Wednesday, 3 September 2014

No. 20 Day 1 - What the hell are we doing!

'Believe you can and you're half way there'


Miles by plane - 363
Miles by car - 156
Miles by bike - 0

Today we woke up in Bromsgrove and fell asleep in John O'Groats. We've known about this day for two years so you'd have thought we'd be well prepared for it. For me it felt like a culmination of GCSE results day, the night before getting married and going into labour. You do all the preparation but then it's taken out of your hands and you just have to give in to it and let it happen!
Everything was weird, waking up without cats in the house, taking a plane with no luggage, knowing that we would be cycling in less than 24 hours!
When we arrived at Inverness Mum, Dad and George, who had driven up a couple of days before with all our equipment and bikes, came to meet us all dressed in orange support t-shirts! A complete surprise and it was so great to have lunch and chill for a while before the car journey to John O'Groats. As we were packing the car we discovered we'd forgotten a couple of our water bottles - quick trip to the local bike shop - and we nearly left without our cycling shoes!! All blamed on the nerves! 

Dad driving us from Inverness to John O'Groats

We arrived at John O'Groats hungry and tired but feeling glad that we weren't riding out on the road we'd travelled in on. Some dangerous parts and a section that wouldn't have been out of place in the Tour De France. Oh, to be naive about hills again ;-) Dad, Graeme and I ate dinner and then went to have a drink in the bar before bed. There were over 100 types of whiskey behind that bar and I ordered a coke. Those who know me will understand this is serious stuff! We finally got into bed at 11.30pm after sorting out our kit for the morning and fell asleep marvelling at the fact that it was still light outside. It just doesn't get dark at the top of the country!


We woke up to rain :-) After all our training we wouldn't have expected anything less. Breakfast was difficult because of the nerves but with Graeme needing a daily calorie intake of around 8000kcal and me 6000kcal it was kind of a necessity!

This is it!

Just looking at this photo makes me emotional! It was wet and windy and we both just wanted to start riding. Finally, we were stood at the beginning of our epic journey. I am so ecstatic that we got to do this together. There were a couple of others heading across to have a picture with the signpost. One guy was cycling some of Scotland before heading elsewhere in Europe and we gave him a RearViz which we hope enhanced his journey :-)

The first to receive a RearViz  - thanks to our amazing sponsors!

As we said our goodbyes to Dad the rain got heavier and with huge smiles on our faces we began turning those pedals! All the nerves and anxious feelings of the past few weeks seemed to melt away. This was it. We're doing it. Just me, Graeme and the open road. Let the adventure begin. John O'Groats is a stunning place regardless of the weather. Our route was to take us West towards Tongue dropping down to Altnaharra where we would be staying the night. With 80 miles ahead of us we focused on staying upright on our bikes with the wind coming from all directions. I still don't know how Graeme managed it with all the panniers attached! Progress was fairly slow but the views were truly incredible and our spirits were high. We were in a fairly dreamlike state of mind. There were a lot of 'pinch me' moments for both of us. 

This is what cyclist dreams are made of  :-) Traffic free 

30 miles in, I was starting to get slightly nervous, I knew a few miles ahead was the start of 15 miles worth of categorised climbs/hills (Cat climbs get labelled due to their length and elevation). Graeme gave me a few pep talks and by the time we reached the foot of the first of 4 hills I was on the attack :-) A fellow cyclist headed towards us and told us that the hills we were about to tackle were hard work and ask if we had passed any accommodation as he was calling it a day with the storm heading in. Queue dramatic clap of thunder and the skies that never got dark the night before started to turn black. Its fair to say that we cycled through THE most incredible storm. We saw a group of LEJoGers (our journey the other way) take shelter as we continued to battle uphill with a river running down the roads. There was no way I could've stopped I'd have never got started again! Once the Cat hills were completed at Betty Hill we were in view of the amazing Torrisdale Bay. If only we could have stayed!! Instead we raided the local shop and in a brief break from the rain ate and tried to dry out a bit.

Dumped the bikes to head over to this bridge - any excuse for a break ;-)

The next 25 miles, still soaked through, involved wild pigs (one of my dreams is to have my own forest with roaming pigs) that made me very happy. More rain. Incredible scenery. Beautiful roads. More rain. Midges. And …..  Loch Naver that seemed to never end as we could see our accommodation at the end of it!

A welcome site - now where's the food!!!!!!


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