Sunday, 30 August 2009

Friday 21st August
Its 2.45am, the alarm clock was set for 3am and its the morning of the big challenge.
Although I went to bed early to get some sleep all you are thinking about is the long 127 miles ride from Liverpool to Leeds following the tow paths of the canal. Every hour you wake up to a point where you think, may as well get up and get started. Phil arrived at my house at 3.45 am and we put his bike in the back of my car, this would save valuable time UN loading the car when we get to Liverpool instead of fastening on the roof of the car. We get to Liverpool for 4.45 am at the start of the canal on a housing estate on a road called Eldonion Way, its strange how the canal starts from a little gardened area of this estate and you can look down and see the journey ahead It was dark and luckily Phil had bought a really good front light, we set of at 5am quite steadily because of the dark and we did not want any accidents. After an hour it was full daylight and we could up the pace.
We got Wigan heights and this was really the 1st challenging bits, there seemed to be an endless amount of locks to clime and when we finally got to the top we had our 1st break, mars bars bananas energy sweets and fluids, 10 Min's later we were on our way, I failed to mention there are loads of stupid gates you have to go through that are not user friendly and you are for ever dismounting from your bike to get through them, over them and sometimes under. Somewhere along here I had my 1st puncture, We had this off to a fine art and within 10 minutes we were on our way again, only trouble is you cannot get enough pressure in your tyre as you would like so you look out for a possible place to get more pressure in. Somewhere here I remember a conversation we had that if the weather stops like this we will be home in know time, famous last words, I cannot believe how heavy the rain came down and if that was not bad enough it started to hail storm, this was my lowest point, wet through, cold and water just running off your whole body, but you cant stop, you have to keep going or you will have no chance of hitting your target.
Eventual Phil saw an ASDA so we diverted down to it to get some valuable extra pressure in the tyres, we were on the forecourt as cars were pulling in for fuel, they looked at us in a rather strange look, look at them nutters its absolutely chucking it down and they are out on bikes, they must be mad, if only they knew what challenge we had set our selves. Soaked to the skin and water running down our arms we set off again. All the time you are supporting each other saying things can only get better, 7 miles later Phil was about 25 yds in front of me and there was this loud bang, the birds on the canal flew off and I thought someone was shooting at us, I looked at Phil and he said my tyre as exploded. We had thought of everything but not a tyre exploding, what do we do now, Phil tried another inner tube with low pressure to see if we could get to a local village and find a bike shop, it exploded again, this was another low point as we thought that's it, end of challenge. We decided that I would go ahead and see if I could find any remote chance of getting a new tyre, Phil would walk on. after about a mile a came across 2 fishermen with their sons and explained the situation, how lucky can you get, they said just up the road there is a car discount store and they sell bike tyres. I got to this store and after 10 minutes of looking he came back with the tyre, I rang Phil and gave him the good news, £20.00 later on my way back to Phil to get fitted, he had walked quite a long way he was at the point where the fishermen were, still bouncing with rain Phil fit the new tyre and inner tube, I stood flapping my arms and jumping in the air to keep warm and once again we were on our way. From here we arranged to meet my wife Denita at foulridge which was a good 3 hours away, it was at this point I was at a low again and my bum was so sore it was unbelievable, we kept each other motivated and kept thinking of all the people that were supporting us, we did not want to let anyone down and the thought of some dry gloves and socks, a coffee and a bite to eat was well worth keeping going for. We arrived a foulridge and seeing my wife was a great boost, whilst I put some dry clothes on she was chatting to Phil and about 15 Min's later we were on our way again. I forgot to mention I had a slow puncture which I kept blowing up every 20 Min's, I just could not be bothered changing the inner tube. From foulridge apart from it being extremely tough going and loads more stupid gates we got to Skipton, here I changed my inner tube and physcologically you think not much further to go. I remember sitting on the grass part of the forecourt to change my inner tube and thinking this is so comfortable I could just lie down, here we got full pressure in our tyres again and set off to Leeds, I forgot its still just as tough from Skipton to Leeds and at this point your body is crying out for help. After 15 hours at 8pm we arrive in Leeds with a great welcome from both our wife's and children, it was one of the nicest parts of my life, we had achieved what we set out to do and in the time we had planned, it was very emotional.
For anyone reading this and thinking of doing the same challenge I strongly advise you do what Phil and I did, loads of training and planning, training on the canal, its no good on the roads they are nothing like the tow paths and have a support team with spare everything, we were lucky to find the bike shop, it saved our day.
I would like to thank Denita, Jane and our 4 children for putting up with all the time spent training every weekend over the last 4 months and all the people that gave us support and encouragement to succeed in this massive challenge, we are extremely proud.
Thank you for reading our storey
kim Raw

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Sunday 9Th August Phil got to my house with his bike in the boot, put the wheel back on and by 7am we set of from Gomersal on a 55 mile training run, for anyone wanting to do this follow the road from Birkenshaw fire station towards Bradford, turn left after about 2 miles down towards M606 and B&Q, at the end of here you pick up the Spen valley green way which is designed for us cyclists, you can follow this in ease, no cars Lorry's and buses, right down to the Calder and Hibble canal, see the link, once you pick up the canal you can follow this through Horbury bridge right to Denby Dale.
From here you have to follow the road into Wakefield, through the centre and pick up the route for Stanley ferry, you continue to an estate near Bottom Boat and pick up a track down into Methley where you meet the river and canal near Castleford, follow this now to Leeds, once in Leeds you can pick up the starting point of the Leeds Liverpool Canal, this is the hard bit, from here you follow Geldered road up to Guildersome, 2 very steep hills which after this run very difficult, however once at the top you follow the Driglington by-pass to the 1st roundabout, left turn and all down hill back to Birkengshaw fire station and a final left turn down hill again to Gomersal. 55 miles of good hard training.
16TH August We decided after meting in Leeds at 7.30am to do the same trip but the other way round with a few deviations of Phil's doing a bit of cross country, climbing walls and fences and navigating around a Field of sheep, this was a great run and had plenty of hard bits similar to the Leeds Liverpool canal, I slipped off home after about 58 miles and Phil had to carry on to Pudsey from Birkenshaw. Monday morning at work we looked at each other and said that's it, we are now ready for the big challenge on Friday 21ST August and very confident with all the training we have done we will succeed.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Gaining valuable Knowledge

I was contacted by a couple of guys (David and Michael) who had read this blog and were also planing to do the same ride on the 2nd August who wanted to share a little info about the route etc. I offered to meet the guys out on the route then ride into Leeds with them as this would help me gauge timing and also gain some info about how hard this ride will be. I met them between Gargrave and Foulridge at around 4.45pm they both looked pretty tired at this point with another 40 miles to Leeds from here. I noticed both guys had been carrying back packs with extra water bottles for most of the route approx 4.5 kilos each. Now these guys are 16 years old and had trained hard for this but it was clear the weight they had been carrying had taken it's toll as they had set off from Liverpool at 5.00 am. Micheal got a rear tyre puncher shortly after this and I could sense mental fatigue had started to set in. I offered to repair the tyre and swapped the tube as he gained some rest and took on some food and fluid. We cracked on towards Skipton then we started to increase the pace a little until we found a Tesco Express fuel station in Skipton near the canal. We decided to adjust all tyre pressures back to 60 psi as both there bikes had lost pressure adding to the rolling Resistance. I worked hard here to try and boost morale here by focusing there attention on the great quality tow path we would soon be on at Riddlesden and how the ride to Leeds is easy from this point. As we approached Bingley the prospect of seeing some of there friends and family gave them a boost and the pace picked up again. At Bingley we stopped for a quick final stop before the last push into Leeds, I pointed out that it was 19.30 and would be dark at 21.00 so we needed to press on if we were to avoid a swim near Armley as the trees would make it difficult to see at this time. Again the pace picked up as David had off loaded his Back pack at Bingley and I offered to carry Michael's to save his energy. We arrived at Leeds around 21.10 and the guys had done very well considering there age. I had learned a great deal from this the main thing being the need to keep weight to a minimum so plenty to think about in our final weeks of preparation.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

The route passed the 2 tunnels

When reading other blogs and reports on areas of the ride that can cause problems navigating the route passed the Ganow and Foulridge tunnel always seems to get a mention. The reason is that the tow path ends at the start of each tunnel and does not start again until your reach the other side. Unless you hitch a ride on a passing barge your only option is to find the route passed to the other side Ganow is approx 1/2 mile and Foulridge about 1 mile underground. For this reason and to save stress on the big day a good recky was needed of both routes and we decided to do this on Sunday 26th July. Kim met me just before 7am and we loaded the bikes onto the car before heading of towards the Accrinton side of Burnley. We unloaded just off Accrinton road and the heavens opened but this is all about preparation so we can't let a bit of rain stop us. We started riding just passed 8am towards Burnley and met the start of the Ganow tunel this turned out to be far more straight forward than we expected, the footpath heads up towards the middle of a roundabout then once you are here it is pretty obvious were the canal starts again. The tow path here is very good and you can make good progress so we cracked onto Foulridge the next tunnel start. The path branches away from the original tow path approx 1/4 mile before the tunnel and when you reach the tunnel just head straight ahead and don't head for Colne. The signs do take you to Foulridge and when you drop down the hill take the footpath near a children's play area, turn right and then cut through the factory car park this then brings you out at the end of he tunnel. The recky could save us a good deal of time on the big day so we were pleased with the routes we had found. We then carried on along the tow path back to my house in Farsley giving us a 55 mile training run in the rain over wet grass in parts so we now feel we are almost prepared for anything the weather can throw at us.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Sunday 19th July
Its 7.20am and after cycling 8 miles Phil and I meet on the canal in Leeds near Armley, we are just warmed up and set off towards Castleford, although the ground is soft, muddy and loads of puddles we are speeding along nicely. Then the rain starts, just a drizzle at 1st and as we get to Methley its bouncing down. This is all part of the training, you have to take the rough with the smooth, for all we know it could be bouncing down on August the 21st when we do the big ride. We carry on and 25 miles later we get just passed Stanley ferry, time for a drink, Mars bar and banana and its stopped raining. Time to head back, 5 miles later the heavens opened up and within minutes we are soaked, shoes and feet wet through along with whole body, but we keep going back to Leeds and then onto our respective homes. Another 50 miles of training done and fitter than ever, its hard work and not for the light hearted, this is a big challenge and has to be taken seriously. Sunday 26th July we are starting at the 1st big tunnel that leads onto Foulridge tunnel just to get all the planning spot on and cycle back to Leeds, about 70 mile, just 4 weeks to go and we are nearly ready.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Testing our fitness

With only 5 weeks to go until we will attempt full distance on the 21st August we decided test our current fitness with what has been described on other blogs as the most challenging section of the canal. On Sunday 12 July we set off to Foulridge in the van (Tommy at the wheel) at 7am in the wind and rain. Kim and I set of heading towards Leeds from the tunnel at 8am moving at a steady pace for the first couple of miles. The first 5 miles here is a pretty good surface so progress was relatively good average speed. After this the path turns to grass and it then becomes far more challenging especially being wet and slippy on my semi slick tyres. There are also gates every half mile or so slowing the pace down even more. The twists and turns in the canal just before Gargrave gives you the impression your not getting very far for all the pedaling your doing. Kim picked up a puncture here on the rough ground so we needed to repair this costing us 15 Min's. After Gargrave we were shifting well again and soon arrived at and passed Skipton. Just after here a grass rut on the tow path deceived me sending me in the direction of the water. I have no idea how I prevented a swim here more luck than good riding skill. Cracked on to Silsden and the to 5 rise at Bingley. Good Cafe her so a pot of tea was ordered and we had a 10 min break. From here to Leeds the surface is good and pretty easy to ride on so we made good progress to Leeds - the tow path at Armley Mills is closed for 10 weeks so we had to take the diversion but its not a big problem. we both got to Leeds feeling great and ready for the next step up. Kim you did great mate considering you also put some miles in Saturday and the weather was not the best.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Saturday 20th June set off to follow canals etc got 25 mile away from home and suddenly I was flying over the handle bars, my front wheel went into a small crack in the ground and I was flying through the air, I put my arms out as a normal reaction came crashing down on my hands and right knee bashing my head on the ground. After laying there 10 minutes in pain and feeling for broken bones and getting over the shock I stood up, right knee gushing with blood and severe pain but no other damage apart from damaged pride. The biggest saving grace was I had my helmet on, had I failed to wear this I am sure my injuries would have been much worse. so for all you cyclists out there always have protective gear on, you just never know when you may come off your bike.
Putting broken pride to one side I then carried on my ride back home taking a slight short cut doing a further 20 miles, now sat at home Sunday morning with a very stiff knee but getting loads of attention from the wife and kids, after all its Fathers day, nothing to do with milking the fact I fell of my bike.