Monday, April 05, 2021

Hapy Eater BEaster Weekend

I meant to tell y'all about it in the week but I forgot.  Local kids made a multicoloured sign for the park but yellow letters on a white background aren't good... still I was chuffed to be wished a Hapy Eater.

• • •

I said I'd let Landslide know my plans over Easter weekend for an April bivi but the problem was, I didn't have any. I wanted to take out my race kit and trial it in harsh conditions and the weather forecast was perfect - glorious in the daytime, clear and deathly cold at night. Like the borderline genius/stupid, insane/dedicated individual that I am, I packed my lightweight quilt, mat, threw in the stove, all my remaining fuel (worth about three meals), two days food for good measure and some significant clothing layers. I walked out the door with 2 plans in hand - Option 1: Northern Myth route (though planning this in a few weeks with Landslide so didn't want to spoil it by doing it twice in a short space of time)... Option 2: ride out to The Limestone Way to see Marcus who was making record attempt.  

I didn't know when I was going.  I didn't know when I'd be back.  Limestone way was the preferred option - taken up simply by making my way over to a point on the Peak 200 route then using the tracker to see whether or not Marcus was nearby. Because I'd ridden part of the P200 route a fortnight ago, the obvious thing was to rejoin it where I left it - at Rushup edge - using the prettiest known route through the Peak to get there.

I hauled a very heavy Midnight out of the house at 11am having spent all Saturday morning packing up and switching the dynamo across bikes. Within 10 minutes I was waving to a club mate passing the other way. + 30 minutes I was humming across Moscar, happy to be out. Even the fleecy leggings were a bit too warm. My plan to not bring out a pair of bib shorts "just in case" was paying off, the day was sunny, glorious and I sweated. 

In my haste to get "away from it all" asap, I dodged the panic parking at Ladybower / Derwent junction at speed, waving to the traffic warden on the way past and turned up the Bridleway to the quietest pace I know, chuckling at the line of motorists waiting for "that one guy" to figure out the bus turning circle is not actually a parking place. 

Just this one climb and you'll be away from all this... Sure enough, a small group of fell runners were the last people I passed for some time.  How odd that in this time of solitude and loneliness I still crave solitude.  Oh, there we go, I defined introversion.

Some different graffiti.  This fella is chuffed to be out of lockdown.

Looking for a Simpsons moments.  It's quiet if you know where to go.

At the bomb-holes I decided to risk a wee. The orange or yellow coats way up the hill were clearly stopped and I had a great view of the bridleway both ways if I needed to abort. I traced over to the wall to shelter from the icy wind for my lunch then resumed my climb past the white and orange coats which turned out to be sheep feed buckets.

I just noticed today that this horserider is *really* chuffed to be out of lockdown.

Back at the Lockerbrook junction the crowds resumed briefly but/got a clear run to the A57 then rode all the way up "Don't get off and walk" fuelled by dry trails and 6 lads watching from the top. I don't think I have ever cleaned it on a loaded bike and certainly not on Midnight. Things were looking up.

A busy ride up to the ridge and then it got quiet again. A gate stop overlooking the Hope valley left me eminently satisfied with bikepacking as a medium. Still without a plan, I had nowhere to be except where I ended up. No-one was expecting me. My only commitment was to be back home 40 hours from now.

With trails like these.

Hope is what dreams are made of, and where clouds come from

I plunged down the descent into the Edale valley. The motorists were largely polite, especially the bloke in the Audi Al who thought a cheeky pass on a blind comer would be fine & I kinda saved his life by letting him know there was a tractor oncoming (fitted with a hay bail on a big spike).

• • •

Immense moment of joy when I turned to find the sky peppered with paragliders again. The ultimate socially distanced activity. Watching them whirl around in the sky gave me something to do as I trudged the heavy bike up the restricted by way to Rushup Edge and I found another breeze-free spot for more snacks.

I got my phone out to check Marcus's location on his run but was frustrated by tech as I could not get the thing to switch on - or the screen brightness was so dim I could not see in the sunlight. In the end I gave up and decided to continue regardless to see what fate held. A brief calculated estimate in my head gave a 14hr guess at his time so I'd probably miss it. Still, it was the only plan I had so I stuck to it.

• • •

A roadie turned onto the lane past the no-car cafe and moments later I screamed past him while he sat on the brakes down the hill. He was less good-humoured when he passed me back after the junction. I was no match for his skinny tyres and he silently disappeared up the road.

My luck was definitely on. The Peak Forest traffic lights were green for the first time ever and I sailed straight through, loading in the P200 route to my GPS as I went. 

Soon I had limestone under wheel and it was much more pleasant in the dry compared to my last ride here.  The sun was making its way around the sky and a group of dirt bikers at the end of the track were debating their choices - back to Edale then home. My sense of freedom prickled again.

I was definitely on the Limestone Trail now and a large oak with a strategically placed breeze block proved the perfect sitting spot to have afternoon snacks (bagin) and attempt to make my phone work again to see where Marcus was.


At the rustle of a crisp packet, the nearby herd of sheep came running and I went to great efforts to shoo them away, fearing that Marcus would come running up the hill and miss his record because a herd of sheep was blocking the gate and his route to glory! They got the message and left me to eat in peace.

Somehow with all the screen-jabbing on Mam Nick I had managed to engage my phone in some very weird settings menu which took me an age to cancel. When I finally did get the tracker up I discovered Marcus had finished 3 hours earlier.  My estimate of 14 hrs was only 4 hrs off!

• • •

I was quite gutted to realise I had stopped just short of Millers dale station and probably could have saved my jam sandwich for later. As I rode under the Monsal trail, a little girl on the bridge above called "hello bike" and I waved back then we met for real in the car park.

I locked my bike up and only then realised that I'd also missed the café and a cup of tea by a few minutes. I sat on the platform and pondered my next move. I had quite a lot of water left. It was too early for dinner - I'd just eaten. I cleared my rubbish into the bin and got chatting to the girl's mum and dad who were happily chilling in the sun while the kids played with milk and bread crates and built a (unlit) campfire out of grass.

• • •

Me and dad had a chat about cycling which was a nice distraction from me deciding what to do next. Eventually though they headed home when the kids started to get cranky. I pulled out the camel back bladder, deciding whether to be frugal with weight or concerned about finding a top up. I went for a refil in the toilets and then at 6pm I decided to scoff my remaining edible food as "dinner" to see me through to wherever I decided to camp where I could brew up something warm if I needed it.  I'd used my last opportunity to sit in the sun without a coat on but bundled myself into a windproof and shorts for the tunnels.

• • •

The Monsal trail was still busy and I was happy for the filter of a steep hike up to the Pennine bridleway and some more open riding.  I did regret putting the extra layers on so soon though. 

On the Bridleway, in amongst the railway sidings I was protected from the breeze and found a sweet no-handed spot for 30 seconds of riding, arms outstretched to embrace the chilling evening air and the sunset - my contribution to spreading joy in the world to the people I had just passed - or maybe just entertainment for them, had I screwed it up and got caught by a sudden cross-wind.

Last of the light on the Pennine Bridleway

The sun was hitting the horizon as I approached Parsley Haigh, golden hour falling on the plovers and pheasants.

I've long coveted a stop in Parsley Haigh shelter but it would need to be late and I'd need to be desperate as the road/carpark is so close it could easily be a noisy spot by the road and a meeting point for activities or intentions less honourable than those of a two-wheeled tramp.

I flew on by.  At my exit from the trail a large group of campers and cars were tucked into the back end of the car park hiding the giant family tent, men with dogs and beers in hand and bbq in full flow. We were all out for a variation of the same thing, a very different variation on a theme.

Normally I'd crash into the Royal Oak at Hurdlow for some food and look out at the families camped there as they pitied my dishevelled form and heavy bike. This time I wondered if they'd get away with it or get moved on... and who'd be driving?

I stoked across toward Youlgreave and zipped off the road into Gratton Dale, my rear lights were used for a record-least - only 2 minutes during this ride.

I crossed the meadows part of the ride in the twilight with just a dying dynamo to supplement the afterglow of the sunset. I had also longed after a bivi in Gratton Dale since I first rode through it in 2016. Despite the difficulty of cycling here, (it's 50% unrideable) it is one of my favourite places, a lonely cleft in the countryside where I rarely see other people. However, the already cold temperatures had dropped by about 4 degrees when I descended into the gully and alarm bells rang (very faintly).

The first few trips here left me confused about the route and which gates to use but now I know it, I made good progress in.  

Last time I was here it was midsummer and it was pitch dark. It would have been ripe for a bivi but farmers were harvesting the fields above into the night so there would have been a constant drone of combines, tractors and shouts from the boss, not to mention whirling headlights and the possibility of being discovered so I had ended up in a bus stop in Baslow instead.  I was determined not to make the same mistake.

Where the track climbs out of the dale to the moor before descending again, I should have stopped. The temperature came up, there were flat bits, there was a wall to pitch behind but it all felt a bit out there, like my silver tent would look like one large zit on otherwise clear skin.

• • •

On my way down the slope I thought I spied a flat spot by a rock but on closer investigation it was still too sloped. I decided to stop being foolish and get out of the dale in favour of somewhere warmer but my decisions rarely stick.

A couple of gates later, flat spots started to get more tempting until I realised that the occasional tussock around there is just a limestone boulder with grass growing on it.

Finally I spotted a large slab-like boulder that I could lean my bike on, surrounded by 3 potential flat spots. I realised I wasn't going much further that night when the large volumes of very dry cow pats didn't really bother me.

• • •

Although my underlying desire was to get out of the dale, my head was having other ideas of stopping: that "I've always wanted to" was reinforced by "not wanting to tackle the next rocky section whilst it was icy" and "maybe the mud won't yet be frozen and you'll get wet and filthy", "I don't know where the next stopping point will be if I don't stop here" and the best yet, "The extra -2°C won't be so bad"

They all conspired to make me stop.

• • •

I had a lie down on the Tyvek sheet to check the body position - found enough flat spot with two tiny boulders to bolster my pillow placement. Luxury.

An excellent pitch - the tent was up in no time, despite initial paranoia about being able to get pegs in a boulder field. The tent was fitted out and stove unloaded by 9:30pm. My quilt gave me an initial feeling of warmth, enough to allow me to change into full dry layers as my fleecy bibs had still been clammy when I stopped. I couldn't be arsed to cook though, partly knowing I only had enough fuel for a max of 3 meals this weekend, I'd have to choose to drop one, and at 6- 7 pm I'd just scoffed a large portion of (cold) food.

• • •

Sadly by 10:30pm I was still wide awake and my feet were fucking freezing. My hands were fine (some ace Rab wool gloves). My body wasn't shivering but I wasn't toasty by any stretch of the imagination.

I needed to do something about my feet urgently as I was convinced I was going to get frostbite. A few different sock combinations didn't help although with every change of socks I got about 10 minutes relief because I'd warmed my core up through the movement associated with changing socks. For a while I didn't know what to do and wondered if this was the first step in the delusion of hypothermia but I was already wearing all my clothes so I just made myself a mental note not to take them all off if I started getting warm.

• • •

I took my gloves off to see what was going on with my quilt. In general, outside my warm gloves EVERYTHING was pretty chilly - no reassuring warmth inside my sleeping bag.  When I moved on to my side my mat was also freezing cold. I realise later that basically, my entire sleep system was massively out of its comfort zone.

At 1am I concluded more drastic action was needed. I considered Gian's philosophy (via Karl) that if it's too cold to sleep, get moving, but I wasn't in a race and I didn't want to end up needing to sleep through the daylight on Sunday so I decided to try eating something to ensure that at least had the energy to stay "warm"through the night. A thick layer of ice was on the inside and outside of the tent. I went for an incredibly bracing wee outside, then returned to the tent to get the stove going.

• • •

Suddenly I was incredibly thankful for the extra water I picked up at Miller's Dale.

It was a brilliant 20 minutes of warmth in the darkness, watching the camp stove at my feet and the stars above.  The downside: it was so cold it took me 3 matches to get the meths lit. The heat captured in the tent (even with the door open) kept/got my feet and body warm for the 1st time in hours. I turned the head torch off and listened to nothing except the occasional warble of something birdy in the night. The flame was so pretty but died out before my 400ml water could boil. Rather than lose the heat or make mediocre soup, I plunged some more fuel on the hot stove (so lost some to evaporation) so I could finish the boil.

With some fuel still burning after that, I put more water on - so as not to waste the fuel. Whilst the soup cooked (in its pouch, shoved up my jumper) I scoured the tent for something to "drink".  I didn't want coffee but that's all I had. Instead I tossed a jelly baby in the pot.

Of course the soup packet had opened under my coat - of COURSE it had. However, "soup" was giving it too much credit and "Smash* with flavourings" would be a better description.

* look up "Smash Mash Potato" if you were born after 1985, though a quick check on that google search yeilds the following fun "fact" on the Wiki page: "The adverts of 1970s and their catchphrase, 'For Mash get Smash', were voted television advert of the century by Campaign Magazine, and second-best television advert of all time in a poll of April 2000 conducted by The Sunday Times and Channel 4, beaten by Guinness' Surfer advertisement from 1999."

Rather than being wet through from my soup release, I was merely coated in something resembling baby sick and it dried on (or froze?) pretty quickly. For reference, a red jelly baby dissolved in 200mm boiling water is akin to weak Ribena flavour and was pretty good.

• • •

I retreated back to the cold sleeping bag to an alarming role reversal. My feet became warm for the first time in hours but my core degenerated into convulsive shivering. I'm going with cold water swimming theory here: as the body is rewarmed, circulation starts sending warm blood to the extremities again. Unfortunately this brings cold blood back to the core, hence the shivering reaction. An idle run probably would have helped. Instead, I tried to plug the quilt gaps, to no avail. My final desperate act was to curl up in a ball (ignoring the parts of my body that fell off the insulated mat) and breathe warm breath into my quilt.

I had been reluctant to do this for fear I'd just end up with a soggy or frozen sleeping bag but somehow I managed to drift off to sleep. When I next woke up shivering it was 5am and a perfectly legitimate time to get up for the sunrise. If I was lucky I'd even get out of Peanut-butter-mud alley before it defrosted.

First of Sunday light, Gratton Dale.  It's grey because it's white!

A much enlightened (therefore grainy) pic.  Thumb for chaos scale.

A bad pic of ice and impromptu self-portrait of a square head.

• • •

At least I didn't need to worry about my silver tent in a green Peak District. The entire field was blanketed with dusty white frost.  

During the sunrise I packed up the tent and jogged up or down the bridleway to restore blood flow to my fingers which kept shutting down in protest to actually having to touch cold surfaces.  It was a beautiful sunrise but I didn't dare take the phone out of its case and attempt to handle it without gloves on.

I decided that on account of having eaten 4 hrs ago, I could find somewhere in the sun for my next meal. Preferably at someone else's fuel expense since during the night I had used up 50% of what was supposed to last me three meals.

Packing up is such a warming experience and this day was really special. First the tent pack wouldn't go in the bag so I re-did it.  Then the bag wouldn't go in the bar roll so I angrily pulled the tent out again. By the time I'd scrunched and shaken it out a third time two small snowballs of powder ice had accumulated. 

I spilled my sweets on the grass but, valuing every calorie and a "leave no trace" philosophy, I repacked every one - except the ones I popped in my mouth, picking off the cow shit first.

Peanut-butter Alley was dutifully solid. The worse puddle reduced to no more than 1inch deep chocolate paste. What was more surprising was the spring, ditching around 30 gallons per minute of water into the stream while the rest of the Peak is rocking dry trails. And when I say, "stream", in places it was indistinguishable from the path. I used what bypasses I could muster as I really was not in the mood for wet ice cold feet.  Thrashing through brush with a heavy bike and wide handlebars was preferable. Consequently it took me 27 minutes to do the first 1.7km. 

I managed the climb up past Elton before feeling grindingly hungry but a nice bench was available. 

I've frequently zoomed past it on the downhill so I indulged in more fuel, porridge, coffee and dressing in something more suitable.  My sleep clothes, waterproof coat and trousers were replaced with bib tights (now warmed through the conduction of my backpack) and my actual cycling top instead of insulating synthetic down. My heart rate monitor was resigned to either buried in the bottom of the bag or missing in action.

Whilst I ate my porridge, I searched for the answer the question on the tip of my tongue - what now? After 3 hours bad sleep where I burned all my calories staying alive I was feeling a) reassured by my survival skills b) in desperate need of more fuel if I was to stay out another night c) pretty washed out in spite of the amazing day d) undecided on where to eek out another day's riding or sleep that night.

• • •

In normal times I'd have ridden into Bakewell, picked up more meths from an outdoor shop, maybe even a camp mat extra layer and a liner bag... but these aren't normal times and the shop wasn't open so instead I took the easy option - go home. I knew I could go back out if I wanted - take a bigger sleeping bag, switch to the gas stove. I knew I probably wouldn't. 

Not to be too much of a chicken I decided to carry on the P200 route and made provisional plans to meet up with my husband at either Curbar gap cafe or Longshaw (as I decided I didn't need Stanage edge in my life today).

I packed everything up again & enjoyed the lanes and trails over to Haddon and Chatsworth as the day gradually warmed up towards 9am then suddenly got busy around the main Chatsworth house. I was relieved, as always, to have survived the road between Chatsworth and Baslow having received nothing more than a dirty look from the wife of a C-Class driver who overheard "What a fucking surprise" directed at her close-passing, balding husband.

I decided I didn't want to be queuing at busy cafés and popped into the co-op to buy lunch to-go, feeling a bit exuberant as I had *just* eaten. I downed a cold laté from the fridge section to supplement the earlier coffee so I didn't have to carry the packaging up onto Baslow edge.

I'm not sure what they put in those Starbucks things but I cleared the edge, stopping only to open the gate. I even managed not to dab as I weaved my way between gormless tourists staring at phones at the viewpoint.

As anticipated people were queuing 10-deep at the Gap café so I sat on a bench in the sun to eat my cheese twist in case TSK showed up. When dry, the black wooden benches are toasty warm on a bum that's been in a chilly breeze for 2 hours.  I ate alone.

• • •

Most people on Curbar were walking at the edge whilst a runner and I dawdled together between occasional large groups on the path. A gaggle of ramblers were upset by my presence as they stood in the way of everyone, transfixed by a herd of deer they were watching through binoculars.

I stayed my course, the deer stared back at the pensioners, unbothered by me passing. Perhaps they recognised my kindred scent. Wild animal and baby sick soup.

I stopped the Garmin route and pottered happily into Longshaw. I was right, more queues.

I didn't really need coffee but decided to use the posh toilets and use my favourite spot under the yew tree to get out of the breeze while watch the queue go up and down and eating my co-op pasta. I mused that lockdown means an end to being turfed out for bringing your own food to sit at the cafe tables since all available seating areas are now just "oustide" and the staff are all 100% committed to serving hoards of people, not clearing the tables or making spy-like observations of middle aged hikers weilding tesco wrappers and flask coffee concealed in their Berghaus rucsacs. Instead it's desperation queuing for a "real" macchiato while the staff scrutinise masks and hand sanitiser.

When I came out of the loo, four lightweight carbon mountain bikes dangled by their saddles from the poorly designed triathlon-style bike hangar outside the cafe. A beautiful cerise trek e-bike and two much-loved very clean-looking full sussers with colour co-ordinated components next to my very muddy, scratched Cotic, groaning under the weight of kit. I decided not to dangle everything from the saddle but instead locked it to the sturdy post, both wheels firmly on the ground. Passing children were fascinated by my bags and what was inside.

I thought of pretending I was the real Easter bunny and my bags were filled with Easter eggs.

I imagined their disappointment when all they found were a few faded skittles and some M&Ms coated in bits of dried cow shit.

Bike packing Trep can be very dark. 

Anyway, the bikers weren't impressed my bike got more attention or they weren't impressed by my skills riding the drop off to the path. (I impressed myself by not face-planting as my bags overtook me on the downhill).

I rode away from the cafe past the gatehouse occupant helping some dog owners understand about keeping city canines on a leash through a working farm. Houndkirk at least had a bit more space. 

I had a chat with an E-biker visiting for the day. He had no clue where he was, where he was parked or where he was heading next. He didn't want to tell me where he was from so finally I concluded I was too terrifying so left him in peace. At the lama farm he shot past me in silence, presumably on his way back to his car "somewhere over there"! Given the strong headwind that was raging I was gutted that I stood sod-all chance of keeping up with his battery on maximum assist. Perhaps he thought I was the illegal override police.

Passing the line of cars parked on Lodge Lane at a safe distance to avoid a car-dooring or jay-walkers another Mercedes C- Class driver first came at me head on (no priority given) then just as I changed my line for her, to hug tight to the cars on my left and let her through, she made an emergency swerve straight into my line - or rather - the first available parking space. I'm getting a bit pissed off with what folk will do to get a peak district parking spot.

All stress was offset by a chat with the Wildlife Trust ranger who was handing out helpful Countryside Code leaflets at Wyming Brook to help newbies understand how to help wildlife as well as enjoy it. I used the Trusts well maintained trail to get me off the hill and onto the A57 for one last final average speed boost to home to enjoy a final Trust-maintained track back to the allotments, home, a hose down for the bike, a laundry line for the snow melt kit and coffee and well earned bath for the Trep.

• • •

For the record, you will not be surprised to learn that wind speeds of 37 mph that evening and a forecast snowfall in the morning left me zero motivation to re-pack my bigger sleeping bag and head back out.

My conclusions from this ride are that the spring quilt is only really to be relied on in positive temperatures unless in an absolute emergency. Even then it's maybe best used with a combo of hot food.

In random sub zero conditions it is most probably genuinely worth sacking off the sleep and keeping going till tomorrow.

• • •

Since I've been home, luxuriating in recovery I been thru my annual breakdown of "how the fuck do I finish the HT if... ?" 

Analysis from year to year can be off-putting right now since, without the commute, I'm riding less time and less distance.

What I did find though is the last two years I've done nothing more special than what I did this weekend. I'm clinging on to that. Some big steady rides, the right level of recovery. On Sunday, despite 3 hours sleep Saturday night, my legs were pretty good. My head was pretty good. I'll not lie, I was totally mashed later but once I'd given myself permission to go home on Sunday I stopped treating it like a weekend ride and pushed myself hard over some tough climbs to get the training in that way instead of being out longer.

I was still pretty lucid all the way home until that inevitable moment when I was nearly home and at the bottom of Wyming Brook I decided that I just needed to be home asap.  While this weekend might have felt like a bail, doing it with strength left in the legs was a roaring success especially after 30km last week and spending the week before in bed after my Covid vaccine.

• • •

This weekend was nice - I treated it like a holiday (a tough, experimental holiday, but nevertheless...). I packed a stove, took the spare bike, stopped a lot, chatted, brewed-up, took photos and pitched my tent before dark - just).

I quite like holiday rides at this point in time.  The ability to leave my home and be immediately on holiday without the use of cars or public transport is invaluable.  With holidays though comes a need to stop when it's sensible, to go back to work, to enable the body just enough leeway to do it all again for training.

• • •

It leaves me eager for a longer trip (call it "a race" if you wish), where I have the personal excuse to thrash it, keep going into the night, say "blow it" to freezing temperatures, know that going home to my warm bed is the endpoint, game over, filling my bags with trash food because where we're going they don't have cafés. Not having to decide which route to do or where to go tomorrow because that has been defined and only when I get to the end can I stop and do something different. 

It's the intrigue of the past 24 months - how I've improved (god, I hope I've improved) but also what 12 months of lockdown has done - one way or another. 

Maybe the answer to the great question: "Is less ACTUALLY more?"  

When it comes to sleeping bag comfort ratings - it definitely is.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Loaded training. Superb outcome

 Oh to capture the complications of the past week for posterity without it sounding like a chain of excuses.  I don't think I can manage it.

It started with THE JAB.  Everyone can make up their own mind on this right? I was determined to want, get and love THE JAB.  As it was, it left me exhausted, poorly and paranoid.  I had blood clots (generalisation) 6 years ago and since the "headlines" spent a few days of last week convinced I was dying (faster than normal).  Fatigue, prickling in my lungs and then a lump on my neck.

I walked to the walk-in centre and snoozed in their reception until a nice nurse told me I was probably having a viral response to the vaccine.  I walked home again much lighter and dropped some cash on the bits for my bike I had been putting off on account of being, y'know dying.

On Friday night, with a ride planned at the weekend, I told my buddy I was optimistic about feeling much better and promptly pottered off to sleep for 9 hours which, yes, made me feel much better on Saturday morning.  I spent the day loading up my bike for a big training practice with my heaviest sleeping bag, stove, full fuel bottle (I drained the last lockdown stash into one pot) and even a change of shorts in case the weather improved.

The shakedown ride was mostly climbing which is a relief since the bags were a bit shaky, carrying all that weight.  Me and my sons watched the moon come out from behind a canopy whilst sipping whisky and catching up on our mental health (talking shit) until it started to rain.

On Sunday substantial fuelling of porridge and coffee was required to stoke me and L over to Longshaw for a second breakfast and first review of the new café facility.  We walked straight past the bike rack, instead selecting a location under the yew trees sheltered from the rain and the wind coming in across the moor.  All this, having not noticed a perfectly acceptable outside covered area to the rear of the cafe... although no view of the moors from there and there weren't any chairs and tables so we were happier with our dry spot in the dirt under the yew trees.

The coffee was better than the one at first breakfast and the hot sausage rolls were even better still.   

We traversed to Calver gap where I lured L past the cafe in the carpark and on to the next section of bridleway, promising a lunch stop "in a bit".  

At Eaglestone we discussed plans for the rest of the day and L and my body ganged up on my brain so we turned towards the Eastern Moors and a rapid traverse to the city instead of heading further afield to Chatsworth.  Since I'd never ridden this trail before (in recent memory) and have been planning to for some time, I enjoyed the new views/new lines.

My guide led me to a pleasant pond / quarry combo for lunch as we soft-pedalled along the track behind three runners on their way out to a dip in the pond.  We had a chat with the runners and they reassured us we weren't intruding on their swim as we brewed up hot drinks and shared out the feed I had brought with me to see me through a much longer day.  

On the shorter ride I enjoyed following L, punching my legs harder against gravity and the hefty load on my bike to try and keep up (not walk) and I managed bog crossings without getting wet feet.  He guided me across the Eastern Moors without me getting stuck on impossibly steep shit and then finally we parted ways at the big oak, me heading to Houndkirk (Sheephill Road) through Blacka and him descending the other side to home.

I was distracted by tea at the Norfolk arms - it would have been a beer but tea is all that was on offer - and destroyed the flapjack I picked up in the morning whilst watching the lama farm from above.

Due to the "early" (it was now 3pm) finish, I had the strength left to descend Wyming Brook them pick myself back up the side of the valley to Fox Hagg (pushed the easy line) before dropping to the bottom of the valley again, climbing the Byway and riding the final stretch to home off road, picking up some ballsy descent QoM throwing the loaded bike around a corner in the dirt, foot-out.

It was nice to get not-exhausted-just-tired for once although an hour's sleep after my bath reminded me that I still have plenty of recovering to do.

It was a 10/10 for company, café and quality this weekend.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Bridges. and gates.

In this week I vowed to myself I would ride every day to begin some training consistency instead of boom or bust.

By Wednesday my rides were a short, windy, rainy drag and finally on Thursday I'd had enough. I didn't get out in the morning and a work thing that came up in the evening had me stuck at my desk without caring.

However, on Friday I was raring to make up for it. I took the gravel bike out first thing, got completely caked in crap for 2 hrs then went work with wet, muddy hair by 8.45 ready for my meeting.

I didn't get out again. On Saturday I eventually forced myself out. It was a flat ride - mentally, not physically - and I hate those. A bike ride should make me feel better - or feel something. The only thing I got from it was a real need to get out for a proper one on Sunday.

Dutifully I packed bags for an all day ride on Sunshine as I wanted to see how 100km on her felt compared to Midnight.  Two weeks earlier, I'd walked back into the house, spent, cold & unable to sit on my saddle for the rest of the week.

This week, I was to make my final decision on which bike to take to Scotland. The decision is mostly made. After last week I decided 8 weeks away from the gym has ruled out Midnight. I haven't been doing the lifting I'd like and need the extra speed from the lighter bike. I threw on an old saddle bag so as not to wear out the good one and strapped on the shiny new bag that arrived in the post on Friday - a full frame bag that is disappointingly small compared to the Cotic's bag, even if it does fit as snug as a glove.

What started out as essentials packing filled the frame bag with pump, tools, tubes, lunch + snacks and warm gloves.  Up front 2 stem cells carried snacks and a sugary drink bottle (new experiment) and the seat pack contained spare clothes: fleece, 2 pairs of socks, more gloves, waterproof trousers and warm weather shorts to replace my fleecy leggings if I was really lucky.

I ditched my rucsac in a fit of warm weather optimism and just brought a waist pack camelbak with my coat in it.

My intention was to ride the Peak 200 big loop but I set off for the TPT the "easy" long way rather than drag myself over Derwent Edges and Cut Gate in the bad peat conditions.

When I reached my local park a family were staring at the stepping stones in the river. I wasn't going to ride the ford anyway but even the stepping stones were up to 4 inches deep in fast flowing water. I instantly fell off the first one putting my right foot in full flow but at least to even it up the left foot was submerged by the second stone rolling deep under. At least I tested my new gaiters and rode away to wait to see just *how* wet my feet had got (quite,but not sodden).

By the time I got to Hillsborough I realised I'd left my Spot in my rucsac and when the rain started I discovered none of the gloves I had with me were waterproof as one pair didn't even make it into the packing. I went for the thickest pair to keep the showers off and hoped for the best.

Wharncliffe woods was busy with DHs. Enduro bros and sisters everywhere. I joined the more sedate TPT, chatting to a mum/ daughter team out for their first post-lockdown ride and getting tired heading back to Oxsprings into a headwind and uphill with the little one refusing to sit in a slip stream.

I remembered my long day plans rushed on. A brief text sent from Dunford bridge bus stop - site of at least 2 ride retirements, "At Dunford bridge. Weather as usual. Persevering. Textin6 be9ng crap". As the rain became more intense it was a mistake to take the phone out of its waterproof case to take a photo earlier and the screen was not playing ball. I gave the phone a wipe before everything got soaked and packed it away  in airplane mode. 

I managed to combine the first summit pass of the day with the heaviest rain. Cross-winds lashed at me over the road into Salter's Brook. A number of ankle-deep puddles significantly increased the dampness in my boots but I still rode through them all, resigned now to some significant Highlands Training. As soon as I disappeared out of view of the Woodhead and the wind, I retreated to a sheep snug for a pee, convinced no-one would be walking here in such conditions. I didn't want to put it off until I had descended and cooled down. A good wild pee with my coat slung over my shoulders like a cape, rain drumming overhead like the reassuring noise in a tent.

I scanned the view and the sky for a peek of sun. lt shone, silvery behind a thick grey sky and I urged it, out loud, to get a move on and do its thing.

• • •

I'd just finished dressing again when the Park Warden walked past and gave me a cheery wave. I mumbled something about the sun getting on with it and looked skyward again but where the sun had been was just grey sky. It had abandoned me in shame.

I passed the lapwings in reminiscence for the sunset 2 weeks ago and congratulating myself in getting out of the house 3 hours earlier this time. I enjoyed the descent to the valley floor even more while dreading the onset of shivers that would come with the smooth, unchallenging trail and even gradient below me . The rain continued and by the time I'd reached the third bench I could feel the it starting to rundown my leggings into my gaiters or socks and on into my boots. I decided to stop & put my waterproofs on now - rather than keep hoping the rain would stop and everything would get better. I had not noticed the incremental shift from spring showers to full on wet day. I've been out of Manchester too long.

Without shelter for miles I found some trees (still without rain cover but at least out of the wind) and changed into dry socks,waterproof socks, put my gaiters back and added the waterproof trousers on top. I was still soaked but instantly warmer. The gloves were wet through now but after balling my right hand into a fist for 5 minutes, I finally managed to pump in enough therms to stay warm if I rode fast enough. This was going to be a tough day as I set about making the easy part of my ride hard too.

When I spilled into Hatfield I made no hesitation about going into the corner shop to request some Marigolds to use as emergency backup to my remaining dry (wool) gloves. I really hoped this would work out as these new gloves are super toasty.

"I stood in the doorway dripping on the mat and the shopkeeper swaggered into the back, returning with a yellow packet. "Have you got 2 pairs..." I was going to ask for XL size too but he cut me off with "this is the last pair" so I reluctantly yet hopefully handed over £1.20 and headed off down the road with some extra useless weight. It might just save my life if I had to wear them UNDER my wool gloves, they were a size Small .

• • •

On the outskirts of Glossop was a larger mini market but I couldn't be arsed and persevered with what I had. The forecast was for the rain to ease off.

I wiggled over to Charleshead and talked myself up the hill climb. New born lambs with sodden wool turned into punk hairdo's, their pink skin exposed underneath looked at me questioningly.  I reassured them it gets better, reassured myself the rain would stop and kept pedalling. I crossed the Chunnel road nosing at the detached holiday cottage / granny flat / office hovel that looks oh so tempting every time I pass and back onto the moors, content to be free of the bustle of Cars and turn out my back light but I let the front light dynamo run on. I'd need it soon anyway. 

I considered where I was - especially since I accidentally found myself off course on an unfamiliar footpath and instead of tracking right to get back on track, I went left taking myself further off course. I cursed my mistake but found a farmers track that linked the two and had an easy trace back up to the route. I was enjoying not being on "an attempt" and needing to backtrack to undo my stupidity. The track was obvious when I got there and I made a plan then and there for getting home sooner rather than later. I had emergency food with me but would have no shelter for some time. I actually cursed not having the tent. Had I been on a longer course in these conditions I would have had an early stop, eaten, rested a few hours then gone back out again until I dropped into another sleep. Instead I dropped into Hayfield, made a straight up the other side, over Lantern Pikes now enjoying the familiar descent, instead of teetering down it like I did the first few times. 

When I passed this way on my attempt I'd stopped for a chat with a hiker in the mid summer sun. It was hard to place what time that was - maybe three hours earlier than now? I wondered what time I'd make it to my steep spot - maybe 9pm instead of midnight. Shortly after my sleep spot was *that tree* a big old oak which I'd sat under to eat second breakfast because I was back on home ground and felt like celebrating.

I passed three people on the Pennine Bridleway -3 separate female fell runners enjoying the conditions. Where were all the men?

'The next time I looked at my Garmin screen "Rushop Lane" flashed across the screen. I'm familiar with these trails now but seeing those words on the screen gave me reassurance I was back on home turf as I fought my way over open moor land in a cross wind still making mistakes but now with the bike handling.

"But what if you crash out here alone in the clag" screamed my head... but my heart was happy + did not give a shit if we died in the rain. I managed to dig out and take a massive gulp of sugary drink which helped a bit but a few sideways moments had me pushing my crappy spare wheels and tyres in the cross winds a little bit more than would have been strictly necessary.

The open moor finally reformed into tenable rocky tracks there were only the gates to battle with. They resisted the rain and their muddy puddles and the latches got more and more annoying as I became more reluctant to touch anything or move my fingers in my gloves for fear of a fresh flow of cold water coming in and the tepid warm(ish) water from my hands being squeezed out.

I happily realised it was no longer raining then seconds later it felt like the night suddenly arrived as the sky in all directions darkened and it started to rain... again. Surely I was nearly back?

A familiar-ish descent led to a stream crossing that was now a raging torrent. The sheep looked at me and raised their eyebrows. A concrete pipe length lay across the stream acting like a weir more than a bridge. I stood on the tussocks at the edge and wheeled my bike into a foot deep puddle then balanced on the pipe - hoping it wasn't slippery - whilst trying to disengage my pedal from the mouth of the pipe where it had become lodged. More Highlands training. Over the lump ahead and into the next stream bed where there was a proper bridge though I lost part of my bottle contents tipping my bike on its tail.

• • •

Once across I realised I had made it to my sleep stop from last year. What a lovely place - though if I'm being picky - not really flat enough for a comfy stop.

Unfortunately it made me check my watch and while it definitely wasn't sleepy time it was nearly dinner time. By the time I'd got on the next climb my stomach was rumbling - it was already too late.

I looked for easy to reach snacks but for some reason nothing would do. For some reason the pasta meal in my bag was what I wanted. I decided to make it up in my bottle so it could sit on the bike and "cook" while I pedalled. I decided it would be a good "experiment."

I didn't want to waste fresh water so I took from a stream, mixed in the foods screwed the lid on and put it away.

A little further along I realised I'd not really added enough water but never mind... and carried on riding, fuelled by the last of the sugarey potion I had downed in order to free up the drinks bottle.

Finally I was at Rushop edge. I negotiated the last frustrating batch of sheep gates then stopped the course and turned for home.

Apart from the soaking wet thing, in Normal Times I'd have cautiously locked my bike to a picnic table at the back of a pub car park and had myself a dinner out but I'd lost all appetite for cold pasta from a bottle in the Castleton bus shed and the pubs were shut so I whipped down Winnats pass getting an all-time PB for a clear run and hoped there wouldn't be any sheep on the road.  I then got a tail wind ride into the village where I stopped behind a car to check in "Castles ton. Cominbg home!'

The tail wind sped me through Hope to Bamford and all I could ponder was how to get home. I'm SO BORED of New Road and Stanedge. Surprise view was too much "climbing" after the"climbing". The A 57 involves the risk of dick motorists and the potentially undignified need to get off and push but it's all down hill after the top... which might be cold. At Bamford I stopped at the garage for the convenience of eating *something* under floodlights and out of the wind. Unfortunately out of the wind was not out of the rain and the concrete forecourt was too wet to sit on. 

The pasta had formed into an inedible dodgy mass in the bottle. On inspection I just tucked it away to deal with later. I didn't even think to ditch the weight. I crammed a few bits of beef jerky in my mouth along with some chewits and M&Ms and ate the lot at once. In normal times I might have even thought to go into the Londis and buy something, yet I take heart from now thinking Bamford is so close to home that I'm not that bothered about filling an empty stomach.

The A57 was fine, as tail-wind-assisted as a climb up a gorge can be.

• • •

I didn't need to walk. The last bits are exposed and were easy and the weather was so mild that the accelerated descent didn't cool me down too much at all. I even found the energy for the climb into Crookes so I didn't have to climb the steep hill to home at the end.

The house was filled with the aroma of pizzas there was no time for a shower - just a dressing gown and a heap of sodden mucky clothes discarded on the back door mat to worry about tomorrow. It might seem soft by Highland Trail standards but it's a start. I just have to get rid of the dressing gown and the cosy house... Oh, and work on getting up and doing it all again tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Daily Shrine

TSK walked through the door, back from work.  "Do you want a cup of tea?" 

"No", I grumped past him, "some stupid bastard pledged I'd ride every day this week".

Actually, sometimes twice.  Which I managed on Monday - two mountain bike rides.  Long ones too - and satisfying ones where you see the sun rise and the sun set and your legs hurt from carrying up hills and your arms hurt from slashing through the undergrowth.

Monday day was a blur at work.  I made HT plans at the weekend and couldn't wait to carry them out so I spent the day on Monday sizing up a new frame bag for Sunshine.

On Tuesday morning I needed to catch up with work stuff so started at 5:30am and finished my working day at 5:30pm. 

I slithered out for a road ride afterwards.

Last night I dreamed that the bathroom floor was caving way underneath the toilet and the whole bathroom was falling into the kitchen so I went out to go to an interview.  I stayed in a hotel and had breakfast with a load of people from the Highland Trail but when I placed my order I came back and they had all gone and I was faced with eating breakfast opposite a suit.

It was a metaphor.  I left the breakfast table and went to watch a play with my theatrical family then realised I didn't know what time my interview was so I had to leave early and I never did find out what time the interview was.  I woke up, swung my feet out of bed and went to the bathroom.  There was 2cm of water in the porcelain bowl we keep on top of the toilet as a rain gauge - a bowl on top of a bowl.  The hole is in the ceiling of the bathroom, not the floor and it's very real.  I was moderately pleased I live in a house that allows me to spend some of my spare cash on bike and soon I'll be somewhat be free from mortgage shackles.  It's my urban cabin in the woods.  I'll be free from a mortgage and living in a shitty crumbling house.  Sometimes I don't know if it makes me happy or sad.

I got up - just early enough to go for a ride but that didn't happen.  It was viciously windy and raining outside and not at all tempting.  I went upstairs and scrawled through social media.  Couldn't face starting work at 8:15.  Couldn't face going outside either but gradually I wanted to be out more than in so I dressed in cycling clothes, selected new shoes to try out (no cleats yet) and added a waterproof hat and coat.

I padded into the back garden and pottered about my bike.  I felt epic as the screws (where the cleats in my shoes will go) clattered on the tarmac and the rain pattered on to my Carradice.  I expected JP Robertson to appear in next doors garden to capture the stony grey sky and my gritty determination as I put my house keys in my bike bag, swung into the ginnel and tickked down the hill.

A short, bleak ride along with the motorists to Hagg Hill where they suddenly disappear left to skirt Southwards around Sheffield and I keep going straight on.  I'm so used to them overtaking then swerving left, it doesn't piss me off anymore.

Instead I rumble along happy (I'm still dry and warming up).  I'm aiming for that place where I just want to be on the bike - nowhere else - and at the moment I can dig that.  There really is nowhere else I'd rather be.  The simple stroke of pedals, sway of bars, sloosh of water.  I could keep going all day.  I'm not quite on the pedals I'd hoped to be on and these touring pedals aren't brilliant as flats.  My feet fly off them once or twice when I forget they're not attached.

The rain soaks through my shoes into my waterproof socks and I can feel it's chill but my feet stay dry.  The new socks are, thankfully, impenetrable.  I've been trying them out with different under-socks - most of my cycling socks are a bit shit in them.  Bamboo is OK.  This merino linen blend is bloody good at keeping my feet warm.

At fairy glen I can't resist a trip onto the middle road, past the pub, twisty round the lanes and momentarily think about ascending the 1/6 incline offroad but without cleats on my shoes yet, decide it's not a good idea.  

I could carry on up to Rivelin from the top of the road, do Wyming brook and Lodge Moor but I'm already late for work so I take to the A57, now quieter with the reduced commuter volume safely ensconced at their desks.  I wind around a few urban Crescents to miss the school and dodge through Crookes traffic to home, on the downhill water sloughs off my front tyre and straight into my face as it's almost impossible to get a mudguard to fit Lauff forks.

For the first time this morning I'm glad I'm not on a long ride and can sit at my desk for a few hours with a cup of coffee and shoot the shits with my grads.  

I might even make it out again later.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Improving February

I wanted to do 100km this weekend for one reason - to make February better than January. On the whole February's been shitty - training, trail conditions, state of mind, work. I looked at previous years - is February always shit? No: sometimes its January that's shit. 

Generically since October I have been 200k down on last year's training - the obvious impact of less cycling commutes and distance-wise, more walking before work. The only redress that seemed feasible with the time available was to make February less shit than January & do 120km in the final week. I did one 20k commute, 2 walks & a 10k run. I got up Saturday & was so tired. I shopped for bike bits then walked into town for lunch.

On Sunday I wrote up last week's ride then finally found the motivation to get out, at which point it was 2:30pm.

• • •

I did the Math. 100km offroad -10 hours riding. Back by midnight. Not comfortable but doable. I wanted to ride on the TPT because I haven't been that way in ages. I had 2 things in mind. A big loop to Glossop & follow the Peak 200 route home or TPT, a ride over cut gate & extend it in the Hope and Derwent valleys if I felt like it. I went outside for lunch. From my slightly chilly stone fronted house to full-on summer in the garden. I'm glad I hadn't dressed in full fleece leggings yet.

I dressed less modestly in shorts, leg warmers, tee shirts & arm warmers, one layer of socks and sandals. I realised it would get cold later so threw in my synthetic coat, fleece, waterproof socks, a waterproof coat "just in case" and grabbed my warm gloves, a packet of crisps & extra cereal bar. That'd have to do, I'd just had lunch. At the last second I crammed in an emergency meal also "just in case".

• • •

I took the off road trail to Malin bridge, crossing the stepping stones cautiously so as not to get my socks wet then rode high on the Hill above Hillsborough to avoid traffic. Wharncliffe was full of down hillers having a great time in the sun - I splashed past the stables through the mud alongside happy pony riders who stuck to the best line.

People were everywhere but except for 1 mountain biker who half-wheeled me before dinging his bell in my ear, I was the fastest person on the trail.

Somewhere around Penistone, up on my 10km / hr schedule I decided 100km was feasible if I just rode to Glossop then turned around & came home again the same way. Potentially I could be home well before midnight & still have enough food without having to break into cold emergency pasta.

At Dunford Bridge I had a sit down on the benches. It had gone a little dusky, I was at elevation & after the short sharp road climb was open moorland and then descent. I ate my crisps & the fleece went on. The climb was easier than it's ever been before - odd.


I reached open moorland as the sun was doing its big-red-disk-in-the-sky thing and I smiled hard as a flock of lapwings wheeled in the sky whooping at me. Fluffy cows standing on the trail forced me onto the path then my FSA dropper post - freed by from the weight of a seat pack - actually worked and I descended to Salter's brook style. On the long rail trail in to Glossop there was only one thing on the radar -the setting sun. At its most vibrant just as I passed the reservoir where there was a bloody Pylon in the way. Still, it added a sense of scale. 


Hanging around with 2 walkers, we pretended we were on holiday somewhere exotic. 

It's otherwise a long, sometimes tedious route, being hemmed in by trees or railway cuttings. I watched the numbers click up praying for 50 km when I could turn tail and head home. At 47.9, I dropped out into the carpark in Hadfield & set about following the Peak 200 route as a means to an end. I momentarily considered popping into the shop to get coffee but passed by a woman walking on the pavement who cheerily said, "You wanna watch you don't get yerself killed on that bike".

Nice. I stopped to prop my bike up to put my rear light on which didn't work so I set it to charge & lit the spare which just lives in the mesh pocket of my rucsac. These two things combined (plus the prospect of riding further either up or downhill) helped me overcome my need to hit exactly 100km so I turned tail & headed right back the way I'd come - past the echoey bridge, dark dog walkers, the long distance running couple.

My feet started to get cold so I stopped &added my leggings and waterproof socks. I was a little doubtful it would work though as the outer layer just crushed the life out of the wool layer - and my toes. I persevered for a while but things were just getting worse so I stopped at the next bench to switch into the thickest wool socks I had. That worked for a while as I felt the blood rush into the space which had been completely dead.

I went for a pee to gather my thoughts in the undergrowth. Meanwhile a tawny owl wheeled in the cold air over my bike.

There was still an issue with my feet on the exposed bits of trail where just enough breeze was forcing all the warm air out of the fabric - constantly.

• • •

I had to get into something windproof - and fast. I had two solutions - risk the waterproof socks alone or add my spare waterproof gloves as it was only my toes that were exposed. My heels and midfoot were fine.

When I opened my rucsac on the next bench, the gloves were the first things out of the bag, closely followed by my thermartex windproof blanket. It was reassuring to know I had that. With my penknife I could, potentially, fashion some windproof socks by wrapping bits around my feet then tucking it in the cuffs of my socks. I also toyed with the idea of phoning for a lift - I was that worried. I didn't want to miss the HT because I gave myself frostbite playing stupid games with sandals in the hills in February.  Lesson learned.

• • •

The gloves fit loosely over my toes & the cuff sufficiently snugly around my mid-foot so they wouldn't come off. They were also secured with the toe strap on the sandals. I tried tucking the fingers under my toes but that just impaired the blood flow so I let them flop about. Thankfully there wasn't much walking to do, though a few of the vehicle -proof gates really pissed me off. Good news though - steadily but surely the blood was returning to my feet and the realisation that not clipping into the pedals but riding on my flats improved the situation even further.

Apart from the damage to my toes, I felt like a bit of a fraud. Last weeks 100km was so much harder earned. I decided this little 8 hour out and back jaunt was hollow by comparison. In the coming miles though I was set to put in some serious effort, pushing fast to keep my feet from falling off & get home before I bonked. The adventure was only just beginning.

I broke the return trip down - 4km to the hard climb which would surely guarantee me warm feet. That climb was 2km then 10km to Dunford Bridge where my warmed feet would be exposed again and will definitely cool right down on the descent. Then 30km of constantly falling railway track and a few tunnels.

• • •

The railway was tough to call. Not so steep I'd have to freewheel but could I spin enough on it to stay warm? I had a perception - rightly or wrongly - that it would be warmer. I'm not sure if that is because I reasoned it might be out of the wind or just because "it's not Manchester" which is always cold and dreary.

The steep hill climb delivered. I managed not to fall over my floppy foot-fingers and despite waiting to cross the Woodhead road, my toes could be described as toasty by the time I passed the lapwings again.

I crossed and dropped into the catchwater again, enjoying the hillside scenery even though trucks rumbled by overhead on the Woodhead. With warm toes I was ready to leave the world behind again and descend back to the solitude of the trail. More pushing out of the brook to the final Woodhead crossing gave me enough warmth to mount my charged bike light on the frame, put my headlight on my lid & crack open a bag of beef jerky for "dinner." At 7:30 I knew I wasn't going to do the last 2 hours without some calories. Only when I stopped to look both ways at the crossing did I notice the epic blood moon rising to my right like a second Sun. I descended to the TPT carpark, vaguely disturbed that I had failed to put on my biggest gloves but overjoyed that my windproof jacket and foot gloves both did the trick to keep the rest of me warm.

• • •

I perfected a glove change from my frame bag while riding along and once my fingers were warm again, set about snacking my way home, the blood moon fading to a white disk as the sun finally sank away to the West behind me. My feet seemed to warm even further when I fed them and I used that to get me through Penistone where I worried about being ambushed in the dark so clipped my feet in.

The only remaining threat to my feet was riding through muddy puddles so I skirted through the concrete roads around the stables rather than tackle the bridleway churned up by a million hooves then had a little push towards the top of the final steep climb.

• • •

My backside had finally fallen out with my saddle again after 85km so I finished off the trail with a mixture of freewheeling and standing climbs.

I clipped back in the pedals for the Oughtibridge-to-Hillsborough ride but there wasn't a soul out in the woods. I cruised the pavements through the shared cycleway, changing red lights, one way systems and tram tracks to the main Rivelin Valley road. Everyone who passed me in a car left tonnes of space. I must have had my lights on bright or possibly I was riding like an exhausted person with their toes hanging off.

I turned onto my road with gusto then, after a few pedal strokes, headed for the nearest drop kerb and jumped off to push.

• • •

I did not get back on. I had to stop halfway up the hill to rest. There was no way I was making up the missing 5km. I stopped my Garmin at the back door.

Recovery time 4 days." This is more than your usual effort." You're telling me !

Mission complete.