*pictures tomorrow* *Donation Link*
So… My longest ever ride! 83.9 miles and two countries taken in. I have to say that it felt good and it was stunning. I felt slightly cheated out of those last 1.1 miles, though. I should have turned around and pedalled a little bit more, just to add up to that magical 85 miles!
So far, riding my bicycle for a long way has mostly been about eating. This morning was no exception and I managed to consume an unhealthy amount of carbohydrates before nimbly boarding my steed. Onwards, onwards and into the unknown!
Actually, I knew the vast majority of the route, having cycled Bobbie to Carlisle station on a previous occasion but good old Garmin took me a slightly different route but I did get to reminisce about the puncture I got just outside of Carlisle (without a spanner to remove the wheel – d’oh).
Cycling through Dumfries is surprisingly lovely as you can follow the Sustrans Route 7 the whole way. This was definitely the easy part and was where the rain began. It didn’t stop for a very, very long time and when I arrived at Annan, it got the best of me and I slipped resulting in a small fall which I didn’t think had hurt much at the time. I now know that it did hurt quite a bit but I was desperate to push on to Gretna before having a big stop. I actually made really good time and, though cold was pretty happy tucking into the pasta leftovers for my second breakfast – yum!
Tumbling into Carlisle from my rest stop should have been really easy but I began to get incredibly cold. Usually these things are mind over matter, so I decided that crazy singing would be the best cure and I murdered a few renditions of ‘Let it Go’, really trying to believe that ‘the cold never bothered me anyway’. Friends will know how much I feel the cold so I was impressed that this sort of worked. It certainly raised my spirits.
Surprisingly, I didn’t see a single other cyclist for miles! It wasn’t until I got near to Carlisle that I started being able to smile manically at people through the rain. Unfortunately, just as I was enjoying the Sustrans route again, there was a sign indicating that the road I had wanted to take was closed ahead, so I followed my nose whilst the Garmin had a mini melt down, insisting that I make a U-Turn at my earliest convenience. It’s a saviour but also a pain! At least it gives me something else inanimate to talk to along the way. Maybe I should invest in some music for the rides. I do quite like the head space, though.
The unplanned detour saw me flying through Carlisle city centre, gritting my teeth and wising there was some food between them. There had been nowhere obvious in Carlisle to stop, so I decided that I should test out my first TORQ gel as I had ridden a considerable amount of miles and eaten very minimally. It was a bit of a disaster due to the change from steady, well paved, flat to bobbly uphill and I ended up with quite a lot of gel pretty much everywhere but the bit that I did slurp tasted exactly like apple crumble. I was a bit taken aback. I know that this was the advertise flavour but I hadn’t imagined that it would ACTUALLY taste like apple crumble. It was like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Not long afterwards, I arrived, sopping at Dalston, Cumbria and decided that I absolutely had to stop here given that Lucy lives in Dalston, London. I thought it was tres amusant! The Blue Bell was a perfect spot (if a little chilly) and I ended up in here for far longer than anticipated. Copious amounts of food gobbling was interspersed with regular trips to the bathroom to use the hand dryers to try and take the edge off the soaking I had received. It didn’t really work. The food was good, jacket potato and chocolate and banana crumble (yum) went down a treat. Service was quite slow but I think this was an active decision to make me feel comfortable with taking my time.
It was still raining when I finally dragged myself out of the pub and I was very nervous about tackling another 35 miles, especially when the elevation profile had shown me what was in store. This would be the toughest 35 miles of my cycling career and it just happened to be tagged onto another energy sapping 50 earlier in the day. Hmmmn.
After a short while though, the rain began to ease and I started warming up. The views were incredible and there was hardly anything on the roads. I have to say that the Lake District certainly know how to do roads. Yes, they may be hilly but the tarmac is incredible! I’ve never known anything like it.
The most spectacular scenery followed Mungrisdale where I cycled off along a narrow road into the fells. I was climbing ever steeper but nothing seemed impossible. There was a brief moment where, reaching a fence across the road, I thought that I was going to have to turn back and find an alternative route. THANKFULLY, all I had to do was open the gate and push through – this is actually pretty difficult with a heavily laden bike and I was mildly irritated by having to repeat this process approximately ten times.
By the time I was about ten miles from my destination, I was getting pretty tired and was ready for the promised downhill section of the ride. It wasn’t to be, though as Garmin decided that I needed to take a detour to see the stone circles… I have already seen the stone circles and I wasn’t impressed by the unnecessary climb. There was much chuntering.
FINALLY, I began to descend in earnest. I was pretty close to bonk point though, so I – much more successfully – slurped my second gel. Delicious moltodextrin goodness. One of those bad boys has 500 calories! I felt incredible soaring alongside the lake. It was stunning and the high from the sugar really kicked in. It felt almost effortless conquering the bumps in the road and I was on top of the world.
The campsite was easy to find and I was pleased with my pitch (once I finally got to it after a lot of chatter with Richard the owner). I whipped the tent up, showered and hobbled to the pub in my flip-flops in search of WiFi and sustenance.
Neither were substantial but I was happy to gulp down delicious hot soup and sit under the stairs to send a few messages.
The others were running very late and Lucy had my sleeping bag, so I decided to settle in to the warm pub rather than heading back to freeze in my tent. I got chatting to people and the lovely Kara helped me to raise another £14 in on-the-spot donations. She also managed to find out that one of the ladies at the table behind was from New Zealand. I was thrilled when, later, she gave me a ‘big, New Zealand, motherly hug’. I hadn’t realised quite how much I needed one of those.
What an excellent day – a wonder what the human body can achieve. 100% recommended route (skipping Carlisle city centre).