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.