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The Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge inspires Vamper.cc to ‘Tri’ new things

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Sometimes, I let myself be roped into things without really thinking them through.

At the start of the year, my father suggested that Matt and I should hike the Yorkshire Three Peaks with him in aid of Macmillan Cancer Research. It’s a charity which is particularly close to our hearts – I lost my big sister to cancer five years ago, and we’ll never forget the kindness and support that Macmillan gave us. The work they do is so vitally important. It doesn’t take too much to twist my arm to fundraise on their behalf.

Yorkshire Three Peaks
I should know better than to be roped into challenges by my dad, who put us to shame with his prowess on the hills

That said, had I but realised the hike was only six days after our Prudential RideLondon 100 mile bike ride, I might have thought twice. But in my head, the Prudential was at the end of August… So, I merrily signed us up to the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge.

“How bad can it be?” I thought.

25 miles, walking? Fine! We’re fit. Our legs are really strong. It’ll be a breeze.

How wrong I was.

On Saturday 30th July, we woke up at the ungodly time of 04:45 to set off to the starting point in Horton-in-Ribblesdale. It was a beautiful morning; the atmosphere was wonderful; and the first peak, a doddle! Boy, oh boy, I thought – why haven’t I hiked more? My legs felt so strong, clambering to the peak of Pen-y-ghent. The sun was shining. It wasn’t yet 9am, and we’d scaled a mountain. We felt great.

Yorkshire Three Peaks
Pen-y-ghent, splendid in the early morning sun

It’s a long descent from Pen-y-ghent. My dad had told my mum, who was meeting us at the Ribblehead Viaduct with elevenses, that we might be there any time from 9am.

9am, Dad?

It was 11.30am by the time we arrived.

More than four hours of walking, and we still had two peaks ahead of us. Matt’s hope that we might complete the challenge in nine hours was clearly ridiculous. My hope that we might complete it in under 12 wasn’t looking too good, either. Matt already had sore feet. My hips were already aching badly, and, inexplicably, my ankles felt bruised despite the soft leather of my well fitting hiking boots.

Not to worry. We were enjoying ourselves, and keen to press on, even if it was going to take us longer than we’d imagined.

It was 11.30am by the time we arrived. More than four hours of walking, and we still had two peaks ahead of us.

Full of sausage rolls and cups of tea, we set off towards Whernside. A long slog to the top was rewarded with staggering views all the way to Morecambe Bay, and it was breathtaking. Tired, I still had the energy to appreciate the vistas.

A couple of miles in to the final ascent, my left knee went. Bollocks.

Yorkshire Three Peaks
Whernside, the second peak, loomed menacingly ahead of us…

That was when the enormity of the challenge began to sink in.

If you have hiked Whernside, you’ll know what a tough descent it is. The joy of cycling is that a tough uphill climb is rewarded by a glorious, exhilarating descent. Walking has none of the upside: the descents are far worse than the climbs. By the time I finally reached the bottom of the hill, my hips and legs were in a lot of pain. But, I thought – the worst is over!

The worst wasn’t over.

I didn’t really know anything about Ingleborough. I set off feeling reasonably well after another rest stop, a pint of cold orange squash, and a wonderful ham sandwich supplied by my mum. The final peak! Homeward bound!

Yorkshire Three Peaks
My precautionary knee support helped my right knee. But my left knee went, instead.

A couple of miles in to the final ascent, my left knee went. Bollocks.

Well, I wasn’t turning back. Better to hobble the final six miles and complete the challenge that to hobble two miles back to the main road to give up. But man alive, I’ve never pushed myself so far. Scrambling up the steep rockface of Ingleborough with a screwed up left knee and a sore right hip, it struck me that the other downside to walking is that, unless something has gone seriously, life-threateningly wrong, you just have to deal with it. Not like road cycling, where if you’re in pain or weary you can at least phone a friend to pick you up…

Completing a challenge which hurt comes with a particular level of satisfaction.

Finally, we reached the summit of the final peak, and began the long, downhill slog back to Horton-in-Ribblesdale. It took an hour longer than it should have done as I limped along like Hopalong Cassidy, unable to bend my leg. But limping across the finishing line to collect our medals felt like one of the greatest achievements of my life. Completing the Yorkshire Three Peaks in severe pain comes with a particular level of satisfaction.

Four days later, and we had just about stopped hobbling around like a pair of particularly decrepit 90 year olds. The pain had worn off, and all that was left was a warm glow of pride at completing a challenge which was much bigger than we ever expected.

Yorkshire Three Peaks
Limping across the finish line at 8.30pm, more than 13 hours after we had started. It was painful, but the pride we all felt was immense.

It’s made me realise that I can push my body further than I thought, and it’s made me realise that I’m stronger than I ever knew. My dad (who suffered far less than I did, despite being in his late sixties) sent me a picture for the mantelpiece which reads, life begins when you step out of your comfort zone. And it’s so true.

It’s made me realise that I can push my body further than I thought, and it’s made me realise that I’m stronger than I ever knew.

With that in mind, I’ve decided it’s time to leap right out of mine and to enter a triathlon. I can’t do front crawl and I can’t run, but less than two years ago I couldn’t ride a road bike – and I learned how to do that. It’s time for the next challenge: I’m planning to enter the Windsor Triathlon next June, in aid of Macmillan once again.

(But not before I see a sports physio about my knees…)