1: Be prepared for any weather
On Saturday the weather forecast showed heavy showers all day and fairly low temperatures. Winter jacket weather, thought I, as it would be ideal for those conditions as it’s fairly waterproof and would mean I didn’t have to keep stopping to put my waterproof on/take it off again. As it turned out I barely saw a drop of rain all day and ended up roasting away in my big jacket as I was either that or strip down to a short sleeve jersey with the jacket tied around my waist! A few different clothing options would have been great.
2: Don’t get carried away
On Sunday there was a Wheelers club run starting from Clitheroe. An ideal opportunity to get some extra miles in by riding out to the meeting point (rather than getting the train/driving out like the the others were doing) and a bonus that another Wheeler, Will, decided to ride out with me. Unfortunately for me he is a much faster rider than I am and in keeping pace with him I arrived in Clitheroe after 27 miles of what probably equated to a mild warm up for him but a brisk training run for me. This probably wasn’t the best preparation for the 85 miles that were still to come. Which leads on to:
Don’t forget to eat. Upon arrival at Clitheroe I was hoping the bike shop/cafe would be open and I could grab a bite to eat and a drink. It wasn’t. Never mind, I had plenty of flapjack in my pocket to keep me going. Which it did until about 70 miles into the ride when I hit the (metaphorical) wall, the rain hit me and my bike hit the Trough of Bowland. Luckily one of my fellow riders saw I was struggling and gave me a helping hand (literally), propelling both me and himself up the hill. I had made the mistake of ignoring the rumbling in my belly, thinking I could make it to the cafe stop ok, before cracking and barely being able to open an energy gel to keep me going. The torrential rain didn’t help, obviously the ride out hadn’t been too beneficial and I arrived at the cafe in Dunsop Bridge a shivering wreck of a man struggling to even eat or drink. I cannot thank Arnas enough for keeping an eye out for me and getting me up that hill. Once I’d got some food down me and got back on the bike I was ok (the liberal use of a nice warming hand dryer also helped!) but it was a pretty stupid mistake to make and one I’m glad I didn’t make when I was on my own.
4: A week is a long time in cycling
Or at least it is when you compare my planned journey time to the End to End cycling records. At the weekend I watched a documentary about former Manchester Wheeler John Woodburn who in 1982 broke the record for cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats, completing the 848 miles in 1 day 21 hours and 3 minutes. It entertained me to hear John’s deadpan take on the ride and his no-nonsense approach to cycling, his response to the question of what he wanted to eat on one of his few short breaks during the ride being along the lines of “I dunno, biscuits or something”. Whilst John obviously put a huge amount of work into training for the ride and had many years of cycling behind him when he did it (he was in his forties at the time and a former national champion) he maintained that all long distance cycling is a case of mind over matter. Plenty of inspiration if any were needed. Incidentally John is still the record holder for the fastest time for riding from London to Bath and back - a record which is considered unbreakable - and has been doing 25 mile time trials in under an hour well into his seventies!
5: Appreciate the high points
I’m pretty much at the end of my training for Land’s End to John O’Groats now. I have clocked up over 1,600 miles since I started in February and whilst there have been low points they have been vastly outnumbered by the highs. Each slog up a hill has been rewarded with a downhill on the other side and often a wonderful view at the top, with Anglezarke, Longridge Fell and Sunday’s views over the Yorkshire Dales being prime examples. The encounters with irate drivers have been vastly outweighed by the companionship of those I have shared rides with and the courtesy of most people I have met on the roads. On Saturday’s ride one driver even pulled over to let me past on a descent when I was cycling faster than she was driving (unfortunately the roles were soon reversed when I reached the bottom of the hill!). Whilst I have been doing all these rides as part of my training it would be a bit of a misnomer to call them training rides when they have been so enjoyable to do. I can only hope that the Land’s End to John O’Groats ride itself is as much fun.