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