Fred Whitton Challenge

Well that was interesting. After a 5:30am alarm, it was a dash up North to Coniston. Once in Coniston with a couple of minutes to spare, I couldn’t find the start/signon place. Something to do with no signs.

Anyway, Simon started at 8, and I was about a minute behind. That’s when it all started to go downhill…

Perhaps over the last few years I’ve been spoiled by various off-road enduros in that they always go the whole hog on the signage and the marshalling. You’re never too far from a bloke on a quad bike or a few army cadets. On the Fred, there’s fuck all. If you’re not in a group, or if you’ve been so late you’ve forgotten to bring any kind of map, you’re either going the wrong way or tentatively pootling along, getting more and more frustrated, thinking you’re going the wrong way. Over and over again I descended into a festering pit of uncertainty and doubt and several times my fears were right. On one occasion I overshot my turning by about 10 miles – only turning around when a group of (presumably local) mountain bikers pointed out my error.

This went on for a long time, in fact it was becoming an all-consuming issue. I caught a group of riders and I remember thinking that I’d been saved. Until everyone stopped and asked “is this the right way?” Geeeuuuurrrragggh….

Once near Whinlatter I had a phone signal at last. At this point I was keen to phone Simon’s wife Cath, who was doing some mobile support. She was waiting at the top of Kirkstone for me, then moved on as I was so late. Not her fault, I was late.

Then she was waiting at the first feed stop. I got there 3 minutes before the cut-off and she’d already had to go. So I was then stuck with no food. 3 jam butties from the feed stop really really really hurt on the next climb…a “I’ve been stabbed in the belly” kind of hurt. So when I got that phone signal at Whinlatter, I called and asked nicely for a lift back to the start. If I’d carried on, and not got lost, and considering I was about 90 minutes behind schedule, it was more than likely going to mean I was clocking a time of 10 or so hours. Not good.

“DNF” is a lesser indignity than “10:15:34” in my book.

Highlights for me though were the descent off Honister (bloody scary) and Newlands. At the summit of Honister there was The Token Sign, a warning of the imminent danger beyond. Presumably because a woman in last year’s event needed a year of facial reconstructive surgery after caving her face in on a drystone wall. We were well protected by that sign, I recall thinking.

Simon coming over the line, looking quite dead, in just over 7 hours was pretty good too. That’s some bloody fast riding, I tell thee. He prepared better than I did too – he knew the route and he probably took a map. Oh, and he didn’t arrive like a great big arm-waving ball of stress like I did.

So….next year? Well, that depends how the Fred Whitton people react to my imminent well-worded, considered, polite email. All told though, it was still a pretty good training ride (I think about 80 miles if you include the go-wrongs) for the Cristalp, and I’m positive the Swiss will spend a couple of francs on some flourescent paper arrows to nail to stuff….