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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.

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.

Them there Hills

TrainingPosted by Neil Mon, July 06, 2009 22:24:57

Well we finally made it down to see the London crew at the weekend. We arrived Friday night expecting to go out for a "coke"..Eoin was baby sitting (Alison had Take That tickets) and no one else could be bothered to "come out" so we stayed in..yawn I know, when those boys from the capital came out to the flatlands of Suffolk we made an effort and took them to meet the "human juke box", a night none of us will forget, but us country folks are just more friendly.

Staying in had its good points - got to see Eoin chasing after a mouse down the side of his house in the middle of the night with a garden rake and a hoe - he says he got it but I think it escaped, it was worth the trip down for that.

Saturday morning went out for a spin - all I can say is that some of our gang love cycling, Steven and Eoin have even started wearing cycling gear out of a night they love it sooo much. There was much talk about about what type of spokes we have. That was really interesting.... I obviously have the heaviest spokes which explains why I was always last up the hills, those "heavy spokes" helped me get down them hills quickly. I was very pleased to cycle up a few hills being a hill virgin, there are no hills in Suffolk according to the London lot - good fun haring down them afterwards, apparently as my bike is cheap with only 9 gears I am at a disadvantage but I'll live with that...we climbed up a hill that Eoin said is only a few meters from being a mountain so I also lost my mountain cherry - chuffed with that. It was great to go out as a large group and to get together before we kick off in a couple of weeks.

Managed 80 comfortable miles with a breakfast stop - lets see what happens when we do that and more on consequtive days, glad I have some padding on my arse thats all I can say.

London calling

TrainingPosted by Neil Mon, February 02, 2009 21:59:38

Well after much talk the London lot minus Tom (too busy) and Ronnie (too injured) descended on us in style. Eoin wrote the directions on his hand and then sweated them off in the car - Steven likes a warm cockpit.. the result of this expert planning was driving up the wrong road, not the first time this has happened, and a tour of the flat-lands.

When they finally arrived we descended on the metropolis that is Manningtree and met a local celebrity "the human jukebox" this amazing singer was able to take 1001 well known songs and reproduce them in the style of Merle Haggard country and western legend. This was a real experience that I'm sure will live with the boys for some time to come..

When the cycling finally arrived Charlie raced off like a Greyhound after the hare and set a wicked pace. Paul, refusing to wear proper cycling clothing because it doesn't look good, wore a loose fitting drill top that ballooned out behind him making him look like a dragster braking..needless to say he had to work twice as hard as the rest of us but at least he didn't look like a gimp.

As if by magic 45 miles later we arrived at the BAFC U9s football match in Claydon just in time to see my boy Scott score a screamer from outside the box and Paul's son Ethan net another couple to add to his impressive tally. Getting there in time to watch the football was an amazing acheivement as we had to stop for Sean to buy some shorts as he forgot his. I tried to lend him mine but he is so skinny he fell out the leg..Eoin had a punture, Paul enjoyed his first high speed crash and he rode through a hedge into a field but to his credit he told us he meant to do it so thats alright..

The others refused to watch this high quality game and headed off to the nearest truck stop this would turn out to be an error...We set off again at some sort of racing pace and Eoin insisted on playing some overtaking game that the pros down in London play when they are riding around Richmond park, no one knew the name of the game but it was knackering. This finished Steven off as his hamstring "popped" that was not the end of his ordeal because as he struggled on he managed to earn himself a puncture aswell.

We finished the beano off with a pint and a pizza at Luccas and all was well with the world. Had a good time, next time I suppose it is our turn to visit the cockneys..

Cold and Wet

TrainingPosted by Neil Mon, January 26, 2009 22:40:06

This weekend's ride was a classic example of why so many people emmigrate to sunnier climes. Despite hoping for one of us to bottle it and cancel neither of us (Neil and Paul) did - needless to say Charlie had already given his apologies. Apparently he was washing bedding in preparation for next weeekend's beano when the London crew are coming down to sleepy Manningtree to sample the delights of East Anglian cycling.

After half an hour or so when my feet where beginning to go numb from the cold and wet Paul announced his master strategy of wrapping his feet in cling film to keep them dry. Needless to say I was instantly jealous and wished I had such genius, note to self rush down to the coop and buy a roll of the stuff.

Glad to get home, cycling back through a force 7 head-wind just about finished me off, but all these miles count. We have been assured that it will be easier in the Summer so heres looking forward to warmer times.

The tale of the "shopper" bike

TrainingPosted by Neil Gallagher Tue, January 20, 2009 21:50:20

Sunday was an early start for the three of us. True to form Charlie was running late, at least he had a decent excuse, poor lad had spent Saturday afternoon mending a puncture in his front tyre, he got on his bike Sunday morning rode 100 yards and got another puncture in his back tyre..clearly lady luck was not smiling on him that morning.

Anyway out came the shopper bike for the second week running, true to form he rubbed our faces in it as he sped past with his front mounted basket and panniers. Paul was suffering, we had gone out for a fast short ride on Saturday morning to watch our boys batter Shotley rangers over at Shotley. Scott was captain and Ethan scored a hat-trick, happy days. The way back was hard as we rode full tilt into a monster headwind.

No injuries to report so we are doing all right on that front – I think Eoin is regretting wearing cheap shorts as he has cultured some hideous rash done there, I think I will christen in trench-crotch. What ever it is, it doesn’t sound good.

Team 2 news

TrainingPosted by Neil Gallagher Sun, January 11, 2009 20:13:15

Captains log stardate Jan 09’

Thought it was about time I stopped talking about it and gave you all an update on our progress. First of all I want you all to know that the monster hills of East Anglia are proving a real challenge and will undoubtedly help us when we hit the mountains of Scotland or the never ending hills of Cornwall.

Training has been going well; we have been out on some of the coldest, and most slippery, days so no surprise to find out that we have all fallen off except Charlie who has stays on at all times. It must be his enhanced balance gained from Ceroc dancing, whatever that is..

Went out this morning for a steady 50 miler – Charlie was late because his frame had inexplicably snapped. So we headed off to Halfords in Colchester. What a relief to find out that they are sending it away to be repaired, the faith we have in them…

It ended up being a cracking ride Manningtree – Ardleigh - Colchester – Stoke by Nayland – Hadleigh – Higham – Stratford St Mary – Dedham – Lawford – Home.. It went very well and we have all made good progress since we started training at the end of November – or in Paul’s case after Christmas, he has made unbelievable progress in such a short space of time.

Perhaps the most humbling part of this morning’s ride was Charlie – not having a road bike but riding a “shopper” with granddad mudguards, massive thick tyres, a basket etc. He was still the fastest up the hills, I still can’t get over it..well done Charles.