, but this is what was available.
The extra hours on the bike and the (somewhat) controlled diet worked wonders and for the first time since I started tracking my weight (2012) I’d dipped under 71kg.
You might be wondering why I’m so focused on weight. Basically the less weight you have to drag up a hill, the less power is required to do it. I wasn’t going to go buy a mad expensive light bike, so the best way to cut the weight was from myself and not from my equipment.
June 20th, 2018 – My friend, Ken, works in the local radio station, KCLR. I sent him a message on Instagram asking if he’d give my effort a little plug on this show.
He took me by surprise when he replied “Want to come in tomorrow?”
I hummed and hawed a bit, but decided the fundraising effort was more important than my desire not to make a complete fool of myself.
In the end the thought of doing it was worse than the actual doing it. The audio recording is available on SoundCloud if you want to listen to it.
After the radio show, I popped home to finish up some work, then grabbed a yard brush and headed off to recon the hill.
I knew there was some loose gravel on the road, and I didn’t want to risk anything on the descent. So there I was, sweeping a country road on a fine evening. Fail to prepare and all that jazz.
June 22nd, 2018 – I knew I was going to make my attempt in June, but I hadn’t decided on a date. After checking with famiy and friends (and work who allowed me to take a days holidays at very short notice) I settled on June 22nd. This was it.
Chapter 2 – The Big Day
My plan was to get cracking at 4am. I was awake in plenty of time, 02:50, but eating a massive bowl of porridge at that time took me longer than expected.
After that I got the car packed, and arrived out to Kilmanagh at around 04:10, and by the time I had the bike out, and got myself ready, I hit off at 04:28 for my first ascent.
It was an absolutely lovely morning, cool but not too cold. The sun was just getting ready to rise, and the light was good.
My legs felt good but there were various niggles that were flickering around them. My right knee, left achilles, right hamstring, and then my left knee. All minor enough but had me wondering if they’d hold together.
At around 08:30 Kevin arrived down and it was nice to have someone else around just to have a laugh with. Seeing him running up the hill made me smile too. Here was me thinking he was mad, but who the hell was I to think something like that!
The 3km round trip was taking me about 10 minutes, but I was stopping at the top of every second one to take a photo to update Instagram. For some of them I updated Twitter and Facebook too.
In one respect this was a bad idea, as it sucked up a lot of time without me actually realising it. On the other hand I did get to read people’s notes of encouragement. The video of my colleagues in Tapadoo cheering for me at lunchtime put a smile on my face too :)
A friend from school, John O’Keeffe, arrived to “throw some abuse” at me. Again this was most welcome, but I didn’t realise how time consuming this all would be.
The next arrival was another John, it’s a great name in fairness.
John Twomey, a friend from college, took a days holidays to come down and support me. He spent almost 6 hours in Kilmanagh, and in total he completed 14 repeats with me.
When John was finished, I was back on my lonesome. In one way it was bad, in another it was good to force me to refocus.
The heat was taking it’s toll, and I was starting to doubt myself. Could I finish this thing? I’m not 100% sure when this was but I think it was around lap 48. I still had the niggling pain in my left knee. I did some rough calculations based on how long it had taken me to get to this point, and how much longer I’d need to keep doing it for.
I estimated a finish time of around 23:00 or 24:00. This was a hammer blow. I felt like shit.
I had a little whinge to my family chat group at around 17:00, and I got some words of encouragement back. Kevin didn’t follow suit, he simply told me to cop on and just to get on it with it. Bizarrely that seemed to work. I was feeling a bit better after reading that, and two reps later, I was greeted at the end of the hill by my wife and kids.
Now I won’t lie. It was lovely to hear the kids cheering for me, but the naughty cargo they brought with them was even more lovely. A great big dirty Supermac’s chicken burger and chips. I sat into the car and ate. I couldn’t finish the burger or the chips, but I saved what was left of the burger for later.
And with that I was off again. The Supermac’s had done the business. The next few laps were more comfortable. This wasn’t looking so bad now. By 20:12 I had completed 60 of the 80.
And now I had more company. My brother-in-law Ross had arrived and my brother Gavin was up too.
Ross had his bike in the back of the car, and he joined me for the next 12 laps. For the last of these laps Gavin drove up ahead of us as an early warning system for any cars coming down as the light was now gone.
During this stage of the day the sky was alive with bats and seeing them flitting about overhead filled me with cheer. It was in stark contrast to how busy the road was during the day between cars, vans, school buses, jeeps, tractors, 18-wheelers, silage cutters, hay bobs, and even a massive JCB silage loader that basically took over the entire width of the road.
I digress, we had just completed number 72. I can do this. Ross then disappeared as he went on the hunt for food, and it was a case of me turning pedals until I got there.
After completing 75 at 00:49, Ross was at the end of the hill and he had a quarter pounder with my name on it. Legend. It was demolished and I set off again. The final hurdle.
It was around this time I got a big scare coming back down off the hill. A cat ran across the road in front of me, in an unpredictable manner of course. I braked as hard as I could and I’d say there was about a foot between us as I passed it. This banished any danger of me becoming complacent.
On lap 78 I passed the magic 8848m, I’d Everested. I’d advertised this as an 80 lap challenge though so 2 more before I was done. This wasn’t to prove anything to other people, this was in my head. If I didn’t do 80 I’d have been disappointed in myself, as silly as that sounds.
For the last lap, Ross got his bike out of the car again and joined me for the final ascent. It was almost easy, fueled by adrenaline and anticipation we enjoyed the last climb. This was it.
On the way back down the hill, at around 02:20 we were descending for the final time, and a lovely woman who’d been supporting me all day, and offering me tea and water and whatever, was out at her front door and she clapped us off the hill. It was lovely. A fitting way to bookend the adventure.
Once I had the car packed, Gavin and Ross headed for home, and I just sat in the car and wrote some updates for those following along on Twitter and Facebook.
It was almost 03:30 when I hit for home.
What a day!
Chapter 3 – Fundraising
When I decided to undertake this challenge, I needed to pick a good cause to hopefully benefit from my efforts.
This time around I decided to support organisations who provide services to people who have been subjected to sexual violence.
Any money raised is going to be split evenly between:
- KASA – formerly the Kilkenny Rape Crisis Centre
- WRSAC – Waterford Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre
- DRCC – Dublin Rape Crisis Centre
Sexual violence is a major issue in Ireland, and we need our young men and women to receive sufficient education to explain what exactly consent is, to help reduce sexual coercion and assault.
Apart from educating our young people (and all generations), these centres are in most cases the first port of call to help victims of sexual violence.
I suffered a lot during my bike ride, both mentally and physically. This suffering was my choice. I was in control of the situation, and I knew my suffering would be over soon enough.
A victim of sexual assault does not have this choice. They have to be incredibly brave to reach out for help. They have to be incredibly brave to report the assault to the Gardaí.
They will in many cases be called liars, attention seekers, and worse. They will have their personal lives investigated and have many private details that are irrelevant to the case at hand, exposed in court. They will be ripped apart and regardless of a judgement they will be affected for the rest of their lives.
That’s why these organisations are so important. To tell people it’s not their fault. To explain to girls and women that it’s not because they wore a short skirt. To be there for them when reporting the crime. To be there with the victims in court, so they know they have someone in their corner.
This is also not exclusively for women, many boys and men are also victims of sexual violence. In some respects it can be harder for males to report these incidents, as they are “men”, and men are strong and brave and this stuff doesn’t happen to real men. This is obviously bullshit, and these people need to be aware that they will receive support.
I don’t know the statistics, and it’s not really important that I do as it won’t change the reality, but many people who have been sexually assaulted contemplate suicide as a way out, as a way to escape the horrors they’ve been subjected to.
We need people to know that this is not the only option available to them, we need to let them know there are people who care about them, and are willing to help them.
If any of this rings true to a personal experience of yours please contact one of these organisations above, they might be able to help you.
The DRCC provide a 24 hour nationwide hotline: 1800 77 8888.
I’m going to leave the GoFundMe page open for another week or so, to see if we can raise a little bit more cash. Please share this page, or the GoFundMe page, and let’s see where we end up.