Saturday, 3 September 2011

JOGLE Reflections and final thoughts...

Well, it's been over a week since we completed the ride and it has given a chance to look back on the ride (and for the pain in the shoulders and bum to wear off!)

The planning all went smoothly, we judged the distances about right and the travelodges and premier inns were spot on. We settled into a good routine of getting up early, eating breakfast that we'd bought the noght before, getting on the road and riding. We stopped when we needed to, with lots of short stops for toilet and snacks and a few longer stops at supermarkets etc. After waiting 20 mins for a £3.50 cheese toastie on the first day, we avoided cafes and stuck to small supermarkets and garages. We would ride all day often getting to the hotel around 6-7 and then getting everything ready for the next day before going for food. I wasn't that hungry in the evening as we had eaten lots all day.

It is really important to look after your body and make sure enough fuel goes in. I certainly didn't lose any weight and prob gained a couple of pounds! Each day I drank around 2.5 litres of Sports/Energy drink and several cokes and lots of water. Buying food and drink was easily the biggest expense of the trip. We got through loads of cereal bars and plenty of Boost bars. Getting enough protein is also important to repair the damaged muscles, so I eat a fair few McDonald's double cheeseburgers, as each one contains 26g of protein (about the same as a large chicken breast), and plenty of calories! In the evenings we tried to eat plenty of meat or fish. I'm not sure its a trip for veggies!

The route we took was easy to follow, although I'm glad we had the GPS to guide us through the city and town centres, as they got quite busy and the signposts often went a different way to the way we wanted to go. We did deviate from the planned route a few times, mainly when Will got fed up with busy roads. We carried a cut up laminated road atlas with us as a backup, which came in handy. The main downside of the route was that some roads were very busy. The A9 from Inverness to Perth through the Cairngorms was pretty busy with big lorries thundering past you. There was a cycle path next to the road but wasn't really suitable for road bikes. The old A74 that runs alongside the A74(M) was a very wide road and totally deserted.  In England the A6 and A49 were pretty good as most of the traffic was on the motorways, but it got busier as we went further South and the A30 and A39 weren't too nice. Because of the busy roads, we were forced to ride in single file, so there wasn't much opportunity to talkin the day, making the days quite boring.

We were very lucky with the weather. Apart from getting soaked through to the skin (twice) on the first day, we only had the odd shower for the rest and mostly stayed dry. We had a horrible headwind on day 3 which really slowed us down and sucked morale, but it could have been a lot worse heading from North to South. Scotland doesn't really seem to have a summer and I only took my leg warmers off once during the whole trip!

I didn't get as tired as I expected to on the trip, my legs felt ok at the end of every day 9helped by lots of protein and wearing compression tights in evening). The real pain was in the butt and shoulders, from supporting the weight all day. I felt I did some good training to prepare, and it wouldn't really have been possible to do any more, as I would have needed to do at least 4 days back to back. Once you get up there and have no other way to get back it makes it a bit easier to get up and get going in the morning.

Flying to Inverness was a great way to do it and logistically everything went well, I think that psychlogically it helped riding towards home. Easyjet were great, despite the horror stories about flying with bikes.

Would I do it again? Not in 7 days, probably not in less, but maybe when the kids are older and if they want to give it a go (the youngest person to do it on their own was 7 I think!) then I would do it as more of a holiday. Having said that, by the time we hit 90 miles we were pretty tired and slowing down so doing it in something like 10 days would only prolong the pain!

If anyone finds this blog and would like any help or advice for their own JOGLE/LEJOG then please get in touch through the Cycle Sport South Hams website.We would be happy to help.

Finally a huge thanks to everyone who supported us throughout the trip, with some extremely generous donations and messages of support, it really did make the difference

Overall Vital Statistics

Total distance cycled: 889 miles (1431 km)
Total ride time: 59 hours 37 mins
Average distance per day: 127 miles
Overall average speed: 14.9 mph (24km/h)
Total ascent: 13,622m (44,692 feet) (Mt Everest is 8848m)
Total number of wheel revolutions: 66,744
Total number of pedal strokes: 286,160 (approx!)
Total punctures: 2 (both Tom)
New bike parrts required: 1 x front wheel (Will)

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Day 7: Whiddon Down - Land's End

Tina came and met us at Whiddon Down for breakfast. It was good to have a proper Little Chef breakfast, as opposed to half a malt loaf and cold pancakes!

We set off into a slight headwind down the A30 towards Okehampton. Will wasn't so keen to ride alongside the traffic, so he took a smaller road through Okehampton, while I stuck to the A30. We rejoined after a couple of miles and headed off down the old A30 towards Launceston. Having done a lot of climbing early on it was a nice downhill run off Dartmoor.

We had about 15 mins of rain outside Launceston but luckily that was it for the day. Rather than stay on the A30 we headed north to the atlantic highway (A39) and stopped for a break in a very busy and traffic congested Camelford.

It was soon time to press on through Wadebridge, before rejoining the busy A30. It wasn't much fun, as the roads were busy, but it was a case of head down and get on with it.

We tried to get off the A30 where possible, going through the centres of Redruth (which, according to the sign, is the world capital of Cornish mining!), Camborne, Hayle and Penzance.

After yesterdays failure to get a free subway in Exeter, we thought we would try Penzance, where they were able to provide us with a free footlong to see us through the last 10 miles. Thanks again to Bev Knight from Subway for sorting that for us.

The last 10 miles were a mixed bag. There were some stepp climbs at the start, but once up the top it was an easy last few miles into Land's End.

It was good to arrive in the sunshine at around 5.30 pm and with lots of people around, unlike a fairly barren John O'Groats. Lots of people saying congratulations and seemed fairly shocked we had done it in 7 days. We signed the register at the hotel and got in the car to head back.

Overall a hilly day but it was familiar roads and whilst Devon and Cornwall have NO flat bits, it is what we are used to, so didn't come as a shock. Looking forward to not sitting on a saddle for a bit....

Vital Statistics:
Total distance cycled: 112 miles
Time spent on bike: 7 hours 58 mins
Average speed: 14.0 mph
Max speed: 38.8 mph
Total ascent: 2398 metres
Max elevation: 306 metres

Mechanicals: nil
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Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Day 6: Gloucester - Whiddon Down

The BBC forecast for today was so bad that I nearly bought some waterproof trousers last night. Glad I didn't as we woke up to dry weather and whilst the day was cloudy, it didn't rain at all. Cheers BBC finally you got it wrong in our favour! Let's hope they've got it wrong for tomorrow as well!

The A38 from Gloucester to Bristol was nice with good views over the river Severn (and some nice hedgerows for Will!) We sped along at around 17 mph and were stopping in Clifton in a shade over two hours. Sadly everyone we knew in Clifton was at work, so had to make do with Tesco express.

Over the suspension bridge we had a nice descent before the big climb up to the airport. We then started to descend towards the Somerset levels where we met John, a friend of Will's, who had offered to show us a route through some of the quieter roads, I was struggling to keep up with them as we weaved along the lanes, so when we got to Burnham-on-Sea I plodded off along the A38 while they stopped for a break.

Will caught me up as we got to Taunton, by this time I was feeling pretty tired and after a food and drink refill we set off for Exeter, the road became more hilly and the shoulder and bum ache more unbearable, Made worse by the dreadful road surface between Cullompton and Exeter.

We eventually made it to Exeter and headed straight to Subway as the South West regional manager of Subway had offered us a free footlong. However the staff in subway said that our email was out of date - despite us being in all our cycling gear! We did however get a £5 donation from another customer! Annoyed at the lack of free food, we pressed on taking the old A30 through Tedburn St Mary and up 5 mile hill onto the edge of the moors.

The road was very hilly and tough going but we didn't have far to go and weren't in any rush so went on at a slow pace chatting to a commuter who had bought a new bike to take touring round Nepal.

As we turned into the Whiddon Down I somehow managed to get a puncture from a thorn in the tyre, so had to walk the last 100 metres! Staying at the travelodge again, they serve their purpose, although not much else up here just a little chef and a garage.

Little Chef for dinner was better than expected, Heston must have done a good job. Last day tomorrow should be around 110 miles but will also be the hilliest, so may be slow going.

Vital Statistics:
Total distance cycled: 134 miles (including 7 extra thanks to John!)
Time on bike: 9 hours 12 mins
Average speed: 14.5 mph
Max speed: 45.8 mph
Total ascent: 2122 metres
Highest elevation: 254 m (at the finish!)
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Monday, 22 August 2011

Day 5: Warrington - Gloucester

Without even looking at the map this felt like a long way. Turned out to be quite a good fast day. Nice downhill start meant we got off well and cracked on with the pace. Finally the forecast was accurate with nice weather and no wind to speak of. It was the first time in 5 days cycling that we were able to get rid of the arm and leg warmers.

Heading down the A49 we encountered a road closure outside Whitchurch, so, to Will's delight, we ventured off into the lanes and managed to find the only steep hills in Cheshire!

We had to stop at a bike shop in Whitchurch for Will to get a new front wheel. They only had cheap unbranded wheels (£50) each and the first one he tried was so buckled it hardly went round. The second wheel was true, so after a short delay swapping tyres around we were off again. Not for long though, the new wheel started rattling a few miles down the road, one of the bearing seals was loose (you get what you pay for). There wasn't much we could do, so Will had to put up with the rattling!

We were going well in the sunshine so decided not to go through Shrewsbury, just bypassed it and picked up the road to Bridgnorth. The main climb of the day was up onto the ridge of the Shropshire Hills, just before Much Wenlock. It was quite a shock to go up something that steep after days of long gentle climbs. The descent to Bridgnorth was quick and then the climbing began again to Kidderminster.

A very quick lunch (McDonalds) stop in Kidderminster then we cracked on at a good pace through Worcester, Tewkesbury and then into Gloucester following the River Severn.

Will wanted to go quickly again and get there sooner, I was happy to go at a steady 16/17 mph so we muddled along at our own pace and got into Gloucester at half 5. Our earliest finish yet.

My parents brought Harry up for a quick visit to say hello and then we headed off to an all you can Chinese buffet.

Forecast for tomorrow is not looking good, with heavy rain for most of the day and a long way to go. Will is keen to meet a friend in Cheddar who has offered to take us on a more scenic route to Wellington. To me scenic means long and slow, so not so keen.

Will has decided that this country (including Scotland) on the main roads is not very scenic and his ideal roads would have high hedges on both sides...

Vital Statistics:
Total distance cycled: 125 miles
Time on bike: 7 hours 56 mins
Average speed: 15.7 mph
Max speed: 39.9 mph
Total ascent: 1700 metres
Max elevation: 200 metres
Injuries: none but sore everything, especially shoulders!

Will: new front wheel needed
Tom: broken the rear mech cable adjuster but gears still seem to work ok so left it alone
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Sunday, 21 August 2011

Day 4: Carlisle to Warrington

We decided that an early start (with hopefully an early finish) was the best plan so aimed to leave by 7.30, but didn't make it out till 7.45!

The legs felt very heavy today after the previous day's efforts, so we set off at a slow pace following the A6 out of Carlisle, through Penrith and then started climbing up over the edge of the Lake District going over Shap Fell at 427 m. Pretty remote and cold up there but a great 9 mile descent into Kendal for a McDonalds stop, not much else was open on a sunday morning!

From here we stuck on the A6 through Lanacaster, where Will, who was feeling hungry, bought 15 Alpen bars! Quite a nice looking town, with some nice old buildings.

As we continued through Lancashire we had a cross wind most of the way, which fortunaty didn't slow us down too much. Will was keen to drive the pace on and make up time, but I was working harder following his wheel than I was when on the front, so kept dropping back till he got the message!

The towns all seemed to roll into one, Preston, Garstang, Wigan and then finally into Warrington. Going through urban areas is actually not too bad as you have to concentrate on directions, so breaks up the journey a bit (unlike yesterday, where we were on the same road for 40 miles!).

We had to stop at a bike shop on route, as Will's front wheel bearing casing had cracked, so is making a creaking noise, it is still rideable but noisy. They couldn't do anything and only sold pairs of wheels, so will have to look for shops tomorrow so he can buy a new one! He did get the wheel free from a guy in the club, who gave it to him because the bearings were broken, so he can't really complain!

Warrington was nicer than expected. Our Premier Inn is about 4 miles south of Warrington and is pretty good for £29 a night, its as good as the Holiday Inn at £170 a night! Got a pub next door that does 2 meals for £10 so after the expensive curry last night its a good find.

Vital Statistics:
Total distance cycled: 122 miles
Time on bike: 8 hours 37 mins
Average speed: 14.1 mph
Max speed: 40 mph
Total ascent: 1879 m
Max elevation: 427 m
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Saturday, 20 August 2011

Day 3: Kinross - Carlisle

BBC weather forecast looked promising, 8 mph winds and sunny spells, so when we stepped outside the travelodge to a gloomy, grey windy day, we were a tad disappointed!

The first few miles weren't too bad as we weaved our way to the Forth road bridge. We cycled through some pretty grim pebbledashed towns, with the highlight being Kelty, maybe I'm being a bit unfair, but its hard to imagine that a small town (half the size of Kingsbridge) with a tattoo parlour is a place of prosperity!

The road bridge was quite impressive but the signs were very confusing as bikes have to go on a bit on the side. Our side was closed so we had to walk down some steep steps and then back up the other side.

The next 45 miles we battled hard against the cyclists worst enemy; the headwind. It was really blowing and our average speed plummeted as we got our heads down and ground into the wind. It was both physically and mentally sapping. We did manage to find some small roads to take us away from the traffic, but it was still a slog!

Eventually we made it to a service station on the A74(M) where I was ripped off for a Burger King, but was so hungry and tired I didn't care. Scotland seems to lack garages to stock up on food. I could easily count the number of garages we passed (in the last 350 miles) on two hands!

From here we were on the old A74. This hugged the A74(M) but had no traffic on it and it had a cycle path on the side of it, we were spoilt for choice. However the road surface was poor and whilst the cycle path on the side was generally smoother, there were the odd stones that had accumulated there, one of these led to my first puncture right at the top of Beattock Summit at 314 m. We were soon on the way again and at least heading SE so the wind wasn't directly in our faces.

The road was long but gradually descended and so by taking turns on the front we were able to drive up the pace and save our dismal average speed!

Brief stop in Lockerbie for more food (food and energy drink is easily our biggest expense of the trip).

The forecast for the evening was not good and we had to put on and take off rain jackets several times before Gretna Green, however as we dropped down and crossed the border into England, the wind finally relented and the sky cleared. The last few miles into Carlisle were easy but we took them slowly as the day had taken its toll. This was supposed to be the easy day! I wish we had listened to those who said 'why are you cycling into the wind?'

Very spacious travelodge right in the centre of Carlisle, but full of people going out on the town, hopefully they won't wake us when they return! Nice curry for tea but shoddy service, so good excuse not to leave a tip!!!

Vital Statistics
Total distance cycled: 122 miles
Time on bike: 8 hours 32 mins
Average speed: 14.3 mph
Max speed: 34 mph
Total ascent: 1852 m
Highest point: 325 m
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Friday, 19 August 2011

Day 2: Inverness - Kinross

It was great tucking into our 'free' holiday inn breakfast, but it meant that we were a bit later leaving. Fortunately all the kit had dried out overnight so we set off with dry kit and in sunshine.

It was a steady drag up into the Caingorm mountains, nothing as steep as the South Hams, but long climbs and for about 20 miles we slowly wound up to Schlod summit at 405 metres. We tried to avoid the A9 where possible, taking some of the smaller roads. This was much nicer but didn't do our average speed much good!

First stop of the day was Aviemore at 31 miles. I was expecting a pretty mountain ski village, but was fairly diasppointed! Still it had the essentials (Tesco).

After a nice 10 miles on smaller roads we were back on the A9 and the headwind started to pick up as we began climbing again. It was a long slog of about 30 miles on a busy road, into the wind and mostly steady climbing so it was a relief to reach the literal high point of Drumochter summit at 462 metre and have some lunch, sheltering from the wind behind a lorry in a layby!

From here we had an 11 mile descent. It was quite bizzare pedalling hard downhill and only going about 15 mph, but the further we dropped the less the wind was.

Will was keen to stick on the cycle path at the side of the road so we ventured onto the pothole and gravel ridden track from time to time to mix things up.

By the time we reached Pitlochry we had lost most of the height gained and stopped briefly outside the Bell's distillery but no whiskey this time.

The rest of the route was straightforward, following the River Tay through some pretty towns, into Perth.
As (seems to be) usual, the last 20 miles down to Kinross was hard going. The wind picked up as the rain approached and the race was on to get to the hotel before we got soaked. We just about made it before the heavens opened. Staying the night in a travelodge at a motorway service station, so had to walk into town (in the rain) for a Chinese.

One of the toughest things about today was the lack of places to buy food and drink, it was pretty barren in the Cairngorms. Tomorrow looks set to be the same as we don't actually pass through a town until we hit England.

Vital Statistics:
Distance cycled: 132 miles
Time on bike: 8 hours 44 mins
Average speed: 15.1 mph
Total ascent: 1771 metres
Max altitude: 462 metres
Max speed: 32.1 mph

Mechanicals: nil!
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