Country 1/50: The UK – 5th September 2016

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…

Preparation for Departure

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.

bike-boxThe 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!


Oh-oh! Cyclist’s Thumb

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)

Positive Cycle-ology

6 August 2016


Feeling good! Only done 160 miles so far, but it’s been fun!

Here I am with my new (second hand) Dawes Super Galaxy touring bike, my new helmet and clothing, newly taped handlebars, new panniers, water bottle holders… All the gear, no idea!

I believe in Living Life to the Full. I have done over 117 ‘things’ that I most wanted to do before I die and I’m nowhere near being dead!

They help me to breathe and feel alive and know that when I am drawing my last breath, it will be with no regrets.

Live Life to the Full.

My bucket list