Saturday, 24 September 2011

Post LEJOG & plans for the future

Since returning from the epic cycle journey that was LEJOG my focus has shifted back to running. Prior to LEJOG my motivation for running had definately dipped and this pattern continued post LEJOG. I managed to log the meagre total of 92 miles of running in the 3 months from June to August with a record low running mileage in the month of July a mere 18 miles!

I did run the Brighton Parkrun in early August in 20:14 around a minute off my PB but a course record on the time set a year previously. But the focuse post LEJOG was on the Bristol Half Marathon in September and the Chester Marathon in October. I wasn't confident going into Bristol and was hoping for at least 1hr 40mins and maybe at a real push a course record which previously stood at 1:36:21. My running prep as mentioned previously was at an all time low, but I was hoping that the cycling had improved my cardio sufficently for me to run something that I wouldn't be ashamed of. As it turned out the bike fitness did translate and I ran strong throughout the race and even managed to pick up the pace in the last few miles to finish in a very pleasing 1:33:22.

The following weekend I was booked in for the Great North Run, which originally I was running for the atmosphere and hoping to beat the 1hr 40mins I had run in 2010, but after the strong showing at Bristol I was suddenly thinking PB as long as the previous weekends race was out of my legs. I took to the start line in Newcastle and felt ready to go. I ran hard as I had done for my PB in Southend in June, hoping to drag myself home when the wheels began to fall off. My splits per the offical results were as follows:

5K - 20:47
10K - 41:51
15K - 01:03:02
Finish - 01:30:05

So I went off fast with a massive unoffical 10K PB and as expected come the 10 mile mark my legs got heavy and it got really tough. The garmin showed me finshing the final 3 miles at around 7:30 miles rather than the 06:40 I had been running previously. I felt the sub 1:30 had gone as I waved to Lauren and Jan on the run in and the offical time showed be falling an agonising 6 seconds short! But I wasn't too crushed, I know the sub 1hr 30min will come and my PB will end much lower than that so off less than ideal training I had achieved very pleasing back to back races.

I am yet to run further than a half marathon since 8th May which was my last marathon at Stratford, and so with two weeks to go to Chester I'm not too sure what kind of shape I am for the Marathon distance, but come the 9th October I will be shooting for a 3hr 30min marathon which would be a PB by nearly 8 minutes.

In other training news the cycling has been shelved due to lack of time but also lack of opportunity with the cycling commute having to be dropped. So that brings you up to date with my post LEJOG training and so to the second part of my blog, my future plans look like this.

Nov 2011 - Billericaey 10K (Hoping for a 10K PB to make it a 5K,10K,HM,MAR PB year)
Dec 2011 - Middlesbrough 5K Parkrun (A PB would be a nice xmas pressie, sub 19 even better!)
Feb 2012 - a HM somewhere (Will be looking for sub 1hr 30min)
Apr 2012 - Two Oceans Ultra Marathon (sub 5 hours)
May 2012 - Edinbrugh Marathon (Signed up with Luke and Pete will be shooting for around 3hrs 15mins)
July 2012 - Outlaw Iron Distance Triathlon (Somewhere in amongest all that running I need to be swimming and cycling, no time goals for this at the moment)

That should keep me fairly busy! And I haven't thought past the Outlaw yet, but I'm sure I'll find something else to challenge me.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

LEJOG - Day 13 - Melvich to John O'Groats (via Dunnet Head)

Miles - 45.40
Cycle Time - 3hrs 22mins
Total Time - 4hrs 17mins
Average Speed - 13.49mph

So after 12 days of graft the cyclists set off on the final leg just 40 or so miles to dust off before lunch a gentle warm up for these fit athletes. Mother nature didn't want the riders having it all their own way though and so on leaving the hotel the riders were rained on and I started to wonder if the 10 mile detour to Dunnet Head was going to happen as planned.

Thankfully after 5 miles the rain eased off and the sun came out. The pace was high with everyone knowing that tommorrow they would wake up and the bike wouldn't need riding and so nothing had to be left in the tank. Joe, Pete and Luke went off ahead and practised their no handed cycling ready for the celebrations. Whilst me and Dad took it easy and chatted happily about the two weeks and what it had brought. The overwhelming feeling was one of happiness and satisfaction of a job well done.

We met up with the girls for some food and resupply, agreeing to meet up with them again at Dunnet Head and headed off with everyone all smiles the miles rolling by so easily. Unfortunately the same could not be said of the 10 miles to Dunnet Head and back, the hills meant that the riders had to put in one last effort before they rolled into John O'Groats. As well as this we had to contend with our final puncture of the trip, with Joe being the unlucky victim. Having seen all that Dunnet Head had to offer (not alot) and taken plenty of photos to mark the occcasion we hopped back on the bikes and rolled down the hills that we had struggled up and headed to the finish.

The guys pulled over one final time to take off their jackets and allow them to show off their Livestrong at the finish. Unfortunately my jacket was too big to stuff in the pockets of my jersey, and so Luke shoved it underneath the jersey making me look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame for the final few miles. The five of us finished as we had started smiling and as one, the girls greeted us with red, white and blue flags and loud cheers adding some much needed fanfare to a rather drab looking John O'Groats. The finish not quite doing justice to the incredible achievement that is 1000 + miles in 13 days.

Hugs, Handshakes and Champagne followed and the adventure was complete. The bikes were put on the car and all 8 of the LEJOG gang along with Jane and Dave got into cars for the 2 hour trip back to Evanton for the celebratory BBQ. Mission accomplished!

Friday, 29 July 2011

LEJOG - Day 12 - Evanton to Melvich

Miles - 91.20
Cycle Time - 7hrs 27mins
Total Time - 9hrs 18mins
Average Speed - 12.24mph

As we left early from Evanton ready for our last full day cycling we were met by yet another midgie invasion. The Scotland we have seen has been stunning, but the midgies really do put you off staying.

The wind seemed to have really picked up today, and the route was exposed and so the riders were getting little shelter from the winds buffeting. Combined with the undulating terrain the riders knew they were going to be in for a tough day.

The riders were rewarded for their struggles with 'the million dollar view' at the top of a hill looking down on the Loch and forests. The riders didn't stop to admire the views though and continued on their way to Bonar Bridge and met the girls shortly afterwards for their final Bacon Sarnie stop of the trip. With plenty of miles still to go before their final destination the cyclists soon headed off looking to make good early progress.

With LEJOG nearly at an end, talk began to turn to the next challenge. I had already muted the possibility of LEJOG in 7 days in a couple of years and Luke and Pete had shown interest, but today the idea of a 24hour cycling challenge was put on the table. I really liked it and will definitely be looking at doing it soon, there is a 10 mile loop that I do round mine which goes through Eastwood, Rochford, Hockley and back through Rayleigh. The route passes close to my parents house and so would let me stop off at theirs for resupply. Pete thinks I should set off about 6pm Saturday and ride through the night and ride on through to 6pm Sunday. Estimates over the distance I would cover ranged from 200-240 miles. Look for a blog on my success or not sometime soon.

So back to the challenge at hand, which was still quite considerable with 100 miles still to go to John O'Groats. This was more challeging for some members of the group than others, Joe in particular was having struggles with his bike slipping in and out of gear leading to a sequence of collisions between a man's delicate bits and the frame of a bike.

I was struggling for motivation today, yesterday there was the goal of Evanton to look forward to and tomorrow would be the chequered flag and John O'Groats. Today was 90 miles in the most remote parts of Scotland, with few landmarks or people to break up the journey and the wind knocking the riders around. I think the other riders felt elements of this, everyone that is apart from Dad who was thoroughly enjoying the isolation from the world. Just us and our bikes, and I could definitely understand his thinking, this was what he saw as LEJOG not the busy roads of Paisley.

After 65 miles of hard slog the boys were met by the support team and took everything they had, keen to get re-energised for the final 25 miles through Betty Hill to Melvich. So the support team went on ahead to scout out our new digs whilst the riders took on the final 25 miles of the day.

The final 25 miles was a real struggle, on leaving the isolated one track road exposed to the elements we were met by the hills of Betty Hill and my weary body just didn't want to play. Our first look at the North coast of Scotland was a big boost in a tough day, but the hills of Betty Hill meant that the joy was short lived. With 5 miles to go to the Hotel my Garmin rang out of battery and the Edge was playing up so for the first time on the trip I had no sense of speed or distance, very disconcerting for a guy like me that loves my numbers.

We eventually made it to Melvich and our very nice hotel, and we arrived at a reasonable hour given the mileage covered. Under two hours of stops today with no maintenance issues and with such tough conditions nobody wanted to stop for too long on our breaks. The group enjoyed a very posh meal and went to bed knowing that tomorrow marked the end of the journey.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

LEJOG - Day 11 - Invergarry to Evanton

Miles - 57.81
Cycle Time - 4hrs 35mins
Total Time - 6hrs 7mins
Average Speed - 12.61mph

Today was an intentionally short one, with Joe having planned the route to give us a short day to Evanton to give us maximum time at Jane and Dave's our Aunt and Uncle's house. The riders set off in sun happy at the reduced mileage and excited by Drumnadrochit the hill from John and Tim's first LEJOG effort a decade earlier that still leaves Dad having sleepless nights.

Luke and I were feeling fresh, and so decided to have a little race. Our choice of race track wasn't the best because as we went wheel to wheel side by side the road curved sharply to the left and so I tucked in behind Luke and that was enough because he then created a gap and held it to the finish. Luke added insult to injury by telling me he had done it all without the use of his big ring as his gears weren't changing up.

The morning in the lead up to Drumnadrochit was filled with races. The trip has been filled with examples of us getting overtaken by some less than impressive cyclists, the woman in purple jean shorts with a basket on the front, the guy in jeans on his mountain bike. So today when a couple laden with panniers overtook us on one of our breaks we couldn't have that and so jumped back on our bikes and chased them down. Our tactic of 7.5 mile breaks was the polar opposite of these two pannier laden plodders who just kept on pedalling, and the yoyo taking over occurred for sometime to the amusement of both sets of cyclists.

Next me and Luke saw a lycra clad pro chasing down Pete, Dad and Joe and we decided that we weren't going to let that happen to us and so rocketed off the front at speed. Travelling at something like 20 mph for a couple of miles and keeping the club rider trailing in the distance we decided to pull over to let the group join back together. Before the other 3 joined us the speedster went pass me and Luke in the layby none the wiser that he had just been involved in a race.

A little worried that I had now overdone it with all this racing before the big climb of the day I decided to take it easy for the remainder of the morning. Before we tackled Drumnadrochit we met up with the girls for our traditional energy boost of bacon sarnies. With spirits high we left the girls and headed for Drumnadrochit.

Unlike Glen Coe the start of Drumnadrochit was very obvious with the climb steep from the base of the climb. Pete had told me I was cheating with my Granny gear and so made me promise I wouldn't use it on the hill. This was proving difficult at the speeds we were going, and so I set off in my higher than ideal gear by myself. The climb was lung busting and the thighs burned but I made it to the girls just shy of the summit intact. Unsure of where the top really was, and keen not to stop and be told I had chickened out before reaching the top I kept on pedalling. The summit was duely crested and I then enjoyed miles of fast flowing descent back down to the flat where I found a stop to pull over and wait for the others.

The support team arrived soon followed by the other cyclists. They were all buzzing from their tackling of Drumnadrochit without stopping and that really showed how much stronger Dad had got from those dark days in Dartmoor. The cyclists left the girls who were heading on to Evanton just 30 miles away. After that hill all the terrain seemed flat in comparison. The miles flew by and smiles were plastered all over the riders faces, we tackled the two miles up the country lane to Jane and Dave's house on the hill, avoiding the building vehicles on our ascent and finished by 3pm, a half day for the battle hardened cyclists.

A lovely evening was had by all, I managed to tarnish it some what when I let a swamn of midges into mine and Pete's room as I stuck my head out of our window desperate for some phone reception so I could speak to wifey. I felt awful but Becky's idea of hoovering up the little pests seemed to do the trick and Pete and I managed to sleep without being eaten alive. 2 more days left!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

LEJOG - Day 10 - Arrochar to Invergarry

Miles - 96.84
Cycle Time - 7hrs 53mins
Total Time - 11hrs 50mins
Average Speed - 12.28mph

Today's cycle was the definition of a ride of two halves. The first half was magnificent, Loch's, Mountains, Lakes, beauty all around and a better advert for Scotland you will not find. The second half was torturous heavy traffic, arsehole drivers, slow, grinding progress, the reason you sack it all in and decided that LEJOG just isn't worth it.

So back to that fantastic first half, we started early and traffic was light as we cycled alongside Loch Lomond. There were no navigational hassles today just up the A82 for nearly 100 miles. I really made an effort to enjoy the views today and there was ample opportunity to take it all in. After 30 very pleasant miles we met up with the girls for some Bacon Sarnies, but had to move out of the shade and into the sun to escape the swarm of midges, a summer treat that Scotland offers up to it's tourists. So although we were sad to leave the girls, we were very happy to leave the Midge invasion in our wake.

From the break we were heading to Glen Coe, a fearsome but beautiful mountain. The riders tackled the climbing with relish. I had begun to explore the Garmin Edge and was captivated today by the info it was spewing out on the ascent and current elevation. I began to chuck the data out to anyone that would listen, I think Luke quite enjoyed the new numbers but I think the data may have filled Dad with dread. We topped out agonisingly close to a 1000ft our maximum elevation being 998ft above sea level. There was still a feeling amongst the group that we hadn't yet hit the real mountain though, with signs saying 10 miles to Glen Coe, and after the climb we enjoyed some long fast descents.

As I had counted us up the mountain I now reeled off the descent to Joe as we rocketed down towards sea level. Joe remained steadfastly convinced that a mountain of epic proportions awaited us on the other side, but as we rolled into Glen Coe we realised the 1000ft max was in fact it. Instead of relief I felt a little disappointed that there wasn't more climbing to challenge us.

As the cyclists sprawled out on the grass, the sun shining bright, mountains all around enjoying their lunch, Pete and Joe headed into town to get Pete's front wheel fixed which had lost a spoke on the way up the mountain. The repair took longer than expected and I began to get very comfy and was angling for a space in the support car for the second half. The boys returned with Pete sporting a fancy new front tyre with a yellow racing stripe, Pete's spokes were of an unusual length and so they couldn't replace it and a new wheel was the order of the day.

Reluctantly the cyclists climbed aboard their trusty or not so trusty steads as it had proved thus far and got pedalling away from the idyllic Glen Coe. The A82 that had been so picturesque now turned crowded and nasty. Pete had been warned that we would need to pull over to allow traffic to pass, the road was a windy one lane road and so passing opportunities were limited. It was hellish, the constant stopping made finding a rhythm impossible and my heart rate was going sky high and it wasn't because of the physical exertion but the stress of it all.

Joe's pulse was on a similar upward trajectory, and so when a white van man totally unreasonably beeped at us after passing us, Joe told him in his wonderful manner that drivers the length of Britain have come to enjoy over the past 10 days that he felt that the beep was uncalled for. Cue a reaction, he slammed on his brakes, and I think we were ready for our first fisty cuffs of the trip. But he was just teasing, and to the relief of Joe and the other cyclists the van raced off into the distance. The best way I can describe the stretch of the A82 from Glen Coe to Fort William is Shitty with a little bit of crappy.

Having got through the worst of the A82 the cyclists still managed to encounter more problems. I got abit ahead of the rest of the group at some rolling roadworks, cue bedlam. Joe got a puncture halfway through the rolling roadworks, the spare inner tube he had was infact an old one with a hole in it leaving me in a layby on my lonesome with the only working inner tube. O and my phone was off to conserve battery as I was using Pete's spare phone and we didn't have the charger for it. I rang Joe to find out where they were, he said he had got a puncture and they were fixing it. I hung up and turned it off happy they would be with me soon. 10 minutes later nothing, and then Luke ran up the hill saying I had to come back and they needed my inner tube. I headed back down the hill to find a very frustrated group of cyclists, I gave up my inner tube and another 10 minutes later we were heading off and back through the rolling roadworks and towards Invergarry.

The exhausted group finally made it to the hostel nearly 12 hours after leaving Arrochar and 3 miles short of the satisfaction of another century. But the relief in the group was obvious, the stress filled second half had left the beautiful climbs of the first half as a distant memory. A hot shower and the girls Spag Bol soon had a smile back on the cyclists faces and the prospect of a short day tomorrow further lifted the mood as we headed for bed.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

LEJOG - Day 9 - Muirkirk to Arrochar

Miles - 73.69
Cycle Time - 5hrs 39mins
Total Time - 7hrs 34mins (Record fast time)
Average Speed - 12.89mph

The riders set off on Day number 9, each energised after a hearty breakfast from the unusual Husband and Wife B&B team. They were excited at Joe's promise of trimming 15miles off the route after looking at a reroute the night before. We had orginally looked at heading way out to the west of Glasgow before coming back inland to cross the Erskine Bridge. Joe decided that we could brave the outskirts of Glasgow aiming for Paisley to the west of Glasgow and thus save ourselves an hour or so.

Almost immediately Joe went away from the Garmin's route and was on his own for much of the day, just him and his maps. I enjoyed the break from having to assist with the navigating and so just got my head down and got pedalling. The day began in beautiful surroundings with lakes and forests providing an attractive backdrop for those who had sufficent energy to get their heads up from the 6ft of tarmac in front of them. But after this picturesque beginning, the promised built up area and crowded roads reared their ugly heads. The highlight for me being a particuarly grotty looking Indian called the New Turban which looked more tired than it's name would suggest.

Dad hadn't been enthralled at the prospect of tackling Paisley and the roundabouts, traffic lights and smog certainly helped support his less than enthuastic response to the route change. But the mood in the camp was pretty good and everyone was keen to just slog it out and get through Paisley and over the Erskine Bridge. There weren't many opportunites to pull over for rest or toilet breaks but we did find a bus layby to pull into, but soon vacated it when a rather strange looking chap with a screwdriver in his hand asked us if we'd like to come in for a glass of water. The chaps politely declined, happy that we would receive our glass of water, but fearful that on leaving we would be met with the sight of all of our expensive bikes gone!

Another downside of Paisley was the poor road surface, and on one busy stretch of road I narrowly avoided losing myself or my bike down an uncovered manhole. The riders made it safely through and intact, Joe's navigation of the busy highways and byways was flawless and the reward at the other end was the Erskine Bridge. The views were fantastic and shortly afterwards the weary cyclists were met by the support team for lunch.

The girls had a similar struggle to us in finding a good stopping point and so now just 20 miles from Arrochar they had to settle for a farmers field. The tired cyclists were happy just to rest their backsides and to get some well earnt lunch inside them. The tranquile setting was soon shattered, when the farmer on his tractor came down the lane and so Joe tell's us he wagged his finger in a no you shouldn't be here kind of manner. Being the well mannered family we are the troops scattered in a mad attempt to pack up camp and move onto somewhere more welcoming. But having packed things away and with no immediate shotgun being aimed in our direction we decided to hang on. 10 minutes later the farmer returned on his tractor and so Luke would have you believe he waved and smiled. Amber was fearful that the smile was a ruse and that the manure he was transporting would soon be dropped on her head head but thankfully he was on his way with no other action to report. Phew! Crisis averted, but the relaxed mood was gone and so the cyclists were soon on the road again.

The 20 miles into Arrochar were a dream, first flat reminding me of a more pretty version of Southend Seafront, then the terrain turned to more rolling, but the view of Loch Long remained with us throughout. With 7.5 miles to go we stopped for the final time, and I took the opportunity to do some bike maintenance. Removing my socks and using them as rags to wipe the muck that had accumulated on my chain since Kirkby Stephen when the mechanic had put lube ontop of my dirty chain. So barefoot inside my cycling shoes we headed onwards to our B&B by the Loch.

It didn't disappoint and the cyclists were greeted by the nutrionally poor but very much welcome Can of Fosters each. This was then followed by a pub meal sat beside the Loch with the sun shining bright. A lovely end to the day, and only 4 more remain.

Monday, 25 July 2011

LEJOG - Day 8 - Gretna to Muirkirk

Miles - 68.44
Cycle Time - 5hrs 27mins.
Total Time - 7hrs 52mins.
Average Speed - 12.56mph

After back to back big mileage days the cyclists were excited at the prospect of a sub 70 mile day. The mood was further improved when the riders were greeted with bright sunshine and not much wind, just a pleasant Sunday spin on the bike. Sunday is traditionally the day of rest, and I was going to stick to that and so took it easy at the back of the line and treated it as a recovery ride.

The girls greeted us with Bacon sarnies from the Gretna B&B afer 28miles and with the short day that was almost half way. The roads were quiet with it being a Sunday morning and bikes definately seemed to out number cars. We did see one Moped, but he was pushing it along like a skateboard down the hill, I'm not sure if his motor was broken or if he was on some fuel economy drive.

I did feel abit guilty chilling at the back, so did a stint at the front. I was much more disciplined than usual and the group stayed together. I felt fresh and when we pulled over for our next stop the guys told me we had been going uphill, but it felt pretty flat to me.

We met up with the girls just before 50 miles and everyone was buzzing at the prospect of an early finish, perhaps a record early finish. So fed and watered we headed up a good climb straight after lunch. The news coming through from the girls who had driven ahead of the riders was that there was a road closure. The B&B in Murkirk had warned us of a road closure, and Joe had felt he had understood the message and rerouted us, but the roadworks weren't where we expected and the only way to avoid them was to take a 40 mile loop diversion.

The riders were unimpressed to put it mildly, and as we went past the road closure sign the pace slowed significantly, nobody wanting to know what lay round the next corner. The miles kept ticking by with no blue flashing lights telling us to go no further and the troops started to fantasie that the workers had gone home it being a Sunday. This seemed unlikely when a guy in a soft top mercedes who had passed us earlier headed back towards us a smug grin on his face. He had obviously been turned away further up the road and wasn't keen on telling the cyclists what lay in store for them.

Finally after 3 miles our nightmare became a reality another road closure sign loomed large, this time maintenance vehicles and maintenance men blocked the path. The cyclists discussed options, looking at fields, rivers, paths for another way to get through. Pete was keen to point out whatever we got up to the bikes had to come with us, making wadding through cold rivers with a bike held above our heads even less appealing. Thankfully the girls had charmed our Scottish Maintenance Workers and sorted us out an escort, we had to wait 20 minutes for them to come back but it beat the hell out of a 4 hour diversion.

So off the riders went an excited mood in the camp at what they had avoided. The convey was travelling at 5mph, unfortunately a small change of direction from Luke lead to Dad's front wheel meeting Luke's back wheel and down Dad went. I was behind the incident and so got a front row view and was helpless as Dad headed roadwards. Cue expletives, showing me that Dad was infact alive if in no small amount of pain. Joe gave Dad's bike the all clear and Mum gave Dad the medical all clear and thankfully the Maintenance convey let us carry on the 3 miles to the other end of the roadworks.

We waved the maintenance men off and made the short journey to the Old Church B&B which was a beautiful place. We were met by our attentive host who showed us round the attractive converted Church. The only downside being there was only the one shower to go around our group of 8, 5 of which were stinky cyclists. On the plus side the shower did have about 5 showerheads, some of which sprayed water into some rather interesting places. Finally showered and presentable we went downstairs to enjoy our Chicken stuffed with Haggis followed by a Chocolate dessert. Then to bed early in readiness for another day in the saddle.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

LEJOG - Day 7 - Settle to Gretna

Miles - 92.35
Cycle Time - 7hrs 39mins.
Total Time - 11hrs 5mins.
Average Speed - 12.07mph

Today marked the end of the first week and by it's end would see us just over the border into Gretna and the start of Scotland. After the struggles of yesterday's century and the showers for the final 20 miles the troops were hoping for a gentle start to ease into another big mileage day, unfortunately Settle was in the middle of the dales and so there was plenty of rolling hills to get through from the off.

After the frantic finish to yesterday's stage, the troops didn't quite have their bearings so asked a passerby the way to the next village. She answered that she was a local, but didn't drive and wasn't very good at directions. So the troops headed up the hill we expected was the right direction, where we duely saw signs for the next village. How she found her way home at night I really couldn't tell you!

We eased into our day and enjoyed the lack of rain, even if conditions overhead were a little overcast. Becky had promised us no rain for the day 100% guranteed. At our first 7.5 mile stop me and Luke watched as some lycra clad speedsters flashed past us, we contemplated why some peope are fast and some people are slow on the bike. Our conclusion was the speedsters Hammer up the hills, and Smash it down the hills. Where as we were struggling up the hills and rolling down them.

The terrain was tough initially but the lack of rain and beautiful surroundings balanced it out. We succeeded in one of party tricks before the second break, namely crashing in spectacular style. Dad's chain fell off and he said not to worry and to keep going which I did, Pete went to help but inadvertantly hit Luke's back wheel and so Pete was on the grass and Luke's wheel decided to lock up after he took a hit. But everyone dusted themselves off, and all 3 bikes were still in reasonable working order and so we carried on our way.

The riders were then rewarded for their slogging up the hill with some rapid descents. So excited were we by the descents that we missed our turning, but Joe soon put us right. The wind had been fairly kind thus far but after a couple of hours there was a 5 mile section straight into the wind which sapped the speed and the morale of the tired troops. Luke was also now stuck in top gear and so we were once again on the hunt for a cycle shop. I was also still running with just my back brakes which was proving rather scary on some of the fast downhills.

The dales are beautiful but very isolated and so bike shops were very thin on the ground. The girls did a great job though and found one in Kirkby Stephen after about 35 miles. The Car Garage come Cycle Shop got to work on Lukes Gears, my front brake pads and also took a look at Dad's gears. We had got there just in time because no sooner had they fixed the last bike then the garage closed as they were only working a half day on a Saturday. Off we went with our repaired bikes, but having gone no further than 50 yards Luke's gears played up again. The guy that had repaired the bike came strolling by on his way home and gave it a quick adjustment and assured us that all was well, before sneaking down the nearest alleyway seemingly desperate to get home for his tea.

The morning's cycling had been slow going a combination of fatigue from the previous days long cycle, the rolling nature of the dales and the headwind in places. But with 3 smoothly working machines and keen to make swift progress we rode well and covered 15 miles in no time, stopping for lunch just outside of Penrith. My energy levels and enthuaism seemed to ebb and flow as much as the hills of the dales, no sooner had I enjoyed the good patch after the bike shop then I started to flag post lunch, I suffered a puncture just outside of Carlisle, at which stage Dad was flaked out on the grass ready for a nap.

Joe was really starting to enjoy his role as lead navigator and was sneaking glances at the map at every opportunity whether he was cycling or not. The fancy Garmin Edge on my stem was now meerly acting as confirmation for Joe's directional nose rather than leading the way. There was one little misdirection on the way into Gretna, the road we cycled in on was new and neither the paper map nore the Garmin were sufficently up to date, but a quick about turn and we were rolling into Gretna Green the Vegas of Scotland.

92 miles completed and just over 11 hours since we left Settle early this morning. Joe has promised us 69 miles tommorow and that will come as a relief after 7 hard days of cycling through England.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

LEJOG - Day 6 - Chester to Settle

Miles - 101.57
Cycle Time - 8hrs 40mins
Total Time - 12hrs 26mins
Average Speed - 11.72mph

After our early finish yesterday and comfy beds at the Oldersma's the riders were rested and ready to tackle the century! Tim was the only one of the group who had tackled the magical 100 mile in one day, and enjoyed casually dropping into conversation the fact that he had rode 3 or 4 centuries in his time. The rest of the group were tackling the not inconsiderable distance for the first time, but the overwhelming feeling was one of excitement rather than fear as the group left bright and early at 6:45 in the morning waved off by the support group and the Oldersma family.

Luke lead us out for the first miles using his local knowledge as he had visited Amber's house a number of times and so was keen we avoided a noterious and busy roundabout. Joe and Luke navigated us through Chester without too much bother, the big target of the morning being Runcorn and the crossing of it's busy bridge. On the approach into Runcorn me and Garmin took control and immediately made a wrong turn, back on track and with my navigational confidence increasing I decided to head direct to the bridge. How hard could it be? Well quite it would seem, as the bridge grew closer it also grew higher as we stood at it's base. Road closures meant we had to go back on ourselves, eventually negiotiating our way successfully onto the bridge. The group is always keen to use the roads as much as possible, but on this occassion the cycle path running alongside the bridge may have been the better option. A bus driver beeping at us, and trying to mow down the 5 enthuastic cyclists was probably of a similar opinion.

Safely over the bridge we found a bus stop for a break and got some food and drink in before setting off on the busy A Road. The turn onto a quieter B road wasn't well sign posted, and as we went over a bridge I looked below to see the quiet B Road just out of reach that we should have been on. None of the group enjoyed the busy duel carriageway with fast moving cars being driven by inconsiderate drivers, the lack of enjoyment was felt most strongly by Dad. But after 4 or so pretty hairy miles we managed to get off the A Road onto the safer B Road. We celebrated this victory with a stop outside a newsagents selling hotdogs/sausages in rolls. It was a pretty unusual looking sausage but at a pound a go none of the hungry cyclists were complaining.

With the long day ahead of us the cyclists weren't dragging out the breaks, and with the alternative sausages eaten the group was on it's way. By the time the cyclists met up with the girls at a park 48 miles had been chalked off and it wasn't even midday. The troops were met with good news from back home in Essex, with the girls having taken a call from Lauren telling them that she had raised £500 with a non-uniform at school. A nice little lift to see us through the afternoon.

The rest and recovery enjoyed at the park were soon removed as we got through Leyland to discover that Dad's back brakes had worn through and he was stuck in big ring. As the rain poured down, and with no shelter to hide under the cyclists got a soaking. Mine and Joe's combined Iphones were struggling for coverage, as we attempted to locate the nearest cycle shop. Eventually despairing with the mapping app and settling for ringing Paul Hewitt Cycles whose number we found on google. Joe was given some directions, and thankfully the shop wasn't too far. The five of us keen to stay together headed to the bike shop and arrived 10 minutes later. The guys working in the shop weren't the chattest ever, but got Dad's bike fixed in no time which is what I prefer in my bike mechanics and so within half an hour we were heading back to where we had started via a new short cut we had been given. 5 wet bikers with 5 working bikes cycled past the same street we had pulled into an hour ago, but we were heading in the right direction and keen to make progress.

By 5 O'Clock we had made it to the beautiful village of Waddington 75 miles into our century. Relaxing by a stream we felt confident knowing the finish line was so close. Little did we know just how tough the run into Settle would be. First up was the slow, challenging climb up to Waddington Fell. The weather was holding off, and I enjoyed the couple of miles to the top and the views at the summit. What goes up must go down and the group enjoyed some fast descents. My enjoyment was some what curtailed when I discovered that my front right brake pad had come right off, I was thus limited to my back brakes on the fast, wet downhills of the dales. A cycle shop would have to be visited yet again tommorow.

With 20 miles of the dales to defeat before the day was out the clouds decided to unload on the tired cyclists. It didn't rain, it just poured, absolutely solid. I gave up with my fogged up glasses, and tackled the roads blind. The four Hedges cyclists had seen the rain coming at the previous stop with the car and so picked up their jackets, Pete had not. It was only as he stood shivering with 2miles to go that I realised he was coatless and so lent him my jacket, but I was worried this had come far too late! Joe, Luke and Pete headed onto the finish to get Pete warm and into a shower, whilst Dad and I tackled the final challenge of the day, a woman struggling with her trailer which had come detached from her car. Her father had attached it and when he did it she knew it wasn't right, which begged the question why the hell did you leave then! But even after 100 miles on the bike we kept our cool and with the assistances of a local guy we pushed the trailer off the road. Dad and I were cold and they seemed happy reattaching it so we went on our way.

We made it to the B&B wet, cold and relieved. No back slapping celebration, no hollering. Just a well done and a goodbye as we headed for our rooms and a hot shower. In some fresh clothes, showered and warm I rolled into the quiet country pub... O no there is a room packed full of strangers having a good knees up. We later found out it was a party of 50 having some big reunion, but it was nice when they went to the restaurant and left the tired cyclists and support crew in peace to enjoy their 3 course meal. But the group had swelled from 8 to 9 with the addition of my Mother in Law Jan. It was great to see a new and enthuastic face after the tough day we had all had. Jan also came bearing gifts of cake, sweets and lucozade which I had just run out of that day. I was tired and for the one and only time on the trip couldn't finish my dinner (the bag of haribo I had on Jan's arrival probably didn't help). But Luke was still full of energy after his century debut and was happy to interogate Jan on her job teaching at a Young Offenders Prison. Jan set off on the two hour drive home at half 10 to leave the cyclists and support team to their beds. The day ended on a bad note though, as I found out that my Iphone had not taken well to the downpour and so was currently out of action. Really felt cut off from the wifey, hope it drys out by tommorrow!

Friday, 22 July 2011

LEJOG - Day 5 - Ludlow to Chester

Miles - 77.32
Cycle Time - 5hrs 46mins
Total Time - 7hrs 53mins
Average Speed - 13.41mph

The five riders headed out of Ludlow on a grey overcast morning, buoyed by a swift day yesterday and with stomachs full after taking advantage of last night's 2 main meals for a tenner deal. There had been at least one problem each day for the team to deal with thus far, be it rain, hills, mechanical problems or fatigue. The one problem they were yet to encounter in any major way was the wind, but they were faced with a headwind leaving Ludlow and this continued for most of the day.

Joe took it upon himself to take the first stint into the wind to act as a windblocker for the rest of the riders. I took full advantage of the shelter at the back of the line, my body aching and my legs heavy from the first four days cycling. Joe was also struggling a little, soon regretting the 3 beers and 2.5 dinners he had the night before.

The sun poked out from behind the clouds and we were soon cooking under our rain jackets, which appeared necessary when we set off under grey skies. We were relaxing on one of our breaks in a layby when a military police car pulled up. All of us being good law abiding citizens we were a little concerned, I was going a little fast down that hill but the military police seemed a tad excessive. Our fears were put to rest when it's driver hoped out and lit up a fag, a ciggie break, nothing more sinister. He quizzed us on what we were upto and we told him about our trip and Saint Anthony's before we headed off, keen to get to the Oldersma's our home for the evening.

After taking on plenty of food, lucozade and gels on at the stops I felt stronger, and on one of our fast descents Pete cycled past me in his trademark aero position. I decided to pass him back and so started the first race of LEJOG. Travelling down the hill at speeds in excess of 40mph we were shot back up the other side fast. I was in the big ring when gravity started to take effect on the upslope and it was then that Pete made his move. I tried in vain to respond but less than halfway up the hill he had a gap and I never recovered. As he eased off approaching the top of the hill I had a second wind and tried a stealth attack but was soon detected and on went the gas again. A resounding victory for Pete 1-0.

I was spent after my unsuccessful attack and so decided to spin away at the back of the group to recover. Our quick pace had outwitted the support car, and so our resupply was delayed a little but we all met up in a carpark on the outskirts of Shrewsbury. The sun was out, and there were some rocks perfect for an improvised pillow, and I was ready for a cat nap. But the guys were keen to make tracks and we were soon on the move again. Shrewsburys one way system nearly outfoxed us, but after seing the statue twice we knew something wasn't quite right. A quick U-turn and we were back on track and still roaring along even with the headwind.

Aside from Shrewsbury today was a more straight forward navigating day than previously, aiding our quick progress. Impromptu races up hills also kept the average speed well above 13mph. Dad was staying well clear of the young ones games, knowing full well the trip was only complete when we reached John O'Groats and so was keen to conserve his energy.

At the final meet up with the support team Joe, Dad and Luke were dished out with some swanky new lightweight windbreakers. Probably not capable of withstanding heavy showers, but they offered some protection from the elements and were small enough to stuff in the back of their jerseys when it got too hot.

We set off from the final stop with the Oldersma's residence not far away. Just enough time for us to pop back into Wales before enjoying some quiet and picturesque country lanes on the run into Amber's. We arrived just after 4pm and just 7hrs and 53mins after leaving Ludlow another record early finish for the team. Karin greeted us warmly into their beautiful home and immediately offered us beer, an offer I couldn't bring myself to refuse. Amber's Dad Meinie then came home from the office early, especially for his guests. We enjoyed drinks in the Garden in the sun whilst the dinner simmered.

Showered, changed and looking more human we sat down for a fantastic meal of chilli and beef stew followed by Cheesecake or Rolly Polly which had been made specially for Luke. With it being a buffet the cyclists enjoyed second helpings of the delicious fare. The night ended with a video show of some clips Pete had taken thus far, Karin, Meinie and Zoe were very patient and said all the right things as Luke scrolled through the footage. It was then time to hit the hay, another day done and by tommorow night we'll be in the Yorkshire Dales with Jan.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

LEJOG - Day 4 - Bristol to Ludlow

Miles - 80.62
Cycle Time - 6hrs 16mins
Total Time - 8hrs 20mins
Average Speed - 12.86mph
Top Speed -

After yesterday's drama we were all hoping for an uneventful trip to Ludlow. It started with action though as a dustbin truck reversed out onto the road. It was Joe's right of way, and he kept on going, giving the non-plussed dustbin driver a gob full as he passed.

The roads out of Bristol and onto the Severn Bridge were busy even at this early hour but the pace was good and the threatening clouds were holding off. Pete navigated us out of Bristol expertly, having done a dry run with Ben a few weeks before we headed off on LEJOG.

We made it to the Severn Bridge without any problems, and enjoyed the views as we took it easy. After yesterday's crash in attempting to get a snap, I was apprehensive about reaching for the camera again. But the opportunity to get pictures on the bridge was to good an opportunity to pass up.

Dad, Luke and Pete were in good form as we headed into Wales briefly. Attacking the hills and the struggles of Devon and Cornwall felt an age ago as Dad crested each hill in one effort. Me and Joe were working up the hills together, Joe tackling them in his own style. I was starting to get a sharp pain in my right shoulder and upper back, Pete was very kindly massaging it when we stopped. I tend to move around alot when I ride, hopping out of the saddle frequently, and going down on the drops all combine to cause the discomfort which I hadn't experinced on my much shorter training rides.

We met up with the support team just before the 30 mile mark. Topping up on gels, Go juice, Lucozade and water as well as eating anything we could get our greasy mitts on. Luke was keen to keep our stops short, particuarly the 7.5 mile stops in readiness for the longer days to come.

Luke and I found ourselves cut off from the others at the back of the group as we chatted about what had gone, what was to come and what challenges to do post LEJOG. We took the opportunity to dust off the cobwebs and raced back to the others, on the flat, uphill and finally catching them after a quick descent.

Since we had set off from Land's End being boys we showed no shame in where we chose to getting rid of all this lucozade, water and Go Juice we had been drinking. One problem we were yet to encounter was what to do if we wanted to get rid of all the food we had eaten. After lunch I presented the group with this exact dilemma. As we rode through the countryside I looked around for the most appealing looking leaves in case the worst happened, whilst also hoping and praying for a pub. My prays were answered by the New Inn. I had planned for this problem and had a tenner with me incase an angry landlord decided he didn't like me using his facilities for free. But I was in and out before anyone noticed and so was none the poorer.

Comfortable and ready to roll I headed for the car park exit. The others decided to slip out through the pedestrian exit. Joe and Pete maded it safely through, all done at walking pace no hassles. Dad was not so fortunate, keen to clip in and get going he hit luke's stationary back wheel and was on his back. My favorite description and perhaps the most accurate was that he appeared to be a tortise riding around on his shell. But the low speed collison was more about bruised egos than bruised bodies.

After 48 miles in 5 hours since we had set off Dad was keen for his lunch, particuarly after his boinking in the early days of the trip. So there was relief all round when we met up with the girls for Steak Slices and Sausage Rolls. This gave me a short term boost, but I was feeling the most tired I had since the journey began. I had been having post lunch lulls, I'm not sure if this was a mental struggle or if my longest training cycle of 50 miles was insufficent for the rigors of 70+ miles days for nearly two weeks. Either way I was definately flagging this afternoon.

The post lunch haze soon lifted though as Ludlow approached and we finished at 16:40 only 8 hours and 20 minutes after leaving Pete's. This was the longest cycle of my life, and the quickest day so far. No punctures, no drama, just in the groove. Lucky for you guys that means a short blog.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

LEJOG - Day 3 - Tiverton to Bristol

Miles - 73.63
Cycle Time - 6hrs 7mins.
Total Time - 10hrs 17mins.
Average Speed - 12.04mph
Top Speed -

After two hard days in the hills of Cornwall and Devon the group were desperate for a lift, and they were handed one in the form of a guest appearance from work record holder and adventurer Ben Rockett, along with his friend Matt another very capable cyclist. Ben was happy to give advice where he could and Pete had a couple of issues with his bike which he was concerned about. The 'crack' in the carbon fibre frame and the bit missing from the chain were actually designed to be there rather than problems waiting to happen. Looking silly in front of the record holder would be a theme running through the mornings ride.

So at half 8 with the ranks swollen to a record 7 riders we set off from the Tiverton Travel Lodge with the carrot of Pete's house in Bristol to look forward to. This carrot soon felt very far off, as we struggled on some quiet, but poor quality country roads up and down hills.

I had promised the boys before hand I would challenge Ben to a hill climb to see how many million miles away I was from being a World Record Holder. Those first 5 miles as I worked hard behind Ben and Matt as they chatted merrily spinning up and down hills with no apparant effort I realised the hill climb wouldn't be necessary. It was obvious I would have to return to the world of Accountancy, rather than take up a career as a full time athelte.

Thankfully I wasn't the only one working hard over those first hilly miles, as we went to head off onto the busy but mercifully flatter A road Ben turned around to see Dad white as a sheet and slumped over his handlebars and with a meer 70 more miles to get through. Ben's second piece of advice of the day was sound as he recommended that we got some sugar in him fast. So full of jelly and eager to impress we got going.

The morning was full of punctures, first to go was Dad's but eager to redeem himself after nearly passing out after 5 miles he attacked the tire with enthuaism and no little skill. 5 minutes later and one very slickly changed tyre later we were off and rolling again.

With the additional two riders we were a little more spread out than usual and the group dynamic which we had started to develop over the first couple of days changed a little. I had tended to cycle at the back of the pack on the basis that I would be on the wheel of the 4th rider and so if any problems came up I would act as the sweeper and let those ahead know what was going on. But on Day 3, it was all very fluid and people were moving up and down the group and chatting away. So inadvertantly Dad and Joe were the two riders at the back of the line. Joe got a little seperated off the back and it was at this moment that he was the victim of puncture number 2.

Dad now off in the distance, Joe was in a bit of a pickle stuck in a pub car park on his lonesome with a puncture. But Joe was blessed with a great set of lungs, and so a passing motorist heard his shouts of help and relayed the message to the rest of the group. Cue a stream of riders turning tail and getting back to aid the stranded cyclist. Joe's stress levels were soon lowered though when Ben offered to fix his puncture.

The group then came back together again for the trip to Ben's house where a beautiful breakfast spread was laid out. Ben's Dad Paul was a great host and set us on our way refuelled and rested. The sun was out and the mood was good, I took the opportunity to take a photo of the guys riding down a country lane. But I didn't even make it to my camera because as I reached behind my back the bike decided to go right, up a slight slope and into the nearest hedge. The link to my surname has not been missed by many on my retelling of the story. Thankfully it was a quiet road, I had stayed on my machine, and the bike had no damage, and I only had a few superficial injuries. An added bonus being that I was at the back of the group and so most missed my spectacular crash. Pete was fortunate enough to see my efforts to extracate myself from the hedge before we set off again hoping for no more drama.

For our next rest stop we had the very picturesque surroundings of Burrow Mump, where Ben recounted a very amusing tale, but it is one that I can't retell here. Dad discovered some glass in his tire before we set off again and on Ben's advice removed it. Cue hissing and another puncture to deal with. Puncture number 3 mended we headed on our way.

Ben and Matt rode as far as the Mcdonalds services on the way to Glastonbury before they had to turn and head for home. We really enjoyed their company, and they were both top guys and very humble. As they headed for Taunton we headed for Cheddar Gorge. But Dad and I succeeded in getting punctures numbers 4 and 5 simultaneously and so bikes were left strewn all over the layby as we got to work with ever decreasing enthuaism.

The mood was lifted when we arrived at Cheddar Gorge which had looked beautiful from the postcard Dad had sent a decade earlier and it didn't disappoint. The team didn't get to explore the caves inside, but the largest inland cliffs on the outside were spectacular. Joe and I formed one team, whilst Pete, Dad and Luke followed afterwards. The climb wasn't particular steep, apart from one or two sharp turns, but it did climb for a couple of miles before it flattened out near the top. The slow speeds meant we could fully appreciate our surroundings and reaching the summit was something of a disappointment as it was over. It was definately my favorite part of the trip thus far.

Luke decided to join the puncture party at the top of the climb to make it 6 for the day. Dad got comfy in the car and let the young pups get on with the tyre change. With 5 working machines we left the girls and headed off for the final leg of Day 3 to Pete's house in Bristol. After the stunning surroundings of Cheddar Gorge we were treated to more great views as we headed down to the reservior. The descent was pretty hairy and more climbing awaited us on the other side. It was comforting knowing this was Pete's territory and he guided us through the final busy run in to Bristol expertly.

The heavy traffic and fatigue meant the group fanned out a little, it was at this point with two miles to go that Dad cried out puncture and I sprinted off to let Luke and Pete know. We all trapsed back to find dad struggling with our 7th puncture of the day. The wheel and tyre had come off fine, but the tyre was old and stretched and the struggle was getting the tyre and inner tube back on. We started to think of wierd and wonderful ways to get us all the 2 miles back to Pete's safely but in the end after much huffing and puffing brute force got the tyre back on and we were on the road again.

The five tired and relieved cyclists arrived at Pete's over 10 hours after setting off from Tiverton Travel Lodge. A tough day and only 75 miles, how are we going to handle the upcoming century? The answer was new tyres. Luke's and Dad's tyres had both done around 1,500 miles and were holey and threadbare thus the run of punctures. My trusty slicks had done 2,500 miles but I didn't want to rock the boat so soldiered on with them.

After enjoying a fantastic Pasta Bake with added Bacon, Chicken and Veg the youngsters took to the task of putting on the four new tyres. Mum and Dad had a nightmare trying to find the Halfords where the tyres were bought and so headed for the hotel. Luke and I struggled with our assigned two tyres, whilst Pete and Joe had the knack and so I tried to busy myself with the lowly task of bike cleaning. By half 10 and under floodlights Joe and Pete completed the fourth and final tyre and the bikes were ready for the rigors of day 4. It would only be in the morning that we'd find out if the five riders were ready.

Monday, 18 July 2011

LEJOG Day 2 - Liskeard to Tiverton

Distance - 72.62 Miles
Cycle Time - 6 Hours 2 Minutes
Total Time - 8 Hours 30 Minutes
Average Speed - 11.9mph
Top Speed - 47.6mph

Day 2 had been billed as the most difficult day of the entire LEJOG tour and after the first 25 miles it looked like it may break at least one of the group.

The day started badly with Joe's fry up arriving 30 minutes late, putting our departure time of 8 O'Clock in jeopardy. This minor delay was soon put into perspective when we departed at 5 past 8. I took 3 pedal strokes and snap, crackle and pop went my chain. I look down where my chain is meant to be and theres nothing there, I look over my shoulder and there on the road lies my broken chain. Gutted! Joe also discovered that his bike still didn't change up or down from big ring to small and so he joined me at Liskeard Cycles when it opened at 9am.

Russell turned up just before 9 to open up and he was great, sorting out Joe's bike for nothing and only charging me 20 quid for a new chain, a new cable and even chucked in some gone off energy gels to boot.

Joe and I returned to the B&B on our now smooth working machines. The five riders then set off for a second time from the Nebula Hotel at just before 10 having lost nearly two hours. But far better the problems had happened so close to a cycle shop, and not in the middle of Dartmoor National Park.

The day started with a hill and this continued all the way to Tavistock. The riders were rewarded for their climbing with some flowing descents before Dartmoor reared it's beautiful but hilly head 20 miles into our day. Within minutes of entering Dartmoor we tackled our first serious climb of the day. A steep ascent, no twists or turns to hide it's brutality just a big drive to the top. On the lead up to the climb, Dad slowed and I was worried something was up. I got 2 3rds of the way up with Joe and saw Dad, Pete and Luke part way up on the verge. I decided to head back down to see what the problem was. No fall, no puncture, just Dad boinking in a big way! The boys were force feeding Dad food and energy drink. 5 minutes later we were on our way and I got my second go at the beast.

The lack of real food, meant that Dad was weak and needing some proper sustance, we struggled through the next five long miles of hills, mist and Rain. Dad sometimes needing 3 bites at the steep hills. But he held it together brilliantly. It was a feat of will power which got him to the food stop after 25 miles. The mantre of mind over matter didn't apply, no matter how strong Dad's will power his body didn't want to play.

The support crew met us with pasties of all descriptions, Ice Buns and Thornton's Toffee and a warm car. It was a godsend after 3 tough hours, the toughest so far. We all ate plenty. but those not in the car soon got cold on the exposed moor and so reluctantly we were on our way again.

The uphills continued after the break but we then had a golden period of boomerang hills, where we soared down the hills at 40mph and were then catapulted back up the other side and crested the hill with little effort required on our part.

After the boomerang hills came the most incredible 3 miles of descent under the tree canopy. It was breath taking after the arduous morning, it had me smiling in a big way. Devon not wanting to be out down by Cornwall unleashed a slow 2 mile grind of a hill just before the 40 mile point and our 2nd meet up with the support team.

After the dark times in Dartmoor the team's morale was now high and there were just 10 miles to go to Exeter and Mike's (Pete's brother) student house where baguettes and refreshments were waiting. We made it through Exeter City Centre via the beautiful Cathedral.

I don't imagine Joe will be visiting again anytime soon. In the space of two miles he managed to shoulder barge a pedestrian who made a point of walking out in front of him then strolling down the middle of the road. This was soon followed by an enormous couple who couldn't wait for the green man on the way to the pie shop and so again blocked Joe's path, cue a volley of expletives at the rotund couple. I agreed with Joe on principal on both occasions if not quite approving of his attempts at diplomacy.

The five of us arrive at Mike's intact and without angry locals chasing us. We were given the run of the very impressive student digs, the riders struggled to get much food inside them with this stop so close to the previous one. After a quick turnaround the boys were back on the bikes and a crowd gathered to cheer us off on the 15 miles to Tiverton Travel Lodge.

15 Miles is ample time for a LEJOG tale or two to be created. Joe was feeling the effects of another tough day and so to numb the pain he went to his happy place. Unfortunately for the owner of a pretty red run around his happy place did not include the road ahead. Dad and I watched on helplessly as our crys of "Joe!Car!" came too late, and so unfolded a slow motion meeting of man and machine. Fortunately Joe was just shaken and his helmet had taken a little bump, no harm done and we were away again before any passers by could kick up a stink.

As we were approaching the hotel there was some confusion over exactly where the hotel was. Not fancying the idea of heading straight for the motorway. Pete and I scouted it out with the others following a little way behind. Our fears were unfounded and the hotel was easy enough to find. But tiredness and frustrations boiled over and bust up number two occurred over us not completing the day together as a fivesome. Apologies and Burger Kings later, we were big happy group again. Relived the day was done.

LEJOG Day 1 - Marizon to Liskeard

Distance - 69.07 Miles
Cycle Time - 5 Hours 43 Minutes
Total Time - 8 Hours 57 Minutes
Average Speed - 12.0Mph
Top Speed - 37.6Mph

Day 1 proper followed on where our 16 mile taster left off.Hills,hills and more hills!I've never experienced anything like it in my life!The day had at least 3 "that was the biggest hill so far!" moments with the last of them almost breaking me 3 quarters of the way up, but I managed to reach the summit intact.

Today also had our first puncture, with Luke's tire popping in spectacular style after only 10 miles. The rain then decided to come down in a big way, as cyclists looked for shelter or aided in the tire change. At least 20 minutes later Luke was rolling again and we were all soaked through.

The route twisted and turned and we are still trying to get to grips with the Garmin Edge and these combined and lead to the first bust up of the LEJOG tour with me and Luke having a frank exchange of opinions. But all was resolved quickly and we got on with the business of the day, cycling!

We met up with the support team after 25 miles at Truro Cathedral for Bacon sarnies courtesy of St Michaels B&B, seing as we left too early for a full english. They really hit the spot along with some Flapjack and other goodies. We were packing the calories in as quick as we were burning them. We left the support crew, well fed and in our rain jackets ready for whatever nature threw at us.

Nature duely oblidged and continued to shower on us at regular intervals making the hills and mileage even more testing. I always knew LEJOG was a challenge, but I had previously seen it as much more of a mental challenge than a physical one, but today there was a very definate physical challenge to go alongside the mental one. I don't think I could handle 12 more days like today.

After another 25 miles in the wet, with thankfully no more punctures or bust ups we came upon a frantically waving woman in pink, fortunately it was Mum directing us down a minor road to a car park where a fantastic picnic awaited the five tired cyclists. We wolved down everything that was put infront of us. The only blemish on an otherwise perfect lunch was my discovery of one of my chain links having popped out, leading to much grinding and clunking on the way into Liskeard.

We finally arrived at 5pm exhausted, wet and dirty. I've never been so relieved in all my life. I am now showered and changed and heading out for an Indian, the only place in town doing food on a Sunday night. Thanks so much to all the support team, who made a very tough day, bearable. Tommorrow is a new day.