LEJOG Day 9
Start: Culrain
End: John O'Groats
Total Miles: 995.33
Max Speed: 43 mph
Time in saddle: 8h 26m
Average: 11.72 mph
Daily Miles: 98.25
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Fri 18 Jun 2004

Today I woke 20 min early, not due to anticipation of finishing the ride, but because the bike shed at Carbisdale Castle is in the dungeon and it takes a while to get the bike out. I managed to get away by 8. Decided not to take another "short cut" across mountain tops after yesterdays experience over the Struie! I also put on an extra layer so as not to get cold again. I had gone 6 miles to Bonar Bridge when I decided to put on my waterproof trousers because of the rain. The rain promptly stopped but my legs were warm with them on so I stuck with them. Made good progress to the A9 and continued northwards. There was a Westerly crosswind that slowed me down a bit. At 33 milesI stopped in Brora for Tea & Scones. I felt good that I had got this far so quickly. Little did I know what lay ahead.

I reached Helmsdale well aware of those hills that followed, so I ate more bread and Kendal Mint Cake and drank some energy drink ready for the push. I slogged through those hills and across the pass and even endured a hailstorm! After Berridale there are no more monster hills so I should have been happy. But the crosswind was so strong it was really slowing my progress. With 35 miles to go I rang home, moaning. Lou gave me some words of encouragement and told me to call again if I needed to. I would not talk to anyone now until I finish this journey.

The last 5 miles coming into Wick were a drag. I had a hot pie and cake washed down with Lucozade to keep me going. Press on, just 17 miles to go. The road out of Wick turns northwest meaning that crosswind is now more in my face. I had no choice but to keep going, pressing my head down on my bars and slog it out at less than 8 mph. I told myself "you WILL get there". I was thinking of my family and how they were having to cope without their Dad and husband. My phone kept ringing but the earpiece cable had come unplugged so I couldnt answer if I wanted to. It reminded me of all those friends and family who were keenly monitoring my progress.

I passed Freswick, the last village before John o Groats, but the sting in the tail is you have to pass over high moorland before the finish. Just 3 miles left but how demoralising with that wind. Sometimes you feel like throwing the bike on the ground and giving up, but you dont. I think you only feel like this because you can, you play with the idea but know you would never give up. I reached the summit and started the descent. John o Groats came into view at last. "Yes!" I said out loud, then spontaneously burst into uncontrollable tears. I gathered myself and punched a fist in the air as I passed the town name sign. Pedalling faster now I raced down to the harbour towards the famous finger post sign. I saw it to my left and broke off the road to tear across the car park and over the grass. I slammed my bike to the ground and lay under the signpost in tears looking up to the sky - I had done it!

Fortunately, some chap was wandering around that I could grab to take my photo. He had just driven 500 miles from Clitheroe to spend his birthday "somewhere different". The Groats Inn is where you get your record sheet stamped so I wandered over. Well the first thing I saw was a bar so I ordered a pint before getting my stamp, well it would have been rude not too! I then rode 500 metres up the hill and checked into the Seaview Hotel. Ironically they gave me the end room which looked out to where that signpost is!

After a nice bath and some phone calls I went down for dinner. I met a nice group of 4 from Newcastle way. Ken was 68 and riding from top to bottom starting tomorrow. Ann, his wife was the support crew. Ken was to do the ride with his friend Peter, but tragically he died just 6 weeks ago. Bravely, Peters wife Yvonne and his son Gary were to share his half of the ride betwen them. I wished them well and retired to bed.

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