Coast to Coast unicycle challenge day 1 – a wet start to a great week

Lack of time, battery and signal strength have prevented me from posting this until now, but the first day of riding, on 23 August 2010, was certainly eventful, and a good introduction to the Coast to Coast unicycle challenge.
Click on any image below for the full size version.

Parading for the camera

Parading for the camera

We started out slightly later than planned, but even after getting all of our tents down and packed, we arrived at the quayside in Whitehaven only just after 9am to meet the reporter from BBC Look North. We spent a long time posing and parading for the camera, ending with the traditional dipping of our tyres in the water. The edge was extremely slippery though, and I couldn’t stop myself from sliding until I was ankle deep in the water. I fared better than one of a group by cyclists we saw several times today though, who managed to accidentally ride her whole bike into the water, getting completely soaked. If you missed us on the telly, you can watch it here.

Waiting for the off, front viewWaiting for the off, rear viewPosing in front of the C2C sign

Hanging around while Andy starts his media campaign

Preparing to dip our tyresTyres almost dippedPosing with dipped tyresSmiling with dipped tyres

The traditional dipping of tyres

We finally set off just after 10, but the pace was very slow. In the first hour, we covered barely 5 miles. Elspeth’s 170mm cranks are excessive even on a Coker, and really don’t suit her 26″ wheel. We stopped for several minutes so that her and Sam’s cranks could be swapped (Sam seems happy and able to ride anything, no matter how unsuitable), and the pace picked up considerably from there, but it did start to rain. Nevertheless, spirits were high.

Now that I was actually on the ride itself, I felt much easier about handing out my cards promoting the ride to passers by, of whom there were plenty, and I probably gave out 40 or 50 cards thoughout the day. Many thanks to you if you’re reading this after accepting one, and even more if you decide to sponsor me as a result.

Beware dangerous squirrels!

Watch out for squirrels

At one of our more rural rest stops, I wandered off for a number one, but ended up treading in a huge puddle of cow’s number two, making me wish that sliding into the sea was still to come later in the day. After a few more hills we reached our lunch stop, where I was able to use a hosepipe to wash my shoes. It was good to get them clean, but they’d only just about dried out from the morning’s dip.

The rain really picked up during lunch, and most of the riders changed into waterproof clothing. I’ve never worn waterproofs while unicycling before, having been convinced that I’d get just as wet from the sweat trapped inside. However, today I was extremely glad that I’d bought a new jacket last week, which completely cut out the nasty cold wind and rain. I didn’t get quite the same satisfaction from my solar charger, which for some reason doesn’t seem to work particularly well in heavy rain. Fortunately, I was able to charge my phone enough at lunch time in Kelly’s camper van to keep the battery going until the end of the day’s ride, so the whole route is available online.

The afternoon had a couple of serious climbs, during which I overtook a few cyclists. Actually, I overtook some of the same cyclists several times on the uphills, while they passed me with no effort on the downhills. Meanwhile, Ade, Ben and Sam had taken a slight detour, which took them literally into the clouds, so they got very cold and wet, but their route was a bit of a shortcut, so they did at least take the lead for a while once they rejoined the main path.

Shortly afterwards, we stopped at Whinlatter Forest Park visitor centre, where our support team supplied us with cake, and we discussed whether to use the offroad route or continue along the road. Those of us with slick road tyres didn’t really fancy our chances on the steep downhill offroad path in the rain, so we decided on the road route. However, the road was also pretty steep, and Andy’s touring handle had snapped earlier in the day, leaving him with no way to operate his brake. Ade does a mean MacGuyver impression though, so we extended our rest stop while he rigged up the brake handle reasonably securely, allowing Andy to get down the hill without issue. Steve followed us closely down the hill in his car, with hazard lights flashing, so we were protected to some extent from other cars reaching us unexpectedly.

Clouds over Keswick

Very low clouds as we approach Keswick

The day’s last few miles through Keswick saw the group again split into two, as the three of us at the back were busy explaining to a family of walkers what we were doing, while the rest of the group carried on without us. We assumed that they were far ahead of us, as we didn’t catch up with them even at a relatively fast pace. However, a couple of miles from the end, we got a call from them asking where we were. They had missed the turning which we had only just noticed ourselves at the last minute, and eventually noticed that they hadn’t managed to leave the busy road as the map had suggested that they should. They did wait for us to catch up, but by then we were way ahead of them.
View from a bridge on the railway path between Keswick and Threlkeld

Between Keswick and Threlkeld

Their last few miles were apparently a bit hairy, riding on a very busy road, but they did get to see a stone circle. I’d noticed a sign pointing to the circle while we were pootling along the nice easy ex-railway path, but had ignored it in favour of attempting to catch up with the missing half of the group. The last half mile of the day’s ride was a big climb up to the campsite, and I was the first to reach it. I arrived at the campsite to mild cheering, and to find that my tent had been pitched for me by our fabulous support team. Many thanks again to them – this ride would be almost impossible without them.

Something else which was a big help on the ride was Chamois Butt’r. If you’ve read my previous posts about my training rides, you’ll know that saddle comfort can be a problem. Until today, I had thought that the discomfort I often feel after a long ride was purely due to the pressure of the saddle on the nether regions. After all, with my riding style, I hardly ever get out of the saddle, so chafing shouldn’t really be an issue. However, just in case, I had a quick application of Butt’r every few hours, and it made an absolutely astonishing difference. I finished the day with virtually no effects from the hours of sitting in the saddle. I still had slightly sore muscles, of course, but this stuff has completely removed one of the few things which dissuades me from riding long distances.

It was a long day though, and after showering, we rushed to the pub just in time to order food before the 9pm deadline. Tomorrow’s ride looks like it will have a relatively flat profile, but I’m not convinced that I’ll be able to ride up or even down all of the big hills on Wednesday. Despite the rain today, it was very enjoyable, and I’m really looking forward to the remaining three days.

Stats Today Total
Route GPS trail
Distance 36.25 miles 36.25 miles
Ascent 2776 feet 2776 feet
Descent 2234 feet 2234 feet
Time riding 5h30 5h30
Running repairs time (approx) 1h30 1h30
Total time out 10h00 10h00

I’m not doing this just for fun though. This ride is also to raise awareness of, and money for, the British Heart Foundation. They do a great job, and your support will enable them to continue to provide help to the many people who rely on them.

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