For a couple of weeks, my Training Peaks plan has had a very enticing entry for this week stating ‘Taper – woop!’. I can’t tell you how excited I have been about this, although no further details were forthcoming until the very last second. Indeed we’d resorted to bribery by having Crawford and his lovely wife Emma round for home-made wood-fired pizzas in the sunshine in an attempt to persuade him to finally let us start our taper. But I think perhaps Crawford and I have had slightly different ideas about what our taper might involve. I was imagining wine, crisps and relaxing watching box sets. Somewhat unsurprisingly that’s not 100% correct.
In the ten days leading up to our taper, there have been a number of ‘last’ big sessions. I did my last big cycle with Paul (he rather reluctantly came with me after telling me he didn’t really like cycling together) and we managed most of it without falling out. There was a slightly tense moment regarding our route (I had meticulously planned a route in Strava but still wasn’t sure where we were headed due to my unbelievable atrocious sense of direction, whilst Paul, having not actually not looked at the route was quite sure where we were going and therefore rather reluctant to let me have a look at the map) but we made friends again over lunch in the very nice countryside at the side of a road. We then went our separate ways as Paul had a shorter ride scheduled (and I think perhaps had had enough of me) and I headed off alone towards the infamous ‘Tak’ me Doon’ road, between Carron Valley and Kilsyth, over the Campsie Hills. I have never done this before and was rather apprehensive about it, especially as I was facing it already 100km into the cycle. In fact approaching it as I did from the Carron Valley side was challenging but doable, and as I descended down into Kilsyth on the other side, I realised why it is so feared. Coming up the other side would be a much longer, steeper climb, and I vowed never to test this out. With the 145km finally done, I headed out for a wee 3.5km brick run, and surprisingly was able to jog this (I thought it would be more of a walk than a run).
A few days later was my last big run. Another 30km affair, but I decided to do three 10km loops – usually I don’t like loops as the temptation is to stop early, but the marathon at the end of the Ironman is four 10km loops so I thought this would be a good test of my resolve. I also wanted to try running without any water supply – none of the devices I’ve tested thus far have been ideal. I’ve tried running vests, back pack and belts, but all have rubbed, chaffed, leaked or just been uncomfortable and I much prefer running un-impeded. Clearly there are numerous water/food stops on the run route in the race, but I wasn’t sure how I’d manage with just sporadic drinks rather than constantly sipping fluid, which the running aids allow. I therefore set up a wee water/fuel station at the house and stopped briefly after each lap to take a drink and stock up with gels/bars. And actually this worked very well. And to my surprise, running repeated laps was better psychologically than one big loop. I was able to cut the distance into much shorter segments (in my mind) which helped enormously. A very quick turnaround after finishing as I met Viv shortly after this run for an open water swim in Abie’s Loch in Mugdock – again surprised by the fact I could do anything immediately after such a long run – something I’d never have managed even a couple of months ago.
And finally at the weekend I had my last brick session. We were staying at Comrie Croft for the weekend (a great location near Crieff with campsite, cafe, walking and mountain bike trails) which had been kindly gifted to us by some friends. For some complicated logistical and weather related reasons, we set off on the Saturday morning, and Viv and I were dropped off in Lennoxtown at the foot of the Crow Road so we could then cycle to Comrie. The weather could not have been worse. Strong winds and torrential rain saw us actually sheltering in a doorway before embarking on our journey.
When the rain eventually broke we gingerly mounted our bikes and set off on our 90km journey which took us over the Crow, through Fintry and up to the ‘Top of the World’, bypassing Callander and finally following the banks of Lochs Lubnaig and Earn, before getting to Comrie. A beautifully scenic route once the rain had stopped, and not too cold, although sadly the wind never dropped and there remained significantly large amounts of surface water (deep puddles) on the roads. We nearly came a cropper on the side of Loch Lubnaig, where we had followed the cycle route 7 path rather than staying on the main, winding and busy main road. At one particularly narrow and rough section (we should really have been on mountain bikes for this part of the route) we encountered a deep and muddy puddle. Little did I know that Viv seems to have an irrational and deep-seated fear of mud, and therefore stopped somewhat unexpectedly rather than risk ?death. As I was right behind her and not really expecting to suddenly stop we ended up essentially on top of each other in said deep muddy puddle. Fortunately no serious harm was done other than me spearing Viv in the arse with my Tri-bar (that’ll teach her) although we were witnessed by a lady out for a walk that we had just passed which was somewhat embarrassing. When we finally arrived at Comrie Croft (Gareth wondered if we had got lost or stopped for lunch) we then set off for the brick run – 7.5km – which was surprisingly comfortable. Whilst obviously not nearly as long as the Ironman, again it was quite a confidence boost knowing we could run without too much difficulty after a reasonable cycle in difficult conditions. That evening, the weather cleared and we had a very pleasant time indeed barbecuing over our fire pit before retiring to bed in our marvellous Kata (fancy tent).
And so to the start of our taper. All joking aside, I was quite delighted to see the timetable for this week. At first glance the relief of doing much less than we have become accustomed to in recent weeks was great. Right enough we still have nearly 9 hours of sessions to complete – never would I have imagined that this amount of exercise in a week would be greeted with such delight. But given that it is only just over half of what we’ve been doing every week over the last couple of months, it does seem like a rest. Today (Wednesday) I had finished my activities (early morning circuits and a run) by mid morning and I was able to have a relaxing bath before meeting a friend for lunch. I can’t remember the last time I could do this on my day off. But interestingly the extra time we have has made space for more panicking. I am pretty grumpy due to a mix of anxiety and lack of sleep (nervous insomnia and panic dreams have set in). There is also the terrible fear that we might get ill over the next week. I had to pick up poor Holly from school today as she is not well. I basically sent her to bed and told her not to come near us until she was better poor wee soul for fear of catching whatever she’s got.
Crawford came round tonight and over tea we had a final chat about race preparation, equipment and race day nutrition. With those plans in place we are hopefully set. The next few days will involve writing (numerous) checklists, packing and quadruple-checking all our equipment. I’m not sure a day has gone past in the last fortnight that we haven’t ordered something from Wiggle. We could probably open a small triathlon shop.
The ticking of the countdown clock grows ever louder……..