The Land's End to John O 'Groats Cycle Ride was completed by Aran and Tim to raise money for the Aman Kapila Memorial fund here is a daily blog which was filled in during the event.

Day 1

So... It has started. Up at 6am, shovelling stodgy, salty porridge down our throats. The drive to Lands End was quiet- a definite tension in the air! The place was deserted upon arrival and really rather cold.

The bikes were whipped out the van and tyres pumped up, sudocrem was applied to the shorts padding etc... and we were ready to roll! After a moments reflection as to why we were there, we clipped in and we were off!

The first half of the ride was uneventful and quite easy on the legs. Although we were lost on several occasions due to being misdirected by the GPS that we had on our bikes, we were still in good spirits. After a 'power lunch' of BLT and steak sandwich and soup we were refuelled for the 2nd half.

At this point Atul and Patrick went to our overnight location leaving us alone and vulnerable! The 2nd half turned out to be a bit of a mission involving the scaling of several mountain like 'hills'! At one point I mistakenly estimated the remaining distance to be 15 miles, it actually turned out to be 30, with about 10 miles of solid uphill- easily the hardest pasrt of the day! At one point Tim thought it wise to lead a sprint up a hill, I followed thinking that it was close to the finish, alas it was not. Damn.

All in, a good start day, with lovely weather and a decent tailwind. The coastal route was also pretty sweet because of the views and the steep downhills!

Stats:

Distance: 112 miles

Average: 14.2 miles per hour

Overall Time: 10h10m

Stop Time: 2h10m

Riding TIme: 8h

Overall Leg Pain:

Tim 5/10

Aran 5/10

Bum Pain:

Tim 8/10

Aran 4/10

Sudocrem Level:

Tim- insufficient

Aran- sufficient

Day 2

We were up, bright and early at 6am eating thick porridge, managing only to force 1 bowl down. The legs were sore from the off and we started the ride with an uphill- savage! All this was not helped by a late night in the pub but with me and Tim off the beer! Sudocrem levels were up today and there was a noticeable squelching for the first part of the ride! I think our conditions were neatly summed up by this quote- "My legs are definitely sore, but their pain is way overcome by the pain of my bum"- each bump was sheer agony on the old gluteus.

The weather was good today apart from a bit of drizzle at the very beginning- scary! The riding was also decent with a flatter 105 miles than the first day, we were zipping along until we reached 80 miles and a massive climb up the Mendips. THis baby started at 20m above sea level and went on 3 miles and 270m asl. Tim zoomed off, leaving me in his dust. I was struggling and nearly passed out at the top!
Tim however, did admit that he gassed the climb just so he had a lengthier break at the top- cheeky!

The rest of the ride was short and sweet, bar one climb with 4 miles to go which was actually like a wall! At one point we both considered getting off and wallking, especially when the bikes started to roll back down!

Hills, aside (ahem!) it was actually an easier day than yesterday and has definitely raised our confidence in the whole trip, we don;t quite want to get out and ride it all, but we're no longer secretly doubtful! Another thing has been the level of sponsorship we have recieved, the total now is around the £5500 mark which is awesome! £10,000 doesn't look too far off- so remember, if you haven't already, please sponsor us a bit, we promise we'll finish- honest!

BIG well done to Mum, Amar, Gillian and Ann for cycling to Bath from Pangbourne (80 miles offroad)! I know they were a little nervous about it, but when they arrived at Nick's they looked as fresh as daisies. Having them and also Fran, Rory, Alex and Becky there for the evening was also a great booster, even though it meant we went to bed a bit later then planned!

Until tomorrow- Goodbye!

Stats:

Distance: 105miles

Average: 15.8mph

Overall Time: 8h40m

Riding Time: 7h23m

Stop Time: 1h17m

Leg Pain:

Tim 4/10

Aran 5/10

Bum Pain:

Tim 7/10

Aran 3/10

Sudocrem Level:

Tim- nearing sufficient- aka chafing

Aran- nearing sufficient- stinging pain

Day 3

Greetings Comrades,

As per usual we were up at 6, but alas, it was raining. The motivation was weak and so was our desire for the fry up that Nick had kindly concocted (Nick is an old friend of my dad's who we stayed with). Fry up down, kit on and sudocremed up we stumbled out of the door and onto the bikes. We were wearing the 'wetsuit' kit today due to the weather and it did indeed come handy as we were rained upon near Gloucster. Prior to that however we had an awful first 30 miles with some massive uphills. By the end of third 2 and a half mile climb out of Bath our legs were shot and 130miles didn't really seem feasible.

The next fifty were gentler, but nearing lunch in Ledbury we both hit a serious wall (metaphorical mind)- in other words we were bloody starving! Our average was nearing the negative numbers as we weren't really moving. After a refuel in a pub- where we could see the chef putting our food in the microwave- we were better and caned a quick 15miles. 80 miles under the belt we were both struggling, I know for sure I was considering walking. Tim said he would've paid £150 not to go any further. However, with walking not an option and Tim being poorer than a tramp, we slaved onwards.

At the 83 mile mark we met the two oldies (Dad and Patrick) who had both wimped out of their ride because it had (quote) "A large hill" in it. NOT acceptable.

Jokes aside, we were actually rather grateful as we were at our lowest ebb of the trip and my dad rode with us and basically dragged us along. Our average rose sharply, as did the pain in our legs. Can I just add (those who are sensitive look away) that at this point certain areas of my body were actually rubbed raw and sitting was difficult. Tim was in the tricky conundrum of whether he should whinge more about his legs or arse, in the end he settled for both!

At about 95 miles we both 'bonked' heavily. Stop sniggering, as this is actually a technical term for when you are absolutely screwed (e.g. you really struggle to move because your energy levels are so low).

A handy mars bar sorted us and then we gassed it to the farmhouse. There's not else to be said as we both collapsed semi-concious into bed.

The end of an epic day.

Stats:

Distance: 136miles

Average speed: 14.5mph

Overall Time: 13hrs

Stop time: 2h30m

Leg pain:

Tim 8/10

Aran 9/10

Bum pain:

Tim 9/10

Aran 8/10

Sudocrem level:

Tim- Initially sufficient, then the chafe set in.

Aran- Sufficientish

Day 4:

Dear bloggers/friends/family/disbelievers etc... apologies for the delay on this, we have experienced many technical issues- the biggest being no internet!

Today was grim. A massive headwind constantly sapped us of our energy as we cycled. We started in Shrewsbury and ended up in the Yorkshire Dales in a small village of Slaidburn. A total of 106 miles.

The memories are now slightly hazy of the day, but there are a few bits that we can whinge about!

If you were ever thinking of doing this journey- don't. Merseyside is horrible. We cycled into a storm, on a motorway, inhaling ammonia fumes. At one point we were travelling down a hill, pedalling hard and still hitting only 12mph! It was also raining and motivation was low.

I would like to say it got better, but alas, it didn't because we reached Preston. The city had a very unsafe vibe about it and neither of us really slowed down for the traffic lights because of the swarms of pikeys about the place. I somehow doubt that the excess of lycra that we were wearing would have befriended them!

Fortunately we left Preston and headed into the hills. From here it was a gentle, scenic ride to the Slaidburn Youth Hostel. Adios.

Day 5:

Day 5 was to be a rest day at a mere 88 miles. We were to take it easy for the big ride on day 6! As seemed the general way with the ride though, the first 6 miles of the ride were one, big uphill- woo! However, the scenery was amazing and the weather was good and so our spirits were high.

Off the top of the hill we could see across the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District in the far distance. The black hills of the Lakes looked ominous and we were dreading the big hills coming later in the day! A nice bloke took some pictures of us and we sped off down the hill.

10 miles later we pulled up in the town of Hornby absolutely starving. As if on cue, the father and Pete rolled up in the van with fresh bacon sarnies- sweet! After quite a few rounds of bacon we were maybe slightly too full to cycle and wobbled off.

About 30 years, sorry miles later, we were in the Lake District. We cycled through Windermere as it was a bit busy. After I left my sunglasses on a wall I had a moment of panic and luckily nipped back to the wall and they were still there- phew! We found a little footpath leading down to the lake and took a lengthy break. The sun was out and kids were diving into the water. It was nearly like heaven- except we had to cycle. Damn. We just about resisted the urge to take a swim the biggest climb of the trip could be delayed no further!

Kirkstone Pass at 450m high loomed above us, 5 miles of pure ascending. Slightly phased by the looks we were getting from descending motorists, we cycled onwards and upwards! We took it easy and sweated it out. The top couldn’t come too soon and about half an hour later we reached it! It was amazing at the top, we could see Windermere, from where we had climbed. As we sipped our cokes we watched army jets screaming overhead practicing their low-to-ground manoeuvres.

The descent was awesome of the pass. 3 cars had overtaken us right up the top, but on the steeper parts of the hill we caned it back past them hitting 50mph! 10 miles later we reached the northern end of Ullswater and met the crew, now consisting of Simon and Thomas Kendal, some old-time friends.

Refreshed, we started on the last 30 miles to Carisle. This was pretty uneventful apart from Tim breaking a spoke- too much bacon- the heffer!

In Carlisle we pulled up to the house belonging to Liz and John (Pete’s cousin) and I could have sworn it was a hotel! It was in fact a b and b but was a rather upmarket one and pretty much MTV cribs worthy. One hearty lasagne later we hit the decks, tired but content.

Day 6:

As we woke up this morning, little were we to know that today would be the epic of all epics. At just 20 miles short of double our 2 shortest days, it was a lot longer than the predicted 135 miles! I was really struggling with breakfast in the morning. I was just sitting at the table with the same bit of food in my mouth for about 10 minutes until Tim would remind me to chew and swallow- that’s how tired I was!

Due to Tim’s broken spoke, he rode my Dad’s wheel until his was fixed in the local bike shop. The day didn’t get off to a good start when we turned the wrong way out of the driveway and then made a few more wrong turns. Come to think of it, that is probably why the mileage was so high!

The route that we were following was made a few years ago and we didn’t really think that any of the roads would have changed. But as we turned on to the A74, it was clear that it was undergoing some serious expansion! We rode along the roadworks lane for a while, until a large digger prevented us from going any further. Here we had a slight dilemma. We couldn’t go any further because the traffic was too fast and the lanes too narrow and neither could we legally turn back! Hmm... The only option was to trek through a hedge, full of brambles and nettles, onto an adjoining road- fun. So cold, wet and scratched we soldiered on. I think it was around this point we started comparing ourselves to SAS men. It may have been the lack of sleep or the excess Ibuprofen that made us think like this, but my bottom is now telling me that we may not have been far of the truth!

The diversion that we had to take around the motorway ended up being around 8 miles extra and a massive pain. Soon however, we hit Scotland! It wasn’t that exciting because Gretna (the border town) was pretty grim and we both really needed the toilet! We eventually found one that we had to pay for and as I was standing outside waiting for Tim to finish, it sprayed me! Yep, I was just standing there and some water jetted out and soaked my ankles- I just hope the water was clean.

From here the ride was quite uneventful- what you want for a 147 miler really! We had chips in Dumfries, a delightful town full of teenage mothers and heroin addicts, set upon an idyllic rubbish strewn and mud coloured stream. The chips were from ‘Ivano’s’ which promised on the signage to be a genuine Italian restaurant. Inside however, there were no seats and only a menu displaying pizza, chips and deep-fried mars bars. Tim and I were in deep need of slow roasted pancetta and very disappointed. Oh, and Ivano actually turned out to be Dave.

My Dad rode with us for the middle 50 miles and for 20 of them we rode directly behind the van (brilliantly driven by Pete), so that it got rid of any headwind. This meant that our efforts were greatly reduced and you could cruise at 20mph with no problem. Tim, always a glutton for punishment decided to do a few miles in front of the van at that speed- nutter! Towards the end part of my Dad riding with us Tim had a wee crash. He claims that I drifted across his path and thus caused our back wheels to touch. Although just a light contact, it caused his wheels to turn on the wet road and he went piling into the tarmac. Luckily it looked worse than it was. Dr Kapila was on the case immediately with bandages and antiseptic. At one point I was certain he was going to roll a drip out of the van! Funny how I never received this sort of medical attention while at home...

Dad left to go drop Pete off and pick Malcolm up from Glasgow Airport, leaving Tim and I to soldier on. We were slightly discouraged by the fact we had hit 100 miles and had another 50 to go. Our moods worsened as we hit the outskirts of Glasgow. Now don’t get me wrong, Scotland does have some lovely parts to it, just the first 150 miles that we saw of it were grim! The suburbs of Glasgow were full of scarred skinheads sporting Rottweilers on chains that looked as though they might snap at any minute, inflicting injuries upon us far worse than the hit Tim had already taken! The jeers we got from the locals (it may have been the lycra and fluoro vests) encouraged us to keep the speed up and we ignored a few of the traffic lights.

Not a moment too soon we burst out into the countryside and 20 miles later we were in Kilmalcolm, our home for the night courtesy of Malcolm’s lovely cousin Stewart and his wife, Janice and son Robin. We were waited on hand and foot and after another hearty lasagne we were shepherded to bed. Considering we had done big mileage today we didn’t feel too bad- hopefully we were getting stronger. The morning would tell!

Another night tired but content.

Day 7

Another morning of sausages hovering in the mouth unchewed, passed, and we were on our way. Janice had kindly provided us with a packed lunch which Tim volunteered to carry on his back. Obviously, I had said that I would carry it, but Tim was adamant- honest! The bag also gave us an excuse to go slowly, not that we needed one.

Today was meant to be the scenic day and it certainly lived up to its’ reputation. We were going over Glen Coe which is basically the gateway to the Scottish Highlands. We soon found out why they are known as Highlands as we had a ten-mile climb up over the pass. It was one of those roads that you can see for miles. We could see about 5 miles to the north and the massive climb ahead. Luckily the views distracted from the pain in the legs. At one point there was just a massive plain hemmed in by mountains and no sign of mans existence at all, it was like being on Mars (not that I know!). At the points where there were no cars it was silent and we felt like having a quick kip on the roadside. But sadly we soldiered onwards, passing the ski lift and then down a big hill to the start of the highlands and the Lochs.

From here on the day was a flattish breeze along the Lochs. These things are massive, tens of miles of water surrounded by steep forested mountains. We both thought it was a very alpine landscape. Fort William was our stop point for the day and we blasted in and called it a day at 105 miles. In Fort William we had a massive break and sampled the international market on the village green! One bloke in the drinks stall donated five pounds to us once we’d told him what we were doing- good lad. After about half an hour we cycled out of Fort William for a few miles and this is where my Dad met us to take us to Kat Syfret’s house. Here we met a whole crew who had flown up to see us. This included Mum, Amar, Louise, Becky, Alex, Lisa and Josh. It was really good to see everyone and to be honest, I was getting sick of Tim’s face.

We had dinner in the local hotel and were shepherded to bed.

P.S. Big thanks to all our sponsors so far. If you haven’t already, get on it.

Day 8

We were up good and early, ready for the penultimate day of riding. The morning started with Atul shouting for us to get up. 2/15mins later we were downstairs and ready to take on the porridge yet again. This time, however, Kat had made it and it went down a treat!

We slopped into the van for 7.30. We had to drive 53miles back to where we had finished the previous day, as to keep the route continuous. The journey was like being on an hour rollercoaster ride in sleeping bags with a full stomach... At the half way mark, the lightning speed pace set by Atul in the van was too much for Aran’s stomach and a feeble “pull over, I’m not feeling so great” came from Aran in the back of the van - the proceeding event was not pretty! Anyway, Aran manned up and the ride started shortly after 8.30.

The pace was good- 16mph or so and we bashed out the first 15miles within the hour. Atul met us at 15 to refuel. Bacon sandwiches emerged from the back of the van. We both started to wake up and the good pace continued. The next section of the day was along the east side of Loch Ness. We felt strong, and with one eye on the lake, checking for the monster, we surged on to the bottom of Drumnadrochit with the average rolling speed edging 17mph - we were flying!

Then we met what can only be described as the most energy sapping 20minutes of my life! Drumnadrochit stood between us and our lunch time stop. Feeling strong, I flew up the first quarter of the climb which I knew was 15% (v.steep), wondering why my comrade was riding like a granny at the bottom of the climb. The answer came quickly, Aran knew how long the climb was and was pacing himself - a concept I am yet to grasp. The climb hit 16% and the end wasn’t in sight. The temperature was in the mid 20’s and I was going at 3mph in the easiest gear- never good! I reached the top and fell off my bike (on purpose this time) onto a grass patch in the shade. Aran reached the top shortly after looking like he had somehow hitch hiked up the mountain. He rolled past looking cheerful and shouted “not at the top yet mate”! I pushed on and shortly later was at the top of Drumnadrochit. The next 9miles were mainly downhill into the town of Beauly. We met the support van and had an hour beak by the river with the team.

Somehow, the average was still high and we pushed on, leaving the team to pack up the picnic. Comparing ourselves to the SAS, spirits were good, until we hit the coastal road where a strong headwind slowed us up dramatically. Our hard work earlier to complete the day in good time felt pointless and we found ourselves struggling. We were taking over from each other at the front every 2 minutes due to the burn in our legs. At this point, I have to explain the bum situation. Sure the legs were sore and worn out but the gluteus maximus had seared to new levels of pain that neither Aran nor myself have every experienced. We were unable to sit on the saddles, which as you can imagine has a negative effect when cycling! It felt, Aran described, “as though he had been branded by a football for about a week”. Anyway, whinge over (for now), we were nearing Tain and passed the 1st sign for John o’Groats - 109miles to go!

With 20 miles to go, we pushed on and enjoyed the quiet, open roads and lack of headwind for once. It is vital to stay hydrated when cycling, over every hour you should drink almost 1 litre of fluids, drinking too little is better than drinking too much. We had been cycling on busy roads for the past hour or so and bladders were at full stretch; we pulled over as the roads were quieter. Stood just on the edge of the road, Aran proceeded just as a car rolled around the corner -he described it as “messy”. Anyway, we hopped back on the bikes, Aran slightly pink in the cheeks and cruised into Tain. As we waited for the support van to arrive, we assessed Tain for some grub; fish and chips was the choice.

That evening, we enjoyed a meal at the hotel in Timmock again, listening to everyone discuss their relaxing day -alright for some!

Day 9

The morning of the last day was finally upon us, only 90 miles, 4 or 5 large climbs and a weighty bowl of porridge between us and John o’Groats.

The morning started off sunny and we were driven to Tain to start the day. The g forces during today’s drive were lower than the previous so we arrived feeling good! It was our last day with the sudocrem; it had been a vital member of the team and we applied generously as ever. Off we set, lapping up the morning sunshine. As usual, the nice conditions didn’t last long and a thick mist set in, limiting visibility and turning us blue! We met with Atul who threw us our fluorescent gilets, a popular choice over the ride due to their visibility and level of fashion! We started our hardest climb of the day, a mere 10miler at 7% that disappeared into the clouds. We took it slowly and were just glad to of warmed up slightly. The support cars flew past beeping us, we chased but didn’t have much left to give. One of the best downhills of the trip followed, 10 minutes of blasting through the mist at 50mph. We reached the bottom of the decent and pulled over to take a lunch break with the gang. The spot was well chosen, out of the mist and with an impressive waterfall and lagoon as the backdrop. We only had 40miles remaining but we immediately had a long climb at 13%, we both took the climb as a warm up and entered the mist again. The remainder of the day was fuelled on adrenaline, we were making good time and both took time to collect our thoughts on the last week’s amazing events. We passed through Wick with 8 miles to go and the mist suddenly cleared and the sun came out. We flew up the last hill leaving only a 3 mile downhill into the derelict village of John o’Groats. We had done it; the feeling was incredible. We rolled through John o’Groats, preparing for our stylish finish. Unfortunately, we managed to ride into a car park rather than right to the finish line, where the team and the van stood looking puzzled. We span back around in embarrassment and rolled up to the official finish hand in hand. Big cheers and hugs followed as we collapsed onto the grass in the sun.

We popped the champagne and everyone took a glass. As the champagne was drunk, we took an emotional minute to remember why we were here - to commemorate the life of Aman Kapila.

This event would not have been possible without the help of a lot of people. We would like to say a MASSIVE thank you to a few people...

Firstly, to Tim Catton, fellow cyclist and sufferer. Despite barely knowing him when I first suggested the idea of the ride, he jumped at the idea with huge enthusiasim- little did he know what he'd let himself in for. Having him riding with me made the whole experience a lot easier on the mind (if not the legs!). Thank you.

In no particular order...

Mountain High for sorting us out with the bikes and gear.

Patrick Puxley for sorting out the mapping and GPS- invaluable and also for a being there on the trip.

Pete Maciver and Malcolm Brown for their effort of keeping us company.

Lisa Helmore for the van- it made life 1000 times easier and was just brilliant! Also thank you for coming to Scotland.

Gillian Alderton and Ann Maciver, for the mammoth effort of cycling to Bath with Mum and Amar- well done and thank you for the much needed boost!

Fran Brown for coming to Bath and being very supportive in general. Also to Alex and Rory Brown for coming to Bath.

Victoria and Tim, thank you for the roof and bed on the first night!

Nick Sladek, thank you for the massive effort with getting the house sorted for the rabble to come and visit.

Vic and Paul in Shrewsbury- thank you for putting us up.

John and Liz in Carlisle, thank you for the beds and the amazing house. If anyone is ever looking for a BnB up that way check out Willowbeck Lodge

Stewart and Janice in Glasgow who treated us like Kings. Thank you also for the lunch!

Kat and Nick Syfret for the extremely generous use of their house in Scotland. We were very well looked after and thank you for making the huge effort to come up.

Kevin O'Shea for taxiing the crew to Luton.

Amar, Louise Gandy, Becky Hall, Alex Taylor and Josh Helmore, THANK YOU for coming up to Scotland and providing us with a laugh.

Big thanks to Tim's parents Richard and Carol for supporting him and sorting out sponsorship!

Thank you to Dad for being our roadie for the week and making sure we were fed and watered (and actually cycling!). It made life so much easier! Thanks to Mum for slaving away at the sponsorship side of things.

A massive thank you has to go to all our sponsors, a list too long for here, but you know who you are. A special thanks has to go to Tom Barry who helped us enormously with sponsorship.

Finally, thank you to everyone that has supported us for the ride. It was a massive achievement not only for us, but I think for everyone involved.

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