After an eventful start the evening before, I started off day 2 of my Wainwright’s Coast to Coast, only to be humbled by the Lake District and make a detour!
What a shit night’s sleep. There were plenty of groups having drinks in the campsite (I would have joined but I had nothing to wear from the waist down), but this didn’t stop me from sleeping. It was some idiots snoring their heads of in the neighbouring tents and my twinging left calf that kept me up.
The alarm went off to Eric Clapton’s ‘Promises’ at 0450 and I felt like I’d barely slept. I opened a porridge bomb (sandwich bag filled with oats, dessicated coconut and white sugar) and threw it in to the Jet Boil with some water. No less than 40 seconds later, the gas went and wouldn’t come back on. Unbelievable. Cold water and oats for breakfast.
My morale was very low. Legs felt hollow, upper body felt fatigued, sore arse, blistered feet, sleep-deprived and I was fed up of lugging my bike. Push, lift, shift, repeat. Even the sections that were remotely rideable were a pain. I had to adjust my ill-attached rear Airlok dry bag, put the chain back on, and hop back on the saddle – each time letting out a little girlie squeal from the saddle sore!
I was about two-thirds up Greenup Gill when I made the decision to stop and turn back. I stuck two fingers up at the little waterfall and descended (albeit slowly) back to Stonethwaite. Two hours surpassed: Two miles covered. Back at square one. Shite.
Reverse, Return & Redirect
A sign read ‘8 miles’ to Keswick so I followed that, slumped, debating whether to pull up somewhere and catch some sleep or catch the train back home from Keswick.
Putting some miles behind me really raised my spirits. I stopped for a sausage roll in Keswick and decided to look for the C2C route. I didn’t have any maps for this particular route nor do I know anything about it but I figured (knowing Sustrans) it would be well signposted. I wasn’t wrong.
I really enjoyed the trail through the woods, which I presume was an old railway line. I was still moving slowly even when I arrived in Penrith. I hadn’t seen a sign for a while and thought I’d taken a wrong turn. I stopped for a chocolate bar, found a bike shop, and was reassured I was heading in the right direction.
The climb out of Penrith is what really brought me back to life. I love going uphill whether it be running or cycling. Beacon Hill provided some lovely view of the mountains on the horizon. I was really glad to see the back of the Lake District and I think I muttered some swearwords at them as I mounted the bike and pedalled on.
During the next section in to the Pennines I found myself overtaking dozens of cyclists all doing the C2C. It’s always nice to go faster than others, especially when you are on a handicap of bike plus gear plus weekend worth of food minus two chain rings.
I was told by a fellow cyclist that Hartside Pass was the hardest part of the C2C. I was down to about 200ml of fluid so I knocked on the door of some farmhouse and asked if I could fill my bladder and bottles. She was a lovely, chatty old bird and it was nice having a bit of banter.
Cold water was such a luxury and it turbo-charged me right to the top of Hartside Pass. It felt effortless passing people up the hill. During the climb, I was overtaken by the only cyclist who overtook me during the whole day – a road rider who wasn’t doing the C2C. I tried to catch him, but I had no chance. Fair play.
The Hartside Café served up an amazing steak pie and wedge of carrot cake which was demolished in no time, before a 5-mile cruising descent, effortlessly moving along at 25-30mph.
Without realising I followed the route to an off-road section. I felt a little lost during this period but after what may have been an hour I rejoined the road winding up a hill. I caught up with an old guy on a shiny-new Boardman frame who was doing his Sunday 60-mile circuit. We rode together for the next 8 – 10 miles and he told me he lived along the route, so I asked if I could fill my bottles at his house.
Jim was his name, a retired fell runner, now a cycling-addict, and a top bloke. He offered me in for a cup of tea, which he served with a generous doorstop wedge of fruit cake. Brownie points for Jim. We studied his AA map and devised a route back to my part of the East coast. 68 miles surpassed, 70+ remaining.
Cutting what has become a very long story short – I took a turn off at Stanhope and made my way over the undulating (bastard) Northumberland / County Durham hills to Barnard Castle, followed the A67 to Darlington, to Yarm, to Middlesbrough, to Redcar, and home. That last (30+ mile) stretch between Darlington and home was a drag. I was starving and stopped off for a sandwich then a bag of peanuts.
Alastair Humphrey’s named a chapter in one of his books ‘Miles not Smiles’. I repeated that to myself regularly during the last few hours.
I could not believe I had managed to ride all day after how I felt on the morning. I was so empty and low, and to ride the roads on that heavy mountain bike in what was one of the hottest days of the year made me feel really proud. I don’t normally marvel at things I do, but on that day I really turned it around. 144 miles in the bag. 174 including Friday night.