Day 1 August 3rd 2014 - Lands End to Bodmin

Such an exciting day, we arrived at Lands End at around 9:30am, did all the obligatory photo’s by the Lands End sign. Plus also a video blog at the start line. We kicked off the first leg of our journey at around 10:30am. The journey was meant to 56 miles, but due to the wonders of modern technology, we ended up doing 70 miles and an extra 2000ft elevation. Still, it was a good day with lots of hills. Speaking of hills, highlight of the day was probably on one of the steepest climbs, when Lee lost concentration for a second and ended up riding in to the hedge. The fall was at least a graceful one. Wish I had a camera to capture that one. We ended day one with a trip to Weatherspoons, and for the first time ever had to leave a virtually full pint because I just couldn’t manage it as I felt so bloated with the copious amounts of water I had drunk to keep me hydrated. After a very cold bath, I hit the sack and slept like a baby.


Day 2 August 4th 2014 -  Bodmin to Barnstaple

Day 2 started at around 8:30 following a breakfast of porridge made with water, which was surprisingly nice. The first 20 miles seemed to fly by, though they began almost immediately with some of the steepest hills of the day. Why is it that for every down hill stretch, there is a vastly insane uphill as pay back. Mother nature has a sick sense of humour!! Highlight of the day was an amazing Cornish pasty at Delbole. That was delicious! The rolling hills of Devon are beautiful, but make for difficult riding. Lee was in the zone though, heading home must have spurred him on. I struggled a little with the middle part of the journey, mostly with my back! But pushed through it and made it home. Steven seems like an engine, just keeps going and Matt as usual provided the most excellent support. We reached Barnstaple just after 4pm. where we had the pleasure of a vast welcome committee including Graham Seal, Alison Seal, Lois Seal and Andrew Seal, with young Molly and most importantly the star of the show young Ben Grimes! Ben is Nathan’s son, and as Nathan is who we are doing this for, it was awesome that Ben could be there. Following a cold bath a relaxing evening was spent in my own home! Luxury!


Day 3 August 5th 2014 -  Barnstaple to Western Super-Mare

Day 3 began with me feeling exhausted from day one and two, however a quick change of mental attitude and within the first hour I was raring to go. Though in reality, that may have been helped by the amazing sausage and bacon bap that that we picked up from South Molton. Given the fact that by this time it was peeing down with rain, the sausage bap really lifted the spirits! A quick chat to Hopps on his breakfast show and off we set for the next leg of the day.

The next leg took us to Bampton, we could not have imagined what waited for us there in Bampton. The rain had continued to pour all the way from South Molton, the roads resembled rivers and we were wetter than wet things on international wet day, whilst taking a bath in the pouring rain!! As we cycled in to Bampton we took temporary cover under a covered alley way. It was then that I saw three town criers stood by the local library. Spotting a photo opportunity I immediately headed over. Turns out they were in a petition to save the Bampton local library. I explained what we were doing, and the team was ushered in to a shop just opposite the library. There we were treated to FREE coffee and chocolate biscuits. What a welcome! We posed for photos with the town criers, one of whom, Roy, came from Ilfracombe and the others had traveled from Melbourne Australia, but had family connections in North Devon! They made us so welcome that we ended up staying with them and enjoying their hospitality and conversation for about an hour! I even had a go at town crying! I had no idea my voice could be so loud. Possibly a future career I think.

We then headed out of Bampton as the clouds parted and provided us with some albeit short lived, but brilliant sunshine. It didn’t last long! By Taunton the clouds gathered once again and poured wet stuff all over us.  Matt became star of the day as our Garmin navigation system failed due to persistent rain. Matt drove from junction to junction and waited for us to catch up, ensuring we stayed on route. We all agree that Matt has been an absolute Godsend most definitely an essential part of the team. We eventually arrived at our hotel, which boasted a lovely pool, sauna and steam room. Result!! Plus the beer is amazing! 


Day 4 August 6th - Western Super-Mare to Hereford

Following yesterday’s amazing day, for some reason insomnia kicked in that evening and I recall watching the clock till way past 3am! I woke up this morning and it seemed to take all the energy I could muster to take a shower and make my standard breakfast of porridge. We had a long 79 mile day stretching out before us, and due to my energy levels being low I was somewhat in trepidation of what lay ahead. A text from my mum spurred me on a little as she recounted how my dad used to say that a personal challenge was all about the right mental attitude. I had of course heard this before, but it was good to get the reminder. Armed with a positive approach we began our day, albeit a little later than planned as the bikes all needed a good check over following yesterdays poor conditions. The good news of the day was that our bike sat-nav system seemed t remember what it was there for and sprung in to life. In fact it remained faultless for the entire journey.  Matt was of course sterling as usual, finding us the most amazing roadside sausage and bacon bap service just outside Backwell. They were probably the most amazing sausage and bacon rolls ever, and huge too!

Highlights of the day were bridge crossings. Today we crossed Clifton suspension bridge which had the most fantastic views. Then about 20 miles later, we crossed the Severn bridge with equally stunning views and crazily high winds. Cycling over the Severn was breath taking! At the end of the bridge however, a quick calculation showed that we had miles calculated our miles for the day and in fact had a further 53 to go. This brought our daily total to almost 90! This was going to be the longest ride of our challenge. Plus Matt informed us that we shortly had a 5 mile 20% hill to look forward to. After about 8 miles and no such hill, we began to think Matt may have gotten his information wrong! We lulled ourselves in to a false sense of security and congratulated ourselves for not having to face this said monster hill. Then, suddenly following an incredible decent, it came in to view! This was the mother of all hills. Other hills in the region looked on with envy at this monster. It stretched out long and narrow. No more than a  farm track in width, but in height and in length, it was like no other. Every time we thought we had reached the summit, a new peak came in to view. All we could do was to keep on pushing forwards. Now we are of course a team, but when it comes to tackling a monster like that, it is every man for himself.  We dropped to the lowest gear, yet even then it was like peddling with the fires of hell burning evry muscle in our legs. You are to afraid to stop, in the knowledge that stopping would lead to almost certain failure, as a hill like that is virtually impossible to begin again with a hill start! Three quarters of the way up this beast and by now there was some distance between us cyclists. Each of us in turn were greeted by an angry farm dog who did his best to make us stop and have to perform the dreaded hill start! All of us got to the top and congratulated ourselves for doing so! At this point Matt came in to view carrying the very much needed water top ups. We had a short 15 miles to destination, which we performed fairly quickly.

At our destination after showering and a short recovery time, we were treated to a gorgeous meal by Ken, who is Steve’s father in law. Thanks Ken.


Day 5 August 7th 2014 - Hereford to Chirk

Day 5 began with a breakfast fit for a king! Fruit juice with museli, followed by full English then toast and jam.  Following breakfast we re assembled our bikes which we had to store in our van the previous night, said goodbye to Ken and Aby, who had stayed with us at the B&B and were on our way at the crack of dawn, which this morning was 9:30am.

The first few miles were a slog, the heavy breakfast took it’s toll. Getting the balance right between not taking in enough fuel for the journey, and loading too much to quickly can be a tricky process. Steve and Lee however seemed like they were on fire as the distance between me and them grew steadily. Keeping them in my sights, I managed not to lag too far behind and kept up, just! This was the most difficult starting point of the journey so far. Having only just sat in the saddle, it felt like I had already completed 70 plus miles. A quick check of my mileage and realisation hit that I was only at 10 miles! In every LEJOG, there are up days and down days, with the pain I was experiencing in my lower back, combined the realisation that this was going to be another 86 mile day, rather than the 76 I had imagined, this was going to be a tough day. IT is at times like these that small rhythmic mantras pop in to your head that you repeat over and over with the rhythm of the turn of the crank. Self motivating mantras like, “You can do this” or “Remember the cause” seemed to help. The ones that helped the most however were “must catch Lee and Steve” as they disappeared around the next bend several hundred yards ahead of me. A quick re-gathering at lunch time and by now I was so exhausted, though I was somewhat relieved to discover that Lee was showing signs of struggling too! Is that bad?

After lunch, I gave myself a stiff mental telling off and decided I had two choices, continue to lag behind and feel like crap, or push my body as hard as I could, keep the pace and push on toward our goal. From somewhere I found the energy to do the latter, and was surprised that the new mental attitude gave me a real emotional boost. I was boosted further by the fact that for the first time in the day I managed to maintain either matching speed with the boys or for a good portion of the remaining ride stayed in front! About another 10 miles in, and a familiar face appeared out of nowhere! It was very good friend and ex work mate Geoff Dunsmoor. We were now in his neck of the woods which made me feel like the end was in sight. It was actually still 40 miles away, but mentally felt much nearer. Geoff followed us and reappeared on every other junction snapping away with is camera. It felt like being stalked by paperatsi, but in a good way. The final stretch consisted of a very long but shallow hill, which went on for about a 15 mile climb. This was slow progress, but luckily after that we hit a few A roads and our speed went up to the crazy speed of 18 mph. We finally arrived at Chirk to a welcoming committee of Mark, Denise, Callum, Geoff and my mum. As we were applauded in, it felt like we were the returning hero’s from some ancient campaign. A lovely evening was spent in some great company and the comfort of home cooking provided by my mum was extraordinary! After such a long day, it was a most enjoyable evening and really helped with the recovery from a difficult day.

Day 6 August 8th - Chirk to Chorely

Day 6 began with breakfast at my mums, following an awesome stopover. From now on however we would be on our own. No more stopping with friends and family, no more welcomes from smiling friendly faces. This is the start of the independent stretch!

The day started with a drive in to Oswestry to pick up a few bike spares to rectify the problems we encountered yesterday. As we were severely limited for bike shops, Halfords it was!  Getting brake pads and inner tubes was easy, but try asking the 12 year old assistant for a bottom bracket!  Seeing him wonder in vain about where that might be located on the bike. For the time being however the repair on the bottom bracket seems to be holding out, so after a quick tube replacement and a tricky handle bar tape repair carried out by myself and we were on our way. The time was now 10:40 so we had a lot of catching up to do. We needn’t have worried,   the roads on this trip were good and we managed to maintain a 15mph average. For the first time since our journey began, we passed our target and confused Matt who was waiting 10 miles down the road unaware that we had already passed that point! A quick phone call, and Matt was speeding our resources to us. We passed through some beautiful forrest area that seemed to stretch for miles, which was a real treat. By the time the forrest ran out however, the cities began! We were now proper Up North! The accents as well as the scenery changed dramatically. It was around this time that Lee developed a further problem. This time, his spoke had snapped! This caused him some issues with brakes and friction, but didn’t seem to slow him down too much. Near Wiggan, we saw a small bike repair shop, an independent one like you used to get in the good old days. We were greeted by a friendly northern guy, who tutted a little before telling us he had no spokes for road bikes. Which was uttered in the most amazing northern dialect that sadly doesn’t translate in to written words. All bike shops should be like this one. Lee decided to carry on regardless and make it to our destination where we could assess the problem and decide what to do. Our new regime of strictly timed breaks as well as faster roads had worked wonders. So after a tricky rush hour cycle through Chorely, we arrived at our accommodation for the night in record time. This is good because by the end of day 6 it’s so nice to have a long evening to relax in, rather than just a few hours.

By the end of day 6 we are actually just over half way there in terms of miles we need to travel, so in the next few days we should be treated to a few shorter rides. Tomorrow,  day 7, we head off to the lakes and hopefully another relaxing evening!

Day 7 August 9th - Chorely to Windermere

We started our day at 8:30am cycling to find a bike shop for repairs to Lee's bike. In the first shop we tried, we met a very grumpy guy with a strong Northern accent. He wasted no time in telling us he was way to busy to help us. On we cycled to our second option in Preston. A very friendly young northern lass made us coffee and chatted about our ride whilst the team attempted repairs. After a so successful repair we continued our journey.

Part way along we met another LEJOG rider by the name of Paul. We swapped stories for a while, whilst Lee chatted to Colin Slatter on The Voice. Colin played us the sausage song to spur us on our way. I suggested we record a video blog of the team singing the sausage song. Surprisingly that didn't go down well.

We arrived at Windermere very early, at about 3pm, so celebrated with a quick pint. After cooking a pasta
bolognese with Matt we enjoyed a moment of reflection in the lounge. We mostly reflected on how tough tomorrow's ride is going to be. Tomorrow we cross the Scottish boarder, so that will no doubt be an amazing moment.

Day 8  August 10th 014 - Windermere to Dumfries

Before I begin Day 8’s blog, I would like to start by saying that we have dedicated this day of our journey 10th August 2014 to Noreen. She lost her son Phil to SUDEP some years ago and has provided the most amazing support and indeed sponsorship to our challenge. It only seems fitting then to dedicate the day in which we cross the border to Scotland to Noreen, in memory of Phil.

So, how about day 8? Well the predominant word to describe this day was WET! IT was raining when we awoke, and didn’t stop raining at all throughout  a long hard ride. We all agree we have done longer days, but never have we completed a more difficult and physically draining day! We began by crossing the mountain ranges surrounding the lakes. Boy that was tough! 25 miles of long arduous climbing. The hills seemed never ending, and just when you thought you might be reaching the top, more peaks stretched out before us as far as the eye could see. The route however offered up some of the most beautiful views across the Cumbrian landscape. It was the kind of idyllic view that you associate with photoshopped picture postcard. Matt has taken some amazing stills as well as video of some of the route. I look forward to seeing them some time soon. Once we did reach the summit, we were treated to a long downhill segment which was at 20% for most of the way down! Let me tell you, it takes a braver man than me to let go of your grip on the brakes when making that decent. At times, only a 3ft high wall stood between us and a crazy drop to the left!!

Now once that was complete and we had re-grouped at the bottom to share our experience, it was on for the final 50 mile segment of today’s cycle. We know that in 25 miles we would reach the border of Scotland and that spurred us on through the rain and cold. It was so cold, you could be forgiven for thinking we were in January, rather than the height of summer mid August! So on we rode, and I think it fair to say that we all struggled a little. Before we knew it however, we could see the border come in to view. Here we all were stood at the Welcome to Scotland sign outside the ‘First in Last Out’ chapple famous for all those marriages since 1830, due to the difference in Scottish marital law.  It was a moment of contemplation for us all, not because of being outside the chapple, but the realisation I think hit home that we had now cycled from Lands End across the border to Scotland! It was an amazing feeling. I have to admit, following 8 days of tough work I had a little moment as I cycled on from the border and silently contemplated why I was doing this challenge in the first place. The image of Nathan came in to my head and his smiling approval gave me strength to continue!

The rain continued to beat down as we began our last stretch of 25 miles. Luckily, this last stretch was relatively flat, but it was about to become to the toughest part of my personal challenge. Reaching the point where I had only 8 miles left to cycle, and now on a very busy fast A road, I began to feel the signs of dehydration set in. Stopping was hardly an option due to the road we were on. I saw myself slip further and further away from Lee and Steve, and as I had given my phone to Matt to take care of due to it getting very wet, I had no way of calling them. I felt the back of my head pounding, and found it difficult to focus on the road. I did take several drinks of water, but by this time that was really not helping much. Had I have recognised the signs a little earlier then perhaps I could have prevented it. But here I was, physically and mentally exhausted, riding this manic road, and everything becoming a blur! It was a few miles later that in the distance I could see the familiar sign of a Travellodge come in to view. I don’t think I have ever been so relieved to see a Travellodge in my entire life.

So at the end of day 8, and we are now beginning the countdown towards the end of our journey. How do I feel? Well, truly, I am loving it, yes it’s tough, but then that’s why it’s called a challenge! I can tell you unreservedly,  that I wouldn’t change a thing. Soon, this will be over, but before that time, I am sure we will face many other challenges and gain yet more life changing experiences.

Day 9 August 11th 2014 -  Dumfries to Halmilton

Today’s ride is dedicated to Talitha, my daughter  in memory of her uncle Nathan. Talitha is 18 today, so happy birthday and sorry I am not there today to share it with you. However, I know how important this ride is to you too, this is why I dedicate today’s ride to Nathan, from you. Happy birthday!

The weather today has been amazingly windy, I am told we are experiencing the tail end of hurricane Bertha! In fact it has been so windy that even the downhill stretches were more like uphill struggles. At one point I was cycling down a long hill, in a low gear and peddling furiously, yet was barely managing to achieve 8mph!! The wind was in our face all the way from Dumfries to Hamilton. It was at its worse as we crossed the Scottish moorlands! They were beautiful, nothing but open moors in every direction as far as the eye could see. However, the winds lashed across the moors making riding in a straight line very difficult.

Early on in today’s ride, we took a slight wrong turn which led us up a narrow path, the path of course went up a steep hillside, before running out and turning to nothing but a stone path. At this point we decided to turn round and retrace our route. Luckily it wasn’t long before we found our route again and on we rode, this time in the right direction.

There’s little to say about today really other than the wind and rain which blew and fell on us. Except that when we got to our accommodation we were in for a lovely surprise. We were staying at Westwood Lodge, which is directly on the Hamilton race course. We arrived to find we have the entire lodge to ourselves. It consists of around 50 rooms, several shower rooms and a spacious lounge and dining room. It also has lovely views from the windows of the Hamilton grounds. Though tomorrow, we are slumming it somewhat as we are staying in Bothy’s which are like little wooden shacks, well sheds really. We have just found out that they don’t include bedding either. However the lovely caretaker of the lodge we are at tonight has told us we can take bedding with us from here and return it as we pass on Sunday. Such a lovely gesture.

Day 10 August 12th 2014 - Hailton to Ardlui

I didn’t get chance to write a blog yesterday so here is a little catch-up. Yesterday began with us leaving our luxurious accommodation at Hamilton race course. The day began with an immediate wrong turn, which actually ended up being the right turn after all. However, we didn’t discover that before turning round and heading a couple of miles in the wrong direction! A quick reset of our navigation gear, and we were back on track. By on track what I mean is heading in to more wind and rain, but at least this time in the right direction. The day should have been a short day, with only 60 miles to go, but it’s amazing how wind and rain can slow you down. At one point, yet again I was cycling down a long 10% hill, at which point I would normally be in top gear, hurtling down, however due to the wind and rain, I was in a low gear, pushing on the peddles and just about maintaining 10mph! Matt provided great support as usual, hot tea and coffee and a supply of sandwiches as required.

The highlight of the journey was cycling along the entire length of Loch Lomond. The loch was over 21 miles long, unfortunately for most of the road, although we were virtually on the banks, we couldn’t see Lomond sue to the high wall of trees. When we did catch a glimpse however, it was stunning. At the far end of the loch sat our accommodation, the dreaded ‘Bothy’. For those who are unsure, as we were, a bothy is a wooden shed with under floor heating. It is very tiny and has two small yet very hard beds. Luxury it wasn’t, but home for the night it definitely was. It was only made better by the freezing cold showers and the Welsh warden with fag hanging from his lip, who proceeded  to tell us that the showers can’t be too hot as there was a risk of him being sued by people scolding themselves. I don’t think he had completely understood that there was probably a greater risk of him being sued by people who suffered the shock of icy water splashing down on them from a poorly maintained shower

Day 11 August 13th 2014 - Ardlui to Fort William

When I opened the door to my shed this morning I was greeted by a strange yellow glow from the skies! The next thing that struck me was actually the thing that didn’t strike me, no water at all falling on me from above! This was indeed odd, but welcome behaviour from our Scottish weather. It kind of set the theme for what was to become an amazing day.

Today we were to cycle on the A82 all the way from Lomond to Fort William, the idea of just one road was a little daunting. We needn’t have worried. After about 15 miles the road became very rural, and the Scottish mountains began to loom large on the horizon. The road began to resemble some paradisiacal route almost too perfect to be real. Around every corner the view ahead changed from moorland to forest, to mountain peaks and waterfalls. It was truly beautiful, in fact the word beautiful simply does not do it justice. The road was busy, and fast, but it offered up so many surprises that didn’t seem to matter.

I got so carried away with the beauty, that before I realised it, today’s 60 miles was done and we had arrived at our destination in Fort William. Along the way we met a Russel, a PE teacher also doing Lands end to John O’Groats for Help the Hero’s. He had started the day after us and is due to arrive in John O Groats the same day as us, so is obviously doing similar mileage as us. We also met a young Dutch cyclist who was cycling to the Isle of Skye. He was towing a trailer tent behind him, but that didn’t seem to slow him down.

We arrived at our accommodation for the night, which is our second youth hostel, this time however we are in a shared room. We were greeted by an elderly gentleman by the name of Tom. He proceeded to sing Lee a lovely song. So that set our night off to a great start.


Day 12 August 15th - Fort William to Beauly near Inverness

I cannot believe that today is day 12! How can this journey be almost over? What will I do once this challenge is completed? These are just a few of the questions flying around in my head right now! However, we still have 2 days to go, so on with the business of day 12 blog!

In many ways today day began the night before when we checked in to our accommodation. This was our second youth hostel of our journey. From the outside things looked quite promising. A rather large house stood before us overlooking the loch, beautiful. As we walked in we were greeted by a very friendly French manager, who proceeded to tell us the rules of the establishment. He also told us that tea, coffee and hot chocolate were completely free, result! We were then shown to our room. As I opened the door with my expectations high, I noticed 8 beds, not 4! Then a small Scottish voice, soft in nature said “Heloooo” in a wee Scottish accent, not dissimilar to Mrs. Doubtfire. The voice came from an elderly gent, who was occupying one of the beds. A quick check of my watch, and yes, it was still only 4pm! Still, maybe like us he had had a hard day. He slowly popped out of bed, got dressed and began to make conversation, very, very slowly. Now resembling Forrest Gump, but with a Scottish accent. Leaving Lee in the room, I went to get my luggage. It was at this point that Tom, our new softly and slowly spoken Scottish guy began talking to Lee about his time in the oil trade. He explained that they had a song they would proudly sing each day. He walked over to Lee, and from a distance of no more than 6 inches began to sing Lee this sweet song, much like softly sung lullaby!

After going out to eat, our room had filled to capacity. It dawned on us that tonight we would be sharing sleeping space with 4 strangers! The idea perhaps should have filled me with the excitement of new acquaintances! But rather, it filled us with a sense of dread! Time soon came round for sleeping, and within half an hour the rhythmic sound of soft snoring filled the room, and hard metal springs from a inadequate mattress pressed in to my back! Joy of joys! Suffice it to say, we got very little sleep last night, except for Matt who slept like a baby! The next morning, I spoke to the friendly French man to explain that the mattresses could do with replacing! I felt it was my duty to let him know! Then came the quote of the whole 12 days so far, and I will quote exactly his response. Feel free to superimpose a French accent on his words, as he replied; “Well it’s hardly surprising, the mattresses were shit when we bought them” At this point all I could do was laugh and accept that not much was going to change in this establishment!

We began our journey obviously quite tired! It would have been lovely to see Ben Nevis, but sadly by far the majority of it was shrouded in cloud, so, on we rode. After about 30 miles we had our first encounter with Loch Ness, which we then followed for most of our route. Several photo opportunities later and still no sign of Nessie! Then, at last whilst I was taking a photo of Steve and Lee, to our amazement, Nessie photo bombed us, putting her face neatly between Lee and Steve and giving the friendliest of smiles. This photo will earn me... I mean us a fortune were the words that crossed my mind. I was eager to check the photo, but sadly in the excitement my thumb had popped over the lens and all I have to show for our encounter is my finger print! The world will just have to take my word for it, it was a beautiful moment!

Leaving Loch Ness, to make our final bid for home for the night and we had no idea what lay ahead. Blindly cycling on, feeling somewhat proud that we had kept going despite our sheer exhaustion from the night before, when Boom! There she lay, a hill that put all other hills so far to shame, and we had to climb it. In our exhausted state, this was going t be a challenge. Ok, best foot forward and here goes, we are not giving up now. A little over a mile later and a climb that peaked at 26%, seriously, 26% that is crazy cycling right there. I am pleased to say that with my heart pounding and virtually jumping out of my chest, I made it. It was the toughest part of the challenge by a long way. It would be tough on a normal day, but at the end of our ride, with no sleep the previous night, it was doubly hard. All of us made it to the top, where we met a smiling Matt who had clearly found the entire thing very funny from his comfortable cab! He later told me that even the van struggled to climb the hill. This was something to be proud of, all of us quite rightly congratulated each other on our success!

Day 13 August 16th - Beauly to Helmsdale

As we set off on today’s journey you could almost taste a tangible sense of impending completion. The end draws ever closer, however, we were brought to our senses by the even more imminent 68 miles that lay ahead of us today. Now we have done days with vastly longer mileage, but with exhaustion setting in, 68 miles was plenty long enough thank you very much. Today, we cycled along the east coast of northern Scotland and the scenery was stunning. In many ways as the sea came in to view, the route reminded me of a typical ride along the Devonshire coastal routes.

As far as rides go, today was one of those days where nothing much really happened. Just a long stretch of putting one foot in front of the other, and repeating many times. There were no serious hills to contend with, and nothing out of the ordinary took place. The one thing I did notice was an increase of people giving us a friendly toot on the horn and waving their hands at us in encouragement as they passed us by. I guess as we near our destination, people who pass like to share in the experience. It is always so nice when people make the effort to shout, “Good luck lads” or “Well done”. It fills you  with a real sense of accomplishment, that what you have almost succeeded in is indeed something out of the ordinary.

We are staying for the next 2 nights at the Kindale B&B in Helmsdale. A friendly welcome was waiting for us and we are very pleased that we have somewhere comfortable to spend our last 2 evenings  of this challenge.

Day 14 August 17th 2014 - Helmsdale to John O'Groats

So today was the big day, a climatic day that brings 18 months of planning and 14 days of hard riding to an amazing end. This challenge has been more than I could ever have wished for. Throughout the past 18 months there have been times where I have genuinely thought that I would never complete such a daunting challenge. It began with massive weight loss and a determined drive to get myself fit. It continued with the sometimes painstaking practice rides. The ones done on my own were by far the worst! Riding too and from work, a total of 42 miles every day to prepare myself was a necessary but arduous torture. Then all too soon and the main event was looming. I admit to reaching a crisis point about a week before we began the cycle challenge. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of certainty that I would somehow let everybody down! So the pleasure of completing this is indeed sweet.

The day itself was a strange one, filled with the bitter sweet knowledge that it was all coming to an end, yet the pride of accomplishment that accompanied that. I guess it comes as no surprise to those who have been following the blogs to learn that for most of the day we were riding in the rain. We began our day following a beautifully prepared cooked breakfast. Then we were straight on to the main challenge of the day which as 10 miles of hill climb out of Helmsdale. Now admittedly, there were no monstrous hills to contend with, nothing bigger than 13%, however it did stretch on for quite a while. We re-grouped at 25 miles for a hot coffee, then pressed on with a further 25 miles. We had arranged to re-group at this point too, so that we could complete the last 3 miles and ride in to John o’Groats in synchronicity. This plan worked perfectly. As we met at the 50 mile mark, we made the steady decent to our destination. It was at this point where we once again met up with Russell, the teacher we had met several days earlier. He too was on the final decent and had told us his wife was waiting for him down the hill. We congratulated him on his achievement and he went on his way. A little down the hill was a parked car, and a woman waving a red scarf. My assumption was that this must be Russell’s wife, however as I cycled closer, the face became more recognisable. It was my good friend and singer songwriter Coco Read Jones! She was planning to play at the Edinburgh Fringe festival and decided to go the extra 274 miles to meet us on our final day! What a lovely surprise, and thank you so much. All of us greatly appreciated this beautiful gesture.

So there we were, finally, stood by the famous sign, we had actually accomplished our task. We had cycled end to end. From the southernmost tip of our country to the most northerly tip! What a moment of realisation. After a short congratulatory session, we stood by the sign to pop our bottle of champagne, kindly donated by Geoff. A lovely treat, and a great way to end our challenge.

In Conclusion

So, finally, let me say it has been a great honour to have organised and been involved with this challenge, but I could not have done it without my comrades. I would like to say a massive thank you to Lee Wardle, Steven Oates and Matt Garrod who have made this adventure great. No one could wish for a better team of people to embark on a challenge of this nature with. They have been inspirational, as well as great fun to be with. The entire journey has passed without incident or argument. Even at our most exhausted, this team stood together and for that I am forever thankful. Thank you also to the many supportive friends, family and miscellaneous supporters who have donated, shared and followed our story. There are too many to mention, but you all know who you are.             

Sadly the video blog I recorded at the end of our Lands End to John O’Groats cycle challenge failed due to heavy wind affecting the sound. I wanted to make a brief comment to summarise what this has all been about. So here it is in written form instead:

Nearly 8 years ago we lost my younger brother Nathan. He died during an epileptic seizure and the cause of death was listed as SUDEP. The big question that filled my mind for the next weeks and months was WHY and HOW? Realising the multitudes of people who have been through this exact experience, I decided I had to do what I could to raise awareness. I did this through creating a support group, writing blogs and letters and in every way I could imagine, but I always knew I wanted to do something huge, something I could dedicate in his memory. So 18 months ago Chubbs Cycle Challenge was born! The idea, to cycle from one end of the country to the other raising awareness of SUDEP and raising money for SUDEP Action.  The journey has been a life changing personal experience, from losing the necessary weight, to getting fit and then to actually completing the challenge. A challenge which I proudly dedicate to Nathan’s memory.

As the challenge drew close to completion, it struck me that this journey for me was in itself a metaphor for dealing with loss. You start out not knowing where to go and everything is alien as the change forces you to contemplate life and indeed death. You experience the ups and downs that each day and each new experience brings. Sometimes you genuinely ask yourself how you can continue, you doubt your ability to go on, but from somewhere you find the strength. Other days you live off the reward that comes from small successes, you build strength from those moments. Mostly however, you find strength in the happy memories, perhaps even the sad ones. You come to realise that even the bad experiences teach you something about yourself and those you love, and from these you find the strength to complete your challenges and grow as a person.

This journey, like the passing of my brother Nathan has taught me so much. It is in those memories that Nathan remains alive. Whilst we draw strength from what he left behind, then there is room to grow. Nearly 8 years on and I am still learning from my younger brother.  So may I indulge myself at the end of this challenge by saying, Nathan, you live on in my heart and from there you go with me in every journey, every adventure and every step. I love you always.

                                          Medals to commemorate our challenge                                                                                                      Nathan