Towards the end of last summer, me and my pal Tom decided to take on the Coast to Coast cycle challenge. I’m sure you know of it – 160 odd miles of Pennine crosses, beautiful scenery and the odd case of cramp. We decided to attack it in two days, so for the less gifted mathematicians out there, around 80 miles a day.
We hitched a lift off Dave (he had to pull out with a damaged knee) for 20 of our hard earned pounds at the gloriously early 5:30am on the Friday morning. The journey was filled with banter, toast and the odd nervous laugh about the trip ahead, we had trained, don’t get me wrong, but nothing to the level of what we were about to embark on.
We arrived on the West Coast just before 9 and were greeted with a misty, rainy coastline and a handful of other keen cyclists starting their challenge. After loading up our food supplies, spare clothes and donning our helmets, we set off to the musical tune of Dave’s horn and the pitter patter of misty rain.
The start of the journey was a bit of a bedding in process, getting used to our bikes and making sure we didn’t miss the route (which turned out to be really easy to follow). The miles flew by with ease on the relatively flat start, then, we started to climb, we could see our destination hiding up in the mist and on we went.
We came to the first major challenge, plenty of up, little down and a track that wasn’t really suitable for Suzie. Her tiny tires didn’t handle the rocks well and the going was slow on the way up to the peak before Derwent Water. Upon reaching the crest, we were greeted with the scenes the area is famous for. Sprawling forests, steep declines and a perfectly placid waterfront. This day was turning out to be alright.
We navigated our way round the lake with some minor detours to then fly down the muddy descent back to civilisation and lunch. All the carbs and protein you could want, washed down with the finest sports drink, we were ready to rock.
The next 20 miles or so were somewhat of a blur, not much happened, we made good time and didn’t encounter much in the way of ascents. It was the final third that started to pick away my fitness, destroy my gooch (apologies for the details but it needs to be mentioned, it really hurt). The climb up towards Alston, well it started off hard. Tom received a puncture when we were hitting what felt like light speed down a hill. I’m not sure if you have experienced it, but changing an inner tube, in sticky heat next to a road with the whole fly population stopping by for a visit is a pretty intolerable situation.
Anyway, we put this behind us and delved deep into our energy bar reserves and continued to climb. We were getting on for 4 o’clock when the map told us we would be climbing to the highest point on the course, 563 meters to be exact. Now, if you are thinking of doing this challenge, don’t let the next bit put you off. We climbed this sodding road for what felt like an eternity, we rounded corners, it kept on rising, we stopped for juice, it kept rising. By this point I was in gear one, peddling slow, cursing myself for even being here, sweating like a bitch and watching Tom round the corner ahead in what seemed to be consummate ease (the knob).
When we finally reached the mini summit, yes there is a summit before the summit. We were both on our last legs so decided to walk the road up to the summit. This was an experience in which I didn’t cover myself in glory if I am honest. As we were walking, I could feel my calf beginning to twinge, the first signs of cramp. Stupidly enough I ignored it and when I went to step out the way of a passing lorry, yep, cramped right up and went down like I had been sniped from a grassy knoll. Tom, well he just watched, I asked for help, he didn’t know what to do- cue a fair few obscenities that I shall not repeat here. It finally let go and I was able to stretch it out and continue our walk, mostly in silence thanks to me.
Pictures were the last thing on my mind at this point, as you might understand!
We donned our bikes and made it up the last 50ft to the summit. This should have been a fun experience, it wasn’t, I was running on 0, nada, kaput! We sat down and realised we had around 7 miles to our Hostel, oh joys. I really wanted to just stop there, our supplies were low and moral was gone. After some motivational words to each other and an apology from me for the episode earlier, we decided to refuel and crack on the final push.
The next moment was something magical, we pulled out the emergency pork pies, covered in Branston Pickle and devoured them, oh they were heavenly, but this wasn’t the magical part. This came from the superhuman boost they gave us. Honestly we hopped on our bikes like spritely children and flew along the next 7 miles. Granted it was pretty flat, followed by some downhill fun, but we had never felt better.
We reached our Hostel muddy, sweaty (really sweaty) and full of relief that the first day was over. I have to say, even though the water pressure was pretty wank, it is one of the best showers I have had to date. We donned our evening wear and found a pub that served the biggest burgers going and consumed them with ease. After this there was nothing to be had except some good old fashioned shut eye!
Part 2 will follow shortly, if you want to read the epic (well slightly better than average conclusion to this well recalled journey)
Oh and this site has some awesome information if you feel like attempting it http://www.c2c-guide.co.uk/