June 12, 2012

Just getting round…

Writing about web page http://www.fredwhittonchallenge.org.uk/

Prologue

OK so I love my cycling, it has to sneak into the schedule between a few other things ;-) but it hurts my legs much less than running :-) One of the best motivations for getting out there is to see new places with great views. So when following the lovely Leon conquering 10in10 FWs last yearI *may* of got the idea that it would be great to have a go at *one* of those :)

...of course in May last year I had no experience of cycling in the lakes :-O So initially the FW idea stayed quietly inside my head... then in June during the most fabulous Dave A BG weekend :) when I *may* have gently twisted someones arm to head north for weekend support crew ;) we didn't quite have space in the car for my bike :-O however a most lovely Fetchie (who I'd never even met before) lent me a rather shiney bike *squeeeeee* on which I rode a mini-tour of lakes seeing lovely new places, Honister Pass *ouch* and a bit of a BG round :) :) :) *heart* FETCH for making such a fabulous get together possible :) :) :) :) :) xx

Roll forwards to August... holibobs avec Alix & Dave :) knew I was *never* going to keep up on running pace :p and sometimes 3 is a crowd ;) so I had my truck so the road bike could play too :) explored Newlands Valley, raced Lakeland Tri and the highlight was a guided mini-tour of North Lakes avec eL Bee! finishing over Newlands Pass :) :) :) So FW attempt began to get chatted about and decision made that if I got a place ;) I *would* get myself fit enough to get round :-O

Of course ideally training would have been to plan (A) multiple trips up north with careful reconnaissance checking out all the passes - passing as much attention to the descents as the accents *pause for reality check* never able to invest that sort of traveling time/time away from home so onto plan (B) start building climbing miles during January Lanza trip, build up weights sessions, build up the ride times and throw in a couple of local 75 mile Sportives, the ones with hills in...

Plan B got me strong, I worked mentally on known unknowns but felt massive *wibble* about the unknown unknows :-O

Part One

Fred Whitton Challenge dibbersSo, Saturday 12th arrives and after a clear trip up M6 with fair weather I drop into the massive bike warehouse at Staveley to purchase a new set of brake blocks, can't think why that seemed like a good idea ;) was also hoping to get a new pair of overshoes but in common with many bike shops they had a surplus of L, XL & XXL only :( Still I got to look at lots of shiney bikes :) and take deep breaths to stem the crackling nervous excitement :-O before jumping back in truck for short hop to Coniston. Car park and Coniston was heaving but I managed to squeeze the truck in and headed straight to registration... through a door into dark narrow corridor with single line of tables crammed in... no-one at first table, a bunch of envelops and people at second table so I stopped just past there to get my ID checked... remained completely oblivious to the fact that Lorna had been sat at the envelops table :-O whilst I visibly shook signing my life away ;) bit of nervous bantering with fellow competitors and I quickly found myself tagged with my dibber and proud owner of FW cycling top - despite serious concerns over the possible bad omens of getting one *before* completing :-O Back outside in sun I take a few deep breaths thinking about how best to contact Leon & Lorna only to find Leon is chatting with a small crowd just ahead of me and that I had just managed to wander obliviously past Lorna *amazing what nervous excitement will do to you* the power of the company of lovely people soon started to ease my jangling nerves, I was introduced to lots more lovely people, too many to name check even if I could remember all the names ;) Lunch eaten and much banter later, including me trying to soak up as much detail as possible about the bits of the course I'd never ridden *most of it* and I found myself in convoy heading for Aspatria on a lovely clear evening where I *may* have spent more time admiring the scenery than concentrating on the road ;-) Some people are both lovely to know and live in lovely places :) :) :) :) :) Big big hugs for taking such good care of one nervous wreck!

Part Two

"The Fred Whitton Challenge is a 112 mile ultra hilly (mountainous!) challenge ride over all the famous Lake District passes in a single day ride."

Fred Whitton Challenge Route

Up early and back down the road we arrived at rush hour ;) ...but there was no rushing to be done, exept maybe to get to the loos :-O The ride starts and finishes at the Sports Centre at Coniston and with the times recorded via the dibber system. After dibbing the dibber at about 07:30 hrs, I roll through muddy field onto lane past the head of Coniston water and straight onto the first climb of the day, up Hawkshead Hill. Not a hard climb but on cool legs it's a great way to wake up and get in the mood :) After just 2.2 miles it's down a winding descent where El Bee! went past with words of encouragement :) and I saw TiT runner Toks leaving Brathay :) Give way and un-clip at left turn onto the B5285 (5.2 miles) only for car to change mind and give way to me *sigh* :p Uneventful through Clappersgate to Ambleside, the traffic lights, towards Windermere even changed to green for me :) but then (8.7 miles) left up the very steep Holbeck Lane climb to Troutbeck. This is where I met the first of the grunting mamil packs - oh the ways I amuse myself when cycling solo ;) Then onto first BIG climb of the day, up Kirkstone pass. Uneventful apart from dropping chain with over-enthusiastic cog change around Troutbeck *muppet* which actually gave me change to remove padded gloves and replace with mits - hot work this climbing :) views were stunning and soaked in at leasuire (454m, 14.7 miles covered).

"Being the highest pass, there’s a long and steep descent, so take care."

They're not kidding, solo this would have been awesomely fast :) as was I clocked over 37 mph and was pushed a wee bit from comfort zone when one of those overtaking me on the winding bits nearly went head on into an oncoming car and finding that my adjustments to fit new brake pads had slipped tension on front brakes :-O Apart from those little episodes it was an exhilirating decent :) and that topped by my first accent of Kirkstone had me banking a little confidence :) Patterdale and Glenridding were welcome familiar territory as a tail wind assisted me down the shores of Ullswater to the climb up to Matterdale End (343m) easy climb with a winding fast decent, no real call for brakes ;) until reaching main A66 to Keswick.

"Take care on this road, which has fast moving traffic, but thankfully for most of the way there’s a ‘1m strip’ on the left that gives you a bit more room."

Thanks to excellent amounts of information extracted during pre-challenge banter I was prepared for this stretch, ideally sitting on the back wheel of a suitably sized and paced chap would have sheltered me all the way down to Keswick :) no such luck :( being mentally prepared to working into a head wind was a *good thing* and something I've had a lot of practice at in Lanza, shame it's a bit colder in Lakes :p after a few futile attempts to jump on back of passing groups I settled down (almost literally to top bar) and pedaled on....

Part Three

Keswick was a welcome shelter from the wind and I also made a pit stop to borrow a pair of hands to help me readjust the front brakes :-O I *knew* what to expect from the next decent ;) brakes can be useful :p Loved the familiar pootle down to Seatoller :) only slight spoiler was the ambulance blaring past :-O

"Seatoller is literally at the bottom of Honister pass, and it starts ultra steep!"

Having climbed this once before I was ready with the tactics and stuck to my game plan :) despite carnage all around :-O bikes weaving everywhere, the odd car and a few walking their bikes :-O "!!

"Get ready with the brakes as soon as you reach the top (356m), since the descent immediately starts very steeply, the surface is slippy when wet, badly corrugated in places, and there’s a narrow chicane over a bridge part way down."

Just as useful to know this decent :) managed to pass a few groups on the accent, pass one very nervous bloke on first 25% drop and then get a fairly clear run down to Buttermere valley wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee :) just one numpty driver failing to negotiate a head to head with oncoming car by lake *sigh* had to unclip and wait whilst they faffed :( Reached Youth Hostel just before Buttermere village (52 miles) with bikes everywhere and seemingly everyone else stopping, decided to top up water and make use of limited toilets, too limited, long wait :( *note for future* stop elsewhere ;-) Met a couple of ladies in que who were very nervous about making Whinlatter cut off, one looked beat already and admitted to walking up Honister :( tried to make encouraging noises and was quietly furious when the male companion of the very tired lady started hassling her to get a move on :( *insert bad word of choice here* 200m beyond hostel and immediately steeply uphill onto the climb up Newlands Pass. Middle part isn’t too bad and there was a slight tail wind :) still hard work and as I went last both ladies from loo que it became obvious why they had worried about cut off :( I squeaked encouraging noises and pedaled onwards and upwards. A kind chap overtaking me then pointed out i had another sprocket left *I knew that* and also knew about the very steep final stretch to the top (333m) :) The correspondingly steep sudden drop down the start of the descent would have been all the more fabulous had it been clear of traffic *sigh* Still once past a nervous little collection of bikes (not with it enough to call a group) and a serious numpty in a car I was free to enjoy the decent to the base of Whinlatter :) wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Whinlatter truned out to be an easy steady climb, but a very long one and the summit was the first checkpoint, so in with the dibber :) :) :) :) :)

A gaggle of teenage MTBs joined me for early part of Whinlatter decent, helpfully slowing me up and splattering me with mud :p T'was mostly straight and fast after that until some tight bends down over a bridge before turn to Lorton. This was a lovely meandering stretch and a chance to exchange a few words and smiles with other riders :) :) :) Scale Hill ( steep short descent) to Loweswater started to show that thee were some very tired legs out there, that was followed by climb up to Fangs Brow, where I continued to pass blokes whilst soft pedalling up hills - great for banking confidence ;) Lamplugh village, Croasdale to Ennerdale Bridge (77.3 miles) with easy pedaling and stunning views all around :)

Cold Fell climb was familiar territory from Dave A BG weekend :) although it was less windy that say ;) straight and steady to begin with, but then a steep windy bit over a cattle grid, followed by a final steady pull up to the top of the moor (290m, Swarth Fell). Now windy would probably be a slight understatement here... it was blowing an absolute gale!!!! So exposed up on the top it was harder getting over the moor than it was making the initial climb up there :-O The return of hedgerows and the hairpin bends not long before Calder Bridge were welcome shelter before arriving at the second checkpoint and the second feed station (86.8 miles). Dibber dibbed on arrival :) *what a relief* there was absolute carnage all around :-O first challenge was to find a spare inch of space to lay bike... then into village hall toilets, no ques, and time to sit and eat/drink.

Sooooooooooooooo tried, the slog over the moors had taken it's toll :( legs had started to cramp slightly over Cold Fell but not so much over Swarth Fell... however first point of confidence knock for day :( and less that 6 days since a major cramping episode in hamstrings I was quick to shift to conservative mental strategies... this was the home straight :) I *would* be getting home :) I had no reason to risk any do it or die trying heroics on the final climbs :) *tension ebbs and shoulders relax* Get some hot tea inside me, some nectar stuff, boost bar and more hula hoops :) pick up lovely text of support from Alix :) and I'm ready :) OK ready as I was ever going to be :p quick loo trip and peak at "warm room" aka place when grown men have become like baked spuds wrapped in foil aka place of carnage :-O

Part Four

Fred Whitton GradientBit of main A595 coast road followed by left turn down to Gosforth. Somewhere back off main road along the winding stretch I spotted a familiar bike (Ali) parked at a public convenience, after copious tea and liquids at Calder bridge this final wee stop was too good to ride past ;) Irton Pike seemed like a mere blip with a nice fast twisty decent, confidence kick :) ...you know I can't even remember if the wee stop was before or after this lol Can remember passing King George the Fourth pub (95.8 miles), where you turn left up Eskdale, as I *may* have had beer on the mind :) I was possibly trying to distract my mind from Hard Knot pass :-O

"Hardknott is the daddy of them all, and you’ll know as soon as you start it, since it immediately kicks up viciously when you pass the telephone box at the bottom. This first ultra steep bit climbs over a cattle grid (tricky, need to sit down as you cross it, to avoid wheel spin) and lots of riders have to get off and walk at this point."

By this point I had done a deal with my head and tried body. My legs felt OK apart from the occasional cramp twinges ;) it was my arms that appeared to be weakening, probably from holding the bike up against the howling gales :-O I made the early steep turns and then chose a hairpin in which to unclip... unclip FAIL eeeeek! made it up another hairpin to discover that it was my lack of confidence in unclipping in possible cramp situation that was winning over my leg strength for climbing lol sense of humor and myself still intact :) :) :) tip toeing up in bike shoes actually harder that riding the damn thing so quickly back on pedals for easy middle bit :) passed a seasoned looking old chap and casually asked if it kicked up again? the dead pan facial expression and dry "a bit" response spoke volumes ;) I mentally prepared myself... started the steep bit with as much of a *pedal dancing* approach as I could muster until my arms sagged before my legs complained WTF!? played safe again although I'm sure my legs would have preferred to stay in the pedals rather than tip toe up 1 in 3 of rough tarmac :-O Summit-ed and survived :) :) :) Just the small matter of descending...

"Be warned - the descent down Hardknott is very VERY steep with extremely tight bends, the road surface isn’t good, and it requires extreme care. Whatever you do don’t let your speed build up, or you’ll be straight off the road and down the hillside, and we don’t want to have to call out the ambulance to pick up the pieces."

Now there is a point where tiredness leads me to being even more *muppet* :p I would strongly advise that when starting a VERY steep decent you more your hands from the hoods to the drops ;) the brakes are much easier to control from that angle ;) ;) :p the brakes were on a lot because I was following down a group of about 12 other riders. The bonus side to this was that they had done this decent before so I watched and learned :) Wrynose pass was much steadier and I kept it going until the short very steep final kick to the top (393m) :) it was very tempting to go for the *do it or die trying* bit but sensible hat stayed firmly on :)

Another *interesting* decent into stunning valley :) wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Was now starting to buzz and Little Langdale valley seemed a joy with the blips of kick ups and bit back to A593 barely noticed :) :) :) :) :) Fabulous wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee down to last T junction :) Pair of riders overtook me just before T so followed them down to finish and managed to see funny side when they stopped on the line and virtually blocked me from getting through! Squeaked through a gap in the corner and dibbed dibber a final time :) :) :) :) :)

Finished! *grin*

THANK YOU Leon & Lorna for a fabulous weekend :)

Congratulations to anyone managing to wade through that head dump of waffle!


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