The Chase (Iain) – Part 2

Showbiz is fame and glamour. That what I thought until I found myself auditioning for The Chase in the nondescript hotel function room of an even more nondescript hotel. The sort of hotel even cockroaches would think twice about staying in.

The audition involved a mock quiz and a short interview. I think the casting agents were looking for contestants who could explain their answers clearly. I assume this because I got all the answers wrong but I think I did a good job explaining my reasoning.

I was warned afterwards that I was not guaranteed a place on the show because they cast more people than they require but, if they did want to use me, they’d be in touch. It was the old showbiz phrase “don’t call us, we’ll call you!” After six months of not hearing from them, I was pleased and surprised when I received a call to appear on the show.

I was hoping they’d fly me down from Glasgow for the filming. Preferably a showbiz private jet. They offered me a return ticket on the train…2nd class only! Oh, the glamour of showbiz.

The Chase is filmed at Elstree Studios near London. Elstree is where the Star Wars films were made. I hoped I’d see Darth Vadar at the studio but unfortunately not. The Star Wars part of the studio has been knocked down and is now Tesco supermarket. They should call it C3P-TESCO.

The production crew put me up a hotel next to the studio. I thought I might spot some showbiz stars. Maybe Jennifer Aniston would be filming a new movie and need to stay close to set. If she was filming then she must have stipulated in her contract, “don’t put me up in that dump of a hotel next to the studio” – as I didn’t spot her at the breakfast bar ordering a full English.

After breakfast at my hotel I was chauffer driven to the studio. I was hoping for a stretch limo. I got a banged up old Ford Mondeo.

At the studio I was introduced to my fellow contestants. We did a warm up quiz to break the ice. Afterwards my impression was:

Magi – an unemployed middle aged woman. She was told by the producer that she shouldn’t say on the show she was unemployed. Supposedly TV viewers don’t like unemployed people winning money. She was told to say she was a volunteer. She was very slow at answering and seemed a bit mad. I thought she would be out in round 1.

Ellen – a mother of two. She seemed very pleasant. I suspected she also wouldn’t last long on the show as she had got a lot of answers wrong in the quiz.

Lewis – he was a big fan of the show. He knew a lot about Bradley Walsh and would say things like “Bradley will like it when I mention Watford FC as that’s his team too” I was worried he was a Bradley Walsh stalker and that he might have a big Bradley tattoo on his chest with “I love you Bradster” written underneath it. He was amazing at the quiz and I thought he was a definite to get through to the final chase.

Before the show recording started we were lead to or own personal changing rooms. I’ve seen cleaner’s cupboards that are more glamorous.

The producer told us we wouldn’t meet either the Chaser or Bradley Wash before filming began. So that a) we would act naturally surprised when the chaser appeared and b) Bradley preferred to do the show “cold” so that his reactions would be natural too.

As we queued outside the door to the studio there was another queue across from us waiting to get in a different door. I asked them what they were queuing for – “Pointless,” said one. Yes most queuing is pointless!

It turned out that the two biggest quiz shows on daytime TV are filmed next door to each other. Oh, the glamour!

[To be continued]

Pointless. I’ve never understood the appeal of this show!

Sold Out Swimming (Andrew)

Since November I’ve tried to join a weekly swim session with Glasgow Triathlon Club at 7am on a Wednesday morning. I say “tried to join” because there’s only eight places and the on-line booking system is more popular than David Attenborough and places fill up within minutes of opening. It’s got to the stage where you need to camp out overnight if you want a spot. 

Who knew a 7am spot would be so popular? But, despite the early start to get there, it’s a great session as, for the first time, I’m swimming to a coached session rather than swimming back and forth until I get bored. 

Swimming is my least favourite sport. I enjoy it but, given the choice between running or cycling or smelling of chlorine, I choose with my nose every time. 

During an average session, we swim between 1.5km to 2km, which is more than I would swim on my own. So, as a good way of swimming longer, it’s good to join a coached session. On the downside, I also found out that everything I was doing was wrong. Wrong hands, wrong arms, wrong legs. Even my hips weren’t in the right place, and, as anyone who’s seen me dance know, they don’t move. 

For the first few weeks I’ve had to relearn how to swim. I need to pat the water not karate chop the water with my hands. I need stretch my arms out like I’m celebrating not bring them in like I’m about to fall asleep on them. Legs need to kick more. Hips need to turn. I need to ‘push’ the water back, not flail my arms like a helicopter. And I have to get up at 6am to get there.

Which is why I ask again – why is it so popular?! It’s torture. But maybe, because it’s torture, it’s popular because you then have the rest of the day to recover – as long as you can book a place!

The Chase (Iain) – Part 1

Is it better to know a lot about a little or to know a little about a lot?

I know a little about a lot. Which is useful at my work as people can ask me about anything and I’ll have a vague knowledge about it.

The downside of this skill is that ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.’ It mean other people (and myself) think I know more than I actually do!

It could also be argued that knowing a lot about a little is not a particularly useful skill. Imagine Liam Neeson in the film Taken if he only had a little knowledge.

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom I can tell you I have money, but what I do have are a very wide range of limited skills. Vague Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you…as I’ll probably make a mistake when applying them due to my lack of attention to detail and because I’ve mis-remembered how to use them.”


But there is one place where my skill set does prove useful. One place where my skills truly shine. One place where I am a skills king among- unskilled mortals – a pub quiz.

If you want to know who the musician was behind the hit song “wombling free” by The Wombles was then I’m your pub quiz man. [Its Mike Batt]

If you want to know what is the capital of Kazakhstan? Then I’m your pub quiz man. [It’s Astana]

If you want to know what that pimple is at the end of your thingy then….I’m definitely not your man. Go and see a doctor!

I never thought my general knowledge would amount to much until I saw a program on ITV called “The Chase”

If you are not aware of the show then The Chase is a three round general knowledge quiz hosted by Bradley Walsh for four contestants.

In round one, each contestant answers as many general knowledge questions as possible in 60 seconds. Each answer is worth £1k to the team’s prize fund.

In round two, a contestant faces a quiz expert called the “chaser.” They play on a virtual ladder. A contestant starts 5 spots from the end of the ladder, which has a cash prize, while the chaser starts 8 spots from the end. Each player simultaneously and secretly answers a trivia question.

Each correct answer brings a contestant closer to the end. However, each correct answer for the chaser brings the chaser closer to the contestant. If the chaser catches the contestant before the contestant reaches the end, then the contestant loses and the game ends.

In the final round, the contestants who successfully managed to complete round two have two minutes to answer as many general knowledge questions as possible. The chaser then does the same. If the contestants have a higher score than the chaser they keep the prize fund. If the chaser wins, the contestants go home with nothing.

As soon as I saw it I thought to myself – this is a show I can do because the questions don’t require any specific knowledge, it only requires knowing a little about allot.

Which is why I found myself here….

[To be continued]

The Chase

Kirkintilloch 12.5K (Iain)

When you run, do you stare at other runner’s bums?

It’s quite hard not to stare at arses, unless you have a perfect upright running style. I run slightly stooped forward in a way which naturally brings my gaze to tush level.

I thought about this when I saw a photo of myself from the race.

I don’t know who the man in the white t-shirt is but I ran with him for about 15 minutes. I hadn’t seen his face until now. He was slightly quicker than me so I spent all that time just a couple of meters behind him in a perfect eye to posterior running form.

I was with him for a quarter of the race but, if I was asked to pick him out of a police line up, then I’d have to ask him to turn around. It’s only his bahookie that I’d recognize. I suspect my butt to face ratio in a race is at least nine butts for every one face I see.

Kirkintiloch is the perfect place to discuss derriere’s because the town is known as the Canal capital of Scotland. Why does that make it a bun friendly town? Because people paint over the C in canal…


Kirkintilloch 12.5k is an “undulating” course – 12 hills in 12 KM. I prefer to call it a course with 12 downhills in 12 KM’s. That sounds less fearsome. Similarly, Mount Everest sounds better when described as a long walk down.

It was a the fourth time I’ve raced it and this year I got a course PB. I was ill on Friday so I’m not sure if the PB is due to fitness or the amount of drugs I consumed on the Saturday to get better.

I suspect it was the weather that really helped. Every other year has seen ice on the course. This year there was none. I could finally run the downhills without the fear of slipping and falling over.

One of the 12 downhill sections. I’m going so fast the horses couldn’t keep up!

Watching The Tour De France at Alpe D’Huez (Andrew)

The plan was simple. We’d buy a tent and camp out on the mountain the night before the Tour arrived, only there was two problems. One, we didn’t know how to pitch a tent. The second, I’ll get to in a second.

The first problem was easy to solve. We bought a pop up tent. According to the ‘how to’ video on YouTube it was a simple to pitch as opening the cover and letting it open naturally. It took seconds, with no poles, pegs or skill required. Perfect.

The second problem was harder to solve. The day we arrived in Grenoble, the nearest city to Alpe D’Huez, it started to rain. And then the lightning started. And the thunder rolled in and we chickened out of using a tent and booked a hotel for the night instead with an aim to get up early and drive to Bourg-d Oisans, the town at the base of the climb.

And that’s what I’d recommend. We thought there would be a queue of cars, that would it would be difficult to get parked but, we left at 6am, got there for 7am and had no problem driving there or finding parking in the town. I admit, we then had eight hours before the tour passed through, but we were there, and we could explore the town to find… a bike shop run by a woman from Glasgow?!

We bought water, we bought breakfast, we bought supplies for lunch and filled our backpacks and then started to walk up Alpe D’Huez.

As the sun rose, it was a warm climb but not a difficult one. There was food and drinks for sale as you climbed and every corner was covered in flags, people and RV’s who’d booked there spot a week before and had set up home with barbecues and satellite dishes on their roof feeding live coverage of the day’s race.

As we climbed we got higher, as did the spectators. Corner 7 – Dutch Corner – was loud techno music, orange t-shirts, smoke and booze. The party had started and even the thunder & lightning hadn’t stopped it.

We found a spot overlooking corner 7 and had a cracking view of the spectators including one man who tried to run up to the summit while wearing a Borat mankini. He was last seen, buttocks jiggling, breath heaving on his way to corner 6. I hope he made it. It would have a tale to make his grandchildren proud. As long as he didn’t show them any photos…

As you wait for the tour, the excitement builds. You can see helicopters in the distance, the publicity caravan comes through around an hour before, throwing Bic pens and sweets from cars disguised as chickens or baguettes. Then security comes through. Cars get faster. Helicopters louder. Flares are fired. Smoke drifts. You can hear the cheering roll up the mountain before the road gets mobbed in an orange mass and the first rider breaks through. It’s half war film, half circus performance.

And the best bit is that unlike most days in the tour, it carries on for around 40 minutes as different riders take different times to climb to the summit. The GC contenders are first, the main peloton next and then a steady stream of spent domestiques and burly sprinters just about holding on at the back.

Once done, you can walk back down the mountain using a trail to cut the corners and to walk almost straight down rather than back and forth from corner to corner. You could use it to climb up, but, that would mean missing out on walking the same route as the riders climb.

Watching the Tour at Alpe D’Huez is a fantastic experience. One I would recommend if you’re thinking of going to watch the Tour.

Foxtrail Harvest Moon Half Marathon (Iain)

The FoxTrail winter series is a running series based in and near Dunbar in East Lothian. The six race series ranges in distance from 5K to half marathon distance.

I love East Lothian for the sandy beaches, the beautiful weather (it’s always sunny when I visit) and the nachos. Yes – I said nachos. The Old Course pub in Gullane http://www.oldclubhouse.com/ does the best nachos in Scotland and believe me I’ve eaten a lot of nachos in Scotland…which may explain my deteriorating athletic performances in recent years.

I’d promised my wife I’d try to be vegetarian this year. I’d managed all of January but, as soon as I got to the clubhouse, I forgot all about it and I ordered chicken nachos. it was only once I’d finished eating them that I realized what I’d done! It was very tasty though….

Definitely not vegetarian

Andrew was supposed to be doing the race but he pulled out on Friday night. He said he’d been looking at the course and noticed their was a river crossing. The temperature was due to be 1C. He claimed that “a river crossing at that temperature is dangerous. I’m not doing it!”

I’ll let you judge the river crossing for yourself (see the video below) before you make a judgement on what a big scaredy cat Andrew is. I’ve seen jellyfish with more backbone than Andrew!

The start of the race was near a field of animals that looked like this

Is it a llama or an alpaca

Which led to two runners having an argument on the starting line:

Runner 1 – It was a llama
Runner 2 – It was an alpaca!
Runner 1 – No! It was a llama!!
Runner 2 – Look mate! If there’s one thing I know, it’s alpacas. It’s a fucking alpaca!
Runner 1 – Fuck off! It’s a llama. You’re talking out your arse.
Runner 2 – Stick the llama up your arse!!

It was an alpaca. I know this because I googled it after the race. I now know more about llamas and alpaca’s than I ever wanted to know. Did you know
llamas are vegetarians ? Although I bet they’d make an exception if they saw how good my chicken nachos were.

The race itself was a good mix of trail, farmland and beach. The weather was cold which meant there was no mud and the tracks were all easily runnable. I felt good at the end of the race and I was happy I hadn’t lost much fitness after my long Indian vacation.

On the way home I reflected on the day. One question kept coming to me – I wonder if llama nachos would be tasty?

Running a Mumbai 5K (Iain)

I sometimes go to the cinema by myself because my wife thinks my film choices sound awful. For example she said no to Bumblebee – a film about a Volkswagen beetle that becomes a robot. How could that possibly sound awful???

When I go, I often get asked by the cashier – “do you want another ticket for after this one?”

NO! I might be in the cinema by myself but don’t rub it in by assuming I couldn’t possibly have friends or plans for after.

Worryingly I’ve asked other people who go the cinema by themselves whether this has every happened to them. They said no it has never happened to them. I’m not sure what this says about me….

My love of film goes back many years. At school I was part of a group that ran a weekly cinema for younger kids, I’ve read every book going on film theory and I’ve even made my own film!

The film was for a project called the 48 Film festival. I had to put together a film in 48 hrs based on a premise, name, plot and genre given to me at the start of the first hour. I had to create a film about a cleaner caller Norman which features a ring in a documentary format. It was screened at the Glasgow Film Theatre.

You can see it here:

I think the lead actor has allot of talent! 😉

Considering other teams had multiple people, professional actors/makeup/directors etc then I’m quite proud of what we achieved with little to no talent.

Due to my love of film I was excited to run in Mumbai – the home of Bollywood movies. I thought I’d have to go on a tour to see a film but when I arrived at my hotel there was a film being shot straight outside it.

I asked at the hotel desk what was happening and they explained that the rest of the city has Victorian-Gothic architecture but where I was staying is an old purpose-built district called Ballard Estate. Its predominant architectural style is English Edwardian.

This style makes it perfect for Bollywood films as directors can film in the streets and pretend the film character are in London/Paris/New York. It really does feel like those places.

A Bollywood star or just someone with allot of photographer friends.

The estate was great for running. Big boulevards that were virtually car free. Excellent pavements and it was very easy to navigate. I it was great to finish my Indian running jaunts with an easy run

Ease of Running score – 10/10

Sights: 8/10 (Great architecture and nice tree lined streets)

Running a Kerela 5K (Iain)

My surname is Todd. Which meant I was very excited when I saw this shop.

I thought he would have food specifically aimed at people called Todd but the shopkeeper didn’t have any biscuits or sweets. I don’t think he’s full aware of his target markets needs.

What he actually sells is a Palm wine. An alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree. It is known by various names in different parts of the world. In Kerela its called a Toddy.

The shop keeper got very excited when I told him I was called Todd. He got very, very excited. So excited that I started to wonder whether his shop sold palm wine or whether it actually sold Todd’s and he was excited by how much he could sell me for!

I left his shop very quickly and headed on my way to where I was staying – Kochin.

Kiochin by Indian standards is a relatively quiet laid-back city. It very easy to run in as the roads are quiet and the pavements are good. It is hot (35C) so the best time to run is before breakfast when the Sun is rising.

I enjoyed the run as Kochin has an annual art festival which lets artists paint murals on walls in the town. This meant the run was very similar to a Glasgow style mural run.

Ease of Running score – 10/10

Sights: 7/10 (Lots of murals)

One of the many murals.

Zwift Racing (Andrew)

It’s the end of January and I’ve already raced three times without leaving my house once. Every Saturday morning I’ve entered the Norseman Race Series on Zwift.

Racing on Zwift is a great way to keep your motivation up when training indoors. Not only do you get all the normal race feelings of “I’ve not prepared for this”, “why is everyone faster than me” and “Dear God, why did I enter this?” but it’s warm, so you don’t mind (as much!).

The Norseman Race Series is 12 week series of races over Zwift’s biggest climbs including, Alpe Du Zwift, the digital version of Alpe Du Huez.

I’ve been to Alpe Du Huez. I saw the Tour De France three years ago and walked from the base of the climb to corner 7 so I think I know exactly what it’s like to go very slowly up a very big climb. 🙂

And, though I’m basing this on memories of a hot French day three years ago, the climb in Zwift seems to be a very faithful version of the real climb, even down to the Scotsman at the side of the road walking up and wondering if he’s brought enough water for five hours on the side of a mountain. (This last bit may not be true).

The climb is not normally open for all Zwift riders. You have to be level 12 and above. Which I didn’t know, because I didn’t know that the experience points you collect had any bearing in game. So, if you want to try the climb then you need to enter a race unless you’ve already reached level 12.

If so, having others racing up the mountain is a great way to get to the top yourself. You can’t help but pedal harder when someone overtakes you, and you can’t help but pedal faster when you get near the finish and see someone just ahead of you and you decide that they are “going down!”.

Some tips for racing on Zwift:

  • Warm your legs up at the start and make sure you’re ready when the flag drops. I started one race 10 seconds before the start and, by the time I’d started spinning my legs, everyone else had blasted off.
  • Don’t use power ups. That’s cheating. Even if it’s allowed in the race, it’s still cheating – it’s digital doping! Don’t do it!
  • Do use real life power ups. If you’d have a gel in the real world and you’re racing for an hour or longer, have a gel with you too. It’s not doping if you can actually eat it and get a power up (unless what you’re eating is on the WADA banned list, then don’t do it either!).
  • Make sure to enter the right race. I’ve also tried some shorter races and these are categorised by power so that people race with others of the same ability. Races are graded A – E with A to D being increasing power and E being everyone. Of course, I entered a D. And got left behind…

Entering races on Zwift is fun and does give a sense of achievement missing from a normal session – unless your normal session finishes with a lap round the house, arms aloft and shouting “Championee!” in which case, well done you! 🙂

Cycling in Kerela (Iain)

My wife and I did a four day bike trip through the Kerela countryside. You can find more details here https://www.spiceroads.com/tours/kerala

Kerala is one of the wealthiest parts of India. Its
a serenely beautiful state and a world away from the frenzy of India elsewhere.

That was the marketing blurb. It is quieter than other Indian states but don’t underestimate it. The roads can be busy. The traffic can be scary and the infrastructure can leave a lot to be desired. Don’t expect nice coffee stops!

Day 1 (https://www.strava.com/activities/2080013255)

Our guide picked us up from our hotel. I was worried that we’d be the only people on the tour but, thankfully, another group was doing it too: a mother and two daughters.

They were a lovely family and great company on the tour.

The tour comprised a guide who biked at the front and a driver who drove a van at the back. This was a good setup. It meant we always had access to food and water from the van and if the road did come to a busy crossing he would park the van across it and stop all traffic until we had gone through.

The tour is advertised as being on quiet roads but I estimate there was at least 10% of the ride on busy roads. Indian roads seem scary because traffic undertakes, overtakes and generally ignores all road rules you might be used. I was scared at first but it was OK once I told myself that the traffic was like a river. Everything floats along and as long as I jump in and go with the flow then it will work out fine.

Which worked well. The only hairy moments were when I either hesitated or stopped which you can’t do when floating in a river of cars as it confuses all the other road users.

It seems scary but it sort of works. I’d not recommend it for the feint of heart but I’ve felt more unsafe cycling on some Glasgow streets than in Kerala.

Day 2 (https://www.strava.com/activities/2082213616)

“Today will be hilly….”

Which is not a phrase I want to hear before setting out on a 60KM ride

The guide then added

“…and hot”

Which is the other phrase I don’t like hearing!

It wasn’t actually too hilly. It was like biking in Perthshire. Some good roads, some bad. Some minor hills, some short steep sections but mostly small undulating sections BUT it was hot. Very hot! 37C by lunchtime. So hot that any shop only sold soggy melted chocolate bars.

I was thankful we reached the end after only 50KM. It seems the Indian idea of a KM is less than a UK one as every day the guide would say how far we’d need to cycle and every day we’d finish short of that goal. Thankfully!

Day 3 (https://www.strava.com/activities/2086045301)

Day 3 was a ride to a houseboat. We were all looking forward to this section and thanks to an early start we got to to the boat in time for lunch.

The boat came with a cook and butler. Which sounds fancy but it actually two greasy men who also do the driving, cleaning and all the work on the boat.

It reminded me of the time I took a Megabus to London. One of the ticket option on the bus is to get two seats so you can sleep across them like a double bed. I’d booked this thinking it would be more comfortable and because it was relatively cheap. Only £10 more than a single.

As I relaxed in my double bed/seat a man walked past and said “Ooooh! Look at him. Little lord Fancy and his double seat!”

Well this time he would have been justified saying it as every-time the butler/handyman got me a drink all I could think of was that voice saying ”
Ooooh! Look at him. Little Lord Fancy and his beer” or “ooooh! Look at him. Little Lord Fancy and his dinner”

Day 4 (https://www.strava.com/activities/2086572187)

At the end of the week the guide told me that I reminded him of someone famous.

I was hoping he’d say Ryan Gosling or Brad Pitt but he actually said “Lional Messi!”

I’m 6ft 1″ and Lionel Messi is 5ft 5. I’m 13 stone and Messi is 11 stone. I have a beard so does Messi. This is the only similarity yet he was so convinced by my likeness to the Argentinian superstar he said “We should charge people to meet you. You could sell Autographs and photos!”

Some white people say Africans/Indians/Chinese all look the same. In his case he might think all white people look the same!

I’ll let you make up your own mind about the similarity.

Overall

A great few days biking. I think it’s probaly too hard (due to road conditions and weather) for casual riders but it’s great for slightly adventurous riders.