LEJOG 2010 by Nick Latimer

LEJOG 2010, Day 0, St Just, 12/06/10

Nick's pre-ride post: "I’m currently sat in the loft room of a nice little B&B in St Just, with the sun beaming down through the windows. My legs are cleanly shaved, feeling fresh and raring to go, my kit’s all set out ready for an early start in the morning, and England are about to play their first World Cup match. Things are looking good for LEJOG 2010! We decided we’d drive down to Cornwall with a day to spare before we start the ride so that we could have a nice restful day, and that’s worked out quite nicely. I’m not sure it was wise to get in the sea though – we were fooled into thinking that it wouldn’t be freezing cold by the blue sky and sun bathers. I’m hoping that it acted like an ice bath though – good for the leg muscles before the upcoming slog.

Things weren’t looking quite so rosy a couple of days ago, when after not fully recovering from a sore throat after the best part of two weeks resting up I decided to go to the doctors just to check nothing was wrong. It turned out that I had a throat infection and was prescribed a 7-day course of anti-biotics. Not the best preparation for LEJOG, but I’ve definitely improved since starting the penicillin and I reckon I’ll be close to 100% for the start in Land’s End tomorrow morning. Hopefully the time I’ve had off the bike in the last couple of weeks due to my throat and a work trip away won’t cause too many problems either, hopefully the training miles are still in my legs bursting to get out! Anyway, what with taking an anti-biotic tablet every 6 hours and my Factor VIII and injection kit all set for a prophylactic dose tonight I feel like a real cyclist! Hopefully there won’t be any dope testers...

Mum and Dad arrived in St Just a little while ago, it’ll be great having them and Lizzy and Suzie supporting us along the way. Our Just Giving pages have also been really active in the last week or two and all the sponsorship will provide great motivation as we pedal along – so thanks very much to everyone for that!

I’m going to try to provide some updates on the ride over the coming week, although that could be a bit restricted by internet access and tiredness. Fingers crossed!"

Le Jog 2010 - Day 1 - 13/6/10 

Land’s End to Chulmleigh: 121 miles, 6hrs 38 mins, 17.8mph

After a quick breakfast we drove the 6 miles to Land’s End, posed for a few photos, and set off on our way to Scotland at 8.45am.

Our legs were fresh and a strong westerly wind pushed us on much faster than anticipated. We have planned to have three brief stops every day to break things up, and the first was at Redruth after about 32 miles.

Unfortunately all the cafes were shut so we settled for pastries from the local Co-op.

Our next stretch took us to Wadebridge, and went by very quickly as the wind picked up and we spent some time on the fast A39. When we rolled into Wadebridge our support team were waiting for us and we had a toastie and milkshake each before heading off again towards Holsworthy.

After feeling extremely fresh at the 60 mile point we went through the usual 90 mile wobble as we began to feel the effects of our strong early pace. This coincided with entering Devon, which seemed to be noticeably hillier than Cornwall (although this was still nothing compared with the Peak District, for which we were very grateful!).

A few donuts in Holsworthy sorted us out, and we carried on to Chulmleigh at a reasonable lick. Unfortunately we had surprised the support team with our pace and we had to sit in our cycling kit at the B&B waiting an hour for them to arrive. It turned out that our pace had been beneficial as 20 minutes after reaching our destination the rain that had been hot on our heels all day arrived, but we were safely sat in the warm and dry. We all had a nice pub dinner before heading home for an early night.

Things had gone very well on our first day, but we were well aware that this was one of our shortest (although hilliest) days, and that we’d had a steady tailwind throughout, propelling us to an average speed of 18mph. With the weather forecast predicting rain showers and a north-easterly wind for the next few days, we went to bed a little nervous...

Le Jog 2010 - Day 2 - 14/6/10 

Chulmleigh to Monmouth: 125 miles, 8hrs 10 mins, 15.8mph

We were right to be nervous!

This is definitely hard work!

Today we had a constant and strong headwind for the entire ride – there was just no let up. The only time we were sheltered was when we were going up a hill (which, in fact, was quite often). Even on the descents we had to tuck into aerodynamic positions to avoid being blown to a standstill. Unsurprisingly, all this had quite an impact on our general mood, and we were quite a lot more subdued than on yesterday’s super-fast wind assisted leg.

Luckily, we again avoided the showers, though we would gladly have swapped a soaking for a headwind (I think).

However, we made it, and we even had a particularly pleasant stop with the support team lounging on the grass in front of the cathedral in Wells for half an hour. They did a superb job fetching sandwiches, pastries and cakes for us, and generally trying to lift our morale before the final 51 mile push. Another bonus was a brilliant three course meal laid on by our B&B host in the beautiful surroundings of the Monmouthshire countryside (although I must admit that I was forced to go for a stroll and some fresh air after barely touching my pudding – my body hadn’t recovered enough to eat so much!).

It was a long day in the saddle today – much longer than yesterday despite only being 4 miles further. But it’s good to get it done – tomorrow is a similar distance but less climbing. A headwind is forecast again, but hopefully it will be a bit weaker.

Le Jog 2010 - Day 3 - 15/6/10

Monmouth to Chester: 119 miles, 7hrs 11 mins, 16.8mph

If anyone ever tries to tell you that the hilliest part of the end to end ride is Cornwall, don’t believe them, certainly not if you plan on foraying into the small lanes of Monmouthshire.

After our tough day yesterday we were deeply concerned when the first 10 miles of today were up and down some viciously steep hills. At one point, when a steep downhill turned quickly into an equally steep uphill I was doing all I could to avoid coming to a complete standstill when my back wheel span full circle on the gravel road.

It was like the Zoncolan!

Simon and I both remarked on separate occasions that it was beyond a joke. Luckily, before too long we found our way back onto bigger roads and started making some progress. We had pleasant stops in cafes’ in Leominster and Church Stretton, where we met up with the support crew, and although there was a headwind it was only light and much less wearing than yesterday.

In the end, we upped the pace and finished with a decent average speed, which was quite an achievement considering we covered 13 miles in the first hour, and 28 in the first two hours.

Upon arrival in Chester Suzie’s Mum provided a great meal, and Simon and I cleaned our bikes ready for a very big day tomorrow.

Over 140 miles including the high point of our ride, Shap Summit, it should be an interesting one...

Le Jog 2010 - Day 4 - 16/6/10 

Chester to Carlisle: 138 miles, 8hrs 19 mins, 16.6mph 

We had an extra early start this morning because we had to catch the ferry across the Mersey, and we had a lot of miles to cover to make our overnight stop in Carlisle. 

Luckily we had Gaz, Simon’s neighbour, for company for a good chunk of the ride which provided some welcome relief in the wind. After covering the 20 miles to the Seacombe ferry in time for a 9am crossing we made good progress towards Ormskirk, until our sat nav slightly unhelpfully directed us on to a dirt track for a couple of miles. 

We managed to avoid punctures though and ploughed on to Preston for our first stop of the day, before continuing to Lancaster where we met up with the Support Team. Unfortunately Gaz’s pedal fell off shortly before Lancaster, and he got a puncture as we came into the city centre, so he had lunch with us before getting the train back to Chester. 

After Lancaster the terrain became noticeably hillier, and after Kendal we started the long climb up to Shap Summit. The weather was good and the climb was not as bad as we had feared, it was even quite enjoyable (especially passing a few other end to enders on the way up!). Having geared ourselves up for Shap, convincing ourselves that it was downhill from there to Carlisle, we were a little put out by the hills in and around Penrith, but we finally got to our B&B at about 7pm. 

It had been a very long day and by now our legs (and numerous other parts of our anatomy) are getting pretty sore, but we seem to have ridden ourselves into the challenge and are able to churn out the miles. 

It’s another very long day tomorrow as we head up to Loch Lomond, here’s hoping that our good fortune with the weather and mechanicals holds. We think we may even have had a light tailwind at some points today!  

Le Jog 2010 - Day 5 - 17/6/10

Carlisle to Alexandria: 139 miles, 8hrs 9 mins, 17.0mph

This is getting really hard now. 

Simon and I are both exhausted and can barely walk. 

We were discussing on the bikes today which parts of us hurt most. 

Simon struggled to pick between his knees, ankle, and rear end. And that’s not to mention all the different leg muscles, the neck, back, shoulders, hands, wrists and even feet. I’m pretty similar, and now my shin can be added to that list after a spectacular puncture sustained while descending the Erskine bridge at about 25mph which involved me riding over some kind of metal object which jumped up and hit my shin before ricocheting backwards and shearing the valve off of my inner tube, which resulted in an immediate loss of all air in my tyre! 

Luckily a lump on my leg and a very minimally buckled back wheel were the only damage done. 

Today was a very long day. We were lucky again with the weather, but long periods on the busy A76 were very draining. The scenery was spectacular though, and when we got on country roads south of Glasgow the ride was very pleasant.

It’s a good feeling to be in Scotland, with about 645 miles down and about 275 to go. But we’re very tired and the next two days are both long and hilly, and we’re hoping that the long stretches of very rough road surfaces that we encountered today aren’t a reflection on what we can expect in the next couple of days – our rear ends simply won’t be able to take much more! 

Le Jog 2010 - Day 6 - 18/6/10

Alexandria to Drumnadrochit: 135 miles, 7hrs 45 mins, 17.4mph

Today was a day of highs and lows.

This morning I was seriously tired and seriously worried about being exhausted and still facing two days of getting on for 140 miles each.

The start of the ride didn’t get much better either, with a solid headwind, busy roads and poor road surfaces as we rode alongside Loch Lomond. We started the long climb up to Crainlarich after about 30 miles, which was followed by another long climb up to the top of Rannoch Moor. On the way up our legs started feeling a bit more normal and we passed the Support Crew, complete with the newest two members – my brother Rich and his girlfriend Lorna.

They were to be our domestiques later in the day, which provided us with a morale boost. The summit of Rannoch Moor was not followed by the easy descent that we expected – instead there was lots of flat and lots of wind, but also spectacular views. Eventually there was a bit of down-hill to Glen Coe, where we stopped for lunch and meet up with the Support Crew.

Our route map suggested that although we had only covered 69 miles – half-distance for the day – we’d done the vast majority of the climbing, so we started feeling a bit better. Rich performed domestique duties for us for the next 49 miles, taking 5-mile turns with Simon and I (we’d been doing 5 mile turns each right from Land’s End, and found it made a huge difference to have an extra rest before we hit the front again each time). As a result we made very good progress to Fort Augustus where Lorna took over from Rich for the final 18 miles of the ride. We got through them equally as quickly and finished on the shores of Loch Ness in Drumnadrochit in plenty of time for England’s second World Cup match.

Unfortunately we weren’t rewarded with a half-decent performance!

Still, only one more day to go now, which left us feeling much chirpier than on previous evenings. All the aches and pains are still there – knees, ankles, wrists, necks and shoulders are all causing problems (as well as other more sensitive areas), but one more day is all we need to put up with. We’re hoping the headwind that we’ve been facing will ease down a bit – today was the windiest we’d had since day 2 – but we fear that as we get closer to the coast the wind may increase and the temperature may decrease – knee warmers are at the ready!

Le Jog 2010 - Day 7 - 19/6/10

Drumnadrochit to John O’Groats: 133 miles, 8hrs 21 mins, 15.9mph

Today was quite horrendous!

After 0.3 miles we had to stop briefly because my thigh cramped up, and then after 1 mile we rode past a sign warning us of a 15% gradient coming up as we climbed away from Drumnadrochit and Loch Ness.

After 6 days, nearly 800 miles and virtually no time to warm up on what was a chilly morning it was not what we needed – especially as the climb went on for well over a mile and was around 15% throughout. We ground our way up, but the hilly roads continued for many miles (in fact all the way to John O’Groats) and we both suffered with muscle cramps for the first couple of hours of the ride.

We’d been joking that in recent days we had found that it was taking about 100 miles each day before our legs started warming up and feeling normal, but today it was definitely true! Things were made worse by a temperature of only about 10 degrees and a very strong head wind which promised to hamper our progress all the way to John O’Groats.

After struggling for 30 miles it was quite demoralising to see a sign saying 90 miles to Wick which we knew was almost 20 miles short of John ‘O Groats. We were grateful that our domestique Lorna stepped in to take a couple of 5 mile turns in our second stint which took us up to 62 miles for the day. Domestique Rich then took over and helped us out, although by that stage we were on the coast road and facing some steep climbs, which combined with the wind made the going very tough.

At one point Rich dropped off the back on a particularly steep and windy section and we thought we had seen the last of him, but as the road flattened out we were shocked to see him storm back past us just in time to take his next turn on the front. He’d buried himself just to help us out – brilliant work by a super domestique.

Often the wind was coming at our heads diagonally, which made sheltering behind the rider in front difficult on the busy road as echeloning out put us in the way of the traffic coming from behind – especially as the wind was strong enough to blow us out further in to the road unexpectedly – but as we got further north the traffic eased and we were grateful again when Lorna helped us out for a final time. Simon and I continued taking our 5 mile turns throughout, but having someone else to share the load with definitely helped.

Finally we passed through Wick and knew that we only had 20 miles or so left. Once we turned off the main road there were a couple of final ascents to be made before the final, longed for, descent into JOG. It was with a huge sense of relief that we rolled down side by side past the support crew for the final time, at about 7.30pm. Day 7 had been the toughest of all, as the northern winds placed an extra obstacle in our way. However, after 903 miles and just under 55 hours of riding we’d finally reached our destination. The days had been long and gruelling, and there wasn’t a part of our bodies that didn’t hurt. Over the last couple of days I’d spent quite a lot of time thinking about whether the pain of the ride and the likely reduction in my life expectancy was worth it, but the health economist within me told me that due to the huge amount of sponsorship we’d managed to raise it was definitely a cost effective event!

The satisfaction at the end also went a long way to making us feel better, although unfortunately while pain may well be temporary whereas glory is forever, I’m pretty sure that the aches, pains and exhaustion caused by this ride will last for quite a long time!

This was undoubtedly the hardest challenge and biggest adventure that I’ve ever taken on, and I’m pretty sure that Simon felt the same way.

It’s been incredibly hard but also an unforgettable experience.

Huge thanks must go to Lizzy, Suzie and my Mum and Dad who followed us all the way, carried our kit, put up with our grumbles and groans every morning and evening, and most importantly cheered us on enthusiastically at every opportunity.

I’m sure that our speed increased by at least 1mph every time we passed them in a lay-by, or when they passed us hooting their horns. Dad was also the main motivation behind deciding to do the ride. Rich, Lorna and Gaz also provided us with much needed help on the road as they performed domestique duties.

And all the people who sponsored us and texted us before and during the ride helped push us along the way.

When you’re in the saddle for many hours every day, taking alternate 5-mile turns on the front without any conversation as you try to push along as quickly as possible, there is a lot of time to think about many things – and thinking about all the people who had given to our cause very generously gave us all-important extra impetus.

I’m not too keen on sentimentality, but my thanks also have to go to “The Machine” Simon. I’d once envisioned the possibility of doing this ride on my own, as I knew it was a big undertaking for someone else to agree to. But I’ve lost count of the number of times during every day that I thought to myself that I could not have done it alone. From the first mile out of Land’s End to the last mile into John O’Groats, facing a head wind on 6 out of 7 days, neither of us missed a turn on the front – sheltering the other from the wind – and at no point during the 903 miles did either of us drop the other. Putting all the hours of training in since planning this trip in the Autumn of 2009 had worked out perfectly.

I’ve experienced a new level of dedication to sport, and although I’ve enjoyed it I’m looking forward to a few weekends when I don’t have to spend all of my time on my bike – so now for a rest!

Le Jog 2010 - Aftermath - 5/7/2010

Back in Sheffield!

Just a short update as I thought it was interesting to look back on the end-to-end ride and let you know the impact it’s had on my body! Unfortunately since the end of the ride I've been experiencing some pretty nasty muscle cramps, to the extent that the longest I've managed to stay on a bike without being forced off due to pain is 8 minutes! I guess I've got to allow my body a bit of a protest after putting it through such an intense week though. The ride was monstrously hard, the prevailing wind let us down as we faced a headwind for 6 days out of 7, and our bodies were pushed to limits they'd never even contemplated before. After 7 days (54 hours, 38 minutes and 13 seconds in the saddle), 908 miles (average speed 16.6mph), and 13,133 metres climbed (who knew how hilly GB is - that's 1.5 times the height of Mount Everest) we rolled into John O'Groats broken men. For the last few days of the ride pretty much every bodily part hurt - knees, back, neck, thighs, quads, calves, feet, wrists. My stomach was ok, but when we arrived in John O'Groats at 7.30pm after a monster 135 mile day into a fierce coastal headwind and discovered that we couldn't have a photo next to the famous sign because they take it down at 5pm to stop people dodging the £10 photo fee I was almost sick. So you can add stomach to the list too.

I’ve been along to the hospital to speak to a doctor and a physio about the muscle problems I’ve been getting. Pretty much all of my leg muscles are currently prone to seizing and spasming at any given time. I was fine for the first couple of days after the ride, with just a few aches and pains, but after driving back to Sheffield and being cooped up in the car for a long time I really started suffering. Walking became hazardous and cycling was definitely not possible! It’s definitely easing off as the days go by, but I guess my legs are in some kind of a state of shock. It’s not a haemophilia problem, and I’m sure it’ll wear off soon, but I think it shows that with a full time job it’s very difficult to fully prepare your body for such an event. Probably I should have carried on spinning on the bike on the days immediately after finishing though, to loosen things up and to wind down gently – so that’s my advice for anyone else considering doing something like this! 

The doctors did a few blood tests and I later discovered that even 10 days after finishing the event my creatinine kinase levels were 2775, whereas the normal range is between 34 and 306.  Apparently this is a sign of quite severe muscle damage, which means the creatinine kinase seeps out of the muscles and into the blood (where it shouldn’t really be).  As a result the muscles have difficulty recovering which causes the pain.  I’ve been told I should have eaten more fatty foods and more protein during the ride, but now no-one can say I didn’t try hard enough!

Thanks again to everyone for all the money you gave, it definitely kept us going during some of the tough sections. We were shocked by how much we raised.


The Highway Code

Know the rules of the road

Your safety is dependent on everyone on the road knowing and obeying the rules, so get the low down and don't get mown down!

Group Riding

If you're new to riding in a group, read our handy guide on how to stay safe.