Sunday, 21 June 2009

5: The Route

The canal was originally 127.25 miles long, and until recently, the first quarter of a mile at Liverpool was filled in. However, the canal has recently been extended right into the centre of Liverpool at Albert Dock. Both ends of the canal are close to the main railways stations of Leeds and Liverpool. It is possible to cycle along the towpath along the whole canal, the only exceptions are the two tunnels, Gannow and Foulridge. At the tunnels I will have to find my way over the top to meet the canal at the other side.

The route itself doesn't follow anywhere near a direct line. It snakes around the Pennines, heading much further north to avoid the highest peaks. From the starting point by the Train Station in Leeds I head north west through Rodley towards Shipley, following the valley of the River Aire and the railway line. I go through the old industrial heartlands of Saltaire, past the mills to Bingley and then climb to Skipton and out towards Gargrave and the picturesque outlying villages of Greenberfield and Marton. After 45 miles I will reach Foulridge and the summit of the canal at just over 487 feet above sea level.

From Foulridge I head down the Lancashire slopes of the Pennines through Burnley, Blackburn and Wigan. From there it's just over 30 miles to Liverpool and my halfway mark at 127 and a quarter miles.

4: Bike & Bits

I've bought a new mountain bike for the event. A 'Scott Aspect' bike. I would have liked to have used my old Saracen Xile but it's over five years old already and I don't think it will cope with the hammer it will get. My Scott bike is a single suspension mountain bike, nothing special and chosen for weight and comfort more than features and style. It has disc brakes rather than the traditional V type brakes so they should cope better with the mud and wet that I'm expecting.

I'll be taking essential repair equipment like spare inner tubes, puncture repair kit, tool set and pump. I'll also have a mobile phone just in case of an emergency. My accommodation consists of a small one man tent with ground mat, sleeping bag and a lock for my bike. I'll have a couple of water bottles which I'll fill at the water points along the towpath (some need the use of a BW key). I have to try and keep the weight down but I need to try and get some extra socks and shorts / T-Shirt in there too.

I'll also have my Garmin Edge 305 GPS Computer. This logs loads of information including miles, speed, elevation, cadence etc so that I can analyse the trip afterwards. Im also taking an extra battery for my iPhone so that I can make live updates while I'm doing the ride.

As for food, I'll have some energy gels and rehydration powders with me, and i'll buy my meals along the way from nearby shops.

3: Fitness

Everybody has varying levels of fitness and different ideas on how you should prepare for an event like this. Most people agree that if you have little or no fitness you should start slowly and build up over a period of time, doing more miles each time until you can manage the daily amount of miles you want to achieve. I am lucky in that I already have a decent level of fitness. During the spring and early summer months I clock up about 100 / 150 miles a week over three or four days. Not a huge amount I know, but regular and enough for what I expect to achieve.

Another aspect is that this ride will be more challenging than a normal road bike ride. Although some of the towpath will be pretty easy to manage, I know that a lot of it will be muddy with long grass and exposed hills with headwinds and steady climbs. My mountain bike weighs 19kg, my kit weighs 10kg, my water bottles about 2kg and I weigh 75kg. A total of over 100kg to pull over the Pennines in what will probably be wet or windy conditions.

There's only one way to prepare for this and that's to try and train in similar conditions. Luckily, the summer hasn't been that hot and sunny yet! As of the end of June I've started back at the gym in order to build up my core muscles and stamina under the watchful eye of my new personal trainer! Hopefully, he can manage my fitness in a way that won't cause any aggravation to my knee.

2: The History

About eighteen months ago I planned to cycle from Land's End to John O' Groats. When I started my training, I developed pain in my left knee after 20 / 30 miles of cycling on my road bike. The problem got worse and I had to go see my doctor and a physiotherapist. The result was all to do with biometrics. Put simply, my left knee is slightly out of alignment with the rest of my leg which causes extra friction when put under the stresses of cycling with my road bike.

I was gutted because I had put so much time into planning the event. Not to be put off, I got my brain into gear and thought of other ways I could use cycling to raise money and awareness for The Brenda Fox Tribute Fund, which supports the Motor Neurone Association.

As a keen canal boater, I saw that some people cycled the length of the Leeds Liverpool Canal, a journey of 127 and a quarter miles. Another thing I noticed was that i didn't get the same pain when I cycled on my mountain bike that i did on my road bike. So the plan came together to cycle the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. I'll be doing a return journey though to make the event a bit more challenging.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

1: The Plan

The plan is to cycle the entire length of the Leeds Liverpool Canal, and back, over four days. It's a total journey of over 254 miles along the towpath of the canal. Some of it will be fairly easy and some of it will be wet and muddy! I'll be alone, without any support or back up. Just me, my bike, a tent and a few essential bits and pieces. I'll be camping out in the middle of the Pennines overnight and using the canal water points for refreshment.