Today we have a guest post from Stephen Hughes, Autotech Recruit’s Operations Director reminiscing on his 10 days of cycle challenge from Land’s End to John O’Groats, raising money for BEN – The Automotive Industry Charity.
It is now two weeks on from the end of the Land’s End to John O’Groats challenge and as with most things your mind plays games on you only remembering the good bits, the sunny days with the wind behind you, speeding along a good road surface ticking off the miles. It forgets the punishing miles into the wind and the rain, avoiding the pot holes and traffic, the gruelling uphill slogs.
Right, let’s move on as I’m beginning to have flash backs… I thought I would put something together as most of my updates where published on my personal Facebook page and then blogged on Autotech’s website but many of you may not have had the opportunity to see them. So if you are sitting comfortably, from the top…
Day 0 – 20 August – Penzance to Land’s End | distance 9.91 miles, time 0:49:10
Nice cycle across from St Pancras, now just the small matter of the 5.5 hours to Penzance… scrabble anyone! 9 mile intro to cycling in Cornwall….windy, hilly, misty and wet… I’m just off to lie down!!!
Of all the places in all the UK fancy bumping into your boss in the ‘First and Last’ Pub in England! Very kind of Richard to pay our tab at the bar, I think he just felt sorry for us having seen the forecast for the next day, having just had a nice week on holiday and heading home the next day. Cheers Richard, it certainly got us off on the right foot.
Day 1 – 21 August – Land’s End to Tavistock | distance 105.42 miles, time 6:34:31
It’s been an interesting day… Mist, rain, more mist, MORE RAIN, 10 seconds of sun. The sayings have started coming out already ‘Slow and steady wins the race’, ‘Start slow and get slower’. One day and one puncture hopefully that doesn’t continue. The A30 turned out to be a little dangerous due to the weather so route detour took us past some interesting places…Screeching Owl anyone?. S
topped in Bodmin for lunch. Nice gentle hill at the end of Day 1 just before Tavistock!! Not relevant now but at the time ‘anyone thinking of visiting Cornwall I’d leave it a couple of days for it to dry out!’
Day 2 – 22 August – Tavistock to Street | distance 88.7 miles, time 5:52:48
Another interesting day… started overcast, then the sun actually came out. Simon Fish from ELMS BWM Bedford, who had joined us the night before came along for the ride, raising funds for BEN himself. Thought we might actually get away with staying dry today and not having to dry out our kit overnight but having been stopped on the road to Street by cows, a mile down the road it absolutely chucked it down for the last 10 miles, thunder & lightening the works. Who knows what tomorrow will bring although the forecast for tomorrow looks fantastic, wet misty Cornwall has been gazumped by sodden Somerset!
Day 3 – 23 August – Street to Ludlow | distance 109.95 miles, time 8:01:17
What a day! Another very wet start all the way to Bristol, then three punctures within a couple of miles, split tyre, dash to Halfords@
Cribbs Causeway to buy a new one. 3 hours behind schedule meant we got to Monmouth at 4pm for lunch. Met by the Thwaites, thank you Ash, George and family for the supplies and support. A very quick stop in Monmouth allowed Rob to have one more puncture for good measure and we cycled into Ludlow making it to the Charlton Arms just before it got dark. I can recommend the Charlton Arms in Ludlow, nice place and great food.
Day 4 – 24 August – Ludlow to Chorley | distance 102.23 miles, time 7:16:39
Bright and sunny start helped us make good time from Ludlow to lunch stop in Cotebrook. Cheers to Johnno, one of Rob’s work colleagues who bought us lunch at The Fox and Barrel (Cotebrook) and guess what still no rain! Unbelievable. Carried on through Warrington, Wigan and into Chorley, only issue being stopping every 10 yards for the next set of traffic lights. Obviously that is the only thing affecting our average speed!! Oh and guess what it stayed dry and even sunny all day, who says it’s grim up north! Got taken out for evening meal by Craig and Dave, not to be confused with Craig David. Simon Dykes unfortunately was out of the country but very kind of him to pick up the tab of our 3 course Italian, cheers all. Tomorrow on to old hunting grounds Preston, Lancaster (might go once round campus just for fun!), then over Shap to Carlisle.
Day 5 – 25 August – Chorley to Carlisle | distance 98.67 miles, time 6:21:43
First nice surprise of the day was the lady at the B&B telling us our bill had been settled by someone, the mystery was short lived as Guy turned up to see us off. Thanks again Guy, very kind of you to do that and very unexpected. Another dry day I could get used to this (was going to say another good day in the saddle – but the saddle is beginning to take its toll!). Moving on we made good time today through Preston and into Lancaster. If you ever find yourself fancying cycling between the two there is a cycle lane pretty much all the way. Rob helped me get over Shap, especially the bit where they had decided to put road works half way up the steepest section, obviously they were on red when I got to the lights and there was no way I’d have got clipped back in without a
helping push. Mainly downhill from the summit so got here in enough time to nip to the spa pool and jacuzzi, bonus! The mixed grill and the Crown and Mitre Hotel, Carlisle can’t be recommended enough. Frightened to look at tomorrow’s forecast but we will be into Scotland, so how bad can the weather be! We’ve hit the half way point in days and distance, must be all downhill from here!
Day 6 – 26 August – Carlisle to Airdrie | distance 92.80 miles, time 6:12:43
Drizzly day today and tough, I’m beginning to feel the accumulated effects of mile after mile. Only 90 miles today, nipping over the border at Gretna into Scotland. Weaved our way alongside the A74 stopping off in Crawford for some square sausage. Great section then from Crawford to Lanark, shame it’s not all like that. Overall more good roads than bad today and got to the Knights Rest B&B to a piece of Whiskey cake. Treated to evening meal by the Scania team in Airdrie, so another entertaining evening stuffing our faces at someone else’s expense, thanks to Brian, Scott, Paul and Colin (still waiting for my salad dressing, seems to have gone AWOL!) Big day tomorrow over the top towards Glencoe through the fantastic scenery we’ve walked in on numerous occasions. Fingers crossed the weather and wind are kind.
Day 7 – 27 August – Airdrie to Kings House Hotel (Glencoe) | distance 97.75 miles | time 6:42:11
Tough, slow, long day today especially the sections into the wind. I think both of us are really beginning to suffer from the day after day stress on our bodies but the end is definitely in sight. Started wet and windy out of Airdrie but the sun even popped out between showers. Cycled through some beautiful scenery, so I’m told… as Mr Dalby pulled me up all the hills with me just looking at his back wheel. Tomorrow we’ll get to Inverness, cycling along the marathon route we did a few years ago. Hopefully do it a bit quicker this time!
Day 8 – 28 August – Glencoe to Inverness | distance 93.94 miles, time 6:40:28
I had been looking forward to the start of this day for ages, what was meant to be a gentle 3 miles up followed by a nice 9 miles all downhill…. was horrible! Wind against and some good old fashion sideways Scottish rain!! However on a positive note I’ve been able to cancel my facial as most of the skin on my face was removed. This is becoming a theme but the miles are taking their toll and so it is now a tough decision to either just keep cycling each day without stops or face the consequences of stopping, as stopping and starting just hurts! Rob was struggling around lunch and knowing what was ahead of us, getting up to the start of the marathon route, he didn’t want to stop. However stopping for lunch to refuel should not be ignored hence the emergency stop at the Dores Inn. Not sure w
ho suggested to do the marathon route, another occasion where your mind blocks out the horrible bits. I then remembered even the bus struggled to get up the hill to the start and when we ran the Inverness marathon we’d both put all those steep uphill sections out of our minds!! It was so nice to get to Inverness, drop the bikes at Scania’s new depot and then get chauffeured up to Sharon and Frasers for some R&R. Lovely evening at Sharon and Fraser’s last night…full on Sunday roast dinner….awesome. Last full day tomorrow up to Inver…
Day 9 – 29 August – Inverness to Dunbeath | distance 81.90 miles, time 5:14:35
Rested and refuelled, it is onwards and upwards to Dunbeath. Good ride today along the east coast, made good time in some good weather. A couple of steep climbs in the last few miles, pointed out by the chap that pulled up alongside us in Culgower saying we’d passed him three times since Inverness and he couldn’t work out how we were going so fast! Honestly we weren’t going that fast he just kept stopping! Scariest moment, thinking I wouldn’t get up the steep climb at Berriedale but just about managed it. If you are ever in Dunbeath (not quite sure why you might be but..) book a table at the Bay Owl, fantastic views from restaurant if like us the weathers great but the food was amazing. Meringue nest….enough said! Our challenge is drawing to an end, only 38 miles stands between us and successfully completing what I can safely say is the toughest thing I’ve ever done (sorry Russ but dragging your ass up Mt Blanc is a piece of cake compared to this!) So for Rob it will mean being able to wash those 10 day old pants and for me the strange sensation of wearing pants for the first time in 10 days!
Day 10 – 30 August Dunbeath to John O’Groats | distance 36.85 miles, time 2:15:34
Got up early and the weather was prefect, beautiful morning. Headed through Wick and had been promised that it was then all downhill (a regular saying which had been used almost always incorrectly throughout the whole 10 days!) anyway one last hill a couple of miles from John O’Groats and then freewheeling to the finish!. Words cannot sum up the relief of successfully getting to the end. A couple of cyclist turned up just after us, we asked them if they were just starting or finishing, they were just starting, crazy idiots…they didn’t need to ask us the same question. Although when we asked them why they were doing it John O’Groats to Land’s End, one replied well its mainly downhill….. if we had a pound for each time someone had come up to us and said that I could have doubled my sponsorship total! The relief of finishing was somewhat short lived as we still had the 20 miles to get back to Thurso to catch the only train back to Inverness. You really don’t want to know how painful that 20 miles was.
Land’s End to John O’Groats – DONE!!!
Various people have asked me ‘how was it?’, all I can say is it was an experience…. highs and lows, nice bits and tough bits, everything apart from snow, but it was an amazing feeling to sit on the train in Thurso station and know we’d cycled from one end of the UK to other. Between the three of us we have currently raised over £5000.00 pounds so a very big thank you to everyone who sponsored one or all of us and a huge thank you to the messages of support throughout of trip, you don’t know how much they all helped us get back on that saddle each morning.
A massive thanks has to go to Rob ‘The Yellow Jersey’ Dalby for basically organising everything and getting me through it! Thanks again to all the people we met along the way and for their generosity and support. Even the random people in the street or Morrison’s café or Lidl car park, that I seemed to attract.
Oh and if all that wasn’t enough two weeks after finishing I thought I hadn’t really done enough so I accompanied Fage Drage Resource Consultant at Autotech and we both ran the Great North Run, I say ran but I didn’t run it all! We both finished and currently have raised a further £864.76 for BEN. I am now not planning on doing anything for the rest of the year! Although there is one thing, for those that said ‘yeah I’ll sponsor you’, you still can and should, the just giving page is still up (https://www.justgiving.com/Stephen-HughesLEJoG/) or you could sponsor me for having completed the Great North Run (https://www.justgiving.com/Stephen-HughesGNR/), if you said you would and you haven’t I think it is only reasonable to warn you I do have a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you sponsor me now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will make you.
But for the time being, take a look at some photos taken during our cycle challenge for BEN: