Around this time  two years ago I signed up for the Glendalough Quest which consisted of 10 km jog/walk, 30 km cycle and a 2 km kayak on the lake.

A pal of mine said he would practice the cycle bit with me. Our spin was  to Glencree via Kilmolin hill. I had a town bike with a basket. Needless to say it was a huge struggle with lots of complaining and getting off the bike to walk!!

I needed a different bike.

The first bike shop that came to mind was Joe Daly's so off I went. While purchasing the bike there was a leaflet on the counter about a beginners bike course in April, run by Orwell Wheeler's, excitedly I replied and sent off the email.

Before I knew it I was in a room with approximately 60 other ladies with mentors from Orwell telling us what to expect over the next 10 weeks. Someone mentioned we'd be cycling to Blessington. I looked at the lady beside me in disbelief, Blessington!!!!! Sure that's miles away.

I couldn't speak highly enough of the course, the mentors that took us out on the road. There was a nutrition  talk, yoga for cyclists, bike maintenance, cleats workshop (which I swore Id never get, and of course succumbed to). I did keel over once or twice completely forgetting about them.

I was officially launched into the world of cycling.

Last year, I am proud to say I completed the Wicklow 100.

A few months ago there was a post about Audax cycling. I didn't really know much about it but I still I replied. Before I knew it I was in another room at an Audax information meeting.

Training groups were set up for the Orwell 200 Audax, and of course I said I'd give it a go.

Training was challenging for me at times and a little pacier than I would have liked. However it's not called training for nothing! When I found my level and before we knew it we were clocking up 150/160 km. The storms at weekends certainly made their presence felt. I've learnt a lot, jellies and bars etc out of packets ready to eat at regular intervals. Nutritional fluids to sip on. Not to bother looking for a knife and fork to eat in  Centra while leaning up against a fridge! That was on my first training spin but a bag of very sugary doughnuts went down a treat. Luckily, we have had some very nice sit down cafe stops since.

We've had various adventures too.  'Mechanicals' (o fay with the lingo now), gears, punctures, brakes, we even helped push a car that was stranded in the fields at the Curragh! The gang sang Happy Birthday to me while cycling along a country lane and muffins to celebrate at our coffee stop! Life isn't bad at all!!!!

It is hard to believe that not quite two years ago, Blessington seemed so far away and now I have a 200km Audax in just a few days. Yikes!

A special thanks to Leonard for his patience, encouragement and steadying presence.

It has certainly provided me with a huge goal and  determined focus.  I will do my best to complete it.

Mary Connaughton