Friday, 9 July 2010

Trans Pennine - Day Three

Pollington to Hornsea
Start time 08:00
End time 18:30

Another poor night’s sleep due to the heat and my really quite awful Hay fever left me feeling pretty low. Which was a shame because our room at Parkside Guest house was lovely and in the perfect location. We’d decided to get an earlier start today. Poor Dave had work the next day so wanted to get it over with ASAP. Also, though the trail ends at Hornsea, there isn’t actually a train station in Hornsea, which means 14 miles back the way you came to Hull. Dave decided to avoid this by altering his route to hit Hornsea first, then making it to Hull. It meant we wouldn’t see each other, unless I made it Hull Station in time to wave him off.

Once we were packed and outside, I felt excited for the first time, purely because by the end of today it would be over, one way or another. I had thought more tactically today – I would ride very slowly, but consistently. Get a very steady pace and just keep on it. I would also eat loads and loads of food – anything. On the last two days I’d worried too much about eating healthy stuff, or high energy stuff, often doing without when I couldn’t find it. Today I would eat and drink at every single opportunity. I thought of it as the ‘Fat Bastard’ method. That way I’d never be low on energy, and suffer like I did on the Pennines.

The heat had died down somewhat and I made good progress. I kind of fell in love with Humberside – mainly because it’s so flat! I passed through lots of tiny villages, almost chocolate box type affairs, with country churches and men riding bikes with their wives in the sidecar. Certainly not what I’d expected from the East Riding. I was growing thirsty and came across an old school with ‘TEA’ written on a blackboard outside. I parked up and wondered in. There was no one around – it was a help yourself affair. The old school hall was dark and eerie but the shade was lovely. There were tables with home made cards and games and shelves of books, all for 50p or so. And there were tea making facilities as promised, with a little honesty box beside. In fact, there was also a massive PA packed away in there with at least 4 speakers – doors wide open for anyone to thieve. It was a real welcome resting point and made me feel good about the world.

After passing through many similar villages I came too a river inlet and found myself next to the River Humber. In the far distance I could see the Humber Bridge – that’s where I was heading! It spurred me on and before long I was tracing the A63, straight for it. But I didn’t let the excitement get to me and stopped in a little pub for a glass of coke and ended up having a 30 minute snooze on a picnic table. Unlike the previous 2 days I wasn’t feeling the pressure of having to be somewhere at a certain time, and it made the whole thing a lot more manageable, mentally and physically.

But today there was one vital difference from the previous two. My arse was really starting to hurt. Many had warned me the old saddle sore would be the worst part of the whole experience. After two days, and almost certainly due to the ‘gel seat’ I had invested in, I had not experienced any real discomfort at all. But something had changed. Maybe I had worn away the precious gel, perished under the wanton pressure of having me grind away against it for two horrible days. It didn’t feel like it wasn’t there, it was just that my behind had become incredibly tender. Sitting down ranked as a 7/10 on the ‘pain in the arse’ meter, whilst standing up initially increased it to a 9/10, it would then subside to a 5. But the pain in my legs from increased standing up would start to rise, as if to compensate. The only option was to sit down, which bolted it back up to 9 again. It was a delicate balancing act that I was failing to master.

I spoke to Dave around this time. He was already in Hornsea and had just treated himself to a fish butty. What had taken him 4 hours would end up taking me 10. But I didn’t care. I was gonna get there and eat a fish butty if it killed me.

Around Elloughton, though I didn’t know it at the time, I had taken a wrong turn and now faced the largest single hill I’d come across. Granted it was fully in shade, but it was harsh. Inside I knew this was the last time I’d have to do this. After this it would literally ‘all be downhill from here’. I, ever so slowly, powered on and emerged triumphant at the top. It was starting to feel kind of good. The unending pains around my knees I had felt since 10:30 Sunday morning had vanished. I could only think that the pain receptors there had got bored and found something better to do. I didn’t feel tired. I didn’t feel energetic. They just moved when I wanted them to, and for once didn’t complain. I considered that maybe, for the first time in my life, I had broken through ‘the wall’. I wasn’t sure. If I had, it had kind of happened without me noticing it. Maybe what happens to Marathon runners at 18 or so mile had happened to me at 180? I didn’t know. What I did know was that I best make the most of this whilst it lasts. Before I knew it I was in Hessle, passing under the Humber Bridge.

The route took me into Hull city centre via some housing estates. It was weird. In one part, where you would expect there to be a small barely noticeable roundabout, signified by a tiny blob of white paint in the middle of the road, was in fact a full on renaissance style water fountain. ‘Am I in Hull or Florence?!’ I humorously thought to myself as I captioned the imaginary facebook photograph in my mind. But I didn’t stop and take the photo. I took one of some waste land instead as that’s what I expect from a photo of Hull. In truth, I’ll never likely again be so happy to see Hull. I made it to the centre and stopped for some food. I’d been too late to wave Dave off at the station, so I sat and prepared myself for the final stretch, for one last push.

I had some time to reflect, and before I wow you with the drama of my final 15 miles, I will perhaps share some of that with you now. My overwhelming feeling was of how ‘Great’ England was. How very English it still is. I’m a cynic by nature, and find most forms of patriotism ridiculous. But, by taking the B roads and the backroads, the canals and snickets and ginnels I’d managed to see the width of our country in a different light. There’s still an awful lot of greenery out there. And you really don’t have to go far to find it. Pretty much everyone I came across was warm and friendly. People in corner shops talking about the weather. Old Ladies sat on benches eating little sandwiches. Friendly passers by with directions. And the Quaint B&B’s. Country Pubs. Ducks sunbathing on the village green. Picture Postcard Post Offices. Tiny Parish Churches with decaying Graveyards. It seemed that due to being on a bike, people were nicer towards you, and interested in what you were up to. And there was an unspoken bond with other cyclists, a polite nod and smile as you passed one another. Perhaps it was slightly mischievous; I knew they had to tackle that hill I’d just come down, whilst they may be thinking the same. There was a silent camaraderie.

No great revelations – its stuff you know anyway. But working the daily grind in the towns and cities, you can forget. And driving around in the car (which I equally enjoy) continues that – you’re pretty much in a bubble in the car, avoiding contact with the outside world, just watching it drift past the window. I felt really engaged with it on this trip. And yes, as the cars sped by I felt quite ridiculous that what would take me a day would take them about an hour. But I saw the details, the things that would pass them by without a second thought, and that made it worth the trip.

I’d called Jayne and told her I’d be at Hornsea for 18:30, 2 hours from now. My parents were meeting me there too, so I had no choice; I had to get moving. Once out of town, the route took me onto the, by now, very familiar terrain of the former railway line. And I just kept on riding really. Onwards and onwards. It was past ‘hard’ at this point, I was kinda in a zone. I wanted to be at home on my comfy sofa. The iPod finally ran out of juice; it was just me and the singing birds now. Yellow fields flanked me and I just kept pedalling. Again, I was out of water, and I had to stop every 20 minutes or so; my bum really was sore. But I climbed back on and without even thinking about it, my legs started going again.

I had been mulling it over the last day or so, but I had come to the conclusion that physical exercise is not for me. Like most people I worry I'm getting a bit podgy and perhaps I should do a bit more of this, or a bit more of that. And it became clear to me over this journey – why? If it causes this much pain and discomfort, why bother? This massive physical excursion had convinced me that exercise, at least for the sake of it, is the devil. I pledged I would, from then on, spend the majority of my time exercising the only muscle I could rely on – my brain (of course, as I write this, its obvious that my brain isn’t strictly speaking a muscle, but under the strain I was enduring, the allusion seemed to make sense). I would read more. I would write more. I would test myself more – just not physically! I would rather be a fat, out of shape brainbox than a sleek, muscle bound example of human physical excellence. I suppose I always knew that, but it seemed a nice lesson to come out the other side with.

Back in the real world I had reached Hornsea. After 15 miles of repetitive, if striking landscape, I suddenly found myself on a suburban street. I dodged and weaved through the traffic and sped off across a roundabout. I was disappointed to find myself back amongst some trees on another path. How long can this go on for?! But suddenly I popped out from the second batch of woodland and saw before me, some 100 metres away, the North Sea. From nowhere I found a final ounce of strength and sprinted my cursed and decrepit old bike past an old ‘Funland’ arcade and to the finish line. I’d made it – Hooray!

Total Hours: 56.5
On the Road: 32.5 (including breaks etc)

*Thank you massively to everyone who sponsored me for this event, it truly made it all feel worthwhile x

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