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Paula is only solo woman to finish 2400km bike race

Written by Fiona

July 20 2016

Just three months after breaking her ankle, falling off her bike, Paula Regener, set off to ride the 2,400km TransAtlanticWay Race in Ireland. Paula, 28, of Glasgow, had been back in training for only a month but still managed to be the first woman to complete the gruelling inaugural race and finished third overall.

She cycled through long days and into many nights to complete a total distance of 2435km (1513 miles) in little more than one week.


What is the TransAtlanticWay Race?

The TransAtlanticWay Race is an unsupported cycling race from Dublin to Derry (checkpoint 1), then along the Wild Atlantic Way to Kinsale (checkpoint 2) and then to Blarney Castle (or the pub).

This means riders must carry all their own sleeping gear, repair stuff and extra layers on their bikes and be completely self-sufficient.

Each day Paula cycled on average 324km (201 miles). She did so for 7.5 days.

While 35 riders started the race, including three solo women, not everyone finished. There were 19 who made it to the end, including a mixed pair team and 17 solo riders.

Paula says: “I had no tactics for the race except to try to ride 250km a day. I ended up covering a lot more, but I still felt good. I never felt like I was pushing beyond my limits.”

While Paula appears to make light of the endurance side of the race, many riders found it very tough. Some of the riders were experienced bikepackers, who struggled with the weather conditions.

A lot of Transcontinental race veterans said it was a much harder race than the Transcontinental. And that’s an epic bike race.

It says a lot about Paula’s strength, both physically and mentally, that she finished as the only solo woman and third overall.


It’s tough cycling 100 of kms day after day

Paula did concede there were some tough parts to the race. She averaged about four hours of sleep each night and some nights she had zero sleep.

She says: “This was the tricky part of the event. It wasn’t always easy to find places to sleep en route. I slept outside schools – because they usually have a little roof over their entrance – outside a community centre, in sheds and one night in a B&B. I also power napped at the roadside during the day.”

There was one night when she was so cold and wet from rain that she had to do sit ups to stay warm.

Paula also had a tough day due to an upset stomach and admits: “I was pleased I was wearing waist high shorts and not bib shorts that day!”

She suffered numb fingers and toes due to a build up of pressure from sitting on her bike for so long.

One night slugs ate her sandwiches and then she realised she had a 50km ride (not a 40km) ride to reach a ferry. “I had to time trial it to make the ferry and having eaten very little. I only just made it,” she says.

Food wasn’t always easy to find, either. Paula says: “I bought food from anywhere I could find, such as petrol stations and cafes. I survived on coffee, Red Bull, freshly made sandwiches, peanuts, cheese, jelly babies, bananas, cake, crisps and milk.

“I am glad I was a little heavier than usual before the race because I lost weight, probably somewhere around eight kilos, during the event. I was very thankful a number of times for the kindness of stranger show helped me to find food.”


The stress of a broken mobile phone

Paula’s mobile phone also broke mid-race, leaving her stressed and anxious. She says: “On one of the busier roads on the Ring of Kerry, my phone dropped out of my bag and was immediately run over by a car. The screen was shattered and it no longer turned on.

“I carried on cycling, trying to make up my mind about whether to contact anyone. I became worried about people becoming worried if they wouldn’t hear from me. This really stressed me out.

“I couldn’t stop crying and I wanted to focus on my cycling and the race and didn’t want the faff of the phone or who to contact.”

In the end Paula stopped at a phone box only to find it took only €2 coins, which she didn’t have. The saga continued. She sys: “I went to the pub in the nearest town to see if I could put my SIM card in a phone and make a call. It turns out, with smart phones, it’s not as easy as that any more.

“I only had one phone number, for Adrian who is the race organiser, that I could find. I found it on my Brevet card (used, like in Audax races, for various checkpoints), so I called him from the pub. I want to say a huge thanks to Christina and everyone at The Village Inn in Beara for helping me.

“When I got through to Adrian, he told me that it was good that I was crying. It meant I was in the ‘race zone’ and cared about my performance in the race.

“Adrian was ace and said he would alert race HQ and this would allow me to get back on the bike – and back in the race. Next time, I will have a few important phone numbers on a piece of paper with me. It was quite stupid that I didn’t.”

TransAtlanticWay Race highs

But there were also plenty of highlights for Paula in the race. She says: “I am really pleased that I did so well with so little time for training after my ankle problem.

“It was amazing to meet with an Audax group, who were also cycling the Wild Atlantic Way from south to north. And I really enjoyed climbing Conor Pass, one of the highest road passes in Ireland. It was so beautiful.

“The kindness of strangers also made the race. For example, a local cyclist, Kate, bought me lunch one day. Many people seemed happy to help me out.

“It was a great race and I am keen to do more cycling adventures.”

Congratulations to Paula for an amazing race and result.

Before she broke her ankle she had plans to try to beat the female round the world cycling record. Now she is not sure if this will happen due to work, weather and financial constraints. In the meantime, she is planning another cycling adventure. Keep an eye on her blog for details.

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