Thursday, 14 July 2011

Day 11 of the Big Ride (the final day)

We had mixed feelings about our final day. Part excitement that we will achieve our goal and reach John O’Groats and part sadness because the challenge will be over and it has been our life for so long.

We finally left the Bed and Breakfast at 8-30 when we managed to slip away from the owners who are lovely but can talk for England. They are a Yorkshire couple who moved to Scotland 35 years ago. We know their life story!!!

The ride was easy initially with gently rolling hills and we made good progress. We crossed the Dornock Firth by a long but not too high bridge, so Graham J was OK on this one but he was still fearing what was to come. After a stop for refreshments we pushed on and started to encounter some sizeable hills, both in terms of big climbs and steep descents. 2 of these descents were 13% hills which again Graham R and Shane loved and Graham J nearly wore out his brakes. We also had to climb one 13% hill which we were told we would have to walk but sheer determination and the muscle strength from all the riding got us up on our bikes. Then we hit a newly laid road and Graham R and Shane got their tyres coated in tar, causing a slow and difficult ride. It was to take 20 miles before the tar wore off.

We met our support crew of three (Charlotte had been joined by Graham J’s wife Denise and his other daughter Christine) at Dunbeath. After a good rest we were looking forward to the final 39 miles, not realising how hard this was going to be. Our map suggested the rest of the ride was going to be quite flat but this turned out not to be the case. There were lots of hills, none of which were long like the Highlands but they were quite steep. Once we reached Wick, the landscape changed, there were few villages and scattered houses and virtually no trees. 7 miles from John O’Groats, we hit another hill which we all found hard to climb, even Shane slowed a bit. The 11 days of riding was now making our legs heavy. Finally at around 6pm we rode together into the car park at John O’Groats.

It was now time for the photos and a celebratory drink. Photos will be loaded over the weekend to this page if you need to see the proof. We were all delighted to finish and soon loaded the bikes onto the car rack and heating back to Tain for a good rest. We took in fish and chips on the way and then back to the Bed and Breakfast for more of their life stories. Interestingly, they were the same stories we heard before!!!

So that is it, 912 miles in the end in 11 days. We all suffered highs and lows along the way and kept each other going with a combination of humour and care.

Thanks to all our Blog readers and all the messages of support, especially the Dad’s tips of the day from Shanes Dad, which we found really motivating. We all also individually received lots of support from friends and relatives which was fantastic, so thanks to all.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Day 10 of the Big Ride

The penultimate day hopefully and we faced a 97 mile ride from the Atlantic coast of Scotland to the North Sea coast and a place called Tain.

We started off in sunny weather heading towards Ben Nevis. The initial few miles were reasonably flat but we were soon climbing again and Graham J had to face more uncomfortable sections of road alongside steep drops. Soon we were alongside Loch Lochy (see below) which was beautiful in the sun and we felt compelled to have bacon sandwiches beside the loch from a snack wagon. We pushed on to Loch Ness expecting this to be something very special, but maybe we have seen too many Lochs and boats, because it did not seem that special and the road was not directly alongside the Loch either so most of the time we could only see the water through the trees. We also had to climb numerous times and then drop again which we were not expecting.

We finally reached Drumnadrochit, where we met our support crew for lunch. Both Grahams had found the morning ride hard, especially hard and Graham J realised he was dehydrated as it had been warmer in the morning than previous days, so he drank a litre and a half of fluid with his lunch. This made a huge difference in the afternoon, as he felt much better but had to keep stopping for the loo.

2 miles after lunch we saw a sign saying 15% hill for three quarters of a mile. It was not wrong and this was a major challenge which we all failed and ended up either stopping or walking at some point. Once we got up the hill, the scenery was fantastic and the decent even better, even Graham J agreed as he reached 44 mph and Shane went over 45 at which point his speedo gave him an error message.

We made a stop for tea in a very posh tea shop in Beauly and took on board more calories to keep us going as we still had over 30 miles to go. Shortly after this we think we saw our first Scottish eagle, which was an amazing sight.

The rest of the afternoon ride was reasonably flat and lacking in interest. We eventually reached the B&B in Tain at 7-40 after another 11 hours on the road.

Tomorrow is our last day and we hope to make John O’Groats if we can get Graham J over high section in the morning. The owner of the B&B has been telling Graham about how bad this section is and he is now dreading it. Let’s hope it is not as bad as he thinks or he may not make it.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Day 9 of the Big Ride

So today we thought we would mix it up a bit and go for a bike ride. Just a short 73 miles, over the Highlands, nothing too difficult. The end target was just north of Fort William, and to get there, we had to climb over the Black Mountain and Buachaille Etive Mountains.

The day started badly when Graham J discovered he had another puncture (it had to be him!) and then Graham R also suffered a flat tyre due to a faulty valve. Both were repaired, the repair on Graham J’s bike didn’t last, and the tube had to be replaced with a new one. So we finally set off properly at around 9.30, having just received a challenge that if we could arrive at our destination by for 5.30pm, we would get an extra donation of £50 to the website. This sounded too much of a challenge, and it was agreed that for every hour after that, we would lose £10.

The weather in the morning was cool and very dull (which is ideal conditions as it was not too hot or too cold) but the roads were fairly wet which is not so good as spray goes all up your back. The first 13 miles were relatively flat, but on some very narrow ‘A’ roads, and we got held up by coaches that were struggling to pass each other on the road. We were dreading the climbs, knowing that we were going to go right up into the Highlands, and seeing huge mountains in front of us, however, once we started to climb, it wasn’t as bad as we had anticipated. Whether this is due to the hills not being too steep or the fact in the last 8 days, our legs have got stronger, we are not really sure. However, a few miles further on, we found ourselves up in the clouds before facing a long steady 4 mile decent and then a further climb and decent before lunch.

After lunch, we still had 45 miles to do, and faced the biggest climb of all to reach the top of the mountains, which was achieved with good spirit. Then we had a very long decent with some very steep drops at the side of the road. Graham R and Shane loved the decent, but Graham J complained that his bike was wobbling, and at one point was on the opposite side of the road to try and stay away from the drop. On reflection, he thinks the shaking of the bike was due to his knees shaking out of fear.

We met the support crew (Charlotte) for a second time in Glencoe National Park for a well earned break, where we took on more fluids and sugar to boost our energy, whilst admiring the view of the mountains. After the break we were left with 26 miles to do in 100 minutes if we were to reach the 5.30pm target set for us. We knew we had to cross another high bridge, for which Graham J would need some coaxing. We pedalled on hard, working as a team with different people taking the lead, just like the tour de france peloton, however at one point, Graham R suffered a tightening of the calf muscle which further hampered our progress. We eventually reached the end of the days ride, 8 minutes late, so earning a further £40 for the website. We all felt this had been a great achievement, especially as today is the earliest we have finished for the whole ride so far.

Spirits lifted as the day progressed, due to a combination of the messages of support from numerous people who are clearly reading out blog every day, the spectacular scenery we experienced throughout the ride and the fact that we are nearing the end of the ride. We are beginning to think that maybe we can all make it, although that is clearly tempting fate.

Please keep all your messages of support coming though, as tomorrow is another long day of 96 miles along the side of Loch Ness, over the mountains south west of Inverness and along the Cromarty Firth to Tain.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Day 8 of the big ride

Today we set off and took the most direct road to Glasgow without going on the motorway only to find that the road we planned to use was closed, so we took off onto minor roads to discover some stunning scenery and quiet country lanes with no lorries rattling past and some seriously fun decents.

Next we had to try and navigate Glasgow and surrounding areas, which is a huge place that seemed to take forever to cycle through, and we seemed to add about 3 or4 extra miles. This route proved quite difficult, and it seemed to take a very long time to get anywhere and was quite disheartening.

We eventually caught sight of the Erskine bridge, at which point Graham J's heart sank and his face went white as he realised it was a very hight suspension bridge.
After a couple more detours, we eventually found the road to get onto the Erskine bridge, by which time it had started pouring with rain. We cycled over the bridge, with Graham J clinging onto his bike, so you could see the whites of his knuckles and refusing to look at the view, just concentrating getting across in one piece.

We then met up with our support driver, (Charlotte is on her own again now, as Christine went home this morning) in Old Kilpatrick and as it was still raining, we ate our lunch stood in a bus shelter. The bad weather was quite disheartening during a long ride and we started to get cold so had to put more layers on.

Soon after setting off, we picked up the Loch Lomand cycle route which suited Graham R's riding style, but not Graham J's. Shane found it okay, apart from it was fairly bumpy.

The scenery was stunning when we were riding alongside Loch Lomand, and seeing the mountains. At one point Graham J had to stop when going down the cycle way to let a cow go past him. The whole trip Graham R was dreading the last climb from Tarbet to Arrochar, expecting it to be completely horrendous, but it turned out to be middle ring all the way, much to his relief.

As a short ride, "rest day", this was a total failure, as it was wet and painful. We look forward to the mountains tomorrow with sore legs and heavy hearts. Tomorrow's ride is a 72 mile ride, with massive climbs, which is going to be incredibly difficult.

So we will head to our beds now. And post you tomorrow. Goodnight world!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Day 7 of the big ride

Today we had an 8 o’clock start and we crossed the border into Scotland at 9 o’clock much to our relief and happiness to have got this far without major incident. It was then into the wind all the way into Dumfries and then a long climb towards Kilmarnock.

We stopped for refreshments at Annan and Graham R had his first haggis since getting to Scotland and Graham J tried haggis for the first time and much to his surprise liked it. Shane was too much of a wuz to try it!

Then it was off to more climbing, followed by more climbing through some of the most fantastic scenery to be seen. Graham J was having a hard time deciding whether to ride in the middle of the road with lorries or by the edge next to the cliffs with sheer drops as he does have a problem with heights.

We had lunch at Thornhill in the town centre where we were met by our support team. We then went off to search for public toilets that were clearly signposted and are still a mystery to us now, and luckily we were rescued by a local lady who was out walking her dogs and kindly invited us into her home and let us use her toilets. It’s sometimes people like that who make days like this really lovely.

We carried on to the summit which was a long climb but quite a gradual gradient. Somewhere near the summit Shane forgot to unclip his shoes from the pedals and fell over in the road (luckily he was uninjured, so we were able to have a laugh).

Throughout this ride, there are lots of references to Robbie Burns, culminating in the Robbie Burns memorial of which we passed today and took an obligatory picture.

It was then 25 miles into Kilmarnock, mostly downhill but the road kept kicking up and giving us surprises of further climbs.

Generally our fitness has improved no end and we finished the ride feeling tired but without some of the pain that we’ve experienced during the earlier part of the ride.

We finished the 98 miles in around 12 hours, so we didn’t reach the hotel until 8pm. We’ve just finished dinner and now we’re off to bed ready for a slightly easier 58 miles tomorrow.

Today your kind donations took us above the £2k mark on our JustGiving page. Thank you to you all for your messages, they are invaluable to us for motivation. Ad to Jack who we met yesterday, good luck on your ride.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Day 6 of the big ride

After torrential rain just after dawn we feared today was going to be another wet day, however by the time we had oiled the bikes and made sure everything was OK after the long periods of riding in the rain yesterday, we left Lancaster in dry weather knowing that we had some big climbs ahead of us.

Fortunately the weather remained dry throughout the day, although our cycling shoes have still not dried from the soaking they got yesterday.

We left Lancaster following the A6, initially making reasonably good progress. During this section of the ride, Graham J found a penny and picked it up, hoping for all day long to have good luck… We stopped 5 miles short of Kendal for a bacon sandwich and tea.

By the time we reached Kendal it was clear Graham R had a problem with his bike as it was making lots of weird noises. This turned out to be the front wheel bearing giving up and despite calling at a cycle shop in Kendal we were unable to get replacement bearings. Fortunately we were carrying a spare front wheel in the support vehicle and we were soon able to replace the front wheel and carry on our way. This is the only spare front wheel we have, so lets hope that all the other wheels hold out, otherwise it will be quite amusing trying to put a back wheel on the front of the bike!!

From Kendal we climbed Shap Fells and this involved a 15 mile climb taking us to over 1400ft above sea level. The views from the top were spectacular. However, we had to enduring a number of disheartening descents, knowing each time we’d have to climb back up and further.

Lunch was taken part way up the ascent and when we finally got over the peak, the ride down was spectacularly fast and somewhat scary for Graham J who is afraid of heights. But Graham R and Shane love the excitement.

Somewhere on the descent one of Graham J’s drink bottles fell out of the cradle and was lost. So all in all, maybe the penny didn’t bring us that much luck after all. During the time on Shap Fell we met a guy who was talking to Graham R as we were cycling and said he was training to do Lands End to John O’Groats. When Graham R told him that we’re currently doing that very ride right now, the guy spent ages trying to gain information about how it had been so far.

The next town was Penrith which had an annoying one-way system and very little by way of signposts. The one-way system caused us to cycle to the highest point in the town only to drop back to the same level as we were before. At this stage, every foot of climb felt like a 10ft climb.

Graham R was feeling quite a lot of pain in his knee, not wanting to be outdone by Shane, who’s knee is actually a little bit better today, but still painful. Graham J’s main problem is painful thighs (although we all have that problem) and sore bum.

From Penrith to Carlisle involved lots of small climbs across the undulating countryside and we finally arrived in Carlisle at around 6:45pm. Carlisle seems to be a busy and noisy place on a Saturday night, but I guess most places are. So we grabbed a quick pizza and bought it back to the room. While in the pizza shop, a lady called Olive Mann saw our Great Ormond Street t-shirts and explained to us that her mother worked at GOSH in the 1930 and kindly gave us a donation of £10.

Tomorrow we have a 96 mile ride via Dumfries to Kilmarnock and lots more climbing. Our support driver now has the company of her sister Christine so there will be 2 people to help us at the stops, getting food and generally making sure that we’re OK.

We’ve now passed the half way mark, both in terms of days and also in miles. We have actually covered 497 miles, so we can now start the count down to the end. Please remember our JustGiving page and if you haven’t already donated, it would give us a huge boost to see your messages and for the total get nearer to the target.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Day 5 of the Big Ride

Today we have cycled from Newcastle-Under-Lyme to Lancaster, covering 86 miles including, somewhere along the way in the morning, missing a turn resulting in having to do an extra 6 miles. We started off in the rain, which is never a promising thing, however, the rain does tend to make us more determined as we just want to get into the warm and dry. And sorry no pictures today, not really the weather for sight seeing.

After leaving the Travelodge, we cycled through Holmes Chapel and Northwich but never found a snack wagon for the tea and bacon sandwich. So we ended up stopping at a McDonalds and having a small cheese burger each. Then it was off to Warrington, and we crossed both the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey, the later while singing ‘ferry cross the Mersey’ in the pouring rain. We think we might be going slightly mad with the punishment we are putting our bodies through.

We planned to meet the support vehicle on the way out of Wigan but as it was now raining again and we were cold and wet, we asked Charlotte to find a pub, so we could dry off. However, Charlotte kept telling us she could not find a pub, which we thought was strange, so we rode on the try and find her where she had pulled off the road just outside Coppull Moor.

However as we approached we saw she had a man with her and we were both delighted and surprise to see, Shane’s Dad, Andy who drove all the way up from Cambridge to see us and greeted us with a warm campervan. He had put out the awning on his van, put on the heater and put the kettle on. It turned out he was hoping to meet with us in the morning at the hotel before we left. However, he broke down in his Van on the A14, delaying him a bit. He got back on the road and managed to get to the Travelodge about half an hour after we left, and spent the morning with the support driver going to Sainsbury’s to pick up yet more supplies and filling up with diesel and petrol, before finding a place to stop for lunch.

We filled ourselves with food and cups of tea before leaving. For the final 37 miles, but then the curse hit again and after maybe about 200 metres Graham J got a puncture, so went back to the support to fix this.

We set back out from the lunch stop again, yet again in the pouring rain.
It continued raining for the whole afternoon gradually getting heavier and heavier, eventually turning into thunderstorms as we passed through Preston. It was also cold and we knew we just had to keep going in order to keep our body temperature up. Even short breaks left us feeling very cold, so we pushed on with Graham R leading, Shane following and Graham J bringing up the rear and getting covered in spray from the other two. Not that it really matters, as it was so wet, we were soaked for the whole ride and at times we were riding through flood water which sprayed over our feet keeping our shoes full of water. In addition, every time a vehicle passed us we got covered in spray. We eventually arrived back at the hotel absolutely soaked!!

During the afternoon, Shane was having some problems with his knee, possibly partly to do with the cold from the rain. At one point, his knee completely locked up and he was struggling to move it. Graham R and Graham J thought that this was the end for Shane’s ride, however after making a very loud cracking noise, it seemed to be okay again and is not hurting too much.

The support driver found the Travelodge we are staying in tonight in Lancaster and brought up all the stuff to the rooms, however, unfortunately the rooms are on the 2nd and 3rd floors, but luckily there are lifts which meant we didn’t have to carry our bikes up 3 flights of stairs!!

The prize for the worst drivers goes to Wigan today, where one driver tried 3 times to knock Graham J off his bike and another driver pulled out of a parking spot as Graham J was passing. We are beginning to wonder if Graham J is bad luck, given the number of punctures he has had and his luck with drivers.

Finally, thanks to our friend Robin, who e-mailed Taylors of Harrogate (makers of Yorkshire Tea), after mention of them in this blog before and while they can’t provide cash, because the already support specific charities, they have sent us some tea and other goodies.

Tomorrow we are back to climbing as we cross the Lake District to Carlisle, where we hope to meet Christine, Graham J’s other daughter.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Day 4 Of The Big Cycle Ride

Today we set out to do about 103 miles, the most we have done yet. Shane and Graham J have never cycled that far before and Graham Reeve only once when he was much younger. We set off about 8.30, leaving the support driver to pack the car and to find a Tesco to top up on supplies.

As we were quite worried about Shane’s knee last night, we started off fairly slowly this morning. In the first half of the day, (which was around 50 miles) we had a puncture for Shane and problems with Graham R’s spokes, which he fixed at the lunch stop. However we passed through some lovely towns, starting with Gloucester, then Tewkesbury. We started the morning with wet kit and started to dry as we rode, but then at Tewkesbury the heavens opened and we got soaked. The bad weather stayed with us until Worcester where it briefly brightened before threatening and delivering more rain before Kidderminster. Just after this we stopped for lunch in glorious sunshine, where we were joined by the support driver, Graham J’s wife Denise and his mother-in-law Mary. We were also joined by Graham R’s son Bill and his friend, who delivered bike supplies.

After being topped up with lunch and filling up our drinks bottles, we got all of 20 metres before Graham J suffered a puncture, which ripped the tyre which meant we had to change the tyre and the tube. Good job we brought spares!!! The afternoon ride was long but we made good progress, although the road surfaces were poor in the towns, which makes riding difficult as you drop into potholes and get bounced around causing a loss of cycling rhythm. We also encountered some very poor drivers with no consideration for cyclists. One bus driver tried to kill Shane and another van tried to take Graham J out at a roundabout by cutting into his lane. We passed through Wolverhampton and Stafford and with just 17 Miles to go, it was obvious Shane was really struggling with his knee. We took a couple of breaks and after a long climb out of Newcastle-Under-Lyme, we finally reach our hotel after some 12 hours on the road.

We are all very tired and our muscles ache badly. We are all walking like old men with bent knees and very tight thighs. Still we have now travelled 342 miles in 4 days including the very tough sections in Cornwall and Devon. We also crossed 7 counties and are finding it hard to believe we have gone from Stroud just above Bristol to the Stoke area in 1 day.

Tomorrow it is off to Lancaster, a shorter day of around 81 miles which will be kinder to our legs.

Finally, I have up loaded a couple of pictures following a few requests. More will follow but we now need to sleep.

Fowey where we stopped first night.
The support vehicle.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Day 3 Tiverton to Stroud

Well, today has been more a day of minor disasters and rain. We started later than we anticipated as we had problems with Graham J’s bike to sort out, and all piled in the car to go from Tina’s house (where we stayed last night near Bridgwater) back to Tiverton where we finished last night.

We started whilst the weather was fairly nice and by tackling the remaining hills of Devon. Graham J was finding the going tough and put it down to weariness from the hills the previous day. However after around 10 miles a check of the Bike revealed a loose rear brake resulting in the brakes rubbing constantly and the wheel being very stiff to turn. Once fixed the bike was flying.

We stopped at Wellington to top up the calories with bacon butties and then managed to keep going to Bridgewater where we had to stop again to take on more fluids. After Bridgewater we had 4 miles of level road which felt great and we cracked on at a good pace. This easier riding continued for another 20 or so miles until we hit the Mendip hills which gave us 5 miles of climbing again and by now we were suffering heavy bursts of rain leaving us soaked and cold.

We stopped in Lower Langford for lunch where we met the support drivers, who were armed with Cornish pasties, plenty of sweet foods and our drink refills, we took cover in a local pub to warm up a bit from the rain before heading back out onto the roads and lots more of the hills until we reached Bristol Airport. During this time Graham J had a problem with his chain crank, with a nut snagging his chain. Another quick repair and we were on our way again. From Bristol Airport there was a lovely downhill ride to Bristol city centre. Here we stocked up on Rennies to overcome the effect of the pasties and pain killers for Shane who was suffering bad knee pain.

Going through Bristol at rush hour was not a great experience but we were soon onto reasonably level ground heading towards Stroud where we have stopped overnight.

Tonight dined in style at the Little Chef and were all very stiff in the legs after we had been sitting for a while. Then we visited Tesco to get more supplies to treat Shane’s knee, carried out some more repairs to the bikes.

In summary, a day of 92 miles and a few events but less spectacular countryside. Tomorrow we head to Newcastle-Under-Lyme which at 103 miles will be the day we travel most distance during the whole ride.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Day 2 of the Big Ride

We woke up to the reassuring sound of rain!! This could be uncomfortable. We set off on what we’ve been told will be the hardest day. The first 40 miles were just constant up and down really steep hills. Oh yes they were right, it was really tough going. We stopped for coffee in Liskeard, and met up with the support crew who coincidently were also in town indulging in a touch of retail therapy. Shane lost his camera when it fell off his bike but luckily it still records but just has a broken lens.

We met up with the girls again for lunch after about 40miles (our first Cornish pasties of the ride). After our lunch break it did seem to flatten out slightly, but it all changed again after about 60 miles. We had to adjust Shane’s brake blocks as he had worn them out already. We also had our first repair when Graham J got a puncture.

At one stage in the morning we climbed Kit Hill which presented us with an amazing view over Dartmoor and surrounding areas. This is actually 1,133ft above sea level, and provided one of the days hardest challenges. The descent was also pretty scary – Shane reached a top speed of 45 miles an hour free wheeling!

The girls received an unexpected donation this afternoon, when they met a lady named Pearl at a motorway service station near Bridgewater. It began as a good deed when Denise lent her the use of her mobile phone as she was running late, but after chatting for a while and explaining our journey , Pearl kindly gave us a donation and told us that she had recently visited her nephew in Great Ormond Street.

We finished at around 8pm, some 12 hours after we first set out this morning. Graham and Shane were particularly pleased with Graham J’s hard work planning the route – it really paid off today.

The evening was spent with Graham R’s cousin, Tina, who kindly put us up at her house near Bridgewater. We had a fabulous meal, showers all round and even washing facilities for the gear. What more could anyone want.
Tomorrow should be easier with fewer hills but with 92 miles scheduled, it is the longest stage to date. All will be revealed in the next edition!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Day 1 - Land’s End to Fowey

So, today we started the ride. We drove to Lands End from Truro, thinking that we were going to be the only cyclists in town. How wrong could we be? There were several other groups beginning their adventure as well. After the ritual photograph session including the one by the Lands End sign post, we were off.

The first 10 miles got us to Penzance and got the nerves under control. We then rode on to Helston, (we have had our first tea stop by now) passing the heliport on the way. Helston gave us our first taste of the Cornish hill climbs. From there we cycled to Truro (funny some of this looks familiar – oh yes we stayed here last night!). Tea stop number 2 already with a lovely cup of Yorkshire tea.

Next we head through St Austell and onto Fowey. Graham J lost the maps when they blew away, but luckily retrieved them so that was ok. The afternoon session was much more challenging (ok – really, really b----y hard) but Graham R was very happy as he overtook a Harley Davidson motorbike. Shane’s on-board camera proved very successful (it was almost as hard watching again as it was cycling in the first place)

Meanwhile the support crew were also having an interesting time!! Oh the wonderful technology that is a sat nav. It took the girls down some very, very narrow roads and the Audi had a scrape from another car, but luckily, no lasting damage. They then decided to follow Charlotte’s navigation system instead, and found our next overnight stay, a Youth Hostel near Fowey, after crossing the estuary on a small car ferry.

We were informed by the staff that we have climbed some 6,000ft today. How amazing!! After a self-cooked meal, we headed off in the car for a bit of sightseeing to Charlestown and then Fowey harbour.

Now for some well-deserved sleep, although we are all staying in a room together, so no snoring allowed boys!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Day 0

After a long 8 hour journey, including 2 pit stops to service stations for cups of tea and food, here we are at Truro Premier Inn.

We're currently sat in the bar, sporting our Great Ormond Street t-shirts trying to chill ready for the start of the big ride tomorrow.

The two Grahams are topping up their iron levels with a pint of Guinness and Shane hasn't left the bathroom since he saw the hills on the drive down here. To be honest, all of us were slightly frightened by the size of the hills in Devon and Cornwall!

We've been welcomed extremely warmly by the Premier Inn staff. They have kindly given us free wireless access to write this blog and to our pleasant surprise they have offered us all complimentary breakfasts tomorrow morning which will give us an excellent start to the ride.

So, it's an early start in the morning and our first opportunity to test ourselves against the terrain.

Finally, a big thanks to Carpe Diem Accounting Services, who have just sponsored us £100.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Final Preparations For The Big Event

So into the final week and it is all coming together nicely although, it is not quite the calm before the storm. Graham J has recovered from his calf problem and managed three training rides over last weekend but is now saddle sore. He also tried to break 2 toes in the garden while walking without shoes and these are now painful and sore but he says they won’t stop the ride.

Shane had a good workout over the weekend too with Motor Cross improving his core fitness and 2 cycling rides to help his preparation. Graham R has finished his preparation and is now on a canal holiday chilling and getting mentally prepared.

Charlotte the support driver is post exams and ready to go and the roof bars and roof box were fitted last night to her fiesta, so the car is ready too. We now have confirmation of a petrol sponsor for the support vehicle and our thanks go to Sue Papworth from Toad School Of Driving (tel 01480 831662)

We also have an agreed sponsor for the accommodation and our thanks for this go to Potential2Achieve Limited, who are inspiring performance and enabling success (tel 0844 870 9743

Both sponsors will be featured on the support car throughout the event.

This week is like the week before you go on holiday for a fortnight with so many things to do both at home and for the ride. There are lots of final things to buy such as topping up the first aid kit, ensuring we have enough drinks bottles, energy bars etc and, of course, making the final arrangements for those family members staying looking after the house and the dog.

By Sunday morning it will all be done and we will be off to Cornwall for the start, feeling very nervous but excited too.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

What A Difference A Week Makes

So last week we were feeling more confident of our ability to make the ride successfully and then a bad training ride on Thursday shattered that confidence. Graham J got really bad cramp in his calf, probably due to pushing too hard while tired and dehydrated. This has resulted in muscle damage which has meant no riding since and he is still struggling to be able to get back on the bike even for a light exercise routine. Lots of ice packs and liniment have seen improvements in the condition and he is still hopeful of making the ride.

During the same ride, Shane had problems with his bike gears as the chain came off. This has now required a re-alignment of his gear changers to cure the problem and prevent it from happening again. He has also identified the need for new tyres which will need to be bought and fitted before we go.

The good news is that Graham R is riding almost every day and building his fitness quite well. How things turn around, as 6 weeks ago he was the one who looked doubtful for the ride due to illness and injuries.

Every day now sees internet shopping packages arrive as we pull together our kit and this weekend will be spent checking the bikes and kit to ensure we are good to go.

Then there is a need to re-plan the route to make sure that we have easy to follow directions and avoid, where possible, exceptionally busy roads.

So next week will be the final weekly pre-event blog before we start the daily blogs for the actual ride. In the meantime we need another big push on donations, please help us by circulating this blog to your friends and contacts and asking them to support Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


For those old enough to remember the song and cricket parody, the number of days to go before we start riding is nnnnineteen, and the amount of donations we are still seeking is nnnnineteen hundred. For those of you too young to know what this means, never mind, as Shane has discovered wisdom comes with age.

Please see what you can do to help us drive up the donations, we had a great response from the early adopters but now need the mass market to pick up the donating challenge. We will be sending reminders out next week as many people have promised donations but not quite managed to make them yet. Just Giving

The event is now fully booked so we are committed to the expense with no cancellation clauses. This includes accommodation, cars, trains and flights (to get people back after the event quickly to meet other commitments). This must work like a well run project and we cannot afford to drop back on our planned miles per day, so we will need to dig deep on some days. People who have done it before tell us day 2 will be the hardest. This is an eighty mile ride from Fowey in Cornwall to Exeter in Devon and involves some very hilly challenges around Dartmoor.

Training is getting better with all three cyclists getting miles in their legs and Graham J managed 53 miles in the saddle without too many problems on Saturday. Graham R has now fitted the hill climb gears to his bike to make those long steep hills a little easier. The Cambridgeshire gear ratios will not be any good for the South West and Cumbrian hills. Shane just needs to fit a new gear lever which has now arrived (thanks to the wonders if e-bay) and he will be ready to go too.

So now time for a bit of internet shopping, getting extra pairs of shorts, tights/leggings and jerseys for the event. It will be important to be able to keep kit washed and free from salt build up in order to avoid sores while riding, so changes of kit are critical.

Then hopefully there will be time to plan the final detail on the route and print all the maps to take us directly between our overnight stops.

There is a nervous sense of confidence in the team although most people still think were mad and most don't think we will make it. We will see and for all those doubters, why not put your money where your mouth is? Donate now and promise us a second donation if we make it. It is for a great cause and will help more children and families in distress.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

OMG 26 Days To Go

It is now just 26 days until we will have started our challenge. At this point, we should be through the hard training and feeling quietly confident.

Well it is nothing like that in reality. The two Graham managed over 40 miles yesterday. This is a real success given where we were 3 weeks ago. Success for Graham J as he managed to sit on his new saddle that long and is not in too much pain today. Success for Graham R as it is the furthest he has been able to cycle so far due to back problems. Graham R is now trying to cycle daily while Graham J is trying to fit some riding around his regular commuter journey to London and long working days.

Shane is also working long days, trying to make sure he can get the time off for the ride. His is currently short on miles in training and needs more time on his new saddle even though he says it is quite comfortable.

All three will need a good ride this weekend to boost confidence as the thought of 11 days of continual riding (equivalent of 11 marathons) is very scary.

On the support side, the vehicle has now been serviced (all three of us did this over the weekend) and is almost fit to go, once the cycle carrier and roofbars/box are added. The support driver is studying hard for 'A' levels and will be ready to go.

Graham R has kindly rebuilt Graham J's bike after Shane resprayed it and it looks great and performs really well, so it's good bye to the old bike and on with the new. A real team effort.

Donations to the GOSH charity are slowing down and we need a new injection of Donors, so please tell all your friends, ask them to donate to help Great Ormond Street and get people to follow our progress. During the ride, we will blog every day.

Finally, if you have any tips for us, please note them in the comments box.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Training Hurts

Well we are pushing on with our training but it is getting hard. Shane has sore legs from pushing too hard and Graham R is taking it steadily as he builds up his miles and stamina. Graham J is finding that breaking in a new saddle is not a lot of fun and is suffering with saddle sores.

Shane and Graham J were riding on Sunday and for the first 25 miles Shane was getting fed up with waiting for the old man (30 years his senior) but eventually seasoned wisdom won over spirited youth and Graham J had to wait for the younger cyclist. Graham J was telling anyone who would listen the story of the tortoise and the hare. Still I guess he needs to enjoy the victory while he can, it wont happen very often.

The accommodation for each night is booked with a combination of Travelodge, Premier Inn, B&Bs and Youth Hostels. The Two Grahams are wondering how they can qualify to stay in a Youth Hostel given their age. Total cost for accommodation is £995 and we are looking for a sponsor or 2 to help cover some of that cost, so if anyone knows a company that would like to be advertised on the support vehicle and mentioned in the press when we submit articles to the news papers, please let us know.

Fund raising is going steadily but we need more help. Graham R has spent all day e-mailing companies and friends for support and we need people to recommend us on facebook and other networking sites. Feel free also to forward the link to the site to all your friends telling them what a great cause Great Ormond Street Hospital is.

Finally, we think we have found a fuel sponsor and are just finalising the details, so watch this space for an update.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Challenge Is On

So this is it then, three of us have finally decided to try and ride 920 miles in around 11 days for Great Ormond Street hospital. We will be starting on 4 July at Land's End and finishing hopefully on 14 July at John O'Groats.

We have been holding off the decision due to various injuries which have stopped us training but now believe we can make it. So the mad rush for accommodation, cycling gear and sponsors has begun.

Graham Jackson and Shane Taylor have just bought new seats and need to break these in and we are all upgrading our bikes to give us a fighting chance on the long hill climbs. Training in flat areas around Cambridge is not helping this preparation.

So wish us luck and help us meet our targets for this great cause.