Friday, 15 July 2016

My Butt is now made of Iron!

Greeting from The Arctic Rider!

For those of you who follow me on facebook or twitter will know that at around 2315 on Tuesday 5th of July I completed my Iron Butt challenge!!!! It was an amazing feeling to do this on behalf of Tiny Lives but boy was it tough and my body wouldn't thank me after. Here's a first look at my adventure.

Day '0' - Getting there

  • Journey - Newcastle to Lands End 
  • Mileage - 500 

In order to do the Iron Butt I needed to get myself down to Lands End to start. So I set off on Monday morning from Newcastle around 0830 for the 500 mile ride down. My previous longest days ride has been on the way home from the Arctic in 2014 when I rode 550 miles through Denmark, Germany, and Netherlands so this was going to be a very big day for me.

Fully loaded and ready to go
 The ride down was pretty uneventful. Apart from a few mobile speed cameras keeping me on my toes it was a solid days ride down the motorways with a few stops for fuel and food. The only unexpected part of the trip was the final 80 miles through Cornwall which were very slow due to single carriageways and roadworks. Although I must say the Cornish countryside was delightful to look at and the drivers were very biker friendly, almost every car pulling over to let me filter past... very nice indeed.

I got to the Lands End hotel around 1830, met up with my buddy and cameraman Andi and settled in for the night.

Day 1 - The Iron Butt
  • Journey - Lands End to John O'Groats
  • Mileage - 875
Smiling at the End of the Land (Lands End)
I had a really bad nights sleep before the ride. I'd ended up having a late dinner and chatting bikes with Andi so didn't get down to bed until close to midnight. Then all I could think about was the ride and the pressure of finishing within the 24 hours. It must have taken me a good 30-45 minutes to drop off. Then I was up with my alarm at 0430 ready to pack the bike and set off. I was lucky that a twitter buddy of mine, Biker Ian, came along to be my starting point witness and ride through Cornwall.

A final lube of the chain before lift off
At around 0530, with the sun already up for about an hour I set off from Lands End with 875 miles ahead of me. I had to stop after 10 miles in Penzance to grab fuel and a receipt for my Iron Butt certification, but after that I was off. The first 100 or so miles seemed so slow with morning traffic and roadworks before getting on to the M5. But when I hit the motorways I was making good progress.


First stop was at Taunton services at 0814 by which I'd already done 150 miles. I got my fuel, wrote up the time and location in my 'ride log' for my Iron Butt verification, grabbed a drink and a flapjack and saddled back up (a president of a routine I would set for all of my stops). Then it was back on the road heading North. 

My plan had been to ride 150 miles on each 'eg of the journey but after 'just' another 100 miles my butt was starting to really hurt so I pulled in 50 miles earlier than expected. The motorways were fairly clear and I was making good progress so it seemed sensible to stop and have a short break. Again I did my routine (this time having an apple rather than flapjack) and after about 15 minutes I was back on the road.

250 miles by 10am - Stop on the M5 services 
I powered back on the up the motorway with ease passing Worcester, Birmingham, Stoke, and Manchester before stopping after 130 miles just south of Preston for lunch. The time was 12.30 and this stop was a bit longer to grab some lunch. I couldn't believe that by lunchtime I'd already ridden 381 miles and I wasn't even half way. When getting ready to head off an old man came and chatted to Andi and I for 5 minutes or so and it was a really nice break from the riding.


Again it was back on the road up the M6 towards Scotland. One of the pluses of the ride was certainly seeing the different scenery of the UK along the way and seeing the Lake District from a distance was great.. although I was very jealous I wasn't heading there to ride some of the twisty roads and overtake some campervans.

Next stop was Gretna, just inside Scotland and (finally) over half way through the ride. By this time it was 3pm and I'd ridden 493 miles. My arse was getting really sore by this point and was the main reason for me not being able to push on further. I think it was around this point I really realised why they call it the 'Iron Butt'.
The face of a man with a sore arse - Gretna July 2016
When I got back on the motorway I remember thinking "I'm in Scotland now... I'm getting there" but the reality was I still had 350 miles to go and the motorway was running out. The M74 to Glasgow was empty and fast. It twisted through the hills and before I knew it I was heading into Glasgow and on to Stirling.

After passing Stirling I was greeted by the amazing right of Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument. I love Scotland... I really do.

Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle (not my photo)
Next stop was near Gleneagles just West of Perth, 120 miles since my last stop. The motorways had run out and average speed cameras and the first signs of tiredness were slowing me down. It was 5.17 and I'd already ridden 613 miles, offically my longest days riding, but I still have over 250 miles to go. The task of doing the Iron Butt was really starting to hit me at this point but throughout the day I'd had more and more likes and messages coming through on facebook and twitter and they really made a difference. And to know 1,000+ people were seeing my posts was a very humbling feeling which gave me great motivation to get back on the road and keep heading to John O'Groats


Next was the A9 from Perth to Inverness which was very slow progress and pretty cold going over the mountain passes.

I arrived in Inverness a few hours later cold and hungry but greeted by the smiling face of my twitter and youtube buddy XTWanabe. From Fort William, he'd rode over to meet me in Inverness and ride the final 130 miles (3 hours) to John  O'Groats.


This is when it got really tough. I had loads of messages coming through telling me I'd done so well and how close I was but I didn't feel close at all. 3 more hours on the road seemed like a lifetime and my body wanted me to stop and rest but I knew I had to plough on.

If I'm being truly honest, this is where my riding attitude changed from my usual mantra of 'ride safe' to 'lets ride this fast to get there'.

I was riding into the sunset but over the passes it was getting very cold and I didn't put my thermals on. I was feeling so tired but all my mind was thinking is "I've got to do this no matter what" so I pushed on. I made a short stop 10 miles from Wick after I felt my concentration go but the 5 minutes of chat with Andi and XT was enough to get my focus back and I went on.

I stopped at Wick to get my final receipt for my Iron Butt certification then to the final few miles onto John O'Groats.


It was a great feeling pulling into John O'Groats. I felt so proud I was completing my ride and very humble for all the love I had received.

My buddy XT filmed the final few minutes of my ride which you can watch below.



So all in all it was a successful but very stressful day of riding. Also it turns out some of my decisons around not eating enough on stops and riding in cold temperatures saw me develop hypothermia on the final hours of my ride. I kept pushing on but the result was a very sick Gordon for the few days following the ride.

So would I do it again? You'll have to wait for my next one to find out that, and my 'look back' on the ride.

So far i have raised over £1,600 for Tiny Lives. If you would like to donate please visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/thearcticrider

Until next time.

Ride safe,

Gordon

Saturday, 2 July 2016

3 Days to go...

Hi everyone,

Thanks for tuning in to my latest Arctic Rider blog!

Its now just 3 days to go until I take on the UK Iron Butt challenge.. riding from Lands End to John O'Groats in 24 hours.


While I've been planning this ride for around the last 18 months, I'm feeling a little unprepared. When I rode to the Arctic in 2014 that ride was pretty much my sole focus. Every day was Arctic Ride prep. Now 2 years later... my life having a toddler and a more demanding job has meant I haven't been able to spend as much time as I would have liked planning and preparing. Luckily, while this trip is going to be a big challenge, I'm only going to be away from home for 4 days rather than 4 weeks.

This week I picked my bike up from its big service at M&S motorcycles in Newcastle. To get the bike ready the team did an oil and filter change, spark plug refresh, air filter change, and a general check of the bike. Also I got two brand new Bridgestone  Battleaxe tyres put on for good measure.

This was an expensive job but I was lucky enough to have Suzuki cover this for me as sponsorship for the trip. They also also posted an article about my trip which you can view here: Lands End to John O'Groats in 24 hours



With the bike sorted, I spent this afternoon rummaging around my my garage looking for all of my gear ready for the trip. I managed to find all my usual kit; tent, sleeping bag, gas heater, camping seat, etc... however 2 very important items (knowing the British weather and this week's forecast) were missing. 1. My waterproof suit. 2. My spare gloves. To this day I've never found a pair of gloves that are fully waterproof so I always carry a spare pair... which is annoying.


So my plans for the next few days are as follows.

Sunday
  • Meet my buddy Lars from Norway (who helped me so much when I was in Trondhiem in 2014) off the ferry at Newcastle where he is starting a biking holiday to Scotland.
  • Head to J&S Newcastle and get some waterproofs and spare gloves (and hopefully not get sucked in by any new gear)
  • Fuel up the bike, check my tyre pressure, oil my chain
  • Pack the bike
Monday
  • Drop little one off at Nursery, Say goodbye to the wife
  • Hit the road around 0800 for the 500 mile ride to Lands End
  • Meet up with my camera guys Andy and Andi.
Tuesday
  • Take on the UK Iron Butt challenge


So not long to go until my big ride, I'm a bit nervous but determined to complete the ride saefly within the 24 hours to make you all proud. Thank you all for your amazing support; reading my blogs, liking and re-tweeting post, and of course donating to Tiny Lives via my giving page

Keep an eye out on my facebook and twitter pages fro updates over the next few days!

Ride safe,

Gordon




Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Islay's Story and Tiny Lives - Part 1

Hi everyone,

Thanks for checking in, reading my blog, and supporting my Iron Butt challenge.

As many of you may know (or guess from my pseudonym) I rode my bike to the Arctic in 2014 to raise money for brain injury charity Cerebra, who have helped my little brother and my family for many years. I knew from quite early on I wanted to help give something back to Cerebra but it just took me a little while to figure out how to do it.

This time around, it didn't take long after our family got support from Tiny Lives, when my daughter Islay was born prematurely, that I knew I was going to be jumping on my bike to 'give something  back' again.

Now not many outside my family and close circle of friends really know Islay's story but I wanted to share just a glimpse of it to give you readers an insight into just why The Tiny Lives Trust means so much to us and why I'm determined to raise some money so they can continue to help other families.

My buddy Ant, part of my 'Welcome Home Party' - June 2014
Rewind to June 2014 and I'd just got back from the Arctic and things seemed pretty good. I'd completed the trip of a lifetime, raised a shed load of cash for charity, and I had the full summer to spend with my wife Kirsty before our first baby was due to be born in the middle of September. I wasn't to know that one morning at the start of August would be the start of my daughter Islay's amazing journey.

Kirsty and I pre-baby
It was Sunday the 3rd of August 2014, over a month and a half until Islay's due date so I can categorically say both Kirsty and I weren't prepared for the arrival of a baby. I woke to Kirsty seeming a bit concerned. As a precaution we went to the hospital to get Kirsty checked over and spent the full day with Kirsty wired up to different monitors and speaking to different doctors. They'd decided to keep her in overnight to keep and eye on her but the message I got was that Islay wasn't arriving just yet.

I wasn't allowed to stay at the hospital with Kirsty so the next morning I headed up in my work suit to see how things were going, expecting to spend some time in the office that day. Not long after I arrived Kirsty was getting wheeled into the delivery room... the baby was coming. The whole day was a blur. Kirsty was amazing, so much so she even let me eat the toast the midwife had brought her. As Islay was 6 weeks early and on the way, the doctors briefed up that when she was born there might be some issues and to try to not get too concerned if they had to whisk her off as soon as she was born. This was such a scary thought but I knew I had to put on a brave face for Kirsty, and have faith in the doctors. When Islay was born she let out a big cry and I was even able to cut the chord... everything seemed ok. Islay had to be taken away to get some antibiotics but apart from that it had gone to plan.

2 hours old Islay and I
I wasn't able to stay with the girls at the hospital so again I trooped home for the night. The next 24 hours Islay stayed on the ward with Kirsty and I was able to visiting during the day, get a little cuddle and come to terms with being a dad. Islay was having a some issues keeping her first feeds down but the midwives and the doctors were keeping an eye and said to use she might just be a sickly baby... I didn't know any different and was caught up in a world wind of emotions. Again that night I went home trying to get the house sorted for our new arrival and buy some tiny clothes for our tiny early baby. It was from then Islay's story turned into a nightmare.

That night around 10pm I got a phone call from Kirsty. Islay still wasn't keeping her milk down and the doctors were becoming increasingly concerned, they rushed her into the special care baby unit (SCBU) to work out what was wrong... I had to get to the hospital as soon as possible and meet them at SCBU. I immediately jumped on the bike and bombed up the hospital to be with Kirsty and Islay.

One of the scariest memories of Islay's story for me was the first time I was outside the door of SCBU. I remember going on a tour of the maternity unit only a week or so earlier with Kirsty. We were taken past a ward which I now know to be SCBU. I have such a clear memory of the midwife giving the tour and saying as we passed SCBU "This is ward 35, the Special Care Baby Unit, Its where all the sickest and critically ill babies go, but don't worry your baby won't end up here"... but my baby had and I was terrified of what could happen.

With tears in my eyes and a huge lump in my throat, I stood at the door of SCBU and rang the buzzer. From there for me the SCBU journey with Islay and Kirsty began.

Islay's Story and Tiny Lives - Part 2

**You can donate to my Iron Butt ride for Tiny Lives on my Giving Page**

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Iron Butt 'Warm up' Ride to The Highlands and prep

Greetings to the latest edition of The Arctic Rider blog,

Its just over 3 weeks until I set off to take on the 'Iron Butt' challenge to raise money for The Tiny Lives Trust.

No two ways about it, taking on ~900miles in a single day riding is going to be a challenge. I consider myself a somewhat seasoned long distance rider but I must admit I've been out of practice since I returned from the Arctic. I've done a few 250 mile days to the South West of Scotland to see family and the odd ride around Northumberland, so I knew I needed to get a good 'warm up' ride in preparation for the Iron Butt.

6am start from Newcastle
So last Sunday, I set my alarm early and got myself on the road by 6am ready to get the miles under my belt. I loaded up the bike with my touring boxes to get a feel for having a fully loaded bike again. The weather forecast was excellent but as I headed up through Northumberland en route to Scotland I was greeted by fog, cold temperatures, empty roads.

On-board cam in drizzly Northumberland  
Even with the fog and cool morning I made really good time and got the 120miles to Edinburgh by 8am, where I stopped for a drink and some fuel. I had planned to ride around 400 miles so having done a 3rd of that in 2 hours was good progress.

The bike felt really good, nimble and quick on the country roads, as well as being fast and smooth on the dual carriageways and motorways. The only issue I had after my first stop was the state of my legs. I've recently been diagnosed with tendinitis in my right hamstring and after 2 hours on the bike I was sore and very stiff... this continued to be a problem throughout the day.

Warm-up ride route
Concious not to waste to much time stopping, a skill I'll need on the Iron Butt, I jumped back on the bike and headed up the motorway to Stirling. I wanted my warm up ride includes as many elements of my Iron Butt as possible. It included fast country roads (Newcastle to Edinburgh), Motorway Riding (Edinburgh to Stirling) and finally highland 'A' roads (North of Stirling into the Trossachs national Park).

I'd set my sights on making it to Lochan na Lairige next to Ben Lawers, Scotland 5th higest peak. I ramdonly came across it on google maps a few weeks ago and through the roads and scenery looked good, and wow was I not disappointed. In fact it was stunning.

The Road leading to Loch Tay
The weather broke and the ride from Stirling up the A84 to Loch Tay was a dream. The combination of Lochs, Glens, and blue skies made me think I was riding through a postcard. I'd go as far as to say that this was one of my top 5 rides ever as a biker, it was that good.

At just after 10am, after a few map check stops, I made to to Lochan na Lairige and it was breathtaking. At 1800 feet above sea-level, at the end of a single track road, Lochan na Lairage is was Scotland is about.

Pano shot of Lochan na Lairige
After a short wander around and a bit of my sandwiches I headed back off home, possibly setting the world record for the quickest trip to The Highlands from England of all time.

Heading back on the same route I rode home, stopping to take a few photos and grab some fuel. Knowing I needed it test myself for my pace for the Iron Butt it was a case of head down and get back to Newcastle. I managed to get home for just before 3pm, meaning I had covered 400 miles in just short of 9 hours. I even had enough time to get changed and head over to a birthday BBQ for the afternoon... cash back. What a day.



So the warm up ride was a success but it was a good reminder of what I'm going to need to remember for my Iron Butt ride.

1. Thermals are a must in the UK, no matter what the forecast. I just about froze my knees off riding the morning Northumberland fog when the forecast was for bright sunshine all day.
2. Ear plugs Ear Plugs Ear Plugs... I forgot my ear plugs and the wind just about destroyed my hearing.
3. Shorter stops - I made 3 'proper' stops on my warm up ride and a few map checks, but I need to have them shorter and more efficient to give me the best chance of completing the Iron Butt. I'm planning to stop around every 150 miles and I need to be ruthless and do a quick leg stretch, grab few, throw down some food, and get back on the bike... Thats going to be tough.
4. Photos are for the way home. I could have stopped a dozen times in the highlands to take photos and admire the scenery but I'm just not going to have time at all. Luckily I'll have a camerman Andy with me and my GoPro to try and capture the best bits.
5. This is going to be tough. If I'm being honest, when I got back to Newcastle at 3pm all I wanted to do was go for a kip... I was bloody knackered... and that was less than half the distance I need to cover on the 5th of July. The day before the ride I'll be doing a 500 miles day just to get to Lands End... wow.

So that was my warm up ride done. Next up is a service and new set of tyres for the bike and more fitness work for me to try and get my body in some sort of  good condition for the punishments I'm going to be putting through over a few days at the start of my ride doing the Iron Butt.

Hopefully by now you will know that the whole reason I am doing this ride is to raise money for The Tiny Lives Trust in Newcastle. If you think a few bob is a good exchange for my body, my mind, and my safety to be on the line on 5th of July the please donate at www.virginmoneygiving.com/thearcticrider

Finally I'd like to give a short mention to Ian Bell who passed away racing at the Isle of Man TT today. Ian was a big character in the North East motorbike community as a racer with the NEMCRC, and as a bike shop owner with his dealership in Bedlington, Northumberland (where he sold me my first big bike). Also Ian was a generous support of my Arctic Ride in 2014 and I had the pealsure of presenting him and his sone a triophy at the NEMCRC meet at Croft in 2014. Rest easy mate.

April 2014 - Presenting the sidecar trophy to the Bell's (Bottom right)
And as a final sign off as always, Ride safe.

Gordon

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Planning and Prep - 6 weeks to go

Hi everyone,

Its now only 6 weeks (43 days technically) until my ride gets underway and I'm getting both excited and nervous.

I've done some planning of when and where I will need to stop and suddenly the reality of what I'm undertaking has become apparent... its a bloody long way in 24 hours.

Below is my draft plan, based on my riding experience and guidance from the experts, of what I think I will be able to achieve. I'm going to be getting up about 4am to pack the bike, get some breakfast in me, and get down to the Lands End Visitor Centre from my hotel ready for paperwork signing and the launch at 5.30am... so before I start I'll already have been up for over an hour.

By the time I've usually finished the nursery run and starting work I should be ~150 miles in and at my first stop at Taunton... then by lunch time I'm hoping to have hit the 300 mile mark... which is usually a substantial and fairly long day from my previous rides.


By the end of the working day at 5pm I should be near Stirling in Scotland and the end of the motorways having done nearly 600 miles, which in itself will surpass my previous longest days ride of 550 miles when I rode from the top of Denmark to the Netherlands on Day 20 of my Arctic Ride.

Then in the evening I have the task of riding another 'full day' of nearly 300 miles to get from Stirling to John O'Groats in the Highlands, hopefully before midnight and I certainly hope before the 5.30am mark which will be the cut-off for my 24 hour window.

Looking at it now I'm thinking this plan is looking slightly optimistic and that I'll either have more stops, especially in the evening on the highland roads, or even a power-nap somewhere along the line. Either way I'm looking at this and realising just how much of a challenge this really is going to be and the dangers involved in pushing oneself to the limit.


Now I've been a bad lad so far when it comes to training and life has really been getting in the way... The weekend just gone I had planned a practice ride form Newcastle down to London (a mere 300 miles) to visit my sponsor Devitt at their office in Romford, and link up with some of the YouTube MotoVloggers at the annual 'Monkey Meet'... however I ended up travelling with work which put an end to that.

Regardless of my work schedule I know I need to get some big miles in before the ride at the start of July to get me back in the mode for long distance riding. So in a few weekends time I've planned a day trip up to Glen Lyon, via the Loch Lomond National Park. This route will see me take on motorways, 'A' roads, and some twisty unclassified roads which should be perfect practice for what I will experience on the Iron Butt. The route there and back from Newcastle is around 500 miles which will be a big day. I'll also be riding Scotland's 5th highest pass, the beautiful Lochan la Lairge, pictured below.

 Lochan la Lairge
So that's my plan for the ride and getting some practice in. Whilst I'm looking forward to the challenge I'm also apprehensive but I know that I'm challenging myself and my riding skills to raise money for an amazing charity in the Tiny Lives Trust. Before I depart in July I'll share a little more about my daughter Islay's story and why I feel so indebted to Tiny Lives and the staff at the RVI hospital in Newcastle.

To find out more about Tiny Lives, visit their website.


Big thanks to all the recent donations which sees my total sitting at nearly £600. I know that times are tight and there are lots of great causes and fundraising events going on but any donation to my total is appreciated and will go towards helping babies like my daughter Islay at the most precious time of their life as new born babies. And please think about how cold and wet (I'm making assumptions based on that I'm travelling through Scotland) I will be after nearly 900 miles on my bike and just how sore my backside is going to be... surely that in itself if enough for a few beans to go into the jar?

To donate please visit my virgin money giving page.

Thanks for reading and ride safe.

Gordon

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Media 'Frenzy'

Hello,

Welcome welcome welcome, to the latest edition of The Arctic Rider blog.

Its now only 75 days until I attempt to ride the length of the UK in less than 24 hours to raise money for The Tiny Lives Trust... man I'm getting excited.

Post-brew at the Tiny Lives office
A few weeks ago I popped into the Tiny Lives office, leathers and all, to give the team an update of my plans. In return I was given a very tasty cuppa, a choccy biscuit, and some encouragement from the team.

The past week has been a media frenzy for The Arctic Rider and The Stuart family. Islay (with Kirsty and I) recently starred in new film being produced for Tiny Lives to help raised awareness of parents' journeys when having a premature or sick baby who is helped by Ward 35 at the RVI in Newcastle and Tiny Lives.

Appearing on BBC Look North last weekend
It all started last weekend when the crew from BBC Look North turned our living room into a studio and were interviewing Kirsty and I, and filming Islay, on a rang of topics from Tiny Lives and their new film (starring Islay) to my Iron Butt fundraising efforts.

Online version of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle Article
The next appearance was mid-week, when (a young looking) Islay and I made page 13 of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle. This article focused less on the recent film and more on Kirsty and I's much needed fundraising activities for Tiny Lives. As I'm sure you know by now I'm doing my Iron Butt challenge this summer, and my wife Kirsty is running 365 miles in 365 days finishing with the Great North Run in September. 
 
Waiting to be interviewed at BBC Radio Newcastle
Finally, last Friday we all spent the morning at BBC Radio Newcastle's studios recording an interview with Jon Harle for the 'Today's North East' programme due to be aired on Monday. It was great to spend a few hours as a family promoting a superb charity in Tiny Lives which has had such a big impact on our family. 

It was until Friday night when we were home and Islay was tucked up in bed that I took a moment to realise how lucky we are. Without the help of the staff on Ward 35 and the amazing work of Tiny Lives, I dare not to think about where we would be as a family. There are many a family who never get the chance to take their baby home from special care which makes me even more grateful for the help Islay got. But even in these horrific times Tiny Lives fund a bereavement counselor and other services to help families in their darkest hour.  

As you can see I've been working really hard to get the word out about the amazing work that Tiny Lives do (thanks to Liz W for your contacts and advice) and I'm going to keep plugging on right up until I set off in July.

If you'd like to support Tiny Lives and my ride you can donate some much needed funds on my Virgin money giving page. No sum too small.

Thanks for reading.

Ride safe.

Gordon

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

99 days until lift off

Hello there,

Welcome to the latest edition of The Arctic Rider blog.

It's only 99 days until I set off from Lands End ready to attempt to get to John O'Groats within 24 hours.

Some of my regular social media followers will have noticed that I have changed my logo. I was messing around on my laptop one night and ended up coming up with the below design which I kind of liked. It got the wife's stamp of approval so I thought I'd go for it!



At the same time I also designed this logo for my Iron Butt ride, incorporating the Iron Butt UK logo. Again this got the OK, this time from the UK Iron Butt association, so it's official.


As you can imagine I've been thinking a lot about my ride and chatting to other bikers I know and some of my buddies on Twitter. It's a very different challenge to the one I faced in 2014 riding to the Arctic. Back then it was more of a long term view, with that trip being 3 weeks, and all about long but steady days, making sure I was well rested for the next days riding. I was also able to plan contingency into the ride and I knew up front  hat if I had a slow days riding I could make up for it in the following days.

Fast forward to 2016 and this time I've got very little wiggle room and any sort of mechanical failure would pretty much end my chances of completing it in 24 hours. This ride is ultra endurance over a short period of time. I've done some basic planning and all going well I'll complete the ride in around 20 hours. This includes planned stops of between 15 to 30 minutes for fuel and food, plus riding slower around Bristol & Glasgow when I expect it to be rush hour. I've not factored in any sleep time!

Summer sunset at John O'Groats, Scotland.
The details of the ride certainly aren't an accident, they've been well thought out over the past months. For example I'm riding South to North specifically so that I:

a) have more sunlight later into the night. Being ~900 miles further North, I'll get almost an hours extra sunlight at John O'Groats in Scotland than I would have down at Lands End. This will help when I'm tired and on the country roads.
b) finish in Scotland so I am closer to home after the ride, meaning I have fewer miles to ride when I'll no doubt be knackered.

I've decided to do my ride the first week of July so I get almost maximum sunlight due to the summer solstice for reason 'a)' above but the school holidays won't have started. Also I've chosen a Tuesday as its typically the quietest day on the roads (thanks to Andy my cameraman, who used to be a tour manager for bands).

For me I'm genuinely unsure if I'll make it in the 24 hours or not. I'm really going to have to push myself. I've also got a 500 mile 9 hour ride down to Lands End the day before I set off. This could be the make if break for my ride if 'day -1' doesn't go to plan. I need to get an early start to get down to Cornwall in time to get well fed and rested before the big day. My plan is for a 4am start on the day of my ride. Luckily my little girl Islay has been training me to get up at that time, so I'm already well prepared.

I'd love to hear any questions or advice that any of my readers have about my Iron Butt! If you do please post them on my facebook or Twitter and I'll include them in my next blog.

That's all for the blog. The clocks have changed and the riding season is upon us so expect more updates about my preparation!

If you want to support my ride and The Tiny Lives Trust, please visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/thearcticrider  no donation is too small or not appreciated.

Ride safe,

Gordon