29 July 2017
I fly to Poznan, Poland, on the 10th August to cycle across Poland from the Western border, near Frankfurt, Germany to the Eastern border with Belarus. I am cycling with Newall Hunter – a Grand Slam adventurer whom I met when I skied to the South Pole in 2014-15. Total mileage approx. 560. Thanks to Dare2B for some great clothing. Dare2b.
11 May 2017
On the 27th May I shall be flying in to Tallinn – the capital of Estonia, to cycle Southwards through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, flying back out of Vilnius around the 6th June (I have work on the 7th!) My UCB – Unique Cycling Buddy for Estonia will be Valentine Ogunba, who I welcome to the 50 Good Turns team. The whole distance should be around 500 miles – plus I need to do my three Good Turns, one in each country. Watch this space – and Facebook – for pictures and updates.
Postscript – well this one didn’t happen. Turned up at Heathrow T5 all packed and thanks to British Airways IT problem, all flights were cancelled and I couldn’t find another so had to postpone.
3 December 2016
When I completed my first European Country – 800+ miles down the length of the UK – I knew that (a) I could cycle long distance, (b) that ’50 Good Turns’ was a brilliant and valid concept and (c) I wanted to maintain momentum. I had a lot of paid work booked into the diary in September and October, and couldn’t feasibly cycle a cold country in winter whilst carrying all my wintry kit in panniers (the 4-season sleeping bag alone would take up a load of space), so I pondered how to maintain momentum, or at least feel that I had done more than one country in 2016… I needed a small and warm country 🙂 Hello Malta.
Malta is smaller than the Isle of Wight! I had no idea. Just 9 miles N/S x 16 miles E/W it was going to be a doddle after the UK.
My ‘unique cycling buddy’ on this trip was a real trooper and stepped right out of her comfort zone to accompany me – thank you Lou.
The charity work – the Good Deed – was working with autistic children through The Inspire Foundation, who help over 1000 individuals with physical and mental disabilities ranging from Down Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy and others. Lou and I landed in Malta on Friday 2nd December, got picked up by Inspire from the airport and had a very full-on afternoon working with the autistic kids! I believe this was more tiring and demanding that cycling across Malta!
On Saturday 3rd December, Lou and I cycled 30 miles, from coast to coast and on a circular route, to make the most of our trip. Thanks so much to our ‘superhero’ Jack, who loaned us top notch bikes: The Cyclist Malta.
16 September 2016
Day 12. 84 miles.
What a humungous, whopping day! So full of contrasts and an onslaught of sensory experiences!
I camped in Clifden Hampden on my last night, in the shadow of a church and on the bank of the Thames. I hardly slept. My fourth night in a row with little sleep. This time it was foxes fighting, screaming and chasing each other round and round my tent, and then a cracking thunderstorm from 0400 and heavy rain. I stayed put until 0730 when the rain eased, but the roads were flooded.
After breakfast, I cycled 50 miles non-stop. Easy! Past Reading, through Basingstoke, past Winchester, along the South Downs Way and stopped for tea 24 miles away from home, before hitting the places that I knew and recognised! Alton, Bishops Walford, Fareham… Gosport! The sea… I stopped near the end and put ‘we are the Champions’ on loud on my phone. I cycled to the sea front and Pebbles café. I was jubilant. An 84 mile day, nailed by 6.45pm – just in time for Friday evening drinks. Across the road, into Stokes Bay and there was a finish line of flags, 12 of my friends and lots of bottles of Prosecco, with the sun setting across the bay as a back drop. I was home.
Achieved Length of UK – 803 miles, 11 days total.
82 hours 10 minutes cycling. Ave 9.75 mph
12 September 2016
Day 8. 71 miles.
Naively, I started the day thinking that I’d ‘done’ the Lake District and it’s famous hills… but then I came across Borrowdale Ridge and the notorious Shap Summit. I wasn’t mentally prepared for such a long hill. It was humungous. 3-8% incline and 9 miles long (Shap Fell hill climb from Kendal to Shap)! It took me two hours to get to Kendal which was 15 miles away. The wind was so strong I had to get off the bike and push, and even then I could hardly move forward. I had tears streaming out the corner of my eyes and I was half-laughing, half-bubbling with teary effort in hysterics. Towards the summit I was in clouds, rain threatened, it was very windy and cold. I could hardly breathe. I conquered, but then, had to… try and control the cycle down! Scary, screamy, cycling, riding the brakes all the way and trying to stay out of the way of the huge lorries struggling to labour upwards and round the hairpins!
I eventually collapsed into a hotel – what a treat – after a pub lasagne and 71 hairy, scary miles.
10 September 2016
Day 7. 85 miles.
Can you believe that HALF of the cycle of the length of the UK is cycling through Scotland? HALF! Within 5 miles of the whole route Yellow Brick tracker I crossed the border. My course zig-zagged around the mountain ranges of Scotland which you can see from my tracked route but then once I crossed the border near Gretna Green my route was better VMG (Velocity Made Good: www.velocitymadegood.co.uk) which is a yacht racing expression for taking the optimum route towards your goal – maximizing efficiency and effectiveness.
7 September 2016
Well on my way.
173 miles done so far.
Survived the ‘Berriedale Braes’ at 13% incline over 1 mile.
Had a fight over chocolate cake with a weird lady in a café.
Fantastic camp spot and a good pub for dinner.
5 September 2016
I started fairly ill-prepared, but then again, fully aware of what ‘state’ I was in – physically and psychologically, and with a core resource of strength, experience and resilience which I can normally pull out of the bag when I need to. I have built up my toolbox of endurance tactics and strategies over the years – yacht racing for ten months around the world in the Global Challenge RTW yacht race, walking across England, Ireland and Scotland on three different occasions, skiing full distance to the South Pole from the Coast of Antarctica for 46 days, walking on hot coals, paddling the Mekong and kayaking the Thames, the list goes on. Suffice to say that I know what stuff I am made of. I know I can dig deep and I know that I’m a tough cookie (Why is it called tough cookie?!).
So my 800+ mile cycle down the length of the UK started on the 5th September 2016, on a day when I wasn’t 100% ready, but I was 99% sure I could pull it out the bag.
Physically, the longest cycle in one day I had ever done was the BHF London to Brighton charity bike ride – 56 miles. Preparing for this 800+ mile cycle, I had cycled a few 20, 30, 40 miles days – but only 160 miles in total, and never more than one day at a time! I now had to cycle an average of 75 miles a day, every day, for 11 days. Could I do it?
I had also been at the fantastic BaseCamp Festival from 1 – 4 September, which was tiring to say the least. I was a guest speaker (skiing to the South Pole: film), ran a workshop (Living Life to the Full), launched my book (Amazon), went wild swimming and generally had a ‘good time’ (for which read: partied hard). I got home at 9pm on the 4th and had to do wash and dry my technical clothing that night, unpack and repack and crawled into bed at 0130. Less than 5 hours later my alarm went off… My flight from Southampton to Wick was leaving at 0845.
Psychologically, I was tired and nervous. I hadn’t trained much. Here are my top 11 concerns:-
- Falling off
- Hurting my thumb even more (it was still repairing)
- My bum hurting
- Getting lost
- The weather
- Cycling up hills and down mountains
- Cold and lonely at night in my tent
- Having enough time to complete the mileage (I was due to fly to China for work the day after the finish)
- Finding a charitable deed to do
- Being able to do 80 mpd in 11 days
- Losing my phone / breakages
I arrived in Wick. My bike was there. (Thanks to The Spot Shop for putting it together for me). I caught a taxi to John O-Groats. It was very windy. My bike felt heavy. I was nervous…
3 September 2016
Despite having an arm temporarily in plaster, I continued to prepare to cycle the length of the UK before summer was over and the nastier weather set in.
I amassed my kit, picked up a bike box from my local cycling shop so that I could courier it to Wick, imported some Pro Bar energy jellies and tried cycling up a very steep hill in ‘Granny Gear’.
Kit-wise I have learned from previous expeditions to get the right kit and have an excel spreadsheet listing it which can then be checked against each time I go away.
The bike box was required to courier my bike to Wick as FlyBe wouldn’t guarantee carrying it as Hold luggage on the day that I flew. I found this by far the least stressful and relatively cheap and easy way to get me and the bike to John O’Groats. Bike couriered to The Spot Cycle Shop in Wick in a free bike box (thanks – Solent Cycles) and then flew up with my panniers as hand luggage. It was a little tricky carrying the bike box home though – in an MX5 🙂
The Pro Bar jelly cubes ‘Bolt Blocks’ I have learned to love and rely upon – they got me energised from the Coast of Antarctica to the South Pole for 46 days uphill, into the wind, pulling an 80kg sledge. Imported from the US complete with Import Duty, but LOVE them!
7 August 2016
This is an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament of the metacarpophalangeal joint.
The injury happens when you fall onto the outstretched thumb and is more likely if the thumb is gripping something at the same time…
Falling when skiing while holding a ski pole is a common cause hence the name frequently given to this injury – skier’s thumb. Less often there is no specific injury and the cause is due to a chronic stretching of the ligament. This is referred to as a ‘gamekeeper’s thumb’. In my case, I got ‘Cyclist’s Thumb’ as I’m calling it, where I fell slowly sideways off my bike, and all the weight of it (and my panniers) was taken on my left thumb which was hooked under the handlebar.
I had to go to hospital… resulting in a plaster cast from my elbow to mid-hand. ‘Bother’, I may have said.
I cancelled my flight booked to John O’Groats…
(Although I did recover and departed from Southampton for John O’Groats on the 5th September – one month later)