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Audax Long Distance Cycling

All Points North

A belated tale

All Points North, an Almost There and Back Again Tale 2019

Friday, 0730, I’m up and the wee man isn’t 100%, he isn’t going to nursery and the inlaws are going to come over to look after him, poor chap, I contemplate having a bit longer in bed, but I’m now up and awake and so is Jamie. The bike is packed and ready, so now to fuel up with as much food as I can muster, porridge, raisins, yoghurt, coffee and everything else, then at 1030 a lasagne…..

I then set off to Broadgate cycles, who supplied me with the amazing Cannondale Topstone for some final supplies, pick up my dinner for my on the train meal and head to Preston Train Station for my journey to Sheffield…….

Preston Train Station was a scene of chaos, every train is either delayed or cancelled, EVERY SINGLE ONE. Panic sets in, I see if I can cadge a lift, no such luck, I call Karen in desperate panic and we worked out that we can make it after she finishes work, JUST….. I get home, panic, try and eat and drink (important) but forget to, look after Jamie and plug my gear in again…..

The drive to Sheffield is nail biting, praying to the traffic gods, but we make it, and Karen gets a handmade trophy…. I see some old friends like Nick Howarth from Timberfly Ramps, Ede Harrison who’s been to quite a few of my talks and has an amazing pedigree. We then look at each other’s set up, seeing if we had packed too much/little, I was on the heavier side…. The briefing is brief, we then get our bikes together and wait for 8pm….

 

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1950hrs, get to start line, turn on Garmin and Lezyne, judge if what I’m wearing is enough/too much, start cold Dan, you’ll soon warm up, but the sun’s going down…. You’ll soon warm up, this isn’t a flat ride.

 

2000hrs and we’re off, and it’s bonkers, everyone has their own route and we’re zig zagging across the city trying to escape, seeing each other at traffic lights, shooting this way and that way, I try to settle into a rhythm and head towards Huddersfield then Brighthouse and finally Howarth, my heart rate is around 160, that’s fine don’t panic, it will settle down, it better settle down.

2130hrs, I start to feel the chill of the night, I tell myself I can only put extra layers on at 2230 to keep myself going, I don’t want to be stopping that often. 

 

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0000hrs I reach Howarth at midnight, have my 1st swig on the hip flask and head out on the climb to Colne, remembering Jamie was not feeling so well and had a bad nights sleep, that early morning is starting to hit me and I start to have my 1st hallucinations which will follow me for a lot of the ride, two riders following me and chatting away. I decide I need an hour or two’s sleep, I find a gate and an empty field on the climb going to Colne, I set up my bivvy and mat, settle down to two hours of broken sleep as some dog barks away…..

0300 I wake up cursing the dog, get out of my bivvy bag, keep my Alpkit jacket on and head towards Colne for a maccies, I caught up to rider 34 on my way and we have a breakfast date, only we were there so early breakfast wasn’t even on the menu, so chicken nuggets, 2 coffees and an OJ was on the menu, whilst watching the drunks wait for a taxi, oh to be young again….

 

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0700 I hit Slaidburn and climb out of Bowland via Cross O’Greet a beautiful climb made even better when you have it all to yourself, a slight detour on the way to Wray was made all the worse when my favourite cafe was shut, so a few flapjacks at the post office had to suffice.

 

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1400, I hit Arnside late after the obligatory getting lost in Silverdale, I didn’t mind though, my grandads ashes are scattered over Silverdale and I secretly enjoyed lingering around there, he was very fond of the area. I hit a cafe and the poor owner had to keep waking me up, I got 2 espressos added to my order and a flapjack for the road, they could have been on the bill, I don’t remember ordering them or paying them on the bill…

 

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The road to Sedbergh was a nice back road cycleway and a fast A road downhill, I grab a pie and milkshake before heading to Kirkby Stephen.

 

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1530 I start to climb up to Tan Hill Inn, an arduous climb by any standards, why some marketing genius decides the high street is so cliche and the middle of nowhere on a tough climb is far better to have a business is beyond me…. The rain and wind picks up, I sit there and see a few other APNers, quick photo and hip flask selfie and retrace my tracks.

 

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1900 Appleby, The climb was cold and wet, I didn’t want to sleep in an audax hotel tonight, so I decided I will carry on cycling as far as I can and when I next see a hotel/b&b I’ll try and book myself in. I hit Appleby at 7pm I have been up for around 36 hours and find a B&B!!!! I knock, she answers, have you got a room? no, SHIT, but come in and I’ll find you one, GOD BLESS APPLEBY, finally, we have a room but….. There’s a band on tonight, is that a problem? You won’t need to rock me to sleep tonight, never heard the band. On my way there I call at the chippy, they look after me ask if I’m ok and give me extra (skinny person tired looking issues) I say thanks mum and head to the B&B, eat chips, grab a bath and sleep.

 

Sunday

Great Dun WHAT THE HELL!!

Wake up and it’s raining, I stick my middle finger up at the rain, I also change shorts, great tip for newbies doing their first ultra, take a different pair of shorts and look after you bum, hands and feet. Eat breakfast as fast as I can, and realise in total I’ve lost ~14 hours to this stay.

 

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The climb up Great Dun Fell is nice, then it starts raining some more, oh the wind is picking up a bit, oh there’s a nice tailwind… last Km JESUS WEPT I CAN HARDLY FUCKING PUSH MY BIKE UP THIS FUCKING BASTARD!!!! Needless to say it was grim up top, the mountain rescue guy’s wind metre said ~60mph gusts whilst tending to some hypothermic walkers. I get down, ignore my brevet card, got the photo of the summit and my hip flask selfie, that’s enough. Now to head north.

 

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Heading north, I was cold, shivering, wet and now I start a steady lumpy ride up north with a headwind to Kielder.

I have a great veggie dinner in a pub somewhere, they were nice, as was the food, I strap some Oreos to my TT bars (oreo speed wagon) and head north still, slowly working north.

 

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I then find myself on a military road, very nice fast and quiet, it was good while it lasted, I then swore loudly at Ride With GPS for the gravel road detour and did some dirty reiver riding to Kielder.

 

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I hit Kielder at around 5pm, quick photo and then I have the most amazing tailwind, yes they do exist! I hammer the pedals and try and get as far south knowing I’m way behind where I was expecting myself to be at this point in the day, I buy some pasta meal deal at a co-op and strap it to my bike and carry on riding, it’s cool tonight, but I’m very tired from all the climbing and headwind riding, the area is bleak and there’s nowhere around though, it’s fine Daniel, just keep following your purple line and see what happens, it worked yesterday and it will work again today. I get to about west of Newcastle and hit a little village, I see a lady walking down the street, “excuse me, do you know if there’s any B&Bs around?” “hello, come in you look tired” (there’s a theme coming on here) she calls the posh hotel, yes we have a room it’s £140 for the night”, “OK, it’s 9pm, you’re not going to fill it and I’m happy to skip breakfast and set off early, any movement on that price since you won’t fill it?” “no” “No worries, I’ll find a barn”.

You can’t do that, let me phone this couple who own a distillery and a B&B, lady, you had me at distillery. The kindness from strangers towards skinny cyclist who look knackered is amazingly beautiful.

The couple are amazing, he talks about making me a huge cooked breakfast in the mane, my body can’t take that, I settle for porridge, scrambled eggs on toast and lots of fruit. I then tend to my blisters, cold wet soggy feet and aching arse (need to get to the bottom of that), put the portable heater on in the room, dry my gear and and see they have already ran me a bath, legends!

Monday

I wake up at 6am, try and stretch out my sore back, drink the complimentary drink station dry of their hot chocolate, coffee and biscuits, fill up my bottles, dollop bum butter on my bum, bin everything I now don’t need and prepare for a long ass day in the saddle. Breakfast is awesome, the people are awesome, it’s over far too soon and before long I’m stuffing those bananas on my bike and hitting the road. I thought the hills were over, fat chance of that, it’s lumpy, the roads aren’t smooth and I’m knackered, I push and push, I change my route to stick to the A roads and push again, I’m making steady progress and ignoring my bodies cries of pain, eventually I see Captain Cooks monument and recognise it from when we stayed near there earlier this year. I hit the main Whitby road, traffic is busy, I just keep my head down and carry on pedalling, eventually the cracks start to show, I’m greeted with a very busy A road, forced onto the pavement covered in tree debris and some steep climbs, I stop halfway up it, take a breath, eat two bananas and message my mate Phil who asked how I was doing a few hours earlier, I was honest, I’m struggling but moving.

 

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Eventually I’m hitting the stupidly steep downhill into Seascales and climbing up into Whitby, I call at the chippy, grab my musette (top tip, bring a cycling feed bag with you, so handy) and then climb up to the Abbey, I have an extended break, eat my chips, take pain killers, take a salt tablet, and hit the road, it then starts to rain, I stop again, put my leg warmers on, my rain jacket on and my warmer gloves. I then realise that Ride With GPS wanted to send me off road in the rain and failing light from Robin Hoods Bay to Scarbrough, fuck that, so a 25% ascent and back onto the A road, past Scarbrough and beyond, I take a rest at a petrol station and buy a hot chocolate from the machine (bless thy hot drink machines) and some snacks. I get to the lighthouse at 2300hrs, I’m cold and wet and tired too… I see a shop front with a shelter with it’s back to the wind (bless thy porch) I set up an urban bivy in the shop’s porch and try and grab an hours kip.

 

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Tuesday

0000hrs, my phone rings, only one person can make my phone ring after 10pm, “hewwo…” “are you OK, your dot hasn’t moved” “yes, I’m trying to get some sleep” “did the lighthouse let you in” “what? No, I’m in a shop window I have a beautiful view of the lighthouse though”, “OK, be careful, love you” I fall back to sleep again, tired from the relentless hills.

 

0300hrs, I wake up and decide to try for the last 227Km, I keep my Alpkit jacket on to keep me warm, I keep the disposable foot warmers that I put on 4 hours ago, and the hand warmers are somewhere up my sleeve, I can feel them. I stuff my face with the remaining haribo and flapjack I bought from a shop in Robin Hoods Bay ( I couldn’t have wasted the whole detour) and head west and for home.

Very quickly it starts to rain and it gets cold, my bum is very sore and I can’t stay in the saddle for long, I keep my head down and pedal as hard as I can, knowing that 227Km is counting down, prior to this my biggest day out was 219Km and this is my final sprint. I’m making steady progress, but unlike before I’m getting frustrated, I’m not going that fast, my average speed is down and I can see everything is steadily slowly slowing down.

0630hrs, I stop for the 1st time in 3 hours at a shop, I buy 2 50p nougat filled croissants a hot chocolate and some bananas, as I’m eating them I see there’s a train station, I see I have 100 miles still to go, my back feels like there’s a knife in it and I spent most of the last 10Km stood up. At this point I realise my bodies broken and if I carry on it will only get worse, I end up spending £4 on those croissants and decide to get the train back, it was a logical cold choice, I pushed my body far harder than I thought I could and I’m not ashamed of scratching like I did. 

 

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If the sun was out I’d have probably pushed harder/further that day, but the cold and wet is a weakness of mine, that said my saddle sore and back was gone (speculation is pointless when typing). I get back to Sheffield and hand in my tracker, eat food, grab my bag and head back home.

My overall distance was 750Km and over 10Km of climbing I scratched at 0630hrs on Tuesday after departing on Friday at 2000.

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