We set out with an very, very aggressive target. And when the weather was with us on the first day that target looked achievable. But who would have predicted a heatwave in Ireland in May?! The heat played havoc with Jo's feet and there were times when I wondered how she did it (usually when Niall was using his trusty campaign knife to hack away the excess flesh from the blisters before....well I'm sure you get the picture and don't need me to carry on!)
We ended up settling into a routine - Jo would go as far as she could and we'd then take her into the campervan and get her off her feet. First priority was always to cool her feet down (I had never used Physicool before but my God did it work!) and she often napped with the bandages on. After that was blister care and taping of the feet before she strapped up the trainers and ran on.
I see that our last proper update ended just North of Kilmallock. I'll try and give a rough highlight of the last - insane - branch of the journey from memory (Jo has all of the GPS data).
We stayed at the amazing Deebert Park Hotel - the thing that made the Deebert Park special was just how out of their way they went to make Jo feel special - even to the extent of the owner running Jo's shower for her! Not that we enjoyed what the hotel had to offer for long - we arrived at 11pm, ate, wrote up what we could, made our plans and went to bed between 1 and 2 before getting up at 4:00 ready to hit the road out again...
I had received a message through Boards that someone wanted to see us off. Can't be possible I figured - not at that time. But there was "Rainbowdrop" to say hello and good luck in the lobby despite having an exam at 10:30!
We had to detour for diesel for the van on the way to the drop point but got going again with a plan to stop when...
Well we didn't really plan to stop properly again until Mizen. We were going to run through the night, for 48 hours straight to claw back our lost time. A plan that only the chronically sleep deprived could consider to be sane.
There were some great highlights early on in the day - Jo running into Kilmalock to find all the local schoolchildren lining the street and chanting her name is a sight I'll never forget. We ploughed on all day with just breaks called as needed - 5 minutes here, an hour there. Once more we were joined by great support at various times - Andy, I never did fall off that bike for you! - and they made all the difference. Emmet, Juliet, Lisa, Sinead, Andy you really helped take Jo's mind off the pain.
A special mention though to Ger, the man who sorted out the Pearl Izumi gear for us. What a gent - up at the crack of silly o'clock and covered a huge distance with unfailing charm, wit and good grace. A great guy to have around and he still owes me a pint!
All the towns are blurring into one now but when we were joined by Andy and Juliet Jo was feeling hungry and with very specific cravings so Andy and I set set off on a mad hunt through the town for... a chipper! We must have looked totally demented, two lads in running gear belting through the town before skidding to a halt at a kebab shop. We dived in and waited for the chips then hopped out and legged it back, bag of chips in hand! I have no idea what people watching us must have thought was going on...
Into the dusk and the camper van was parked for two hours while Jo slept. It then stayed behind while Ray O'Connor drove down from Galway, allowed his beautiful BMW 6 series to be trashed as a support vehicle while he drove behind Jo through the night. He then left us before 7am to return to Galway and start a days work. How constructive the meetings were after that, who knows?!
At this stage we took over with the van and I replaced Niall to accompany Jo for a short stretch of the road. It was amazing - we jogged along at a gentle pace, walked the uphills and chatted away. I had a vision that this is what our future holds - when we are in our 80s that's exactly what we'll all still be doing, plodding along and talking rubbish. Stunning scenery but narrow roads with complex navigation were raising thier own challenges now and the hills were sometimes quite sharp. Jimmy (Niall's Dad) and Don deserve special mention on plotting the route and in particular Jimmy did a great jo of getting us through there safely.
Despite the pain he was clearly in himself it soon became clear that Jo needed Niall with her and it became increasingly clear that we would not only come home inside Jane's time (see below, Jane Porter ran M2M previously and so had set the marker to beat) but we could well come home faster than the best time reported anywhere by anyone for M2M.
The last few kilometres were excruciating. Watching someone endure so much pain at close quarters and knowing that you could end it instantly by telling them to stop but knowing that the right thing for them to do was to force themselves on, is difficult. Ultra running is all about endurance and we saw Jo enduring some ferocious agony as she closed in. The Ordinance Survey came up trumps by reporting out accurate distances between the various towns and if Jo could only sustain the pace we'd be on target. In truth there were times where we just hoped for her to be able to stay upright never mind mobile.
And of course the bridge to the lighthouse is currently down for repairs. Which is a polite way of saying that it's been entirely demolished and a temporary scaffolding bridge is now in place and so the lighthouse is sealed off to visitors and tourists.
Would this destroy the attempt? Defeated at the last hurdle?
Enda - Site Engineer for Carillion who are managing the project stayed behind. Poor Jo had to stand while she had a site safety briefing (I believe I am safe to say that is a first for a M2M record attempt) before she donned a hard hat and safety glasses and was led away.
They hadn't joked about the bridge - we have photos of it but it was an obstacle course. Not that Jo would let that stop her. Over it, around the path and onto the lighthouse itself.
5 days, 13 hours, 44 minutes and 45 seconds*
A new fastest time for crossing Ireland on foot, male or female.
Now doesn't that feel good to say!
* (pending review of the GPS data and verification)