That sums up the feeling after 14 days on a multi-day cycling holiday such as LEJOG. Not that everyday is the same. In fact each day is it's own mini-adventure of challenges and experiences that make these trips so special.
No, this refers to the necessary ritual, routines and schedules that frame each very different day to ensure you arrive safely at your destination, refreshed and ready to move on in the morning.
To give you an idea of what cycling on a Pedal Britain tour is like, this post will describe my own personal routine in context of one of our trips.
Hopefully for touring newbies it gives you an insight into what to expect.
Each Day's Preparation Begins The Day Before.
At the end of each day you are tired. Usually the first thing on your mind is find your room, get showered & relax.
Although for some (myself included) the ritual is to begin carb loading, that normally entails a well-earned pint of the local ale before seeking out my room. On tough days it's actually the thought of this that keeps me going!
After each ride (ideally within 30 minutes) I have a recovery drink to replenish all those lost nutrients and help prevent unwelcome evening cramps. You'll all have your own preferred routine and solutions for this I'm sure, key is that whatever the method follow and repeat each day.
When there is a bath at the accommodation I will soak my aching legs in freezing cold water (theory being it replicates speeding up of muscle repair similar to an ice bath used by some athletes). Isn't for everyone and certainly not the most pleasant experience, but I definitely feel a benefit from less fatigued legs.
Arrival at that night's accommodation is dependent on your speed and time of departure in the morning, which is normally between 8.30am-9.00am, once the daily briefing from the tour guide is finished.
With daily distances being 65-83 miles on a 14 day LEJOG, if your cycling at average of 10-12mph it means you can expect to be in the saddle for between 6 and 8 hours+ each day.
That's why your training routine is vital to ensure your prepared for such long days out on the road.
Speedier groups will arrive at the accommodation earlier, but for the majority of people it's between 5.00pm-6.00pm with the group evening meal normally booked for approx. 7.30pm. This is optional, you can actually eat whenever you want. But they are great opportunities to socialize if thats something you want from your holiday.
The key thing is to take everything at your own pace. There is no rush.
Pedal Britain guides ensure your not left behind. Sometimes they may suggest more leisurely groups set off ahead of others in the morning to help logistics, but will never insist you do anything that your not 100% comfortable doing.
Once you've freshened up, this gives plenty of time to do whatever you want, be it explore your new surroundings, relax in room, catch up with family and friends, write blog entries or just socialize with fellow riders.
Personally after relaxing with a beer and recounting stories of the day, I like to get showered then speak to family to keep them informed on day's events, before posting the obligatory Facebook pictures and up loads to Strava.
Breakfast is normally at 7.30am, so to maximize bed rest and prevent rushing in the morning I get everything organized for the next day before going out for the evening meal.
First job is to repack and replenish my day bag. It's kept in the Pedal Britain van containing essentials such as energy bars, gels, waterproofs, sun cream and anything else that you might use, but don't want to carry.
I'll also wash any kit I need in the sink (if in between laundry days), as it's usually dry by the morning.
Top Tip: Take small quantity of washing powder/liquid so you can do this.
The Morning Routine
With the first Pedal Britain stop of the morning normally at between 15-20 miles I try not to over indulge too much at breakfast.
However it's hard some days to resist, especially when there's a home cooked Full English or Scottish breakfast available!! Well you are on holiday and burning between 3,000 to 4,000 calories, so why not occasionally.
I normally fill my 2 water bottles in the room as it saves time messing around at the van. Followed by one of THE most important things you do before setting off for a day in the saddle. Apply ASSOS cream (or whichever brand of chamois cream you use) then put into your day bag just in case it's required.
All you do then is leave your tagged luggage in reception ready for the Pedal Britain team to collect and transport to the next accommodation.
From 8.15am people begin to congregate at the support van for the morning briefing. Before this begins there is the chance to get any mechanical tweaks required made by Pedal Britain team and pump tyres up.
Although everyone receives a detailed route booklet, the morning briefing is essential. It outlines where lunch will be, the location of first brew stop, also highlights any tough climbs, busy road sections and places of interest on the route.
Once this is completed all that's left to do is turn on the Garmin, load today's route (GPX Files are provided so that whatever brand your gadget you'll have turn by turn directions) and set off for another exhilarating day in the saddle. Obviously not appicable if you prefer to follow the paper based route notes.
Another option if you have downloaded the Pedal Britain app is use as both a navigation tool but also use the Live Tracking facility to enable friends and family to see your progress.
Teamwork is the Order of the Day
On cycling holidays it never ceases to amaze me how quickly a strong team spirit and camaraderie develops. With LEJOG it's driven by the first 2-3 days being tough, further galvanizing the group around completing the challenge.
If you do sign up alone it's not long before you find a group to ride with, but equally with Pedal Britain groups limited to a maximum of 14, should solitude be what you are seeking it can easily be found.
Naturally I find most tours split into 2-3 groups, usually based on speed. You very quickly discover which is most comfortable for you. They are still however very fluid. I would if feeling strong, ride in faster group in the morning and then at lunch or brew stop drop back. It's totally up to you.
Other than it being an incredibly social and supportive way to cycle, another benefit of riding together as a group is drafting. Most effective when cycling into headwinds, get your group to form a peloton and take turns riding at the front.
By cycling close to the back wheel of the rider in front and working as a team you are saving between 20-30% of energy, as the effort you need to put in is a lot less when protected from the wind. Believe me this adds up over the 14 days of a tour!!
Riding together also helps through some of the more urban areas, both from navigation and safety perspective. Ride guides from Pedal Britain tend to lead the less confident through these, but most manage with no problems.
I also highly recommend getting your group communicating using agreed cycling etiquette as it enhances the whole experience.
Knowing in advance you are approaching a pothole, gravel or glass, means you can take appropriate evasive action. It has saved me numerous times, along with sensible shouts of 'slowing', 'clear' at junctions or 'car back', it builds confidence and trust in groups, helping keep everyone safe and puncture free.
Support Crew and a Timely Brew
The first brew stop of the day is always very welcome!!
Normally between 15-20 miles it provides the chance to make any adjustments to your clothing, top up water bottles and grab a snack from the selection of treats available from the Pedal Britain pop up café.
If you have a favorite snack be it flapjacks, bananas, fig rolls or particular sandwich filling just tell the team and if not already provided, by the next day it will magically appears on the table.
Indeed Pedal Britain's branded pavement sign quickly becomes one of the most welcome sights on the tour for riders as it signifies a brew stop.
The time spent at brew stops varies. Some people literally top up water bottles grab a snack and are off again. Most, me included, use it to spend between 5-10 minutes taking a breather and refuel as required.
It can weather dependant be longer, as the Pedal Britain gazebo provides welcome shade on hot days and shelter when its is not so good. Again ride management is totally up to you. However guides are always on hand to provide advice and encouragement whenever needed.
Why I also find brew stops so useful is that an 83mile day becomes psychologically much more manageable when you break it down into chunks:
- 20 miles (Morning Brew Stop)
- 40 miles (Lunch)
- 60 miles (Afternoon Brew Stop)
- 80 miles (beer stop!)
In reality it's more deliberately planned than just every 20 miles, with many of them positioned just after a tough climb or in a scenic spot and usually at the point when your thinking... where's the Pedal Britain van... it miraculously appears.
I also find the ride is punctuated by other non scheduled stops for things like pictures, navigation rectifications (wrong turns!!), naturals (Toilet breaks), punctures and obligatory ice cream in the afternoon.
Having experienced guides, that have been customers on tours, means they also intuitively know when that extra stop might be needed, especially on wet, windy days when progress can be slow!!
However the support van regularly passes you in between stops and with just a tap of the helmet it will pull in and attend to your needs. Obviously if you do need something urgent, but they are not in sight, you can contact them via a mobile.
Food Glorious Food & Fun
Lunch normally signifies halfway point of the day. These are a great mix of picnics, cafe's and pubs, usually dictated by the weather forecast.
Our Picnic lunches consist of everything you would need from sandwiches, rice & pasta salads, crisps, nuts, sugary sweets, coffee & tea not forgetting CAKE!! With Pedal Britain no paper plates or plastic cups in sight either, as it's eaten using proper utensils, just makes everything taste that bit nicer I think.
Evening meals are booked as a group. This saves time walking around a location you don't know deciding where to eat. They are normally good quality local restaurants that can accommodate a group our size and sometimes where Pedal Britain has negotiated a set meal option.
These meals provide a great opportunity for socializing together, swapping stories of the day and getting an early insight into what lies ahead in the morning. It also helps further strengthen those newly formed friendships.
Having fun on cycling tours is a vital element. Whilst you are undertaking a challenge, don't ever forget it's a holiday too!!
But if eating earlier than the planned group time, or being in a smaller group is your thing, that's fine. Pedal Britain provides recommended Trip Advisor alternatives if you want to mix it up and fancy some time away from the group.
The Home Stretch
After the last brew stop of day thoughts turn to home. Well, home for that evening anyway. The quality of accommodation used is a good standard and all have a friendly welcome for cyclists.
Once your bike has been left at the secure overnight location, normally either in the accommodation or close by. Time to check in.
You shouldn't have a lengthy check-in process as you are pre-booked in by Pedal Britain, which means just collecting key off your guides and heading for the room.
Another hassle free touch is that both your day bag and luggage will be in your allocated room waiting for you.
I think little things like this make a big difference at the end of a long ride!!
Most people will head to bed after the evening meal, others may wish to explore the cultural aspects of the overnight venue further.
Whatever you decide remember rest and recovery is vitally important on a tour such as LEJOG. But you know your own body best. Just listen to it and don't push it to do something that might impact your enjoyment of tour.
Then... it Begins Again!
Hopefully I've given you more insight into how a day tends to be structured when on a Pedal Britain tour.
You will of course develop a routine that suits your personal needs.
Remember, Pedal Britain are here to help you from sign up to the finish line to make sure you enjoy not endure the cycling holiday. If you need anything, just ask.
You may have been on such supported trips before, in which case hopefully this has given you re-assurance on how we operate at Pedal Britain. For those that haven't I've tried to cover many of the questions I had before deciding to undertake a multi-day challenge.
However if you still do have questions take a look at our comprehensive FAQ section
Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 03308 084 704 and we'll answer any questions you still have.
I look forward to seeing on tour sometime soon.