The last day! I'm surprised to be here when I think about everything that's happened over the last week. Injury, constant rain, floods, more injury, water damaged equipment and even my bike is showing signs of rust and it's less than three months old! Kiltearn House is a gorgeous guest house located on the shore of Cromarty Firth, just north of Inverness. I arrived yesterday evening to a particularly warm welcome and spent a relaxing evening chatting with a guest about my experiences so far. Things feel really different this morning. The sun is shining, winds are light and I have a sense of excitement mixed with relief that this is almost over. The surroundings of the guest house contribute towards a more relaxed start to the day. I enjoy breakfast before hugs and handshakes from other guests and the owners upon my departure.
The A9 from here is single lane all the way Latheron (about 70 miles) before turning into the A99 that goes through Wick and onto John o' Groats, 105 miles away. I snap a quick photo of me on the shore of the firth before heading off. Shaun travelled from our house to Edinburgh yesterday and set off from Edinburgh early this morning to meet me at John o' Groats. The morning sun was really nice, although despite a forecast of dry weather all day I still felt a sense that rain would eventually fall after the experience of the week before. Knowing that today would be my last day made it easier to push that bit harder, despite the pain in my knees now being really hard to stand. It took a good twenty miles before they loosened up.
The first thirty miles were really nice. Predominantly flat with a slight headwind but nothing that made me have to work harder. I stopped at Golspie for a snack and five minutes in the sun outside the local shop before continuing. I felt very spiritual today, if that's the right word? A sense of calm, deep thought, as if my mind was coming to terms with everything that had happened over the last week. More than the week though, the last year, with all the planning as well as the actual ride itself. I kept thinking of the finish and what would happen? Would I cry? I wanted to cry when I thought about it! Such an emotional day today but it was brilliant to experience.
I haven't passed a single cyclist going in the same direction as me during the whole journey. I've passed about twenty or thirty going the other way but none going to John o' Groats. Today I saw two walkers, both heading to John o' Groats. One, an old looking guy (but it might just have been his unshaven appearance that made him look old) and a young backpacker. I stopped and chatted with the backpacker for a few minutes before carrying on.
As I reached the village of Lothmore, the hills began to creep up. The A9 follows the coast and the road begins to come a bit further inland at this point. At Helmsdale it really starts to climb. This is where Shaun passed me in the van. He would be in John o' Groats in an hour. I would be another three or four yet! Upon reaching the summit above Helmsdale the road stays pretty high before descending once again. Unfortunately, the wind also began strengthening and I was cycling directly into a moderate north easterly headwind which was to stay with me for the next fifty miles to the end. Adrenalin, impatience and a desire to finish pushed me through those final miles, past the town of Wick and to the turn off for John o' Groats.
About a mile before the finish line there's a B&B by a field. It stands alone, overlooking the main part of John o' Groats. Despite me being desperate to finish, I stopped the bike and stood, leaning against the gate of the field and looked over John o' Groats. This was my little moment of reflection. A bit emotional but a few moments before the official end to let my mind compute what was about to happen. It sounds daft but I needed it, and enjoyed it. I texted Shaun to let him know I would be there in a few minutes and after removing my helmet and shades, jumped back on the bike and belted into John o' Groats heading straight for the famous sign where Shaun was waiting for me.
Totals for the day:
Average Speed: 13.1 mph
Maximum Speed: 39.1 mph
Total Ascent: 3966 ft
Calories Used: 6173