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LAND’S END TO JOHN O’GROATS DIY scenery was breath-taking and I had used the pleasant settings to relax my mind prior to the trip. I had set up my GPS routing equipment and had finally set off on my ride at 18:15hrs – after signing the guest book and my log books at the hotel (for verification purposes). I was working with three different types of verification process for this ride – Audax UK, Guinness World Records, and the End to End Association (which promotes rides across Britain, from Land’s End to John O’Groats). As soon as the riding had commenced I had felt calm. I had begun to think through various thoughts and had started to look forward to the journey ahead. The first thing I had noticed was a light opposing headwind, which was slowing my progress more than one might have expected (because of the low power output I was using on a ride of this distance). I was averaging 18kph in the first 3 hours and it had started raining after about an hour of riding. At 21:00 I had stopped for a full English all-day ‘breakfast’ at a truck stop in Redruth, about 50km into the ride. The first day of my journey went smoothly – and saw me riding all through the night. I went on to 153km in the first 10 hours and 45 minutes. It was a very hilly course, and there was a weak prevailing headwind on my entire journey, but I can’t help but feel that I was paying for the lack of speed work in the previous six months’ training. I admit not doing speed work made the training pass by quite pleasantly, but I will certainly never again train for a big ride without doing comprehensive speed work in future. That’s a luxury which riders of faster bikes can easily get away with, but on a slow bike you must optimise your speed (by working on it, specifically, in training). I had met my friend (and fellow Audax rider) Ian briefly, just outside Exeter, which was a real motivator for me on that first morning – and I had also met fellow Audax rider Richard (and his grandson), on the outskirts of Cullompton. I covered the first 325km in 23 hours and 15 minutes – and then crossed the Severn Bridge at about 19:15 on 27 May 2016 – a full 25 hours after I had started the ride. On the Severn Bridge I had met my friend Tim, who was just a few days away from his own big ride (a 5,000-mile ElliptiGO Bike tour around the Eastern USA)! Tim rode well into the night with me, before turning back and riding all the way back to the Severn Bridge (to get his car and drive home). After parting with Tim I had ridden into Hereford where I had tried to take my first sleep break, using my Outdoor Adventure Bivvy pack. I was at a well shielded church, which had a motionsensing light (ideal for me to sort myself out with good lighting and then lie down in total darkness). It was midnight by then – and I had been awake for over 36 hours at this stage (since getting up on Thursday morning). But I wasn’t ready to sleep, strangely – and after 15 minutes of trying I had packed up and got back on the bike. From there I rode through

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the night to a town called Ludlow, where I had found myself feeling really drowsy. I could not find a suitable sleeping place there, so I had just stopped for a snack, hoping that would make me feel more alert for a while. As I had sat on the pavement in the high street, after finishing my meal, I had thought I would just sit down for a minute more before getting back on the bike – but I had then fallen asleep almost instantaneously, right on the pavement in the high street! The place was deserted – unlike Hereford (which was extremely busy with ‘night-life’). But I had been awakened after half an hour of sleep by a car that passed by playing very loud music. Luckily, not too much time had been lost (and I had become a bit more alert after the little nap, enabling me to ride to the outskirts of town – where I had found the main A49 trunk road heading to Shrewsbury). At the main intersection joining the A49 from Ludlow, where I was to turn left towards Shrewsbury, I had spotted an enormous bus shelter (it was at least as large as a big garden shed)! I instantly knew this was an ideal sleep spot (and although at the junction of a main road, at that time of the night it was totally deserted – and there was no traffic on the roads to disturb me). I’d set up camp there and set my alarm clock for 45 minutes’ sleep. I took a few minutes to fall asleep, but when I did so it was a very deep sleep. I was awoken by the alarm – which was extremely loud – and had headed towards Shrewsbury, feeling really fresh and ‘alive’. I had enjoyed that part of the ride quite a bit – and was feeling strong and quick. There were some big hills there, but the route had meandered between them (and, although surrounded by the hills, there was not much real climbing in that section at all – if anything, there was a net descent). In Shrewsbury I’d found a Starbucks Coffee shop with a really good/clean toilet, where I’d gone to freshen up. I had discovered at that point that my toothpaste was rock solid, so could not brush my teeth – and I had removed my underpants because they were causing a lot of abrasion between my thighs (the fat under the skin had already been exposed by this point) and there was also abrasion around my backside area (with sores as bad as one would expect if sitting on a conventional bike saddle)! Note to self – make sure you use fabric softener on clothing before a big ride, it’s important! So, instead of wearing underpants (I had spare underpants packed), I had used my short cycling leggings from then on – which

Crossing the Severn Bridge

were much more comfortable and did not exacerbate the sores I already had. There had been rain, on and off, for almost the entire first two days of riding – but from this point at Shrewsbury it was pretty much a dry run. I had ridden strongly through the day, after a big latte and some caramel waffles at Starbucks (one of my favourite junk food treat combinations – I might add). My diet throughout the trip was made up largely of sandwiches and assorted food wraps, bought at the shops and petrol stations I had stopped at on the route (and also the occasional large cafe meal, maybe 2-3 times a day). But I would only have those sandwiches and wraps at 3-4 hour intervals. At hourly intervals, I would snack on full chocolate bars, which I could eat whilst on the bike – without stopping. The afternoon had been very hot on that second day of riding – and the stretch along the A6 route through Wigan and the surrounding towns had been extremely urban. I had ridden through many very busy town centres (it was now Saturday!) until I finally reached Preston, where my friend Andy had met me (just as I had reached town centre). I’d covered 612km in 46 hours, to reach Preston in the late afternoon. Meeting Andy was the highlight of the day – and I had felt really relaxed when he was there riding with me. He navigated me through Preston town and onto the A6 again, headed towards Lancaster. Along that fast stretch of the A6 in Lancashire (the flattest part of the ride, so far) we ran into another ElliptiGO rider – it was our buddy Chris! He

Arrivée Summer 2016 • No.133

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Arrivée 133 - Summer 2016  

Arrivée is the free magazine of Audax United Kingdom, the long distance cyclists’ association, which represents the Randonneurs Mondiaux in...

Arrivée 133 - Summer 2016  

Arrivée is the free magazine of Audax United Kingdom, the long distance cyclists’ association, which represents the Randonneurs Mondiaux in...

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