The second day of the Coast to Coast unicycle challenge, 24 August 2010, was a lot harder than the first for me, despite the relatively flat profile, which made me doubt my ability to complete the week’s journey to Sunderland. But despite the exhaustion and mechanical setbacks, we all made it intact to the end.
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I was enjoying riding at my own pace for a change, so I continued on ahead of the other riders for a few more miles, until I got to a choice of C2C routes, and couldn’t remember which way we’d decided to go. I had to wait a long time for the others, as they’d stopped at a pub for a quick pitstop. It was after 1pm by this point, but we were still only half way to our planned lunch stop in Penrith, where we were also due to be filmed by ITV, so we hurried on without stopping for food.
Shortly after passing through Blencow, I suffered a completely unforseen UPD (unplanned dismount) on an apparently smooth road surface, which due to my speed at the time meant that I had to run about 20 feet down the road just to stay upright. My right ankle had been getting a bit sore, and did not really appreciate this sudden demand to stamp very hard on the ground several times. I avoided twisting or spraining it though, so I was able to continue riding, albeit in some slight discomfort. It did at least take my mind off my growing hunger.
Meanwhile, the ITV man rang to sat that he was getting restless due to our continuing non-appearance in Penrith, so we arranged to meet him on the path for a quick shoot before we stopped properly for lunch. We finally crossed paths at 3pm. Eager to press on, we pushed Andy forward to do the interview, while we waited for the tailenders to catch up for the group shots. I’m diabetic, so this seemed like a good opportunity for a blood sugar test, which came back as “LO”, rather than the normal numeric reading. That basically means “too low to measure,” which either explained my subsequent failures to mount my unicycle, or was just because I had trouble getting a big anough blood sample on my initial attempt. I should have done another test to double check, but the stragglers had caught up by then, and we set off straight away to ride past the camera. Due to the aforementioned failed mounts, and my necessary rushed consumption of carbohydrates, I was several seconds behind the main group, so I got my own almost solo scene, riding past the camera with our ever resourceful bicyclist, Pete.
We finally enetered Penrith proper a few minutes later, but didn’t manage to find our rendezvous on the path, despite accidentally also scouting out an extra side road due to misleading signposts. After climbing the big hill out of town, we rearranged to meet the support team as soon as they could catch up with us. Sadly, for whatever reason, this never happened, so we rode bravely on to Langwathby, and finally ate “lunch” at 4:15, while sitting on the swings in the park. This is where we said farewell to Paul, who has an exam tomorrow – hopefully he’ll rejoin us at some point on the final day.
Although refreshed by food and rest, the old fogeys of the group (Ade, Ben and me) were starting to seize up, and were keen to press on to the campsite, where hot showers were beckoning. My unicycle had developed a squeak during the day, which had been getting louder and more persistent as time wore on. I had initially thought that I was just exhausted, but when I realised that having to push quite hard to go downhill wasn’t just in my imagination, I knew that I was going to have to do something about the bearings, or my unicycle might not even be rideable tomorrow. This last hour of the ride was a real slog; the last couple of hills were not welcome surprises, but I did just about manage to ride all the way to the end without having to walk any of it.We arrived at Renwick just after 6; pretty good time considering how late we left in the morning. Our early departure from lunch had paid off, as we were picked up by Amy at least half an hour earlier than the rest of the group. When we got to the campsite in Kirkoswald, we found we had actually been booked into brand new bunkhouses on the farm, with solid walls, real beds, and extremely welcoming and helpful owners. What unexpected luxury!
Today was Elspeth’s 18th birthday, so after a rather splendid meal at the Fetherston Arms, we returned to the bunkhouses for cake, sparkling wine, and a night time display of glow poi, fire poi and fire juggling. This was another late-ish night, but you have to celebrate, and the real beds ensured a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow will be the hardest day, starting with a huge climb, followed by lots more big ups and downs. I hope we’ll be ready for it.
|Distance||34.02 miles||70.27 miles|
|Ascent||2241 feet||5017 feet|
|Descent||2165 feet||4399 feet|
|Running repairs time (approx)||–||1h30|
|Total time out||7h40||17h40|
Apart from the very late lunch, today was a great day of riding, and very enjoyable. However, we’re not just doing this for fun – if we’ve inspired, entertained, or just appalled you with our ludicrous trek across the country, please sponsor me for the British Heart Foundation.