A Lake District Cycle Mistake

I have been on holiday to the Lake District over the last wee while and after the fun of Tour o The Borders I decided to cycle part of the route from Edinburgh to Elterwater. I was really looking forward to it actually, much as the roads are narrow in the Lake I have no problem cycling in traffic and I knew the views (and hopefully the cake stop) would make up for it. Well it didn’t go that well.

Using the wonder of technology (and the fact that I am cheap and slightly disorganised) I chose to use Google Maps on my phone to help me navigate from Penrith train station to Elterwater. The distance was around 30 miles and Google suggested it would take me around 3 hours. Now not to blow my own trumpet too much I know I cycle faster than that so I planned to be at the cottage 2 and a half hours after leaving Penrith, with a wee stop in Grasmere.

I woke up on the morning of the cycle with a headache and blocked nose, nothing too bad but why had 3 drinks spaced over 6 hours given me such a headache? I kept drinking water and packed up a few things in a rucksack for the journey. I had already sent the main amount of my stuff with my folks who were driving down.

The cycle from my flat to Edinburgh Waverley wasn’t fun. My head hurt and my temples ached. Hmmm, I tried to keep the positive thinking on the go though. The train journey was a lovely route and getting my bike on and off the Virgin train was a piece of cake. The only slight hiccup was when the ticket inspector told me off for not putting a ticket on my bike to let her know where it was going. The guards at Waverley hadn’t mentioned that to me and had said they would phone Penrith to let them know that’s where I was getting off. But to be fair to her it does seem entirely sensible to inform everyone where Cadfael was going as it is unlikely he would have hoped out at Penrith himself.

Cadfael at Penrith
The start of the journey!

I arrived at Penrith on time and collected Cadfael from his carriage. Next I checked the map and had some more juice, took a wee picture and set off. To begin with the route took me quickly out of Penrith, I promptly forgot to turn right so had to recheck my map, retrace my steps and then turn right 🙂 Then I was on small country roads, heading through wee villages and having some beautiful views. There was a fair amount of climbing involved and I still didn’t feel great but that was made up for by the scenery.


I followed a couple of the major cycle routes (7 and 71) for a good few miles and was punted out onto the A66, a busy main road – in fact one of the main routes into the Lakes and a national speed limit road. There was a cycle route alongside which I followed for a while and then all of sudden the cycle routes went to the right while I had to continue straight on for a left turn in a few miles. I had to cycle on the main road and I hated every minute, I managed to find another wee road off to the right that took me away from the main road and allowed me a nicer route until I had to turn off the A66.

On the B5322 road again the scenery took over and it was lovely, a really nice part of the route. I was getting into the Lake District as I think of it so the hills were rising at the side and I cycled alongside Thirlmere. However, all too soon I was put back onto the main road again and at one point was on a section of dual carriageway. I had two cars pass me side-by-side and I will be honest it scared me. Very few of the cars slowed down for me and I felt really pretty unwell as I slogged up the hills. The views didn’t even inspire me anymore and it just felt like a trudge. I kept kicking myself as there had been an alternative cycle route to Grasmere signposted but I had gone with my Google Maps route and there was no way to get to the route unless I cycled back.

Lake district view


Lake District view

When I reached Grasmere, 4 hours (!!!), after I had left Penrith I gave up and asked for a lift for the last section over the hill. With hindsight that part of the route would have been one of the best sections as I walked it the next day, but realistically I couldn’t have done it any justice.

There are no pictures of the last part of the route as I was feeling truly terrible at this point. After the highs of the Tour o the Borders I probably under estimated how many hills this route would have (I know, I know it is the Lakes, mark me down as daft). I also truly wish I had taken an actual map, sometimes the classic options are the best. I have learnt my lesson on this one, I will always plan my own route and I will avoid the main roads if I can when doing a cycle like this – it was meant to be fun. But on the plus side it was a lovely holiday, more posts to come on that – including a more positive cycle one. Oh and I never got cake on that cycle but I more than made up for that during the rest of the holiday.

Grasmere cycle route
The route I should have taken to Grasmere



My 2014 Goals – A Severe Lack of Progress

I thought about doing this post at the end of June then promptly forgot, so instead it is happening at the end of August and it is slightly daunting as there are only four and a bit months left of the year and a couple of things left on the list. (For a couple please read ‘a lot’).

  • I would like to try a “buy nothing” week – this still hasn’t happened, I think that I will exclude my riding lesson from the “buy nothing” part and then aim to do this in September.
  • I want to do a cycle holiday – with our holidays now mapped out for the remainder of the year I don’t think I will manage to do this as a holiday proper. Instead expect a couple of longer trips written up on the blog and some planning for a proper trip away next Spring.
  • I would like to learn to swim properly – still not even slightly started this one, I want to learn to swim so I am keeping it on the list but I do find it a bit more of a hassle than running or cycling so I doubt I will make it to the pool often. Maybe I should change this to be ‘go swimming once’ 🙂
  • I would like to do another riding holiday – well this one is ticked off at least!
  • Fashion-wise I am keen to find my style again and to keep the WWC as an ongoing tenet through my purchasing – progress on this one, I am feeling more like I have a style (I know others who may disagree) and working out what suits me, what I like and what fits in with what I actually do. I am planning on doing a couple of outfit posts and I have finally joined Pinterest but it is dangerously easy to while away your life on that site!
  • I would like to try bouldering – I reckon I may have to accept I will need to do this alone for a while as my friend who used to rock climb with me found bouldering hurt her back. Once I am back at work I plan on trying to go once a month but it may just turn out that I don’t have time for another hobby.
  • I would like to gain more confidence in my riding and handling of horses – well definite progress since the last check-in. While I lack confidence in my riding and I am not yet back to where I was at the start of the year I am generally more confident around horses which is great. Next stop my own Clydesdale??
  • I would like to improve my control of a horse through the “feelages” – not so much but I am trying to re-introduce it myself and the owner at Seacliff has been trying to get me more aware of this as well.
  • I would like to gallop on a beach again (and through the stubble fields) – a spectacular no on this front. I think my opportunity for this may be disappearing as I didn’t do this during my holiday BUT I do now ride on the beach every couple of weeks so I suppose there is the possibility this may happen. Oh and I hasten to add that I want to choose to gallop, not just be carted off!

Looking at the list it seems, like all great New Year goals, I have dropped the ball with a few of these and also events (read my nerves rearing their ugly head) have stalled some. However, there are four months left and there are all the things I have done that aren’t on the list. I think the “buy nothing” week is the one I am going to target next, I have slightly lost sight on budgeting as the summer has gone on and I am a little disappointed that I seem to have been spending a lot of money each day on food when with a bit of prep that could be stopped. Right off to scour the fridge for dinner.

Tour o’ the Borders – Cadfael the CdF on the road

Over the last couple of months I have tried to turn myself from a runner and keen but haphazard mountain biker into a rookie road cyclist. It has been great fun! Okay so the fifteen mile training runs in the rain before work wasn’t great and the toil up Arthur’s Seat was tough but felt good afterwards. I have learnt to ride a drop handlebar bike, learnt how to use my gears properly and sped up a lot! I have a brilliant cyclist’s tan and can now get to the stables under my own steam in under 50 minutes 🙂

But even though I had done the distance, cycled the hills and put in a fair amount of training I still couldn’t sleep the night before the Tour o the Borders. Number one rule of doing a race, get a good night’s sleep. Hmmm not so much. Leisa picked me up at quarter to six on Sunday morning and with our bikes piled in the back of the car we headed off towards Peebles. The streets of Edinburgh at that time in the morning in August still have people making their way home from festival fun, it was odd to be up and off for a cycle instead. On the car journey down both of us were discussing that this would be the only cycle race we ever did.

We parked up and put the bikes together, attached our race numbers and made our way to the Green. We past the start line where some cyclist were just about to start their wave, the commentator was making everyone laugh and it did relax us slightly. We relaxed even more when we got to the Green, there were lots of people, with lots of different bikes , everyone was chatting and laughing. It felt like a gathering not a race in the sense I was expecting. I was in the 2nd to last wave but dropped back to join Leisa as she had been super conservative with her idea of times! Slowly we wound our way up towards the start line. The commentator insulted us one last time 🙂 ,then the countdown happened and we rolled over the start line. We were off!!

The gloomy start line
The gloomy start line
Goggles on for the start
Me and my mad cycling goggles at the start

The race was brilliant. I have to say the organisation was good although the 2nd food stop was at the point where the long and short route combined again and at the start of the looking hill – probably not the best place as we nearly collided with stationary people on the road and fasties coming down the long route. All was okay though 🙂

The hills were challenging but not as tough as I thought I got up each one without having to come out my seat and felt a real sense of achievement when I got to the summit of the hill and Leisa was waiting for me. The descent was amazing, someone had fallen but was okay. The views were amazing, getting up the hills to descend to see the valley open up before you was incredible. To be riding on closed roads, chatting to other entrants and spotting Clydesdales was a great way to spend a Sunday morning.

Climbing, climbing, climbing
Climbing, climbing, climbing
Beautiful valley views on the descents
Beautiful valley views on the descents

I started to get a pain in my right hip and leg around the 40 miles in but my mate showed me a great stretch for my hip and leg while on the bike itself. It meant the pain lessened but didn’t entirely disappear. I struggled a little towards the end from fatigue even though I ate a couple of bars during the cycle, I think I underestimated what I would need to eat and also opted for too many sweet things which just felt sickly towards the end. I should also have filled up my water bottle at the last food stop but hindsight is great and all that.

We completed the race 1 hour faster than we expected!! Mr Inelegant Horse Rider and my folks weren’t even in Peebles yet! We took just over 4 hours and averaged 14.3 miles per hour. That’s fast for me and we are pretty chuffed. I celebrated with a massive plate of macaroni cheese and a pint.

Woo hoo, Tour o the Borders - done
Woo hoo, Tour o the Borders – done

I also just want to say that my mate Leisa was amazing. She stayed with me when she could and waited at the top of the hills when she pulled away on the hills. We crossed the start and finish lines together. I definitely want to say thanks to her! Oh and this race changed our opinion on bike races entirely – on the way home we chatted about doing the long course next year!

Not the worst view in the world :)
Not the worst view in the world 🙂
We had clearly gone insane by the end - selfie time.
We had clearly gone insane by the end – selfie time.

A Two Hack Kinda Weekend

Last weekend I went for two hacks at Seacliff. I rode Flame on both hacks and had to deal with an attack of nerves both rides as well *sigh* Still I did do an unassisted canter each time, just me and one of the leaders and I tried to do a third one but didn’t ask Flame strongly enough and just had a speedy trot. Another step forward although I let me nerves take over during a trot on the Sunday, this frustrated me so much that I did get a bit teary.

Flame the dude!

My positives from Saturday:

  • I got a really nice trot going on Flame, he moved off my leg nicely
  • making a positive choice to canter
  • getting a nice strong walk

Saturday was also the first visit to the stables for one of my longest standing riding buddies and she had an ace time. That is really nice when someone enjoys a hack at your stables, when they enjoy the horse they are given and have a good, old blast of canter on a beach. Watching them tear up the beach towards me in canter looked like so much fun – soon I will be part of that group, not watching 🙂

Sunday one of my riding buddies who I currently ride and myself headed back out to Seacliff and this time we were out with the owner and two helpers, one of whom was on a young horse who is learning the ropes. While on the way to the stables I was keen to improve on the one wee canter I had done the day before. Unfortunately my brain doesn’t currently work like that and even during the trot I felt my anxiety rise but it was spotted and I got taught a few more things to add to my mental checklist:

  • my nerves clamp around the reins when my nerves start – so I was advised to wiggle my fingers when I get nervous, calms me and horse down
  • I need to make sure my reins always allow me to have contact with Flame’s mouth.
  • Hooking a finger into the neck strap will allow me to focus on my enjoyment rather than my nerves, use the neck strap as a wee confidence boost.

Sunday’s hack was really good for me, the owner there really tries to understand my nerves and explained to me she had experienced them herself on and off over the years. I like hearing that, it makes me feel that my decision to stick with trying to overcome my nerves is the right one rather than give up something that bring me so much joy.

Unfortunately on Sunday’s hack my riding buddy did have an out of control moment on the beach where her horse was galloping rather than cantering, I am hoping she will write a wee bit on the blog about her experience as she dealt with it incredibly well.

Finally as a culmination of a horse-y weekend we visited my old instructor’s new livery yard. It was lovely, a proper old-fashioned looking stables which she has been kitting out beautifully and has great plans for it. She seems so happy and the place is perfect for her – it is lovely to see her enjoying her work so much and she invited me down to go out for a ride with her. I am definitely putting a date in the diary for that one.

No riding next weekend. Instead I am back at Cumbrian Heavy Horses on Monday for a hack up the fells.

A Challenge for every Month – July – trying to catch my tail part 3

Finally the last thing I want to mention is the disposal of unwanted clothing. Now I have eBay-ed some things in the past year, I have been cutting up old clothes into rags and the ones that I think are nice and decent I give to the charity shop – so far, so standard. This meant that as I read about the 2nd hand clothing industry in Lucy Siegle’s wonderful book ‘To Die For’ I got quite disheartened. Here I was thinking my clothes got a 2nd life and helped a charity and while they do it is in a convoluted and slightly hidden from the public manner. I never thought that by giving my unwanted garments to charity that I would be affecting a national garment industry in another country. So one of my goals this year has been to try and learn more about the disposal of clothing, is there a way in which I can minimise any negative affect the clothing I no longer wish to have has? Continue reading “A Challenge for every Month – July – trying to catch my tail part 3”

A Challenge for every month – trying to catch my tail part 2

Part 2 in the ‘I finally feel a little productive’ series, on the evening of the 31st (I do love leaving things to the last minute) I did some very basic upcycling, changing some trousers I no longer wore into shorts. And guess what?? I have pictures, including a terrible photo of my brutally white legs 🙂

picture of trousers
The original trousers
After the first attempt at cutting the trousers
A blurry shot of my first attempts at cutting them off, a little bit too long I think
Newly created shorts
Finally, these look like shorts! That is a good result in my book 🙂

This should have been easier than I made it. The first time I cut the trousers I went pretty wrong, they weren’t even close to the same length and as I had cut them at a narrow point I couldn’t even hem them without cutting the blood supply off to my lower leg. So I went shorter, originally I had thought I would try turnups but the combination of narrowing trouser leg and lots more cycling put paid to that plan so instead I went for a simple hem. Again I made the world’s wiggliest line and had to spend a fair amount of time pinning and re-pinning to get them even but I think it was worth it.

I simply used Wunderweb for the hemming, I don’t have a sewing machine so this recent discovery has made a world of difference to me. Feeling inspired I thought I might dye some harem pants I have from Primark (2nd hand from my mate when she stayed in Egypt and I was visiting) but even though I assumed they were cotton from the feel of them, they are actually polyester and after a quick hunt on Interweb I found out that it was more than likely I would dye the entire of my house and myself before they would get dyed properly plus if instructions start with ‘Take your dye bath’ makes me think not for the novice! Definitely reminded of how I would like to take a closer look at the labels in my wardrobe, what are my clothes actually made from!

The final part of my July catch up is about 2nd hand clothing.

The One Where My Classmates Nail It (I don’t do too badly either)

Well I was meant to be writing about the hack I would have taken my mate on in horrific weather – blowing a gale and pissing down – but I managed to sleep in for that. I should stress I wasn’t taking her on the hack because of the horrible weather that just happened – realised there I sounded like a terrible friend! Now considering the hack was at 1 o’clock and I was in my bed the night before by half past midnight you can see I well and truly screwed up there. So instead I rode at my old stables yesterday for a wee lesson and had Td. Balance, straightness and not looking at Td constantly were my orders for the hour (we were a little cheeky and didn’t say we normally stop at fifty minutes). We had a different instructor, I have had her once before and think she is great – the lessons are always inventive and engaging plus she has no problem changing things for either one or all depending upon how the lesson is progressing.

As per the normal routine I had Td, for some reason my nerves were there quite strongly at the start and I mentioned that to the instructor. She said not a problem and when I gently reminded her that last time she taught me she had to walk beside me she gave me a big smile and said ‘Oh that’s nothing, we all need that sometimes’, that actually picked up my spirits a little.

We were quite a big class but this week it didn’t feel too squeezed. In the walk I was being told to relax my shoulders and forearms but I still just can’t get that to happen. I watched my mate who does it really well and I see what she is doing but somehow, no matter how much I think about it my arms refuse to move. I guess it is practise on this one, I wonder if I have always had such stiff arms or if it has gotten worse with the nerves. I don’t remember being told to relax my arms in each lesson previously.

We did some trot work to warm them up and then did lots of leg yielding back and forth on various lines up the school between the poles. That was great, I thought Td and I were doing okay until the instructor decided that my main focus should be on feeling when he was straight not looking at him. So I was to look at the houses opposite the school or into the field with the other horses, my balance was definitely improved and although I still checked too strongly a couple of times most of the time we had a better straight line and we managed a good couple of leg yield steps rather than lots of slightly bad ones.

Next up the old C monster 🙂 Yup after the joy of last weeks escapades I felt a bit sick when she mentioned canter. I felt Td was quite spritely and rather than being excited by that I was getting into my little head spiral of ‘he will just run, he will run and run, faster and faster then he will fall’ so I volunteered to go first. I was given option to opt out which I had kind of taken at the start but instead when asked again I just said ‘can I go first so I don’t over think this’. The instructor thought this was a great idea and so did my classmates, so off Td and I went. The exercise was to take a nice line into the corner in trot, pick up canter, canter for four strides (roughly) then transition back but ride the transition into a forward, smooth trot. Well….we missed our first transition BUT we got it in the next corner although then the notion of a corner went out the window and we cantered in a straight line toward Ct and his bemused looking rider. Avoiding them I then got a decent downward transition, then tried it all over again. The second time the steering was still all to one side like Gourock but my upward transition was better, I took a better seat and didn’t tip forward so much – all positives.

Then Td and I got to settle back and watch my classmates, I say settle back Td kept fidgeting as though he wanted to go again – he does love a canter 🙂

My classmates did brilliantly. I really need to film our class one time as each time I told them how good they looked riding the transitions they seemed surprised. I was especially impressed by one of my classmates who had a bad fall (a concussion in fact) from P a little over a month ago and she rode him beautifully yesterday. Afterwards we all chatted away about the lesson and the instructor left us all with a few positives and even came to check that we were okay dealing with the horses.

It might be nearly a month (!) until I am back to my old stables, Td won’t miss me of that I am sure, but that was a nice lesson to finish with. I am doing Tour o’ the Borders next Sunday so I am riding at Appin on Saturday before carb loading like a machine – wish me luck (luck for Tour o’ the Borders, I am a total pro at carb loading 🙂 )