Our last full day was all about the wind and rain, as we battled our way for 66 miles to Boat of Garten, just north of Aviemore. As I returned to the car park of the hotel we were staying in, the rains began, just as everyone was preparing their bike.
Having donned waterproofs, we set off. Our route for the day followed the A9 towards Inverness, so even I couldn't get lost. The first leg was fairly tough going, into the wind and rain, but along the route, we met a couple of guys in their seventies, who were doing LEJOG in 17 days. Remarkable. Ric, Richard and I cycled alongside them for a couple of miles, and invited them to stop for replenishments at our first water stop, which they did.
The second leg would see us climb for 14 miles into sleet and strong winds up to the Dornoch pass, our highest point during the trip. It was a real "schlep", as Colin would say. Dave and Graeme joined Ric, Richard and I, as we ascended closely together. Feeling strong, I stayed at the front of the snake, taking the wind and thus having to work about 20% harder. We just kept our heads down and pushed on, as we climbed into snow capped mountains. Some cars and lorries, travelling along the A9, realised our challenge, and sounded their horns in encouragement.
The feeling of elation was massive at the top, as we posed for photographs in front of the Dornoch summit sign. Then, bizarrely, as we descended the four miles to our lunch stop, the wind had changed direction, meaning that we literally did not have to pedal all the way. A huge, and very welcome, relief.
The wind was also largely behind us for the final two legs, as Ric, Richard and I kicked on. In doing so, I achieved a life time goal of actually seeing Ric tired! As we hurtled along, with me in front and the other two tucked closely I behind, Ric would be calling out, 22, 24, 25â¦ 26 as we kept upping the pace. The three of us just really enjoy the feeling of working our bodies hard, and we averaged just over 20 miles per hour on the leg immediately after lunch, and then went even faster on the final stretch into Boat of Garten.
We went into Aviemore for dinner, elated in the knowledge that we are very nearly there. The great thing is that talk has already turned to planning another event for next year, testament to the fact that, despite all the pain, everyone to a man, has really enjoyed the trip. Our final leg tomorrow will take us 34 miles to Inverness, where we hope to settle down and watch the FA Cup final. That goal will spur us along, particularly up the final steep climb that we have in store.