All that I have read about the coast to coast ride says that there is a lot of climbing. It has a total ascent of well over 8,000 feet. On the first day alone, I will climb around 1,400 feet. Now the thing I enjoy least, apart from cycling into a headwind, is climbing. Now and then I ask myself why I am doing the ride. And then quickly remind myself, ‘for the bucket list challenge of course’.
The best training for climbing is hill reps. “What’s that?” you ask. Quite simply, it’s just aimlessly cycling up a hill, going back down it and then turning around to ride back up it again! I’m starting this off easy and having selected a hill near to where I live, which is quite hard in Essex, I have started out doing 5 hill reps at a time and will then increase the number each time. I also plan to drive out to somewhere more challenging like North Hill in Little Baddow which climbs up nearly 300 feet with a couple of short ramps up to 9% gradient.
But I need to put in a lot more work before then. The hill I am using has an average gradient of 4.4% and a maximum of 8.7%.
The first training ride saw each of my reps being progressively slower than the one before it. And what was really depressing was that I was 12 seconds faster nine years ago. Still, I was younger then and can only improve right? Right!
Very close to the top of my bucket list is to complete the Coast to Coast, or Sea to Sea, bike ride. The C2C runs for nearly 140 miles across the northern edge of the Lake District from the scenic coast of northwest England through the Northern Lakes and over the Pennines before reaching its conclusion on the shores of the North Sea.
The C2C was developed by Sustrans and is part of the National Cycle Network (NCN) in partnership with various local authorities, Groundwork West Cumbria, North Pennines Tourism Partnership, Forest Enterprise and the Lake District National Park amongst others. The route was opened in 1994 running from Whitehaven on the west coast of Cumbria to the north-east coast at Sunderland.
The route I have chosen to do starts at Whitehaven in the east and finishes at Tynemouth in the east. I am doing the ride with CycleActive who have lots of good reviews so I am hoping all goes well.
The ride is over three days and self-guided. That is to say, we have to make our own way from each day’s start to finish point. CycleActive have booked all the accommodation and take our stuff from B&B to B&B each day and then take us back to where we started so we can pick up our cars. My ternary goes like this:
- Day 1: Travel to Penrith
- Day 2: The Lake District (50 Miles)
- Day 3: The Pennines (45 miles)
- Day 4: Descent to Newcastle (42 miles)
The ride goes through Keswick, Penrith and Alston before climbing onto the moorland of the North Pennines, known as the Roof of England (gulp), and then gently down to the coast.
From what I have read about it, there is quite a bit of climbing involved so I’ll need to get some hill rep training in pretty quickly!
C2C Route Profile
Recently someone posted on a Facebook group I am a member of suggesting a group ride out to a place called Papermill Lock. I wasn’t able to join the ride but as I haven’t been there before, looked it up online. It did look like somewhere I fancied going to so, today, I took off on my own to see what it was like. I had a route planned, entered into my Garmin Edge and memorised. But, as is always the way, I missed a turn and got lost. But that really didn’t matter as today was about just getting out on my bike and having fun. Sure, I had a destination I wanted to get to and, of course, wanted to get back home again! But time, distance and average speed didn’t matter. And as a result, the 50 mile route I had planned turned into 64 miles. You’ll see from the ride data that I got hopelessly lost but when I did finally get there, it was well worth the effort. It really is a pretty place with lots of canal barges and a wonderful tearoom. So I took time out to rest up and have a sandwich lunch washed down with coffee. And who knows, the caffeine might help me get back home again.
And talking of getting back home, I decided to find a different route back. I had a quick look at the map and then navigated the old way, using road signs and my intuition – my shortcuts are famous for talking at least twice as long! But it was so worth it. I rode down some of the nicest, and quietest country lanes that I have ever ridden down. There was no time pressure, no personal best time pressure. Just the sheer enjoyment of being out under the open sky on my bike, And isn’t that what it’s all about?
Time to head for home
Today was the first day of the London Cycle Challenge and I was keen to log up some miles. A quick check of the weather forecast which said sunny intervals so I thought I would head off and do a 50 mile ride.
But then I should know better than to believe the weather man. Within 10 minutes of heading out it started to rain. “Just a shower” I thought and carried on.
The sky gradually got darker until I decided it might be a good idea to turn back and head for home. I am glad that I did because as soon as I walked through the door, the heavens opened as almighty thunder-storm hit.
Still, I did mange to notch up 28 miles: data is here http://connect.garmin.com/activity/93151994
After the problems I had this morning when the saddle bolt on my bike snapped, I thought that would be it for the day. However, I went out and bought a new bolt and, with the saddle fixed, decided to go out for a ride anyway. Not quite the 65 miles I had planned but still a great 26 miles anyway.
Leaving aside the suicide alley that is the seafront cycle lane and the people skating in it, walking dogs, or parents letting their two year olds run out in front of me, it really was a fantastic ride. Even when the rain started half-way through, it didn’t matter. And neither did the headwinds.
Especially the headwinds and they were tailwinds on the way back. Overtaking cars along the seafront with the help of the tailwinds was fun as well. Ok, so maybe they weren’t trying and only travelling at 25 mph, but who cares, it was still great fun.
So back home and showered, with the endorphins flowing through my system, I have to conclude that really was the most fun I have had in lycra (the ride that is not the shower 🙂 !
The weather forecast didn’t look too bad and could have been at worse, like it was yesterday. Sunshine and showers around 10 o’clock and just generally cloudy by 1 o’clock.
Shame that wasn’t quite true as the showers kept coming and so did the hailstones. But yes there was sunshine in between the rain. And the forecasters were right about the very strong winds blowing from the north. But I was determined to make up for missing out yesterday and so headed off for Maldon, a round trip of about 60 miles.
Did I mention that the forecasters sure weren’t kidding about the northerly winds? I had planned my ride to head north so that I could benefit from the tail winds and be pushed most of the way home. Well that didn’t quite work as it was nearly just as hard when cycling east or west due to the cross-winds. I was about 40 minutes and 10 miles into the ride. The wind was blowing full-on, it started to rain, I was freezing cold. I really did begin to wonder why in the world do I do this? I could be sat at home in the warm and dry. But no, there I was, on a bike, wearing brightly coloured lycra, battling the elements to cycle longer than I had cycled before.
But then I guess that is what is all about. Forget the loneliness of the long distance cyclist. The drive and sense of satisfaction is something you will only ever understand if you ride.
The rest of the ride was just as gruelling with hail stones coming down at one point. But then at others, the sun was shining, the wind was blowing from behind, I rode down a hill as steep as roller coaster reaching 35 miles an hours. But most importantly of all I kept going and broke my log distance record.
A sense of achievement? Yes, more than can be described. And after a recovery drink and hot shower, the endorphins make the after glow feel as good as sex.
So now I feel ready to tackle 75 miles at the Orchid ride and I am one step nearer my personal goal of completing 100 miles in a day.
So here’s tomorrow’s 60 mile route to Maldon and back. If you go here (http://bit.ly/dCI9pS) and click on ‘Watch Course Fly-By Video’ you’ll get to see from the comfort of your chair the course I’ll be riding. Pretty cool technology eh?
And please give me a wave if you see me – I’ll be wearing my ipayroadtax.com jersey