ADDENDUM: DAY 14 – SHOW ME THE WAY TO GO HOME… 12 November 2016

John O’Groats To Home (around 500 miles of bikes, trains and automobiles!)

No mistake, you read the date correctly – I’m writing this blog over three years on from the last LEJOG post, which was written about 4 hours after I finished my Lands End to John O’Groats solo ride.  I’ll write more about why there’s been the delay in a future blog I’m sure, as that’s a topic in its own right(!), but I just thought you may be interested how it all panned out in terms of getting home.

If I’d been theming the titles of these LeJOG posts using film names rather than loose song references, I could have easily titled this “(no) Planes, (but) Trains & Automobiles”, but even that doesn’t tell the full story!

Once I’d crossed the finish line and done all the “photo’y things”, I checked into my hotel room and collected the big box I’d shipped up there in advance. The box contained a bike bag, duct tape, and some spacers to go between the front and rear forks, once the wheels were removed. Efficiency was always the key to this attempt, so even the cardboard box itself was going to make the protector for the bike whilst in the bag! In fact, writing that last sentence has made me think I should also think about a little prequel post, covering the planning and logistics of all of this, as looking back, that deserves some recognition, even if I do say so myself!

It was a wonderful surprise to find a parcel on my bed, with a Cheadle Hulme postmark. Jane & Charlie had very thoughtfully sent me a “congratulations” present – a well done card, a “LeJOG” teeshirt and a minature of Talisker (one of my very favourite Scotch Whiskys). It says a lot that the Talisker lasted about 10 minutes, and as much as I liked the Tee, the best bit about it was that it wasn’t the shirt I’d been wearing for the last two weeks!

MY BRAND-SPANKING NEW ROOM AT THE NEWLY OPENED NATURAL RETREATS HOTEL

A shower, then a long hot soak in the bath, followed by a cold and dark walk up to the local pub, where I had a big rare steak & chips, and a couple of pints. It was in the pub that I wrote the Day 13 blog, sitting there in my cargo shorts, lejog teeshirt and sockless, neoprene pumps. It was no wonder I kept getting strange looks from the locals!

A cold & dark walk back to my room was interspersed with stops to watch the opening evening party in full swing, with the new hotel building all lit up and old photos of the building being projected onto the newly refurbished hotel walls. It looked great but it didn’t take long for the mid-September chilly evening to push me inside.

I settled down & got in bed, expecting to just crash out, after the physical and mental release of completing my biggest challenge ever. No chance. Not even close to falling asleep, but not because my mind was buzzing with pride/elation/adrenaline but because it felt weird not having to be really organised and prepped for tomorrow.

When I planned the ride, I thought it would total around 900 miles, taking into account getting lost, detours, extra mileage etc. so I thought (in my pre-ride madness) that it would be good to give myself the opportunity to try and take my total over the 1000 mile mark, by getting the early morning ferry out across to Orkney, and rattle around there for the day on my bike.

As I mentioned in my Day 13 post, I’d been warned that there was a significant risk that my Sunday afternoon flight home was going to be cancelled because of an inbound storm with 70mph winds. I’d also been told in the pub that the chances of getting a pleasant trip across to Orkney to pootle about were slim to none, and I was advised to revise my thinking. So instead of having another day of cycling to organise, instead I was going to be weather watching and working out a “Plan B” to get home, if needed.

It was at this point, that I had a little emotional “turn”. Unexpectedly, I realised I was feeling so ‘low’ and so ‘flat’ that I was on the verge of crying. Apart from seeing friends and family briefly on Day 6, and a couple of hours on Day 7, I’d been on my own and spoken very little to anyone else at all. I had also had a total focus on “finishing today & prepping for tomorrow”. I’d suddenly realised I was very lonely & homesick.

But eventually my head switched off, and at some point, I fell asleep.

I woke early, immediately taking a look out of my window, that overlooked the small harbour from which the ferry to Orkney departs. The sea was rough, it was blowing a gale and it was pouring down. The predictions were right – no chance of making it up to 1000 miles, and a worrying chance that my non-refundable plane ticket was going to be worthless.

I went across to see Janette who checked with the airport. “Very unlikely” was the response, when asked about tomorrows flight home. Bugger. So, what do I do? As I saw it, I could either:

  1. hang around for the day, and pack up the bike in the hope that the flight would leave, but that came with the risk that if it didn’t, I would have to wait out the storm until the next days flight; or
  2. work out how to get home by other means, risking losing the £200 it cost to fly, the additional costs, a very lengthy journey home, and some awkward logistics

Still feeling a deep sense of homesickness, it was an easy decision to make. I asked the internet, which told me I could get myself to Edinburgh on the train, find some overnight accommodation and then get the Sunday train back to Manchester, putting me home for late Sunday afternoon. Guaranteed.

Decision made, I repacked my Axiom pannier with all my cycling gear, just like I had for the last 13, re-boxed my bike bag, and went to see Jannette. I explained my predicament, asked Jannette to arrange for my “bike bag” parcel to be sent back home, and checked out a night early. I then clipped into my bike, winced as my arse reminded me that I was pushing my luck, and then headed off on the 17-mile ride back to Wick Railway Station.

Although the rain had eased,  the strong winds hadn’t, and thoughtlessly no one had bothered to smooth out the hills. it was a lot harder going that I’d expected, given it was such a short ride. My head wasn’t in it anymore, it felt like a chore and my legs had given up wanting to turn pedals. I then realised that I’d not had anything to eat or drink since my meal the night before, and nor did I have anything to hand that contained “energy”. All that I had left were “super-strength” caffeine tablets, aspirin and a few Haymine “hayfever” tablets and a bottle of water.

Stepping back in time for a mo’ and to add some context, prior to one of my previous multi-day ride challenges (I think it was Arnhem to Berlin), I had begun making up my own equivalent of a High5/Science In Sport/CNP maltodextrine mix. My room-mate Mike, got used to me messing with bags of white powder each morning & filling my drinks bottles, so it didn’t take long to get the nickname ‘Chemical Chris’.

However, that is and all it was, a nickname. I say that only because for those that may not know, my “breakfast” was basically “ECA”, the well known body builders “fat loss stack” of Ephedrine, Caffeine, and Aspirin. Taking these drugs together actually mimic the effects of amphetamines, suppresses the appetite, and increases aerobic capacity! Biochemistry lesson over.

Anyway, I’m still not dead, and it got me there! And it was after I’d completed the ride, so I can’t disqualify myself for Le Dopage…

What did nearly kill me however was arriving at Wick Railway Station at around midday to find that although I was in time to catch my 12:38 train, what I’d not fully appreciated before setting off, was that it as going to cost me around £65, two changes of train (at Dingwall & Inverness), and almost 10 hours to get to Edinburgh Waverley! Ten Hours! Makes you realise just how far north I was, when it takes 10 hours travelling south to get to somewhere most of us think is very far north.

Anyway, it made me realise that I just couldn’t bear having to try to sort accommodation in Edinburgh, when I only arrived at around 10pm, to then spend another £96 and 4 1/2 hours to get to Stockport. And I was homesick. Did I mention that? So I rang home. The long and the short of it, was that my lifelong best mate, Ian, was going to drive the 4 hours up to Edinburgh, pick me up and then drive home – a 450 mile, 8 hour round trip for him. I owed him big time.

My train duly arrived and I got on what turned out to be a little 2-coach “rattler”, that took me down the first part of Scotrails Far North Line.

THE VIEW FROM THE TRAIN. LOTS OF TIME TO THINK ABOUT WHAT I’D JUST DONE, AND WHAT IT HAD DONE TO ME.

Apart from feeling fleetingly guilty that Ian was going to have his own epic challenge getting up to Edinburgh, I otherwise felt a sense of relief that this was all going to be over soon. It was the first of many subsequent occasions where I had time to think about what I’d just done, but also what the ride had done to me.

I JUST KEPT LOOKING AT THAT BIKE. THAT HAD BEEN MY EVERYTHING FOR THE BEST PART OF TWO WEEKS

A fair chunk of the first 3 hours were spent trying to work out why I didn’t feel any sense of achievement, and why it was already starting to feel more of a negative experience than a positive one, all the while passing through and stopping at these seemingly dreamt up places like Kildonan, Brora, Golspie and Ardgay before arriving at Dingwall. 

THE FIRST 3 HOURS WERE SPENT PASSING THROUGH AND STOPPING AT KILDONAN, BRORA, GOLSPIE ARDGAY BEFORE ARRIVING AT DINGWALL
THE “RATTLER”

From Dingwall, it was an uneventful and far less mythical run through to Inverness, where I changed trains for the final time and headed off to hopefully meet up with Ian at Waverley Station, just after 10pm.

For a short time, I was sat next to a really nice lady who was collecting for the Walking With The Wounded Charity. We got chatting and it turned out her brother had been badly injured serving his country in the Helmand Province, ending up having to go through a double amputation. Not only had he subsequently also completed LeJOG, he then went on to walk to the South Pole with Price Harry. I stopped feeling sorry for myself. For a while, anyway!

Once in at Edinburgh, I called Ian, to find out his timing was perfect. I’d just got out of the main station to the pickup point when Ian pulled up. To say I was relieved and grateful would be an understatement of the highest order.  After a major man-hug, we threw the bike in the back of his car, and headed off south towards home.

A 4 hour, energy-drink-fuelled drive later, through pretty atrocious driving conditions, he dropped me off at home. It was around 2:30am, but Jane helped Ian get me and the bike into the house as quickly as possible so he could get off home for a well-deserved and well-needed sleep!

It was an odd feeling finally being home. But it was very welcome. The adventure was finally over. At this point, I had absolutely no idea how to sum it all up, nor how to really figure out if I’d “won or lost” my challenge. I just knew I’d completed the ride, that was all.

I woke up on Sunday in my own bed, still tired, but my legs felt “weird”. Jane and Charlie had gone out. I couldn’t work out what to do with myself other than get some breakfast, after which I knew what I wanted to do.

I got on my bike & rode around Cheshire for an hour in the rain & the cold.

Oh, I forgot to mention. The flight from Wick to Manchester? It took off on time. Ah, well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my ramblings. If you have but you’ve not read about the preceding 13 days, it’s probably worth a go. It may make some of the above make more sense.

Until the next time,


Chris

12th November 2016

DAY 13 – AND NOW, THE END IS HERE

Dornoch to John O’Groats (81.18 miles)

No excuses, I’m getting this one done and dusted, before I “celebrate!”.

Regrets, I’ve had a few…
(Maybe I should have brought more Sudocrem!)

But then again, too few to mention….
(Warmer clothes for up north, maybe?)

I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption…
(No matter how tired or steep the hill, just turn the pedal “one more time” – the mantra)

I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway…
(And mapmyride screwed up every four days, and I screwed up every 5, missing turns!)

And more, much more than this, I did it my way…!
(On my own each ride, no support vehicle, but never feeling on my own due to the messages & calls of support, which have been amazing)

John O’Groats…

Wow! I’m in John O’Groats! And I rode all the way here. Doesn’t seem real yet.

I had a sluggish start despite an early breakfast due to “app issues” again. MapMyRide seems not to like not having Internet, so needed a reinstall, before setting off from the Dornoch Castle Hotel.

Having set off, it turned out to be a lot colder than expected, so both cycle jerseys have been worn today! Good job it’s the last day!

It was a very hilly day and was long at just over 81 miles. With the exception of a few “13% down then ups” (Ian B will understand the pain), it was a case of getting the miles done.

I’m delighted to say that I got cheered on a few times by Sylvia & Doug, as they kept up with their own “tandem team”. One of the highlights of this journey, was meeting them – a fantastic couple.

The inevitable sting in the tail was the long, nasty climb 4 miles from JOG, and I’d love to report that the euphoria of the finish got me over it, but it didn’t. I think my head told my body it was nearly over, so it started giving in!

IT WAS BLOODY FREEZING! MENTALLY AT THIS POINT I BEGAN GIVING UP

A nicely deserved downhill for the last 2 miles brought me to John O’Groats, where I got a big cheer from Sylvia, Doug and the rest of the support crew.

SYLVIA, DOUG & THE OTHER LEJOGGERS ARRIVED WITHIN MINUTES OF ME

Photos, champagne, hugs, more photos and then to check in to my brand new abode!

I’m being put up thanks to Jamie Reid & Janette Jannson at The Inn at John O’Groats, which is really appreciated, as they have a lot on their plate today and tomorrow, given there’s a launch night tonight and the official opening of the completely refurbished & rebuilt old hotel property.

Seriously, check out Natural Retreats because they know how to deliver you a high spec, environmentally positive, break from your daily routine! Thanks for their support!

Now here’s the issue. I’m due to fly home from Wick on Sunday via Edinburgh. However, there are 60-70mph winds forecast for then, so locals are expecting the airport to be closed!

Looks like my adventure may just beginning! How the hell do I get home, in shorts, flipflops, and with a dismantled Bike in a big bag!?

Keep tuned folks, there may be a day 14 & day 15 blog at this rate!

I really hope you’ve enjoyed the blogs, and that you’ve learned about the amazing work that both Climb and Millies Trust are doing with any donations received…

OVER 97,500 CALORIES BURNED, AND A STONE LIGHTER THAN AT THE START

OVER 97,500 CALORIES BURNED, AND A STONE LIGHTER THAN AT THE START

Best wishes from the top of mainland Britain!

Chris

13th September 2013

DAY 12 – A BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER

Fort Augustus to Dornoch (79.2 miles)

Blimey,  I’m at Dornoch Castle Hotel, which is 80 miles south of John O’Groats.

I’ve just finished another 79-miler, which means my running total is now…839.6 miles covered. That’s not bad going for a 43 year old who should really know better.

Had a great night in Fort Augustus, starting with the meal at the Bothy, which I revisited after about 12 years, Sadly the Cullen Skink wasn’t on, but the meal I had was great.

At breakfast I met Sylvia and Doug, who are part of the support team for the Tandem Gang. Had a really good chat before setting off, and they offered their help, if needed. Very nice folk!

After a very filling breakfast of porridge and then salmon and scrambled eggs, I managed to make an earlyish start, and was turning pedals for around 9:20am. So much so, that before I realised, I was at Urquhart Castle on the side of Loch Ness, watching the coaches pull in and tip out all the tourists.

URQUHART CASTLE AND NESSIE IN THE BACKGROUND

Up the Loch to Inverness, past the home of “Cally Thistle” and onto the dreaded A9 over the bridge. Where, mid-bridge, I suffered a slow puncture AND my saddlebag fell off and squashed todays bananas!

THE RIVER NESS, TAKEN WHILST IN A BRIEF TRAFFIC JAM!

I made it across to the Tourist Info office, where I repaired and got back up and running. I also ducked off the A9 and onto the Cycle Route 1, which took a much nicer route.

On to a cracker of a downhill to Cromarty Firth, where, mid-bridge, I got yet another puncture. Whilst repairing, the Tandem Gang went by, shouting best wishes & encouragement. They’re due in Dornoch also, and JOG tomorrow, like me, so I’m anticipating more such meetings.

CROMARTY FIRTH BRIDGE – WHAT A PLACE FOR A PUNCTURE!

It was a race to Dornoch after that, as I was chased by rain, which I kept ahead of until 18 miles from Dornoch. Then it rained, as well as it does in Scotland. And I got very wet. But I don’t care because it’s my last day tomorrow!

Remember – all this is for Millies Trust and Climb, so please check out what they do, and why I’m looking for donations.

This one’s out of the way early today, so I’m off to get some fine Scottish scran, in readiness for another earlyish start. My aim is to be at JOG (John O’Groats) for around 5pm tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

Cheers all,

Chris

12th September 2013

DAY 11 – RIVER DEEP, MOUNTAIN HIGH…

Tyndrum to Fort Augustus (82.7 miles)

It’s not a river, but it’s a bloody deep Loch. Bear with me tonight, folks, I’m knackered and struggling for inspiration, but have a surfeit of perspiration!

Longest day of 83 miles, second highest climb, up and over into The stunning Glen Coe, in the hissing down rain. And that was in the first 25 miles!

Just goes to show how powerful attitude is in daily life. Get up and think it’s going to be “pants”, and you definitely increase the chance of that being the case. Today was many of the things that the “to Glasgow” day was, but it’s not taken 5* hospitality to keep me upbeat this time.

I’m in a cracking B&B in Fort Augustus, run by Natalie and Mark, and their dog Holly, who’s very friendly, and probably does run the show. If you get this way, consider staying, as the Kettle House is a beautiful house, just on the outskirts, on a backroad, all of which makes it really relaxing.

So I left Glengarry, headed upstream, to Bridge of Orchy, where the heavens really did open! A pretty big but long climb and then through Glen Coe, down to sea level. Over “a bridge” and then my Scottish coast-to-coast ride began!

Through Fort William, where I’d hoped to get a new tyre, which didn’t happen, but I did get to see a misty Ben Nevis, as I rode down the A82.

I’m riding the Great Glen fault for half of today, and half of tomorrow, up to Inverness. Yep, Inver-blinking-ness! On a pushbike! Now’s the time to confess that, it hit me today that I’ve now “only” got sub-200 to go. Keep calm, Captain Mainwairing!

GLEN COE. BEING “GLEN COE’ISH”.

So with just a couple of these blogs to go, I’m going to take this opportunity to make the following statements of fact:

  1. I definitely could not have got even this far without your encouragement and support, which, particularly from friends, colleagues and family, has made a huge difference. Keep going, you only have to put up with this sh17 for two more days!
  2. Whilst I cannot deny that I have personal, selfish motives for doing this, (to challenge myself), the extra drive to complete this comes from wanting to make sure you all at the very least, know about Climb and Millies Trust, their aims and objectives, and why just a small donation would make a big difference
  3. After all the amazing personal friend/colleague/family donations, it would be fantastic if an Airangel partner/supplier or two (and I know of one already, who’s not even any of the above!) could consider a donation to the two charities. I’m sure they would do their best to provide a return, if required!
  4. Whatever happens, I will be having a pint, “in’t Poynton Legion” next Friday, and I won’t bore more than usual, if you’re around, but I will be sat down more! Probably on a “pile cushion”!

Oh, nearly forgot – back on day 3, Cheddar Gorge, I met a group of LEJOGGERS, at the top after being passed by their tandem duo. They passed me again today! Arriving on Friday apparently, so I hope they’re there to clap me across the line!

I may just do this, you know, but don’t let on just yet!

Night all,

Chris
11th September 2013

DAY 10 – GUESS WHOS BACK, BACK AGAIN?

Glasgow to Tyndrum (58.2 miles)

Told you it’s all ups and downs! Fabulous day, today! I’m back!

A slightly “short day” helped at a measly 58, 4 short of what I was expecting, for a change.

The mental shift from yesterday to today was like being 2-1 down at 90 minutes in the biggest game of your life, then somehow coming out 3 minutes 20 seconds later as a winner. Well, nearly…

A great nights sleep, again for a change, at the Radisson Blu Glasgow, followed by a much better breakfast, of fruit (including banana, of course) and yoghurt, then muesli with raisins, and scrambled egg on toast! Look at me, and my healthy eating! Thanks to Neil Pickering and the team at the Radisson for, in part at least, rescuing this ride!

A freestyle route out through Govan and onto the “National Cycle Route 7” which took me on a very pleasant run down the canal, and under the Clyde Bridge.

A SWEET RUN UNDER THE CLYDE BRIDGE, WITH NEW FOUND VIGOUR AFTER A GOOD NIGHTS SLEEP AND A GREAT BREAKFAST!

On from there, I headed out towards the Trossacks and stopped off at the De Vere Cameron House Hotel. If you get the chance, go! It’s an incredible hotel on the side of Loch Lomond.

FRONT ENTRANCE OF THE CAMERON HOUSE HOTEL, ALEXANDRIA – PITY I DIDN’T HAVE THE TIME TO STOP FOR A WEE DRAM!

Todays puncture came just after that, but was dealt with far better than yesterdays, and without the drama.

EVEN A PUNCTURE OUTSIDE OF ALEXANDRIA ON THE SIDE OF LOCH LOMOND DIDN’T EVEN REGISTER ON THE STRESS SCALE TODAY.


The rest of the day was spent cycling through some stunning countryside, especially when the weather’s kind like today. I never wore rain gear, leggings, etc all day. I didn’t even care that it was a breezy Northwesterly headwind again.

LOCK SLOY HYDRO-ELECTRIC POWER STATION AT THE SIDE OF LOCH LOMOND VISITOR CENTRE

Last 15 miles through Crianlarich and on to destination, were all uphill but even then, less at the forefront than my appreciation of the landscape I was lucky enough to be within.

THE ROAD THROUGH CRIANLARICH WAS STUNNING IN THE SUNSHINE

I’m staying with Andy and Ellen at the Glengarry House B&B tonight, and what a great place they run here. Mid-distance on the West Highland Way for any walkers, so bear them in mind. You may even get to see Ellens Royal Enfield classic motorbike!

A pub meal and a good chat in the Tyndrum Inn, a few minutes walk down the road, and then back here to write this up.

Tomorrow, I ride up, through and then down Glen Coe, and through Fort William, where I may trade in my “TackMagnet” brand tyres for alternatives! Actually, it turns out the puncture rate seems to be down to the fact that my rear tyre is really worn down already!

Just short of 680 miles down, so still a few to go, and I’m sure, more ups and downs, but, in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back!”

That one was in memory of my mother-in-law, who, although no longer with us, will always be in our thoughts, especially on her Birthday. Best wishes, Ann.

Good night all,

Chris
10th September 2013

DAY 9 – TWISTIN’ MY MELON, MAN!

Lockerbie to Glasgow (77.24 miles)

I’m here. In Glasgow. Tonight’s blog complete.

Almost…If tomorrow is as bad as today, then tomorrows blog will be from a train home.

But it won’t be. Because cycling, like life is full of ups and downs, both physically and mentally. And tomorrow is just as likely to be better as it is to be as bad. So, it’s best to assume it will be better and think positively.

Why was it such a “bad day at the office”? I’ll be as brief as I can:

  1. didn’t feed correctly this morn (no fibre/oats & bananas!)
  2. my “red cross parcel” I sent in advance which contained 2x 200g bags of sugary white powder (maltodextrin/potassium salt/caffeine Mix) didn’t make destination – not sure why!
  3. 10-12mph block headwind all the way
  4. lots of “bad hills” with bad tarmac to the point of having to pedal downhill on occasion
  5. after which, I may need to wear a “tenna lady” pad, which I will, of course cross charge to South Lanarkshire council!
  6. bad navigation and another extended day
  7. two punctures, one just 15 miles from destination
  8. hail and torrential rain 16 miles from destination

I’ll stop there, as it’s getting dull. You get the drift!

THE RAIN WAS RELENTLESS TODAY. THE ROAD WAS RELENTLESS TODAY

The long and the short is that if I didn’t know that tonight I’m staying at the Radisson Blu Glasgow, I could well have jacked it in at some point along the 77.24 miles covered today!

But I didn’t and I’m here, and it’s brilliant! That bed is going to see some “action” tonight – all of which will be sleeping! After I’ve done some drying out!

AFTER SITTING IN THE BATH TO DETACH THE BLOOD-SOAKED CHAMOIS CYCLING SHORTS FROM MY PERINEUM(!) I HAD TO GET THIS LOT DRY

The oddly positive points from today were:

  • Riding with “Scott” who was working in the area on railtrack replacement, but was on his newish bike to get over his birthday hangover. Nice bloke, a good chat, and 4 miles of company at a “low” point
  • The “crazy bloke” on a bike who was “effing and jeffing” seemingly at me, until I twigged his gears were slipping and his tirade was aimed at his forlorn old Mountain bike
  • looking at the Google map showing where I am, relative to where I started to ride
QUITE A WAY FROM LANDS END, GIVEN I GOT HERE ON MY BIKE!

Cycling is, as I’ve said before a “head game” as much as physical. Today, I well and truly had my melon twisted!

Night folks,

Chris
9th September 2013

DAY 8 – YOU TAKE THE HIGH ROAD, AND I’LL TAKE THE LOW

Day 8 – Oxenholme to Lockerbie (74.39 miles)

So, I’ve made it through the length of England and am now in Bonnie Scotland!

The day was much better than I’d expected, from breakfast onwards. The Fellwalker breakfast at the Station Inn in Oxenholme didn’t disappoint and set me up for what looked like a tough day, with 2600ft of climbing, half of which was over Shap Summit, and an expected 70-ish miles.

The weather was bright, but cold, and ideal for cycling, but with showers forecast for midday, I wanted to be well over Shap by then, so an earlier start was in order.

I’d worried about Shap from first planning but it wasn’t the devil I’d expected. Although it is a big climb, with the weather I had, I found that the length of the climb, which isn’t far short of 10 miles, meant the gradient was just bearable. The summit came as a bit of an anticlimax, actually.

SHAP SUMMIT. IT KIND OF CREPT UP ON MY AND WASN’T HALF THE PROBLEM I’D EXPECTED. MAYBE I’M GETTING USED TO THIS CYCLING LARK!

I most certainly enjoyed the following 15 miles of descending, all the way through Penrith to Carlisle! Out then to Gretna and the border crossing!

Obligatory cheesy photo taken, at the “Welcome to Scotland” sign and another at the Blacksmiths in Gretna Green where the famous anvil, that’s caused all the upset.

JUST BEFORE ENTERING GRETNA GREEN, I FELT IT ONLY REASONABLE TO STOP AND CELEBRATE CYCLING THE LENGTH OF ENGLAND!

Then a fairly uneventful up/down/up/down through Ecclefechan, Thomas Carlyle’s birthplace, no less, and into Lockerbie, where I now reside, once again pint in hand!

The Crown Hotel is tonights rest spot, so I’m off down to get some pasta, (and maybe another pint!).

So todays total of 74.39 miles, brings the running total to 542 miles so far! By Jove, that’s a long way so I hope you are all aware of why I’m putting myself through this!

As I write this, Millies Trust has helped over 1000 people attend a first aid course, and from feedback, has potentially saved nearly 60 children/adults by providing either courses or helpful information. Because courses provided by others are either too expensive or few and far between, money raised has gone to ensuring that those that should, get to go on a course. In fact, they provide free places to anyone with a child under 12 months or those expecting a baby!

Climb is the UK’s only dedicated organisation to provide advice, information and support on over 700 metabolic diseases to children, young people, adults, families, carers and professionals and is committed to fighting metabolic diseases through research, awareness and support.

For all the inherited metabolic diseases there are no cures. The number of people affected by each of the inherited metabolic diseases is very low, which makes them so rare. Due to the fact that only a small number of people are affected by the conditions, it means that research is expensive and not readily undertaken. Yet with that research,  lives are saved. Your contribution, helps to fund that research and has saved the lives of 12 babies in the last 12 months alone.

Food for thought on a Sunday evening…

Best wishes,

Chris

8th September 2013

DAY 7 – GOLD! ALWAYS BELIEVE IN YOUR SOUL!

Manchester to Oxenholme (78 miles)

After a night at home, a bath, a load of washing and drying, and the comfort of my own bed, it was back to the Etihad to start today EXACTLY where I finished yesterday.  As regulated and adjudicated by my son Charlie, who insisted my back wheel was EXACTLY on the line!

Manchester City centre was awkward, as I seemed to catch every red light, interrupting progress, but I ticked off a few more Client sites, including Malmaison Manchester, Eversheds LLP and Manchester Central Conference Centre, before heading out on the A6 towards Chorley.

Whilst riding I caught up with a chap on a touring bike, who said hello. He looked at the pannier and asked where I was riding, to which I couldn’t help but answer “”John O’Groats” despite me technically only riding to Oxenholme today. “Bugger!” he said, explaining that he’d done it last year, and my mention made him want to give it another go. David Essien, you’re a mad bugger wanting to do this again, but you lightened my today and gave me confidence that this will retrospectively be a good experience!

Another fantastic uplift today, when at 28 miles, I was greeted at the side of the road by my wonderful Mum, lil Sister, and Jessica, my niece, who had made a sign, flags and had been distracting motorists prior to my arrival! We then had, and this is shockingly true, my first pub lunch of the ride. Shame on me! Yet more positivity to add – Mum had also arrived with a “Muffin Man” steak pie! As a Wiganer, trust me, they’re worth travelling for!

MY MUM & NIECE, CHEERING ME ON WITH A ‘MUFFIN MAN’ PIE (PHOTO TAKEN BY LITTLE SIS’)

And even better, as far as I’m concerned the ride is now “officially recognised” and acknowledged, by Olympic Gold Medallist, and track cycling inspiration, Jason Queally. I’m very delighted to have received a personal message from Jason, who I watched win a medal at the Commonwealth Games at the Manchester Velodrome. That experience led to me “having a go” on the banked track, which I would do more often, except the success of Wiggo et al, has meant the sessions are booked up well in advance!

Ride-wise, apart from being cold, and it raining for the last 45 miles, I felt pretty good today. Decent energy for the most part, saw some double rainbows, and made good progress until the 68th mile, when I realised I’d got more miles to go than I’d expected. All of which were uphill, or so it felt.

DOUBLE RAINBOWS. HOPE THAT MEANS TWO POTS OF GOLD FOR ME!

Eventually arrived at the top of a big hill, and turned into the car park of tonights accommodation, the Station Inn, in Oxenholme. Clothes on radiator, shower, then prop the bar up! To then get yet another big lift, when (and it’s an injustice to just call them this) my Uncle & Auntie met me. I’m not that much younger than them, so it’s an incongruous title. Great meal, good company, and a real boost, as I start the “big days” tomorrow!

FELT VERY DESERVING OF A PINT TONIGHT AFTER ALL THE CLIMBING

So it’s an “up and at ’em day” tomorrow, as, along with the rest of the days, they’re of similar +70 miles in length and more importantly, around 2500ft of climbing, over twice todays total.

Finally, it’s been brought to my attention that I owe apologies to some readers, Judith in particular! LEJOG is an acronym for “Lands End to John O’Groats” to us cyclists.Hope that’s cleared that one up!

Cheers,

Chris

7th September 2013

DAY 6 – BENEATH AN IRON SKY…

Day 6 – Cannock to Manchester (72.24 miles)

I definitely prepped better overnight and this morning, although the evening choice of an authentic Punjabi curry, could have gone horribly wrong, when you sit on a saddle for 6-7 hours a day. However, despite it being a quiet night, the food and service were great at the Taaj restaurant.

Another ropey night’s sleep, nothing to do with the venue again however. I think I’m enjoying the time to think too much, and minds racing, or maybe it’s all the caffeine-induced “energy drink”!

AFTER THE 5 PREVIOUS DAYS OF SCORCHINGLY HOT WEATHER, TODAY, AND MOST OF THE REST OF THE RIDE, WOULD TURN OUT TO BE IN RAIN!

So, as I said yesterday, I had a mechanical to sort first thing, and fantastically, the bike shop was only 3 minutes away. I called Bridgtown Bikes (@btownbikes) late yesterday, and albeit they only open at 9:30am, those folks had my bike on a stand at 9:20, and me out the door, after a coffee, for just after 10. Can’t argue with that kind of service and dedication!

The day was, for the most part, “as expected”. Miserable, down to the weather and the puncture in “nomansland” again, this time in roadworks on the A34. A long hilly slog through Stoke then by Congleton, I’m back on familiar roads, and a quick stop to pick up son from school, before being greeted on my arrival at the Etihad Stadium, by wife, son, Uncle, and work colleagues.

A VERY TIRED, COLD AND WET ME, OUTSIDE THE THEATRE OF…


I was probably a disappointing arrival, and I can but apologise for my lack of sociability, but I’m deprived of sleep, energy, and conversation!

So home, for a night watching England win a ‘qualy’, whilst trying not to think about tomorrows ride, then up and over Shap, to the Lake District. Hilly from here on in and long days, on my scale.

Official mileage today was 72.24, so running total is now 388 to date, so by close of play tomorrow, I’ll be closer to finishing than the start!


Enjoy your weekend!


Chris

6th September 2013

DAY 5 – EVERY DAY I’M SHUFFLING, SHUFFLING, SHUFFLING…

Day 5 –   Tewkesbury to Cannock (60.60 miles)

Odd day today, as I’ve been struggling to sleep well, so today’s start was, I have to confess, a slog.

I left Tewkesbury at about 10:40, from memory, and despite the better prep (a banana at 7:30 am, must surely class as better prep?) I felt really flat for the first 25 miles. My rear derailleur also seemed to be “sticky”, occasionally slipping gears.

The country roads should have been great, the weather should have felt fine, but somehow, the roads were bumpy, twisty and slowly uphill, and it was too hot, the back of my head is now badly burnt, and nothing felt “right”. This is the joy of multi-day cycling – it’s a head sport as much as physical.

NOW THAT IS SUNBURN! THE PATTERN OF MY BIKE HELMET STRAPPING VERY
CLEARLY VISIBLE. THE JOY OF CYCLING WITH THE SUN AT YOUR BACK ALL DAY!

I’m now going to drop today’s bombshell…

The thing that lifted my spirit and got me back on track was…(and I’m fairly sure I’ll never write this or think this again)…the “Welcome to Birmingham” sign! (Sorry, Brummies, said in jest, honest!)

Ran though central Birmingham and ticked off a few client sites; Radisson Blu, Malmaison at the Mailbox, Eversheds LLP, and Hotel Du Vin!

Out then to Warsaw, sorry, Walsall, and  off toward Cannock Chase, where today’s ride ends, at 60.60 miles, bringing the approximate running total to 315 miles, over a third of the scheduled total.

Thanks to Paul Shelley & the team at the Ramada Birmingham South Cannock for tonight’s accommodation – it’s very much appreciated!

Once in room, I had a quick look over the bike, as the gear changing had got steadily worse, to find that the gear cable has almost snapped through. Luckily there’s a bike shop within 3 minutes of here so a quick call and a stock check, confirms in theory that I’ll be back up and running by mid-morning. Better it happened now than over Crianlarich!

THE SHIFTER CABLE HAS BENT, AND THE OUTER HAS SNAPPED INSIDE THE ADJUSTER!

On a final and more positive note for the evening, however, my wonderful son will give me a “Daaaad! That’s embarrassing!” for today’s blog title. To be fair, I’ve not been prancing around in my “animal print pants, outta control” though. I love winding him up!

Cheers!

Chris

5th September 2013