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Paul and Darren survive epic 1,500 miles fundraiser

IT may have taken a day longer than expected, saw them travel almost 100 miles further than anticipated and endure an extra 30,000 feet of climbs, but Darren Murray and Paul Caldwell finished the Transatlantic Way Challenge on Saturday in aid of the Cancer Fund for Children.

The intrepid Caldwell Cycles duo left Dublin on the morning of Friday, June 6 and cycled through Omagh, Gortin and Plumbridge, via Derry to Malin Head. From there they followed the Wild Atlantic Way down the west coast of Ireland before concluding their journey in Kinsale.

En route, they overcame more rain than they wanted, strong headwinds, aching limbs and joints, travelled 1,478 miles and tackled 90,120ft in elevation changes, which is the equivalent of scaling Everest three times!

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During the more than week long ordeal, they had to be self-sufficient, carrying what they needed on the frame of their bikes, and while tired, there were suggestions of a second attempt at the event in a couple of years time!

While exhausted by their efforts, the pair admitted they have learned a lot from the experience, although they would have prefered kinder weather conditions.

“We got a couple of days were we got quite badly drenched, but in the main it was reasonably manageable,” observed Darren

“I think we started far too hard at the beginning, which is something in hindsight we shouldn’t have done as it meant we were continually fighting tiredness and fatigue for the rest of the week.

“We joked about it halfway through when I said we’d enjoy the Conor Pass because we’d never be back up it, but as we got closer and got to the end, we started talking about how you could make it quicker next year!

“I said to Paul, ‘why are we even talking about this? This is not on my agenda!’ But I think if you were to do it again, you would probably do it slightly differently. I don’t think I would do it as quickly, but not next year, maybe a year or two after.”

In a bid to avoid riding through the night, the pair tried to get as much cycling done during daylight hours. Unfortunately, so tough was the route and the conditions, that they were left with a challenging finale.

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“The last three days we rode two 13 hour days and one 12 hour day and it does take its toll,” Darren said.

“Your body starts to break down, it doesn’t like it and my knees and Paul’s knees gave us a lot of bother.

“The saddle pain that you endure, and that started fairly early on, is incredibly painful. How anyone does events longer than that, I just don’t know!

“We woke up on the last morning and what we were trying to do was make our last day as short as physically possible, but we ended up with 156 miles, which is still a long day.

“The long route of this particular event is just phenomenally difficult. Every single climb, every single difficult piece of road they know of, they put into the route.

“There was so much descending down onto the coast, especially along the bottom of Ireland, but then we were having to climb back out of it.

“It was mentally very challenging because you just knew as soon as you were on a descent, there was going to be an equally difficult ascent soon, so you couldn’t even enjoy it.”

Although they found the eight days on their bikes challenging and at times wanted to give up, the steady stream of donations kept them going.

“Those Just Giving emails coming in really did spur me on, they helped me mentally push on to the finish line,” Darren concluded.

*To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/darren-murray8.

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