This wasn’t an Ellenborough challenge as such, but one that deserves a mention. It was completed by one of our runners, Chris Lister. Along with other Ellenborough runners for support on each of the 3 peaks. Below is the report of his challenge.
The Sea Level to Sea Level British Three Peaks by bike involves climbing the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales, and cycling in between, using nothing but human power. The Mountains are as follows:
• Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) at 3,560 ft, the highest mountain in Wales
• Scafell Pike at 3,209 ft, the highest mountain in England
• Ben Nevis (Beinn Nibheis) at 4,409 ft, the highest mountain in Scotland.
The First Recorded Sea Level to Sea Level attempt took place in 1979, when Flight Lieutenant Stephen Poulton set off from Fort William. Unfortunately, due to a mechanical issue and strong head winds the attempt was a failure and ended at Carnforth with only two thirds of the route covered. Not deterred by this previous failure Stephen Poulton returned to make another attempt in 1980. When on the 1st July he set off on his Peugeot PX10 bike from the beach at Caernarfon Castle to make his way north. This time the attempt was a success and a Guinness wold record for the route was established with a time of 41 hrs 51 minutes, this achievement was acknowledged in the 1994 Guinness book of records. As time went on further individual attempts took place but some with various discrepancies to the route or in the way the attempt was executed, with people choosing to draft others. Yet the record stood the entire time until 2017, which goes to show just what an amazing achievement this was. Late 2016 I decided I would make an attempt, initially just to complete the route. However, the more I researched the history and numerous attempts I become somewhat disconcerted at how people had started to dilute the achievement, by starting at the bottom of the mountains and not at the sea (which to me meant they hadn’t actually climbed the full height of the peaks having not started at 0 ft.), taking easier routes through the lakes which resulted in the route not being a continuous traverse and by starting with numerous participants only to finish as a solo, to me this was like starting a Bob Graham from Skiddaw car park. So being what I would consider a purist I decided that I would make an attempt as close to the original as possible by even trying to follow the same route the original roads would have taken (the road network has changed dramatically since 1980). After contacting Stephen Poulton and gathering as much information I could from him I set about planning with an attempt date of the 25th August 2017. The rules I would follow in order to maintain originality are set out below:
1. No cycle-drafting unless part of a genuine multi-person attempt (SP original rule).
2. No vehicle drafting, motorcycles, car’s etc.
3. Scafell Pike must be traversed from Langdale – Borrowdale or vice versa. To enable this, cycle can be transported round by support team (SP original rule).
4. Safety person to accompany in mountain zones and to witness summits (SP original rule).
5. All Summit cairns must be touched.
6. Times of arrival at check points should be witnessed and recorded.
7. Sea or tide line (should tide be out) shall be touched at both the Start and the Finish.
8. Attempt can be carried out in either a North to South or South to North direction following any choice of route, apart from through the Mersey tunnel.
9. Chosen route must go through checkpoints identified in route section below.
As stated earlier the route would attempt to follow (as close as possible) the original 1980’s route. It would begin by touching the sea or tide line in Caernarfon, Gwynedd, and finish by touching the sea or tide line at Fort William, Scottish Highlands. Climbing all three mountains and going through all the original checkpoints.
Record Title: Sea level to Sea Level British Three peaks by Bike.
Current Record: 41 hours 51 minutes – Stephen Poulton, 1980.
My, Chris Lister, Attempt: 39 hours 33 minutes – 25th – 27th August 2017
Location of attempt: Caernarfon, Gwynedd – (Start) Fort William, Scottish Highlands – (Finish)
Date of attempt: 25th August 2017 – 27th August 2017
Start Time: 16:45
Type of attempt: Solo ride (without drafting).
Direction: South to North.
Road: Darren Fawcett, Ken Turner.
Snowdon: Chris Knowles Calum Tinnion
Scafell Pike: Richard McGrath Calum Tinnion
Ben Nevis: Nick Ray
Colnago CLX 3.0
Ritte 1919 Time trial bike
Background My name is Chris Lister I’m 37 years old, married to Joanne and a proud father of 2 girls, Aimee-Mai and Jessica. I’m a keen Fell runner, member of the Bob Graham 24hr club and an active member of Ellenborough AC running club, racing regularly in local fell races, I also enjoy cycling competing in Time trials and sportive’s. Previously due to the passing of my mum early 2015, and needing something to take my mind off things I started training to attempt a Bob Graham Round, a 24 hour 72 mile round traversing 42 Lakeland peaks. During this time one of my Club mates at Ellenborough AC was also planning a charity bike ride and I suggested doing the 3 Peaks for it, he laughed at me and asked if I realised just what that entailed, at the time I didn’t but the seed was planted anyway. 2015 and 2016 went by and I continued with fell racing then during the Borrowdale fell race in August 2016 I sustained a muscular injury in which I tore the upper abductors on my right hamstring. This meant there would be no running for quite some time, however I found I could ride a bike without any pain. This possibly wasn’t the best thing to do but at least I could maintain a relative level of fitness. Throughout the winter I continued cycling and the 3PbB came back into my head I started thinking about possible dates and decided a May attempt would be feasible as this would fit around planned and school holidays. February came and so did a strange illness which stopped training completely as whenever I exerted any type of effort I would be totally fatigued and drained for days. After numerous doctor’s appointments (something I never normally have) and blood tests it was found that I had a virus that was causing my Liver to function abnormally. A course of antibiotics was prescribed and I was sent on my way, after a week there was still no improvement and in fact I seemed to be getting worse. Then one night I was in a particular bad way my wife dragged me to the local hospital as she was seriously concerned. The on-duty Doctor examined me a found that I also had an infection in my respiratory system, he prescribed a different type of antibiotics, I remember thinking “I’ve tried this, what is the point” but to make my wife happy and to get out of the hospital I took the prescription and went on my way. Within a few days of taking the antibiotics I started feeling better, in fact I was feeling a lot better. Within 2 week I was back out training however I knew a May attempt would be out of the question. Due to this and as my abductor injury was feeling better I started back on the fells and began racing again, throughout the next few months I found I was really struggling with drive and motivation to train properly, as such I decided I should again look at a 3PbB attempt. I started looking at possible dates and found that due to holidays, friends weddings and associated celebrations the only possible date was the August bank holiday weekend which was now only 10 weeks away. I contacted a few of my friends and asked who would be available and what they would be able to support me with. I’m very privileged to have a good group of lads as friends and they responded saying they would help in anyway possible, with some taking leave at work and others making arrangements to cover duties at work on the day of the attempt to allow us to get away at a reasonable time. With this a 16:00 hour start time on the 25th August was set and a team was organised. The team would be Ken Turner and Darren Fawcett driving a van, of which I would hire. Chris Knowles and Calum Tinnion running/witnessing Snowdon. Richard McGrath & Calum Tinnion running/witnessing Scafell Pike and Nick Ray running/witnessing Ben Nevis. I then started seriously researching the 3PbB history which is when I came across Stephen Poulton’s Guinness record from 1980. After much time spent searching the internet and gathering information on various other 3PbB attempts I stumbled across an email address for a Stephen Poulton, surely this can’t be him or an active email I thought…… but I sent a mail anyway asking for any details on the attempt. Much to my surprise I received a reply, it was indeed Stephen. Stephen provided me with a copy of his attempt report which had all his timings and numerous old photos. We were now 8 weeks away from the possible date and I was still running more than I was cycling, which wasn’t ideal. Luckily, I work with semi-pro cyclist Andrew Hawdon (Wheelbase cycles) so we sat down and set about devising a training plan to make the most of the limited time.
As stated earlier myself and Andrew devised a plan which was set out over the 8week period with each week having set sessions of sustained efforts, intervals, long rides and runs. The last fell race I would do, would be the Wasdale fell race on the 8th July, a 20-mile race with 9000’ of ascent, this I completed in 4:46:48 coming 47th. The first 3 weeks of the plan were tough trying to fit everything in around work, school and family life. Luckily after 3 weeks into the plan the Schools broke up which made it a whole lot easier to fit all the training in with not having to race home to pick the kids up every day. I stuck to the plan meticulously and was seriously enjoying the sessions, seeing how far I could push myself on the bike and then go out running on the fells. At 6 weeks, I was feeling very fit and started seriously thinking that the record would be possible. Week 7 was a family holiday to Menorca during this time my training consisted of a run 6 mile and above every morning along any trails I could find (I don’t like road running at all), and sessions on an old spinning bike in the hotel gym room. Due to the area being relatively flat I resorted to doing hill reps behind the hotel in order to get any elevation in, during these reps I found I was getting cramp in my thigh muscles every time I started descending at pace. This gave me concern, had I done too much biking and not enough running? If I couldn’t cope with a hundred-foot descent anymore how could I do a few thousand? I carried on regardless and tried to stop worrying about it. The week we got back and leading up to the attempt training didn’t go as planned due to my daughter’s birthday and other reasons so I only managed to ride the bike a couple of times. One 30 min spin on the rollers and one just a few laps of the block to set up one of my bikes following a rebuild, after snapping the frame in a time trial previously.
The 2-week leading up to the attempt flew by and throughout the days I was feeling relaxed about the whole thing, or so I thought. Then on the Tuesday night I started waking up numerous times thinking about things I still needed to get ready, to try and stop this and get the thoughts out of my head I got a pad and started writing everything down as and when I woke. This cycle continued on Wednesday night and I woke on Thursday feeling exceptionally tired, I could do without this I thought. Thursday night after putting the kids to bed I felt “wired” and excited, there was no chance I would get some sleep feeling like this. I sat down with my wife and put a film on and decided to have a couple of bottles of Corona to try and relax me (I don’t usually drink). The film finished and we went to bed, I slept no problem waking feeling great and ready for the weekends antics. 8:45 me and my girls drove round and picked Ken up to go and collect the van from Budget rentals in Distington, the van they gave us was a Volkswagen T6 transporter with budget signwriting on the sides. This made us happy as we would be able to replicate an original photo of Stephen Poulten when he initially achieved the record in 1980, I know this is a tad geeky but it had to be done. My girls quickly ditched me in favour of travelling back home in the rental van with Ken, by 9:30 we were back and Ken had gone home to carry on working. I started loading the van and soon realised there was no 12-volt feed in the rear to power the fridge, as such and with the help of my youngest (passing me tools) I quickly removed the vans bulkhead and fed the power lead into the front before re-installing the bulkhead. Three bikes were loaded my Dolan Preffissio winter bike, my Ritte 1919 Time trial bike and my Colnago CLX3 dry weather bike along with numerous bags of food, 2 boxes of Joanne’s famous Peppermint and Australian crunch cake, drinks and sweets. An airbed was inflated and positioned and I thought that is perfect, I had forgot about Ken and Darren’s gear…. At around 10:00 I got a call from Darren saying he had got out of work and would be through for around 10:30 so we would be on the road for 11:00. Ken and Darren arrived at mine and we quickly re-arranged some of the equipment/food into the front of the van to free up space in the rear and also make it more accessible.
Once done we quickly took some photos with my family and said our goodbyes, with strict instructions not to turn up anywhere to see me while I was doing the attempt (I knew this would affect me mentally if they did). I’m not an emotional person but I can honestly say it was hard to hold back the tears saying goodbye that morning and still is now thinking about it as I’m writing this. Anyway, that was it we set off, before getting to the end of the street my phone rang, my eldest was in tears as she hadn’t given me another cuddle and kiss, we quickly drove round the block and I received another round of cuddles and kisses from the family before setting off again. On the way to Keswick the weather was standard for Cumbria as rain came down onto the van window, then as we entered the Bassenthwaite lake dual carriageway my Dad rang to say there was a serious accident at Threlkald and suggested we go towards Carlisle and cut through to Penrith to avoid it as he hadn’t moved for 2 hours, unfortunately we’d already missed the turn so decided to go through the lakes. Progress through the Lakes was predictably slow especially with all the bank holiday tourists arriving, heading into Ambleside the traffic started backing up and we slowed to a crawl, the sat nav showed our estimated arrival to be 16:15, so the 16:00 start was going to be out of the question. After Ambleside things improved and we made good progress until the M6 junction near Kendal after a few minutes delay we were now on a busy M6, with Darren driving to make up the lost time. At the Lancaster services, we pulled in so I could jump in the back to try and get some sleep. During this time, I seemed to drift in and out of consciousness coming around as I either rolled from side to side or felt myself slide forward under braking. At one point, I checked our location on my phone and we were near Runcorn…. What had happened as we hadn’t planned on going this route? I tried to get back to sleep but struggled so eventually decided to get some food and start getting my cycling clothes ready. I checked my phone location again and we were now on the road heading to Caernarfon, obviously going around numerous roundabouts as I got thrown from side to side whilst trying to get changed. Then the van stopped… were we there or just stuck in more traffic? I heard the front van door open then the side door opened and day light flooded in, Christ this is it I thought, it did seem like a good idea up until now. Darren proceeded to get the bike out and fill up the water bottle while me and Ken went to find a toilet. Back at the van I realised I’d forgot to turn the GPS tracker on which I had hired from “Opentracking” to assist with the support and for family and friends to keep track of my progress. With the tracker not finding any satellites for some time a 16:30 start was soon out of the question so we decided I would go at 16:45, at 16:43 I headed down the steps to the beach below Caernarfon castle, wow the next 2 minutes went slow. Then Darren started counting down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… I was off.
Caernarfon to Pen-y-Pass – Cycle
Up the steps and onto my Colnago (which Darren was holding) I went, off round the castle trying frantically to make sense of the directions my Garmin was trying to show me but the scaling on the screen was impossible to read, after a few wrong turns I saw a supermarket I recognised from looking at the town on google earth and I knew the direction I needed to take. I looked down and my heart rate was in zone 4.6. Oh no I need to chill out, a few minutes doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Then I saw a sign for the A4086, so took the turn. This was it I hadn’t went so wrong after all as I was now on my way, my heart rate was still in zone 4 so I tried to back off and settle in as I knew if I didn’t sort this out I would be done for before leaving Wales. The road up to Pen-y-Pass was relatively busy and I was surprised at how much the fells along the road had been totally ruined through overmining, they looked like a stonemason’s scrap pile but obviously on a much larger scale. As the road started to climb the scenery changed and it reminded me of going through Buttermere valley and up Honister pass (just nowhere near as steep) back home. Eventually I seen a building in the distance and realised I was nearly at the carpark (I’d purposely switched off all data on my Garmin apart from the map, time and Heart rate zone). I turned into the carpark and was met by Chris, Calum, Ken and Darren. I changed my shoes and quickly set off up Snowdon with Chris and Cal, leaving our food orders with Ken and Darren.
Snowdon – Run
The three of us ascended Snowdon via the Pyg track, the climb is easy as the route has been laid with a pitched stone path all the way. We just talked away walking the climbs and running any flat section, apart from a few strange looks from tourists walking in the opposite direction (they must have been thinking why is a man in full cycling gear going up here) the ascent was uneventful and soon we were heading into the cloud. As we crested onto the summit path the wind instantly increased and it got cold, on went a pair of gloves and a buff over my ears. Within a few minutes the summit was in sight, so up we walked onto what I can only describe as the most disappointing mountain summit I’ve ever been on, concrete steps, a train track and a building all covered with litter. Anyway, I touched the trig point at 18:36, took a quick selfie with the lads and set off on the descent. Within half a mile or so I started with stomach niggles of which I knew exactly what would be following, I kept going but within a mile or so I had to start looking for an appropriate place to erm…. Sort my stomach out. With this out of the way off we set again and made good progress back down to the car park where Ken and Darren were waiting for us with sausage sandwiches and cups of tea. The Colnago was already with lights attached and bottle filled so while my tea cooled I changed clothes into fresh, dry and warm cycling gear, I stuffed my pockets with numerous bars and food, finished my tea and sandwich. Ken got a lady in the carpark to take a team photo then I set off again on the bike on my way to Langdale.
Pen-y-Pass to Langdale – Cycle
The roads down from Pen-y-Pass and through Wales were superb and I was making good progress, passing through numerous beautiful little villages and towns of which I’d like to go back and visit at some point. Then the hills started or should I say the hill started as it felt like I was climbing for eternity with only minimal descents. Ken and Darren kept driving past me in the van, waiting ahead then again driving past while handing me Ham, Cheese and Jam sandwiches at regular intervals and refilling my bottle. As night fell the road got very, very lonely and my mind started thinking of what my wife and girls would be doing back home as we usually spend Friday nights together at swimming and then watch a movie together. I kept going following the same routine with Ken and Darren then I started to notice that a Blue pickup truck was following them, parking behind them in every layby. I started to worry what was going on as Darren isn’t a person who takes nonsense off people and the last thing the attempt needed was any trouble on the side of the road. Then just after Mold they had pulled up as instructed earlier and the pickup wasn’t there. I stopped as this is where I was going to change bikes, and asked what was going on. Ken and Darren informed me that yes, they had been getting followed but thought it was possibly the Police thinking they were up to no good or a concerned citizen, (and when you think about it does make sense as a van with 2 lads in driving in the middle of the night stopping every so often would generate suspicion). Darren had got my Ritte 1919 TT bike out and fit the lights, I removed my contact lenses as my eyes were killing me had a quick bite to eat and a drink of apple juice then I was on my way down what can only be described as the scariest section of road I have ever ridden along, the A494. I have never feared for my life so much with wagons and cars speeding past so close the draft would buffer me, at one point it turned into what I would consider a motorway with 3 lanes and a hard shoulder. This caused me to stop still as I contemplated if I’d plotted the route right on not, I continued down the hard shoulder until the next sign which showed I was still on the A494. By now I had realised that I shouldn’t have taken my contacts out, as due to the position of the bike if I dropped down onto the TT bars it caused me to look over the top of my glasses and I couldn’t see a thing therefore I was having to ride on the bar ends which isn’t ideal for a TT bike. As soon as Ken and Darren caught me up I asked them to stop again so I could put my contacts back in. This done I continued on passing through the towns and trying not to cause attention for any of the drunken revellers hanging around outside the many pubs. I then saw the “you are now entering Daresbury” sign, here we go I thought…. It was Creamfields this weekend (one of the UK’s biggest dance festivals) and I was basically riding right through the middle of it at night. The flood lights started to light up the road and numerous security staff wearing Hi-Viz were positioned at the various entrances and exits, with the small groups of party goers walking down the pavements and road. With an increased pace, I sped along this section of road surprising without incident apart from the odd shout. Ken and Darren still doing a fantastic job of keeping me watered and fed the towns kept coming and going, avoiding attention from the drunks along the way. It was now coming on for around 2 or 3 o’clock and I was around 90 miles in, still lonely but with my mind taken off the family and alert for all the people wandering the streets. On the outskirts of Wigan, I was amazed when some youths on two motocross bikes passed me going the opposite way with no lights helmets or anything, my mind started going nuts, where are Ken and Darren? What if they turn around and come try take my bike? Paranoia is an awful thing and I was thankful when I saw the van parked up ahead. I stopped and asked “what the F$$k was going on there? Then set back off again before hearing a reply. On I progressed with every town basically being the same, drunks, dodgy people wandering the streets and me trying to cause as little attention as possible all while my head was trying its best to make me think I was going to be murdered or something equally as bad. Around Chorley, Ken and Darren informed me I would be on my own for a while as they needed to go up the motorway to the services. My left knee was starting to give me pain and my neck was killing due to the bikes position, I should have stayed on the Colnago I thought as the roads hadn’t allowed any beneficial use of the TT bike and the gearing was a killer on the hills, I persevered and eventually reached Preston and familiar roads (I went to college at Preston so know the area fairly well). This was an instant lift and it was a nice sight to see the first police car of the journey, up Fulwood road and past the old B&B (the Withy Trees) where I spent 3 years of my life, it didn’t appear to be a B&B anymore but that doesn’t surprise me as it wasn’t the best back then never mind now. That was it I was now on the A6, the road was wet due to recent rain but I knew there was only minimal traffic lights all the way to Lancaster, so didn’t mind so much about the wet feet. By now Ken and Darren were constantly trying to get me to stop for a sleep, but I felt fine so just kept putting them off. Leaving Lancaster, I missed the turn and had to turn and ride back down the dual carriageway the wrong way for around 100 meters or so, luckily there was no traffic anywhere to be seen. By Milnthorpe I was beginning to feel tired and to keep Ken and Darren off my back I said I would stop at Kendal for a sleep, with this they went ahead. The next 5 or so mile I found very hard, I was again very lonely, very tired, my knee was in agony as was my neck and didn’t have a clue how far up the road Ken and Darren were. Even the fact I was getting back in Cumbria didn’t make me feel better I just wanted off this stupid bike. As I turned onto the A591 slip road I saw the van parked up, thank god for that I thought. I told Ken and Darren I wanted the Colnago to continue on and to wake me in 30 minutes, after a quick drink of apple juice I lied down I passed out. Ken woke me and I felt brand new (well not quite) and my mood was lifted, I’m on home soil and would soon be at Langdale where I could have a cup of tea and some Weetabix. Up the A591 I went it was early morning, the mist was thick and cold but I didn’t care. Ambleside came along with the turn for Langdale it was raining but I could see the sun trying to break out. I pulled into Old Dungeon Ghyll carpark where Rich, Cal, Ken and Darren were waiting for me with a change of clothes and cup of tea.
Scafell Pike – Run
After drinking my tea, taking some pain killers and eating 3 Weetabix with 10 almonds (I know I’ve got issues), me Rich and again Cal set off to summit Scafell Pike. My knee was seriously giving me grief by now and every step seemed to hurt but there was a job to do, Rich and Cal kept the craic going while I started feeling sorry for myself, “sort yourself out” I thought (I think I masked the suffering well). As the summit approached the sorrow passed, I touched the summit cairn at 09:04 again took a quick selfie, this time with the three of us pulling rollercoaster faces. We started the descent down the Borrowdale fell race route scree and onto the corridor route, my knee still killing but I was now thinking about fish and chips from the Keswick fish shop, Rich soon destroyed the excitement when he reminded me that it wasn’t even 10 o’clock and the chippy wouldn’t be open, I could have cried right there… Oh well I’ve have to settle for a McDonalds at Carlisle I said. On we went discussing race route choices and the results of this year’s Borrowdale race. Styhead tarn came and the soft terrain underfoot, my knee had eased slightly and I was running OK. Just before the 1000’ bolder we left the path and headed down the Fell side to the gate, then down at Stockley Bridge Rich ran ahead to tell the lads to get the bike ready and some clothes. When me and Cal reached Seathwaite farm we couldn’t see the van and I wondered how far down the road they would be (as stated earlier I really hate road running), luckily this wasn’t too far and when we arrived they had tomato sausage sandwiches and tea ready. I sat down and started eating while Cal removed my shoes and tried to stretch my leg out to improve the knee, I did say they are a good group of lads. When I next looked up another couple of Ellenborough lads had turned up to see me, Mike Bethwaite and Gary Thwaites along with one of their Honister 92 bike club mates (Ashley Ryan). But before I knew I had changed and set off again.
Seathwaite to Glen Nevis – Cycle Riding down the Borrowdale road I realised I hadn’t really talked to them nor had I thanked Rich or Cal for their help. When Ken and Darren caught me up I instructed them to send a message and apologise for my ignorance. Cal shortly followed and drove past in his Mazda Bongo which filled the valley with old school car fumes. Through Keswick I went and on leaving I saw Cal pulled up on the side of the road, he had phoned his girlfriend Miriam who is a physio, and told me some stretches I needed to try whenever I stopped to try get my knee loosened up. I was now on my local roads and enjoying it, round the back of Bass lake and up to Highside. Wait a minute I thought I recognise that super Yaris, it was Nick “Go on Lister Lad” he shouts and so I did putting some pace down. It felt like I was flying, at the Castle Inn pub Ken handed me another sausage sandwich which I started trying to eat, it just wasn’t happening and I started to feel sick. Just before Bothel I was again surprised to see my sister, Eliese and her family (Lee, James and Danielle) shouting from the side of the road I instantly starting laughing, I needed that. Good progress was made along the A595 and I reached the new Carlisle bypass in good time, at this point I asked Ken and Darren to go and get me a Maccy D’s, they soon disappeared. I continued on through Kingstown estate, along the old road to Gretna, through Gretna, where the hell are they I’m thinking as I drink the last of my juice, eventually the van comes along side me and then just pulls up on a bridge somewhere between Gretna and Kirkpatrick-Flemming. A McDonalds has never tasted so good, I finish it in what could have been a record time and drink my melted McFlurry, followed by the strawberry milkshake and yet more apple juice. Here I take my contacts back out and put my glasses on, it shouldn’t be a problem as I’m on the Colnago and even if it is I don’t care as it feels so good. Before setting back off the lads tell me they are really tired and are going to drive 30 minutes ahead to get some sleep, yeah no worries I say. I continue into a headwind, and the further into Scotland I get it seems the worse the roads get. I start laughing at the pitiful excuse for a cycle lane alone the edge of the road (to ride in it you would need a full on mountain bike), and was just waiting for a car driver to give me abuse for not using it. It’s a good job this never happened as I was feeling tired and grumpy so would probably ended up getting a good lesson taught to me. I eventually came across the van parked up and saw Darren flat out across the front seat, I decided to crack on and leave them sleeping. I felt bad for putting the pair of them through this epic weekend, what a selfish git I am. Then van caught me up just before Beattock and I told them to pull over as soon as possible as I was struggling to stay awake and kept drifting over the road. They stopped at the next layby, 30 mins I said as I climbed into the back and passed out. Ken woke me as instructed, this time I wasn’t as chirpy as I was previously but I felt OK so I cracked on, I kept trying to work out times and averages but my head couldn’t do the simple math, I found this amusing but very frustrating. With the wind still blowing I thought the roads would have to improve soon but as I turned towards Sandford they actually got worse, the noise from my bike was horrendous and the vibrations through my arms draining, everything was cracking, tinging and twanging, I had serious concerns for the condition of my bike and wheels, next the van pulled alongside me and Ken handed me a Krispy Kreme chocolate covered and filled doughnut, I can still taste that doughnut now, beautiful. I now had it in my head that I wanted through Glasgow before nightfall so told the lads to extend their drives and try to get some kip as I wouldn’t be stopping. Then somewhere south of Glasgow the most devastating thing of the trip happened, Nick had tracked me down and was waiting in a layby with Ken and Darren along with a Magnum icecream (my favourite) and I just had to ride past, I didn’t stop thinking about that ice-cream and how ungrateful Nick must think I was for quite some time. Glasgow came and so did the traffic lights, after what felt like a thousand stops I was eventually through the city centre and heading towards Dumbarton. The van again came along side and they told me I looked knackered and needed some sleep, I told them I was fine but asked them to stop at the Esso garage up the road. At the garage, I changed into my thermo cycling suit and base layer, Ken bought me a warm pasta pot, cup of tea and a Magnum ice-cream from the garage. While eating the pasta Darren’s phone rang, it was Joanne and the girls on facetime (video call) I was so chuffed to see and hear from them and started feeling a bit emotional, damn I was missing them. After a quick conversation, it was time to be on my way again so I said my goodbyes, Ken and Darren were again on my case to take some sleep so we agreed that they would drive 5 miles up the road and stop, then I would ride after them, if I felt OK I would shout 5 more as I passed and the cycle would continue. This went on and on, even though I knew I needed to sleep in my head I wanted to get past Luss, as this would leave just less than 100 miles to do. Somewhere between Luss and Inverbeg I eventually pulled in, gave the 30-min instruction and passed out in the back of the van. Yet again Ken woke me up, fed and watered me and I was back on my way. I started feeling very cold so pulled over again when I saw the van, grabbed a gilet and a neck tube. The wind had dropped and although it wasn’t raining at this point the road was soaking and the numerous pot holes along it were hidden by the streams running over it, as it was quiet and pitch black I resorted to riding in the middle of the road only moving back over when I saw lights. Yet again I started feeling very alone and now just wanted this over with. The sight of the Green Wellie shop gave me a lift as I knew I now only had two big climbs left then it was pretty much downhill and flat(ish) to Glen Nevis. The lads passed and asked if they could again go 30 mins ahead to get some kip, of course I said I feel great, its nearly done. I passed the van parked up in the big layby at the top of the climb just past the Bridge of Orchy, Darren was again laying across the front seat flat out, I chuckled to myself and rode on. Riding towards the Glencoe ski centre there were deer everywhere some I could see others I could just hear as they moved in the undergrowth when spooked by me riding past. I could now see the light from the top ski lift building shining through the darkness, I would soon be at the top carpark and heading down. Then suddenly it all went dark, I quickly stopped the battery for my light had ran out. Luckily, I had a small temporary light in my pocket, I tried to attached it, which I found ridiculous hard. Why I didn’t just take my gloves off I’ll never know, obviously the head wasn’t functioning right. With the light on I continued, I knew I had around 30 mins of power in the temporary light so was hoping the lads was soon wake and catch me up so we could change the batteries over for my good light. After around 20 minutes lights started appearing behind me, thank god, they’re here I though, the lights passed… it wasn’t them! I was starting to worry but soon more lights appeared and the van pulled alongside me, Ken hung out of the window and gave me what I consider a telling off for not waking them up, I was confused, I laughed and told them to pull over as I needed another battery. The battery was quickly changed and they explained they had driven back down the road to look for me. With the road well-lit I was able to get some good speed heading down towards Glencoe village, I told the lads to stop just over the bridge at North Ballachulish and get a tin of fruit open. I struggled to eat the fruit so picked the grapes and cherries out of it drank the syrup and grabbed a piece of Joanne’s cake to take with me. The next 10 miles were hard, very hard by now I was struggling to sit down due to saddle sores, my knee was in agony and my triceps felt like I’d been doing dips all day, the closer I got the more it seemed to hurt. Darren and Ken were now following me as they wanted to see where the attempt would finish in Fort William. We quickly pulled off the Morrisons roundabout and I showed them the location of Fort Williams Old Fort, they then sped off to Glen Nevis youth hostel to start getting my gear and a cuppa ready. I arrived at Glen Nevis where a smiling Nick was waiting with Ken and Darren, I quickly changed and drank the tea, this was it the last one.
Ben Nevis – Run
Myself and Nick set off over the bridge and along the path soon we were climbing up into the darkness with only our head torches lighting up the immediate area around us, I felt good and seemed to be going well despite the pain in my knee. This was short lived and I soon went quiet as I started to feel sick, Nick being one of the most laid back people I know done what he is good at and talked away with good humour occasionally handing me Haribo Tangfastics to suck on. As the tourist path turned we left it and followed the Ben Nevis race route up, just after Red Burne and due to my knee, we stopped and Nick pulled some walking poles out of his bag, assembled them and passed them over. Off we went again, it was slow but at least we were still moving. As we crested onto the first flattish section before the summit we stopped for a quick look down the gulley and commented “F$$k that, we’ll leave that to the climbers. On we went to the summit cairn, which was touched at 06:51, we quickly took a selfie with Nick posing like Pob and me doing a sulking face with a pet lip. Off we went, “why can’t I run” was all I was thinking, Jesus I was in pain now. Attempting to keep the weight off my knee with the poles we slowly descended back down taking the same route we came up until the path cross over, just above Red Burne at this point we took the tourist track to try and minimise my suffering, back off the path after Red Burne and round the grass bank. Tourists were now started to make their way up the path and I was shocked to see some of the attire they were wearing, it was windy, wet and cold on top and these crackpots were in shorts and t-shirts. Down we progressed, all I could smell was the worst stench of Body Odour ever and I was wondering if the tourists going the other way could also smell me. Not that I cared, as soon this would be over and I could go home. Nick was working out times, “s$$t you could knock 2 hours off here”. I instantly perked up, the track was now in sight and before I knew I was again crossing the bridge. Ken and Darren had my shoes, helmet and Dolan bike sat ready for me, this bike has more sentimental value to me than anything as it was bought with the £1000 my mum left me when she passed.
Glen Nevis to Fort William – Cycle
I quickly changed shoes put my helmet on, I jumped on the Dolan and gave it as much hell as could. At one point, I looked down and my power was showing 352 watts, surely not I thought. I still couldn’t sit down but it was only a few mile and Fort William was here, across the roundabout not even looking if anything was coming, down the dual carriageway and round the roundabout. I passed the bike to Darren and start running towards the wall, then I heard Ken shout “over here” I turned and ran through an old doorway, down the beach and touched the sea. 39 hours 33 minutes after starting this attempt, Ken, Darren and Nick quickly congratulated me and I had to bend over to prevent myself from welling up. I couldn’t believe it I’d finally finished. We quickly grabbed an American tourist to take some photos before we returned to the van and drove to McDonalds to have a wash in the carpark before our super healthy McDonalds breakfast.
Following Breakfast we returned to the van to get set off back home, by now the air bed was burst (apparently it happened during the attempt, but I couldn’t really remember) so Nick loaned us the mattress he had positioned in his car for the previous night. Once ready we set off with me in the back going to sleep, Darren driving (as usual), Ken in the front and Nick driving his own car. I must have drifted off relatively quick as I can’t remember anything until I awoke due to not being able to breathe properly. Eventually I coughed up a huge lump of mucus, this gave me instant relief. I sat up in the back of the van and started naming my activities on Strava and reading the nice comments people had left over the past couple of days. Then the van pulled into the services, Ken let me out of the back and we went in for a toilet stop and something to eat. The rest of the journey home was uneventful with the three of us sat up front. We arrived at mine to a huge banner stating “Well done Daddy” which the kids had made, this covered the whole garage door, I just laughed and felt slightly embossed ( I don’t like attention very much). As I entered the house Joanne and the kids ran at me with beaming smiles gave me hugs and kisses then promptly started to fire party poppers at me, it felt so good to be back home even though the inside of my head was going mental due to the party popper streamers everywhere. We then emptied the van, dumping all the gear in the front living room before Ken and Darren headed off to drop the van off. After putting everything anyway and washing on I eventually sat down for tea, Indian takeaway (my favourite). A film was chosen by the kids and we began watching it, I was then woke up by Joanne as she was going to bed, I woke up again the next morning after 8 which is a huge lie in for me and normal life resumed, it almost felt like it hadn’t happened until I tried to move! Ouch.
As with all solo endurance activities, without a supportive family and great team around the attempt would not have been possible and as such I will be forever in their debt. For this I’d like to say a huge thankyou to all of them, my fantastic wife and two girls who put up with me being so selfish, organising everything around my training. Ken and Darren for spending over 50 hours in a van together, just to give me food and water. Team Sky could learn something from you two, what a fantastic job you did especially as first timers doing this sort of thing. Chris and Calum for driving down to Wales just to run up a hill with me before returning home. Richard and again Calum for taking time out to run up Scafell Pike with me. Nick for driving up to Glen Nevis on his own, spending the night sleeping in a car before running up Ben Nevis with me and finally Andrew Hawdon for helping with the training and giving me advice on equipment and sessions. I genuinely feel privileged to have you all in my life and consider myself exceptionally lucky for this, thanks again for everything.
Now then what next…………………?