Day 7 – Dumbarton to Fort William – 91 miles – I couldn’t have got this one more wrong!!

After yesterdays ‘off” day I was slightly concerned about today as it may only be 90 miles but includes the biggest climbs by far of the whole journey and it would be back to doing it on my own so no words of encouragement from anyone. Also the A82 is notoriously dangerous (although it turns out I didn’t find it that way). Jed indulged in a full English (or should that be Scottish??) whilst I opted for the breakfast of champions, porridge after learning from my mistake earlier in the trip. It was overcast, nippy but dry. Jed set off on his merry way to cycle the 18 miles into Glasgow to catch his train home whilst I was heading for Fort William with only ‘some climbs’ past ski resorts in my way.

First photo stop (of many) was the south end of Loch Lomond looking straight up the loch, then it was on to Luss (famous as the location for Tak the high road – apparently a ‘quality’ bit of TV. It was swarming with Japanese tourists who take photos of anything eg Sunflowers, a man in a kilt and me (because I was talking with man in kilt) – I also got a photo with him 😉 Leaving Luss it started to rain but even that couldn’t put me off – the road is very narrow and rough at the head of the loch but once past there it opens up and it climbs and climbs (I don’t recall this from when I drove it previously). I climbed up through Tyndrum. The higher I climbed the colder it got but again that didn’t put me off. Destination for lunch was the Bridge of Orchy hotel which doesn’t look very good from outside but is transformed inside with ambient music, nice décor and expensive food but well worth it – I was so tired I almost fell asleep sitting up so thought I’d best make a move. Off I went, next milepost Glencoe ski resort followed closely by the Kings House hotel with many photo stops in between. The headwind on the top was really strong but again it wouldn’t spoil my day. Eventually I reached the long fast descent down to Glencoe Village and Ballachulish stopping to take a photo of the waterfall which was in spate the last time I visited but this time was a trickle. I got talking to a couple of keen amateur photographers who took a photo of me in front of the fall. It was the down to Glencoe Village and around Loch Leven and onward to Fort William to find the youth hostel right in the middle of town. A quick shower and wash my cycling clothes before heading to Stables Restaurant (below digs) for a very nice Italian meal of carbs.

I so misjudged this day – I’ve driven the route many times and it is good but to cycle it you really get to see how stunning it really is and you can stop anywhere you like to take photos. If you think you could ride 90 miles, you need to get the train to Dumbarton then cycle it and get the train back from Fort William – you won’t be disappointed!!!

Distance: 90.86 mi
Time: 7:33:25
Avg Speed: 12.0 mph
Elevation Gain: 3,747 ft
Calories: 2,425 C
Avg Temperature: 57.6 °F
Time: 7:33:25
Moving Time: 7:29:30
Elapsed Time: 9:45:02
Avg Speed: 12.0 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 12.1 mph
Max Speed: 29.9 mph
Avg HR: 113 bpm
Max HR: 165 bpm

Route Day 7

 

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Day 6 – Gretna to Dumbarton 105 (grueling) miles and 3 punctures in first 18 miles

Day started off well enough as Claire drove me and the bike down to the Gretna Gateway where I’d finished the night before. This time I was being met by Jed Woodhouse (from work) who was joining me for the day. We set away but within a couple of miles I had a rear puncture so we took it off, found the offending piece of wire, repaired the tube and pressed on as far as the outlaws caravan as I knew my track pump was there, We made the most by having a coffee and fruit cake 🙂 off we set again and soon Jed picked up a front wheel puncture which we dealt with before finally I picked up our 3rd and last within the 1st 18 miles – not a good start to the day 😦 This put us back massively. We decided to push on on the road that runs parallel to the M74 not pretty at all and a sign of road conditions to come – they were rubbish all day. I did bump into a Jogler (north to south), Chris who I’d been keeping in touch with daily. We hugged, took some photos and headed off our respective directions. Lunch was taken in a grotty greasy spoon type cafe in a one-horse town (Abington – sorry if you live there) only because we had no other choice. On we pushed and I knew it was going to be a late finish 😦 By the time we dropped down through Paisley you could tell we’d missed a downpour, later to be told it had been pouring, thunder, lightening and hailstones – it was one of those days!!!

We eventually arrived at our digs (http://www.bedandbreakfast-directory.co.uk/uploads/estate/hotels/hotels43065.htm) after 8pm after covering 105 (hard) miles. Off to the pub which was virtually next door for a deserved meal which was very reasonable and decent quality. The landlady offered to wash and dry my cycling gear which was a huge bonus – thanks.

Tomorrow will be shorter (90) but v.hilly as it goes past the ski stations on the way to Fort William.

____________________________________________________________

Here is Jed’s view of the day:

Nice B&B – Clyde View, Milton. The landlady even did Nigel’s laundry for him. Thought when we first arrived we were going to have separate rooms, great because Nigel’s snoring is legendary. As we left to go for our meal a Spanish family arrived looking for somewhere to stay so being gentlemen we sacrificed a room. My plan then was to try and get to sleep whilst Nigel was doing his blog which I managed – until Nigel stood on his helmet getting in to bed, crashed into my bed and woke me up. He was snoring within seconds so I went and camped out in the dining room for a good night’s sleep.
Nigel is wrong about the one horse town – no way do they have a horse

Distance: 105.31 mi
Time: 8:55:19
Avg Speed: 11.8 mph
Elevation Gain: 4,642 ft
Calories: 2,751 C
Avg Temperature: 59.3 °F
Time: 8:55:19
Moving Time: 8:21:15
Elapsed Time: 11:43:19

 

Avg Speed: 11.8 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 12.6 mph
Max Speed: 32.9 mph
Avg HR: 109 bpm
Max HR: 139 bpm

Route day 6

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Day 5 – Preston – Gretna Green 95 miles including Shap

After porridge and coffee (we learned our lesson yesterday) Elka (Darren’s wife) dropped Darren and I off back at the place on the route we’d left the bikes (where Darren works) – a huge thank you to Elka and Darren for making me feel so welcome in their home.

We were on the road by 8-30am which basically followed the A6 from Preston through to Carlisle (Darrens stop for the night) and I’d eventually push on to Gretna. The road from Preston was fantastic, in good repair and very few hills so we made fantastic progress well in excess of 20mph on the flat. Darren was suffering with his bottom but more worryingly his achiles 😦

We knew that Shap would be in 45miles and so took a coffee break in Kendal where Darren rested his heel on an ice pack which wasnt doing much good. Just before Kendal I got a puncture in my rear tyre but luckily it had slime in so self healed itself. I blew it back to pressure which it lost some of but I decided to continue anyway and it made it to Gretna (I replaced the tube later that evening).

It was soon onto Shap which is basically a 14 mile/1,400ft climb that’s dreaded by cyclists – I’m so glad I did all those really tough climbs in training as they made Shap seem easy – I really enjoyed it and danced my way to the top like a Contador (without drugs). Darren meanwhile was struggling with gear selection problems. When we got to the summit we were met by my cousin, Keith Bradley (KB Cycles ) who had come to ride with us after providing us with lunch from his campervan, to Carlisle then retrace his steps. In Penrith Keith diagnosed Darren’s problem being a cracked outer gear cable caused by the bar bag positioning so we found a bike shop in the town who agreed to change it straight away. I told Darren I needed to push on so I could spend as much time as possible with my young children before they went to bed which he fully understood – thanks for the company Darren and good luck with the rest of your ride. So it was just Keith and I racing down to Carlisle and we came across 2 youngish lads on road bikes and I was up for a race – I got one of them (fairly easily) but could only get on par with the other – I later found out they too were doing LeJog but in more days than me and had the smallest bags imaginable – Keith questioned why I’d want to pick a race in the middle of a 1000 mile journey – fair point but I was feeling really good. I pushed on up to Gretna where I got Claire (my wife) to pick me up to stay at the outlaws caravan in Ecclefechen (“The Fech” to the locals).

Great day, great weather, great company and relieved to see the family and…. I OWNED Shap!!!

Distance: 94.12 mi
Time: 6:31:56
Avg Speed: 14.4 mph
Elevation Gain: 4,767 ft
Calories: 2,142 C
Avg Temperature: 66.6 °F
Time: 6:31:56
Moving Time: 6:27:34
Elapsed Time: 9:04:08
Avg Speed: 14.4 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 14.6 mph
Max Speed: 38.4 mph
Avg HR: 102 bpm
Max HR: 143 bpm

Day 5 route

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Day 4 – Shawbury to Preston 81– an unusually short day

Darren was woken rudely by the wood pigeons which I slept like a log through but I woke after another solid nights kip to find another glorious day. We were meeting another of Darrens work colleagues Simon Paul Williams from Wigan who would cycle with us over the shorter distance today. We called in at the very plush nafi and had a full english – big, big mistake!!! (because of the salt in it)

Then we were soon on our way with Simon on his yellow and black mean machine heading North on the A49. We weren’t expecting any big hills and it worked out that way – it seemed like a very relaxed training ride and our average speed was the highest of the adventure. We past through Whitchurch then there was a sign saying road closed in 3 miles – that can’t include us!!! Well when we got to the security in the 3 miles the security guard (who Simon said looked like a Somali pirate – good call) said it did include us and suggest we retraced 3 miles then took the detour. Darren whipped out his ipad to try and find an alternative until the security guard buckled and let us through – no workers on site and a suitable alternative (temporary bridge) over the obstacle, we were through. We found a nice cafe called the lock (or should that be loch?) gate (next to a canal) so we had quick refreshments before I went to take some photos of a boat being lifted.

Then it was on our way only to be met by another road block but this time the water authority had dug a trench right across the middle of the road – so we lifted our bikes and stepped over the channel. Darren was involved with a bully lorry driver who had come right up behind Simon and blasted his horn which led to a war of words and Darren making a polite call to the drivers manager – Darren later received an apology from the company. Then it was onward to the highways agency station near Wigan where we stopped for a while – in the meantime we experienced our first rain which continued for 10 miles. Simon peeled off at his hometown of Wigan leaving Darren and I the last 20 miles to Preston. Our finish was at the station on the motorway where Darren works and one of his chosen charities was represented by little Charlie who is only 1 but had a liver transplant when he was a baby – he’s adorable.

We were then picked up by Darrens wife, Elke and driven back to their home to stop for the night – that was a great meal thanks and I promise Darren – I will stop following you tomorrow ha ha

Well it should be an early night because it’s 115 miles for me tomorrow including the 14 mile climb of Shap and ending at Ecclefechen (the Fech) where I’ll eventually be reunited, briefly with my family 🙂 Looking forward to that!!

Distance: 81.10 mi
Time: 5:48:56
Avg Speed: 13.9 mph
Elevation Gain: 3,376 ft
Calories: 2,161 C
Avg Temperature: 63.8 °F
Time: 5:48:56
Moving Time: 5:43:56
Elapsed Time: 8:30:26

 

Avg Speed: 13.9 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 14.1 mph
Max Speed: 33.3 mph
Avg HR: 118 bpm
Max HR: 150 bpm

Day 4 route

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Day 3 Bristol to (RAF)Shawbury 114 – could be longest day

First things first a quick breakfast at my Bristol hosts Chris and Sue – thanks for your company – it was good remembering the good ol’ days.

Weather was fine and nothing like the forecast thankfully 🙂

Well, today was the first time I had arranged some riding company so off I set for a 18 mile ride to meet at the Severn Bridge at 8-30 . I would be joined by Darren Leen who had started a day earlier than me but we’d arranged to ride together from Bristol up to Carlisle. He’d also brought along his Boss Simon and his friend Peter Ryan with their ‘support’ driver Jason Lunn. Simon and Peter were on their lightweight racing steeds and Darren had offloaded his luggage for the day into the car but I refused for the 3rd time in 2 days to have anyone carry my stuff (Mrs B says I’m stubborn).

Anyway off we set on what would be a 114 mile day for me – across the Severn bridge then we wound our way up the Monmouth Valley (which I was very impressed with) following the river with some climbs but nothing too severe. Simon (Bianchi Green) was definitely a class act and always seemed to be on top of his game – I struggled all the way until lunch which we had on the grass outside the cathedral in Hereford in the baking sun. Then I got my second wind and there was no stopping me, Darren was struggling with ‘bottom problems’ on the saddle. We stopped once more at an idyllic  riverside pub which had a lot of riders from south east tandem club outside. Then we were off again heading for Shrewsbury where we met in the motorway services and had a final coffee before saying farewell to Jason, Peter and Simon – thanks for your company .

Darren and I then setoff on our 10 mile trip to find RAF Shawbury where he’d arranged our free accommodation for the night – looks like there was a mix up and we were booked for following day. Anyway got sorted and shown to our rooms which were basic (to say the least) but good enough for 1 night. Quick shower in the ‘Ablutions’ and changed and walk down to the village for some really tasty food in the local pub.

Tomorrow is going to be our shortest, easiest day and will be joined by another rider (another of Darren’s colleagues).

Distance: 113.76 mi
Time: 8:49:25
Avg Speed: 12.9 mph
Elevation Gain: 6,385 ft
Calories: 3,782 C
Avg Temperature: 66.4 °F
Time: 8:49:25
Moving Time: 8:20:50
Elapsed Time: 11:48:18

 

Avg Speed: 12.9 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 13.6 mph
Max Speed: 42.9 mph
Avg HR: 131 bpm
Max HR: 251 bpm

Route day 3

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Day Two – Okehampton to Bristol 108 miles – it was nearly my last

After a good nights kip I went down for pre arranged porridge – I even had Cornish clotted cream in it hmmm.

The weather looked nice and sunny so spirits were high as I set off for Bristol on what was supposed to be an easier (longer but less hilly) than yesterday. Soon after I left the fog came down really bad and took a good 15 miles to clear which is where I bumped into a cyclist looking bemused at maps in Crediton – I asked him where he was going and he replied, “Scotland” – so this is Nick from west London (who doesn’t wear a helmet) who was doing Lejog over 14 days on his racing bike with his wife, brother being navigators/ baggage carriers, and his 9 year old daughter playing on her Nintendo dog game in the back of the car. I explained I wasn’t going over Cadbury Hills although my route was 5 miles longer – turns out he took the hillier option as he popped out behind me where our paths crossed again so he asked if he could get a tow, I didn’t mind, so towed him along for 15 miles or so until we parted as I was stopping for lunch – he was finishing in Taunton so only had another 5 miles to go whereas I had 55. If you read this Nick I hope you’ve been successful.

Just after Taunton I noticed a knock which I soon diagnosed as a bottom bracket problem – THIS WAS VERY SERIOUS and could easily spell the end to my attempt – I was gutted that the bike had let me down 😦 I was seriously considering my options: buy a new bike and get my Galaxy posted home/ struggle on to next biggest town (Weston) to find a bike shop and pray they had a bottom bracket in (and could fit it for me), go to the nearest train station and head home with my tail well and truly between my legs.

Anyway I made it to Weston where I asked a girl cyclist (which had a shopping basket on the front) where any LBS’s were she first said Halfrauds (ermmmm no thanks)  then  www.somersetbikecentre.co.uk where they kindly agreed to look at it (despite it being after 4-30 and in half an hour they had replaced the failed part. I owe them a huge thank you. So on I went to eventually reach Bristol (later than planned and in the dark) to be hosted by Chris and Sue Harvey – we could’ve reminisced all night and nearly did 🙂

Thanks for your hospitality guys, when Chris does Lejog he’s more than welcome to stop with us – ha ha – he was knackered cycling 1 mile to the station to meet me as I cycled in (and even then he missed me).

Tomorrow I’m meeting Darren Leen from Blackburn and I have a 113 mile trip as I have to cycle 18 miles to reach him and the weather forecast isn’t good.

Tonight isn’t an early night eeeeek

Distance: 107.90 mi
Time: 8:40:48
Avg Speed: 12.4 mph
Elevation Gain: 5,171 ft
Calories: 3,275 C
Avg Temperature: 69.0 °F
Time: 8:40:48
Moving Time: 8:16:43
Elapsed Time: 11:14:52
Avg Speed: 12.4 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 13.0 mph
Max Speed: 42.9 mph
Avg HR: 123 bpm
Max HR: 172 bpm

Route day 2

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Day One – Lands End to Okehampton 106 tough miles

I always knew this day and the first half of the second were going to be the hardest of the trip.

So it was an early start to give me a fighting chance of finishing at a decent time, 6am rise and quick breakfast in a basket then head down to the tacky Lands End complex for a 7am start. I got down so early there wasn’t a soul around so I cheekily self timed a photo of myself in front of the sign 🙂

Just before I left I bumped into 2 others who were about to start but they were supported and they were heading straight up the dangerous A30 which I wouldn’t advise anyone to use. So it was a 7-15 start and conditions a little cool to start but windless (hoorah) and the sun was to come out later. My route would take me along quiet alternatives to the A30 which makes the distance slightly longer but definitely safer. I was making good progress and had managed 60 miles by 11am so decided to take lunch in Wadebridge sitting in the grounds of pub – very nice it was too. I was under no illusion that the afternoon wasn’t going to be hilly and difficult. And so it turned out to be with hill after hill (starting with a right beast of a climb of just under 1,000ft out of Wadebridge which really tested my cooled down legs) but leaving the sting in the tail until 95 miles when I didn’t have much left in the legs. But I pushed on knowing I only had 11 miles to complete. Eventually reaching my destination Upcott House on Upcott Hill – great a 13% climb to end the day 😦

The B&B is well worth the climb set in it’s own grounds with great views (not surprising) and a bonus of being upgraded to a family room which includes a 4 poster and a balcony. The hostess, Kay Bickley was very accommodating letting me leave my bike in their glass porch and also washing/drying my kit overnight

Dinner would be taken at the White Hart hotel (a quick walk down the hill into the town) which consisted Beef Lasagne followed by Apple Struddle and ice cream mmmm

Tomorrow will be a role reversal with all the hills in the first half – let’s hope the legs are fresh. In the second half I’m avoiding the climbs of Cadbury Hills (although I wouldn’t mind their chocolate) and then heading to Weston-super-Mare – wouldn’t it be great to have time to grab an ice cream (Eddie Izzards training technique) before heading east to Bristol to meet up and stay with an ex-colleague from Vaux days, Chris Harvey and his wife Sue. I guess we’ll have plenty of catching up to do.

So it’s off to bed for and early night.

Distance: 105.29 mi
Time: 9:04:51
Avg Speed: 11.6 mph
Elevation Gain: 8,799 ft
Calories: 3,739 C
Avg Temperature: 66.6 °F
Time: 9:04:51
Moving Time: 8:53:00
Elapsed Time: 11:03:21
Avg Speed: 11.6 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 11.9 mph
Max Speed: 38.3 mph
Avg HR: 129 bpm
Max HR: 175 bpm

Day one route

 

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