It’s been a while since I last updated you all on my comings and going and plenty has happened that it was worth sharing.
It was fair to say that not everything has gone to plan of late. My main target for this year had been the Wild Wales Challenge at the end of August, but suffice to say predictions of a biblical monsoon truly did materialise so we erred on the side of caution and gave it a miss. Didn’t really fancy going down the Bwlch y Groes with failing brakes in the wet!
Within a few days of the abandonment I started to experience problems with clicking tendons at the back of the knee (the tendons that connect the hamstrings with the calf). Diagnosed with hamstring tendonitis, it was fair to say that September was a bit of a frustrating one with very few miles on the bike and lots of hard and painful massage, foam rolling and stretching.
The time off the bike meant that I was falling behind my target schedule for my 5,000 miles on the bike this year, and I also felt that all that hard training over the winter months was going to waste. October saw some improvement so I could at least get back to riding at least one decent ride per week of around 50 miles each weekend.
Then a cycling friend of mine suggested setting a challenge of riding from the west coast (from the Wirral) to the east coast at Skegness. Not wanting all that hard work to go to waste I thought I’d give it a go. No-one else was foolish enough to join us, so the two of us set off this Wednesday just after 4am (from a place called Parkgate on the Wirral) with the intention of riding the 200 miles in a single day.
The route took us through the country lanes of Cheshire, through the testing Peak District, onto Sheffield, Chesterfield, Lincoln before our arrival at Skegness. It was the first time I’d ridden with panniers on the bike and it felt like carrying a small child as a pillion passenger. Each hill was energy sapping and there was no way I could keep up with the pannier-free colleague. I suppose someone had to drag the 12,000 calories each we required up those hills.
The first 50 miles passed without incident as we stopped at a pub which near Mobberley which at 7.30am obviously wasn’t open yet. The next 15-20 mile proved the most testing and by the 65-mile point my legs were starting to cramp. I thought the game was up at that point as usually cramp can be pretty difficult to shift but a timely puncture (the first time I’ve been grateful for one!) gave me a chance to temporarily rest the legs while changing the tube. A bit of stretching and we were on our way again.
I found the only way to keep the cramp at bay was to just spin up those hills in the easiest gear possible. I felt ok on the flat, but anything approaching a hill required shifting into that ‘granny’ gear to spin the legs up the incline, or the legs would start complaining. A welcome cafe stop somewhere in the Peak District provided a good chance to refuel - beans on toast has never been more welcome - and I even took the opportunity to ask the cafe owners to charge my Garmin.
The break and some good stretching seemed to do the trick, and aside from the occasional twinge, the cramp stayed away for the most part. Getting through the remainder of the Peaks was the most difficult part and then we were into more gradual climbs into Chesterfield, Bolsover and then a relatively flat (but convenience store-free section) into Lincoln. We had to make out way into the city centre to find an M&S food store to replenish.
With light quickly fading now we knew those last 60 miles would have to be done largely in the dark. Thankfully the lights we both had would light our way superbly (you get the idea of how good they were from some of the pics). On the largely deserted country roads we made great progress, eating up the miles at a quicker rate than at any point in the day (call it a belated second wind). I twice managed to see a badger emerge from the hedgerows, which on one occasion looked like it would have had a go at me if I hadn’t been going that fast.
Finally, shortly after 9pm, we finally reached Skegness where we had to touch the water’s edge, before making the final 15 miles or so to a place called Old Leake where we were staying. Our Airbnb hostess, who had kindly waited up for us, even standing in the street like Florence Nightingale with a torch to guide us in at around 10.30pm. The ride was finally complete!
In the course of the ride on a single day, we amassed 202.55 miles, were riding for over 14 hours, climbed 8,881ft, and burned more than 12,000 calories. In the process I also went through the 4,000 mile point for the year so am nearly back on target. And the great thing was I didn’t swear never again - I’d love to do something like that again. I’d say running a marathon is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
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