Peak weekend has passed and I’m on the downward spiral toward the big day. Tapering has begun.
I feel a little fraudulent having completed the main training with only a 5km run under my belt, and with only a handful of long rides for practice I’m not sure I’m ready for the ironman.
Having said that I’m not sure anyone feels like they have done enough before a race.
I’m going to stick to my plan which has changed more times than I care to remember. The plan says taper and that is what I’m going to do. I’m fairly sure the taper will be welcome to my poor knees who have bore the brunt of this training.
On the positive the peak weekend saw me cover 130kms on the bike when I rode to Stirling and back to Edinburgh on a beautiful course (at times) and I was happy with the way I coped being on my tod. This was a mixed blessing, part of me deep down wanted me to see how I would cope on my lonesome? Whether I’d be able to keep to a pace that wasn’t going to have me overdo it and that wasn’t going to see me go crazy 6 hours on a bike. But part of me craved company as it’s good to share these rides with folk in the same position as me.
The route took me over the forth road bridge on a sunny bright morning (not too early as I was out the night before) and into Inverkeithing following the national cycle network (NCN) route 1. One big hill got me into Dunfirmline and there I got lost. The signs aren’t that big so I must have missed one. Never mind! Prepared as ever google maps became my friend to find the start of the NCN754 AKA West Fife Way. This is a beautiful stretch of Tarmac off road for 16kms to Clackmannan. It was truly awesome, directing me through lovely countryside on a gentile uphill gradient.
I managed to keep a good av pace of 23.5kmph and arrived into Clackmannan a bit sad it had ended. A little road took me to the cycle path to Alloa – craziness was starting, I started shouting out loud Aloha! This path to Stirling via Alloa was also off road and was great to not have to think about traffic.
Arriving into Stirling after 60kms I stopped to take the obligatory photo and pop it on Facebook.
Now following the NCN76 south of the Forth I was on my return to Edinburgh. This is where things got interesting. The cycle network wasn’t too clear over whether the route was on Tarmac or other surfaces. My poor road bike took me along some very narrow paths and eventually onto a road. I had thought at this time that it would be better if I’d keep to the back roads but not knowing the area I had to blindly follow the signs which eventually took me to a dead end road with a very narrow over grown rocky path. I stopped and consulted the map. Humming and harring a lady shouted to me asking if I was looking for an alternative route. She pointed me back along the road and to take the farm road which would take me to this cycle path again!
Great! Bidding her a very English ‘good day’ I naively followed her instructions only to be lead onto a gravel farm track which indeed was the NCN 76 but wasn’t suitable for my poor road bike.
My patience was wearing thin so I decided to continue along said path slowly. Rear wheel skidding and bumping all the way along. Finally a Tarmac road! Yes! I really need to ask folk who know road bike tyres can’t go on gravel rocky tracks. Nice of her anyway.
Off I toddled toward the industrial centre that is Grangemouth. I could see the towers of industry ahead of me. But the NCN had other ideas. It took me south and around the fields of Stirlingshire which was nice but at that moment I wanted to get home. Only half way and it was a low point as the gravel path sapped a lot of energy from me.
I eventually made it to what I though was Grangemouth. It wasn’t but the cycle path had been built over by a new housing estate and the signs dried up. I navigated my way out of this new windy road estate and found a main road that was on google maps and found a cycle path sign only it was pointing in the opposite direction to where I though I should have been going. Google map out again following the wee road as it slowly loaded on just a data signal and I started to have faith that it was taking me a quiet route avoiding the motorways and A roads. Eventually back on track and headed toward Grangemouth picking up the signs for Round the forth which are helpful.
By this point the wind had changed direction to be a head wind and the sky was looking hazy with some cloud. My mind had started to cloud over and in the mode of just get me home. On the other side of Grangemouth I was once again taken off a main road and straight up a hill only to be taken to a set of steps that are no good for any bike so I headed down to the main road again. Mentally scared I’m thinking that I just need a direct route to queensferry and on into Edinburgh. Bo’ness wasn’t going to give me this though. Instead I had a lovely ride around the housing estate and down a hill and yep to go back up the hill!!
Must study routes better next time!
Finally entering blackness I’d picked up a cycle sign for queensferry 18miles, not 1 mile later queensferry was 13 miles! Or at least I thought it was a mile it could have been more and I’d entered some sort of trance.
Blackness took me to almost the side of the forth, I could see the bridges of queensferry in the distance and the smell of salt was in the air. It was cooler and I was feeling better after eating some of the melted dark chocolate covered coffee beans!
The roads were quiet and rural passing houses and cottages I got to another dead end road with the cycle path leading me down a grassy field and into a wood along the side of the Forth. Doh! I really couldn’t be bothered retracing my steps as it was at least 2 miles back up to the road that was signposted Queensferry. A man walking his dog approached the gate and I enquired what the path was like and being more specific if my road bike would cope. He replied confidently that it was ground red shale and lots of bikes cycled it and that the path started just after the end of the grassy field. I decided to risk it as there was no going back, I’d survived a rocky gravel path surely a rolled path would be ok!?
Thankfully the ground over the grass was hard with the lack of rain the past few weeks. I clipped out again and crossed the bridge where true enough was a hard packed red shale rolled path. The bike handled the surface well and I managed to get some speed up. Twisting between the trees that were giving me shelter from the midday sun was a blessing and also made me feel I was flying!
Passing a couple on a tandem I was on the last leg finally. Entering hopetoun house estate the path got a bit grassy again. I exchanged pleasantries with another cyclist negotiating the kissing gate at the same time. Thankfully no awkward moment and I was on my way.
I passed my IM buddy Alan’s house. He’d just got back from his ride not an hour previous and was heading straight out looking fresh! Quick chat and I was on the last last leg. Arriving home 6 hours later.
Injury wise I’d had a left quad niggle since the start. This had been there the previous Sunday. The right knee wasn’t too bad. And since, the knees seem to be ok which can only be a positive as I enter a period of rest.
Was this 130 km cycle enough. Do I have it in me to do 180km? And what about the run after? Who knows is all I can say. Who knows!