Days 10 – 12

Day 10

South Laggan – Tain

78.32 Miles 7 hours 27 Minutes and 19 seconds

Today was a tough day. My legs were like jelly after the previous day and with a room of six of us it wasn’t a great nights sleep. It didn’t help that i dropped my pillow
on Petes had four times in the night.

I had a day of riding on my own, Gareth choosing to ride with Felix, Sinead, Pablo and Richard as he was struggling with his leg. (but it was great to see him still going he really toughed it out)

There was a massive head wind that day which made it tough going and it was a wet windy and cold day! Still riding around Loch Ness was pretty stunning, although I didn’t see Nessy! As we rode around the lake the going was made so much harder by the  tough tough wind, it was an effort to get any sort of speed. Still I made it to the water stop.


A quick adjustment of my cleats and i was off to tackle Heartbreak hill, the largest and longest of the trip and what a hill it was! It was steap and went on and on, i had to stop briefly but got up it, to the most appaling conditions, it was pissing down, freezing and raining. You had to peddle to even get downhill! I did not enjoy that bit at all! Finally after what seemed an eternity i made it to the Lunch stop. I was sore, with bad knee ache, so took an age at lunch chatting and struggling to get going. When I did get going again it was up a long tough hill and my energy went quickly. After an age i made it to water, topped up and pressed on.

I tried to ride with the aussies but could not keep up i was done in. The last part of the day seemed to go on for ever and I was pleading for the hotel to arrive. I finally made the hotel after an age, cold wet and fed up.

However the hotel was stunning and a nice hot bath cheered me up. After freshening up and feeling humour we went for a nice dinner, then sat infront of a gorgeous fire, with Tim, Rich, James, mike and Ali for a few beers before bed. Tomorrow would be another toughy…

day 11

89.13 Miles 8 hours 11 minutes and 57 seconds

Another truly amazing day that I won’t forget in a hurry.

Me and Gareth set out a bit late, no one was keen to get out. The wind was mental and it was pissing down.

The first 10 miles were so tough, the head wind was about 20 miles an hour and crossing the Bridge was so hard with a cross wind.

The views were stunning though and after this we warmed up and made good pace to the coast. After water the rain died down and we saw some stunning views of the coast.

From there we turned at Helmsdale up the A697 and were in the middle of no where. It was amazing and just like the Scotland you see in the adverts. We saw some deer which was amazing:

Some of the scenary was mindblowing and we chatted along, taking in the views. The going got insane after though, we had a hill to climb that wasn’t that tough but the wind and rain hammered down. It stung your face and you could not get any sort of speed. That was as low as i got on the ride cursing the world and feeling fed up. Finally we made it to lunch where it cleared and after 2 cups of tea, some soup and a chat with Paul, Peter, Diane, ISabel, Susie etc i felt human again. The sun reappeared and it did my spirits the world of good

After lunch it all changed. I found a fifth gear and was flying, the roads and views spectactular and nothing would slow me down. Its some of the best cycling i’ve ever done and i loved every minute of it. I won’t ever forget that spell. Then it got better.

As I rounded a corner i caught a herd of deer literally 15 feet from me and just stood and watched them for ages it was amazing and not like anything i’d seen. Then it poured down and they ran off. But what a sight

Not even the raid could dull my mood and i felt even better when some lads gave me some flap jack! I was still going strong and after an amazing descent hit water. That was some of my best cycling, i felt good and was tearing up the road, it was just amazing and the scenary was spectacular and i will never forget that day.

From here we turned and rode the coast and the head wind was back, i struggled the previous spell taking its toll, but then we descended to thurso and that was fun.

We arrived at an ok hotel but my mood was lifted by having my own room! I had a lush dinner with Diane, her husband and Tim and was now loving the trip, a few beers after then off to bed.

That was it the hard days over. Tomorrow we got to John O’Groats.

day 12

28.43 Miles 2 hours 7 minutes 43 seconds

That morning I felt rough, my body was broken and had had enough. It wasn’t just me you could see in on everyones face.

We rode off for a meagre 27 miles – i made the detour to Dunnet head, the most northernly point in the Uk which was amazing, a tough wet climb but worth it, inspite of the vile weather.

Then i was flying into John O’Groats. I had my music blarring thinking of dad. Giving it my all, it was to be the last cycling of the trip and i was going to enjoy every minute of it. I felt happy and chuffed that I had got to the end and that I kept going, I thought of dad and wondered what he would make of it all.

We regrouped at the sea view hotel for a tea, then rode into John O’Groats as a group. I felt good, a year of prep had paid off i made it and had hit my fundraising target!

After a few pics we borded a coach to Inverness. We had a great night and a lot of drink was drunk with great company! We laughed about what we’d achieve, took the mick, toasted each other, saw rich do a tequilia suicide. It was a great night of celebrating.

I am so proud to have finished but I don’t think what I have done has sunk in yet. I went to bed very drunk, but very content.

 

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Day 9: 117 Miles and the best day of my life, sports wise

Day 9 Inveraray – South Laggan

117.85 miles

9 hours 20 minutes and 55 seconds

I write this blog, around 3 weeks after this day. Its a tough one to write as I want to do it justice. It will go down as the greatest sporting accomplishment of my life. It wasn’t an easy day, it had tears, pain, stress, laughter and joy but most of all it had a stubborness and determination on my part to not give up. The start of the day was like any other day of Lejog though…

So we got up and had a good breakfast and myself and Gareth were pleased to be the first ones off. At first we took a steady pace and we were making good time, or so we thought. After about 11 miles something didn’t seem right, we’d not seen anyone on the bike ride and we weren’t that quick that no one could catch us! I phoned Mike and it turned out we’d missed the turning! We were now 11 miles off route and had no choice but to turn back. It was an hour and a half later and 22 miles when we were back on track.

Now, I tried to stay positive, It was pointless being angry as that would waste energy, but I felt low and frustrated and I could tell Gareth did too but I did my best to bury that. We had a lot of time to make up and I was sure we could catch up with some of the others if we went for it. Gareth however had a problem with his leg and was struggling. He could hardly peddle and was quiet. Gareth had been positive throughout the whole ride and was a great motivating force. If he could get through it so could we. Today however he was struggling and we had to take it steady so he could keep going. At one point he tried to get off the bike and his leg nearly gave out.

We crawled into the water stop which should have been at 36 miles but we had already done 55 Miles, Gareth was struggling and opted to get in the van to get a much needed rest. I thought long and hard about it when Mike offered, but I knew what my decision had to be. I wasn’t injured and it would not be fair to get in the van. I felt good and knew I had to continue. I said I would cycle to John O’Groats so a lift would be cheating. So I loaded up and pressed on.

At this point Mike told me I was 45 minutes behind the tail of the group. I was determined to catch them, I felt low on my own and thought if I could just catch them I’d have the support of the group to get me home. So I put the hammer down and attacked the road. Hard. In the spell between water and lunch I cycled as well as I ever have (until later…) and I was flying. I don’t know where the energy was coming from but I gave it everything I had. I contemplated what lay ahead. To finish the day I would have to cycle over 100 miles. I had done that in my life once, but that was a year before and I hadn’t cycled for 8 days consecutively at that point. I was angry with myself and did shed a tear at one point but then I remember what I was doing. I thought of dad, and asked him to give me the strength to get through the day. I was tired and emotional but knew I had to get through the day and I could worry about the rest later.

The scenary did its best to help me, Scotland is beautiful. I was flying around some stunning lochs and roads. I thought about how any other day I’d be having just a mundane day at work that would blend with any other. Now I was out here under taking the toughest challenge of my life physically. At this point, I rode past a cafe and saw Pablo waving at me! I’d caught up, and more than that I was pressing on. I didn’t want to stop as I didn’t know if I’d get back on the bike but I was getting hungry now and had 15 miles to lunch.

Then Tim rode past me, he was hungover from a night sampling whiskey with James and had ridden with the slow group. This lifted my spirits as I wasn’t on the road alone others were out there battling. I was starving but knew I had to keep going…

Finally I hit the lunch stop, Tim and James were there hanging and I was grateful for the company. I spent most of the day cycling alone, but seeing these two great lads at breaks lifted my spirits. I was a bit tired but the food had made my energy levels rise and again I pressed on, Ben Nevis awaited…

The next bit was pretty stunning! Soon Ben Nevis came into view, the sun was out and i think I was aware for the first time what I was doing. I was starting to flag but I looked at the cycling computer I was on 96 miles, from here I watched it tick over, 97… 98… come on Russ I know you’re tired but keep going…. 99 so close you can do it keep pushing…. 100… I’d done it for the second time I had ridden 100 miles in a day and had more to go and i’d done it with Ben Nevis at my side on my own in beautiful scenery and I felt so fucking proud of myself. I know that is an arrogant thing to say but i’d taken the crap of the start of the day, said fuck you i’m doing this. I never gave up and gave it my all. It was all too much and I had to stop and sob like a little girl as I thought of my dad. I composed myself and pressed on to the water stop, climbing a hill to see this…

The commando memorial, what a site! just beautiful and ‘Big Ben’ too. I then saw Mike, James and Tim at the water stop and pulled up to take it all in and they were all so chuffed when I told them i’d now done 104 miles, I felt awkward at the hand shakes etc, I didn’t feel i deserved the praise i’d only done it because i’d gotten lost. However I was on top of the world and absolutely buzzing and cold not stop smiling. It felt so good to be alive, I was doing what I set out to do, meeting great people and seeing some amazing sites:

We also noticed how much my saddled had shifted! Mike and James had great things to say about the bike which stroked my ego too. From there we had a great descent to Loch Lochy which was amazing! At this point I was just flying and the descent was stunning! I had the foals playing, the sun was shining and it was just a great end to the day. At the bottom it was 10 miles of riding along Loch Lochy which was just breathtaking:

Then I caught up with Gareth! It was great to see he’d got back out on the bike and his injury wasn’t too severe. Finally after 117 Miles I rode into the hostel. When I did I got a round of applause which was mildly embrassing! I had time for a very quick shower, then it was time for a lush and much needed home cooked dinner by the support team.  After a nice call to Em to catch up, I chilled out with some beers, good company and some games of jenga, before crashing out exhausted.

So looking back this was the highlight of the ride. I will never do anything special sporting wise, i’ll never win a premier league title, a gold medal or invent anything but this for me is the highlight of my sporting career, and the reason I never gave up. This was the day that could have broken me and a few years ago it would have but I soldiered though and got to the end. I didn’t do the fastest time ever or look professional doing it but the main thing is i did it and it seemed a fitting tribute to the old man.

Days 3 and 4

Day four

Tintern – Shewsbury

91 Miles: Time unknown

So in the morning I set off with Gareth again and although it was a bit wet, the scenery in the wye Valley was breath taking and we made good time on the flat section. It was a bit cold and rainy but we kept a good pace and with the scenary to enjoy today it looks like a good day.

As close to home as i’d get…

Before long we arrived in Monmouth and faced a long climb out of the valley I had noticed i was adapting to the cycling and the climbs weren’t as tough, I’d be blowing but I would get through them fairly uneventfully now. At this point Chrissy in the support team pulled up in the van suggested I needed to raise my saddle and I said I would at the water stop. So we arrived at the water stop and found all was not well with my bike. The front break had seized and would not spring back. Mike was great though doing all he could to fix it. Sadly we had no luck  and I borrowed the spare so they could take a closer look at it. It was frustrating and I got close to wanting to give the bike a good kicking .

My bike for the day…

The spare wasn’t a bad bike and we cracked on through some b roads and small villages onto lunch in Leintwardine, but the 40 minutes of waiting to sort my bike made me and Gareth wonder if we’d ever get a good time! after a lunch break we pressed onto Bishops Castle,on more country roads with some undulating. The going was fairly easy and we made it to the last water stop, on the A488.

Here the aussie girls caught us up and we had fun racing them down a long descent into Shewsbury it was fast and fun going and we rolled into a lovely hotel. When I got here Mike and Ali were working on my bike and confident they’d have it sorted for the morning. I went to bed hoping they would, as I loved my bike and it wasn’t the same not riding on it.

day five

Shrewsbury – Preston

90.22 miles 7 hours 29 minutes 12 seconds.

I woke that morning having had a rubbish nights sleep. I felt quite sore and was worried about the bike. However i was determined that today would be the day i’d finally get a much needed early finish to chill out and rest my body.

Thankfully I need not have worried, Ali and Mike had done a great job on my bike and it was in tip top condition, with new cables and working fine. The whole support team were a great lot and really really added to the trip and made it a lot of fun. Mike even commented on how much he loved the bike. I have to agree with him, it has so much character and is so much fun to ride. Its not the flashiest but its a classsic as far as i’m concerned.

So myself and Gareth made a decision to get an early start as we were fed up of the late finishes and just wanted one decent arrival time. So we set off along some lovely roads towards Wem, it was quite peaceful countryside, and we were flying along some perfect scenary.

Having my saddle raised made a massive difference and I suddenly had much more power and hils became so much easier and i could now keep up with Gareth who had been leaving me for dead at times. Gareth has had the toughest time on his bike, it was a heavy hybrid yet he gutted it out and smiled the whole time it was hard to feel down with him around.

We arrived at the water stop in bickley moss and carried on after the usual stop. The next bit was long and riding through Warrington was an experience! There, a friend of mine Mike, joined us for a spell up to Wigan and seeing him lifted my spirits. I’d not ridden with Mike before and looking forward to cycling with him at the London – Brighton event next month.

Shortly after a brief lunch stop, Gareth decided he wanted to slow down so i went on with Mike, Belinda, Wendy and the twins. Itwas a good fun, fast part and I had a wicked time, flying round. Mike bid us farewell at Wigan and I went on with the girls to the last water stop at a bike shop! Here I stocked up on energy mix and gels, ready for the rest of the trip and pressed on, leaving the
girls as they went on a mammoth shopping spree!

After a fairly uneventful ride we were in Preston and the hotel.

As I was in early, i was able to catch up on e-mail and my fundraising. The support from people was brilliant and helped me keep going. Thank you to everyone who donated or took the time to message me. My total was also creeping up towards the ammended target and it looked to be a good chance I would hit it, which was great. Also getting to know people on the trip helped. It was funny how easy itwas to settle into a routine, of getting up having breakfast, cycling, getting in, showering, sorting kit, eating and sleeping. But to find time to get to know people and have a beer was a real boost to morale as well.

So a good fun day, the last few days didn’t have the spectacular scenary of before but it was good to feel myself getting stronger on the bike and my body adapting.

Day 2 and 3

Day 2

Liskeard to Tiverton 68.12 Miles 7 hours 11 Minutes 56 seconds.

This was the day I had been worried about the most before the trip. I knew if I could get through this day I could maybe, get through the trip. I also had my vow not to walk fresh in my mind. In fact it turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.

The day started out stunning and I made sure to set off early to give myself plenty of time, I releaxed a bit more and decided that I would go at my own pace, if i needed to stop i would, if i had to stop on a hill i would, but i would compose my self and get going when I was ready.

So after a bit of a gentle start to warm the legs up, we had a bit of a climb towards Tavistock which was a longish hill. It wasn’t too bad and I got up it, with no cramp this time. At the top it was sunny and spectatular so I stopped to take in the view which was amazing. It was here that I met Tim and James, two top lads from London who by the end of the trip I’d get on with brilliantly. Sadly I never really cycled with them as they were far too quick for me! After this I carried on and we had another long, gradual climb, but again I got through it without stopping.


This boosted my confidence, it was hard going but I was getting through it. Before long I hit the first water stop in Tavistock.

A quick banana, bar and top up on water and I got going again. From here we rode through Princetown, and then turned off. It was time to climb up to Dartmoor. I’d be doing this alone, it was quiet, a beautiful day, I loaded up on an energy gel got my ipod on and cracked on with it.

The sun was out though and I made good progress, I stopped a couple of times but never once did I think i couldn’t do it. My mindset was so different from the day before and when I got up there the views were spectactular! I was blown away and went mad with my camera. The quiet and views made it all worthwhile and I felt good about what I was doing.
It occured to me that it was lunch time, a normal day i’d be in the canteen at work, scoffing down a sandwich, yet I was here climbing up in to one of the most beautiful parts of the country!

The climb went on and on, but the views were stunning, I couldn’t quite believe what I was doing. I hardly saw anyone and it felt like i had the whole place to my self. Once you thought you were done climbing, you’d be round a bend and see it continue! It was tough going but the views made up for it! I did have an issue with my gears that meant it wouldn’t go from the middle to bottom cog, but thankfully some oil sorted that.  Finally the climbing stopped!

Sweaty tastic but very chuffed to have climbed Dartmoor.

After more stunning scenery I rolled into a beautiful village called postbridge for lunch. Then it was off up a few more hills, before some absolutely amazing descents out of Dartmoor that were good fun. It was a bit tough at times, due to all the water coming off the hills, making the roads a bit greasy but boy was it fun!

From there I had a nice 16% hill into exeter and the final water break. I stopped briefly as no one else was there, and pressed on.

The last 19 miles was a flat road, but I was tired so it took a while  to get to Tiverton which was a pleasant stop. Gareth had beaten me in, but decided he would cycle with me the next day and I was grateful to have the chance for some company. The day had been tough, but I was pleased with myself for getting through it and i felt much more relaxed at lunch and looking forward to what was ahead. I felt a bit emotional this day, thinking about dad and hoping he would have been proud of me for getting through a tough day.

day 3

Tiverton – Tintern

96.61 Miles 8 Hours 39 Minutes and 61 seconds.

So this was the first big milage day and also a very wet one. We would be going past my work and not far from home.

Riding with Gareth made a difference, especially on a wet day just to have some company. We also rode with Richard, Sinead, Paolo and Felix. Felix and Richard I have so much respect for they were in pieces most of the ride with dodgy knees and yet never once complained and just got on with it, there was no way they were in any condition to cycle yet they stuck it out the whole way. Paolo and Sinead were lovely too and seeing them staying and helping the guys was amazing and exactly what the trip was about.

The start of the day was utter misery! It was wet windy and cold, and I could not warm up, so it was a long old slog to the water stop in Petherton, 29 miles in. The roads were uneventful which didn’t help.

I was freezing at the water stop and I could not get warm, so when we set off I had to start all over again but it helped riding with Gareth and having someone to talk to.

Shortly after we rode into Bridgwater, what a shithole that was. I had a nice discussion with one pleasant driver who gave me the finger, for daring to cycle in the right lane and him cutting me up. His girlfriend told me I needed to learn to ride a bike, which was funny as judging by the look of her so did she! This put me in a bad mood for a while and I struggled for a bit but thankfully the weather improved and we caught up with Felix and co. From here we rode along some b road which bend and weaved but were flat. We then went into Cheddar and lost our barings a bit but got on track and face a long hill up to Shipham. The hill was tough but I slowly got up it. The incentive of lunch in the warm up the top helped. After warming up we set off towards Yatton and my work!

We were flying at this point the group of us working well and we flew past my work and on towards Bristol. We had fun on Nortons wood land and having to cycle through a huge puddle that i’m sure did my bike the world of good! Here we got a bit lost and missed the turning to Gordano ending up in the services. We got to the last water stop having got back on course but had lost a lot of time, so me and Gareth set off very quickly eager to get in. We crossed the Avonmouth bridge into the picturesque industrial estate of Avonmouth and onwards and over the Severn bridge. We’d reached Wales! From there it was onto to a hell of a fun descent into the Wye valley, four miles of downhill.


That was fun and I was grinning like a kid in a sweet shop. I rolled into Tintern at 7 exhausted after a long, tough day. Then I heard a familiar voice, and saw Loz, wills and Matt fly by in the car! It was amazing that they’d made the effort to come out and see me and lifted my spirits after a tough day. Annoyingly due to my late finish I only saw them briefly but it was nice nervertheless.

Lands End to John O’Groats: Day 1

Before

As i write this I am on the train, starting a long journey home. Its been an amazing 12 days, and I don’t think its really sunk in what I have accomplished. Hopefully the words and pictures that follow will give you an idea of what it was like.

So the day before I drove down with Em, to meet her parents and stay over in a caravan park near Lands End. The drive was one of nerves, I hate goodbyes and wasn’t looking forward to leaving Em for 12 days while at the same time being excited by what was to come.

As we drove I started seeing signs for places we would be passing through and it really hit me just how far we would be going!I was genuinely concerned if i would have what it took to finish the ride, my experiences of the Bath 100 in the back of my mind.I tried to block this out and relax though and luckily it was a nice drive down, till we hit Penznace where it was pissing down!

We arrived at the caravan park and it was good to see Em’s parents. We made the decision to not stay in the tent and sleep in the car instead due to the wind. After settling down, Ems dad gave the bike a look over and we noticed an issue with the front break,which was seizing up and not springing back into place. It didn’t seem too serious though, and was sure the mechanics could sort it on the day.

After that we went to walk the dogs at Sennen Cove which was beautiful and it was nice to spend some last minute time with Em,as much as I wanted to relax the nerves were still there. After this we went off for some fish and chips which were lush. Then we chilled out with the Greens for a bit. Then it was off to the car to relax and try to sleep, the adventure was about to start…

Day 1:

Land’s End to Liskeard 74.96 Miles 7 hours 11 Minutes and 15 Seconds

This would prove to be one of the hardest days for me, and i’m not sure why. I think it was due to a combination of nerves, tiredness and not having cycled for a few weeks.

I woke up nervous and bloody cold! I didn’t sleep well as I was too nervous and excited. After a shower, getting the gear on and loading up my kit, it was off to Land’s End. I arrived and I was just eager to get going, nerves had really got hold of me by this point.

I was worried as I was on my own and not sure if i’d click with people. I’m pretty shy at first as it takes me a while to open up and wasn’t sure if i’d get on with people. (thankfully I would!)

So after meeting up with everyone and a quick briefing from the crew, it was time for the photo call. We had a great sight of a helicopter landing and the sun was out, so it was a great day for it. I was eager to get going, I wasn’t looking forward to saying bye to em we are both crap at goodbyes, so kept it short. Before I knew it I was at the official starting line and off, as I looked back I saw Em welling up which nearly broke me there and then, so i just rode off as fast as i could.

The roads were long and fast to start with and enjoyed it, but we went to a simple hill and i just had no power and people flew past me.Its funny as now the hill would be a breeze but then I couldn’t do it! I really struggled to keep up with people and so couldn’t get to know anyone and as a result spent the majority of the day on my own. It was also the time when i was glad to be under way but worried if I could do this but thankfully after the hill the roads were pretty good and I pressed on towards penzance, where I nearly missed the turning!

Before long I hit the water stop in Praze – en – Beeble which was lovely, topped up and pressed on through some lovely parts of the country, but again struggling with hills.
As I rounded the corner I saw a hawk perched on a fence post but couldn’t get a pic in time i was gutted! From there it was through Redruth and on to road to Truro. I don’t remember
too much of this bit so it couldn’t have been anything to get excited by!

Before we hit lunch though we had a long tough hill and it was cold and windy, and my legs just didn’t want to know, it was a tough climb to lunch and i was glad to make it.
Due to nerves I sat alone at lunch ate and cracked on. Thankfully as the trip went on and my confidence grew I’d get to know people much better.

After lunch it started to piss down, so my jacket went on and i cracked on. After lunch there was  a bit of a climb on the A390 which I really struggled with, my legs cramped up and I couldn’tstand up I was really concerned with Dartmoor to come. If i couldn’t do this how could I do the hills to come. I had to stop a few times and I also walked for a brief spell which angered me know end. I made a vow there, that this would be the last time I walked. T hankfully before long I was at the last water stop of the day.

From here the weather improved and it was some good roads on to Liskeard, although the duel carriage way wasn’t fun and I rolled into the premier inn, the first day done! Here I met Gareth my room mate, who is possibly the nicest person I have ever met and an amazing character. It cheered me up no end to be in and settled down for the night and finally getting a chance to know people.

At dinner we sat with Wendy and the Aussie ladies who were a brilliant bunch. So I went off to bed, relieved to have survived the first day, but nervous about Dartmoor and the day ahead…