... 250 miles already ridden.. been on my bike for 23 hours and Rich (Holland) tells me that he read somewhere that to be a cyclist is to be a 'student of pain'..
Reflecting on this statement it is clearly true... i was told not long after i started cycling that it never gets any easier.. so now i am a student of pain with the knowledge that it is only gonna get worse!!
About 6 months after i started riding again after a 10 year break i decided that i wanted to ride the classic C2C whitehaven to Tynemouth route as i had done it in my early teens over 2 days.. so as i had done it in 2 days i decided that i wanted to do it in one day or 11hrs 45minutes as it turned out.. it was done new years day 2007 and was as i remember it the toughest day i had ever done on a bike..
So over 2 years on when i was invited to join a one day C2C crossing again i looked at how i could go the extra mile as i am a student of pain i need to go a little further in my endeavours and do the research... i love the idea of riding not involving a car.. Door to Door outings.. public transport is acceptable as you can switch off and enjoy the ride.. so why don't i just ride from Manchester to Whitehaven.. only 140 miles.. but instead of wasting a day off why don't i just set off after work and ride through the night.. meet them and keep on going to Tynemouth... only 280 mile day.. all sounded perfectly feasible so i called it, anyone that knows me will know that if i call something then i will do it a hang up from my days of bmx street riding where the law states that if you call out a trick then you have to give it a go whether it be stairs or a rail etc.
I checked out the route and it all looked easy enough, told Mark (Forgy) my coach what i was gonna do so training was worked around, i spoke to James at GENESIS and a Vapour Cyclo Cross bike was sent out for me to use, fitted with a seat post mounted rack the bike would be perfect for the latter part of the ride and the on/off road nature of the C2C route...
Nothing left but to pack up and get going.. i packed an ALPKIT dry bag with my Jeanius jeans, Filet and endura merino jersey so i could rock some 'rider chic' for my train ride home...
7pm Friday night.. time to get moving...
The route was to go through Manchester and pick up the A6 which would take me up through Preston, Lancaster then i would turn off on the A590 and head through the southern lake district and pop out at Whitehaven.
I stopped every few hours or so had a little to eat and then got moving.. nothing more glamorous than eating in a bus stop or shut petrol station at 1am in the morning.. travelling at this time though these places gives another view on life as other 'normal' people sleep..
The journey was pretty uneventful apart from getting buzzed by a coach on a dual carriageway.. i swear it brushed me as it went past it was so close... the dullness of the riding didn't aid the speed of the journey as i was almost falling asleep on the bike i was so disinterested in what was happening around me. Mostly flat for the first 4-5 hours when i cut inland and headed across the southern lakes to Whitehaven the riding got somewhat hillier and i was in the lowest gear and having to get used to a new out of the saddle riding method as the weight of the bag on the back exaggerated every swing of the bike side to side..
I made it to the bed and breakfast the other guys were staying in and after some faffing managed to climb into a spare bed to warm up for 30 minutes.. then a hearty breakfast was had and we were back riding by 6.30am heading for Tynemouth after the customary dipping of wheels in the sea..
The first few miles are false flat.. looks flat but its a draggy uphill.... i was feeling it difficult to keep a moderate pace as my brain and legs had switched off after the long first part of this ride.. by the time we got to the first proper climb up and over Whinlatter forest i was feeling slow and getting dropped out of the back of our group of 4.. i really only had one pace and couldn't seem to get on top of my gear so laboured every climb.
After a second breakfast in Keswick we climbed out to Penrith with more slow climbing although i was starting to feel a little better.. in Penrith we stopped for more water and pick up some more food... this set the tone for the day as unlike all other times i had ridden this route the sun was out and it was hot so keeping hydrated was up at the top of the list of the things to do that day.
Every climb i was dreading from past experience turned out to be a little bit shorter or easier than i had imagined and by the time we got to Hartside Pass i decided to stick to the road climb as i had planned to take a break and push up the off road section... the climb went great and i felt very strong the more it went on.. Gary (Knowles) had gone off up the road strongly as his road bike left him with a big gear to push.. i manged to slowly catch him back up and even managed to get out of the bottom gear i had spent all the other climbs in and shift it up a couple of cogs getting out of the saddle periodically to raise the tempo and get on top of the gear... topping out at Hartside Cafe the sun was out in full force and lighting up the valley below looking out towards the lake district.. these are the views that keep you going when your stuck at work these are the mental images that see you through the day.
We lunched at Hartside and soaked up some sun.. and drank lots of fluid.. we then put on a few layers and got ready for the flat out long downhill towards Garrigill... the descent flashed by quickly and we were all too soon faced by the climb out of Garrigill towards nenthead... this is the climb i had dreaded all day.. it is like hitting a wall and i was soon forced to pushing for the first section. Another flat out downhill got us to Nenthead, at this point we waited for Rob (Sharrock) as he had climbed on ahead and we feared he had take a wrong turn.. while we waited we sunk an energy gel with caffeine to fire us up the next 3 climbs.. they worked well and we crested the climb before the descent to allenheads easily.. well Rich still looked happy at the top...
At Allenheads there is only one serious climb left.. it starts on the road with short and steep climbing.. then you descend on the road and then start the long off road climb... again we were reduced to a push.. with Gary on road tyres we decided to climb directly out onto the road and follow it to the start of the waskerley way.. the waskerley way is a flat out bridleway... this section of trail saw our first puncture of the day.. this trail was followed all the way to Consett.. Consett saw our first navigational problem as we had been blindly following the C2C route markers.. after cruising around the streets Rich asked for directions which came good and we were onto the Derwent valley Trail.
With time getting on it had gone from dusk to dark and Gary had a very limited light and Rob had ...well.. no light at all. A few miles in Gary hit a brick on the trail and we saw puncture number 2.
At this time i just wanted to get the job done so we took to the road and took turns on the front to pick the pace up and it wasn't long until we were in sight of Tynemouth and the finish... quick call to my brother secured a lift to my parents house via a well earned burger..
I had been riding for 27 hours.. covered 280 miles.. to date the biggest ride i have completed.. but then i am a student of pain and i guess it won't be long before the next 'lesson' is planned.