Day 9 – 104 miles to John O’Groats

A great day of riding to complete my RAB adventure.

The day started with “It’s the final countdown” playing over the campsite tannoy.  It was a song that would stick in my head as the day progressed.

The riding started at first light,  in calm and peaceful conditions. Our route took us on quiet single track lanes that followed the contours of the rivers and lochs. 

We didn’t linger  at the first feed station as the midges were rife, and then the scenery changed as we got to the northern Scottish coastline. We turned to the east with the ride becoming more challenging as we went up punchy climbs and steep descents that hugged the cliff line. As it was the last day there was no excuse but to put some effort in. 

After a final pit stop there was just 30 miles left of our RAB adventure. Our course turned north into the pesky headwind that had been omnipresent throughout the nine days. But it was just a matter of keeping the pedals moving and at a quarter to four we took the final left hand turn and rolled down into the finish area at John O’Groats to be greeted by the fanfare from the Threshold event team and well wishers. 

I made sure to stay around the finish area to see the key people that I had ridden with complete their day.  It was great to see the different type of celebration! Big shout out to Zoe and Laura from TVT,  to Maz and Kate who were from the Threshold team but we’re competing this year,  and to Alan who was the carbon copy of myself in undertaking this adventure. Thank you all. 

And then it was time to catch the coach back to civilisation (aka Inverness). From an elevated view we could enjoy more coastal views as the A9 wound it’s way down south. Scotland had given us some varied scenery but I now know that it is the coastal views that I find most appealing.  And once I found some 3G signal I could post my finishers photo,  and let the sense of achievement start as the notifications and likes came in. Thank you and good night. 

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Day 8 – 111 chilly miles in Scottish Highlands

Another long day of riding that tested the mental limits in overcoming some nasty weather conditions to take advantage of the remote Scottish scenery.

It all started quite serenely as we pedalled in calm misty conditions alongside some picturesque lochs.

That all started to change as we climbed the 1,300 foot Borlum hill rising up above Loch Ness. The weather closed in and not for the first time this trip as soon as we got to the mountain top then the temperature dropped noticeably making it a chilly descent.

We then followed the route marked course of the Loch Ness marathon (taking place next weekend) into Inverness where the weather turned again into torrential rain. I soldiered on – only finding out later that the sensible people stopped in cafes and pubs for lunch to warm up and fuel up. 

So by the time I got to the second feed station I was feeling pretty low. Time to give myself a talking to – and a hot drink. Here I was on a Saturday afternoon, in glorious scenery, and so it was time to make the best of it. As the sunshine emerged – punctuated by regular showers – so I continued on, enjoying the descent into Bonar Bridge and our base camp for the night.

And this was my time to experience the RAB camping. And despite the chilly temperatures caused by the northerly wind, tiredness and layers of warm clothing inside my sleeping bag won out!

In many ways Day 8 was the epitome of this endurance cycling event. You can easily have good hours followed by the not so good, and it is how you adapt to the latter that are the character building lessons to learn.

Day 7 – 126 long miles in western Scotland

Continuing the theme of letters of the day, today’s chosen member of the alphabet is “S”.

This was the Signature RAB day, leaving Glasgow at first light and covering 126 miles that included some stunning climbs (and descents) of Campsie Fells, the Trossachs and Glencoe.

It was a very long day – taking over 12 hours of elapsed time for me to arrive at base camp in Fort William.
The next double “S” is Scenery in Scotland. There is plenty of it – big hills, glacial valleys, lochs and the bleak wilderness of Rannock Moor. The weather was kind – conditions were dry and bright with a more manageable NW wind. The only exception were the higher routes where there was no protection from the headwind. Just keep grinding those pedals.

So the finish on Sunday is now something that is starting to feel real. Another tough and hilly course to navigate first tomorrow into the Highlands. 

And I have to camp, meaning no hotel Wi-Fi to post blog updates, so the next you will hear from me will be on Monday.

Day 6 – 100 miles in the Scottish borders

The letter of the day is “W” – which stands for Wind, today being a chilly north westerly. As LEJOG is a south-north navigation of the UK that makes it challenging headwind.

The day started by leaving our muddy base camp that would have made Glastonbury proud. The first session was a relaxed ride with Zoe and Laura from TVT, stopping at the border sign as we crossed into Scotland.

Then the route turned directly north on a side road alongside the M74. Whilst the gradient was never steep we did reach over 1,000 feet of elevation through the borders countryside. And the wind made it feel like a  constant stealth ride up hill.

So it was tough – but we got through by riding in small groups, each taking it in turns on the front. Conditions in which cycling friendships are made. High fives all round at the finish.

Tomorrow is more of the same – and it is the longest leg of the event. To quote Threshold Sports who are the RAB event organisers, it is going to be a “More Is In You” day.

Day 5 Р108 miles in the Lake District 

In the aftermath of storm Aileen that moved through the North West overnight,  the fifth day of  RAB was mixed weather with periods of heavy rain and the occasional brighter spell. 

The day started with a route through the conurbation of Wigan, Charley and Preston during morning rush hour that certainly won’t make the highlights reel. But once we headed off towards the local Hills then the mood lifted as we found nicer roads. But the evidence of all the rain was evident from the rivers that we crossed.

The main challenge of the day was the ride from Kendal up Shap Fell – an 8 mile climb that took nearly an hour to reach the summit at 1400 feet.  And as has happened  before as soon as we reached the summit the heavens opened with hail and a rainbow. 

The last hour was certainly tough – an accumulation of 5 days of back to back 100 mile sportives.  But we are over half way to John OGroats now and the legs are holding up well. 

And the best news of the day was that I made my fund raising target for the Princes Trust., and with more corporate activities still in play that should mean that I add to that tally.  Makes it all worthwhile. 

Day 4 – 107 miles to Haydock

Tuesday dawned sunny with an autumnal chill in the air as we rolled out of Ludlow onto the Shropshire lanes. 

The route was a flatter terrain, meaning more chance to stretch the legs and pick up the pace.  This morning was what I had imagined RAB would be like.  Quiet roads,  lovely country scenery and time to form groups and chat your way through the ride. A cyclists heaven. 

Our route took through the Cheshire plains before the last 15 miles skirting around the Greater Manchester suburbs. Having made good time I arrived at Haydock Park racecourse without any hold up from traffic,  meaning the post ride routine of shower,  massage and a mug of tea and cake.

The cake part was courtesy of the Princes Trust where an ambassador who had used a grant to start her own baking business had provided a cupcake for every rider.  GBBO at base camp! 

And don’t forget that this ride is about helping raise funds for charity.  As an event it hopes to exceed a million pounds across the causes,  and whilst my contribution will be only a fraction – it all helps.  Go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RAB2017.

Day 3 – 101 miles to Ludlow

A day of contrasts which started with an Atlantic storm dumping torrential rain on all the RAB cyclists as we left Bath. There was water flowing down the streets and not much visibility. 

But once we got to the Severn Bridge the rain had abated and the first pit stop in the shadows of Chepstow Castle was a chance to dry off. The next section took us through the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley with a nice mix of climbs and descents. 

The roads flattened out for the last part of the day, but the NW wind was always in our faces as we pedalled north into Shropshire.

By the end of the afternoon the sun was beating the weather competition with the rain showers and we arrived at Ludlow racecourse in much more pleasant conditions than we had left in the morning.