Sunday, 17 July 2011

Trying to Get to Whitby

This weekend's plan was to cycle through the North York Moors to Whitby, then head back to Scarborough on the Sustrans cycle route and take the train back to York.

A scary plan, which needed a lot of planning and a lot of fuel.

But the weather forecast did not bode well. After days of muggy sunshine, non-stop heavy rain was supposed to set in this weekend - we still hadn't tried cycling in a non-stop downpour, though, so we agreed to give it a go whatever the weather.

Saturday morning came and the clouds were heavy but the ground was dry. As soon as I unlocked the bike shed at 7am I felt the first drops of rain; we set out in waterproofs and wore extra layers, which didn't leave us overly confident about the distance we had to cover (almost 90 miles). By the time we'd left York to meet the country roads it was coming down heavily, and it wasn't long until everything was wet. Every now and then the sky seemed to explode, and heavy pellets of water came thundering down, hitting my eyes like sharp stones and making it impossible to see or even hear anything.

I was starting to feel pretty demoralized, and wasn't looking forward to slogging up Bulmer Bank in the wet. Not far from the massive hill another cyclist passed us (one of only three other cyclists we saw that day), and her cheery hello and a hurried few words about cycling as she sped past lifted our spirits no end. Somehow we both made it to the top of Bulmer Bank without getting off to walk, despite slippy pedals and a wet road surface. A few whoops and cheers at the top of the hill ensued, before we stopped off under the shade of a tree to eat a few dried apricots (I wanted chocolate but it was only 8:30am!). On we headed, and I was determined that we'd beat the weather and make it to Whitby that day.

We arrived in Malton and took a wrong turn. Under the shade of a bush we checked the maps, and it was incredibly difficult to muster the will to climb back on the bikes and keep going. My socks were soaking wet, and my feet actually felt heavy due to my water-logged shoes. Climbing up the hill to meet the planned route there was another torrential outburst - the rain hadn't stopped since 7am that morning, and it was getting worse and worse. Water was gushing down the roads and the drains were over-flowing, but I kept telling myself to push on; if the weather is that bad on August 14th we'll have no choice but to push through, after all.

The next part of the route was off-road. Potholes and rocky slopes were hidden in large puddles, and we were slipping and sliding all over the place as we moved. It was at this point that Daniel made the obvious decision for us both: we decided to call it a day and take the train back from Malton. I was so glad to hear him say this; I'm not one for giving up, and I often choose the ridiculous over the sensible, but by this point - only 27 miles in - I was feeling so uncomfortable and fed up that I was happy to throw in my towel. The last thing we want is to get the flu only 4 weeks before the big day!

So Whitby has been postponed until next week. But it wasn't a wasted ride, even if it wasn't a success. I learned a few important things:

- Wear waterproof shoes
- There's no point wearing moisture wicking shorts with non-wicking underwear!
- Sometimes it's ok to give up and go home
- Peanut butter and jam cures all ills
- Getting too cold must be avoided at all costs

PB&J on the train - very soggy!
And finally, after cycling 27 miles in torrential rain we both agreed that we were actually feeling fantastic, all things considered. I certainly felt fit enough to carry on for another 50 or so miles yesterday, and I'm disappointed that I coulnd't see this through. I'm impatient to test how far I can go, and how hard I can really push myself. I'll have to wait until Saturday now I suppose!

1 comment:

  1. apparently, and I wouldn't know because I never cycle more than about 5 miles at a time, no underwear is the way forward....and padded shorts!

    And yes, pb+j is always a winner!