Karen's Posse rides again!
Karen Sibson passed away in November 2011 and a couple of family and friends decided to do a bike ride to try to raise some money for Christies Hospital in Manchester. From that conversation over a beer was spawned a series of runs, swims and rides over the summer of 2012. This involved 24 men and women in varying degrees of fitness and sanity who have pushed themselves further than some of them thought possible, and, at the time of writing, have raised over £6700 through the website www.justgiving.com/karens_posse , with still time for more donations to be accepted.
The final event of our year was the longest, bloodiest, funniest and most satisfying for all those who took part and these are my reflections on an eventful trip on the TPT.
The team :
Steve Sibson - Karen's husband; Nick Partington - Karen's brother; Jac Symes, Barry Sibson & Pete Haslam - Karen's siblings-in-law; Ali Morris, Sean Morris, Chris Pulford - Family friends; Paul Blackshaw & Paul Green - Friends who competed the trail in two days
Anne & Gerald Symes - Jac's parents and invaluable support team
August 2nd. Hull to Hornsea to Selby.
After travelling over to Hull from Hoylake the previous day, I spent a restless night in the Travelodge in Hull. The Bacchanalian male voice choir gave a stirring rendition of some classic nocturnes, so I was up before 6.00am and on the road early to Hornsea, having eventually managed to locate the TPT in Hull, despite the best efforts of the local populace.
It was a bright sunny day and I missed a sign in the low sunlight, so ended up heading towards Bridlington before regaining the trail and getting to Hornsea at 7:45am, where the gang formed up for the 9:00am start. After we loaded up the support vehicle with our bags, it was time for photos and a dip of the wheels in the North Sea before we set off on our first section. Steve was on his new bike which had managed a full three miles the previous day before having a puncture and we had Sean's GPS green line to follow that was to be invaluable in Hull and the wilderness.
It was a glorious summer's day and we made good time to, and eventually through Hull to our first rendezvous with our support team by the Humber Bridge. After refreshment and photos, we passed on into the countryside. The headwind was the lightest that I'd experienced on that stretch, which made a pleasant change. Even Elloughton Hill was climbed quite easily, where we spotted the distant cooling towers that I said we would pass the following day. I lied!
Lunch was taken at the Hope and Anchor, Blacktoft and then onwards across the flat East Riding section past those cooling towers towards Selby. It became a bit harder towards the end of the ride and we eventually passed the tidal barrier where a sheep was lying on one of the tables, and thence to our overnight stop in Selby.
We went out for a meal, paid for by Nick and Steve as a thank you for getting out on our bikes, and it was so delicious and filling that Chris ordered a pizza on the way back! Plenty of beer in the B&B and Steve demonstrated his helicopter pilot expertise across the living room with his new toy.
August 3rd. Selby to Penistone.
We set off at about half nine due to a need for a Tesco run and a couple of bike bits from the shop across the road from the Hazeldene B&B (recommended). What a pity we didn't get a few more while we were there!
We had an easy run out of Selby, then around the old airfield and, after dodging the camera crew again, out into the countryside again. Here, the team were fascinated by the sight of the swing bridges across the canals and stopped for an extended photo session.
Some of the TPT signs were covered in foliage and a sharp right hander led to Nick having a multi-tasking experiment with bottle, brakes and steering followed by an involuntary sphincter moment. We had great luck with the weather and kept missing the rain systems as they swept northwards as we went westwards. Many times we came across places where there had been a load of rain, but we saw only the briefest of light showers all day.
There was a sign about a closed level crossing ahead on the trail, but we were assured by a cyclist that it was ok to get across by bike. Unfortunately, when we got there, the Network Rail man in the overalls informed me that they had had an accident in which a cyclist had been injured so we couldn't cross. Despite protestations that we were sensible people who could carry our bikes across the full 25 yards of the blockage without injuring ourselves, he was not to be moved and we were left with the prospect of a long detour, or heading cross-country. Sean's GPS found us a bridle path which would take us round the blockage, so we set off into the jungle. It was a hideous track with deep mud that Jac fell over in, thorns that I gave blood in and an all-terrain vehicle that just about cleared a path for us. We eventually emerged next to an unmanned crossing, which must be more dangerous than the other oneL.
It was a relief to get to Bentley without further trouble and sit down in the shade for lunch whilst picking the remaining thorns out of my arms and legs with my knife.
Post lunch we headed off towards Doncaster, picking up a donation from a passing motorist on the way, but then we made a bit of a mistake with the signs and headed towards the centre of Doncaster. Recovering our route, we arrived at Morrisons for a comfort break before setting a new world record for the number of laps cycled round a car park wearing hi-vis jackets!
We returned to the trail and were on a good pace past Sprotborough, when Barry went into a slow-motion crash and had to extricate himself from a sizable bush before we hit a large unpaved part of the trail up the side of a viaduct. Nick went off bridge spotting whilst the rest of us got our breath back before we headed off for the traditional halfway point at Old Moor.
Then, the fun started. A bearing failure on Chris's bike led to a series of phone calls to find a cycle repair shop open in the South Yorkshire area on a Saturday afternoon. Eventually we got Halfords in Barnsley to agree to do the repair that night if we could get there by half five. Not a problem, I thought, and offered to lead Chris there as I knew where to go and we set off at a fast pace for over quarter of a mile before my back tyre blew out. A sprint tyre change later and we were off again. 400 yards and BANG! It had blown again. Nick gave me his bike and stayed with mine to repair it and get to our overnight stop at Penistone.
Chris and I were now up against the clock and, on an unfamiliar bike, with a different riding position to mine (or Nick has a strangely shaped nether region) we headed off uphill to Barnsley. I remember little of the ride except the constant pain in my legs as we drove ever upwards with Chris keeping me going up the 11 miles to Halfords. It was the hardest riding that I have ever done and I was sure to pay for it the following day, but I wasn't sure that I would survive until then, so we pressed ever harder onwards. We made it in approx 45 minutes (Chris kindly described this as smashing it) which, whilst it will not give Bradley Wiggins any sleepless nights, was a hell of an effort for me and I threw up discreetly in the bushes outside the shop. We were in time for the repair and I got a new tyre and a couple of tubes for my bike. Many thanks to the Halfords Bike Shop team for their assistance.
I had nothing left in my legs and decided to get the train to Penistone. Chris, on the other hand, said that he would feel like a cheat of he didn't do all the miles, so I directed him back to the trail to meet the rest of the gang. I didn't care about the miles as I've done them already and the extra stuff to Barnsley would just about make them up anyway so I limped to the station and got the train.
I met up with Gerald and Anne, dropped my tyre off with them and decided to cycle down the trail towards Oxspring to meet up with the rest and guide them to their destination. I had to wait for about an hour, but they came into view and I got my bike back from Nick with the rear tyre held together with gaffer tape and patches. We all headed back up the trail to Penistone, looking forward to a nice meal and a comfortable night. Well, what a surprise we got!
I will draw a discreet veil over the accommodation that I had saddled the team with. Suffice it to say that, when Jac asked me if I'd ever stayed there before, I responded with “If I had. Do you think I'd stay here again?”
We forwent a shower and ventured forth to try to find food. We eventually plumped for an Indian restaurant where we had a super time, especially when we met up with Paul B & Paul G who had done half the trail in one day to meet up with us. They were staying in a nice hotel five miles away. Bids were being laid down for the couch in their room as the lagers flowed. A video of Ali in hysterics cheered us all up and gave us a lift after a trying day. We decided that if we were to trash the place (we didn't), we would get arrested and still have better accommodation that we were promised that night. Eventually however, we had to return to the delights of our accommodation and I took a shower in what can generously be described as a primitive sanitation unit, before retiring for the night.
My bedroom appeared to be connected to a magma vent and was too hot to sleep comfortably, which was ok as the bed was so soft that it ate me as I lay down on it. If I hadn't seen the carpet, I would have slept on the floor. I opened the window for fresh air and was fortunate enough to be in the audience when the local debating society took the floor just after one in the morning. I was not sorry to rise from my bed at half past six to greet the new day. Steve, as it was later discovered, had shared his bed with some local nightlife and had the bite-marks to prove it.
August 4th. Penistone to Southport.
Chris was unable to get leave from work for the Monday, so I had agreed to do the second half of the trail with him on the Sunday, hence the early start. This meant that there were three groups on the road that day and we never did meet up.
My day started with a succinct observation from Chris on the previous evening's events, as we were about 100 yards along the trail and we headed off towards Dunford Bridge at a decent pace with the prospect of a good ride ahead.
The hill up to Windle Edge was as steep as ever. I knew that I taken a lot out of my legs during the sprint the day before and I had to push the bike up. I have never made it up there in one go anyway, so I didn't feel like I was giving in, more like taking sensible precautions to conserve energy for later in the day, which were to prove prudent.
We made good time and came down the A628 at a fine speed to find that the butty van that was advertised as 7 days a week wasn't there, so we carried on. The views on the Longdendale Trail were stunning as ever and we raced on to Tintwhistle to find the cafe promised by a cyclist coming the other way. Sadly, this was another cruel deception and we were forced to resort to the golden arches at Mottram. Chris managed two breakfast wraps, which must have been a step up from his normal diet of marzipan.
We made good time to Stockport and re-stocked at Tesco before heading out across the Cheshire plains to the Fiddlers Ferry Tavern where we stopped for refreshment. I checked in with Steve at about half past two to see how they were getting on and was shocked to hear that they were still in Hadfield. Sean's chain had snapped so the support crew were off to get a replacement from Stockport and get it back across the Pennines to them. I thought that this would cost them some hours and I was right. I cheered Steve up by telling him that I was having a pint and he responded with a cheerful “Sod off!” which I thought was fair.
Chris and I set off again into a headwind after Widnes. I then spent the last reserves of energy in my legs getting up the long climb out of Hale Village to the park before the start of the Liverpool loop, accompanied by the sound of approaching thunder.
We were heading along the loop when the heavens opened and the trail was awash with running water in two minutes. We carried on for a bit, nearly killing ourselves trying to get past a group who had no idea of road sense or cycling etiquette and stopped under a bridge for ten minutes. We decided to press on after donning the wet weather gear and headed off. Chris got fooled by one of the gates and had a fall that bruised his knee badly, although he was still a lot faster than me.
The weather cleared, but the Cheshire Lines section was flooded so we still got just as wet as before and I was still having to push the bike up even the small rises over the railway before we made it to the final approach along the coast to Southport. We made it past Pontins and came out of the dunes section onto the promenade before finally making it to the seamark at quarter past six.
We were greeted with cheers from Chris's family together with banners, balloons and hugs all round. I would never have got that far on the day without the constant companionship and support from Chris, who was a tower of strength. It was a great feeling to finish, even if I have done it before and we had loads of photos before I went off to the station with my balloon in tow.
I fell asleep on the train to Hoylake and nearly missed my connection at Moorfields and then again on the Wirral Line. Unfortunately my balloon came off on the road to my parents' house but my wife Louise and daughter Molly were there to greet me. I had a shower to get clean and then a bath as a medical necessity before sitting down to a big plate of hash, half a can of lager and then went to bed.
The two Pauls had not finished until after eight (they started at ten), so I didn't see them on the trail at all, but well done both of you and thanks for the money raised.
August 5th. Aintree to Southport.
I checked in with Steve and found that they had not got off the bikes in Widnes until 21:45pm the previous night after chain repairs followed by punctures in the rain and arranged to meet them at Aintree. I was originally going to meet them at Hunts Cross, but had nothing left in my legs, so decided to miss out a repeat of the loop section.
I got over to Liverpool and met up with the guys when they appeared from an unexpected direction from the elevated section. After persuading them to miss the broken glass in the back streets, we got to the canal section after Wally's steps. Sean got very excited by the sight of a coot with odd markings, so we spent a few minutes photographing it before heading off again to the Cheshire Lines route.
This had dried out remarkably since the previous evening and although there were puddles it was eminently passable and we made good progress into a strengthening headwind.
As we passed along the path through the dunes, I tried to convince some of the team that the finish line was adjacent to a fairground attraction visible over the top, but my credibility was shot after the cooling tower incidentJ.
Shortly, however, we arrived at the seamark to great rejoicing, photos, hugs all round and bubbly. Plenty of family were there, including the gorgeous Eve who was delighted to see Ali and Sean, before Chris Blay and Carolyn, two members of an expedition earlier in the year. arrived with beer. Result!
We all had a few moments of reflection on what we had achieved before Steve and Barry tried to imitate Nick and cycle out past the Isle of Man to wet his tyres in the Irish Sea before turning back after a couple of minutes as the sand was up over his tyres.
I loaded the panniers onto my bike and, after a final round of hugs and handshakes, headed off to the station again and a return to Hoylake before a relaxing trip to Blackpool Pleasure Beach the following day.
Trail Report :
Team - 10, Punctures - 4, Falls - 4, Mechanical failures - 2, Miles - 2,400ish, Laughs - Dozens, Hysterics - 1, Beers - Not enough, Tears - A few, Triumph - 1 great big one!
Karen's Posse has ridden again!