Following months of Lockdown and multiple race cancellations the announcement came from the Scottish Government that we could finally cross county boundaries again earlier than originally planned. I had had my eye on this route as a long training run in the build up to the West Highland Way race that has unfortunately been cancelled again. Learnings from 2020 were fresh in my mind and keen to put all the hard work in training to good effect it was decided to have a bash at this route to practice race conditions and look at nutrition for longer events to come.
I'd been in touch with Dan from PH racing who had brought the route to my attention when he organised the Ekiden race that was due to take place in March until restrictions finally put paid to their plans. Dan was great and provided in depth descriptions of each section of the course as well as his GPX files to keep me on track. I hadn't managed to recce any of the course due to travel restrictions and I'm not known for my navigational sense so these were greatly received and made sure I only added an extra mile onto the route with some directional malfunctions. I'd kept Dan informed of my plans and it was brilliant that he offered to join me on the first few miles from Culross to Dunfermline along with his club mate and WHW crew member Martin Butcher.
The forecast was almost perfect in the lead up to the day. Initial reports were for a tailwind and bright sunny weather. Much to my disgust the wind made a full 180 degree turn and became a headwind for a large proportion of the route. This at least ensured that this pale Scotsman didn't overheat in the fine Spring weather.
The first few miles passed swiftly with great chat with the PH boys. The pace was steady but not overly strenuous. Martin dropped off at Dunfermline Abbey while Dan carried on a bit further to make sure I made it through the Town section which wasn't always easy to navigate. Once Leaving Dan the route moved back onto well defined cycle path out into the Fife countryside. I'd driven passed most of the sections before without realising the fantastic trails that lay just off the motorway.
The first agreed meeting with the support crew was at Lochore Meadow country park at around 20 miles. Unfortunately I was well ahead of predicted time at this point and entrances were closed to the main car park that we had planned to meet. A quick call later and new plans were agreed to meet further along the route. I carried on at a steady pace sound in the knowledge that I still had some food and hydration to keep me fuelled. The crew were back in touch as I moved towards Kinglassie to inform me that they were just behind me and hoped to meet me before I turned off the road again onto the trails into Markinch. I was still movinng smoothly though and again we didn't quite time it right. This meant that the first catch up with the crew was after 30 miles in Markinch. I was beginning to get a little dry and looked forward to getting some fuel back on board.
After a quick catch up I was off again with the plan to meet again at Ceres. This was the longest section with the first part on a flat trail out towards Kennoway before turning uphill quite steeply. I managed to maintain decent rhythm through this section and thoroughly enjoyed the varied terrain over the rolling route onto the next check point. Coming into Ceres it was great to see Mike Herron from the Hawks who had brought his daughter along to cheer me on.
The final leg was supposed to be all downhill according to Dan. I had been suspicious of this description having raced in this area before and couldn't remember many flat bits at all. I don't think he wants to know the thoughts that went through my mind as I climbed what seemed to be a never ending hill on the outskirts of the village before getting to the downhill section that he'd described!! The final section into Saint Andrews through Craigtoun Country Park was beginning to get busier with folk enjoying the sunny weather. Queues were long at the Ice Cream stalls and I needed to weave my way through groups of families enjoying the park. The final stretch took me along Lade Braes walk and onto South street for a push to the finish at Saint Andrews Abbey to be met by coach Neil MacNicoll and his wife Gillian as well as the support crew of my wife Fiona and my gruesome twosome Calum and Ruaridh.
This was a brilliant varied route with a mix of road and trail. It provided me with an insight into fueling for bigger events as well as the need to get preparations right in the run up to the day. It's important to get the planning right and ensure that everyone has the information they need for the day. It also taught me that things can go wrong on long events but you can adapt and still achieve your goals.