Sunday, 4 October 2009

Summary "The other side of Knackered...a good place!"

(click photo for large picture..)

I’ve been reflecting these past two weeks and it’s hard to get down in words what the whole trip has meant.
There are so many levels that this journey has touched.
Firstly to achieve what I always though ‘other people do’ is a tremendous feeling. As an old bloke of 50 I always thought that you needed to be a club rider in his 20’s to succeed at LEJOG. Not so with the support we had both from DA (great food & drink) but primarily from each other.
Secondly the emotion that was stirred from within me was so powerful & unexpected. To climb up the long Scap Fell thinking of my parents and sobbing uncontrollably so I had to stop, felt…well it felt just right! This enabled me to grieve for my parents & others that have passed on recently & I feel that I can now move on. As one gets older the great outdoors means so much more.
Thirdly I am still amazed how our tired legs still kept turning. In fact on many occasions I visited a place I’ll call ‘The other side of knackered’ With 70 down and 25 miles to go there was no choice but to press on and I found that my legs continued to respond to my efforts and we even raced into the Hotels some afternoons. We all got stronger as the trip progressed.
But most importantly the trip gave me time to consider my family and where I am. My love for Ali, as we approach our 25th Wedding Anniversary, is stronger than ever. I just couldn’t contemplate with life without her. I’m incredibly proud of my kids and, as they start to set out on independent life, they will all make a success of life.
On the one hand I did not want the journey to finish & would have gladly continued on back down the east coast & home. But the trip was long enough to satiate us & in the end I think most of us were happy to get back into the ‘real world’ again.
There were uncomfortable times with painful backside, back, neck etc but these really didn’t bother me. Even during my training I used to stop at the village War memorials for a drink & also to read the names. These young soldiers were denied opportunities that I have had and any ‘pain’ I was experiencing really pales into insignificance when you read those names.
If anyone is reading this because they are thinking of doing it, or have already signed up, then just GO FOR IT! You need to get plenty of training in, don’t worry about wet weather, it really doesn’t matter. It can be done…well the 26 of us did it, with DA’s support.

Here’s a few words on my fellow riders:-

Gerry – the LEGEND, our celebrity, the Pacemaker metronome. Just keeps pedalling along keeping steady pace – looks like he could pedal for years & years at a stretch – we are all in awe of you mate! (and terrific ping pong player too!)
George – another LEGEND – the old man of the party – grit & determination to the n-th degree. Fought debilitating squits over many days with fortitude & even did Scap Fell when feeling (and looking pretty rough) – respect++
Steve – son of George – great support to his Dad – pedalled steady pace each day - ‘The Bath Boys’
Dave & Susie – the ‘Lovers’ Always had words of support & encouragement. Dave had little training pre-trip & Susie left him behind at first but he cycled his way to fitness. Enjoyed time with Dave appreciating wild scenery up from Bonar Bridge.
Fliss & Simmie – two sisters on a mission – great grit & determination and always a smile – even on the cold wet windy days.
Nikki (Nakky-Noo) – Baby of the party – on her own on borrowed bike (that had done LEJOG in ’08) – became Queen of the Hills – ‘Muse’ powered sessions.
Andy-Arsenal – became very powerful cyclist – took on & beat the Pros with Simon on one occasion. Always with a one liner – supportive & sensitive to when someone needed to be on their own.
Simon fellow ‘Mitchell brother’ of mine. Friendly thoughtful – always quick to check if you were feeling OK.
Dave – ‘Van Driver’ Kept a steady rhythm throughout – Knew what he needed to do to get there…and did it! stayed off the beer until the last night– excellent room mate.
Dave – the quiet man. Efficiently covered the miles.
Mad-Dog Paul – Loud funny CRAZY IN TRAFFIC (honed by London Commuting) – beware the ‘London Pride’ shirt as it twists around in between and possibly under some traffic to get through
Devon Boys – Andy ‘Wurzel’ & Keith. Both powerhouses who demonstrate efficient cycling & total disrespect for hills - they eat them for dinner.
Rob ‘Pocket rocket’ Cycle mechanic expert with his smooth style rarely lifting out of saddle. Did amazingly well with chronic Achilles problem & fixes chains in all conditions…anywhere!
Crazy-Simon ‘downhill nutcase’ Claims he has to go fast down hill to compensate for slow flat/climb speed. Powered out some epic ‘brutal’ sessions with the Pros. Ale powered wheel buckling dynamo. WARNING - DO NOT FLY OVER MANCHESTER
Wigan-Mark – lucozade addict – him of the leisurely style with cocked head – could put on surprisingly quick sessions if he wanted
Wirrel-Phil – he of the fast scouser quips and extremely worrying taste in underwear which was along with his chest, frequently on display!
Mark II – quiet man – battled the squits with determination as this left him with little reserve energy – brave effort
Steven – battled injury & kept good pace – great news that 2nd child on the way came through on our final day Congratulations I hope all goes well.
‘Yorkshire’ John – 3rd oldest & gained in strength – happy to be trailing along at his own speed in his own world – or chatting as the miles slipped by.
‘Ice Bath’ Stu – always seemed to be trying to catch the pros – with his saddle back rocking from side to side. Could keep upp a punishing pace.
‘Novice’ Tim Tom Taylor ‘the man with the voices’ only got the bike weeks before departure. Got stronger – great company. One for the lateral comment!
AndyH kept a steady pace – really enjoyed the trip – rode through some bad knee pain – brave effort. Good company on some tiring stretches – esp into Invarary.

And our support team :-

Jason – ever efficient, excellent attention to detail, takes any task/problem in his stride & just get’s it sorted with minimal fuss – an excellent leader
Matt/Stuart – Jason’s support team. Ever helpful whether technical with the bike or just making a cup of tea when we roll in frozen & wet to the drink stop.

Thanks to all!

Friday, 11 September 2009

12/9/09 Day 12 ...the final frontier... 52 miles approx.

Here we go...this is it...
It was a pretty mad sunset last night - the northern lattitudes & low sun did something weird to the underside of the light clouds - changing from yellow to bronze to hot coal orange & red 'lava' flows & back again - absulutely incredible.
Several of us are up early - I slept well but once awake I was AWAKE - heart pounding ready for this final push.
Novice & I (+ a few others) plan to set off early so we can take in the extra 12 miles to the tip of Dunnet Head & then back - the plan is to get back to the A road & not hold anyone up.
The DA boys want us to group together 1/2 mile out so we can do the last bit as a big pelaton...
Was very windy in night but looks dry & wind seems to be from a favourable direction...the Angel's breath stays with us.
Got a Txt from solo Young-Jerry - last night he was at the castle YH we stayed at - he will get to JOG tomorrow..Good Luck

more from after JOG....

WOW! Job done...what a day!

As above everyone was up early today - the morning was fresh & bright with a lovely westerly wind.
The nine of us planning Dunnet head set of early. Within 10 yds Novice had a flat!! The DA boys did a tube fit in 3 mins and we were off.
The first 400yds were a mad steep downhill & a taste of things to come before Thurso where, we were told, the terrain would flatten somewhat. Some enormous climbs made easier by the wind, and some very fast, terrifying at times, descents - like coming off Dartmoor. However this time dry, but as the road winds then viscous gusty side winds meant concentration had to be 100%. The surface was fee of potholes but very rough & alot of vibrations at speed. It's incredible that no bits (apart from Dave's back light), or people, came off today. On the flat sections the wind allowed us to breeze along at 25mph without much effort. A big factor is our strength & fitness we've built up.
The initial terrain started with sweeping hills & valleys & isolated buildings. The run down into Thurso was at about 38mph for about a mile without pedalling!
Novice & I pressed on because we had to 'do' Dunnet Head & not delay the other riders.
Beyond Thurso the road runs behind a huge dune system behind Dunnet Bay. This is where we had a quick cup of tea. Andy-Arsenal had come powering past us to his arranged meeting with his girlfriend at the drink stop.
Then The Pro's, Ice bath, novice,mad simon,mad-dog & Andy-Arsenal set off to Dunnet turning left into Hell-on-Earth!
The side wind was ferocious, almost un rideable & pretty scary. We then climbed up the windy road up to the northest point sign. With gale force wind & rain freezing us we took some pictures & headed back across the narrow windy road. I for one was glad when we got back to the main road (Rocket "super mechanic" was mending a chain in the rain)
At the main road the sign said 9 1/2 miles to JOG! We assumed the rest had gone past already so Novice & I gently rolled our way up to the Hotel just short of JOG. His R knee had now decided to play up but battled on bravely.
We were the last to arrive!!! My hands were frozen & the packed warm bar & McEwans bitter & ORKNEY brewed 'heavy' ale went down a treat.
We then put all our charity shirts on & congregated in the freezing wind for the gentle run down to the finish line. Gerry led us in with George & the girls not far behind.
There it was...the famous sign and the F I N I S H L I N E !!!
AndyH's uncle Martin was their playing his bagpipes as we all rolled in - a magic moment for us all.

Hugs cheers plenty of tears bubbly wine photos wine lunch wine change of clothes more tears etc all a bit of a blur.................
Signed the End to End book - cup of coffee & walk around. The main Hoetl is boarded up & in fact it's a bit of a sorry place "Bit of a shit-hole - we've come all this way for this?" - Wirrel

Then it was all aboard the coach for the 2+hr trip to Inverness

The coastline up there is up there with the best Europe has to offer with steep cliffs, bays and majestic hills.

Most of us dozed a bit in the sunshine coming to life for a beer or two in the last stretch.
We are now in the Royal Highland Hotel, literally next door to the train station.
Plan is a beer or two then big chinese nosh up...

I will add more later & also once home I can put some photos/film clips on (when connection is a bit quicker)

Chinese meal was delicious but timing of the food was a bit strange - we can all just eat & eat now.

Jason then did his wrap up speech & dished out our DA-LEJOG T-shirts.

I then thanked the DA boys - without whom we could not have had any chance of success - and passed on the whip round for Jason to share out - TOP GUYS++
I also felt that we should all thank each other for being such a good team. The support all round has been fantastic. There have been numerous occcasions when the legs are 'running' on empty - and a slight gee-up & positive word can make such an impact. I expressed our sadness that this is over, & I don't expect we'll ever all be together again, but I'm certain that alot of our paths with cross at some point in the future.
We have become friends and in sharing the whole experience this will have forged some bonds that will last.
There are so many memories, mostly locked away & as we reflect in the coming months, and share our photos these will re-emerge. Thanks Guys.

Our 'HERO' the LEGEND Gerry stood up & thanked everyone for getting him through. In fact for most of us it was Gerry's rythmical cycling that pulled us through. (Whenever I felt a bit weak I tucked in behind him & the miles slid by more effortlessly than before)

George then echoed Gerry's thoughts. He has done many Treks over the years (and is on a plane on Monday for another!!) - he said that we will bump into one & other in the coming years.
Doing something like this for a cause can be so rewarding, one day we ourselves might need the help of the organisations we are raising money for.

With that & after some fruit fritters & ice cream the group broke up to go to various bars. Inverness on a Saturday night is a noisy & possibly dangerous place with it's toxic mix of young drunk people & hard Rig workers out to enjoy some freedom on land.

Stu had had to get home already for another DA trip this week. Jason & Matt will be up early to get the vans down to DA head office (Salisbury) ready for thr next LEJOG in 2 days!!

MANY THANKS to all of you for your supportive comments & texts - they helped to keep me going.

Will make one more summary post,, add some images/videos, then leave this blog as a record of our amazing journey...

58m 3h51m at 15.1mph Climb 3263ft (50m & 2750ft without Dunnet Head)

For the anoraks :-

TOTAL 969.61 miles in 12 days (average 81m/day)


Fastest speed 44.1mph (steep downhill bit just after pub in top of Dartmoor)

assuming 60 revolutions per minute thats 240, 480 turns which is 480,960 pushes on the pedals!!!

Average heartrate dropped from ~130 1st week to ~120 2nd week - evidence of increased fitness

TOTAL CLIMB 45,957 ft !! Everest & a half!

TOTAL CALORIES 60,369 (as calculated by the Garmin)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

11/9/09 Day 11 ..going over the top.... 53 miles

Good evening last night in this majestic old castle.
Supper was suprisingly good. jason had warned us about the gruel previously served. In the event we had spicy veg soup, an excellent beef stew with new & roast taters veg etc topped off with a gateau.
Post meal entertainment included table tennis - Old-Gerry once again showing his class - is there nothing this man can't excell at? Having played in the Salisbury league he showed all the class with shots from everywhere to beat all but young-David. There was a slight drop in class but no lowering of entertainment value when Nikki took on Susie.
The sitting room here is the size of a village hall, and again several took refuge from the 'vetenary' dormatory noises.
There was a nightly procession of pee relievers peaking at about 0200 as far as I could make out. Then Tim was up at 0630 as usual...but today the routine is different..0800 breakfast. So we were able to watch the dawn out of our bay window, initially grey & misty the colours increasing in definition as the sun rose to our left.
Packing up the gear - today is short in miles but the blurb says it's a tough day. Most of the route will be on a single track road despite the fact that it is an A road. We are passing through the most sparsely populated area in Northern Europe today...better fill up the water bottles...
Lucklily we are under a High pressure anticyclone, so conditions should be milder than usual (maybe even a rare tail wind into JOG tomorrow..) ..after the storms we've cycled through I think we deserve this.

from wikipedia :-
"Overlooking the Kyle of Sutherland is the early 20th-century Carbisdale Castle. This was home to the exiled King of Norway during the German occupation of Norway during World War II. This now houses the largest and most sumptuous Youth Hostel in Scotland, and possibly anywhere else"
...more at bettyhill later....

Now 1530 earlier finish than usual aloowing some reflection time on an amazing day. and whole trip from Land's End. Can it be a week ago we were speeding into Shrewsbury?
After cereal, coffee, and a mountain of toast we left the 'Hostel' and took a short cut over a wire footpath over the River Shin - then out onto the road in sunshine as we wound our way up the valley towrads Lairg.
Once past laiirg (with it's penguin house on an island complete with conservatory!!) the rest of the journey was in two halves
I was with novice, the lovers, old man, AndyH, Wirrel & one other for the bleak ride up to Creak Inn. The terrain here was wild & unfriendly with grey skies & a chill wind (still behind us - usually northerlies here I'm told) Eventually the pub was in sign & we all crammed in for lovely fresh coffe & warm fruit cakes & scones. Mad-dog & crazySimon & Andy-arsenal had pints despite the fact it was before 1100!
The slow drag climb continued until we turned right towards & down to Loch Naver. From here on in the landscape was softer & more picturesque. From just past Lairg the "A" road is now single track with frequent passing places & very little traffic.
The road twists & turns along the nothern shore with magnificent views back across to Ben Klibreck. I stopped & watched as the ascending air turned to cloud as it passed over the, out of sight, peak. A really magical & peaceful place.
For this section I hung back on my own and enjoyed the solitude, fresh air and my favourite album of all tome on my ipod (conveniantly rubber banded onto my helmet US Marine style!) - ie Lamb lies down on Broadway - GENESIS.
Yorrkshire John & Van driver dave were the last three to gently wind our way up to Bettyhill.
The whole feeling of the place being amplified somehow by the journey we have made to get there.
Eventually the thinly spaced houses at Bettyhill came into sight along with our first glimse of the sea - North coast sea that is! As usual there is an up hill 'sting in the tail' finish but at this stage we all feel strong & have no concerns, after the monsters we've takled these last 11 days.
Jason Stuat & Matt were at the hotel to greet us with food coffee etc.
After a shower Dave & I plan a walk down to the beautiful beach down below - the view from the sitting room here is fantastic.
So the run to John O'Groats is in the morning, with a 12 mile detour to Dunnet Head planned. This is the most northerly point of mainland Britain. Then onto JOG for lunch.
We are being coached to Inverness for celebratory meal etc in the evening, and maybe a small shandy or two!
Down on the beach the lovers took a chilly dip in the sea! I jumped over the river to get some rocks for a bit of a dam...on the jump back I slipped into the river soaking my shoes, much to Gerry & Dave's amusement...when will I ever grow up?
52.96m 3h55m at 13.5mph (took very easy with lots of stops) 2116ft climb
TOTAL 910m 42695ft climb

10/9/09 Day 10 Loch Ness...and up, and beyond... 80 miles

Lejog day 10
It was an interesting night. The dormitory resembled a stable or cowshed with all the snorting snoring farting going on – at one point there was a certain rhythm to expulsions – like a human beat box said Andy-Arsenal. Several light sleepers took refuge in the living room & sofas but unfortunately the noises went with them. With my good ear pressed in the pillow I slept like a baby.
Breakfast was chaotic noisy and everyone helped clearing stuff away.
Most of us got going early – before 0800.
Starting out dull & drizzly we crossed the Caledonian Canal up to Fort Augustus. Just before town we had the first glimpse of our companion for the next 20 miles – Loch Ness!! As we passed through the sun came out flickering through the trees as we sped along the Loch – warming up the cool midge ridden air.
Along to the water stop in Drumndrochet the road had quite a number of undulations but with the fine weather and fantastic scenery we all just breezed along.
After taking in tea, nut bars, fruit etc we set off in a large group to tackle what was billed as the hardest climb of the whole trip. Climbing up 700ft in ¾ mile at 13%. This was a step stiff climb – most of us had to pause before our lungs burst – getting started again proved to be very tricky as the front wheel tended to lift off the ground unicycle fashion – David also managed to catch his shirt under the front of the saddle to boot – but managed to avoid falling off…just!
The reward was some spectacular views & a thrilling descent down into Beauly – nice straight road to ‘bomb’ down…..
The section to Dingwall was a little more urban but I did spot another nice golf course – seen a few on this trip…
Lunch was up overlooking Cromarty Firth. Simon’s rear wheel had finally admitted defeat! No man made object in history could ever survive the kind of forces he put it through…Attempts by Matt to fiddle with the spokes – then pocket rocket started smashing the wheel on the road to get it back in shape….no success so spare wheel used….
Along skirting Alness [van driver Dave got a bit lost here & went through the town - adding some miles] the terrain felt somewhat ‘English’ with it’s low hills hedges & ordinary (rather than the Highland’s with the big horns) cattle – but after climbing up to 750 ft again the terrain was back to Scottish again. Wish only a light breeze AndyH ‘The legend-Gerry’ Old-George Son-Steve Nikki-Nakki-Noo & I took our time soaking up the great views & fresh air.
Jason had stopped up at the top above Bonar Bridge for our afternoon cuppa.
Then another descent with great views of The Firth of Garnock to our right – and old bridge & wooded road took us to the A836 & into Ardgay. We followed the signs to the Youth Hostel, disappointingly 5 miles…and a few nasty hills to finish but what a place!
A huge old castle with turrets/towers etc.
I am in a (smelly now) dormitory with the pros (Andy Rob Keith) Yorkshire Dave, Novice Tim (who thinks he’s dying of a swollen uvula), David & David (who stayed in a different place last night so, with Susie got away an hour after the rest of us) Wigan-mark and all his kit (I thought I was bad) 2 garmins laptop ipod speakers etc etc.
Now we are showered the air is clearer. Out of the window we can see the valley below – Bonar Bridge in the distance and the hills with the wind farm that we first saw in the distance on the other side.
Also spotted today a sign saying ‘SOUTH TO INVERNESS!!’
We have made fantastic northerly progress in recent days..
Off to supper, an ale or two and early to bed….
Hit the North coast tomorrow!!
I am now further North than at any point in my life...
80.2m 5h50m at 13.7mph 4398ft climb TOTAL 857 miles

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

9/9/09 Day 9 up to Invagarry 96 miles

The day started bright & cool. The sun rising over the hills across the Loch glinting on the lone Guardsman War Memorial. We’d been warned that this was a tough day starting with a long stiff climb out of Invarary. Most of us circled the town once or twice to warm up then tackle the hill. Starting steep there followed a long slow drag up to 700ft over 7 miles or so. On the climb it rained but as we descended down to Loch XXX the ruins of Castle Kilcher with towering hills beyond. We then skirted the Loch with the railway. In the warm sunshine and gentle breeze we sped along past lovely Hotels houses & more ruins. In the pass of Brander the road had been built out over the water’s edge.
There was a topical surprise. As we approached the morning drink spot under the bridge at Connel we were greeted by strains of the bagpipe! A bloke had been practising over the road in his house & Jason had invited him over. Nice touch.
Around & over the bridge we went turning North again & picking up the SW wind. Lunch wasn’t far, just on the banks of Loch Creran where we all squeezed under the gazebo as the rain fell. Some of us went along the new cycle path, then out over the bridge, and into the wind to Portnacroish. We had Fort William in our sights..this is seriously ‘North’ now
We passed through the centre of Fort William – AndyH needed some new cleats. The ‘bike’ shop didn’t have any!!! Outside we met two chaps who were on the way South. With extremely heavy bikes & baggage they were making slow progress…it’ll be as long way for them to get to Cornwall. Along the way we have waved to many other small groups of JOGLErs passing south…
Our afternoon water stop was to be at the commando Memorial up the hill just after Spean Bridge. The run through to there was sunny warm & wind assisted…magic!
This memorial is a huge bronze statue depicting 3 commando soldiers. Big in every sense this magnificent memorial really displays their qualities, as they stare out over the cloud topped Ben Nevis across the valley.
The descent down to, and along the banks of Loch Lochy was fast & beautiful – Tim & I raced back trying to get my average to 15mph – this was achieved..but lost as we tried to find the Lodge.
Invagarry Lodge has several rooms with bunks – large kitchen, sitting room, and dining area. We were treated to a fantastic meal of jacket potato & trimmings + haggis! All cooked by the DA lads – thanks.
There’s been a lot of banter & facebook activity. Also Andy-Pro won the foot ball sweepstake for third goal. (it already being 2-0 by the time we finished supper)
I had a visit from Jane (who works at my Practice) & her husband, who happen to have been camping nearby.

97.1m 6h30m at 14.9mph 3976ft climb
TOTAL 777m TOTAL CLIMB 36181ft

8/9/09 Day 8 storm alert Dunoon ferry 78 miles

Another epic day. The forecast last night for this am was appalling for this part of the UK. Down in London there was to be sunshine & 27 degrees – up in West Scotland there would be rain * force 7-8 gales. The ferry was even under threat.
Last night we all took on plenty of Calories (food) & carbs (beer) in preparation.
The morning started dark wet windy. As we pulled away from the Premier Inn we were immediately soaked. The first 11 miles were in a westerly direction – and starting on B roads battling with School traffic we were soon out on the busy A78 towards Ardrossen. This was more exposed & the SW wind & rain lashed in on us relentlessly – in the distance great breakers could be seen on the shore. Eventually we descended to the sea front & turned northwards. Despite being full of water the gale force wind pushed us on rapidly up past West Kilbride & on to Largs. We were speeding along at ‘Tour de France’ pace ie 25+mph for large section. We forgot how wet we were & just enjoyed the breathtaking views & elements. I think the endorphins were kicking in big-time & everyone was saying how little discomfort they were feeling – I was even overtaken by Wigan-Mark who seemed to have found several extra gears.
I was mainly riding with Wirrel-Phil Mitchel Bro!-Simon (I have been dubbed the other Mitchel bro’), Third Mitchel Bro’ Andy H the lovers Dave & Susie. The pros (devon boys & pocket rocket Rob) along with Mad Simon, Andy-Arsenal, & Novice-Tim AKA Niel in recognition of his years as a Hippi! He still hasn’t had any haggis yet.. The Pro's were taking it a little easier after yesterdays fast madness (They pushed it all day averaging >17mph over 96 miles – Simon & Andy managed to power away from them before lunch!!! They took ‘em on & did the business!!)
The tea at a wet blustery car park in Largs was quickly taken and with a ferry to catch we pushed on. About 18 of us got there around 1100 & boarded the 1125. Fortunately the ferry was running despite conditions but a bit of gale force doesn’t bother this crew. Just as we pulled out Dave the Rave & Jerry the Pacemaker pulled up. They & the remaining riders got the 1225. In the event the crossing wasn’t too uncomfortable.
From here on it really felt & looked like ‘real’ Scotland. It absolutely tipped it down big time as we pulled out of Dunoon. The roads were awash with rain – the whole day everyone took it carefully around corners & roundabouts – it felt like we were cycling on wet glass..
At Rashfeld we saw the DA van & great mugs of soup bread cheese meats biscuits chocolate fruit crisps were devoured by us locusts.
I realised that at this point we were about 300 miles from John O’Groats ie distance from London-Paris!
At that point the rain abated a bit & the ride up Loch Eck can only be described as magical. It’s clear (slightly peat stained) waters lapping up to the road. Water cascading down from the steep hills on our right. There was even a few minutes of sunshine as we sped northwards.
Up & over a hill we descended down to the shores of Loch Fyne & turning right the whitewashed buildings of Invarary could be seen only 2 miles or so across the water. We had a superb ride of 22 miles along the southern shore up & around past the Oyster Restaurant (looked like quite a few were partaking of a few…YUK!!), then along the northern shore into a stiff breeze. At times through the trees the buildings of Invarary were glimpsed. Within a mile of the Hotel we were overtaken by Jason & our gear – terrific timing as usual by the DA lads!
At the narrow steep one way bridge Jason had passed through a green light only to meet an idiot in a van coming the other way. Skilfully (!) he reversed the van & trailer (eventually) and let him through. The lorry behind us hooted just as I started to get going. He was held up by the police on the other side & we were able to give him a bit of feedback about his impatience & rudeness….
Big thanks from me to AndyH & Tim for their company – we were all feeling a bit tired over the last 20 miles & pulled each other through. Many times each of us has found support from one or two of the other riders. Most notable Gerry who grinds along and can ‘pull’ any weary person for many a mile more than they could otherwise
The road up the way (fortunately NOT where we are going) has had a massive landslide & may be closed for months so they say.
Invarary looks an incredible place as it juts out into the Loch. This must’ve been a centre of Clan ‘government’ in the past as the buildings are quite grand and there is a big prison. We are off to a real ale pub & I’m sure there’ll be opportunity to chat to some of the locals.
On paper today would appear to be easy – shorter with less climbs – but the conditions were challenging. So not as difficult as Dartmoor but the scenery was spectacular & a taste of what is to come.

78.45m 4h59m at 15.7mph 1728ft TOTAL 681.3m 46h43m pedalling total climb 32205ft

Monday, 7 September 2009

7/9/09 Day 7 'brutal' day 96 miles ..into Scotland

left Carlisle - nice easy 30mile run through to Dumpfries
We slipped int Scotland underbelly along a small B road after leaving Gretna Green

For the 10 mile run in I was on my own it was drizzling wet & dull but as we approached the border the sun came out

I felt overwhelmed with what we had all achieved is such a short time

My thoughs were about My Mum, My Dad, Brendan, Claire, Colette, Samantha, Emma, I felt a welling up of emotion. As I crossed over the motorawy down to the border I could hardly see for the tears - Tears of joy tears of sadness - the pain in my bum/legs/shoulders just faded. It's a feeling I cannot describe - I write this in haste on a broowed PC after a fantastic meal & a few beers.

The rest of the day was just awesome. Even at Dumpfries at 33mile the sign said 63 miles to Kilmarnock!! But the sun shone & we pulled each other through - even after 80 miles my legs felt good and Tim & I raced home full pelt the last 10 miles

Will write more & put some pictures on when in Invarary after I hopefully get my pc lead back.

These other 26 cyclists & also our 3 DA support team are are fantastic bunch one & all - I have spent time with all these people & they all have their reasons/agenda for being here. Any pain or discomfort we experience means nothing.

Tomorrow is predicted to be wet & be it..after Dartmoor..after 41 hours in saddle then we'll take it - hopefully the ferries will run - otherwise it's a long detour around via Glasgow.

Will post more later night night awesome day......


After a pretty leisurely 30 miles to lunch along the B721 & B 724 via Annan we passed around the Dumfries bypass. A busy road that passed over the river Nith on three occasions within less than a mile as it meandered it towards the sea.
There was an interesting incident in Annan when some bikes were spotted in a cafĂ© on the other side of the road. I waved, assuming they were the Pros but realised it was another group of cyclists. Tim embarrassingly admitted he assumed the same and was giving them the V sign!! Luckily they’ye were travelling the other way..
The road to Kilmarnock (63 miles said the sign) would run up the Nith valley.
During this slow climb the sun came out & we enjoyed the warmth & light winds.
The lunch spot was very picturesque as we lay in the sun listening to the river close by.
We were told the oldest pub in the world was in the next village of Sanquhar so we went into a world of loud drunk Rab C Nisbet characters (reminded me of the Trades & Labour Club in Corby!). We then found out it wasn’t the oldest pub but the oldest post office in the World 1723 I think it was…. Any way it was worth it for a nice cold pint of McEwans 10 /- and a bit of entertainment!
On & up the valley a few of us cut through Cumnock. We were all weary & grateful of the tea break shortly after.
Along this stretch we met Jerry-the-younger – previously in Tiverton having started his lone LEJOG doing our day 1 & 2 in one day!!. He had been having some adventures including sleeping in a Church without supper as all the B&B’s were booked up. He wrapped himself in some old curtains tp keep warm! He’s planning to nip over to the Ilse of Arran, go around it & then continue north…just for the hell of it! He enjoyed some coffee & cake & was on his way We may meet him later in Invergarry (Wed – this is a bunk house where we have to self cater – The DA boys are doing supper)
In the last 15 miles there was some descent & Tim & I had a second wind – although weary our legs felt strong and we raced back each pushing the other on covering the last 7 miles in 20 minutes! Drenched in sweat the hot deep bath felt fantastic.
With supper >2hrs away once more we feasted on various stodge as well as the necessary carbohydrate replacement…..

96.9m 6h30m at 14.9mph 3158ft climb TOTAL 602.85m