Despite the header image, after sleeping my next day started from just outside Carlisle.
I left Nicky in the camper just after 7:30 as I headed towards Penrith, but very soon I began to struggle again with tiredness. So I sat down on a hill, to eat a flapjack and shut my eyes for a few minutes. I had only gone a few miles, not even as far as Penrith, but it was clear I needed this energy boost early on. I should have tried to sleep for longer in the camper, but when you know that time is ebbing away, and you’ve woken up, something in your brain tells you that if you are awake then you should be moving forwards. It’s surprising though how much these quick powernaps can really help during the day.
I eventually said goodbye to Nicky at the top of the Shap climb, and loaded up my Tailfin, with everything that I thought I would need. There wasn’t a huge amount of room, and so most things were left with Nicky to post back to me later. I immediately noticed the extra weight, and was relieved that I was descending from there, and that next 24 hours didn’t have too many hills.
People make the world go around
It was bank holiday Monday, and loads of riders came to join me for short sections of the day. They helped to take my mind off my tiredness, although I couldn’t engage in too much conversation on busy roads. Guinness World Record rules dictate that riders were not allowed to ride in front or along side me, and I did feel dreadful having to keep asking people to keep their distance, especially after they had made the effort to come out and riding with me. I didn’t want to face this being the reason that my ride wasn’t validated, but at the same time, every time someone joined me, it gave me such a mental boost.
I can’t mention all of the riders, but I’ve included a few here.
First of all, after leaving Kendal, a small group of riders caught up with me, and immediately one of them introduced himself as the dad of some friends I knew from back home. We rode along some lanes, which were rather more busy than I had expected. The nearby motorway was at a standstill, and so locals were using the minor roads as shortcuts. My route had planned on sticking with the A6, but one local rider suggested that the traffic in the next town was dreadful and he knew a better, and quicker way. As soon as we turned off, my heart sank a little. The ‘short cut’ was pretty lanes, and significantly undulating. I couldn’t pick up any speed with my heavier load, and it wore me out. I know the intention was good, but I would have been much happier on the direct, and faster main road, even if there was traffic in town. But, he saw me safely to Lancaster, where I was met by other riders, who had been tracking the ‘dot’ so they knew where to intercept me.
In Lancaster I was joined by another junior who had also been following the dot, along with her dad on their tandem. Paul, who had guided me to Lancaster going northbound joined me again going southbound, and in Preston I met up again with Daniel, this time he wasn’t cycling, but met me with food and hot tea. In Wigan, Norman had offered to cook pasta for me, and he lived on the route. It was great to have time to charge up my devices, use his facilities, eat a plentiful pasta dish, and then have him ride with me through Wigan & Warrington so that I didn’t make the same mistakes as I had made going northbound. Having company kept me awake, and prevented me from being alone with my thoughts, but it was clear I wasn’t going to get anywhere near to Shrewsbury that night. I called Del and asked him to find me another hotel closer to where I was as sleep deprivation had really caught up with me through the day. Although I kept moving, progress was slow, and I had to stop at one point for a 5 minute power nap. I could see that Norman was flagging too, as it was around midnight. It dawned on me that he still needed to ride back to Wigan, so I bade him farewell, knowing that I could manage the last few miles to my new destination.
I made it to Northwich, considerably short of where I had hoped to end up, and felt dreadful. This no longer felt like a plan, but just survival. There was never any question of me not finishing the ride, and the thought of abandoning never entered my head, but it now felt different. It’s hard to describe the emotions when you are doing something like this, especially when the original goal has long since been missed. I had a new goal, and that was just to finish the ride, no matter how hard it got, and how long it took. The enthusiasm of all my online supporters, and people cheering me from the road helped me to know that I was going to see it through to the end. I was back in England, with no absence of towns, so I could never really say that I was in any real danger. If I wanted out, all I needed to do was call a taxi, or jump on a train. But, once you go into survival mode, it’s a very different state of being. With what was going on in my head, I might well have been in the middle of highlands still, knowing that I always HAD to make it to the next destination as there was nothing in between. I had only 3 things going on in my head (in this order).
1 – Keep moving forwards, no matter how slowly
2 – Where would I be sleeping next?
3 – What would I eat next?
I was still a really long way from the end, and tomorrow was day 10!