It’s official. Already on my second attempt of doing the whole Couch 2 5K run, I have beaten my previous attempt at completing the programme! I do feel more determined this time though, and I am much more prepared.
I have to admit that the second day of week one, was a bit of a psychological challenge. I did what I was supposed to do after the first run, which was to have a rest day. The thing that took me by surprise was that after my first run, I didn’t feel any aches. I felt I had run, and walked, etc. but I didn’t ache like I expected. That didn’t last, the following day I ached in places I didn’t remember ever aching. But I thought that the aches would completely go, ready for the day two run. However, when I woke up, the aches were still there. I googled (not normally a good idea, but actually, I found some really good advice on several websites, and they were all consistent in that advice). The advice being, try doing day two still, but take it slowly, and if the aches and pains are too much, stop the workout and try again another day. Don’t see it as failure. With that in mind, I gave the day two run a go. Besides, I had created a new playlist, and I wanted to test it out (which is the weirdest motivation I think I have ever had).
Day 2 Week 1
So, with my running gear on (which was my old New Balance trainers, a pair of old Altura track pants/tights, and a long sleeve sports top, with my Quadlock arm band) I set off. It was a horrible day, with a severe weather warning for strong winds and rain, but I seemed to dodge the most of the showers.
I remembered to start Strava off at the same time as the C25K app, and I started off at a brisk pace for the 5 minute warm up. Then the call to start the run came through, and away I went. I remember thinking it was strange, the aches just seemed to pretty much vanish. The rain came from time to time, and was welcome, as it was a humid day. The Day 2 session seemed to fly by, and came to an end, just as there was a massive downpour. I was really excited, proud even, that I had equalled my previous, and only “attempt” at C25K.
Day 3 Week 1
This morning I woke up raring to go. It was overcast, but forecast to get warmer and sunnier later, before turning to rain again. With the weather forecast being the way that it was, I decided not to run straightaway and get out in the garden. The lawn needed mowing (the weather had been too wet for over a week, and it was growing at a rate of knots, so I took advantage of this window of dry weather). Lawn looking (sort of ) okay, I went and changed into running gear. I had in the earlier part of the week ordered some specific running shorts. The shorts I used on Day 1 were okay, but they were some leisure beach shorts, and didn’t wick very well. I had also found my old running t-shirt from donkeys years ago, and whilst it was, erm, a little small, it was a much better technical shirt to run in.
Everything was ready, the apps, the music, me. Off I set, doing the 5 minute walk again. The sun had come out, and it was beating down, and I was glad I had a runners water bottle with me (so I thought). Off I set, doing the different repetitions of walking and running. I felt a lot slower today, partly due to the heat, and partly just from the accumulative effect of the week of running. It turned out the water bottle was pretty useless, it was supposed to be one that you squeezed, but it came out as a dribble! I was initially not enjoying this session, but I was determined to complete, which is what I did. And I got a little boost, I looked at the Strava data, and compared it do day 2. Already, I was seeing gains in speed! Fantastic. I can’t wait to start Week 2. Just trying to decide when that should be. Technically, 3 days from now, but I could just do the two days rest as normal. Decisions, decisions! I also need to consider what to do on my rest days. Got to rest the legs, but if you have any tips or advice, let me know.
I gave the Couch to 5K a try a year or so back. I say “try” but it wasn’t much of an attempt. I was ill prepared and gave up all too easily. But during COVID19 lockdown, I have been thinking a lot about my cycling which whilst I am enjoying, I am just not riding regularly enough to get some significant health improvements, and there are various reasons for that, which I won’t go into in this post. One of the main points, if not the main point of this blog was to help encourage myself, and potentially others to take up some exercise. So I have been reflecting a lot recently, and thinking about how to go about revamping my mindset.
As part of this thinking, I have decided to give the Couch to 5K another try. I have also decided to practice what I preach; that is, to be more considered when it comes to the various theories of change, I have decided to be better prepared this time around. Behaviour change, is usually a slow process, and there can often be lapses or relapses (and I am living proof of that). What I am hoping this time, is to be physically more prepared, and psychologically more prepared to get off the couch, and achieve that goal of a 5K run.
In terms of being more physically prepared, I am a little fitter this time around, whilst cycling has been as regular as I had hoped, I do feel that I have got a bit better with stamina. I have dusted of my old running gear (I did used to run decades ago, and bizarrely, my running shoes that I purchased in before 2008 still look new). I’ve rummaged around and found some running socks, shorts and top. They aren’t amazingly high quality, but they will do for now. I have got an Apple Watch, and I have downloaded the 5K Runner app and hooked them up. I have been a paid member of Strava for a while, but only really ever used it for cycling, and monitoring my dog walking activities. So, whilst not fit yet (clearly, otherwise I wouldn’t be needing the 5K app), I feel I have the physical equipment to get me started.
Psychologically I am feeling more prepared, thinking about the transtheoretical model of change that I have discussed elsewhere on this blog, I am feeling more ready for Action than I ever have done when it comes to running. This is in part due to noticing that my health data isn’t moving in the direction I want it to. My blood pressure readings are still high, and my weight seems to be stuck! I like to think that part of the weight remaining fairly static is linked to increased muscle density through cycling, as my waistline has shrunk slightly, but I think I might be kidding myself.
So today was the day. The weather forecast was a bit bleak (there are severe weather warnings of thunderstorms today), but when I set off, I managed to get a bit of sunshine and cloud. It was very humid though, but certainly cooler than the last couple of days. I downloaded a paid version of the Couch 2 5K (there are several apps with similar names, last time I used the free app that the NHS supports, but I found the audio not that great). With my running gear on, I started my warm up by walking briskly for 5 minutes up the hill to the local cemetery where I planned to do my workouts until I reach the 5K mark.
I really like this app, good audio commentary, and you can play music from your iTunes/Apple Music (or whatever music app you use). This was something I didn’t realise, is that the app automatically starts playing randomly chosen music from your collection. I had some random ballad that I didn’t even know I had, which isn’t the most inspiring music. So I managed to find a Moby playlist which was perfect, just the right tempo to get me going.
So, Day 1 of Week 1, 25 minutes. 5 minute warm up (I just did a brisk walk to the cemetery, which is all uphill). This is then followed by 1 minutes of running, 1.5 minutes of walking, repeated 6 times, followed by a cool down phase (walking normal pace back down the hill). I was genuinely pleased with myself, I did the whole routine (although I did accidentally pause the cool down bit, so that ended up lasting a few extra minutes, and it was only after a while I had realised that I had paused that section). However, I completed all the different bits of the workout. Last time I tried Couch 2 5K, I didn’t even do all of the repeated running sections the first time around.
Day 1, of Week 1 completed. Looking forward to the next run in a couple of days. I just need to remember that this app doesn’t integrate with Strava which I am gutted about. I was intending to log the whole training programme through Strava, but at least I can make sure future runs are logged in Strava, by opening Strava when I use the C2-5K app. I also need to remember to take a bottle of water with me, as was thirsty, even doing this short run/walk today.
If anyone who is a runner has any tips for an absolute beginner like me, please let me know.
As part of my 5 Ways to Wellbeing, I am now finding myself using more and more technology to track my performance and fitness levels. However, I am still very much an amateur when it comes to using the technology.
Having had suggestions from readers of my blog, I decided to get a Garmin Edge 830 cycle computer, as using an iPhone apparently isn’t the done thing! That said, I have really liked using my iPhone and Apple Watch along with apps Komoot, Strava, and Cyclemeter, and with the technology of my cadence sensor and my Wahoo Tickr. When I use this combination, I get really good data when I view results on Strava.
However, when I use my Garmin Edge with Strava and Wahoo Tickr, I never appear to get my HRM stats!
Above is a screenshot taken from my Strava app showing a ride I did yesterday, where I used my iPhone to track my ride. The one of the right is from a ride a few days ago, where I used my Garmin Edge. I have a paid Strava account, so I am not sure where I am going wrong!
Anyone got any suggestions where I might be going wrong? Please post suggestions in the comments box.
I purchased a Garmin Varia RTL510 a while back during a winter sale, having been introduced to it by a cycling buddy last summer. For those of you unfamiliar with this Garmin product, it a very bright rear light, with added radar. The radar is a cool little safety feature that connects to a Garmin computer, and lets you know when traffic is coming up behind you. It’s so clever, that it will tell you how many cars are coming up behind you, and how far behind they are. I find this really useful, as more and more cars are electric or electric hybrids that are harder to hear. Whilst I consider myself a considerate cyclist, I will move close to the edge of the road when I know there is something wanting to pass, but when it is quieter, I tend to ride a little further away from the edge so as to avoid drain grids, potholes etc.
Garmin claim the light can be seen as far as a mile away even in daylight, and I suspect that claim is fairly accurate (in the right conditions, etc.). It also has a wide angle field, with Garmin calming it to be around 220 degrees. I have been impressed with the battery life. I tend to charge all my rechargeable units (e.g. front light, bike computer, etc.) after each ride; the longest ride I’ve been on with it to date has only been a couple of hours, but no issues with it running out. I think Garmin make claims that battery will last 15 hours on flash mode, and around 5 hours on constant.
The light comes with a micro USB charging lead, and a seat post Garmin vertical mount, which is attached by strong rubber band. Installs in seconds. I have 3 bikes, the first two have no racks on (one is a hardtail MTB, and the other is an endurance road bike) and therefore the standard mount is perfect for when I am out on those. However, I have an adventure bike, that I keep the pannier racks on all year round, as I use the bike not just for adventures, but to go to the supermarket on, and for commuting. I pretty much always have panniers on my bike, therefore the seat post mount is useless, as luggage blocks both the light and the radar.
A couple of months ago, I decided to purchase a rack mount for the RLT510. Or more accurately, I tried to purchase a rack mount. My first port of call was the Garmin website, but low and behold, they don’t make a mount. I then tried Wiggle, and all the other leading online cycle shops, thinking that surely one will stock a non-Garmin Garmin mount. But that also drew a blank. I then resorted to Google, which led me to many forums with other cyclists eager to get their hands on a suitable rack mount for the RLT510. The best option was so small company in the USA, that had created something using a 3D printer, but the price for a tiny bit of plastic, and the postage to the UK was way over the top.
I then resorted to eBay. Where I spotted this:
It was cheap as chips at just £5.99 + £2.50 postage and packaging. Admittedly, it was slow postage (being shipped from China). I purchased with the initial idea of just using it on the bottom of my saddle, as at least that should be higher than my top luggage. However, when it arrived, I decided to see if it would fit the pannier predefined holes for a normal rear mounted pannier light.
Although not completely central, (the width of the light mount, and the holes on the rack were not completely compatible), it doesn’t look too bad. It is very secure, it hasn’t damaged my rack, and it works perfectly for my needs. I am sure if and when Garmin do design a rack mount for the RLT510, it won’t be cheap as chips, but I won’t need to buy one now, as this cheap little Chinese import works just fine.
It’s been a while since I have blogged, and given the unprecedented times that we live in, I thought I would blog to give some useful hints and tips on maintaining good mental health for those who are having to self-isolate during the COVID-19 aka Corona Virus pandemic.
Obviously, my first point that I want to make is that wherever you are in the world, avoid misinformation about the virus, and listen to advice from official health organisations in your country, or from organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO). Assuming you have read up on COVID-19, and you are required to self-isolate, here are my suggestions for what to do at home over the coming weeks.
Connect with people
Connecting with people when self-isolating might sound like an oxymoron, but it isn’t! Use social media, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp or whatever non-face-to-face format you need to speak to friends and family, or work colleagues. Make time to have some daily contact with the ones you love and care about. Sometimes it might be worth planning ahead, and setting a specific time of day to connect each day to those that are closest to you. Also think about the people that are most vulnerable, such as those that you know that are older, or have long-term health conditions, or have other vulnerabilities.
Also keep connected with the outside world, by keeping up to date with the news. Use respectable and trusted news outlets, either on-line or on the television. Remember that most supermarkets can do home deliveries if you need shopping, be it groceries, medications, or things to keep you entertained and to prevent bordom!
If you are self-isolating with others (e.g. family, or flatmates) and it is safe to do so, keep connected by switching off the television and enjoy games with each others.
2. Be physically active
Being physically active can be a challenge when stuck at home for several days at a time, but simple stretching exercises are one effective way to achieve this. Doing a minimum of 20 minutes per day would be advisable, but if you can do more, then go for it. Simple yoga could be a start, and if you are unsure how to go about this, there are a number of apps available or use Youtube. Depending on your fitness levels, there are other gentle exercises you might be able to do in the comfort of your own home, such as sit-ups, press-ups, etc. Other options could be to try the 30 day plank challenge (look on your usual App Store for details). If you can, give others who are self-isolating words of encouragement to keep active; it can be challenging to keep motivated when you are on your own, but giving each other encouragement, can help massively. Another option to keep active is to Spring Clean the house, now could be a good time to clean the nooks and crannies within your house that may get neglected normally. Choose one room each day to have a full clean, and bag up items that you no longer need or use ready to take to the recycling centres when the self-isolation period comes to an end. If you have a garden, can you mow the lawn, or weed a bed?
3. Learn new skills
This could be the perfect time to learn something new, or to further your knowledge on an existing topic. An obvious start if you are stuck at home, is to try a new recipe. This could be a particularly good activity if you have children in the house, as it can be a good time for everyone to learn, and to socialise together. It is also a good opportunity to use food items at the back of the food cupboard that seldom get a look in. If you are stuck what to cook, the BBC have a good selection of recipes to try, and you can search by ingredient, meal type, cusine type etc.
You could try some new activity such as yoga (see above), or a new hobby such as learning to play an instrument, or some type of art such as drawing or painting (and if you don’t have a flute, guitar, paints or pencils to hand, don’t forget that you order on-line for home delivery). There are plenty of free or cheap online websites that can teach you new hobbies, just use the internet search engines, or go to you App Store. If you have access to LinkedIn Learning, there are multiple online courses that you can try on there including guitar lessons!
4. Give to others
With your new hobby or extra skill, now is the chance to give to others. Could you write a poem for a loved one, make a cake for your housemates?
If you are not someone who is self-isolating, but know people that are, can you volunteer to get them some groceries, or take their dog for a walk? Can you volunteer at the local food back?
5. Pay attention
Mindfulness could be very helpful for you right now. Paying attention to how you are feeling, and learning to relax will be very helpful as we go through self-isolation. There are a multitude of mindfulness apps available, Headspace is probably the most well known, but there are others. The NHS has some useful information on mindfulness that can be found here.
Remember, that this is a pandemic, but it will come to an end, and life will eventually get back to normal. Keep following the updates on nationally television to see if expert advice changes (and it may change as new information about the virus comes to light). Stay safe, stay well. Remember to keep a look out for vulnerable people in your neighbourhood and your community.
It’s that time of year where once more the tabloid press, bloggers, online media etc. will be telling us all that next Monday (20th January 2020) is Blue Monday; the most depressing day of the year.
The concept of the 3rd Monday of the year, being the most depressing day, stems from an article for Sky Travel magazine in 2005 by Cliff Arnall who at the time of the publication going to print was a tutor of psychology at Cardiff University. The original publication went viral, and before long companies (including Specsavers, Northern Rail, Edinburgh Camber of Commerce, etc.) produced products and advertising campaigns to jump on the Blue Monday bandwagon. Even some mental health charities continue to keep the hashtag trending !
Interestingly enough, Cliff Arnall now has a campaign called #StopBlueMonday to try and turn the tide of literature against the misunderstanding of Blue Monday formula that he created. However, it is a bit of a Pandora’s box, as there are already social media hashtags trending for #BlueMonday one week ahead of the 3rd Monday of January 2020.
You could argue that it is “just a bit of fun” or that it “raises serious issues“. Yes to both, but there are better ways to highlight mental health and wellbeing, that are based on good quality science. It will eventually be good and robust science, that will help with improving people’s poor mental health and wellbeing, or prevent poor mental health from taking over people’s lives in the first place. Liking and sharing articles about Blue Monday on Facebook, or retweeting the hashtag on Twitter, or buying the Daily Mail to read up on it, helps to spread misinformation. Misinformation erodes our quest for knowledge as we develop cognitive biases, such as confirmation and selection bias, which can lead the masses seeing academics as part of the social elite, which can lead to all kinds of societal problems (you only need to look at the damage the “anti-vaxxer” movement or “pro-plaguers” have created in recent years).
Real depression isn’t simple. You can’t come up with a simple equation like the one used for Blue Monday (and that equation isn’t even mathematically correct according to Dr Ben Goldacre in his Bad Science column for the Guardian newspaper). Depression is an over used word “I’m so depressed” meaning, I am a little bit down; or “That’s so depressing” referring to my liking of a 1983 house classic by my teenage son. True clinical depression is disabling, it is a chronic condition that impacts on your relationships, your work, your daily functioning. It is a horrible condition that according to the World Health Organization effects around 264,000,000 people world wide. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and has a significant stigma attached to it. By trivializing depression through Blue Monday, we are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy for those who are genuinely struggling, as well as for those who aren’t struggling with their mood.
If you want to know what depression is like, watch this short animated clip below from Matthew Johnstone who is an illustrator, author and public speaker.
If you want to help someone with depression, don’t promote Blue Monday, but instead promote everyday as a day to improve your mental wellbeing. Talk to your friends and family, read up on the 5 Ways to Wellbeing and take action.
If you are struggling with your mental health, you can find out where to get support here.
I’ve not blogged for a while, and I thought today would be a good day to talk about the Keep Learning element of 5 Ways to Wellbeing. One of the things I have wanted to know more about in my adult life, is evolution. It was the 160th anniversary of the publication of, On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin earlier this week. I purchased a copy of the book a few years ago, but never got round to reading it. I have decided to start reading it this week as part of my Keep Learning. I would then like to read other books on more advanced studies of evolution, but without the need for a PhD in Biology to understand them!
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, the first seed of interest on the topic of evolution started when I was a boy. I had a school friend who had a houseplant terrarium. Within the terrarium was a Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula). This is probably the one carnivorous plant that most people will recognise, with its distinctive shaped leaves and trapping mechanism. It utterly fascinated me. We did what you’re not supposed to do, and set off the trap by touching the trigger hairs with a stick or something (I can’t quite remember now). I was desperate to have one of my own, but back then, they were quite expensive.
But evolution and plants, never cross my mind. As a child, I was indoctrinated into the High Church arm of Anglican Christianity (it’s like Catholicism, but without the smells of incense wafting around). The church I attended saw the book of Genesis as literal truth. Therefore, I was brought up believing that Yahweh/God did his magic in 6 days, and then needed a rest. All life was created within an instant, and then most of it was wiped out in the great flood. As I only ever socialised with people from the church, or in my school which was next door to my church, I never questions the authority of the vicar or my family. My primary school didn’t really teach science at all, so it wasn’t until I was around 11, that my eyes slowly but surely opened, when I went to high school. Therefore, up to this point, my only explanation was that “God created the Venus flytrap”, and I never gave too much thought to the plant for a good few years. I certainly didn’t make any connection with evolution, as my teeny tiny knowledge of the subject at that point was how “man came from monkeys“, which had been ridiculed by my church and family. However, for lots of different reasons and over a period of several years, I stopped believing in Christianity, and then all religions. Once I had left school, I had also started to train in horticulture, and I soon became interested in the breeding of of different plants. Where I worked, the head gardener was always trying to create new varieties of various plants (and so I was introduced to artificial selection or selective breeding).
It was around this time, that I got my first carnivorous plant. I was given a Venus flytrap, and, before long, I had purchased several more. Eventually, I bought Carnivorous Plants by Adrian Slack. Although the book has over 200 pages, it only has a couple of pages on the evolution of carnivorous plants. It was these two pages that started me to think more widely about evolutionary biology. No more “man came from monkeys” for me! I still grow a handful of carnivorous plants to this day. I particularly like the Nepenthes genius of plants, commonly known as tropical pitcher or monkey pitcher plants.
The two pages in Slack’s book was enough to whet my appetite to learn more, but over the years, I have kept finding other things to do and read. However, I have now made the conscious decision, and have started to read Darwin’s book, along with other sources of evolution. It feels good to be learning for pleasure!
One great educational resource has been OneZoom which is an interactive map of the evolutionary relationship of over 2,000,000 species of life on our planet.It’s a non-profit charity based in London. You can even sponsor a leaf on the tree, which I have done.I have opted for “leaf” containing one of the endangered carnivorous plants that I now learning about, Nepenthes rajah.
It’s never too late to learn something new, or update your knowledge on something you think you know.
I’ve not posted for a while, so I thought I would share a new recipe. This is loosely based on a recipe for Rocky Road Power Balls I found in Men’s Health Magazine in the summer of 2019, but I a) couldn’t get all the ingredients in the original recipe, and b) I like to experiment with recipes. As the flavours are predemoninately chocolate and cherry, it reminded me of those Black Forest gateaus of the 1970/80’s that you used to get. Interestingly, as a kid, I hated that flavour, but these energy balls are really good (even if I do say so myself).
They are really easy to make, and require no cooking as such. They are great to take on a big bike ride, or for post workout energy boosts. They are packed with carbs and fibre, so not recommended for snacking!! Most of the ingredients should be readily available in your local supermarket. The only ingredient I struggled to source, was the cocoa butter, which I got online, but I think you could substitute this ingredient with another hard fat, such as butter (but obviously that would be for non-vegans).
250g of pitted dates
40g of dried cherries
10g of dried blueberries (alternatively use raisins or sultanas)
10g of dried cranberries (alternatively use raisins or sultanas)
4tbsp of cocoa butter
6tbsp of mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, golden linseed in mine, but any edible seeds should work)
8tbsp of ground almonds
4tsp of cashew nut butter (almond or peanut should also work pretty well – note this is the only teaspoon and not tablespoon portioned ingredient)
4tbsp cocoa powder
2tbsp of golden syrup (or maple syrup)
Icing sugar for dusting (optional)
Soak the dates and dried fruit in some boiled water to soften them. This should only take a few minutes. Whilst the fruit soften, melt the cocoa butter and the syrup in a pan on the stove, until all has melted and mixed together. In a food processor whizz the ground almonds with the seeds and cocoa powder, until you get a rough crumb type texture
Add the drained fruit to the food processor along with the other ingredients, and quickly whizz, until you get a sticky dough. Tip that into a mixing bowl.
If you find the dough a little too sticky to hold its shape, then add a little more dried ingredients (e.g. ground almonds and cocoa powder), a spoonful at a time. If you have some plastic food grade gloves, they might come in handy for the next part. Using your hands, take a piece of the dough and roll it until you have a neat little ball about the size of a golf ball or a ping-pong ball. To keep them from sticking together, roll on the ball on a plate of icing sugar. I made 22 out of my batch. They can be placed in a food grade airtight container. They can be frozen, and taken out on the day of use to thaw out.
Well, I’ve done it. My first tour, my first charity bike ride, my first major cycling challenge. It’s been a fantastic adventure. My legs, and neck muscles really are feeling the effect of cycling 150+ miles over 3 days, in horrendous weather, with some significant hill climbs. But I didn’t want to let myself down, and more importantly I didn’t want to let down others (those who had coached me, sponsored me, and particularly I didn’t want to let the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust down).
On Sunday 9th June, I packed my panniers, and loaded them onto my bicycle. As I went to bed on Sunday, the weather forecast for the next 3 days looked like a mixed affair, but not too bad, however when I woke up the next morning, Lancaster was beautiful and sunny; although the forecast didn’t look too great! I cycled into the city centre, and hopped onto the train to Morecambe. It’s only a short distance, but I didn’t want to waste any energy, as I knew I would need all the reserves I could get for when I reached the Yorkshire Dales.
First leg of the route
Of course, no long distance cycle ride from Morecambe is complete without the obligatory photo opportunity with the Eric Morecambe statue. As a kid, I loved the Morecambe and Wise show, utter comedy genius! I then set off feeling energised, excited and nervous all in one.
Setting off from Morecambe at 8.15am, 25ft above sea level, along the Promenade, it’s a nice gentle start. No motor vehicle traffic, just a handful of dog walkers. It’s only a few hundred yards, but then you join a street for about a 1/2 mile, before coming to the old railway line that is now a cycle track to Lancaster (and beyond). It was midway between Morecambe and Lancaster that I met up with John who had volunteered to cycle with me. It was also at this point that I realised I hadn’t set up my Strava or Cyclemeter to record the ride, so I missed the first couple of miles, but not too concerned as I had Komoot up and running from the start. Komoot is great as a guidance app, but doesn’t give me the details that the other two apps do. John had been put in contact with me as someone who has also supported the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, and who gave me a little advice over the phone about doing the C2C cycle ride as he is an experienced rider. John also volunteered to cycle some of the first leg with me, which was a great help – giving me a morale boost. John cycled with me as far as Giggleswick, before getting the train back to Lancaster.
John and I cycled the rest of the old rail track for around another 5 or so miles, it’s a beautiful little track taking you through the Crook O’Lune beauty spot. It was initially busy with people rushing to get to work, but once we were out of Lancaster, it became very quiet. It is here where I slightly deviated from the traditional Way of the Rose route. Usually people go into Halton and up the north side of the Lune Valley, but I stayed on the south on the A683 on the stretch where the very first white lines In the world were painted onto roads in 1922 (random fact). We would rejoin the traditional Way of the Roses route near Wray. It was in the village of Wray where we decided to stop and have a quick refuel. The Post Office has a few tables and chairs outside, and they serve hot and cold drinks and light snacks/lunches.
Refuelled, we set off once more. Mainly on little country lanes with little traffic. We did come across a guy on an electric bicycle, who was doing the whole of the traditional Way of the Roses route from Morecambe to Bridlington. We met him (or should I say, he overtook us), as we started the long, but fairly steady hill climb into Yorkshire. This was the first real test for me, and the weight of the gear I was carrying (which was far too much, but I will come onto that later), climbing out of a hamlet called Mill Houses. Not a big climb by any stretch of the imagination at around 150ft, but it was at 12%. Thankfully, I was very fresh still at this stage, and had John to climb behind.
When we go to around 600ft, it was fairly easy, as there were just some gentle peaks and troughs, with the occasion steep climb (never seemed to be any steep drops mind)! From here we kept zigzagging over the Bentham railway line, which is the route that John would eventually get on, as he headed back to Lancaster. It’s an area that I don’t know that well, other than the hamlet of Eldroth. We had made very good progress, John had to take a quick business call (and what a great place to take a call).
We eventually reached the railway station at Giggleswick on the A65 trunk road, and I thanked John, and said goodbye. I was a little daunted by the A65 as it is a major road from Kendal into Yorkshire, but thankfully, it did have a designated cycle lane. I headed south-east as it bypassed the towns of Giggleswick and Settle; again, this is a diversion from the traditional route, but one I had planned (not all my diversions were planned)! I turned south, and went down river with the River Ribble, through various little villages, before taking my first unplanned diversion! It was clear that I should have double checked any unscheduled routes between Komoot and a proper OS map! As the route tried to take me down some private road on a country house estate (this wasn’t the only time this happened). It was also around here where I stopped and chatted with the second cyclist of the day. A woman who had decided to go for a”quick 50 mile circular ride“. “Quick” and “50 mile” seemed like an oxymoron to me, but she was happy, and advised me where I could stop for lunch, in Hellifield, which was only a matter of minutes away. By this point the cloud was starting to thicken considerably, and a cold breeze had started to pick up. Unfortunately for me, the normal prevailing winds, were not around to give me a tailwind! I grabbed a quick bite to eat, and started my climb into the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Reaching the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales felt like a psychological achievement. My legs were really starting to feel tired now, and it was here whilst I stopped to take a break, that I got patronised by some cyclist who stopped to tell me that I had packed far too much; and I wanted to say “No sh!t Sherlock“, but just kept that thought in my head! Climbing out of the Ribble valley, I crossed into the Aire valley. Many of the villages were like those you used to see on chocolate box covers. It was around here that the first rain started to come down. It wasn’t heavy, and to be honest, I appreciated the cooling effect. One of the extra difficulties I was now facing was the number of lanes that had been given a recent topdressing. There was so much loose gravel/chippings, that if it hadn’t been for my 29er wheels and fat tyres, I think I would have been all over the place.
I eventually made it to Hetton, and I was tempted to go into the Angel pub. I’ve been there in the past, the food is to die for, but it ain’t cheap! I was tempted, as I knew I had one big last push with an elevation of around 300ft over the space of 7 or 8 miles, and some of it was a steep gradient, and I thought that a hearty pub meal would give me the boost, but that was just a fleeting idea. The beauty of cycling this section, is that the lane is a designated cycle road, between Cracoe and Burnsall.
I eventually made it to my first Air BnB stopover in Burnsall. I did it in good time, but I was cold and tired. I had a quick shower, and changed into some non-cycling gear, and had a little stroll around the village before refuelling in the local pub (which was interesting as they served the starter at the same time as the main. Not sure if this was Yorkshire Tapas!). I slept like a log!
Second leg of the route
Overnight there had been an Amber Severe Weather Warning from the Met Office for the whole of Yorkshire and Humberside for strong winds and torrential rain, with localised flooding predicted! Ugh! What to do? I had a hearty breakfast, and packed up and took a look outside. Yes, there was a stiff breeze, and yes it was cloudy, but I thought that it must be in other parts of Yorkshire where the worst of the weather would be! I was a little achy from yesterday’s ride, but not as achy as I thought I would be. I was in good spirits, so thought I might as well get on with the ride. I knew the second day was going to be very tough, with two big hillclimbs to do.
The climb out of Burnsall started off gentle enough, and the weather wasn’t too bad. But in just five miles, the weather really took a turn for the worst; partly due to being more exposed (Burnsall was snuggled in the bottom of a valley). The other unexpected difficulty was the road from Burnsall for a few miles, had recently been top dressed with new tarmac and new gravel/grit (this seemed to have been a common occurrence during the three day ride). As mentioned before, I was grateful for the tyres that I had on my bike are 29ers with good grip, but I was still skidding slightly as the depth is of the clippings, which was much deeper than yesterday. I also became concerned about my crankshaft as it had started to make a slight “clunking” sound on every revolution of the pedals. My front derailleur was struggling to work correctly too. My enthusiasm was waning rapidly. And to top it all, it started to rain, hard!
Now, I am not religious by any stretch of the imagination, but like a sign from the gods, a little tourist show cave, with an attached tea room appeared on the horizon. I pulled in straightaway, and ordered one of the best slices of chocolate cake I have ever tasted, with a pot of Yorkshire Tea! Whilst there, I met another touring cyclist, who inspired me. He was cycling 1,800 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats via various places he had lived or had a connection with (which meant he was zig-zagging his way north, and not going the direct route).
Back on my back, I was off like a shot. The weather became much more changeable. One minute it was sunny, next it was doom and gloom. I was finding I was stopping and starting whilst I changed layers of clothing to meet the needs of the weather, which was frustrating, but it did help with making sure I kept the calorie intake up! John from the first day, had recommended taking a slight detour to Brimham Rocks, which is a National Trust owned site, of some amazing rock formations. It handily had a little outdoor cafe serving bacon baps and hot tea, which was brilliant, as it coincided with lunchtime. The staff there were very friendly, and we had a good chinwag about the weather (British, talking about the weather. Stereotype or what?)
Once I had lunch, the route became a little gentler, less hills to climb. I loved the name of the lane that I was on for a couple of miles; Careless House Lane – I did wonder how it got its name. As with the first day, there were lots of pretty little villages and market towns to go through, and also like the first day, the Komoot on a couple of occassions tried to take me the wrong way (again, down a private drive way to a very large stately home), but in all, the voice that Komoot was my companion (yes, by this point, I was talking to my satnav, and yes, I enjoyed the conversation). Another little minor detour was in Easingwold, but this was because my bladder was full!
Eventually, I made it to my second day’s destination of Sheriff Hutton, and what a treat, the room was brilliant. Again, another Air BnB, but the hosts, were also keen cyclists (although they were tandem riders). The room was cheap as chips, yet modern and clean, and just across the road from a pub. It was such a relief to get here, as the start of the day had been really challenging both physically and mentally!
Third day of the route
My hosts from my second night provided a much needed breakfast, and I was away by about 8.30am. It was quite a humid morning, and my host knew most the the route I was taking. He mentioned a fairly big hillclimb just a couple of miles into my journey, but said the rest was pretty easy (just what I wanted to hear). This was the shortest distance of the three days, and I was hoping the weather would let up, but again, it was a mixture of drizzle, sunshine, and showers. That said, a much needed welcome relief was that the breeze had dropped considerably.
The first hill, Bulmer Bank was a killer; and I am not going to lie, I did get off, and push my bicycle up most of it, which was really challenging. I was physically tired from the previous two days, my bike weighs around 15 kilos, and my panniers had around 9 kilos of weight in them. Plus something I was really surprised by, my neck muscles ached like crazy (I was expecting thighs and other leg muscles to ache, but not my neck and shoulders)! Once past Bulmer Bank, I skirted around the magnificent Castle Howard estate. As a keen gardener, I love Castle Howard. It also holds special memories for me and my partner, as we celebrated her birthday there recently. I did think about popping in to look around the gardens, but given the time and the weather, I thought better of it.
Castle Howard is just a couple or so miles away from the old market town of Malton. It’s a great town to visit, and is known as the Food Capital of Yorkshire (not entirely sure why, but it does have some great food shops with local suppliers, and some cracking pubs, severing fine Yorkshire ales and gins)!
It was busy getting through Malton. I had got there whilst rush hour was still going, and some motorists were a little impatient. I made it to the A64, where again, it was a major trunk road, but thankfully it had a designated cycle lane (although it wasn’t that well maintained by Yorkshire County Council, with potholes on it, and overgrown branches hanging low). I also noticed that Elvis is alive and well and on tour around Yorkshire! By mid-morning, I was at the end of the section on the A64, and I was ready for a little brunch. In a layby just where I turn off the A64 I came across a little burger van. I ordered my food, and the owner asked where I was going and where was I from. When I told what, where, how, etc, she very kindly gave my money back, and told me to donate it to the charity (which I dully did).
From the A64, I took back road up to the A170. I know the A170 very well and the villages that I would ultimately go through, as I used to spend my childhood holidays in and around those villages, as well as the are around Scarborough and surrounding seaside towns and villages. The first village I arrived at is Snainton, where as a child I learned how to ride a horse! Just beyond Snainton is Wydale Hall. Now a Christian retreat centre, it had been a private home, and during the time between the two World Wars it had been the family home of the Illingworth’s. During that time, my parternal great, great grandmother had been in service; around the time of the fictional Downton Abbey. Along the A170 I continued, sometimes of the road, and sometimes on designated cycle paths on the side of the road. I was making very good time, when I turned off the A170, and Komoot decided to take me down a forest track! Highly sceptical of where this was going to lead me, I followed the route. The Trek 920 is designed to go pretty much anywhere, and it handled the muddy track very well (although there was a sharp downhill where I nearly fell off)! At the end of the track, I came out on the outskirts of Scarborough. I foolishly stopped following Komoot, and thought I remembered how to get to the South Bay from my childhood memories, but I ended up in North Bay; just a small detour! However, I had made it to my final destination!
The weather when I arrived wasn’t exactly get down on the beach and sunbathe weather, but it did start to getting better. I was buzzing though, my legs ached, my backside was saddle sore, but mentally I was stoked! I couldn’t find anywhere by the harbour to safely lock up my bicycle so I quickly dropped it off at my final Air BnB place to stay, and walked back to the Harbour Bar, which was just shutting up for the day. However, they had a little kiosk serving ice cream (much needed at that).
All in all, I was thrilled that by the end of the day, I had made the epic journey (epic in my eyes), and very pleased that I had surpassed my original target of £500 for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust. By the end of the ride, I had got to £820, and I think some money is still coming in now, two weeks later. Thank you to everyone who donated. Thank you to everyone who supported me with hints, tips, and advice! It’s been a great start to my 5 Ways to Wellbeing. Now, where will I go next???
Assuming I make it to day 3 and haven’t fallen by the wayside, this is my planned route for the final day. It also happens to be the shortest day at a mere 36.5 miles. It also has the least hill climbs too; which is probably a blessing at this stage, I am pretty sure the accumulation of the previous two days riding will be taking its toll by now. That all said, I am hoping that by the last day, I will have reached or surpassed by target fundraising of £500. If you haven’t donated, and would like to do so, (think about giving a couple of pounds, and skipping a coffee this week), then please go to my TotalGiving webpage to find out how you can donate, and remember if you are a UK resident, don’t forget to tick the GiftAid box, which will cost you nothing, but the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust will get some extra cash to help with suicide prevention.
Okay, so the plan on the final day of the charity ride will start off with me filled up with as hearty a breakfast as I can get. I will have burnt up a serious amount of calories by now, and I will need all the energy I can muster for this final stretch. Starting off in Sheriff Hutton, I head east of north-east towards the beautiful market town of Malton. I head up a pretty steep but short hill-climb, before passing through the village of Bulmer. Shortly after passing Bulmer, I head north for short distance (I think this was to avoid a fairly steep climb, but can’t remember), passing the amazing Castle Howard before turning east through Coneyshorpe. Still heading east, I come to Malton. I love Malton, it holds a lot of special memories for me. I might stop here for a little break, get some tea and cake! The town has a market, bars, and shops, so I should be spoilt for choice.
Once I get to Malton, the next 20 miles or so, are relatively flat, which will be very welcomed. I cross over the River Derwent, into the neighbouring town of Norton-on-Derwent, heading east before I skirt around the village of Scagglethorpe (there are lots of villages with the name “Thorpe” in it, I think it is Old English or Viking for “cluster of houses – any history buffs reading this, will you let me know if I am correct?). Next little village is Rillington, and shortly after passing through there, I take a north-east route through Yedingham, and back over the River Derwent.
I then come to territory I know very well, in the Vale of Pickering, and skirting around and partly through the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. I spent many childhood family holidays here, and have been a few times with my son, in the quest to find fossils. The first large village I come to is Snainton, and I may well stop here for lunch. Snainton and the surrounding area is well my great-great grandmother’s side of the family came from (I also think it is where Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame is from). The road I follow, is pretty much the same road all the way to my final destination of Scarborough.
From Snainton, I pass the little picturesque village of Brompton, Ruston, Wykeham, West Ayton, I skim around East Ayton, and take my final hill climb (only a few hundred feet, but it will be pretty gruelling by this point). I’ve yet to decide, but I think I will go to the Harbour, take a photo of the end of my journey, take my bike to the place I am staying overnight, and then head to the Harbour Bar (it does shut at 5.30pm, so I am hoping I make it in time). The Harbour Bar is an old ice cream parlour that hasn’t changed much since the 1950s (although the family have been making ice cream since the 1930s I think). I am hoping to get a full-fat ice cream sundae!