Its therapeutic to write things down.
For a few moments at 6:05am, we are first on the road of the Fred Whitton Challenge.
Going up Hawkshead Hill, my chain shifts beyond the largest sprocket and jams down behind it. What the F##K! Never happened before. (*"&^%$! Off quickly and can't see anything damaged or wrong. Quick tweak of the adjuster, but same thing happens again. Karen is round a bend and out of sight.
I climb the rest of Hawkshead on a smaller sprocket. More adjuster tweaking didn't make things much better and eventually notice that the rear mech was not hanging straight. F'##K F##K F##K. How did that happen? But at least the gear problem makes sense now. Another stop. Tweak the mech high stop to ensure the chain will not overshift beyond the big sprocket again. The chain is safe. Twiddle up Kirkstone easily with no-one else around, enjoy the descent into Patterdale and pick up some buddies.
Then the pedals just stop going round. Major F##K. The wheel rotates on its axle and freewheels OK but the chain won't drive the wheel. Take wheel out. Cranks go round freely. Eventually think that the bent mech hanger must have been touching the cassette lockring every now and again, gradually unscrewing it until the cassette jammed against the hanger. It takes ages to figure this out. Groups swish past. Just about everyone asks if I need help. No. Sitting in Patterdale juggling sprockets and spacers I am on the point of reaching for the phone a couple of times. But at least the cassette is in bits and I am able to remove one of the two spacers behind it and prevent it jamming again. Without a proper tool, I multitool the lockring up as tight as I can. Tight enough? Who knows. I re-adjust the rear mech to make the best of things and hope for the best.
25 long minutes by the side of the road to do that lot. Huge relief to get going again and begin to hop across group. Spin up Matterdale in the sunshine and begin to look for a group for the A66 as Graham had advised. But where has everyone gone when I need company? F##K again. Eventually find one other guy to share work with and two other freeloaders who sit in the whole way to Keswick. The mech is still bent and some gears hop unpredictably. I tweak until the vital small ratios are smooth but anything on the big ring needs juggling of the adjusters to keep it happy. A real faff on the A66.
Figure that Mr P would probably have left Keswick rendezvous by now and am unsure where to meet anyway. But here's a familiar shout from a passing car and a re-fill. Chris, you're a star. Very bumpy along Borrowdale and easily up Honister. I've been trying to work out the implications of the lockring not being tight but, just as I've resolved to consign it to the back of my mind, I find a neutral service car at Honister. Even better, the tech throws me a lockring tool. A few minutes and I am away again with the rear cassette snug. Paramedics at side of the rough descent. Sobering. Another spin up Newlands followed by probably the most enjoyable descent of the route. Take stock and feel pretty good. Stretching. Eating. Since Patterdale, I've been passing people fairly consistently without being passed very often.
Great to see Chris again at Whinlatter. Re-fuel, strip off soaking leg warmers but decide against putting fresh ones on. In hindsight this is a stupid decision but one which I get away with. It's been raining on and off since the A66. After Lorton, rain is constant, consistently heavier at each stage and the rain cape is on. I keep moving well enough to be comfortably warm but it may be different if I have to stop for a puncture. Calder Bridge checkpoint is full of shivering riders. Queued for ages for the toilet, then take some minutes to fully adjust the rear mech again.
I still feel in no trouble, even good, apart from one twinge of cramp in right quad. The section after Whinlatter has seemed interminable just watching the km tick up with no significant or familiar landmarks. On Cold Fell I managed to get on my own for most of the sleety crossing which was very tough. So, out of Calder Bridge, I deliberately keep in a group. Easier on the brain but slightly slower than I'd chose solo. Now even the inside of neoprene overshoes are sodden.
There is a collective gulp when we see the first sign for Hardknott. Only one thought on the ride up the valley - I must ride the whole climb. Am still feeling good and will just have to come back again to do it if I fail this time. Now's the time. Over the cattlegrid. The first ramp of Hardknott alone is as tough a road as I have climbed on a road bike. Tell yourself it's an MTB. On to the easier gradient and hear cars behind and see others coming down the iconic set of hairpins. WTF! Please don't let them screw it up. They can just f#ing wait. Here goes. Standing up well before first hairpin. Gravel. Streams wash the road. Road surface is corrugated. 33%. Glassy. Rain is bouncing. Rocking back and forth to keep traction. Feels awkward. Camera flash in my face. Looks in-elegant. Bloody Range Rover right behind me. There it is - second hairpin - you beauty - go wide - it slackens off now doesn't it? - oh no there's another kick. This will not beat me now. RR squeezes past. Spin over the top. Done it. Whoop down the descent.
Wrynose surely cannot be as bad. But now I have occasional cramp in right quad and left calf. What to do? especially if they both happen at once. Actually I don't know what to do. On an early steep bit of Wrynose climb, I somehow know that I'll soon be off. Choose to unclip before being forced to. Only a few seconds of walking changes the stress on the cramping muscles sufficiently to free them up for the rest of the ride. Clip clip. Grind up the rest of the climb. Job done. Feel really alive.
People are tired now and unpredictable riders become the major hazard. Great to be back on familiar roads. I played in that stream as a child. Cheerful marshalls at the right time. Bit of a blast along Holme Fell road. Dib under the finish banner. Straight to the car, fully dry, changed, warm, download, thank Graham and then eat. Many people are in a bad way, shivering, pale. All are happy. I drive out towards Ambleside past streams of riders still finishing. Many look shot.
A special event in special conditions. The time is immaterial. 8:14. Probably about 7:35 pace without all the mechanical faff. Karen's 7:20odd is probably too strong for me without taking an early risk. But perhaps not. Satisfied to finish comfortably. Wiser.
### On Saturday morning, I'd fettled the bike at home and had an hours spin out. Perfect. On Saturday evening, I'd taken the bike out of the car so we could go to the pub. While I was distracted, the bike feel over onto its right side. I didn't think to check anything at the time but it must have been this fall which bent the mech hanger. It is now straight again. I'm off the collect a new frame today and will buy a spare hanger at the same time. Always prop a bike up so it will fall on the non-drive side. Or lay it down.
Equipment (apart from the obvious) - may think of 32 tooth sprocket next Whitton but honestly not sure if it makes much difference. Cadence was 45 up Hardknott, so making it 50 isn't much help. It's just about leg strength. Poured a mugful of water out of the frame next day - remember to do this.
Clothing - tick, but get a cap and some new gloves.
Nutrition - tick, but the silver foil is a faff. Jelly babies beat gels.
Pacing - tick. 140bpm up the early hills is OK. Finished feeling that could have gone harder, earlier. Without much more experience, will never know.
A Kg or so less weight for Marmotte.
I need to do some long rides with hard early efforts, just to see what happens. When I blow up later on, then the limit will have been found.
Hopefully have to wear less in France. And swear less.