September 2009
The lengths some people will go to support us!

Keen cyclists and friends Bruce Milroy, Gwyn Williams and Vin Kennedy cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats in July to raise funds for The Cancer Thermal Ablation Fund (http://www.rfablation.co.uk/). They cycled the 932 miles in memory of their close friend, Olympic swimmer Paul Marshall, who sadly passed away in May 2009 after a two-year battle with cancer.

This is their story:
DAY 1: Land’s End to Truro - 45 miles
We left Land’s End at 5pm and did 44 miles in 2 hours 40 minutes. A good run with good weather. We got a great send off from Gwyn’s family!

DAY 2: Truro to Cullompton (North of Exeter) - 89 miles
A30 out of Cornwall very hilly and dual carriageway most of way. Climbed 45 monster hills with lorries thundering past. Not nice at all. Went through Crediton, meeting the lovely Guy Butcher who showed us how to get to Cullompton without another big hill – fabulous advice! Weather has been good, no rain. Arrived at a lovely B&B a bit wobbly and tired, but glad to have the A30 behind us.

DAY 2: Cullompton to Chepstow (Vin’s House) - 80 miles
The morning was good (although Bruce fell off twice and got a few grazes). The afternoon was harder, especially the 9-mile climb to Bristol Airport - but we’ve found strong coffee and jelly babies help us through the afternoons! Support driver Paul is handing out leaflets and being given donations by random people – it’s amazing how generous people are. Overnight at Vin’s tonight, so well taken care of by his wife Lou. With over 200 miles gone, had a real head in hands moment – what have we done? Not sure I will finish the way I feel tonight.

DAY 4: Chepstow to Stafford - 109 miles
Vin’s friends Adrian and Mike joined us today. We left Vin’s house in pouring rain, but it only lasted half an hour. Stopped in Chepstow for a photo beside the “Go LEJOG!” banner that Lou had put on a roundabout in town – nice touch! Having new faces along for the ride helped keep us going – and they also made substantial financial contributions to the fund. A pub landlord in Worcester invited us to collect donations from his customers...raised about £25! People’s generosity is unbelievable. Got to Stafford tired, but feeling like we might be able to do this after all. Paul left us tonight and Bruce’s brother Derek joined as support driver.

DAY 5: Stafford to Lancaster - 105 miles
Started the day feeling good, although we are beginning to suffer problems like permanently numb feet, aching knees and bottom trouble (you really don’t want to know...). Mike and Adrian left and we had our toughest day so far. Morning ride was reasonably flat but afternoon was a constant climb with blustery head winds. Stopped in Preston where we were invited into the nearby working men’s club and had a whip round raising over £50! Really sweet, genuine people wanting to help.

DAY 6: Lancaster to Dumfries - 109 miles
Lancaster to Kendal was easy, but we got on the Kendal by-pass by mistake adding an extra five miles to our day. Stopped in Kendal to get Gwyn’s gearing adjusted at Evans Cycles (thanks guys!). The afternoon was really hard. We finally made it to the B&B after eight hours cycling. Random act of kindness today... employee at BP Garage in Penrith gave us 12 bottles of Lucozade Sport. It restores your faith in mankind, there are lots of lovely people out there. Getting loads of texts and messages from people that really help to keep us upbeat.

DAY 7: Dumfries to Inverkip - 95 miles
Were interviewed by the Dumfries Gazette, who took a bit of video. It rained most of the day, and the terrain was hilly, but it was sunny as we cycled along past Largs and up the Ayrshire coast. The scenery was stunning – a perfect end to a pretty gruelling day. Gwyn had a major mechanical problem but he managed to find Alan at Aero Cycles in Greenock who stayed open late to fix the bike - a true gentleman! We’ve done about 600 miles now and we all hurt. Saddle sores, sweat rashes, aching joints, you name it, we’ve got it.

DAY 8: Inverkip to Fort William - 115 miles
Our longest day and not an easy one! Friend Rab Ross joined us and came to our rescue when one of our chains came off and jammed the rear wheel. The day started well with a short ferry trip across the Clyde to Dunoon and the ride along the side of Loch Eck was idyllic. Two men cutting the grass verges stopped to give Dek some money – more random acts of kindness! Several friends met us on the road and finally we reached the last flat 20 miles along Loch Linnhe into Fort William where we stayed at Dek’s house. Dek's wife Liz had the lasagne ready - just the job! (we think that is what they mean – they had Lynne)
 
DAY 9: Fort William to Tain - 101 miles
The best day by far and Rab was with us for a second day. We met 10 cyclists doing the same ride as us and we got together along the side of Loch Ness, which was excellent fun! But we flagged North of Inverness. The last 20 miles hurt today but we finally made it with only 89 miles to go to John O’Groats.
 
DAY 10: Tain to John O’Groats - 89 miles
We headed out from Tain for the last leg full of the joys of spring. 89 miles? We laugh in the face of 89 miles! Ah, but we didn't. The Caithness terrain is tough, tough, tough - a truly gruelling and energy sapping experience. By lunch, Gwyn and I were ready to give in, but when we arrived at JoG, we felt elated enough to do a Mark Cavendish sprint over the line.  Bruce’s family were waiting with flags and banners – we had champagne, photos, hugs, tears, the lot. Then we put some notes for our friend Paul Marshall into bottles, weighed them down and threw them into the sea towards Orkney.
 
We travelled 932 miles in nine days, raised almost £16,000 (including Gift Aid) for Paul's chosen charity and met some fabulously generous people along the way, who gave us more than £200 in cash. It was an experience never to be forgotten.

  • There are lots of people to thank and the main ones are:
  • Derek and Paul - support drivers extraordinaire. We wouldn't have made it without cups of tea, and a sergeant major tendency to get us moving when our break times were up.
  • Lou, Jane and Liz - for making us welcome, putting us up and feeding us on our journey.
  • Linda – for keeping our “blog” going
  • Mike, Adrian and Rab - for joining us for a day or two
  • Big Guy, Vic and Paul, Ali, Joanne, Abigail, Bethany and Elia - for coming to see us along our route
  • To everyone who sent texts and called - thanks so much for the support.

And finally, thanks to our friend Paul Marshall for looking after the weather, for providing the inspiration for the trip, and for keeping me going during the dark hours.

The final statistics:

  • 932 miles
  • 63 hours in the saddle
  • Average speed 14.83 mph
  • Total funds raised £13,150 (plus Gift Aid) – and counting!

The donation page - http://www.justgiving.com/ethosfundraising/  is still open if you would like to contribute to this worthwhile cause.