Welcome to the Velodrome (Iain)

“This is not a race! Do not treat it as a race. There will be no winners or losers. Are we clear about that?”

I was with a group of about twenty people. We were doing the “Introduction to Track Cycling” course at Glasgow velodrome. The man giving the instruction was the track cycling coach.

“Get on your bikes and do not race! I’m judging you on your ability to ride safely not quickly.”

We were all ready to start. One of the other riders was in full cycling club team kit. Even his socks were branded with the name of his cycling club. He wore sunglasses indoors. He looked like a twat.

“Are we ready to start?” Asked the coach.

A man suddenly appeared next to twattymactwatface. He too wore full cycling kit. He turned to his identical twat and said: “You can win this.”

No – you can’t. Its not a race! Did you not hear what the coach just said?

He started giving Luke Twatwalker a pep talk: “Take it easy on the first lap and then use your power on the second. Don’t be afraid to cut people up.”

No – don’t cut people up! Take it easy on the first lap and then even easier on the second. Demonstrate you can do this safely!

He then added “Fuck them up!” and slapped Encyclopedia Twatania on the back.

ITS NOT A RACE! NO ONE IS GETTING FUCKED UP!

The ‘not a race’ started. Everyone set off at a steady pace except Lance Twatstrong. He shot off. I could hear him mutter: “You can do this”

There’s nothing to do! It’s not a race. It’s a bunch of middle aged men living out a Chris Hoy fantasy. We just want to spin about a bit and then go home for tea.

His mate started shouting “YES! You’re at the front. Keep it up!”

Twatasuarous Tex soon caught up with me. We were both about to reach the tiered banking. He pulled out wide to go round me but he was going too fast and couldn’t control his bike. He hit the top of the track. His bike slipped and he came off. I looked up. The bike and him were now sliding down the banking towards me. I did what any man would do in this situation. I closed my eyes and hoped for the best. Track bikes have no brakes and even if they did I couldn’t use them on the banking.  I had no way of avoiding being hit.

His bike went through mine. I fell off. I hit my head of the wooded boards of the banking and scraped the skin off my arm and shoulder.

The coach came running over. He took one look at the two of us and asked “Are you ok?” My head hurt and I had a bit of skin rash from the slide but nothing serious. Twatzilla looked surprisingly chipper all considering. We both said “I think so…”

The coach thought for a second and said “Thank fuck for that. Now imagine how sore it would have been if you’d been racing!”

I’ve never been back to the velodrome since that day.

Kirkintilloch 12.5K 2018 (Andrew)

There are two types of runners. There are runners who park beside the start line and then there’s runners who park on Mars – to give themselves a bit more of a challenge by running 55 million kilometres as ‘warm up’.

I’m a runner who parks beside the start line. If I had a choice, I’d park on the start line. Warming up is just wasted energy after all. Why run before you need to run?!?

Now, some people – coaches, athletes and professionals – will tell you that warming up is an essential part of the whole running experience. If you don’t warm up then your muscles are cold and stiff and more likely to break. But those people – those experts – have clearly never had warm up in Scotland in January when it’s cold and wet and miserable and the thought of spending 30 seconds stretching each hamstring is as enticing as sharing a hot tub with Donald Trump.

Scotland is not a country for warming up. It’s a country for running as fast as you can out your front door until you run as fast as you can back in your front door and straight into a hot shower.

Which is what I wanted to do after Kirkintilloch 12.5K.

The Kirkintilloch 12.5 is a hilly circuit around the edge of Kirkintilloch on mostly old farm roads. It’s also one of the most exposed races with the top of every hill giving the freezing cold winds a good 50 mile standing start to breeze right through you.

It also doesn’t help that there’s very few car parking spaces near the start so, before the race, there was also a battle between the runners who like to park next to the start line to actually park next to the start line. Most failed.

We saw quite a few running a mile along the road from the centre of Kirkintilloch to the edge of the town, where the race started.

Luckily, we found a spot on a side street not far from the start as otherwise who knows what might have happened if we’d had to run before we ran. (We’d have probably run round faster as we were warmed up but that’s beside the point!)

The race itself featured a cold wind, some ice on the side of the road and a Penguin biscuit at the finish line. It also had a few sharp wee hills and a couple of longer drags. The good thing though is that the hill you race up at the start is also the hill you race down at the end. At which point we could see people cooling down.

Don’t get me started on cooling down. It’s Scotland. In Scotland, if you cool down any further you’ll turn into Frosty the Snowman.

Instead, don’t warm up, never cool, just park near the finish line, you know it makes sense.

 

 

Kirkintilloch 12.5K (Iain)

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Buchlyvie 10K:

“The race started and almost immediately stopped due to a giant puddle on the course. Runners will run through anything – illness, injury or bad weather but it seems most won’t run through a  puddle. Everyone gingerly tried to tip toe through or around it.”

Yesterday, I did the Kirkintilloch 12.5K and the race started and almost immediately stopped due to a giant puddle on the course. Runners will run through…you can guess the rest.

I wonder if this means there’s a gap in the sports shoe market for running welly boots! I should pitch my idea to the BBC’s Dragons Den. Even Dragons must prefer dry socks on a run.

The race was great fun but very cold. There was ice on the local roads but, thankfully, the course was clear of it. I’d done a long run the previous day so I did the race as a tempo training run rather than a full on sprint . I was happy with my steady pace and time.

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The most interesting thing about the race is the town itself. Kirkintilloch used to have the slogan “Canal capital of Scotland” until people painted over the “C”

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It now has the slogan “A walkers are welcome town” which will last until someone paints over the first “l” with an “n!”

I think they need to work on getting better slogans.

A Rally Good Adventure (Andrew)

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In 2005 I entered the Plymouth to Dakar Rally. This was a rally from Plymouth to Dakar (the rally was well named!) in which I had to drive a car bought for less than £100.

I was raising money for Save the Children and, in our 1982 American Town and Country Station Wagon, we had pens and pencils, notepads and first aid kits to hand out to the villages on our route.

And, in the back, in a sealed case, we had filthy dirty erotica.

If we got into trouble, or were stopped by border guards, the organisers’s rules were quite clear, we weren’t to use cash to escape – we were to use porn!

Border guards were lonely guards….

So, for the first time in my life, I had to go into a shop and buy a girly magazine.

I didn’t know what to do.

I’m looking at all these different images: big jugs; bouncy butts; but all I can think is “What would Abdul likes as a kinky backhander?”

Cause it wasn’t like I was buying it for myself. It was a gift. I couldn’t give Abdul the border guard any old book. What would he like in his lonely Saharan outpost?

So, I asked for help.

That was a big mistake.

Don’t get me wrong, I now know that asking for help could come across as a little bit weird, but tell me this, what’s weird – me, asking for recommendations or the guy at the counter exclaiming in delight “I thought you’d never ask!”

I should have been shocked but all I could think was: “Cool, my pornography is bespoke!”

Sadly, for Abdul, he never saw his adult gifts. Although I was buying erotica like my life depended on it – because my life did actually depend on it – we crashed our station wagon near Paris and the car was wrecked. Our rally was over.

Luckily, the French scrappy who examined the wreckage offered to find a home for our pens and pencils at the local orphanage. Our charitable endeavours would not go to waste. It was only when he was gone that we remembered that not all of our gifts were meant for children….

But, I think the orphans were secretly happy when they discovered our secret stash. When you’re 13 you’re not looking for a pen or a pencil – all you really want to get is your very own dirty book.

Buchlyvie 10k (Iain)

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Before this year I’d entered the Buchlyvie 10k three times but completed it zero times! In fact,  up until this weekend, I’d never made it to the start line.

My first attempt ended when I discovered how long it took to drive to Buchlyvie from where I stayed in Glasgow. I didn’t want to drive so I didn’t bother going.

My second attempt ended when it started raining before I’d left the house. I didn’t want to get wet so I didn’t bother going.

My third time was last year. I now live much closer to Buchlyvie so I couldn’t use distance as an excuse. It wasn’t raining so I couldn’t use the rain as an excuse. Unfortunately, it was snowing so I used snow as an excuse.

The phrase “if at first you don’t succeed then try, try again” should really be “if at first you don’t succeed and its not raining, snowing or too far away then try again!”

The race starts on a small pitch next to a church. After the start there was a small lane from the pitch to the main road.  There was a very large puddle in the lane which had no way round it. Now – I’ll run through just about anything. I’ll run through the pain barrier, I’ll run through atrocious weather, I’ll run through the night. There’s nothing I won’t run through…except a puddle. I’m not getting my trainers dirty or my feet wet!

So the race started and almost immediately it stopped. It turns out most runners don’t like puddles. Everyone gingerly tried to tip toe through the puddle before starting running again once they reached the main road

The rest of the course was an out and back run along an off road track. There was a strong head wind on the way out which annoyingly didn’t seem to give much of a push on the way back.

I was happy with my form. I was aiming for 45 minutes but considering the slow start the off road track and the head wind I was happy with 46 minutes.

Afterwards I got a text from a friend asking if I’d picked up a post race goodie bag from the hall. DOH!!! I’d forgotten to collect it.

Oh well. I’ll just have to do it again next year.

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Smile! (Andrew)

“Can I take your photo?” Is not a question I get asked often. In fact, until last week, I’d only been asked it once.

I was on holiday in India and walking round Jaipur palace when two Indian boys approached me and asked “Can we have a photo?”.

I thought they wanted me to take a photo of them. In fact, they wanted to take a photo of me. I said “okay” and they happily took a number of snaps of a puzzled looking Scotsman. I still don’t know why they asked.

Last week I was asked again if I wanted my photo taken.

I was buying a car, I’d arranged to collect it from the dealer, when, after I’d been given the keys, they asked: “Do you want your photo taken?”

I didn’t know what to say. Why would I want my photo taken? I’m collecting a car, not receiving a Nobel prize.

Then I thought, how do I even get my picture taken with a car? Do I need to pose? Do I stare at the camera? Do I face the car and look back seductively? Do I splay myself on the bonnet? How do you pose with a car?

I said “No.” I thought it was the safe choice. Less awkward from me. Definitely less awkward for them.

“Please God, no, don’t ‘make love to the camera’! Just hold the keys up and smile!”

I asked: “Does anyone say ‘yes’?”

And they said. “No.”

THEN WHY DO YOU ASK?!?!?!?

(Though I admire their persistence.)

On the way home, driving along the M8 I started thinking if there were any other times people take your photo. Then I remember – you get your photo taken when you finish a race.

At the end of races, sometimes in the middle of them, you get your photo taken. Of course, it’s not the best photo in the world, even though it represents a great achievement. Your face is red. Your stomach is like a squashed pillow as the photographer somehow manages to take thier photo halfway between your elated arms in the air joy and you’re ‘bloody ‘ell I just want to collapse’ slump.

Which is better than the photos you get mid-race when the photographer ambushes you just as you have a facial expression which looks like an action man/barbie (depending on your sex) that has been left too close to the fire while you’ve been simultaneously hosed down in chip fat oil. Also, you probably did ‘the point’

You know ‘the point’. That’s where you think pointing at the sky, a rock, the photographer or just a passing seagull will somehow translate into a really cool kick ass photo. It doesn’t. Just look at any finish of any bike race ever. If a professional cyclist can’t look cool pointing at the sky while winning Paris Roubaix after six hours on a bike across the battered fields of Belgium then you look as cool as Jacob Rees Mogg in a mankini.

But still we want these photos.

Yet, when asked if I want a photo with my car, when I’ve brushed my hair, scrubbed my face, wearing normal clothes and not sausage skin Lycra, I say “no”.

Why?

I can think of only one reason.

A picture is worth a thousand words. And when you get a photo of you running then that photo says “Winner!” one thousand times. But when you get a photo of your new car the only thing that photo says is “You Plonker!”.

How to not lose (Iain)

For the last five years I’ve played squash every Friday lunchtime. I play the same man at the same time with the same result – I lose. I occasionally win but it’s very rare. One year, I did not win a single match.

People ask me – why do you play if you always lose?

I play because our matches are very competitive. The result feels like it could go either way even though it only ever goes one way.

Last year I asked myself – how do I stop losing?

I concluded that I needed to stop giving away silly points. If I stop giving him points then surely I’d stop losing.

I didn’t. I kept losing. I lost every week until I realized I had asked myself the wrong question. I shouldn’t have asked – how do I stop losing? I should have asked – how do I start winning?

My mentality was wrong. You can can’t win by trying not to lose. You win by trying to win.

So I came up with a plan to start playing with my head, not my hand. Think about where the shot should go. Play shots that will win the point.

Since making the change I’ve won every match.

The more matches I win, the more my opponent has become tetchy and annoyed. He now shouts and yells when his shots go wrong!

What he shouts the most is:

“IT’S NOT A TENNIS BALL!!!!”

This occurs because he plays tennis and sometimes miss-hits volleys because of the different weight of a squash ball compared to a tennis ball.

Despite repeatedly shouting this during matches his volleying is still costing him points.

I could tell him how to fix the problem but I’m quite enjoying my current winning run and don’t want it to end.

So I’ll wait a few weeks and then tell him he needs to change his mentality. He needs to shout

“IT’S A SQUASH BALL!”

Queen Elizabeth Swimming Pool (Andrew)

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There are few sports where you can take part in the same venue as the professional sports people.

You can’t book Celtic Park for a game of football, nor Murrayfield for rugby. You can’t play cricket at the Oval or tennis at Wimbledon. You can run a marathon or cycle a sportive on the same roads as Mo Farah or Chris Froome but those roads are not a venue, they’re a street. I’m talking purpose built sports venues – not a venue you can share with  a bus, the bin lorry and an ice cream van.

Yet, when sports venues are built, many talk about sustainability and community involvement. A legacy.

For Glasgow that means we have a velodrome and Tollcross swimming pool as venues built for the Commonwealth Games and open to the public after the games ended.

I say open but, despite having two 50 metre pools (the only 50 metre pools in Glasgow), one remains permanently split into two 25 metre pools and the other only opens as a 50 metre pool when the moon is ascending in the ninth circle of the eastern cosmos and Jupitar is in alignment with Uranus. Or something close to that. It’s timetable has been so erratic over the last few years that you just turn up and hope. Even when it’s scheduled to open you can still find the staff saying “not today”. And that’s if the pool is even open. It’s been closed for repairs almost as many times as Donald Trump has sent a dodgy tweet. The only legacy the Commonwealth Games left Glasgow was regular work for builders.

The Velodrome on the other hand is fantastic. If you can get an introductory session booked. A process that involves getting up a 5am in the morning to try and a book a session one month ahead so that you beat those people who set their alarm clock for 6am to beat the people who set their alarm clock for 7am to be the first to book.

It’s popular. Very popular. And I think they’ve added more classes to address a booking system that favour insomniac cyclists so everything may be okay now. If not, good luck, and remember to set that alarm clock early!

In London there are two similar venues. In the Queen Elizabeth Olympics park you can now ride on the London Velodrome or swim in the Olympic swimming pool.

I was in London at the weekend and dropped in on Saturday night to try it out.

A few things you should know:

1.     It’s in the middle of nowhere. Or Stretford as it’s now called.

2.     You have to walk through a shopping centre to get there. Westfield.

3.     It’s in the middle of the park, behind a building site and a large well lit path between construction sites  far , far away from busy roads or other people that means London’s legacy is to provide better lighting to see your mugger.

4.     It’s almost empty!

5.     Which means ignore 1 to 3! It’s brilliant!

6.     There’s two pools. One a 50 metre which is actually open and you can, at least at 6pm on a Saturday night, get a whole lane to yourself.

I’d not swam since November so the only Olympian I resembled was Eric the Eel, it was cool to swim in the same venue as Michael Phelps and to know that we had shared the same water. Which was also cool until I remember he didn’t like to get out of the pool before going to the toilet…

I’d definitely recommend a trip to the pool if you’re in London and, even if you forget something, don’t worry, you can pick up everything you need from a…. vending machine. This one, filled with trunks and goggles.

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Try anything once – Mysore yoga (Iain)

A wise man once said: “You should try anything once.”

What a stupid saying! There’s loads of things I shouldn’t try – not even once.

Should I poke a sleeping lion in the stomach? No, I’ve been mauled by my cat for giving him a friendly tummy rub. Imagine what the king of the jungle would do if I poked him in the guts and called him a fattyfatty bum bum.

Should I paint my body blue, stick on a white beard and demand everyone call me Papa Smurf? No – I’d look look like a fat extra from Avatar.

Should I attempt one of the hardest extreme triathlons on the planet? DOH! I entered Norseman.

So, when given the opportunity to do Mysore yoga I asked will it kill me or open me to ridicule? Thankfully, the answers were “no” and “maybe.” I was worried about the maybe…

In a standard yoga class a teacher leads the students through a sequence of moves. In Mysore a student leads themselves through a sequence at their own pace. Everyone in the class follows the same sequence but the pace may be different.

The class started at 0630 but I could join anytime up till 0700. I need as much beauty sleep as I can get. I turned up at 0659. This meant everyone else had already started.

The Mysore sequence is like building IKEA furniture. If you don’t do it in the right order then a bit won’t fit where you want no matter how far you bend it.

Now imagine building a Kvlar wardrobe but only having the picture of a wardrobe as your guide. That’s Mysore.

I knew I needed to start by standing at the top of the mat. I also knew I had to finish by lying flat but I couldn’t remember the steps in between.

I looked around the class. One woman was bent over in a position her chiropractor would call “a broken spine”. Another girl was wrapped so tightly together only a can opener was going to get her unwrapped.

I decided to do neither of those moves. I attempted a bend from the hip. No one laughed so I thought I might be onto something. I do a few more bends to waste a few minutes. The teacher comes over “what are you doing?”

“Warming up?”

She says “Let me give you a guide”.

Great! That’ll help. She hands me some pics of people in positions that would be called pornographic if there was a partner involved. She says “Just do two of these and then three of these.”

I look at the diagram. It might as well be in Hindi as I don’t understand any of it. It turns out it is in Hindi.

I do a few more hip bends. I think I might be the best hip bender in the class. In fact, I think I might be the biggest bender here. Ummm that doesn’t sound right…

She come back over. “What are you doing?”

“Still warming up?” I reply.

“No your supposed to be doing this sequence.” She demonstrates it.

“Ahhh, it’s that sequence. I understand now.” I don’t.

She leaves. I bend my hips some more. I think if there was a hip bending competition in the Olympics I’d win a gold medal.Unless there was a Russian hip bender. He’d probably cheat and I’d get silver. I’d be gutted when I hear the Russian national anthem as we stand on the medal podium. Years later it would be discovered he was cheating! He’d get disqualified. I’d be the belated champion but it wouldn’t be the same. Instead of a podium I’d get my medal through the post. Damn you, Sergei!

She interrupts my daydream, “what are you doing?”

“I’ve warmed up!” I confidently state.

She takes pity on me. “Just lie down. Do you want a blanket to keep warm?”

“No thanks, I don’t like blankets of any size,shape or texture. You you might say I have a blanket ban…”

She doesn’t laugh. It’s probably too early in the morning for chuckles.

I give it five minutes and when she’s busy adjusting/torturing another Mysore student I sneak out.

The wise man was correct to say “do anything once” but he should also have said – don’t do it twice!

(Jigsaw) Piece of cake (Andrew)

Are you a masochist or a sadist?

Most people would say they were neither as (a) they don’t like pain; and (b) really, who likes pain?!?

But, if you’re a runner, I bet that you’re secretly one or the other because anyone who runs either wants to beat other people and be first across the finish line or they want to beat themselves by running faster than they’re run before.

I’m a masochist. If I was a sadist, a genuine one, I’d be the one in the corner struggling and failing to untangle my whip (not an euphemism). Which I imagine is a bit of a genuine problem. Think about how hard it to keep a headphone cable untangled. If you’ve got a five metre long whip then you’re going to spend most of your time trying to untie the knot in the middle. Indiana Jones would be a very different film if, when he confronts the bad guy, he pulled out his whip and said “Damn, I only just put this away how can it have more knots than a speedboat?!?”

Anyways, I’m not a sadist. Not in the real world, not as an athlete. I don’t want to beat other people. I like running my own race and judging what I do against my own times. In that way, I’m a masochist except… when it comes to Iain.

Then I want to beat him.

It’s amazing how a little competition will make you achieve impossible feats. We only put a man on the moon because the US wanted to beat Russia. We only reached each pole because explorers challenged each other to be first. And I only completed a 1,000 piece jigsaw in 48 hours this Christmas because Iain challenged me that I wouldn’t be able to do it.

You will notice that all of these achievements are comparable. Neil Armstrong may have got to the moon – but, other than sitting down for three days and then taking a couple of steps, what did he actually do?!? And those Arctic explorers had huskies who did all the work. So, really, my achievement was greater than them.

By the way, why was ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, the second man on the moon, called Buzz? Easy, he was NASA’s plan B!

Did I mention I can also write Christmas cracker jokes?

Anyways, we were home for a few days and my mum had just completed a 1,000 piece jigsaw. It had taken her a month so I said “I bet I could do it in a day”, because, you know, I had no idea what I was talking about and had never completed a jigsaw so just said the first thing that came to my head.

Iain said “I bet you £40 you can’t complete it in even 48 hours?”

I said “Deal!” and we shook on it.

Then the sadistic streak kicked in. I would beat him. And I would take his money. So, I got to work and –

– who knew jigsaws were so tough?!?!?!?

Why do they have pieces that are just one colour, and not just one piece but 100 pieces all coloured blue for the sea, and another 100 coloured grey for clouds?

And why won’t this one fit?

And I’ve tried all the pieces and there’s clearly one missing!???

And – oh, wait, now it fits. How many to go? 998.

Damn!!!

But, 36 hours later, having carefully and systematically tried to fit every piece to every other piece, this happened.

Jigsaw

And then this happened.

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Which clearly makes Iain a masochist. He might have thought he was a sadist in setting the challenge but he made a fatal mistake. I said I could complete it in a day. He gave me two days. There was no way I could complete it in a day – I’d have lost. He’d have won. But, in giving me two days, it just showed he wasn’t trying to beat me at all but wanted to lose not only the challenge but his cash. What a masochist!