Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Day 11 - the greatest day

This could be, the greatest day of our lives,
Before it all ends, before we run out of time
Take That

890 miles down / 67 to go
45,015 feet of climbs, equivalent to 155% of Mount Everest (at 29,096 feet)


It's getting close now isn't it?

We had a lazy morning at the campsite, with a cooked breakfast and who knows how many cups of tea.  It was my birthday today, I woke up to lots of lovely messages, but with the ride ahead, it just didn't feel like it.  In someways I had a bad feeling about the ride ahead which was disconcerting.

The route took us along the western bank of Loch Ness heading north for 18 miles to Dumnadrochit.  The views of Loch Ness were amazing as the route climbed and dipped and we made some very good progress. 

I guess you'd expect me to be full of beans on a day like today, the finish line is getting near, it's my birthday etc but I just didn't feel like it, perhaps it's road weariness, but I really battled psychologically with the ride.  It was great riding with Brendon today though, he allowed me to ride out in front and stayed close by as we nattered about this and that.

I turned my thoughts to more positive things, what we're doing, seeing Paddy and his mischief on day 2, how lucky we've been.  Despite going well the miles were seeming to drag on, I guess getting close to the finish, they would seem to.

As we reached Drumnadrochit we turned left and climbed up behind the town in one of the toughest climbs to date - over 1 mile of 15% gradient! A really tough one.

A rewarding climb and perhaps just what we needed to get us going. It was followed by what seemed like several miles of steep descents, they were amazing as we hit nearly 40mph at points.  There was one nerve wracking bit as we descended through a narrow avenue an artic' truck passes from the other direction, the backdraft from the truck was really powerful and caused my bike to wobble! 

We headed across country heading north of Inverness towards the A9 and our first feed stop of the day on the bridge of the Firth of Cromarty at 43 miles.  The A9 at this point is a terrible road, very busy, full of cars and lorries in too much of a hurry, many of whom happy enough to get too close. 

The road is in an awful state, we juddered and bumped along, I'm now sporting blisters on the palms of my hands and highly unusually, Brendon had to stop after 10 miles because the vibrations were making his wrists ache. To add insult to injury, the North Sea wind was blowing in our face, the ride was turning out to be a bit of a nightmare, not an enjoyable way to spend your birthday!  

Progress was slow and painful, my quads began to seize up again, cars whizzed by with inches to spare and cycling uphill was incredibly tough. Fortunately we turned off the A9 after 15 miles, well over an hour of battling energy sapping conditions, and on to some back roads. At about 60 miles down Brendon and I both chatted through the progress, we would both have been happy to call it a day at this point, it really wasn't enjoyable and we both just felt flat.

We pulled over for a quick drink and so I could massage and stretch my troublesome quad. I could literally feel the rightly bunched muscle creak as I pedalled. Thankfully we only had a few more miles for me to limp on until our next feed stop - the Glenmorangie Distillery!  What a cracking place to stop off - Rob was in full on holiday mode as he purchased a 3ltr bottle of whiskey, a pourer and an umbrella! 

A deep massage and a few drinks and we were on our way to complete the last 21 miles. Most of them were in to a strong headwind and uphill so they passed slowly, but then we started to see signs for JOG, less than 100 miles away! Yippeee!  My mum and Chris we're we're joining us for dinner having travelled up from Aberdeen where they were visiting family so there was much to look forward to.

I almost began to feel a tinge of sadness that this great adventure is now coming towards an end, but then I quickly remembered the pain and agony I've been in as 13.5 hour days in the saddle slowly past by.  

I'll not be sad to complete the challenge, but I'll hold on to some great memories of achievements, great support, laughs and giggles, overcoming adversity and raising a good wodge of cash in memory of some fantastic people - and when I finally had a chance to settle on that thought, I realised that alone made it the greatest day!

Happy cycling