2014 I cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Took me 10 days instead of the (fools) hope of 9.
Did I train properly? Did I frack!
If it’s possible for a 34 year old (at the time) carrying a few extra pounds, 6 months of mediocre, semi serious training, after 10 years in the saddle to make the 960 mile trip, anyone can. It bloody hurts mind!
You have to have what I call my stubborn button. The older I get it is becoming harder to find but it’s still there. It activates when I make a decision to do something that 9 times out of 10 I am not even remotely prepared for. It activates when pain becomes excruciating but I can’t quit because I’ve made a commitment to complete. It activates when I’m about to do something incredible unwise…
Is this a post to encourage and give advice? Well… I ended up with buggered knees and it took months before my vagina no longer looked like it birthed my saddle, so the takeaway advice is, pretty much don’t do as I did.
But if you want to challenge yourself, this is definitely a good one.
You may already know why I set out to do this. It was a bargain with the universe to do something extraordinary in exchange to save my mum. I kept up my end.
So the day before meant Stace and I towing a caravan from Thetford, Norfolk to Headington Quarry, Oxford to pick up my friend Aitch. Then drive all the way to Land’s End, Cornwall. Frack a duck, it’s a long way! So much so, Stacy’s car decided to suddenly go into limp mode without warning – you think I swear a lot?… We parked up somewhere off the A30 at some god awful time in the morning and decided to get some sleep, give the car a rest and hope this challenge hadn’t just ended before it had even began.
The car started so we made it to Land’s End late morning. The plan had been I set off the next day but I thought, as the weather was nice and there was so many tourists about, I might as well crack on and do a half day to get my cycle legs.
First few days were tough, my god Cornwall and Devon have some extreme hills! And apart from day three when I was descending one of these hills, I had a weird dizzy spell that caused me to fall off my bike (to the left onto the kerb thankfully) the whole trip was free of accidents.
I averaged between 90 and 110 miles per day. Yes it hurt. I had a supply of pain killers and sleeping tablets to get me through it. I was crying in pain in my sleep and Stace on multiple occasions wanted to pull the plug but knew however bad it got, I wouldn’t quit. I came close though.
Throughout I wore uber padded shorts and had a gel saddle. This however didn’t stop to what became (not so affectionately called) my “angry flange” A paddling pool for ice baths had been purchased prior to setting off, as I thought I’d need it for my legs. It’s actual purpose became to cool down and sooth my “nether regions”. Yep in all my (serious lack of) training I’d done, (I had done a couple of Norfolk to Chinnor runs to prepare) it never occurred to me this was an area that would need extra attention. Quite frankly it was a mess down there by the end. The first bath at home with Epson salts was initially very traumatic but became the best bath I’ve ever had!
If you’re still here, that’s the last time I mention my vag, I promise…
I know I was in pain but I was enjoying this cycling lark, I also felt for once I was actually achieving something extraordinary and it was a great feeling.
I made steady progress and by the time I crossed the border into Scotland, I started to think, yep I’m going to finish this.
Scotland is my favourite part of the UK, Stace and I plan to move there when his kids have grown. However, from Gretner Green to John O’Groats it felt like the same distance from Gretner to Land’s End, Scotland is HUGE! Best roads hands down, I got to cycle on a motorway with no vehicles for miles, I wanted to name it but 6 years have passed and I can’t bloody remember (it does exist, I didn’t imagine it😅) If anyone knows what road I’m talking about please let me know – I think it was south of Glasgow, but who knows? Maybe the group of guys that passed me, may happen to read this blog and remember seeing the lone female cyclist on this road, last week of August 2014. Could happen?!
Best bit hands down, A9 through the Cairngorms. I shit you not, around every bend, a new beautiful view with forests and waterfalls. I felt I’d died and gone to heaven, until that is I reached Aviemore, I was soooo over waterfalls and mountains and just wanted to finish.
It was just south of Kessock Bridge I had a proper emotional breakdown. The pain had got too much, Stace and Aitch had gone ahead to the campsite in John O’Groats and had just arrived when I called needing to be picked up earlier than planned. So there I was, in a bus shelter away from the rain, cramping up and I had the mother of all breakdowns. I sobbed, I panicked, I called my mum, I became incredible inventful with my swear words. I’d run out of pain killers and deep heat, nothing around me was open, if I drug dealer had stopped there, I’d have bought the fracking lot, EVERYTHING. Eventually Stace got to me, bundled me into the car as by now I could only shuffle and looked like I’d shit myself. True Story. The following day was originally going to be my final day’s cycling but I had planned to be 20 miles north of Inverness by this point. With around 120 miles left to do, it was possible, (for literally everyone else on the planet at this point) but the state I was in, I had to resign myself that the finish was 2 days way.
Following day Stace asked me to consider calling it there, I had cried in pain for most of the night and he was terrified I was going to do myself a proper mischief or worse. Nope. I’d come too far by this point I wasn’t going to stop now. Coffee, matcha and tramadol necked, I got out of the car and started cycling and decided just to do as much as I could, slowest day by far. I called it for the day about 20/30 miles from John O’Groats as I was losing the light.
The end was nigh.
Had a slightly better night’s sleep, probably because I knew I had almost completed the challenge – just a few miles to go.
So at the crack of dawn I set off for the final stretch.
I bloody did it!
I vowed to never do anything this stupid again… (without training)
First time in my life I didn’t feel awkward or guilty for being jolly well proud of myself.
I then decided to get into the North Sea, because 1, it was the year of the Ice Bucket Challenge and 2, it was effectively an ice bath. https://www.facebook.com/MadUKRide/videos/527302854070667/?
Do I recommend this challenge? Absofrackinlutely!
But please, pretty please, train for it first 😁x