Thursday, April 13, 2006


When I started training for the C2C and Reivers Route, last year, I was recovering from a severe bout of influenza. I was laid up for about three weeks in February, which left me only two months to prepare physically for the ride. In hindsight, I should have delayed the journey until later in the summer, as it wasn’t until July that I had fully recovered.

My training for this year has been much easier, as I my fitness levels have increased steadily over the past twelve months. I have become a better and more committed cyclist, utilizing my free time to ride and also commuting to work.

I enjoyed some really good rides through the Lake District up until the end of October, racking up the miles with relative ease. During the winter months, I pedalled on the bike-to-nowhere at the local gym with the emphasis on building stamina and conditioning the legs for turning the pedals. After years of hill walking and working underground wielding a sledgehammer and pickaxe, I ignored all the other weight training equipment and just sat on the bike and concentrated hard on working through programmes such as rolling hills, cross country and aerobic training. It doesn’t equate to riding on the bike proper, but it has kept my fitness levels high throughout the winter and I would say that by March I was already 75% fit enough to start Land’s End to John O’Groats.

I’ve now finished at the gym. All my training now is on the bike. The weather hasn’t been very good, but for training purposes there is no better preparation than to brave the elements and contend with the rain and the wind however miserable it might be. When I plan to go for a ride, I do so the night before and therefore I am committed to the task and I take the weather as it comes.

My aim is to start at Land’s End knowing that I have already trained in torrential rain, blustery winds and freezing temperatures and will therefore be prepared for anything. Obviously, it’s nice when the sun comes out, but I’d rather it rained now than in May, when I start the ride.

I’ve read a lot about training methods, from professional riders through to rank amateurs. Some people seem to start at Land’s End without having done any training whatsoever, whilst others take it much more seriously. I want to be fit enough to be able to enjoy the ride and to be physically prepared in order to give myself a fighting chance. At 47 years old, carrying up to 20kg in equipment, cycling over very undulating terrain at around 70 miles a day for 3 weeks, I need to be at my very best, fitness wise.

There is a great need to rest between training rides. It isn’t about going out on the bike every single day. It’s about measuring the approach, gradually building up the muscles and the stamina, resting between exertions, sleeping well and eating the right foods. This isn’t always easy, not when trying cope with all the usual stresses of going to work and helping to bring up a family.

I’ve been cycling to work as part of my preparations. I use the bike every other day. It’s a 30 mile round trip if I take the same route, longer if I decide to come home a different way. Those 30 miles are what I call real miles, as again there are no easy routes anywhere in Cumbria. It’s always an undulating journey, whichever direction. I keep reading about the steep hills in Devon and Cornwall, where all routes seem to follow a switchback course, plunging into steep valleys and climbing out the other side. I’m trying to replicate that in my training rides, conditioning myself to cope with the same type of terrain, so that nothing will come as a complete surprise.

I’ve been varying my routes to make training a pleasure instead of a chore. I’ve explored the back roads around Bassenthwaite, cycled to Caldbeck via the big hill out of Uldale and returned through Ireby and Cockermouth. I’ve been down to the far end of Thirlmere, riding along the superb lane that follows the length of the reservoir, returning via St John’s in the Vale and Castlerigg Stone Circle. I’ve been over the Whinlatter Pass many times and have also struggled over Newlands and Honister.

Each training ride is like a trip down memory lane, as I cast my mind back to the days when I swam the length of lakes such as Coniston and Derwentwater. The scenery is full of memories of all the fells that I have climbed, many of which I have camped out on at various times in my life. Then there are the mines. I usually stop the bike and rest on the handlebars, looking up at the old lead and copper mines where I have spent so many fantastic days underground. Every part of Lakeland has such a special place in my heart and now I’m adding to it all by seeing it from a new perspective.

It’s now mid April and there is less than 6 weeks to go before the start. I’m able to cycle about 50 miles in a day without feeling too tired or too stiff the next day. I’m carrying about half the weight that I’ll be starting with. I’m riding with all 4 panniers and a bar-bag to replicate the real thing, getting used to the load and the handling of the bike. Barring injury or illness, I’m on course to peak at just the right time. Then and only then, will I know what I am able to achieve.


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