Day 5 Haydock to Penrith
Day 5 did not start well, despite the ‘Eye of the Tiger’ wake up call. We were sodden, from the moment we started it was literally pouring down our faces, we could barely see. My feet were swimming in my shoes despite the ’waterproof’ overshoes and my hands were swimming in my apparently ‘waterproof’ gloves. We were all head down trying not to drown as we made our way through Wigan and Preston being pummelled by the torrent and sprayed by puddle plunging cars and buses. I was back to ‘What am I doing?’ for the first hour and dreaming of hot baths, hot chocolate and a cosy ride in the broom wagon. I had come this far and I really did not need to be putting myself through this. So having accepted that at some point today I would probably get off my bike, I just decided to keep going to see how long I could endure. It was pretty unbearable but eventually, the unbearable really can become normal and soon I could hardly notice the rain lashing down. I realised that, in those immortal words of Four Weddings ‘I am so wet, I can’t get any wetter’ and bizarrely I began to enjoy myself. Strange, I know, it must be the Scottish blood in me but I think I came out the other side and started to enjoy the challenge, amazed and pleased that I could laugh at this and just keep going. I did have a secret weapon up my sleeve though. My friend Joe was waiting with coffee at the first pit stop and I think that may have saved the day. When we swung in to the Garden Centre pit stop and saw Joe standing with his thermos of hot steaming coffee, we could have (and I think may have) all kissed him!
Sadly, we lost Lou at the first pit stop to a bad knee, the cold and wet exacerbating her injury. Next to fall was Kelly who succumbed to early stages of hypothermia and surprisingly wasn’t the only one that day. Our group was now down to just 3.
Having warmed up a bit, dried off a little courtesy of the hand drier in the loos and consumed the life saving coffee, we were off again. Gradually the day did dry out but not until it had dumped another few tonnes of rain on us. There were many soggy riders just wanting the day to end but the best scenery of the trip so far began with a 9 mile climb of Shap Fell. The advantage of being slightly speed challenged was that by the time we started to climb Shap Fell, the weather was beautiful and the views breathtaking. It was quite a slow and steady slog to the top but, rewarded with stunning views of the Lake District on all sides, spirits were lifted high for the last run into Penrith.
The crew on the other hand were having a complete nightmare. There had been a flash flood at our camp in Penrith and the ground was soaking wet. Some of the trucks couldn’t get onto the site, only half the showers were in place, which of course made for long queues as cold, wet riders waited for their longed for hot showers. Sections of the camp had to be cordoned off and the floor of the chill out tent seemed to be boasting some sort of water feature. Amazingly though, they pulled it all together and somehow managed to pitch 500+ tents, feed us well and keep us from drowning in our sleep.
James Cracknell’s comments on the day can’t actually be printed but safe to say he didn’t much enjoy being rained on for 6 hours. The bronze medal winning rower Alex Partridge congratulated us on a character building day and Tim Reddish was there also to congratulate us on passing the half way mark. I think today was the day that I started to think that if I could get this far and survive a day like today with a smile on my face, then I might, just might, make it.
All that was left was for head of Threshold events Nick Tuppen to carry out his daily, unenviable job of relating the following day’s weather to us and cover any health and safety issues. He signed off with the reassurance that we would all sleep well tonight due to the gentle sound of lapping water outside our tents....a joke lost on the many who had decided to decamp to the Penrith Holiday Inn....why hadn’t i thought of that?