What a tough day. We’ve struggled with ferocious headwind, blazing sunshine, freezing cold and a landscape that never seemed to stop going up!
I have to admit I’ve struggled. I’ve cried a couple of times and seriously considered quitting at least once or twice over the course of the day. It started with the first half mile of the trip out of Penrith, which left me walking and pushing my bike and wondering how the hell I was going to be able to do 27 miles and get up a massively big hill when I couldn’t even get out of Penrith.
After that it got easier for a while, and we powered through the first ten miles or so, stopping only to explore another stone circle – Long Meg. It was a big circle (60 stones, 360 feet in diameter) with a lovely tall red stone at the head.
At that point of the day it was really hot again and not too windy. There weren’t any places to stop for a drink in that part of the ride but we kept on. Then we started to ascend the long lead up to Hartside and from pretty much nowhere the wind picked up. Then it got really hard. My technique for hills mostly consists of cycling like mad on the lead up (especially if there is a dip first) and then power up the hill, dropping gears as I go. Then it’s a battle to see if the hill ends, or if I run out of gears and grind to a halt! I couldn’t do that today, because the wind was so strong I couldn’t build any momentum.
We did get up Hartside but it involved a lot of walking. Two things spurred me on: the first was google maps telling me that once I got to the summit it was about 4 miles of downhill to Alston before another six of undulating to our destination at Nenthead. The second was Erik who pushed his bike up a couple of hills and then came back down to help me with mine!
The cafe at the summit of Hartside was a welcome sight, and we got some late lunch and posed for the obligatory summit photos (and put on some extra clothes, as it was cold).
The descent was wonderful, a gentle but steady downhill. Mile after mile.
We whipped through Alston with barely a backward glance, keen to get to our destination. The final half dozen miles were ok. The wind had mostly dropped, the sun had been replaced by cloud and we cycled and walked the miles away.
Now, a shower and a bottle of cider later, I’m already feeling better about the day, and, although tomorrow starts with a steep climb, I’m feeling ok about that.