I’ve had a crazy idea for a while now. To cycle from my house in Lytham to my parent’s house near Fort William in Scotland in one ride. It’s just over 300 miles, and I always said I wanted to do it in less than 24 hours.
I still haven’t done it, and have no plans to soon. I have something much more stupid I want to try first.
I stumbled upon the Records page on the National Three Peaks Challenge website one morning. At the time I was looking for running challenges and fancied having a go at the Yorkshire Three Peaks. I was interested to see how fast it had been done (ridiculously in 2 hours 46 minutes 3 seconds) but got distracted when I noticed there was a record for cycling the National Three Peaks.
The current record has some ‘controversy’ around it. There are two listed on the official website;
- “National Three Peaks Challenge Cycle Solo (without drafting) – Stephen Poulton — 1st-2nd July 1980 in 41 hours 51 minutes.”
- “National Three Peaks Challenge Cycle Team – Spike Ambery Smith, Andy Graham, Dug Wilders 2015 – 42 hours 55 minutes.”
To my understanding, the record set by Spike et al. is the actual record. I believe Poulton had special permission to ride through the Mersey Tunnel, was drafting RAF cyclists for some of the route, and had someone drive his bike from one side of Scafell Pike to the other while he climbed it.
I have contacted the Three Peaks website to try and get some official rules for the challenge, but at the time of writing have not heard back from them.
It would be nice to beat both times though and push the record forward if I can.
What’s the plan?
Originally it was to do this around June next year. A few things have changed for me in my personal life which has meant if I’m going to do this, it will probably need to be in 12 weeks time! I’ve asked Will to help me out again (he was great on the first coast to coast ride we did and also loves the outdoors and doing stupid stuff).
The route I have in mind includes 430 miles of cycling and around 24 miles on foot.
I’m putting together a nutrition and rest plan, but I think the rough outline is plenty of the former and not a great deal of the latter.
I will start at Snowdon and make my way to The Lakes, and then Fort William, praying for a favourable wind on the day.
Right now I think the best time to set off will be at around 6.30am. Everything going well this would mean hitting Glasgow (which I’ve highlighted as a pain point and the most difficult part of the route to navigate) in daylight, in the very early hours the following morning. Somewhere between 4.30 and 5.30 am.
So the general idea is to set off at 6.30am, get Snowdon done for 9.30am. Hop on the bike and arrive at Scafell Pike in the evening 10 pm. Get Scafell out of the way and perhaps neck a coffee and have a power nap of 20 minutes or so. Then pedal up to Fort William and arrive there sometime in the afternoon the next day. Crawl up Ben Nevis and hopefully set a new record.
I don’t think there’s any way you can really prepare yourself for something like this. It’s so far from anything else I’ve ever done that it’ll just be a case of “having a go” and see what happens. I know the fundamentals of endurance riding, to stay hydrated and eat, eat, eat. And I also know it’s probably my biggest strength. I’ve got a decent engine still, even if I haven’t been riding as much this year.
The route isn’t “hard” as such it’s just a very long way. In my build-up, I’m going to do some long ~200-mile rides to get used to sitting in the saddle for so long, as well as my usual fast loops.
What I’m going to add to my training is riding at weird times. Especially at night or in the early hours. I want my body to be used to working at any time, and when I’m tired or don’t particularly feel like it. If you follow me on Strava expect to see a few Elswick laps in the dark.
I’m aiming to get about 400 miles in a week, but I won’t panic if I fall short.
For the parts on foot, I have been regularly doing moderate to difficult walks with baby Arlo on my bike in the Lakes most weekends. I also run once or twice a week, and I think this will be enough to keep my legs good for the challenge.
We have already climbed Ben Nevis, and I have plans to get up Snowdon and Scafell Pike before my attempt.
I’m still not 100% sure if I will go ahead with this yet. I might feel it’s beyond me right now and I can’t get to the fitness level I think I need to, but we’ll see. From now on, I’m training as if this is going ahead.