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RAB LEJOG – Part 2

Oct 27, 2021 | 0 comments

By Emma Whitehouse

Friday 3rd September 2021

On the 3rd September my husband dropped me off at Lands End with my bike, and bags.  The sun was shining and I was nervous but glad that the day had finally arrived, almost 2 years after I first entered!

I entered originally as a solo rider, however went into the event as a group of 7, known as ‘The Peakies’ and was also was part of a much wider group called the RAB Zwifters.  Although Covid -19 had disrupted all my plans it brought me together with lots of people I had met in real life or virtually though the forums.   As I was stood to checkin, I saw my fellow Peakies, which put me at ease.  My bike was taken off into the bike rack and after being allocated my tent, No 51 Red,  I dragged my heavy bag to find it, which was in the furthest field away! I unpacked and set up my bed, and sorted out my kit ready for the morning and then headed down with my team to the legendary sign for a group photo.  It was then time to fuel and listen to the kick off briefing before trying to get some sleep!

Saturday 4th Sept 2021 

Lands End to Okehampton – 105.6 miles 8,236 ft of climbing it should have been – ended up 110 miles and 9766ft of Climbing with the diversion – Warm with sunnier intervals by afternoon 

Ave Speed 11.8 mph 

17 notable climbs

I was awake before my alarm went off at 4.45am, I deflated my airbed and rolled my sleeping back up, before I headed off to grab breakfast to try and beat the queues. Breakfast over it was back to the tent to put my kit on and pack my bag and take it to the lorry, then find my bike and get her ready for the off.

I headed towards the start at around 6.15 with the rest of the team, and we started at 6.30am.  I saw my husband just as I got over the line and said farewell, as we headed off towards Penzance and St Michael’s Mount, as it was early it was still a little grey, however that soon changed.  Pit Stop one was at Bissoe just before Truro and that was the first 35+ miles done. From Truro we headed out on some narrow, steep lanes with some sharp bends and make our way to Lanhydrock, as we went past it there was gridlock hundreds of cyclist’s had started to congregate and an air ambulance was seen.  We were held up for a good 40 minutes and all left wondering was it one of ours, are they okay etc.  We were then rerouted so had to turn around and retrace our steps for a few miles and then we seemed to be on a never ending road to get to Pitstop 2 at Doublebois which was a very welcome site.   We had been told to keep some reserves for the last section, as they had described it as the section towards the Minions and then to Launceston  as “grippy’ it was along the old A30.  I was so glad to see a Petrol Station towards the end, and brought a Caiipo ice-lolly which revived me and spurred me to the finish.  Later than I had wanted due to the diversion and also supporting a couple of riders in our group who had struggled in the heat.

After finishing it was drop my bike back to the bike rack, take all the chargeable stuff of it, go and find my bags, find my tent, unpack, pump airbed up, and roll out sleeping bag, queue for shower, eat, listen to the briefing for the next day and recall the days events, before heading to the tent, getting everything ready for the morning and hoping for some sleep!

It really was going to be a case of Eat, Ride, Camp, Sleep, Repeat for 9 days with some Eat stops factored into the rides…..

Sunday 5th Sept 2021 

Okehampton to Bath – 113.9 Miles 7,451ft of Climbing – 21 degrees and Sunny Intervals

Ave Speed 12.3mph 

12 Notable Climbs

Deja Vu – Alarm went off but had little sleep again, same routine as before and ready to set off at around 6.30am.

We headed out of basecamp towards Bampton,  savouring the rolling Devon hills through Coleford and particularly after Crediton as we picked up the River Exe in Bickleigh prior to our first pit stop at Bampton Football Club at around 38 miles.  I was finding that as we were having breakfast so early, I needed to eat on the way to the first pit stop to keep myself topped up.

I knew that we had the climb of Cothelstone to do, ave 6% but with max gradient of 23.8%,  after passing through Wiveliscombe, Hulse and Bishops Lydeard.  I was determined to get up this one all the way, and I did with a bit of Eminem in my ear and a great Deloitte welcome at the top. There was a lovely decent from Cothelstone down through Enmore as it took us on the way to Bridgwater.

The Somerset levels were a joy and took us to our second pitstop at East Huntspill. Then, we were off to the iconic ascent of Cheddar Gorge which was busy with tourists on a sunny Sunday so you had to keep your eyes open!  After the climb it flattened out and there was a great gentle but fast descent off the Mendips down towards Chewton Mendip and Farrington Gurney. The last 15 miles had been described as on the ‘grippy’ side, as you skirt around Radstock and Midsomer Norton prior to the climb up onto Combe Down. The new route then took us down the Wells Way with great views over the City. Through the centre of Bath and its amazing architecture before leaving the city on the London Road towards Batheaston and the last obstacle of the day being the climb up Bannerdown Hill ave 7% climb to the basecamp at the top. That was just cruel, but again never got off my bike and walked!

Same routine as the previous day once back in camp

Monday 6th Sept

Bath to Ludlow – 94.3 Miles – 5318ft of climbing – 25 degrees and Misty turning to hot! 

Ave Speed – 13.2mph 

11 Notable Climbs

This was always going to be a special day, as my family were coming to meet me at Ludlow, so I was super excited, despite the lack of sleep starting to kick in!

A slightly later start time of 7am due to the lower mileage but to be honest my body clock was still awake at 4.30am.  It was a misty start as we headed out on our journey to the Severn Bridge which was a real shame.  On the way to the bridge we passed a number of lovely quaint South West Cotswold Villages such as Marshfield and Tormarton before dropping into the Vale of the River Severn and then crossed the Iconic old Severn Bridge via the cycle path.  We stopped for some misty photos and then carried on to the first pitstop just below Chepstow Castle.

We then headed out towards the River Wye, after a bit of a climb we descended and what a welcome site, an Ice cream van, they must have made a fortune that day!   Climbing away from the River Wye the route passed through the Forest of Dean and offered great views back across the River Severn via St Briavels and Coleford before a great descent back to the River at Lydbrook on the way to the historic Market town of Ross on Wye. We stopped briefly in Ross to get some more water, then as we passed through Brampton, one of the most special roads on the entire RAB route, this was a breathtaking route along the river severn, and I was quite tempted to stop for a paddle, however wanted to catch up with the guys at the 2nd Pitstop so pushed on.  It was roasting at this point and everyone was seeking the shade

After the pit stop in Fownhope the ride was more mellow as we skirted to the East of Hereford through Leominster and on to Ludlow Racecourse. Coming towards Ludlow and the familiar site of the domes on the Clee Hill, and the fact my family were waiting for me spurred me on and I sped up.  The route to the racecourse foxed me a little as we came from a different angle, it even surprised my hubby as I wizzed past him at the finish and had to cross the finish line again so he could video it!   It was soo nice to see my family, hubby had brought me a lovely raspberry and lemon tart which I devoured and I also off loaded quite a bit of kit to him to try and make my bag lighter!

Same routine as before, however I ended up taking someone else’s heavy bag back to my tent, only having ti return it and take mine back! I also did use my massage gun on my legs and my backside was starting to get a bit sore…..

Tuesday 7th Sept 2021

Ludlow to Haydock – 106.7 miles 3,180ft of climbing – 27 degrees and sunny

Ave Speed – 14.7mph 

1 Notable Climb! 

Well after another night of little sleep, ducks, sheep, owls goodness knows they seem to be having a party at 2am! It was another 7am misty start, that started with laughter as John had forgotten his gloves so the team crew improvised with a pair of gardening gloves with the fingers cut out!   This was going to be our easiest day out of the 9 days with only 1 notable climb – we had 17 on day 1, but it was also going to be hot!

We had a nice gentle warm up along the quiet Shropshire lanes before the climb over the Wenlock Edge past Wilderhope Manor.   After pit stop one at the Maurice Chandler Sports Centre, we picked up more quiet narrow Shropshire lanes towards Nantwich.  On the way to the 2nd Pitstop we hopped onto the back of the Belgium Train and enjoyed a tow for around 15 miles before we then reached our 2nd pit stop was on the right hand side of the road at Middlewich FC’s ground. We sat inside the shade which was welcomed, and they also had cold and hot drinks on sale 🙂

The last section took us onto the A50 bisecting Warrington and Manchester, which was a lot busier and unfortunately where one of our Peakies came off, shattering 14 off his spokes and injuring his shoulder. This delayed us whilst we waited for the Mechanics to have a look and lend him a bike to finish on.  As we were getting closer to Haydock it was soo warm we spied a Sainsbury’s local so Ice lollies and Coke were brought to get us to the final destination of Haydock.

After 106 hot miles it was a long walk around the race course to get to the tents, I opted for a Cold Shower which was heaven – we must have walked 5 miles back and forwards for tea etc.  That night I didn’t feel great, I didn’t walk across to my tent until after 11pm as I was waiting for stuff to charge.  I had heard that there seemed to be a bug going around, and one of our Peakies hadn’t been well either.  So another night of very little sleep……….

Wednesday 8th Sept 2021

Haydock to Carlisle – 116.4 Miles – 5,538ft of Climbing – 27 degrees and Hot,Hot,Hot! 

Ave Speed 13.4 mph

5 Notable Climbs

A long day in store so start line opened at 6.30am, the lack of sleep was starting to kick in and I felt really off but managed to shovel some cornflakes and croissants down for breakfast.

Leaving Haydock racecourse the route continued to pass through a number of more urban districts such as Chorley on the way towards Preston, so you had to keep focused as it was commuter time. The ride took us to the West of Preston and use the Tom Benson Way in order to skirt Preston on our way to Barton Grange and Pit Stop 1.

After the Pit Stop the scenery improved allowing views towards the Trough of Bowland to your right as you pass through Scorton and on towards Quernmore and The Bridge of Lune. Climbing away from the River Lune you could see out to the Blackpool Tower over the Fylde Coast to the left. and then continue North with the mighty Lake District rising around you.

We reached Milnthorpe, which was our 2nd Pitstop of the day and we had now reached half way 🙂 again some photos were taken! On the way towards Kendal we passed a house that had put the hose pipe on to cool us down and wow that was amazing!   As we entered Kendal we stopped for an Ice lolly at the Garage and the guy said it was showing 30 degrees in his car!   We took a deep breath before set off on the steady climb of Shap Fell, which kept rising at a steady pace as I hit the stop we were greeted by flags and bells ringing.  I stopped to take a photo and just burst into tears, I think the lack of sleep was starting to catch me up, I took some video and waiting for John before enjoying the descent towards Shap Village before the last push Northwards through Penrith and on towards the Carlisle showground. Turning off the A6 the last couple of miles provided a little “sting in the tail” with a 5% climb to the campsite!

My knee was feeling it a little so I did wait and see the Physios tonight who put my thighs through their paces and and also applied some rock tape for support, as well as to my bruised backside!

Thursday 9th September

Carlisle to Edinburgh – 105.3 miles, 4,144ft of climbing – 17 degrees so cooler which the chance of rain

Ave speed – 13.5 mph 

1 Notable climb

It was a lot cooler and the red sky in the morning should have been a warning for what lay in store for us later on

A 7am start again and I think I may have had a little more sleep than the previous nights…….it was cooler and I think in the end I just crashed out!

Heading out North from Carlisle we soon hit the Scottish Border and Gretna Green, for photo opportunities and we would then have some of the most dramatic scenery lying ahead of us.

I have to say that this was my least favourite day, the distances between each turn seemed like miles and the road surfaces were soo bumpy!  Pit Stop one was at the Lockerbie Lorry Park the queue for coffee seemed short so we joined but by the time we got them we needed to get a move on.  The road we used was the old A74 which ran parallel to the A74(M), some of the views were amazing but I did find it a monotonous stretch.

Eventually we left the old A74 at Abington and head towards Edinburgh and the Lowther Hills stopping at the tiny village of Quothquan for Pit Stop 2 close to the River Clyde.

Some idyllic quiet lanes after passing through Carnwath towards Auchengray. Extra care needed as the route skirts the Western side of Livingston and some busier roads that are to be negotiated towards the end of the day when people are travelling home from work etc.

Just as we arrived at site it started to rain, but there was a coffee pop up that was selling cake – so I grabbed a Latte, after putting my bike on charge and a Biscoff cake before I sorted all the usual camp malarkey out.

Friday 10th September 2021

Edinburgh to Strathdon – 112.3 miles, 7,332 ft of climbing, 18 degrees with light showers Ave Speed 11.9 mph 

11 Notable Climbs

Back to a 6.30am start, it was misty, murky and wet as we set off towards the Forth Road Bridge, I was gutted it was a real pea souper so no point in stopping to take photo’s.

After crossing the Forth we passed through Inverkeithing, Bridge of Kelty and headed towards Kinross. The first Pitstop was a little longer to reach than usual  at nearly 40 miles after passing through Perth itself, we ended up at Perth Racecourse. It was a great pitsop and after the rain a warm cup of tea was welcomed, along with the traditional sounds of the Bagpipes.  By this stage the rain had knocked off and it was just overcast.

We joined the A939 and the route passed through Blairgowrie after running alongside the gorgeous River Tay for a time. Bridge of Cally and Spittal of Glenshee were the next places we passed through before the iconic climb of Glenshee on the way to the feedstation at the Ski Centre. It’s a long gradual climb that ramped up a tad at the end!

After the pitstops I put an extra layer on for the descent down into Braemar which offered some is stunning views. The route then follows the River Dee towards Craithie and Balmoral Castle, left turn then took along some beautiful lanes with climbs but offered us incredible views at the top of wide-open hillsides.. The decent was great, and I can remember a 2CV tanking it up the climb almost on two wheels…… sadly coming off one of the descents I caught a rock on my front wheel which gave me a puncture so we had to faff around replacing that and that made us later into camp than I had wanted.  I was shattered so decided to go eat after I had collected my bags, and go to Physio as my knee was still tweaky and I wanted it re strapped.  It started to rain again so I ended up not having a shower and just going to bed!

Saturday 11th Sept 2021

Strathdon – Kyle of Sutherland – 109.3 miles, 6,735ft of Climbing, 11 degrees wet in the morning with Brutal Winds in the afternoon 

Ave speed 11 mph 

9 Notable Climbs 

I was woken up to the sound of pouring rain, which wasn’t great to pack up my tent in, I headed off for breakfast and by the time we were due to start it had eased a little.  I had decided to wear my long tights again, as they worked well in the rain the day before.  The ride left the Showground and we retraced our steps from yesterday alongside the River Don towards Corgarff and Cockbridge. Before I know it I was starting to climb the Lecht, it soon ramped up to around 20%! I stopped to catch my breath after the first steep section, and then decided I didn’t want to hurt my knee so I walked a small section and then got back on to finish the climb.  Again the Deloitte team were at the top with the Flags and Bells :). It was a wet descent so care needed as we headed towards  “Whiskey Country” and on towards Tomintoul. We then followed some lovely quiet roads with wide-open vistas, as the ride drops into Grantown on Spey for pit stop 1 of the day.

After leaving Grantown, we climbed steadily away from the River Spey towards Dava before we joined the amazingly quiet single-track roads towards Dulsie Bridge. The route then follows the National Cycle Network towards Inverness. You will drop down into Inverness, after passing the Culloden Battlefield for the second pit stop of the day.  It was cold so we didn’t hang around very long and went in search of a hot drink.

The new route took us away from Inverness using the cyclepath alongside the Kessock Bridge.  I absolutely hated crossing this bridge, and it was probably the first time on the whole ride that I could have cried – the wind was buffering me, the drop was huge and although safely caged in on the cycle path I just didn’t like it! I had to keep looking straight ahead…… we then dropped down into Kessock Village and managed to find a cuppa before crossing the Black Isle and passing through Munlochy to join the A9 to cross the Cromaty Firth before re-joining the old route at Evanton. Care will be needed as the route uses around 3 miles of the A9. The wind was relentless and making it hard work, especially going across the Cromaty Firth.   It seemed to take forever to chunk the miles down and it felt like we were going backwards with the wind, we left Evanton, a climb up through Alness and on to ‘The Struie’ and ‘Surprise View’ before the amazing descent towards Bonar Bridge and Balblair.

I was so glad to reach the campsite and would say this was probably the most challenging day so far with the wind, I went and ate first as we were quite late back, before I went for a shower and got some physio on my leg and had it retaped for the final day.

Day 9 – Sunday 12th Sept 2021

Kyle of Sutherland to John O’Groats – 104.1 miles, 4541ft of climbing, 14 degrees and cloudy

Ave speed 12.8 mph

7 Notable climbs

The last base camp departure took the ride past the falls of Shin and Invershin Castle before passing through Lairg and the very unique and isolated Cask Inn. From there we dropped into Altnaharra and pit stop 1, which had a hot drink on offer but was rife with midges! How on earth I didn’t get bitten is beyond me, as some people looked liked they had measles.

We then went on one of the most beautiful roads of the entire route to Betty Hill. Once we  reached Betty Hill, the Northern Coast Road offered us amazing views of the cliffs and sandy coves but those views were not without a few testing climbs along the way towards the second pit stop at Reay.  I was on a high knowing that the end destination was around 30 miles and my husband and dogs would be waiting for me, so I got a move on and it suddenly felt like hard work, I looked down and you guessed it another puncture on the front wheel :(.   John helped me changed it in record time and we were back in the game again.  Our final part of the journey took us on the A836 where we turned off for the unclassified road to Thurso, a climb out of Thurso on an unclassified but exposed road towards John O’Groats and our final destination provided great views of the Orkney Isles.  I even passed our accomodation for a couple of nights on the approach to John O’Groats.  As soon as we hit the main road, I picked my pace up again and pushed towards the finish, John and I crossed the line together as we had pulled each other along during the last 9 days.  I could hear my hubby shouting – well done Em 🙂

It still hasn’t really sunk in that I have cycled across the whole of the UK, the cycling I enjoyed, the hard part was all the activity you needed to do when you got into Base Camp – store your bike, remove all the lights and computers for charging, collect your heavy bag and take it to your tent, blow up your airbed and set everything out ready for tomorrow, take stuff to the drying room, go for a massage and get taped up, shower and eat!

The tag line for Threshold who run the event is #moreisinyou and it certainly is – I survived on very little sleep and probably didn’t eat enough either if I am honest, yet I completed the event and didn’t really have any major wobbles – despite two punctures in the last two days.  What I would say is that I did put a lot of training in and lots of hills which definitely helped me.

The UK is a stunning country and I feel privileged to have cycled across it, however Scotland really blew me away, and captured my heart.

What next you might say?  I have a few rides that I would like to take part in but none as big as this one, so I am just going to continue to get out there on my bike, enjoy the fresh air and countryside and of course the coffee and cake stops 🙂 As well as continuing to support my fellow AEO race team, and get better at virtual racing on Zwift!


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