Rack Gives Back – Coast to Coast Challenge 2012, Part 3
Day two didn’t have the most auspicious of beginnings. After refuelling on pasta in Penrith last night, we awoke to heavy rain and strong winds. With a good Cumberland breakfast in our stomachs, we steeled ourselves and ventured out into the inclement weather.
Almost immediately, we found ourselves on a long, steep climb. Once at the top, we had a nice undulating road to follow, which gave us the opportunity to coast gently for a while to recover in between the climbs. During one particularly fast descent, we suddenly came upon some very large and deep puddles. Having been unable to procure a pair of waterproof socks, I had (in hindsight, rather foolishly) wrapped plastic bags around my socked feet inside my (allegedly) waterproof trainers. Riding through these puddles at speed resulted in both bags (and my trainers) immediately filling with water. Said plastic bags were duly removed from my feet, but my socks and trainers spent the rest of the day squelching rather noisily.
We always knew that day two would be the most difficult day, but the sheer number of steep hills proved to be particularly challenging, especially with the heavy rain and strong winds in our faces.
The longest and hardest climb of the day was without a shadow of a doubt Hartside – the summit was over 1900ft above sea level, and the climb seemed to go on for hours. However, once at the top, we were greeted by our amazing support team who bundled our bikes into the back of the support van and ushered us into the highest cafe in England. We were greeted with a warm, friendly atmosphere filled with many other cyclists and other visitors who gave us all some very strange look as we stood there dripping wet. A vast array of tantalising treats awaited us, including one of the nicest coffee and walnut cakes I’ve ever had the pleasure to consume.
A fast and long descent followed, taking us briefly out of the rain, until it was time to climb again. Climb followed climb, until we found ourselves in the old mining town of Nenthead. The Miners Arms pub there greeted us with pints of “Saddle Sore” blonde ale (very tasty) and some delicious pasties to keep us going until our evening stop in Stanhope.
Another huge climb awaited us outside the pub, which took us up Black Hill, the highest point on the Coast to Coast route – over 1950ft above sea level. It also took us out of the Lake District, and into Northumberland and the North Pennines. Despite the climbing, we still enjoyed the amazing scenery – bleak, desolate, but beautiful. The sides of the road and trails were dotted with lovely wild flowers, which distracted us from the never-ending climb, while sheep roamed free across the empty moorland. Many ruined farm houses could be seen in the distance, and we passed an abandoned mine when we crossed into County Durham.
After one final climb, which felt like it would go on forever, we finally found ourselves in Stanhope, where we tumbled into our bed and breakfast accommodation for hot showers and dry clothes.
At times today and yesterday, I questioned myself and wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew with this challenge. However, the team pulled together – each time one of us seemed to struggle, we all worked to help them and cheer them up.
We’re all looking forward to the final push to Sunderland tomorrow, especially as the weather forecast is suggesting that there may be less rain. The route for tomorrow should include less climbing, so our weary legs and painful knees should have a slightly easier day.
A huge thank you to everyone who has sponsored and supported us, and sent us messages. These have all helped to lift our spirits, as has the generosity that so many sponsors have shown towards our most deserving charity, Harlington Hospice. We are so close to our fundraising target, as well as the end of our challenge, but we still need more support. If you can, please donate at www.justgiving.com/RackspaceC2C2012.
Tune in tomorrow for the final update from the Rackspace Coast to Coast team.