LEJOG - Day 9 (Keswick > New Lanark)

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1st August 2010 - Mentally, this was probably our hardest day of the trip. It wasn't as hard on the legs as Cornwall and Devon, but it was certainly mind numbing and a big mental challenge in terms of al's broken bike, boredom, and demoralising headwinds. We got up at around 08:00 but didn't set off until nearer 10:00. Daryl and I waited until we knew the state of Al's bike. Luckily there was a bike shop open early and Al was able to buy a spare set of wheels. So the only down time was fitting them to his bike which took an hour or so. During this time Daryl and I set off ahead but not too quickly (Al was the fastest cyclist, so would catch us eventually saving us some time). I had the GPS device, but gave Al my phone which has GPS on it and a rough guide to the route. We had all bases covered, and got under way.

Climbing out of the Lake District was fairly hard, although we'd got used to steep hill by now. What followed was probably my favourite road of the trip (the google street view photo doesn't do the area justice). We cut across to Carlisle via country lanes. They were wide, open (you could see hundreds of metres ahead), and the tarmac was perfectly smooth. It was downhill too, and not too steep either, so we were managing 50-70kph for about 30mins. The views were also quite amazing, looking back over a wet and cloudy Lake District with the sun cutting through. An awesome route if ever you're out there.

Al meanwhile set off around 11 at a crazy pace. On the flats he was averaging close to 40kph, and instead of going over the hills decided to stick to the A591 and joined the A595 as he was making good time. He caught us leaving Carlisle which was a top effort given we had over an hours headstart on him. That was just the start of the day though. From Carlisle we followed the B7076 along the A74. It was marked as a cycle route but it was awful to the point I felt like complaining about it.

Firstly, the tarmac wasn't smooth, anything but. We had to keep stopping every 30mins to shake the limbs out due to all the intense vibrations going through the body. Then there was the head wind. It was knocking around 10-15kph off our speed, and really drained the legs. We lined out and took turns being the wind cutter, switching every 15km or so. Despite one person cutting the wind it was still hard work. Lastly, it was some of the most boring uninspiring roads and scenery. The roads were just straight and boring, and we had nothing of interest to look at (apart from rubbish and glass at the sides of the road). This lasted for 5 hours. All I could think about it how I could have been spending the time... I could have watched a movie, had a few beers, and played some xbox in that time. Lunch was equally as depressing as we couldn't find anywhere nice along the way, so opted for sitting inside a large Tesco lobby area eating the food we bought there. As depressing as it was though, there was something comforting in it. I think we were just glad to be off the awful roads for a bit with a chance to sit and socialise.

As we got close to New Lanark it started to rain hard. The route took us over quite remote hills that were exposed, so we got wet and cold very quickly. This was frustrating given how close we were to the finish. It was quite depressing (I was a little short by this point), as the rain was so heavy we had to cycle more slowly for fear for wiping out, meaning we just had more time cycling ahead of us. We eventually arrived at the hostel around 8pm, after a long, mentally draining day. It was by far the worst day of the trip, and given the chance I'd completely change it if we were to do it again.

Thankfully New Lanark was a lovely, quaint little town and the hostel was modern with plenty of bike storage space. We ended up having a beer in the hotel and then ordering a curry (as it was all that we could find on a Sunday), which now that we were in Scotland was delivered by some scallies (who did a donut in the world heritage site), and our curry also came with a free 1.5L bottle of Irn Bru!

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