Thursday, 15 August 2013

End 2 End - Our Final DofE Adventure.

A quick word..

First off I would like to say, this is a new blog, on a new account. My old account was old, and i deleted it, which meant all my previous blogs associated to that account were deleted. Oops. So here we are! And I would like to say a huge thanks, for following me still and keeping up to date with all my adventures..

So, to begin!

As some of you may know, myself and my DofE Family (20 of us in total if i include our instructors) chose to do the amazing adventure that is End to End Cycle. For those of you that don't know End to End, is cycling the length of Britain, from John O'Groats in Scotland all the way down to Lands End in Devon. It's a huge task, that pushes you to your limits. And we, a group of teenagers from Birmingham, chose to do this for our Gold Award Expedition.

Our training programme was a year long, and yes not everyone religiously followed it, but many of us trained hard and pushed ourselves to prepare for this huge trip. The weeks leading up to the trip everyone began packing, getting last minute items and, for me, worrying and stressing about the trip. I cannot put into words how i felt about the trip, i was speechless, i was scared, nervous, excited. I was a hundred things. But as we landed on the 22nd July and headed to our school car park, we knew there was no going back now. It was here, and it was happening, we were going to go cycle the length of Britain. 

It took us two days to get to Scotland, two very long, very hot days. Nerves and tensions were high in anticipation for the trip, people were getting restless just wanting to get on the bikes and go, others were worrying about what the trip was going to be like. Finally on the 23rd July we were at John O'Groats. The furthest possible place in Britain away from home, we were hundreds of miles away. And the next day we would be making the long journey back.

Throughout the trip we had daily songs, they would be the last thing we listened to before going out on the bike, and they would be the first thing we do/listen to when we roll into camp on the afternoon/evening/night.

Day 1

Our first song for our first day was Some Nights by fun. This song really hit home for me as it is in one of my top ten favourites, and made me think of home, but also about the oncoming adventure. It was a good song to start off our trip.

Soon we were off, making the long journey down to Lands End. For me, the first day was the worst and ended up being my crap day. Where i felt like i was cycling through quicksand, my legs were killing me for the first 50 miles, and i felt so unfit often falling to the back of the group. I lost my temper a few times going up hills because i knew i could do so much better than what i was performing, and i just didnt understand why my body was letting me down. Yes i had a good hard cry up one of the hills, i was beyond annoyed. The first day of cycling and i was struggling so much, what on earth would the rest of the trip be like!! BUT as the day continued and we went through some amazing views my body began to accept the work, and wake up more. My legs began to remember how to cycle and soon i was back at the front pushing up every hill, my mood and motivation high.
 Its bizarre how much your mind can impact your performance, if you start beating yourself up and making yourself feel crap because of how badly you feel you are performing your body responds. It doesnt do what you want it to do, but as soon as you find your positive mental attitude you manage to pull out all the stops to do better! 
 On our first day we met a man, i cant remember his name for the life of me, so lets call him Dave. We met Dave after about 15 miles leaving John O'Groats, he approached us with a huge bag on his back and walking sticks in his hands. He began to tell us he was on his own adventure walking from his hometown in Leeds, all the way up to John O'Groats, where he would go all the way down to Lands End and then back up to Leeds. He was doing this entirely alone for charity! What an amazing adventure to embark on, and what a huge task! But he was doing it, and even as i write this blog, sat at my kitchen table drinking a huge mug of Coffee, Dave is somewhere out there walking down to Lands End, he won't be home until late September, early October.
 We cycled about 96 miles on our first day, and oh my goodness did the last 10 miles drag. Especially when we were told we only had 11 miles left, and this turned into about 25!? It was one long winding road, where there were hardly any houses or towns. Wait there were no towns! The odd house would appear here and there making our hopes rise thinking "We're at Camp! Yes!" only to be shot down when we realised it wasnt a camp site. But eventually with one of our team mates being taken down by heat stroke all of us got to camp safe and sound. Rather sun burnt and very tired.

Day 2.. wait, ermmmm.. Okay Day 3, you're up!

I cannot for the life of me tell you about day 2.. erm.. damn.. you'll just have to make do with key things i remember.
 As we cycled through Scotland we slowly began to find civilisation, day by day we cycled through more towns, saw more people and were able to stop off at Coffee Shops. The views as we cycled through the Scottish highlands were amazing.
 We cycled the length of Loch Ness which was absolutely awesome! For someone who had never been to Scotland before, this was a bloody good way to go sight seeing. And as the days passed, the cycling became easier, yes we all had sore hands from holding the handlebars, and the back aches was out of this world. But it did get easier. We also cycled "under" Ben Nevis, looking up at its peak, I remember thinking how much the Scottish Mountains make the Mountains in Wales look like hills! They were huge, one of the campsites we stayed at, where we were all eaten alive by Midges, had a brilliant view of the Mountains.
The above photo was taken on Day 3, which was the day we cycled Loch Ness and visited a memorial at Fort William. While we were having a quick 5 minutes at this memorial a group of foreign tourists asked us to have a photo with them. Slightly surprised we stood with them amused and had a photo, making a quick exit after as they began to ask us lots of questions we couldn't quite understand!

The about photo was also taken from outside our campsite. Day 3 was also the day we had a manic walk to get to a Restaurant, we left the campsite at 8:50, they stopped serving at 9! But we made it! Not that the main chef was too happy about having to cook an extra 20 meals. But even so, we had our meal, we laughed, relaxed, and shared stories as one big group. And prepared ourselves for the next day.

Day 4

I remember Day 4 was quite a hard day to get up to, the keys to our trailer were missing for ages the previous night so none of us were asleep before 11, which wasn't too great! But hey ho, on with the next day.. The beginning of day 4 was a hill, not just a short sweet hill that you get up in 20 seconds. Oh no, dont be so silly!! This hill was 10 miles long. Yes that's right 10!!! Miles! Argh!!
 But Team Alpha stayed with one another and helped push eachother up the hill, at one point i remember we stopped to let the traffic go past and we could hear bag pipes that were being played at the bottom of the hill! It was brilliant, but we didnt stay to listen long, we were back on the bike pounding the tarmac. My legs burnt, my back ached and all the went through my head for the entire 10 miles were the lyrics to our daily song (I believe it was Fall Out Boy's My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark!) as well as "Left, Right, Left, Right." But soon we were done, the hill was complete and it meant we were out of the Scottish Highlands! They were done and dusted! One milestone down, our next target? The border of England!
 But first all we had on our minds was getting to camp, which we did, arriving in beautiful sunshine, where we lay in the sun chatting to one another, wandering where the other Team were. But soon our thoughts were filled up with "oh god its raining! hide! no wait pack the trailer!" a quick panic as the heavens opened and we rushed to get all the suitcases back on the trailer, 5 of us girls crammed into one tent, listening to music, chatting and waiting for the other team, and wandering how one of our fellow girls were doing.
 Soon the other team arrived, and the girls went to the rescue of our other, hugging her and helping her get through her "crap" day. And then it was chippy time! Yep, we had a meal the night before and now we were heading off into town to go order take away.. Hey! Don't look at me like that, we had cycled 300 odd miles in 4 days.. We earnt it! Annnnd it was totally worth it..

Day 5

Today it rained. A lot. Yeahhh, this is all i seem to remember about Day 5.. I remember it raining practically all day, we got drenched. But Team Alpha pushed through it, oddly staying in a highly positive mood, making eachother laugh and helping one another up the hills and keeping team morale high. And we just got on with it. We were tired but we just powered through it. And i believe we arrived at Mount View campsite.. hmm don't hold me to that! 

Day 6

Day 6 was our rest day!! Today was a lovely and welcoming 40 miles. And today was the day Team Alpha went out on the road without our leader. The route seemed to be just one long boring road, that seemed to go on forever and ever and ever. But Team Alpha blasted through it, closely followed by the other team! We got to camp at the lovely time of 1:15, with the other team arriving 15 minutes after us. The sun stayed out and this allowed us to get our clothes from the previous days rain dry and not damp. Also today was RESTOCK DAYYY!!! The day where we were taken to a super market and let loose, to restock on food and get much needed crisps and chocolate.. mmmmm..  Dinner tonight was hot dogs for me and one of the lads, he brought the hot dogs and i brought the rolls and red sauce.. And they were bloody gorgeous, filling as we had three each but so so so good. 

Today was also the day we visited Robert De Bruces cave, the very same cave he hid in for 3 months before going to war and beating the English.

 It was surprisingly small, literally just a small room, no tunnels or channels to other openings.. Nope none of that, just one small hole. And as a team we listened to the stories from our Team Leader, Ryan, and we took in the motivational words, as well as the realisation that this was our last adventure as one big team. Deep words, and deep thoughts. 

Day 7

Today was the second milestone for me. The border! And Team Alpha were cycling without Ryan again today, so we were using our own Navigation Skills and having to come even closer together as a team!

 Today we cycled the last stretch of Scotland and into England. We did the typical joke of jumping from Scotland to England.. And then got together for a team photo. It was such an awesome feeling knowing we were now in England, we were a week away from the finish line! And we had been cycling for a week already!

This day also turned into one of our longest days with lots of random things happening throughout the day. We ended up with one of Team Alpha breaking their pedal, which led to a long stop while it was fixed. We also lost a Team Member due to injury, which a 20 minute wait for the Mini Bus to come, resulted in over an hour. Which none of us realised because we fell asleep in the Sun for what felt like five minutes! 
 As we carried on cycling one of our Team Members then broke his bike, the rear mec completely broke and twisted into his back wheel, and the gear cable snapped. BUT he didnt fall off his bike, and he laughed it off brilliantly.. So again we were left having to wait for over an hour for the Mini Bus to come find us and give him a new bike.. 

Back on the road we tried picking up speed, it was beginning to get late and we needed to get to camp. But then the same person to break his bike, fell off the new bike hitting his head. None of us actually realised he had hurt himself as he got back on the bike insisting we carry on. So we did, and we sped through the last 10+ miles, keeping the pace high, and some of the team taking energy gels to push through the tiredness. Team Alpha cycled with the sun setting behind us, (made the view and the road so pretty!), and we rolled into camp laughing and smiling at 10pm, surprising everyone at camp who werent expecting us until gone 11! It was also back at camp we realised that our team member who fell and hit his head didnt actually remember how he got to camp, or the last 10+miles for that matter.
 This day was the day that i realised how lucky i was to be a part of this team, and how much i loved Team Alpha.

Day 8

Day 8.. This was the day Team Alpha didnt get back until late, and the lads from the other Team didnt get back until 1am ish i believe!
And i'm pretty sure this was the day we went through Bolton, probably the worst place we went through on the entire trip. However i got a bacon, egg and sausage sandwich for £2 which was pretty great.. But no we weren't impressed. Plus it was raining, alot!

 We were camping in a place near Frodsham i believe, or in Frodsham. Team Alpha didnt get back until late, but we had stopped off at a Co Op 5 miles before the campsite to buy some food, so i brought a pasta meal i could eat cold as i knew i wouldnt want to cook.
 Lying in bed on the night, i couldnt sleep knowing that the other team were still out on the road, so i ended up lying awake playing on my phone in silent mode. And eventually after what seemed like forever i heard the team arrive, getting out my tent i greeted them and the few of us that waited up and the lads from the other team crammed into the mini bus to listen to the days song. Which was All Summer Long by Kidrock. Once the song was done, i showed them where all there stuff was and after a while i crawled back into my tent to get some sleep in preparation for the next day..

Day 9

This was the day many of us were looking forward to, today was the day we were able to see our parents. Having been away from home for 11 days already i was beginning to miss my mother and father. And seeing them was the only thing that got me through this day. As this day was a day of pure pain and agony for me.

 We had lovely sunny weather which everyone was happy about, and the entire day was backwards and forwards with which team was in front. Sometimes it was Team Alpha, sometimes it was Team D.
 The route was meant to be smaller today, but it didnt seem this way at all. The minutes dragged, it seemed like we were getting nowhere, it was literally just a case of keep pedalling and focus on getting to camp and being taken for a pub meal.
 As we got halfway through the day, the sun was shining, it was great. Until i began to chafe, now we had all been told to use Chamois Cream to stop chafage. But did it work on this fine day? Ofcourse not. The burning was torture, every bump in the road sent a pain through my body, every time i got off the saddle i was holding my breath and biting my lips to stop any noise escaping. I cried alot this day, i refused to even consider getting on the bus despite the burning agony i couldnt do anything about, and by the time we were five miles from camp i was in pieces. The road was rubbish, my you know what was on fire, i wanted to die! All i could think about was getting to camp, and my team mates knew how much pain i was in. Thankfully they helped push me through it. Especially when we had about 2 miles up hill until we got to the campsite. I didnt care at this point, i didnt care about crying or whimpering everytime i got off the saddle. I hurt, i hated the bike, i hated the trip, i hated myself, and i was so scared i would end up missing out the next day because of it. So the last 2 miles i cried, sometimes quietly sometimes loudly, all the way to the campsite, two of the lads from our team, who ended up being my hill buddies, pushing me and helping me get to the top. No one commented on my crying or even attempted to comfort me. Reading this, you might find that harsh and mean, that they didnt comment. But the thing with Team Alpha is, we all know what works best, they knew if they commented on it or tried comforting me i would most likely break even more. I needed to be left alone in my bubble with just the words "Keep Going Shannon" being said. And I did it, i got to the camp with my team, still in burning agony and unable to walk normally. But we got to camp as a team, listened to the song and went off with our parents for a meal.

Seeing my parents at this point in the trip was perfect and just what i needed, i needed the chance to be all emotional without my team around me. I needed to see them and speak to them. I had a lovely Gammon Steak, with Egg, Pineapple, mushrooms and chips. And it was bloody delicious, and at 10pm they took me back to camp and wished me luck for the last leg of the trip.
 Of course i ended up crying, first to my friends mum, who set me off! And then to Ryan, our instructor... Yeahhh.. I cried alot that day.

Day 10

I've literally just remembered what happened on this day! This was the day we cycled through the Forest of Dean! I think!? The hills on this day were huge and tiring and one of the hills we encountered was ridiculously steep, but my hill buddies stayed by my side, pushing me up the hill, singing the daily song This Isn't Everything You Are by Snow Patrol, as well as talking to me in a Jamaican Accent as well as Australian. Seriously without these guys next to me there was no way in hell i would have been able to get up the hill on my own without stopping. But they pushed me, and i fought for every bloody inch of tarmac up that hill. I yelled, i growled and at one point when i nearly crashed i did scream. Oops. But we did it, we beat the hill.
 The realisation of how far i pushed myself became apparent when my blood sugars dropped and i was left a shaking state feeling completely disorientated. But Team Alpha stayed with me, feeding me ridiculous amounts of sweets and just being the awesomeness that is Team Alpha!
 We carried on cycling, the hills seeming much easier after the previous one, and we were closely followed by Team D throughout this day.
 And as we cycled up a mammoth hill to reach camp, we could hear the other Team behind us which only pushed us to go faster. But the hill went on for miles, it wasnt overly steep it was gradual, but enough of a gradient to make your legs burn after a while. But we gritted our teeth and got to the camp. About 5 minutes later the other team arrived and we all stood together and listened to the group song.
 Heading off to the showers, the heavens opened and the rain we had was ridiculous. It was so loud and heavy, and after we had all cooked our dinners, the heavens opened again causing the majority of us to squeeze onto the mini bus as we were greeted with thunder and lightning. Which was pretty ace as it was so close, but you cant help but get paranoid that you might get hit, especially as we were surrounded by bikes and metal poles in tents!
 Eventually it died down, and we headed off to bed. Not long until we reach Lands End!

Day 11

Today we crossed the Severn Bridge, we met up with the group halfway across the bridge to have group photos. 

It was a great feeling crossing the bridge because for me this was my third milestone. Our legs were pretty much used to the cycling at this point, and our team was like one family, watching out and caring for each other. So standing on Severn Bridge realising how far we had cycled, and how little we had left to go, we really began to realise just how quickly the trip was speeding along, and just how soon it would all be over. 

We cycled through Bristol on this day, and we did end up getting a little bit lost, but with the help of some locals and road signs we were soon on our way and heading to camp and found our way into Glastonbury!

I liked Glastonbury, you had the Tor, which i really wanted to climb up but we didnt have any time let alone the energy. But i liked the town and the locals seemed quite friendly.

On the night we gathered as a group, some people had gone to bed or were walking and talking on the phones to their parents but those that stayed sat in silence enjoying eachothers company. While two of our team played Guitar and i sang a few songs. Youre Not Alone by Avril Lavigne, The Way We Were by Carrie Fletcher, A Team by Ed Sheeran and Youll be in my Heart by Phil Collins were a few of the songs i sang that night. And soon it was time for bed, and for me and Charlie (the girl i shared a tent with) this meant sleeping on the Mini Bus.. Why? Because we simply could not be arsed to put a tent up at 11:30pm.

Day 12

This was the day we cycled through Exeter, and was also our first day riding in the dark (wasnt our last day either!)
 I'm not too sure what exactly happened on this day to make us fall so far behind time, all i remember is we seemed to have a lot of punctures on this day. And we did end up making a few wrong turns. One of these turns leading us up a steep hill that one of our team members fell down twice. Remember when i told you about one of the lads falling off their bike and hitting their head? Yep? Well it was the same guy, and I haven't laughed as hard as i did then, in ages! It was the funniest thing you could ever witness, and like a complete genius, he laughed it off more than we did. Thinking about it right now has got me chuckling to myself!

By the time we reached Exeter it was already dark, and we were all hungry and wanting to get to camp. When we were told that we could not have take away pizza we were.. well annoyed. That was until the mini bus drove off revealing a KFC restaurant sat opposite us. Looking at one another, we all knew what each of us was thinking. KFC for dinner, but of course we didn't want the other team to know, or our instructors to know. So we all promised not to snitch, and we ordered a KFC knowing fully well it would mean cycling to camp in the dark. But was the KFC worth it? Yes, oh yes!

So onto riding in the dark.. It is possibly one of the most bizarrest things to ever do, we found we completely forgot how to ride our bikes in straight lines. I and some others in the team had to really concentrate on keeping straight and not crashing into the person next to us. Which i did end up doing when i realised i was cycling next to a drop, yeah, i may have had a little panic..
 Team Alpha pulled together big time when we cycled in the dark, staying in a formation so those that didnt have a light could use someone elses light, and everyone stayed together and no one got left behind. Going downhill absolutely killed our hands as we all held onto our breaks for dear life simply because we could only see about a foot infront of us!
 But eventually the mini bus found us, and drove behind us giving us much needed light, all the way to camp, where the other team were not! They arrived about half hour after us, and were very smug about a chinese they all had. So we decided to spill our guts about our sneaky KFC dinner.
 Tired, and looking forward to our last full day of cycling we headed to bed, tension and nerves pretty high as we all focused on the finish line.

Day 13

Our last full day of cycling! And this turned into one of my favourite days.

But this was also our hardest day of cycling. We were all focused on the finish line, but we all needed to remember to not let it cloud our vision for our last day. We needed to take it all in, work as well in a team, and pull out all the stops because it was going to be hard.

My god were they right within 3 miles of leaving camp we were faced with a huge hill that had a 22% gradient slope. I switched into my easiest gears and headed up the hill, some of the lads zooming off ahead in what i think was a race. But as i climbed this hill the pedals became harder to turn, i was forcing all my weight down onto them, pushing as hard as i could, it was so difficult and seemed impossible. Losing my balance my feet hit the ground as i looked up at the hill, id made it about half way up the steep part and i was knackered! But after a few stop starts i got back on the bike and pushed a little bit further, my knees screaming in agony each turn sending a sharp pain up my legs. I knew if i pushed id end up hurting myself and wrecking my knees so after a few more attempts i admitted defeat and walked up the hill. And i tell you what, just walking was tiring enough, my legs burning, my body sweating. I pushed the bike and as the slope levelled out i got back on the bike and cycled to the lads who were waiting for us at the top. I was still happy with my attempt on the hill, even if i didnt cycle the entire length of it. I still pushed myself and i still cycled as much of it as i possibly could. 

My legs were aching and as i looked up through the rain all i could see was hills and more hills. We were in Dartmoor and the weather was atrocious, it was already 2pm and we hadnt even hit the 30 mile mark yet. We all knew today would be a very long day and we wouldnt be back until much later. Having already been delayed for over an hour waiting for a new wheel, we were behind time alot.
 The rain was so heavy it was painful and each push killed my legs, it was the closest id been to wanting to get on the mini bus, but i knew there was no way in hell my team would even let me consider it. So with the help of them, i pushed through the rain, had a very angry cry, and with their help got through Dartmoor, our spirits lifting when we looked left and could see the sea! We knew we were getting close!
 Stopping off in a small town it was about 4pm and we knew we had so much more to go, but we were cold and hungry so made the group decision of stopping at Spar getting something hot to eat and to drink before continuing with the rest of the day.
 Little did we know we would get absolutely lost. The hours passed and we continued to cycle, all of us sharing conversations on what we would do the following day, and who was coming to see us. But as the clock hit 9pm Team Alpha were completely lost, ridiculously tired and hungry and we were devestated to know we still had over 40 miles to go until we reached camp. But as we cycled along this country lane we came to a small opening in the hedge, and we could see the sun slowly disappearing, and together Team Alpha stopped in silence to watch the Sun disappear.

 Once it had gone we were back on the bikes knowing we had little time left until we would be cycling in the dark, but at this point we didnt mind, we were focused on getting to camp as a team and keeping positive. No matter how late we got in, we would still be crossing Lands End tomorrow.
As it hit 1am we were greeted by Tim (the other leader) who gave us the amazing treat of cheese covered Garlic Bread.. It was perfect!
The night was getting colder, but we had extra lights, and the extra push to keep going.

So when it hit 2am and Ryan found us in the mini bus and told us we had 18 miles to go, we were a little disheartened, but we were too tired to care. We stocked up on food, and Mars Bars, we had a moment to sort our heads out and i nicked our drivers hoody because i'd been stupid enough to let my spare layers get wet and cold. All of remaining Team Alpha (we lost two of our members due to injury in the morning) got on our bikes, looked at one another and set off to camp.

Hallucinations. We encountered many, one person was convinced there were ducks crossing the road, and that someone was cycling with his pillow, another was convinced there was a basketball being bounced next to him as he cycled, at one point we were all pretty sure it was raining, yet we were all bone dry like the ground was. And for me, well i can tell you i was sure a blonde woman was jogging backwards and forwards as we cycled, i also went through a stage just coming up to the campsite where i felt really drunk and giddy which did nearly knock me on my ass outside the tent!

The minutes went by, and Team Alpha were forcing our eyes open and forcing mars bars down our throats. I ate so many mars bars and cereal bars that night!
Team Alpha were tired and refusing to give up, we would get to camp no matter how much we wanted to give up. We constantly kept a conversation going, one of mine being a discussion on McDonalds Secret Sauce in their Big Mac burgers, which i had no idea even existed until this conversation!

The mini bus drove past and the words "7 miles" were shouted at us, gritting our teeth we carried on.
"5 miles! Keep going"

"3 miles"
"1 mile!"
At 3:48am Team Alpha, very tired, very exhausted arrived at Calamankey Farm Campsite. The stars shining brightly, a few shooting stars flashing across the sky. We had made it, 18 hours on the road and Team Alpha had arrived at camp as one team. It was such an amazing experience, not every day are you pushed to your limits and tested as much as were that night.
At any point in the night we could have gotten on that mini bus and gone to sleep straight away, but none of us did, we stayed out on the road in the freezing cold, focused on getting to camp and not giving up. And do you know what? I was still in a brilliant mood.

Day 14 

It was our last day. And after an hour and a halfs sleep, i really couldn't wait to get to Lands End. But at the same time i didnt want to go, i didnt want it to end!
The morning we were greeted with brilliant sunshine and clear blue skies, Team Alpha looked knackered some of us including me only having had over an hours sleep. But everyone was in high spirits.
To start off the day, we went off on a tour with the owner of the farm to do the morning feeding of his Llamas. It was a good start to the day.
Soon 18 of us, 20 including Tim and Ryan, were stood outside the mini bus getting together for the first installment of the end of trip song. I did a big job of fighting back the tears, as i looked around at my team mates. The song which was A Heavy Abacus by The Joy Formidable, was a good end of trip song. It fit the trip and the day perfectly. 

And then we were off, to cycle the last 30 miles of the trip. The pace was good, and we were racing against the clock a little having left late. But we kept going, pushing one another, and letting positive thoughts run through our minds.

Before we knew it we were back with Team D less than 5 miles before the finish line, and we were stood in a circle our arms around one another listening to the song as part of the trip for the last time before we were thrown out of our individual bubbles and into the crazy world our parents would yank us into as soon as we crossed the finish.
It was an emotional get together, many of us shedding a few tears as we listened to the song, or as we took five minutes alone in silence to absorb everything we had been through in this trip, and come to the realisation of just how soon it would all be over.
Both teams riding alongside one another, the 6 girls at the front we began the last 5 miles down to Lands End. None of us knowing how to feel, act or what to expect. As we got closer my heart began to race, nerves kicking in, i couldnt wait to see my family and cross the finish line, but i didnt want it to be over. I wasnt ready to say good bye to DofE and the trip.As we came around this corner we all looked up to mass of people surrounding Lands End, we could see it! It was so close! And there were so many people, loads of people! People driving past us in their cars bibbed and cheered us on, giving us all even more of a reason to smile. We were close. We were so close.

And as we entered the gates and did the last stretch to the finish line the crowd were going crazy, a few sobs escaped me simply because i was overwhelmed! But i pulled it together and we all stopped a foot before the finish line to stand as one big family, after a few words from Ryan we all took the steps together and crossed the finish line. It was done. It was over.
Seeing my Mom rushing towards me in the manic bustle of the crowds made me burst into tears as i realised it was over. Everyone around me full of happiness and tears, it was such an awesome atmosphere. Getting together for photos and hugging one another, full of joy. Families coming together to congratulate and hug everyone, i remember getting hugs off parents i'd never spoken to before this trip!
It was such a perfect way to cross the finish line, my parents and my nan and uncle hugging me, telling me how proud they were. And the weather was amazing!
 Me and my mom

After a few minutes where we could get drinks and food, i had a bottle of coke and the most amazing chocolate shortbreads ever! We headed round to the back of the Lands End building where we all signed the book which records everyone who has completed the cycle from John O Groats to Lands End. Ryan left a message with our quote of the trip "Stiffen the Sinews, Summon Up The Blood" and then all of us one by one wrote our names underneath.
We had cycled 1067 miles, and had done what people had told us would be impossible. A group of teenagers from Birmingham, cycled 1067 miles and completed John O'Groats to Lands End.
My amazing Duke of Edinburgh family had done it! 

Lands End

So the trip had finished, we were the second ever DofE group to cycle John O'Groats to Lands End. And after the craziness of being whisked off by my parents to have a meal and just enjoy their company we were back as a family, sat watching the stars listening to acoustic music off my Iphone.

The next day, we all slept in until half seven, all of us used to getting up and heading out on the bike. It was an odd feeling not doing that!
We all headed to the Cafe for breakfast, and i had an english breakfast and a mocha, we laughed and chatted about the trip and just about normal things.
 The afternoon saw us heading down to Lands End beach, we felt like we were in some tropical island beach. The ocean was so blue and the beach was perfect, we stayed for a few hours paddling in the sea, playing frisbee and burying 5 of the lads up to their necks. 

The evening saw us heading to our End to End meal. Everyone able to dress up smart and do there hair and makeup. It was a nice opportunity to just feel nice again, and the food was delicious. 

After the meal we went onto a garden thing round the back of the cafe, where we put benches together and we had a meeting. We reflected on the trip, chatted about the future, chatted about home life and how we couldnt let ourselves fall back into the pattern of doing nothing but watching TV. We were all set the challenge to sign up to something once home, whether it be a half marathon or another cycling event for example. We were also given a gift, every single one of us. A book from Ryan and Tim with a personal message written in the back for our eyes only, we could share it with others if we chose to, but i dont think anyone did. 
 It was an emotional night, as some of us were left thinking what on earth would we do next, others didnt want to say good bye the following night. So as we sat at Lands End watching the sun disappear and soon watching the stars shine in the sky, we all took in the journey. I chose to sit alone for most of it, not because i didnt want to sit with everyone, but so i could absorb everything, i was emotional, as the trip had become a huge part of me, and helped me find the real me properly. I really didn't want it be over. 
We sat under the stars back at camp, and quite a few people fell asleep under them, waking up in the morning it was time to pack up and go. Some of the lads had slept outside all night, and were woken up to a bright sunny morning.

As our DofE family we said good bye to some people at Lands End who chose to stay with family, and we began the long journey back to Birmingham. 

Once back, we gathered in the car park of Colmers and had a final chat, basically rounding up any loose ends and then it was time for Good Byes. Hugging and saying good bye to my team mates, i got into my grandads car and headed home. The adventure being brought to life again as i told my Grandad all about it.


And so it is the end of this blog. This very very long blog detailing everything i can possibly remember from the trip. 

It was an amazing journey that i will hold close to me forever, i will never forget how hard this trip pushed me, how much it made me and my team mates realise what we were capable of. And i will never forget the people i shared this amazing trip with. Team Alpha you guys will forever mean the world to me, and Team D you guys will never be forgotten either for being the awesomeness that is Team D!
And Ryan and Tim, thank you so much for this amaaaaazing oppurtunity and being such an awesome part of this trip!

This isnt the end of the adventure though, this is just the first step. Whats next for me? I'm training for half marathons, wolf runs, triathlons as well as rock climbing courses and my ML in March. 

A huge thank you if you made it that far through my blog, and thank you for your support and sharing in the adventure through my words and pictures.

 Until next time!
Shannon x

At the finish line with Ryan and Tim, no idea where
I would be without these guys.

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