Some Reflections After the Event
I spent the week after arriving at John O'Groats visiting friends in the north of the country as I gradually worked my way back to Suffolk. I also used this time to reflect on the Lejog experience. So I thought I would complete the story by sharing some of my reflections. And at the risk of writing what to some might read like a speech at the Oscars!
I was struck by how incredibly lucky I was to be able to ride with 14 other strangers who got on so well together. One of the great joys of cycling is that it is a real leveller - in terms of attitudes and personalities. On a bike everyone is equal no matter whether they are experienced riders or not. We all wanted to enjoy ourselves and share a wonderful experience. Of course there were disagreements and annoyances - but they were all handled with great sensitivity and maturity. When one of the group was under pressure - with a puncture or mechanical, or was just feeling the strain of the ride, others in the group quietly closed ranks to help their colleague through the challenge. Often nothing was said, no recognition was sought. It was just the right thing to do. So to my 14 fellow riders I say 'Chapeau'!
Martyn and Ray provided the back up support for us. A keen rider himself, Martyn never showed any frustration or irritation at having to stop or ride slowly to deal with a complication or issue. He took everything in his stride and then some. And what a route he had planned. I will never forget the ever cheerful Ray who's impromptu diners were a guaranteed pick me up under all circumstances. And the Bettyhill sausage rolls were a stroke of genius! Without Martyn and Ray our tour could not have been the success it was.
I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to see so much of my country in such a short time. And I can definitely say that Britain is indeed a green and pleasant land. There are some new places I found that I will certainly be returning to for another ride. The riding itself was great fun. For me, as an experienced long distance cyclist, it wasn't too hard - with the exception of some of the hills which would challenge anyone, no matter how experienced. I was incredibly lucky too not to have any punctures or major mechanicals - especially considering the pounding my Bianchi took.
I was greatly touched by the fantastic support I received through sponsorship donations to Prostate Cancer UK. I just know that the money raised will be gratefully received and wisely used. I spent a lot of time thinking about people I know who have suffered the disease - many of whom have beaten it through their courage and determination. And I spent some time, a shed a few tears, thinking about friends who are no longer with us - particularly on 'The Lecht Day'. Along the way I received many messages of support and encouragement - from friends and strangers. Opening up my email, Facebook and Strava at the end of each day was a highpoint.
The ride finished with a dinner in Inverness where as a group we all celebrated our achievements and shared a few stories. And the great thing was that nobody took it too seriously. Having fun was the order of business. Rumours that I was sighted in a nightclub at 3am downing a tequila slammer and doing some funky stuff on the dance floor are entirely true!
The day after the ride was a strange one as my legs thought I was playing some cruel mind game when they realised the lycra was not coming out and we weren't going to be riding. In fact having been on such a high it was something of an anticlimax to realise that I didn't have much to do. Well, no riding with friends for a while.
Well, what next? I've had a couple of rides since getting home and my average speed seems to have picked up. So hill climbing definitely has its benefits. I've received lots of positive feedback about my blog so I'm going to keep it going but only on an occasional basis. You can sign up to receive email alerts if you're interested. I've managed to work out that I have a wide readership on at least four continents so that's good for my ego if nothing else.
And on the bike? Well, I've just read a rather good book about riding across America - 3,500 miles. So watch this space .......... Hahah!