It was 9am on Tuesday 14th September, “Welcome back, Matt. How are the legs? Glad you look like you are in one piece, we are just going to discuss the new Conduct Risk Framework, lets crack on!”
And just like that, the bubble burst and any adrenaline I still had pulsing around my body was stopped dead in its tracks.
It has taken me a long time to readjust to a ‘normal’ day but lets start at the beginning.
Sophie, Winston and I drove down to Cornwall on Thursday night with the plan being get to the van at approx 21:00 or 22:00, get the dog settled, go to bed, wake up fresh before heading to Lands End so I can begin the registration process.
Lesson number 1: Plans do not always turn out the way you want.
We arrived at the van at about 22:30 and we gave the dog a brief walk and settled him briefly before falling into bed for a revitalising sleep. And as the bad guys in Scooby Doo would have said ‘We would have got away with it, if it wasn’t for Winston, the meddling dog.’ For the first time since we have had him, Winston decided to stay awake all night. He was barking, he was scratching the door, he was whining. The revitalising sleep we had planned was a distant wish when we were both sitting with him at 02:30 trying to calm him down.
At this point mind, Sophie sent me to bed and she slept on the sofa with the dog. I believe she got about 3 hours sleep after taking him out another walk at 03:00.
Needless to say, neither of us were feeling as fresh as we wanted too on the drive down the Lands End. Luckily we had Sophie’s Dad’s Range Rover to make the drive a little more comfortable.
We arrived at Lands Ends and spent the time taking photos at the sign, small bit of lunch and walking the dog. Ultimately, I was doing anything to eek out the time with Sophie and Winston as I knew I had 9 days without them coming up.
Lesson number 2: I dislike being away from home for extended periods of time.
Night one was by far the worst night. I had no routine, amongst 1000 people I felt a little out of place. I didn’t know anyone. I was in a 2 man tent with a 120L bag thinking, what on earth am I doing here. Luckily, whilst queuing for dinner I got talking to a lad called Stefano from Glasgow who was also riding on his own. Stef and I ended up riding the entire route together, along with Paul, a returning rider from 2019.
This friendship with Stef and Paul helped gel everything else together. Breakfast and Evening routines were sorted by the end of day one. By day 2, the tent routine was sorted. Everything had its place and location: air bed and sleeping bag on the right side, next days kit and shoes found on the bottom left of the tent, these situated next to my main bag, backpack and toiletries. Everything in its proper place. I guess Sophie’s organisational skills must be rubbing off.
So with Stef and Paul, I set off on day one at 06:30 in the morning. The sun was rising but was still low in the sky, the temperature was comfortable and the wind was fairly low. A good start. It was lucky this was the case as I was already a little hungry given the catering had ran out of porridge and I have had a bacon roll with a single rash in. Had it of been wet, I may well have gone home.
Getting to know Paul a little more, I quickly established, he had done it before and was a doctor. This was great news. If anything went wrong, I was riding with a doctor but I also knew that Paul knew what it took to get to the end. This was important for me. Additionally, Paul’s cycling computer informed him how many climbs we had to do, how long they were, and how many metres we needed to ascend before completing the climb. This level of information, mixed with strong camaraderie which we all bought to the table was a perfect mix.
Lesson number 3: Talk and listen to other people. It will almost always benefit you.
On day one, we ascended approximately 8,800ft. There were about 25 classified climbs (any climb gaining more that 30 meters of ascent). Day One, nearly saw me off.
At 166km I stopped at a petrol station to refill my empty water bottles and eat a sandwich and chocolate bar. I was running on empty. Good news came when I saw a chaperone in the shop who said we were only 2 miles from the finish. I had only stopped at I thought we were 6/7 miles away. I had, in my tiredness messed up my maths.
With my brain fried from the days activity and body fried from the now scorching sun. I set off to finish the ride. Clipping into the pedals I caught my foot on the mudguards (which weren’t needed until Day 7) and fell off the bike at the exit to the petrol station.
What an idiot. I finished the day, with 2 full bottles of water and half a Southern Fried Wrap in my back pocket with a cut finger, bruised ego, heavy legs and a bent rear mech hanger. The latter resulting in my gears skipping. Day One ended in the mechanics tent!!
Lesson number 4: Be careful of mudguards and 100miles = 160km not 166km.
The following days all became some what of a blur. Blue skies and green fields would come and go like somewhat like a child’s kaleidoscope, as would the 5am wake up alarms, the 3 course breakfasts as well as the morning dash to the toilets. Concerns were raised at some point over a bug in camp, whispers are COVID were quickly squashed by medics and event organisers. Needless to say a stomach bug made the morning dash all the more unpleasant for many people (as well as their entire day). I was unaffected luckily.
As the miles clocked up I developed some extreme discomfort in both my knees. This was down to two things I believe. 1) Being in and out of the saddle all day over the first few days and 2) I hadn’t had a proper bike fit.
Lesson number 5: When doing a long endurance event: GET A BIKE FIT!! Each millimetre out of place will show up and it will hurt!!
By the end of day 2 I was covered in Rocktape and was seeing the physio every other night for tear producing quadricep exercises. Think sports massage on steroids.
Either way I carried on, the legs hurt but was not enough for me to ever consider any extreme measures.
As the days came and went, I was filled with more confidence that I could complete the ride. Buoyed on by a surprise visit my friends Danny and James in Ludlow on Monday night, a pub dinner on Wednesday night in Carlisle with Mum and Dad, plus weather sent from the gods; the enjoyment and the feeling of optimism was high.
This was really tested though on Day 6. Carlisle to Edinburgh. This was a long long ride, probably around 170km but it went along the old A74. This was the main road before the new A74(M) was built and it is NOT suitable for a bike ride. The surface was broken and cracked, vehicles went past you at pace and the scenery was bleak. The majority of the day was spent rattling away on the bike across this awful road. The wrists and hands were now also in pain.
Motivation was quickly regained however with the thought of seeing Sophie and Winston on Friday night along with Belinda and my parents again. This coupled with only a weekend left of riding to the finish – I felt like I was flying up one of the 4 largest climbs on the entire ride, Glenshee.
Glenshee and The Lecht climbs were like nothing I had tackled before. Glenshee was a long and winding climb but one which was relatively enjoyable; the Lecht on the other hand was not. The Lecht was like cycling up a wall, people were all over the road, a road which disappeared into the heavens after an initial 50m or so at a gradient of 25%. Only 30 mins or so into the ride and at 7am – this was not a moment of joy, it was a moment I was glad the rain was lashing down as it disguised my tears.
On Sunday 12th, I crossed the finish line after what I think were the longest 100miles. The road kept going and I felt like we were never going to get there. However, we did get there. The first time I completely knew I had completed it was when I turned around the corner and saw the Range Rover – it was my lift home.
Crossing the line and into the arms of Sophie, Mum, Dad and Belinda was somewhat of an overwhelming feeling. Excitement and relief to finish, thankful for not picking up any serious injuries, gratitude the the aforementioned from driving all the way to see me finish.
What a journey it has been. From September 2020 to the finish line a year later. All the training, all the dark nights spent in the shed on the turbo trainer, all the wet weekend rides, all the money spent on kit, all of the weekends spent eating well and drinking well, all the blog posts.
I am writing this some 5 weeks after crossing the finish line. In those 5 weeks, Sophie and I have got married and have been away on our mini-moon. I have had a long while to reflect and in summary; it was absolutely all worth it.
I want to thank everyone for their support. To Sophie for driving me to Lands End and home from John O’Groats. To Mum, Dad and Mike for your unwavering support and to everyone else, thanks for your ongoing words of encouragement.
In total, and including Gift Aid, Cycle Holme managed to raise a massive £4,000 pound for the British Heart Foundation. Huge thanks to all of you who donated to this cause. Without you all, this wouldn’t have been possible.
I hope also you have enjoyed the blogs over recent months. I will take some time away but will hopefully be back sometime soon.
Cheers and Love,