Cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats
It’s a famous rite of passage for any cyclist and adventure queen, riding from Lands End to John O’Groats. Here, Ingrid Kane details her incredible experience of riding 969 miles over nine days as part of Deloitte Ride Across Britain 2017 and proves that no matter how busy you are, it is possible to train if you train smart…
How it works
A couple of years ago I thought I would like a new challenge and cycling the length of the UK had always been on my bucket list. However, I struggled to work out how I would fit the event and training in with a busy job. Deloitte Ride Across Britain (RAB) seemed to fit the bill perfectly.
The challenge: cycling 969 miles over 9 days
Logistics: luggage limited to 15kg, transferred from camp to camp by organisers
Accommodation: tents (no you don’t have to put them up and down, a kind team do that for you!). In 2017 there was a hotel option – none of that for me!
What you need to know: it’s a tough challenge, but you can do it with some preparation. Be prepared for all weathers – 2017 was the wettest (and muddiest) RAB to date.
What you need: a road bike – doesn’t need to be anything too fancy although you may well get bike envy once you start the ride!
I entered RAB about a year before the start, catching the early bird entry fee and persuaded one of my crazy friends to join me. The organisers provide a detailed training programme, but I knew that with my work and busy life, I was not going to be able to fit in lots of cycling before the event or in the winter months, and so I decided to adapt my training and fit in multiple activities.
Coaches, Rachael, Amy at the Fitbitch camps in Lewes gave me the perfect kick start, and I also did weekly Pilates classes and started running, first within the bootcamp sessions and then with Girls Run the World. I even started back to hockey sessions to build my fitness! Cycling wise, I used several sportives to help me build up the distances and once Spring arrived, I began cycling 10 hilly miles two and from work twice a week, which was invaluable. .
I work one in three weekends and so fitting long training rides in at the weekend was tricky but I did what I could, completing the fantastic Elfstedentocht cycle tour event in the Netherlands, the Dunwich Dynamo (cycling from London to Suffolk overnight) and the Ride 100 in London. By the time the start approached I had lost weight, felt much fitter and was looking forward to the event …but I was still VERY worried about my ability to cycle nine consecutive days of over 100 miles. Mental attitude is key, but I felt I had an advantage in being used to working longs hours on limited sleep!
Crossing the start line on a windy day in Lands End was amazing; suddenly all my anxieties disappeared as I started cycling with approximately 700 people from all walks of life but it was a tough day – who knew Cornwall and Devon were so hilly?! We climbed over 6000 feet on that first day and boy did I sleep well. By the time I’d completed day two, I felt strong and confident that I’d complete the event, barring any accidents. Mentally, I knew I would have to dig deep at times – most notably leaving Bath in in torrential rain with water coming up out of drains and flowing uphill!
Crossing the finish line was incredibly emotional, and I felt an unbelievable sense of achievement, but it was also rather sad. After nine days spent experiencing such highs and lows with people I met along the way, so many people had to rush off to catch trains and planes. I’d definitely recommend arranging a hotel near the finish like I did so you get the opportunity to explore Orkney and let it all sink in. I ended up catching up with a friend I’d cycled with in Israel over 25 years previously. It was an amazing experience and I’d do it again like a shot!
Experiencing the incredible country we live in on two wheels.
Making it 969 miles without walking any of the route.
The summit of Shap.
Completing the 126 miles from Hamilton to Fort William through spectacular Glen Coe
Meeting some inspiring people
Lulu’s food in camp
Camping, even in the mud!
Surviving with no mechanical issues and no punctures – still can’t quite believe that!
Damp clothes, even after a night in the ‘drying’ room.
A couple of 4.30am starts.
The queue for the coffee van at pit stops!
What everyone always wants to know.
The Nitty Gritty
Food: the event is fully catered and the food was better than I could have imagined, with al dietary requirements are catered for. Lulu and her staff manage to provide food for around 900 (including all the logistics team) everyday from breakfast (porridge and fruit to a full English) to a choice of four main courses for supper. The bonus of an event like this is that you can eat as much as you like! During the day there are at least two pit stops – again plenty of food. Pork pies and Muller rice seemed particular favourites!
Facilities: a hot shower is available everyday courtesy of posh wash showers, along with toilets
Medical support: available at camp and en route each day, and every third night, you are allocate a physio session
Broom wagon: there is a cut off of about 12 hours each day. A bus picks up anyone who is struggling, with medical issues or drastic mechanical issues that the mechanics are unable to fix on the road.
In July 2018, another Fitbitch is undertaking LEJOG, this time unaided and unsupported. If you’d like to join her on some of it, or simply come and do some of the training rides, join our free Fitbitch ride community here.