Day 9 Kyle of Sutherland to John O’Groats

The final day of the ride, a short 104 miles to John O’Groats with the ride profile showing lots of climbs and descents across the top of Scotland.

It was an early start from 6 am to make sure everyone got to the finish in plenty of time. Lights on in the dark as we set off. I started at 0624 with Stu W who I had cycled in with the previous day and had a met on the RAB Training Day in April. We shared the work up the first long draggy climb with me occasionally having to ask Stu to ease up – the 870 miles in the legs were having an effect! Near the end of the climb the wind started to pick up creating a horrible cross wind. We then turned the corner for the descent into Altnaharra and the first pit stop of the day.

WOW! What a descent! A steady drop and increasing wind behind us. We covered five miles in a flash and ended up doing the first 30 miles in 1 hour 50 minutes. We arrived at the pit stop to see staff hanging from the gazebo roof braces to stop them blowing away – it was a full on gale but without the rain.

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Pit stop at Altnaharra

 

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The road from Altnaharra alongside Loch Naver

If I thought the descent into Altnaharra was good, descent out was even better and the route took us alongside Loch Naver, full of white horses created by the wind. Once we hit the coast road after going through Bettyhill, we were able to take full advantage of the wide roads and lack of traffic. I really enjoyed the even better descents although lighter riders and riders with deep section wheels hated the cross winds. On the up slopes I even felt the wind pushing me up hill near the crests – definitely a time for sitting up straight and making yourself as big as possible.

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First sight of the sea north of Scotland
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The obligatory photo at John O’Groats

The gale force wind made it the fastest day of the 9 as I completed 100 miles in less than 6 hours moving time and the whole 104 miles in 6 hours 9 minutes (only 7 hours after leaving the Kyle of Sutherland).

After queuing for the photo by the sign post, there was more queuing for a shower (we got seriously cold at this point) and a coach ride to Inverness. I had a pizza with some friends who had the overnight sleeper train to catch to London. They didn’t have time for pudding so when I had checked into my hotel I went out to the restaurant next door and ordered two puddings and a pint – the waitress said it was the strangest order they’d had for a long time!

Highlights of the day:

  • Gale or storm force tail wind
  • All the terrific descents
  • The finish at John O’Groats
  • Two puddings and a pint in Inverness

I have now cycled 972 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats. I had a lift in a mechanic’s car for 10 miles after my crash at Preston which wrote off my cycle helmet.

The questions I expect everyone to ask at work – does your bottom hurt ? can you sit down? The answers are “A little bit” and “Yes, very easily”. The injury to my thigh has been causing more issues – something for a separate post.

You can still help me raise even more money for Dementia UK by donating on my Virgin Money Giving page here Let’s see if I can top £5,000 !

Wye Valley Warrior report

Last Sunday saw me take part in the Wye Valley Warrior sportive organised by UK Cycling Events.

When I went to bed on the Saturday night the rain was lashing down and I seriously considered switching off the alarm and not bothering with the ride. Fortunately good sense kicked in and the alarm went off at 6 am which always makes me think of the Robin Williams line from Good Morning Vietnam “What does 0600 stand for- ‘ Oh my God it’s early’!”

Back to the weather – it was still raining. After a quick wash and breakfast (double porridge) it was in to the car for the drive to Chepstow racecourse (bike packed in the car the night before). After registering, changing into cycling shoes and wet weather gear it was off at 8 am.

The ride was over new routes for me. Raining, windy, slippery roads – basically all pretty horrible. The good news was that I had attached clip on mudguards to the bike which kept the worst of the spray off me – no wet backside – a result.

The 92 miles was tough with over 7,000 feet of climbing. Yes the rain did stop, to be replaced by mist and drizzle. The wind kept up which was energy sapping on the flat into headwinds. There was also a long climb at 80 miles and a short sharp climb at 86 miles when I was very grateful for a 34 tooth rear cassette to just keep moving! Unfortunately the conditions weren’t conducive for taking any photos of the scenery – sorry!  To make up for it here is a photo of the bike I’ll be using on the big ride taken in my mother’s garden just over a week ago.

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Trek Domane for the big ride

I was glad to finish in under 6 hours 30 minutes. Unfortunately, I got back to find a flat tyre on the car – that’s another story!  This week has a couple of light recovery rides before a few longer rides at the weekend. A massage at Agile Therapy on Monday evening certainly helped ease the muscles and is really recommended.

There is now less than four weeks to go before the start of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, so it’s starting to get serious with checking the kit list and buying the final bits and pieces that I don’t already have.  At some point I’ll have a practise pack to make sure I’ve got everything and it all fits in the kit bag.

I have increased my target for my Dementia UK fundraising to £4,000, having smashed my initial £3,000 target, and hopefully I’ll be able to achieve this target. You can reach my Virgin Money Giving page here if you would like to sponsor me and help the great work carried on by Dementia UK

Why am I supporting Dementia UK in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain ? John Evans (1934 – 2010)

Why I am riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain (a distance of 980 miles in 9 days) to raise money for Dementia UK?  The simple answer is in memory of my father, John Evans, who had he been alive would have been 84 today (26 June).  Unfortunately John suffered from vascular dementia for well over the last 10 years of his life and had we, as a family, known about Dementia UK at the time, the support and advice we could have accessed could have made what we, and my mother in particular, had to go through so much easier to deal with on a day to day basis.

Dementia is such a cruel disease as you never know how long you have to live with the disease and its rates of progression are so different between people with different forms of the disease.  In the case of my father, there were a series declines followed by plateaus.  John and the family began to think something was wrong when he couldn’t complete The Daily Telegraph crossword, something he’d been completing for over 30 years.  We then saw a loss of short term memory with the repetition of conversations on a 10 minute loop – it was terribly difficult to continue the same conversation when John had no idea we’d discussed the particular topic three times already!

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John enjoying a glass of fizz at Caroline’s wedding

John and my mother retired to Dittisham, near Dartmouth in Devon, and I think one of John’s happiest day was walking my sister, Caroline, down the aisle at her wedding.  Even then in 2002, the decline had set in and I had the pleasure of giving the “Brother of the Bride” speech at the reception after John had welcomed the guests before the meal.

The odd thing was that his long term memory was fine until he lost his mobility.  When we eventually decided to move John into a care home, one day he escaped by climbing over a locked 5 barred gate.  This was second nature to an ex-agricultural lecturer and Head of College who would regularly walk the College farm.  Fortunately, the escape attempt took place in the summer and he was found several hours later over three miles away having travelled through a few fields!

It was also awful to see the loss of the ability to communicate, particularly for someone who had been so articulate.  John must have found it frustrating as well, as one day in the care home he lifted a huge cathode ray TV off its table in the lounge and placed it carefully on the floor – I can only think he wasn’t enjoying the day time telly !

I have a huge amount to thank John for, notwithstanding the obvious!  He was responsible for instilling my “values” – work hard, treat people with respect and how you would like to be treated, don’t say anything if you haven’t got anything nice to say and be loyal and generous to your family and friends.  I think I also inherited his competitive instinct – anyone who heard his exhortations to himself on the golf course will know what I mean.  I can still hear the “Oh John!” shouts following a duff shot!

I also picked up my love of sailing, crewing for John in “Gusty” while learning to sail.  We had a series of holidays to Rock in north Cornwall in the 1970s, before it got terribly trendy, trailing the dinghy down the M4 and M5 from Kent.

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Family sailing with “Gusty” at Rock, north Cornwall

A real bucket and spade holiday, sailing in the estuary and surfing at Polzeath.  John would escape for a few rounds of golf at St Enodoc Golf Club leaving the rest of us having fun on the beach, digging pits, building sandcastles and tennis ball helter-skelters and flying kites.

What would John think about me undertaking this ride?  He’d be terribly proud, pretty surprised (as I only took up cycling about four years ago), worried about the amount of training involved (and the lack of tennis I’ve played this year) and fully supportive of my efforts.  I have to say I still miss him more than I care to admit.

If you would like to learn more about the great work carried out by Dementia UK you can reach their website by clicking here

If you would like to sponsor me so I can raise loads of money for Dementia UK you can donate via my Virgin Money Giving page here