"} Get a life, Get active! By Fit Lesley: Challenge 2 - The Three Counties Cycling Challenge - July 2011

Challenge 2 - The Three Counties Cycling Challenge - July 2011

The 3 Counties Challenge ‘CycloSportive’ event was held on Sunday the 3rd July 2011 starting from Dallam School in Milnthorpe.  Although this has been an annual fundraising event since 1997 it was my first time participating, in actual fact it was my very first cycle event.  There was a choice of three routes, a 25 mile route for families, a 60 mile route and a 120 mile route for the insane!

Being my first event I decided to have a go at the 60 mile route.  It was a great event... and most certainly a challenge for me!!!

I had registered on-line a couple of months before the event, and looked forward to it with both excitement and trepidation!  The race (which it is called, but I viewed it as a ride!!) had a staged staggered start to avoid congestion on the narrow roads.  The friend I was cycling with had done the route several times before and didn’t give me any warning about what lay ahead! but then again I suppose when I read the route description which stated “covering 60 miles with 1803m (5950ft) of ascent” I should have realised!!!

My friend decided it would be a good (?!) idea to cycle from where we live in Kendal to the start point at Milnthorpe  (an additional 16 miles round trip!) rather than messing around with bikes racks etc! We left Kendal at 6.30am on a beautifully warm and sunny Sunday morning. When we arrived at Dallam School in Milnthorpe everything was so well organised we were soon sent on our way with a race number for our bike, a electronic timing tag and a goody bag full of Energy gels, Energy bars, Kendal Mint Cake and Energy drink mixes!  (Perhaps this should also have been a warning to me about what lay ahead!).  We got our bikes and ourselves prepared, went through the “Start” check point and we were waved off to a chorus of well wishes and good lucks!

The 60 mile route is split into three stages, with a check point and a variety of food and drink at the end of each stage. 

Stage 1

We left Milnthorpe cycling along a lazy undulating road and soon hit the coast that is Morecambe Bay. As it was still only 7am on a Sunday morning the roads were relatively free of cars making it a very relaxed start.
Through Arnside, we rolled through Silverdale, wow, what a picturesque and lovely place right next to the sea  especially on a gloriously sunny day!  Through Silverdale, we turned East through good rolling B-roads, over the M6 and then hit the first climb of the day at Hutton Roof which was a steep 2 mile climb.
After 16 miles, we entered Kirkby Lonsdale, a historic market town, and went over Devil's bridge across the River Lune passing hoards of motorcyclist parked up in the sunshine!  (I wonder who had the right idea?!) and we were then  headed for the Yorkshire Dales.
In front of us lay Barbon Dale situated between the Lakes and Yorkshire Dales. You are treated to some magnificent views of the Lakeland Fells and the coast,  and there was the added bonus that I didn't see one car!
The road gently meandered along the valley with very high impressive fells on either side. The sun was shining high in the sky and sheep were grazing alongside the road.  It was amazing, and for cycling I couldn't think of a more idyllic place. The road climbed slowly upwards through the valley for around 3 miles and I was disappointed to pass over the top and descend down, such was the scenery.  

We soon arrived at Dent village hall , where the first feed station and check point was placed.  We had covered 28 miles, which had taken us 2 hours 11 minutes.  We received a warm welcome from the Marshals’ and local volunteers and enthusiastically ate the sandwiches, flap jack and bananas on offer and also had a well deserved cup of tea!  Luckily there were public toilets here too and after having a not so quick pitstop we had an important choice to make, and I was terrified of getting it wrong!  You turn right off the Dent High street cobbles to tackle the 60 mile route or turn left to tackle the 120 mile route!!! This was one mistake I was NOT going to make!

Stage 2

We turned right for the 60 mile route and we were  soon greated with the climb of Kingsdale - a steep (1 in 4) ascent for 1 mile; immediately followed by a very fast (for some, not me may I add!) descent.  There were several more challenging ascents and descents and by the 30 mile mark my legs were beginning to feel a bit like jelly.  I took the opportunity to have an energy gel, praying it would help me make it to the end! Surprisingly I did seem to perk up shortly after this or is it all just mental attitude?

After cycling for 4 hours and covering 46 miles of some very tough cycling terrain  we arrived at Hornby institute where the 2nd control point and feed station was situated!   I was very grateful for a seat on a comfy settee, a good cup of strong coffee and more food!!! 

It was a struggle to leave Hornby, but the promise of a drink at the end spurred us on! 

Stage 3

Leaving Hornby there was another climb. Followed by a steep descent with some sharp bends!  Being a wuss I took this hill very slowly!  I think the “Danger to Cyclists steep descent” signs took any confidence I had for going fast downhill away!   My friend shot off down these descents as if he had a motor on the back, but he always waited for me to catch up at the bottom!!  I think he thought if he didn’t I might sneak off home! 
The final stretch back to Dallam School was fairly effortless in comparison to what I had tackled  and I started to feel a sense of achievement about completing this challenging ride!!  At the finish checkpoint we received our race time print-out. I was ever so slightly disappointed I didn’t receive a medal because I feel I deserved one for the amount of effort I put in!

After more refreshments and a short rest we had our cycle home to endure, whilst the more sane competitors loaded their bikes onto cars!

I arrived home early afternoon, the weather was still very hot and sunny and I enjoyed chilling in the garden with a pitcher of Pimms fruit cocktail and a BBQ!!   - I deserved it!

Full credit to the organisers for putting on an almost faultless event including slick registration, fantastically thorough signage, a great variety of food, and, best of all, the most superbly varied route, with some gentler (and picturesque) undulating sections amidst the big climbs. It’s a super event,  and one I would recommend.

Other competitors at the check points and en route were very friendly and willing to help and offer advice to an obvious novice like me! I did feel very much the amateur amongst cyclists who wouldn’t look out of place participating in The Tour De France!!!

Prior to the event I jokily said I would do the 120 miler next year – after being so very challenged with the 60 miler I think I will revisit this route next year after I have established how to change gears properly and descend hills at a reasonable speed! I will be happy to try and beat my time and leave the longer route to the die-hard professionals!

I was quite impressed when I studied the "race" results - the fastest finished in 3 hours 22 minutes and the slowest finished in 9 hours 20 minutes.  My final time was 5 hours 23 minutes - so I suppose I was fairly average!

To see the route please go to  runkeeper on http://runkeeper.com/user/fitlesley/activity/41808483