LEJOG postponed…life gets in the way

Right – the reason I started this blog was to document my preparation for LEJOG and also to document the journey itself. However, I have had to put my plans on hold as Life has taken a few twists and turns since I came up with the idea.

Firstly; I will be moving house soon. Moving 310 miles up the road. Returning to Scotland. I’ve been away for 10 years and it’s been too long; I only meant to stay in England a month…

Secondly; I need a new job. A lot of people will think me slightly touched dans la tete for resigning from a ‘perfectly good’ public service job in this current situation of redundancies and cut-backs. But I have to change job – this one is just NOT ME. I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t get out of this situation.  As soon as I’m safely out of there, I will be able to expand a little on that.

Thirdly; I just don’t have the money this year to do a trip like this. Between moving house and losing two thirds of our joint income (partner forced out of job earlier) there is nothing spare.

Hence, the LEJOG journey will have to wait. I’ll do it one day. In the meantime, I hope I’ll be using this blog to document my more small-scale ventures. Next up is a short cycle trip from South Glasgow to Edinburgh, then over the Forth to the Kingdom of Fife. Next weekend, all being well! I have changed my bike’s riser handlebars for ‘butterfly’ style touring ones. I’m pretty sure they’re not meant to be installed the way I have put them on, (they look v weird!) but after much tinkering this was the comfiest position. 66 miles should tell me whether this will work long-term. I still need grips for them, but have posted before and after pics below:

THE OLD SET-UP – the way the bike has been for the past 16 years.

THE NEW SET-Up – yes it looks weird; I’ve probably put them on back to front and upside down…but it seems comfortable!

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Enforced Rest (boohissboo)

 

nocycling

...or indeed running

I haven’t run or cycled since doing the half marathon a few weeks ago. I can’t. I physically cannot run. And the chiropractor has banned me from cycling for the foreseeable. Until my wonky pelvis and feet are sorted, which may, nay inevitably will take some time…

 

As far as I understand it, I have a wonky pelvis and a left collapsed arch. This is causing all sorts of bother and discomfort.  So I’m seeing a chiropractor, which is just about bankrupting me – and have been advised it’s imperative I get referred to a sports podiatrist so I can have some proper orthotics made.  I will be interested to see how my GP responds to this request; my last GP obviously thought of running as some sort of luxurious commodity; the “medical” advice he gave was ‘stop running then‘. Akin to a mechanic telling you to stop driving your car, if the steering starts acting up. Or perhaps refrain from eating if all food makes you barf. If it hurts your eyes to read, stop reading. I wasn’t surprised at this approach; on asking for help previously with severe hayfever, I was advised to “buy a car, like a BMW or a Mercedes; one that has good pollen filters” and that was it. I now have a different GP.

It’s weird not physically being capable of running; I was forced into an exaggerated gait yesterday to avoid being run over (what would have previously been a quick jog across the road) and I was in pain for hours afterwards. 4 metres across the road. That was all.

So no running or cycling. I don’t think people quite understand how difficult this is; partly I have been relying on my bike to commute at least twice a week and therefore cut my weekly expenditure. Not just that, but now I turn up to work sleepy, grumpy and clumsy – albeit with tidy hair. When I cycle, I arrive alert, happy and energized; the only grump related to Bloody Stupid Motorists. And I have sweaty bike-helmet hair (but I don’t care).

Without running, I have no reason to catapult out of bed, no opportunity to listen to random playlists  on my ipod and no excuse to wear lycra. The result is I have been quite low. I stay in bed until the need to go to work and/or use the loo is too urgent.

My chiropractor suggested I powerwalk, but this is too uncomfortable and I will feel like an utter pillock. At least when running and the feral chav kids shout abuse you are out of earshot pretty quickly; there is always the option of running away.

I haven’t been blogging due to this lethargy. I knew if I was let loose on a keyboard then this is what would happen – a general moan and feel-sorry-for-myself-fest which I can’t imagine anyone is going to feel good about reading. So I will stop now. And I probably won’t be writing again until I’m fixed.

 

 

 

A Change of Plan..?

I may have just completely changed my mind about something.

I set this website up mostly because I wanted to record and publish my preparations for cycling Lejog (Land’s End – John O’Groats) in spring 2010. Ever since I started trying to work out my route, I’ve found that I really have no interest in cycling anywhere south of Manchester. I had a look last night to see how much the train will cost me to get from my house to Penzance, and the minimum amount is a whopping £105!! It strikes me as a little arse-about-face to pay that amount of money to travel south, only to spend about 5 days cycling north to get to where I started from. It’s not just illogical ( although I admit I’m not a great fan of logic), but the only function it serves would be able to say “yes, I have cycled the length of mainland UK”.

What if I was to do the same mileage (1000 miles), cycling from my house around a load of places I fancy visiting on a bike? It may not sound as impressive as cycling end-to-end, but miles are miles and it would give me so much more scope for a varied route off the path well-beaten by generations of End-to-Enders. Thinking about doing a non-traditional cycle challenge is bringing up all sorts of wacky and tempting ideas, such as riding about re-enacting scenes from Monty Python’s ‘Holy Grail’ in the places they were filmed, to going on a ‘mystery tour’ where my direction of travel each day is decided by chance, or staying in haunted sites or working my way between ancient stone circles….
When route-planning is thought of in this light, it makes doing Lejog seem a little, well…unimaginative.

So on the one hand I’m excited by the prospect of having a much more flexible route, but on the other I am concerned about not having completed this classic challenge. It seems to me that there is something in the psyche that rates travelling between two farthest points on a land mass higher than riding around a little more haphazardly. It’s all in the mind though, it’s just that it’s a little harder to visualise a route that doesn’t go from A to B but from C to B via X and P.

1000 mile cycle challenge does sound quite good though… I’ll have to think about this a little more before I decide not to complete Lejog. Damn difficult call to make though.

Cycling proficiency

I never sat my “cycling proficiency test” at school (I think I was off that week), but even if I had I doubt it would have made much difference to how I cycle nowadays. Unfortunately, I find cycling on roads to be a real dilemma when it comes to rules and regs, overwhelmingly because I am very aware of my own vulnerability as a cyclist.
Having read this post from the BBC on women and cycling road accidents, I started paying more attention to the way I cycle on the road.
Chatting with a non-cyclist colleague recently, the comment was made that a lot of cyclists seemed really “arrogant” on the road. I knew what she meant, and explained that it’s probably because cyclists know that if there were to have a collision with a motorist then they are undoubtedly going to be worse off. What could be a ‘near miss’ (is that a ‘hit’ then… I digress) for a motorist could quite easily be a fatal accident to a cyclist. It’s every cyclist’s prerogative to ride like an bombastic egotist if that is going to reduce the risk of being killed or injured. It’s the cyclist’s defence, just as motorists have airbags, seatbelts and a metal cage to protect them. When you look at it like that, it’s not a good trade-off in terms of safety.

Now I’m not talking about those people on bike who charge on and off the kerb, jump red lights “because they can” and weave in an out of lane markers, pedalling with such furious abandon that they leave a string of (rightly) irate road-users in their path. No – those guys (sorry – never seen a girl ride like that), are eejits.

I suppose the way I ride to work is kinda “blokey” in style – I refuse to apologise for being on the road and I do everything I can to prevent motorists from overtaking me into on-coming traffic. Unfortunately, this approach often leads to dirty looks (and worse!) from the driver, even when what I’ve just done by riding another whole foot out from the kerb is save their Citroen Saxo from becoming permentantly enmeshed with a Rover 215. There’s gratitude for you. (Oh dear, this post is fast degenerating into a rant..soz). I usually comfort myself by muttering “Did you pay for someone to sit your test for you?!” into their exhaust fumes.

So I try to ride as confidently as possible, without taking unnecessary risks, in the hope that it will keep me alive (along with the abundance of reflective tape, hi-vis and flashing lights). But I’m still not clear-cut on a few issues. Is is acceptable to undertake stationary traffic at the lights? Is it safe? What about pavements when the road conditions are too risky? (There is a section on my home commute where I ride on the pavement at night. If there wasn’t any pavement there, I doubt I would commute at all – I don’t want to ride on a 60mph unlit road on a blind left-hand bend going up a very steep incline thanks). I’m a bit of a goody-goody when I’m behind the wheel – I tend to always obey the highway code and I rarely speed. Things just aren’t so simple on a bicycle. I’m not about to stick rigidly to the rules if it will compromise my safety. I reckon when you ride a bike, you have to revise your own highway code. The existing one just doesn’t work in reality.

Good morning, campers!

I think most people who cycle LEJOG choose to stay in B&B’s/travellodges/guesthouses. Myself, not being most people, I have

Room with a view

You don't get this at the Holiday Inn...

chosen the luxury of a foam mat and a tent, cooking my own food where possible and of course lugging all this heavy equipment around the country with me.

The primary reason for this seemingly bonkers decision is…money. I just can’t afford £20-30 per nightand living off Texaco sandwiches/pub lunches. Actually, I can’t face living off pre-packed sandwiches. Having the means to cook your own food is cheaper and healthier and much more flexible (porridge and coffee at 5am is luuuuuverly).

With the ‘staying in buildings’ option, I would most probably have to book in advance, and I don’t like the pressure of having to stick to a schedule no matter what. By camping, I can always stay in a B&B in an emergency (tent gets ripped up by marauding sheep, etc). I’ll still have to look up all the campsites en-route, but shouldn’t have to worry about booking a pitch, as I won’t be travelling in holiday season. I can stick to my own schedule pretty much and if I get woken at 4am and decide to set off at 6am, I won’t need to wake people up demanding breakfast.

I don’t plan on wild camping in Scotland (where it’s legal), as I don’t think I’ll be far enough into the wilds to be safe (what with cycling on roads, like). I certainly don’t plan on stealth camping in England, as my tent is bright blue and not really very…stealth-like. Not that I would *ever* dream of illegally camping…(don’t do it kids, farmers may shoot you).

My tent is pretty waterproof (Vango Tempest, with 5000mm HH) as was proven last May when I woke up to a river running underneath the groundsheet, a la an unplanned water-bed. It’s a 2-man, but that’s perfect for me and 4 panniers. It’s not lightweight (2.5kg), but was only £80, compared with £200 – 300 for something like a Hillberg Akto at 1kg.  I can cook in the porch area and I padlock my bike to a tent pole at night, if there are no fences nearby. This is not realistically a preventative measure against theft, more of an alarm system which would alert me to my bike being stolen by collapsing the tent on my head. Perhaps not the most elegant system, thinking about it. Probably should revise that…

Why this blog exists

A thought occured to me a few weeks ago…wow, fancy cycling Land’s End to John O’Groats; that would be crazy/immense/impossible/exciting/scary/dangerous/exhausting/all of the above.

Then the clincher; Well, if so many other people have done it, there’s no reason why I can’t!

And so the ball started rolling on what has inevitable become my next ‘project’. I believe the ball will keep rolling, in all directions and dimensions, gathering impetus and mass and occassionally stalling, until I have completed this challenge, all 1000 miles of it.

I’ve started this  blog up as way of recording my preparation for the trip.  I’ve been reading lots of other ‘End to End’ blogs and having found them informative, funny, touching and interesting I thought I might as well do one of my own.