Monday, 25 May 2009

Lands End to John O'Groats ... DONE!

Hooray!! This morning, a beautiful, sunny, UK Bank Holiday morning, after taking Susie, our Golden Labrador, out for her early morning walk, I decided that it was time to wrap up another part of my 365challenge for Cancer research UK ... the Lands End to John O'Groats bit ... a distance of 1600 Km that I have been steadily chipping away over the past months.

So, rather than go to the gym and rattle away on one of the stationary bikes in there, I climbed on my mountain bike and took to the cycleways and backroads around Chester. It was a really great ride: warm sunshine, even at that early hour of the morning, and lovely countryside, friendly greetings from fellow cyclists and dog walkers, and overall, a sense that all is good with the world. And with judicious management of my route, taking my lead from my on-board tracker/computer-thingy, I comfortably completed the final 25 Km required to be able to tick off the LEJOG part of my 365challenge with still 3 months and 1 week to go of my 365challenge year! What a great feeling as I came along the final kilometre, knowing that I'd achieved another of my 365challenge goals.

What's left to do?

Oh yeah, 150 Km Thames rowing still to go and 2 of the 3 Peaks (one each in June and July), but you know what, I think I may still have to add a further element to my 365challenge as, at this rate, I'll have this wrapped up well ahead of my target closing date of August 31st 2009 ... or will I? The rowing is going to be hard because of my arm, so maybe that'll mean I take it down to the wire, but I guess that's what keeps this interesting for me - setting and hitting goals as I go along. Let's see how things pan out over the next month or so - that'll give me a clear idea of just what is achieveable ... watch this space!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

75 Km to go to complete my LEJOG

I had intended posting after my last visit to the gym, cos that's when I got to the 100 Km left on the cycling leg of my 365challenge - when I'd covered 1500 Km of the 1600 km that makes up the Lands End to John O'Groats route - but I forgot!

So ... only 75 Km left after todays effort! And I think, after all this time, I can claim that I'm getting fitter! I felt really good on the bike in the gym today, so "went for it", and managed to complete the 25 Km (that's my visit tartget each time) in a personal best time of 41 minutes 56 seconds! Now I know it's on a bike in a gym and I'd never achieve that kind of speed on a road bike, but hey, I reckon that was pretty good. I think I knocked about three minutes off my usual average time. Got my heart rate up to 175, so I promise you, I was pedalling hard!

Now three more visits to the gym should mean that I've completed another part of my challenge, leaving "just" 150 Km on the rowing machine and the two mountains - Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis - to be climbed, and still 3 months of my 365challenge year to go.

What do you reckon, should I stick a marathon on at the end, just to make sure I have something to do?!!!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

No honestly, this is the top of Snowdon ...

After 8 months of gym-based endeavours with my 365challenge, I decided it was time to take the show on the road, and tackle a couple of challenges in the flesh, so to speak. I've already "climbed" the height of the 3 peaks on the Stairmaster in the gym, but that felt like a bit of a cheat, so I decided to climb the 3 peaks for real, one a month, starting yesterday, with Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales, at 1085m/3560 ft.

Once I announced that, several people got in touch, saying they'd like to climb some hills too, so the plan started coming together, and yesterday, there were 8 of us, including 3 other 365ers - Fred, Peter and Karen, along with Dave, Lesley, Lewis, Oliver, and of course, ME!

I know Snowdon quite well, so I knew that the car park at Pen-y-Pass, where we were starting from, got full very early, so I made myself extremely popular by telling everyone they had to be there for 7.30 am - as several of us had a 1.45 hour drive to the start, that went down well ... but seeing as we got a couple of the last parking places there, I think I was vindicated! Anyway, the forecast for better(!) weather in the morning, and it's always good to get an early start on the hills.

We headed up the Pyg Track and made really good time as we climbed above Lyn Llydaw, making sure not to turn up onto the Crib Goch - a challenging route at the best of times, but in yesterday's low cloud and high winds, it would have been suicidal (though some folk were heading up that way!). The rain was intermittent, but okay, but as we climbed higher, the wind got a lot stronger and the going got a little toughter! We climbed into cloud as we got to the junction of the Pyg and Miner's tracks, and then the real climbing started as we hit the Zig Zags that lead up to the ridge that takes you to the summit.

The group worked well together, supporting each other over the harder parts and spirits were good as we crested the final ridge, where we got hit by really powerful gusts of wind that left some of us reeling! The rain was still on and off, but it seemed to be horizontal in that wind, as we were hit by sharp pinpoints of rain that meant much of the walking was done with heads down, watching feet and leaning into the wind just so we could stay on our feet. Not that there was much of a view up there ... visibility was around 20 - 30 metres at times.

Once we made it to the top and touched that marker that proved we'd made it, it was down to the relative shelter of the station wall for some provisions. But people were getting cold, so we didn't really hang around too long, and soon we were heading back down ... and it as a relief to head back down the Zig Zags out of the worst of the wind ... though it was still heavy going, and we frequently had to brace ourselves against the rocks to let the gust die away.

We headed down the Miner's Track (after a brief diversion down a stream!), and left the cloud behind as we got down to Glaslyn. From there it's a long, relatively easy, trail back to the car park, which we reached after about 5 hours walking in total, a pretty good time for that route in those terrible conditions, I reckon!

There was a steady stream of people on the mountain despite the conditions, but I have to say, some people do not dress for the conditions. We saw some people in trainers and jeans, and even, as we got back to the car park we met two girls who asked us to point them towards the Pyg Track ... one was dressed in tracksuit bottoms and light trainers, while the other, though she had boots on, was in jeans ... and full make-up! Now, there's nothing wrong with wearing makeup on the hills, but jeans and trainers in those conditions is asking for trouble: once you're wet, you stay wet, and cold, and miserable! I hope they got sense and made their way home to try another day!

As for us ... well, you can't climb Snowdon without winding down at Pete's Eats cafe in Llanberis, over a pint of tea and a humongous plate of chips ... and so that's what we did too ... a great way to finish off what had been a challenging day on the mountain. You can see more photos of the trip by clicking through on the photo link here:

Thanks to everyone who came along and made it such a great day. It's Scafell Pike next - on June 6th - and we're looking forward to that, but let's hope for slightly better conditions next time!