Day 4: kinross to annan

The morning was possibly the least fun I’ve ever had on a bike. My knees were screaming at me, I had no energy and everything seemed to be taking ages. Add to that the dreary towns and weather, the shit roads, traffic and the fact I fell off again and it was no fun at all.

Things picked up a lot after lunch, my knees shut up and started to do what I asked and the sun came.out which makes such a difference. We also had a huge downhill run of about 15 miles. The last few miles were hard but the countryside was beautiful.

Back into England today.

day 2: Lairg to Grantown-on-Spey

Today went incredibly well, we managed to shave about 10 miles off the route by taking a bit of an anti-detour that involved a slightly scary run down the A9 into Inverness.

So far we’ve avoided anything that could be called a real hill, especially compared to what we’ve got to look forward to tomorrow, 110 miles and a run over the Cairngorms. We got our first sight of them (Cairngorms) today, they’re huge and covered in snow – intimidating to say the least.

There were a huge amount of slugs over all the smaller roads we went down today and signs that it had been raining heavily, something that we managed to miss completely (hurray!).

So, probably about time for bed, we’ve got things to look forward to tomorrow like ‘the devils elbow’ and the ‘spittle of glenshee’, neither of which sound huge fun (they may be the same thing).

Wish us luck!

Day 1: thurso to john o’groats to lairg

Today was the longest I’ve ever spent on a bike. We cycled just shy of 120 miles and it took us about 10 hours. It was hard.

The day started with breakfast at 7 and then we set of for what I has been told was a shortish ride to john o’groats. Shortish turned out to be 20 miles and instead of the forecast sun we had thick fog, freezing temperatures and a vicious head wind, it was not a very fun start to the day.

Once we got to the start/finish line in front of the derelict john o’groats hotel I showed my complete lack of coordination and, thanks to my new and largely untested, cleats took a heavy and graceless tumble. What a brilliant way to start the ride! However once we got started the wind dropped and eventually the sun came out to turn what had been a miserable day into an absolutely glorious one and we covered the 60 miles to bettyhill relatively quickly, unfortunately here we turned and were again heading straight into the wind, even going down a quite steep hill required us to pedal, demoralising in the extreme.

We reached altnaharra, apparently where the coldest ever temperature in the UK was recorded, and by now were only about 40 miles from lairg. With about 15 miles to go I completely ran out of energy, I’ve never ridden more than 100 miles so was in completely uncharted territory, I couldn’t appreciate the weather or the scenery, I just wanted a large meal, a sit down, and the toilet. In no particular order.

So now we are in a very nice b and b south of lairg.

Tomorrow we head for grantown on spey which is just on the edge of the cairngorms. A ride of about 95 miles, I think its going to rain. Hopeful there aren’t too many hills.

Some stats:
Top speed: 63 kmh
Total ascent: 1630 m
Total distance: 189.2 km

Day -1: bags (almost) packed

Have spent a fairly frantic morning trying to locate everything I need for the ride, that done I then tried to force it all into one pannier….which was never gonna happen. So, for the first time ever I’ll be riding with two panniers. and cleats. wiser people than i would say this is probably not the time to try so many things for the first time. it’ll keep things interesting at least!

Off to pick up the hire car that’ll get us up to Inverness later, I think the last time I drove anything was last summer to/from Istanbul. Fingers crossed the roads are better than Bulgaria.

Countdown

2 days to go and I’ve just fitted SPD pedals to my bike – these are to go with the new cycling shoes I got for my birthday. The process involved lots of getting covered in axel grease and swearing.

The theory is that cleated pedals mean you pedal more efficiently and god knows I need every drop of efficiency I can get my hands on, HOWEVER cleated pedals also mean you are clipped to the bike. I have spent the last hour trying to get the hang of clipping in and out of my pedals, unsurprisingly this has been a fairly spectacular failure so far – I expect to fall over on a daily basis, to anyone who knows me this won’t be a massive shock.

This is a very bad idea…

Oh, weather prediction for Friday and Saturday is currently 14-16 degrees, sunny, hardly any wind. Perfect. Let’s hope it delivers as promised!

Idle hands

To keep my mind off the fact that I was forcing myself to train the other day I decided that I will endeavour to keep a daily blog whilst on the bike ride. I’m not sure if it’ll be of the slightest interest to anyone but I kept a diary when I went to India a couple of years ago and if this serves the same purpose then at least I will find it interesting in the months and years afterwards.

I’m also going to try and harness the over-the-top power of my phone and post videos, photos and gps data. But that may all fail hilariously. Let’s see.

Less than two weeks to go…uh-oh!

So training for the cycling has been going ok, although I’ve not managed to do as many longer rides as I would’ve liked I’m still getting out on the bike every day even if it is just to and from work.

To be completely honest my running training has been absolutely rubbish, in the last fortnight I’ve maybe been for 5 runs. Which, if you’re training for a marathon, isn’t enough!

On Friday I needed to get a lift home from work with a load of video equipment I thought I’d leave my bike at work, get the taxi home then run back to work and finally cycle home. It’s about 6 miles from home to work so an ok distance. The run part was fine however towards the end of the cycle I got hilariously crippling cramp in my left calf and almost fell off my bike. I’m sure I looked completely ridiculous yelping in pain and wobbling along completely unable to straighten my leg and put my foot down.

Tomorrow I’ve got to go for a longer run (12+ miles), I’ve also started lunchtime runs at work – I’m trying to convince other people in the office to come out with me. The knowledge that other people are also going out running means I can’t be a lazy arse and wimp out.

Less than 2 weeks until the end-to-end starts, over the last 2 weeks the highlands have experience 60-80mph gales and temperatures down to minus 6. GREAT! Hopefully it’ll sort itself out before we get up there….