Lands end to John o’ Groats


July 2009

Lands end to John o’ Groats

July 2009

  • A bet
  • 880 miles
  • 4 days
  • Less than 20 hours of sleep
  • 2.5 days of rain
  • 0 flats
  • 1 Crash

This was how the madness started. A bet at a party.

Chatting with friends about different rides and places to visit, somebody mentioned that a popular challenge was the ride from Lands End to John o’ Groats. This trip was the length of the British Isles with a reasonable ride time of about two weeks. Paul started calculating, 800 plus miles, surely that could be done in about 4 days? Everyone said, no way, and of course, that was enough for the bet to be made.

Although Paul had already determined his love of riding and cycled longer distances than the average person on a regular basis, he had yet to complete his first century. But he had already proved he was up to the physical challenge, having completed the Wales 14 Peaks Challenge twice, which involves ascending Wales’s fourteen highest peaks within 24 hours.

Just a few weeks later, reality struck at 6 a.m. on a cold and misty morning. Paul was ready to start his journey from Land’s End with his two companions, Dean and Chris, still asleep in the support van. One hundred and five miles later, Paul decided that was enough for the day. It was his longest day’s ride ever. Exhausted but happy, he looked back over his first day– rolling hills, good roads, bad roads, and torrential rain. He was hooked.

Realizing he now had a lot of miles to make up in order to achieve his target, he planned to set off at 5 a.m. the next morning. Halfway through the second day Paul began to experience digestive problems. Energy gels were not enough but he was struggling to eat ‘real food’ on an empty stomach as he burned through calories.

Finally the weather began to improve and the sight of familiar signs for Warrington, Manchester, Liverpool, and Crew improved his mood. He headed towards Lancaster on familiar roads, finally getting the miles done and hitting the magic 200. Ten miles later and they called it a day, ready for a night in the van.

Exhausted but happy, he looked back over his first day– rolling hills, good roads, bad roads, and torrential rain. He was hooked.

Day three would be challenging as they headed into more hilly terrain, but Paul was looking forward to crossing into Scotland at some point. Although it was a similar wet and misty start to the day, the weather soon improved and Paul enjoyed the scenic valley ride through the Lake District towards Scotland. How exciting to think he had nearly cycled all the way across England?

Paul was beginning to suffer from his lack of training. His hands were hurting along with his swollen ankles and serious saddle sores. Not to mention his knees felt as if they would explode. After negotiating the busy roads of Glasgow, Paul was able to anticipate the quieter country lanes ahead. Climbing into the Scottish mountains, he was pleased to meet up with Dean at the summit with the news he had found them an apartment for the night. It was not too far away and all downhill. Relieved to have finished his longest day ever at 232 miles, Paul headed straight for bed.

Paul had an even earlier start for the final 245 miles to the finish line. On the road at 4:30 a.m. to a glorious sunrise in the beautiful Scottish mountains, he headed toward Fort William and Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain. Cycling across the lochs towards Loch Ness and to Inverness, Paul was feeling very pleased with himself despite being in pain. He had just cycled coast to coast. How cool was that?

With a final burst of adrenaline, he was able to enjoy the afternoon ride along the rolling hills of the east coast of Scotland, enjoying the stunning scenery of the ocean road dotted with castles. As he came up over the top of a small hill he looked down onto a small fishing village and could see the end in sight. The pain in his legs and ankles disappeared as he summoned a final burst of energy and cycled towards the John o Groat’s famous signpost. He had won the bet and entered the crazy world of endurance cycling.