By Miranda Cole
“Wow! That’s going to be really hilly…”
“That doesn’t sound very relaxing!”
“Oooh lovely! Hope you get some nice weather”
….are all things that people said to me when I told them about my plans for this trip…to which my replies were, respectively, “Thanks, I had realised that”, “Yes, bit mad I know but I love a good bike ride” and “ME TOO!!!”
Megan has filled you in on the general idea, the charity and the goal, so I won’t repeat any of that stuff. What I thought I would do would take you through an “average day” of cycle touring with our merry crew, so you maybe get idea of the rhythm and flow of our days.
08.00 – Ish. Alarm goes off, or I wake up with the daylight. Maria has already been for a walk, done some yoga and solved work crisis. I generally have a stretch in bed and wondering which parts of my legs are going to be niggling today. Calves and knees have been tricksy for me from time to time but it can vary.
Pull on whatever comfy clothes I have nearest and start to pack my panniers, keeping the essentials at the top.
08.30 – Breakfast is mostly an exercise in trying to eat as much as possible, extra bonus points if you can combine some form of chocolate/nut melange with carbohydrates. For the hills….you know…. Tea availability is a major factor in my outlook for the day. Facing 100km plus without any caffeinated beverage I find difficult, and usually prompts an early cafe stop. The day we had no tea for breakfast I fell off my bike into a nettle-laden hedge on a canal towpath. You don’t want to be taking any chances of that happening again.
09.00 – Final faff-min preparations before leaving; talk about where our next snack/meal will come from en route, pull on those sexy padded cycling shorts with copious slathering of Chamois cream for good measure, apply suncream and spf lip balm in vague hope they might be needed that day, and try to forsee the future by working out whether it is a vest top/long sleeves/fleece and waterproof day. (This invariably proves futile; Welsh and Scottish weather forecasts are about as useful as Jeremy Hunt is as a Health Secretary)
09.30/10/10.30 – ish depending on length of day planned… Set off! Freedom, exhilaration, curiosity as to what beautiful views or (nerd alert) cycling infrastructure we might come across…. Sometimes all that I feel is my legs for the first few km, or worry for the impending two blue raindrops under the black cloud that I saw under the 11.00 gap on bbc weather. Which I still check. We have discovered that “weather shopping” can sometimes alleviate some of that worry (keep checking various weather websites until you find one that says what you would like it to), but cycle touring is also a good exercise in learning to let go of planning for every eventuality, and just seeing what happens.
11.00 – Blue sky mornings, stunning ever-developing views, after a yummy cooked breakfast (with lashings of tea) tend to trigger a series of big contented sighs from me, “Yeah, Love it, Good stuff” rpt ad inf. from Maria, and usually just quiet appreciation from Megan (who sometimes likes to imagine she is back in Europe going solo without these noisy hangers-on). This lasts usually until halfway through the first climb when these feelings sometimes fade rapidly, though can usually be found again on the downhills. So fickle.
Anytime throughout the day – Hills tend to disperse the group; “mono pace” Maria leaving no prisoners at the front and me pootling along in my own time at the back. I catch them back up on the downhills, dont worry. Generally we all cycle at similar speeds but in rain/windy conditions, particularly if a snack-stop is overdue or at the end of the day, I confess to having had a little sulky moment or two and struggled to keep up. …
13.00 – Megan is absolutely fantastic at ensuring the regularity of our food breaks, and the quality of them. Lunches are plentiful but do involve a lot of cheese and bread. Occasionally a welcome scotch egg or pie slice supplements this. But everything tastes amazing when you are hungry, even after watching megan lick her penknife clean before slicing tomatoes for everyone’s sandwiches…. Yesterday afternoon involved a three-course extravaganza at 4pm involving some fruit and nut, half a sausage roll, rounded off with wine-gums. Those of you worried that we are burning more calories than we can consume, needn’t do so. To our hosts’ incredulous looks, Megan and I managed to eat four portions of lasagne each the other night, followed by pizza. In her words, “well I wasn’t going to have another but when you went in for fourths I thought I would join you”. Food is a big part of these holidays.
14.00 – keep cycling. And then a bit more. Then when you think you are nearly there you will see a sign saying “Annan/New Galloway/Ardrossan – moremilesthanyouthoughtyoucouldcycle”. It’s a mental game by this point; but stopping to remember you are on holiday, trying to take arty pictures of clouds over lakes, realising you never were any good at photography and deciding to steal Maria’s instead, rolling downhill through mostly unspoiled valleys on quiet roads AND THEN finding an ice cream cafe, are what it’s all about. The ups and downs of cycle touring. Worth every pedal-turn.
18.00 – arrive at destination. Feel relieved. Enjoy warm shower and sensation of smelling nice for a few hours. Drink lots of tea/water/juice and spend all evening weeing. Eat lots (see above). Feel exceptionally tired by 19.00 but make conversation with hosts, read, listen to music or attempt to connect to WiFi of variable quality in order to delay bedtime to a more acceptable hour.
21.00 – laugh in that tired-hysterical way at various things; memories of Miranda falling off/comedy quotes from Megan/how ridiculous Megan’s tan lines are/how ridiculously not-tanned Miranda and Maria are/genuine disbelief at how un-photogenic we all are.
22.00 – head to bed, exhausted. Drift off feeling your muscles relax, endorphins contributing to some kind of zen-like state where work feels like a distant memory, and memories of the sites of that day dancing across your eyelids. Corny and idyllic but true! The hard times make the good ones infinitely better. Something I try to keep telling myself each morning following the achey process of getting up…
Please do sponsor megan if you haven’t already. Her challenge involves an incredible physical and mental effort that we all recognise, and she is using her holiday to do so. Theo the mascot and all at Young Bristol are extremely grateful! See link below….