Brothers, Sandy and Jamie McKenzie, recently cycled the near 1000 mile journey from Lands End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) in memory of their friend Nelson Pratt who took his own life in 2012, and to raise money for CALM. Here Sandy tells us about their experience:
“I think one of the most overwhelming experiences of cycling the 960 mile Lands End to John O’Groats route has not just been the incredible views, or realisation of what an amazing country we live in, or the pleasure which comes with sheer exhaustion and the joy of completing the challenge; for me it has been the random, unexpected generosity and kindness of people you meet along the journey mixed with the time you have on the bike to find complete clarity in your thinking – my mind found a happy and simple place in some of the most beautiful and tranquil places in the world which spurred me on each day, and I took a great deal of satisfaction from this despite the constant wrestle with the body to keep going.
From Cornwall to Scotland through changing scenery over 9 long days of riding over 100 miles a day, we met random people who wanted to know more about CALM, then completely of their own accord reached for their wallets and placed money in our hands to put towards the charity. From the £5 and £10 notes an old couple gave us in a pub in the Quantocks (the cheeky old dear also asked for a kiss), to the £10 from a barmaid, to the £12 from the Farmer in the Lake District who waived our camping fee on Day 5; after meeting the farmer, I posted a message on the Tour de Test Valley Facebook page which said:
‘’Arrived at our campsite this evening in the Lake District following stage 5 of LEJOG – it’s a farm in the middle of nowhere. The farmer asked us what charity we were riding for….when we explained CALM to him he told us to add our nights fee to the money we have raised. He went on to tell us the neighboring farmer’s daughter took her life before Xmas. Ride on Nelly and look forward to taking part in this great charity ride in September for a very special person who is touching so many people with his legacy.’’
……having just completed 102 miles that day, which included the 9.6 mile 1300m climb up Shap Fell at the end, this was a very thought provoking moment. The farmer told us he understood the pain for the families and he hoped his contribution to CALM would be well received in what they do for the families who suffer such tragedy as well as those individuals in need.
On what started out as a very uneventful day 4, I popped a spoke at the 55 mile marker. We were outside a veterinary practice in the middle of nowhere and one of the nurses kindly offered to drive me to the nearby town to find a bike shop – she saved Jamie a painful additional 10 miles to find a new wheel on my behalf!! I found a bike shop and the chap who re-jigged my wheel gave me a free gel for my efforts. While he was fixing the wheel he asked me why I got into cycling with the suggestion it was because of Bradley Wiggins. I told him it was actually because I wanted to do the Tour de Test Valley last year in memory of Nelson Pratt, which had led to my wife and I buying bikes and the gear and completely unexpected loving the sport. It made me think of Nelson and all the other people who have done exactly the same thing because of him – I think this would have made him happy. Thanks to Nelson, aside from the bike industry making £1000’s of pounds, he has pushed people to challenge themselves and towards a sport which keeps the body and mind fit and happy. Day 4 turned out to be another thought provoking day and after the kind nurse dropped me back at the bike where I found Jamie relaxing in the reception of the Vet practice in a very comfortable looking chair, the next 50 miles drifted by with a different light on my shoulder.
I could go on with a number of the stories that took place each day and I could describe the aches, pains and sore bottoms (yes, Sudocrem was much needed) as you battle to keep the body well fed and prevent it from breaking down but these few i mentioned because they were the most poignant anfd reminders of why we were putting ourselves through the pain – the challenge is as much a mental challenge as it is physical and the moments described above really helped me to come away having captured something special. I have a lot to thank CALM for as well in this regard. Needless to say, this has been one of the best and most thought provoking experiences of my life and I can only thank my brother for being a rock throughout the trip, my parents for providing the support vehicle along the way, and Nelson Pratt, who if it were not for him I may never have found the enjoyment of cycling and the open road.”
Duration: 9 days
Time: 67 hours 45 mins
Miles: 944 miles
Elevation: 53,125 ft
Jamie and Sandy have raised over £1000 for CALM. Thank you both for showing such incredible stamina and endurance, for being such brilliant advocates for CALM, and thank you to the generosity of everyone who donated. Ride on Nelly! See you at the Tour de Test Valley 2014!
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