Day Nine

There’s nothing like a good nights sleep and waking up to clear skies to make happy bikers. We left Nairn campsite early and were soon crossing the Keswick bridge – smaller than all the other bridges but still, as bridges go, it was ok… We cycled along the waters edge for a while which was pleasant!

Leaving Inverness

The Scottish highlands are really, really picture squee… (picturesque!) the sun was shining, my ankles were functioning and the roads were flat(ish).

The stunning highlands of Scotland

We had planned on doing a hundred miles today, so as we were making such good time we decided to make a couple of extra stops, while the boys enjoyed whiskey and beer, I had about 7 cups of tea! & we played on a big rock too.

Cracking view!

Soon after this photo was taken we came across this sign and it made us very happy… and excited!

Only 55 miles to the end!!

Our plan was to stop and camp at Bettyhill, but it was pretty pants. So despite the rain that had now found us, we decided to do just another 12miles to a site where we could get hot food and hot showers. That extra few miles made our total mileage for the day 126. It also meant we arrived soaking wet and cold…. but happy – we are now only 43miles from John O Groats! Today was also a record – I’ve never cycled 126miles in one day before.

Day Eight

We were up earlier than normal this morning and on the road by 7.15am.

Within meters we came across this huge Scottish monster…

Scary monster!

We knew today would be hard, we had to ride up and over the Scottish ski fields, Glen Shee and Leich. We rode across the Cain Gorms and into the high lands. It has been an utterly stunning day.

Scotland!

As luck would have it there was no rain, only sunshine!

A small breather on the side of the road.

We even had time to play…

Serious bike riding...

And I kept myself 100% hydrated with Irn Bru!!!

When in Scotland!

101miles today. I can’t quite believe that my ankles are doing ok. My body seems to be getting the hang of; waking up, cycling for 12hrs (ish), eating huge amounts all day and then passing out at night. It’s a simple life!

As a team we’re getting into sync – we’re all a similar pace and on the flats we’re drafting well (at about 25mph!).

Steve Ukalele has joined the team today. I was excited because I thought he would bring his ukalele and play us a few tunes, but apparently he doesn’t play! He has just cooked us the most delicious dinner though and is cooking for the next couple of nights – perfect!

Day Seven

Amazingly my ankles are feeling much better and today we cycled the Kingdom!

Kingdom Cycle Route!

We left Peebles slightly later than scheduled and made our way towards the city of Edinburgh.

In front of Edinburgh Castle

The weather was fine, no rain and a trailing wind behind us. We made our way through the traffic and dodgy road conditions to find our first stop of the day and to refuel with haggis and a cup of tea… lovely!

Haggis!

Progress was slow out of the city, but we finally found the stunning Fourth Bridge.

Crossing Fourth Bridge

We ‘got our groove on’ and started eating up the miles, however a few aches and pains started to show along the long bumpy roads towards the Crook of Devon and this did cost us some time. After a pep talk, pit stop and some ‘man up’ tablets in Dunning; home of the famous Dupplin Cross at St Serfs Church we started the final leg of the day towards the Bridge of Cally. The roads were good, wind was in our favour and everyone was feeling better.

As we got within sniffing distance of the final destination of Corriefodley Holiday Park we thought it was only right to reward ourselves for our sterling effort this afternoon, so we dived into a charming hotel for a couple ales, a ‘wee dram’ and a cup of tea (or six) for me. All in all a top effort by everyone today as there were a few injuries starting to show but the team held together to pull on through to the end.

Day Six – I’ve found my achilles heel…

… Literally!

It seems that my ankles have really taken offence at turning my bike pedals non stop for the last 6 days. First my left ankle, now my right. However, with Matt’s fantastic strapping it all seems manageable .. at the moment.

Strapped ankles!

Anyway, we’re in Scotland!! We have cycled the length of England and just after lunch time today swapped our lycra for kilts, our water for iron bru and our energy bars for haggis!

Passport control at Scottish boarder

The ride today (with no rain & no punctures) was through the stunning Scottish boarders and we covered 112miles in pretty good time.

I am very tired…

Not a bad road to cyc;le along...

Day Five – Half Way

After such a great meal, excellent company and fantastic lodgings last night we were all feeling pretty hot to trot this morning.

How things can change during a single day…

The first 40miles went well, the weather was good and riding up around Blackburn and into Lancashire were right gorgeous I tell thee! Then we kind of messed around eating and sorting kit for probably longer than we should and we got a bit behind schedlue. That was fine though. We met up with Andy, a great friend of mine who lives near Whalley. He brought us gifts of jelly babies, bananas and cleets and pedals! Thanks Andy -hugely appreciated.

Andy and I

Andy then put on a team cycle top and joined us for the next leg. It’s always good to have other people cycle with us (he came on a mountain bike with fat tyres and no ‘clicky feet’ and still kept up!).

Andy joins the team

After Andy left us we were riding into the dales and it was looking spectacular and very similar to how the countryside looked on Postman Pat! There were lots of long rolling hills, but that was ok – we could handle that.

Looking out at the ride ahead

Then came the wind…. the clouds…. and the rain… lots of heavy rain…. unbelievable amounts of rain.

A bit wet!

The ground we covered today, although beautiful (when we could see it beyond the clouds and rain) was very hilly, that meant our average speed was fairly low and by 5pm we still had 35miles to go.

Still hurting (collectively we have sore everything!), wet, tired and cold we pushed on. It’s times like this in a trip you have to dig a little bit deeper and get on with it. It’s not always easy. We finally made it to Ade (our brilliant driver) by 8.30pm. It has been a long day.

All that aside, we are now over half way (537miles done)! & I can’t quite believe we’ll be in Scotland tomorrow where apparently the only avaliable food is deep fried mars bars and haggis – I can’t wait!!!

Day One – Done!

I’m tired!

Saturday 17th September 2011 - Lands End

We did 108miles today. There was a fair few hills, a few wrong turns and the weather pretty much went in continuous cycles of sun, wind, rain… sun, wind, rain… sun, wind, rain… It was perfect really, every time we got wet wet we always had a blow dry afterwards.

I managed to get the first and only puncture of the day. Luckily Woodey was nearby and I wasn’t alone to fix it. This meant that we were only held up for about 5mins instead of half an hour.

We had a breakfast treat today, Luke who has joined us for the first two days, organised for his parents (who have a holiday home near to Lands End) to make us tea and bacon and eggs and toast! Thank you Stewart and Sue.

We are in a camp site tonight, we’ve had hot showers, our cycling kit in a washing machine as I type and we’ve had a big dinner – total luxury.

Ready to go…

It was February when I mentioned I’d be interested in cycling from Lands End to John O Groats. I then had another conversation in June which went something like, “I think I can get myself bike fit in three months, can I join the team?!”

And now; three months, lots of lycra, protein shakes, a very groovy Scott bike & a few thousand miles peddled (ok a few hundred) later I’m writing this blog… on the road, from the comfort of a camper van, en route to lands end where tomorrow morning (at 7am) the big bike ride will begin!

This evening after a very long four-train journey to Glastonbury (brilliant with huge kit bag & bike) I met up with the rest of the team; Woodey, Welly & Matt (& Adrian our support driver). I was seriously impressed to be greeted by delicious smells coming from the kitchen. Matt had just ‘knocked a little something up’… Spinach & mushroom pasta (optional salmon & bacon) finished with parmesan. Amazing – especially if that’s a taste of things to come!

I was also presented with my new team cycling top. Generously donated by Butcombe breweries… The boys are especially delighted that our main sponsor is a brewery, apparently the ‘sports cider’ has really helped with their training.

New cycling top & special trip knickers - of course!

Tonight we expect to reach Lands End by 11pm, ish, where we’ll get set up for the night in a very lovely camper van. I have to say as much as I like camping outside when it’s snowing, raining, windy & -30’c sometimes it is nice to have a bit of comfort.

I was amused and delighted by a gift that came from the girls who Matt works with. I’ve never met them before. They sent me a spray bottle of odour eliminator. I then got a second gift from the guys friend, Steve Ukelele, who I’ve met just once before. A can of air freshener! There’s a theme and yes I’m worried. Let’s face it though I’m in a camper with four blokes… What did I expect?!

Big thank you for the gifts. (Steve also gave me earplugs & chocolate – the chocolate only made the first 10mins of the journey!)

I will be blogging on here throughout the journey but for even more info and updates take a look at our team website – www.thebigbikeride.org

If you can spare a pound or two please donate via my charities page, it’s hugely appreciated & all for very good causes –

Donate to Squash’s charities

Today I am wearing my Lands End to John O Groats knickers… Naturally I have a clean pair of carefully chosen knickers for each day of the trip, however they will only be worn in the evenings. If you’re going to be a professional cyclist I’ve been informed wearing knickers under your shorts in a big No-No.

I’m looking forward to getting the first hundred miles done
tomorrow, then there’ll only be another 917 to go!

Snazzy new bike and training complete!

It’s been a month since I last blogged and in that time I’ve done some serious road miles and have upgraded from my old faithful bike to an all singing, all dancing Scott Team CR1 road bike!

For all those concerned after seeing the photograph of me with my mountain bike, fear not, that was never going to be the bike I was intending to use for the ride. For training it’s been brilliant though. Being on a heavy bike with fat tyres has meant that I’ve had to work that much harder for every mile. While I was over in France I was borrowing a friends bike (thank you Mark!) and we spent a lot of time in the saddle riding up and down cols, many part of the route in the tour de France. This too has been excellent training, the UK may have hills but after doing rides with 25km at 11% incline I’m thinking that no hill is going to be that tough!

Switching to the new bike has been a dream. I love it, LOVE it! It weighs just under 8kgs – you can actually pick it up with one finger!

Picking up my lovely light-weight Scott road bike

It’s light yet stiff frame still manages to allow it to be both sporty and comfortable – which is massively important considering the number of miles we’re intending to cover. (Just over 100miles per day for 10days!).

I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to do some very long training days of 100miles+ and then go out on the bike the next day too. This kind of distance on a road bike day after day should not be underestimated, it’s pretty hard going.

I’m not so happy to say that all my jeans are tight in the thigh and bottom area! I’m certainly getting muscles where I didn’t have muscles before.

Out on the road on the Scott bike

With just over two weeks to go until the ride begins it’s time to slow right down on the training, rest my legs and eat plenty. I’m really looking forward to the trip. I’ve developed a real passion for road cycling – it’s fantastic. If you don’t already do it, get out there and try it!

Le Petite Tour De France!

So often I find myself agreeing to do things or being 100% up for trying something before I’ve really thought it through.  Last week a friend of mine, Mark, asked if I was interested in doing a bit of a bike tour.  Sounded brilliant!  It would involve the Col D L’iseron (the highest Col in Europe, 2770m), the Col Madeleine (arguably one of the toughest, longest and steepest Col’s) and about a hundred and forty miles in between to make the ride into a loop.  How hard could it be?  Today, after doing the tour at the weekend I can answer that.  Hard!  However, as with most things that are difficult, the reward comes afterwards.  I’m delighted we’ve done it and think it’s not bad training for the bike ride in September.  If you’re interested you can check out the route and stats here… (Please keep it in your mind how much climbing was involved when you look at my pathetic average speed!)


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At the top of the Col De L'iseran
Made it to the top of the Col De Madeleine