Location; Inverness-John O’Groats
Distance Travelled; 157 kms (as the crow flies)
Weather; Wonderful! Glorious at last. Tailwinds, sunny but cool
When CDR Ryan began planning this world record attempt, he discovered the fastest traversal in a wheelchair of LEJOG was 17 days. For several reasons, including the amount of days leave he had and the start of Ramadan, he planned on doing it in 10 days. This would have smashed the current record, to such an extent that hopefully it would put off anyone else attempting to break it
John o’ Groats is popular with tourists because it is usually regarded as the most northerly settlement of mainland Great Britain, although the actual most northerly point is nearby Dunnet Head. The town takes its name from Jan de Groot, a Dutchman who obtained a grant for the ferry from the Scottish mainland to Orkney, recently acquired from Norway, from King James IV in 1496.
The morning started like so many recently, at an indecent hour, to a chilly dawn, and grunts substituting for conversation. However, this morning, there was a slight difference as we knew that if we could arrive before 1800, we would have done it in 8 and a half days, less than half the current record.
After 8 days of driving on British roads and being overtaken by speeding motorists, we finally had our first road traffic accident when Mike was knocked over. Luckily an ambulance was the first responder to the incident. I say luckily, but luck had little to do with it as the ambulance was the vehicle that hit Mike’s rear wheel! Mike wasn’t badly hurt, but he was visibly shaken. However, he was exceptionally brave, and insisted on minimal treatment to ensure that his brother wasn’t held up by his predicament, and despite a bleeding knee, was cycling again within minutes. As he said, people get far worse injuries in war and they still carry on…
Today we clocked our fastest speed. The terrain from Inverness is generally undulating, but about 30 miles from the end, there were a couple of very steep hills, including a 13% gradient, the steepest so far. This of course meant that there was a steep slope on the other side. Without realising it CDR Ryan was soon speeding along at 84 kph, and only noticed his speed when he reached for the brakes! Not long after he was experiencing zero gravity and getting “air” as he crested small rises.
The famous “Journey’s End” signpost at John o’ Groats is privately owned and operated by the same Penzance-based photography company which operates its counterpart at Land’s End, with a fee payable for having pictures taken next to the signpost. Because of the 0600 start at Lands End, we weren’t able to get official departing photos, but we got lots at our finish. Some of the support team had driven ahead and had whipped up a crowd of tourists and as Rick and Mike crossed the official finish line there was cheering, clapping and champagne. His time was 8 days, 10 hours, 9 minutes. He turned the crank on his wheelchair 1.3 million times, burnt 78,000 calories, rode 902 miles, ate 82 bananas and broke one world record. Actually, break doesn’t really do it justice. He smashed the world record, more than halving it!!!
CDR Ryan has broken a world record, and the whole team has been a part of it. But the truth is, as modest as CDR Ryan is, the only person who did this was himself. “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”
We have had tears, laughter and disaster. We came together as a bunch of well meaning individuals with the same goal, and left as a tight knit efficient team of friends…never a truer friend made, than through hardship or adventure shared…but my final thought is this…we can now go home back to normality after 9 days of agony, but for some people every day is a struggle…not to break records but just to survive. And as much as we rejoice now, our thoughts are with those less fortunate than ourselves.