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)