I’d been warned about day 3 by a number of people. It was the day when the cumulative physical effects of the previous two days would kick in with the added physiological weight of knowing that there were more days to come and you could only get more tired. But I was determined to be mentally prepared and tackle the demon the moment he turned up.
This was probably why I was awake at 04:15. It took me longer to get going than the previous two days: I was feeling quite nauseous and it took a long time to get the breakfast potions and bars down. But I was determined to follow through with my pledge of the evening before, so down they went. Fortunately they stayed down as well. Although it was touch and go.
I set off through a very quite but quite grim Kilmarnock and down the B7073 toward the A76 which would take me to Dumfries. From there I’d merge with the A75 which I’d follow to Gretna and the border. But that was 80 miles away.
To be honest I remember very little about the road to Gretna. My text messages don’t help much in filling in the gaps either. Apparently I felt crap an hour down the road and only started to feel better near Dumfries, 60 miles and nearly 5 hours into the day.
The road did get very busy after Dumfries and the right turn into Gretna was a little hairy after the tarmac beyond the rumble strip disappeared on the approach but I arrived safe and sound.
I stopped in Gretna for a Cornish pasty. I should have gone for a Scotch pie because they had no idea how to make a Cornish pasty. Still, I struggled it down, along with an energy bar and a protein bar, resolute to munch my way through my surplus supplies.
After posing for the obligatory photo at the border I headed east to join up with A7 to take me into Carlisle. This was the last photo I took before reaching Tintern Abbey in the Wye Valley of south eastern Wales. This either shows determined riding on my part or a complete lack of photogenic scenery in the 270 miles of England between the two points. I like to think I was very focused.
From Carlisle I joined the A6 and was destined to follow it for the next 100 miles all the way to Chorley, south of Preston. At High Hesket I made the decision to avoid the 25% Kirkstone Pass and stick to the much easier A6 route over Shap Fell. Whilst my sciatica was in abeyance and my knee had not been too bad today I didn’t want to take the risk of an injury which might put a stop to the whole trip.
As if to spite me, my chain started playing up a few miles later. There seemed to be too much play in it. I was surprised that the bike shop hadn’t recommended a replacement when it had been serviced because it had already done 2,000 hard miles which included over 40,000 metres of vertical climb (an average 100 mile ride in Devon means 2000 metres of climb – and if the organisers want to be nasty it can be double that). 10 speed chains don’t seem to last very long, especially if you ride them through all types of weather and down muddy gritty lanes.
I decided that I would stop the next time I saw a bike shop and try to replace it. Although the last one I had seen was in Wick. So I might have to specifically seek one out. Penrith was the next main town so I’d stop there to track one down.
I was doing much better today at eating regularly and my energy level seem quite consistent, even though I could feel general fatigue gnawing away in the back ground. But I still didn’t seem to be getting through my full allocation. It was really hard work forcing the bars, gels and drinks down and it was only the thought of feeling worse that focused my mind enough to do it. Even so, my supply wasn’t going down that fast and there would be another lot waiting for me at the B&B in Kendal.
I didn’t have to seek very hard for a cycle shop in Penrith, there were two on the High Street. The first one didn’t have a 10 speed chain in stock and the second wanted to charge me £43.00. Having only fitted one a couple of months before which had cost me about £17.00, I decided I would ride on to Kendal and see if I could find a cheaper one there.
The climb over Shap Fell was long but not too steep. I think the steepest part was about 10%. This was not a worry for me on a light weight bike with only one bag. It would be much more of a problem for a fully laden camper/tourer. The slope on the other side was more severe (probably about 13-15% near the top) and provided me with one of my highest speeds on the tour, about 42 mph. If I had been brave and felt more alert it could have been faster but having missed the Kirkstone Pass to avoid an injury I didn’t want to get one here by over cooking it into a corner.
I was approaching Kendal from a different direction to my route sheet so had to stay alert to find my B&B. I knew that the final half mile or so to the actual B&B would be the same as my planned route so I switched on the sat nav and waited to pick up the pink highlighted route. Sure enough it didn’t let me down and took me almost to the door.
The room was ensuite with a choice of beds! It also had a radiator and, despite it being July, I turned it on to dry out my kit, after cleaning it in the shower using the grape treading technique.
I decided I was too tired to go looking for a chain, and everywhere would be closed anyway, so I settled into my evening routine of charging things up, eating and setting out everything in nice piles for a quick re-pack of the bag and pockets in the morning. I’m never very with it first thing and with three long days in the saddle behind me I needed all the help I could get.
Despite my best efforts my bow wave of energy bars and gels had grown larger and was now causing problems with both bag space and weight. The gels in particular were quite heavy and the surplus probably weighed a couple of kilos. I was loath to dump them because they cost a lot of money and I’m tight. Perhaps if I met any cyclists the next day I could try giving them away. Although, other than the first day, I couldn’t recall seeing any other cyclists. I suppose ‘A’ roads aren’t all that popular.
I was feeling pretty shattered but happy to have got through the dreaded Day 3. In theory things shouldn’t get any worse now. Although I wasn’t particularly looking forward to tomorrow, not from a fatigue point of view, just because my only image of the area was the mutli coloured spat of spaghetti over several pages of the road atlas.