Day 57 has been wet. Very wet and musical but enormously satisfying if not a little bit painful. It has seen 46 miles cycled back over the Menteith Hills with a height gain of 820 feet with no seizures.

Today saw me return to National Cycle Network Route 7 from Callander to Aberfoyle in order to try and cycle the 7 mile Lochan Spling route through the Loch Ard Forest before returning. However light was against me as was the storm warning. I couldn’t leave until 9am once the children were away and confirmed on the school bus which gave me only 6 hours to get there (22 miles) do the Lochan Spling route (7 miles) have lunch and then cycle the route back (24 miles) At 10 miles an hour that would be easy however on a mountain bike tackling the Menteith Hills and the height game my average speed was going to significantly slower so I had to be very aware of the time. I popped in to say hello to Pat and Matthew quickly then set off for the hills. I was going over the top road to Callander because it was my favourite route in that the views could be great and have only ever encountered 1 car on the route. No traffic today. Nothing and the hills were looking moody. In fact the light felt most odd for first thing in the morning. It just didn’t seem bright enough. Anyway I made it to Callander in 40 minutes which was great but needed to press on. The Mocha and the flapjack was just going to have to wait. I could do it on the way back – then shock horror Deli Ecosse was closed for a couple of days. I hope it is nothing serious Julie. Missing you all already!! I carried on along Loch Venachar before starting te climb up past Loch Drunkie, through the forest and then down in to Aberfoyle. I had found the trip surprisingly comfortable until the final ascent before dropping in to Aberfoyle and then hit the area of the route in which some forestry work had taken place and it was at this point that my first tune came in to the head. Not surprisingly – ‘Mud, mud. Glorious mud, nothing quite like it for clogging the gears.’ The bike was becoming clogged up by the mud but we made it through and down safely. The whole route took 2 hours and 40 minutes. It was a good long hard slog without a break but I was pleased with the time crossing the Menteith Hills at an average 8.1 miiles an hour. That meant that my time estimate was spot on before starting but also meant that I needed to think hard about whether or not to add another 7 miles before turning for home. I needed some lunch and somewhere to eat it. There were some picnic tables at the wool centre and better still the cafe does Mochas!! I had brought a flapjack as well as my veggie pick and mix bag and a tuna mayonnaise sandwich so with a Mocha as well that was all boxes ticked for the day. But there was a strange atmosphere in Aberfoyle, almost akin to boarding up properties prior to a vicious sand storm coming in the Southern States of the United States. The light was changing dramatically to a funny form of iridescence. It was hard to explain but then I had several of the staff tell me in the cafe that a storm was coming and some of the customers rushing back home to sort this and that out before the storm. I needed to take heed and with the changing light as well decided to head for home rather than risk getting caught in the storm.

The edge of Loch Venachar
On the edge of Loch Venachar

I set off and hoped to beat my 2hours 40 minutes on the way back. Then I hit the uphill from Aberfoyle and started to question the validity of trying to beat the time but also wanted to beat the storm so pushed hard and was blowing hard. Before I knew it another song was rattling around my head ‘I’m cycling up a hill and my legs are burning’ I couldn’t think of any more lines it was hurting too much and I was blowing too hard so the tune just rattled around my head acting like a sort of African working tune pumping my legs to the rhythm. It was suddenly getting very dark and it was only 1pm. I had made the right decision and had to push on through the mud and up to the top. Once I had crested, the descent from the Menteith Hills had some really good fun downhill sections but also some good uphills to keep me warmed up and before I knew it I was coming round Loch Drunkie and descending down to Loch Venachar. But after what was now well over 30 miles with some seriously fast but bumpy downhills my bottom and palms of my hands were becoming decidedly sore but there was nothing for it but to keep going standing on the peddles on any downhill bits to preserve my posterior. Last time I had done this route I had the light and the weather so didn’t need to push as hard and was definitely feeling it this time but was still enjoying it. As I came along Loch Venachar I had to decide whether it was going to be the top road or the back road to Doune. I had just stopped to take a picture and suddenly the wind and rain had whistled in almost from nowhere. I pondered the options and thinking that the back road traced the River Teith back to Doune it would therefore be a mainly downhill journey along a reasonably smooth surface whereas the top road did have some more uphill rewarded by some great downhills which right now my hands and bottom didn’t want plus it was a much more exposed route. Although 2 miles longer I opted for the back road and regretted it all the way. Uphill it went past the school for what felt like miles as I peddled in to the driving wind and rain. It wasn’t tracing the river in it’s flow down to Doune instead just running alongside the river over the rolling hills. I tried to wash the mud off of the bike by cycling as fast as I could through puddles to clear the gears which were very sticky but discovered that it was actually quite difficult to cycle fast in to a strong head wind!! I was now officially soaked and another tune came in to my head ‘I’m cycling in the rain, just cycling in the rain, what a wonderful feeling I’m ooooffff.’ I had just hit a pothole and my hands and bottom were not happy. The rain was running down my face and body yet despite the back road dragging on and on with small uphill followed by small uphill and small uphill I could finish the song. ‘I’m happy again’ because I wasn’t feeling in the slightest bit fuzzy. I had a clear head. I knew how it felt to feel alive again. I was now smiling and smiled all the way home. Once home I dismounted rather unsteadily and must have looked a little like John Wayne as I walked around to get the bike away and take all my kit inside. I stripped off all my dripping wet kit. Wrung out my gloves and socks and poured the water out of my boots in to the utility room sink before stuffing the boots with newspaper. The children would be coming home soon so just time for a quick stretch and a shower. Whilst in the shower I reflected on the day and how unusual it was and indeed sad I felt that I hadn’t met anyone today. I had cycled 46 miles, which has taken me to well over 500 miles completed under my own steam since the start, while climbing to over 820 feet twice and had got home cycling straight in to the strengthening wind for the last 8 miles and hadn’t had a seizure or even the twinkling of one which was a huge result but I still felt sad because I hadn’t met anyone.

Which reminds me, as I sit on a cushion to write this post, that on Sunday 22 November the brilliant Buttercup Cafe in Doune are having an afternoon tea fundraiser in aid of the challenge. It will be a brilliant opportunity for me to meet lots of people because I will be there and very much hope that you will come too either on your own or with a group. Either way it would be great to see you. I am trying to collect some prizes for the raffle as well so while I am at it – if I haven’t asked you already and you or your business or place of work might be able to provide a raffle prize please consider donating something by either dropping it off at the Buttercup Cafe or getting in touch with me via this page and we can arrange some form of collection. It is advisable to book a table for the fundraising tea or if you want to donate a raffle prize the buttercup can be reached on 01786 842 511. Thank you.

Have a lovely evening but before you do Time for for the challenge in total numbers since the start
Days completed: 57
Total Miles Cycled: 288
Total Miles Walked: 233
Total Miles Run: 10.2
Total Distance Swum: 50 metres
Total Miles covered under own steam: 527.2
Total Height Gained under own steam: 24,006 feet
Mountains Climbed: 5
Hills Climbed: 9
Days of Voluntary Activity: 5.5
Organ tunes learnt and performed: 5
Salmon Caught: 0!
Curling Matches played in: 3
Curling stones placed on the button (the centre of the target): 1
Weight Training Sessions: 5
Aerobic Circuit Sessions: 1
People Met and Hands Shaken: 211
Pots of tea shared: 10
Prayers joined on the top of a hill: 2
Prayers joined in the street!: 1
Pills popped: 242
And most important of all – Money Raised as at Day 44- £3,020.00.

Considering I started this challenge 9 weeks ago very quietly with no target beyond a fiver, thanks to the brilliant advice from a friend of mine, I am absolutely thrilled and again thank you all. So far that is £68.00 for each and every day that I have managed to find the will and energy to do something worthwhile and my goodness it has been worth it for my peace of mind, for my healing and for the five wonderful charities you are supporting through your generosity. Long may it continue.

If you would like to join me on my journey and encourage me to walk, cycle, climb, paddle, sport and do good deeds each day to ‘Beat the Beast’ , please consider helping me to help improve the lives and life chances of so many more people through sponsorship. All of the money you give in sponsorship goes to my five nominated charities.

Thank you

Yours aye