Hike Bike Run
In 2009 possibly under the influence of alcohol and whilst feeling rather indestructible after another weekend in the mountains together me and Tim fancied ourselves for the national three peaks.
Neither of us were hugely pleased with the idea of driving 1000 miles, and the cost of the fuel, let along the restrictions on not drinking after each mountain (law in many walking circles) Tim pipes up
“why don’t we just cycle between the mountains”
to which I replied
“oh yea, we may as well finish by cycling to London & running the London Marathon”
So you know those drunken moments you have with friends, and you both look at you with eyes and mouths wide open? Yup, that happened, BIG TIME!
Fast forward 4 years and the idea is still bouncing round my head, I’d moved to London and frankly was having the toughest time of my life, weirdly the thought of cycling 850 miles, climbing three mountains and running a marathon was just what I needed. That was it, I set up a twitter account spent a unusual period of time on google maps and planned a route.
I’d even managed to get support from a few lovely companies, Dassi who seriously stuck their neck out, and ended up making this trip possible with the fabulous machine they let me use, and Trek Bars who fuelled me throughout the trip, man I love these bars!
I dreamt of this huge trip, fully supported a big van and driver to set up along route. The day of the trip I was hiding all the work I’d not done in work, Checking over my expedition plan (Yea really!) when the support vehicle driver emailed and pulled out. I had sold my old bike to pay for van hire for the week, 10.30,I had a few hours to turn my fully supported trip into a super light full on hard challenge. Thankfully the van hire were kind enough to refund me in full, I managed to get a bunk space on the Caledonian sleeper train, leaving at 9. I had to beg a friend to collect my race pack the day before the Marathon (as I simply wouldn’t be there) I ran home from work, boxed up my marathon race kit, Top, shorts, shoes as I couldn’t cary it 900 odd miles to the start line, and begged a friend to post it to another friend who would meet me on the day of the marathon to swap the bike for my race kit. PHEW, in 6 hours I’d managed to totally re plan my trip, cancel book and change plans, finish work, post kit beg for help and re pack and get up to Euston for my 9 pm train!
Left the bikes all settle in for the journey up, way up North. Right, all the gear I took for the trip including what I was wearing.
A few Cans of Scottish lager and haggis dinner and I was reading to settle down to bed, on a train, AMAZING! I woke and jumped up looking out the window to see the huge snow capped mountains, fir tree’s and deer roaming. With in the hour we arrived in Fort William, Man this place is special. A few hours were spent just sat by the Loch taking it all in. I was here, this was happening.
Day 1 Sunday Ben Nevis & Cycle 90 Miles to Loch Lomond
We settled down at the YHA set the alarm for 4 and tried to get some sleep. I’d Invited friend and Running coach along Bea, She’d never climbed a uk mountain before or been to Scotland but was a hugely strong cyclist so with the help on the bike for the daily challenge things seemed to fit.
We shot up the Ben, even with the snow coverage and us wearing mountain train shoes, maybe this helped with a fast and light approach. Back at the YHA in time to check out have breakfast and hit the bike.
The wind was unsettling, we couldn’t ride close to each other even with a super light bike it felt like cycling through treacle. Glen Coe almost broke us early on I was down to 7-9 MPH! Just endless hill after hill and seeing the road stretch into and over the horizon was mentally tough.
If this were going to be like this, I was indeed going to be growing throughout the trip.. We ploughed on, chasing the remaining light to reach Loch Lomond and to our camp for the night. March 31st, 7pm Climbed Ben Nevis and cycled 80 miles only to be told NOTHING is open until April 1st. Great, Lovely. Its now dark our only option is to head south along the loch, moon light guiding our way. By 9pm we stumble across the first and only hotel open on the Loch, hence we had to beg for some food and a room, any type of shelter they could offer us…
A deep breath, day one over, I was 30 Miles short of my cycle target but 760 miles closer to the start of Brighton Marathon.
Day 2 Monday: Loch Lomond to Moffat 90 Miles.
We took the chance to fuel up with breakfast and then stop for coffee and cake at a cafe with awesome views:
Who could blame us, after all a journey is all about the experience, right?
With our timing we avoided heavy traffic through Glasgow and pushed through to the open and empty views of the B7076 which follows the M74 south and out of Scotland.
Setting off later meant a shorter day, so Moffat and another only 90 miles was in the bag. In my head I was hugely upset knowing each day I was losing ground on my plan and where I wanted, no NEEDED TO BE. Still, 670 miles to the start line, and I had 5 days and two mountains to climb, what could go wrong…
Desperation turned to food consumption and at our pub B&B I ate every possible fried food option on the menu, which quiet frankly I flipping loved, Still woke up hungry mind..
Day Three Tuesday. Moffat to Scafell pike 80 miles.
I was starting to get frustrated with not hitting my daily target, I should have woken in the lakes been climbing Scafell and heading south. But I had another 80 miles before even getting a sniff of the mountain and bagging 2/3 of the three peaks..
Setting off I had to have a ten minute stop at lockerbie to take it in, and i seriously felt something at that place, something other than saddle sore, hunger and rain…
It got so cold and wet that by Gretna green we had to stop for a coffee warm up and to buy waterproofs, seriously why to they make cycle shoes with mesh EVERYWHERE! Warm, coffee fuelled and ever more gathering mileage loss frustrations we headed for the lakes and the up and down riding roller coaster that is the hills. With our early start we’d got to Scafell by early afternoon. My issue was I didn’t know the mountain and without knowing why I’ve always had a strange aversion to climbing mountains in the afternoon, maybe I’ve read too many high altitude books but not knowing my way, being tiered, only having three hours daylight all pointed to taking the afternoon off and booking into a YHA.
I had to reevaluate things, Bea was heading home as she needed to rest for Paris marathon, but Jonny was joining tonight so I had a climbing buddy and someone to look after my bag so i could ride free and push!
I took the time to play in the river and get R&R, it was needed as I had 580 miles two mountains and four days to play with..
Jonny arrived, I’d never been so glad to see a dear old friendly face, this guy!! A plan of attack was made and the stern side of JB (jonny) came out and told me this was happening, it was time to click into gear and crack on.
Day 4 Wednesday: climb Scafell and cycle 140 miles to Mold.
We started in the darkness with a few jumbled directions but happiness and fresh legs! We smashed it and summited for sunrise PICS shot down and I jumped on the bike.
See you in 90 miles jonny said then laughed shook his head and drove off. Its pretty much a straight road to Liverpool and thought the birkenhead tunnel. JB went through stopped and asked if I could cycle through, WINNER after 8pm it was open to cyclist. GAME ON. I flew through, and kept out the other side and into WALES! SERIOUSLY, 24 hours ago I thought this was in tatters. Now I have glimmer of hope..
I called JB told him I was flying so could he drive 40 miles down the A55 and I’d cycle to him then pop the bike in the car to head back to our camp site.. Sadly in my excitement of only being 70 miles from Snowdon I suggested a Mc Donalds.
The clock rolled over to 00:00 and my alarm set for 4 AM. 440 Miles to the start line and now only one mountain and four days, the numbers were starting to look favourable..
Day 5 Thursday Cycle 70 miles to Snowdon, climb Snowdon and cycle 50 miles to Llangollen.
The rain landed like a soft spray on my face, I stood under the street light at 5am if I tried hard enough I’m sure I could hear the sea. For me today was it, getting back on the bike after Snowdon and pointing it south towards the coast and Brighton.
Snowdon was all but a formality, I’d climbed it at least 100 times and it was a box tick of cycling there three peaks too. I’d only ever driven the area never cycled, but it took the best of me, left me crying and Jonny Found me asleep on a bench outside Cotswold in Betys. It took me until 4pm a solid 11 hours to get to and climb Snowdon all in the rain I might add (SHOCKER) I was forced back on the bike by Jonny although I knew he meant good, he was laughing at my stupidity for what I was willing to put myself through.
Down through the valley and through Betys then that 5 mile hill after turning right out of Betys, yea seriously five miles!! I found a second wind as darkness and mist chased me onward to Llangollen.
JB found a B&B and we said our goodbyes. he’d helped me so so much I’d now only got 300 or so miles to cycle and Brighton Marathon to Run in three days. EASY!
I settled in, ate my body weight in Chinese checked my route and made a stupid goal of Marlborough yes Marlborough 190 miles away. But With JB gone I had my ruck sack with me again. I threw everything away I didn’t need or couldn’t afford to buy again. JB had agreed to take the bulk of the gear with him so I was left with just bike spares and a down jacket..
The day ended I’d covered 120 miles and Climbed Snowdon. 300 miles in two days would see me makes the start line of the Marathon, but surely I’d need to taper or something wouldn’t I?
Day 6 Cycle from Llangollen to Marlborough 190 miles.
I woke up at 5 am the rain had about stopped and the A5 south took on the marbling effect as the tarmac dried with each hour the sun rose higher. I set off at 7AM knowing that with 300 or so miles to ride and 48 hours to reach Brighton I could make this, it was possible.
I stopped within the first hour at a greasy road side cafe, for a plate of everything twice with toast and tea, and a coke. I waddled back onto the bike and ploughed on into England through Shrewsbury the Shropshire hills into Glousctershire and stopped for a amazing lunch of curry and rice and a apple crumble yes of course custard! please!
Then the route finding dream and key to making this day a epic ride, the dual carriageway of the A417 leading to the A419 all the way from Glouscter through cirencester to Swindon. Smooth tarmac, wind at my back and the extra drag from the cars and the odd tractor that I sat behind too. before I knew it I’d arrived in Swindon and had crossed over the M4! seriously what A ride and not far from Marlborough either. I stopped off for a cheeky pint and pre dinner dinner around 5pm and made the final undulating ride into the exceptional town of Marlborough where my next buddy Adrian who I’d met climbing kilimanjaro a few years ago was waiting and had booked us up a sweet little country pub room!
RESULT! a shower some fresh clothes from Adie and a magical meal set me straight for the last days riding of just over 100 miles just one small problem of the south downs. I’d have to put the fact I’ve just blown my previous best ride out the water by some way to the back of my mind for now. Now the worry of getting hit by a car and thinking of marathon fuelling was entering my head, could I even Run!
100 miles through the South Downs to Worthing to go. I guess you should never give up on a dream just because the time it’ll take to complete.
Day 7 Saturday Marlborough to Worthing 100 or so miles.
AAHHHH I couldn’t have it easy now could I, not just a single days lovely calm sunshine, oh no.
Do you ever have those days where its raining so hard you just know you’ll get wet so you give up and embrace the wet, well, I do and I did. I goy up and out early savouring a day with no pack on again, didn’t have breakfast (this was a routine) a few hours later I stumbled into Mc Donalds for a cuppa some porridge and to mostly look like i’d just wee’d on the floor.. Rest refuel and ride thats how today was going.
Thankfully I am greedy so filled my pockets with Chocolate covered raisins to snack on, but it didn’t seem to matter what I ate the week was catching up on me I was empty. I finally dragged myself into Winchester and found a rather swanky gaff for eggs benidict and a pot of tea! (dressed in sopping wet lycra and pretty much looking homeless part from my £6000 bike.
An hour later when I managed to convince myself that my clothes were dry I jumped back on the bike expecting the refuel to be complete, no, just nothing. I spent the next two hours stopping at every service station and hitting the coffee, hot sausage rolls and topping up the raisins. Finally by 2 pm I kicked back into gear and decided to hit the Southdown’s head on and rather than heading across them I’d hit it hard and straight to Bognor Regis then Follow the costal road. the final hill almost broke me seriously was swearing at every sign every pedal stoke. Until I hit the summit and started the decent to the coast, this was it all i had to do was hold on to the bike and I’d end up at the coast then turn left and I was done!
I’d made worthing before sunset, Time to chill. But then I’m hit with the worry, utter devastation. Adie held the key to the finish, it was his job to collect the race pack from Brighton and my race kit that’d been posted the previous week…
I got to the house of a friends extended family to find him there waiting with everything I needed. FRESH SOCKS, OH MY DAYS…
We ate Pasta, talked until I started getting my race nerves. Just the ride from Worthing to Brighton hand over my bike in exchange for my running shoes and line up. This was it, I had to Pinch myself couldn’t believe I’d made it this far, but I knew it was possible..
Sunday Funday NO CYCLING, just 26.2 miles..
The hour cycle had been spent listening to motivational speeches and me mostly blubbering away, but I gathered myself and found Tim at the start area to make the exchange, £6000 bike for £90 shoe’s I felt a little hard done by to be fair!
I Lined up and away we went, my big worry with the race was how much slower running was compared to cycling, or at least mine was anyhow! The first few miles went a dream, I bumped into a few friends and was enjoying the whole thing until the wheels fell off. Fuel just fuel, I kept running and called Tim and begged for flap jacks, he came to the rescue with 6! He Knows me so well, I smashed four in and cracked on only for my left thigh to start smarting around 9-10 miles in. I slowed to see if it would ware off but it seemed the previous weeks antics had taken its toll.
By the half marathon mark I was down to walking, but then I though “I didn’t say I’d run a sub four hour marathon here I only said I’d finish” I chilled out, gave high fives talked to people smiled and had fun and Finally crossed the line in over five and a half hours but happy and shocked I’d even made it.
Im genuinely shocked by what you can put your body through at times and how life changing going on a bike ride or climbing a mountain can be.
Although its the uk I still had the journey of my life, covering over 800 miles climbing three mountains and stumbling through only my second marathon. But most impotently I had the guts to follow through on my idea and my dream, something that I couldn’t shift from my head and that in its self for me was the most important thing I’ve ever done, that and knowing I can push my limits are two hugely fundamental things in my life.
Go explore yourself and your surroundings and push your limits, do something that stays true to yourself and find your passions and most importantly live a purposeful life.