After a broken 4 hours of sleep it’s fair to say I wasn’t raring to go when the volunteer at Thirsk shook me awake at 5am. The first disappointment of the organisation was that there wasn’t a proper breakfast as the chef wasn’t due in until 6am. However, the girls behind the counter did us proud by rustling up some beans on toast, which along with coffee helped spark some life into us. However the short(ish) hop to Barnard Castle was pretty bad as we were lethargic and our legs just weren’t there. It was also chucking it down, the soggy kit just adding to the downturn in mood. I was starting to regret the exertions of the first day but took solace from the fact that I could blame Chris entirely for it. Likewise he was apportioning 100% of the blame to me – either way it made us feel slightly better.
After a second (better) breakfast at Barnard Castle we also had a bag drop waiting for us. I changed my clothing. Disappointingly, my club bibshorts had caused the start of saddle sores whereas Chris in Assos kit was fine. You get what you pay for basically but this would cause me problems for the rest of the ride. We set off on the next leg which was the start of 25 miles essentially going uphill, and would take us up and over Yad Moss. This is not a steep hill but it goes on and on and on. As we went up it I left Steve and Chris behind and spun my way up. I started to feel a bit of a twinge in my right knee which nagged away as I carried on uphill. I put it down to the exertions and put it to the back of my mind. The scenery up the hill was lovely but it was exposed and although the wind was behind and across us, it was still a bit blustery at times. Each time I thought I’d reached the top it was a false flat and would start up again. Eventually, I made it to the peak and stopped to eat an energy bar and wait for the guys. My knee was aching now and I just hoped it would stop.
It was now virtually all downhill for 40 miles, which would take us through the Brampton control and as far as Gretna where we would start a gentle climb to Moffat. The roads here are quite odd, running side by side with the A74(M), and fairly quiet apart from the odd enormous logging HGV going by. We’d left Steve at a control to be interviewed again and decided to stop at the garage to wait for him. We took it in turns to keep lookout but neither of us saw him and after a while decided to push on. My knee was seriously hurting now – each pedal stroke was painful and as I arrived at Moffat I was mentally wondering how I was going to manage 500 miles more. Chris was on the front virtually all the time now because I couldn’t put any power through. I was starting to doubt my ability to finish.
At Moffat my sister Amelia and nephew Lennon were waiting to cheer us in. After an all-too-brief chat we went inside, and found Steve! An epic fail on the lookout front, he’d cycled right past us at the garage. Paula was there and gave me some advice about painkillers so I popped some ibuprofen and we set off. The climb out of Moffat is lovely – up the curiously named Devil’s Beeftub! Apparently it is named after the Johnstone clan (referred to by their enemies as devils) used it to hide stolen cattle. It’s one of those climbs that has stunning views but is also a perfect gradient for spinning up. My spirits were lifted somewhat when I realised that I could spin up it using only my left leg for power. I might be able to complete this ride after all, albeit one-legged! The guys were riding some distance behind me, being filmed by the crew in a car as they climbed. The descent is also fantastic, with about 15 miles of decent downhill/fast road. The weather had cooled dramatically and it rained on and off. As we descended my bike started making a horrible grinding, shuddering noise. Each time I braked it and slowed it would stop. Then would start again. I checked brakes, mudguards and there was nothing catching. I eliminated bottom bracket as it happened only when not pedalling. Eventually we narrowed it down to the freehub, as I could stop it happening by turning the pedals forward – backwards would make the noise even louder. Mentally this just added more stress to my already despondent demeanour. I had trained hard for this, but at no point considered that injury would scupper me.
We cycled through a flooded road (great, wet feet again!) and I pretty much limped into Edinburgh. On day 1 we’d been well ahead of schedule. Due to my maximum speed dropping dramatically, we were hours behind in Edinburgh.
We asked for a 4am wakeup call in order to gain some time back. I slept much better but was worried what the following day would bring.