33,631 feet of climbs, equivalent to 116% of Mount Everest (at 29,096 feet)
Ev'n you, on murdering errands toil'd,
Lone from your savage homes exil'd,
The blood-stain'd roost, and sheep-cote spoil'd
My heart forgets,
While pityless the tempest wild
Sore on you beats!
We're up and raring to go at around 10am, I say raring to go, it's more like something out of a zombie film, going through the routine of bike prep, heading out to the start point, getting on, getting going. Today's the last day in the saddle before a rest day, we need it, badly.
Before we head out, Brendon has jumped ahead in the puncture stakes 3-2, a loud pop from his tyre can be heard from Herbie as Brendon fidgets outside ahead of us getting up.
We head on A roads from Kilmarnock to Saltcoats, where we stayed the night before. After 14 miles or so half a dozen seagulls issue a piercing call to announce our arrival on the west coast as we trundle through the town. A dreary place, downcast much like the weather which has been grey and sodden since we started. We pedal along a coastal road, past a penny arcade and shabby buildings, the town appears depressed, perhaps it's the constant tip-tapping of the rain bringing it down. We pass a grotesque green attempt at crazy golf as it waits patiently for customers that will never come, this town is well past it's best amd we're glad to head out of it. Two seagulls bow mornfully as we head on through.
Both my achillies and my right knee are uncomfortable from the off, it's a 91 mile day so it'll be a while before I can get off the bike, I can't push hard to finish quickly at the risk of injury, I just have to put up with it. Rain pours constantly, we're drenched, it's an appalling day. I think of log fires, comfy sofas and lazy days that weather such as this inspires, my achillies prevent a full day dream developing which is just as well, the thought is too seductive and we need to just push on.
Thankfully the course is relatively flat as we head up the coast in search of the ferry to Argyll. The girls fly past occasionally and hurl encouragemt at us, the rain is torrential and they recognise we need a boost. Strong winds try to push us back, occasionally we face violent gusts, this is not pleasure cycling by any stretch, this is just about covering distance, getting it done, a means to an end. This is more November than August!
Soon we're at the ferry, 42 miles done at a good pace considering the driving rain the the blustery headwind that has built up. Grit teeth and get to the finish, I'm not seeing the scenic west coast that I'd hoped for.
As we head off on the other side both Brendon and I shiver with cold, my teeth chatter. We're concerned the cold may set in, conditions are rough and getting cold could be problematic. I struggle to turn my legs over, I think it's psychological, but I have issues when I try to sit down and pedal, for about a mile I have to stand and cycle before I can bring myself to sit down, the pain in my knee and achillies is making life tricky, but we're nearly halfway and it took just over 3 hours to do the first leg so we're doing well.
The road to Argyll runs alongside a loch, the surrounding hills are as picturesque as the Lake District and take the edge off the driving rain. Thankfully we are somewhat sheltered from the wind so we make good progress as we head towards Loch Fyne and our next stop at 72 miles, the original Loch Fyne restaurant (not part of the chain) about 10 miles outside Inveraray.
There's ups and downs but nothing too horrific as we head down one side of Loch Fyne before rounding the top and heading down towards the restaurant and the welcome respite of Herbie. It's tempting to stay put in Herbie, comfortable, warm and dry. We've been cycling into rain constantly for six hours, some sort of excuse to finish would be easy to find now, but we just need to compete another 19 miles into Inverary and then a long climb back out towards Oban - the trick is not to hang about and indulge the thoughts of being dry, being relaxed and being rested.
We push on quite quickly over the last section and manage to finish by 6:45, one of the earliest finishes to date, a huge relief and a great sense of achievement. Tomorrow is a much needed rest day followed by the last 3 days of LEJOG - it feels like we're getting close, but there's a way to go yet!
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