Staffs to Snowdon Update: The Big Day Has Arrived…

Staffordshire to Snowdon in a single ride…
29th July 2017

The day before my ride was full
of nervous energy, excitement and anticipation. This would be my longest bike
ride ever, in distance and time in the saddle. However the weather tomorrow was
looking very wet. If the weather forecast was to be believed I would be riding
from Prestatyn to Snowdon in driving rain with the wind gusting up to 50 mph on
Snowdon. After chatting things through with Paul the decision was made to delay
my ride by 24 hours. This would see the rain move away and the wind drop by
about 20 mph to a steady 24 mph with gusts of about 35 mph. The wind was going to
be a factor as it was blowing in a south easterly direction meaning that across
the coast I would be riding into it. Anyway only 24 hours before I set out.  
The Plan

The goal was to start riding at
5am. I had planned my route and worked out my checkpoints. I had 8 checkpoints
with no more than 1½ to 2 hours riding time in between. This was to enable me
not to carry to much fluid and kit. The first section was the longest at about
21.7 miles. If my planning was to be believed I would be riding for 13 hours with a
total ride time of 15 hours including breaks, but as we all know, you can have
the best plan on paper but when you actually do it all sorts of things can go
wrong and they all have a knock on effect on your time. So I knew my planned
riding time was only a guide line.
Time To Start

I woke up at 4 am and as I got out
of bed I thought to myself that I was finally here, after a year of planning,
training and talking, the day had arrived. I was going to ride all the way to
Snowdon. It just felt like any other morning that I had set out on an early
morning ride. I had no nerves. I think over the last year I had entered a
number of organised rides ranging from 25 miles to 60 miles. So this felt just like
another one of those mornings.
Downstairs and some breakfast, a
banana and porridge with a cup of tea. Then check the weather, keep an eye on
the clock for my start time of 5am. Just enough time for a strong black coffee,
check the bike over, lock the front door and quietly slide the keys back
through the letterbox. Now I was locked out so I might as well start riding.
The time was 4:50 (ish). Time to engage the game plan.
Keep my cadence at 95, an average
speed of 12 mph, make sure I keep pressure of my legs to ensure I can keep going
all day, drink enough fluids every hour, fuel properly, gels, bananas, cakes
and bars. From my research I need to eat and drink before I feel I need to.
Little and often. Paul had a box of food in his campervan ready for me to tuck
into. I had a couple of gels in my bar bag and 2 litres of fluid. I knew that
drinking enough was going to be my downfall from previous rides. So I told Paul
that at every checkpoint if I arrived with fluid I must drink it before filling
up again. Dehydration was a real factor over such a long ride.
Checkpoint One – Bent Lane (near Stoke)

I arrived at the first checkpoint
feeling really good. I had maintained an average speed of 16.7 mph and had been
making sure I was taking it easy on my legs. I rolled down the hill knowing
that Paul was not there yet as he had not passed me. I knew he was getting
there for 6:30 and I arrived at 6:13.
Paul arriving at the 1st checkpoint
Paul arrived and I stocked up on
fuel and fluids. I set off ahead of my leaving time wondering if I can maintain
my average speed and my time advantage. I had chosen to take some back lanes
rather than stay on the A51, however this proved to be a bit of a mistake.
Shortly after leaving Paul and following my Garmin I arrived at a gate blocking
my path with a sign pointing into the distance saying ‘Footpath’. As I stopped
at the gate there was a loud noise and I knew exactly what this was.
Ready to ride from checkpoint 1
One of my
spokes on my rear wheel had snapped and my wheel had a large buckle in it. The
wheel still went round but was rubbing on the frame quite a lot. So not only
did I have to retrace my steps back to the last village I had to arrange a
meeting point with Paul so I could straighten my wheel as I had not got a spoke
key with me.
Broken Spoke, removed and trued the wheel
We met up at Baldwins Gate and
after a bit of tweaking the wheel was spinning again and the buckle was almost
removed, however I was aware that I was now riding on a wheel that could buckle
quite easily again so we need to change the plan. Stay on the A51, Paul was
going to stay closer just in case and avoid any potholes. Paul contacted Anne
and asked her to search online for bike shops in Chester as I should be riding
through there at about 9am when they will be open.
Checkpoint Two – Nantwich

The next checkpoint was just
after Nantwich by the canal. I had planned to have a nice coffee here and all
thoughts of the spoke issue where behind me as I had covered a number of miles
without issue. So much so I reached Tarporley and thought I must have missed the
checkpoint. I phoned Paul with my location to find out I was only a few miles
away from checkpoint three. So Paul said he would meet me there.
Heading towards Nantwich
Checkpoint Three – Eggbridge
Lane, Chester

This was the end of my first
section of the ride. Checkpoint three was about 56 miles away from the start and
the end of riding on a main road. It also ended the ‘boring’ part of my ride,
not that it was boring at all, but the ride would be more interesting from this
point on, or so I thought.
I had a bite to eat and enjoyed
my pre-prepared pasta and a coffee, followed by a bar of chocolate.
55 miles is the kind of distance that
a normal event ride would finish at but this was not even half way. Having said
that I had maintained my cadence at 90, and my average speed was 16.7 mph, I was
also still 30 minutes ahead of my predicted time. The spoke was still playing
on my mind but had not caused any further issue, so we decided that if I passed
a bike shop I would get it sorted.
Leaving Eggbridge lane I used the
canal to get through Chester. This is a really nice path that takes you through
the centre of the city and out on the North side where you link up with a
disused railway path all the way across the River Dee.
Checkpoint Four – Flint

At Flint I met Paul in McDonalds car
park where I had been promising myself a burger, but when I got there I just
wanted to carry on and reach the North Wales Coastal Path. The road from Flint
to Prestatyn was not a pleasure to ride and I don’t know why. It just seemed to
drag on for ages. This was a challenging stage really. The first time that I
had felt a bit discouraged, but only a bit.
At Flint I made a phone call to a
bike shop in Rhyl that I knew I was going to ride past their front door. He
agreed to sort out my spoke and straighten the wheel. So checkpoint five which
was going to be Prestatyn was moved to Rhyl and ‘The Bike Hub’. There was a
café next door and this became my focus for lunch.
However as I rounded the coast
line and started heading along the north coast of Wales I became aware that I
was heading into the wind and this was going to be the same right up to Bangor,
which was about 60 miles away. The wind was a consistent 20 mph with gusts upto
30 mph. I knew this was going to affect my average speed, cadence and overall time.

Checkpoint Five – Rhyl

I reached the Bike Hub and
wheeled my bike in. I knew this was going to take a bit of time but it would
also mean I could stop worrying about my wheel. I met up with Paul and we went
next door to the café. It felt nice to be off the bike and to be sat in a
different position, although nothing was aching I could feel my body having a
slight moan at me. I can’t remember what I had to eat, I think it was a Brie
and Cranberry panini and a Latte. No matter what it was I remember it being
very nice and a welcome break in the ride.
The Bike Hub in Rhyl, replaced my spoke and trued the wheel
By the time I picked up my bike
from The Bike Hub all of my time advantage had been lost but I was not behind
either. However the ongoing wind was only going to slow my progress. The North
Wales Coastal path proved to be a winner, wide enough to pass the pedestrians
with enough room and smooth enough to maintain a decent speed. My bell wasproving to be a good investment. At over £20 it wasn’t cheap but people could
hear me coming and mostly moved out of the way. I thanked everyone as I past
and was greeted with smiles and lots of thank you’s. I’d recommend everyone
buys one if you are riding on a shared path. It saved me loads of time overall.
Checkpoint Six – Conwy

Heading towards Llandudno I got
back on the road and turned my Garmin Navigation back on. I had one crossing
point available to me and that was the bridge next to Conwy castle. Paul phoned
me to see if I was okay as I was late for the checkpoint time. I was in Conwy
but behind time now, I’m sure it was the wind factor as I did not feel tired.
On reflection the wind played a part but I do think I was slowing a bit. I
still felt good, just not as fresh as before, having said that I had ridden a
fair distance by now.
Pauls photo of Conwy castle
Reaching the checkpoint and the
realisation that I was only half way across the north coast I did have a moment
on the vast distance I had traveled and the distance still in front of me. I
had ridden from Conwy to Bangor before and did it in 1 hour, however I also
knew there were a couple of climbs to come.
I have to say the climbs were not
that bad as I had remembered. Having said that I noticed I was in my lowest
gear and seemed to be going very slow up them. I started to consider Snowdon
and how it was going to be, although I will be changing to my mountain bike
which has a lower gear ratio on it so maybe the climb will be okay.
Checkpoint Seven – Bangor

Rolling into the services at
Bangor to find Paul was not there. He had gone to the cottage to drop off his
bike. We had hired a cottage at the base of Tryfan in the Ogwen Valley. Anne
and Kath had driven from home with the boys. They had just arrived as Paul got
there and this slowed him down a bit.
The sun was shining and I was
resting on a bench at the services when he arrived. A few more supplies and the
final leg of my ride. This next section was only 10 miles and uphill on the most
part towards Llanberis.
Such a short distance from Bangor
to Llanberis but such a hard ride. I was feeling it and crawling along. I was
aware of a headache which I knew all to well. I was dehydrated although I
thought I’d drunk enough. I had snacked throughout my ride, but my body was
feeling it now. I rolled into Llanberis thankful to see the car park and Paul
waving me in. In all honesty I felt okay, but knew I was starting to struggle.
Checkpoint Eight – Llanberis

It was 5:30 pm and I could start
riding up Snowdon from 5pm. I swapped my stuff over to my mountain bike and
headed off to the base of Snowdon. I rode Snowdon last Summer and it took me 2
hours to reach the summit and only 30 minutes to get back down to the car park.
So I decided to grit my teeth and get on with it. But shortly into the climb
and I was off the bike, the path does involve a fair bit of pushing the bike
but I was doing it more than I should. I had no power in my calves. In no time
at all I could feel them cramping and the summit was looking like a bigger
challenge than I had the energy for.
Changing bikes in Llanberis
Plenty of stopping, resting,
looking up at the path disappearing into the distance, and walking on parts
that I know I should be riding. I could see Halfway House in the distance so I
decided to reach that and take a break, have a bite to eat and decide what I
should do. Still a fair way to go and now the cramping was getting worse, I had
a bit of a dizzy spell and wondered what I should do.
Turn back now or push on to
Halfway House. So close to the summit in the scheme of things, how can I turn
back, being so close? So I pushed on and reached Halfway House. I sat down feeling
deflated, had I come as far as I was going to go. I looked up to the summit
which was still out of view, the clouds were closing in and time was running
out. So the decision was made to end my climb there. I was running on empty,
the weather was changing, the wind was picking up, the light will be fading
very soon and I still had to get down.
Had I failed? Could I have made
it?
 
At that point with how I felt and the conditions I know I made the right
choice. So I decided I would be a happy successful failure. I had ridden 137.5
miles in under 15 hours. I had given all I had up to that point. I got back on
the bike and turned back down the path away from the summit. I rolled 100 yards
and stopped to question my decision and after running the same questions
through my head I continued to roll down Snowdon, picking up more speed.
Rolling back into Llanberis and
now Snowdon behind me I regretted my decision, but I know it was the right
thing to do, and I still feel the same. I regret not reaching the summit, I
failed in my attempt to ride from Staffordshire to Snowdon. I also succeeded
massively on so many levels.
12 months previously I was riding
10 miles a week weighing nearly 3 stone more. I had ridden every week for over
a year, ever increasing my distance, average speed and many other things. I am
fitter now than I have ever been. 
137.5 miles in a single
bike ride, in under 15 hours.
It is only a failure if this was
the end, but it is not. This is a stepping stone along the way, yes the summit
eluded me and I failed to complete the challenge, but a year from now when I
have achieved more goals and reached higher levels in fitness and stamina, I
will look back on the Snowdon challenge as I now look back at myself a year ago
and laugh at how I failed such an easy goal.

Failure is only failure if you
let it be the end,
failure is the only way we learn to be successful.  

I did my best and gave it all I could. I want to thank you for your sponsorship, and your belief and I hope you feel your sponsorship has been justified over the last 12 months and the ride itself. I have had great fun on this journey and am moving forward from this armed with my lessons and knowledge that I did not have before. My fitness has been massively improved and would recommend everyone to find a challenge that is beyond your current belief and make a 12 month plan to achieve it. What a journey…
If anyone wants any advice about cycling I now have knowledge that I’m happy to share. Just get in touch, lets meet up for a coffee or even get out cycling together.
a few thank you’s…………
A massive thanks to Paul & Kath Massey for providing support on my ride. As well as through the last 12 months.
Anne, who has had her own journey over the last 2 years, that thankfully has ended as a happy story. It has been an incredible journey for you and I’m thankful that I was able to be beside you every step of the way. It is a journey that you would not wish upon anyone and Anne has faced it with an amazing optimism. 
Anne is the inspiration behind my last 12 months and the reason for the charity ride. 
We stayed in Wales for a week after my ride and had a lovely cottage in the Ogwen Valley with a Hot Tub. The weather has not been the best but on Thursday Anne achieved her 1st walk back into the Welsh Mountain Range up to the base of Devils kitchen. This is a significant achievement and the 1st of many on her own journey.
Anne, the conquer
Llyn Idwal

While away we also celebrated our 20th Wedding Anniversary. The lake in the picture is the very spot that I asked Anne to marry me. It was a special day for so many reasons and a walk into the hillside that has an even greater meaning for us both now is so many ways.
The actual spot I asked Anne to marry me, 20 years earlier

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Staffs to Snowdon Update: Bish Bash Bosh

Not only is this the name of my new bike, it also sums up how my thoughts about the ride are going!!!
Meaning apart from making my bike the best it can be there is very little I can do. Have I done enough over the last 12 months to manage such an epic ride?
Should I have stuck with riding it over 3 days?
Should I have sold my bike last week leaving myself no option but to ride to Snowdon, which will make it the 2nd time i will have ridden my new bike?
Well to coin Annes favourite saying over the last 2 years….
It is what it is…

My Specialized Crux Pro had been up for sale for about 3 months and I have had very little interest. Then with 1 week to go all thoughts of selling it had gone and I was focused on making sure it was in the best condition possible…. then I have an email on Thursday asking if they can come the next day to view and possibly buy it on their way past.  I responded without hesitation, “Yes, no problem, See you at 7pm”. Then it hits me, I have 7 days before my ride and I am potentially bikeless. How can I do a 140 mile bike ride without a bike. So time to get online and start searching for possible bikes. I already had a shortlist of potentials, ones that I really liked. Every company needed time to make the bike up which took all of them out of the running so maybe it is a preloved bike that I need. After a bit of searching I found my 1st choice bike on my shortlist, in the right size at the right price.
On Friday the guys that came to look at the Crux bought it without hesitation, and I knew they would after all it was in perfect condition with everything replaced over the last 6 months. They gave me an envelope of cash and went on their way. It was now just after 7pm, they had driven down from Scunthorpe and I was about to drive up to Wakefield to check this bike out. I arrived in great time just before 9pm. On the way up I did notice the southbound carriageway had a lot of orange flashing lights on and they were starting to put out the cones for some overnight roadworks. So I knew we could get delayed but it would be about 10pm by the time we came past there, probably wont even be any queue.
Anyway checked the bike over and it all worked fine and was in great condition, I handed over the envelope of cash, bundled it into the car and headed for home.
What a journey home, it seems they closed down 2 lanes and the queue was massive, then you get past it and get back up to cruising altitude and see loads of brake lights in the distance, and the information signs let you know that they have closed 2 lanes again. We got home just after midnight.
Anyway it was worth the effort as I now have a bike with hydraulic brakes and she looks great.
So a few more tweaks to do tomorrow, like bleeding the brakes, fitting the new pads and double checking my bike fit. Then tomorrow night I will take her out on our maiden voyage to see how she feels. I’m sure I will be doing a few more tweaks on Thursday in anticipation of setting out early on Friday morning for the ultimate goal of the Summit of Snowdon.
The Ride

I have my route planned and will be sharing it on Facebook if anyone is keen to see how I’m getting on. I will be starting at 5am with the intention of reaching the summit by 8pm and back down by 9pm.
I have worked out my time based on an average speed of 20kph (12mph), which I should achieve easily, however I need to maintain this over the whole distance. We will see how we go. Up to this point my furthest ride has been 164km (100miles) which took me 7 hours 34 minutes with an average speed of 21.4 km/h. That was back in March so I should easily improve on this. 
I will update this blog once i have completed my ride, until then well, there is only 1 thing to say…..
It will be what it will be….

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Staffs to Snowdon Update: True Grit – The Outlaw (100km)

From previous rides I headed into this one thinking I might finish around the 5 hour mark. The write up mentioned some of the North Yorkshire Moors ‘notorious’ climbs, well it proved to be the downfall for me. I don’t mind telling you that I had to walk some of them, some where unridable and I was thankful for my carbon bike which I happily slung over my shoulder, while others where down to my legs not being powerful enough and probably more important that the gearing on my bike was inadequate for the ride.
I rode with Jonathon & Bez, if you read this ever thank you so much for letting me tag along with you. The difference it makes having someone to chat to is immense, trust me I have spent many hours riding along with just my own thoughts and conversation. They both gave me great advice regarding my gear ratios and how to improve the hill climbs. But every time we hit a hill I had to watch them both disappear off into the distance leaving me gasping for air to end up walking the last bit of the hill. I managed to catch them back up again which I’m sure they rode a bit slower for me although they both denied this.
I completed the ride in 6 hours 22 minutes which I was happy with as I know I rode consistently throughout. I did check on Strava and all I can find is a chap that finished in 3rd place (although it is not a race) with a time of 5 hours 43 minutes. So only 38 minutes behind third place. Normally I finish half way through the toal amount of riders. Anne said there where either 237 or 257 riders on the outlaw and I recon I am easily within the top 50. All in all I feel I must be improving.
So what is next?
July 8th I’m doing a ride down on Exmoor which is a MTB event, and between now and then I will be changing my gear ratios on my cross bike and doing a few rides with some hills.
Only 32 days until the challenge ride to Snowdon, have I done enough? We will soon see.

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Staffs to Snowdon Update: 40 Days To Go!!!

It is starting to dawn on me know that in only 40 days I will be attempting my challenge.

Have I done enough training?
Am I ready?

Well I suppose we will find out soon enough.

I just want to thank those who have supported me along the way, and a special thanks to Anne who has endured my every increasing cycling program. Not once has she complained about the amount of time I’m spending out on my bike. Nor has she said anything about the endless upgrades and ‘must have’ bits of kit and bike parts that seem to be never ending.

And to those who have shown their support through sponsorship, thanks for every penny that you have donated.

My riding events have been going really well. I a MTB Marathon in Wantage a few weeks ago. I did this on my cross bike which was a mistake and made all the more painful knowing that my mountain bike was back at the campsite. Oh well, another lesson was learnt. I won’t make the same mistake on the next event in this series down on Exmoor on July 8th.

But before then on the 24th June I have the ‘Yorkshire True Grit’ which is a 100km gravel riding event. I will be looking to maintain an average speed of 20kph which is a respectable 12.5 mph. This should see me finish the event in 5 hours riding time.

So that is it for now, just more of the same grinding out the miles, keep on attacking those hills and keep the legs spinning.

I know it is all working, and it will all be worth it, but the prospect of my challenge as it gets closer is looking like a bad idea. Anyway to late to back out now, not that i want to.

My next post I will share my planned route and times with you for the big day.

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