Wednesday, 25 May 2011

10 Fred Whittons in 10 Days - All about People - Good People

For the last three mornings, my body has been saying to me,

"What, we AREN'T going cycling today? Thank goodness for that!"

I know that it may sound a little strange, but with everything that the elements threw at me, and the fact that there is no getting away from the reality of how tough the Fred Whitton route is, from a personal point of view I had SUCH a good time. The guys who rode with me and those I met when I was in the thick of it probably saw that better than anyone.

I was asked yesterday if I felt euphoric about completing the Challenge that I'd set myself, and I said quite genuinely that I was still a little bit *close* to it for that. I'm starting to realise that I experienced that euphoria throughout the whole 10 days! And it is only now that my body and brain have started to tell me that they are in fact, VERY tired, and would like a rest please!
And what was not to like? I was privileged to be able to spend 10 days cycling around Lakeland - often in the company of really fantastic people - and I got to see pretty much ALL of the 'faces' of that beautiful area.

I loved testing myself time after time on those magnificent climbs.
I loved that no one section was the same each day - Yes, even the A66 ;o)

But you know what? This whole thing was about SO much more than Riding My Bike a Bit....

The focus was very much to do something that would challenge me with a real possibility that it would be too much - and to do it in a very simple way.
My bike.
And very little fuss.
The simplicity of it was part of the attraction to me.

When I spoke to Macmillan Cancer Support about what I was planning to do as a fundraising effort for them, I was astonished at their response. They are a large charity, and with some large organisations when someone 'small' offers to do something small, the response can be dismissive.

Not Macmillan!!!

I have lost count of the number of chats I had with them, asking how my training was going and how I was feeling, and forever having gratitude expressed for the effort I was making. Many organisations could learn a thing or two from their approach! Right from the start I was made to feel that I was almost a member of the 'family', not just some bloke raising a few quid!

And that kind of support costs nothing, but is priceless! This was to become something of a theme throughout the challenge!

A few of my running and cycling friends on the Fetcheveryone forum already knew that I was taking this on, and a few of them had said that they would ride some or all of the route with me on a few of the days, or just turn up at the roadside to wave and say hello :o)
I put out an open invitation on my Justgiving page as well, for anyone that wanted to come and join me at any time. And slowly the event started to take on a life of its own.

Now in part, that was thanks to people who quietly started to make more people aware of what I was doing. I only became aware of the work that Flip - who rode all of Day 1 with me on the strength of 200 miles training and a longest ride of under 60 miles...... NUTTER!! - was doing to raise awareness of the event as the days passed.
He contacted papers and Radio Stations and cycling clubs, and he went into Honister and Buttermere Youth Hostels to ask if they'd make me a cuppa if I needed it. There was more, but I never got to know about it!
And Sarah and Chris who between them were making sure that I was well fed, had what I needed to sort the bike out each day and, and was taking care of my body..... luxuriating in a deep warm bath was a critical part of that! :o)
In fact, although I was a guest, I was made to feel more like I was family.
Such generosity is priceless.

If memory serves, I only actually 'asked' for three things. The ability to use the Four Seasons SportIdent timing system for all 10 days so that I could record each day; Somewhere to live for the 10 days; and late on a call to ask if I could use the Cyclewise shop as a stop-off to make up more drinks.

What I GOT and what people offered to do was nothing short of incredible!
Paul made sure that the timing stuff was all sorted for me, Sarah and Chris went WAY beyond doing B&B for me, and Cyclewise not only gave me somewhere to sort out drinks, but made sure that my bike was OK, and kept it rolling for me - AND made me feel so welcome each time I arrived. I can't overemphasise just how important that was!
Friends went the extra mile either on the bike, or appearing on the course, or both; messages of support came to me from people I didn't know as well as those I did. Folk gave up their time to ride with me - sometimes just a short section, sometimes the whole route, but the support was always fantastic, and always made me smile :o)

The metaphor that it provided was really striking. I was taking on something that was tough, but the people who supported me made it not just bearable, but really made each day something unique and unrepeatable.
On the day when I punctured on Wrynose in THAT weather, I got colder and colder because I was exposed, and ALONE, and frightened.
In a past life I was on a Mountain Rescue Team and so I recognised how precarious my situation was at that time and although I KNEW what I needed to do, I couldn't because my bike was broken - it gave me what I feel was an brief insight into the the everyday lives of the people who NEED the support of Macmillan.
And once I had managed to extricate myself from there, and worried Sarah when I arrived back still mildly hypothermic, it made me all the more determined to complete the challenge and do what I could to raise as much as I could for the work they do!

Looking back now, I can see just how important seemingly 'little' things can be.
Andy's flapjack at Gosforth on one day and on Cold Fell another. It was brilliant to see a friendly face, and to also have something that tasted like the Food Gods had made it as well - it made the sun come out!! Really, it did!
Robb cycling with me over Whinlatter unexpectedly - a HUGE boost on a day where I was mostly on my own.
Alan, meeting me at Whinlatter on his handbike and riding with me to the valley in quite unpleasant conditions - It was a short ride, but one that was priceless in the context of the day.
A conversation with someone in the Cyclewise shop..
Two people each pressing £20 in my hand as a donation when I was out riding...

And the not so small things - Flip riding a whole circuit, that man has the heart of a lion; Hannah joining me for the 3 Passes and organising the PomPom moment :o)
Brian taking a whole day to ride with me, sleeping in his car and then heading home straight after we finished; Stuart coming up from Preston to do the same, on a day when my legs went into shutdown, and somehow managed to ride an 8:45!!!; Stuart and Glenn whose banter and company actually made the sun shine and the wind die down for the day, and who rode in such a way that made the day flash by; and meeting Simon on the same day, which was the start of something remarkable from the Honister 92 guys; Amy the SuperPhysio responding to a Call for help when my body needed her expertise; Barty and Graeme after Fangs Brow - again, brought the sun out; and the final day where Honister 92 were simply fantastic. Grant picking me up in Newlands Valley, meeting up with about 6 others at Whinlatter; the bagpipes, the group of 10, and company all the way to the top of Hardknott

And THAT video!

Nothing prepared me for that level of support and camaraderie. And I don't think anything I can say will ever be able to express just how amazing that was!

And finishing it all off with Pete with the sun shining, and my lovely wife Lorna, without whose total support this would never have happened,  waiting for me at the finish.

An absolutely incredible and unique experience - I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

And my overriding sense of what it was all about?


I experienced the VERY best of the people that I had the privilege of meeting, riding with, messaging, and being supported by. The genuine warmth and generosity they showed me was humbling, as has been the generosity of people with their donations to Macmillan.
Many of you have left me speechless, and THAT can be pretty difficult to do ;o)

When I set out I wrote on my JustGiving blurb..

"I hope that a few like-minded people will come along and share some of this journey with me, because I know it will be tough, and support and encouragement make a massive difference.
Maybe together we can make just a small amount of difference to the lives of the people who really need what Macmillan can offer them!"

In a VERY real sense this has been a joint effort. I may have been the one that got on my bike every day to ride this amazing route, but it has been SO much more than that because of what the people around me and watching and supporting me have given to it.

So far - we have raised over £2,800 - which absolutely fantastic. Over £2.50 for every mile that I rode over the 10 days.

I am SO grateful for the opportunity to do this, and to have met so many fantastic people along the way.

And I hope that Macmillan are appreciative of what we've achieved :o)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Fred Whitton #10 - An amazing Finale to my Adventure

I wasn't about to let the fact that this was the last of the ten days lure me in to a sense of - "well, it's all done bar the shouting"
It may not have come across that well, but the route is a BRUTE!
Officially 112 miles and there AREN'T 6 climbs - there are 14! It's just that the Passes get all the headlines!
There are a number of 1:4 climbs, and the steepest part of Hardknott is about 1:3 - and while they are hard enough, DESCENDING 1:4 on bumpy wet twisty roads can be a pretty daunting experience.

Add to that the fact that it's been really windy for all but one day and it adds up to perhaps something 'more' than I have given the impression!

It was fantastic that my lovely wife came yesterday and would be here for when I finished. I can't over emphasise how important this was to me!
Anyway, I had to disturb her at 4:15, my usual getting up time so that I could get my breakfast, ice my nigglesome knee, and get everything together to leave for Coniston.

I was REALLY nervous as I headed to Coniston, a little bit like on the first day! And as I sat in the car getting sorted I saw the clouds rolling in and the trees bending in the wind - I said to myself, I BET the Weather Gods are going to play their Joker today.
Then the HAIL started.
At this point I wished I'd worn my merino base layer :o/

I could have started a bit early, but I waited for a small 'window' to at least get started and warmed up a bit before the inevitable 'weather' happened.

Oh and didn't it! Strong wind and hail that HURT! - A lot! By the time I reached the Kirkstone Inn I was ridiculously cold and had to put every stitch of clothing on that I had...And I REALLY wished I'd worn my merino wool base layer!!
Apparently I still had hands and feet - must have, because I could see them, but my brain wasn't registering their existence. The wind direction meant that I'd actually made decent time to this point, but the road was awash with water coming out of some of the metal inspection covers, so I took the first bit slightly more cautiously than I have been. Only got up to 48.8mph today ;o)
The riding as far as the A66 wasn't too bad - I couldn't get warm, but I was making reasonable progress.
This stopped along the A66 - not fun in the conditions at all, and so I just had to stick my head down and grind it out.

When I got to the first turn into Keswick, loads of Triathletes appeared and headed down the road - they all overtook me - imagine that! It looked like their route took them around Derwentwater anti-clockwise.
I had been dreading the Borrowdale section - I was pretty sure that the wind would be trying to send me back to Keswick - and so it was. This was the hardest this whole section has been.
I stopped at the toilets at Seatoller to (mostly) use the hand drier to warm my hands up!
As I climbed I REALLY hoped that the wind would swing around the fell and be helpful once it opened up and for the descent....

Yeah, right. The Weather Gods hadn't finished toying with me just yet!!
So instead of freewheeling at 30+ into Buttermere, I was in 34/23 pedalling against a wall of wind. A horrible thought occurred to me - that I'd be fighting my way up Newlands too!!!
One positive point now though - the weather seemed to be clearing :o)
I DIDN'T have to fight my way up Newlands. It has been very good to me for all of the 10 days! And as I was past 10am (I got the the Buttermere checkpoint at about that time) I was fairly sure that I'd meet Grant from Honister 92 on the descent. He'd told me that he'd do that, and that a 'few' of the guys from the club would meet us later.

By the time I'd had my cuppa at Cyclewise - and let Joe and Dan know that the bike was running beautifully - there was a posse of about 6 people assembled. We headed down Whinlatter just after 11, and I'd been able to dispense with my windproof bottoms. They'd stopped me getting hypothermic, so I didn't care that they looked stupid ;o)
As we turned through the only bends on the descent I thought that the bike was wallowing a bit, but it seemed OK once we were through there. 3 miles later it suddenly got worse!
Typical! The only person to puncture was going to be ME!
The speed with which it was sorted was fantastic - so much easier when there are plenty of hands, and we were soon on our way.
As we climbed Fangs Brow - ANOTHER rider appeared, and turned around and scuttled back up the hill
That's strange I thought...... and then the most INCREDIBLE thing.

Bagpipes - They'd only gone and organised Bagpipes. I believe Ray was playing them, with support from Charlie and George!
I didn't notice them go past us, but they were there again at the top of the hill before Croasdale. What a fantastic thing to do :o)
By the time we got to the climb to Cold Fell, my climbing legs had reverted to Relax And Rest mode. That'll be SLOW, then ;o)

Interestingly the wind wasn't quite as unhelpful as it might have been and we made pretty decent progress down to Calder Bridge.
I had a little Opposite-Lock moment on the last bend before the village, but stayed upright and there was no harm done.
At this point most of the guys had to peel off as now 4 of us headed towards Gosforth. It was starting to get REALLY warm now - fantastically sunny and the wind was becoming more helpful. 

I was glad that I wasn't wearing my merino wool base layer ;o)
At Gosforth we were further reduced to 3, and as we headed to Santon my knee started to give me a bit of grief. In a way the Irton Pike climb was a relief. Standing on the pedals was just more comfortable!

It was getting really warm now, so I stopped at the toilets in Eskdale Green to lighten the load for Harknott, and to remove my waterproof. I know it hadn't been raining for a while, but I wasn't taking any risks with getting cold again!!
As we got nearer to Hardknott, Barty said that he'd not do that climb again, and he headed back from the bottom. Cheers for coming out again - it was fantastic!

That left me and Paul for the climb. To be fair, he stayed with me the whole way up. If I'm honest my legs had finally realised that they were a bit tired, and so I wasn't quite as 'sprightly' on the lower section as I have been, and I used the middle bit to have a decent rest.
As we approached the steep section and the hairpins, I saw that there was a motorbike parked up in the second bend, and two figures waiting there.
I had NO idea that we were being videoed, I thought that this was another club member taking photos. But no.

THIS was posted on the interweb :-O
I am speechless!! What an amazing record of my last climb up Hardknott. Finners - it's awesome. Thank you!

'Because he can'

Paul stayed with me to the summit of Harknott, and that completed my 10th successful and bottom-to-top ascent of that incredible climb. I'm pretty pleased with that :o)

Thank to everyone from Honister 92 who made this day so incredible for me: I'm afraid I can't put faces to most of the names, But I'm told that Grant, Jim, Paul, Mike, Sams, Barty, Trevor, Irvine, Norbet and Finners were all there.
I'm completely blown away by the fact that you came out to support someone that you didn't know. It really capped what has been a truly memorable 10 days. Thank you all.
And I don't know who it was that gave me the very generous donation, but that was also amazing!
I also almost have a full set of kit now - you guys are incredible!!

The rider who joined us at the top of Honister was Pete. And he asked if I would mind if he joined me to the end.
You saw how quickly he caught me on the climb, and he told me not to wait on the descents, so I knew that he'd catch me once we were down - and so he did!
My knee was getting quite painful on the easy section of Wrynose, but was fine when I was climbing and stood up, so I did more of that than I normally would have. That seemed to work out OK!

Once we reached the main road, with just 4 miles to go - in glorious sunshine, it was time to bury myself and get this thing done - and so I did. I knew I wasn't going to post my fastest time, but well under 9 hours after the difficulty of the early part of the day, and a puncture was always going to be a good result.
So 8:45 was really pleasing.

Pete arrived about half a minute after me, but not before I'd snogged my wife :o)

Then she gave me a little trophy that Sarah had had made up for me. How lovely was that?? :o)

And quite suddenly I realised that my body hurt, and I was feeling very, very tired.

I'm going to sleep well tonight!!  :o) 

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Fred Whitton #9 - All quiet on the route, except....

... where the sportive was running around the 3 Passes!!!

I was expecting someone to accompany me today. It's possible that I misremembered that though as I couldn't find the message about it.
I had one false start too - too keen, see! As the clock in Coniston struck 6 I started.... got about 400m down the road and realised that I'd forgotten my glasses. So I popped back to get them and started again. So I was a few minutes after 6 getting away.
I got the impression that it was windy, and more from the South than it has been. I was really pleased with how my legs felt climbing Hawkshead Hill and I reached Clappersgate in what I thought might be about my quickest time. The ascent of Kirkstone also went well, legs felt good - knee was happy with the altered cleat position and riding style which was slightly up on effort and down on cadence.
In fact I was at Kirkstone a couple of seconds quicker than yesterday.

The road was both dry and empty of traffic for the descent. I MUST make sure that I don't get carried away on these. I know them well now, but a tumble at 51 mph is going to make a mess. This would be a bad thing!!
The wind direction meant that it was bouncing of the valley sides, and although generally a tailwind, it kept changing its mind as to where it was going to come from. But I made decent time along Patterdale and Ullswater.
I was keeping a close eye on how the knee was feeling, and it was holding up fine!

I'm surprised, that little mention is made of the drag north from Ullswater to the A66. It's a fair amount of climbing, and after the relatively fast section to that point, comes as a bit of a shock to the legs! Again I felt that I was riding reasonably strongly up here, and I made the most of the slight tailwind up to Troutbeck Inn and the A66.

The A66 definitely doesn't like me this week!!! ANOTHER head down and just grind it out section of 9 miles of 'A' road.
But I got a fantastic surprise just before Scales (I think it was there!) A small hire vehicle was parked in the layby and a couple of people were looking back down the road. Helen and Liam, friends of mine from another 'world' were there. Fabulous!! I stopped for a quick chat, which was far better timed than they could possibly have known, before sticking my head back in to the wind and trundling to Keswick.
The Keswick Festival is in full swing, and I knew there was a Sportive today, the route of which was going over the 3 Passes twice. So there were LOADS of cyclists in and around Keswick...... mostly not going the same way as me! So lots of nods and waves and greetings before I reached the relative solitude of Borrowdale.

I forgot to say - the terminal-sounding 'CLICK of DOOM' from the rear wheel (I thought)was getting much worse, and as I ascended Honister, it was THAT loud that the two cyclists I saw actually stared!!
Well??? YOU'D creak if you'd done 1000 miles in 9 days too :-p

Interesting thing that I've noticed in the last 2 days, I'm 'micro-recovering' really well after harder efforts, so I have been able to climb strongly and it not completely trash me - OK I'm STILL keeping the effort down, but not AS down as I have been.
For the FIRST time there was a helpful wind down into Buttermere. What a difference THAT makes. WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! very nice. Maybe the Wind Gods weren't being quite as unpleasant as I thought......
I reached The Buttermere 'dibber' in the second quickest time that I've recorded during this experience - so I knew I was riding well as I had been alone all day!

There were quite a few riders on Newlands - and quite a few were walking. A group of 4 pipecleaners came climbing past me just before I reached the top, but a couple of them were a bit tentative on the descent. You can actually accelerate over it and tuck in if the road is clear. The run-off from the steep section is fantastic, and *I* was on Fred Whitton number 9! I need to use every advantage I can to cover the distance. So descents and downwind bits have been my friend!! ;o)

Climbing up Whinlatter, the Click of Doom was getting embarrassing!! Seriously!
So when I arrived, Dan and Joe set to finding out what was up.
Crank had a bit of play - but that wasn't it. Bottom Bracket was spinnning a bit fast, but not overly worn. Rear spindle needed tightening slightly.

Dan suggested that the bike could "Do with a proper service fairly soon...." ;o)

Freehub! That's where it was coming from! So that was whipped off, cleaned and greased, and the whole thing was put back together. In the meantime I'd had a couple of cups of tea and a really nice chat with a couple who were in the shop and have been following my progress :o) [waves]

So I was there for a little over 45 minutes. Awesome stuff guys!!!!

I had this niggling little doubt that the section as far as Calderbridge was going to be a bit breezy - and not in a good way!
It was!!
Oh My Goodness, was it!!!!!!

Head down - vaguely acknowledge the MANY C2C riders that were out and about - and make the most of the short bits of respite there were, and use any shelter I could.
All things considered, I made good time to the 'dibber', and again the Wind God decided to be kind from there until Little Langdale!!
Even with the long stop at Cyclewise I was making decent time overall, and I headed up Hardknott thinking that IF all went well, I might get finished before 3pm.
And I knew that my lovely wife was going to be in Coniston, So I had extra incentive not to hang about.
I didn't!
The Hardknott climb has become a little bit like an old mate - admittedly a mate with a dry sense of humour and who is happy to mock your efforts, but I have become quite fond of the old git!
And he was in good form today!
I had to rush the top section because Mr Big Black 4X4 was coming up behind me snarling, and I didn't want to get held up on the descent ;o)

I wasn't :o)

The climb up Wrynose was quite fun today - bigger gears, a bit of helpful wind, and I reached the steep bit reasonably quickly. I tired on the last tiny bit of steep stuff, but the descent was completely clear today - AND dry so I wasted no time getting down either.
And the time suggested that I'd be OK for under 9 hours!

The ride out to Little Langdale was great :o) Just a couple of non-local drivers to negotiate, and once I reached the main road I DID think I'd be pretty close to the time of yesterday - AND my wife would be in Coniston.
So I picked it up - :o)

For a day when I was alone and it was SO windy for such long periods, I was absolutely delighted to finish when I did
Yes, under 9 hours
No, not quicker than yesterday

But 8:55:53 is not too shabby with 45 minute stop in the middle

AND I get to spend more time with my wife.

All in all - this has been a superb day.

And now I'm off out to eat a plate of Farmyard and Chips :o)

Friday, 20 May 2011

Fred Whitton #8 - Tea-bag Remembery....

It was a slightly emotional *me* that woke up this morning. I suspect that it is a mixture of missing my wife and family, worry about this nigglesome knee, and the fact that I've had to work incredibly hard to get to this point.

SEVEN Fred Whittons done. As I was driving to Coniston this morning, I think I started to appreciate just how MUCH that actually was. Not overwhelming, just "Blimey - Have *I* really done that..??"

And yet the job is FAR from done.... 336 miles and 9660m of ascent and descent still to do.
OK - it's still a very long way off being done.

I had a chat with Colin at Lakeland Radio again this morning - did anyone catch it when it was broadcast? Then I got myself sorted and ready to go. I left about 5 minutes late, and prepared myself for a fair amount of being on my own.

The weather forecast had suggested "some rain spotting early on, but 'brisk' winds from the South West"
Hello!! - It's CUMBRIA - Cumbria doesn't DO rain spotting!! Luckily I have spent enough time here to KNOW this - and so on went the merino wool base layer, cycle top and gilet and waterproof top.
Amy had advised me to wear shorts and not longs so that I wasn't putting extra pressure on the knee. Brrrrrrrr!!

I found at the end of yesterday that if I stood, then I wasn't irritating the knee so I decided that I'd 'manage' the route with slightly bigger gears and lower cadences and standing wherever it was appropriate - this worked WELL - more on that later!
By the time I was up Hawkshead Hill I was VERY pleased with my clothing choice - The wind was as strong as it's been in the 10 days and it was cold!! If I was worrying about icing my knee, I didn't need to, the weather did it for me until I got to Whinlatter!!!

The good thing about setting off so early is that roads that can be really busy later on are quieter - the descent off Kirkstone is a good example of that. When it's quiet it's a pretty safe and fast descent on the bike - it's altogether a different beast when there are lots of vehicles on it!
Today there weren't, so I could safely hammer down it :) And the following wind along to Patterdale and Ullswater (another road that gets 'angrily' choked with cars) was pleasant too, if a little cold and wet.

The A66 [shoulders slump and head goes down] hasn't been my best friend this week!
Today it was a case of get as aerodynamic as you can and just pedal it out. So it was a little slow - and wet, did I say "wet" yet? And windy ;o)

I wonder if the kids heading to Keswick school in the mornings have wondered why they keep seeing me - doubt it - there are far more important things going on in their heads I'm sure :o)

Today was the first time there has also been a headwind up Borrowdale, and by the time I reached the toilet at the base of Honister I was pretty cold!
Hand Dryer worked though :o) so I could at least feel my hands when I left!!
I actually climbed Honister pretty strongly - which is something I'm having trouble getting my head around. A week ago, that effort level would have had my Heart Rate in the 190's and my legs screaming at me. Today it just got me warm ;o)
I didn't hang around getting down into Buttermere - it was way to cold for that, and I also didn't hang around at the Youth Hostel 'dibber' - same reason.

Buttermere itself gave me the evidence that I needed that today was in fact, the windiest do far - lots of little white horses being whipped up on the water surface!
I was blown both up (OK I did have to do some pedalling as well - it wasn't THAT strong!!) and down Newlands.

When I got to Cyclewise, I asked Joe to take a look at the bike. From early on it had been making what sounded like a terminal 'creaking and tinking' noise at the back wheel. So while I made tea and had a sit down he set about working out what was wrong with it.
Crud was the answer - chain and cassette were full of it, so it was made to sparkle and given a nice coating of new oil. And it had turned into Stealth Drivetrain ;o)

Meanwhile, Alan a Handcyclist who'd said he'd meet me there turned up. Fantastic :o) We had a bit of a chat and I flitted between tea drinking, checking 'phone, and seeing what was going on with the bike
[note to self] do ONE thing at a time!!!!!!!!!!
Tea drunk, bike all sparkly and weather still foul, Alan and I headed out to descend Whinlatter. It was fantastic. The perfect tonic to have a companion after the solitude of the first 60 miles!
When we turned left after Lorton to start to head towards Loweswater, for some reason, thought of the Tracker came into my mind, and I instinctively reached around to feel for my..................


My 'phone was still in the office at Cyclewise.
Initial thought - "[insert expletive of choice here] Lorna will be really worried :o( "

how could I have been so STUPID - because it also meant that I didn't have my emergency money either. Suddenly felt a little exposed :o(

Shortly after this, Alan and I parted company and I thought - "Right - go back or hammer to the end so that I can collect it before it get TOO late
Back up Whinlatter wasn't an option!!!!

So I rode on. And I was really pleased that my legs were feeling quite strong.
A text conversation with someone's (didn't know his name at this point) wife over the last couple of days had resulted in an expected meeting for a some company from Fangs Brow to Hardknott.
He wasn't at Fangs Brow, so I carried on for a mile or so and then saw two road cyclists looking back
"Are *you* Leon?" I was asked. How many times and people have you asked that today, I wondered :o)

And so I met up with Graeme and his Dad, Barty.

Right - what is it about meeting up with TWO people that makes the weather improve..??
I WISH I'd known that that was what it takes when I started. Anyway the ride from this point just got better and better. The cloud lifted, the air temperature went up and the sun even came out. The visibility was as clear as a bell! It was stunning.
It was fantastic to be in company again and to have people to talk to, and especially someone who knew Fred Whitton really well, and as well as this section being the best it has been all week, it seemed to pass really quickly.
I was really moved (told you this had been an emotional day) when I was given a club cap which had a donation inside it for Macmillan. AND I was told that I had to attend the presentation evening in June!!
We'll be up here then - so that will be definitely on the Calendar!!

It sounds as if a group from the club may meet up with me on Sunday too.... I'm blown away by all of this. Really - it's incredible!

It wasn't until Eskdale Green that my knee, which although I could feel was swollen, started to grumble a bit. I'm really pleased to have reached around 90 miles before it played up. This is very encouraging!

Graeme was keen to climb Hardknott and headed off while I was having a comfort and jacket removal break - luckily my confuddled brain (remember the phone thing from earlier..??) didn't confuse the two activities ;o)

I was last to set off, and didn't catch Barty until the flat section in the middle where we shook hands and he wished me luck. Top man :o) It was fantastic to meet you today!
Graeme was already at the top when I got there. Cheers, mate.
It properly made my day having these guys for company.

And YES - 8 out of 8 - the Hardknott riding record is intact :o)

The descent of Hardknott I'm getting used to now - and it was fine today as it had dried out, and I was feeling good on the ascent of Wrynose too - there were a couple of cyclists near the top, walking, and I caught them shortly after the bottom of the descent where they had met up with what I assume were their womenfolk
I overheard them saying
"Is there a pub nearby, could do with a drink?"
"What after your ride up Wrynose?" one of the women asked.
"Yeah, it was REALLY tough, that?"

I didn't actually *see* them riding the steeper bit on Wrynose, but I'm sure epic tales will be told about it ;o)

Now, I KNOW I probably shouldn't chase times, but I'd worked out that I could just about finish with a time that started with an '8' if I didn't hang about - AND I need to collect my phone so that I could contact Lorna to let her know I was fine.
There WILL be a price to pay for worrying her like that - hopefully I'll survive it!

Besides - riding a little harder was STILL easier on my knee. No, I don't understand it either!!

I 'dibbed' in at 8:54:23. All things considered I really pleased with that.

I didn't hang about in Coniston though - some of the traffic was ridiculously slow, but hopefully I got to my phone and texted Lorna before she had cashed in the Life Insurance ;o)

I spoke to Radio Cumbria this evening too. They are going to run a short item in some of the news bulletins tomorrow apparently

OK - Sarah has filled me with food - I've iced my knee a couple of times, and I have a few bits to do.

I'm not ready yet to say it's the home straight - but it's getting closer.
Looks like I'll get caught up in a Sportive tomorrow which is part of the Keswick Festival.

OI! You at the back - stop snoring :-p

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Fred Whitton #7 - So THAT's where *my* legs were!

It was all very exciting this morning - I was getting to ride with TWO folk for the whole route, and meeting a third for the section after Loweswater to the top of Hardknott.

Not only that, I had an interview with Lakeland Radio scheduled (ooh! Get me!) for 5:45 just before setting off.
Despite some faffing that I could have done without after I got up (it's a TMI thing that you DON'T want to know about!) during which I discovered that my garmin wasn't charged so I had to sort out an alternative device, I arrived in good time, and Stuart (no, a different one!) was already there and told me that Glenn would be there soon enough - which he was!
I got mostly ready then sat in the car waiting for my phone call, which duly came.

Those of you that know me well know that I occasionally open my mouth, and words come out - LOTS of them - and SOMETIMES they are actually coherent!!! I have no idea what Colin Yare thought of it - or whether my fuggy 'early morning' brain and mouth connection was actually functioning.
Colin said that he'd broadcast it after 7:30, and that he'd call me again tomorrow for more of the same! 

Thank you to my 'PR Man' who made it all happen ;o)

We set off slightly later than normal, and it became clear right from the start that it was going to be a good day. Stuart and Glenn were brilliant company, their banter was a real tonic - it IS day 7 after all - and they did a brilliant job of keeping the pace manageable for me.
Glenn asked me about the interview thing and I told him that it was being broadcast after 7:30

"I think we'll miss it!" He said
"Yes, I don't think we'll be back by then," I replied

We were both right!! Imagine!

The ride to Kirkstone simply flew by, and I had realised that I had *my* legs back. I think they just wanted a day off. They won't be allowed to do that  again!
And the sun came out.
I asked what it was, and Stuart said the he *thought* it was called 'sun' as he'd read about it on the Interweb
"What, on Wikipedia?" I asked
"Yes, so it might not be true...."

[disclaimer: I have used my editorial remembery in regard to these things - they may not be entirely accurate transcripts]

Summit of Kirkstone at 7:20 which I didn't realise at the time was 1:15.... pretty quick for me, that!!
And the descent was dry :o)
And the section to Ullswater was pretty quick
And the closed road from yesterday (the 16th according to the sign) wasn't [phew]
Couldn't really see what they'd done though....

There was a bit of a headwind along the A66, but we made fantastic progress, and were heading down Borrowdale earlier than I normally arrive at the Keswick roundabout. And I was feeling good.
I had noticed that my right knee was aching a bit in the first hour or so, but it seemed to have eased by the time we headed up Honister.

Glenn absolutely flies up the climbs - I'd love to be able to do that. Stuart clearly likes descents, I CAN do that!
Honister was DRY - YES!!!! I finally got to enjoy that one :o)

When we reached the Buttermere YH, Glenn popped in to get some more water, and one of the staff came out to have a little chat. Fantastic - it's all these little things that make such a difference during this experience.
Stuart revealed his 'nutrition' plan then.
HA! Ginsters Cornish Pasty.

Genius!! :o)

Newlands was uneventful, (loved the descent though) and so was Whinlatter.

Cyclewise excelled themselves today!
Rich offered us toasted bagels as well as tea/coffee - and they were just what the stomach ordered - before checking my bike over. :o)
It was a fantastic stop - definitely recharging everyone's 'batteries'.

Loads more 'sun' although the air temperature was still a little chilly, but I was glad that I'd done the Sun cream thing this morning!!
When we climbed away from Loweswater, we found Simon waiting for us. Simon had said that he'd do the section across to Calder Bridge, but in the end came to the top of Hardknott.
Biggest group of the week - Fantastic :o)
By now the weather was fantastic and a degree of clothing-shedding was going on. Views were great - progress was fantastic - the only slight concern for me was that my knee was getting more uncomfortable. Not when I stood up or when I put more power through the pedals, but when I was sat and keeping the cadence 'spinning'
It feels like it's in front of my kneecap rather than behind it, and I have 'kneed' my bar ends a couple of times.

I did wonder if my long bottoms might be irritating some bruising, so I took them off, exposing my translucent lower legs to all and sundry.
Any performance drop of from the guys from this point WILL have been down to that disturbing sight - Sorry!

There was one little incident along the road to Santon where Stuart warned us with a loud
"Horse", looked back and tried to paint himself on the front of a small red car
I opened my mouth and an "UHHH!" came out - no idea what it meant, but Stuart corrected his trajectory, didn't redecorate the front of said red car, and commented that the young lady driving had given him a nice smile.... ;o)

So - Hardknott - Simon and Glenn shot off, I poddled, Stuart was just behind me.
I was very pleased with the way I climbed today :o)

A full set of 7 in the bag!  Nice!
Simon was at the top when I got there and was going to head back down. Great to meet you!!

The Descent was DRY - YES!!!
Most enjoyable one so far.
And today I didn't find Wrynose as tough as I have done.
Descent was DRY, and I found I was riding the ride in back to Coniston pretty strongly.

I 'dibbed' and uploaded but was convinced that we were about 8:46-8:48.

We weren't!

8:43:49 - Fantastic.

All the times are here

Thanks to Stuart and Glenn for your company today - I had a fantastic day, and it seemed to go incredibly quickly. Top Stuff!
And thanks also to Simon for his time - and the honorary cap!

Brilliant day.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Fred Whitton #6 - Legs like Soggy Spaghetti..!!

I looked out of the window this morning and thought
"Top to toe waterproofs!"
And it seemed like that was going to be the order of the day as I headed to Coniston.
I was meeting Stuart who had driven up from Preston to come and cycle the full route with me. :o)
The first climb up Hawkshead Hill made it clear that I wasn't going to be climbing quickly today.
You know how cyclists develop these legs that are like Steel Hawsers..?? I don't seem to.
Soggy Spaghetti is a far better description - well that's how they felt!! By the time we reached Clappersgate, the rain had stopped, but the wind hadn't, and it was clearing up nicely and I was getting much too warm, so off came the waterproofs, and amazingly it stayed that way all day!
As the climbs progressed to the top of Kirkstone, I did wonder if Stuart might get a bit frustrated by my slowness, but if it did, he didn't let it show :o)
I descend reasonably competently though, and there was a tailwind to Ullswater, so that section was very pleasant.

Remember I said that the road at the Troutbeck Inn was going to be closed on Monday? Well that IS what the sign said!
They lied!
They were in the process of closing it as we approached!! I DID ask if it was only going to be closed for today, and was told that it was......... I'll work out a workable diversion ;o)

A66 - strongest wind so far!!!
I was one of those days when I was very pleased to have strong rider whose wheel I could follow - without it I'd not have worked any harder, just been much slower!!
Even in Stuart's wind shadow, I still couldn't stay with him on the slight inclines. Spaghetti legs just didn't have it in them!!

That said - we made really good time to Keswick, and the ride up Borrowdale with the skies clearing and the sun coming out was spectacular in the extreme :o)
I insisted on a toilet stop at the Toilets at the bottom of Honister. I expected the National Trust Man to try to get me to join again - but he didn't. I'm already joined :o)
Climbing Honister was OK. Not quick or spectacular, but adequate. It was very windy on the second part out of the shelter of the trees, and the descent was also wind-retarded.
But we made Buttermere Youth Hostel and in pretty good time.
I was also OK on Newlands - still slow and if I'm honest, I was REALLY feeling the fatigue in my legs - and was focusing on the Cuppa tea at Cyclewise :o)
The descent was brilliant - a tail wind and no brakes from the top today.
I have just checked my Garmin, and it reckons today's top speed was 50.9mph :-O

Shhhh! Don't tell the wife ;o)

The climb up Whinlatter I took very easy! And the guys at Cyclewise were as friendly and welcoming as they always are.
Rich asked me if the spoke he replaced was OK - and I said it was, but I thought I'd knocked the wheel out of true - so off it came and he checked it out for me while I was making tea for me and Stuart.
It was one of those days when one cuppa wasn't enough for me - so I had two and a couple of bits to eat. So we were there a little longer than normal, but to be honest, *I* needed it!
As we were leaving Rich told me that he'd also adjusted my indexing as it was slightly off.

See!!! Amazing.
I hope they realise just how much I appreciate their support, because it IS phenomenal!!

By now it was a glorious day and the next part of the route simply flew by. I was much revitalised by the Cyclewise Refuelling Stop, and as you know, I really like the rest of the route.
Fantastic surprise on Cold Fell - a car I thought I recognised was parked on the top section, and in it was Andy with more Flapjack. It's things like this that have made this whole experience so much more than a simple endurance event.
It has become a complete experience, and one that I'll never forget. With any luck it will also benefit Macmillan Cancer Support too :o)

Anyway - Andy, that flapjack absolutely hit the spot when it was eaten at Calder Bridge. :o)

The ride in to the base of Hardknott was lovely. A bit of helpful wind, AND the cloud base was OFF the Fells.
I mused whether I'd keep my 100% record for continuous ridden ascents of Hardknott, and so did Stuart :o)
We both did!!
Actually - I was very pleased with the way that I climbed it today.
The descent was nicer too, because the road was mostly dry. I caught up with Stuart after the bridge at Cockley Beck, and we rode the flat bit together chatting :o)
He whizzed off up the climb again, and I just poddled my way to the top, and caught him up again near the bottom.
The ride out to Little Langdale was very pleasant again. More traffic today than there has been up until now, and only ONE impatient BMW driver. I've been quite lucky on that front, and most of the drivers on the minor roads have been very friendly and thoughtful!!

As we climbed up to the main road and back towards Coniston, I glanced at my watch. "Blimey," I thought "We'll be under 9 hours - I really didn't expect that!"

We were! 8:45 in fact, which is my fastest time around the course to date! And on Wet Spaghetti legs!!!

Thanks to Stuart - you were fantastic company and made what has been physically the hardest day so far a really memorable one.


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Fred Whitton #5 - What a difference the weather makes!

Today I was meeting up with Brian, someone I have know in a virtual sense for a while, but never met. The Internet is a very useful thing sometimes!!
When I arrived in Coniston, having sent a text to let him know I was coming, Brian was already parked up and ready!
Looking at the early morning skies, I wasn't sure that it was going to brighten up, but there was no wind to speak of and it was noticeably warmer than the last few days have been.

I still set out with a full set of waterproofs on! ;o)
The lack of wind was BLISS! No really - it was. Although not completely still, compared to what HAS been about for the last few days, it was still!! :o)
Brian is a much more experienced cyclist than me (but then who isn't!!) and he is also clearly a lot stronger. He was having some trouble with his gears though, and he was a little worried that he didn't have small enough gears for the steeper climbs.

The section to Kirkstone went in a flash - well..... 1:19 actually, which is the quickest that I have done that section.
By this time I REALLY needed to shed some clothes, so all the waterproofs came off. I'm glad I did that because it was way too warm to be wearing so much.
For the first time, the section along the A66 only had the slightest of headwinds, and we made fantastic time to Keswick.
I was thinking a little that I was riding a little hard, considering that I wasn't even half way through the challenge, but the legs seemed happy enough, and were feeling good.

I must qualify "good" at this point.
By good I mean "working and doing what they are supposed to"
They are actually quite tender to touch, and when I've been sat down for any length of time, they take a bit of getting working again.

Oh - and the feel like they've gone a few rounds with a meat tenderiser.

So pretty much what I expected really ;o)

The ride into Borrowdale was lovely, and it almost looked like it was going to brighten up. It didn't, but it was a nice touch by the Weather Gods :o)
Honister:- That bottom bit is quite hard isn't it?! But another successful no-stopping ascent of it. This was the first time that Brians lack of small gears showed itself and he had to walk a short section.
It was lovely getting to the flatter bit and not having to contend with a face full of breeze.
It was also fantastic being able to descend that Pass and not HAVE to pedal downhill just to keep moving. Wonderful :o)
We arrived at the Buttermere Youth Hostel checkpoint in 3:43 - also quite a bit quicker than I have done so far, and my legs were feeling good!

The climb up Newlands was very atmospheric! The cloud base was covering the tops and the view up the valley was stunning. I love the way that the same piece of ground viewed from the same place at the same time can be SO different when you are 'out there'.
The descent was most enjoyable again, and the climb up Whinlatter uneventful. We were almost at the top when Brain asked
"So, is THIS Whinlatter then?"
When I told him it was, he said "well, you could have told me - I was thinking that this was quite a long drag if the Pass was still to come" (or words to that effect ;o) )
We popped into Cyclewise for a cuppa, and I mentioned to Craig that I'd had to do some running repairs to my chain yesterday, and he offered to have a look while I sorted out my drinks.
He then stuck his head around the door and said "are you OK to stay a few minutes, because your gear cable is full of **** and I'm going to change it"
These guys have been INCREDIBLE in the way they have supported me. Friendly, helpful, encouraging, and they make great tea :o)
If you are in the area - go see them !!!

I may have mentioned that I really like the 'second' half. It breaks down into short sections, each with a climb and a descent, and once you get to the Hardnose Massif you are virtually back - kinda! ;o)
Once again this part seemed to go pretty quickly.
We were a little unlucky with the weather on Cold Fell where the cloud base dumped itself on us, making the visibility the worst I've had so far, and there was some heavy rain for a while - I was driven back into my waterproof top, I'm not messing about with the weather in these parts!!
I suspect it was more difficult for Brian who didn't know the route, but although it was a slight irritation, I found it OK.

Checkpoint Calder Bridge was at 6:56 Not quite the quickest I've get there, but riding time was about the same. And as we headed out to Gosforth it looked like the clouds were lifting!
Just outside Gosforth we passed a car and the occupant wound down his window and said something that I didn't catch.
My you've-ridden-90-miles brain didn't immediately recognise him, but it was another friend, Andy, who'd popped out to say Hi and brought 6 pieces of the most fantastic flapjack. :o)
I ate one and kept two for later :o)
What a superb surprise! It really made me smile (even more!)

By the time we reached the base of Hardknott and the Red Telephone Box Of Doom, it had warmed up again, and only the top of the Pass was still in cloud.
Brain said something that I didn't catch, but I took it to mean - That Looks a Bit Steep.
Yup - it is. ;o)
He told me he'd ride what he could but expected to walk some of it!
I'd already said that it was a point of honour for me to ride the whole thing, but that I was quite slow :o)
I felt really strong on the lower section today, and again used the middle it to rest.
My unblemished record was 'almost' wrecked by an impatient young driver on the second bend of the steep bit, but I didn't stop, and I didn't fall off :o)
I'd check back to see where Brian was and saw him on the middle section, so I headed to the top, found somewhere to shelter, and feasted on Andy's two remaining pieces of flapjack.
Now THAT'S the way to do it.
I had a little chat with some walkers who'd come from Harter Fell "but couldn't see anything"; checked my 'phone' as it had been informing me of messages for ages, and saw the @Mr_eL_Bee Mentions on Twitter. Some interesting ones on there!! Brian appeared then, having broken his chain lower down.
I realise now just how quickly he sorted that - Respect!!!!

On the descent an outdoor instructor with a group of small children pointed at us as told them we'd just cycled up Hardknott - so I gave them a cheery wave and a "Hiya" then very quickly replaced my waving hand on the brake as I'd suddenly got a bit quick :o)
Took the descent quite easy and the same with the first bit of Wrynose.
I took the descent of Wrynose a little quicker as the road was dry, the visibility was good, and the sun was trying to come out :o)
And the ride back to Coniston was great!

Absolutely fantastic day. It was brilliant having company for the whole round, and again people have shown me incredible kindness and support which I'm more grateful for than you know!!!

And now the lovely Sarah has made a mountain of food, which it would be rude not to eat.
Oh - and the weight experiment - I was exactly the same on my return as I was before breakfast :o)

Monday, 16 May 2011

Fred Whitton #4 - I think Wrynose hates me...

I know I *do* bang on a bit about the weather, but in this case I think it can be justified!!
The various forecasts that I look at said "It'll rain - quite a bit, and there will be some wind - West'ish' but with some South in it."
This just about the worst direction!!
On the back of my experience yesterday, I dressed warmer and MORE waterproof. This was to prove a good decision :o)

I should do a quick physical run down of how I am.
Legs - calves are fine - quads are a little tender, but mostly they are getting more defined. The wife will LOVE that :o) - hamstrings, fine, feel like they've done a bit of work. Glutes - now they have clearly been working!!

Other things of note:
Triceps are getting a good workout, more than anything else in my arms
Heels of my hands are a little bruised and wrists slightly 'clicky'.
Considering the state of some of the road surfaces - that's not too bad :o)

It was NOTICEABLY windier today than yesterday, and raining quite hard to start with. I'm finding that it's taking until the 3 Passes (Honister, Newlands and Whinlatter) for my legs to start working properly, and I have to be pretty gentle with them to start with. I think I'm getting that balance about right!
Although much of the section to Ullswater had a not-headwind, I couldn't really use it as I would have liked, and the crosswind up to the A66 was a little tedious, although with the wind slightly in the South of West, I did get a bit of help in the last mile. Interestingly the Road Closure didn't seem to have happened by 8:30, so I didn't need to take to the fields or any such nonsense :o)

The A66 was TOUGH.
In still conditions it's reasonable to see 25-30mph for the long declines, doing hardly any work.
17 was the best I could manage, on the steepest bit, and the ups were in single figures. Hard Hard Hard!
Borrowdale wasn't too bad, and the first part of Honister is sheltered, so was fine in a This-Is-Still-25% way ;o)
The flatter bit above the trees was actually harder!
And I almost didn't have to use my brakes on the first part of the descent. It was one of those days where, if you had a coat with pockets and were confident enough to stick your hands in them and hold the coat out like a little sail, you WOULD have been blown up to the top of the Pass from the West side!!!

OK - so it did mean that Newlands was more benign and the descent from there was fantastic :)

I was fully expecting this to be a completely 'solo' day. And you know what? Even when you enjoy your own company, 9-10 hours 'out there' is a long time!!
But as I got to Brathwaite I saw a little slip of a bloke on a bike - wearing an OMM Kamleika smock - and cycle shorts.
Now that's 'ard!! ;o)

My first thought was - "He'll climb well"

I was even more surprised when he asked "Are you Leon?"

Turns out that Robb was planning to accompany me over Whinlatter to Lorton - and offered me the hospitality of his house and food if I needed it.
Now - how AMAZING is that..??
In a very real sense it completely made my day.

Oh - and yes, he's an effortless climber :o)

It was a fairly short stop at Cyclewise today - but that cuppa always tastes like the best thing on earth.
I can't overstate just how fantastic everyone has been there, and how grateful I am for their support!

The descent of Whinlatter was not quick - again. The most not-quick it's been since I started, and I had guessed that I now wasn't going to get any assistance from the wind until after Calder Bridge - I was right about that :o)

Robb had to leave me at Lorton, but I may see him again at some point, which would be fantastic :o)
You know - it's the little things that have made this into SUCH an incredible experience. People who've gone out of their way to do things that they feel would be helpful (Oh and they so ARE!!!)
People who have given up their time to give me some company or to turn out somewhere on the route just to wave and say hello.
People who I don't know messaging me just to wish me luck.
People who have heard about my adventure and have been moved to make a donation to MacMillan on the strength of it.
There is far more, but I have a terrible memory so apologies for missing out anything :o/

All of these things, big and small, are keeping me smiling and even more convinced that taking this on for Macmillan was a Good Idea!!!
Thank you all.

Goodness - that was a bit of a tangent, wasn't it!!

Anyway..... I really like the next bit. It seems to go really quickly, possibly because it breaks down into short sections quite nicely, and it is always interesting. Even in the weather today
The many faces of Lakeland are ALL beautiful - some are just a bit more brutal than others ;o)
I don't know what it is about the section from Ennerdale Bridge on, but I start to really get my legs back along there! And it does make me chuckle the way that I have accepted these big mileage numbers as 'normal'
"86 miles - FAB, only 12 'til Hardnott" was a thought today. Most odd!
And it was interesting to see a 4x4 with two specimens of lovely carbon bling on the back (you know the kind that has wheels and you have to tie down or it'll float away!) being driven to the bottom of the Pass.
Hope they had fun - I suspect they were quicker than me on my carthorse bike :o)

Hardknott was awash again today - MORE rivers but I rode it all. This really is a bit of a point of honour for me now!
I was very cautious on the descent too, it was wet and slippery and the potholes were rendered invisible by rivers - and I didn't want to repeat the experience of yesterday.

Wrynose double-bluffed me though!
I thought "HA! you'll not break my bike like you did yesterday"
Instead, just after I turned from Fell Foot, my chain slipped.....

"Odd", I thought "that's a new chain, it CAN'T be worn out already.
When it did it for the second time, I stopped to have a look - and found that a link was in the process of shedding a side-plate.

[note to self - when something doesn't feel right - stop straight away and check it out]

I had a quick firtle to get it useable for the last 9 miles and set off. And it behaved itself on the climb, and again I was super-observant on the descent.
As I've said before, the run in is great!
And it was most enjoyable today, even with the headwind into Coniston.

All things considered, I'm really pleased with 9:46 for today.
It was a really tough day.
Tomorrow I have someone doing the whole thing with me - REALLY looking forward to that!!

You still awake...????

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Fred Whitton #3 - An Epic...

The weather forecast suggested that there would be precipitation today - and wind.... OK, so dress for that, no problem :)
I'd woken feeling a little fatigued, so I'd already decided that I'd take it easy on the legs today.

When I set off I realised that my legs were feeling a little 'empty'. That's OK, I thought, I was expecting that to happen - it'll pass (in the next couple of days!!)
And even though I WAS being gentle - I was at Kirkstone in about 1:26, and feeling good for it.
Just after I turned away from Ullswater, I was passed by a Lotus - and then another..... in fact 10 identikit Loti and one that was a bit different.
Boy playing with their toys I thought!
I saw them 3 times during the day, so they were obviously playing with the Passes!!
I was slightly later into Keswick than I'd told Hannah I'd be and it was a really nice surprise to see Norna and Dave, a friend of mine who has a Bob Graham round coming up shortly.

We headed off into the murk of Borrowdale and after a quick toilet stop at the foot of Honister, started heading up. Hannah sprinted off up the first bit of the climb :-O
I didn't - just did my normal thing and put in the effort that I knew I could sustain!!!
I waited for a minute at the cattle grid for Hannah to reach me, which gave me the chance to eat some food, and we headed up the easier bit, but into quite a strong headwind. I yattered away, but I think Hannah just heard noise ;o)
As we neared the top, a very strange sight appeared

"There's some odd bloke waving at us, and WHAT is he wearing," said Hannah (or something like that)
"That's Flip," I said

He was wearing a wetsuit ;o)

Anyway - he'd chatted to the Youth Hostel folk and had a cuppa waiting for us!
The wetsuit? He was heading back down to Buttermere for an Open Water swim with a mate..... Makes COMPLETE sense, doesn't it.. :o)

As we were approaching Buttermere YH - where Flip had been in to speak to the folk there about the challenge and who, he informed me, would make me a cuppa anytime I wanted one, what brilliant bloke :o) -

I heard

tink tink tink tink

Somehow I'd only gone and broken a spoke.... this did not bode well!
I had a quick firtle to straighten the wheel up a bit, and hoped that no more would go!! And worried slightly about the climb and descent of Newlands!!
They went fine, as did the climb up Whinlatter, and we were bang on the pace I was expecting in terms of arriving there :o)

Rich at Cyclewise set about fixing my wheel and truing it back up, and so I was at the shop for about an hour.
Not too bad, I thought, I have plenty of time.
It was fantastic to ride that section with Hannah - it was really enjoyable! And by the time we got to Whinlatter my legs were feeling much more 'mine' again :o)
I'm very fond of her and Norna - lovely people :o)

Today was one of those days where the wind conspires to be in your face even when it SHOULDN'T be!!!
But the section past Loweswater and over Cold Fell seemed to pass quite quickly - and I FINALLY got some help from the wind as I turned towards Gosforth!!
As I approached the base of Hardknott, I'd worked out that from there I would probably end up with 9 hours riding time - And I was happy with that. The delay wouldn't have made me too late, and I'd get to see my wife before she headed home, as I knew she'd be stalking me on the Tracker, and was planning to be in Coniston for when I arrived.

Hardknott was awash!
No - really - the road was a river, and the wind had picked up, and the cloud base was down to the easier middle section. The Weather Gods had clearly decided to have a laugh!! The ascent was workmanlike and unspectacular, but again I rode the whole way - 3 out of 3, really pleased with that :o) - and the descent was more difficult in the wet and the rain.
Wrynose was very much the same, and I was looking forward to the last section.

Just after you reach the top, the road drops off to the left and there is a RH bend straight after it.
I picked up a bit of speed, and hadn't noticed the puddle that was the whole width of the road.
"Oh [insert word of choice here]", I said, and had to guess where the pothole wasn't

And didn't

The sound of TWO rims on road surface and the PSSSSSSS that followed, and the bizzare thought that I had
"I'm sure my bike isn't made of marshmallow!"
left me with a bit of a problem.

2 punctures and 2 innertubes, one of which I knew had been repaired before

And the wind howled
And the rain fell.

Sometimes the Mountain Gods like to spit us mere mortals off the hill. If that was what they were doing, then they made a grave misjudgement :-p

Two tube changes later and a great deal of "please don't be punctured" chanting to the 'new' tubes, and I was COLD.
In a previous life I was an Outward Bound instructor, so I'm pretty used to being on the hill, but I'm also pretty good at spotting the onset of mild hypothermia - And I needed to get off the hill FAST.

Which was a bit difficult because the roads were treacherous and there were potholes EVERYWHERE trying to eat my tyres....
And I was concerned that Lorna would be getting twitchy at my lack of appearance.
To be fair, the rest of the ride was uneventful, if a little adrenaline-fuelled, and Lorna was just coming out of the Garage as I arrived :-D
She'd even bought me a present :o)

I'm afraid I was a little unhusbandly, because all I could think was, "I NEED to get warm"

So I headed straight back to Sarah's and my 'Ice' bath to warm up.
36-40°C is SO the way to go.

Chris and Sarah were BRILLIANT in sorting out my wet kit and feeding me with cake and tea while I waited for my body temperature to rise in the hastily run bath.
And my gorgeous wife arrived shortly afterwards for a hug :o)

This evening, after some (read LOTS OF) dinner I've had to change my back tyre and replace the innertube again... so I have quite bit of stuff to do before I can go to bed.

Now - THAT was a bit of an adventure!!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Fred Whitton #2 Brilliant support and PomPoms

There was 'weather' last night - so my lovely wife told me. Funnily enough, I slept through it - imagine that!

This morning I was far more efficient getting ready - I can see this becoming a slightly OCD routine - but it IS a half hour drive to Coniston from Oakdene.

There was a light drizzle when I arrived at Coniston but it had all but stopped as I rolled up to Hills Garage. I was a little bit early, but as far as I knew no-one was joinging me from the start this morning.

That reminds me:

If you are planning to ride with me from Coniston, can you leave me a message either here, 

or a text on 07795551099 so that if, like today I'm early, I don't set off without you
Thanks :o

The wind today was a little stronger and the was a touch of 'North' in it which made most of the section to Kirkstone reasonably OK. Somewhere on the way up Hawkshead Hill, my speed/cadence sensor parted company with my chainstay - which left me 'blind' for number - I LIKE my numbers :o(
A quick fiddle with the Garmin 310, and I at least had a speed readout :o)
The descent off Kirstone was great today - no traffic which surprised me - and the road was only a bit damp - so cautious but quick was the order of the day.
The section then along to Ullswater was lovely to ride.

When I turned left to head north to the A66, I realised just how strong the wind was
Note to self: Don't let go of your handlebars in a cross wind - you are very likely to fall off.
I didn't but it was something I only did ONCE ;o)

OK - there is a possible problem with the route on the 16th - there are Road Closed on 16th for 1 day signs close to the A66 junction with the A5091 at The Troutbeck Inn.
Is there anyone locally who knows whether I'll be able to duck down the small road that goes to the Gill Head Campsite, or will I have to do something more radical?
The sign for the road closure is just before that turn in the direction that I'll be going :o/

Anyway..... turning on to the A66 was like hitting a (slightly soft) brick wall.
No making up time on THAT section today!!
As I neared the roundabout for Keswick, I saw a cyclist waiting on it.
Turns out it was Dave, who made a comment on an earlier blog who'd ridden out from Borrowdale and rode with me to the top of Honister.
Apparently his family were watch the tracker so that he knew where I was. :o)

THAT was fantastic, Dave. Thanks for coming out today. I really enjoyed that section :o)
The wind slowed me on the Honister descent too - but positively blew me up and down Newlands. And as I approached Whinlatter Visitor Centre, I saw Sarah (who will henceforth be known as *Mum*) and Chris (my lovely hosts who are looking after me splendidly) and my friends Hannah (who ISN'T riding today, but tomorrow) and Norna who were waving PomPoms and stuff (I'm SURE I saw that, and wasn't hallucinating........ ) ;o)

I headed to Cyclewise for a cuppa tea and to sort out my drinks and the everyone congregated in the shop.
I can't tell you how fantastic the Cyclewise folk have been. It's SUCH a help as I'm otherwise doing this thing unsupported!
(Apart from the people who give up their time to ride with me, and wave from around the course, that is ;o) )

So - adequately watered and stretched, I headed down Whinlatter - slowly! The wind wanted me back at the top.
Of course it DID mean that after Lorton there was a short section where it was helpful :o)
I really like the section after Whinlatter, past Loweswater, Lamplugh (how DO you pronounce that?) Ennerdale and Calder Brige. And the ONLY section that I'm not that keen on is the 2 miles on the main road to Gosforth - but hey, it's TWO miles!!

And the run in to Hardknott and Wrynose - somehow this came out as Hardnose when I was thinking about it around Eskdale Green.... most odd - is brilliant for having a bit of a rest but without dropping much pace before the passes.

It's funny - but I really enjoy those climbs. And for the second time in two days I rode all of both passes.
It's interesting though, that Wrynose in a way feels harder - I guess because it comes so soon after Hardknott, the descent of which is almost as hard work as the ascent.
That reminds me - I've nearly melted my rear brakes - must change the pads tonight!!

Another section of this ride I really like is the run in off Wrynose back to Coniston. It's a really satisfying ride.

And looking at the distance on the Garmin, and the time, I CERTAINLY didn't 'try' to finish under 9 hours - Oh no.... that would be silly ;o)

8:51:06 is my Sportident time ;o)
I'm actually really pleased with that.
I'm more fatigued today than I was yesterday, but that was to be expected. And I think I'll take it a little easier tomorrow.
Burning out is NOT in the plan


Friday, 13 May 2011

Ice Baths

I subjected my body to an 'Ice' bath today.

I reckon that 36-40ÂșC is the optimal temperature for therapeutic treatment :o)

A big Thank You

I have only just had a chance to look at my JustGiving Site, and I really must say a huge thanks you for the incredibly generous donations that have been made today while I was out riding.

I continue to be humbled by people, and their generosity.

I will do everything that I can in my efforts over the next 9 days to do justice to you all

Thank you

Fred Whitton #1 - What shoes..??

Unusually for me, I didn't sleep that well last night - and I faffed more than I ever have before an event! I rearranged kit multiple times and couldn't decide what to take and what to leave.....

And I was SURE that I'd forget something important

The morning routine went well. I had pre made up the drinks for the bike so I didn't have that to worry about. And Sarah was up and about - very pregnant - needed the loo! - as I was doing breakfast which was fab :o)

I was ready in plenty of time and loaded everything into and on the car, and headed out to Coniston, stopping off at a cashpoint as I realised I had no money to carry with me. I got kitted up, took the bike off the roof, helmet on, glasses on helmet, drinks on bike

Right - shoes..............

Errrrrr shoes...???

Yup - they were still at Sarah's

I sad something like "oops - that was silly"
Left a message on Sarah's phone suggesting that I was slightly irked at my own stupidity, and asked her if she or Chris could meet me with them "somewhere"

I then went to meet Flip and we set off just before 6am

Can I just say that inov-8 f-lite 230's are fantastic shoes!
They are not really ideal for pushing SPD's up Kirkstone - in the rain ;o)

Sarah 'stalked' me on the Tracker and texted me - I called her back and she said she'd meet us at Keswick.
That'll do nicely, I thought.... I can cope with this til Keswick.

And we'd made decent time to there too - arriving at about 9.

OH WHAT A RELIEF to be clipped in to the bike in shoes that are designed for it!

I LOVE the climbing bits of the Fred. They are fantastic - no really, they ARE!! And the descents are fun too - have to be careful, especially when it's wet.

I am a little lighter than Flip - and so I found the climbs easier than him, and our average pace started to fall.
By the time we arrived at Whinlatter we were on 10:30 pace - but my legs were strong and fresh - all very pleasing :o)

many thanks to the folk there for the EXCELLENT cuppa tea and the lend of tools to do a bit of bike tweaking :o)

Here Flip said "Oooh - my longest ever ride to here"
And he STILL wanted to finish the ride!!! Fair play mate! That took some bottle!!
I really like the section from Whinlatter past Loweswater, Cold Fell and to Hardknott. The character of it is completely different to the rest of the ride, and although there was some wind to contend with - the earlier rain had cleared away and the sun even came out for a bit!!

A number of times, Flip had encouraged me to head off on my own, because he was worried that he was holding me back. And although this MAY have been true, it was also true that I was enjoying having his company, and I was using today as a 'sighting' lap, and it's better to under-do things because you know how much more you can do subsequently, than to over-do it, where all you know was you over did it!
On the other hand, I also didn't want to be out too long as my legs would need to recover!
So at the bottom of Hardknott, (a climb which a friend has pledged 10 Euros for each time I RIDE it) we agreed that I'd head off back to Coniston, where I'd wait for him to arrive.
I do like Hardknott! It's tough in two places - the bottom and the top - the middle is much easier - the descent is a beast though. I have to adjust my bike a bit for that. Bottles behind my bum stop me getting back off the seat in descent - and this won't do. I need to stay safe on those!
And today showed me that I'm fine using just two 800ml bottles on the bike.

The finish to the ride is a peach too - once the scary bit of Wrynose is done, the last section is a brilliant ride :o)

So today gave me loads of info for the next days - I didn't overwork my legs - I mustn't forget my shoes - I need to take the seat bottle holders off.

I took 10:29:48 - which included almost an hour of stops, but I now know the whole course as a single entity, and I know where I can make up LOADS of time both in not stopping, and on the course itself.

Tomorrow will be interesting. I'm setting off on my own, and I'm meeting Hannah at Keswick. I also think there might be some Keswick cyclists joining me somewhere along the line.
Wonder what the weather will do.

Yes, yes, I know "There will be weather"

Interesting geeky stat.
Mr Suunto altimeter watch makes the total ascent and descent 3280m
That agrees with Google Earth and the corrected elevation on Garmin!!


EDIT: GAH! It's impossible to remember everything in one go.
BRILLIANT moment as we came through Clappersgate - Sylvia a friend of ours, whose hubby is doing the Brathay Challenge, was at the road junction to wave and take our picture.
It was SUCH a nice surprise. Thanks a million :o)

Garmin Connect 

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The journey up

Goodness it's been a busy day!
I left early so that I could fit in everything that I needed to today.
A visit to Team Nutrition to finalise the fluids and recovery plan and to stock up in the things I needed.
Then headed across to see Paul who organises the Fred Whitton to pick up the timing cards and have a chat about LOADS of stuff. It was fantastic to meet him finally. He very generously gave me A Fred Whitton T-shirt. Once I have completed at least one circuit, I'll wear it with pride :)

Then I hammered (carefully on Cumbrian roads!!) to Whinlatter to poke my head in at Cyclewise and say hello - drop a couple of things off. And on top of what they are ALREADY doing for me, they gave me a Buff (I LOVE Buffs!!) and a couple of drinks bottles.

I'm becoming a mobile advertising hoarding ;o)
And I'm very happy to do that!!

Then I headed to Oakdene where the gorgeous Sarah was baking some fresh cookies. Wonderful :o)
Work is never far away, and I had to run down to the Post Office to post a couple of parcels that needed to go out today, before I could finally sit down and relax!!

I have loads of sorting out to do so I'll keep this short and sweet.

Here is a link to the GPS tracking thingy that I'm going to use.
I KNOW that there is very poor phone coverage over Kirkstone, and after Loweswater, so when the virtual *me* doesn't move, it's more than likely a technical issue :)

Here is the LINK
Can you check that it's working and shows me on a map somewhere and let me know if it isn't working


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Some thoughts...

Since I started cycling more, I have gained far more of an interest in all things to do with cycling. It is all new to me, although I was introduced to it at a young age, as a couple of my cousins had a brief foray into the world of professional cycle racing when I was a youngster.

And I have marvelled at the incredible skill and bike handling skills of the top riders, and their ability to completely strafe their bodies day after day. And they seem incredibly tough too. Leaping up after what look after really horrible crashes to check if their bikes are still rideable, and just getting on with it.
OK, the occasional broken collar bone or arm happens, and lots of painful looking road rash, but really serious injuries are rare.

So it was really shocking and saddening to read of the untimely death of Wouter Weylandt on a fast descent during Stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia yesterday.

A timely reminder that as cyclists no matter how good we are, we are vulnerable and fragile.

In two days, I'll be heading to the Lakes to start my challenge. I'm excited about it, and nervous too. There are lots of questions that can't be answered - but as long as the bike and body hold up, it's going to be quite some adventure.
I'm lucky too. I have fantastic friends who have been incredibly generous in their support, some of whom will be joining me for a day, or part of a day. Others will head to points on the course just to be there and give me a cheery wave.

I am also hoping that a few cyclists will have heard about what I'm doing, and just turn up for a toddle around Lakeland.

I'm also hugely grateful for the support of Team Nutrition who are providing me with my hydration and recovery drinks. This will be pretty important!!
And the guys at Cyclewise who have offered me the shop as a stop off point for sorting drinks and the like for the last part of the ride, as well as to make sure that the bike is in working order.
And I'm particularly looking forward to being the guest of Oakdene B&B which is without doubt the plushest B&B accommodation in the world, and run by friends of mine who are also really excited about my challenge :o)

A quick "Thank You" to everyone who has donated to Macmillan so far. We're up to £600 which is now 53p per mile.
Fabulous :o)

I have regular calls from the Fundraising folk at Macmillan, and they are incredibly grateful for the sum we have raised so far.

Not long now!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Ask and...... well, you know.....

It's amazing how the Collective mind of people can make more things happen than an individual on their own. Well, I suppose it isn't, but it does go to show that even when you have a project that is essentially 'yours', it can be hugely improved by the input of other people.

And for those people (you know who you are - and I won't try to name you all) who have supported me, suggested things, given me advice, and the like I want to thank you :o)

I have an email today from the folk at Cyclewise at Whinlatter. A number of people had mentioned them, some of my 'fat-tyre' friends have obviously used them quite a bit and have been incredibly positive about them, and I followed up the suggestion to call them and see if there was any mileage in asking them if I could use them as a stop off point to sort out drinks and the like, but also to glance over the bike as it will get quite a hammering over the 10 days.

I had a chat with them on the phone, and the response that I got was really positive, and I was asked to email a few details about what I'm up to. I did that last night, and this morning I had a reply!

They are more than happy for me to use the shop as a drinks stop and somewhere to have a bite to eat. But more than that, they have offered to check the bike over both before I start, and during the 10 days and make sure that it doesn't let me down. They have been incredibly generous with the offer they have made too. Brilliant!
AND they are hopefully going to put something in their next newsletter....
AND they are going to see if they can get some riders out to give me some company.

Considering that they've never met me - I am totally blown away by this.

There's a clicky link thing over there --->

I am collecting a fantastic group of people who are going out of their way to help me on this endeavour, and I can't really express how grateful I am. I hope that it'll come across in the things I write as the days pass.

Just a week to go.

Exciting, isn't it! :o)

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Useful Stuff!

I phoned Robin at Team Nutrition today for a chat, and some pointers for my drink/recovery strategy for the 10 Freds. That was really useful. I'll drop in on my way up to the Highest Quality B&B in the Lakes to sort out the last few bits and pieces.

Thanks to a suggestion on the 10 Freds thread on Fetcheveryone (Thanks Andy - GREAT idea) I called the guys at Cyclewise at Whinlatter. Had a quick chat about the possibility of being able to pop in and say Hi and sort out my drinks bottles there and perhaps have them cast an experienced eye over the bike a couple of times as it's going to get a bit of a battering over the 10 days.
I've pinged off a detailed email about what I'm up to and hopefully they'll be up for supporting me in that way. Hope so - it'll make the logistics of the second half of the ride SO much easier!!

I just have a few little tweaks to sort out on the bike now, and I should be good to go. Life got in the way of riding today, and tomorrow it looks like I'll be a bit delayed too - but that's OK :o)

It's all coming together nicely!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A windy ton

I suppose I was being a little ambitious yesterday with winds forecast to be 30kph with stronger gusts from the East - to ride a route that was 104 miles and would only have a 'helpful' wind direction for about 30 miles..... when I left the house at 13:30!!

OK - so I did know that I could cut it short to 86 miles it time and daylight conspired against me.

But in the end they didn't. 

[Note to self] When strong winds have been blowing, watch out for half-fallen trees.  It smarts a bit when you plough through them at 25mph ;o)

Once again I went through a slightly sticky patch from about 50 to 65 miles. But then my legs came back to me and felt a lot better for the last section... which was initially hillier and there was another 10 mile section of strong headwind.

Because I had planned to do the 100 miles, I took a couple of solid food things with me (and plenty of coinage to buy stuff should the need arise), and because they were in my jersey pocket, and the sun was shining on them, have found that anything with a chocolate coating is asking for trouble! :o)

I also thought about fluids too. With only the capacity to carry 1.3L on the bike at the moment - I'm steadfastly resisting the idea of carrying a pack with a bladder, mostly because I'm most comfortable riding on the drops - I consumed 500mls of Carbo-Loader just before I left, and with it being sunny, opted for Electrolyte Energy on the bike. If it had been hotter I'd have been completely happy with this mixture. As it was cooler I think I'd have been better with one of each on the bike.
And I need more for the longer days on the Fred Whitton course!

Working on the principle that I'll not have support - I'm going to have to find a way of carrying a couple more bottles - ideally without having to use a pack!!

As a longish training ride, I was happy with it. 104 miles in 6:22, and feeling really strong by the end. Just need to work out how to avoid the 'dip' I get after about 3 hours. Although with any luck, the Fred course will keep my legs and brain from going to sleep :o)

Today I planned to rest - more by default really - there was a STACK of work that had built up over the Bank Holiday which had to be done, and important house 'stuff' happening too.

The weather for the next few days looks excellent though - so an opportunity to get in some solid miles before I allow my legs a couple of days R&R before the Challenge begins!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Still fiddling with things

It was pretty windy out there today!
So I was pleased with a 60 mile ride in under 3:30, and having loads of juice left in my legs.
I've fiddled with my riding position again.
i felt like I was over-reaching, so I have put a 20mm shorter stem on. It felt LOADS better today, but the knock on was that my seat was slightly too far forward. So I've tweaked that this evening and I'll give it a go tomorrow!

Less than 2 weeks until I start circulating the Lake District :o)

And I'm feeling much more confident about it now. I'm knocking out reasonable mileage without getting too tired, and I'm pacing my longer rides far better. That, and I'm simply feeling much stronger.
I've been having a think about what I'll need to take with me for essential bike maintenance, although my lovely hosts at Oakdene have bikes themselves, and there are plenty of decent LBS's about the place :o)

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

It was quite windy today! And (to borrow a phrase someone else used this morning) the temperature was unexpectedly seasonally normal! :o)
So Long arms and windproof gilet were the order of the day - and I was SO glad of them!!
For the first 42 miles said wind wasn't at all helpful, but I was pleased with the way I was riding, averaging around 17mph, and not having to work hard for it.

About 30 miles from home I was informed by my lovely wife that she had arrived safely in Scotland. And from shortly after that I was treated to a few sections of tailwind.
Because of a plethora of jobs that I had had to do this morning, this ride was the one that best fitted in to the time available.

Suffered a slight 'chafing' at the seat/undercarriage interface. This is not something I've had before, so I'll keep a bit of an eye on it. A slight seat position adjustment feels like it is needed!

Hopefully having a short ride in company tomorrow - that would be excellent

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Sweet Spot

The wife booted me out of the door for a LONG ride this morning. I had loosely planned to do just over 100 miles, which is a route that I do with a little extra bit added in.
I had it in my mind where the turn off was, but when I got there, I realised that the last time I'd done this variation, it was in the opposite direction.... OOPS!

So I carried on on the 86 mile loop that I was on :o)
Besides, I've not seen the wife for a week - family stuff - and if I'm honest, I didn't want to be out for all of the main part of the day.

It's an undemanding ride (as long as there isn't any wind) for the most part, and today the conditions were great. Cooler than yesterday but there was a slight breeze that seemed to be in my face all day.

The thing that was most noticeable was the sheer numbers of flies that were about. The biggish ones that look to have a hook (like jets have when they land on aircraft carriers) hanging under their abdomens. They are clearly not very aerodynamic, because the fly slowly - but they still smart a bit when you hit them at 20+mph!! There were THOUSANDS of them out in the country lanes today. And the greenfly obviously thought I was a plant :-O

I've been noticing all sorts of things as I do more riding. I'm not an experienced cyclist, so many things are new to me.
I'm more comfortable riding on the drops than the hoods or the tops for the most part.
I find that maintaining a high cadence is also easier in that position.
There is a 'sweet spot' with cadence, where is all smooths out and feels 'light' for want of a better word. For me, that is around 95 rpm. Drop below 90 and the timing seems to go, and it feels a 'bogged down' - much higher than 105 and I also lose the smoothness.

And the odd phenomenon of legs fatiguing progressively, and inexplicably 'coming back' to me. This seems to happen at around 70 miles or 4 hours.  I'm fascinated by this and wonder if there is an explanation for it

There were loads of riders out today - wonder how many were avoiding their families or hyper-manic-chocolate-fuelled children..??