Day fourteen: A big cycle, a deep sleep and a mighty storm
Hitting the halfway mark was supposed to be momentous. Having Mike with me was supposed to be the lift that I needed to re-energize my efforts. Reaching the top of Scotland and heading East in the direction of John o’Groats was supposed to be one of the big landmarks of the entire effort. None of that happened!
In fact, quite the opposite occurred. I was totally floored (almost literally) and the whole challenge very nearly came crashing down all around me.
Business as usual: then wallop!
We set off on the bikes, as planned, and it was tough going early on. The wind was once more against us, but I employed a determined, head-down and go attitude, spurred on by having my cycling partner Mike alongside me. We were due to get in the kayak early on, after around 35km, but the winds were challenging enough on two wheels so we opted to stay on the road. Instead, our intention was to hit the waves later in the day when we stopped for our planned swim and run.
So, 130km into a seriously tough, wind-opposed, cycle ride across the most Northerly coastline of Scotland, and my body finally said ‘no’. It wasn’t a moaning, whiny ‘no’ but more of a definitive, stubborn refusal to carry on any longer. Mike had dropped some way behind me; I was freewheeling rapidly along a fairly lengthy descent and slowly I simply drifted off to sleep. Obviously, I don’t remember too much about it, but Mike later described the gradual sidewinding motion as I veered to the right into the opposite lane.
If you think the fact that there was no oncoming traffic to the right was lucky; consider the consequences of sleep-riding left and straight off the cliff edge!
This was no marginal decision!
Amazingly, despite having fallen asleep while riding my bike downhill on a narrow and winding Highland road, I did not fall off. As I left the road, onto the grass verge, I woke with a start and managed to maintain my balance until I came to a shaky stop. By the time Mike had caught up, it was obvious that I couldn’t go any further!
We had another 30km of road until we reached our campsite in Durness and no choice but to try and get there. If there is one warning sign in my life that speaks even louder, clearer and with more absolute authority than Penny, it is my body. This was no marginal decision – it was time to stop! Covering the final distance was tough, but we had no choice and eventually we arrived at our destination. The run and swim for that day would have to be missed out, but by this time even I did not care. I was ready for a rest.
If you Google Friday 17th July 2015, you will read about the storms which wiped out the British Open at St Andrews, just up the road. There was huge flooding and almost hurricane level winds, causing serious water and wind damage to the course and around the entire area.
Sleeping in the campervan that night, I didn’t know a single thing about it!