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24 Hour Haggis Run

It’s a strange feeling waking up on the morning of a challenge or an event that you have been planning for weeks or months, It never seems real, it never seems you’re about to do what it is your about to do, and for me that feeling is constant throughout the whole event. Even as I sat in the back of a people carrier at around 6am, on a cold, windy and rainy Sunday morning being handed a freshly cooked pancake with Nutella spread on it and a mug of hot coffee, it certainly didn’t seem like I had been running (hobbling) since 9am the previous morning and was fuelling up for one last push to get to 9am this new morning and complete a 24hr run….but this is exactly what was happening!

My alarm was set for 7am, but as I thought might be the case I was awake well before then. It may have been excitement or nervousness or a combination of both, but I was awake and that was that. I didn’t want to look at the clock but I reckon I lay there for around an hour before my alarm sounded and I got out bed. The plan was to leave at 9am so as to give a couple of hours for breakfast to settle, not that I needed much as I had been carbo loading to great effect the last 72 hours, my body was bursting with stored energy! I was fairly calm about the prospect of being outside for 24 hours trying to run back to Edinburgh. As you will have already noticed, I didn’t wake that morning at home in Edinburgh, but at the home of the Turner family in the small village of Balmullo, around 7 or 8 miles from St Andrew’s. The reason I woke here was a good man named Chris Turner (@Kwistaffa) had agreed to cycle with me as I ran home, partly as a safety precaution but also for the adventure. Now Chris being the great man he is had initially agreed to cycle the entire route and 24 hours along side me, but was over the moon when the equally brilliant Ally Hunter (@allyhunter) agreed to get involved and help Chris taking turns cycling beside me as I stumbled my way homewards for 24 hours. I met both gentlemen through our connection to the Tartan Army Children’s Charity but this would be the first time we as a 3 all got involved in a challenge together and I couldn’t wait.

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9am came in a flash and it was time to get going. We grabbed a few photos to mark the occasion and off we went. We had been weather watching for the last few days, and after a bit of rain of the morning we looked to be in for a dry 20 hours. A local paper had sent a photographer down to grab a few pictures of us setting off down the road for a story being run in the local paper. It was a welcome break after 3 minutes of running to stop and get some photos. After posing and jogging around for a few minutes we said our goodbyes we headed off down a quiet country road on our way to St Andrews, the adventure had begun. It was surreal plodding on in the light rain, I hadn’t and still haven’t accepted the fact it was a 24 hour run! I kept to my usual reserved pace to ensure I wasn’t f****d later in the run. To be honest I had no real idea what I was doing, I had no game plan, I had no run strategy, nothing…I was just out for a run.  I mean I have ran 30 and 40+ miles a few times so know what to expect, but this was a bit different as I had no idea how I would perform at 2am, and as I strolled along enjoying the banter at 9:30am this seemed so far away I didn’t really bother thinking about it to much, I just tried to enjoy it while I could.

We reached St Andrews, grabbed a few photos on the old course and made our way to the coastal trail, and once there the adventure was really beginning. Neither of us had been on the trail before and our only exposure was from the maps we had looked at to plot small sections of the run. The first section was marked red on the map, and as you can imagine the red marker wasn’t a good one. I expected it to be a wild trail mixed with some beach section ie sand…..but what it turned out to be was a short section of single track, that was reminiscent of a mud slide! It was ok going for me slipping around in the mud, but for Chris on the bike, and although a decent roadie, his first exposure to the mtb experience was not a pleasant one. Due to the slickness of the mud and the last few days of heavy rain, it resulted in the back tyre just spinning in the mud and unable to get any grip at all. There was maybe a couple of hundred meters here and there that Chris could cycle on but for the most part it was a case of pushing the bike along the mud, up some stairs and over some massive rocks along the rough beach sections. It wasn’t how either of us had pictured it.

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After an hour or so I could see on Chris’s face a mixture of guilt and frustration. He kept telling me to push on and not let him hold me back, as at times our pace had slowed to a slow jog/walk. Stopping to lift the bike over the many fences and gates was also unwelcome. I knew he was feeling like he was letting me down and even though I kept telling him it was fine, I don’t think he really believed me. In all honesty I was loving it, the tables had turned and this wasn’t about my run just now it was about his battle with the bike and him over coming it. I assured him there was plenty of time for me to suffer but for now it was his adventure, his challenge, his misery that I was enjoying whilst I could. A few miles later we decided to miss small section of the trail and nip onto the road to save another few hours of misery on the trail. We got onto the road and I resumed my steady running along side Chris on the bike. We were both happy to be moving again. We got hit by a short but heavy rain shower and I got some food on while we went. Everything was going so well until I felt my ongoing hip problem rear its painful head. I was very worried this could get so bad I would need to stop! We took a quick stop outside a pub (no pint though), and I got a good stretch on one of the picnic benches outside. This seemed to help but the pain was still there just somewhat duller than before. My fears about my hip pain were about to be a long forgotten memory a few miles down the road as the dreaded ITB pain came back with a vengeance. This now topped my fear list because; ‘The Symptoms of ITB syndrome consist of pain on the outside of the knee at or around the lateral epicondyle of the femur or bony bit on the outside of the knee. The pain comes on at a certain time in a run and gradually gets worse until often the runner has to stop’  

I felt the same pain before on a remote section of the West highland Way whilst on our J4H adventure, and then my knee was just giving way every second or third step and made running almost impossible. Thankfully this was near the end of the day and I managed to hobble home for the night. This however was at the start of a long day, and I had ‘the fear’. We stopped and I popped on a tube grip on, especially tight just above the knee to support the muscles and hopefully as I had done previously be able to continue running with the pain. I don’t want to sound like a hero here “running in pain” in fact this was the stupidest thing to do to continue, but at the time this was my only option (failure wasn’t). So off I went like a true hero running in pain, what a legend…

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So we plodded on, Chris cycling freely now and me sort of wincing every so often all the way to Crail. We stopped here to dry off a bit and get a nice hot mug of coffee and a couple of Haggis rolls, it was burns night after all. After the food barely had time to settle we were off again heading for the trail and more fun and games. Once we got to the trail again it looked brilliant, rugged coast for as far as the eye could see and lovely single track, there was one slight problem thought…mud.  Although we were to be lucky on the day itself and stay reasonably dry, in previous days/weeks the rain had fallen and fallen well, the lovely single track was just a mud bath and made cycling pretty hard going once again for poor Chris. We pushed on, me slipping and sliding about and Chris cycling when he could over the hostile terrain. This was a walker’s paradise but a novice mountain biker’s hell as it was. The last section towards Anstruther was not too bad and we made decent time and actually started to enjoy it. By now it was around 3:30pm and this is when Ally was coming to take over from Chris on the bike. We got to Anstruther and waited the 10 minutes that it was going to take Ally to get here, 45 minutes later there he was, bursting in like a man possessed, bursting with energy and enthusiasm, ready for the night ahead, and still a little rough from the burns party the night before!

After some time waiting and stretching, I was getting cold and starting to get too comfortable standing around, so was glad we got going again. We set off from the harbour and back onto the coastal trail. Chris had explained how bad it had been up to this point and jokingly said “I bet this is the best part so far coming up and I’ll miss it”… He was right the next section along Pitenweem, St. Monans to Ellie was magnificent, perfect dry single-track following an amazing coastline with the sun setting over the water, it was the stand out section so far. Chris had put in a great shift and knew he had more to come so had drove Ally’s mobile food bank (his people carrier) along the coast to get some rest and perhaps a bit of shut eye. We arrived at the end of another section to the sun almost setting and Chris still wide awake in the van. It was here we would experience the first of Ally’s culinary delights, 3 of the tastiest chicken skewers I have had in my mouth, lashing of coffee and a packet of tim tams, all very welcome.

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It was now around 5:30pm, the sun had set and it was pitch black, I was sitting in the van keeping warm while I ate. I had been on the go for 8 ½ hours now and I couldn’t wait to go past 12 hours as this would be me on the home straight. With the food settled and the caffeine kicking in we jumped out the restaurant on wheels, turned on the head torches and headed back out on the trail. I have ran around the hills in the dark before so was used to running in just a small amount of light guiding my path, fortunately behind me was Ally on the bike with a front light that could blind you in an instant. The next section would take us down towards the beach again and in this light we decided instead to cut over the adjacent golf course and link up with the old railway tracks that ran almost parallel to the trail path. I was lucky to have a local lad in Ally guiding me along these sections as he was familiar with the route and kept me right in terms of where to go and how far each section was. The small but important information he was feeding me regularly was such a big help and I’m not sure how aware he was of its benefit. I didn’t want to ask how far we had gone or how far we had left in each section but Ally, as if with an additional sense fed me this information at just the right times and this keep me pushing on as best I could.

The old railway track was muddy, most of the day had been muddy, but it was straight and it was flat and by now I wasn’t too bothered about running about in the mud. It was a wet mud and a lot easier to cycle in than the early parts of the morning so we really couldn’t complain as we were making decent progress. There was a moment as we passed YET ANOTHER farm gate when we stopped for a chat and just took in what was around us and what we were doing. We were stood in the pitch black alongside some fields on what must have been one of the clearest nights I can remember. I looked up to the sky and swear the amount of stars in the sky had quadrupled since I last looked. I saw familiar shapes and constellations that I looked up at as a kid, and lots of good, old memories flooded back as we stood there in the mud and darkness. We had a laugh about our “moment” together, switched the lights back on and got moving again.

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Parking the car to meet up sort of dictated where each section would finish. The next stop would be a pub car park just off the trail. By now it was getting pretty cold, so popping into the pub to sit down and warm up was initially a great idea. However as soon as I sat down and let the warmth invade my body I was ready for a sleep. It must have only been around 8pm so we weren’t even at the half way stage and I was feeling sleepy. I wasn’t that hungry so just had a pint of fresh orange as we sat organising the next section. This was a stupid mistake to make and went against the ‘eat when you’re not hungry and drink when you’re not thirsty’ mantra! At the time I just couldn’t force anything down and would pay on the next section. Drinks downed it was back out to the cold for the next section. It felt much colder leaving a warm pub and I could feel a chill in me for the first time. I know getting running would help so off we went again into the dark with a fairly long 7 or 8 mile section ahead, I should have eaten.

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For the most part the section was great, trail was friendly and the mud had subsided somewhat from earlier parts of the trail. However at one point the path was swallowed up by a massive puddle of water, I tried to run through but it was going up past my ankles. After Ally had cycled through it and with no other option, we decided that getting a lift was my only option, other than to run with freezing cold, wet trainers for the next few miles. Ally backed towards me slowly and with tired legs I hoisted my right leg over the back of the bike and saddle. It must have been 20 years since I had done this and I was worried I would go flying off the back into the water. As I just about sat on the saddle we were off like a shot, we thought speed was key here as we were worried the weight might slow and topple us. At one point I was leaning backwards just clinging to the saddle by my left testicle as we shot over the water. I jumped off the back laughing at how ridiculous this was and jogged on down the trail. We must have only had 2 or 3 miles to go and I felt a familiar feeling coming over me, a weakness in my legs and a slight light headedness. I knew I should have eaten, I cant remember if I did take on food or not but from memory I just wanted to get this section done as we were on our way to Ally’s mum to pay her a visit and hopefully get a good feed. The last mile was brutal I felt very weak and tired and this was probably the worst I felt the whole 24 hours, and it was my fault, I was annoyed at myself. Slowly we made our way through the deserted streets until Ally told me “see that car, the blue car down the road? That’s us” I was so glad and instantly got a little boost. By the time we met Chris (who had yet to sleep) I wasn’t in the mood to talk I just needed food and coffee.

I was first up the stairs and the door flew open, we were greeted by one of the nicest people I have ever met. Being a mother she greeted the 3 of us like her sons when in fact Chris and I had never met her before. We were shepherded into the living room and told to sit down. I was first in and straight away clocked the freshly cooked mini sausage rolls and before even making it to the seat had 3 in my mouth. I was surprised by the initial strange mixture of tastes until I realised some where sausage rolls and some mini cheese and onion rolls, I was in heaven. Pizza and coffee followed, with fizzy juice and mini chocolate éclairs. Not only was the comfy seat and food most welcome but we couldn’t be in the company of a greater host. Ally’s mother was just the tonic I needed and it was like visiting a member of my own family, I felt like I had known her for years, I couldn’t have been happier.

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After the much needed fuel and banter we were off with bags full of sweets an orange in my hand and a new found energy ready to motor on through the night. We passed through Buckhaven, east and west Wemyss and Dysart on the next section before meeting up with Chris again the deserted Asda car park at the end of the esplanade that seemed to last for an age. I chapped the window peered through to see his weary face peeking back as he opened up and let us in. “Get any sleep” was the standard question at each stop, and the answer was always the same…no. This time however Chris did manage to get some shut eye, well that was until a policeman came banging on the window wanting to know what a 30 something man in full lycra was doing lying in the back of a people carrier with a little blanket pulled up over him! Chris explained the situation to the perplexed and grumpy officer and was left in peace, wide awake and a little angry. So wow Ally had just put in a monster shift of around 11 or 12 hours with me on the bike and deserved his rest. We had looked at the next section of the map earlier and didn’t like the look of the next red section, especially as there was a section that required you to cross some cliff edges and a section that uses a chain walk (Google it). At around 2am I probably wasn’t in the best shape to be doing this, so with safety in mind we quickly drove past this section and plonked me back out at inverkeithing.

I was tired now, at points I did feel like I was drunk, my arms moved in slow motion and I was slurring a bit. However Ally kept the food coming and this helped immensely, I was never left waiting around and going hungry at any section we stopped at and I thank both lads for this, they were like a well oiled machine. We mapped out the next section and Chris was back on the bike for the last 7 hours. I was excited to run over the Forth Road Bridge as I knew I would be crossing back into Edinburgh, but also because I knew the rail bridge would be looking amazing as we crossed over beside it.  As I was waiting ready to head to the bridge I was very cold, my teeth started chattering and I was chilled to the bone. It wasn’t cold enough for me to feel like this so I could only out this down to fatigue and perhaps standing about in running tights! I felt like I had a full blown cold coming on and felt my throat closing up and filling with phlegm. This would only last around 10 minutes as once I got running and warmed up I felt instantly better and full of beans again, the gloves would come off and the thermal buff was no longer required. But those moments before I got going were not very nice at all.

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We crossed the bridge and into Edinburgh pausing for a few snaps. I was feeling great being back in Edinburgh and knew this was the home straight, just over 6 hours to go, time was flying now. I was also back on familiar ground and knew exactly where I was going, this was the first time on the run I felt so comfortable. We followed a cycle path for a while that ran side by side with the road before veering left into the quiet back roads of Edinburgh. We paused and looked out over towards the bridges and the spattering of lights that ran along the coast we had just traversed, it was a satisfying feeling and I turned to run again feeling happy. My knee was still sore and I did feel tired but I knew with every section we completed that the time was ticking away and we were going to do it. At one point Chris asked if I thought I might not complete the run or have to stop, I said absolutely not.

We finished a fairly long 8 mile section before meeting Ally again, who was parked down the bottom of a quiet street not looking dodgy in the slightest. It wasn’t dodgy that he knew this quiet little street that had a dead end where he could park and try and sleep in peace, no its normal for someone who isn’t from around these parts to know little quiet spots like these isn’t it??? We rapped on the window, waking ally from a light slumber and the man jumped into action once again, this time rustling up coffee and the much alluded to haggis balls and sweet chilli dip. Sitting and eating was great as it gave everyone time to warm up, get coffee and food and a bit of banter that helped everyone. It was great to feel knackered and hungry but pissing myself laughing sitting in the back of a people carrier at the bottom of a dead end street with a guy cooking haggis balls in the boot. But before long it was time to hop out and welcome the cold back into my body.

It was good to have Chris back beside me, he constantly kept me going telling me how good I was doing and that we were making good progress. These little words of encouragement really helped me keep going and I was thankful for this and I’m not sure I told him that. I was also conscious he had been on the go since 9am also, cycling with me at the start, driving around to meet me and Ally at each section start/end point once Ally took over bike duties. He had also been awake the whole time and was probably tired, but he jumped on the bike and just got on with it and didn’t once say anything negative, moan or complain he was a legend in that respect.  It was around 4:30am as we set off towards the car park of Spartans FC where we would meet Ally again for what would be the most infamous stop of the whole run, unfortunately I can’t disclose the full details of this stop but its one of the best memories I have from the run. Once again I started off freezing cold and my teeth chattering like mad. I was swinging my arms around like a lunatic trying to get some warmth in me and my blood flowing, and once again 10 minutes later I was good to go. This section was a mix of bike paths and quiet residential roads. I was very familiar with this section as I have run and cycled around here many times. This section was over in a flash and we dropped off the cycle path into the car park where after a heads up Ally was up and about awaiting our arrival.

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I hopped into the back seat and although mentally feeling good I was rather jaded and my face felt asleep, it was a struggle to keep my eyes open at times. I let myself close my eyes for a second or 2 as a treat, but quickly snapped back into the moment knowing I only had around 3 hours to go. As usual a freshly brewed coffee was thrust into my hand as well as a freshly cooked pancake spread thickly with Nutella. I slowly lifted the chocolate treat up to my mouth, from a distance you would of swore I was drunk, my eyes were stinging and bleary, my movements in slow motion, I must of looked like a baby trying to feed itself. However as always the lads banter was on form and before long I was howling with laughter once again. My belly was full and warm, the coffee was kicking in and I was pumped knowing this section would take us through the city centre making our way towards Arthur’s Seat where we as a team would climb to the top for 9am and complete this wonderful challenge. As I looked out the window the rain was back, it was frosty on the ground and I wasn’t looking forward to those first moments getting back into the run, but I had no choice.

I hopped out and as Ally and Chris chatted, I started to run as I was getting so cold already. Chris caught up with me not far along the path and at this point I felt my weakest and coldest of the whole night. I could barely talk due to the chattering of my teeth, so looking and sounding like a really bad ventriloquists dummy I told Chris I need to speed up and get warm. Although we were around 21 hours into the run I started sprinting as fast as I could, waving my arms around and banging them against my body as I ran. I felt in an almost dream state, half awake not really knowing what I was doing. But all of a sudden the warmth came flooding back and I felt like I had woken up, my body almost started up like and old car, spluttering and creaking into action again. A few miles down the road my teeth stopped chattering and I felt normal again, it was a great feeling. I think Chris was somewhat taken aback by my sudden sprint session and was full of praise for the speed I had ran this section so far.

We edged our way closer to the city centre, seeing the city waking up and feeling like we were just out for a morning run and cycle. We saw people again, and we saw the slightest hint of the sun rising, a very subtle red and purple colour in the distance. By now we were closing in on 23 hours and I felt great (maybe not great but ok). It was brilliant being in the city centre and knowing how close we were to completing this, it was almost like a victory lap. After a slow and steady section we ran past the parliament building and caught sight Ally’s van and gleefully made our way over, me knowing that this would be the last section I would run. We parked the van up and made our way towards Arthur’s Seat as a team. I felt like I still needed to keep pushing on so was out in front leading the way as we snaked up the side of the hill. Slowly but surely we made it up to the summit, I was there first and happily grabbed a seat as the other 2 came around the corner. It was an amazing feeling being up there sharing this experience with these 2 gentlemen, they had both been such an important part of this run and I wanted them to know that. We took in the sights of the city coming to life below before making our way down and eventually home. I would only manage 2 hours sleep when I got in and a couple more later that afternoon, I think the adrenaline was running through my body not allowing me to sleep, but I had got used to this so it wasn’t a big deal, I was lying in my warm comfy bed and I didn’t have to get out into the cold and run anymore. I’m not sure if I was happy about that or not…

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Mind over matter? (Guest Blog By Andy Fallon)

Hi, 

My name is Andy Fallon aka (@MadHeadCyclist). I’m married with 1 daughter.

Some years ago I hit the age of 44. Think that could be the start of my midlife crisis !!

I decided that I would like to start cycling again after years had passed since my teenage years..  I bought a Mountain bike and tried to cycle to Sheffield and back home to Huddersfield (about 50miles)  I did manage to get there on the bike but getting back was not so straight forward – I has to push the thing back lol
I’m no athlete – far from it I just have quite a strong mindset.

After this I was hooked ! I decided I needed a Road bike, my thought was lighter faster get further.  My next jaunt was to friends in Sunderland about 100miles, I managed this cycle after a few pit stops, although for last 20miles I had only 1 pedal but I loved it.

Next trip was Lands end to John O Groats (This is getting out of control) lol

My diet was not good on these trips (My General Diet Blog), was mainly McDs stops although later trips would be no better, but with added John Smiths beers, or wine 🙂

After being inspired by James Cracknell and Mark Beaumont I decided to try to cycle from home to Gibraltar… like James completed for Sport Relief Cross Continent Challenge, although he rowed, cycled and swam.  I just wanted to do the cycling only..

After completing this challenge in only 16 days, I was planning another big trip solo again !

With Mrs F giving the ok my adventures began……  to see what other adventures I get up to, some big ones or day ones…..  visit www.MadHeadCyclist.blogspot.com

Athens to Edinburgh in 5 minutes

In preparation for some new upcoming mini adventures I decided to get some new editing software. Before editing a new video from scratch I though I would have a little play around and familiarize myself with the new editing suite and threw together a short recap of my Parthenon 2 Parthenon cycle from Athens back in 2011 in the magical form of some pictures and music. So enjoy a 2 month adventure in just over 5 minutes…

Parthenon 2 Parthenon

I made this for posterity more than anything else but if you enjoy a good old video blog your in luck……

In the summer of 2011 with my great mate Chris Strother(who you will see is very camera shy) we cycled unsupported from Athens – Edinburgh

Here is the journey as i recall it…


Pre P2P Cycle Tour Videos

Hello,

This is a small collection of videos we made prior to our cycle in the summer. I think this will give you a better idea of who I am and the kind of fun we had cycling through Europe.

The other less attractive lad in the videos is my great pal Chris Strother. If like me you enjoy a tweet and a giggle then check him out right HERE

Below is a short trailer video for the upcoming full video that im slowly but surely editing.

Thanks for reading and watching

Stuart

Parthenon2Parthenon Diary

As you will know from the previous post this summer I cycled from Athens to Edinburgh. 3000 miles in 2 hot sweaty months….well except from the last couple of miserable days back in the UK!!

Anyway as with all long trips I have ever taken I decided to keep a diary every day to capture my thoughts and feelings each day. I took lots of photos and videos and of course these will be great memories but I think the best way to capture your feelings on a trip like this is to write it down each and every day. So I thought I would share all my thoughts from my diary. This is my diary word for word, every moan and groan as I felt it each day.

Friday 20th May (The day before we flew to Athens)

Woke 7am, watched Ella sleep and wake. Chilled in bed with Ella then age huge breakfast. Packed bits and bobs ready to say goodbye. Very hard seeing Ella so upset. Chris came over packed all our gear. Andy Milne took us to the airport (good lad). Flights ok and arrived in Athens about 2:30am local tim

Saturday 21st May

We got our bags and bikes and thankfully they were all ok. Got bikes ready took a few hours. Sat waiting for sunrise. This was about 6am. Cycled for 3 hours very nervous/excited. Got to hostel very very tired

Sunday 22nd May

More awake, visited the Parthenon. ate gyros, done some shopping, checked in sharing with 2 lassies from OZ. Watched the football, got gear ready for the off tomorrow. Excited/Nervous

Monday 23rd May

I write this from the beach at sunset, cant remember place name. Really tough day 70 hard miles in 30c and hill after hill after hill. By the end of the day i was on empty. Trying to eat lots and drink loads, feel ok now but got very low at points today. Chris’s pannier broke…not great but fixed for now. Nervous what tomorrow holds but i can see the coast and is looks flat for now. Miss my wife feel very emotional.

Tuesday 24th May

Good flat start felt down but ok. Pushed on along the coast, quite flat for morning, met a group of canadians on a cycle tour, nice lad older but cycled and chatted for a bit. Lunch on the beach, fucked about with lunch wasted our break, feel low afternoon was all up hill very tough but we kept pushing on and on doing the miles. Got bitten all night about 20 mozzies in the tent. Up at 5:30am NO SLEEP. Feel low

Wednesday 25th May

Very tough day, long hilly day. Feeling very low missing Ella. Guess its hard not even having any contact. End of day was worst we pushed on with no food or water ended up having to go 20 miles before flagging down a car to ask how far to go, he gave us some water and it was only 6 more miles. Ended up at an amazing wee village slept on the beach and got 2 free fresh fish! a tough tough low day.

Thursday 26th May (This is the day we called “the day it all changed”)

Low again today miss Ella lot! tough start as legs sore but was quite flat in the first 30 miles, we had lunch on the beach it was good but just cant help feel low. After lunch we pushed on hit some HUGE long hills, it was very tough. I thought of Ella all the time and Chris mentioned about meeting in Kelso the second last day at his mums, this lifted me and after a while we got to the top of the huge hill and had coffee at a garage, chatted and felt a weight off very weird. feel positive

Friday 27th May

Good sleep last night, threatened to rain while we cooked but just held off. Decent morning lot of downhills, cruised the first 20 miles, met a Canadian couple who told us about the terrible roads in Albania, Chris choked on a fly. Afternoon was very tough long up hill struggle to the border, got over and had to cycle a further 20 miles till we found a place to stay. Got on facebook and chatted to Ella it was so good. Updated on our trip and ate hot meal. Stayed in hostel Joni, nice. Good sleep in a bed. Looking forward to get bus to capital Tirana tomorrow.

Saturday 28th May

Long lie in hostel, up chatted to school kids and cycled 9 miles up the coast to Sarande the next big town to get bus. Internet and get food then in hostel washed all clothing and watched champs league final 3-1 Barca

Sunday 29th May (Chris’s Birthday)

8 Hours bus trip to capital Tirana not bad £8 and didnt seem to long. We then cycled about 30 miiles north out of the city and camped by the roadside and met a albanian man who talked for about 20 minutes, seemed drunk but very nice

Monday 30th May

Up at 6am and headed north to the border for Montenegro, tough windy cycle and just a long straight road with not much to see. Had lunch by the river and a very nice man gave us a table and chairs. Pushed on after lunch and into Montenegro, lovely place and great cycling. We camped late and got invited in by a very nice family for coffee and lemonade and sweets. We then got offered to stay so we did and also played 5aside football with the son. Not a lot of sleep and a busy day but good.

Tuesday 31st May

Left our hosts and packed the bikes. Tired from the long day, we set out for 30 very hilly miles, stopped at a lovely resort on the beach for lunch. Breathtaking view. A few more up and downs in the afternoon, near the end of the day we took a horrible wrong turning for about 20 miles and got to a dead end and I got a flat tyre it was the lowest point so far. Pumped up tyre and cycled 7 miles with half flat tyre and fell off the bike ontot my knee. Very bad night, camped in a horrible spot cant wait for morning.

Wednesday 1st June

Woke and fixed my tyre. Hungry, thirsty and in a shit mood. Fixed tyre hope it holds. Got food and Chris lost his glasses so we went back to the camp but no sign of them. Long morning cycling the route we had done yesterday didnt speak much and slept through lunch. Pushed on after and stopped for coffee, feeling better, the afternoon was good and we had a few big hills to reach the Croatian border. We crossed and met a Czech lad doing a 2 month cycle and stayed for a bit together. Found great camp for the night. Very good day

Thursday 2nd June

Good 6am rise on the bikes at 7:30 and cycled for Dubrovnik. Nice views of the sea to the left and the road was fairly flat a few ups and downs , shops are scarce and getting water is a worry but should be ok. Rained in the afternoon and got quite hilly, was a bit down as may need to stop early if it chucks it. We then popped into Bosnia for about 1 hours 30 mins took a coffee at a petrol station was good. Noticed my tyre was getting flat pumped it up and cycled into Croatia again early camp 5:30pm and fixed flat now for food

Friday 3rd June

Felt good as we started the day but it was very tough going, lots of ups and downs hard to get a rhythm. Early start so got good miles done. Fully stocked with food for the day. Before lunch we got on the motor way very stupid as miles of nothing and we were starving. Started to panic as no shade cycled on for about 5 miles until we got picked up and told we were not allowed on the road. good lads chatted football and got us back on the smaller roads PHEW! very tough after lunch hardest so far and a huge climb not sure how i managed it but ot up and a coffee at the top

Saturday 4th June

Today we planned to have a rest day but cycled 30 miles into Omis it was a good cycle lots of big downhills, got a good go pro video. Found a nice cheap apartment to chill out in for a couple of days. Done a new blog and washed all our clothes.

Sunday 5th June

Went into town for many coffee’s and sat a chatted via FB with Ella, its always good to hear from her. Went for a swim and ate, talked about food lots. Really want to get moving now bit bored being stuck. But Omis is lovely and has bee n good resting the legs.

Monday 6th June

Left the apartment and cycled through the familiar city centre and onwards through the coast and north to Split. It was one of the flattest days and we got some good miles done early. Lots of good chat and good food. Nice 2 hr coffee stop and good chat later in the day. Found yet another good soft camp spot but my mat went down easily at night might have a puncture. Not a great sleep woke a few times about 5am and thought of breakfast yum

Tuesday 7th June

Usual early start 6am rise for us. I felt very tired and not in a great mood not sure why. Morning was nice and flat again but it looks like rain. Cycled north to Zadar along the coast and got a Lidl it was the first we had seen for a while so stocked up on goodies. Looked like rain so got cover for lunch, wasnt great took ages to cook and found out my mat is fucked not ideal bit of a downer! tough cycle after lunch was worried we wouldn’t find a coffee shop but we did YAS! night camped on private land, told to move but sweet talked him.

Wednesday 8th June

Had a horrible night hardly had any sleep, there was a massive thunder-storm at night all dripping into the tent, I had never seen/heard anything like it. Flat tyre again so changed the inner tube as may have wrecked it cycling when half flat. Got good miles done. Had lunch at a wee cafe ate loads, soup, bread, rice, chips, sprite and salad. Pushed on after lunch again hilly and one huge downhill. Stopped for ice cream and coffee it was well earned.

Thursday 9th June

Good sleep even though we were camped right by the road. Back into the hills for more climbing as we headed north to Slovenia. It was a fairly cold grey day as we followed the coast north. It threatened to rain all day. We got a superb fatty lunch of pizza, cheese bacon twist and a chocolate donut. We stopped just off the motor way to eat, within 5 minutes it was thundering down so we took refuge under a bridge for about an hour. As the day got worse we called it a day and booked into a cheap apartment for the night.

Friday 10th June

We had booked into a place for the night to see out the bad weather before our assault on Slovenian/Italian border. We caught up on the internet chat and washed clothes, and chilled and hit the supermarket to stock up on a decent cooked meal or 2 and a intake of fruit and veg. We enjoyed some average and some decent american sitcoms and rested. It was nice. all clean as had gone 4 days without a shower…nice

Saturday 11th June

We had a huge climb to the slovenian border, slow and steady was the plan for the morning. It was very busy at the border and we used our last 23kn on 2 lovely cold ice creams before crossing. We were only in Slovenia for about an hour but it was some of the nicest cycling so far. We then crossed into Italy, i was so happy as we had come north and now we got to go west for a change. Cycled 90 miles, very hard to find a camp, flat tyre number 4 and camped behind a house and fixed tyre

Sunday 12th June

Rained at night but all dry in the morning bonus. Long straight road and we were both quite flat today for some reason, nice to be on a flat road but i miss the excitement of not knowing whats around the corner. Thought lots about Ella and our travels and how much i enjoyed sharing them with her. Lunch in Treviso had lasagna. Nice cycle after lunch and found a perfect camp after a lovely coffee shop at a quaint little cafe.

Monday 13 June

Seems like it rained last night but never heard any. Just grey today the whole sky as far as i could see. We had read in the paper it was to be like this with rain in the north so we headed SW to Monselice and west. Followed a road for about 20 miles then suddenly turned into a motor way, we had to go back on the hard shoulder to get off much to the annoyance of many many motorists, flashing the classic italian hand gesture. No real sign as to the route we were on so went with what felt right and thankful it was but we did seem to go in a bit of a circle felt a long was but not on the map. Lidl lunch of pasta x2 plus sausage and stocked up on snacks and dinner. Light rain in the day, good camp but some sort of disco going took a while to nod off, maybe the disco or the 3 coffees from earlier

Tuesday 14th June 

Woke to pure sunshine YAS, cycled for Montova felt good but ass very sore! getting close to 10:30 we stopped and met a lad from Slovenia and cycled for a while with him about 15 miles or so. At lunchtime he offered to treat us to a coffee so we stopped in a beautiful little village and had a good chat and good coffee. Was a great change for the day as was a fairly boring road, we all headed for Cremona before separating as we got a late Lidl lunch. pushed on for another 30 mins then coffee time again. DECAF. Cycled on for a while to find the all important camp spot, found a nice little spot beside a river just off the road. A good days cycle

Wednesday 15th June

Good sleep felt fresh, very quick morning on the bike today stopped for a cappuccino to break up the morning at 10:15 in a petrol station it was the best coffee i have had. Headed for Pavia to then head south to Genoa. Really good day cycling good rhythm and good chat. Lunch at penny market (poor mans lidl) russian salad sausage, choc muffin, peach all good. Cycled on to Tortona for coffee and to get dinner. We plan to cycle to Genoa tomorrow morning and rest up before france. Got good camp just off the road and very covered. A good day and close to a rest.

Thursday 16th June

We cycled 50 miles in the morning into Genoa. It was a weird cycle and we got a bit lost on the way, quite expensive for a 1 star hotel so we got a cheaper 2 star option! done the usual washing and got online for a bit and caught up on everything. Got some food in and had a wee wander it was not what i thought it was going to be like and i was quite disappointed but glad to get the rest. I dont really enjoy being stuck in a hotel and with so many people around, give me a quiet field any day. Chris went to bank to get money out card not working will need to call tomorrow.

Friday 17th June

We have breakfast included so i ate 5 croissants and 4 toast all with jam. We walked around not really sure what for except to get online. Wrote a blog and Chris called the bank who said they didnt block the card so we tried again and again and finally got some money we jumped for joy! We used the last of the fuel to cook gnocchi for lunch, watched italian tv and chilled, we went out for coffee later that night and got all packed for the road. Bored of hotel just want to get going and head for France.

Saturday 18th June

Up early to get the fek out of Genoa, went to check out but the reception was shut so we just left the keys hanging by the shutter and cycled out the city, took a while (i hate city center’s) and we followed the coast all day. A few ups and downs but was ok. Great lunch and wifi bonus. Long afternoon didn’t think we would find a camp but found the only bit for miles!

Sunday 19th June

We cycled up hill straight away, nice start to the day. Was a nice coastal cycle into France just before lunch we had that in Monaco, pushed on to Nice for a coffee and a dip in the sea, very nice and go pro video action. Cycled on till 7 got a flat and had to get a campsite, very nice got gas to cook hot meal so nice to get rice in again, great day.

Monday 20th June

Set off from the campsite at 8am and headed along the coast to St. Raphael before we left the coast for the first time and headed inland. It was nice to have fuel again to cook. I was looking forward to lunch already, hotdogs and rice. Got stocked up on snacks at lidl nice! after lunch i struggled..so hot and dry and hilly, was tough but we cycled on and got coffee it was beautiful just south of Provence and very pretty. Very beautiful cycle at night, lovely country lanes and cracking scenery. Got a nice camp spot pf the road nice and to a great day.

Tuesday 21st June

Up and straight on the road! Chris had a flat and there was about a million little midge type things in our face very annoying. Tyre done we cycled on for a bit to have breakfast and chris got his second flat of the day, once fixed we pushed on and before stopping for a coffee i got a flat and took an age to find it and fix it, just got to lunch with 30 miles done disappointing. So hot after lunch very hard to cycle in but we got good miles done and had coffee later and had a big push that night to get to 70 miles for the day and camped and had a great dinner. shallots, bacon and rice.

Wednesday 22nd June

Stopping later to rest so cycled good fast miles in the morning, stopped for coffee as had 6am wake up. I got a new flat and ripped inner tube so replaced it and got on our way. We done over 40 miles in just 2.5 hours and stopped in Arles its very beautiful little french town. Got hotel and done the washing etc and rested. It was nice esp the afternoon nap. Chilled later and didn’t sleep till midnight after watching the start of a random film, got stomach cramps at night not great felt very ill almost spewed!

Thursday 23rd June

Nice long lie then eggs and french stick was good! had a wander after lunch found a wee cafe with food for the road. Chilled and listened to Gervais podcasts. Almost asleep again but watched french tv. Packed ready for the off tomorrow, i hate checking out and getting back out of town. Looking forward to the next 3 days into Toulouse and getting closer to Ella.

Friday 24th June

Checked out and didn’t pay!! they never asked so we presumed it was on the house. Cycled in a big circle for 30 miles and back into Arles (don’t ask)  decided to get a train to Montpellier as we lost so much tome and on a tight schedule home! got lost in city centre due to road works very very annoying. Eventually got out and heading to Toulouse. Coffee stop before pushing on to cut the miles for next 2 days.

Saturday 25th June

Really tough headwinds, people enjoying beers at 10am! Woke today and headed for Toulouse roasting hot day today long 80 mile day v v hot and hilly. Joined by a oldish lad for a while, had to find a camp spot all private land and farm land everywhere. Found an ok spot by a river. Stopped for coffee at a random bar good mugs used there!

Sunday 26th June

Woke to head for the Grant’s abode today. Was a long 77 mile day another roasting 35c day. stopped for lunch at bakery beside coffee shop all good. 2 more hot hot hours and we got there. Game of french boules and into the pool, tried to call the wife but she had gone to see Kings Of Leon lucky lady. Ate so well duck, ribs, sausage, pasta and tatties. Amazing food and a great family.

Monday 27th June

Chilled today was roasting outside, sat and enjoyed daytime tv (they have british tv) bit of Jeremy Kyle, and homes under the hammer. Updated photos etc and done media updates. Watched Andy Murray game v Gasquet. Called Ella as she took a half day, was good to speak to her after 5 weeks made me happy but sad as i want to be with her. Out to the pool again still so hot. Spoilt again with amazing BBQ then choc pudding. Met a crazy scottish lad called martin while here im obsessed as he was so quirky and funny (not intentionally) AMAZING TIME AMAZING HOSTS

Tuesday 28th June

Up had breakfast with our hosts, said goodbye and cycled north to Scotland. Overcast today and ment to be 30c so glad of the cover. Nice morning cycle and stopped for coffee, some lad popped over for a chat. Pushed on for lunch and realized despite following the signs we had gone SE for about 20 miles very annoying, we changed route and went north again, annoying after a good morning as we eventually found our way i was sure we were on the right route but we asked a lad just getting in a car on the road we were on, turns out it was the right road and he gave us his spare french road map, we tore all the pages no good to us, means we can plan route much better. A tough day and not in the best of moods

Wednesday 29th June

 Looked like rain at night so we put the full tent up and thankfully so it did rain and at 6am when we woke it was still coming down, it was forecast but thought we would miss it being further north. Snoozed and up a 8am made the decision to get going it was grey and spitting and rain was in the distance but I didn’t want to wait on the rain coming to us stuck in a tent. My legs where sore and still had sore knee and problems with left hamstring again. Tough day mentally, probably the lowest i had been not really sure why maybe just all the days and miles catching up but the thought of not making the ferry is on my mind and having to get a train if we cant make it kills me. Mentally the toughest day i have but getting through this is all part of the challenge and one of the reasons I wanted to do this. Another 10 miles going the wrong way later and all round tough day.

Thursday 30 June

Woke today feeling better. Cycled into a town and we passed through after making wrong turn last night, nice flat road and some really nice scenery, felt better but legs still giving me problems, very long uphills. Just not straight up but very steady very tiring after so long on bike. Day 51 im told by Chris. Great lunch in a park then usual trying to get out city centre, eventually did and got good roads all the way north today. So average today due to climbs and we stayed high in the hills all afternoon. Nice place to stop for coffee got dinner. good day

Friday 1st July

Freezing night last night was all snuggled up and still cold, should of gone with the fly sheet to keep heat in. Another tough day up hill and  into horrible headwinds. Few long down hills took us out the hills for a while but back up we went. Nice spot of lunch in the park and a few big downhills after lunch was very welcome. We are now fixed on getting north and getting the ferry. Chris is getting annoyed by the lack of average speed but we cant do much uphill all day and into wind. Checked the map again looks a long way and we need flat roads soon, i reckon we get them in a day or so. Loads of downhills into Clermont-Ferrand and very nice late miles done, 80+ for the day.

Saturday 2nd July

Flat morning all good, nice early miles done. had to fix tyre again in the morning. Great day mostly flat and great temperature perfect for cycling. Went online to send Ella a message. Not a big lunch and almost out of food late on as no shops in sight, luckily got one late on and Chris went wild for the food!! I fixed a new puncture as i waited and was quicker than Chris in the shop. TDF started today.

Sunday 3rd July

Back to the ups and downs in the morning, very nice country roads all morning passed by about 500 motorbikes it was one of the coolest things on the trip. Nice little coffee in the afternoon tough cycling though. Stopped for lunch at a wee rest stop. Got to Auxerre and Chris decided he didn’t want to stop there so we went on and took an age to find another place to get food and a drink, I got a bit annoyed but only cause i was hungry and thirsty. Got a rubbish dinner.

Monday 4th July

Great sleep about 10 hours felt good for it in the morning. Really nice cycling in the morning through the champagne region just east Paris. Headwinds are again slowing us down but we still get the miles done. nice spot of lunch by the river, duck pate and cheese and bread. Big push after lunch got a puncture AGAIN went on for a bit and found a wee coffee and internet place didn’t get to a shop for lunch so looks like we are having chocolate rice should be good. If we 80 miles for the next 4 days each day we will make the ferry with a day to spare. Camped and nice naked cold shower by the side of the road.

Tuesday 5th July

Slept ok not as cold as has been in the morning. Today was a lovely sunny morning, we headed for Epernay to pick up a spare inner tube as mine is fucked and keeps going down and very worn inside. Also picked up some new socks. Good afternoon cycle, annoying with flies sticking to out whole body and ate about a million. Few uphills after lunch and stopped for a wee coffee before pushing on for the night. Oh also a guy in a bar at 10am got his knob out and done the ‘helicopter’

Wednesday 6th July

Cycling onto the border today will cross into Belgium, good miles in the morning but started to belt down and we got drenched. Stopped for lunch at Aldi, Chris chatted to a lad who is a scout for Mons FC, turns out his ringtone is flower of scotland crazy!! Weather got better in the afternoon, was good cycle north to the Capital was a nightmare though, getting out was terrible. At night we struggled to find a camp spot but found a hotel as planned and even a camp spot, but found a small village and blagged a camp on some farmers land.

Thursday 7th July 

No shower for 10 days we are getting a hotel today! easy cycle for 20 or 30 miles in the morning got a coffee and got a place in Antwerp. So nice to get a hot shower and close to the ferry. Got online to speak to Ella. Crazy to think how close we are to home now. Looking forward to getting to Holland and the ferry

Friday 8th July

Left Antwerp headed for holland, no border sign or nothing going into holland(disappointing) easy cycle as flat but legs feeling it still. Left cleat is fucked and cant clip in properly. Camped just south of Rotterdam in a field behind a house, just made it and had dinner before the rain came. Rained most of the night and slugs all over the tent.

Saturday 9th-Tuesday 12th 

I never wrote anything else after friday I cant remember why maybe because we where so close and all I could think about was getting on the ferry and getting home on time. Anyway we made it home for my brothers 30th Birthday and I was very very happy. Thanks for reading hope you enjoyed my diary…..