The Sunningdale Hope Trust

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Coast To Coast Extreme,

Date posted: 08 May 2015

Despite the torrential rain, howling winds and sub zero conditions, Carl and Grant braved the elements and ran, cycled and swam from coast to coast in 24 hours to raise funds for Stay Close To Neve and The Sunningdale Hope Trust.

Here's what the boys have to say about their adventure......

Apparently, anyone and everyone knows that for a minimum of 29 days of every month the wind blows from either from the west or the south west, so imagine how we felt, sat in a freezing Whitehaven car park, with a gale-force easterly howling away outside. Wind direction, along with actual training and packing the right gear, had sadly never entered our (tiny) minds but, as we were intending to travel due east, a headwind is one thing, the prospect of trying to get over several formidable Lake District passes whilst being assaulted by 80mph gusts is an entirely different kettle of fish. However, before we come to that, we have the pressing matter of a 16 mile coastal run, at midnight, in a (wind adjusted) temperature of minus-four, to contend with. Nice.

Grant led myself, and one of our support crew, Tony Marsh, off and a steady-ish pace was held for the next three hours or so. No issues, no traumas, no tantrums. The only event of note was when we finally arrived at Holmrook to find the police had beaten us to it and were busy questioning everyone as to what exactly they were doing there at such an unearthly hour. Opening our arrival with “I don’t know what they’ve told you, officer, but I’ve never seen these guys before and have no idea what they’re up to!” appeared to break the ice, literally and metaphorically. Tony hadn’t liked the look of the 20 mile single track 33% gradient Hard Knott and 35% Wrynose on our way over them earlier in the evening (like we had!) and, putting sense before valour, decided to leave this section to Grant and I. And this is where the wheels started to fall off…

In cycling lore, these passes are legendary and are oft claimed to be the two steepest passes in the UK. Having ridden only one, unfortunately I can’t really comment. Hard Knott is ridiculously, stupidly & comically steep, and you travel at a speed so much slower than walking pace; I know, as after taking a tumble on a cattle-grid and being blown off the path further up, I tried both cycling and walking. And at the top, soaked to the skin, frozen to the core and defeated, threw in the towel and climbed aboard the ‘lantern rouge/broom wagon’. Grant, on the other hand, even though he was in just as bad a state, soldiered on and rode Wrynose as though his life depended on it. For me, this was THE heroic event of the whole escapade, but my, did he suffer for it later!

Regrouping at Ambleside on the northern shores of Lake Windermere, we found ourselves already two hours behind schedule and the torrential cold rain still only getting into its stride. We, on the other hand, didn’t feel like getting into our wetsuits and, as it turned out, Grant physically couldn’t get into his as he was shaking so violently that it was impossible. Eventually, Tony & I took to the eight degree (at best) water and swam for as long as we could, which admittedly wasn’t that far, without hypothermia kicking-in. It spoke volumes that, after this swim, a public toilet on the banks of Lake Windermere, where we tried to warm ourselves under the hand drier, felt like luxury personified!

Now for the main course of the menu, and at about 8.30am we all took to the bikes again, with 150 miles and the mountain ranges of The Lakes, The Pennines and Yorkshire Dales ahead of us, before our arrival in sunny Scarborough. Needless to say, this was not fun, and with the aforementioned easterly doing its damndest to prevent us getting any sort of speed up, every mile was hard fought and hard-won. But not without the expected mishaps: half-way there my gear cassette fell apart and I had to take to the spare bike; Tony’s knee fell apart and, as he’d not packed a spare, had to take to the van; at Thirsk’s 25% one mile climb, Sutton Bank, Grant took a tumble into the ditch and ended up on his back but comically still connected to his bike. Hey, but at least the sun came out. Briefly. Before the return of the torrential rain which caused the A170 to flood. Oh, and don’t forget about the hailstones which greeted our Scarborough arrival. As we experienced all four seasons in one day what’s not to love about this country’s weather.

Donning our running shoes again for the final night-time run at 9.45pm, technically gave us a comfortable two-and-a-half-ish hours to cover only ten miles. Easy-peasy you’d think as that’s pretty much walking-pace, but nah, nothing’s comfortable when you’re jiggered, suffering and running on empty. And where did that final 25% gradient downhill come from towards the end? Not nice. Again. But we were OK and dragged ourselves home with a grand margin of eight minutes to spare. Eight minutes to spare after almost 24 hours and over 190 miles? My, it was always going to be tight, but it wasn’t meant to be THAT tight. Mind, at least it’ll make for a suspenseful climatic end to the film, if I haven’t already spoilt it for you…

Grant & I would like to express our sincere thanks and gratitude to our supporters on the day, Tony Marsh and Matt Chapman, to the film crew of Martin Oliver, Matt Munday and Martin’s dad, Rob, and to everyone who has wished us well, supported the escapade and put their collective hands in their pockets and sponsored our supported charities, Neve Dandy & The Sunningdale Hope Trust. If you’ve not yet donated but now feel the urge to chip in a couple of quid, simply click here and your donation will be automatically split between the two charities.

Don’t forget that the whole painful experience is being recorded for posterity by local young filmmaker, Martin Oliver, and it should only be a couple of weeks before the ‘short’ version is released for public consumption. If you possess a strong constitution have a nosey at the current trailer:
Cheers to you all and see you soon. Ta, Carl & Grant.

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Carl and Grant Stay Close To Neve
Cycling the toughest inclines in the UK
Swimming in sub zero temperatures..