The Nine Lakes Challenge in the Lake District for Children in Need

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I spent last weekend in The Lake District, mountain biking and hiking my way past 9 lakes in 9 hours, all to raise money for Children in Need. I think it may have been the best weekend ever. It was certainly one of the most beautiful, that’s for sure.

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The weekend began with a road trip up to the Lakes. There was traffic, laughter and a fairly comprehensive 80s musical education (some of which I promised people I would remember – or at least try to). Seven hours later we made it to the hotel, the beautiful Low Wood Bay Hotel, which sat on the bank of Lake Windermere. Now I have been to the Lakes before (everyone needs to go there) and that time my family and I rented a farmhouse for the week. The farmhouse was perched on top of a hill and we had some of the most glorious views known to people-kind. This hotel was right in the middle of a valley and again the views were breath taking. No matter what the weather or where you are, the Lakes only has that one setting.

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Once we had checked in and dumped our stuff in our rooms, we all headed out to Zaffirellis Ambleside an Italian place with more of a vegetarian selection than almost anywhere I have ever been. It was amazing – never have I ever been so spoilt for choice. And to make matters all the better, the food was delicious. It was an excellent last meal. One full of delicious artichokes.

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The next morning, bright and early, the challenge began. First part of the day would be taken up by mountain biking around 5 of the 9 lakes. This challenge was split into different fitness levels – Black, Red and Blue, with Black being the hardest and Blue being for those with only a ‘can do’ attitude (their words not mine). I opted for the Red – while I have the fitness I don’t have all the experience. This 31km bike ride would take about 4 hours to complete and there would be a morning break in between so we could all replenish our reserves with some much needed food.

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I haven’t cycled for almost a decade and that morning was the most fun I have had in ages. Not so much the uphill struggles but the downhill freewheeling where I really did feel as if I was flying, once I got over the fear of dying. Much of the course was off road and I had completely forgotten how painful cycle seats could be. If anything mountain bike seats are made of stone. And the rougher the terrain the more you bounce. I spent almost all of the challenge out of the seat in order to save my poor bottom.

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Once this part of the challenge was finished, we ending up in Grasmere, where we would be transitioning into our afternoon event, the hike. This is the only complaint I have for the whole event. As I was part of the Red group we didn’t get to the transition meeting point until much later than some other groups. There was no vegetarian food left. I had specified my vegetarianism when asked to and was assured I would be getting some lunch. But it turns out that meat eaters like vegetables too – who would ever have guessed that? There were about 15 chicken (I assume chicken but it could have been any dead bird) sandwiches left over and no vegetarian ones. So I went hungry and was very annoyed about this. Almost all the snacks were also gone. It was not a good lunch for me.

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But I girded my loins as best as I could and changed for the hike. Again the hike was split into difficulty levels – Black and Red. As my team had split up for the cycle we all decided to stick together for the hike and all of us opted for the 13km ‘tough’ hike. I use inverted commas and while the way up the mountain was fine (I may have stepped into a bog and I may have tripped over some grass but what of it) it was the way down that was actually tough.

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I was not a bambi-esque mountain goat with wings to help me balance instead of arms. I was a lumbering human in brand new waterproofs (so new that multiple people commented on the very precise creases marking said waterproofs) and a rucksack (this is the first time I have ever worn a rucksack since birth) and massive walking boots which refused to bend at the toe forcing me to stomp everywhere. I did not gamble, I did not leap lightly from stone to stone as I made my way down the mountain. I took my time, cursing everything and everyone in sight, absolutely positive that I would die.

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I fell, I got back up, I saw my team mates prance ahead of me, I slipped again and then I made it down. I made it down to the pub at the finish line where there was beer and the best medal in the history of the world waiting for me.

It was amazing.

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Once that was over and we were nicely full with nuts and twiglets and beer and had Pudsey hanging around our necks, we were all taken back to the hotel where we had to have a quick shower (best moment ever) before heading into the Windermere Restaurant for a celebratory meal. I don’t remember much of the meal as I was exhausted and the bar was free but I do remember finding it delicious. Especially since I hadn’t had any lunch. This was followed by much laughter and much gossip before we all headed to our rooms for as much sleep as possible before the road trip back down to London.

Taking part in this challenge has to be one of the best things I have ever done.

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