LEJOG Blogs

Personal Reflections

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.

Bolton Kendall49I 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.

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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.

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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!

John Anderson

 

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‘It’s Not About the Destination, it’s About the Journey’

‘It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey’

This phrase applies wonderfully to our challenge and over the next couple of weeks, we hope to post something from everyone about their own journey during this challenge.WhatsApp Image 2018-08-25 at 21.42.54

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Helmsdale to John O’Groats

Our expectations for our last day were mixed for a number of reasons:

The Weather

The forecast was windy and wet all the way. On the whole, the weather has been good to us except on two days when once wet, we became incredibly cold and uncomfortable which many of us found extremely tough. The forecast filled some of us with dread that this last stretch may be our toughest yet.

The Distance

We had 75 miles to cover to follow the recommended route and avoid travelling the whole way on the busy and fast A9. The thought of doing this distance in the predicted weather terrified some of us and so the evening before a few of us had taken a preemptive strike and had cycled on to Kinbrace to reduce our final day’s mileage to 60 miles.

The Challenge

We have all worked so hard training for this challenge and the last two weeks had proved to be the most physically demanding we have ever experienced. We have been physically and emotionally challenged, uplifted, exhilarated and exhausted. There has been little time for anything other than cycling, eating and sleeping. After all our hard work, the end was in sight and we were excited that we were so close to achieving our goal yet a little sad that our adventure was coming to an end.

The Team

From our many different backgrounds, locations and with our own reasons for doing this challenge, we have come together to achieve something really special and in order to do so, we have formed an incredibly supportive, fun and determined team, building on existing friendships and developing new ones which we will miss when we go our different ways.

The Reality

WhatsApp Image 2018-09-09 at 19.27.52In reality, our last day was, for the most part, warm, dry and not too windy. With the weather conditions able to make or break the challenge, we were filled with gratitude that our last day was not to be as tough as we had anticipated. The route took us along some wonderful roads through stunning countryside and we managed our fastest consistent pace of the challenge. The majority of the group even added another few miles to visit Dunnet Head en route.

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Late afternoon. we reached John O’Groats within half an hour of each other. Our thoughts were with Christine, who’s accident had prevented her finishing with us, as we cycled he last few hundred metres together to the infamous John O’Groats sign, cheering, laughing and some of us crying as we experienced a mix of emotions at achieving our goal.

WhatsApp Image 2018-09-09 at 20.38.49WhatsApp Image 2018-09-09 at 20.38.51WhatsApp Image 2018-09-09 at 20.38.48WhatsApp Image 2018-09-09 at 20.38.50Due to the size of the group, our matching team jerseys and our exuberance, many bemused tourists watched as we celebrated reaching our goal with a champagne toast, an abundance of photographs and much hilarity and mixed emotions.

WE DID IT!

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Evanton to Helmsdale & Beyond 57-74 Miles

Taking Advantage of a Beautiful Day

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We are almost there and we cannot believe it. Yet again the conditions have been perfect – no rain or wind, almost balmy temperatures and some periods of sunshine. We have seen deer, seals and highland cattle, numerous sea birds and even a tall ship in Helmsdale harbour.

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We have been treated to a range of delicious goodies from the back of Alison’s friend, Julie’s car and we have tasted the best hot chocolate in the world in Dornoch. The roads in the morning were spectacular again – though the A9 during the afternoon was not so much fun! The weather was so good that a few intrepid Cyclopaths decided to cycle a few extra miles today on order to slightly shorten their final day tomorrow. We were treated to a stunningly beautiful ride in the early evening sunshine while others may have to cycle that road in rather inclement weather tomorrow – watch this space.

We are feeling a huge sense of excitement, anticipation, and so much sadness that our epic adventure is almost over. Bring on Day 14……

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Aviemore to Evanton – 57 Miles

By John Anderson

Today was a welcomed, relatively warm and dry day. We had stunning scenery with sunshine highlighting the Highlands with The Cyclopaths weaving between the heather and fir trees for much of the morning.

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57 miles seemed an easy task! Given what has gone before it did not appear too daunting at breakfast in Aviemore. However, after 800 miles of cycling, nothing is ‘easy’. First thing each day, you need to be back in the saddle. Every fibre of your body screams for some respite, particularly those in direct contact with the saddle. After a few miles the legs relax and warm up and things get easier, although it does seem like certain parts of the anatomy complain all day long.

One of the team had an interesting time repairing a puncture on the main bridge out of Inverness. Never a dull moment, or a day goes by without some form of new challenge. Shortly after this there was warm refuge in the White Cottage Tea Rooms where the team refuelled and refreshed before heading for Evanton.

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For Alison the day had an unexpected and welcomed surprise as her best friend Julie, flew up from Cheltenham to appear on the roadside to cheer us on.

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This is one of many examples of the support friends and family have offered members of the team. Each one is very special and provides much needed encouragement and energy to both that individual and the group as a whole. We are aware that many are following this blog and we find inspiration and motivation from the messages left – thank you.

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What a Difference a Day Makes

A Message From Christine:

From the peak of fitness, cycling 80 miles a day to hardly being able to put one foot in front of the other was a shock. I knew as soon as I hit the ground I wouldn’t be continuing to John O’Groats but immediately felt safe surrounded by the Cyclopath doctors and nurses. I could hear the reassuring Scottish tones of the local fireman and my good friend Julia was close by. A & E was bearable thanks to Chris and Chris who have more than lived up to their title “support team”. Thanks guys for looking after me.

I received excellent care at Wishaw General Hospital where a fractured pelvis was diagnosed and my new challenge was to walk to the bathroom and climb stairs. This was doable with the support of physios and encouraging words  “you can do it hen” from my cheery, elderly roommates, Myra, Alice and Elizabeth. They applauded when I made it across the room and shared their treats. By the end of that day they all wanted to “have a go” at walking.
On Thursday my ‘knights in shining armour’; husband Malcolm and daughter Emily made a 691 mile round trip to deliver me safely home. Stopping at the services was hairy with my lack of coordination with the crutches, an old lady swiftly overtook me. Riding a bike is much easier!
Many thanks to all the people who sponsored me and I WILL complete the journey as soon as I’m able. Thanks to everyone who wished me well on the blog. Best wishes to the Cyclopaths for your last two days, savour the moments. I loved cycling with every one of you and I’m enjoying the blog and the daily photographs. I almost feel I’m there and can picture each of your distinctive riding styles and remember all the subtle ways that each team member contributes to the daily progress. Congrats on raising so much money. It’s all downhill from now on!!!! Much love, Chris

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Pitlochry to Aviemore – 60 Miles

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We were all looking forward to today. After a week of extremely long days, 60 miles through the beautiful Scottish scenery seemed an easy prospect. We knew the wind and rain would descend by late morning / early afternoon so with another early start, we thought we would get a few miles covered before we got wet.

Oh, the best laid plans! The rain started by about mile 10 and was torrential! We had 30 miles to cover before our first stop with nowhere to along the route that we could stop beforehand. We followed the busy A9 on a ‘cycle track’ that our road bikes were not equipped for. The gravel, potholes and mud all made more treacherous by the heavy rain.

For many of us, these 20 miles were the toughest we had encountered. Black skies, cold, wet and windy combined with the road conditions, we had to dig deep to reach Dalwhinnie.

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Thankfully our support team were as always on hand when we reached Dalwhinnie, with layers of extra clothing and a wonderfully welcoming cafe with a log burning fire. A hot drink, bowl of soup and change of clothing, along with the usual camaraderie and support for each other and an hour later we were ready to brave the elements again.

Thankfully, the rain eased off and for periods, actually stopped and we even encountered some brief glimpses of sunshine for the second leg of our journey. A brief pit stop in Newtonmore and we reached Aviemore late by afternoon. The scenery was stunning and we managed to enjoy much of it on this leg of the journey.

We had a ‘Highland Buffet’ arranged for the evening and thoroughly enjoyed the ‘eat as much as you like’ element of the meal after expending so many calories during the day.

No two days have been similar and we think about the last leg of our journey over the next three days from Aviemore to Evanton to Helmsdale to John O’Groats with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. We are tired and saddle weary but very much in good spirits as we get closer to the end of our challenge.

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