#C2C4Cam My Coast to Coast Journey

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 a mixed affair, but not too bad, but when I got 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. 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. 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).

Whilst John took the call, I took a photo. This was probably the closest we got to Ingleborough

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 when 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. However, the beauty of that 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, 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 peddles. My front derailleur was struggling to work correctly too. My enthusiasm was waning rapidly. And to top it all, it started to rain, hard!

When you are feeling low, there is only one thing to do! Eat Cake!

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!

Day two’s route

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???

Third and final leg of the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust ride

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.

The final day

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!

Second leg of the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust ride

Following on from my previous post on the First Leg of the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust Ride, I thought I would give a quick overview of the second leg of the ride. I am expecting this to be a very tough day. I will be physically tired from the previous day, and I am not expecting anyone to ride with me on this section, so psychologically it will be challenging too. For most of the second leg, I will be travelling through the Yorkshire Dales National Park, (think Brontes, Emmerdale, and James Herriot).

Initially starting off by heading south-east from Burnsall, I will come to the picturesque village of Appletreewick, which is only small, but apparently very popular with hikers and cyclists. From there I climb up a very steep hill to move out of Wharfdale, to reach the highest point of the whole journey (and I will have as my mantra that, “I am raising money for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust!“). Then, I go down a very steep and scary hill (1300ft, to 400ft in the space of about 2 miles – I hope my brakes work well), into the River Nidd valley, and to the larger village of Pateley Bridge. I know of Pateley Bridge, but have never been there (to my knowledge). Once over the River Nidd there is steep 200ft ride out of the valley via the village of Glasshouses heading north, for one more big hill climb, before changing to a easterly direction.

Other than a few farmsteads and hamlets, I don’t see much in the way of civilisation until I come to a small village called Markington, and it does have a small pub/inn, which might be a welcome rest (for a non-alcohol beverage and a bite to eat). It will be just shy of halfway through the second leg, so once fed and energised I will be back on the bike. It will be pretty much a flat ride for the second half. Next village will be Bishop Monkton, and shortly after that I will be following the River Ure for a short while, coming to another little village called Roecliffe.

A little further east, I come to the small market town of Boroughbridge. This could be a good opportunity to have a break, and stock up on provisions. Boroughbridge has the A1 trunk road bypass it, and it is roughly midway between London and Edinburgh. I also cross the River Ure at this point. Having travelled briefly north, I head east once more, and come to a small village called Raskelf. Another little market town called Easingwold is my next significant bit of civilisation that I come to. I pass by a couple more small villages, and have a little hill climb before I reach my second days destination of Sheriff Hutton. It is a very old village (mentioned in the Doomsday Book), and has a ruined castle. It also has two very good pubs (I am led to believe), which is probably where I will dine, and try and recovery!! I may celebrate with a cheeky 1/2 pint of Mild, and use a Cameron Coaster to rest it on! I am still open to sponsor money if you have a few quid spare for this worthy cause. Please click on my TotalGiving page to find out how you can donate, and if you are a UK resident, do consider the the GiftAid donation at no extra cost to you.

Hills! Cycling up them is an art form

It’s a month away before my coast to coast ride for charity. I’m trying to get over the two psychological blocks that I have, that I am going to have to overcome by the time I do the Coast to Coast ride for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust (by the way, there is still time to sponsor me if you would like, even if it is just £1.00, click over to my TotalGiving page). The two blocks are:

  1. Steep hill climbs (I’ve done long steady climbs, but nothing too vertical!
  2. The accumulative effect of cycling two long rides in two days

Now, some of you will laugh, but for me, it’s all about small steps (or should I say, short revolutions?). My ride yesterday was the hiller of the two. 1848ft elevation gain, and was just shy of 24 miles. Today’s ride was a much flatter, at only 953ft elevation gain, and a little shorter at 21.29 miles.

The two pictures above are screen shots from the route from Strava and Cyclmeter. As you can see from Strava the weather was pretty good. The only let down was the cross wind between the 19th and 20th mile, as I was dropping down fast into Quernmore from Jubilee Tower. The first 13 miles are mainly flat, but the roads are busy, as you head towards the Forest of Bowland, (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), the hills come thick and fast, although the roads are much quieter. What I did notice about this ride, it that I seem to have got the hang of hydration much better than previous longer rides.

Pretty much the highest point on the first ride, is Jubilee Tower. The tower is a little folly standing 950ft above sea level. It was built by a local wealthy business man for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee (1887). However, it is now owned by Lancashire County Council, and there is car park next to it. It is a popular spot for cyclists to take a little break from the hills climb (I took the easier route, but it was still a challenge for me). For once, the sky was blue, and the views were excellent. Visible to the naked eye was Blackpool Tower, the Lake District Fells, and the Trough of Bowland. I stopped for a few minutes to take in the view, get my breath back, sup some water, and eat a little energy bar. But I was chuffed that no pushing of the bike happened – I am at last getting the knack of using gears (although by no means perfect yet). When I got home, I was physically tired, but feeling of great satisfaction. Cycling has been really beneficial for my mood as well as my body.

Today’s ride was more a psychological challenge. I woke up still a bit achy from the ride yesterday, and part of me just wanted to roll over and have an hour or so extra, in bed. However, I knew that wouldn’t cut it on the coast to coast ride. As you can see above, much of the ride was flat! But then, for much of the ride I was cycling along Morecambe Promenade, and along the Lancaster canal towpath – both great for cycling along, and indeed, parts of the Prom was rammed with cycling clubs on their Sunday rides. However, once I got Carnforth and on the country roads, it was quiet. So very quiet. I stopped for a few minutes to pick up an ink cartridge for the home printer (only annoyingly to find out, I had got the wrong one when I got home). This was a great ride, as I ended up on lanes that I had never been on before, as a cyclist or a motorist. It made me think more about the whole 5 Ways to Wellbeing, and the take notice aspect. I was going to stop and take photos, but I decided to live in the moment for once, and just appreciate everything that I could see.

The next step is to do a whole days ride. Of the 3 days cycling on the C2C, at least one day is 50+ miles, with some big climbs involved. I am going to plan a route using Komoot that will take me from home, over towards the Yorkshire Dales and back in a nice loop (I am not a fan of cycling to somewhere, and using the same route back – unless it is my commute to work, but even then, I sometimes mix it up a little).

Strava v’s Cyclemeter

Now that the days are getting longer, I have decided to go for some after work rides. This is really helping with my 5 Ways to Wellbeing and the Be Active component of that. If I am to get fit enough for the Coast to Coast charity ride, every practice mile will really count for the big event and help raise more money for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust. If you haven’t donated and you want to give a fiver, tenner, or more, please go to my Total Giving page. Remember, if you are a UK resident, you can include Gift Aid, which costs you, the sponsor nothing to do, but increases the money for the charity. That’s also the great thing about Total Giving, it is a non-profit organisation, so everything you donate, will go towards suicide prevention and mental health awareness.

To kick off these early evening rides, I went straight home after work, fed the dog, and got changed into some cycling gear. I went out after work today. I didn’t plan my route, (which in hindsight, is not always a good thing – I got a little lost, but soon found myself in recognisable territory). However, I decided I wanted about 60 – 90 minutes, so I could get back, and have dinner without it being too late into the evening.

As mentioned in previous posts, I have used Strava and Cyclemeter for a while now, but never done much other to clock how many miles I have been, and get sadly excited about the speeds I have managed to achieve (or in most cases thought to myself “Seriously? I thought I was going waaaaay quicker than that!“). Both Strava and Cyclemeter can also be used for runners, joggers and walkers, (although there are other apps that are possibly more suited for those activities).

Let’s start off with Cyclemeter. It’s the app for cycling I have had the longest. I find it has a lot more detail in it that Strava and other apps that I have used, but no longer have on my phone. Abvio, who are the makers of Cyclemeter claims to be the most advanced cycle app, and to a novice like me, it certainly appears that way. Let’s have a look at my ride this evening.

This evening’s ride. Screenshot of Cyclemeter app

Unless you are local, you won’t know the terrain etc. It was a mixture of city streets, cycle tracks, an old Victorian promenade along the coast, canal paths, and quiet country roads. You can also see that it was sunny, and just over 16 miles in total. The squiggle between 11 and 12 miles is where I got a little lost, trying to get onto the canal!

Cyclemeter overview of the speeds (e.g. fastest, average, etc.)

Cyclemeter, like Strava gives you an overview of the speed you travelled on route. I don’t know if I will eventually get used to seeing 30+ miles per hour as being 30+ miles per hour. I always feel at the time, that anything over 30 miles per hour, is like the speed of light! The fastest I have achieved before now (according to Cyclemeter) is 42 miles per hour.

If you live in Lancaster, you will be used to hills!

Depending on which side of the River Lune you live on in Lancaster, you are guaranteed hills! The further north or east you go, the hillier it gets. However, as you can see, nearly half the ride was along the coast.

Cadence – it’s like Quantum Physics to me!

The app (if you have a ANT+ or Bluetooth cadence measurer on you bike set up – my bicycle has a Bontrager one built into the frame) can also let you know your RPM. But that at the moment is as much as I know what this section of the app is all about. I have no idea if my cadence is any good or not, or what to do with the reading (if any cyclists are reading this, do let me know if my cadence is good, bad, or indifferent)!

Cyclemeter’s little summary page

Each ride you do with Cyclemeter results in a 13 page report. The above screenshots are just a few examples. There are some that really aren’t worth that while (I don’t personally think). For example one page summarises what music you listened to, whilst on your ride. If you have a heart rate monitor, there is a report page for that too. The above screenshot is the summary page

How does Cyclemeter compare with Strava? Well, I find Strava fun, but less informative.

Strava homepage of the route

Like Cyclemeter, Strava shows the route you completed, but without the mile markers on the home page. What is interesting is that Strava thinks my average speed was 0.30 mph slower, by 7 rpm faster on my cadence. Which one is telling porkies?

The fun stuff

I quite like the little medal you can get for regular stretches that you might ride. Basically stretches of road or cycleways get given nicknames by the Strava community (it has a social media aspect to it). Some names are more imaginative than others; Dead Man’s Prolapse being one of my favourites. When I’m in the mood it does make me want to push a little harder to get a PB (personal best).

Elevation review on Strava

Like Cyclemeter, Strava reviews your elevation. Interestingly, Strava and Cyclemeter differ slightly on how much elevation I actually did on this ride!

Speed merchant (or not) on Strava

Final screenshot is of Strava’s analysis of this evenings ride. Interesting that Strava thinks I did 3 mph faster than my fastest time according to Cyclemeter. Maybe I should average the two?

I think I’ll continue to use both apps, as they each give me something a little different. I’m certainly going to use them for the C2C ride. On my current phone, I’ve got a good data allowance and battery life is sweet, so I don’t have to worry about being drained of either battery or data.

If you use either of the apps or have others to recommend, do let me know.

The Komoot route of my Cameron Grant Memorial Trust Morecambe to Scarborough cycle ride

The 50 to 75 mile section looks, erm, interesting!

So here it is, the route for anyone interested in seeing where I am going, how steep the hill climbs are, which villages I will be passing through, etc. For those of you with a bicycle, if you want to share part or all of the journey with me, do get in touch, and I can give you dates, and estimates of where I will be at different times of the day. For those of you who would like to sponsor me to help raise funds for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, my TotalGiving page is now up and running.

As you can see above, the total distance is 135 miles. Apparently, it will only take 15 hours and 53 minutes, if I average 8.5mph (this is based on “average” fitness). There are some significant hill climbs, and they will be a real challenge, especially with accumlative days of riding, and having aches from the day before!

I have used Komoot to set the route. For those of you unfamiliar with Komoot, it is basically a satnav for cyclists. It’s very good as it can even set routes for mountain bikers. You can set your starting point, set your end point, and what type of cycling you are doing (e.g. touring, road race, MTB, etc.) and it plans your route for you. There are also options to edit the route manually.

I’ve got my accommodation booked, but I am looking for suggested places to stop and eat for lunch. If you know any cycling friendly cafes or pubs on route, let me know in the comments section on this blog. Also, do you have any recommendations of snacks to take for along the way?

Fundraising has begun…

Just a quick post today. The fundraising for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust page is now live, and it can be found here. Any contributions will be welcomed – no matter how small or big, please do donate to this worthwhile cause.

Yes, I will do the obligatory dance before I set off

It is all feeling very real now. 135 miles (as long as I don’t get lost), starting at the Eric Morecambe statue, in Morecambe, and ending at the Harbour Bar in Scarborough for a well deserved knickerbocker glory!

The Harbour Bar, Scarborough
Mmmm…. ice cream

If you’ve been following my blog, you will know I am looking to cycle the route over 3 days, and I have now booked my cyclist friendly accommodation. First night stay is in Burnsall, and the second night stay is in Sheriff Hutton, before making my way to Scarborough via Thornton-le-Dale. I will rest my weary legs in Scarborough overnight, before returning on the train via Leeds.

Why I chose the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust for my charity ride

Just to give you a heads up, this post will talk about mental health and wellbeing, and suicide. If you are feeling vulnerable at this moment in time; maybe bookmark this post for a later date, when you are feeling a little stronger. Please do check this page on where to get support for your mental health, should you need some help right now.

I’ve worked in health and social care for 25+ years. Over that time, I have worked in acute learning disability services, substance misuse services, sexual health, HIV+ community drop-in, care leavers supported housing, and youth work project. In the last 15 years or so, I have worked in mental health services in acute child and adolescent, and also in acute adult services within the NHS in both metropolitan and rural areas. More recently, I have worked in university campus-based services within student support, initially as a mental health adviser, and currently, I am now a manager of a Mental Health and Wellbeing Team.

The Ambleside campus of the University of Cumbria

I love working with students, they are such a diverse bunch of people. There are stereotypes of students that still persist from the 1960s that they are all on the radical left, and protest lots, and smoke copious amounts of cannabis, and drinking Real Ale. This stereotype has remained in the public eye through the 1970s and ’80s and exacerbated with the BBC comedy “The Young Ones“. But the reality is that the stereotypes are just cliches and oversimplified beliefs that we have of others. The reality is much more complex. Students are by enlarge in the 18-21 age bracket, but many more adults are returning to education later in life. I myself didn’t go into Higher Education until my late 20’s, and I was very much the first person to do so from my immediate family. Like most other students, I enjoyed university life; the studying side, as well as the social side.

However, for many students, university can be a difficult period in one’s life. For traditional undergraduates, it can be the first time living away from home; it can be isolating, bullying in halls can occur, being away from family and friends and other support networks. For other types of students, it might be having to give up a good income, caring for children on top of studies can also be quite a challenge. For most students, it will be the first time that they have really had to think differently, to be more critical. There will be some students who have additional difficulties, such as coping with a disability, including a mental health condition.

Indeed, over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of students declaring they have a mental health condition, and this has been well documented in various reports and good practice guides in recent years. In the 2017 IPPR report, “Not by Degrees“, Thornley identified a five-fold increase in the number of students declaring a mental health condition. There could be a whole range of reasons for this increase, partly linked to the stigma of mental illness slowly being eroded, partly because the awareness of the range of support for students with disabilities (including mental health conditions) is becoming more known, and other reasons will also exist (but that will be getting political, so I am going to leave it here for now).

There has also been an increase in student suicides in recent years, and there has been some Suicide-Safer Universities guidance from Universities UK and Papyrus on how university leaders can work towards preventing further suicides. This is something I was particularly interested when it was first published. Surprisingly, it isn’t as researched informed as one would hope, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. What we do know about student suicides is that they have increased in recent years, however, students are at no higher risk than other adults outside of the higher education sector.

We also know that around 80% of students who take their own lives are not known to specialist counselling or mental health support services. This isn’t unique to the UK but is known to be the case in the USA too. But those students who do die from suicide, are known to someone, a peer, a tutor, a residents life officer, a librarian, a receptionist, etc. Can training non-clinical staff help? Gatekeeper training (as it is collectively referred to), is often recommended by many good practice guidelines, including the suicide-safer universities guidance listed previously, and in other guides, such as the Universities UK #StepChange . However, very little is known about the benefits of rolling out such training, and equally, we don’t know what risks can happen with such training.

We know that some of the students who die because of suicide often faced barriers to accessing help. Examples of barriers include ambivalence regarding treatment outcomes from specialist services, and also the stigma associated with accessing counselling, psychotherapy, or mental health services have been documented by Czyz et al (2013), long waiting times have been identified as a barrier by Arria et al (2011), who also found that poor knowledge of where to get help, is also a barrier.

It is that last point that I want to pick up on, with regards to the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, and the Cameron Coasters. Anyone who has ever worked in a campus-based counselling service will know that promoting the service can be quite a challenge. During Freshers Fairs, when young eager and bewildered students first arrive on campus, the vast majority are usually wanting to find out which bars in town have the best offers, where they can get a free pizza, and the what, where, when of their first lecture. Very few are interested in a talk from the counselling service on how to get support if they are struggling emotionally, and the leaflets often end up in the bin. The Cameron Coasters is a bit of a game changer. Not only are they informative, but they have another use! They can prevent a coffee/beer stain from forming on your desk whilst you work (or watch another box-set on Netflix/Amazon etc.). You might be excited to have started your undergraduate/postgrad/PhD studies, but if things take a turn for the worse later on, then the coaster might be there. It might breakdown one of those barriers to accessing support (namely, knowing where to get such support).

The Cameron Coaster for the University of Cumbria

For those of you who haven’t seen my previous posts about the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, they are a small charity set up by Carol and Evan Grant. Their son, Cameron, died by suicide in 2014 whilst a student at University. Carol and Evan came to the University of Cumbria where I work, around 18 months ago to talk to staff and students about Cameron, and the work they now do for the charity. They also produced, and then printed thousands of Cameron Coasters for the University of Cumbria, for free. They have produced thousands of coasters for various organisations including schools, colleges, universities, and police forces across the UK. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that students and staff at the University have found them invaluable, to hand, they have the details of how to get support on and off campus.

Moved by Cameron’s story, and the charity’s generosity, I decided to fundraise for them. I raised a small amount on my birthday via Facebook, but now, I plan to ride the Coast 2 Coast this summer to raise more money for this worthwhile cause. If you would like to donate, please click here to get to my Total Giving webpage.

Practice makes perfect, apparently!

Is this post, I am going to go a little more into detail about the stages of change, and how you might want to consider this if you are thinking of improving your health in someway or another. As mention in my previous post, I have been mindful of the Transtheoretical Stages of Change when it has come to improving my physical and mental wellbeing. The Transtheoretical model has been used in sport and exercise, weight loss or dieting, reducing or stopping alcohol use, other types of substance misuse, and smoking cessation.

Putting what I have learned in my professional practice, into personal use, hasn’t always been straightforward. Giving up smoking several years ago, is a classic example, I didn’t do any preparation, I just decided one evening that I had had enough of smoking. I just put a cigarette out and stopped. Not smoked since.

With regards to the current plan, and the aim to get fit, when I was in my Pre-contemplative phase, I didn’t really consider my health needs. I got up each morning, did what I did, and didn’t give my health a second thought (other than the occasional manflu, or if particularly ill, bad bouts of manthrax, where I would moan about my health to anyone too unfortunately to escape). I hadn’t really noticed my weight had increased, I put down the expanding waistline to “middle age spread” like it was out of my control. To summarise, pre-contemplative phases tend to be when a person sees no need to change, the “What problem?” phase. They may be in denial, or the thought hasn’t even crossed their mind. Think, “Head in the sand“, and you’ll catch my drift.

The Contemplation phase occurred when I had my NHS health check. This was my wake up call. I had a fairly high blood pressure (something I had historically never had), and I also hadn’t realised just how much weight I had put on (as mentioned in previous blog posts, I was historically tall and underweight). I was at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, and that was the most alarming moment during the health assessment. This is when I started to think about my options. Do nothing, but that would likely see my health deteriorate, along with the quality of my life. Do something, but what. The practice nurse who assessed me went through various lifestyle changes I should consider, although to be fair, I knew them all (reduce saturated fat, reduce drinking alcohol and caffeinated drinks, do more exercise, etc.), it was just that until that point, I had never done anything about them. Classic examples of contemplation include those who know they are drinking too much alcohol, but they think it helps them sleep at night – most of us would not see this as ideal, but for some, they think the negatives outweigh the positive. Maybe further down the line, a heavy drinker might consider healthier options for sleeping. It’s all about doing a cost-benefit analysis.

Pretty much as soon as the health assessment was over, on my way home, I started to consider my options. I started the Preparation phase. But I didn’t put my professional knowledge, skills and experience into practice. I instantly decided I was going to learn to swim. Just to give you a bit of context, my youngest son is an excellent swimmer, had all his school swimming badges before finishing primary school, and he and I enjoyed going to the pool every other weekend, but he was much more confident, and a much stronger swimmer than I. My swimming ability consisted of me swimming widths of the pool, not lengths. However, in a warm sea, with a snorkel, I was probably far too confident for my ability (diving below, and taking photos of fish – see below). I thought, if I could get my breathing technique right, everything else would fall into place. But not so. I signed up to swimming lessons in a neighbouring village swimming pool, and the first lesson the instructor advised me that I needed to get my core strength built up. I was a bit too soft around my stomach!! I gave up quickly. I was a bit defeatist. I “relapsed” back to the contemplation phase. Sticking in that phase for a while. Proper preparation requires a plan. The what, where, when, how, etc. What do I need to do to achieve my goal? Where do I achieve my goal? (e.g. running on a treadmill at the gym, or running in the park)? When do I do it? (e.g. every evening, in my lunch-break, at the weekend, get up earlier on the way to work). How do I go about it? (get a friend, partner, family member to support me, get a fitness coach; shall I buy new equipment; join a club, etc.)

This is not Morecambe Bay!

The cycle to work scheme was my call to arms. It pushed me into the Action phase My son really enjoys cycling, and I thought this was something we could easily do together. I got myself a hardtail mountain bike, and we started to go for little rides along canal paths, cycle-ways, bridle tracks, and quieter country lanes. I also started to cycle to work, but I have to admit, I was very much a “fair weather” cyclist. Living in the north-west of England, meant that dry cloudy days are rare, let alone sunny days. I still wasn’t getting the full benefits of exercise. I need more motivation. The Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, has been that additional boost that I needed. I decided that I was going to raise some money for them through a sponsored cycle ride. Action phase is very much the phase where you know you have a problem behaviour or issue that needs addressing, you reviewed and prepared your options, and you have now started to modify or change your behaviours for the better.

There are various recognised routes for the coast to coast. I think the original route was developed by Alfred Wainwright, for walkers, but other routes have been created, including the Way of the Roses. I am doing a variation of the Way of the Roses, and more of that on another time. I’ve really started taking the cycling more seriously, to the point that I am turning into the dreaded MAMIL (middle aged man in lycra), I’ve got cycling apps, got padded pants, started to watch Youtube clips for ways to improve technique etc.. I’ve been riding with my son, on my own, with pacesetter Nigel, and anyone else who wants to ride. I have gone from seeing 10 miles on the flat as a long route, to recently cycling 41 miles uphill and down dale (still a small jaunt for more seasoned cyclists, but for me it was a significant benchmark). I need to keep in mind that the coast to coast is 120+ miles (depending on the final route), and the Pennine hills are a big obstacle to overcome. I am not, in anyway going to kid myself and think of doing this in one day, and apparently it can be done in 6 hours! I am thinking of 3 days (2 night time stops on route). I am practicing where I can, and now it is Spring, and the days are getting longer, I will be able to get some further practice in, during the evenings. The great knock on effect of this, is that I am getting fitter (I’ve lost a few kilos since starting), and my sleep is improving (due to being knackered), I am also feeling my mental wellbeing is improving. Doing exercise releases serotonin and dopamine in the brain which is linked to improved mood.

I am in the process of finalising the route, and I will keep you updated on that in future posts. If anyone wants to join me in part or all of the route, do get in touch.


5 Ways to Wellbeing

take notice – one of the five ways to wellbeing

Believe it or not, there are 5 Ways to Wellbeing! “Pah!” I hear you say. Well of course there are more ways, if you’re a micro kind of a person, but from a macro perspective, there really is 5 ways. Back in 2008 the UK government commissioned research into Mental Capital and Wellbeing. The findings from the research can be found here, where you can also find the executive summary. From the research, guidance was created, that has become known as the 5 Ways to Wellbeing. I’ve used the 5 Ways as a framework for students I have worked with over the past 10 years. The 5 Ways are below:

  • Connect – connect with the people around you. It could be family, friends, colleagues, peers, neighbours. In your place of study, workplace, or local neighbourhood. Increasing your connectivity (in real, not necessarily through social media) has been shown to improve your mental health. Isolation is a significant risk factor for developing poor mental wellbeing.
  • Be active – much of the point of my blog is around increasing activity to become fitter. Even simple forms of exercise has been shown to improve mental health. A walk in the local park, going for a bicycle ride, doing some gardening can make you feel better about yourself. The University of Cumbria’s campuses are all close to local parks, go out and get to know them if you are studying there. The University also has Green Minds, a project to encourage staff and students to do some basic gardening, which is great for being active, but also for connecting with others. If you are reading this blog, and not a staff or student member of the University of Cumbria, may be see what is going on at your work or place of study.
  • Take notice – gardening is another great way to do this. Get in tune with the seasons. Savour the moment. Reflect on your experiences, and this will help you appreciate what really matters. I am a keen gardener, and I do enjoy watching the seasons come and go through what plants are blooming in the garden. I also over the years, have enjoyed growing fruit and veg, and strive to eat seasonally. In fact, this is one of my favourite times of year, as one of my favourite vegetables is just coming into season, and it will also be the first time that I will be able to harvest my own crop of Asparagus!
  • Keep learning – of course, if you are a student, then hopefully you will be learning all the time, but also try something new or rediscover an old interest. As part of my coast to coast ride, I have started to learn basic cycle maintenance, and how to improve my cycle ride techniques.
  • Give – do something nice for someone else, a friend, partner, or a stranger. I often encourage students to consider volunteering at the local animal shelter, helps with all 5 ways to wellbeing, taking a dog for a walk can be a new skill, it can increase activity, and help take notice. Of course, if you want to give, you could always sponsor me, as I try to raise money for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust