Saturday, 13 February 2016

Day 8 penny farthing lejog

Today was going to be a big day as we would at last past the half way point on our journey to John O'Groats. I was really looking forward to this milestone as for the last few days I had felt like I wasn't getting much closer to the finish.

After our massive meal the previous night we decided to make an early start with the hope of finishing a little earlier. The weather was still OK, not as sunny as previous days but still pretty good. However, the forecast for the next few days wasn't looking promising with snow due the following day.

We had hoped that our early start would enable us to cover some good distance today so that we had the option of a shorter day later on if the weather really turned against us.

We cycled for about an hour before stopping at a roadside garage for some food. Despite his huge calorie intake from last night even Mickey was getting hungry! While we were eating our prepacked sandwiches at the garage a motorist came over to chat, he had seen us cycling yesterday and was curious as to where we were heading. When he found out we were doing end to end he quickly reached for his wallet and made a very generous donation to the charity.

 I had chosen to raise money for the national deaf children's society as my wife was born deaf and she received a lot of help and support from them as a child. The fundraising was really starting to mount up now, at the half way point in the ride we had raised just over £1000. Most of this had be donated on line through my just giving page which I had promoted on my twitter page.

Quite a few famous people had helped to promote it by retweeting my links. From the cycling world I had retweets from loads of people including, Jens Voigt ( legendary tour de France rider and recent world hour record holder) and Graeme Obree ( another previous holder of the hour record).

At the time Obree was challenging for the hour record his main rival was Chris Boardman. Cycling fans were split about 50/50 in their support of each rider. I was very much in the Obree fan club. To me he was a hero, Boardman was an established pro rider and i had nothing against him but here was Obree beating him on a bike he built himself, famously using parts from his washing machine! Obree gave me hope that one day I might achieve great things on a bike, if he could do it then why couldn't someone like me?  Of all the people who had noticed the tweets about my ride Obree was the one that really stood out. I might not have turned out to be much of a racing cyclist but to know that Obree was taking interest in my ride gave me massive motivation to get to John O'Groats.

 Another cyclist who i really admired was also often retweeting my links. The rider was Michael Hutchinson, a time trial legend who attempted the hour record and just missed out before going on to write an excellent book about it called "the hour". Its one of my favourite books that I've ever read, I really like the way he writes. The list goes on and on,  Tom Smith ( a successful deaf racing cyclist) was tweeting me encouragement, even Sir Chris Hoy gave me a retweet, I felt quite the celebrity!

It was great to know that these athletes who I looked up to were interested in my ride. I'd grown up cheering on Obree as he battled with Chris Boardman to break the world hour record. Jens Voigt was a true living legend, I'd watched and cheered for him on the slopes of French mountains as he dragged himself up those climbs. In British time trials Hutchinson was the man. At the point when I was starting to race he was winning everything, often by huge margins. I also really enjoyed his booked on the hour record and It was a real source of motivation to me that these people were interested in my challenge.

Anyway, back to the ride and for most of the day the weather held off and we again stayed dry, the beautiful scenery of Cumbria was helping to pass the time and almost before we realised it we were approaching the end of another long day.

For the last part of the day we were caught in two minds as to where our route should take us. The most direct way would have been up and over shap, but the daylight was fading. We decided that the sensible thing to do was to turn into the heart of the lake district and head for ambelside where we had a much better chance of finding accommodation.

As we made our way into the lake district we noticed that every b&b we passed had no vacancies. We rode into ambelside and although every other building seemed to be a b&b they all seemed to be full. After knocking on a few doors the first one we found that had a room was ridiculously expensive so we risked looking for another place. Our search eventually struck gold. A lovely b&b that did a hot, all you can eat buffet for breakfast. It was ideal so we checked in, had a quick shower and then went out to find a pub for food. 

We made it through yet another day and we were now over half way through the trip. The cycling was going well but I was starting to feel really tired. I'd trained as hard as I could for the ride but its impossible to replicate back to back 9 hour days on the bike when you also have to work full time. I didn't feel like I had any particular injuries but I was seriously drained. As much as I wanted to stay out for a few beers each night it was all I could do to stay awake long enough to eat. I'd done the end to end once before but on a modern bike. The first time I rode it in 2003 I was nowhere near as fit as I was for this ride but I had found it much easier back then. I guess 120 years of progress in bicycle design had something to do with this.

So it was back to the room to sleep again. Eat, ride, sleep, repeat.

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