Breaking a cycling World RecordSep 08, 2023
Hello and thankyou for finding your way to this blog.
This is a story about my attempt to break the Guinness World Record for being the fastest female to cycle solo from Land's End to John O’Groats, and back.
This is also a story about Brigid, the dog that spurred my desire to throw away the rule books and pedal for pure passion. This is how it went..
Finding my Mojo
Around 5 years ago, very possibly over a G&T, me, my friend Steph and my husband Glyn were talking about breaking records. "How fast could you...... "
We were referencing our sport of triathlon, or at least swimming, cycling and running. Steph and I met over 10 years ago in Devon through the local triathlon club and still remain friends, training buddies and go to all manner of races together.
When I decided I would give triathlon a go, I couldn’t swim 4 lengths of a 25m pool or ride a bike. I didnt know what a road bike was over any other bike, both had 2 wheels and had never been a part of my life in any way. However, I was willing to try, as my desire to be 'good' at a sport was strong, having always been a jack of all trades, but master on none.
In fact my desire to excel in a sport was so strong, I had a dream of representing Great Britain in triathlon in my age group, despite having no experience in 2 out of the 3 disciplines, and I had just turned 30 years old.
To me, age and ability wasn’t in any way a barrier. The lady who was inspiring me at the time to aim for the GB age group team, was herself 65yrs old and racing in her age group at the World and European triathlon champs. Her name is Peggy Crome if you wanted to look her up. She has now turned 80, and still racing as much as she can around the world.
Ability? Well, my theory was that we can all learn new skills if we want it enough.
During our "how fast could you..." game I said to Steph I wondered how fast I could do Lands End to John O’Groats and back. We looked up the current record and to our surprise there wasnt any record of a woman attempting this, which I found strange as there were many attempts by men.
This was 2019 and a seed had been planted. However at that time I was still competing in triathlon. It was also around this time that another passion of mine was starting to take over: I was setting up an online triathlon community for women, offering a chance to learn, be inspired and meet other women setting out in the sport of triathlon.
For the next 3 years this took 100% priority, almost over my own racing, as I poured my dedication into building this community. To date, we have over 45 ladies in Mojo and they have created a wonderful and supportive Triathlon club. Feel free to check out what we are up to at www.mojotriathloncoaching.co.uk
Then Covid happened, which is a phrase that crops up in everyone’s stories in the past decade. During which time Steph sent me a link to an article that a female had attempted Lejogle and put down the first ever official time via Guinness Records. Marica Roberts had done a fantastic job of cycling the c.1800mile route in 11 days and 13 hours.
At the time Glyn and I were both thick in the struggle of trying to keep our businesses going during this period of multiple lockdowns, as so many millions of people were around the world. I didn’t think anything more about Lejogle, it seemed like a distance idea now. Until this Spring, on a holiday in Lanzarote, when the story if Brigid hit me hard.
For the love of Dog
Although an avid dog lover all my life, I had been getting increasingly interested in what I could do for the dogs around the world that have been victims of abuse, neglect and torture at the hands of humans. I was enraged, and couldn’t bring myself to ignore the many issues of animal welfare across the globe, but also becoming increasingly aware of the wonderful humans who work tirelessly to help these dogs, year after year, witnessing first hand the cruelty they are subjected to.
It is still one of my saddest thoughts, that a dogs nature of being kind, trusting, forgiving and totally adoring of humans, is also it's biggest downfall in so many cases. I realising how protected we are in our culture thinking that all dogs are adored pets. This is simply not the case everywhere.
I vowed that when Covid was over, I would volunteer anywhere I could to help these dogs, so in 2021 we travelled to Soi dog in Thailand, I signed up to work at the Blue Cross in the UK, visited Lanta Animal welfare in Koh Lanta, and then discovered Galgos Del Sol, based in Murcia, Spain. I was always thinking of how I could help these dogs in the most meaningful way.
Galgos Del Sol (GDS)
When I discovered Galgos Del Sol I was instantly attracted to the charity. Through their honest portrayal of life in Spain for the Galgos, I was captivated by the level of utter cruelty and senseless suffering, combined with what I can only describe as one of the best charities I have come across; rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming thousands of dogs every year, whilst keeping us supporters around the world up to date with the dogs who have gone ‘from Street Life to Sweet Life’
I have worked in the charity sector (sport mainly) for 15 years and understand that we all want to believe charities are well run, lean, forward thinking and have the end beneficiaries at the forefront of everything they do. This often isn’t the case sadly. At Galgos Del Sol I never doubted this for a second.
Tina, who founded the charity, has the most incredible story of how it all started. Read her Website for more info and a story that is better told in her words:
Tina is a true inspiration for me every day in my business and sporting life. She is a woman who never gives up, and rides the waves of the difficult times, because her cause and goals are simply too big to give up on.
Although I didnt have swathes of time to offer to these charities, owing to being self employed and still setting up my coaching business, but I did have the chance to volunteer for a week at GDS last September.
Bath time done right!
A new style of swim coaching!
I shared an apartment with fellow Brits Rachel and Stuart, and we quickly became good friends, bonding over our love of dogs, sport, cold beers after a days poop scooping, and of course wanting to rescue every single one of the c250 dogs at the centre.
Needless to say we really enjoyed our volunteering experience and came away wanting to help more. I also came back with a list of 200 dogs I wanted to adopt! Then one day, only a few weeks after returning from Galgos Del Sol, a picture arrived on their Facebook page of this cheeky little Galgo puppy who had just been rescued from the streets, all by herelf.
She was the cutest thing I've ever seen. Cuddly, funny, a real goofball. We submitted our adoption application and on 1st December 2022 she arrived on our doorstep, ready for her Sweet Life!
Introducing Miss Peanut Pants:
Fast forward to February, and Peanut had settled in really well. My husband (Glyn) and I decided to go on holiday in Lanzarote. As a triathlete I would try to train abroad for a week in the British winter to run, cycle and swim in better weather, preparing for race season.
Alongside training for triathlon, my only other daily ritual has become checking the GDS Facebook page for updates on the dogs. To my dismay, there were some horrific cases coming in recently. Without a chance for the GDS team to catch breath, another dog would come in with tragic injuries caused by neglect or abuse.
Running alongside this in Spain was a pending animal welfare law that was about to be passed by the Spanish government. This would help protect the Galgos, Spanish hunting dogs, that are bred in their 10's of thousands to find those special few who will be champions in hunting, as well as deserving of the highest bets. A multi million Euro industry in Spain that many dont know about, but one that the government is unwilling to tackle.
Up to 100,000 Galgos are killed every year, many in brutal ways, hung in barns, tendons cut, hit with blunt instruments, or if they are lucky, thrown out onto the streets to run free, but most get hit by cars, breed in unsafe areas, and catch all manner of diseases. Locals dont want them around, so some inflict even more pain to move them on.
The responsibility lies 100% with those Galgueros (the hunters) who breed the dogs. But because of the laws that dont protect the dogs, they are left to be everyone elses responsibility. Or should I say those who care, like GDS, and kind Spainish citizens who help the dogs.
Whilst checking the dogs at GDS I was astounded and saddened by a white Galgo who had been brought in with horrific injuries, her face desperate and her body trembling at the thought of more pain. They named the beautiful girl Brigid.
I went out on my solo bike ride that day on the windy island of Lanzarote, and named my route 'A Ride for Brigid'. I would stop every hour to check on updates on her, but still no news.
The next day at breakfast in the hotel, I checked the GDS page once more. She had died. Passed away over the rainbow bridge, hopefully to a less painful world. I was so sad, I sat in tears of desperation, how could this keep happening to these innocent dogs.
On returning to the hotel room I read another article, one that confirmed a complete U-turn by the Spanish government. Just before they passed their new and improved animal welfare law, they announced they had excluded hunting dogs.
Glagos like Brigid were even LESS protected than before. The abuse would continue, and likley get worse now nothing was protecting these dogs. It was the saddest news, and I could only imagine how the team at GDS and other wonderful people who work in the world of Galgo rescue felt.
I said to Glyn I couldn’t face doing nothing anymore. I needed to help these dogs in some way. My attention turned to finding a way to raise money, maybe a charity challenge. An idea was forming.
A well-trodden path
The following months were busy, we had not long moved house from North Devon to Bristol. I was supporting the Mojo ladies through their training and races, coaching swimming in the local pool, settling into a new life in Bristol, and training for my own races. Glyn was entrenched in completely renovating our house. But I also knew 2023 wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t do something for the Galgos, it was simply too important.
Finally, I planned to cycle from Bristol to the GDS centre in Murcia, Spain, some 1200 miles. We planned for September, so I could finish my season of triathlon and the Mojo athletes were at the end of their season too. We pencilled in the dates, and mentioned it to Tina & Jodie at GDS. Rachel and Stuart, who I volunteered with, were on board too and ready to help when needed.
In the meantime, during May, we decided to go on holiday in the campervan to France. Our first ever holiday abroad in the self made camper, painstakingly created from scratch by Glyn in 2020. We were aiming to cycle some of the routes in a book called France En Velo, bought for me many years ago by friends Rob and Sam.
On the 6 hour ferry over I worked for the first 5 hours, finishing off emails and writing training plans for Mojo athletes. With the sum total of the staff at Mojo being, erm, me, I didn’t have anyone to leave work with so every minute pre-holiday counted!
In the last hour, we grabbed a coffee and said "so what shall we do with our holiday then?"
This was the sum total of our planning for the trip. Over the next 10 days, to my amazement, I cycled 1001 miles from St Malo to Nice, supported by Glyn who kayaked, cycled to meet me, cooked, looked after the dogs, drove the van and did everything else!!! This was my first taste of multi day cycling and I absolutely loved it!
Glyn however is no stranger to expeditions and challenges, he himself holds a World Record for KAYAKING both Lands End to John O’Groats, and also the Sea Kayaking record for kayaking around Wales. He still holds the LEJOG record today despite doing this nearly 10 years ago.
In June, after getting back from our France trip and settling into life at home, we discussed the cycle to Spain for charity. One thing I know from my last 15 years in triathlon and running events, is that if you want people to be a part of something, you need them to identify with it.
I knew that despite racing in 9 ironman triathlons and over 20 half Ironman races, I have never seen so much excitement from friends and family as when I took part in London marathon.
Maybe they could identify more with it, maybe they had done it, seen it on TV, had a friend do it, sponsored someone? Whatever it was, I was sure that a challenge for charity needed to capture people’s imagination, and be something they could identify with,
So, we made a U-turn, and came back to our very first idea all those years ago. We would go down a well-trodden route, something people could get behind and really understand.
Supported by Glyn and the dogs, in the campervan, just like we did in France, I was going to attempt to break the World Record for Cycling from Lands’ End, to John O’Groats, and back.
I got panicked and realised I would need the light days and nights to do such a challenge, which was now 1800 miles, rather than 1200 in our original plan to cycle from Bristol to Murcia in Spain. The record to beat was 11 days and 13 hours.
Hang on! I had 11 days off work in July, which seemed perfect. Glyn agreed, lighter nights, longer days, maybe better weather?
There was only one snag; it was in 2 weeks time!
To Do Lists
I felt ok about the very short turnaround time. I had no idea how to train for such a huge challenge, I was certain I could rely on my current fitness and a pair of big girl pants!!! Besides, I have been a triathlete for 14 years, training every day if not twice a day. I was certain I had a level of fitness and the rest would need to be done with a positive mindset!
I also knew from my France trip that less planning works best for me. There is much less chance for anxiety to build, even talking myself out of it. Also, I am an avid hater of faff. Challenges like this always mean so much faff, and so much shopping and researching kit that you may or may not need. I detest that side of adventures. Luckily, Glyn doesn’t, so his ‘to do’ list was growing by the day!
I sat down to apply to Guinness to seek approval for attempting the Lejogle challenge. This is a free online process, as long as you have 12-14 weeks to wait for the approval. Oh dear, I had 14 days. The only other option was to pay £600 to get the application fast tracked. It was my only option. I pondered if it was necessary anyway, did I really need this to be official? But I decided I was unlikely to attempt anything like this again. So the credit card came out!
In hindsight this made me much more focussed with what time we had left. I had more ‘skin in the game’ now that it had cost me £600 to apply for the record. I had better do it now!
This was the first sign that my head was to be my biggest weapon on this challenge, and I was getting excited about how much I would learn about how the brain works during multi day challenges like this.
Later that week, while running a triathlon training camp in Devon for Mojo, I got the email to say my application had been approved. It was really happening. Oh. My. Word.
I was so late with the planning for this trip I didnt have time to get any cycle jerseys made up with the GDS logo, so a very kind local printers called Shirt Tales , in Bristol, screen-printed some jerseys that I had hurriedly bought from Amazon (I told you pouring for hours over kit was not my speciality).
For safety reasons I wanted my jerseys to be a vibrant colour. With so much time on the road I was going to be exposed to a lot of traffic. This was the only things that was causing me some worry. I was advised to add 'World Record Attempt' to the back of the jerseys. This was out of my comfort zone but if it gave me more protection and helped the drivers be more patient, I was in!
As luck would have it the GDS brand colour was yellow. And more luck that the lovely people from Shirt Tales gave me a 50% discount for printing to help the cause. This was the first act of kindness for this trip, and I was elated to have ticked off another thing on my ‘To Do’ list!
Incidentally, the picture above is of a very recent piece of street art by Victoriano . You can imagine my utter surprise and delights that I discovered this art in the city we live, just before our big challenge, and it's a Galgo just like Peanut.
The main things for this trip were a working campervan, a working bike, and a working body. This meant the van needed a service, as did the bike. The body just needed food, and a good massage by the lovely Kate at Keynsham Mobile Massage . Kate also went on to donate several times to the charity and came to cheer me on while on holiday in Somerset. She was hooked!
During my bike service with the brilliant Craig at Cycle Scuderia , Bideford, he advised I use tubeless tyres. I was nervous but was assured they would be better on a ride of that distance, and I could run a lower pressure too so a comfier ride. He also suggested some liners in the tyres, so if I had a flat and couldn’t sort it, I could ride on the liners for around 50k until I found a bike shop. Or in my case, Glyn!
I’m not going to lie, I didn’t have the right bike for the job. I only have 2 bikes; a road bike (Orro Venturi) and a triathlon/TT bike (Scott Plasma). Originally I wanted to use both of these for Lejogle but Guinness rules said I would not be allowed and had to stick with just one.
The main issue with my Orro is it's designed for racing, it's very aggressive in it's position (lower down handlebars to be more aerodynamic) and it’s made of stiff carbon so doesn't absorb bumps too well.
I toyed with buying a new bike but I simply couldn’t afford it. I thought about people who rode bikes years ago and they didn't have all this choice back then; endurance bikes, aero bikes, gravel bikes, you name it there's a bike for it.
As a triathlete I didn’t think I would use another bike once the challenge was over, and if the Orro could look after me for 100 miles a day in France, it would do 200 a day surely? I put it out of my head, there was plenty more on that ‘to do’ list.
Kit that I knew I needed was:
- A SPOT Tracker so people would know where I was. This turned out to be invaluable, as I broke my bike computer and need the data to send to Guinness. It also meant people could stay involved any time of the day, and we ended up with a lot of committed 'dot watchers!'
It also helped for people to feel a part of the journey, and to know where I was to come and support me on the road.
- Phone. In fact I had 2 as this was my only communication with Glyn. We also had the idea we would watch TV in the evening tethering off the 2nd phone as it had unlimited data. Little did i know, the tv was used as a drying rack for cycling kit for 10 days and never actually turned on!
- Adequate lights as I would be cycling when its dark, rain or when there is low light. As it turned out, I had my back lights on every minute of the trip for safety. As I wasn't using these lights to see, only to BE seen, I didn't need to spend a lot of money on them. I was more keen to have multiple lights so I could charge them in rotation.
- Aero bars. These are bars on the bike that allow you to be more aerodynamic, but more importantly it means you have another position to be in. A friend of mine told me to think mostly about my pressure points, and wrists were an issue for me too. I had suffered with sore wrists in France and knew this may be an issue. Aero bars will help me have a range of different positions on the bike, useful for pedalling up to 16 hours a day.
- A laptop for us to discuss and plan the route each night for the following day. Plus, make any route alterations. Of which there were many! This was mainly Glyn’s job, and he used Strava routes and previous blogs to help find the bet route for us.
- Comfy cycle shorts. I opted for Assos and Giordani. A mix of bib shorts and normal shorts. Bib shorts are better for comfort, but normal shorts are quicker for wee stops! I didn't overthink this, I was more concerned with having 4-5 decent shorts for rotation in case they got wet, than testing each and every one and stressing about the comfort. I didnt go cheap, nor did I spend a fortune.
- Ibuprofen and volterol. Although I was hoping not to use this, I was realistic in the endeavour I was taking on and anti-inflammatories seemed like a sensible thing to pack.
- Chamois cream, Butt'r for Women It was a godsend!
- Visible cycle jacket. One for daytime (Fluro yellow) and one for nighttime (which lights up when car lights shine on it)
- Protein shakes. I used a powder called FORM (the performance protein version) I knew without a protein shake at the end of each day I would be struggling to get enough protein in to repair muscles while I slept, ready for the next day. This worked really well in France so I knew it would be important.
- Tailwind nutrition, which is a powder form of carbohydrates, for when I need a carbohydrate top up throughout the day, between meals and snacks. I had been told many stories about cyclists liquidising their meals as their appetite vanished. This would help me prepare if that happened.
Luckily (& something I owe some of my sporting successes to) I never struggle to eat. I am VERY good at eating! But if I had pushed harder I do think this could have become an issue. The idea of liquidised chilli con carnie was not appealing.
- Chain cleaner, chain lube and bike tools.
We also had to pack essential items for the dogs, ourselves, and to keep the van ticking along too.
I also packed my trainers and swimming costume. If ever you needed proof that a) I was a triathlete at heart and b) I was completely naive as to what I was taking on, this was it!!
I heard a quote from someone recently regarding endurance sport, and it said "Be naive enough to start, and stubborn enough to finish". So right!
The 6th July had come round fast. Very fast! In the evening we finally finished packing and set off for Lands End, a 200+ mile drive from our house in Bristol. Quite an eye opener as lands End to Bristol was to be my first day on the bike the following day. This seemed very far indeed.
I had a secret goal of riding to John O’Groats in 5 days. I had overheard in a bike shop just over 10 years ago when I had only just started riding bikes, that there was a group of guys who rode Lejog in 5 days. They were saying how amazing it was. From then on I knew I would lovd to try it if I ever got the chance. Not the journey as much as the speed. I guess this is how my brain has always worked, “if they can do it, why can't I?"
The Lejogle route is entirely up to you to choose. There are 'safe' routes on country lanes, there are scary fast routes taking in the A30 out of Cornwall and the A9 out of Perth, and many combinations between. It all comes down to how far you want to ride, the elevation, and how you feel about busy roads. Of course, it’s also about what time of day you hit these roads too.
I chose to stay off the scary roads mainly, but I was also going for a speedy record, so there would be times I'd will have to suck it up and ride with heavy traffic.
My general feeling about the trip at this point was excitement. I was about to try something very new. I had never cycled more than 170 miles before, and that was just once, with a few days recovery afterwards. Multiple days of c.180 miles was a complete unknown at this point, and that was very cool to think about.
I was also very used to the unenviable task of getting ready for an Ironman and the pre race nerves, which also encompasses getting 4am porridge down you before jumping in a cold lake. This was different on many levels.
My main feeling was one of peace. After years of seeing dogs in distress I was finally doing something to raise awareness and money for them. Yes, I’m aware it wasn’t every dog in the world. It wasn’t raising money for every dog charity out there. But what I had learnt was if you sit around feeling sad about a situation, action in some form is enough, you never know where it may take you.
Action always leads to motivation, motivation will lead to change of some kind, no matter how small. Just because a task seems too enormous, in this case easing the suffering of all animals, doesn’t mean you can’t get started in your own little corner. If we all did that, I believe change would be rapid.
My Just Giving page was set up, and had already raised a staggering £1495. I set the limit for £3000. Fingers crossed people got behind it and we could make our target before I arrived back to Land’s end in somewhere under 11 days and 13 hours!
Day 1 – Land’s End to Highbridge (180 miles)
Hills, hills, hills.
We woke in a layby 5 miles from Land’s End at 5.15am. Not the best night’s sleep but got up right away and ate porridge, sipped water as Glyn drove to the start. I’ve never been to Land’s End and it was so quiet! Just a car park really at first sight. No sign of 'the sign' but we decided just to get going. It was windy and cold, and nerves were setting in with each minute we faffed!
Glyn needed to video the start, including videoing his watch, to prove I had set off and to mark what time it was. I pedalled round the car park and exited the area. I was off. I felt empowered, happy, positive and with a fire in my belly. This was my chance to prove to myself what I could do. And I had received £1500 in donations for GDS so I knew I had to do this for all those people who donated their hard earned money.
I felt strong, it was fast and flat. I knew I may have the 200 planned miles in me today. I had decided not to think about anything except that day, as it would be too overwhelming.
Now I am no stranger to hills, having lived in North Devon for many years. But these Cornish hills were something else. I felt like I was going up and the downs were so sharp and winding i didnt pick up any speed.
At 5pm I had reached the 1000th hill, and although now out of Cornwall and in Devon, I was so disheartened that I had only reached 130 miles. 200 miles was my target. My mum and best friend Nat and Jenny were going to meet me in Bridgewater. I had to battle on.
I made up loads of time once it got flatter, my confidence returned, and I was zipping along.
I loved that people had started using the tracker right away, the donations were trickling in too, each time a 'ping' on my phone on my bike to indicate another donation. So cool! I was cycling and helping dogs, what could be better?
Oh seeing friends and family, thats what was even better! My sister, niece, mum, and friends all came to wave. I had dinner at 6pm with Mum in the van, a quick pasta dinner, then off again. I ended up calling it a day in Highbridge (outside Bridgewater) after 180 miles, 13,000 ft of climbing, a tough first day.
We drove home that night to South Bristol. We had to pick up a few things we had forgotten, and enjoyed a night in our own bed.
Day 2 – High bridge to Middlewich (180 miles)
The next morning we were up before 5am, I remember thinking the next time I see my own bed will be after ive been to Scotland and back. But I had to bring my mind straight back to today, as I had no small task to complete that day, another big push to make up yesterday’s mileage. And hopefully arrive in Manchester by the evening.
I was in high spirits, but very tired. I tried to put that out of my mind, hoping I may feel better as the trip went on! To my surprise, 10 miles into the ride and I was feeling tip top again. I put that down to drinking 2 bottles of water and some food within the first 10 miles of the day, and that was to be the same every day of the challenge.
Then I hit Avonmouth docks. HUGE lorries screaming past me making me feel small and vulnerable. I stopped for some energy bars and messaged my lorry driver friend Iain as I knew he would understand!
Back on the road and soon I was crossing the Severn bridge. Before this challenge I had only cycled 140 in a single day. Then a week before the challenge I cycled to North Wales to see my Mother in law and that was 176 miles. It felt huge, an epic ride. And also on roads that i was to ride today, over the bridge, Chepstow, Monmouth, Hereford, Shrewsbury.
It felt comforting knowing the first part of the route on this day, and soon I was zipping down the hill to Tintern Abbey. I saw Glyn who had parked in a car park, with a cafe and toilets. BLISS. We had coffee and cake and relaxed for 10 mins. Glyn asked if i was charging my Garmin (bike computer that tells me my distance, time, speed, etc but is also my only form of navigation)
I said no and he asked where it was. He couldn’t see it on my bike. I raced out the van and fr sure, it was missing. How could that be missing? We quickly realised it must have fallen off in the last 5-7 miles. I was so upset as it was brand new, and we quickly changed to my old (unstable) one. Thankfully I had a spare. I loaded the route up on it and set off, Glyn now having the task of finding the missing one. Basically running hill reps up the side of a busy road!
Close to Monmouth he rang, he had found the Garmin, it had been driven over. Thanks to Scott to telling us of the function that told us the last known location. Sadly, it was not repairable.
I had to put this behind me, as things like this could and will happen during the challenge im sure. It’s just hard to take when its brand new and not cheap!
The rest of the ride was good. Dry and warm, i was slipping along but eventually ended up running out of steam. It was like my body said it was done. Not in an emergency 'done' way, just a causal "now would be a good time to rest Lou". I had listened to some music but only an hour. i was happy in my own company, thinking about everything and nothing all at once.
I arrived in Middlewich just south of Manchester. Another 180miles today although data only recorded 176 owing to the broken bike computer.
Another thing on my mind was Peanut. My beautiful 1 year old Galgo (rescued from GDS) who loves to eat anything. No matter how hard you try to hide it. She had got her nose in some nuts I was snacking on the day before we set off and she was looking poorly. I was so worried about her, I said the next day we would take her to the vet if she wasnt better.
Fundraising total at this point: £1802
Day 3 – Middlewich to Gretna Green (157 miles)
A happy Peanut at last
In true Peanut style, the next morning she woke us up with her mini howls. She was feeling better and ready to tell us about it! I couldn’t have been more relieved. It was hard for the dogs being in the van for 10 days, I was aware of all the hard work and sacrifice Glyn and the dogs were making. It was on my mind that I needed to push on each day so I could max out the evenings and give them a break.
Today’s route could possibly see me arrive in Scotland. I mean WHAAAT? That seemed impossible but all I needed to do was fuel up and keep pedalling. For breakfast I was having muesli, banana, quick instant coffee, bottle of water, and taking a jam sandwich with me for a top up in the first hour.
I also took OTE bars, another banana and of course water with electrolytes for the first few hours. I would top up water, mainly from the van when I saw Glyn, , aiming for 1 bottle per 1.5 hours.
Glyn was trying to stay no more than 25-30 miles away at any point in case I needed him. More often he was hoping past and puling in laybys, only being further away when he needed to shop or walk the dogs. Cities were different, he would go through and meet me the other side as driving a van that size was tricky in cities without the hassle of trying to find me.
I knew I would see my buddy Steph today, and this was important as it was our original conversation that started planting this seed. Steph had been excited about this challenge from the minute I told her. She loves a bit of dot watching too!
And so do lots of people it would seem! I was increasingly getting more messages from people who were following me, via my Lejogle Facebook page or the tracker, and those familiar pings were trickling in.
The rain started as I arrived in Cumbria, and sadly it was my first rain and just as I met with Steph, Sally, and Raymond. Steph and Sally are part of the Mojo Tri Club too. It was great to see them at the top of the beautiful climb of Shap waving their cowbells like crazy things!
That climb was amazing, nothing like the brutal hills of Cornwall, just flowing and easy to get into.
I stopped for a chat for 5 mins, then headed on with a descent that went on for miles, and before I knew it, I was in Carlisle. People dressed up in their party gear were milling around the racecourse, I quickly realised how I must look, drowned rat meets sweaty endurance cyclist. Nothing like their posh party gear.
Then the road of doom started. I have an odd visual impairment that means I cant see on rolling hills what is up and what is down. It helps having my bike computer so I can see what its meant to feel like. And this road of doom felt ALL uphill dragging on for miles. I realised I was out of food and needed the van quickly.
Glyn was a long way from me but circled back. I remember he had some chocolate brownies in the van, I was obsessed now with the thought of sugar, I needed those brownies!
But not one, but 2 brownies later I set off, feeling tired. I had been experiencing highs and lows in energy, so I knew this was to be expected. My friend and fellow tri coach Toasty had messaged me saying "surf the bad times". He messaged several times during this trip, a man of few words but each one very useful.
Before I left, he said to focus my attention on my pressure points, hands, feet, wrists, bum. He was right, they were the areas I kept a close eye on & looked after, without any of those I couldn’t carry on.
After the van left, I realised the ‘2 brownie snack’ was a big mistake. My body was rejecting the massive amount of sugar I had just dumped in my body. I felt sick and had gurgling stomach. But I was so close to the Scottish border.
After 150 miles the heavens opened. I had crossed the border, taken a cool photo, dodged 90% of the rain forecast that day, but the inevitable happened and I finally got soaked through. .We managed another 7 miles and gave in, just as I realised I was cycling in a river caused by flash flooding and torrential rain. Probably best to call it a day.
I was short on my target for the day, and I knew I would pay for that later in the challenge. However, for now I was dry and resting. It was my earliest stop at 7pm.
Fundraising total at this point: £2362
Day 4 - Gretna Green to Pitlochry (176 miles)
My first time in Scotland
It’s crazy to think that the next 4-5 days would be in Scotland. I was so excited when I got up at 5am again, I have never been to Scotland before and this was to be a great day, seeing it at cycling speed was a real treat.
The sun was shining, it was time to get some big miles in. I knew it wouldn’t be flat, but still it was planned to be half the elevation of that first day in the South West.
In an attempt to avoid the A9 I cycled a huge number of miles on the cycle track. This was a lot of fun. Looking at the A9 running next to it, there was no way I would cope with that level of traffic and lorries screaming past me for hours.
I was averaging 14 hours a day on the bike at this point. I knew it was starting to get to me as I was feeling quite paranoid. Something that took me by surprise but I put down to tiredness.
I had been trying to call Mum each day, but not until I was at least 10 miles into the day, so I could rehydrate and refuel and feel good again. So far no saddle sores, so far all in good spirits.
Today I felt was a day of simply putting myself in the right position to have a dash to John O'Groats the next day. I knew by now that 5 days was possible, and tht was my dream. I wasnt worried about the return leg at this point. Possibly not a wise move but one I had decided on to keep the challenge in bite sized chunks.
I cycled through Edinburgh, a lovely city from what I could see. And Perth was also great, a huge park and cycling by the river. I felt strong and happy, amazed at what I was doing with little issues. I focussed on not getting hung up on anything and having a laugh when I saw Glyn. I ate well and slipped through the miles.
Another 176 miles and we stopped at the border of the Scottish Highlands. Glyn took this incredible picture, a symbol of the trip so far. The bad weather was never far away but it never quite reached me. I felt lucky, and very fortunate to be on this trip. Glyn was there to take pics, as well as make dinner, find somewhere to sleep, pack my bike away, fill up the van with water for showers and water bottles. He did EVERYTING. I didnt know how I could ever repay him. But I knew getting to John O’Groats would be special for him, partly as he would be proud. and partly because it meant we may be on the road less time than we first thought!!
Fundraising at this point: £2621
Day 5 – Pitlochry to Joh O’Groats (196 miles)
Arriving on top of the World
I knew today was the day. I had one chance to make it to John O’Groats in 5 days and this was it. I got up early and ate lots, and drank lots. I knew it wouldn’t be the end of the world If I didn’t make it but I would be sad to get close then have to sleep for the night. So I made fuelling my priority and took my foot off the gas a little so I could save some for the end of the day.
I could feel at this point, without worrying about power and heartrate, that I knew how hard to push without emptying the tank too early in the day. As a coach I probably should have been more interested in power and heartrate, and cadence. But I knew I couldn’t look at this data as I went along as I had the maps on my bike computer and that was more important.
I felt the whole challenge would be 95% mental anyway. I had 2 weeks to plan for this trip. I had never done anything like it before, these mileages I would have laughed at 2 weeks ago. And yet here I was getting through day by day, feeling motivated and happy. It was working, so why complicate things with data and metrics that may upset what is a good balance.
I knew I would have to go on the A9 at some point. And 2 things happened very quickly. At the first ever signpost that mentioned John O’Groats I was excited. Followed by mortified. It was still 85 miles to go and I was getting tired, and the day was slipping away.
Secondly, I was about to join the A9 and it was busy! At least the light was good and no rain yet. I trucked on and held my nerve, If I was to get to JOG today I would have to out those big girl pants on for sure.
I eventually stopped for the first time that day at 6pm. I had to eat, and Glyn had made jacket potato and beans. I asked him each day for what I fancied to eat rather than have meals I wasn’t craving. |today it was spud and beans. It tasted good, and we felt in control again.
One other thing that was incredible to see was the messages to both Glyn and I from people offering encouragement. I think they could see from my updates that was desperate to reach JOG today. I knew Glyn was getting tired too, It was hard for him to see me push this so hard as well. It was going to be my longest ever day riding in miles, and what a destination.
Eventually the sun started to set and it was stunning, An orange glow for what felt like eternity. We never say anyone else. And after some pictures and a quick pit stop I told him I would ‘see him at the top’!
At 10:45pm I reached John O’Groats. I cycled straight up the famous sign and stopped the bike. Glyn joined me, filming on his phone for the Guinness records evidence. He started crying at the sheer effort of getting there. Although incredibly proud, I think I was just totally and utterly shattered, and had expended all my emotion on the way up, taking in everyone’s wonderful messages of support.
Even after the sun had set, it was still light. I felt like I had landed on top of the world!
From Land’s End to John O’Groats in 4 days and 17 hours.
Something I will forever be proud of. And this remains my favourite part of the whole challenge.
Fundraising at this point: £4000
Day 6 John O’Groats to Aviemore (156 miles)
A change of morale
If day 5 had been one of the highlights of my sporting life, this morning was to be the opposite! I woke at 7am, shattered from the day before, and hearing torrential rain outside banging on the van. My first real rain since the start of the trip. I was low in motivation, and we needed to pick ourselves up quickly and crack on.
The night before I had been so overwhelmed with the amazing messages and donations coming in. It was almost like people thought the challenge was to get to JOG but of course it was only half way. But it was a milestone at least and I appreciated every single message. I just hoped the support would continue as we needed it more than ever now.
Glyn was suggesting in our morning meeting (which lasted around 1 minute before I ran out the door to get on the bike) that I should pair back the mileage for the return journey. I understood his theory as the record was looking like it was achievable without getting back again in 5 days.
He was tired from the mammoth day before, but I knew if I could get my magic first 10 miles out of the way I would feel ok. But psychologically I was hearing everyone say what a big day it was, and that celebration the night before made me have a bit of finish line fever. I okayed it with myself to have a shorter day to make up for the 197 miles the day before.
The hills were harsh on the return to the highlands, even though I was on the same route. I finished in Aviemore and we had decided to get a hotel as we planned to finish early that day, Sadly I wasn’t moving as fast as previous days, and we had set off later too. Also the length and number of stops I had because of the rain meant I didn’t finish till 9:20pm. Hardly time to enjoy the hotel. Glyn was tired, the dogs were confused at being in the hotel and I was shattered. Barely able to keep my eyes open to eat, and I felt so guilty for not making the hotel earlier to enjoy it.
The hotel gave us a free drink for what we were doing. I drank one sip and fell asleep! Cheap date!
Fundraising to this point: £4787
Day 7 Aviemore to Biggar (158 miles)
Meeting another Louise
Morale has been low amongst Team Lejogle yesterday. Although the fundraising was tipping over to £4000, the general feeling was that this was all getting quite hard. The lack of rain the next day helped. I made sure Glyn stayed in the hotel room while I set off on the bike at 6am, so he could make the most of another hour in bed.
This gave me time to get my first magic 10 miles out of the way, and think about how to manage the next few days. I knew I had let the miles slip a little but I’m not sure why. I wanted to get home in 5 days and knew I couldn’t let this happen too much.
If I’m honest, I think I was letting what others were saying get into my head. The shock of getting to John O’Groats in 5 days made me think I would never get back in 5 days, but why not? I actually felt great! I may not in 5 hours time or 2 days time, but I felt good for now and vowed to crack on a bit more each day.
My biggest concern was that I knew Glyn was feeling really tired. But the extra hour in the hotel had helped and when I saw him later on he looked and felt much perkier!
I was heading through Edinburgh again today and Perth. In Perth I was meeting Louise from GDS who volunteers for them looking after their social media. She was waiting with Glyn the other side of Perth when I was zipping through a lovely park. I cycled over a pot hole and discovered something on my wheel.
I had damaged the tyre and the white gunk that seals it up was coming out. The tyre went down but Craig had also put a liner in the tyre so If I had a flat I could limp another 50k to help. This was brilliant. I rang Glyn who googles the nearest bike repair shop. Luckily, I was less than half a mile away and it was practically on the route!
The sign in the shop window said “no services available, completely full” I was worried they wouldn’t fit me in.
But once I explained what I was doing they got me in and started changing the tyre. The split was so big it wouldn’t seal and to be safe I wanted a brand-new tyre.
45 mins later and I was off again. Sadly, what was to be a big day was looking less likely now.
I met Louise and her 3 lovely GDS rescue dogs. Then set off on my way. I only managed 158 miles before retiring for the day, a far cry from the England sign that I was hoping to see. I knew getting back to Land’s End in 5 days was still possible, but I would need to put a huge day in to make that a reality again.
Fundraising at this point: £7116
Favourite message of the day from Mojo Clubmate Heather Cooper: "No woman in the world has cycled this route faster than you are doing it. Fact. "
It made me laugh!
Below: 2 x Louise's and lots of GDS doggos!
Day 8 Biggar to Warrington, Manchester (196 miles)
Popping back to England
Excited again today as I was hoping for a big day and a chance to see Steph & Sally again. I said to Glyn I didn’t want many stops and when I see the van I want to stop, so he made himself scarce, but I knew he was there if I needed him. Secretly I was hoping for 200 miles today. But this was a big ask considering I had never done this distance before, and we were 8 days in!
My friend, who I have a very witty relationship with, also joked that “the old girl was slowing down on the way back”. So I was on a mission to prove him wrong! 😉
I hopped over the border to England and felt good. Seeing Steph and Sally again on that Road from hell outside Carlisle was a welcome break. Sally had made flapjacks too, which Peanut and Chia were very keen to investigate.
I cracked on and felt like I had done well, munching away the miles. Then the rain came in and I needed to stop, so stayed a while in a café. It was way too easy to stay there, I had been craving anything that felt like normal life. We had been on the road for 8 days and not had a meal together, sat down for lunch, enjoyed a coffee out of a proper cup, or even had time to stop and appreciate where we were.
But this was not a holiday and I needed to get moving. It also wasn’t meant to be easy, I reminded myself. Another stop/start once I saw the van and I was off again. I made it to Lancaster and got a bit lost. It was my first sign that I was losing my mind a little from tiredness. The paranoia had been getting worse, thinking I could see things that didn’t exist.
But I was really cheered up when I stopped at a park to check my route only to discover the donations had been rolling in so fast, we had gone over £10,000! This boosted me on no end.
As it started to get dark I made it to Preston. The boy racers were out in force and It was 11pm. I was exhausted, scared, paranoid and felt very vulnerable. Glyn was witnessing the ridiculous driving by blacked out cars and hoping around each corner he would still see me
That city seemed to carry on for mile after mile. Into Chorley I knew I had to get through this area so I would start fresh in the morning, rather than having to start the day with rush hour madness in the city.
Finally at 197 miles I stopped just past midnight. It was getting unsustainable to keep up this amount of hours on the road. And it was becoming clear neither of us would survive at this pace. Tomorrow had to be easier. BUT I wanted to get to Bristol by the evening. It was going to be a massive day, again.
Fundraising at this point £10,071
Day 9 – Manchester to Severn Bridge, Bristol (165 miles)
The Mission to the Bridge
Today I hoped for no dramas. As I had started to do every day from about day 2!
I wanted so desperately to get to Bristol this evening, to get back to somewhere that would give me a shot at finishing in 9 hours and something! I didn’t care if it was 9 days and 23 hours, I just really hoped to do the return leg in 5 days, that would be an absolute dream.
The day went well, but I was slowing down I could feel it.
I knew I was pushing Glyn hard now, it was dark, raining, I had to keep checking that my jacket was visible as I had gotten so tired and paranoid. Cycling along the Wye Valley in the dark at 11pm was not the same experience as on the way out.
Reaching Tintern Abbey I thought w things. Thank Gosh Im back here again, it feels close to Bristol. And also casting my mind back to very early on day 2 when I stopped for a coffee only to find my Garmin had fallen off and was un over by a car.
I couldn’t even let myself think about all the thousands of things that had happened in between on our journey up and down the country. I just knew I had to focus, get up that huge hill into Chepstow, over that bridge and to safety, as the wind was so bad the next day they were going to close the bridge.
The wind had already picked up, and at the Bristol side of the bridge I took a quick selfie to let followers know I was over safely. I found Glyn and the van, and although we love 20 mins drive away, it was past midnight and we needed as much rest as possible. We stopped at a services, got into bed and aimed for 5 hours sleep before starting what I had hoped was the last day of Lejogle.
Fundraising at this point: £13,000
Day 10 Bristol to Land’s End (230 miles)
Hills, tears, and a pot of gold.
This is a really hard section to write, now I am in the position to reflect on the day. I know that I made ALL my mistakes in the last day. Well all except one. I left myself too many miles to complete if this was to be my last day, and that was mistake no.1.
Leaving Bristol in the morning I was already late, leaving at 7am, owing to not getting to bed until close to 1am that morning.
The wind was harsh, dead on headwind. It was Saturday so I started to see more and more cars building as I approached Bridgewater. I was spurred on by some supporters, and this was my first of many friendly faces as I cycle through the South West.
I met friends, family, GDS supporters. There were so many people to see and I got handed balloons, champagne, chocolate, Epsom bath salts and other gifts. It was really amazing to see everyone and made the weather seem much less of an issue.
But it was an issue, and by the time I reached the van just outside of Okehampton, I stopped for what I realised was my first proper food of the day, it was 100 miles in. I ate pasta and chatted with friends in the van. There were some Mojo clubmates up the road and I set off again, but by now I was starting to feel very tired and demotivated.
Being cheered on by the Mojo athletes was amazing, it raised my spirits again on a very hilly part of the route. At this point I had not even thought about Cornwall! I met Emma shortly after and she cycled behind me for a few miles, but it was torrential rain so he turned back. I was so grateful for the support.
I checked my phone as 2 Mojo athletes were swimming the Ullswater 7.5 mile swim that day. The weather was so bad up and down the country it was likely going to be called off.
But to my surprise it was on, and they had completed it! In my tired state, hungry, wet and cold I couldn’t fathom at that point how they could have swum 7.5 miles in open water. I was so inspired by their bravery I pushed on again.
But then I got lost, and rang Glyn. It was around 8pm and I wanted to sleep. This was the first time this trip that I wanted to stop during the day, other days I pushed on until bed time. I wanted desperately to arrive in Lands End just before 3am, so I would record a time of 9 days and 23 hours.
Motivation dropped again, and I pleaded to sleep for a while out of the rain and cold. We looked at the forecast and it was going to slow down soon, and Glyn was adamant we needed to make the most of the last 1.5 hours of light we had left. I asked if our plan of getting in before 3am was possible and he said yes, If I pushed on now.
I set off like a rocket, spurred on by our new challenge. But this faded after 2 hours and I found myself needing some sleep again. The dark country lanes, overgrown hedges, shadows and quiet of Cornwall at night as eerie. What really got to me was the thoughts in my head had turned very dark indeed. I was picturing bad things happening to both me and Glyn, such as crashing the van, being abducted from people in the fields next to me. Clearly the lack of sleep and food was catching up and soon I didn’t know which as up or down.
At one point Glyn had to physically put me and the bike in the right direction and say “ride on this road” only to later find me cycling a completely different one.
I pleased for more sleep again in Truro, at a service station. I had 40 minutes but Glyn woke me to get started again. It was getting busy on the roads, we had missed our 3am goal by a long long way, and I was finished. No more energy, no more motivation, I was really disappointed to have lost this goal, and couldn’t rationalise it.
More getting lost, more confusion about routes, and finally I was on the way again, very slowly. Friends and family were starting to wake up. I thought that at least they could see me finish as it would be a respectable time, rather than 3am.
I still have no idea what really happened in Cornwall that night. Time seemed to speed up whilst I was standing still. I had missed the chance to sleep, yes missed the chance to cycle any distance too it had seemed. I was broken, but I was about to see Marazion, a little town in Cornwall that I remember on my first day, taking pictures of the sunrise and thinking how beautiful it was.
That means I was nearly there. Elated I then found Glyn waiting in a car park. He took a picture of me, I was now looking like a wreck, but posted on Facebook that I was nearly there after a very torturous night. He was exhausted beyond words, the dogs were ready for another day having slept all night. He said I was close, and pointed out Lands End. I said it seemed so far away still, nearly in tears. He said at this speed it probably was! With that he set off and see you at the finish. That sounded promising!
Then I realised at this point, with only a few miles to go, I still had 14 significant climbs to do. Cornwall, I will repeat is the hardest place in the world to cycle! FACT.
I started to whimper, then full on cry every time I saw a downhill, as I knew what was coming up. Then I saw a sign that lit me up no end. I was nearly home. Glyn suggested doing a Facebook live as I arrived. I mustered up enough brain power to work this out, and as I rolled into Lands End, I blurted out how grateful I was to everyone for their support, how brutal that last 8 hours had been, and how this was always a mission for the Galgos.
I got off the bike, my body rigid with fatigue, tiredness and sheer shock of the last 10 days. I hugged Glyn as we both burst into tears, and finally it was done.
10 days, 5 hours and 0 minutes.
Mojo clubmate Jodie was there. We spoke for a while, then I went to find the famous sign for a photo.
We climbed into the van, totally unable to put into words what just happened. Glyn fell asleep immediately and I wasn’t far behind. The recovery had begun, and we both needed it very much!
Fundraising total: An INCREDIBLE £20,473
Final words of gratitude
Fundraising continued for a few weeks after the event. Donations were trickling in and the total was slowly going up. As it stands we are at £20,398.
With the donations, Tina at GDS has commissioned a new recovery facility at the centre. It will help dogs like 4 legged Louise who needs to be under supervision but doesn’t need to be taking up a hospital bed any more in the vets. She will get more sunshine, but not be at risk from being knocked over from other dogs who may be livelier as she is still very weak. The building work for this facility starts in September.
Tina has also purchased some very special beds for the Winter. The kennels have concrete floors and can get cold in the Winter months, but many of the dogs rip up their beds and destroy them in minutes. These new beds are ultra tough ones. So far they are even Podenco proof!
Pride is the word I use time and time again when I think about this challenge:
- Proud to be able to have an idea in February to help the Galgos in Spain and be able to turn around a fundraising event and World Record in 4 months.
- Proud of my body for keeping up with my brain’s ever growing ambitions for it!
- Proud to have had the last 15 years of triathlon training under my belt, and more recently the guidance of my coach Rob Wakefield since 2018, who helped me go from cycling rookie to loving the sport.
- Proud to have done something that inspired all the messages of support and inspired people who came to cheer me on the route. Family, friends, Mojo athletes, GDS fans, dog lovers, dot watchers. You all played an enormous part in my journey and I will never forget it. So much gratitude.
And finally, I have 2 thankyous.
In a recent Podcast I was invited to do with Simon De Burgh, (who did Lejog 3 days before me) he asked me who I would most like to sit down and talk with. Without thinking I said my Dad. He is no longer with us, but losing him was my motivation to start running, then try triathlon, and now a world record. He and Mum have always supported my crazy ideas, Mum came to cheer me on twice on the route, and has come to countless triathlons too. I know Dad would have loved to have done the same. When you say "life is too short" we know only too well that is true.
On arrival at John O’Groats, it truly felt like I had arrived at the top of the world, and I felt close to Dad at that point. Every day on the challenge I carried a locket with his picture, and I would say to Mum that he must have been giving me a push and protecting me from harm. I knew he was looking after me. Thankyou to both of them for giving me the encouragement to pursue whatever I wanted.
And my final word must be for the main man. There are no words to describe how grateful I am to Glyn for this selfless act of supporting me. Not just Lejogle but every single adventure I spring on him!
The list of roles and jobs he needed to juggle on the trip was longer than the road I cycled. But he did them all, over and above what was needed, almost always with a smile!
He kept me safe, kept me sane, kept the wheels of the whole operation turning each day, even though he himself was exhausted.
I can’t think of anyone better to share this adventure with, as well as all of you out there who supported, donated, and sent such kind messages throughout.
Truly an incredible team effort.
For the Galgos
Let's hope one day they will all be free from harm x