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The Journey Back..

TrainingPosted by Neil Fri, August 07, 2009 16:23:54

If getting all the way to John O'Groats wasn't testing enough, the journey back home from the most North Easterly point proved tricky. Paul and myself convinced the rest of the team to set off early on the last day as we had booked train tickets back home..they all agreed to this as none of them wanted us to win, Eoin's competitive streak shone through brightly here insisting he would come with us even if the others stayed in bed, bless..! Winning aside it was great to finish this together after a jouney of highs and lows physically, mentally and spiritually.

I can't begin to desribe the feeling of waking up with the rain sheeting down jumping on the bike to ride 100 miles through the hills of South Wales and then finish in the relentless rain..where was the summer we were promised?

Arriving in Ireland was a turning point for many of us, 2 countries down 2 to go - half way in that respect, even if we hadn't completed half the mileage. Taking the ferry from Belfast to Stranraer after the night before was thankfully very smooth otherwise some of us could have been ill...arriving in Scotland and cycling up the coast to Ayr was breathtaking and Scotland became the highlight for many of us. We were blessed with the weather and what a place..we were very lucky to have riden through it..not so sold on the cusine though; the masters of deep frying rustled up some great fish and chips in Ayr but served up a deep fried pie in Fort William - what the hell was that about?

Arriving at the finish post was a great feeling there were a lot of smiles and laughter we were all very proud of completing this marathon. The journey back was another marathon - 4.5 hours from Thurso to Inverness, apparently the train line was built before the bridges so the train goes around the houses..we were told that we could not take the bikes onto the train at Thurso as we had not reserved places, this was not for lack of trying but the massive allocation of 4 bikes had already been taken... the first reaction was to lob the bikes into the nearest hedge but we were prepared for this eventuality even though we didn't want to resort to it.."if we put the bikes into bags can we take them on as hand luggage?" the railway people had no answer to this so we took out what can only be described as giant carrier bags and stuffed the bikes inside. Job done - hopped on the train and got stuck onto the supplies we had bought ourselves from Lidl - thank god for recovery drink, refreshing the parts other recovery drink just doesn't reach - you can relax now lads, no more protein shake..

Got to Inverness, same nonsense on the train apart from the sleeper was massive with a hundred carriages and only space for 3 bikes! Basically we had to stuff both bikes into our sleeper cabin, it turned getting in to top bunk into some kind of high ropes activity. As I was trying to stuff these bikes into the cabin Paul disappered to rustle up some food, I was relieved to see him appear with a couple of portions of chips about 1 minute before the train set off. As you can imagine the cabin was a bit cramped with the bikes in there so we set off to find some empty seats near the buffet car for more a bit more recovery drink only to be shouted at by the guard for taking our own food in..not to worry it was a case of mistaken identity he didn't know we were the Brantham duo..2 dads inspired by Rose..

After a great night's sleep we got into Euston about 7.30 in the morning only to be told there was a train strike on Anglia Railways..handily our bikes were still bagged up, we hopped into a black cab across to Liverpool St. and to our joy there were only a few trains running but one of them was ours.. We were picked up at Manningtree station at 9.30 - thankfully Lisa, my wife, had not had our baby..my life would have been tougher if that had happened whilst I was away.

Last day

TrainingPosted by Eoin Fri, August 07, 2009 14:01:38

Final day!! I am having to write this from Belfast as it’s first chance I’ve had since we made it to JOG. The computer left with the van and Caithness and Orkney would be a challenge for Bear Grylls to get around never mind locate an internet facility.

We set off from Invergordan after Pippa and Robin had once again shown us more selfless hospitality by getting up at the scrake of dawn to make a big breakfast and see us off safely. We had to get up extra early as we had 103 miles of unknown terrain to cover and Robin had managed to plant the seeds of fear in us when he laughed after Paul Abrahams asked was the run up along the coast flat. We heard of 2 mythical steep slopes and got ourselves prepared for these mentally. We also had to get off as Neil and Paul had to head back immediately on completing the ride to Colchester as the ‘Colchester Duo’ had an open top bus reception and media profiling to do the following morning. There was only one train from Thurso and it took 4 hours to get to Inverness, this was causing us concern as we had planned to cycle the same distance in 5 ½ hours. To be sure the celebs would make the train we all mucked in to ensure Andrew would be ready on time.

We were actually on the bikes for 6:45am right on schedule and a first for the Rosesgift team. The first problem came as we left Pippa’s drive, is it left or right? As usual we all knew best and so Paul Abrahams used the force and turned left on advice from one of the neighbours at the party. We bombed along expecting to get lost but we didn’t and Paul's assuredness had paid off. Neil and I were no help. Neil had a smashed hand and I had a swollen black eye from the evening before where we showed off our ‘Hurling’ prowess to the amassed crowds of 2. I demonstrated how to catch a ball with your face and Neil showed them what happens when you pick the ball off the ground with your hand. Our combined natural skill was well exposed.

We kicked on, making fast progress in beautiful sunny weather which was totally unexpected and notched up 30 miles before 8:15 when we had a quick stop. The run was undulating and the scenery lovely as we crossed the Cromarty Firth and up the coast with the Black Isle behind us. There was definitely a new sense of energy and enthusiasm in the air this morning and the tired fatigued legs were being buried with a sense of urgency. Most of us will have imagined what this last day was going to be like and as we sailed along it felt good. Then we met the hilly bit. Everyone got into their own tempo for the hill and heads down, we set off. Andrew once again shot off but Paul K, Trombone and myself gave chase. This mini ego session turned into an almost full scale sprint to the top as trombone and myself managed to get the jump on Andrew as he got distracted by some image in his head. Andrew responded like a raging animal and tore on. We stopped to regroup only to find everyone all doing this charge. Paul Collins rolled in and quietly pointed out that we had 70 or so miles to go! Good point but at least we had one of the 2 hills out of the way. Then we rounded a corner and saw the real hill ahead, so we had just raced up a bump knackering ourselves before the first climb.

Still we recovered and this charging up the hills became order of the day. We came upon a road accident which sobered us all up a bit but we wanted to keep going so we left Joe in the van behind relieved at not having to drive at 20 miles an hour behind a load of arses bobbing up and down (or side to side in Stephen, Neil and Jims case) and we crossed through the accident. We plodded on hoping the support would catch us up for lunch and at the 70 mile mark we still hadn’t stopped. Eventually Joe caught us and the girls with the families in the cars were just behind. They overtook us just outside Wick, Alison tried to wipe us all out with an overtaking manoeuvre which tested the Sudo and chamois cream to the limit. We were desperate to eat and we pulled into the scenic Lidl car park in Wick for a pit stop.

Refreshed we set out for the last 20 miles and into a very strong wind. It’s so windy up here there are no trees and so the wind was relentless. There wasn’t much talking during this phase Neil was grimacing and pulling faces like he was in childbirth but when we saw the sign for John O’Groats we felt utter excitement. We lined out and rolled towards the land mark sign and were greeted by Alison, Kelly, Fiona, Katy and all the kids Popping champagne. Milo got confused by the spectacle and thought the objective was to pour out all the champagne on my legs it was a job to stop Sean licking me to prevent the waste.

Finally as we stood by the sign for an official photograph taken by the lad who was locked up downstairs in the Goonies it was a relief to feel that it was done. Well done to all the lads and more importantly to all the people who supported us on the ride to make it a possibility. Thanks to everyone who selflessly offered help and support in making this a reality. Watch out for the handing over of the cheques as the real reason for all of this will hopefully be seen in some small way by other children and their families faced with real tests of endurance. Look out in the thank you blog to see everyone who contributed to helping us through.

Blood,sweat and rashes....!!!

TrainingPosted by Paul Collins Mon, August 03, 2009 17:53:55
After all the blood ,sweat and rashes of the last 7 months the pelaton finally rolled into John O' Groats, mission accomplished!! Exactly how this was achieved by this motely crew I'm still not quite sure, but we were welcomed like home coming heros by the WAGS and siblings and the overall feelin was one of relief!! Champagne flowed along with a few tears, hugs were exchanged and promises to never set foot on a bike again were solemony sworn.
How it was achieved I'm not so sure,why it was achieved, is easy.
Over the 12 days egos came and went and came back again, only to be banished by collective piss takin, thick skins were quickly acquired in spite of the copious amounts of sudo cream.

Everyone contributed in their own unique way to make this a trip of a life time.
Thanks to Jim we can spot Rose bay willow herb from 100 yards and are able to distinquish the call of the Osyster catcher from the Yellow Hammer(not a social disease!!)

Andrew has taught us that cheatin doesnt pay and has commenced community service, Neil's love of cycling was as infectious as swine flu and continued to be a strong motivational factor thru out!

Steve has promised to undertake an anger management course and has given an assurance that from here on will always share his fig rolls.
Sean"the map" Roberts has since been headhunted by TomTom, while Paul Abhs has been approached by Calvin Klein, not to model, Calvin just liked the cut of him!!

Eoin has decided to go back to pig farming in Draperstown and Posh Tom is workin as a huds man on a building site in Brixton,while Paul Kelly couldnt resist the bright lights and has returned to his day job as bingo caller(see above!!).

All in all a fantastic experience and one I was delighted to have played a small part in. Thanks to all who fed us, massaged us and drove the cars and van and to everyone who has supported us all the way.

My bike is now on E bay as I have officially retired from cycling!!

Glen Coe Massacred

TrainingPosted by Eoin Wed, July 29, 2009 22:39:48
We enjoyed the experience of staying in Loch Lomond hostel which is basically a castle and were treated to a Paul Abrahams Breakfast. It was nice and sunny so we waited, farted around with our bikes until it was wet enough to set off.

We managed to stop 15 times before we got to the end of the loch. One of those stops involved Stephen pretending he needed to change a tyre but he was seen hoekin for recovery drinks in the van. At one point we stopped where some Australians had littered the site of outstanding beauty with their barbie stuff. We peed into the loch and set off. At the end of the Loch we started our climb up through the Trussochs and into the Highlands.

Head down arse up, no time for jokes, snots running down our faces and up the hill. Is it a man is it a bike no its a MIKE Andrew the Machine raced up the Black mountain pass like it was a speed bump the rest of us snorted farted and gasped our way up. It does have to be said that the scenery up in this route is breathtaking. We stopped at the Kings House hotel not long after Neil had some road kill flicked up into his face by the bikes ahead. Katie (trombones wife) rolled in driving passed with black smoke blowing out the exhaust. Again the Roses gift team where rescued by the AA our 3rd emergency service called to help again. The dramatic landscapes made this closer to lands end to John O Groats in 1000 photos. At least captain Fuy (stephen) managed to take the photos while he cycled, Collins wanted to stop and take a picture of every road sign just to prove he was there. Maureen his wife cant wait to see those special snaps I would bet my mortgage those will remain as thumbnails for ever. After 90 miles through the highlands it was lashing down as per usual when we rolled into Fort William to our hostel. The town itself is a bit like a Cookstown or Magherafelt in the 1970s before it was bombed. It has a charm although its not very easy to define it. Sean tried when he treated Kelly (His wife and our support team member) to a slap up meal in the Osin Hotel or the Os n hotel as the sign outside read. I went in to see them but found it difficult to walk across the floor my shoes came off when they stuck to the gunk on the floor. They finished their deep fried Fray Bentos and met us for a pint after. Neil and Paul the colchester duo had 2 pints for recovery purposes in the ben Nevis and frightened some Welshman on his holidays into donating £10. He did give it to Joe as he looked more responsible. I don't want to be harsh because the scenery in this part of the world is unique and stunning it is impossible not to be invigorated on the descent through Glen Coe. Each leg of this trip the experience just seems to get better and better and after the ride I will come back through here with the family to spend some time in this area. This country gets better and better so we look forward to our spin through the great Glen tomorrow on the banks for Loch Ness. Next stop Invergordon.


THE MORNING AFTER THE NIGHT BEFORE….

TrainingPosted by Sean Roberts Mon, July 27, 2009 08:46:26


Saturday night was brilliant. Lots of fun and lots of money raised – not to mention a few pints sunk.

Sunday morning and a few heads were a little groggy. Sean “Geezer” Lacey managed to convince Paul Abrahams to stay out and hit the town in Belfast. They were last spotted on CCTV around 4am, staggering out of a night club called “Yellow” - a little ironic as they both looked a little green as they came down to breakfast.

Paul Kelly on the other hand was looking surprisingly fresh faced – a big thank you to Paul’s mum for keeping an eye on him and knowing when to step in and tell him “no more”. Mum always knows best Paul.

We bid Sean goodbye and left him to return to the bar for a quick hair of the dog.

A lot has been made of my navigational skills on this trip, but I don’t think any of the Irish lads will be able to criticise me from now on, as our promised “5 minute cruise to the docks” turned into a 30 minute tour of the back roads and alleys of Belfast – all very interesting, if a little worrying when there’s a ferry to catch.

Andrew’s sense of timing was as impeccable as ever as after 30 minutes of standing around waiting to be let onto the ferry, he decided to get the charger for his phone just as we were told to board.

They say that there is nothing like a smooth ferry crossing, and this was nothing like a smooth ferry crossing. 30 minutes into the journey and a couple of the lads were beginning to regret eating that extra egg and onion sandwich. Having chosen the seats right next to the smokers’ balcony probably didn’t help.

“A” for effort for Paul Kelly who managed to collect £3.42 from passengers on the ferry by posing as a tramp beneath a few sheets of the Irish Telegraph. A few grand short of the “Colchester Duo” but keep trying Paul.

The dodgy crossing was well worth it. When we set off on the bikes for Ayr we were treated to spectacular views and probably the best 50 miles we have done to date - very little pedalling and the sun on our backs with a fair tail wind – just how cycling should be!!! Having said that it did become a bit too much for some of the lads who had over-indulged the night before. There was some fierce muttering and swearing under breath as we took the turn for the coastal route in to Ayr and were met by one final hill – great for purging those beer-sweats.

As we finally descended the hill into Ayr with Jim leading the pack, covered from head to toe in blue paint, it looked like a scene from Braveheart.

And I think I speak for all the lads when I say we were particularly appreciative of the great welcome from the girl with the ford escort.

PS one final note of concern - Paul Collins photo collection of naked men continues to grow – they say that every man needs a hobby but I’m not sure this is appropriate for a married man.

Day 7 - Party time!

TrainingPosted by Jim Church Sun, July 26, 2009 09:36:38

Todays leg saw us moving up from Dublin to Belfast.

Finally the sun was out so with warm sunshine on our backs we set off again.

The machine was all business today and the whole ride went very smoothly. First stop was in Drogheda where we paid our respects to Oliver Plunkett. The sassenachs amongst us were all naive to this saint so finally some culture arrived to the unruly mob.

We then made our way over the hill to Newry and thanks to the new road we flew over. Lunch was supplied again by Nora Church (note that this Nora is the same as yesterdays Nora but this time she was Jim's wife)! We were all happily tucking into the food when suddenly Thomas noted that Niall was missing. Eventually after a phone call it became apparent that he had overshot us and was pedalling as fast as he could to catch up with the group! After lunch we caught up with Niall who now had to pedal and eat lunch at the same time. No mean feat considering the group could feel Belfast was close at hand and was putting down the hammer.

Michael O'Kane was waiting on his BMX at Lisburn to guide us on the final leg into Wellington Park Hotel. Secretly I suspect he was after the glory finish judging by the fact he was pulling a wheelie at the front as we arrived!

The welcoming commitee cheered as we arrived and really livened up the mood. Thanks for that!

The halfway bash kicked off later and was a fantastic success! We raised over £2000 and everyone had a great time. Special thanks are due to those that donated the prizes and the excellent band who stepped in at short notice. Big up to OCB - The Orchard County Blues Band!

Some of the cyclists let their hair down so we'll see how the next leg goes...

Day five..Carmarthern to Wexford

TrainingPosted by Paul Collins Fri, July 24, 2009 21:05:43

Day five followed on from day four....tuff!! Lashin rain, big hills and many miles, so much for Eoin's regular pre match talk" easy 60 or so lads today, big downhills...." The only thing he got right was the downhil into Fishguard..1 mile!

We got off to a great start with a 5 star breakfast thanks to Olivine and Kevin, followed by our now customary hill start and lashin rain. We was joined in the middle of the night by a new member of the sauf london crew,young Sean"lock up your daughters" Lacy.

Sean had an eventful first day with the pelaton, he cracked his head off the ceiling on the first night trying to get into the top bunk, shud have had his helmet on anyway, and then on the ferry crossin to Rosslare dropped his phone overboard!!

We hit the road still tryin to move after the feast and covered our normal 5 mile before we had a p stop, the pelaton got movin like a well oiled machine, unlike Andrew's chain, which must have came off at least 6 times. fell off! Andrew has now officially been christened Mike, half man half bike, he has yet to experience any pain, not too hot on the sleepin arrangements( will explain later) but shit hot on a bike.

We arrived in Fishguard to met by more food from Rachel and Rodger and to be waved off by Olivine and Kevin...surely we cant still be eating!!

The crossin was grand except that Paul Kelly decided it wud be a good idea to introduce the lads to poker and subsequently fleeced us all.

The landing in Rosslare resembled a scene from the Key Stone Cops, bikes one way, support cars another and Neil " I hate cyclin"Gallagher and Paul Abrahams still in the bogs. Jim and Norah's re uniting wud bring tears to ur eyes, think Heathcliff!

We were joined by four new riders, Joe Young, Tommy Ward, James Kelly and Niall. Now this cycle is tuff enough but James and Joe decided to do it on their kids BMX'S..NOT GUD!

We made great time into Wexford, found the digs and headed out for some pasta. Wat followed cud only be described as gruel,it was so gud that Lacy and Paul Abhs went for two curries chips!!

Finally got the head down about 11, in our room we had 4 bunk beds between 4 of us, naturally all claimed one each, the lower deck of the Hogan was the bed of choice for 3 of us, but Mike decided to head up into the upper Cusack, normally reserved for last man in and really handy in the middle of the nite, more brains in a false face!!

Tomorrow Dublin, then home for a nite, ill really miss Paul" i dont f******* snore lad" Kelly!!

The saga continues day 2

TrainingPosted by Neil Mon, July 20, 2009 23:17:29

Day 2 Monday

It started like a dream we discussed the route in the Youth Hostel on Sunday night and Sean – “chief route planner” announced, “its alright lads tomorrow will be an easy day just a 70 miler”. With this information we decided to have a lie in and a late breakfast, why rush it… Breakfast at 8 out for 9 no worries, of course 9 O’clock came and went and the lads were busy fussing around their bikes oiling chains, pumping up tyres and the most popular event of the morning playing around with Andrew’s dereillieur..funny that when 5 people get involved on the same project at the same time nothing gets done in the end the “pros” Eoin and Jim took over and made a right pigs ear of it, never mind it wasn’t my bike and Andrew is a young lad who can take a dodgy bike in his stride..cheers lads.

At about 10 O’clock we finally set off and headed out of Okehampton through a couple of villages when we swung left up what I can only describe as a bridle way nothing with wheels had been up this beast since the demise of the horse and cart I’ve got to say the wicked 25% gradient didn’t help. No worries Sean assured us “its only a short day”….. Four hours later of almost constant hill climbing and wicked descents down slippery lanes it became apparent that we had only gone about 10 miles in the direction of our next stop and had basically ridden around in a huge hill laden circle, when the blood started pouring out of my eyes I realised that I was probably struggling a bit but to my deep satisfaction I wasn’t the only one. Only three punctures, which was remarkable considering we were riding over thorns and mud for a large chunk of the time, and we were back on the main road – what a relief.

The “peloton” kicked on and we were finally able to start munching up the miles. Many thanks to Julia who made our lunch and looked after us and my dad who managed to annoy most of South West England by driving a van slowly down the roads declaring our presence, I have to say the support that people have shown us along the way has been overwhelming a big thank you to those of you who have taken the time to “honk your horn” or talk to us about our endeavour.

There were a lot of happy smiling faces when we reached our destination a hard day..lets hope tomorrow is easier.

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