Appendix 2

Copy of Blog created by Wife

Writing in italics are verbatim copies of text messages sent

 Sadly the blog for day one and the first half of day 2 have been lost forever.  So we begin with…

Day Two, Fort Augustus to Kilmarnock (251 km), continued

12:11   Bridge of Orchy.  Making good time – Go Roy!

13:21   Crainlarich. V tired. Long way to go…

14:16   Invergulas

15:56   Balloch.  Very busy past Loch Lomond – very fast road, so went very fast but felt strain in knee.  Everyone returning from their day out in the country

16:45   Erskine Bridge across the Clyde in Glasgow – Sat nav determined to tell Roy he was going the wrong way, you know what they are like – worse than the wife!  Dual carriage way very busy. Heaven’s opened – loads of rain and spray from the road.  Pulled over and sheltered under a tree in someone’s garden.  Let’s hope the same thing doesn’t happen on Day 4 in the built up area. Will be a very long day otherwise.

17:21   Moss Road – closed, but still went through…yes, cyclists are responsible road users…..

18:50   Kilmarnock (one and a half hours ahead of scheduled time).  Recognised B&B on the ring road from the 3 windows at the top in the photo.  Saved 1.5 miles (who’s counting?)  Room is ensuite – which is all you could say about it!


Challenge today – cramming down the calories, just don’t want to eat, so has become a mechanical process.

Running total: 310 miles so far, and one third of the way through…..

Day Three, Kilmarnock to Kendal (241 km)

To go or not to go through the Kirkstone Pass?????  We will know by the end of today……

04:15   Awake so decided to leave early…

05:26   Off to invade England

06:34   Feel crap.  Crummoch

07:02   New Cumnock

07:51   Kirkconnel

09:04   Thornhill

10:10   Dumfries (or thick chips).  Still feel a bit sick but it has taken this long to get into the ride and start to feel okay – 96 km in.

12:01   Gretna  No propositions yet…   (Thank god, mind you, a good looking chap in lycra…..I’m worried…..)

12:18   England!  One country down, one to go! 620 km and counting…..

Okay – some summary stats:  Roy has cycled through 7 map pages and the total sponsorship currently stands at £660.  Go Roy!

For those of you who have queried the clash with the Tour de France…no, not bad planning, first week is usually quiet anyway – all happens in the mountains apparently – and I have set the recorder anyway.  Also, Roy wanted to deflect the media attention away from his own exploits, you know what the paparazzi are like…. I don’t think Lance feels threatened…..  Interestingly, none of the expert panel in Roy’s cycling magazine listed Lance in the top 5, so….controversial???  What do we say about that?  Watch this space, I guess.  No doubt, this will become compulsory viewing from Friday.   Anyone want to hold a sweepstake on who wins….trip to the US maybe….

If anyone wants to text Roy to keep his spirits up – goodness knows he needs all the support he can get, especially to get through day 3 – his mobile number is ***** ******.  Apparently, this is the equivalent for getting through the 13th mile in a marathon.  Get through that, and you know you can make it…….(Does anyone know where I can hire any devils with tridents to run alongside….)

Next update tomorrow….

Day Three, Kilmarnock to Kendal (241 km), continued

The saga continues… 

14:10   A6 nr high Heskit.  Made decision to avoid the Kirkstone Pass – knee not up to it and don’t want to risk the whole journey.  Still tweaking on 5-6% hills – Kirkstone Pass is 25%.  Will have to save up that challenge up for another day and possibly climb it from all three approaches.  Is this man mad?  No, don’t answer that question…..

16:19   Shap.  Bike chain is wearing and rubbing – stopped at bike store to change but too expensive £43.  Roy paid £17 I think before he left.  Thought things were cheaper up north…. Chain will make it but it is the damage it may be doing to the other parts….Hoping to get to Kendall before 5:00 and possibly change it there.

16:52   Top of Shap Fell.  Same height as Kirkstone but much easier….

17:35   Kendall – End of day three and half way there!   (Stuck with old chain…)

 B&B – choice of two beds to sleep in, ensuite, kettle, TV and a radiator to dry clothes (my, what luxury, and in the height of summer).  Turned radiator on but now feeling fairly warm and stuffy.  Need to turn it off before go to sleep.  Have been drying clothes in the window up to now.

Sounded really exhausted on the phone, obviously taking its toll, but fortunately, did have a good night’s sleep – nodded off shortly after our phone call around 9:00 leaving the light on and still holding the phone.  Woke up realising that he must have fallen asleep type of thing.  Alarm woke him this morning which makes a refreshing change.  So, sleep is catching up with him.

Day Four, Kendal to Shrewsbury (206 km)

A shorter distance but through built up area of Lancaster, Preston et al on fast roads.  Let’s hope the rain stays away. 

05:46   Here we go.  Legs v stiff

07:19   Dry at present (bucketing it down in Ivybridge…)

07:22   Lancaster.  Only battles are the odd hill and the sat nav

07:40   Phone call eating a pepperami.  Breakfast consisted of a brunch bar, a brioche and protein drink – all part of the supplies that he posted to each B&B.  Now only eating when hungry – cures the sickness/nausea but not good for getting down energy. Is now building a supply of protein and energy bars – quite heavy but at £1 each is loathe to throw them away.  Suggested that he gives them away to other cyclists as a random act of kindness….Used the sat nav through Lancaster but will turn it off now.  Will turn it on again in Preston.  Glad to report that Roy sounded fairly chirpy at this stage.

08:30   Garstang.   Had text from Anne and Rob.  Bacon sandwich.  (Wow, that’s clever, how did you do that?)  ….Meanwhile, I was dropping off a ladybird and dinosaur to school in the rain.

08:47   Fed and watered. Back on the road.  (Oh, I see what you mean now…you didn’t actually text him a sandwich….)

09:49   Preston

10:57   Wigan

11:33   Gmlbourne  (Spelling? Does anyone have any clues where he is?  Oh, just checked the route – he means Golborne, I think….He does know where he’s going, right…no worries, he did pack a compass.  Yeah, just head south Roy and then in a westerly direction….Meet you at Land’s End…)

 

So, progress continues.  Will be two thirds of the way through by tonight, and the sponsorship is growing, now over £700.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get this up to £900 in total to equate to £1 per mile…….Do any of you have any friends……I’m out of options……

More tomorrow….thanks guys.

Day Four, Kendal to Shrewsbury (206 km), continued…

Oh boy, I must have jinxed Roy, or even I have powers I do not know I have….Or maybe it’s Piers’ fault, he called about this time…. 

c13:00 Receive phone call – Roy is lost! Sat nav has let him down and heading out on A56 to Chester.  Eventually, Roy overrides sat nav, gets out compass and cuts across country on B roads and…

14:03   On route, Tarpoley

14:54   Whitchurch

15:28   Weeing.  20 miles to go.  (Well, we did wonder how this was done…rumour has it he finds discreet farm tracks…Is weeing quite often – every 45 mins apparently – possibly because of the protein.  Sue (the doctor in this group) can put us straight on this. 

17:22   Shrewsbury  (after a shower)  Day four complete!  Made good time – huge tail wind.  Terrain not hard, surprisingly flat – long, straight Roman roads.  Juggernauts really do blast you along – like a hand stretching out and dragging you.

Not feeling as tired as he thought, possibly because he is stopping a lot more than anticipated.  Knee is fine – seems it was worse on day one.  Does kick in after about 100 miles.  Hasn’t had to take any pain killers en route but does take them overnight to curb any inflammation.  Really appreciates the texts and phone calls….”How did they get my mobile number?”  I wonder…(blushing)…

Very fussy landlady:  “Oh, you’ve got a bike” “Yes, I did say that when I booked and I did ask if there was secure parking for the bike.”  “Well, I thought you could just lock it to a post outside” “No”.  (Not bloody likely – bike cost c£1,500!  What’s she like?)  Finally cajoled landlady into letting him store it in the laundry room overnight and gave Roy the key.

Right, before we move on, some facts on nutrition, I know you’re dying to know this stuff. Currently displayed on bed in front of him:

10 brunch bars

9 protein bars

7 energy bars

5 caffeine energy gels

4 energy gels

3 pepperamis

2 chocolate bars

(and a partridge in a pear tree)

Total: about 5,000 calories.  This is the ‘pocket’ food that he’s got to eat just to keep moving.  (Must have big pockets to fit a tree in.  And I bet the partridge is a wriggler.)  Roy should eat around 7,000 to 8,000 calories per day so the balance is made up from bacon rolls, pasties, crisps and other snacks on the road.  Recovery drink provides 1,200 calories on completion of the day – ideally should be taken within 20 minutes of finishing that day’s cycle.  Pot Noodle (evening meal) provides 500 calories. 

Day Five, Shrewsbury to Taunton (245 km)

Not slept well and didn’t want to get up.  Very noisy – B&B outside MacDonald’s and Pizza Hut.  Guests also very noisy using the bathroom (not ensuite).  Heard rap music in the night, in sleepy state, thought it was the alarm and started getting up.  Then realised that he does not have a radio alarm.  And if he did, it would be radio 2, not rap music.  Checked clock – only 1:30 am – car pulled up outside blasting out music, so went back to bed. 

05:47   Here we go…

06:51   Church Stretton

07:42   Ludlow

08:15   Dogs would love this place…Wooferton

09:25   Nr Hereford – Bacon bap by roadside

10: 25  Phone call – weeing in a wheat field with poppies…(we’ve already covered this….) and applying more sudacream (I’m not going to explain where, I’m sure you know) – now getting very sore.  Struggled to find water for first part of journey this morning.  Road bypasses towns and can add extra mileage to journey.  Dearth of burger vans.  Has now found one and topped up with water and food.  Done about 90km, just come up stonking great hill and about to turn into A466 for Monmouth.

11:18   Monmouth  ARAF! (that’s Welsh by the way…for stop)  Responded with Allez! Allez! Allez!  I know it’s not Welsh but, hey, it’s foreign!  What else is a girl meant to say?  Anyone know the Welsh for “Go”….

13:11   Severn Bridge

14:35   Clifton Battery low.  Switching off  (the phone that is…)

15:23   Nr Bristol Airport….tempting

15:30   Phone call – “I’m lost.  I mean really lost and have no idea where I am.  (This really is becoming a bit of a habit!)  I want to be on A38. Now heading out on A370 to Weston Super Mare.  Have turned back and now facing East” (It’s amazing how he thinks I can locate him from that, but find him I did…)  It’s that blasted sat nav again…can anyone think of an appropriate name for it?  Wallie springs to mind…..Okay, agree route with Roy on map.  Turn left onto B3130 and then turn right when hit A38.  Called 5 minutes later “Should I have gone immediately right after the semi circle?”  “Yes”  “Well, I’ve gone back on myself.  Will have to do it again.”  Clearly mental fatigue is now beginning to make an appearance.  Thank goodness there is only 1 day to go.  Can’t wait until tomorrow.  Go Roy!

16:26   Airport!  Extra 20km!

…and I leave you there on that cliff hanger.  Will he make it?  Can we wait?  More tomorrow….

Day Five, Shrewsbury to Taunton (245 km)

I know you are all perched on the end of your seats wanting to know if he made it last night, so without any further ado, let’s continue….. 

18:11   Bridgwater

19:18   Here.  It has been a long day today – 165 miles, average speed 14.5 miles per hour. 

Roy’s nicknamed the Sat Nav, “Sat Naff”.  Mind you, it did redeem itself through Taunton.  Roy was too tired to follow his own detailed directions, so set the Sat Nav (sorry Sat naff…) up.  Skirted him north of Taunton, then straight through the middle, down some country lanes and brought him out at the exact spot required.  Yes, well done!  (Although isn’t that what sat nav’s are meant to do? Bring you out at the exact spot required…..) I think this is a bit of a love/hate relationship, don’t you?  We’re going to have watch this….

B&B – very comfortable.  Very old and is, well, very old.  Roy has a suite this time.  One room with double bed, one room with lounge and television for general reclining, another room with toilet and basin, and then a separate room for shower.  Sheep skin rug alongside the bed.  Views of fields and sheep …..Clothes drying in the window….hmm, that distorts the image a bit.  Roy’s pushed the boat out tonight and treated himself to an evening meal at the B&B – pasta bake (take that, Pot Noodle…).  Hmm, good carbo loading.  See, we’re getting the hang of this now…..Roy v. tired though.

Asked me to check the weather.  Wind could be a problem today (no, not that sort of wind…) if it blows in from the west – which it could do being a north westerly – and it seems it will get stronger through the day – 8 mph at 07:00 growing to 15mph towards the end of the day with gusts up to 28mph, which has been the pattern over the last few days.  But forecast is dry and sunny with some cloud.  Been fairly lucky with the weather all told, and tended to avoid the rain.  Has cycled through very wet patches and seen rain on the horizon but hasn’t ridden through very much, which is good.

Optimistic about the final day, legs kicked in towards the end of today.  (Well, what were they doing before that?  I don’t know, you just can’t rely on some people…I thought he was meant to be a cyclist….Legs are kind of vital to that….aren’t they?….)

Day Six (drum roll required), Taunton to Lands End (234 km)

Roy is confident about today.  If he maintains same speed as yesterday, he could arrive around 6:00 pm at Lands End (as opposed to the scheduled 8:00 pm).  (Buggers up my planning, I tell you…how am I meant to know what time to leave?…)  Roughly 15 miles less than Day 5.  Have tried to arrange some last minute press coverage, after all this is some achievement, cycling 900 miles without a support car – only a wife at the end of the phone.  Hey, I know I’m good but even I have my limitations…. 

06:00:01   Once more into the breach…..(hey, how’s that for precision timing, my friends, spot on 6 o’ clock, well done Roy….see, practice always makes perfect…..)

06:06   could have slept all day…..

06:36   Devon!  (Welcome home, my man)

07:07   Willand

08:56   Crediton.  Really hard today.  Looking forward to A30.

10:10   Widdon Down.  Phone call.  Slowest day by far – eta at Land’s End 9:00 pm. Has met first 25% hill – biggest hill since leaving JOG – up to now, highest was  13%.  With weight on the back was really gruelling.  (That’s the Devon we know and love….just proves the nature of Devon, rolling hills and all that……)  Receiving lots of texts – everyone saying “well done and all that”, but difficult to keep on top of them.  Struggling down little lanes – need both hands going up, going downhill need to maintain speed and concentrate (Shouldn’t be trying to read your texts on the move anyway, Roy…Look, mum, no hands……)

Need to sign off now, about to go into a meeting.  Will complete blog tomorrow with details on Roy’s victorious achievement.

Day Six (continue the drum roll), Taunton to Lands End (234 km)

Right, where were we my handsomes…. 

11:58     Kernow!  Last county…country…shame it’s so bloody long and thin…..(In-joke here: the Cornish believe that the Tamar River is 5 miles too short and should have cut Cornwall off completely to become it’s own country…)

14:28     Bodmin

15:30     Support car leaves Ivybridge to meet Roy

c16:30   Telecon with Roy – at roundabout signposting Truro and Redruth.  ETA: Penzance 18:00/18:30, Lands End 19:00/19:30

c17:00   Meet Roy on A30. Fantastic!  Looks very smart in his black and gold Gard & Co. kit. (Which, incidentally, Roy loves…doesn’t know how he managed without a gillet before (what a girl!). Apparently, sensitive parts would have been a lot worse off if he had worn some of his existing shorts and padding…)  Roy hands over bag from bike, strips off leg warmers and continues.  Road very, very busy – dual carriage way: apparently typical of the majority of the journey.  Hmmm, don’t overly dwell on this….Play leapfrog until Penzance (waiting in lay by’s) where support car pulls off for a wee and refreshment break (no, we are not resorting to farm tracks…).  It is impressive the distance Roy can cover in the time and the hills he is taking in his stride…stupid comment I know, bearing in mind he has just cycled 875 miles already, but you know what I mean.  The best I can manage is a 10 mile stretch up the Plym Valley – and that usually takes all day with much puffing required.

18:45     Regroup with Roy on A30 on last 4 mile stretch into Land’s End, trail him all the way.  He is looking comfortable and doing well – and to me, the absolute pro.

c19:00   Arrive at Land’s End.  Mission accomplished.  What a moment!

 

Okay – let’s reflect…

Highs

Glen Coe on Day Two

Lows

Cycling into Glasgow on very fast single carriageway in the rain (day two).  Cycling up 15% hill between Bickligh and Crediton (Devon, day six), after completing 25% hills on little gravelly lane (that’s Devon for you.)

Fastest speed

45 miles per hour coming down the hill out of Bodmin.  (That’s Cornwall for you…) Other high speeds, 42mph coming down Barridale (after Navidale) in Scotland on day one, 42 mph coming down Shap Fell, day three

Time in the saddle

70 to 80 hours

Why did you do it?

For the sense achievement.

And that’s it, I will leave you there…until next time… (There is a next time?…believe me, he has already started to think about it……)Lands End to John O'Groats Cycle Route Guide Image of Man Lifting Page

Appendix 1

 Route Sheets

 All map images – © 2011 Google – Map data © 2011 Tele Atlas

  

Image - Day One Five Route Sheet for Lands End to John O'Groats Guide Appendix 1

Image 1 - Day Two Route Sheet for Lands End to John O'Groats Guide Appendix 1

Image 2 - Day Two Route Sheet for Lands End to John O'Groats Guide Appendix 1
Image 1 of Day Three Route Sheet for Lands End to John O'Groats Guide Appendix 1
Image 2 - Day Three Route Sheet for Lands End to John O'Groats Guide Appendix 1
Image 1 - Day Four Route Sheet for Lands End to John O'Groats Guide Appendix 1
Image 2 - Day Four Route Sheet for Lands End to John O'Groats Guide Appendix 1
Image 1 - Day Five Route Sheet for Lands End to John O'Groats Guide Appendix 1
Image 2 - Day Five Route Sheet for Lands End to John O'Groats Guide Appendix 1
Image 1 of Day Six Route Sheet for Lands End to John O'Groats Guide Appendix 1
Image 2 - Day Six Route Sheet for Lands End to John O'Groats Guide Appendix 1
Lands End to John O'Groats Cycle Route Guide Image of Man Lifting Page

Honestly, this is the end!

For those who have got this far:

If you’ve slogged your way through the entire site then well done: you have proven that you have the endurance and dogged determination to endure your way through just about anything.  A mere end to end will hold no fears for you.  Set forth on your path with confidence.

For those who have stumbled upon this page without finding all the golden nuggets of wisdom contained in the site but would like to see what sort of conclusion has been reached by those who have:

You now have all the answers you need to plan and complete that Land’s End to John O’Groats [or vice versa] ride you’ve always talked about doing but never got around to.  You can now plan, train for and ride your route with confidence.  You no longer have any excuses.  Put a cross on the calendar and start planning!

Image of Man Winning Race - Lands End to John O'Groats LEJOG - This is the end

Buy Lands End to John O'Groats Route Guide Books

Three books are available related to this website including gpx route files.

Click here or on the image above for more details and samples.
Or below for a special offer.

Lands End to John O'Groats Books 3 for 2 offer

Lands End to John O'Groats Cycle Route Guide Image of Man Lifting Page

The Bitter End

You’ve worked hard, endured exhaustion, battled lactic acid burn and probably have a boil or two in uncomfortable places.  What’s kept you going for the last two days is getting back to your loved ones, friends and colleagues.  More specifically basking a little in the awe and admiration everyone is bound to hold you in.  If you’ve made your effort for charity (even if only as an excuse) all the better and the more you deserve it.  You’ve earned your bragging rights.  Now it’s time to cash in.

Sadly it doesn’t work that way.  Once you’ve completed your end to end it seems everyone has done it, or at least know someone’s granny who did it faster than you on a 1920’s fixed wheel, 25 kg bike with 30 kgs of equipment and a baby in the handle bar basket whilst wearing a floor length heavy black velvet dress.

Almost inevitably, just after you finish, your local paper will run a story about an amputee (who tragically lost their leg whilst rescuing a tiny baby in a combine harvester/picnic based disaster) who has just completed an unsupported hop around the world, barefoot, to raise money for orphaned kittens.  If your bragging has become intolerable do not be surprised to find that a colleague has accidentally left this open on your desk.  Don’t let this deter you.

Buy Lands End to John O'Groats Route Guide Books
Three books are available related to this website including gpx route files.

Click here or on the image above for more details and samples.

Or below for a special offer.

Lands End to John O'Groats Books 3 for 2 offer

Lands End to John O'Groats Cycle Route Guide Image of Man Lifting Page

Aftermath

Originally I had planned a whole weekend for recovery from the ride.  Funnily enough I didn’t need the weekend.  For the next few days I felt fine: a little tired, yes, but really ok.  And then suddenly, about five days after the finish, it hit me like a rock.  I was absolutely exhausted and it took me a couple of days off work and the weekend to get back to the merely tired state I had felt just after the trip.

I have no idea why this happened or even whether it is a normal thing.  Perhaps you run on adrenaline for a few days.  Or maybe it just takes your body a little while to realise that it doesn’t have to push itself so hard anymore.  I have heard it take the body two weeks to fully recover from a marathon, so goodness know how long it takes to fully recover from a 900 mile cycle.  Just don’t plan to catch up on missed chores or work when you get back because you might not be up to it.

Lands End to John O'Groats Cycle Route Guide Image of Man Lifting Page

Day Six – Taunton to Land’s End – 234.3 km (146 miles)

Map of Day Six for Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to End

I was slow off the mark for the final day.  Every other day I had managed to slip away a few minutes before the planned 06:00 but today I was uncannily precise: my ‘off we go’ text was timed at 06:00:01.

I was clearly distracted early on because I sent a second text within a few minutes and another half an hour later announcing I was back in my home county of Devon.  Only two counties to go!  It was just a shame that there probably aren’t another two counties in the country with a greater distance to traverse them.

The early morning was a complete misery.  Maybe it was because it was the final day and I just wanted to get down the road.  Or maybe I just had 750 miles in my legs already and could have done with some more sleep.

I had worked out that if I managed the same speed as the day before I could be finishing by 18:00 but I just couldn’t seem to push the pedals around.  Probably because the road was rolling up and down much more than it had been over the last few days, making the load on the back feel like lead. 

 

Psychologically things took a major plummet around Bickleigh. I was cutting through small lanes on a local Audax route which would take me to Whiddon Down and the A30. The Audax route kept to the lanes but I remembered it as quite hilly so when I planned this section of the route I had decided to divert to the main road from Bickleigh to Crediton: I reasoned that whilst it would be further to cycle it would be much flatter, being a main road.

I had selected the shortest route possible from the Audax route to Bickleigh. Unfortunately on Google map there was no way to tell it was a 25% hill. Having been up nothing steeper than 13% all week it was a severe shock to the system. Now the one good thing about really steep hills is that they aren’t very long because they tackle the hill by a very direct route. But this one seemed to drag on forever. As I rounded each bend I was sure I would see the top, only to see the hill ramping up to the next bend. In Devon they always say there are three tops to any hill: where you think the top is, where you hope the top is and finally where the actual top is. I think this one must have had at least seven tops. I have since been emailed by Mike, a local, to say that the hill is affectionately known by the local cycling group as ‘The Butterleigh Bastard’.

When I finally dragged myself over the top to plunge down the other side into Bickleigh I managed a rueful smile. ‘Oh well,’ I thought, ‘that’s Devon for you – never take a direct route it’ll only mean hills. But it will be worth it to be able to take the main road and avoid all those other hills.’

But when I turned onto the A3072 to Crediton it just went up and up and up at 15% without end. I was going really slowly now, my legs being shredded by the hills after so much relative flat along the rest of the route from John O’Groats. And when I reached the top the road still seemed to be bucking like a rollercoaster, but that was probably bad mental and fatigue.

When I finally rolled into Crediton I had been on the road for nearly 3 hours and covered only 50 km, which works out about 10½ mph. A far cry from yesterday’s 14½ mph. By the time I dragged myself a further 10 miles to Whiddon Down my average speed had dropped to 10 mph and I called home to adjust my eta. If I maintained this speed till the end it would take me another 10½ hours, plus any stoppage time. I hoped the A30 would be faster and guestimated a finish time of 21:00.

The initial few miles on the A30 had me chugging up and down hills but they were much smoother in their profile. Not the short sharp jagged peaks of the lanes but much longer, gentler drags which were much easier on my tired legs because I could settle into the rhythm of each hill. And once I passed Okehampton there was a gloriously long gradual decent which seemed to go on for mile after mile. My speed since joining the A30 had increased significantly and I began to think that I might still be able to finish before my originally scheduled 20:00.

Image of Low speed crawl for Day Six for Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to End

My main concerns for the next few hours were tedium and refueling. My route sheet could have finished at 67 km with: follow A30 till Land’s End. I had put in a few towns long the way merely to give some impression of progress. In retrospect I should have put in more.

The A30 bypasses all the towns along its route so to refuel I would have to sidetrack off the road. With my poor start to the day weighing heavily on my mind I was loath to do this and kept pushing on, trying to make up time. But, like passing services on the motorway when you’re low on fuel, you then have to make it to the next one before you run out or you’re stuffed. At one point I had drained both my water bottles and had been running dry for half an hour and the next town was still some miles down the road. Thirst was really biting now and I knew I was getting badly dehydrated.

I was starting to think I would have to climb over the barrier at the next industrial unit the road passed and beg water from the first business I came to when I spotted a roadside café in a layby at the bottom of a long drop. Whilst it was annoying having to brake from 40 mph and lose all that lovely momentum I was very relived to stop.

I had a bit of banter with the owner over a Scottish bank note but I think it was friendly because he gave me the most bumper bacon sandwich I think I have ever eaten. I can’t even remember where this was but it might have been around Bodmin because there was a text from there [which just read – ‘Bodmin’].

By my next stop, a couple of hours down the road, I was able to get a good estimate on my final eta at Land’s End, based on my progress along the A30, and phone home to let the collection party know I would probably be there by 19:30 but could arrive by 19:00 if I got some kind of adrenaline rush near the end. I shouldn’t have worried, the welcoming committee were already on the road and would try and find me on the A30.

Much buoyed I remounted and sped off down the road. I was looking forward to seeing my wife and kids again. It had only been 6 days but felt like a lot longer.

I was also looking forward to getting rid of my bag.

Half an hour later the cavalry arrived, tooted on the way past and waited in the next layby. Much joy and hugs. Quick chat. Dumped bag in the boot and continued.

 

A word of warning here. I was prepared for the difference in the handling of my bike when I put the bag on. I was not prepared for the difference when it came off. My body must have got so used to compensating for the extra weight that when I set off I almost pulled myself over and then overcompensated the other way. So I wobbled precariously as I set off and it took a while to settle into things again. It felt a bit like when you’ve been on a boat for a long time and then come ashore: the land seems to bob up and down whilst the boat had become quite stable.

I practically flew up the next hill.

The support car [gosh, that sounded good!] played leapfrog with me, hopping from layby to layby. My wife took some photos but I had to slow down to a virtual standstill before she managed get me in shot properly. It wasn’t easy trying to maintain a speedy looking tuck at ½ mph with cars zipping past my right shoulder I can assure you.

After a while the support car disappeared. I was later to discover that this was for a toilet break. They caught up with me again about an hour later when I was only 4 miles from the finish. Fortunately I hadn’t punctured seeing as my repair kit was in my bag in the boot of the car!

Despite the climb in the last few miles I was feeling on a high. I bent over the bars and sprinted the last half mile or so and entered Land’s End at speed. But I wasn’t sure where to go and there were no directions to the famous signpost. Or if there were they weren’t obvious to a fatigued cyclist. I ended up crossing the car park and then having to get off my bike and walk down some steps before remounting to cycle the last few metres to the end. Which was a bit of a shame after cycling nearly 900 miles.

Image - Look into My Eyes for Day Six for Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to EndAnyway, the obligatory photos were taken and then it off to Mc Donald’s for a celebration supper [kids’ idea not mine].

Elevation Profile of Day Sixfor Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to End

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Image of At LE Sign Post for Day Six for Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to End

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Day Five – Shrewsbury to Taunton – 245.1 km (152 miles)

Map of Day Five for Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to EndThe radio woke me from a dead sleep with rap music and I groggily swung my legs over the side of the bed. I couldn’t afford to dwell in the warmth because there was no snooze on the alarm. I stumbled about, trying not to make too much noise but couldn’t seem to co-ordinate myself. I sat back down and rubbed my face in an attempt to wake up.

It was only then I realised that the rap music was still playing and the reason I was stumbling about so much was because it was dark. A car door slammed shut outside, slightly muffling the rap music, there was a squeal of tyres and the music receded into the distance at speed, accompanied by a roaring engine.

At this point my brain reminded me that I didn’t have a radio alarm on my wrist watch. And it certainly wouldn’t be playing rap if I did, unless Radio 2 had changed dramatically in the last few days. I checked said watch and it showed me it was 01:30. Time to go back to sleep! When the alarm did go off I think I might have felt even worse. And there was no kettle so I couldn’t have a nice ‘wake me up’ coffee. I had to rely on a caffeine gel. Not very palatable.

Despite trying to get out as quickly as possible I was still a minute slower than the day before! Must be getting more tired. Still, only today to go and then it will be the final day. Good as there really.

I creaked my way back onto the A49, which I had been following since Winwick, about 65 miles back, and was destined to continue along until just after Hereford, a further 56 miles down the road. Hopefully by then my body would have warmed up and I’d feel more like tackling the other 100 miles or so. The area I was cycling through was much more countrified than the day before and the A49 bypassed most of the towns along the route. As usual in the early morning, I was not feeling too good and was loath to turn off the road in search of refueling stops: I just wanted to plod on, churning the pedals around waiting to feel a bit more alive. But after 3½ hours or so I was running dry and knew that I would have to find somewhere to stop in Hereford.

 

As luck would have it I came across a roadside burger van a few miles before Hereford. A huge bacon bap and a large mug of coffee quickly rejuvenated me, both physically and mentally.

After Hereford I left the A49 for the A466 to cross the Welsh border and on to Monmouth. The route from here to Chepstow wound through the Wye Valley and proved to be one of the best stretches of the tour. It was very scenic, peaceful after the busy main road and was very easy riding.

From just south of Monmouth the border follows the River Wye so every time I crossed the river I changed country. Fortunately there was no border control or I would have been there all day!

Despite it’s charms the Wye Valley is lacks re-fuelling places and I was running on dry again by the time I reached Tintern Abbey. It was a warm day and the place was fairly busy as I cruised up to the gift shop. When I made my way inside there was a bit of a gathering around the chilled drinks cabinet where a group were deciding what to buy. Scanning the cabinet through a gap between the throng I spotted that there were hardly any bottles of water left. So with a brisk, ‘Excuse me!’ I reached through the press of bodies and grabbed the last 4 500ml bottles of water in the cabinet. They cost a fortune but at that stage I was more than happy to pay.

I was pleased to have filled my bottles before Chepstow because it meant I didn’t have to sidetrack into the town: having recently visited Chepstow Castle with my family I remember it as being very hilly. All I had to do was cruise down to the bridge and trundle across.

The trouble was I was in urgent need of a wee and everywhere was a bit urban. There didn’t seem to be anywhere to hide myself away. In the end, in desperation, I did a Paula Radcliffe and squatted down behind my bike in a layby, pretending to fiddle with the gears, with one leg of my shorts pulled up and a gush of wee hitting the tarmac. Not very dignified but at least there wasn’t a TV camera broadcasting my shame to millions around the world.

The cycle track on the bridge is a separate structure hanging of the side of the main bridge so you do not have to compete with the traffic in any way. Having said that I was surprised when a motorbike came speeding past. I’m not sure if they were supposed to be on the cycle track mind.

What you might have to battle with is the wind. The bridge is very exposed. In fact a couple of hundred metres on to the bridge there is a sign showing that the bridge is closed to cyclist in high winds with a gate ready to be locked to prevent entry. It was open on the day I went over – the idea of having to re-route via Gloucester [an extra 55 miles or so] didn’t bear thinking about. If I was planning to cross the bridge again I would make sure I had the 24/7 helpline number [01454 635 060 at time of publication] to check if the bridge was open long before I got to it so I could re-route early if required. [This is a pre-recorded service but if you wait until the end of the message you can speak to the Supervisor on duty, apparently.]

Image - Severn Bridge Cycleway Day Five for Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to End

The A403 from the bridge to Avonmouth was badly cut up when I cycled it. It takes a major pounding by very large trucks as they thunder up and down the road. I turned off onto the A4 Parkway somewhere around Avonmouth, which follows the River Avon upstream into Bristol. This road was also very busy and I really had to try and keep my concentration up. On some stretches of the road there was a cycle lane but it would keep disappearing, forcing you out into the dual carriage way. The problem was that a lot of the road was too narrow for two lanes and a cycle lane. Quite frankly with the number of heavy lorries using the road it wasn’t really even wide enough for two lanes. But they put a cycle lane in where they could, sometimes with cars parked on it when the road passed through residential areas. It would have been safer if they hadn’t bothered. A cycle lane tends to encourage motorised road users to think it is perfectly safe for the cyclist if they drive right up to the line. Sadly cycle paths are rarely as wide as they should be, often with obstacles such as storm drain covers taking up the entire width in parts. So other road user are not expecting you to cycle close to the line or even have to cross the demarcation to avoid such obstacles. But don’t get me started on cycle lanes…you haven’t got the patience. I was grateful to turn off the A4, even if it meant a stiff climb up to the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge, the engineering marvel of its day, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1831. [Due to a number of complications the bridge was only completed in 1864, after (and in memorial to) Brunel’s death.] The bridge is more photogenic from a distance but I didn’t intend to descend the hill again so risked life and limb by standing in the middle of the road to take a picture.

Image - clifton suspension bridge Day Five for Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to End

I had nabbed the next bit of my route from somebody else who obviously had local knowledge. It took me off the public road and had me cycling through Ashton Court Estate, which was nice.

After re-fuelling at a small supermarket on Long Ashton Road I headed, via very minor lanes, towards the A38 which would take me all the way to Taunton. Sadly I suffered a momentary lapse of concentration.

I managed: 174.3 Flw Long Ashton Rd (-> Wstrn Rd) 2.5 km whr L – Wild Country Ln (if train – too far). But on the tiny lanes I thought I had done: 176.5 s/o @ staggered X onto Hobbs Lane but it must have been a cross that was unmarked on the bikely map. So when I hit the A370 where I should have gone over the staggered X onto Hobbs Lane I thought it was: 177.3 R @ X onto A38. So I turned right down the busy road which I thought was the A38 but was actually the A370.

It took me seven minutes to realise I had gone wrong. I know this because I texted home at 15:23 on joining the ‘A38’ to say I was near Bristol Airport, which was meant to be 2½ miles down the road. At 15:30 I was on the phone saying I was lost!

In my very fatigued state I couldn’t work out where I had gone wrong and it was only later that I pieced things together. I had tried the sat nav but came up against the same problem as the previous day: I rerouted and it was now sending me via Weston Super Mare [of course the real problem was that I didn’t know how to use it!]. So I called home and tried to describe where I was and my wife got out the road atlas and gave me directions to get back to the A38.

The directions were entirely correct but my interpretation of them on the ground wasn’t. I ended up going round in circles a couple of times and called home again. This time I worked out where I was going wrong and was soon on a very direct road to the A38 and back on route.

Now, if I had had a map with me I would have been able to see very easily how to get to the A38. But that was the choice I had made at the beginning and now I would have to live with it. My navigation team had done a wonderful job but the whole episode had cost me nearly an hour and added an extra 20 km to my day. Fortunately all I had to do was follow the A38 until near the finish so I wouldn’t have to keep mentally adding the extra distance to my route directions.

The next part of the route was very flat and I pushed hard trying to make up some of the lost time. I must have zoned out because all I can remember is wondering why the road always seemed to get busier whenever I approached a junction feeding onto the M5. I could understand it potentially being busier after the junction, if fresh traffic had joined the road, but couldn’t work out why it was busier before. I imagine it was a case of sod’s law, like you always notice that the other queue is moving faster, and it only seemed busier near the junction because I was more aware of it (because I had to avoid it). But in my fogged state it just kept rumbling through my mind, over and over, because my brain was too tired to process it.

Despite my fatigue my energy levels were pretty good. My appetite had finally caught up with me and I had made significant inroads into the pile of surplus energy bars and gels today. It felt very strange: my body was feeling really tired, beaten and bashed but I had loads of energy and could easily keep the pedals spinning around, even though I felt like crawling off the bike for a sleep. [At one point I even speculated that if I just had to cycle home (about 100 miles down the road) and not to Land’s End, I could probably just push on and not stop at all.] Thus I managed to keep up a good constant speed right to the finish at the B&B.

Having said, that the last few miles are literally a blur in my mind. My concentration had gone almost completely and the last bit was down some tiny lanes with a number of turns and junctions. I knew I wasn’t really up to it and was at risk of becoming completely lost in the lanes. If I did it was highly unlikely that the home navigation team would be able to save me from the tangle using a road atlas. So I switched on the sat nav. It showed me that I was on route with a lovely pink line for me to follow. So I followed it.

I knew fairly soon that it was not taking me in by the route I had programmed. There were a couple of junctions that I had looked at in detail using the satellite view on Google map and the sat nav was bypassing them completely. But, too exhausted to do anything else, I blindly followed the pink line. I’d been mulling over in my mind why the sat nav had been sending me by strange routes and the penny had finally dropped that when I asked it to rerouted it wasn’t taking me back to my original route but just getting me to the finish. At least I hoped so.

 

I hit the lanes. But they weren’t the lanes I had planned. Spin on. Twist, twist, turn, turn. Deeper and deeper into the spiders web. It was probably a good thing I was so tired, otherwise I would have worried more.

Hours later [it was probably a few minutes at most] I came to a junction I did recognise as part of my route. And then, a few hundred metres down the road, the B&B. More like a country mansion!

I scrolled through the bike computer menu: 265 km (165 miles) and an average speed of 23.4 kph (14.5 mph). By far the longest day. But only one more to go!

I checked into my suite [yes, suite] and collapsed in my lounge and watched the sheep through the window whilst I decided which bed to sleep in. Life is full of tough decisions.

When I had planned the trip I had envisage that each day I would find a local pub or similar to eat an evening meal at, although this never happened. This B&B was about 4 miles out of Taunton and when planning I didn’t think I would want an extra 8 mile round trip just to eat. So I had booked an evening meal at the B&B. Let me tell you that after a week of energy bars, protein shakes and the odd bacon roll, a pasta bake, salad and glass of wine finished off with an apple crumble and custard was like nectar from the gods. The only shame was that I couldn’t pack it all in. And this suite and evening meal combined had only cost £30. Bargain!

Elevation Profile of Day Five for Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to End

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Day Four – Kendal to Shrewsbury – 206.4 km (128 miles)

Map of Day Four for Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to End

I got up with the alarm and peered out of the window to see if the forecasted rain had arrived. Fortunately not.  Hopefully it would hold off for a while: I don’t mind cycling in the rain but I hate starting out in the rain.

Each day I was feeling more tired at the start and finding it harder to concentrate on my morning routine.  Fortunately I was in the habit of setting out everything in logical piles the night before so I could try and rely on my automatic pilot.  First, make strong coffee.  Then start eating everything in pile one and rubbing items from pile two into sore parts.  Mustn’t mix them up.  Then gather the charging electrical items and pack piles three to six into the bag, in that order.  Finally dress in the clothes in pile seven, pick up the bag and leave as quietly as possible.  Simple.

But it still took me 46 minutes!  I know this because the alarm was set for 05:00 and I texted to announce my departure at 05:46.  Apparently my legs were very stiff.  Never mind.  Only today to go and then it will be the penultimate day.  [This sounds much better than, ‘I’m knackered and I’m only halfway there!’]

By now I was regularly feeling tired, achy, nauseous and feeble in the mornings.  I had already learnt that I just needed to keep plodding on, eating what I could (and then forcing down a little more) and after about 100km I would start to feel better.    It helped enormously with the mental to know that this was a norm.

 

Initially the road was quiet, with just the odd lorry thundering past, but it started to wake up around 07:30 and by the time I pulled off the A6 into Garstang at 08:30 it was getting busy.

I got a lot of strange looks and the odd unintelligible but supposedly witty comment from the school kids congealing around the bus stops and as I headed into town hoping to find somewhere to re-fuel.

I replied to a couple of texts whilst I took a well earned break scoffing a bacon sandwich and a bag of crisps. I waved cheerily to the school bus as it passed thinking that, despite the aches and pains, I was going to have a more endurable day than them.

The route sheet was going to get a bit trickier from here on in: I was entering the land of the wiggly multi coloured roads. So far today I had been cycling in a bit of a daze but knew I would have to wake up and start concentrating now. So I sucked down a caffeine gel and set off back to the A6.

I don’t remember much of the next few hours. I was obviously too intent on the road to take much notice of anything else. My texts home were merely town names, so no prompts there either. I can say that the area was nowhere near as built up or busy as the road atlas had led me to believe. Yes, there were a lot of large lorries and juggernauts on the major roads but they were helping to drag me along. And whilst I seemed to be cycling on wet roads nearly all the time it was yet to rain on me. In fact, whenever I climbed to the top of a hill I could see showers dotted all around but so far I was leading a charmed life, slipping between them.

Around 13:00 I got lost. I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up pointing down the wrong road. I turned on the Sat Nav for help. It whirred away, calculating the route and told me I was lost. Thanks! It told me to U-Turn or recalculate the route. Well I didn’t want to go backwards so I asked it to recalculate. Whir, whir, beep – nice pink line stretching out before me. Great!

I followed the pink line for a couple of miles growing more and more uneasy as it was heading due west not south. After another mile I stopped and zoomed out on the map. The sat nav was taking me to Chester and then dog legging south. That was miles extra!

Never having used a sat nav before, I assumed that when you asked it to recalculate it would take you to the closest point on your original route, after all that is what I would do if I had a map. What it actually did was redo the entire route, from the point I was at to the finish point, providing the quickest, but not necessarily the most direct, route. So the sat nav had re-routed me via Chester, which was probably quicker if you were in a car but not on a bike.

 

I have now learnt never to ask the sat nav to recalculate a route if I get lost [unless I just want to get to the end and am not bothered about how I get there, i.e. I don’t have to reach certain check in points like on an Audax ride]. I just zoom out on the map and manually find my way back to the pink line.

But at that point I didn’t realise what it had done and, having heard all the horror stories, just assumed the sat nav had freaked out completely. So I abandoned the sat nav and headed off on as southerly a route as I could manage in the hopes of picking up signs to the major towns on my written route sheet.

Sure enough I was soon back on route and trundling through the miles quite quickly. Before I knew it I was through the ‘urban sprawl’, that never really was, and charging towards Shrewsbury. Today was my shortest day and I reached the B&B by about 16:30.

I had quite a long conversation with the landlady about my bike.Her idea of secure parking was to chain it to a post.I wasn’t entirely enamored with the idea, especially as the post in question was only five foot tall with no loops or securing points: so all you had to do was lift the whole bike up and slip the chain off the top! Eventually she capitulated and let me lock it in the laundry room. She even gave me a key when I said I would be off before six.

The B&B was the worst on the route: surly host, no ensuite and a poky room next to the toilet. I got a shower in quickly before any other victims guests turned up and barricaded myself in my room.

The room did have a television though and I was amazed to see that the local County Show had been all but washed out in the rain. In fact the news was all about how much it had rained in the area all day. This was a big surprise to me because I had managed to cycle 130 miles or so and only get showered on once. I must have been doing something right – maybe it was because I was riding for charity, mate.

I tried to capitalise on my short day and get to sleep early. But the B&B was right next to a busy road with a Mc Donald’s and a Pizza Hut opposite, both with a continuous stream of overly noisy customers.

Elevation Profile of Day Four for Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to End

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Day Three –Kilmarnock to Kendal– 241.7 km (150 miles)

Image - Map of Day Three for Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to End

I’d been warned about day 3 by a number of people.  It was the day when the cumulative physical effects of the previous two days would kick in with the added physiological weight of knowing that there were more days to come and you could only get more tired.  But I was determined to be mentally prepared and tackle the demon the moment he turned up.

This was probably why I was awake at 04:15.  It took me longer to get going than the previous two days: I was feeling quite nauseous and it took a long time to get the breakfast potions and bars down.  But I was determined to follow through with my pledge of the evening before, so down they went.  Fortunately they stayed down as well.  Although it was touch and go.

I set off through a very quite but quite grim Kilmarnock and down the B7073 toward the A76 which would take me to Dumfries. From there I’d merge with the A75 which I’d follow to Gretna and the border. But that was 80 miles away.

To be honest I remember very little about the road to Gretna. My text messages don’t help much in filling in the gaps either. Apparently I felt crap an hour down the road and only started to feel better near Dumfries, 60 miles and nearly 5 hours into the day.

The road did get very busy after Dumfries and the right turn into Gretna was a little hairy after the tarmac beyond the rumble strip disappeared on the approach but I arrived safe and sound.

 

I stopped in Gretna for a Cornish pasty. I should have gone for a Scotch pie because they had no idea how to make a Cornish pasty. Still, I struggled it down, along with an energy bar and a protein bar, resolute to munch my way through my surplus supplies.

After posing for the obligatory photo at the border I headed east to join up with A7 to take me into Carlisle. This was the last photo I took before reaching Tintern Abbey in the Wye Valley of south eastern Wales. This either shows determined riding on my part or a complete lack of photogenic scenery in the 270 miles of England between the two points. I like to think I was very focused.

Image - Welcome to England Sign - Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to End

From Carlisle I joined the A6 and was destined to follow it for the next 100 miles all the way to Chorley, south of Preston. At High Hesket I made the decision to avoid the 25% Kirkstone Pass and stick to the much easier A6 route over Shap Fell. Whilst my sciatica was in abeyance and my knee had not been too bad today I didn’t want to take the risk of an injury which might put a stop to the whole trip.

As if to spite me, my chain started playing up a few miles later. There seemed to be too much play in it. I was surprised that the bike shop hadn’t recommended a replacement when it had been serviced because it had already done 2,000 hard miles which included over 40,000 metres of vertical climb (an average 100 mile ride in Devon means 2000 metres of climb – and if the organisers want to be nasty it can be double that). 10 speed chains don’t seem to last very long, especially if you ride them through all types of weather and down muddy gritty lanes.

I decided that I would stop the next time I saw a bike shop and try to replace it. Although the last one I had seen was in Wick. So I might have to specifically seek one out. Penrith was the next main town so I’d stop there to track one down.

 

I was doing much better today at eating regularly and my energy level seem quite consistent, even though I could feel general fatigue gnawing away in the back ground. But I still didn’t seem to be getting through my full allocation. It was really hard work forcing the bars, gels and drinks down and it was only the thought of feeling worse that focused my mind enough to do it. Even so, my supply wasn’t going down that fast and there would be another lot waiting for me at the B&B in Kendal.

I didn’t have to seek very hard for a cycle shop in Penrith, there were two on the High Street. The first one didn’t have a 10 speed chain in stock and the second wanted to charge me £43.00. Having only fitted one a couple of months before which had cost me about £17.00, I decided I would ride on to Kendal and see if I could find a cheaper one there.

The climb over Shap Fell was long but not too steep. I think the steepest part was about 10%. This was not a worry for me on a light weight bike with only one bag. It would be much more of a problem for a fully laden camper/tourer. The slope on the other side was more severe (probably about 13-15% near the top) and provided me with one of my highest speeds on the tour, about 42 mph. If I had been brave and felt more alert it could have been faster but having missed the Kirkstone Pass to avoid an injury I didn’t want to get one here by over cooking it into a corner.

I was approaching Kendal from a different direction to my route sheet so had to stay alert to find my B&B. I knew that the final half mile or so to the actual B&B would be the same as my planned route so I switched on the sat nav and waited to pick up the pink highlighted route. Sure enough it didn’t let me down and took me almost to the door.

The room was ensuite with a choice of beds! It also had a radiator and, despite it being July, I turned it on to dry out my kit, after cleaning it in the shower using the grape treading technique.

I decided I was too tired to go looking for a chain, and everywhere would be closed anyway, so I settled into my evening routine of charging things up, eating and setting out everything in nice piles for a quick re-pack of the bag and pockets in the morning. I’m never very with it first thing and with three long days in the saddle behind me I needed all the help I could get.

Despite my best efforts my bow wave of energy bars and gels had grown larger and was now causing problems with both bag space and weight. The gels in particular were quite heavy and the surplus probably weighed a couple of kilos. I was loath to dump them because they cost a lot of money and I’m tight. Perhaps if I met any cyclists the next day I could try giving them away. Although, other than the first day, I couldn’t recall seeing any other cyclists. I suppose ‘A’ roads aren’t all that popular.

I was feeling pretty shattered but happy to have got through the dreaded Day 3. In theory things shouldn’t get any worse now. Although I wasn’t particularly looking forward to tomorrow, not from a fatigue point of view, just because my only image of the area was the mutli coloured spat of spaghetti over several pages of the road atlas.

Elevation Profile of Day Three for Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to End

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Day Two – Fort Augustus to Kilmarnock – 251.2 km (156 miles)

Map of Day Two for Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to End

Day Two dawned fair and bright.  When the alarm went off at 05:00 I joined it, not quite so fair and definitely not feeling bright.  But I was looking forward to today. 

My only previous trip to Scotland had been a week’s self catering in Spean Bridge, a few miles down the road.  It had rained and been overcast for the entire seven days.  In fact it was undercast as well: we never saw anything above 100 metres.  The views were very much of truncated hills with grey blankets on.  Today I would see what we had missed out on.  [And I would be very disappointed if all the hills were 100 metres high and completely flat topped]

I managed to get up and on the road a few minutes before my designated 06:00 start time which boosted my mood up to ‘slightly grumpy’ as I whirred the pedals around in a low gear, trying to ease my aching legs into the day.  I had slightly further to go today, in fact it was my longest scheduled day, and the best thing I could do was to get some steady miles in early on so I wouldn’t feel I was playing catch up all day.

From my previous holiday I remembered the road as being mostly flat. But then I was driving, not cycling, and most roads seem fairly flat in a car. If it was mostly flat I calculated I could cover the 30 miles or so to Fort William in a couple of hours if I managed the same average speed as yesterday. If I refueled there it would put me in a good position for the short step to the climb up and through Glen Coe.

But I dithered. I was suffering from bladder drip, which I always find takes a while to get under control for the first couple of hours on a ride. Probably a consequence of forcing down all that protein drink, coffee and energy drink first thing to get the system fired up. I certainly wasn’t sweating it off in the early morning so the surplus all had to come out somewhere.

And then there were all those great sights and views that I had missed last time around. I felt obliged to take photos of the Aberdeen Angus. I back tracked a few hundred metres to take a shot of Loch Lochy despite telling myself I had already stopped too many times. And I loitered at the Royal Commando memorial at Spean Bridge to take a few shots. I’d seen it before but without the background! (of which my photos do not do justice).

I even stopped to take a picture of the road! I don’t know whether it was a sub conscious action, all this picture taking, because my body was feeling achy and it was a good excuse to keep stopping. Consciously I was taking as many photos as possible because I was feeling more than a little guilty that I was getting to enjoy all these views that my wife and I had missed on our holiday, whilst she was stuck at home with the kids and the dogs and the cats.

By the time I rolled into Fort William I was somewhat behind schedule but managed to find somewhere open (it was Sunday) to replenish my water bottles before pedaling on.

Fortunately the stretch to the Glen Coe climb was less inspiring and I managed with only one or two stops before the ascent. The climb itself was pretty easy going, probably because I kept on stopping to take pictures again. One of my cycling ‘things’ is that I don’t like to stop on hills (unless I fall off). If I want a rest I tell myself I’ll have one at the top (by which time of course I don’t need one). But I must have stopped half a dozen times to take shots up and down the glen.

At the top I stopped again and sat by the brook gazing down the climb. Glorious. And, in hindsight, the high point of the entire trip. In my head I’d done the hardest cycling of the day and now it was just cycle through the glen, free wheel down to Loch Lomond, skirt Glasgow (okay, I was a bit worried about that) and a short cross country section to Kilmarnock. But for now the sun was shining and I called home to relay my high spirits.

 

It’s amazing how psychology works. Within ten miles of my high I reached one of my lowest points. My expectations of a cruise through the glen were dashed as it continued to grind up and down for mile after mile. In reality it probably didn’t but compared to my expectation it did. And because I thought it would be flat I found myself pushing too hard up the hills, trying to make the same speed as if it was flat. Stupid! Of course the demon was on my shoulder now telling me that I had been too casual. I’d taken my eye off the ball and wasted precious time snapping away like a tourist. [It was only a long way down the road, when I was closer to my destination, that I remembered that I was a bloody tourist and this was meant to be fun and why shouldn’t I take some bloody photos and stuck two fingers up to the demon.]

Playing on my mind as well was my water supply. I was very nearly dry and I still had a long way to go to reach Bridge of Orchy, which I hoped was a small settlement and not just a bridge. First off I tried to ration myself and then reasoned the water was doing me no good in the bottle. So I drained the bottle and ploughed on.

Worried about the water and the fact that I was now behind time the demon started telling me just how far I had to go today and then the next day and the next day and the … ‘Your legs are tired, your shoulders ache and this road is meant to be flat, not writhing up and down like a hooked eel. And you’ve still got miles to go just to get to Bridge of Orchy. Where there probably won’t be any water. Look, you’ve only done ½ a kilometer since you last looked. You’ve still got 90 miles to go and it’s nearly midday! Six hours to cover 60 miles. At this rate you won’t get there until 21:00. And you’re bound to get more tired so you’ll slow down. And your sciatica will play up. There’s no point reaching for that water bottle, it’s empty. Another 200 metres. Is that all! If you get in really late today you’ll suffer for it tomorrow. And that will knock on to the next day. And the next day…’

In that state the minutes seem to take hours but eventually I dragged myself up a final climb and dropped into Bridge of Orchy. There was nothing there except a hotel. Time to beg some water.

Image of Glen Coe 3a - Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to End

I locked the bike to a drainpipe and clicked my way into reception. When I asked, most politely, whether it would be possible to fill my water bottles I was curtly informed that there was a tap outside. I clicked back across the wooden floor muttering choice phrases about the legendary warmth of Scottish hospitality. Still cursing I cast about, looking for this secret tap. And there it was, right by the door, with a big sign saying ‘free water – please do not disturb reception’ [or that was the gist anyway].

I glanced back through the door and waved a feeble apology to the glaring receptionist. I quickly filled my bottles and wheeled the bike round the corner, out of sight, before mixing up my potions.

Relieved to have liquids back on board I managed to dismiss the demon and think a bit more clearly. I realised that I had pushed too hard for the last few miles and as a result had neglected to eat anything. I remedied this by immediately downing an energy bar and promising myself to keep the supply going regularly.

I don’t recall much about the next stage but my text from Crainlarich was, ‘v. tired. Long way to go…’. So I guess I was tired and felt I still had a long way to go. I think I was suffering from not eating earlier. I know I stopped at the public toilets in Crainlarich to apply a thick greasing of butt cream because that area had been causing some discomfort. I also guess I must have stopped for much longer than I thought because otherwise, calculating from the time of text messages and the physical distances between them, I only managed 8 mph on the next leg.

On the stretch alongside Loch Lomond I recall feeling a lot better, probably as the food started to kick in, and making up a lot of time by going really fast. My text from Balloch at the southern end of the loch even says, ‘…very fast road, so went very fast…’ But again the timing of texts etc show that I only managed 12mph. I do recall stopping and buying food at a convenience store and sitting down to methodically chew my way through it, so I might have lost more time than I thought there. It might have been a sub conscious effort to avoid the next bit. The bit I was least looking forward to: negotiating the run into Glasgow on the A82 and managing to come off at the right junction to go over the Erskine Bridge.

I’d devised a route to avoid the A82 as much as possible on the approach to Glasgow (although I had been riding along it for the whole day so far) and in fact only had to ride the 3 miles just before the bridge. But I was still worried about it because the traffic had been getting progressively worse (more of it and more aggressive) the closer we had got to Glasgow and I was thankful to have turned off at Balloch. At one point I even had a charming kid of about 10 hurl a rock at me from a pedestrian bridge crossing the road.  Fortunately he was a crap shot – probably pissed.

When I hit the A82 there was no shoulder that I could cycle along. Unfortunately the lanes also seemed particularly narrow and the traffic was very heavy: it was nearly 17:00 and everyone was heading back home after their Sunday afternoon spent soaking up sun and lager on the shores of Loch Lomond.

Having joined the road there was nothing I could do but carry on as fast as possible in the hopes that I could get off before I was knocked off. I charged on purposefully, keeping the cars at bay by force of mind alone. It was taxing but I was managing to deflect even the most wobbly drivers. In a big gear, each pedal rotation was driving me 9 metres closer to the bridge and comparative safety.

I only had a mile to go when the heavens opened and dropped the contents of a small lake on the road. Visibility was suddenly cut down to nothing, with rain bouncing off the tarmac and plumes of spray jetting out from the speeding traffic. I quickly stretched down and switched my rear light on but didn’t think it would provide much visibility: I could hardly see the cars in front. The virtual white out didn’t slow the traffic though.

A driveway appeared out of the murk and I thankfully pulled off before I got mushed. As I tried to shelter under a small tree I mused that if it rained like this on day four, on the urban stretch through the Midlands, I might have a very nervous and uncomfortable day.

 

The rain left as quickly as it came and after waiting a few minutes for the heavy traffic to clear the surface water from the road I crept out of hiding and sprinted as fast as possible for the slip road to the Erskine Bridge and freedom.

It was a big relief to get off the main road and I felt a big weight lifted. I think the last stretch had been playing on my mind all day, probably why I had been prevaricating, stopping for photos and the like. And with a lighter load I speeded up. For the last leg of my day, from the Erskine Bridge to Kilmarnock, I averaged 15 mph, despite it being quite uppy downy [a term you’ll only find in the most technical of cycling texts]. But I was still very relieved to get to the B&B. I was proper tired.

As I went through my evening routine I noticed I hadn’t eaten all of my food rations, which wouldn’t have helped my energy levels. I tried to eat what I could but it was an effort and I was still left with a surfeit. I determined that I would try harder to eat more regularly the next day.

I had developed sciatica during training and in the last two weeks the knee on the other side had started playing up, probably over compensating. Whilst this hadn’t been a problem on day 1, I had suffered a number of tweaks today on the steeper hills. So I went to sleep wondering whether I should tackle the Kirkstone Pass, which I had detoured my main road route specifically to climb. It was meant to be the main challenge of the route but I didn’t want to jeopardise the whole thing by damaging something in the effort.

 Elevation Profile of Day Two for Lands End to John O'Groats - My End to End

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