By John Anderson
I feel very proud to have completed the LeJog epic challenge and privileged to have achieved this with such a fantastic group of people. I am sure many have done this faster but I suspect few have had so much fun and support.
My starting point was my wife Alison and I cannot express my admiration and respect for what she has achieved. The actual challenge was only half of the story, as she was the mastermind behind the whole event and planned all of the logistics, hotel bookings, etc; dealing with all the associated problems along the way. Alison had good days and bad, highs and lows but, like us all, still cycled every last mile. Chapeau to her and all of us Cyclopaths.
I am most proud of the team. This was exemplified by one of our worst days going up over Shap on the A6, freezing and absolutely drenched in driving rain. Alison was spent, broken and freezing to a point of being unable to use her gears or brakes. She had to stop. Her friends stayed with her and sought refuge until our ever-present support team of Chris and Chris scooped them up. They had all lost 12 miles of the route in the process of joining the rest of a soaking, cold bunch of Cylopaths in Penrith. After a couple of hours of defrosting and drying, the disappointment of not fully completing the challenge was too much. Together with Paula and Julia, Alison went back to the pick-up point to cycle the 12 miles they had been driven and the 49 miles to follow that, to reach our final destination on that day.
Both myself and Caroline returned with this group to support and encourage them. This is something I needed to do for Alison, but it was also an example of how invaluable Caroline had become as chief route planner, navigator and general ‘go to’ person for everything – help, advice, medicine, encouragement and of course dinky-deckers. Caroline had already supported me with a snapped chain x3 and a big chase to catch up earlier in the route, when I confess the prospect of a lone cycle was a test of my resolve. Chapeau with bells on to Caroline. Everyone played a part on that very wet day. Our welcome, late into the evening in Scotland was celebrated and cheered by the whole group, we were together again and had a steely determination to do this.
The team grew with many people supporting in different ways. Friends and family cheered and rode with us, cooked and transported things around. Strangers we met were genuinely interested and encouraging. This was so special to me and there are too many to comprehensively name individually, but here are a few which stand out for me personally; Malcolm F, Tom M, Jim PW, Rob H, Jannette P, Neil H and the Bolton crew, triathlete James, Crawford Village Hall ladies, David C, Colin & Janet (in-laws), Julie (sis-in-law) Nancy & Margaret, Jules (Alison’s best friend), Louise and my own sister Alison and nephew Robbie. There are many more and we all were encouraged by the acts of kindness and support they offered and the words of encouragement they provided.
Our journey was a roller coaster with many thrills and some spills. The beauty and variety of the UK cannot be overstated. Hedgerow, canal paths, lakes and rivers, highlands, lowlands, coastline and forests. We saw it all. Unfortunately, Nigel did not see the post on the canal path. Despite significant injuries he completed the route – brave, uncomplaining he was a brick (and a very good cyclist too). Others had falls and most simply suffered scrapes and bruises along with bruised egos. Sadly, for all of us, another member was less fortunate and Christine’s journey was ended just inside of Scotland after a nasty fall left her with a fractured pelvis. This highlights the dangers we all faced on some difficult terrain and challenging slopes. Christine was very much missed and was with us in spirit in John O’Groats, linked by FaceTime – the wonders of modern technology enabling us to share this with her.
Hopefully you will have read Alison’s story. Please ensure you read Linda’s too. She is a remarkable individual. Her strength and resolve have only been matched by the support from her husband Mark. In the moments I found things tough, ached a bit too much or just was knackered, I look to Alison and Linda and then said to myself ‘man-up’. These people are inspiring and determined focused individuals – respect and congratulations.
I feel this is a bit of an essay. However, Land’s End to John O’Groats is a long way and many things happened. Whatever happened we had Chris and Chris, our support team and general ‘can do anything’ boys. Without them we would not have made it. They started as our support team and ended as part of our big family. Thank you for all you did.
For me it was both about the journey and the destination. The journey was rich, the destination a sense of relief and achievement. My memories outweigh my comments many times over. I will bore some of you with more reflections in due course I am sure. Thank you to everyone who made this a very special albeit tough couple of weeks.
Take home messages!
- LeJog is a long way to cycle
- Scotland is stunning
- Devon is more hilly than the Highlands
- You get very cold and very hot, frequently on the same day
- You learn to tolerate a sweaty smell
- Your backside is sore despite the training
- You learn what you should have brought on the trip, whilst on the trip
- You need to dig deep
- You do have fun
- You learn a great deal about yourself and your bike
- Texts and posts are great motivators and stimulants
- Drinking and cycling can be recommended on the border to Scotland
- Some days you simply just don’t seem to be ‘on it’
- There are always moments to stop, savour, absorb and rejuvenate
- Develop a strange appreciation for supermarket car parks, toilets and awful coffee
- Although we are not exactly pros, we record every mile and time
- You feel part of a team and a great achievement
- You feel a better person because of this
We did it!