I blame Simon, in part anyway.
“More training, come back in Spring and smash it ”
Its summer, not spring but this was the first chance I have had to do this.
There was a disturbing amount of planning in advance. Trying to work out how to make the most of the day, get to the start early enough, what time I needed to hit key spots on the path, refuelling stops, what to carry [be it on bike or the backpack that fathers day brought], what to rely on the on-route shops for and so on.
I kept thinking back to what I wrote on Strava last time….
1) Getting an early enough start
2)Having enough daylight to do it without lights (or at least get to Kirkcaldy before dark)
3)Making some tactical diversions around the worst bike-unfriendly sections.
This is my nemesis and I need to beat it.
I set my alarm for 3:30am, with a planned 4am exit for heading up to Newburgh and the start. I allowed myself a coffee but took breakfast with me to consume in the park before kicking off the main ride at 6am
I left a little later than planned, but I knew that I could make the start quicker than the Cyclestreets claimed so I wasn’t too far behind schedule.
Riding the local roads before 5am was a wierd experience. Drivers that gave you room, pretty empty roads, the sun coming up from behind the hills. All good.
I made pretty good time to Newburgh and rolled into the park before 6:30, wiped the dew off a bench and settled down for a little breakfast.
Cold porridge with nutella is actually pretty good. Almost like cold ride pudding (with chocolatey goodness)
I ate half the tub, packed it away and set off.
I had decided that I would do the full route and not take the recommended cycle alternative. Off road route into the hills for a bit vs dull undulating road? Off road wins every time. Yes, it’s not brilliant but beats the Tarmac drag.
I kept up a reasonable pace and tried not to question the logic of the route extension. As I think I’ve mentioned before, a route that comes a fair distance inland is hardly coastal. I get the feeling that it was planned from behind a desk, not on the ground and that decisions were made without thinking about who will use the path. Oh, there’s also the small issue of the return climb that leads to the final descent….
Anyway, I headed east and tried not to expend too much energy too early in the ride. The fork felt too stiff, but i let it go for now. Then, under the Tay bridges and through the villages until I reached Tentsmuir and my next brief stop for the rest of the porridge plus a red bull. Probably not the best idea but it was still too early for any local coffee shops to be open.
Tentsmuir was a slog. I’m not sure why as it was bone dry and there was no wind. I took 5 minutes to tweak my fork pressure and soften things up a little before the next section. A dull road drag to St Andrews and Boarhills that thankfully led to some singletrack. I had planned a refuelling stop just after this, turned off the path (the next section was not bike friendly anyway) and as if on cue, I ran out of water. So, Kingsbarnes saw water, more water, ice cream and Irn Bru. Unfortunately the water hadn’t been in the fridge, but it was wet….
Of course, Kingsbarnes means the start of the hard sections and the continuation of the stream of golf courses. Until now easy to bypass but from this point, something you have to ride alongside, past, through. Last time saw beach slogs, golfist confrontations and something akin to a shitstorm of suffering.
I was determined that this time would be different so I got cheeky. Possibly bending the meaning of the Land Access Reform act a little, I *cough* took responsibility for my actions and ensured that my route was to my benefit, rode the edge of the courses, kept my distance, backed off and didn’t get in the way and, you know what, made no enemies. I even chatted away to a couple playing and helped one of them find their ball. Just saying that for the golfists benefit.
Heading towards the coastguard station, I kept making reasonable time even when the path turned into a rocky clamber and passed round Fife Ness, the most easterly part of the ride and the middle of the worst section. Turning back westwards, I remembered that there was more rocky riding to come, some more clambering, some gates on the way to Crail (so….many….gates). I didn’t anticipate some sort of bovine standoff…….
So there I am. Standing in a field, around 8 metres from a wall with a high fence and a stile and the small matter of the dozen or so cattle in the way, some of which are watching….waiting and appear to be wondering whether to come closer.
Some do. Its starting to get a little freaky, one even seems to be trying to outflank me so I make a break for it and head for the stile, hoist the bike over and escape with a muttered WTF.
Golf courses have given way to caravan parks and stares at the idiot on a bike on a day like this but he’s not bothered. Its getting hotter and hotter, fluid is disappearing from my camelback and bottles at a rate of knots and I need to find another shop. Thankfully a path closure, a one way system and a forced diversion from the path dump me right in front of a shop, run by the unfriendliest woman in East Fife. I can only apologise for wanting to spend money on water, irn bru, isotonic drink and ice cream.
I eventually got back onto the path and kept heading west towards Pittenweem, making reasonable time but still melting. I was confident though – there was only one tough section to go plus after that, it was all plain sailing to the end. I think it was about here that the thought of finishing at North Queensferry entered my mind but I put it to one side – it was a decision for later.
I reached Elie and battered along the road as the path didn’t go along the beach here before popping into Earlsferry for what I thought was the final slog. There was loads mroe sand on the trail than last time, so progress was pretty slow but I got to the cliff, quickly hiked up then descended. A brief detour to ride in a circle for 1/2 a mile then another sand-covered slog.
This was not good. I could feel all my strength being sapped by the trudging through dunes and I was starting to feel really rough. As I may have mentioned before, heat and I don’t mix. I could see plan B on the horizon and it was looking like a tempting option….
Was it some sort of weird karma thing? The only bit of the entire FCP I didn’t know, biting me in the ass so badly? Who knows but I got past it and into Lower Largo, home of some mediocre sailor who’s main accomplishment was to get shipwrecked for years. The path then took me to Lundin Links, more golfists and, to my horror, yet more sand.
I’d done this section before, it was never as sandy as this…. Now it wasn’t just my strength dissipating, willpower was going too……and the heat was getting worse and worse. Through the golf course, along the sand then onto the promenade……..
….and I came to a stop. A complete, full stop. There was a bench about 10 metres away and I made my way to it. I downed the bottle of water/isotonic drink from the bike. I tore open the bag of gel bloks I had stashed in the bag and consumed all of them. There may have been Irn Bru involved.
I waited….and nothing changed. Even plan B was looking unlikely but it was all eady going from here. Surely I could push on? anyway, worst thing I could do was stay still for to long in Leven.
I pushed off and reached the end of the prom, continued through town and got back up to some semblance of speed. I was moving again. woo, yay, hoopla. Round the roundabout at the green energy place in the old Methil Docks and all life left my legs again. I got off and walked. I couldn’t believe it.
It was time to bail. 75 miles (plus 23.6 mile ride out). I was hot, light headed, thirsty and sweating more than I’ve ever sweated before but also feeling cold. This was not good.
I reached a flat bit and slowly ground along and hit the edge of Buckhaven and a junction. The path was just ahead, a coast road to Kirkcaldy and some sort of sanctuary to the right.
I looked at the GPS and found myself clicking the button. Ride done.
Well, sort of. I still had to grind through the seven miles to Kirkcaldy and only stopped about 4 times. At the edge of town I reported in.
“Do you want me to come and get you?”
“You’ll kill me….”
“Do you want me to come and get you?”
I headed to my folks and crashed in their back garden for 5 minutes…..then let them know I was there.
2 cans of Irn bru and a bag of crisps later, I was in the car and heading home. Bike stashed at my folks, kids wondering if I was okay.
Heat? Sand? Was the backpack too heavy? I had to carry loads of water because of the heat so it was a bit of a catch 22 situation.
Was it just too much? I’ve done more. It was only a 1 hr 30 road ride then 10 or so hours on the coastal path. A combination of multiple factors? I’m not sure. I’d put a lot of thought into this, I had a demon to face and it went wrong.
Statistically, this means it will have to go right eventually, aye?