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.

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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

 

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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.

Hills, hills and oh another hill

What a difference a week makes huh? Saturday last week I was following my mate up an incredibly steep hill as part of training for Tour o’ the Borders. This weekend I was sitting in my flat looking at the rain chucking it down outside and trying to motivate myself to start tidying the flat (it is a mess, there is so much mess that it now feels like a full day thing to deal with alongside trips to the charity shops and recycle bins). Part of me is toying with a wee bike ride but hmmm, I think I will be able to block that thought!

I thought I would do a wee update on how “training” for the sportive is going, not really using a structured training plan and I am relying quite heavily on the experience of my mate who I am doing the race with. Oh and also just chanting ‘Think of Chrissy Wellington’ ‘Think of Marianne Vos’ when I struggle 🙂 Continue reading “Hills, hills and oh another hill”

The inelegant cyclist is born

I should warn you all that this is likely to be the start of a few posts about cycling over the next couple of months as I gear (like what I did there?) up for Tour o’ the Borders in August. Two weeks ago I finally accepted that cycling 12 miles a day on my commute was unlikely to prepare me that well for 55 miles and 3615ft of climbing and looked for a training plan. The mate I am doing it with has done a lot more cycling than me and is strong on her bike (and strong mentally, she has the ability to just keep going which I really admire) but she is also a social whirlwind meaning long training rides with her are unlikely to happen. So I have had to strike out on my own and I have found out something…I love cycling. I sang that Pharell Williams song ‘Happy’ as I cycled up and through East Lothian for 20 miles last Saturday, it probably helped that the sun was shining that day and I had been out riding earlier on and had enjoyed a great riding experience. Continue reading “The inelegant cyclist is born”