Your mission should you accept it: Cycle non-stop around Ireland

Jim Doyle.
Jim Doyle.

It takes little more than a sporty little convertible to sort out a mid-life crisis for most blokes. Not Jim Doyle.

The Derry driving instructor is planning to mark his 50th year in the most punishing manner imaginable - a five-day 1,350-mile cycle around Ireland.

The Race Around Ireland is a World Cup event and is so tough an endurance event that last year only six entrants managed to complete the course.

During the race in September Jim, with his Team Driving Force colleagues, will be riding for up to 22 hours a day; he will be unable to take on board any solid food in that time and he will be so tired that he is likely to start hallucinating before he reaches the finish line, if he ever does, that is.

But, of course, that doesn’t enter into his thinking.

“I have run a marathon in two hours 42 minutes, but the thing about running 26 miles is the pain is over as soon as you finish,” Jim says.

“Marathon running doesn’t even come close to describing what this is going to be like.

“It may not be as dangerous as climbing Mount Everest - but it is a lot more difficult.

“When I’m training on the bike and I complete a 100-mile stretch I think ‘just another 1,200 miles to go!’

“Hallucinations, sleep deprivation and the challenge of pushing yourself beyond what you are supposed to do and finding out what happens when you get there is a very alluring challenge to someone into ultra sport.

“Welcome to another day in paradise will be my catchphrase. My wife calls it my mid-life crisis.”

The bald facts of the challenge facing Jim when the race begins on September 11 in Navan are 1,350 miles, which includes 75,000 feet of climbing through 22 counties lasting 108 hours - of which sleep accounts for just SIX.

“My strategy will be to ride fast and that will enable me to rest for longer,” explains Jim.

“In order to be competitive we have to do at least 300 miles per day.

“To do that I will try to ride aerobically, which means that I will be taking on board 7,000 to 8,000 calories per day, intending to use only that amount of energy and, in theory, you could go on cycling forever.

“What you don’t want to do is ride an-aerobically, which means eating into reserves of energy.”

This is a personal quest for Jim - one which he is dedicating a year of his life to - but raising money for Derry charity Children in Crossfire is a hugely important secondary goal.

“Over the years I have raised money for the Foyle Hospice which is a great cause as well but when I began to read about the work done by Children in Crossfire, it struck me that I wanted to help raise funding for them,” Jim says.

“In order to do that we are in need of a core main sponsor because it is going to cost in the region of £10,000 to compete in the event.

“We will have two support vehicles, two camper vans, two support cars, a motorbike and a works van for breakdowns.

“I’ll have four different bikes including a time-trial bike and a mountain bike to cope with some of the rougher terrain.”

Jim is already six months into a punishing training schedule which sees him riding hundreds of miles a week.

On a typical day he will get up at 4am for a three-hour training session, put in a full day as a driving instructor until 6pm, work on fitness training in the evening then complete some paperwork for work before finally hitting the sack at midnight.

Pretty good preparation for September.

“Sleep deprivation is just something you have to get used to,” he says.

“In the race the hardest part will be the first 48 hours because after that you are knackered, but at that stage you don’t get any more tired than that.”

Organising his support team of coach Joe Barr, dietician Sharon Madigan and physio Dr Robert Gamble is part of the challenge and the race itself, he says, will be a logistical nightmare.

“I’ve told them this is going to be the worst camping trip of their lives,” he says.

Anyone who would like to support Jim’s herculean efforts can get in touch on 07970 964097.

For more information visit www.racearoundireland.co.uk.