One of our customers – Chris Rhodes – did the epic Fred Whitton Challenge last weekend. Here’s how he got on. In summary, he’s still a bit grumpy with how he did but he enjoyed it.
Guest blog by Merlin Cycles customer Christopher Rhodes. Read Chris’ pre-Whitton ‘preparing for’ blog here.
Monday May 4th
After two days of suffering from a bug donated to me by my generous diseased work colleagues sharing their germs, I decided to try a gentle ride with a mate over to Torver (cafe in Broughton in Furness) returning via the Duddon valley and Wrynose pass. 40 miles that seemed felt okay considering.
Thursday May 7th
Three days to go and I’ve already been laid up for a day sleeping for 7 hours solid. Sore croaky throat. I still rode 24.7 miles up and around Thirlmere. Very steady. Had a leg massage that day too.
Sunday May 10th – Day of The Fred
A ‘Team Sky’ breakfast of porridge and honey followed by scrambled eggs. Plenty of fluid too. The weather forecast looked a bit poor; maybe brightening by the end of the ride.
I’d missed registering the day before so I set off for the 4 mile drive to the start at 06.30am. 45 minutes later I got there – parking issues at the event centre!
I felt okay and – given my poor drinking history – took 1 bottle and a 1.5 litre Camelbak. I always carry a hydration pack when mountain biking and had tried it on my last ride. It seemed like the solution and I drank more frequently. Pretty soon I was registered and finally off riding my bike.
The first third
A third of the way I could tell that my gas tank wasn’t as full as it should have been. I wasn’t chasing those who passed me with my usual aggression. It felt pathetic; the mind willing but the body sluggish.
Kirkstone was okay, the descent slowed by understandably nervous motorists, but that’s the way it goes at these things. The A66 flew by despite having no one to work with.
Borrowdale led on to the brute of Honister Pass – the early part being by far the worst bit. Excellent marshalling on the descent (the sight of many horrendous accidents in previous years) preventing any spills but the cross winds nearly took me. Never had those there before!
Newlands and Whinlatter
No time for stopping at Buttermere for food. On and up Newlands and down to Braithwaite. Then Whinlatter where I had excellent support from well wishers, loads of cow bells. Very Alpine. Overtaking cars going up hill was very novel! Otherwise it was nothing overly memorable apart from the side-swiping wind.
No stopping for food at Calder Bridge. Crack on, I was feeling too ‘neutral’. One energy bar and several swigs of High 5 gel. Then the climb up to Cold Fell and the strong West Cumbrian accents drifting from the cattle grid at the top of the climb (Mara Eh).
The Honister 92 Club had a fan base set up with tables and club gazebos. They had guys and girls with tubs of jaffa cakes, bits of orange, cake and sweets which I wrongly assumed were for their club mates. They thrust whatever you wanted at you and cheered one and all on. It was great. Thanks Honister 92!
Cold Fell is a drag and it was very windy today, blowing people all over the road. Superb marshalling again though. Don’t forget to thank the marshals, it’s nice to be thanked and good manners too! Before reaching Gosforth I should have been able to force the pace down Eskdale but no.
Hardknott. People everywhere, weaving and wobbling. Early on it was off and walking for a couple of hundred yards as a rider with a very small block forced me to stop with their erratic riding! It took a while to get back on without bringing others to a halt. Eventually I reached the top and began a confident, quick descent.
One guy had shot off a hairpin and was laid in a heap a long way from the tarmac with a medic tending to him. Ouch.
By Cockley Beck my aim of doing 7.5 hours had faded. Taking risks wasn’t the way. Wrynose Pass was no problem but the descent had to be slowed due to vehicle traffic.
Colwith Bridge. Two years ago – when the route used to turn right and back to Coniston – I really motored from here but this year’s easier finish back via Elterwater the red mist wouldn’t come down. It was as hard slog back to Grasmere.
8 hour 42 second finish. Not happy at all. I enjoyed it but I was not happy.
In summary, I’m still grumpy. I was fit enough but the tank was empty this time. That’s the way the mop flops sometimes. You should have a go, it’s a superb challenge and however you do it’s always “a good effort”.
A quick note about kit
I wore my Gore jacket all the way round, Sealskinz cycle hat and winter gloves. It was wet and not warm. My Shimano ST-RS685 hydraulic discs were superb. My tyres were Conti GatorSkins. Food and drink: High 5 4:1, powder (1.5 litres) decanted High 5 Isogel and Clif Bars.
Thanks to the organisers
Paul Loftus and your gang, congrats on another superb event. The marshals and event centre team do a really great job and it’s for lots of really excellent charities. I suppose I’ll have to have another crack at hitting 7.5hrs. I was a lot fitter this time but slower. Beallach Na Ba next weekend. Training starts early!
Did Fred leave you dead?
Did you do The Fred? How did you get on? Please leave a comment below.