Ciarán Cannon’s 600km cycle in one day: ‘I spent lockdown doing endless loops of my locality’

The Galway-based TD will cycle from Mizen to Malin in 24 hours as a fundraising challenge

An avid cyclist, Ciarán Cannon has trained relentlessly to prepare for the June 19th challenge.

An avid cyclist, Ciarán Cannon has trained relentlessly to prepare for the June 19th challenge.

 
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The mere thought of driving from one end of the country to the other is exhausting and most of us would not undertake the journey lightly. But try to imagine replacing your car with a bicycle and suddenly the four-wheeled option seems very attractive indeed.

On June 19th, Ciarán Cannon is planning to undertake the mammoth task of cycling from Mizen Head to Malin Head, a journey of just under 600km.

And he plans to complete the cycle in less than 24 hours, in a bid to raise money and awareness for Hand in Hand, a national charity which supports families affected by childhood cancer.

Hand in Hand offers the practical and emotional support services that a family needs during this traumatic time

“I’ve spent the last year training with lockdown requiring me to do endless loops of my locality,” says the Galway-based TD. “When a family receives the news that their child has cancer, their world is thrown into complete turmoil. And while we have some of the best doctors and nurses in the world when it comes to treating the cancer itself, their work is complemented by Hand in Hand who offer the practical and emotional support services that a family needs during this traumatic time.

“Its involvement means that parents no longer have to worry about doing the laundry, having food in the fridge, or picking up siblings from school – and sometimes it may be something as simple as having a meal on the table when they return home from a chemotherapy session.

“They unburden parents from having to worry about the normal day-to-day running of their home, so that they, in turn, can concentrate on helping their child get better.”

The 55-year-old, who is no stranger to cycling, says whenever he sets himself a new cycling challenge, he aims to partner with a charity, firstly so they can benefit from fundraising but also because it is an added incentive for him to complete the task.

And, he says the charity he chose to support for this event was as a result of hearing about the journey a local child has recently been through. “All of us have been inspired by the incredible courage and resilience of Saoirse Ruane, an extraordinary young girl who is very much part of our local community and has faced up to the challenge of childhood cancer with absolute grace,” he says. “Saoirse’s mother, Roseanna, is a good friend of mine and I know from talking to her that the support of Hand in Hand was crucial in being able to cope, particularly in the early days of Saoirse’s diagnosis. Thankfully, Saoirse is well on the mend now and has even taken to cycling. So she remains an inspiration to all of us.

“But when I hear of a child diagnosed with cancer, a child with a life full of potential ahead of them, I immediately think of my own child and ask myself how I would cope in such a situation. I wonder where I would find the strength and resilience that all parents of children with cancer seem to find. So I have huge respect for the work of Hand in Hand, as they take care of the small things and the sometimes mundane things, so that parents and siblings can have the time and space to really support one another and find the strength and resilience which will help them to work through the challenge of childhood cancer together.”

For me, cycling is a sport for life, and there is a lot of really good research highlighting its incredible health benefits

Although he has always loved cycling and was already in good shape, he has trained relentlessly to prepare for June 19th. “Biking has always been a key part of my life, right from childhood, and it’s something I hope to be doing for as long as I can,” he says. “For me, cycling is a sport for life, and there is a lot of really good research highlighting its incredible health benefits. I am currently burning about 2,700 calories per day, so I don’t have to be hugely restrictive in my diet, but I do concentrate on eating completely unprocessed foods with a focus on getting enough protein in to sustain muscle mass and power. I have lost about 10kg over the last year, despite the odd blowout, and I’m hopeful that I have struck the right power to weight ratio.

“But there are two key aspects in training for a long-distance event like this – you need to build power so that you can sustain a constant speed of about 27km per hour over 24 hours, and you also need to become accustomed to simply being on a bike for extended periods. So I aim for a minimum of 200km per week of cycling, mixing shorter sessions of high intensity to build power, and longer spins to build endurance. And for the last few weeks I have upped the distance to 300km. I also did another charity cycle of 420km in 24 hours last October, so I’m reasonably hopeful that I can do 600km.”

Cycling through the night is not going to be easy, but Cannon, who will be accompanied by a group of equally athletic cyclists, has planned to take a number of short stops along the way in order to refuel and catch his breath.

“I am doing the event with eight other friends,” he says. “We have all been training individually over the last year because of the pandemic, and we are now only getting together for team spins. But we had an excellent Zoom call two weeks ago with Joe Barr, the legendary endurance cyclist, and his nutritionist and coach, Jillian Mooney, and their advice on logistics and food consumption was invaluable.

Ciarán Cannon.
Ciarán Cannon.

“So over the 600km distance, we are now planning to have six food stops of 15 minutes each, which will allow us the time to get enough fuel in, but will also ensure that we make Malin Head in under 24 hours. We have also assembled a fantastic support crew who will look after us along the way, particularly during the night-time phase, and we plan to rehearse the cycling at night element of the ride before we depart on the 19th of June.”

The avid cyclist set himself a fundraising target of €5,000, which he would love to exceed, as all of the funds raised will go towards the work of Hand in Hand.

“I would really encourage people to visit handinhand.ie to see for themselves what a difference their work makes to the lives of families challenged by childhood cancer,” he says. “They are doing really exceptional work and are so deserving of our support. And if you would like to donate, you can find my cycling event donation page by simply searching for Idonate Ireland In A Day.”

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