Whinging gives me energy (and so does Nut Butter)

Jeff Bowman suffers (but not in silence) at #jennride2022


'Whinging gives me energy' I said to Luke about 9 hours into the toughest bike ride I’ve ever taken part in. I was acutely aware that my whinging was sapping the energy of the crew – Luke (from OP) and Sergio (my long-time bike packing buddy) – but they made light of it as we pushed on.

So what was this ‘tough’ bike ride? It was the #JennRide 2022, a 2 day charity ride setup in memory of Jenn Hill. In previous years the organiser Rich has taken riders around the ‘not so hilly’ southern Lake District, and by all accounts it was a tough, but pleasant affair.

This year, due to fallen trees, the route resembled something more like an off-road version of the Fred Whitton. 100 miles of the gnarliest ascents and descents the Lake District has to offer. Jennride 2022 was a different type of ride… a type 2 kinda ride.

I’ve done the Fred Whitton a couple of times, I’ve been on multiple bike packing trips and I’ve hiked a lot of the mountains in the Lakes. As it’s my home turf I thought I had a good idea of what was in-store.

However, within the first 10km, the hike-a-bike up Gatesgarth Pass was an immediate insight into what lay ahead… up, pushing my bike, and lots of it.

We descended to Hawswater, rolled on over Askham Fell and down into Pooley Bridge. Took the road round Ullswater and climbed up past Aira Force to the start of the Old Coach Road, which would take us almost to Keswick before a little detour round Londscale Fell and the amazing descent down Latrigg. We refueled at Wetherspoons in Kewsick (classy) and headed off down Borrowdale against the flow of the Borrowdale Bash.

"Sometimes you have moments where the task ahead is all you can focus on and the mind calms."

As the local, I'd set us a simple mission for the day; get to Sty Head Tarn. 12 hours in, that was feeling like a ludicrous idea. It was 8pm and the prospect of an additional 1.5 hour hike-a-bike was not appealing. It was here that I deployed my whinging to find that final boost of energy for my exhuasted body.

Sometimes you have moments where the task ahead is all you can focus on and the mind calms. We hauled ourselves up to the tarn, ate, laughed a bit about how daft it was and fell asleep surrounded by 20 or so other riders.

Side note: I had chosen to ride my full suspension mountain bike for this, maybe a hardtail would have been better. With a fully loaded front end though I could hang off the back on steep bits and almost surf down the rubble and scree. But on the road sections it was painful.

Day two really began after we’d refueled on bacon butties and about 10 nut butters. We headed over to Boot, through bog, down shoots and picked our way through some mega Lake’s tech.

A(nother) push and grind up Hardknott and Wrynose pass led to Ambleside and the last fell over to Kentmere and the finish, not before the inevitable flat tyre I had about 1km from the end.

Within about an hour of finishing my mind had already begun to wander to that all too familiar place ‘what’s next?’. The suffering was soon forgotten, though I'm not sure Luke or Sergio have forgotten my whinging… just yet.

If you’ve ever ridden with Luke, he is known for wearing a short sleeve shirt with multi-coloured cats all over it. When I'm struggling, I've often looked at those cats, trying to decide which one best represented me in that moment.

Usually a different cat stands out at different points on a ride. However, there was only one cat that I connected with on #jennride2022 and it stared back at me the whole way round, deep into my soul, the most pissed off looking fella of them all*. Simultaneously having the worst and best time of his life.

Sometimes a good whinge can help. It actually made light of how tough the ride was this year, bought out a lot of laughs and a sense of ‘we can do this’ amongst the three of us.

*Ed - it's the blue cat fyi, but you'll have to catch Luke at the next ride to be sure.


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