Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Coast 2 Coast Bile Ride - June 17

Coast to Coast (via a few pubs)


The main story

As part of the year long  challenge I decided to take on the Coast to Coast cycle ride which is 140 miles from Whithaven in the West to Tynemouth in the East. (There is a slightly shorter route, but that ends in Sunderland - always going to go the long way). To make the logistics easier I decided to do it by joining a group of other cyclists, this should have been a really sensible option, however in hindsight choosing your riding partners carefully is time well spent, i didn't spend this time. I chose the “Plods and Bombs” annual trip (no I don’t know what it means either), organised by one of my staff; John Geoghegan and his sidekick Steven Morrison.
So, at shortly after 5am on Thursday myself and 35 other “keen” cyclist left on a bus from Consett to the start, closely followed by an 18t rigid full of bikes and a support van full of luggage laden with excessive amounts of lycra. It was about this time the rules sheet was handed out, 11 rules which had to be obeyed throughout the trip. They included, only drinking with your left hand, only pointing with your elbows, addressing Mr Morrison as “Your Honour” for the duration and always carrying your rules at all times. Pretty much a stag doo with bikes then.

After breakfast in Whitehaven the Peloton headed out for the first day of riding, crossing through the Lakes to Penrith. This involved just over 50 miles of riding with almost 4000ft of ascent including climbing over Whinlatter before dropping into Keswick for lunch then on to Penrith. The day went pretty well, although I did get a puncture at 10 miles, and showed my complete inexperience in changing them to the watching crowd. All hills were conquered without the urge to get off and walk, however I had apparently broke one of the unwritten rules and had weaved while climbing a hill! This resulted in a summons to a court session over dinner. “Your Honour” turned up with the full judge’s wig (see above), with Mr Geoghegan as prosecutor. As you will probably expect the court session was pretty much “you are guilty, until you are proved guiltier”, so then the sentence was passed, a lovely ½ pint of chilli sauce, made with the finest Scotch Bonnet Chilli’s topped with a raw egg. Let’s just say it didn’t last long. On a positive note, I am sure John will love the 10-year-old Hino he will be getting to replace his brand new 17 plate Mercedes Actros (Trucks for those who don’t know).
Day 2 was a little shorter at just under 35 miles, but still with almost 4000ft of climbing including Hartside Pass. The views from the top are spectacular, except when we got there it was shrouded in mist. After passing through Alston and into Nenthead there is another nasty climb out of the village before a long ride down to our overnight in Allenheads. Accommodation this night was in a dorm with 4 bunk beds and 6 other riders, most of which had eaten spicy food for the previous 48 hours and drank their own body weight in beer. This was not conjusive with getting any well needed sleep. On a positive note I did narrowly avoid a second Court Session. I committed the crime of forgetting my rules, so when the rules check was called I managed to steal the fixture list for the Allendale Darts League from the notice board in the pub and hold it up, no one noticed. Sorry to any Allendale Darts players who have no idea who they are now playing this week in the league.
Day 3 was the final push from Allenheads to the coast, but not without more hills. The start of the days was straight into a climb out of Allenheads before dropping down to Stanhope and the hardest climb of the trip, Crawleyside Bank, just over 2 miles and near 1000ft of climbing to the café at Parkhead. The first mile averaged 10% gradient, which doesn’t sound much, but I suggest you try cycling it with a hangover and little sleep. After Parkhead there is a steady run down back to Consett, so near to my home, but still 30 miles to go before the coast. All the riders regrouped and we annoyed all the motorists of my home town by driving through in one large group before heading off to Newcastle. The pace to the Quayside was as quick as I have ever done it, joining 4 other riders we averaged over 17 mph, which for a large amateur on a heavy bike, is pretty good going.

After rehydrating on the Quayside at Weatherspoons we all headed for the last push to the coast, 140 miles, 10000ft of climbing, one puncture, ½ pint of chilli, several beers and very little sleep. At the end as is tradition having dipped the back wheel in the Irish Sea at the start, the front wheel was dipped in the North Sea. We didn’t all make it, 3 of the 36 starters ended up in hospital after falls, fortunately nothing major, a couple of broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder and some severe grazing - it is dangerous sport cycling.

Having heard about my fundraising the other lads generously clubbed together and donated £300 towards my fundraising, which is a great effort. Big thanks to John and Stephen (Your Honour), for putting on a great trip. They managed to put on a bus to the start, 2 nights’ accommodation, dinner and breakfast twice, all for £110, exceptional value. Hard work for 3 days but a good laugh and another challenge completed.

Now for a summer of training and mountain climbing. Next race is Copenhagen in September. Until then thanks to everyone for their support so far, I will send the next update after my trip to Denmark.

The link to the Just Giving page is below. Have a great summer.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Hills, Hills, Hills and More Bloody Hills

Next Exciting Instalment in the 50th Year Challenge
The last couple of weeks have had a lot of ups and downs, all in the name of this 2017 challenge.
When many people had a relaxing time over Easter, myself and Victoria booked a cottage in Ambleside and set about climbing as many Wainwright peaks as we could in one week. The lakes threw every sort of weather at us in 7 days. On day one we ended up buying after-sun, after getting burnt, on the final day we almost got blow off the top of Clough Head due to gale force windows. In the interim we had hail stones, rain, wind and sun. A typical week in the English lakes.
This is not Victoria doing a Donald Trump Impersonation, it was Very Windy, honest
We did however manage to “bag” 21 Wainwright peaks in a week, taking the total for 2017 to 25, so halfway through this part of the challenge. For the Fitbit geeks, we walked over 110 miles in the week and around 210,000 steps each. For the non Fitbit geeks 10,000 steps per day is considered an acceptable level, we averaged 3 times that, and our steps were 50% up hill. The Wainwrights conquered were: Hartsop Dodd, Stony Cove Pike, Thornthwaite Crag, Gray Crag, Nab Scar, Heron Pike, Great Rigg, Fairfield, Hart Crag, Dove Crag, High Pike, Low Pike, Tarn Crag, Sergeant Man, Sour Howes, Swallows, Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick, Troutbeck Tongue and Clough Head.
We did get joined by our kids and Alfie the dog, who suffered from mountain wind ears
So, after that week of hills we set off to visit Luxembourg to tick off another country and my 48th Half Marathon. The weekend actual involved two runs, the first was an impromptu run across Newcastle Airport. When I booked the flight to Brussels the confirmation confirmed the flight departure as 6pm, when we arrived at the airport at 4:20pm there was no 6pm Brussels flight on the board, several expletives followed when we noticed the 5pm Brussels flight. A very quick sprint across the airport only just got us to checkin before they closed. Within 40 minutes of arriving at the airport we were on board and taxiing down the runway. Victoria thinks this is a great way to travel, a sentiment I don’t agree with.

Half Marathon preparation wasn't brilliant with a couple great and late nights in Brussels. A night at Delirium Café which boasts over 2000 different beers apparently is the wrong type of carb loading, I have now discovered. After 2 nights in Brussels it was off to Luxembourg for the Semi Marathon Des 2 Luxembourg.

Finding a half marathon in Luxembourg had proved difficult as there only seems to be 3 in the year and due to prior commitments, I could only make this one. This event took place in the small town of Beckerich (population 635 according to Wikipedia). I had emailed the organisers to get a list of hotels in the area, the list was very short, there wasn't any, but one of the local farms had a B&B. We arrived Sunday afternoon at Four Oaks B&B, only to find it to be an American Ranch themed farm, with all things cowboy everywhere. We had cow hide lampshades, horseshoe towel rails and cowboy boot toilet roll holders? What we also discovered was Luxembourg shuts on a Sunday night, fortunately Mike, the Cowboy who ran the “Ranch” (he even drove an American Dodge Ram Pickup), had found one restaurant open, about five miles away, which turned out to be quite good, actually.

In my haste to book the Semi Marathon Des 2 Luxembourg, I had not bothered to look at the route, which most races post on line. I made the mistake two days before I ran of looking at this, the online description “hilly” should have set the warning bells away, (this may have explained the need to have a few beers in Brussels).
The very Hilly Profile of the Semi Marathon Des 2 Luxembourg
This race was unbelievably good value for money, the cost of entry was €5.50, which when you compare it to The Great North Run at £54, it is for nothing. The organiser, Michel, was extremely apologetic that as they had gone to chip timing they had had to put up the price from €3.50!! To make it even better value every runner got a €2 voucher to buy food or a drink at the end (I spent mine on a celebratory Diekirch beer, brewed in Luxembourg). No medal or T-shirt, but I think that would be too much to ask for.

So, the run, as well as the hills (1500ft of climbing) the race turned out to be a trail race (again never checked that out). For those who don’t know what a trail race is, think school cross country, but 13.1miles of it, almost all either uphill or downhill, they don't do flat in Luxembourg.

The route was stunning, through woods, a 600m tunnel, over the border into the Belgium Province of Luxembourg (hence the race name), back into Luxembourg and home. All on a course of forest tracks that either climbed or descended (well almost all). The event was friendly, cheap, a great route and bloody hilly. It wasn't a quick run, but one of my favourite half marathons so far.
So now back in the UK, 48 half marathons completed, next stop for running is Denmark in September, which is the only Western European Country I have not completed a Half Marathon in. First priority is to blow the tyres up on my push bike, see if it will start and get cycle training, I now have 7 weeks until the coast to coast bike ride.
  • 48 Half Marathons Completed
  • 1 Country in Western Europe to Run in
  • 25 Wainwrights to Climb
  • 1 Coast to Coast Bike Ride to cycle
  • 1 fiftieth Half Marathon to Run in the Arctic Circle
  • 1 embarrising flashing incident in Wales
  • 1 nearly missed flight to Belgium
  • 1 expensive pair of compression socks purchased
So, the rest of the year will be fairly quiet… Thanks for all your support so far, the challenge continues……

The Justgiving Page can be found at

Monday, 3 April 2017

Injury, Hospital Admission and Support Stockings

Firstly thanks for the amazing support I have received since the last update. So far you have raised £2765 for Willow Burn Hospice, which is an amazing amount. It is really appreciated by both Willow Burn and myself. It makes this stupidity all worth while. The link to the Justgiving page is below.
The Berlin Half Marathon was nearly the Half Marathon that never happened. When I first set about this challenge I didn't think for one minute I would get injured. I had managed almost 7 years of running several Half marathons a year without any issue. The only time I came close to injury was after completing the London Marathon and then stupidly starting training 48 hours after finishing it, not a good idea. However this bravado proved to be ill founded, Wrexham injured me, not too seriously, but my right calf decided it didn't want to be part of the team anymore, and would do its own thing. A lot of rest and a small fortune spent on Sports Massages did help, but the subsequent lack of training due to prolonged rest meant I was both still a little injured and also not race fit. If I hadn't paid for flights and hotels in Berlin and told the world I was doing this event, I would have and should have pulled out. But I am too stupid to do that.
This dilemma over, my son Jack through a curve ball 2 days before we were due to fly, when he got himself admitted to hospital and put on an IV drip. What he initially thought was tonsillitis turned out to be glandular fever. So Wednesday night the choice was either cancel our travel plans totally and look for another half later in the year in Germany, I fly by myself leaving Victoria at home to look after Jack, or finally he gets discharged from hospital and is well enough for us to both travel. Fortunately by Thursday he was home, Victoria had spend a fortune on ice cream and other associated liquid foods and our daughter Ellen had agreed to make a rare visit home to keep an eye on her brother (rumour is she needed a sat nav to find our house, her visits are that rare). So the race was back on. He better not take ill before the Luxembourg half marathon, as there isn't an alternative to that one I can run this year.
So, support stockings, or in running speak - Compression socks. This is a product that they issue free to all patients in hospital (I discovered while visiting my son this week), you can also buy them in boots for £10 to stop you getting DVT on long hall flights. But buy them to both avoid injury and assist with injury recovery with a running logo on and your local sports shop will fleece you £30 for what is fundamentally the same product. I had bumped into a seriously good runner at a business lunch in London by the name of Rebekah Randell who I discussed the challenge with and mentioned my current injury issue. It was her advice that I buy compression socks, and I have to thank her as it got me around Berlin in one piece. The only issue is I also have to thank her for making me look like a dick every time I go running now. (before you ask the running shoes were in the sale!)
So the Berlin Half Marathon. Unlike Vienna, when I was one of two Brits in the race, Berlin was a very large event with runners from all over the Europe and beyond. The course was also very impressive traveling through both East and West Berlin, including running through the Brandenburg Gate at around 3 miles. This did mean I stopped on a few occasions and took photos of bits of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and Kaiser Wilhelm Cathedral. I stopped worrying about times a while ago, this was about enjoying the day. The atmosphere was great and Victoria was joined by our good friends Mark and Marie who flew out for the weekend, for my own personal support crew. They sometimes may not be the most motivational support crew however,  when I saw them at 10 miles, Mark did point out that there was a runner dressed as a beer bottle ahead of me, frustratingly I knew this already as he had just passed me.
If you haven't been to Berlin, I would certainly recommend it, I was really impressed with the city, it has a great vibe about it (Victoria’s words not mine). What I don’t recommend is running a half marathon, booking a flight back that gets into Manchester at 11pm that night, then having to drive 3 hours home for a couple of hours sleep before driving to Birmingham for 10:30am the next morning. I may be in logistics, but this was crap planning.
I now have a month before the next race in Luxembourg, but not one to sit still, we have booked a week in the Lakes at Easter to start getting as many Wainwrights bagged as we can. Whatever happened to lazy beach holidays?

The challenge continues with only 3 half marathons, 1 Coast to coast bike ride and 46 wainwright peaks still to do.

The justgiving page link is www.justgiving.com/Nigel-Cook2. if you would like to help support the wonderful Willow Burn Hospice.

Thanks for taking the time to read the update, will keep you updated through the year

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

What part of running 2 half marathons in 7 days did I think was a good idea? Definitely a tale of two cities and a broken man.

Half Marathon number 46 - Wrexham Half Marathon - 12/3/2017

This weekend involved ticking off Wales from the country list by completing the Wrexham Half Marathon. It was not my most enjoyable or best run. The excuses why I ran so badly are as follows:
  • 1) it was too close to the last race
  • 2) it was hilly (well slightly undulating)
  • 3) it was warm (yes Wrexham was warm in March)
  • 4) I am getting old, too heavy and probably not fit enough
  • 5) At 6 miles I got overtaken by a Gingerbread Man, who had started 1 hour before me and was running the marathon with the 3hr 30min Marathon Pacer
  • 6) My head was too focused on making excuses to run well.
Anyway over 10 minutes slower than Vienna and after dragging myself painfully through the last 3 miles I ticked off Half Marathon number 46 in Wrexham. A pleasant course through the town and surrounding country side.

To finish a bad day, i may be now banned from the Ramada Inn in Wrexham. Having stayed the night before, i had arranged to call back and have a shower in the Spa before returning home. What they didn't tell me was the only shower in the Spa was an open shower in the spa room which contained the Hot Tub and Sauna. Having checked there where no other guests a quick strip off and shower followed. It was only when leaving I noticed the Security Camera and the "This area is covered by CCTV sign". What made it worse was handing back my key to see the large CCTV monitor behind reception clearly showing the spa. May be a while before i go back!!

There is now a justgiving page, which will be open for the duration of the challenge http://www.justgiving.com/Nigel-Cook2