Four Sore Corners
LEBLOG

Day 1

 

Distance 124.71km
Time 5:24 hrs
Ave speed 23kph
Max Speed 65kph
Ascent 1246m

After a long drive down the night before, the day started well with Lloyd’s mother-in-law rustling up a superb breakfast of sausages, egg and bacon. After stuffing ourselves, we got on the road to Land’s End, where we prepared the bikes and got ready for the cycle. Unfortunately, Craig’s inner tube in his back tyre burst and we had to replace it. One puncture – zero minutes.

Elaine got going with the fundraising early on, and managed to banter a few people out of a bit of cash. We got on the road, and barely 5km down the road, Craig’s front inner tube burst. He changed the wheels and we got on our way once again.

The first part of the day was excellent, and we managed to get our average speed up to over 26km, which was pleasing. The rolling hills of south Cornwall were really enjoyable and we loved the scenery. Having a locally made and baked pasty at our first stop, and then a decent pub lunch at our next made the day even better. When leaving the pub, Ian fulfilled all our expectations, and completely stacked it in the middle of the road when he was almost stationary. Everyone else laughed.

Then the hills set in properly. After lunch, the long, drawn-out ups and the short, aggressive downs were relentless. This section of the day was the hardest, and therefore brought down our average speed.

We pushed on towards Liskeard and made it to our little cottage by about 5.45pm. A good first day, but daunting knowing what was still to come.

Day 2

Distance 142 km
Time 6:31 hrs
Ave speed 21.8kph
Max Speed 75.4kph
Ascent 1774m

This day was incredibly hard. We all knew that this was going to be a tough day in terms of distance and climbing, but I don’t think any of us really wanted to acknowledge the fact that is was actually happening.

We didn’t get going too swiftly, as we were all a bit apprehensive about the day. But once we did, we hit the hills early. The long, tough and steep inclines were punishing and our legs were soon quite sore. Not even the downhills were much respite, as the wet roads meant that we had to take it steady.

 

Our average speed was truly embarrassing, as we couldn’t get a good run going, so our first stop was pretty late. After the first stop, Craig did a Hanley and stacked it when his chain fell off. He threw himself into the bush, but still managed to cut his leg on the pavement. He managed to pick himself up and then attack the Dartmoor climb, which nearly finished us all off!

The moors were beautiful, but the huge effort on the hills made it harder to appreciate the scenery. Stopping for lunch was a welcome break and helped us mentally prepare for the second half of the day.

After a climb out of the Culm Valley, the hills started pointing downwards, to our relief. A final stop just outside Exeter left us with 46km, which we were all very keen to smash through. We got in a group, putting ourselves in danger of looking remotely professional, and stamped down on the pedals. We also managed to move into our third county, and spotting the Somerset sign was most welcome.

Tracking down a Travelodge sign never felt so good. 

 

 Day 3

 

 

Distance 166 km
Time 7:22 hrs
Ave speed 22 kph
Max Speed 65 kph
Ascent 966 m

 

A long day on the horizon wasn’t really that welcome after such a tiring day previously. However, we got going early and were joined by Andy’s friend from university, Ali.

We had a good start to the day, taking on some rolling terrain. We got together as a group of five and managed to make great time in the morning. As we got closer to Wales, the navigation went a little bit mental and we had to resort to following signs! This, unfortunately, increased the overall distance for the day, but we did manage to find the Severn Bridge in the end.

 

Cycling over the bridge wasn’t particularly pleasant with a strong south westerly wind blowing on our left hand side, but we were soon in Chepstow to meet Andy’s parents for lunch.

After an excellent feed, we still had 60km to go. Craig got his angry head on, and zoomed off into the distance, as he just wanted to get the day finished. Ian, Lloyd, Andy and Ali plodded along and made the most of passing some more county signs, trying to be as inventive as possible with the team poses!

Working as a group, the foursome arrived around thirty minutes after Craig at the wonderful Travelodge!

 

Day 4

Distance 103 km
Time 4.25 hrs
Ave speed 22.7 kph
Max Speed 58 kph
Ascent 778 m

A shorter distance was so welcome on this day. We only had to cover around 100km, so decided to leave a little later.

Getting on the road at around 11.30am meant a good sleep in and a leisurely breakfast. The terrain was quite hilly to start with, but the beautiful countryside and quiet roads were excellent. Within about 25k, we found the point where our route crossed our East to West ride.

 

We were soon at our first stop at around 35km, where we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then got moving again. The navigation said that the hills calmed down for the second part of the day, but this wasn’t quite true. It turned out that a very drawn out hill was still to come, and with every twist and turn of the road, Lloyd got angrier and angrier! However, the group soon stopped for lunch and this pleased everyone.

 

With only 25km to go, and with rain on the prospect, we got in a group and pushed hard. Unfortunately, the last section was on dual carriageway, which was unpleasant, but was flat and quick.

Before we knew it, we were once again at a Travelodge!

Day 5

Distance 125 km
Time 5:22 hrs
Ave speed 23.2 kph
Max Speed 52 kph
Ascent 765m

A shorter day of 125km was quite welcome, but we knew we had to navigate several urban areas, which wouldn't be easy. Emerging from the Travelodge, we were able to chat to a few other people who were doing a similar challenge, but in the other direction. Sharing stories of Scotland and Dartmoor was exciting, but also daunting!

Starting off in a long sleeve yellow jersey proved quite a silly decision, as the weather was beautiful. However, the decision to change to short sleeve pink tops may not have been the best choice either. It turns out that pink isn't the most favoured colour up north as we found out at a Hungry Horse 'restaurant' in Cuddington, where some of the clientele were a little aggressive towards us! We weathered the storm, and spent many hours riding together in a group, which was most satisfying. When passing fields, Ian was impressed and surprised at the size of the udders on the cows; the rest of the group now thinks Ian is weird.

However, the roads were not very good quality, and our bottoms were not very happy at all. Then we hit Warrington and Wigan, which was a nightmare. A mixture of terrible road surfaces and frustrating traffic, roundabouts and traffic lights annoyed us all.

We got to the Travelodge around 5pm, where all the windows were enclosed in cages. Welcome to Preston!

 

 Day 6

Distance 132 km
Time 6:08 hrs
Ave speed 21.5 kph
Max Speed 51 kph
Ascent 1380 m

 

 

We got going from Chorley Travelodge nice and early and were soon making good progress once we had cleared the urban mess of Preston. 

Once out of Preston, the roads were clear and fairly quick and we were soon following the signs for the Lake District. However, once we saw the signs to Windermere, we made a few wrong turns and ended up on an incredibly steep incline. When we’d climbed all the way up, we had a wonderful view over the lakes and it made the pain worthwhile.

 

Coming down towards Windermere, we met up with Elaine, and bought fish and chips to eat by the lake. We found a wonderfully secluded spot with two jetties out into the lake, and Andy and Ian took the opportunity to take a midday swim!

After a good break, we got going again, knowing that we had a 10km climb to complete. Getting up to the top of the hill was a real struggle and Lloyd was particularly grumpy. When he got some food though, things were a little better, but the rest of the group still found it amusing to laugh at him. The view from the top of Kirkstone Pass was truly breathtaking, and we could see for miles around, appreciating the natural glacial beauty of the Lake District.

The last 15km were on a very poor surface, and this made Andy very angry. He had to stop and have a little word with himself and a cuddle with Lloyd; this made everything better.

 

A long day was soon complete, and we found a lovely little pub down the road from the Travelodge to end a rewarding day.

 

Day 7

Distance 87 km
Time 3:29 hrs
Ave speed 24.7 kph
Max Speed 47 kph
Ascent 360m

We decided to have a late leave from Penrith, getting on our way at exactly 11am. We went straight through the town centre and then pounded along on some lovely country lanes. There didn’t seem to be many facilities on the road we were cycling along, so deciding not to have a good breakfast was beginning to take its toll. Soon enough, we spotted a little roadside snack café and ordered four sausage, egg and bacon baps. Upon collecting theirs, Lloyd, Craig and Andy turned around and saw that Ian had breathed in and his bap had disappeared – no wonder he was grumpy!

With a bit more fuel in the tank, we got going quickly and before we knew it, we were following signs o Gretna! We stumbled upon the Scotland sign, which we were all glad to see, and took some amusing photographs.

 

We then stopped in a little Scottish town for a coffee and cake break, leaving around 24km on the short day. Somehow, we all found a bit more in our reserves and got up some serious speed cycling as a group. This was a lot of fun, and meant we were soon at our destination, which was a little guesthouse in Dumfries. A seven bed apartment was perfect for us, but things went slightly wrong when Elaine locked us all out. Some rapid scaling of a side wall and some slipping in through a side window from Andy soon meant we were back in business, cooking for ourselves and relaxing with a good board game!

Day 8

Distance 150 km
Time 6:31 hrs
Ave speed 22.9 kph
Max Speed 47 kph
Ascent 1140m

 

A long day on the road was quite daunting as we started to really get into Scotland. We also needed to leave super-early, as Ian needed to be in Glasgow for a wedding at 6pm, so getting to the Travelodge before 4.30pm was a necessity.

We had some flat, smooth surfaces to start with and we tanked along with a quick speed. We stopped at a bakery at around 30km, and the lady behind the counter didn’t like our chances at making it to Dumbarton for 4.30pm. This depressed Ian, but spurred him on, making him speed off into the distance, leaving the rest of us in his wake!

After a good amount of flat, we started our climb into Lanarkshire on a beautiful Lowland pass. The scenery was absolutely stunning, and we all agreed that it was one of the best moments of the ride so far. Heading down from the pass, we experienced some fantastic tarmac that pleased Andy greatly. However, within half an hour, we were riding on the worst surface possible, with all our bones being given a good shake. Lloyd had to stop before he threw his bike into the hedge from frustration! 

 At lunch, Lloyd dropped his bike from the kerb and managed to bend his jockey wheel under his rear-mech. This meant that he couldn’t get into his easiest gear as it grated against his spokes. It became a comedy of errors, as Craig’s chain fell off and then within a couple of miles, Ian hit a massive pothole and his ‘storage facility’ of a sports bottle with the top half cut off, flew out of his bottle cages and spread across the road. When we finished laughing, we checked he was alright!

 We stopped just outside Glasgow knowing that it would be a difficult navigational process. Sure enough, we got lost straight away. We made a few smart guesses and got back on track, but not before experiencing the worst city tarmac ever. Potholes everywhere made the city riding the most unpleasant of the trip so far, but we got through it and made it to the Travelodge in time for Lloyd to get his wheel fixed by a local bike shop, Craig and Andy to watch The Open whilst snoozing, and Ian to get to the wedding on time, dropped off by Elaine in rush-hour traffic. Satisfying!

Day 9

Distance 164 km
Time 6:40 hrs
Ave speed 24.5 kph
Max Speed 45 kph
Ascent 1640m

 Starting in Dumbarton, we headed towards Loch Lomond, but got lost immediately. We navigated our way around a couple of small towns, and basically went round in a circle to get to the Loch. However, we got on our way and after getting off the main road, we stopped at the north end of Loch Lomond for a fantastic first stop.

We then left Loch Lomond behind and started working towards The Highlands. The weather was great and we were all a bit too hot in our long sleeve jerseys. We got into the county of Stirling and started climbing, and as soon as we did, it started raining. Ian also went mental after consuming a lot of IRN BRU and steamed off into the distance. Craig, Andy and Lloyd were all a bit worried about Ian, but found him eventually when he’d stopped in a lay-by with Elaine to munch on a croissant. 

After our next break, Ian steamed off once again, but the descents around Glencoe were truly brilliant. However, we stopped on the roadside soon after, as some fellow LEJOGers had had an accident. One rider was forced onto a grass verge, picked up a puncture and came off his bike. Both rider and bike were fine, after being patched up, but his camera had been flung into the bushes on the side of the road which contained all of the group’s pictures from their trip. So, we got stuck in looking for the camera whilst Elaine patched up the injured man, and satisfyingly, we found the camera after a few minutes.

After this point, we were pretty tired, but ploughed on. We got cycling on a good road, passing Loch Linnhe and Loch Eiil, but unfortunately it was full of complete idiots. We all got surprised by passing megaphones out of the back of cars, loud car horns, aggressive shouting, and ridiculous driving. Coming into Fort William and smashing in a quick McDonalds was most welcome.

The last 15km to Spean Bridge was tough, but we got our average speed up and got to our Guest House in good time.

Day 10

Distance 164 km
Time 7:34 hrs
Ave speed 22 kph
Max Speed 61.1 kph
Ascent 1718m
 



We always knew that the last few days were going to be tough, but we didn't expect quite such graft as we experienced on the penultimate day.

Deciding to have breakfast in our B&B meant that we got going a little later than usual, hitting the road at around 8.45am. A good climb out of Spean Bridge woke the legs up nicely for what was supposed to be the most difficult day of the trip.

Soon enough, we were hitting hills everywhere, adding to our total climb of over 2000 metres for the day. And then the rain came. It didn't matter what we were wearing to keep us dry, the rain was so hard that within minutes we were all completely wet through. As Andy kept reminding us, it's moments like these that make you stronger!



Because we left late, we knew we had to be economical with our breaks, so we were trying to keep ploughing on. However, when we hit the most challenging hill of the whole trip, Craig went to push on up to the steepest part of the incline and his chain snapped. Lloyd carried on to the top, but Andy cycled back down and was soon joined by Elaine to help repair the damage. Andy & Craig tried to replace one of the links, but couldn't manage it. They then tried to thread the whole new chain through, but didn't get the length right and had to start all over again. 

Meanwhile, lloyd and Ian cycled on and found a nice cafe to sit in and warm up!

After nearly an hour sorting the chain out, Andy and Craig finally got on their way, tackling the rest of the hill and joining Lloyd and Ian at the cafe. We were now seriously behind scehdule and knew we had to crack on, but it didn't help that Lloyd had started to feel rather odd in the stomach region. 



We cracked on, but had to stop at a desperately well-positioned services for Lloyd to 'make himself more comfortable', which added even more time to our day. Getting going after this, we hit some rather remote and eerie parts of Scotland, and with Lloyd still feeling fragile, this part of the day wasn't too enjoyable. 

As it got later into the afternoon, the midges came out and starting feasting on any exposed skin, which was deeply unpleasant. With a few more climbs right at the end of the day, we finally made it to our Guest House in Lairg at 8.30pm. 

Day 11

Distance 155 km
Time 6:40 hrs
Ave speed 24.5 kph
Max Speed 55 kph
Ascent 1301m
 



The final day. The forecast looked absolutely abhorrent and we knew we would just have to get on with it. Sure enough, as soon as we rode away from our hotel, the rain came and there was barely any let up. 


The going was tough, as all of our legs felt stiff, and mentally, we just couldn't get going. There was also to be a massive headwind which did not enable us to get our average speed up to what it needed to be. For our first break, we did manage to find some shelter in a remote, but very posh hotel. The proprietor took pity on us and made us all hot chocolates, and we ordered some cheeky whiskeys to warm us up further. We also found some very interesting articles in fishing magazines in the lounge area of the hotel. With titles like 'Kingdom of the Coch' and 'Time for a Floater', we really couldn't control ourselves. 

however, we kept plodding on and cycling along the shores of yet another loch was lovely. Before we knew it, we had made it to the top coactline and started to cycle east along the main coastal road towards John O'Groats. The reason we decided to go this way was because we had been told that the scenery was stunning and the views of the northern coast were epic. This could well be the case, but we had no idea due to a particularly aggressive mist that didn't allow more than 50 metres of visibility in any direction. This was disappointing, but it did mean we couldn't tell how mean the hills were going to be, and so we just had to get on with it!



Some things did manage to cheer us up, though. Seeing a stag and a beer bounding through a highland stream was quite special. With sheep in the road and rather well-endowed bulls staring at us as we cycled past, we were reminded just how unique the LEJOG challenge is. 

Along the coastal road, we came across a retired Australian fireman who was cycling towards Thurso. Chatting to him, we discovered he was touring the whole coast of the UK, dipping in land from time to time, visitng all the pubs in the country that were built in the 11th 12th and 13th centuries. We all agreed that he was a massive lad, and that we'd much rather have a few beers at the end of each day than stupid protein shakes. 



The finishing line was getting closer, and we managed to stop in Thurso to inhale some fish and chips before cracking on once again. From Thurso, we had 35km to go and unsurprisingly, we managed to get a really good pace up working as a team. The end was in sight, and when we saw the signpost with the 1/4 mile to go, we all got a bit excited. 



Heading down to the seafront, we found the finish line (eventually) and took a few pictures in the very odd place that is John O' Groats. 

Our journey was complete; the final corner had been sore, and we will all take away memories that will last a lifetime. 

 


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