The New Proclaimer – I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)

Having just finished the lovely circuit of Ravenstonedale – Outhgill – Garsdale Head – Sedbergh – Ravenstonedale with my good mate Kev Hillier, I see that I have now covered over 500 miles (about half the distance of Land’s End to John O’Groats). Now admittedly that has to be done in about six days when the real trip is underway but as the title of the first post to this blog indicates, things need to be nurtured well and given time to flourish.

Kev will be my riding companion on the ‘End to End’ trip, so we’ll be our very own two man peloton. He craftily practiced the art of drafting / slipstreaming for a good part of the way tonight before an attacking finish from The Fat Lamb to his house (these young whippersnappers with nearly twenty years advantage eh!).

I see the training stats also show that I’ve climbed nearly one and a half times the height of Everest and well above the cruising level of most passenger jets at over forty thousand feet. That’s Cumbria for you. Flat as a pancake for at least 100 metres at a time.

It looks like I’ll hit the 100 miles for the week for the third time but I don’t expect to keep that up when the weather turns. Effort I can manage but cold, wet and windy I’ll draw the line at.

GPS Interface Malfunction

(a.k.a. user error)

Today I had on paper (or on screen at least) a straightforward route from home to Kirkby Lonsdale via Sedbergh, a ride of 22.5 miles mainly downhill. With that all set out I ushered the support vehicle (a fancy name for Lydia in my beat up Honda) to rendezvous at 12:30.

Trusting a little too much to the new technology of Garmin Edge Touring GPS and the mapping software at (since Garmin’s BaseCamp software is a crock of …) I didn’t inspect the map to closely, in particular the sections avoiding main roads. So once lost or at best unsure of the route around Sedbergh golf course, I failed to use the small screen map with any expertise (my best blame factor was the sunlight). It looked like the club was a dead end and everyone around was too busy playing golf so I had nobody to confer with.

A few u-turns, circles and map re-checks still didn’t help so I legged it back on the main road into Sedbergh before getting on the principle road to Kirkby Lonsdale. All this time the GPS was bleeping and flashing “Off course” and I continued to ignore it (as is my wont). I reset the GPS direct to KL. More bleeps and turn instructions to side roads followed and I chose to go with it hoping I’d save time and get away from the moronic motorbike riders who seemed to delight in passing very close to me at extremely high speed (not all but enough of them to cheese me off).

Before long I was trapped in something like a scene from “The Prisoner” as every junction in what turned out to be a large private estate had signs saying ‘No though road, no cycles, no walkers, no right of way’. Having run out of options (the GPS merely indicated a ‘service road’) I had to back track to the main road. Another such short cut ended up at a very overgrown bridal way which would have been difficult to follow even on a mountain bike, so I turned round yet again.

My journey ended up at over 31 miles and took 2 hours 45 minutes, a full one hour longer and almost 50% further than planned. In post-ride analysis It turned out that I’d suffered a ‘fat finger’ episode in re-selecting the destination.

The lessons learned:

  1. don’t blindly rely on a GPS
  2. check twice, ride once
  3. study the map more carefully
  4. if in doubt stick to the roads with meaningful signposts.

Finding there’s a limit

With thirty two rides under my belt in forty days (see, I do take rest days), only one was of any significant length (28 miles – 2h:30m).
Yesterday looked to be a lovely sunny day albeit a windy one so I finally left the programming work for the afternoon and got my kit together.

Whilst the End to End is a long way off and the C2C won’t be until next Spring, I’ve been itching to find out what a tough test feels like. A day of six or more hours in the saddle seems like potential torture right now, even with a gel saddle cover, but my inner challenger voice kept pecking at me to escape the comfort zone. Now I can still remember the first day out on the new bike when ten miles and one hour left me feeling I’d cycled the whole of the Tour of Britain, but I figured that I needed to revisit the sensation (preferably not quite so close to collapse or even imminent death).

Finding out what a nominal half day average feels like was the order of the day and I’d been looking at a tempting circular route from home for a couple of weeks.
It starts at my back door, one mile down to the village and another mile along to The Fat Lamb (that’s a pub not an animal ready for culling).
Left takes you past the tarn to the ‘Tommy Road’ with beautiful views over the fells as it finally drops down to Pendragon Castle.

From there a right takes you through Outhgill slowly rising out of the valley all the way to Garsdale Head which is about one third of the route done. Unfortunately there was a 17 knot headwind which coupled with the ascent, meant that I was wishing it was more like two thirds done.

The post route data upload reveals that there’s a tiny segment there known as ‘Cock End’ (I’ve put a circle around the … location.


Having downed my energy gel and a fair amount of fluid I was tempted to rest at the Moorcock Inn (oh you see where the name comes from now) but I can tell you from personal experience that if ever you want to see a website that is the exact opposite to the reality, make a google search for “moorcock inn garsdale head” (other search engines are available). The site must be describing another Moorcock Inn in a parallel universe.

Garsdale to Sedbergh is lovely (not too many hills) but I rashly chose to take a farm road route which involved some very heavy ascent and three gates to manipulate. I was glad to be back on the main road and thankfully the traffic was relatively light. I managed 33.8mph on a mild descent but pedalling hard and with a tail wind. Any faster and I might have needed my aviation gear.

And so to the last leg from Sedbergh which I have cycled many time now, so I knew it would be uphill pretty much all the way. In fact there’s about 1000 feet of climb back to my house and I was beginning to feel somewhat jiggered. I was glad to have stashed three litres of mixed drinks (vodka, gin, wine) as I needed them. A quick Clif Mocha Shot and a cocktail of lime juice, orange juice and lemon barley water and I felt well enough to hold off on calling in the emergency services (Lydia is not a first responder for nothing – note to wife: get that certification back in place).

So 34 miles in 3 hours 10 minutes cycling counts for me as one stage of the Coast To Coast or half a day’s leg on the Land’s End to John O’Groats route (depending on the number of days in total).

At least I got to the end of the day with a sense of achievement knowing that I have reached another milestone before the end of the season rears up.

Since it’s chucking it down right now I think I’ll go out in the car and call it a rest day.


Surfing the season

As the temperature dropped in the middle of last week from 20 degrees celsius to 11 degrees with a biting wind, I was beginning to think that my late start in the summer meant I would only have a month or so of decent cycling weather.
Well in true British meteorological fashion the mercury rose once again and the wind dropped, turning the past week into what we should have had in July during the heart of the season.

The last three days have been glorious and the forecast looks favourable for the next two or three days, so I can stash the rain and windy weather gear for a little while longer and crack on.

The current weekly average stands at 75 miles with each daily trip at around 1200 feet of ascent. On Monday I rode the tough climb to Renwick to Hartside Top which is part of stage 5 of the Tour of Britain (this Thursday). There’s a motor cyclists’ cafe at the top and it gave me pleasure to round the final bend using only my two legs to power the bike into the car park with about a hundred engine driven beasts in situ.

Tomorrow will encompass another slice of the Coast To Coast (C2C) from Penrith.

From little acorns

Originally posted at my personal blog

My lifestyle and physical exercise are words that really shouldn’t exist in the same sentence, that is until now.
There’s no denying the ageing process and there comes a time when you realise that there are certain things you’d like to do before the point is reached when it is simply no longer practical or even possible. Getting (and keeping) fit becomes more important as time presses on, not only for longer term health and wellbeing, but is essential if you decide to undertake a physical challenge.
Save for the odd game of table tennis this past couple of years I rarely do anything to break into a sweat (tackling the weeds with a strimmer in the two days of summer raised the temperature somewhat but was hardly a gym workout). Most of my time is essentially spent seated. When I’m not asleep (an extension to sitting down) I am usually found at my desk either working or avoiding working. If there was an award for surfing (the Internet) I’d surely be a favourite for a place on the rostrum having been online nearly a quarter of a century (since shortly after the first UK’s first dialup company Demon Internet launched in 1992).
Back in the day (as the oft used phrase has it) I was sporty, playing squash several times a week as well as five a side and full team football. That was until two of the discs in my lower back crapped out. Surgery in those days was not so sophisticated and my operation was not the success I’d hoped for. Sport was out and I still suffer from back pain on a permanent basis.

That’s the background. So what?

After my biennial trip to the USA earlier this year I spent a few days walking in the Cotswolds with my SoftDev cohorts Vince and Dave. It was enjoyable, exhausting and painful. It was also something of a wakeup call. Covering twelve miles in a day ought to be a walk in the park (or the Cotswolds) but it felt like I’d run a marathon (not that I have, so I don’t actually know if it was like it at all).
I’d previously thought of taking up running with a view to finding out what it really was like to run a marathon and had set a goal of doing so two years after training started.

I lasted three very short runs. I hate running.

Not one to avoid a challenge I have set myself a new goal for 2017. Still using two legs, I have added two wheels in the form of a touring bike and have committed to cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats less than two years from now. LEJOG as it is known (pronounced Lee Jog) or JOGLE if you choose to bike it from North to South, is the classic UK cycle ride.

I (re)discovered I love cycling.

Before I can tackle the ‘End to End’ I not only have to get fit (and in particular bike fit) but I’ll need to complete some smaller routes such as the C2C (or Sea to Sea), The Way of the Roses and Hadrian’s Cycleway, all of which fortunately are located broadly speaking in my part of the world. Naturally those routes have to be preceded by regular and consistent training. I started training on the first day of August in a very modest way at just 10 miles per session with an average speed of around 12 miles per hour.

At the time of writing this (not quite at the end of the month) I have covered 250 miles and  have this week, increased the distance to 15-20 miles in sessions of between 1.5 and 2 hours. So far so good. ‘From little acorns’ and all that. Not to be scuppered by the impending end of season (don’t forget I’m in Cumbria where is it wet and cold) I bought a turbo trainer for indoor use, so there really is no excuse to halt my training (I might get to regret these words).

In order not to become a bike bore here (since this is my long surviving blog for random if infrequent postings) I’ll shortly be starting a blog specifically for the ‘end to end’ saga. Naturally I’ll be throwing in bits and bobs on Facebook, twitter etc but if you are remotely interested in following my progress (and hopefully the LEJOG itself) I’ll be plugging the bike blog starting in September.

Wish me well.