When Trish McGuane took to the start line of the Wild Atlantic Way Sportive in September, she was the only female competitor. By the time she reached the finish line some 2,058km later, she was one of only three competitors to complete all 17 stages of this gruelling challenge. Her secret? Lots of miles in the legs and a large dollop of sheer determination.
We caught up with the 55-year-old from Galway to find out a little bit more about her love of the bike and how she went from beating cancer in 2015 to becoming one of Ireland’s most accomplished endurance cyclists.
When did you take up cycling?
I come from the sticks so if you did not cycle in remote Galway you got left there so I have always had a bike but what I do now Road Biking, I took up about 6 years ago
Why did you take it up?
I was a gym bunny, and an avid walker. I used to see some lads meeting up for a cycle on a Sunday morning outside the Courthouse in Naas and I thought I would like to give that a try.
What is it about the sport that you’ve found so appealing?
I have an OCD passion for cycling, I totally love it. My holidays are cycling related, I got my husband Pat involved in it, two of my three adult children cycle. I find it much better than walking or running. You get places faster and the scenery is much better from the bike! If I am stressed or have challenges in my life, I get on the bike and I never come back feeling as though I should not have gone out.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2015 and had surgery, chemo and radiotherapy. I was on the bike 6 weeks after surgery. It’s not recommended for everyone, but it got me through the bad days. I believe that sport and in my case, cycling is fantastic for overcoming times of stress in your life and is great for maintaining overall fitness.
How much time do you usually spend on the bike in a week?
It varies depending on the time of year. In summer, I would cycle two evenings per week about 60km each evening and then on Saturday and Sunday I’d do about 200km combined. In winter I cut back on the outdoor stuff so I cycle on my day off on Thursday and then again on Saturday and Sunday. I spin indoors with my club in our local Gym Kleisure. I also swim and do weights.
When did you start taking on longer endurance challenges?
About four years ago. I love to travel with the bike so have done some long distance challenges in the UK and Ireland. Last year we trained for some major climbs in the Alps, I like to have a focus during the winter months. Next April/May my challenge is the Wild Atlantic Way again, the Majorca 220km and lots more long distance sportives within Ireland.
Had you ever done anything like the WAW sportif before?
Not as long as 17 days continuous cycling. I have done eight days of the Cycle Against Suicide and eight days in Majorca.
What was the highlight of the WAW sportif?
The absolute highlight was the Sky Road in Clifden. The sun was shining and the views were out of this world. I’d never experienced anything like it in Majorca or anywhere else. I was truly privileged to be able to partake and experience that.
Did you ever have any low points?
I had a tough day out on Achill. I love Achill but that particular day it was very windy. When I got in that evening, wet and wind torn I fell out of love with the bike for a few hours. But by the next morning I was back in love with it again.
How did you keep on going every day for 17 days?
I had tunnel vision. I needed to do this and it was really important that I did it all. My days were totally structured. I took on lots of proper food, massages morning and evening, protein shakes, foods high in protein, early nights and only the odd glass of wine! I also cycled with two other men for the entireity, we are now great buds, we really supported each other through it.
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