We had a few spare days last week and thought it would be a good idea to try out this whole concept of Marcus running off-road while I cycle with all our gear. It had better work because we’ve told everyone we’re doing it now! It would also be a chance to test our gear, some of which hasn’t been used since our last long trip, and see if we’ve got everything we need.
We live pretty close to the start of the Cotswold Way so that seemed like the obvious choice. We could leave from our front door which made the logistics a lot easier. It’s also very scenic. Scenic being a euphemism for extremely hilly. The route has been designed to take you up to every hilltop viewpoint and down to every chocolate-box village in the valley so it would be a good test of both of our legs.
Lesson 1: Marcus is very fast. This won’t be news to anyone who knows him, but I had thought that being on a bike would give me something of an advantage. I had fondly imagined sitting in coffee shops sipping a latte before tootling off to the next meeting point. Nope. In fact he got to at least half the meeting points before me.
Marcus set off from home ahead of me saying he was going to take it easy and walk/speed-hike, but I think that only lasted until the end of our lane before he got fed up with that and started running and didn’t stop. By the time I’d got all the bags packed and loaded onto the bike and remembered all the things I’d forgotten, he’d had a two hour head start and I could see on the tracker he was was almost at Stanton where we’d arranged to meet for lunch.
By the time I got to Stanton he had already moved on to Stanway where he had secured the all-important picnic table.
Our first campsite was at Belas Knap a neolithic long barrow just outside Winchcombe. Rather inconsiderately, the neolithic people had decided to build their barrow at the top of a very steep hill so I was soon off and pushing. A woman driver wound her window down to ask if I was ok. “Yes, it’s just steep!”.
Marcus met me at the top of the road and helped push the bike up the footpath to the barrow. It was pretty windy up there, but we pitched the tent with its back to the wind and started to get set up for the night. A woman walking her dogs asked if we were planning on staying the night. Well the tent was already up so we couldn’t really deny it. We explained what we were up to and she was ok about it. Apparently they get a few hippy types up there around the solstices, but I guess we didn’t fit the stereotype. It’s a shame we were a few days too early for the spring equinox and missed the party.
Lesson 2: Marcus will eat a lot. Also not really news to anyone who knows him, but if I thought he ate a lot while cycling, that’s nothing compared to what he’s going to need while running. I might need more panniers to carry it all. Buy shares in Lidl now!
Our second night was spent at the top of Cooper’s Hill aka the cheese rolling hill.
In case any of our non-British readers are wondering what cheese rolling is, basically once a year someone rolls a large wheel of double Gloucester down a very steep hill and people hurl themselves after it and into the arms of the paramedics waiting at the bottom. First to the bottom wins the cheese, although it often has to be delivered to the winner’s hospital bed. There are several heats and usually the later heats are delayed while they wait for the ambulances to return from dropping the first heat off at the Emergency Department. This is what passes for entertainment in Gloucestershire. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvuktushEhY
Marcus has done the cheese rolling once, when he was young(er) and (more) foolish. He didn’t win any cheese, but he also didn’t die so probably a good result all told.
Although it was tempting to roll the bike down the hill and see how long it stayed upright, instead I persuaded Marcus to help me push the bike and carry the panniers down the still steep but less vertical adjacent path. I rolled down the road into Brockworth, making use of all that potential energy I gained yesterday while Marcus headed off in the opposite direction towards Dursley where he was going to catch the train back to Evesham.
I don’t think I can have got much fitter in the course of 65 miles over three days – I did more than that on my road bike last weekend. But there’s definitely something to be said about doing the same thing day after day. My body decides it might as well stop complaining since I’m obviously not listening to it, so although I’m still working just as hard up every slight incline, now it feels good whereas on Tuesday I felt like I might die. Add in blue skies, smooth quiet roads and verges full of spring flowers and it makes for a very enjoyable morning.
I got home just in time to receive a text from Marcus saying he’s on an earlier train and can I pick him up from the station in 45 minutes. He’s fast!
Here’s where we went. My route is in blue, Marcus’s is in red