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Donnybrook Parish

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Donnybrook Parish

Paris2Nice17 1On Friday 15th September, Gillian McMahon headed off to Paris, France to embark on her biggest challenge yet – cycling 720km in 6 days from Paris down to Nice all in aid of ARC Cancer Support Centres.

“As I boarded the flight, suddenly this mad, very quick decision I made back in June became very real… I met the 42 other cyclists that evening who, unbeknown to me, would soon become my new best friends. Each cyclist was allowed to choose their own charity to cycle for. It was truly fascinating to hear everyone’s unique story on why they decided to take on this feat. For myself, it was for a colleague Audrey Mullan, who sadly passed away in 2015 from cancer. ARC hugely supported her husband, 3 small children, extended family, and some of my other fellow colleagues in Deloitte. The ‘Paris2Nice’ (P2N) charity cycle seemed most fitting to remember Audrey, as she loved cycling everywhere!

I resurrected my Facebook account and warned everyone that their newsfeed was going to be clogged up with daily updates on how I was getting on, and also posting up the route cycled each day…

Day 1: Saturday – P2N jersey day – Paris to Montargis

On Saturday 16th September, we all arose bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and full of adrenalin to start off on our epic journey for our chosen charity. We were all split into cycling groups based on our average pace. Day 1 was 125km filled with a route through Paris that resembled an obstacle course, beautiful countryside on the outskirts of Paris, a horrendous HAILSTORM that has actually bruised my legs(!), a snapped wire on my gears, and a successful pelaton to Montargis. At the 90km mark, I was seriously starting to question myself what the hell I was doing, and if I would be able for this at all. Luckily the leader of my cycling group (Geoff the legend) paced me back up to the speed I needed to be cycling at and gave me invaluable advice (from cycling cadence control to eating more!). All in all an interesting start to the 6 days... 595km left to go!

Day 2: Sunday – ‘Whatever you want’ jersey day – Montargis to Nevers

On Sunday 17th September, we all woke, much to our surprise, still alive and with little to no muscle pains. Suspicious we thought… Day 2 was 145km with a lot of hills (1000m climb!) and a lot of least it wasn't hailstones. My hailstone bruises from the previous day started to turn from looking like I had chicken pox on my legs, to looking like someone shot me numerous times with a paintball gun. Oh, the joys of bruising. I also cannot even begin to describe how cold we were this day.

After an epic mountain climb, we had lunch at the top which was one of the worse things we did. Leaving the restaurant frozen in single digit weather temp, rain, and having to face a 10km descent was absolutely brutal. And did I forget to mention that none of us brought winter gear? (How optimistic were we?!) Trying to brake after losing all feeling in your hands and legs is not fun… All I remember is hearing everyone screaming the whole way down. Great craic.

Our cycling group christened ourselves as ‘Geoff and the Supremes’. I am clearly going to be biased here and say that our cycling group was definitely the best group. We seemed to click really well together, we definitely had the best craic, and we supported each other the whole way. What better way to get to know someone than cycling 720km with them. 450km to go!

Paris2Nice17 2Day 3: Monday – ARC jersey day – The road to Carpentras

Monday 18th September was only a mere 95km spin. Cycling through endless vineyards, at a brilliant pace, with a mountainous backdrop was breathtaking. Thankfully the weather was a tad warmer and we all prayed to see no more rain. Our cycling group increased in numbers from 9 to 15 which clearly proved my point above that our group was the best craic J. 365km down, another 355km to go!

Day 4: Tuesday – Deloitte jersey day – Carpentras to Aix-en-Provence

Tuesday 19th September was a very windy 107km mountainous route with 1700m climbs. This day was actually supposed to be a 167km route with a morning climb of the infamous Mount Ventoux. However, we were disappointed to hear it was closed with -6 degrees and 70km/h winds! We’ll have to head back out there another day.

Day 4 was the day I was crowned “Queen of the hills” leading the pack up all the mountains absolutely no bother. I’m not one usually to be great at climbing mountains so I put it down to everyone’s thoughtful prayers for me (thank you!), and of course Audrey, pushing me the whole way up those mountains!

Day 5: Wednesday – ARC jersey day – Aix to Sainte Maxime

Wednesday 20th September was a 130km stunning route through more vineyards and mountains to Sainte Maxime. Really struggled with excruciating pain in my shins and hamstring. First time ever feeling pain in both those areas. Luckily my amazing, fellow cycling buddies were there with all sorts of drugs, drive, and motivation which kept me going.

One thing that is fantastic about long distance cycling is time for contemplation. I spent a lot of time on Day 5 thinking about Audrey and her family, thinking about all the wonderful people I met in Donnybrook parish during my fundraiser coffee mornings, thinking about my colleagues in Deloitte who have supported me, thinking about my family who supported me with my bake sales, and thanking God that I am actually able to do this cycle for those who can’t.

Day 5 was also the day I officially raised €5,000 for ARC so fighting through the all the pain was worth it! One more day to go - almost there!

Paris2Nice17 3Day 6: Thursday – P2N jersey day (again) – Sainte Maxime to Nice

On the final day, we finally arrived in beautiful sunny Nice very emotional after clocking up 720km in 6 days. Honestly still cannot believe I cycled the whole route. I met the most wonderful and interesting people on this trip, cycling through the most stunning routes through France which is something I will never forget.

I want to say a massive thank you to all in Donnybrook Parish for all your prayers and for helping me raise much needed funds for ARC cancer support services. You kept me going when times got tough! A special mention has to be made to Msgr Lorcan O’Brien, Paul Brady (Parish Council), Oonagh O'Toole (Parish Secretary), and my friends from the Young Adult Parishioners group here in Donnybrook for all their amazing support. It is HUGELY appreciated. I cannot thank you enough! My official grand total raised was €5,527.69 for ARC which will continue to allow ARC provide all their services completely free of charge for cancer patients and their families.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!”