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 It's Cloberin' Time 
Lands End to John O Groats 8 day cycle trip.
Sat Aug 15, 2009 4:16 pm IRON MONKEY
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The End-to-End ride is something I have wanted to do for quite a while, and I had pencilled it in for this summer. So no more putting it of it was time to get on with it. Originally I was going to do it self supported, but when moaning about the train costs to my Dad (to get down to the start and end) he kindly offered to come along with me, as long as I paid all the diesel. Its a sad state of affairs on the public transport in this country when it is cheaper to drive the length of it, effectively twice then to buy a couple of train tickets to the top and bottom.

This made life a lot easier in terms of what gear I had to take on my bike. I decided to put a rack on anyway, as originally I was going to take sandwich's each day and stop for lunch. After speaking to Pat Kenny, who is a friend of my parents, and a long distance cycling legend (he held the trike end to end record for 2 years) I decided to do it as a series of long rides as if it was a series of training rides. I also decided to go with SPD's and recessed cleats rather than Look Keo's and road shoes. I also decided to leave the rack on, so I could have put panniers on if needed with a full variety of waterproofs, locks, tools etc. without having to have too much in my back pockets.

A few days was spent planning out the route, using google maps and the CTC end to end guide. Original I was thinking of 9 days, which would be just under 100 miles a day. Quite a bit of flexibility built in. My Dad was to drive on in the morning, put the tent up, and then pick me up at a destination near to the camp-site. Next morning he would drop me of where I finished the night before. We had planned a night back at my parents when I was coming up through the Midlands, as even though it was a bit of a longer ride of route it offered a lot more advantages (a bed, laundry, home cooked food, see my Mum etc.), I also booked a night in a travel lodge. Scotland was left quite flexible, and we only planned the route up to just north of Edinburgh. A lot of the routes recommended not going up the A9, but we thought we would take a look at how busy it was when we were up there.

So the original plan was.

So Sunday before it was a big lunch then pack the car to drive down to Lands End. It took about 6 hours or so to get down there, just time to put the tent up before it got dark, then it was of to the pub for dinner. A fairly late night and a noisy camp site meant I didn't get much sleep that night, probably only 4 hours at best. I awoke to it chucking it down, hmm it was to be expected I suppose, but I didn't really fancy it on the first day. The first thing I had to do was to take some stitches out of my left leg from some muscle biopsies I had done for a sports science experiment the Wednesday before. In fact the 90 minutes cycling to exhaustion was the only cycling (or aerobic exercise) I had done in the 3 weeks since Ironman Switzerland.

Muscle Biopsy Scars

Not the best preparation but I thought I would be alright with all the cycling I had done earlier in the year. There was a small doubt in my mind that I hadn't taken this seriously enough, but generally I was confident I would get to the end no matter what.

Day 1. Lands End to Two Bridges.

At the Start

It was a very misty, wet and windy day at Lands End. Time for a few photos then I was of. A bolt in my rack kept coming loose as I went down steep descents on bad surfaces, which meant I had to keep stopping to tighten it. Eventually I swapped it with another one which was less important. When I stopped to do this, I also thought whilst I'm stopped I may as well have a 'comfort break'. It was a bit open, but I was facing trees so the traffic couldn't see. When I turn round there is a police car pulled up alongside me... err just fixing my bike... Luckily he was OK about it, and just said go behind the trees next time. Today turned out to be the longest day in trip time, and by far the most in ascent. It was wet and windy all day long. I arrived in Travistock, and rang my Dad. Due to a supermarket trip, road works and diversions he had only just got there. I cycled a third of the way into Dartmoor and it was really misty. I kept thinking of An American Werewolf in London, and was cycling very slowly. As it was still chucking it down we decided to go and get a B&B, and cancelled the camp-site.. this was definitely a wise move, even though it put the budget out a bit. I also needed a good nights sleep. All day whilst cycling I had just felt tired, legs were fine, but just sleepy tired. I wanted to be fresh (and dry) going into the next day.

Day 2. Two Bridges to Clevedon

What a surprise, It is raining again, probably even heavier than the day before. A big breakfast at the B&B then it was pay the bill and jump in the car to get to the finish point of the day before. 10 minutes later I was of. Dartmoor is pretty hilly and the roads were totally covered in water. I got to admit to having a few scary descents on a few occasions in these conditions but luckily I managed to just about keep in control. Today was pretty uneventful apart from a few slight twinges of cramp in my legs. This was a bit concerning so early into the trip. I have only ever had slight cramps on the bike, and that was after a 30 hour cycling week in Spain, a few years back. I made an effort to stretch out on the descents. Most of the day was spent cycling up the A38 towards Bristol. This road kept having signs saying 'Red Route 723 casualties in 5 years'. It seemed OK to me, but I did pass one pile up. I finished the day at a Tesco car park in Clevedon, where I popped in and got a sarnie, coke and some ear plugs in case of another noisy camp site. This was probably the best purchase of the trip.

Cycling over Dartmoor

Day 3. Clevedon to Ludlow.

Hurray, hurray the sun was out, so it was short sleeves for the first time.

A Sunny Start

My legs were feeling fine and I was looking forward to getting going. Today was to turn into the first day (of 2) with navigational errors. I had to get across the Avon bridge, but I couldn't find the cycle path entrance. My instructions had me go into a village, but I cycled through it, past it, round it, back into it quite a few times, before I managed to find it. It was bizarre, but finally after asking quite a few people I managed to find it down some side street in a housing estate. It was like I was going down someone's back garden, then I popped out on a path alongside a railway, then it joined onto the cycle path. 17 miles added on, and a lot of faffing around. It also brought my average speed down quite a bit. It was then over the Severn bridge into Wales, and up through Monmouth which was quite a pleasant ride. Today was planned as a flexible day with me finishing between Ludlow and Shrewsbury but with the additional miles it had to be the lower point. It was then a drive back to my parents house as mentioned in the into.

Day 4. Ludlow to Chorley

Today was to be the first day I used my mp3 player. It was a pretty easy day on paper to navigate as it was basically all the way up the A49. It was also a pretty fast day and I was feeling pretty good. I was averaging 19 mph up until I had to go through Warrington and Wigan. The amount of traffic lights was becoming annoying especially as they always seemed to be on red for an incredibly long time. My average dropped, a bus cut me up, and a woman tried to run me over, which turned a few heads in the street when I shouted for her to look where she was going. Worst part of the whole trip in terms of traffic, and if I were to do it again, I would look for a route around these towns rather than through them. Tonight was the travelodge night and some fish and chips from a local chippy, and a few slices of the fruit cake my Mum had made for us.

Day 5. Cholrey to Longholm.

Today was to be the best of the trip so far. It started a bit the same as the day before with traffic lights through Preston, but once I was through all of that things improved a lot. I went up through Lancaster and Kendal (both seemed really nice towns), then a really nice climb up and over Shap Fell which had some awesome views. A really long descent gave me a bit of neck ache as I was on the drops for too long, but it soon passed when I was back on the hoods. I cycled up to Penrith, where I stopped for a sarnie and coke. When I stopped to eat I would stop the clock on my HRM, all other times I would just leave it running. I then cracked on through Carlisle, then carried on for my first time into Scotland. I was feeling pretty strong and felt I could have cycled all the way to JOG. This was the longest day in terms of miles so far, at 120.

First time in Scotland

Day 6, Longholm to Kinross.

The day started with about 10 miles of climbing through a forest with hardly any other cars on the roads. I then had some fast descents, with some other climbs all the way through to Peebles. It was Saturday and there was a sportive coming the other way. Nodding and waving to the continuous stream of cyclists coming the other way seemed never ending. I eventually got up to Edinburgh, but missed my turn and ended up in the middle of the city centre. It was rammed, as the festival was on. It was quite interesting to cycle round a capital city though, but again brought the average speed down. I managed to find my way to the forth bridge in a very strong wind, and get over eventually making my way to Kinross after having to ask directions as the road signs were not too good. Tonight was a very noisy, family camp site even with my ear plugs in.

Day 7. Kinross to just north of Inverness.

Today was to be the longest in terms of miles and the longest ride I have ever done (but only by 2 miles). Went up through Perth, and then checked out the A9. It seemed fine, so of I set of on it. Again today I was feeling pretty strong, and the route was pretty fast. 142 miles at an average of 20 miles an hour, with more than 1500m of ascent. Today's big ride had set me up to finish a day earlier than the original schedule.

Every time I have read peoples report of LEJOG, they always say how annoying the midges up in Scotland are. Well I agree. From this point on I was continually scratching my bites, and will take more insect repellent next time.

Day 8 Inverness to John O Groats.

The rides of 120, and 142 had left me with about 115 to get up to JOG. I was up pretty early and today was the earliest start of the whole trip, with cycling at 7:45. The first section was really fast and I was averaging 20.5 mph after an hour, but then it started to get very hilly and very windy.
At about 70 miles I started to think, the job was done but there was still plenty to do. The last 30 miles up through Wick and then onto the A99 was into a very strong headwind which really slowed me down. Just so the trip ended as it started there was a massive downpour for about 30 minutes or so. I kept plodding away and eventually JOG came into view. Rolled into the car park, 10 minutes taking the usual photos, then into the café for a cup of tea, and can of coke. To be honest I was quite sad it was all over, as I really enjoyed it. We stopped of at the Tescos in Wick where I had a quick splash and change in the disabled toilets, then it was a long drive down to Perth where we had a B&B booked. We went down the road to an eat all you want curry, which was pretty good, and a few well deserved pints of Kingfisher which were even better. Next day was just a drive all the way back, getting home at about 3 pm.

The Finsih

Below is a summary of the facts and figures of each days cycling.

I ate a lot on this trip and never lost any weight. I basically had a 1k kcal breakfast, then between 2 and 3k on the bike (depending on the length of the day and if I stopped at a petrol station or not), another 1k straight of the bike, then about a 1 – 1.5k diner, then about 0.5k of snacking in the evening. That's a lot of energy income.


I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys cycling, as it is a great trip. It is so much more interesting doing point to point rides in new areas, then 100 mile loops which you have done loads of times before. I'll probably do it self supported next time, but obviously this will take at least 3 days longer. Thanks to my Dad for the invaluable support as well.

~   Last edited by IRON MONKEY on Sat Aug 15, 2009 7:18 pm; edited 2 times in total
Sat Aug 15, 2009 4:52 pm Mrs Slacko
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What a wonderful account! Welldone. That's quite a long ride and you sounded pretty relaxed throughout!
I smile a lot!

Sat Aug 15, 2009 11:51 pm adrian73
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You made it look easy Very Happy Very Happy But then you did 4:08 on a 100MTT wher I nearly died Shocked Smile
Superb ride!!! It is definitely in my plans.
As soon as I decide when I will come back with questions. What an experience!

Sun Aug 16, 2009 12:51 pm Sue
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great account,welldone
you made it sound easy, plan n execute said plan Wink
hey n best buy the ear plugs Shocked nothing mega expensive Shocked
heard taking yeast tabs beforehols keeps midges at bay
you must be pleased

Mon Aug 17, 2009 9:56 am p00key
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Nice report - I definitely recommend self support , We did this in 2007 , just make sure you have all your accommodation booked before hand , makes it so much easier Smile
Mon Aug 17, 2009 12:08 pm Carlito
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Well done mate. Sounds great Very Happy
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Wed Aug 19, 2009 6:36 am Poet
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Our lad was camping up in Scotland for the festival, then he went up the east coast afterwards. He also said the midges were unbearable.

That's some average speed to keep throughout, too.

You got a thing for titanium bikes, then?

Wed Aug 19, 2009 11:21 am Slacko
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Great report Neil, enjoyable reading. Smile

Apart from avoiding Wigan (which should have been obvious Wink ) would you have done any other bits of your route differently?
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Re: Lands End to John O Groats 8 day cycle trip.
Wed Aug 19, 2009 1:42 pm JimboP
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Well done mate Sounds like a cracking trip.
I'd be well up for a self supported trip next year if you fancy some company!

TLD06 Finish
_____ Relevant Personal Bests _____
Half Marathon: 1:24, Solent Half 07
Full Marathon: 2:58, Milan 07
10k - 36.34

Half Ironman: 4:45:12, Beaulieu 08
IMUK: 11:08:17, IMUK 07
IMCH: 10:46
Standard Duathlon: 2:05:25, New Forest 07

10 TT: 21.57
25 TT: 56:36
50 TT: 1:58:22
100 TT: 4:08

IM Race report links:
.. .the rest in the blog somewhere ...

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