Sunday 15 April 2012

LEJOG (End to End) Day 5 - Out With the Club

Leg 5 - Walton le Dale (Preston) to Carlisle [RVCRC A Ride]

After what seemed like a two minute stop at home we were on the road again.  I’d last spoken to Paul yesterday evening just to check he’d got home OK after we parted in Euxton.  My girlfriend came over to stay as it was going to be the only opportunity to see each other for nearly a fortnight.  I’d been pretty busy with the ride, so it didn’t seem like we’d been away that long, but it always seems longer for the one left at home.  I arrived back before her, but she soon arrived with supplies and we feasted on a Curry to try and get the calories into my body following the one hundred and fifteen mile ride the day before.  There were a few checks to do and a few bits of kit to swap over.  We were possibly expecting to see some snow as we progressed further North, so a few more layers need to be put out to wear and carry.  I had a mental checklist, but decided it was better to get up a bit earlier the following morning and put it all together then.  I’m one of these people that need to take everything out again to check it if I pack the night before, so it’s better just to lay stuff out were I can see it.  I was a little bit stressed about forgetting something when there were other distractions and I wasn’t in the company of a fellow LEJOG participant.  All in all, it was a pleasant and relaxing evening.

The following days ride had been planned for a while in advance.  Paul and I normally ride with the Ribble Valley Cycling Club (RVCRC - Ribble Valley Cycling and Racing Club - on a Sunday when we get chance.  When the ride leader became aware that we were coming through Preston on the Sunday he planned a route that would allow him and the other riders to accompany us for at least some of the way.  We left our homes and headed up to Preston College in Fulwood, which is the usual meeting place for the RVCRC Sunday club rides.  That day’s ride leader (Mike Smith) had planned a route that would take us in the right direction but would keep us off the busiest road (A6) for at least the morning.  It was good to catch up with our team-mates and everybody was interested to see how we’d been progressing.  I was personally chuffed that we were going to be joined by one of the older members (Ken Stratford who’s about 80) for some of the morning.  Most people were amazed at the weight of our bikes with the Panniers and luggage.  I’m pretty sure they were glad not to be riding with them.

Ribble Valley CRC Sunday 'A' Ride - The Usual Suspects

After the usual Sunday morning banter, and a bit more because of this unusual long distance ride we got under way again.  I was very tired at this point and was glad to sit in the wheels a bit to start with and just have a chat with as many people as I could.  We got to some more undulating terrain on Mike’s A6 avoiding route and I was always mindful that we’d have to do some reasonably significant climbing to get through Cumbria (which ever way we did it).  However, Paul seemed to have a new lease of life and wanted to show his strength compared to the riders without the extra weight.  I couldn’t avoid doing the same as much as my legs were trying to tell me to do otherwise.  We are lucky to normally be living in this area, from a cycling point of view and we were reminded of this when we made a forced stop to fix one of the groups members puncture.  We had seen some great scenery so far along the way, but some of our local stuff was good enough to match any of that.

A Short Stop for a Mechanical - Fortunately Not Ours (Paul & Ash)
Some of Lancashire's Scenery - As Seen on Our Normal Club Runs
The next stop was Farletonview Tea room (next to Farletonview Fishery -, a café stop that I remember using once before on a previous Sunday club run.  This was as far North as the other riders could venture with us before heading back to Preston.  I parked the bike up away from where we were sitting in the vain hope that somebody may steal it and I wouldn’t need to do any further riding that day.  The café was pretty busy, but fortunately it was a reasonably mild spring day, so we opted to site outside to eat.  I recounted stories of Paul’s Mars bar and Full English breakfast sports nutrition diet as he tucked into yet another (full) English Breakfast.  We posed for a few photographs of the group before Paul and I bid them farewell and head yet further North.  The next stop was going to Kendal, which wasn’t too far away, to stock up on electrolyte tablets for our drinks bottles.

Ash and Paul at Farletonview Tea room - Not the Usual Club Run
Paul at the Cafe with Another RVCRC 'A'  Rider, David 
If I Park My Bike Here Will Somebody Steal It? - Please Do!
At Kendal we were going to reach a significant fork in the road, we could either stick to the main road route (A6) and pass over Shap Fell or we could venture into the Lake District toward Windermere and climb over Kirkstone Pass.  Our earlier discussions suggested that we were both favouring Shap Fell, as this should be a less steep more drawn out climb that could be taken by lorries.  However, we wouldn’t make the final decision until Kendal.  I’d only ever climbed Kirkstone Pass in the opposite direction (up away from Ullswater and Patterdale) and I remember dying a thousand deaths tackling it after I’d already ridden eighty five miles on the fateful trip.  I didn’t want to go through that again, and considering that we had all that extra weight Shap Fell seemed like a safer option.

Paul with Ride Leader Mike Discussing Our Exit Northwards
Saying Farewell to Our Fellow RVCRC Members 
Kendal Town Centre - A Stop for Electrolytes - Which Way North?

In Kendal we visited Evans Cycles to pick up a new supply of High Five Zero electrolyte tablets (I can‘t remember whether this was in Kendal or not now).  There wasn’t too much time to look around the shop, it was just a case of a quick in and out whilst the other rider minded the bikes.  We’d already earlier visited a health shop to see if they had anything suitable and we struggled to find anything, so the specialist tablets at the specialist bike shop was the only real answer.  Armed with new supplies, we continued Northwards and finally took the decision to travel over Shap Fell.

Views Back Towards Kendal from the Shap Fell Climb
The Road Northwards out of Kendal (A6) was fairly pleasant, but it didn’t take long before the climbing commenced, it was only gradual, but it was going to last for quite a while.  We were probably about half way through the journey, as far as miles to travel and days to ride at this point and the legs were really feeling the day after day long distance riding with more than twenty extra pounds in weight than we were used to riding with.  At this point I quizzed Paul about his ‘Gung ho’ riding style when we were out with the club earlier and admitted that my legs were really feeling it now.  He explained that he was actually feeling much better now, as he’d been fortunate enough to get a leg massage by his wife the night before.  He said the legs almost felt good as new now!  I had missed a trick here, I hadn’t made time for such an activity the night before at my house and was now wishing I had.

Views Over Gurnal Bridge Lane From A6
The climb up Shap Fell was a drag, but fortunately the road wasn’t too busy and the traffic was kept away from us in the latter parts of the ascent, as there is a passing lane.  For some time I was the slowest person on record, using the web site I upload my Garmin 200 activity to which is called Strava (  There are sections of road marked on Strava, called segments, and riders submitting there GPS device files to the web site can see how they compare to other riders on the marked segments.  We had no means of uploading the files whilst out on the road, we could only recharge our Garmins when we stopped in the evening.  We had to wait until we returned home before we had access to computers to carry out the upload.  I had uploaded the first four leg’s data the night before and was now wishing I’d opted for the aforementioned massage instead.  The Shap Fell isn’t the highest in the world, but if you look at the profile of the day’s ride, it is a significant lump in the middle.  The Shap Fell Strava segment can be seen here:

As you can see, I am well down the leader board, but surprisingly I am no longer the last rider.  I can only presume that the people currently in 225th and 226th position are fellow End to End riders or very new to cycling.  I keep meaning to go back to Shap and post a time without the baggage, but it just a bit far to do a loop in one day from home.

Views from the Early Parts of Shap Climb - Any Excuse for a Rest
We eventually reached the summit of Shap Fell.  Whilst it wasn’t a County Border marker (incidentally, we must have missed the Cumbrian one by using the minor roads up to Kendal), it was a significant point on the ride and possibly the highest point we would reach.  It was much cooler at the top and there was a little bit of sleet and snow in the air.  Paul had been previously been talking about his new raincoat, which he’d christened the ’body condom’, but this was the first time it had been displayed to me and used.  Even if we didn’t need such garments for the rain and snow, we now had to do a lot of descending down towards Penrith, so we needed to keep the chill off.  It was good news that we were going to be going mainly down hill for the rest of the day now, but after working up a sweat you need to keep warm when travelling fast and pedalling less often.
Paul Sporting His 'Condom' Checks-In From Shap Fell Summit
The Road Leading South From Shap Fell Summit

The Road Leading North From Shap Fell Summit
Our Bikes Parked Near the Weather Station on Shap Fell
I really can’t remember much about navigating our way through Penrith.  Our thoughts were now to our next overnight stay and our accommodation.  Up until Preston every aspect of the trip had been planned out.  Each night previously we knew where we needed to be and exactly where we’d be sleeping.  For the second half of the overall journey, we’d decided to be a bit more flexible.  We hadn’t yet decided whether we were going to take a Easterly or Westerly route through Scotland and whether we were going to pass through Edinburgh or Glasgow.  Also, we were more nervous about the weather conditions (there had been reports of snow in Scotland) and didn’t want to book accommodation only to lose our money by not getting to the planned destinations due to unforeseen circumstances.
We were fortunate, we now had things like mobile phones with Internet connection wherever we were and we were able to use apps (little computer programs on the phone) to help us find our way and book a place to stay.  Even though Paul had a more sophisticated Garmin than mine, with GPS map, we’d still tended to use Google Maps on the smart phones as a way of navigating when we were unsure.  I’d previously done quite a lot of last minute booking whilst out on the road whilst either travelling for work or on a couple of road trips I’d had to France and Spain.  The app of choice was, but we were open to keeping a look out for suitable establishments as we rode along.

Prior to leaving Preston the first time, Paul had done quite a lot of research around the options in various places.  Even though it wasn’t definite that we’d be visiting or staying in Carlisle, he’d become familiar with a few of the options, and knew that there was a Premier in on the run in on the A6.  With the down hill sections and some flatter roads, we seemed to get there in no time.  Whilst I often ascended the climbs a little quicker than Paul before regrouping at the top, I could barely keep on his wheel on the dual carriageway approach to the city.  We pulled up in a lay-by across the road from the potential accommodation and Paul had a look at the room options on his phone.  At the same time I had a look at the app on my phone and came up with some options in the city centre.  We opted for the city centre, as it meant we could progress further along the way towards Scotland on the Sunday, the offer was better at the hotel I’d found and our evening meal options were going to be better in the more built up areas.

Paul does the Final Check-In of the Day From Our Hotel Room

We chose the Cumbria Park Hotel in Carlisle, as we could get a twin room and breakfast for a very reasonable rate.  It was less than just the room out of town.  The staff were very friendly and whilst there wasn’t anywhere safe out front or a car park around the back to leave the bikes the desk receptionist allowed us to put them in one of the smaller function rooms that wasn’t being used that night.  We got to the room, which was spacious and pleasant but a little old fashioned, checked in with Facebook followers etc. and freshened up.  The hotel offered us the option of dining in that night also, but we opted to go out and have a little look around town.  Rather than going and sitting down in a restaurant, Paul suggested we have a look around for a take away establishment.  We found several.  There were two close together which gave us the option of Fish and Chips or things like Kebabs and Pizzas.  Paul suggested that there may be the potential of sampling a strictly Scottish takeaway delicacy, ‘battered haggis’, if we went to the chippy.  I liked the sound of this, and whilst I’d had haggis many years before, I had definitely never sampled the chip shop battered variety before.

Not Quite in Scotland Yet, But Time for a Haggis

Battered Haggis and Chips as Sampled in Carlisle
As we left the chip shop I had a near miss with the traffic.  It wasn’t busy on the roads (we were walking) and we’d started to cross the road in plenty of time, but a car appear to be approaching fast and I started to run to ensure that we’d get across in time before the car arrived.  However, my legs had now ceased to function properly, I was felling a twinge from every time I took a step forward and when I picked them up in an attempt to run absolutely nothing happened.  This was a worry, both in the sense of the looming traffic and for generally getting about.  The only saving grace was that they seemed to work better and not feel so bad when we were out on the bikes.  If I ever do this type of thing again (a long distance bike ride), I will try and take measures to look after my legs a bit better at the end of the day.  I had a deep heat ointment, which I used at the end of the day and often in the morning before riding, but on reflection I probably could have done with using some oils on the skin to try and rub out some of the soreness and toxins from the leg muscles.  When all said and done there were two of us, some it would have been feasible to help with the maintenance of each other’s limbs.  However, we were already taking some ’Facebook Flack’ for room sharing (somebody suggested we’d be pushing the twin beds together), so heaven forbid rumours would get out there that we’d been rubbing each other down with scented oils!

All in all Preston to Carlisle was a tough but enjoyable day.  It was great to share part of the ride with our cycling buddies and we were still being fortunate with the weather conditions.  Also, we’d been very lucky as far as any incidents that would impede our progress or cause us to have to abort the whole thing were concerned.  So far everything was going very well and according to plan.  It was by no means easy, but it wasn’t a case of hating every pedal stroke.  We could have done a few things better, but generally things were working out well.  Tomorrow we’d be in another country and soon I’d be venturing to places I’d never been near before.

1 comment:

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.