This was it, the day I'd become a world record holder! I woke up excited for the day. I knew I'd get to John O'Groats today even if I broke an arm I'd have just pushed one handed to the finish line. There was no way, with only 41 miles to go, I wasn't going to finish today!
The morning routine felt strange, almost like there wasn't a need to do it. Of course there was, we needed to store all the equipment, luggage and spares on the beds so we cold eat at the table to fuel the day's push. I needed to download all of the footage and gps data from Day 19 to make sure I had evidence for the world record. My gloves needed repairing. My £1600 carbon rear wheels had been very badly damaged so we used gaffer tape to hold them together too. I think I had it in my head that the challenge was already over. Obviously it wasn't; I still had a marathon, a half marathon and almost a park run to complete.
The weather was a bit drizzly so we decided to get on our way early to give me more pushing time. As we left the campsite, Ed smiled and waved at the owner whilst calling her a stingey bitch, ventriloquist style. All the way we'd had free sites and met some lovely campsite owners, this was the first one we'd paid for and it was the worst one we stayed at largely because the owner was an arrogant old mare. I may have worn my shoes past the no shoes sign, oops.
The start point for the day wasn't the most practical one, as soon as I had finished the hill from hell on day 19 I wanted to get out of my chair so we hadn't looked for a layby or side street like normal. I'd chosen a spot probably used for a home owner to park their car in front of their garden. Whilst setting up the chair and bikes I'd spotted a patch of wild orchids and made dad go and photograph them for me. Ed seemed quite interested in them too, maybe he was just humouring me but it was nice to see it wasn't only Devon and Cornwall that had fancy plants growing. We'd also been passing huge swathes of wild lupins in the Scottish Highlands. Ed collected me some seeds from them so I could grow them to remember the trip by. Oddly enough they flowered this year on the first day I started writing this blog.
|My Scottish lupins|
|Dunbeath from the modern bridge.|
|The picturesque Lybster Harbour|
|Thrumster; my battle ground with the cheating Germans.|
That was it! I was in race mode, I pushed hard to keep them in sight whilst on a slight climb. Then over the brow of a hill I belted my damaged wheels with my damaged fists in my damaged gloves as hard as I could. I got myself as low as I could, tucked my head down and went flying past them at 46mph, my fastest speed of the entire push. Once I'd overtook them I continued to push in race mode telling myself I wasn't going to be overtaken by cheats! Even when it started sleeting and then a deluge of hailstones came down I just kept going hell for leather. All the way to Wick.
I think Ed had cottoned on to my disgust in being overtaken by two Germans on electric bikes, I'm not sure he understood it though! Ant commented that I was flying today although he hadn't noticed the couple had it easy on their electric bikes so he didn't know what was going on. As we got to Wick I spotted a Pets At Home on a retail park so we pulled in to the car park to have lunch there and to get a tick remover for Bonnie. I felt so bad that we hadn't been able to get it removed yet but we just couldn't find a vets that was open anywhere near where we was. After reading the instructions I had a go with the tick remover. I panicked at first thinking I'd left its head inside Bonnie but dads magnifying glass came in in handy and I could see I'd got all of the little fucker out. I drowned it in vinegar, then mashed it up just to make double sure it was dead. Horrible little things!
We ate our lunch and studied the map as we weren't far from leaving the A9 so we needed to make sure my dad knew where he was going and how we would work the finish so we had photos and video of the final few yards.
I made sure dad knew to get to the outskirts of John O'Groats before us so he could get a photo of us passing the welcome to John O'Groats sign. Then he was to drive on to the hotel at the junction where End to Enders leave the main road and travel about half a mile down to the famous signpost at the harbour. In the hotel carpark I needed to change into a 53 Foundation vest as I knew the photos would be in the press. I was going to get Bonnie ready to run the last stretch with me. Whilst Ant, Bonnie and I waited at the hotel Dad and Ed would drive down to the finish so they were in place to video and take photos of me finishing the 900 mile journey. When I explained to dad the plans he said
"Well I'll see"
"No dad, it's really important we get this bit right."
"Ok, I'll try my best then"
I wasn't sure what he was thinking and why he seemed reluctant. I thought maybe there was some sort of surprise for me at the end and my plans didn't fit in with that. It seemed a bit odd to me but I just explained that I really wanted Bonnie to run the last bit with me and I had to have the charity vest on show for the photos that would be in the media.
We did a little work on the gloves and the wheels when the weather eased slightly and let the dream team know that we were about to set off for John O'Groats so they could post of our facebook page. Then we got ready to leave on the last push of the challenge
Day 20 Morning Stats
Average Moving Speed: 11.9mph
Top Speed: 46.0mph (fastest of the trip)
Slowest Mile Split: Mile 6 - 7:47
Fastest Mile Split: Mile 20 - 2:52
Total Ascent: 768ft
Average Heart Rate: 140bpm
Max Heart Rate: 160bpm
Day 20 Morning Progress Maps
Day 20 Afternoon
We set off on the afternoon push passing through the Scottish countryside. There were very few trees about which looked unusual. Throughout the rest of Scotland we had passed lots of pine plantations and a good few natural woodlands, up here there was nothing. We passed dozens of crofts, some derelict, some traditional thatched and some that had been modernised. I'd love a croft one day, just enough land to provide for myself. I think I'd enjoy that sort of life.
|A Scottish croft.|
The weather had begun to improve as we made our way towards John O'Groats. I'd been looking forward to this bit of the push, we'd been told this bit was easy by lots of people. People who had described other parts of the route perfectly had said that the last few miles are relatively flat. Its not! As I struggled up one hill there was a lady in her garden, dad had told her what we were doing and she told us we were on the last hill. That gave me a bit of confidence but she was lying too haha! There was a 300ft climb to do just before John O'Groats, I did ok climbing up it. I knew I wasn't far away now.
Not long after the climb I started the downhill to the famous signpost. Dad got a photo of me passing the town sign but that wasn't the important one so we didn't stop to pose we carried on towards the hotel. Dad shot off ahead. I started to get butterflies in my belly with the excitement I was about to finish. I couldn't wait to let Bonnie have a run with me. She used to run with me quite a lot but as she is getting old and I am faster now she doesn't train anymore.
When I spotted the Hotel and the motorhome was nowhere to be seen my heart sank, as we pulled up outside and checked the carpark and the side street I knew dad had ignored me from him saying he'd 'try' to meet us at the hotel when I was giving him directions at lunch. Ed phoned him to see where he was, in the time it took him to answer my blood had boiled. Ed passed me the phone and dad tried telling me there was nowhere to park at the hotel when he passed, there were only three cars in the carpark and not one on the side street and we couldn't have been more than 10 minutes behind him. That little fib tipped me over the edge and 899.5 miles worth of emotion ended up being yelled down the phone at my dad. I still have no idea why he chose to try and change my plans for finishing with Bonnie, I'd spoken about the plan since the start of the challenge. He knew I needed the charity vest and that I needed him and Ed at the finish line so I could get photos and a video of the finish. I eventually managed to get him to fetch the dog and the vest up for me. He decided to walk up rather than drive so it took quite a while. We had a massive row in the street over it, I was pretty nasty to him but I was so pissed off that he had put a huge downer on what should have been the best half hour of my life. I don't think I've ever been more angry.
I let Bonnie off the lead so she could trot along behind me like the old days, changed my vest and set off for the finish line. My dad didn't get to see me finish which really upset him but I was so angry with him I didn't care. When I arrived at the car park I wasn't sure of the way but I could see a big group of people so I headed for them. When I spotted the sign I also spotted the little off-roading section I would need to do to get to it. I looked around the big group of people thinking that maybe I knew people there and that's why dad had decided to change my plans for me. A few people had said they might go to the finish to see me but there was only Ed, Ant and Bonnie there that I knew.
I had just broken a world record but it felt crap. I'd fallen out with my dad and that had ruined it for me. I spoke to a few of the cyclists that were around the Signpost asking them about their journeys and the stories behind them. Unlike Lands End there wasn't a charge for photos so people were gathering around and taking lots of photos then just chilling out on the grass. Some of the people who had done it before told me to go to the café and sign the End to Enders book and I would get a medal. I did that whilst Ed went to find my dad.
|With Ant and Bonnie at the signpost|
I spoke to my mum once I was back in the motorhome, she was excited for me but I just couldn't enjoy it. 20 days of massive effort seemed completely ruined. My mum phoned my dad then phoned me back telling me he was refusing to come to the motorhome. I was up for leaving him there but Ed wouldn't drive off. It took Ed about an hour and a half to get him in the motorhome which made me even more angry at him - I wanted a bath and a pint!
Ed let me know that Amanda, the legend that had organised the cyclist to escort me over the border had shelled out for a night in a hotel for us in a nearby town. What an absolute star! That cheered me up no end! We headed straight for the hotel so I could get the pint I'd been waiting for whilst dad sulked. Once at the hotel dad refused to come inside, I'd had enough of fannying around him so we just left him in the motorhome and went to check in. We phoned Amanda and thanked her for the hotel, it was lovely to talk to someone who was actually in a good mood, that phone call and the gift of a night in a hotel broke my bad mood. I sent a message to dad to ask him if he wanted dinner but he refused to come inside so I made a decision to leave him to sulk and to enjoy my night. It actually took him over a week to say anything other than the word 'no' to me.
Ed went to buy me a pint and when he returned to the room with it I posted a photo of the pint and my medal with a status taunting those that had treated me like an fool for believing I could complete the challenge to my personal facebook page. They had told me it couldn't be organised in time for August, we finished on the 3rd of July. They told me I needed a year or more to train, I did one training push. They told me I couldn't climb Shap, I climbed it in a morning and did another push that afternoon. They told me 33 miles a day was too much and I wouldn't finish in 28 days, I averaged 45miles per day and finished in 20 days. I was 8 days ahead of my own target, the first person to complete it and I beat the record set in an electric wheelchair by 10 days using arm power alone.
I'm not normally a cocky person but I was so tempted to phone that group of people who had been so nasty to me and just laugh at them, say 'I told you so' and then put the phone down. I didn't, I had a meal with Ed and Ant, laughed and joked, had a few pints and went for a walk along the sea front to see the Lifeboat - I'm a little obsessed with Lifeboats which is a bit strange for someone who lives in the Pennines! Lots of well done comments kept coming all night, so many that I am still seeing messages that I missed at the time a year later!
Day 20 Afternoon Stats
Average Moving Speed: 9.3mph
Top Speed: 25.8
Slowest Mile Split: Mile 15 - 13:45
Fastest Mile Split: Mile 17 - 3:02 (The last full mile of the trip)
Total Ascent: 754ft
Average Heart Rate: 143bpm
Max Heart Rate:164bpm
Day 20 Afternoon Progress Maps
Total Daily Mileage: 41.46