Meet the team and follow our progress as we train for the ride...

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Day 12 - One more detour

Day 12 - Thurso to John O Groats (via Dunnet head)

Last day. Last early start. Last excruciating rise out of bed to assess the aches and pains from the day before. Last application of Chamois Cream to places that really should never need/ want to be covered in such cold slimy goo! Last force feeding of breakfast- after 10 days of excessive eating, i never want to see another breakfast bar or banana again.

After Dans insistance, we decided to do the addon trip to Dunnet head, the most northerly point of the mainland. This only added 7 miles to the days total but when that 7 miles was uphill and against the wind we cursed Dan very loudly. We did manage to see some Puffins though

There be Puffins! (somewhere)

After that 12 miles to the Seaview Hotel where we stopped to have a wee dram before we crossed the finish. Once we had all regrouped the crew van lead us the half a mile down to John O Groats proper and we were done!

 980 miles ish later and my pelvis is now permanently remodelled into the shape of a saddle

Day 11- The Perfect Storm

Day 11- Tain to Thurso

Almost there, or so we thought! As hard as the rest of the trip was, today was the worst day by far. It started badly with the rain pelting down as we started on the A9 north. The joy of being on our "last" day evaporated immediately. We slogged for 80ish miles in torrential rain and a 20mph northernly wind and very low temperatures. The rain we could deal with. The wind was a different story. After previously peddling along at 12-15 mph on average we were down to 7-8 for most of the day. At one point we were due to turn right and get the wind behind us (at about mile 70) so I spent most of the day asking Gareth, "Are we there yet?"

Delirium sets in
Dont believe the smiles
Lunch coincided with a RAF jet flyby. And a lovely hot soup. The less hardy of us (ie me) took refuge in the crew van to warm my toes before we set off again.

After 70 miles we reached the northern coast of Scotland and it was quite an achievement to see it for the first time. Wind behind us we sailed into Thurso with the end within reach.....

Day 10 - Nessie found!

Day 10 - Loch Lochy to Tain

Today involed a lot of cyclying along Loch Ness. We think Nessie must have been attracted by all the energy gels/ liquids/ supplements whizzing around our bodies but she did make a nice effort by donning her kilt for the evening.

Unfortunately we had then to go up Heartbreak Hill, which was very aptly named and was probably the worst hill of the whole trip. After a very very slow cycle up it we were buoyed by the fact that we had done the worst.

Lunch was at a leisure centre which was heaven/ torture. Being so lovely and hot it was torture having to leave it again

After Loch Ness we bypassed Inverness and arrived at Tain by some lovely back roads

Day 9- Loch Lochy- Really?

Day 9- Inverary to Loch Lochy

The day started with a pretty big climb just out of Inverary. Then it was beautiful countryside all day which really helped the miles pass by. Lunch was a late stop today after 60 miles. At this point we were all running on fumes as energy had just completely disappeared

After lunch we made our way to Commandos Hill.  Although the principle of doing Lands end upwards is to go with the prevailing winds, we were facing lovely northernly winds. But more on those later!

Commandos hill was amazing. We had a view of Ben Nevis and all the mountains around. From there a hop skip and jump (well 15 miles) to the hostel for the night. Although Adam had assured me that scottish roads were in good condition, he lied. The last 15 miles was picturesque but like cycling on a jackhammer. This was our first time in a hostel and there was some snoring avoidance needed. I will not name names but one person had a 4 bed dorm to themselves! The Discover Adventure crew cooked a hearty dinner of bolongese and we actually had more than 1 drink before bed. As Tom would say: "Awesome"

Day 8- Larging about

Day 8 started in Kilmarnock with a slight mist. Like most days on the trip we managed though to be either above or below the main bad weather. Today was our first real taste of Scottish countryside and we were cycling by the coast for the majority of the morning. After the last couple of city days this was very welcome. First stop was in Largs for a lovely coffee in an Italian coffee shop by the coast. Bliss! Almost makes the cycling worth it. (just almost!)
Then its onwards towards Inverary. Lunch was at a botanical garden after a blistering run by the now named "South African Pelothon" (jason, paul, angela, gareth, dan, ian and myself). As the fitness is starting to improve we are getting towards the ending earlier and earlier each day so we arrived in Inverary about 4pm. The last 20 miles were a bit soul destroying as you could see where we had to go on the other side of the Loch but had to cycle the whole Loch in order to come back!
Colour TV has hit Inverary
Inverary was gorgeous. Very quiet and secluded and like going back 20 years in time as you can see from the pic. We stayed in a Loch Fyne hotel with spa and swimming pool so were really feeling quite spoilt for the day. The food was superb in the restaurant but after using up about 5000 calories in the day, haute causine didnt really fill us up so a little excursion was made to the local chippy

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Day 7 - Border crossings

Day 7 –  a view from the van.
Crossing the border! 10 miles and we crossed into Scotland – a fantastic milestone and morale is high. After another breakfast – it really is like ground hog day – the teams set off for the ride into Scotland. It is defintily chillier up here – a moderate 7 degrees today.
In the van – Ali from DA and I took the first opportunity we could to stop at a Scottish petrol station to get some Irn Bru. Just because we were in Scotland – but it tasted good.

 It was then off to find a Tesco for our usual shop for the teams requests – which today included dry roast peanuts, more painkillers in various forms, and a game of buckaroo. Sadly Tesco let us down and instead the best we could do was a generic of Jenga called Stack-em. Still it should keep the guys entertained over dinner….
It was then back in the van to follow along to route, count cyclists and make sure everyone is ok before getting to the lunch stop for much of the same.

The food has been excellent the whole trip, and the lunches that are prepared on the back of a van generally somewhere along the side of  road have made sure the team are on track. Today we are at a farm, so we have a barn to shelter in.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Strange goings on....

Day  6 – Preston to Carlisle
Tom demonstrating the fantastic scenery!
A really long day that included conquering Shap Pass! Approximately 10 miles of climbing to reach the summit, but with some spectacular views at the top.

The first water stop was the quintessential Cumbrian landscape, rolling hills, babbling brook, lambs in the field – and a slow hiss from Adams rear tyre……

Actually, more like this tyre was creating it’s own local gust of wind over the 5-10secs, until completely flat. I am slightly curious how this happened, as my bike was innocently sitting perched against a wall on some benign-looking grass at the first water stop. Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy that the flat happened when I was not cycling, but I also thought it was odd in an almost kind of “suspicious” way. Who was standing closest to my bike at the time, and reported this to me? – Paolo (crossed off my Xmas card list now!) This was actually the 2nd of 3 repairs to my bike in 24hrs! 

Issue 1: wheel buckle which accompanied my bike from my last training run (2 weeks earlier), which had been getting no better (surprisingly!), but my rear was starting to tell me (as one’s body does!) that there really was the need to get this sorted – so the end of day 5, I had picked up a new back wheel, and Mike (support crew) had worked on this to set me up perfectly for the start of day 6.

Issue 2: “spontaneous” internal combustion of inner tube (as described above)
Issue 3: as a result of the” repairs” made to my bike pre-event, which I had innocently assumed would be accurate & effective, I was perplexed as to why my gears were slipping more & more each day, until Ali (support crew) had asked me at lunch on day 6 how my bike was after the puncture repair 2hrs earlier. I said the puncture was fine, but could he do anything about my gears. Surprisingly the chain did not match the front and rear cassettes, explaining very clearly why the spokes were wearing down, and my chain was slipping – the bike shop, who shall remain nameless (for legal reasons) have agreed to refund me for the replacement needed to the chain (done that lunch break), back cassette (done that lunch break) and front cassette (ordered, and collectable on WED – 3 days from the finish…? Worth rushing for it? – I’m not sure, but it’s better to have it and not need it that quickly; rather than not have it and need it! 
No wonder Jen said i had a frown on my face cycling up Shap to lunch! Bottom line: not a good day for my bike, but my rear was a LOT HAPPIER, and that made me happy by the end of the day! 
Adam and Ali from DA inspecting the site of the crime...


Day 5- Urban rats

Day 5 – Shrewsbury to Preston
 Long and busy day of cycling from Shrewsbury, through Warrington and Wigan town centres with a lot of traffic, and then on to Preston. The natives were a lot more vocal as the teams headed north, with a variety  of abuse (from both sides) 

Four distinct cycling groups have now formed:

The need for speed – Tom and Adam. Loving the hills and out at the front. Every time we mention a hill Tom just goes "awesome". On day 3 he proclaimed in the morning. "I've never cycled on the flat before" A lot of dirty looks from around the breakfast table followed!

Warwick – now cycling on his own – he just gets his head down and goes. and  is now challenging the quick biys for getting back early Mr consistent but his sense of direction can leave a bit to be desired.
Then comes the collectively known ‘vets’. Paul – the pacemaker, Jason, Ian, Gareth, Cormac, Angela and Dan. 

And finally, the self named ‘Team Tortoise’ slow and steady but always in great spirits at all the stops – Sinead, Paulo, Richard and Felix.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Day 4 - Its get better right?

Day 4 – Tintern to Shrewsbury

Mornings are not fun
Another long day – over 90 miles. Terrain was mixed but roads were quieter. The scenary through Herefordshire and Shropshire was lovely. Everyone was feeling the burn in their muscles by this stage but psychologically everyone was good. Dan Cable was certain that after Day 4, everyone would make  a miraculous recovery and life would be good. And so his mantra for the day was "Day 4 boys, wait till its over" And we all started to believe him…..!

Our Achilles heel

After 7 days we all have blisters and bruising all over. However, poor Jen did hurt her ankle on Monday and finally had it looked at:

"Day 4 for me was another day in the van, my Achillies was still sore, although I had got pretty good at getting around on tip toes. After lunch I made a quick getaway with the DA crew and got in to Shrewsbury to visit the A&E department if the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. Top marks to the NHS, I was in, seen by doctor and physiotherapist, and out again within an hour. The diagnosis was not ideal given the fact we were on day 4 of a 12 day cycle. Luckily I have not ruptured my Achilles but definitely damaged it – no cycling for 6 weeks and crutches for 2! The taxi ride from the hospital back to the hotel in Shrewsbury was not a happy one as my Lejog (on a bike at least) was over."

Day 3- We may roll but we don't rock (beyond 10 o'clock)

Day 3 – Tiverton to Tintern
Highlights include climbing to the top of Cheddar Gorge, cycling through a ‘deeper than pedals’ flood, and crossing the Severn Bridge. Lowlight was the rain. It just didn’t stop.

The route crossed up through Taunton and out into the Somerset Countryside. Lunch was very welcome at the top of Cheddar Gorge in a warm village hall to try and dry out. There was little enthusiasm to start again after stopping!! Poor Warwick had a “MASSIVE” puncture and we didn’t see a smile all day.
Angela stopped for a consult in Taunton
Before our 3rd water stop we went on a tiny little road outside of Bristol. The rain had flooded the road and if we hadn’t wet feet by then, we did after sailing through it. Alyssa met us at the stop and brought us a very appreciated bag of chocolate.
After a wonderful (!) cycle through the docks of Bristol, we finally made it to the Old Severn bridge, which we were expecting to be a small wooden affair but were surprised to see the scale of it. We finally arrived into Tintern after a lovely 4 mile downhill which was most welcome after a long 93 miles

 The hotel for the night was at the start of the Wye Valley, just opposite Tintern Abbey. A few drinks later, a nice dinner and the usual 10 O' clock sleeptime.