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A triathlon of events for CEO, Karen Parry

06 October 2015

Working as CEO for Grace House is much more than just a job for Karen, she's so passionate about Grace House that she throws herself into fantastic challenges to raise funds and awareness of the wonderful facilities at Grace House. The final part of Karen's triathlon of events was to complete the Coast 2 Coast, a cycle ride from Workington, Cumbria to Tynemouth, North Tyneside covering 135 demanding miles.

Following the Great North Swim in June and the Kielder 10k in October, Karen has successfully completed all three challenges and we just wonder what challenge is next for our intrepid CEO.

If you don’t know a lot about the Coast 2 Coast challenge, it’s a cross country cycle ride totalling 135miles over three days with a gruelling 13 hours in the saddle. It’s no easy feat with an ascent of 3151 metres!

Karen explained, “In the past, the longest ride I have done in any one go is 60 miles (once).  And that was a really flat route.  I had done a couple of 40 mile rides, as part of my training, and done quite a bit of hill training. But before I did the C2C, I don’t think I really appreciated how steep hills could be! I felt quite fit, and really excited, but also had some reservations – would I be good enough to complete it? Was I fit enough?”

To really understand Karen’s journey, we asked her to document the challenge so you can be inspired to complete the Coast 2 Coast, too. It’s a fantastic challenge and we’re so proud of Karen for her efforts in all of the fundraising she does for Grace House.


Day 1

We did 41 miles and a few challenging hills to warm the legs up. Starting from Workington, tyres dipped in the sea, we headed off. One shocking part was cycling through a field of cows! I had no idea the ‘off-road’ sections were quite so… wild! The highlight of the day… just before lunch we cycled through Braithwaite just outside Keswick. It was brilliant – my partner and I were both feeling great, cruising along the roads at about 22mph, it felt like flying. I thought back to 12 months ago, when we’d rented a cottage there, as part of my recuperation after puncturing my spinal cord. A really nasty injury that put me out of action and more or less bed-ridden for months. I really thought that my life as I knew it was over. To be flying along on my bike, just 12 months later was the most amazing feeling, and I admit to getting a bit emotional reflecting on how life had changed since those dark days. The day ended in Greystoke, a small village at the end of a 3 mile downhill stretch. My speedometer topped 30mph on that stretch!!

Day 2

We did 52 miles with the longest, steepest hills I have ever attempted to drag my bike up. And they just kept coming. All day. The highlight was topping Hartside Pass. The AA describe the road up to Hartside as one of the ten best drives in the world! Cycling up it was exhilarating. It is bleak, in the middle of nowhere, and on a sunny day (which we had) it is stunningly beautiful. I felt really good when I reached the top. Leaping about like Tigger with that rush of adrenalin you get after a particularly tough workout. We stopped in the café for lunch, amongst many cyclists, bikers and horse riders, all out to enjoy the good weather. Flying down the other side was fantastic… and freezing cold! I thought the toughest bit of the ride was over – everyone had talked about Hartside Pass. As it turns out, that is just the warm up. Turn right at Garrigill and you are faced with a 20% steep bank, which although it flattens out a bit, just keeps climbing up and up for about 4 miles before descending into Nenthead. The last 17 miles are a mix of brutal uphills and exhilarating downhills. At 2.5 miles from the end of the day, after being in the saddle for 47.5 miles, we hit a short, very steep section. I just stopped and looked at it. I really didn’t think I had it in me to get up it. Two more cyclists joined us and one very chirpy bloke said “maybe it’s not as bad as it looks” which made me laugh… and then cry! Off we set, and although it was as steep as it had looked, it was shorter, and after that, finally, we turned left into Stanhope, our bed for the night.

Day 3

I had been warned that there was a steep hill, almost as soon as you stepped outside your B&B, so we did a few laps of Stanhope to warm up. The only steep section of the day is a 2.5 mile long hill with a 17% section right at the beginning. My legs and lungs were complaining loudly after having been so exhausted the day before, but once we got to the top, we got to the front of the group and blasted along the cycle track towards the tea van at Rowlands Gill. We were cruising at about 18mph, in glorious sunshine, amongst stunning landscape and my weird, outdoors-loving little heart was singing! Other than a few short sections, day three is a gradual downhill all the way to the coast. It was really enjoyable, and every sign we passed with a place name we recognised as close to home just encouraged me even more.

At Tynemouth we dipped our wheels in the sea again, and toasted our achievement.

It is one of the toughest challenges I have done. Day two was absolutely brutal. But I absolutely loved it. If you are thinking of doing it my advice would be

  • Do it!
  • Do lots of training
  • Have a decent bike, and the right kind – two rings on the front is possibly inadequate – get the right gears for the job! It can also be doubly hard on a mountain bike when you are on the roads if you’ve got the wrong tyres on. If you aren’t sure, go to a decent bike shop and chat to the guys
  • Wear decent cycling shorts. Your backside is going to hurt
  • Have a support team. The ‘brew stops’ were invaluable on day two
  • Don’t be intimidated by it. A lot of the will and ability to do it is mental. If you tell yourself you might not be able to do it, guess what? You probably won’t.
  • Do it with someone who will push you and encourage you – I went much faster and was much braver through not wanting to look like a wimp in front of my partner!!
  • Enjoy it – it’s meant to be fun
  • Do it for a good cause. The fundraising team will support you, promote your fundraising and give you a funky t-shirt or vest to wear for all the photos!

If like Karen, you’d like to challenge yourself for a good cause, get in touch to find out how we can help you achieve your goals.

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