DAY 8 - The last bit


SPEED: 15.9 mph

RIDING TIME: 6 hrs 17 mins

With the finishing line in sight, we made another early start and set off at 6.30 am. Perfect weather conditions enabled us to knock off the first 30 miles in double quick time. We had decided to go along the A9, thinking it would be flat all the way. After about 30 miles or so however the road started dipping down into coastal villages before ascending steeply. There were a couple of wicked climbs around Helmsdale. We descended like lunatics, reaching just under 50 mph. We refused to let the climbs beat us and maintained our record of not stopping on an ascent. It was very hard work. The road then flattened out and for the first time on the ride we had the benefit of a tailwind. It was fantastic and we flew along to Wick where we stopped for our final refuelling. The last 17 miles to John O'Groats were great and we finally reached our destination at 2.35 pm.

There was no great feeling of elation at the end, just a huge sense of relief. We both phoned our families and I asked my wife Ruth to give George a big hug from me. He was two today. We both pushed ourselves to the limit on the ride and are proud that as a couple of non- cyclists we completed the ride in 7 ½ days. Mark said it was definitely the toughest thing he had done all week and I can't argue with that! It was physical and mental torture, but we have raised a great sum of money for a very worthy cause. Thank you to everyone who has sponsored us. We were overwhelmed with the support we received. And special thanks to our close families who have supported us every step ( pedal ? ) of the way. We wouldn't have managed it without you. Sharmila was a brilliant support driver. It was wonderful to see her at the end of each day and she looked after us superbly. We couldn't have done the ride so quickly without her.

(Mark Bayliss) It's finally over. This was without a doubt the most physically challenging endeavour I have ever undertaken. The painful first few hours rolling out of bed at five day after day, and getting stiff aching legs to climb the first hill will live with me for ever, and has possibly destroyed my chances of ever enjoying cycling again. If it wasn't for the support and encouragement from family and particularly my amazing wife and Chris I would have given up. My brother in law possesses enormous mental and physical strength and has earned my unreserved respect. I hope we have done some good, and for anyone else out there considering trying LeJog - good luck and may the wind be at your back!

(Sharmila Bayliss)What an amazing experience! As they both recover it is hard to explain to people how hard the pair of them worked over the last week. Their physical and mental strength was superb and used to leave me breathless. Although physically not here, great thanks must also go to David (George's Grandfather) who was at mission control. His help and advice during the week was invaluable and he was always there when we needed him. I feel that we achieved what we set out to do. This has given us all great satisfaction and what little help we have been, it is to a worthy cause. With such devoted parents in Ruth and Chris, George and Beth (+1) are very lucky children.

DAY 7 - Connel to Alness


SPEED: 15.6 mph

RIDING TIME: 7 hrs 49 mins

On the road at 6.30 am in ideal weather conditions. We were determined to get off to a good start and flew along averaging over 16 mph to Fort William. We carried on at a good pace to Fort Augustus and on to Drumnadrochit.
We knew there was a savage hill on leaving Drumnadrochit and it lived up to our worst expectations - ¾ mile at 15%. We both battled our way up without stopping and then enjoyed some good descents to Beauly before racing to Alness.
A very good day's work and we are now very excited about finishing tomorrow. I have been visualising my first drink after we finish ( I haven't drunk any alcohol since May ). I can't wait. Mark asked me how much someone would need to pay me for me to put myself through this again. I said £10,000. He said he wouldn't do it for less than a year's salary.
Sharmila here. It may be of interest to some dear readers that Marco and Christoph managed to pull (two females), who appeared to be impressed by Chris' chat up line "Look at my thighs and watch me ergoshift my gear". Please note that this was the highlight of the tour, second only to the anticipated drunken demise of Chris once he has had his babycham tomorrow.
On the penultimate night of this tour, thankyou all for reading, as the boy's sense of humour starts to degenerate, it is possible that this may be the last you hear from us for the next 36 hours as any possible website update for tomorrow may be drowned in the hotel bar .Many thanks and goodnight.
Sharmila has now been given her medication…. We apologise for any inconvenience.

DAY 6 - Kilmarnock to Connel


SPEED: 14.9 mph

RIDING TIME: 7 hrs 26 mins

It had to change and it did. After 5 days without a drop of rain, we woke up to a torrential downpour which continued for most of the morning. We got started slightly later than planned ( bike problems ) and the incessant rain and a puncture on Mark's bike made progress slow. We both found today very tough and I'm too tired to add much more. We did receive some invaluable advice however. As were having a mug of tea to warm us up at Inverrary, we asked the waiter/waitress what the roads were like from there to Connel. He/she ( it was a Jimmy Cranky lookalike) looked at his/her mate who grinned and said there ' would be a lot of poodles ( puddles ) by the side of the road'. Thanks for the useful advice…..
I think the scenery was very nice today, but it was either too wet to see it or we were too tired to look. An early night to revive us.

P.S. As usual, Sharmila had performed her usual miracles. Rooms, food, washing, communications etc. all sorted perfectly. Thanks.

DAY 5 - Kendal to Kilmarnock


SPEED: 15.5 mph

RIDING TIME: 9 hrs 3 mins

Our best day yet. After our 'rest' day yesterday, we consulted with David ( my father-in-law ) at mission control ( Beaconsfield ) and we decided to make an early start and see how far we could get.
We left Kendal at 5.55 am and headed slowly towards Shap, stopping only while I lit a large cigar ( Bolivar Habana No 1 ). I had promised Mark and Sharmila I would climb Shap whilst smoking a cigar and I was true to my word. It made changing gear slightly difficult, but gave Mark a scent to follow. The ascent of Shap was long but not too steep and we were over and down the other side by 7.00 am, with aching knees but otherwise in pretty good shape. The weather was perfect for cycling and we made excellent progress through Penrith and Carlisle and on to Longtown where we had a large breakfast. We soon entered Scotland and the roads to Dumfries were flat and fast and by 1.00pm we had covered over 80 miles. We decided to aim to reach Kilmarnock and phoned Sharmila so she could sort out a place to stay. Our progress slowed on the road to Sanquhar where we travelled on a long stretch that seemed to be downhill. However, we just couldn't seem to get our speed up to a decent level and we concluded that a strongish headwind, poor road surface and our declining energy levels were to blame. I suggested to Mark that maybe gravity worked differently in Scotland, or the hills sloped the other way, but he discounted both theories. We stopped for a brief rest and energy bars and suitably refreshed, made good progress to the outskirts of Kilmarnock where Sharmila had once again come up trumps with ideal accommodation. We finished at 5.20 pm delighted with our day's work. Mark seemed to enjoy today much more ( he actually talked quite a lot! ) and we both feel the end of the ride is not too far away now. Off to a 'team' meeting now to discuss strategy….

DAY 4 - Northwhich to Kendal


SPEED: 14.8 mph

RIDING TIME: 5 hrs 51 mins

We had a 'late' start at 8.05 am following a large breakfast and set off on another sweltering hot day. For once there were very few hills and we made rapid progress to Warrington, the home of the red traffic light. Having negotiated endless lights we made fairly good time to Wigan and then Preston in spite of a nagging headwind. We lunched at Lancaster and chatted with a group of Scottish 'end to enders' who were enjoying their ride. They had started 2 days ahead of us and from what I could gather were boozing it up every evening. Sounded fun. We had an uneventful ride to Kendal and decided not to progress any further. Mark's bike and body were both feeling the strain and Shap fell lay in wait.
We recorded our earliest finish yet at 4.00pm and are looking to up the pace again tomorrow.

DAY 3 - Monmouth to Northwhich


SPEED: 14.7 mph

RIDING TIME: 8 hrs 28 mins

Another early start with the pedals turning at 7.05 am. Both of us were now starting to feel the strain and the first 50 miles were tough. The hills between Monmouth and Hereford, although only small, prevented us from getting into any sort of rhythm and the chain on Mark's bike fell off 5 or 6 times which further disrupted our cycling. A headwind wasn't helping matters either and we stopped for a very welcome breakfast at Bishop's Castle.
Feeling slightly stronger, we carried on, but the nagging headwind prevented us achieving the fast pace we had thought possible the previous evening. Regrettably we had no 'domestique' to pace us today and a very long day's cycling ended at 6.09 pm in Northwhich, with us both very fatigued.
Planning an easier day tomorrow.

DAY 2 - Dunsford to Monmouth



RIDING TIME: 7 hrs 59 mins TOTAL RIDING TIME: 16.4 hrs

We left Dunsford at 7.12 am and polished off the last few hills before Exeter with tired legs which weren't fully warmed up. Once again we made good time initially and we knocked out the first 50 miles at an average speed of 16 mph. Mark was starting to suffer and breakfast was taken at Safeway in Bridgewater.
The next 25 miles were over relatively flat terrain but a combination of a headwind and the heat left us both feeling drained. A killer hill of over a mile into Shipham tested us to the limit and Mark tried a novel hill climbing technique which involved being sick twice on the ascent. Incredibly he completed the climb without stopping - proof of his stated intention not to beaten by any hill we come across.
Help arrived in the shape of our friend Nathan who lives in Bristol and cycled down to join in the fun. Nathan is a novice triathlete and turned up on an expensive looking Lance Armstrong Trek bike.
Nathan had prepared meticulously for his role as team 'domestique', having been forcibly removed from a restaurant by his girlfriend the previous night after he had mysteriously confused being home by 9.00 pm with not being home by half past midnight. Something he had drunk had left him disorientated.
Quite how novice this triathlete was became clear after about 50 metres. A hold up in the traffic flow meant we slowed to a halt and Nathan expertly removed his left foot from his clipless pedals only to try to put his right foot on the ground. Unfortunately this was still attached to the bike and he fell like a sack of spuds on to the road, only feet away from a passing lorry. It was really good of him to lift our spirits in this way.
The big Bristolian then showed his true colours and paced us fantastically up to Avonmouth, over the bridge and up to the new Severn bridge cycle path. The route for this part of the ride is somewhat confusing and Nathan's local knowledge was invaluable. We made excellent time to Chepstow and then finished strongly on the almost exclusively downhill run to Monmouth. Thanks Nathan.
We reached Monmouth at 5.45 pm. Sharmila was waiting for us with a B & B arranged, bags carried to our rooms, drinks and food and safe storage for the bikes. What a star! ( This was encouraging as the previous day, when struggling to find somewhere to stay in Exeter, Sharmila had been delighted when a proprietor had told her that a 'single ' and a 'double' were available. They then said, ' You know this is a Cattery don't you?' )
An excellent curry followed (6,321 calories used) and we are now ready for a flat, fast, hot day tomorrow.

DAY 1 - Land's End to Dunsford



RIDING TIME: 8 hrs 19 mins TOTAL RIDING TIME: 8 hrs 19 mins

A pre-ordered 6.00 am breakfast enabled us to get off to a flying start at 6.52 am after the obligatory photos at the Land's End sign. We were both nervous but pleased to be getting started as we said goodbye to Sharmila, our support driver.
By 10.30 am we had the first 50 miles under our belts at an average speed of 16.1 mph and we stopped for a large unhealthy breakfast. The terrain rapidly worsened after our breakfast stop and the sun broke through the clouds to shine relentlessly for the rest of the day.
We knew day 1 was going to be tough and looking back on it, I can only recall a blur of endless climbs followed by rapid descents. We both started disliking the descents knowing that the height would have to be regained and our average speed fell dramatically as we tackled hill after hill.
We stopped in Tavistock to gather our strength for Dartmoor which proved as tough as expected. Mark had stated he would climb all hills without getting out of his saddle but Dartmoor soon ended that idea. Looking back, I should have had a bet on it.
We struggled on with rapidly deteriorating mental states and after a brief stop at a pub on Dartmoor we prepared for the last 18 miles to Exeter, where Sharmila was trying to book rooms for us.
A puncture about 5 miles short of Exeter during a rapid descent proved lucky. Exeter was full ( The Exeter Festival ) and there was 'no room at the inn'. As we changed the tyre we picked up a message from Sharmila and were directed about ¼ mile back to Dunsford, to a very nice pub with rooms.
A very hard day at the office, but not a bad average speed considering the terrain. Finished at 6.15 pm. Looking forward to an easier day 2?
Mark's heart rate monitor stated he had burnt over 8,000 calories. The eating Olympics will commence shortly….