Coast to coast

Righty dokie, may as well try and retell this whilst it’s still fresh and my knees are still aching.

Day 1 (link to bigger version of the route map)
Got off to a good start, fitted the bikes on the train and managed to find seats despite seemingly every carriage having been booked by some Settle-based daytrippers. One of Mat’s PhD people, Mark, joined us on his huge, yellow mountain bike which had lots of complicated-looking carbon fibre things on it. We arrived at Whitehaven at about 2, and it was pretty obvious from the start that we were never going to finish our planned 48 miles in the daylight.
Then we got lost in Keswick, mainly due to the fact that I was trying to navigate using a map of Penrith towncentre (genius). As a result we ended up on the A66, in the gathering dark. It was at this point that I realised the front light I had with me was next to useless, it threw out a pathetic beam that illuminated about 3 feet of ground directly in front of the front tyre. Luckily Mark has some home-modified mountain bike lights which were ridiculously bright and made us a bit more visible. We then got lost for a second time, and I crashed into a hedge, by which point it was about 9pm and we were all very hungry, cold and tired. We eventually found our b and b in Greystoke and the nice lady at the pub made us some lasgne and sticky toffee pudding.

Here’s the uppity-downity (us getting lost made it more like a 50mile day):

As you can see there was only really one big hill, unfortunately day two would prove to be quite different…

Day 2 (link to bigger version of the route map)
We were up, fed and on the road by 10am, we stopped off in Penrith for some supplies (sweets mainly), from there for a few miles it was a really beautiful ride through some lovely scenery, unfortunately this effect was spoiled slightly by the knowledge that we’d soon be cycling up the picturesque hills that surrounded us. However Mat and I managed to delay this by getting lost, again. This time we had no real excuse, we missed a very obvious sign and added 10 miles onto our day. The first big climb, Hartside, was very long although at no point did it feel unmanageably steep it was fairly leg-burny. This was followed by a quick bite to eat and several more hills. We did, I’m ashamed to say, have to get off and push for about half a mile up what had to be the steepest hill of the entire trip just coming out of Garrigill, unfortunately we were completely unprepared for it as it wasn’t marked on the map and hadn’t been mentioned in anything I’d read in the planning (it’s the horrible lurid purple bit at about 40 miles). We consoled ourselves to a certain extent that surely the next day would be all downhill. Several wise old blokes in the pub seemed to take great joy in telling us that this wasn’t the case and due to it being grouse shooting season we’d have to go up an extra, mega hill.
Here’s day 2’s uppity-downity, including our detour at Renwick:

here’s the terrain map for day 2, hills aplenty

day 3
We’d stayed in the Allenhead Inn which had, without doubt, the most extensive collection of stuffed animals I have ever seen in one place, there was everything you could imagine, including a surprised-looking fox with a ribbon round its neck and a squirrel in a box.
The day started with a climb up a fairly big hill (so much for it all being downhill), however that was compensated by the enormous downhill run that followed and was absolutely ace (although also bloody freezing). Mat had a zen moment and managed to accomplish riding hands-free (something he’d be fighting to accomplish for the previous two days) and we zipped along at about 30mph. However soon enough we encountered the huge hill that the wise pub-blokes had warned us about, it had an average gradient of 17%, was two miles long and had two ‘escape lanes’ for runaway cars/lorries/motorbikes. It was an absolute bastard, but we all got up it and had a congratulatory cuppa at the slightly desolate cafe at the top. From there to Sunderland it was pretty much all downhill and the route seemed to follow an old railway line which was decorated with cool sculptures made out of big industrial things. Although the final 30 miles was fairly easy riding I think the monotony of it all made us all have a bit of a downer, until we were finally traveling along the final park of the estuary in Sunderland and down towards the beach at Roker.

Sea to Sea, 134 miles (actual distance traveled – approx 150 miles), counties traveled through – lots, hills gone up/down – a few, knees – ruined.

Ready? Set?…

Looks like the weather will be fine this weekend, if a little breezy, but i can handle that (i say that now).
just need to pack my bag, which could be a slight challenge. i am attempting to take everything i need in my small lightweight running-rucksack. ah i’m sure it’ll be fine.
i fitted a bottle cage and a saddle bag to my bike the other evening, which resulted in me feeling very proud of myself. the chain felt like it slipped a couple of times this morning into work so i’m going to check that when i get home, i think i need to be looking at stiff chain links, gear teeth and whether the rear deraileur is aligned properly…see, i totally know what i’m doing!

The terror of Black Hill

The weekend was spent training for my various follies. While I was running around Horsforth and cycling up massive hills (more on that later) Bex was away doing the coast-to-coast (a lot quicker than I’m planning on doing it). Unfortunately nature and bad luck conspired to inflict 60 mile an hour winds, driving rain and a bad crash on her. Her hand has swollen up to about 5 times its normal size, we spent a long time at the hospital getting x-rays and the like but apparently nothing is broken, the doctor did say that it was the biggest hand she had ever seen though, so that’s something.

I tried to organise my weekend on my own so that I could get on with following my ‘training plan’ for the marathon. This plan instructed me to do 30 minutes running on Saturday and 65 minutes running on Sunday which seemed reasonable enough. However I also wanted to go for a bike ride at some point so the Sunday run was dropped fairly quickly in favour of that. I headed out on Sunday morning to absolutely glorious weather, my route followed more-or-less the same path as my previous medium-length cycle (with a detour through Weardley village and then back again – saw lots of pheasants and not much else) however I was keen to avoid Pool Bank and try to find a slightly more forgiving hill to head up. This would prove to be impossible. I turned off just before reaching Pool to cycle up ‘Black Hill Road’, I should’ve realised then that places called ‘Black Hill’ are rarely nice gentle meanders and soon found myself struggling up a 20% beastie. A nice lady cyclist hurtled down past me and cheerily shouted “it gets worse”, at which point I got off and pushed.

Here’s the route (the angry purple bit is the big hill):

Itinerary? Pah!

Mat and I had our first, and what will in all likelihood be our only, planning meeting last night at The Angel in Leeds. Our itinerary for the coast-to-coast looks a bit like this;
Day 1
• 9:47 – Train from Leeds to Whitehaven (changing at Carlisle)
• 13:55 – Arrive at Whitehaven
• 14:00 (approx) – Dip wheels/bikes/selves in Irish Sea and depart
• When we get there – cycle as far as we can, aiming for a point between Keswick and Penrith (preferably as close to Penrith as possible)

Day 2
• 9:00 (hopefully) – Depart wherever we get to on Day 1.
• When we get there – Arrive at Allenheads

Day 3
• 9:00 (fingers crossed) – Depart Allenheads
• Mid/late afternoon – Arrive Tynemouth, dip wheels/bikes/selves in North Sea
• Early evening – Have pint/go home

As you can see the plan gets significantly less detailed immediately after setting off, but I’m sure that’s half the fun. We did also have a conversation about food and things like calorie to weight ratios (cereal bars topped with jelly babies – or similar – was decided to be best). Now all that remains is for Mat to buy a bike and we’re ready to go.