Coast to Coast by bike, The Way of the Roses. 4 days, 6 suicidal squirrels, 10 train crossings, 4 whiskeys and 1 chain off!

“Did you know its 20 times cheaper to maintain a bike than a car?”

With the original plan of doing an Ironman in Mallorca in October cancelled some time ago my husband and I decided that we would like to do some form of bike touring for our holiday instead. 🚴‍♀️🚴‍♂️

So following a few evenings of cosying up with mugs of tea, iPads and Google we decided to cycle the Way of the Roses from Morecambe to Bridlington. We would take the train to the start, book the first two nights accommodation and then play it by ear – there were after all lots of murmurings of lockdowns, closing pubs etc.

Map of the Way of the Roses taken from the website of the same name

As this was more of a holiday, enjoy ourselves and have some beers kind of thing rather than an achievement thing we decided to do it in 4 days and take it easy. My husband who is probably capable of cycling the 170 miles in a day left this decision to me. In all honesty, now having done it, I realise I could of done it in the more common 3 days and still had plenty of time for enjoying the ride and the post ride beers.

The route, for anyone who wants to cycle, run or walk it, is utterly beautiful all the way. Its incredibly varied from narrow country lanes, flat roads that wound their way through tiny villages with beautiful cottages, undulating roads, steep hills, some lanes with holes and grit and gravel, some that felt briefly ‘off roady’ and went through the middle of a large field. Every bit of it is however, completely doable on a road bike (even for me).

We arrived on Saturday by train in Lancaster and cycled to Morecambe for the start. The easiest way to do this was via the Way of the Roses cycle path which felt a little silly knowing that we would be retracing our steps an hour later.

Bikes ready – on the train to Lancaster. My husband carried two panniers and I carried an Ortileb bar bag in front of the handlebars.

After a nice warm brew in a seaside cafe and a quick kiss with Eric Morecambe we set off on our way to Settle.

Bring me sunshine Eric
In your smile 😁

Day 1 – Morecambe to Settle

The official start of the Way of the Roses

Day 1 was possibly my favourite in terms of the cycling terrain. It started off on flat cycling paths but soon went onto gorgeous undulating country lanes, the kind where you can not take enough photos. In fact I remember thinking this is the definition of ‘rolling countryside’. None of the hills were steep or if they were it was only for a few metres where you stood up fairly briefly and then sat down again but it was up and down enough to make it really interesting and give rise to beautiful views which went on and on (a bit like me lol). We saw hardly anyone for miles and miles.

Views between Morecambe and Settle
We saw the most beautiful rainbow on the way

Knowing that day 1 was only 35 miles to Settle and given a shortage of shops directly on this route we decided to simply push on and eat when we got to Settle. I did have some yummy snacks in my front pack including a cliff bar and some mini banana malt loaves. These helped us to keep fed but not stopping was a mistake, by the time we had booked into our hotel and found a cafe it was 3pm and we could of both happily eaten the table we were sat at.

We stopped at the Golden Lion which was fantastic. The room was lovely and the food at dinner and breakfast was excellent. The bikes were stored in a back part of the hotel which is locked up and hidden from view.

Leaving the Golden Lion

Day 2 – Settle to Boroughbridge

This day was hard!! In fact it was the only really hard day, I wish I would of realised this was the only hard day at the time as I might of been able to push myself more. Admittedly I was having a bit of a menopausal down day and feeling quite negative. Its not a nice feeling and it can diminish that normal sense of adventure and excitement and replace it with not only a lack of these feelings but a real lack of confidence too. Suddenly what was exciting and challenging yesterday becomes impossible and annoying today. Knowing upfront today would be quite hilly I tried to suppress this negativity and told myself right just get on with this, cmon Lorna.

With this in mind and knowing a big hill would be on the cards within a few miles we cycled out of the hotel around the corner and turned up a cobbled street which hit 17% almost immediately. Um where was my couple of miles warm up? My calves are still cold thank you very much! This was swiftly followed by a 20% sign and I thought wtf!!!! I tried to stay on my bike and cycle up this hill but when it turned a corner and looked like yet another 20% longer climb I got off and walked. I’m not proud to admit this and I’m sure all you cyclists reading this would be just fine but I had previously only cycled up a 20% hill (just one time) and combined with my state of mind I lost confidence in myself to do it.

The start of the 17% part of the steep climb

Of course once you are off and walking its really hard to get back on again so I continued to push my bike and walk up this hill until it started to flatten out again. After that it became a lot easier and it was also utterly stunning which cheered me up. We cycled across the top of the moorland which undulated for a while until coming to a lovely long descent with glorious views all around. The weather was perfect, cold but sunny with bright blue skies.

Bright blue sky

Feeling a little more positive, ok Lorna you got this now, I pedalled on. To my annoyance we were then met with numerous 17-20% gradients which tested both my physical ability and if I’m completely honest my mental patience. Further along we came to a particularly tough initial ascent and as I turned the corner I found myself almost coming to a standstill stomping hard on the pedals and muttering expletives (apologies to the people who were walking down the road at this point). I promise you normally I would say hi and smile at you rather than pant, swear and make grr noises. It really was just one of those days!

Taking a rest before the next set of hills

After this corner I could see more hills ahead and I started to really struggle again mentally. We stopped for a short rest, more to get my mind in gear than my legs. After a brief rest taking some pictures I found the climb I had seen in the distance was not hard at all. In fact the rest of the climb up to Greenhow was simply divine, never difficult, just enough to keep it interesting. Combined with that sense of achievement you get from climbing a hill, I felt great. Hurrah 😀.

Positive me was back woohoo! With this new sense of positivity and also the knowledge that this was the last hill today I flew down the other side of the hill into Pateley Bridge for lunch. Not even the signs saying be careful, ‘16% gradient’ & ‘watch out for cyclists’ could deter me from this sudden increase in confidence and sheer unadulterated joy.

Views out of Settle on way to Greenhow

We managed to find a lovely little cafe in Pateley Bridge where we could park our bikes around the back. Sadly the only available table was outside, it was freezing but it sufficed for us to have a short snack of beans on toast and warm mugs of tea.

Lunch outside at Pateley Bridge

With Cafe legs we set off from Pateley Bridge. During lunch my husband had set my expectations by mentioning that there was in fact a “small” hill to come but after that it would then be flat until Boroughbridge where we were heading. Hmmm normally this wouldn’t have phased me but on this particular day I simply couldn’t get my mind in gear for this and felt quite p’d off at the roads. Grrr how dare you give me another hill grrr.

It didn’t take long to discover the 19% and 17% gradients. Once again I could not shift my head out of my CBA place and got off and walked. I would love to do this particular section again on a day when I had the right mindset. For reasons I find hard to explain unless you have experienced menopause your hormones can give you really bad days that are very hard to simply brush off. After those last hills, during which I swore at them (lol), there is a lovely long descent from Brimham rocks where it did indeed flatten out and the rest of the ride to Boroughbridge was a rather quick and easy affair.

One of the many views on the way

We passed through Studley Royal, to my surprise, right through the middle of it on the same small path that people were walking, which I found a little awkward so I rode quite slowly and apologised a lot even though its apparently a cycle path. It was beautiful though.

In front of Fountains Abbey just before Studley Royal

After Studley Royal we passed briefly through Ripon and took an opportunity to have a photo moment in front of the Cathedral.

My husband outside Ripon Cathedral

We stayed at the Crown (Best Western) in Boroughbridge and we would both highly recommend this. The bed was so so comfortable we didn’t want to get up the next day! I think the food was great but in all honesty I must of had a few beers as I cant really remember the evening at all 🤔.

Day 3 – Boroughbridge to Pocklington

I woke up on Day 3 in a great mood. Typical really since todays ride was going to be extremely easy; 40 miles of flat terrain. It wasn’t boring though! The terrain varied enormously and we could of easily used the GoPro to video all of this day if we would of had enough battery to do this. Here’s just one short section which showed the beautiful autumn colours on the trees.

Gorgeous coloured leaves all around
Some examples of the varied terrain en route

Sometime after this we were passing through a little place called Ouseburn and my husband spotted a sign on the wall. It was a memorial for where a plane came down in 1942.

Memorial

On this day we stopped for lunch in York. The last mile or so coming into York took us through a park weaving our way along a narrow cycling path and over quite a few cattle grids. It started to rain and my husband started singing ‘why does it always rain on me’ with his wonderful dulcet tones clinging to the air as I rode behind him 😆.

It wasn’t until the last half a mile that you come onto a main road and are then quickly into a cycling lane, through an arch and then facing the York Minster. In fact we stopped at Bennet’s cafe opposite York Minster which was handy and their toasted crumpets with marmalade were to die for! Highly recommended.

Quick pic outside York Minster before hot crumpets

After lunch we set off for Pocklington with only 20 miles to go. It was beautiful and eventful all the way with no less than 6 suicidal squirrels running out in front of our bikes as we skidded to avoid them each time. I do have to wonder if they actually lie in waiting and then throw themselves across the road at the appropriate moment.

One of the many amazing signs en route

We stopped at the Feathers in Pocklington and again I would recommend this hotel. The rooms were separate to the hotel (like a motel) but none the less very luxurious. The lady who served us at dinner and breakfast was incredibly friendly and chatty which also made for a nice stay. Again the bike lockup was great, this time it was their food storage area.

In the evening we debated what we would do the next day and decided we would cycle to Bridlington to the finishing line but then cycle back again 10 miles and stay in Harpham overnight. From there it would be an easy cycle to Driffield to catch a train in the morning or maybe we could cycle on somewhere else, we’d leave it open.

Unfortunately our reservation in Harpham got cancelled in the end so after much discussion and a few whiskeys we decided to just get to Bridlington and get the train home the next day.

Day 4 – Pocklington to Bridlington and home

Again an easy 40 flat miles on the last day (hence why I’ve realised with hindsight I could of done it in 3). It was also just stunning views all the way, although this was somewhat marred by the weather which was torrential. It reminded me of a bit out of Forrest Gump (you have to do the voice though 😆) “We been through every kind of rain there is. … And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath”.

Combine this with the fact that I had trusted the weather forecast (yeah I know!) and not taken mudguards and that my “rain jacket” was shower rather than rain proof and the ride was a very enjoyable but nonetheless profoundly soggy experience.

We arrived in Bridlington wet through although I was definitely wetter and muddier than my husband who had sensibly had mudguards and a decent jacket. The sense of achievement, the joy of seeing the sea, the joy of seeing a warm cafe perhaps all meant I didn’t initially notice how cold I was.

After a delicious veggie burger and fries we cycled to the station and I changed into my jeans, sweatshirt, clean socks and shoes. Even after doing this I felt cold and it took me most of the journey home to really feel warm again. My husband stayed in his bike clothes as they’d dried out pretty much by this point.

So yes I’ve already ordered some decent mudguards!

So highlights from the trip?

  • The climb up to Greenhow and descent down to Pateley Bridge
  • The views coming in to and climbing out of Settle
  • The joys of riding in the rain
  • The gorgeous views
  • Getting better at descending
  • Definitely the views
  • A snickers bar (yes this is a highlight when you haven’t eaten a full sized chocolate bar for years)
  • More views
  • Realising I can ride on and on if I ride slowly
  • Seriously the views 😍
  • Knowing I now want to buy a bike for touring, practice with panniers (my husband carried ours for this trip) and get properly kitted out for the next adventure 😁👏
  • Bikes on trains is really easy, just check on some services if you need reservations. (The Journey from Romiley to Lancaster and Bridlington to Romiley was £80 in total for two!!)
  • The route signage is excellent, well done Sustrans! We used a GPS but you really don’t need to, just follow the roses 🌹

Useful links:

http://wayoftheroses.info

https://www.goldenlionsettle.co.uk/

https://www.bw-crownboroughbridge.co.uk/

https://www.thefeatherspocklington.co.uk/

Full video of our trip done with GoPro: https://youtu.be/Ix30gVGo_Tw

Trip Stats: 286 Km, 3044 m ascent, 14 hrs 16 min cycling time 😁

RACE REPORT ON LEL – LONDON EDINBURGH LONDON

How did it come about your decision to do this?

Chris: It all started in Mytholmroyd in Oct 2012. We had just finished Seasons of the Mist Audax and I joined Ant and Ade at a table in a cafe there and the discussion turned to the forthcoming LEL the following year and who could be mad enough to do it…………..right there and then we all decided to give it a go, though Ant never signed up along with a few others.

We had already done plenty of 200K audax and I had done one 300K but the time limit and distance is still daunting.

What did you do in terms of training/to prepare for the event?

Chris: We both trained differently though still did the 200K Cheshire Audax’s together through winter. I had resolved to do an Audax SR series whilst Ade did multi 200k events, sometimes back to back over a weekend. An SR series is completing a 200/300/400/600K series of Audax within a year, I did it in 6 months. I figured that if I could do 600K within 40 hours I could ride anything. In my opinion I got my training spot on, doing the distances and with the bike loaded just like I would on LEL.

My set up was to be efficient as possible but to carry enough stuff to get out of any mechanicals and contend with the UK weather. I had a Carradice saddle bag and an Ortileb bar bag. At the start I was amazed at how little some of the people were taking, it was as if they were on a Sunday 50k ride out. These were the fast or daft ones 😊.

Ade: I also had a Carradice Barley saddlebag, and on the crossbar a Topeak Fuel Tank. This gave me about 8 litres of storage which was enough as we were travelling extremely lightly. I had 3 lights at the front which had about 500 lumens at full power, and more importantly ran on disposable batteries that I could replace at the bag drops. I took clip-on SKS race blades for mudguards.

Can you tell me about the route and organisation?

Ade: Basically audax is an entirely volunteer organisation that has been run for years by organisers who gave up their time to do it all. There’s an interesting backstory to LEL, which I heard about on an audax one time. I was riding on my own on a 300k audax and this mad scouse bloke with long hair (who I’d seen on other audaxes) caught me and insisted on talking to me for what seemed like ages. It was more talking at me as he didn’t stop for breath.

He told me about LEL in 2009 and how badly it was organised but that it was brilliant. There’s a book on Kindle about it – “Barring Mechanicals” which is a great read. Anyway, one of the guys who rode 2009 made a case to the Audax UK club about this being the premier event and, therefore, deserving of proper organisation. What he did, completely with volunteers, was nothing short of staggering. And the route was planned a year or so in advance (as I understand it) with people riding sections of it and suggesting amendments and contingency options etc. The route was published as a set of instructions to be printed for the old boys, and gpx files to download onto Garmins for the youngsters like Chris and I (and I think we were in the younger demographic!).

Chris: The LEL Audax, (not a race though you would never of guessed it), rolls around every 4 years with PBP (Paris Brest Paris) nestled in between. The entry was at midnight on something like Jan 3rd and it sells out incredibly quickly, with worldwide participation. The 2013 version was a 1,418Km ride from London to Edinburgh and back with a time limit of 116 hours.

(We set an internal goal of 100 hours or better for ourselves though). Both myself and Ade signed on and the training began.

How was the event experience and race day start for you?

Chris: Race day was 28th July 2013 and Ade kindly drove down to the start the day before. We were booked onto Debden house campsite but ended up staying in a travel lodge or premier inn not too far away. I remember us having a meal and a beer and getting to bed early only to be woken by a massive clap of thunder in the night, fortunately it had passed by morning. Debden house was the parking lot.

Our start time, was about 6.30am in the morning and we were in the B group. The really fast lot had set off before in the A group. The riders set off 30 mins apart with the last lot not starting until Midday!! You do get to choose your time. You get two bag drops which you choose prior to the event to drop small items at, anything from new kit to gets to chamois cream etc.

It is an Audax, so you have to follow the route as closely as possible and pass through specific controls, these are set out on the route card and Brevet card. At each control you have to get your Brevet stamped and you get fed – for free! Well you paid a £230 entry fee but we ate £230 worth of food at every control 😊. There is also an option for a bed. When we got to Thirsk at 401K we asked for a bed and to be woken up 3 or 4.5 hours later, it was really efficient. The control centres were utterly amazing. The food was excellent.

I remember the first time I spent money on the way north was at a petrol station between Lockerbie and Moffat, we had done about 600K, had a nights sleep and I just wanted a Lucozade for energy as it was a hot day so I got us both one. 600K and I spent £2, not bad at all! The controls are also set up with water/isotonic supplies and mechanics who will fix your bike for free!!

Ade: Beforehand we’d sketched out a rough plan of which controls we were going to travel to each day. (We had a full spreadsheet lol).

Our plan was:

  • Day 1 – 249 miles Loughton (London) to Thirsk
  • Day 2 – 189 miles Thirsk to Edinburgh
  • Day 3 – 184 miles Edinburgh to Thirsk
  • Day 4 – 187 miles Thirsk to St Ives
  • Day 5 – 74 miles St Ives to Loughton (London)

The majority of the controls were schools making use of the kitchens and halls and all the check-ins etc were computerised so people following could see the last control a rider had checked into.

Another nice touch was that our rider numbers had our names and country printed on them. There were 33 countries represented and over 1000 riders.

Just to play up to Chris’ stereotype it took us:

  • Total time taken 104 hours 43 mins
  • Total distance 885.4 miles
  • 59 hours and 59 mins actual ride time
  • Average speed of 14.8mph
  • 30,846ft of climbing

Chris: The route is amazing, as you know Audax routes tend to take you on the quiet lanes of the country, far from the madding crowd and this is exactly what it was.

Any incidents you had to deal with?

Chris: TBH not too many, the main one was both of us nearly getting wiped out by a van about 400 metres from the finish line LOL. Our fault too as we were being giddy kippers eulogising about how great we are and prob going too fast 😊. I think we had one or two punctures the whole route but other than that no mechanicals that I can remember. Ades bum sores could be classed as an incident lol.

Ade: Chris and I rode a lot of audaxes together the year before and we just got on well which is hugely important. Also we complemented each other as riders – both a similar standard/level of fitness. There was a descent that was about 15 miles long after Moffat and I noticed that every time I braked my bike would make a grinding shuddering noise. This turned out to be a broken axle (didn’t find out till after LEL though). In the end I just carried on and tried not to use the front brake that much!

Chris also kept me going when my knee was really bad and stayed with me whilst I was riding in the small ring on the flat and one-legged uphill!

What happened with your knee? Any other physical aches and pains?

Chris: Ade suffered with saddle sores and a sore knee going North but was stoic in his approach but I worried about him,when you’re worrying about your mate it adds a different pressure, he sorted his knee though, at about Branard Castle he realised it was the little top bar bag forcing him to widen his knees, so he wasn’t in his natural position, removing the top bag and his pain dissipated, relief 😊. I was lucky in this respect, I didn’t get any pains, I didn’t change my shorts for 1000K, only changing them when I knew the end was in sight and it would take my leg being sawn off to stop me. They were stuck on lol!!

Ade: I started to feel the first pain in my knee on day 2. By the end of the day I was wondering how I could go on with it as it had become so bad each pedal stroke was painful. As Chris says removing the top bar bag helped enormously.

Feelings and thoughts before, during and after?

Chris: Personally I loved it BUT not every minute. There were a few dark moments but it is endurance. I think the single most mentally difficult time was us pushing into a 20MPH headwind for 100k in the middle of the night through the Lincolnshire fens on the way south after about 1200K.

Both taking our turn on the front, secretly hoping the other wouldn’t flick is arm out for the other to come through. That was a very tough 5 hours with only Ade commenting how depressing it was not to have a single turning to break the monotony or a traffic light. We were desperate for a turn in the road lol. Beforehand I was confident, I think we both were, it was an adventure, that’s how I saw it.

Ade: Yes, my low point came cycling up Yad Moss. I had a support on my knee and I just couldn’t think of anything other than letting down all the people who had sponsored me (I was doing it for a Kids Cancer charity). My mind was working overtime and that was when the clarity came – I knew what the problem was and the bar bag and knee brace went in the ditch (metaphorically – I gave them to Paula, Steve’s wife). I still couldn’t sit for long on the saddle due to the saddle sores but at least I knew I’d finish. I’m not sure I would have if Chris hadn’t put in all the work on the front over the previous 2 days.

And what was it like to finish?

Ade: When we got to the end though, it was emotional. We shook hands as we rode in to cheers and cowbells.

Chris: Triumphant! 😆. In all honesty the end is a bit of a blur, I think it was emotional.

Would you do it again?

Chris: Deffo!! Though maybe slightly differently. On the way back at 1,000k we had booked a B&B for a few hours overnight at Thirsk to freshen up. This meant we slept far too long and when we got up my legs were in recovery, it took 100K to get them going again. Although the luxury of the B&B was nice it wasn’t conducive to our sub 100 hours and this made us miss it. (I think we did it in 104 hours).

I would like to say we would do it more casually but I know that would never happen, maybe when we are 80!

Ade: I hope to do it again one day 😊

What average speed and distance would someone need to be able to do to consider LEL?

Chris: Honestly, anyone could do it. If you have a good level of fitness and good mental strength with a few 200s under your belt you could do it. You don’t have to ride it fast. The lowest average speed is 12.5km/h non stop. A friend Becky was gutted as she was just outside the cut off time and didn’t get a finishers medal. She still did it though, just took her 4 hours longer.

Do you have any special memories to share?

Ade: I didn’t like riding across the Humber bridge – they move and I don’t like heights! Head down and ride!

Riding across the Humber Bridge

Chris: Going north we went mental! We forgot what everyone said,(don’t go mad on the first day), and went mad. 400k at approx. 29km/h. We were only 30K from the start when some old guy who didn’t even have a map started drafting us. DROP HIM came the cry and then we tried to drop everyone and everything that came near us after that lol. We would do that again though, I just know it.

Ade: Yes agreed we went too mad on the first day. An old audaxer called Peter Bond had told me before that the adrenaline would kick in and he was right. Plus a monster tailwind and we absolutely smashed it for 200 miles. Looking back it was ridiculous.

Chris: Ade going mad 30K from Thirsk going north, pulling a long line of riders along at about 30KMH, it was pitch black and close to midnight. We were going along undulating lanes in a wood or forest and I dropped to the back. I just remember seeing a long line of blinking red lights rising and falling in front of me thinking about how great life is.

Ade: That ride in the dark was amazing. I was determined to get us to Thirsk somewhere near our schedule as we were behind (and that meant less sleep) so I just hammered it. My lights weren’t great and unbeknownst to me I’d hit some potholes so hard I’d snapped the axle in my front wheel. Also, when we came back the same way in the light on the way back I realised how lucky we’d been – a few people had been wiped out on gravelly corners and bigger potholes – but at the time it seemed fantastic. The next morning we were quickly aware of how stupid we’d been the day before when our average speed dropped considerably. It was on this day my knee starting hurting and I started popping nurofen.

Ade: The distance we were covering meant changing scenery and weather which was great. We only went up by 38ft in 62 miles across the boring Fens (only made bearable by the joke Chris made up when we found a guy lay in the road in front of his car – you had to be there really). Also, we went from sunny weather and blue skies to flash floods near Market Rasen where we had to ride on the pavement because the roads were flooding!

Chris: Leaving Edinburgh at 700K going to Traquair, we left at around 5:30 after a couple of hours kip. It was July and it was 5C, bloody freezing but what a route to Traquair through the mountains.

At Traquair heading South

Ade: That ride was amazing, the valley was beautiful. Breakfast at the control was some fantastic cake (Madonna’s cake maker) and a tot of malt whisky!

Chris: The route from there to Eskdalemuir was arguably even better, lush pine forests and car free roads.

Ade: Getting a massage from a blind bloke at Brampton to try to help my knee – his guide dog was sat there as good as gold as all these riders trooped in and out.

Ade: Its stupid really but on the last day it felt like 74 miles was like nipping to the shops. I guess relatively speaking it was.

Chris: Driving home after the finish, we stopped on the services at Birmingham on the toll road, opened the car doors and had to crawl out, we couldn’t move our legs LOL. Some women were watching and laughing at us as we tried to stand up. We must’ve looked bladdered but we just rolled about laughing.

Laughing, we just laughed a lot. There were dark grouchy times, that’s endurance for you but overall a lot of laughing.

Overall it was a great few days on a bike 😊

The guys at the finish 😁

Useful Links:

The LEL site which has a brilliant FAQ section : https://londonedinburghlondon.com/about

Ade wrote a blog after the event which is brilliantly written, also providing all the maps, facts, stories and humour. For Ades Blog go to: https://ade2010lejog.wordpress.com/category/lel2013/

There is a fantastic documentary on the 2013 LEL which you can find on amazon prime called ‘London Edinburgh London’ (quelle surprise). See if you can find the guys in it talking about their visit to a pharmacy to ask for “face” moisturiser for their sore bits 😂.

The finishers medal – so worth it

UTMB – OCC – Ultra trail Mont Blanc by Emma Bennett

The OCC race is 56km long and has 3,500m of ascent with a total cut off time of 14 hours. There are 5 check points and each of these have individual cut of times you have to meet also.

I’d wanted to do this race for a long time. I didn’t get in for the first two years. You have to collect enough qualifying points in order to enter, which I had, but then you have to apply via lottery. If you don’t get in for two years you then have a higher chance of getting in the next year. So for those two years I didn’t get in, I did the Cortina trail in the Dolomites and the Eiger Ultra Trail in Switzerland instead. In the third year I got a place on the OCC and my great friend Nicky said she’d come with me for moral support.

Nicky ‘the Legend’ and me

The day before registration we were supposed to fly out to Geneva but the flight got cancelled. So on the spot we had to decide what to do. I was starting to flap that we wouldn’t make it in time for the registration but Nicky said she was prepared to do the 6 hour drive through the night from Basel to Chamonix if first flew to Duesseldorf, then took an onwards flight to Basel. Nicky is a complete Legend for doing this.

We arrived at our ‘digs’ at 2am and made it in time for the registration the following morning at which point I also had my bag kit check done. Our chalet was so lovely and cosy and right in the heart of Chamonix where the race finishes.

Our Chalet and my snoopy who has accompanied me on all my races (I’ve had him since I was a little girl).

On the morning of the race we had to be at the bus stop at 5am in order to take an hour long journey to the start line at Orsieres. The journey was very hilly with lots of bends. Once we got there, everyone piled out in their amazing ultra trail wear and I looked at them all and felt like I didn’t quite make the part. The start was in this small beautiful street in the village and the adrenaline started to kick in.

After they started the race everyone was walking initially as there were so many people and the street is so narrow. The start is at 8am and the school kids are out with clackers and cowbells. In fact all you can hear for the first two miles is the sound of cowbells which is so amazing. Once we were out of the village we came to our first climb – Champex Lac, which is a 7.5km climb to get to the first check point.

The first part of the climb out of Orsières
Inside the first checkpoint – a cow shed

That first climb was a really narrow trail, going in single file through Forrest. You can’t really see where you are going at this point as you are surrounded by trees but it was very steep, climbing 1500metres in the first 10k.

Bovernier

The next bit was flat but you know you have more ups to go, so you just put one foot in front of the other and remember to stop and drink in the beautiful views. Everyone was running once on the flat and then the next steep climb came up to a point called La Giete at 2,000metres around 18km into the race.

We then descended down to Trient where the second checkpoint would be. The descent was about 5km, not too steep but quite gnarly with lots of roots. It was open and so we had glorious views of the mountains.

A bridge up high just before Trient

The village of Trient, which was picture perfect, had a beautiful church and it was also where I saw my friend Nicky at the check point. She wasn’t allowed to pass me drinks or food but she was always there with a hug and a smile and it really lifted my spirits to see her.

Stunning views from Trient – the dam in the distance up high

The race is so international. There are so many languages there that you could hear when you were at the different checkpoints. There are equally moments where you are out there running and its so meditative and quiet. All you can hear are the sounds of peoples feet and breathing.

After the second checkpoint I started to feel a bit sick and struggled to get water or food in me. The next climb was 5.5km and about 1,000m up plus it was hot so I knew I needed to drink so I didn’t get dehydrated. I forced myself to drink and then I started to feel a bit better but I still wasn’t quite right. I used my poles which helped on the ascent. I looked around at one point and wondered if others felt as bad as I did, but no one was talking at this point; everyone was dealing with their own demons and making their way up the hill.

I got to the highest point which was Catagone at over 2,000m. After that we descended 5km, 940m and arrived at our third checkpoint in Vallorcine. Nicky was there again, which was lovely but I still couldn’t eat anything. I felt like I needed to be sick. I refilled my water though as I knew I needed to keep drinking. I also started to get cramps in my quads after that last descent.

I remember the views being amazing at this point, I saw dams below us, but they were up high which was strange to see. It was an awe inspiring place to be, to be able to see all around you amazing views and to know you are nearly half way. The whole run is just one amazing long view though with sunny skies, mountains and streams.

One of the many beautiful streams along the way

After this there was another little climb up to Argentiere on top of the mountain, and I started to feel a lot better at that point. I came down again to the checkpoint in the valley of Argentiere (most of the checkpoints are on the way down or in the valleys). This was around 40km into the race and I managed to eat something, which was a relief as I’d gone 2 hours without any food or gels at that point. I had a couple of bowls of noodle soup and some some cola. It sounds disgusting and I don’t even normally drink cola but it was definitely needed!

After the yummy soup stop there is another climb and its completely awful. Its very steep and 5km long. It’s also covered in scree so its slippy and your legs are already fatigued. I got to the top of that and there was another checkpoint. That 5km took a really long time – like an hour and a half or longer which gives you an idea of how steep and difficult it was. The views at the top were worth it though, utterly breathtaking. The checkpoint there was called La Flegere and is a ski resort.

What goes up must come down! Of course you then have to descend again and the next 7km descent was as steep as the previous ascent had been. I’m a strong downhill runner but this was tough! There were lots of roots and things to look out for. It started off as a ski slope and quite narrow, then it was rocky and there was also scree again. I fell over on this descent but thankfully landed on my bottom with no injuries. Luckily I live near the Peak District and do a lot of technical downhill training, which really came in to its own in the really tough downhill bits.

This last descent took us all the way down into Chamonix. I didn’t realise there was another 1km to go after you get to the village. Its like there is a mini start line and then finish for this 1km. I couldn’t believe it but the adrenaline kicked in but I managed to sprint it, passing a number of people along the way. I was running on the sheer feeling of elation and listening to the people cheering. It felt great at the end and I was so pleased I’d got over that really bad dip in the middle.

At the end of the race we were all given a free beer but I couldn’t drink it; in fact I couldn’t drink or eat anything for many hours after the race as I started to feel really awful again. I did recover later on in the evening though and at 11 o’clock that night we went out to watch the people who were doing the big race start. And then it hit me; how are they going to do more than double what i just did?

Next year I’m looking forward to an Ultra in the Pyrenees – bring it on 😁

Me at the finish line – elated

Playing around with our new toy on a trail run – Go Pro

So after excitedly waiting at home this week for the new Go Pro ‘toy’ we set off on our long trail run today with the Go Pro Hero 9 in tow.

My husband is the camera man and chose to use the hand held device below:

Camera attaches to the hand grip and the strap goes around your wrist

Chris said it was quite comfortable and he didn’t notice that he was holding it after a while. In order to not use all the batteries he opted to take short videos along the way and would then stop videoing in between. He also switched the GPS function off, again to save batteries and did 90% of the initial ‘test’ footage in 1080P whilst we got used to it. The camera is capable of 5K!!

We also have a chest strap and head strap for different ways to take the camera out on runs or bike rides. Chris has tried out the chest strap and it was also very comfortable and offered a really balanced video, he commented that both were very comfortable and with hyper-boost set the footage is smooth, taking out the up and downs of each running step.

After our beautiful run in the sunshine (which we were not expecting) we downloaded the clips onto my iPad and then used the Go Pro App on my iPad to edit each short video. This is surprisingly easy (even for me) and you simply click on the video, click on a pencil to edit and can then cut your video to choose a section out of it you want to keep. There are other options/functions you can use in terms of editing but for the most part I stuck with shortening the videos down to 20-30 second clips.

We did experiment with speeding up or slowing down the footage on the video so there is some interesting variation on the final video between me running in slow mo like Wonder Woman and me running in a silly sped up fashion reminiscent of Benny Hill videos 😆.

Chris also filmed one section in full time warp which looks ace so I’ve included this bit separately below:

Time warp video

After we did all this my husband casually suggested I pull the whole lot together to make one overall video and then create a YouTube channel to upload it/show it on. Hmmm, I’m really quite technically challenged so this didn’t sound easy to me at all. I wasted some time trying to work out how to do this by watching other YouTube clips but in the end noticed a button on the Go Pro App called ‘share my story’ and thought ooh I wonder what that does? 🤔. Turns out if you click on this and select all your video clips the app pulls a video together for you, woohoo. The only thing I needed to do was choose some music to go with it. Again there are clearly many other functions to play with but I’ll maybe experiment with those another time.

Setting up a Youtube channel was also surprisingly easy. I already had a Google account, which gives rise to having a channel automatically. I simply shared my ‘story’ from Go Pro App to Youtube and up it popped in my channel. I should add I was able to find my channel by clicking on my picture via YouTube in the top right hand corner.

So below is the finished product, see what you think. It’s our first attempt, so go easy on us 😆.

Managing running and exercise with the joys of menopause – plus the Wonder Woman:Poop scale

It’s been a while since I dedicated a blog to menopause which is after all the caption on my profile. Today I’m sitting here watching women’s cycling just recovering from a bout of nausea and dizziness and after having yet ‘another’ nap.

Yes I mean I did run 16k this morning on trail and some hills, though not as hilly as usual at somewhere between 1,300-1600 feet (my watch and my husbands disagree by quite a bit). Still, I would normally feel a bit tired after such a run but not sick, dizzy and very tired. This is not some weird virus; this is menopause.

Over the last few years I’ve dealt with the annoying hot flashes which came every 30 minutes to an hour ALL THE BLEEDING DAY LONG and were often accompanied by a bout of nausea and always accompanied by temporary loss of ability to think. You could be sitting there one minute talking to a colleague, the flush comes along and then they ask you something and you think ummmm I know you asked me a question but I can’t think or verbalise anything right now. This is all happening in your head so they on the other hand are met with a blank look akin to rabbit caught in a headlight.

The other symptoms no one seems to mention is the hormones surging up and down randomly at their own pace, which gives rise to great days and sucky days. Today was a sucky day. I knew the minute I started running that I was finding it harder and that my heart rate was higher relative to speed. This combined with watching my naturally faster husband open up a substantial gap ahead of me left me feeling about a 7/10 on the Wonder Woman – Poop mentality scale whereby 1 is I can conquer the world; I’m ‘on one’, I’m Wonder Woman and 10 is I suck, my fitness is rubbish, mentally and physically I feel like a big pile of poop.

Above: Last weeks run felt like Wonder Woman. Below: todays run – forcing a smile before slowly emerging out of the feeling poop phase

Thankfully after about the half way mark I managed to pick myself up mentally; accepting this was going to be a higher heart rate run and just get on with it, I pushed myself a bit more and started to enjoy the run and pick up my spirits to a 4/10 level on the Wonder Woman – Poop scale.

So sleeping as any woman going through menopause knows is “interesting”. Thankfully due to the joys of medicine I’m able to get through a night without waking every hour to throw off the duvet, go for a pee and walk around the landing to walk off the hot sick feeling; however, I still find I get really twitchy legs (much to my husbands annoyance). It’s not just legs either, the desire to throw myself onto one side then back the other way every minute is so strong, its hard to resist. Still I’m grateful when I’ve had a night of only waking 2 or 3 times. One should be thankful for small mercies.

So if you know a woman who is probably of ‘that age’ and she is walking around like the living dead, looks at you wide eyed when you ask her questions, repeatedly loses things and asks ‘where did I put my glasses’, throws her sweater/jacket off then on then off then on, repeatedly chomps down any snack you put in front of her and goes from looking rosy cheeked one minute to distinctly wan and even green the next then please be nice. Tell her where her glasses are, fetch her a chair, offer to open the window if she is hot, ply her with little snacks and be thankful you don’t have to deal with this – unless of course you are.

My husband feeling good on the run – its ok though, he did find my glasses 🥰

Private Hill – a perfect place to escape, cycle and run

My husband and I decided to try glamping and a friend mentioned Private Hill looked great. We found it hard to get in as its so popular but managed to get 4 nights midweek booked in September in the Druid dome.

It’s hard to find words to express how amazing this place is. The domes are fully equipped with supersize beds, log burners, a kitchen, a bathroom, a sofa and some comfy chairs. You also get free luxury goodies in the bathroom and the place has WiFi. The inside of the dome is decorated so tastefully, we found ourselves going ooh I’d like to see if we can get one of those tripod lights and large clocks for our house, lets look online 😆.

Outside your dome tent there are spectacular views to wake up to each morning and you can simply pull back the curtains in your tent to see these views from your incredibly comfortable bed or go out onto your individual patio (with another fire pit if you wish to use it in the evening) and see the views there. Also outside you will inevitably see the three Alpacas everyday who roam around the field. They are incredibly cute and so lovely to see when you wake in the morning.

Top: Smiling on our day of arrival, having dinner in the restaurant on our first night. Bottom: Me with the Alpacas, Perseus, Ziggy and Renoir aww.

In all there are four domes for people to stay in and one larger dome, which is the restaurant for breakfasts, afternoon teas, dinners and drinks in between. The food was awesome and I highly recommend the almond croissants and red pepper soup – delicious (not together of course!). The service is excellent and everyone is so helpful and friendly. We always felt safe and at ease also; social distancing is respected and staff wear masks where necessary.

In addition to all the above my husband and I love to cycle and run and this was a perfect place for both these activities. We cycled to Bridlington one day which was a nice 100km round route; to Dalby Forrest and back (77k) and to Castle Howard on the third day which was a 40k round route. This last day we cut the ride short as my bike seat fell off (quite literally!) 😂. A side note to cyclists: We expected it to be flat but there are a few nice 16-20% hills around to have a go at.

Top: Getting up that hill, making it to the sea. Bottom: A beautiful field of sunflowers, starting the 20% ascent back to our ‘glamp’ site.

We only did one 4 mile run as my husband had recently suffered a mini sprain so we were keeping it light but you can still find beautiful places to see in that distance and thanks to Emily from Private Hill we found a lovely partial trail route for our run.

Top: A road section of our run. Bottom: Me cycling through the entrance to Castle Howard grounds, on an evening walk to the local pub (right)

All in all I highly recommend this place and we will certainly be back. I enclose some more pictures, which speak louder than words.

North Yorkshire wolds, alpacas and a ride to the sea 🚴‍♀️ ☀️

I’m sat here surveying the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside on decking outside my glamping pod (which has to be beholden to be believed). Drinking my frothy cappuccino and chuckling to myself as off in the distance a farmer rounding his sheep reminds me nothing of that programme ‘one man and his dog’. Instead the farmer is on some kind of vehicle that makes a loud beeping sound. He does have a sheep dog but I’m not sure if its doing what its supposed to. Instead of ‘come by’ and ‘away’ I am listening to ‘no wait, not that way, wait….Waitttttt!! Spat out with ever increasing frustration. Meanwhile the sheep from this distance look like a shoal of fish running back and forth from my right to my left and back to my right again; with the farmer sounding increasingly cross. It’s incredibly comical to watch from the comfort of my camping chair.

Surveying the world this morning over my porridge

We arrived yesterday at our glamping site and unloaded our car full of unnecessary things into our glamping pod. Apparently last weeks posh tent was not enough and we decided to up it a notch. In reality this is instead of our May Mallorca holiday which was cancelled for fairly obvious reasons. The ‘pod’ is amazing so I’ve included some photos below.

Inside the ‘pod’

Yesterday evening we enjoyed dinner in the main ‘tent’ which is set up as a restaurant and bar. It’s full luxury so we dressed up a little for dinner. The food was gorgeous and you cant beat the views as you dine.

Ready for dinner, having dinner in the main ‘tent’

Amazingly it only took a G&T, a beer, half a bottle of wine and a wee dram of whiskey for me to believe that jumping onto the bed was a great new game. My husband found it amusing to video this. I’ve seen it back – clearly I wasn’t very good at it. I must try this in trainers sometime and see if I can get more bounce.

A great new game 🍷

This morning after our first night in our “tent” we opened the curtains and looked out at the utterly gorgeous views and the Alpacas which wander around the field in front of us. They were tame enough to allow me to get pretty close but did move off once I was within touching distance.

Morning views including the lovable Alpacas

Following my porridge and coffee, the friendly alpacas and the amusing sheep herding incident we set off on our 100km bike ride to the sea at Bridlington and back. It’s supposed to be very flat around here so I was surprised by some of the undulations not least including the 20% starting gradient immediately outside where we are staying. Since the path on the “campsite” is large stones you cant ride your bike until this road so we had to hop on and start on this ascent which is definitely not easy. I managed and was feeling pretty smug with myself and crawling up this hill when my husband says wait…I think we might be going the wrong way 🤔. I carried on for a bit thinking he doesnt sound sure and if I stop I’m not going to be able to get back on here.

This was followed by ‘no wait’ its the other way! So I turned around and started going downhill – lovely………well it was until he stopped, looked at his Wahoo (Cycling device) puzzled and then waved his arms at me again and started coming back towards me – ah nope its uphill after all. What??!! Ok so for the second time I had to try to get on my bike on a steep hill. Thankfully it went well and I started crawling up the hill again.

On the way to Bridlington

After that our ride was very varied. The views were totally stunning all the way to Bridlington, which isn’t pretty (sorry Bridlington) and then stunning all the way back. The initial miles saw a lot of bumpy roads with gravel, which I’m not a huge fan of so it was a bit slow going for me. After that it was an easy and enjoyable ride all the way there – the landscape looks like Cezanne pictures with orange fields and haystacks. We stopped in Bridlington briefly for a photo by the sea and something to eat but both wanted to escape as soon as possible. Too many people and busy roads.

Made it to the sea!

On the return leg I felt fine up until 45 miles which is not surprising as that is about the furthest I’ve cycled in the last few months. After that I started to run out of energy and salted water plus was noticing the heat quite a bit. The last ten miles from 52 miles to 62 were a real mental struggle for me and I felt ecstatic when we were nearly back at the campsite. Don’t get me wrong I love cycling and the views were spectacular but ‘bonking’ on a bike is never fun. (Bonking in cycling/running terms is running out of energy or in my case salt).

Return leg views including the dismissed bike during a tired huff 😂😂

My husband suggested we go to the pub for a beer at the end of our ride, which sounded ace so we agreed to do that even though it meant descending the 20% hill past our campsite, followed by a 17% descent into Acklam and then onto the pub. It took my last bit of energy to do this so imagine my response when we found the pub was closed!!!! The air was definitely a shade of cerulean, Prussian, navy….you get the idea!

So we then climbed the 17% and the 20% again to get back to the campsite, which thankfully has a bar anyway so we enjoyed a well earnt beer (or two) in the sunshine.

Off for something to eat now, next blog later or tomorrow if I get blotto

Wild Glamping and the Kinder Scout Run

I’m chilling out in front of the Tour de France after a few days away um chilling out. We went “wild camping” in Edale, which was so much fun, especially the mini log burner and full double bed in the tent 😆.

Our bell tent, double bed, log burner, some nutter and the cooking area

It also made a perfect spot to walk and run from. On the day we arrived we walked up Grindsbrook Clough which was stunning.

Me on Grindsbrook Clough 🙂

Yesterday we ran from the campsite along the Pennine way via Upper Booth and ascended Jacobs ladder to Kinder Scout. Admittedly I did a lot of walking initially on this run. The combination of the everlasting ascent and not feeling fully well made me quite out of breath so I took it easy.

On Jacobs Ladder

Once on the top we ran past Kinder Low End, I was keen to push on and run but this proved intermittent as the ground was very technical to run on in places, small rocks were sticking out in the gaps between the larger rocks and boulders so you had to watch your step. We both tried to pick up pace but did do a ‘near fall’ or kick things numerous times.

Kinder Scout

We ran on to view Kinder Downfall and then further along a river with an idea to find a way back to Upper Tor and Ringing Roger. The path we were on ended in a peat mud fest so retraced our steps back to Kinder Low End.

Kinder Downfall

At this point I decided I’d prefer to return the same way we came as I was beginning to tire and at least I knew it would be 18km by doing this. Heading back meant we could run a lot more, especially where we could find grassy slopes which are so much easier to run on. We took the bridal path down Jacobs Ladder and at this point my husband went over on his ankle, hearing a crack as he did so. I was concerned but he insisted it was ok. At the bottom of the slope however, there was a nice frosty cold river and we both agreed it would be useful for him to bathe his foot and help early prevention of any swelling.

My husband feeling tempted to do a full naked immersion Sean Conway style but there were people watching 😆

We ran all the way back to the campsite from this point even though my stoic husband was in some discomfort. I’d of suggested we walked but in all honesty I’m not sure that walking the remaining 5k would of been any better really.

It really was beautiful in Edale so we have mutually decided to go back sometime, we can run there from our home, (25K), down some ales and whiskey, camp and run back.

Running was often over ground as per right below