Archive for the ‘General Musings’ Category

Read the blog? Buy the book!

June 29, 2011

Following on from my earlier post about this blog getting published on the Kindle platform, I’m pleased to announce that it’s also made it’s way into hardcopy…!

One Man and LEJOG is now available in paperback from Amazon (as well as other bookstores), priced at £4.99 – and is a collection of the words from this blog alongside the route maps and a selection of photos that I took along the route.

Seeing my name on a published (albeit self-published) book is something that I’ve always wanted to see, and I hope that it proves entertaining to those who buy it and perhaps helps others who are planning on making the trip themselves one day.

If you have already purchased it in either format, thank you!

Re-Kindling the Memories…

June 23, 2011

Apologies for adding yet another post after my epilogue (and so late on afterwards too!), but aside from setting and completing challenges such as the LEJOG documented on these pages there is one ambition that I have harboured for longer than I can remember.

That ambition is to see my name appear upon the cover of a published book as an author. Now, thanks to the way technology has advanced, I have been able to see my dream come to fruition…

…I’ve only gone and published this blog! Admittedly, it’s only thanks to Amazon’s wonderful Kindle Direct Publishing facility but it does mean that my words are now available to anybody that has in their possession a Kindle! To see my name up there in Amazon’s ‘Best Sellers in Cycling’ chart alongside some famous names within cycling such as Lance Armstrong, Sir Chris Hoy and Mark Beaumont is humbling to say the least…but it does also fill me with a great sense of pride (aww, shucks!).

If anybody reading this does indeed have a Kindle and would like to purchase One Man and LEJOG to read upon it, you can do so on Amazon UK’s Kindle Store where it is currently available at £1.71. If you have already purchased it, thank you!

And finally…there may of course those of you that may well be wondering if it will ever be available as a physical copy (complete with photos and accompanying route maps)? Watch this space…!

Epilogue: Final Thoughts…

March 6, 2011

Apologies for the delay, dear reader…I’ve got no real excuse other than these things always do have a habit of taking longer than perhaps you plan them to, hey?

Anyway, my final thoughts on the trip? I don’t think that a LEJOG is a hard journey per se; it is, after all, simply a case of getting on your bike and pedalling yourself from A to B daily! My training certainly wasn’t anywhere near the sort of distance or volume that is recommended as necessary to undertake this challenge; I only completed two rides of over one hundred miles before setting off!

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy doing it, though. I’ve seen an extremely thin slice of this country in a way that very few people can say they have and there’s moments I recall fondly now and hopefully will do for many more months and years to come.

Having never blogged before, I’m really glad that I decided to start doing so on WordPress for this journey. I’d hazard a guess that I spent two to three hours a night doing so, but people that were following have told me that they appreciated it and it has also given me something special to look back on, and provided me with the content to produce this book!

I’m pleased with all of my kit decisions bar the Carradice! I never once felt like I didn’t have enough, or that I’d carried too much with me. My Garmin HCx may well have taken a bit of ‘magic’ out of the navigation of each day, but certainly made the whole process less stressful. I’d perhaps go as far to recommend one to anybody attempting a similar journey ahead of anything else.

I was surprised to see how much I spent over the twelve days although, to be fair, around a third of the total money that went through my hands was on bike repairs that nobody could have honestly foreseen. Certainly not the rack for my bag failing on Day Two! Otherwise I think that I got reasonable value for money for everything else considering.

Splitting my overnight stops between B&Bs, hotels and hostels may well have added extra cost to my journey, but I think it was worth it overall. Perhaps if I had a support vehicle or others with me then camping would have added to the adventure but I think the way I approached it was best for a solo attempt.

On that note, I have been asked by many people why I chose to do my LEJOG solo and unsupported, and also if I was lonely on the way?

First of all I decided to undertake the trip on my own as, whilst I was confident I could complete the distance, I wasn’t sure of my own abilities on the bike and didn’t want to be the one slowing a group down. Having now completed it, and read other encounters I don’t think I would have done but I don’t regret doing it alone at all. It’s a hell of a party story if nothing else!

I can honestly say that the only time I felt alone was as I realised I was the only sober individual amongst a bustling Princes Street in Edinburgh on Day Eight. As I wandered along that street all I wanted to be was back home. On reflection, a Saturday night stopover in a big city after the previous few days probably wasn’t the best choice!

In conclusion, did I enjoy the trip? Yes, without a doubt. It’s made me appreciate the island on which we live in ways I certainly didn’t before. It’s certainly opened my eyes as to how beautiful parts of it can be, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s gone end-to-end that looks on as the map scrolls behind the television weatherman without thinking ‘bloody hell…I’ve cycled that!’.

Would I do it again? No, probably not. Certainly not in that direction anyway, and probably not solo if I was to go from top to bottom. That trip’s been done, it’s onto the next challenge now I’m afraid.

What’s next? You’ll just have to wait and see…

Gulp…

May 14, 2010

Hmm…it’s all a little more real now! Today’s the day the adventure starts with a sleeper train to catch this evening it’s just one more sleep until I’m on the journey proper. Eek!

Everything’s been bought and tested where necessary (Woolie Boolie socks are, quite simply, amazing!), everything fits into the bag I decided to use which is a huge relief, the route’s on the GPS and I’ve and cleaned and lubed up Daphne (stop sniggering at the back, it’s the bike!). Think I’m pretty much ready. Well, as ready as I can be. It’s only twelve days on the bike anyway, hey?!

Some people have asked why I’m travelling from Lands End to John O’Groats as opposed to the other way. Well, despite popular belief, it’s not actually uphill all the way but that’s not the only reason! Traditionally the winds around this time of year are South-Westerly in Great Britain so, in theory, there’s more chance of a tail-wind to help me on my journey. Added to this is the fact that the terrain in Devon and Cornwall is actually tougher than the Highlands with repetitive short, sharp climbs the norm rather than slow, undulating hills. Tackling this whilst fresh (ha!) sounds more appealing than knowing for the best part of a week and a half that it’s only going to get harder at the end!

So that’s why I’m going that way…I am starting to question why I’m going at all, but I’m sure that feeling will pass once I’m on the road… [cough cough].

Finally, a quick thank you to everybody that has sponsored me so far…it really is appreciated, acts as even more motivation for me to be crossing that line at the end of May and will help The Stroke Association with all their work. If you do want to sponsor me on my journey, the easiest way it through my JustGiving page. The link is http://www.justgiving.com/onemanandlejog .

Right, that’s it from me for now. See you for a pint in the John O’Groats House Hotel? Say four o’clock-ish on Wednesday 26th May…?

One week and counting…

May 9, 2010

…well that’s come round quick, hasn’t it?! Not long until the journey proper starts and I’ve been getting all the final bits of preparation sorted in the last week or so.

All the kit I’m going to need has now been bought, including some nice lightweight clothes for evening wear – I have a feeling my days are going to end with arriving at the place I’m staying, eating and sleeping but it’ll be nice to have something other than the cycling gear to change into should I feel like a wander or something.

In terms of actual cycling, a busy week at work has meant I haven’t been able to get any longer cycles in before heading to the office in the morning which was my original plan. Whilst not ideal, I’m hoping it won’t be too much of a hindrance in the long run and perhaps it may actually do me some good instead of cramming in miles on top of what was an already busy week.

My aim for the week ahead is to make sure I get some decent night’s sleep in so that I’m sure I’m as refreshed as I can be getting off that train at 08.00 on Saturday 15th May. Tick tock, tick tock…

What an motivational evening…!

May 6, 2010

Mark Beaumont. Either you’ll know the name or you won’t. He’s arguably the world’s most well-known solo cyclist, the world-record holder for the time taken to cycle round the world (194 days and 17 hours, if you were wondering!) and has also just recorded the recent BBC series ‘The Man Who Cycled The Americas’.

Anyway…he’s touring the country at the moment with his show ‘The Man Who Cycled The World’ and I headed along to Epsom to see what he had to say about his travels.

Having only seen ‘The Man Who Cycled The Americas’ and not read his book I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I have to say it was brilliant. Mark’s an excellent public speaker and had the close to capacity crowd captivated from the start with tales of his trips and amusing anecdotes along the way.

The whole evening was extremely inspiring and it was interesting to hear how he got into the position whereby he was circumnavigating the globe on just two wheels – if you don’t come out of one of his shows fully motivated that you can do something on your own than I’m afraid to say that there’s no-one that could offer that to you!

I thought there were perhaps a couple of points where more details could have been given – it would have been interesting to hear how he found the five to six thousand calories he needed each day, especially in the more remote areas, but other than that it was a really good show.

Details of the current tour are on his website. If you get the chance, go and see him. You really won’t regret it!

‘So who are you doing it for?!’

April 26, 2010

I’ve had a fair number of people ask me this question after telling them my plans since deciding to take on this trip.

Now (as I mention in my About Me page) my general motivation for taking on such a challenge was pretty much self-indulgent but, with less than three weeks to go until I start (eek!) and with people asking me more frequently than before where they can sponsor me, I’ve finally got round to setting up a JustGiving page to raise some money for a cause that I think is worthwhile.

I’ve chosen The Stroke Association having seen the affect that the condition can have on family life after my Nan suffered from a stroke whilst on the way to Cromer on a family outing on 30th May 2007. I truly believe it’s a cause that’s worth supporting and it affects far more people than you perhaps realise. To read bit more about why I want to raise money, please look at my Support Me page.

Whilst I haven’t got a specific target to reach, I think it would be nice if I could raise a pound per mile I cover and I know it would certainly help The Stroke Association who rely heavily on voluntary donations and support.

The direct link to my sponsorship page is at
http://www.justgiving.com/onemanandlejog.

‘Super’ Cally goes ballistic, now staying in Loch Ness…

April 25, 2010

…apologies, couldn’t resist that headline!

Well, after re-visiting the inital route plan I’ve had to make some changes to it – mainly to make sure I’m ending each day in a spot with reasonable facilities and accommodation, but also to level out some of the imbalances of a short day followed by an abnormally long one.

The main changes are…

– a shorter first day and a stop now in St. Agnes rather than Newquay. This means my second day is longer, but I think it’ll be better to ease myself in rather than tire myself out on day one!

– a detour via Padstow on day two on the advice of someone who recommends Rick Stein’s fish and chips. Miss that opportunity at lunchtime?! I don’t think so!

– a stop off in Morecambe as opposed to Lancaster to get a chance to go and see that statue and compare Mr. Stein’s efforts to some ‘proper’ seaside fish and chips!

– rather than go for a silly long day on day ten and end in Inverness, I’m now stopping at the Loch Ness SYHA. It looks like an excellent stop and also means I’m not doing the day of over one hundred miles until my penultimate journey; in theory that should be a bit better…

So…that’s that planned (and available to see in daily chunks on The Plan page). I am going to prepare some ‘prompt cards’ with a turn-by-turn listing and also a slimmed down version of the map for the day so that should the GPS fail for whatever reason I’m not going to just be left to guesswork.

Otherwise it’s all ready to go onto the Garmin Vista HCx. That’ll take a little while, but once that’s in I’m as prepared as I can be in regards to the route…

Spring Lambs…sprung

April 12, 2010

In the same way that runners have their organised events, the cycling world is no different – playing host to numerous cyclosportives (or sportives for short) which are long distance, organised, mass-participation events and are typically held annually.

It’s fair to say that they’re the equivalent of a marathon as, rather than racing everybody else, most participants use the event to challenge themselves in a personal battle against the distance and the clock.

Well…I’ve now completed my first sportive. The Essex Roads’ Spring Lamb Sportive; a ninety three mile (150km) loop around the rolling hills of Essex, starting and finishing at Billericay.

Great day out and I really enjoyed it. One hundred and thirteen miles all in and, having said I’d be happy to record a time of under seven hours I was delighted to see my final time clocking in at six hours and seven minutes!

I managed to pair up with another rider for most of the day who was training for his own long-distance challenge over the summer, Dan.  It was nice to have someone to chat to, and the miles ticked over far quicker than I found on my journey the previous weekend.

There were a couple of points where we found ourselves joining up with a peleton of riders. Whilst I knew about it, I certainly hadn’t appreciated quite how much easier it was to cycle in or at the back of a pack. With both of us wanting to test ourselves over the distance, however, we opted to not draft and help each other with the wind and instead rode two-abreast where possible taking on the majority of the event individually.

Lovely weather for the duration, with beautiful spring sunshine breaking out for large spells. The feed stops were placed at ideal points and I’ll certainly be back to try out some more of the Essex Roads’ events in the future!

Only downside was my right knee starting to feel a little tender towards the end of the day. Having had my fitting last week I’m sure I’m set up correctly, so I think I may have just pushed myself a little too hard having basically covered the course at 15.5mph. It’s not the quickest speed ever, but it is 5.5mph faster than my trip back to Peterborough last weekend.

Rest tomorrow and then a couple of easy days to see how it is. Certainly not going to be pushing it that hard on the main trip, so no point in jeopardising finishing that by being silly with it all in the next three weeks.

London to Posh…bosh!

April 5, 2010

Woo-hoo…one hundred and eighteen miles. Easily my longest ride EVER!

With a previous ‘personal best’ of forty seven and a half miles (which was recorded less than a month ago) it’s fair to say it was an ambitious target but, on Easter Sunday, I headed back from London to my parents’ house in Peterborough using a route made up of back roads. Some thoughts on the day…

I found a route on the Cyclist’s Touring Club‘s route list that got me halfway (London to Sandy), and concocted the second half having found myself a nice open source mash-up of all the National Cycle Network (NCN).

Most of the journey was okay but parts of the NCN are, in all honesty, an absolute joke! There were points where I was bouncing my way for miles along a rut made from cars passing through a field and other parts would not be out of place on the Paris to Roubaix route. It was certainly an experience…

I probably couldn’t have asked for better conditions. A light shower as I set off in the early hours, but this soon disappeared and I had a mix of sunshine and clouds to accompany my journey. Whilst it wasn’t ‘warm’ warm it wasn’t particularly cold either, although the North / North Westerly headwind certainly made the day harder than perhaps it could have been!

I was a little concerned about bonking (no, not that…it’s the cycling equivalent of ‘hitting the wall’) and probably had a bit too much food and drink on the way because of this but I’d much rather over-compensate and make it over a distance I’d never tackled before. Anyway, I got through…

1x Soreen Malt Loaf (Buttered)
1x Tuna/Sweetcorn sandwich
1x KitKat Chunky
1x Mars Bar
1x Nutri-Grain; Apple
2x Mule Bars; Summer Pudding (these were probably unneccesary with <10 miles to go!)

1x Lucozade Sport (500ml)
1x Coca-Cola (500ml)
2x Water (500ml)

Phew! I left the house at 07.40 and got through the front door at my parent’s place at around 18.45…yep, it was a long old day overall, but ultimately satisfying. It was certainly a nice feeling pulling onto the last road knowing where I’d started from.

Quite pleased to have got through it without too many niggles. My left leg felt a little ‘dead’ the next day and my back was aching like anything before getting a night’s sleep – I have a bike fitting due this week however, so it’s probably a good thing to have something to tell them before they set up the bike to my ideal.

Overall I’m so glad I’ve done it. I’d mentioned it during the week to a couple of people and they doubted me so it’s good to show I can see through my plans – bodes well for the trip at the end of May anyway!

I was amazed at how quiet the majority of the route was (even though it was back roads), and quite how far you can go without seeing anybody or signs of civilisation. Better planning would have reminded me that it was Easter Sunday so the majority of shops would be shut, but it was still interesting to see the distance you can go between any significant settlements.

Final thought of the day: the Garmin etrex Vista HCx is an absolute gem of a gadget! Yes, bikeroutetoaster has a habit of crashing and losing a route…but if you save regularly, then convert it using GPSbabel you’ve got a pretty much fool-proof navigation system. Now just need to remember to re-name routepoints to something useful (Lxxxx or Rxxxx to signal left or right instead of the generic RPxxxx would be a start!) and I’ll be well on my way.

Apologies if I have rambled at all…I’m still pretty excited by it all and wanted to get bits down whilst they’re fresh in the mind. Next weekend I’ve got my first Sportive planned. The Essex Roads’ Spring Lambs event no less. One hundred and fifty kilometres. Bring. It. On!