Not quite the Coast to Coast (C2C)

  Monday, 2nd January, 2012
  Dan Garside
  coast to coast c2c ninebanks

I had borrowed Marin mountain bike with road tyres on and a pannier rack that did not quite fit. Great start to a very long road journey. I set off at 5.30am in Bradford to meet the train that would take me to Penrith were Simon, Damien and Justin who had already cycled from St.Bees the day before met me. Damien’s brother Justin got straight onto the train and went back home which did not bode well for me as he had seemed to have had done far more training than me which was not hard as my training consisted of lifting a Big Mac and walking to Greggs.

My first day was a 26mile ride from Penrith over the top of Hartside at 1903ft down into Alston and onto Ninebanks YHA.

Now on the face of it I thought 26miles yeah not a problem I have all day how hard could it be? How wrong was I We set off out of Penrith up a very steep hill which seemed to take forever, Damo was powering off into the distance with Simon bringing up the rear so I didn’t get lost within the first five minutes. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a cyclist coming passed me quickly and as I turned to say hello to Simon, I realised it was Miss Marple on a bike with a basket on the front. Now this was not a good start to the first day when I was feeling fresh and strong to be passed by a pensioner on a pig iron bike with her shopping in a basket on the front.

As we got to the top Damo was waiting at the side of the road and Simon stopped to take photos I decided to continue as I wanted to keep good time. Fantastic all that up hill paid off I had a big downhill off I went at a rate of knots only to spot a C2C sign pointing to my left up another hill, dam false hopes of a long run down. Halfway up the next hill I had my first puncture 5 miles in this was turning into a bad idea. Simon caught up with me and sat and took in the warm sunny morning whilst I put on my first spare inner tube.

Where’s Damo? My mobile rings he had got excited over the long down hill like me but missed the sign and was sat in the next village at the bottom of the hill waiting for us.

After repairing my puncture we finally met up in Langwathby where we all pushed on together.

Simon and Damo set off ahead to summit at the top of Hartside a good 45 minutes ahead of me, by this time the weather had become very dark and damp it was a long hard slog to the top where I found a hot pot of tea in the café courtesy of Simon. After a short rest we set off again down the long decent into Alston. Now normally I would be thankful of a long downhill with no peddling but we hit the coldest longest hailstorm I have ever experienced. The cold combined with the pinprick pain of hail at speed was the most miserable and painful end to the longest uphill I had every ridden.

In Alston looking like drowned frozen rats we picked up some supper in the local Co-op then pushed on to Ninebanks. On the way to Ninebanks I was running on empty and wondering what had been going through my tiny mind to agree to such a foolish journey with the limited training I had undertaken.

Upon arrival at the YHA I climbed off the bike like a cowboy after a 4 day hard ride, I don’t know which was the worst, the pain, the tiredness or being cold and wet, either way a warm shower hot drink and food followed by a cold can of JD and coke and I was again a happy man.

Simon started reviewing the route for the next day looking at options for me to bail at the next train station as I was not looking good.

After falling asleep before my head hit the pillow I woke to a disillusioned ability and strength to continue on to Sunderland and the finish.

The weather was with us and after a good breakfast I then gently sat on my saddle for the next step of the journey.

This time a 65mile run mostly flat and down hill so it was badged Mr Hunt.

We set off up a ridicules hill to get out of Ninebanks where we followed a winding and undulating route through to Stanhope. This marks the start of the B6278 up hill, as we started Damo and Simon set off at a good pace I started but stopped abruptly and pushed for the first mile and a half until it flattened out. I then slowly followed the continuing hill where I found them at the start of the Waskerley Way.

We were now at the highest point of the day fantastic all down hill to the sea and Sunderland. The Waskerley Way gave way to non stop old railway line that was never ending, I don’t know at what point I lost my mind but I think it was the sign saying 15 miles to Sunderland, after peddling a further 25 miles the end was no nearer I was switching between happiness, crying and cursing Simon for even mentioning the thought of this trip.

Simon had pushed ahead to book the train tickets with Damo in tow so we could get home, at this point it was now wet cold and starting to get dark. I finally met the River Wear that gave way to the sea, I followed the banks and with the end sight 200 yards and a puncture. I hobbled over the finish line pushing the bike with no one to greet me. I sat in dismay at my predicament; broken bike, broken body, broken mind and to top it off I did not have a clue were In Sunderland I was or how to get home.

I sat cross-legged in the Lifeboat house repairing the bike. Sadly I could not do the same for my body.

The phone rang more bad news the trains had been cancelled, I set off to meet the Simon and Damo in the bus station when a Taxi with the best Taxi driver in the world turned up with Simon, Damo and three bikes crammed in the back. I could have kissed them all.

I sat there with steam coming of me and wet kit as he drove us all back to Bradford and my resolve never to do the C2C again…until the next time.

Lessons to be learnt

Never listen to Simon when you’re out having a drink because it sounds like a good Idea.

Never ride a mountain bike on a long distance road route.

With determination and the right mind set you will always finish no matter how much pain you are in or how tired you are

And with that you are always tempted to try it again because you did finish it and next time you will be a fitter and a stronger person for it.

Go on give it a go.

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