Why ride LEJOG? Everyone who does this ride has a reason. It is not undertaken lightly and uses up training time and a fair chunk of holiday allowance.
I had booked on the train to Penzance with a cycle reservation. Got into Penzance for about 4:30pm and rode to the Land’s End Youth Hostel . In my room of six everyone was doing LEJOG. There were schedules from my five days to three weeks. There was a great deal of fun poked at me as I only had one change of clothes and no shoes apart from carbon soled road race shoes. The evening was fun as there was a group of Germans staying, it was the third place playoff in the Wold Cup between Germany and Uruguay. I supported Uruguay just to add some spice to the viewing. This helped the night pass and stopped me dwelling too much on the days ahead.
Sunday 11th July
I planned to get to Taunton by the end of the day. This is 240km of hilly riding and it had been very hot for the last week. I start too early for breakfast at the YH and have to breakfast on oat bars. I have a route that follows the A30 with quite a lot on the old A30 that has much less traffic.I leave the A30 at Okehamptonand cross to Tiverton. This was very hilly and if it had been hot I would have been much slower. I manage Taunton by 7pm. I am pleased with this and had booked a Travelodge, but I change my plan and press on to Severn View. An extra 90 km, I finish at midnight in barmy weather and I have not had to put any extra layers on.
Start 7:30am, finish midnight, distance 341km,climbing 3,114m.
Monday 12th July
This day starts on a road familiar to me from my Welsh Audax events. The road to Monmouth is used at the start of the Brevert Cymru 400and the finish of the Brain Chapman Memorial. The section north of Monmouth to Hereford is corrugated and horrible. I have to start climbing very slowly as I can feel my legs objecting. The rest of the day was mainly grey and best passed over quickly. Boring with a long urban section between Warrington and Preston. I arrive at the Burton-in-Kendal services just after midnight.
Start 7:00am, finish midnight, distance 330km, climbing 1,756m.
Tuesday 13th July
I am staying at motorway service station so get a good cooked breakfast to start the day off. It is cool and fresh and first have the climb to Shap Summit. This is the highest point of the ride and I fear what this will do to me for the rest of the day. I soon engage my lowest gear and decide on a slow and steady climb. I get to the top sooner than I expect and forget to stop at the top for a photo. The decent to Penrith passes all too quickly and the headwind limits my speed. Penrith has the best cake and coffee of the trip. Home baked, large slices and refilled coffee. The next section takes me through Carlisle and some easy cycling to Dumfries. I now had to ride the A76 to Fiona’s parents in the village of Auchinleck. This road is a lot easier than expected and I get there by 6pm. I get fed have a change of clothes and get given some large chunks of fruit cake. Next I set off for Gourock. The sunset is fantastic over the Isles of Arran and Bute. It is getting cold and starting to rain again. I press on and get to Gourock. I am convinced that the hotel I have booked is here, but after I ask a taxi driver I realise I am 4 miles away in Greenock. It is still only about midnight. Nothing really lost by the mistake. I treat myself to a bottle of beer before bed time.
Start 7:00am, finish midnight, distance 312km, climbing 1,478m
Wednesday 14th July
I wake before my alarm call at 6am. Breakfast is at 6:30am and I did not eat at bed time so I will need to fill my legs. The breakfast is self-service. After two goes at the bacon and scrambled eggs I am been looked at by the staff. I do not help matters by drinking two glasses of fruit juice at the counter and taking a third to my table. I escape without having to pay extra for the bananas and bread rolls stuffed in by back pockets. It is raining and I have to ride to the ferry. I make it just in time for the 7:20am. I would of had to wait an hour for the next one so I am relieved. Once in Dunoon the rain has really set in. I have to switch my lights on as it is very dark under any tree cover. The section to Inveraray saw all four seasons in three hours. There was mist, heavy rain, It got very cold. But on the plus side the sun came out and I saw two complete rainbows, and the glens were stunning in bright rain soaked green. The sun was out when I got to Inveraray and I sat out in the main street eating cakes and broth. I had lost time riding into the headwind and the cold had slowed me down. I was down on time.
The next section started with a long climb from sea level to over 200m. I had been delayed and did not want to miss lunch. With many places stopping serving lunch at 2pm I stopped in Connel, about 20km short of my planned stop in Appin. The section that followed had stunning scenery but the road was too narrow for all the lorries. The wind was also against me and was wearing me down. I had to stop for a coffee in Appin. I needed to wake up. The ride to Fort William and on to Fort Augustus was marked by a strong headwind nearly all the way. I was thankful when the twists in the road and the trees gave me a break. I planned to get to Inverness, where I had a room booked. But when I got to Fort Augustus I was finished. Stopped, booked into a B&B and went out for a pint, the full range of pub food was available, crisps, nuts and pork scratching. I knew I had to start early the next morning I was 60km of my planned location.
Start 7:45am, finish 9:45, distance 220km, climbing 1,249m
Thursday 15th July
Earliest start of the ride. I woke at 5am to the sound of pouring rain. I decided that there was no point in delaying. I ate both cake bars I had and got on the road by 5:20am. The rain was heavy and the visibility poor. I got covered in a couple of bow waves from passing lorries. It was not fun. I got to Inverness by about 8am. The rain was now lighter, but the wind was still blowing from the north east. The A9 north of Inverness is a horrible road. I had planned a section across the Black Isle on minor roads just to avoid the A9. This was a mistake, there was a lot more climbing than I had expected. I got back on the A9 and pushed on to Tain. Soon after the rain stopped and the roads were dry by the time I got to Helmsdale. That was good as there were two great descents. The roads have snow warnings and the bends look like they have been widened. This allowed me to go round the bends at high speed. Fun at last as the headwind had now dropped. I had a tail wind from here to the end of the ride. I arrived at John O’Groats at 6:45pm to the most low key welcome ever. Totally deserted and everything shut. I took a couple of photos sat around for a few minutes to make sure I had really finished.
I went up to the Sea View bar and asked where the YH was. I checked in and went back to the Sea View bar for dinner. Pie and chips and a couple of pints were just the order of the day. While I was watching the tour highlights I got talking to a Canadian couple. They had just finished a three week B&B tour after retiring. I had my LEL shirt on and they mentioned they had a friend who did Randonner rides. I mentioned I had only met one Canadian on LEL, Ken Bonner. Well they knew Ken and his wife quite well. What a small world.
Start 5:20am, finish 6:45pm, distance 262km, climbing 1,700m
This ride was not as hard as I expected. LEL was much harder. I think this was because I finished LEL in a day less and I did not control my feeding as well. During LEL the feed times were determined by the controls and it felt like you were slacking when you stopped mid-stage. I had a headwind for most of the ride, but I could of had hot weather, which would have been much worse. I only had two bad moments. One in Appin when I had a real low point and the other when I arrived in Fort Augustus. I would hate to see how many calories I consumed. Every stop was accompanied by pasty, chips, cake, pie etc. There was even a pork pie on the second day, this was accompanied by an egg custard and an apple slice. I was having about six meals a day.
Would I do this ride again ? Yes, but I would change the route and try if possible to bring some interest to the really boring second day. There is also a number of routes through Scotland. I want to try the ‘snow roads’ from Balmoral through Timintoul to Grantown-on-Spay.
Start 7:30am Sunday 11/7/2010
Finish 6:45pm Thursday 15/7/2010
Time 107h 15m