Thursday, 11 August 2011

Day 10 - Okehampton - Lands End!

Day 10
Okehampton to Land’s End
98 miles
6 hours 20 minutes 

Before we had left for John o’Groats, we had booked train tickets from Penzance station at 3pm thinking we would have enough time to get to Land’s End and back. However, the previous couple of days had taught us that we would need an early start. After 4 hours of sleep, the alarms were ringing at 2am to which we dragged ourselves out of bed.

The night before, we were told the radiators would be on all night so we could wash and dry our clothes. However, we awoke to find the radiators were off and the clothes were all wet. We shared out any dry clothes we had but reluctantly had to wear some damp clothes just to cover up!

At 3am, it was time to go. The last thing either of us wanted to do was put ourselves on our bikes and cycle nearly 100 miles. With half an eye open, tired legs and heavy bags, we set off in the pitch black with nothing more than two small bicycle lights.

After a few miles of small lanes, we put ourselves on the biggest A-road around which was a dual-carriageway all the way to Penzance. Now we have done some strange things in our lives, but cycling in the pitch black on 4 hours sleep with huge trucks flying past is right up there with them all!

At about 4:30am, we had done 23 miles and we were ready for a stop. We saw a sign for a cafe and pulled right in. I don’t know whether it was the tired minds but we were both gutted when we arrived to find it was obviously closed! We were both freezing after cycling for 90 minutes in wet clothes, we would do anything to find some warmth from somewhere.

We then saw some toilets next to the cafe and wondered if they would be any warmer than the cold open air. Now again, this has to be one of the strangest things we’ve ever done. We found ourselves huddled around the hand dryers for about 20 minutes repeatedly pressing the button to try and put some warmth through our bodies. It was a memory I will never forget but we simply had to get on the bikes as we both agreed failure was not an option!

We did indeed carry on and soon after, found a petrol station which was also closed. We would do anything to find some warmth so we both used the plastic gloves provided by the pumps to keep the wind off our hands. It sure was a strange picture. Any passing trucker would think – what on earth are these two jokers doing?

After 60 miles, it was 8am and the sun was out. We were both beginning to realise what we had done this morning. We could finally see the finish in sight just 38 miles away and we were both thrilled. We stocked up on food and drink and set off for the finish.

With 2 miles to go, we exchanged water bottles for beers and rolled through the final few yards
trying to take in what we had just achieved. The beers went down without any trouble and we had our picture taken by the famous sign.

We were both absolutely shattered, we had given it everything we had. We had pushed ourselves to the absolute limit but in the end, we have completed the most incredible journey. We will remember this trip for the rest of our lives and although it was mad at the time, we will take great memories from the experience.

The final score for our trip was:

Overtaken: 32, overtaken by: 3

Finally, we would just like to say a MASSIVE thank you to everyone who has supported, donated and wished us good luck throughout our adventure. As I write this, our fundraising total stands at £2,149.48 which has completely blown us away. It has provided us with a huge lift and helped us through the pain and tiredness we have put ourselves through.

We hope you have enjoyed reading our blog. Thanks again.
Nathan + James

Day 9 - Poole - Okehampton

Day 9
Poole to Okehampton
106 miles
3000m ascent

The night before, we checked over the route over a couple of pints and did not liked what we found. We had given ourselves 8000ft of climbing to do which is more than we have ever done in one day before. Even so, we were up early in good spirits ready to tackle it head on.

We set off at 9am but neither of us knew what was on its way. We had been cycling for 8 days and covered just short of 800 miles and our bodies were beginning to reach their physical limits. However, these 106 miles were enough to put anyone off cycling.

The first 15 miles went by without too much trouble and then we were welcomed to Devon by hill after hill. The climbing was relentless and we were running on very close to empty. We took advantage of every shop to re-fuel and try and find some energy from somewhere.

At around 5pm, we still had 45 miles to go and we took a 5 minute drink stop by the side of a busy A-road. We both crashed and before we knew it, 20 minutes had gone by. We knew we had to get going so we reluctantly threw ourselves back on the saddles and carried on.

We finally rolled into our B&B just before 9pm after nearly 12 hours on the bikes. We were both absolutely shattered and although we knew we were one day from the finish we were in no mood to celebrate as we both knew that the next day would be just as tough!

Nathan + James

Day 8 - Upton Upon Severn - Poole

Day 8
Upton-upon-Severn to Poole
116 miles
2000m ascent
7 hours 15 minutes

After another huge breakfast to round off a fantastic stop at Uwe and Beryl’s home, we were on our way for the longest day of the trip. Our bags were stocked with food and drinks to help us through the first couple of hours. We made good progress early on and got to 40 miles fairly quickly.

To break down the many miles, we set ourselves smaller targets. For example, we would agree on 10 miles until the next drink stop and then a further 15 to a lunch stop. This helped us keep up good spirits and not be overwhelmed by the total distance.

The afternoon proved much more difficult as we hit many hills. Again, the wind was against us which did not help our speed. We were feeling tired and the miles weren’t going by as quickly as we had hoped. 5 minute drink stops were turning into 15 minutes but we knew once we hit the south coast, we would be on the home straight to Land’s End.

With 27 miles to go, we stopped off for a Costa coffee which gave us the kick we needed! We flew through the last 90 minutes and rolled into Poole shortly after 7pm. We arrived at a nice B&B called Fleet Water Guest House who kindly donated all of our accommodation fees to the charity!

Unfortunately, today we have lost our good record. We were overtaken by 2 riders but at the time this was welcomed as we could ride behind them out of the wind!

Overtaken: 28, overtaken by: 2

Nathan + James

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Day 7 - Welshpool - Upton upon Severn

Day 7
Welshpool -> Upton upon Severn
80 Miles
1300m Ascent
4 Hours 44 Minutes

Early start followed by a big breakfast then a quick 40 miles to lunch, followed by a nice 30+ miles into Upton upon Severn which we were told should be fairly flat. That was the plan anyway. What actually happened was quite different, even now I can't believe the stroke of luck and generosity we received today.

Three miles away from the hotel my right gear shifter gave up. That would have meant I was stuck for the rest of the trip with only three gears, quite a drop from the 27 I've become used to! There was no chance of a bike shop being open as it was early Sunday morning, which would have meant stopping the night in Welshpool or cheating and getting a lift to Upton to find a bike shop on Monday with the capability of repairing/replacing the shifter. We really didn't want to do either. We had been there long enough to realise that no amount of expletives or prodding with a screw driver would fix the broken shifter when a big group of 20+ cyclists rolled by (good job we had broken down or we would have been nearer to 26 all!).

We were greeted by Tony, owner of Brooks Cycles ( in Welshpool who very kindly offered to leave his Sunday ride and have a look at the shifter back in the shop. It was obvious that the shifter was broken and despite a good attempt, couldn't be repaired. To get us back on our way Tony offered a spare shifter that we could post back to the shop when we had finished the ride, absolute life saver! We were set back on our way with a cup of coffee, a handful of energy gels and an extra donation for the charity! We couldn't be more grateful for the generosity and kindness we received. We were both so relieved to have the day saved that the whole day really flew by and we were in Upton before we knew it.

Beryl and Uwe have welcomed us into their home and after an absolute feast for tea, we're now enjoying a few cold pints! Poole tomorrow, the longest day yet!

Nathan + James

Day 6 - Westhoughton - Welshpool

Day 6
Westhoughton -> Welshpool
78 Miles
~1000m Ascent
5 Hours 58 Minutes

A few beers always seems like a good idea when you've been riding all day. We had always planned to give ourselves the morning off and leave for Welshpool between 11-12. I'm not sure if it was how much we had eaten, how much we had drunk or whether pure laziness came into play but we made the 78 miles to Welshpool feel like 178 miles. It seemed to take forever! On any other day we could have smashed 78 miles out in around 4 hours dependent on wind and hills, today was nearer to 6. Granted we have heavy bags and had covered just over 500 miles in 5 days previous but for some reason the legs just would not turn! When we finally rolled into Welshpool we were so tired and lethargic we had to call it an early night and got some shut eye!

Despite our obvious lack of pace, we still managed to improve our score! Overtaken: 26, overtaken by:0!

On to Upton upon Avon tomorrow!

Nathan + James

Day 5 - Carlisle - Westhoughton

Day 5
Carlisle -> Westhoughton
108 Miles
1320m Ascent
6 Hours 28 Minutes

Yesterdays bitterness aside we awoke looking forward to some very friendly faces in Westhoughton, taking in sights along the way that were very familiar as we'd used many of the same roads during training rides! However if we were dreaming of an easy day we were rudely awoken by the Lake District. I realise by this point your probably wondering why big hills still surprise us. Its not like we didn't expect the Lake District to have quick, sharp ascents and long and rolling leg burning climbs. We just didn't expect so many, and with so much wind.

We were both massively relieved when we hit Lancaster and we were on familiar ground, we knew every road and every hill from there onwards. After a few quick pictures in Lancaster we made brilliant time down the A6, a quick stop for some chocolate and sugar meant we could roll into Westhoughton feeling good and looking forward to a few beers and a big curry! 

A quick shower and we were off for a sports massage to loosen up the legs and keep us feeling fresh, Alison Leach did a fantastic job of making us feel human again! A couple of beers and a curry rounded off what was a very nice but very tiring day!

I realise that we have not been keeping the score up to date, as of today we stand at overtaken: 19, overtaken by:0! Still good progress but we know we've got fresh weekend riders to contend with! 

Nathan + James

Day 4 - Paisley - Carlisle

Day 4
Paisley -> Carlisle
106 Miles
1000m Ascent
6 Hours 30 Minutes

Lands end to John O'Groats is cheating. Don't get me wrong, cycling the whole length of the country is no mean feat. If you want a real challenge though, set off from John O'Groats and try cycling into mile after mile of constant head wind. 
We have therefore decided that Lands End to John O'Groat-ers should be banned and everyone should be forced to cycle down the country, the hard way.

A very tired and frustrated,

Nathan + James

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Day 3 - Fort William - Paisley

Day 3
Fort William -> Paisley
107 Miles
1000m Ascent
6 Hours 17 Minutes

"You won't get a better view than that!" No matter how many times we said that during the day North Scotland always managed to impress us more and more with amazing views and scenery. The day started out like any other, a massive breakfast followed by a food stop an hour down the road when we get hungry again! 

We knew that the only route to Paisley was through Glasgow 80+ miles down the A83, we asked the bacon sandwich making man what the hills were like from there to Glasgow. My heart sank when he laughed in my face. "So you don't know about the longest ascent in the UK then?" No, it seems that we overlooked that when planning the route. He wasn't wrong, the hills just seemed to go on and on relentlessly. 

After we seemed like mile after mile of ascent we rolled into Glasgow extremely tired and hungry, after checking in at the hotel and locking the bikes away we sat down and demolished a massive tea at Frankie and Bennys. Another early night and we were ready for day 4 which we were dreading, a monotonous ride from Paisley to Carlisle with barely anything in between!

Nathan + James

Day 2 - Dornoch - Fort William

Day 2
Dornoch -> Fort William
105 Miles
1200m Ascent
6 Hours 14 Minutes

Today was our first trip into the unknown! The first day that we would have to use hotels so couldn't afford to forget anything! The quiet back roads through North Scotland really helped eat up the miles and before we knew it we were stopping for lunch! I'm not sure what professional cyclists eat during big events but so far our diet has mostly consisted of Scotch pies and Iron Bru, I'm not complaining!  

The whole day flew by and after stopping a few times for photo opportunities, we rolled into Fort William. After finding somewhere that didn't shut up at 6:30pm we called it a day and had an early night, ready for the next day consisting of 107 miles from Fort William to Paisley!

Nathan + James

Monday, 1 August 2011

Day 1 - John O'Groats - Dornoch

Day 1
John O'Groats -> Dornoch
81 Miles
1120m Ascent
4 Hours 15 Minutes

Our first day consisted of a 80 mile drive to John O'Groats from Dornoch. After a few photo opportunities we were officially on our way! It was a strange feeling to put all the organization and planning to good use, knowing that the next 10 days would be mostly be spent pedaling down the UK!

The first 15-20 miles went really quickly, before we knew it we were sampling the local pies and pasties in Wick. We knew it was going to get a lot harder in the coming miles, with no real town or shops to stop at for the next 40ish miles we stocked up on sugary drinks and set on our way. 

The hills we'd driven up/over/down during the car ride to John O'Groats seemed to pass really quickly in the car, they didn't seem to pass quite as quickly when we were cycling up them! After a brief stop at the top of a huge 10% hill the magnitude of the challenge really hit home! We refueled at next big town and breezed into Dornoch via Loch Fleet, stopping to take in the views and the Sea Lions that live there.

To keep ourselves amused and encouraged James and I have challenged ourselves to not be overtaken by other cyclists once during the trip. Today's totals are, Overtaken:11 Overtaken by others: 0. Good start! 

We've got a 9am start to Fort William tomorrow, 40 miles down the A9 then 60 miles all the way down the side of Loch Ness. We will keep our eyes peeled for Nessie!

Thanks again for all the donations!

Nathan + James