kipperfish: (Willow be bad)
[personal profile] kipperfish
Land's End to John O'Groats Day 11 - Kinross to Ballater 82 miles (765 miles done, 223 miles to go)

The observant of you will notice that yesterday, the total added up to 986 miles, and today it now adds up to 988. The reason for this is that the original total was based on the headline totals on the route notes. However, today's route notes had a marvellous feature to them. The headline value was 80 miles, and the last note was at a distance of 81.8 miles. I wouldn't normally notice this.... Who am I kidding, of course I would... But anyway, this would normally be after three or four pages of direction notes. However, as today was basically "cycle along the A93", we only had two sides of notes, and so stood out like a sore thumb.

The day started with yet another grumpy silver haired Scottish lady. Is there some sort of cloning factory or something? In this case, we had apparently sat on a table that had been prepared for a group of 4 they had staying, and how dare we ignore the reserved sign that was there. Given that the entire LeJog group had stayed there, we had assumed that it was reserved for us! Whoops! Anyway, the plethora of other tables in the restaurant area could easily be moved to make a table for 2 into a table for 4 so I'm not overly sure why she took it so personally. I'll just add it to the list of silver haired old Scottish ladies that I've annoyed unintentionally on this trip!

The elevation map for today looked pretty tame at first glance. No sudden sharp ups and downs, just a few lumps before lunch, and then a larger lump after lunch. On closer inspection, we realised why today had been marked as hard, and on a par with Dartmoor on day 2. Looking at the axis on the left that denoted height, we suddenly saw that instead of the 250 and 500 numbers we had seen for the last few days, today showed 1,000 and 2,000. We suddenly all got a bit scared. Looking at the route notes, it became clear that we were cycling up to a ski resort!! And we were going down to pretty much sea level before that!!! Needless to say, before lunch, much energy was conserved, although we did have some more stunning views of Scotland to enjoy whilst we cycled in the sunshine.

After lunch, the trial began though, and it would be fair to say that after Runcorn, this is the closet I have come to wanting to throw the towel in. The climb was steady with a couple of downhill bits, until we got to the valley below the Glen Shee ski resort. At that point, the hell started. The wind was in our faces, and the downhills stopped. My sister had been encouraging me all the way through with a mantra of "just keep pedalling". As I was going along that valley, that mantra started going through my head, and then I started saying it to myself over and over again. I think I broke at that point because I just wouldn't stop saying it, and eventually I got to the bottom of the steep part of the hill, and the mantra kept on going, but had turned into "just keep going, cup of tea" since at the top of the hill was brew stop. However, that was all I could think, and all I could keep saying, and I probably sounded like some crazy lunatic. My brain pretty much stopped working, and I tried to keep the pedals going round, getting more and more upset when they wouldn't, and was probably about a minute or two away from meltdown, until I looked up the slope, and saw one of the others using option 2 for hills - get off the bike and walk. When I saw that, my brain suddenly kicked back into gear, and the years of walking around Cornwall as a kid came back to me as I suddenly realised "I can walk! Walking's easy!" And promptly got off my bike and started pushing it up the hill, at a faster speed than I was managing on the bike! Finally, the hill was conquered, as was my brain fog, and I was able to get back on the bike for the run into brew stop.

Then the weather changed dramatically! Before brew stop, sunny, windy, but above all warm. At brew stop, we were suddenly in the mist, so along with the cuppa, I put my coat on (bonus to Tina here as she had put it on the warm vent in the van - Tina is awesome!) and felt even better. I'm glad I did because going down the other side of the mountain was cold, very cold. The wind was bitter, unrelenting, and we were flying down a damp, misty road. Fingers were in danger of freezing off! However, once we had gotten off the mountain itself, the air became warmer, and whilst the ride for the rest of the way was a bit of a 1 road long section, it had quite varied views along it and I was able to show off a bit and get some photos whilst cycling along, and also practice my "Numa Numa" dance whilst cycling. Probably shouldn't do that with a car behind me though.

Tomorrow is another tough climb to a ski resort, and that's the wakey wakey climb. I'm hoping my brain remembers option 2 tomorrow rather than getting stuck in the mantra, but with only 3 days to go, there is no way I'm letting the meltdown option happen. I've come this far, I simply have to finish. Which does nicely segue into another question I've been asking myself quite a lot on the way up here. What happens at the end? How am I going to react when I arrive at the sign post? Honestly, I have no idea. Given it will be at the end of an 80mile day, I will be knackered, but apparently we'll all be in a group together, and adrenaline will be in full flow as it will be the end. I guess I'll just have to wait and see! It will be fun finding out!

Still not in John O'Groats

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