Monday, 29 June 2015

On an ITT no-one can hear you scream!

I try to push on the pedal but it's no use, the pain is too much and the air turns blue with pain and frustration. Again I get off the bike and massage and beat the offending muscle. Back on the bike but this time it's the other leg, off the bike and attend to that. I'm on my own, I think, on the track up Great Pinseat above Swaledale and I've only done 110 of the route's 300 kilometres.

I stagger on, walking and pushing the bike even on the flat, eventually I reach the summit and can freewheel down the other side. Then there's another hill. The reality is that there's more of those ahead, a lot more. Quitting is looking the sensible option. There's an old joke about fighting a gorilla: you don't stop when you are tired, you stop when the gorilla's tired. Except this gorilla cannot tire, its unyielding stones impervious to fleeting rubber.

My companion for the last 50Km has moved ahead and the rider behind isn't catching up (I later learn that he too is suffering from cramps) so I'm still on my own for the crux of the route: the descent in to Gunnerside Gill is steep, technical and hard to find the correct entry point. I get the wrong line and resort to walking down 45 degree boulder strewn heather. The old mine workings mark the end of this and the route down to Gunnerside is dry and fast. There's a pub = food.

The idea of a Yorkshire Dales ITT had started last year when Stuart Rider had attempted the Highland Trail 550. He'd had to withdraw but it gave him an idea of a similar event in the Dales. So when he announced it, I signed up. So did another 60 or so. The original route was 320Km and had another, big, hill but with a bit of tweeking the distance dropped down to just over 300m. Oh, and the small matter of 6700m of climbing. In the event just twenty started on Saturday morning and only ten finished.

Simon Lerpiniere on Stake Moss

The gorilla is winning. I know there's a descent coming but it's nearly midnight and I'm weary and becoming prone to mistakes. The descent is fast but with some lose sections. Time to stop. Fittingly the bivvy is at the highest point of the route at the head of Cam High Road. A wall provides some shelter from the wind. It's never truly dark through the night at this time of year and I drift in and out of sleep. There's the occasional very light shower. One of my wraps suffices for breakfast and I'm on my way.

The rain arrives about an hour later. On a fine day the route over the shoulder of Whernside and across Great Wold has grand vistas, today it's grim. On the climb on to Great Wold I pass another rider with a mood to match both mine and the weather.

Temptation: I come to a T-junction. I have to take the left towards the forestry and then down to Horton-in-Ribblesdale but I know that if I turn right and go through the gate then in less than a kilometre I'll pick up the route again where it joins the Pennine Bridleway and crosses the Ribble. Local knowledge can be a cruel thing. By the time I'm at Horton, I've run out of water. I can't see any outside taps from which to refill. Head down to hide from the rain and carry on.

Stuart's idea was to include as many of the best tracks that the Dales have to offer. I'm beginning to feel like he's included all of them. The route is intestinal in its loops and there will be more such shortcuts on offer later in the day with the route ahead in sight but an hour or two's riding away.

Wet limestone is very slippery and once or twice I nearly come a cropper on the lanes leading off Sulber Nick. I'm out of the clag and things ahead are looking a little brighter. Passing Austwick I've a choice of ford or clapper bridge - I chose to walk the bridge, wet slate is also very slippery. A couple of kilometres ahead is Feizor and a cafe but it doesn't open until 0930. Completely unsure of the time I turn on my phone: 0950. Decision made - I'm having some breakfast!

The rather filling full breakfast at the cafe in Feizor
A couple of riders arrive and I dally longer than is needed but we are social creatures and company feels good. Having seen no-one since the rider leaving Dentdale I spend the rest of the ride shuffling around in a small group that is dispersed over a ten minute or so gap.

My hands are bruised and sore, holding the bars is increasingly difficult, the soles of my feet are burning and I have to continually adjust my position on the pedals. None of this matters, the end is in sight, another minute or so of concentration and there's 10Km of tarmac left to the finish though I convince myself it's only 5Km. One last climb and the descent in to town then it's just the ramp to cross the railway, "Attack! Attack! Just one metre of climb to do!" Quite what the bloke walking beside the road thought of the shouts of a filthy, smelly rider on a bike I've no idea. Turn on to the last road, pot hole avoidance and then finally ride in to the yard nearly 36 hours after leaving. My first ITT event is complete.

Here's my ride on Strava.

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