For many people, riding a bicycle 1300 miles (2100km) would be a very good year. Stuart Blofeld is not like those people.
Blofeld rode that distance in just over seven days to complete the first-ever Wild Atlantic Way Audax (WAWA), a timed event that runs the length of the longest coastal road in the world, skirting the entire western coast of Ireland.
Just 56 intrepid riders accepted the challenge, and only two were on an ElliptiGO bike: Blofeld and Andy Nuttall. Both men started together in Kinsale on their quest to reach the finish line in Londonderry under the 175-hour time limit. To complete the adventure, they would need to average about 186 miles (300km) per day.
Blofeld, who is also an ultra-distance runner, called upon the words of legendary ultra-runner Lizzy Hawker: “Stay in the moment.” With that mantra, he said, “This would be my inspiration to enjoy each day and each hour, no matter what is thrown at me, and to GO with it and have faith that it will happen.”
Little did he know in those first few miles just how much he would be tested.
The weather on Day 1 was ideal, but with this being Ireland, that was sure to change. In fact, it was the only day of the entire ride when it didn’t rain. The two ElliptiGOers rode together throughout the day and well into the next morning, completing the first 320km route (199 miles) around 3:00am – 21 hours after they started.
From there, the next four days were much the same – long, rain-filled and sleep-deprived.
Five days in, Nuttall made a tough, but smart decision to withdraw from the ride after a long-standing and chronic iliotibial band (ITB) injury refused to let up. “Hearing Andy was out made me seriously consider my position in the ride as well,” Blofeld commented. “Mentally, I was hanging on to a thread, and I knew I had another 2.5 days of the most testing riding I would experience. I promised myself that I would never stop, knowing that I could go on.”
Along the way, Blofeld and his bike dealt with the elements, and several times in the last three days of the ride, he battled hallucinations. Blofeld described one such episode on Day 6: “I had arranged for the wife of an ElliptiGO buddy to come and fetch me. She was going to come with my wife and my two children too. I was waiting for them by the side of the road, but they didn’t arrive, so I would ride a little further up the road before stopping again and waiting. In the end, I came to my senses and realized that it wasn’t real. No one was coming to rescue me and all I could do was to continue.”
In the penultimate day of the ride, Blofeld was forced to make a difficult decision. As in any cycling event, breakdowns are always a risk. Unfortunately for Blofeld, backup ElliptiGO bikes are not readily available along the WAWA route. After 1100 miles, and in need of a quick repair to make the cutoff, he would have to stop … or find another way.
A friend arranged for a bike swap, and Blofeld forged on. The next day, 174 hours and 56 minutes after his first pedal stroke, having slept only about 10 hours in that time, Blofeld crossed the Peace Bridge finish line – a scant 4 minutes inside the cut-off time.
“This was my WAWA,” he said. “I always felt that something would happen on this ride, and I was fully ready for the unexpected. Funnily enough, even before I started this ride I promised myself that I would make the end no matter what, even if that meant not finishing on the bike I started it on.”