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)