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DAY 1 - John O'Groats to Invergordon
Myself and my support driver ( Ernie Higgs) set of from Walsall at 20.00 hrs on Thursday evening and did not reach John O'groats to 09.00 the following day.
We were greeted by Councillor Robert Mcnab who (after a few publicity shots) gave me an official send off,the first few mile were met with a downpour of rain and a very strong headwind from the coast which meant I was cycling against some strong resistance.
The hills were soul destroying -I do know what goes up must come down but these hills were steeper going up than they were coming down,the route was tough enough as it was but I had big probelms with my bike- my gears would not select first and second gears so I had to cycle most of the first day in the tougher gears (3rd onwards).
However I eventually reached Inverness and a kind hearted HALFORDS store took my bike and did their magic on it - a thank you letter will be in the post as soon as I finish the challenge.
100 miles today.
Day 2 , - Invergordon to Pitlochry
Set off from Inverness on a better pair of wheels ( thanks to Halfords) ,the route is great, well the A9 is the only route I can take but the views were breathtaking hills and mountains everywhere .
The weather was mixed sunny but cold and downpours of rain at time but nevertheless the ride was enjoyable, again a few downhill roads but also a few hard uphills too.
Now at one point of the route I was 1523 ft above sea level and boy did I know about it, my mate Ernie could not believe that I cycled up hills so punishing.
But toward the afternoon the wind was so strong that I was cycling so hard but getting nowhere, even downhill the wind had slowed me down so much but eventually I reached Pitlochry and the finish of the second day... 106 miles , 206 intotal so far.
Day 3. - Pitlochry to Cumbernauld
Today was going to be another hard slog through the Scottish mountains, though the scenery was nice it became a bit tedious.. mountains... tress... sheep , mountains...trees...sheep... mountains..etc...
Ernie kept close to me and stopped at every layby on the road,the traffic on the A9 was getting more heavy as each hour passed but I carried on undaunted.
Today I was supposed to be cycling to Cumbernauld but felt so good I thought of adding a few miles on the day and give myself an easier day tomorrow.
I was now getting closer to Sterling and was I looking forward to seeing people instead of sheep, houses instead of hills.. and shops... SOMEWHERE I CAN STOP OFF FOR A CUP OF TEA !!
Sterling is a beautiful place, its a pity I was on a mission and I couldn't stop for an hour but carry on I did and heading out to a village called Denny, from Denny I was on the A80 to the A73 and Cumbernauld.
I reached Cumbernauld at 3pm which was too early to rest for the day ,so (and with encouragement from Ernie) I carried on and decided to cycle until 6pm-this took me through Airdrie, then Carluke and still on the A73 I went through Lanark and onto Abington.
WOW - I had done 42 miles more than I had planned for today, making me almost 50 miles ahead of schedule, so perhaps I can ease back on the pace for a day or so - or just get as much miles out of the way as I can .
Day 4, - Cumbernauld to Gretna Green.
Today saw a cyclist 'buzzing' to get started ,for I was almost 50 miles to the good now and wanted to maintain a few miles 'in the bag' so to speak.
I set off from Abington in the drizzle that had become part and parcel of this challenge but only a few minutes after setting off , the drizzle became heavier rain and thats how it stayed throughout the day.
I followed the A73 and found myself on a cycle route - route 45 it was and what a great route to follow for it went on for almost 50 miles before turning off the route that I was following.
I was now following the B7076 through Beattock and Lockerbie which would take me into Carlisle.
Before Carlisle we reached Gretna Green and Gretna and then a sign that read "WELCOME TO ENGLAND.... CUMBRIA.".
Yes we had crossed the border and we were in Blighty, good bye bonny Scotland- hello England and what a good feeling it was ,for we were leaving behind the wind,rain and those bloody hills... WERE WE ?
By now the rain had become torrential and the wind felt like Gale force, but 'my hero' non other than Ernie Higgs , gave me the confidence to carry on and to seeout the distance for the day.
I was soaked to the skin for the rain and wind was so fierce that my waterproofs were unable to protect from such a battering.
I was cold and numb but Ernie kept me going with words of encouragement until I finally reached Penrith and still ahead of schedule.
Day 5- Penrith to Warrington.
The rain was persistant again today and I started out in a good frame of mind nevertheless.
The hills that I thought I had left behind would still be there to haunt me again as I cycled toward Kendal.
I was only 22 miles away from Kendal but hadn't figured the climbs inbetween... and Shap Summit !!!
I followed the A6 in blustery conditions and along a road that can only be described as a 'Tarmac rollercoaster' ,for the hills were torturous with steep,steep climbs and Gale force Winds that could only be expierineced fromt he top of a summit.
These conditions slowed me down immensely and when we reached Kendal we had to meet a local Councillor at Kendal Asda store and collecting cash.. over an hour in total.
I was now so far behind that I had to 'bite the bullet' and get down to some high powered pedalling.
I was now in full flight but only for a bout ten minutes ,as the hills ,wind and rain joined together to battle against me.
I was struggling and if I was not supported by someone like Ernie.. I may have threw in the towel but I was encouraged to carry on.... regardless by Ernie.
I had now passed Garstang and stopped for a drink when Ernie reminded me that the next day's schedule was very heavy with a good deal of mileage to cover- so we agreed that I carried on until very late so I can get as much distance behind me as possible.
I reached Stretton ( just past Warrington) at 21.30 hrs and feeling soaked,cold and bloody knackered- lets hope tomorrow brings a kinder day !
DAY 6 - Warrington to Cannock.
Woke up this morning with a sore throat and a bit of a sniffle, probably the effects of cycling through the downpour of rain that has followed me along the route !
And today would be no different as the drizzle outside my hotel window looked like it was going to get worse.
However as I cycled along the A50 and through Holmes Chapel the weather got kinder and the sun came out, for the first time on the challenge I was able to ride without my waterproofs on.
The route took me along the A50 and then the A34 through Newcastle under Lyme and onto Stafford... then Cannock .
I was steaming on now and enjoying the day,I stopped off at a roadside diner and had a cup of tea, but when Terry ( the owner of the 'fireman's rest') knew of my acheivement he gave the tea on the house- and offered a meal too, but I couldn't ride on a full stomach so I kindly declined.
Ernie had been the hero again and was along route ,making sure I was okay- he also drove right behind me in town centres - protecting me from the traffic.
Off course support like that is priceless and the difference between success and failure.
We reached Asda in Cannock late afternoon and the end of Day 6 - ready to meet the Mayor of Walsall at Walsall's St.Matthews Asda tomorrow at 10.30 am .
Day 7, Walsall to Monmouth.
Set off from Asda,Cannock at 09.00 and followed the A34 to Walsall ( Via Bloxwich) and for the first time the weather looked like it was going to be kind to me.
I reached Walsall's Asda at 10.00.... half an hour earlier than planned and was greeted by Martin Munn who gave me a great reception.
Half an hour later and a crowd was gathering, mostly my family and friends and after a few poseswith The Mayor of Walsall for Tim Sturgess ( Express and Star, photographer) I was on my way for the 7th day of the challenge.
I headed toward the A38 and bound for Bristol , the A38 is a great road for a cyclist to ride along.
The weather was fantastic,sunny and warm with a slight breeze, Ernie was enjoying his day yet again and doing a great job in supporting me.
We were constantly studying the map and estimating where I would be at certain times of the day.
We passed through Tewksbury and Gloucester before hitting the main drag to Bristol , Alas as we got near Thornbury it started to rain and as it was 19.00 hrs we decided to retire for the day.
All in all, another 86 miles had passed today.. not bad for a man with a gammy right knee .
Day 8, Thornbury to Taunton Deane.
Woke up ,and yes it was bloody raining !!
A heavy cold and a sore throat was not going to stop my efforts now for I had come a long way now.
After breakfast and a inspiring talk from Ernie ,I was ready to tackle the road ahead - the A38.
A boring day really ,a few dual carriage ways, hills,trees a little wind but the rain had stopped.
Cycling through Bristol was a nightmare- whoever design the traffic system there must have been drunk at the time !
I followed the signs for TAUNTON A38 ,the suddenly... NO MORE SIGNS !
A little bit of instinct from myself and Ernie got us back on the right road and out of Bristiol.
I reached Taunton Deane at 16.00.. an hour earlier than planned,we were invite to the Mayors Parlour and an Hero's welcome from the Mayor Of Taunton Deane.
On this,will called it a day so I could get a few hours extra reat for the next day's cycling.
Not far now- so near to the end... Land's End.
DAY 9 - Taunton Deane to Bodmin
Woke up this morning with such an heavy cold,sore throat and one hell of a cough, cycling through the heavy rain had taken it's toll on me .
I sat on my bed and wondered if I could make it through the day, I even thought about going home but Ernie talked me round and convinced me that I will be fine as soon as I got started for the day.
So I got on my bike and set off toward Tiverton then Crediton and onto Okehampton, the views along the way were stunnning and the towns I passed through were so quaint and it made the day more of an outing than a challenge.
Finally I reached the A30 and the road to Bodmin, I cycled along this road for hours and didn't stop until 20.30 hours when I became hungry and cold.
We stopped at an Hotel just 10 miles from Redruth before calling it a day and I felt so relieved to have gotten through the day.... Land's End tomorrow.
Day 10 - Bodmin to Land's End
The Final day and I was ready to go from the first light of Dawn, so after a light breakfast myself and Ernie set off bound for Land's End along the A30.
The day was really sunny and getting warmer as the morning wore on, today was the first time that I rode with a short sleeve top on.
The route along the A30 was really fast with a lot of downhill and a few very slight uphills , until the dual carriageway ended and the A30 became a single carriageway then country lanes for it was then that a lot of hard uphill slog began.
Ernie followed me closely in the van and reminded me that I had loads of time to reach the finish and to meet the town Mayor ( councillor Mann) at 13.00.
I cycled through Penzance and read the signs that indicated '11 miles to Lands end' ,so near now and I was buzzing with anticipation.
I sped along the country lanes as the road sloped downward and worked hard to pedal uphill, counting down the miles as I rode - with less than four miles to go I was cycling at 30 MPH and Ernie drove close behind sounding his horn as we got near to the Finish.
In the near distance I could see the End of my journey- Land's end.
I cycled over the official finish line and was cheered on by the Town Mayor .. Councillor Roy Mann.
I DID IT, I DID IT .... a ten day stint was over and it was al lthanks to Ernie who gave me some great support on the challenge.
For me this was a great journey and for anyone who thought that my ULTRA DISTANCE challenges was over when I had my knee operation, think again, because now I can shout with great pride..... "I AM BACK" .
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