Day 7: Edinburgh to Strathdon
Friday 13th September | Miles: 112 | Elevation:7,707ft | Start time: 7am
During the usual trip to the loo in the night I was rewarded with a very starry and beautiful sky. We had arranged to meet at 6:30am for the off. I was there with my croissant as usual. Dave was waiting somewhere else, we found him eventually. There was a very long queue at the start, it seemed to take forever. Thor entertained everyone in the process. Everyone was in good spirits, despite the impending hills. The weather forecast was very good for today, which was a huge relief but it was a very chilly start.
We finally got going at 7am, along some small lanes first. Then we joined a lot of rush hour traffic, then onto the amazing Forth road bridge. It was a stunning sunrise over the Forth river. The motorway bridge to our left and the railway bridge to the right. Caroline and I stopped for photos half way then caught up with Thor & Dave on the other side .
After the bridge, we wound our way along some cycle paths then up a long climb. Then it was up and down for ages through some rather bleak little towns. The scenery to the right back towards Edinburgh was amazing. What a place to live. I was finding the constant hills really draining today. I seemed to be so tired with no umph at all. We kept loosing Dave, who told us to go on. He was really suffering and wanted to take things slowly. It was a beautiful road north but it really did feel like a lot of uphill. We stopped in Kinross for the loo, all the cyclists were eyeing up the cafes. A lovely little town. We found a public loo in a community centre right on the high street.
We vaguely followed the motorway up to Perth. It looked like a beautiful city, we skirted round the edge and over the river. Then a few miles outside the city was PS1, at Perth racecourse. This is where I first noticed the incredible wind. We’d had some wind but this was really starting to blow. There was dust blowing everywhere and the pit stop was pretty deserted, I think we were towards the back of the pack. I saw Sam and Sarah. Sam had been up most of the night being sick. Somehow she was managing to cycle. I didn’t envy her with the hills we had ahead. There was obviously a bug doing the rounds. I tried not to think about it.
We carried on along some pretty roads. The pit stop had done nothing to boost my energy though. I felt like I was crawling along so slowly. Fighting waves of fatigue. By the time we got to Blairgowrie I was desperate for some caffeine. I saw a Co-op and shouted to Thor and Caroline that I was stopping. I bought a can of coke; struggling to use the self check out – I couldn’t remember how the real world worked! I chatted to a local couple outside as I downed my can. They were intrigued as to what we were all up to. It did feel pretty amazing to tell them we had come from Land’s End and the state of me and my bike by this point did look like we had come a long way! I got going quickly to go and find Caroline and Thor. They had stopped at a cafe further on and were getting coffee AND coke! I should have waited! Too late now, we needed to get going.
As we left the town we started the climb in to the Cairngorms towards Glen Shee. Plod plod plodding along. I didn’t even feel I was making much progress on the downhills. I had no pedal power at all. Thankfully the others were feeling similar. We stopped frequently to rest our bums, legs and other aching things. The wind was still blowing hard from the west. I threw by banana skin into the hedge and instead of going in the direction I threw it, it came straight back and landed on Caroline’s bike! The scenery was getting increasingly stunning. The road undulated but there was a gradual up-hill theme.
Eventually we reached the foot of Glenshee. You could see the road snaking up and up until it disappeared. How much further it was beyond that I didn’t care to know. I got stuck into the hill, finally feeling some energy for the task ahead. I stopped half way for a photo and to look back at the road we had travelled. Just amazing scenery. As it got steeper I dumped out the rest of my water and energy drink. I passed loads of people on the hill with two full bottles – who needs extra weight when there’s a pit stop at the top?
A guy fell off his bike ahead of me. I think his chain jammed. He landed on his back with his pedals still attached to his feet. He got up apologetically and a bit embarrassed but ok. Everyone seemed very quiet and focused. The last part of the climb was really hard. We could hear the cow bell ringers and flag wavers were just before the summit, so there was still a bit of agonising grind left when we got to them. Then finally the top! The road started to descend to the pit stop opposite the ski centre (yes ski centre!). I rode down towards it, the tiredness of the day and the relief of reaching the top of Glenshee overwhelmed me. I just had to stop and lean over my handle bars and cry for a while. I was shaking with the effort and emotion of it all.
It was freezing at the top. I put on my jacket and went to grab some food and join the coffee queue. I had lost Caroline and Thor on the climb. I could see them looking for me when they arrived but I was stuck in the queue. I finally got Caroline’s attention. We did a little group photo. All smiles now. I saw Sam and Sarah again, Sam was eating a sandwich which was a good sign. I’m amazed she made it all that way after being so ill. The coffee was strong! That should do the trick!
Coffee and food consumed we set off on the descent. I don’t really like downhills, unless I know them. Windy, steep Scottish ones were particularly worrying. It was ok, we were fairly sheltered from the wind and it was more sweeping than steep, with incredible views, as we descended a similar valley to the one we had just climbed up. Thor and Caroline shot-off into the distance. I met up with them at the next sign of civilisation. It was all very beautiful. We were now in the pine forests and following a river, the wind was behind us now and we whizzed along a main road. We passed Balmoral Castle – the flag was up! These nice bits never last for long and we soon turned off the main road to be met by a big hill up a winding forest road. I knew there were a couple more climbs today. So I was ready for it.
It was warm out of the wind but soon we were out of the trees and back on the chilly exposed moor. At the top I realised it was going to be too cold to wait for the others, so I carried on, thinking they would probably catch me up on the descent. It was a steep and twisty hill. Suddenly ahead was a RAB crew member flagging everyone to slow down, then an ambulance on a very sharp bend. I felt for whoever was being treated and hoped they were ok. Some rides still came flying by very fast. As usual I took things sensibly. Then to a junction with a stone bridge and another hill – Shorter but steeper. This was a bit of a lung buster. This must be the second of the two climbs of the day – mustn’t it?
A short descent then there ahead the road climbed and climbed miles into the distance around the next mountain. You could almost hear the inner cries of despair from the other cyclists. I think my cry of despair was probably audible!
So onwards and upwards we plodded, very hard on such tired legs. I stopped near the top for a photo, the cyclists at the bottom were tiny specks.
The coffee and really done the trick and I really enjoyed the final section of the ride that day. The hills were relentless but somehow I found some reserves. Then another descent – this one was very steep and the wind was windy, I hung on for dear life, expecting lots of faster riders to whizz past, but no one did. At the bottom we reached a t-junction. I stopped to wait for Thor and Caroline after about 10 minutes I gave up, I was getting cold, so thought I’d better carry on.
The final five miles to the base camp was so beautiful, in the valley, in the evening sun, sweeping downward. Some lovely easy cycling to finish the day. The basecamp was in the village of Strathdon.
I finished at 5:30pm, so not crazy late but late enough to go straight into dinner after racking my bike and finding my tent. Thor and Caroline weren’t far behind me, I saw them on my way to collect my bag. Lasagne and garlic bread for dinner. I heard via What’s app that poor Liza had ended up in the broom wagon and when I saw her at dinner she had said that she felt an utter failure for not making it the whole way. This brought more tears to my eyes, never ever is someone who is 65 and attempting LEJOG for the second year in a row a failure!!
After dinner I went off for a shower and when I came out I could hear bagpipes! I thought it was just a regional variation on the music they usually play around camp. But no, as I came around the corner to find a band of bagpipers and drummers in full Scottish regalia. Amazing! I stood and watched and filmed a bit and choked back tears. It had been a very emotional day all round.
It felt like we were nearing the end, that we were coming into land. Only two more sets of kit left in my bag. No more laundry drop off’s. A bulging stinking bin bag of dirty cycling gear. And joy of joy’s, only two more nights in the tiny damp tent! The bagpipes had moved inside the dinner tent, along with Scottish dancing. I could hear everyone cheering and clapping. I went off to wash my bottles and charge my bike. Liza was complaining via whatsapp from her tent about the noise! She’d gone off for an early night.
I headed in for the evening briefing and pudding. I think I had a big slice of cheesecake and a brownie, or was it apple crumble? What ever it was it was always very good and very welcome. It was really cold in the camp by now, so I went back to my tent for my hot water bottle, which I was determined to use having lugged it around with me for the last week.
Finish time: 5:55pm | Moving time: 8 hrs 59 | Elapsed time: 10 hrs 43 | Average Speed:12.5 mph
Day 8: Strathdon to Bonar Bridge
Saturday 14th September | Miles: 119 | Elevation: 7,000 ft | Start time: 6:09 am
The night wasn’t as cold and I feared and I actually got too hot with my HWB. My 3pm Glenshee double espresso kept me awake rather too long. A 4am wake up alarm, this was getting crazy! We set off just after 6am it was still dark, you really needed lights to see the road. Thankfully I had a big-ass front light. Though it only worked on full beam for about 20 minutes before the battery started flashing red. We were heading back the way we’d come last night towards the dreaded Lecht. The forecast was for rain across the area. But looking at the satellite we might just stay to the east of it. Fingers crossed! I was dressed for the worst!
It was light before we reached the Lecht. Round a corner suddenly there was a wall of road and cyclists. It was as horrible as I expected. A 25% incline on day 8 with all those miles in my legs, sore knees and sore Achilles. I had already conceded that I would probably walk a bit but thought I’d see how I got on. I really didn’t want to injure anything, so once it got crazy steep I got off and walked a bit. Quite liberating really. Until I realised that walking was almost as hard! As soon as it flattened out a bit I got back on and cycled again until it ramped up again.
I carried on like this to the top of the first section after the trees. Walk a bit, cycle a bit. Then there was a downhill where you could see the rest of the climb marching up the mountain ahead. That was the first time we’d feel the force of the wind for the day. I don’t think I made much progress down the hill, I felt like I was blowing all over the place. Not much chance to get a run up at the next huge part of the climb. I really wanted to cycle all of the next bit, as the gradient didn’t look as awful but as I got closer it got harder and harder, so I did end up walking again.
Then Martin came past me. It was great to see him back on the bike after being ill, and he was getting up the Lecht without walking – which he didn’t manage last time. I saw the event photographer and quickly hopped back on. It ended up being one of my favourite photos of the ride, me laughing and looking like I am killing a great hill-climb, The reality was somewhat different!
I had planned to meet Caroline and Thor at the top but it was freezing. I took a photo of Martin by the ‘I conquered the Lecht’ sign. (I didn’t feel I qualified!) I decided it was too cold to hang around and set off behind Martin on the descent. Another steep windy one which I wasn’t looking forward to. Thankfully we had the protection of another huge hill to our left, so the wind wasn’t too awful. I still took it carefully, it was twisty and quite steep in places. Eventually it flattened out to a lovely sweeping downhill. I felt exhilarated and pleased to have the worst bit of the day done- or so I thought! We went through a sweet little town which looked very touristy – the Whisky capital apparently and pretty deserted this early in the morning, although there were some tempting looking cafes. Then Richard whizzed past me. He was trying to keep up with a rider who had joined for the Scotland leg. Then there was a nice bridge over a river, then we started climbing again. As we wound up the valley the head-wind suddenly appeared. It was awful trying to pedal into it and going nowhere. Expending precious energy.
Then another horrid steep climb which nearly finished me off but I didn’t walk this time. Up and up it went until we were on a really exposed ledge in the full force of the 40 mph side winds. I plodded on, hanging on for dear life. No one looked happy. Eventually the road started heading down again but still the wind buffeted us, putting pay to any speed. A line of trees gave a bit of respite but then as you came out again the wind nearly blew you over. I had a few wobbly moments on the way down where I got blown across the road. Thankfully there wasn’t much traffic apart from passing bikes.
Eventually and thankfully we reached PS1 in a little town. Civilisation at last! Thor and Caroline appeared while I was in the loo queue. They had survived the wind too but Caroline wasn’t having a great day, struggling with the hills and wind. We ate and regrouped and set off again. Dave arrived just as we were setting off. Good to see he was still alive and well and cycling.
Civilisation didn’t last for long, we were soon back on the open moors, with the ferocious wind. When it was behind you it pushed you forward with such force, but then it would whip round to the side and nearly blow you over. We carried on like this for what felt like forever. Thor and Caroline were a fair way ahead of me now, I was starting to feel fed up and pathetic. Tired of the constant battle. Starting to tell myself I couldn’t do it anymore.
The route turned off on to some more sheltered roads and the others were waiting for me. Then on in to a forest. It was lovely! Warm and sheltered. We had all dressed for really cold wet weather (apart from Thor who had mislaid his jacket at basecamp) So suddenly we were really too warm. Over a narrow stone bridge that was littered with cyclists taking photos – rather dangerous!
Caroline and I stopped again to re-dress and Thor went on. Now I started getting sleepy again and in the sheltered woodland we started eyeing up nice soft grass verges. I could have just laid down and slept. We met up again with Thor and then we were back in the wind. We seemed to plod up a long incline for eternity into a ferocious head wind, It was exhausting. Thor said we were near the airport, I’d be back there in a few days time, ready to fly home. What a weird thought. We went past the Vodafone support girls, who had boundless energy and chocolate, which we gratefully consumed. The road took us under a beautiful viaduct. Then there was another short sharp climb to a main road, the road to Inverness. Finally, we might be able to make some progress – oh no – more headwind! This road took us past Culloden battle ground and down into Inverness.
PS2 was in Inverness (up a hill of course!) it was crazy windy and it was spitting with rain. I spent rather too long sheltering in the loo on my phone, until someone knocked on the door looking for their pot of Chamois cream. Then I spent too long in the coffee queue. Caroline was chatting to a friend who lived locally and had come to see her. Thor was getting something checked on his bike. I remember eating fresh pineapple and a muller rice pot! Plus my usual sandwich and various chocolate bars.
Eventually we set off, no one really feeling like getting back on the bike or riding into the wind. We set off with quite a posse from the pit stop and stayed with them through Inverness. Past my hotel, which I didn’t realise until I was back there on Monday.
After Inverness we seemed to have a bit of a tail wind along a main road. well, it wasn’t a head or side wind, so we were just grateful. We went along in a nice little group, sitting behind the mighty Thor! We’d picked up a girl named Sophie, who was funny and quite bonkers. Caroline and I were at the back trying to stay awake. My coffee had done nothing! Caroline was slapping her face to try and stop from falling asleep. Who would have thought you could nearly be asleep cycling. The road went along the river that flows out from Inverness. It was all very picturesque.
We turned off this road eventually and headed up a quite meaty hill to the next pit stop – 3 stops again today. The ‘splash and dash’ was on a wild and windy lookout with a cafe above the river. I waited an eternity in the freezing wind outside the portaloo (probably someone in there on their phone!) then grabbed a few snacks and filled up my water bottle. It was driving drizzle and not very nice. The broom wagon was there, which put the fear of god in us all, so we quickly got going again.
Thor told us we had another sizeable hill to get over before we reached Bonar Bridge basecamp. We followed a nice road through the forest and then a gradual climb which I quite enjoyed, suddenly seemed to have found some energy. Sophie had stopped to sort out her shoes, so we had a Skittle break. Then we were back out on the open moor and into the wind again. We plodded on but I had really had enough of wild exposed Scottish moors by now. Eventually we headed downwards to an amazing view point out towards Bonar Bridge. Sadly it was so misty and damp that we couldn’t see much. We still stopped for a photo though.
The rain was getting worse now, so we headed off tentatively down the hill, as Thor had warned us of a steep turn over a stone bridge, and there were some roadworks too. We crossed the iron bridge into the town of Bonar Bridge, now soaked through, hoping hoping the basecamp was just round the corner (although the miles on my Garmin told me otherwise!) No basecamp! Out of the town we went along an A-road. The rain was lashing now and made worse by some really strong winds. We seemed to ride for miles battling against the wind and rain. It really was ridiculous weather. We were in the middle of a hurricane! We finally reached the basecamp. Not much solace here in the horizontal rain and wind.
I parked my bike then ran to the massage tent to book my massage (I’m not sure why this was my first priority!) Then straight in for dinner. I stood in the food queue still in my cycling gear, probably still in my helmet, freezing and dripping wet. I knew it was the right thing to do. I would never manage to negotiate the basecamp in these conditions without food inside me. I sat at the first seat I could find and talked to some guys who had finished hours ago, they seemed surprised that people were only just finishing or still out cycling (this didn’t help my mood!) I had chicken pasta, it was wonderful. Everyone else looked warm and dry and showered. I felt miserable.
I left the warmth of the food marquee to find the tent allocation tent. Only to find it had been taken down and it was back in the food marquee, I could have cried. Back I went in the rain. It’s this kind of extra effort that really tips you over the edge at times like this. I managed to hold myself together, stay calm and not let it all come crashing in on me. Wet bag deposited in wet tent. There really wasn’t much hope of anything being very dry. I didn’t get my bed out, I would have just made everything wet in my soggy cycling clothes. I headed off for my massage then to the shower queue – which had been moved inside one of the tents due to the crazy conditions. Not many people having massages, I guess the last night people are less likely to bother. I had the same student has I’d had in Bath, we chatted about the trip so far. He covered me in lots of nice warm towels. I could have just slept there! But he was waiting to go off for his dinner.
Then another soggy dash back to the tent to get my bed set up before evening briefing. I wanted to charge up my bike but it was a little too wet leave the battery out in the rain. I was pretty sure there would be plenty of charge left for tomorrow but I wasn’t very keen on testing the theory on the final day. I went to get pudding, cheesecake again! The tent was rammed. I was trying to find a seat and bumped into Caroline, also looking for a seat with her dinner. We sat together. I was really happy to find a friendly face.
The final briefing: lots of speeches and thank you’s. Mack said lots of lovely profound things and how amazed he was at all of us for carrying on. The crew looked exhausted. Not easy running an event like this in these conditions. Andy Cook talked about the route for the final day and that it was his favourite day of cycling ever and that once we reached the north coast we would have a tail wind all the way to John O’groats. It sounded great! I was really looking forward to the final day. Everyone seemed to say it was a fairly easy day of cycling with no terrible hills. And it would be dry!!
By the time I left the briefing it had stopped raining. So I went to put my di2 charger on my bike while I went to the loo and cleaned my teeth. It wouldn’t be very long but better than nothing. The final night in a tent – hooray!!
Finish time: 6:13pm | Moving time: 9 hrs 55 | Elapsed time: 11 hrs 52 | Average Speed: 12 mph
Day 9: Bonar Bridge to John O’Groats
Sunday 15th September | Miles: 104 | Elevation: 5,207 ft | Start time: 6:06am
No one slept much due to the wind. I felt like someone was shaking and hitting my tent most of the night. My air bed was lifting up at the end where it was resting on the tent wall. And my light fell off and hit me in the head. I went to the loo at some point and there were little green tents blowing everywhere. Apparently the locals were fishing them out of the river for days afterwards. I felt sorry for the plus package hotel people who had to camp the final night. What a night to have to do it!
My alarm went off at 4am again – for the final time! Packing up my bed and sleeping bag for the last time. Last time trying to shove everything in my bag. No sign of the coffee van, it would have to be instant today. Last bacon egg and tomato bap. Last croissant grabbed from the table on my way to the start. I found Thor and Caroline and a guy called Stephen, who had been riding with us on and off since day 6. It was dry but still windy and dark of course!
We set off just after 6am with all the Threshold crew clapping and waving us off, this brought a lump to my throat. We wound our way through some woodland lanes, which was a bit tricky not being able to see much. Caroline whizzed off and when we met up with her further down the road we could see why, her husband was there. Her family staying close-by, he’d popped out to see us come by. Caroline looked a bit emotional, not surprisingly.
Daylight had arrived and we went through a small village on a loch/river then up on to the exposed moor. Great! This is where the wind really got the better of me. We were on a single track road (an A-road apparently!) and despite my best efforts I was constantly being blown sideways to the point of not being able to cycle. How were so many bikes whizzing past me so easily? After about half an hour of this I stopped on the side of the road and cried. My resilience had gone, everything came crashing in. All the tiredness, all the effort of the last 9 days was suddenly too much. I couldn’t do it anymore. I had a good sob. Leaning over my bike with my head in my hands. Everyone else was enduring their own battles too much to notice. I got back on and continued the slog. The event photographer came by, I couldn’t look up. I’m glad she still took the photos of me. I was still sobbing. It’s a good reminder of how tough things got.
The others had stopped to wait for me, they could see I wasn’t ok. I’m so thankful for my little cycling group. A friendly face and a few words of encouragement and being back in our group really helped. We battled on, everyone being blown about. There was a particularly precarious moment on a small stone bridge where everyone seemed to almost get blown off. There was a house just after this with many cyclists huddled against the wall for shelter. Thank goodness it wasn’t raining as well. Then finally a tree-line – a bit of respite and then the road turned and we started to descend, steeply at first, then a wonderful twisting gradual road down, we were sheltered from the wind and the scenery was spectacular. A huge mountain to our right. Lochs ahead of us down in the valley.
Finally to PS1. A tiny little pub/cafe place. The wind was freezing, so everyone had jammed themselves inside. I grabbed some food then battled my way through about 50 cyclists to reach the ladies loo. Then back through them all again. Then realised I had left my gloves in the loo – so back again!! Everyone seemed to be having an awful day and had really struggled up to this point, which made me feel better. I found the scotch eggs and had two for good measure. Then we set off again. Just me Thor and Caroline, Stephen stayed to get his bike fixed.
After this things improved no end for the next 20 miles. We followed a beautiful Loch with a tail wind on gently undulating road. It really was lovely.
Although our enthusiasm ended as soon as we hit the wind again on the way into Betty Hill. There was the sea! we had reached the north coast! Big huge lashing waves, golden sands and sunshine. We stopped for the loo and a shop in Betty Hill. One lady got blown over trying to get back on her bike! Coke and chocolate bars bought we set off again.
The next part of the ride didn’t live up to my expectations. I imagined a nice run into John o’groats on some nice quaint coastal roads. Everything was still big and bleak, exposed and hill with crazy winds. The road had huge ups and downs like a roller coaster and the wind was gusting at 40mph. It was highly dangerous! The road would have been lovely and fast on a calm day, although I wasn’t begrudging of the tail wind which helped me up a fair-few hills. Caroline and Thor were more courageous than me on the downs. I was just terrified of a sudden gust on one of the big downhills and took it slow. Which was pretty frustrating with everyone flying past me – but honestly to fall off now would have been heartbreaking.
Caroline and Thor were stopped ahead and with them were Caroline’s husband and kids. Thor shared out his whisky flavoured Scottish tablet and on we went. We reached PS2 which was on a golf course – no gazebos – too windy, just a few vans, some cereal bars and a long chilly walk to the loos . We saw the rest of the SW rabbers there, Andy E, Andrew, & Nick. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the days riding a lot more than me. I just wanted it to be over now. I’d had enough of battling with the wind.
On and on we cycled for the last 30 miles. Counting down the miles far too often. Thor repeatedly saying. ‘Nearly there!” in his ever cheery manner. We went through Thurso, past a beautiful beach. Past a big belching bull and a field of skittish cows. Past some poor cyclists with punctures, up a few too many hills and suddenly you could see John O’Groats in the distance. We passed a cyclist going home on his bike with his medal on and his huge bag on his back. Maybe we were dreaming – who would do that!?
Then finally we were there!
Down the hill, round the corner (no finishing arch – too windy) lots of clapping and we had made it!
It was all a bit of a blur. Some people put medals round our necks, we hugged, we cried. Caroline’s husband produced a bottle of fizz which Caroline opened and sprayed around. We all had a swig. We took more photos, then I said goodbye to Caroline. She was whizzing straight off to inverness in the car to fly home.
I was going to see Thor later, so I didn’t say goodbye to him. I asked someone where the John O’Groats sign was – it was right behind me, as was the queue. So I went off and joined the queue for a photo. It was quite fast moving but it was freezing. I asked a guy to hold my bike and I ran off to find my bag. I’d put my coat right at the top exactly for this reason.
It was all a bit chaotic. I went into the cafe with the soup and roll for finishers, no familiar faces in there, so I ate, then went to sort out my bags and bike ready for transport. I couldn’t face having a shower in the freezing porta-showers, so I just changed my shoes. I walked back up the hill to drop off my bike with the Cycle Transfer people in the car park field. Then I got my bag and went to wait for my 5:30pm coach. It was already there, and after a short wait we all got on. It was heaven. Warm and cosy. I sat and caught up on all the messages on my phone and watched out of the coach window at other cyclists finishing and walking past with family and friends. So many now familiar people I had shared the journey with. I was pleased to see each of them had finished too. Then we were off! the landscape whizzing past, far too fast, not bike speed. I looked out of the window at it all, soaking up the views and taking in exactly where I was and what I had done. It was very hard to take in!
Three hours went very fast and soon we were in Inverness and it was getting dark. I shared a taxi to the hotel with a couple of other cyclists. I was so happy to be in my hotel room and to find there was a bath. I could have cried. It was utter heaven!! I threw the contents of my bag all of the floor. So happy to have a space bigger than a postage stamp to sort it all out. I really just wanted to crawl into bed at this point but I was now very very hungry! I went downstairs to the restaurant and ordered fish and chips with extra bread and butter and a large beer. There were a few other cyclists in there all looking tired. Then Thor arrived from his coach, bounding in, talking loudly! He went to drop off his stuff and came to join me. We chatted, I had pudding, then I went off to my lovely comfy bed.
Finish time: 3:05pm | Moving time: 8 hrs 10 | Elapsed time: 9 hrs 3 | Average Speed: 12.7 mph
Day 10: Inverness to Exeter
Monday 16th September
Breakfast the next morning was spent chatting to Thor and the other cyclists in the hotel. Then I went for a wander round a very chilly rainy Inverness – only 8 degrees, 18 at home!! I felt like I was in a dream, with a big smile on my face but feeling ravaged and exhausted. I walked into a cafe in need of more food and coffee and there was Thor and a few other cyclists, having second breakfast, so I joined them. I bought some gifts for the family then it was time to pack and check out of the hotel. A few of us shared a taxi to the airport, one of which was coughing man from day 3, who turned out to be Daren from Somerset! He’d made it! Dave had also made it and was at the airport too. Basically the plane was full of cyclists or Threshold crew!
We were back in Bristol within an hour of taking off. Crazy when it took us 5 and a half days to cycle it. I looked down at England whizzing past below imagining all the roads we’d cycling down there. Thor and his wife kindly gave me a lift from Bristol to Tiverton parkway where Andy met me. Nearly home! At home, lovely excited kids and Congratulations and welcome home banners and an amazing cake.
I am still trying to process what has happened. Every night I have dreamt about cycling and I haven’t stopped talking about it (Andy has been very patient) Writing all this down has been a wonderful process. It all felt like such a jumble in my head when I got home, all the basecamps blurring into one. With the help of other people, photos and texts and strava maps I have put it all back together.
The Threshold motto is ‘More is in you’ and that really is true! When you reach the bottom of what you can do, the end of yourself, somehow you find that there is more. For those 9 days in September RAB is an amazing community, a wonderful bubble of people all with the same goal. There’s nothing like it. It has been a life changing experience, something I will never forget.
Cycling will never be the same again because every time I get on my bike it reminds me of my epic adventure. It was so, so hard and there were lots of aspects of it that I hated, and was so sick of by the end – like the camping and the weather. But I’m so glad I did it and I’m so so proud that I made it! Whether I will do it again is undecided. I’m sure with the passing of time, my memories of the difficulty of it all with soften and the great bits will remain and the wonder of the RAB bubble will lure me back!