I know, it’s not running, but enough folk in the club do triathlon, duathlon or ride a range of sportives and local rides like the Durham Big Ride and Beast, or just cycle for fun and fitness, to hopefully make it relevant and interesting.
Mike Bennett and I, along with a colleague, Andrew, have just completed LEJOG, enjoying a fantastic period of weather – only rained once in 10 days!! – and cycling through some of the most beautiful parts of Great Britain. We did it with no back-up, carrying our own gear, on a route worked out to avoid major routes and to find quiet back roads wherever possible, although in reality that did mean more hills and slow progress on many days. For accommodation we stayed in a range of cheap hotels, B+Bs, youth hostels and pubs and to make the whole thing possible we got the train down to Penzance for the start, then back from Thurso at the finish.
The daily schedule, which we managed to stick to only by toiling through some very long days and late finishes, looked like this:
Day 1 Penzance – Lands End – Newquay 63 miles
Day 2 Newquay – Tiverton 110 miles
Day 3 Tiverton – Bristol 70 miles
Day 4 Bristol – Craven Arms (north of Ludlow) 90 miles
Day 5 Craven Arms – Southport 115 miles
Day 6 Southport – Carlisle 132 miles
Day 7 Carlisle – Stirling 125 miles
Day 8 Stirling – Tomintoul 121 miles
Day 9 Tomintoul – Crask Inn 121 miles
Day 10 Crask Inn – John O Groats 83 miles
Significant aspects along the way were the kindness and warmth of people everywhere and something which really surprised me, the majority of drivers were cyclist-friendly. Only in Preston, where a man in a VW Golf nearly killed me and a young chap in a Peugeot got very verbal were things intimidating. Only the rush hour into Bristol, a stretch into the Lakes and parts of the A9 in Scotland got scary. Otherwise from start to finish we had “pinch me, I’m dreaming roads” several times a day, had a great many laughs – do it with friends/family if you decide to give it a go yourself, it’s a brilliant way to spend time together – and can look back on miles of quiet lanes, notably in Cornwall, Shropshire, the Lake District and Scotland for the rest of our cycling lives. The ride along the seafront at Crosby, with the Anthony Gormley statues looking out to sea, also was unforgettable.
During the journey, from time to time we were given an extra cheer, much appreciated by all of us. Roz and her sister joined us just outside Hereford, but sadly couldn’t ride with us due to family commitments. My brother John and his partner Lyn popped out from a garden centre in Chester and John rode with us til Lancaster. Barry Bird joined us from Carlisle to Moffatt, then turned round and rode back to Carlisle. Apart from that, although there were nearly 50 cyclists starting at about the same time as us at Lands End, encounters with fellow LEJOG or JOGLE riders were rare events after Day 1 until the last day, in reality we all went on slightly different routes, covering different distances at different speeds so were dispersed to the roads. However, in keeping with the growth of cycling fever and the Tour Depart in Yorkshire, wherever we went cyclists were very much in evidence, which is brilliant to see.
Practically and mechanically things went pretty well too, Mike had a couple of punctures, Andrew shredded a back tyre but that was all, the only noticeable downsides were late night rides into Carlisle (near midnight) and Tomintoul (elevenish). Somehow we/I failed to notice the extra ski resort after Glenshee before Tomintoul, which took us over the only hill we had to walk up in the whole journey: head for “The Lecht” if you want a challenge, don’t think I could get up it even on a mountain bike after a rest day, so after over 100 miles on a very hilly day the legs and trusty touring bike gave up!!
Like on most endurance events, we all turned into food processing machines, eating more of anything and everything as the days went by, huge breakfasts and frequent meal stops supplemented by a million muesli bars/flapjack, jelly babies, chocolate milk, Turkish Delight, Bounties, Jaffa Cakes, salted nuts but despite that inevitably had times when the energy levels dropped and all lost a few pounds in weight by the end.
So,would I do it again, most definitely, different route and probably take a few more days, do it from North to South (JOGLE) next time … could we run it as a club relay? Yes,if enough people would commit to running a few 10 mile legs each … though the route would have to take in a number of long distance footpaths to make it both safe and interesting – one for the AGM to discuss perhaps … ?
… Mike adds …
I signed up to this thinking it was ‘something to do’ It wasn’t until a couple of days into the event I began to appreciate the enormity of the task, especially given the 10 day schedule with no rest days built in. Having said that we settled in to a routine and the actual cycling became surprisingly manageable despite long days in the saddle. Memorable bits centred around scenery, food and accommodation, the cycling was almost incidental. Maximum calories were consumed, major roads where possible were avoided major hills however were included, the Cheddar Gorge, Kirkstone Pass, Glenshee, the long hill out of Moffat which took an hour to get to the top of and many others along the way. The Crask Inn deserves a special mention, many miles along a single track road (the A836 no less) from Lairg in Scotland, landlord and landlady waited up for us to serve a cooked meal, a few pints of the local Black Isle Beer and a wee dram of the local malt.
Our trusty steel framed touring bikes performed well and got us to the top of all the hills bar the Lecht. They also raised a comment or 2 from some of the older cyclists we met on route.
All in all it was one of the most memorable, (for all the right reasons) adventure holidays I have been a part of. My thanks to David for the route planning and booking of accommodation. (We’ll forget the minor oversight of the road up to the Lecht ski centre in the dark and wet.)
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