Not Swim Training

Every Wednesday morning at 7am I join the Glasgow Triathlon Club’s swim session at the University of Strathclyde. I’ve been going along on and off for around six months and, this week, for the first time, our coach didn’t ask me to change my stroke or the position of my head or the way I kick my legs, instead I was asked to concentrate on turning around when you get to the end of a lap.

That’s right – I’m being coached on how to turn round!

The phase “like a tanker” was used.

Tanker should never be a word used with a swimmer unless you’re saying “hey, swimmer, watch out for that tanker!”

According to our coach you need to be pushing in and then pushing off and your head should act like a schythe through the water and not a brick.

All of which made no sense to me.

You swim to the end. You turn around. You come back. How can I get that wrong?!?

For the next hour every time I got the end I became nervous, not knowing whether my hand was right to push in an push off or if my head was as light as reinforced concrete.

On one lap, I even did a tumble turn. Not deliberately, I just sunk through indecision then tried frantically to right myself up while not drowning.

I know that swimming is all about technique but when that technique involves something you’ve never thought about before it’s very hard to change what you’ve always done. Thousands of laps of the pool have always seen me turn one way. Now, I’m being asked to think again. It’s not easy.
But it is good to be challenged even if, next week, I’m sure my next lesson will be how to climb into the pool using the ladder correctly.

Either that or, having mastered coming back, the coach will say “Now, let’s talk again about how you actually swim a lap correctly…”

I used to be a contender (Iain)

This time last year, I cycled the 2000m climb of Mount Tiede in Tenerife. It was 3 hours of climbing and afterwards I felt fit and strong.

Last weekend, I cycled the 300m climb of the Dukes Pass in Aberfoyle. It was 22 minutes of climbing and afterwards I felt so tired I called the Police to report my cycling fitness had gone missing.

The Police explained that they don’t investigate crimes against fitness but if they did they would have arrested me years ago – “ello, ello, what is going on here? Do you call that a front crawl? I’m taking you to the nick for G.B.S. Grevious Bodily Swimming!”

I graphed my performance on the Duke’s pass and it looks like my latest result took a dive off a cliff of consistency.

Afterwards I put this onto Instagram

Thge key point is the “I wonder if my consumption of macaroni pies and bakewell tarts is anyway related to this? “

How can you tell a diet is unhealthy? When the dessert is larger than the main course. Check out the size of my bakewell tart.

On a positive note the dinner was vegetarian so there must be a slight bit of healthiness in it.

Afterwards my wife said to me “how can your time be that bad due to the food. Did you eat it before you went up the hill?”

No – I had it afterwards but I think it points to the conclusion that I’m not a clean living performance machine.

So from now on I have to eat a little bit healthier and try to get back to my previous times…or I do what any middle aged male cyclist does when faced with getting slower – spend lots of money to fix the problem.

I’ve often noted the more expensive the bike the wider the waist of the owner.

PS – I actually had two macaroni pies but I only took a pic of one so people wouldn’t think I’m a fat bstrd!

PPS – I don’t regret it. they were delicious.

Second Best on Strava (Andrew)

There are many different records. Some will never be beaten. You can’t be the first person on the moon when Neil Armstrong got there first. Nor can you climb Everest when Edmund Hillary did it over sixty five years ago. Some records last.

Others are less serious. If you read the Guinness Book of World Record you’ll find a record for the world’s longest fingernails. A world record which literally doesn’t require you to lift a finger – in case you break a nail.

Or how about Etibar Elchyev, who took the title for ‘Most spoons balanced on a human body’ by balancing 50 spoons. He’d have balanced more but Sharon from accounts wanted to make a cup of tea and he ran out.

You’d think he’d have balanced more if he’d used tea spoons??!!??

Or, worse, instead of spoons. How about balancing bees? Chinese beekeeper She Ping covered his body with 330,000 bees.

Honey, I’m home!

I think I’ll stick to cutlery.

But as records become devalued – you cannot compare spoons and bees with standing on the moon – we each have the opportunity to find our own records. If you join Strava you too can be a record breaker as every route or part of routes is carefully broken down into segments to create mini record opportunities. Do you want to be the fastest person to run along your street? Then create a segment and run faster than anyone else running along it. Or, if you can’t run fast, at least walk it while carrying 330,000 bees and claim the record for fastest person to be stung to death on your street.

Despite how easy it is to claim a record, record still matter. Or at least they do to me. We want to know who’s the fastest, who’s the strongest, who’s the most likely to open a cafe and not need cutlery. And I want to know who’s the fastest at running the only hill in Stornoway: The War Memorial.

It’s not the steepest or longest or hardest climb but it does provide a few minutes of running to take you to a vantage point over the whole of Stornoway and out to the mainland.

And for the last few years I’ve been trying to be the fastest to run up it. It’s my Everest, moon and jumbo onion (another official world record).

How do you like dem onions?

And two weeks ago I almost managed it. I almost had my onion.

The weather was poor. The wind was in the wrong direction. I didn’t even think I was running hard enough to make an attempt on the record when, I got home, checked Strava, and, blimey, I was the second fastest in the world.

Which is the one record no one wants – no one wants to be second! What’s the point of having 49 spoons on your body when the man up the road has 50?!?!?

So, in two weeks, I’ll be home again and I’m going to go all out for the record. I’m going to run like 330,000 bees are chasing me. This record will be mine or I’ll cry like a man who just peeled the world’s largest onion!

Paisley Mural Run (Iain)

A couple of weeks ago I attended a training course in Paisley. It wasn’t a very exciting course but one afternoon my tutor received a phone call.

“Hello….what…who is this?” He said into his phone.

I assumed it a local Garage. He’d told me earlier in the day that he’d put his car in for a MOT.

“OK…great…23,637 pounds and 17 pence?”

OMG! What the WTF had he done to his car that he had to pay that amount of money for an MOT?

His face went bright red and he said

“….is this a windup? Really??? Oh my god. I don’t believe it”

It wasn’t the garage. He’d just won £23,647 and 17 pence on a radio show by answering his phone and telling them the prize figure they’d revealed on the breakfast show.

Unsurprisingly, for the rest of the afternoon, he struggled to concentrate on the course!

I had only been to Paisley once before. It was in the evening in winter. It was dark and I couldn’t see anything. Paisley does not have a great reputation so some might argue not seeing it was a good thing.

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Paisley. I walked from the train station to the training centre and I was surprised by how nice the buildings in the town centre are. At one point on my walk, I passed a man. He greeted me warmly with “What the fuck are you looking at?” I wanted to say “the neo-classical and Georgian period architecture” but instead i just walked on very quickly and didn’t look back.

I was also surprised at how many murals Paisley has which got me thinking that the town should advertise a Mural Run just like Glasgow’s

So to help them out I’ve come up with a suggested route. Its 5K-ish and takes in all the interesting bits (that I could find in Pasiley centre) including

  1. A statue dedicate to the 1932 legal case of Donoghue v Stevenson. You can read about it here Its an interesting story involving a cafe and a snail.
  2. A mural to Rangers…sorry St Mirren Legend and BBC radio star Chick Young.
  3. An Alien

The route can be found here

And if you don’t believe me about the Alien. Here is the proof.

How fit is fit? (Andrew)

People always say they’d like to be more fit – but what does that mean?

If you watch the Olympics you’ll see the finest athletes in the world (and shotputters). Fast athletes, strong athletes, one who can run for hours and other who get tired after sprinting 100 metres. They’re athletes. They must be fit. Yet, what is fit? Can they all be fit when they all excel in different areas?

That’s why I think there’s no right way to define fitness. One person’s idea of fitness can be completely different from someone else’s ideas. Instead, I’m sure we can all agree that there are instead many wrong ways to describe fitness and these include:

Mirror fit

This is the type of fitness that means you looks good in a mirror selfie (which isn’t a selfie – it’s a photo of a mirror!). You’re someone who doesn’t like t-shirts with sleeves. And never runs, because, if you did, you would know that the sleeve is the perfect thing to use to wipe the sweat off your face. Or a dribbly nose, when you have a cold.  Compare this with…

Frit fit

You can run, you can cycle, but no matter what, you will never ever take your top off especially when standing in front of a mirror. …

Coffee fit

This is the type of fitness that only requires you to own a hoodie, a takeaway skinny latte and to stand beside the free weights while someone else lifts them. You do your drinking in the gym but compare this with…

Cake fit

You can run, you can cycle, but not matter what you do, you eat an entire chocolate cake when you get home because that 5 minutes on the treadmill meant “you can!”

But most of us are, I suspect, are just normal. We’re not mirror fit, coffee fit or any type of fitness but “bit fit”. As in we like to do a bit and we’re… well.. a bit fit!

John Muir Trail Ultramarathon Part 2 (Iain)

When is a 50k race not a 50k race? When it’s the John Muir Trail Ultramarathon. I pressed stop on my GPS watch as I crossed the finish line. It said I’d only done 49.8K!

It says a lot about how hard the race was (for me) that I had absolutely no desire to walk another 200 metres to get the distance to 50k.

My pre-race aim was to run the first 30km, run/walk the next 10km and for the last 10km just do whatever it took to finish under six hours.

The Start

0K to 6K

A marathon is 44k. This ultramarathon is 50k. My first goal was to do 6k to get to the point there was only a marathon left to do. My reasoning was that I could then tick off that I’d done the ultra bit.

This section was mostly beach trail. it was a little congested with little room for overtaking which was a good thing. It meant I could settle into a nice steady slow pace.

Nic and I running together.

After a couple of kilometres I regretted my choice of clothing. I had a waterproof jacket and a beanie on but it was too warm for them.

Which made me thankful my next goal was only at the 8k point

5K to 8K

Nic’s sister has just moved to Aberlady (the 8k point) and she promised to come to support us. Nic’s parents and sister would be there too as they’d popped over from Glasgow to offer support and see the new house.

Support Team

I dropped off my jacket and beanie with them. I immediately felt cooler. I won’t need those items again…

8K to 15K.

A nice section through the fields near Gullane. It was relatively flat and easy running but as we exited Gullane the sky darkened and the rain began.

A lot of people have trouble pronouncing Gullane correctly but its very easy. Just say “that town with the weird name next to Aberlady” Everyone will know where you mean.

15K to 25K

The rain had made me COLD, WET AND MISERABLE. I regretted not having my jacket and beanie.

The rain wasn’t heavy but it was pretty relentless. The route passed nice sections of forest around Archerfield Estate. The estate had a great food stop. I had a chocolate brownie. Delicious!

As we approached North Berwick there was a few tiny hills. Hills that normally I wouldn’t even call a hill. Most people would call them slight bump in the road. I looked at Nic. She looked at me. We both said “Walk the hills!”

It was a relief to get to the half way point. Mainly becasue it had a roof so we could get out of the rain for a few minutes. Nic’s parents were here so I thankfully got my jacket and beanie back.

I had another chocolate brownie and to be healthy I also had a Twix. Its vegetarian so it must be healthy! Correct???

Getting my twix fix

They say you should race on what you train on. I eat Twix’s the rest of the week so I might as well eat them on race day too!

25K to 30K

I felt great after the stop. This lasted about 100m when I got told by a marshal to run on the beach. It was a heavy thick sand which made my legs feel very heavy but at least I had a jacket and beanie.

And then the rain stopped!

After the beach it’s uphill past North Berwick Law. Again it wasn’t that hilly and normally I wouldn’t think twice about running it but we still turned to each other and said “walk the hills!”

30K to 35K

We headed into a nice forest section which looped round a small loch. At this point Nic suddenly got a second wind and started to run much faster than me.

I did what any proud husband would do when seeing how well his wife is doing. I screamed “Woaaah! Slow down. I can’t keep up!”

She slowed down a little but stayed about 100m ahead of me. Taunting me with her pace and ease of running.

At one point I spotted some gravestones in the trees. I thought “That’s a strange place to be buried” but I then noticed the names of the graves – Mr Tiddles III, Dwayne Mousecatcher II and Rex. I hope it was a pet cemetry and not real people.

35K to 40K

This section was slightly downhill through fields. It seemed to be a new path as the track and fencing seemed new. We bumped into our suppoirt team again so I was able to remove my jacket again and get another Twix. You can never have too many Twix’s.

40K to 44K

There’s one hill in this section. Again its minor but definitely a “walk the hills” moment.

My legs were sore and tired. I was happy I’d ran 40k but I now switched to walking a couple of 100m every time I completed a kilometer.

Up till this point I’d high fived Nic every time we had reached a goal. I told her the next goal was 44k: the marathon end point.

At 43K she asked for a high five. I refused! I don’t give out high five at any time. Does Paul Hollywood from The Great British Bakeoff gave out one of his Hollywood handshakes before the bake is complete? NO! He gives them once the job is done. I made her wait until 44k and then we had a congratulatory high five!

44K to 49.8K

The sun was out and it was quite warm on the course. This was a really nice section along a river and then along the shore near a beach.

Nic said her knee was sore so she wasn’t going to run anymore. I was quite happy about that so we enjoyed a nice paced walk to the finish.

Occasionally a runner would pass and would say “Sorry! I’m just a relay runner!” to explain why they looked so fresh when we didn’t.


I finished in just under six hours so I was happy that a) I’d achieved my goal time and b) I’d actually run further than I thought I would.

It’s a great race. The route is varied. I never once felt bored running. The marshals are all friendly and supportive. The foodstops were great and came along at just the right time.

I learnt allot for my attempt at the Devil O’ The Highlands later in the year. Mainly remember to bring a Twix.

We’re squinting becuase its too sunny!

John Muir Way Ultramarathon part 1(Iain)

Anyone walking past my hotel room before the start of the John Muir Ultra-marathon would have heard the following conversion between my wife and I.

“I’ve never done this before. Will it be sore?” I asked.

“I’m not sure but I think lube will help,” she replied.

A couple of seconds later I scream.  “Aaaargh!!! That’s stings!”

“It’s not that bad. Take it like a man!”

“Ooh, matron” as Kenneth Williams used to say in the Carry On Film.

I’d applied a generous portion of chamois cream to my thighs hoping it would protect my bits from chafing. I had been so worried about chafing that that I’d actually packed the cream, into my bag of stuff for the race, a few week previously to ensure I’d not forget it.

I’m glad I did because about 15KM into the race I overheard a male runner ask one of the volunteers.

“Do you have any vaseline?”

The volunteer replied “no” so he asked “Do you think anyone ahead will have some? Please God! My bits are on fire! It feels like my baws are trapped between two bits of sandpaper!”

He might not have said the last bit but I could hear the fear of chafing in his voice.

He was not the only one who had forgotten something. At the end of the race, I heard a woman say to her friend.

“NOOO! I can’t believe it. I went to stop my watch and it didn’t stop, it started! I must have not pressed start at the beginning of the race.”

Which is annoying because everyone knows Strava kudos does not count if you manually create your activity. You need to have GPS tracking or it did not happen!

Thankfully I remembered my lube and to press start.

The Funk (Andrew)

James Brown had the funk. In fact he had over 37 songs with the words funk or funky in them. Which is a lot of songs to talk about what it feels like to get stuck in a rut while training and not feel like going out.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been struggling a bit with running. I’ve managed to keep to my long run at the weekend but my weekday runs have lagged. I don’t have my normal rush to get changed when I get home and to head out.

I’m in the funk.

I think it stems from trying to do too much in February. I had two half marathons in four weeks, the Glentress Trail and Balloch to Clydebank. In between I managed two weeks of training with no breaks for a rest, including three days of running more than an hour each night. It was too much. And I knew that at the time but, I was away for work, and one of my colleagues kept asking if I wanted to go out and I couldn’t say: “I feel a bit tired tonight”.

I’m a guy. We don’t get tired. 🙂

But, it was a bit much and has led to a couple of weeks where my motivation has put it’s feet up.

Not me, I could run for miles!

That’s the guy talking again. 🙂

So, having identified that I’m in a funk, I’ve diagnosed the only known cure. Just like James Brown, we just need to “Get Up!” when we feel the funk.

Sitting down doesn’t help anyone. Sometimes you just need to get out and try and change things. A new route. A new distance. A new time to go out. Shake things up a bit and see what happens.

In my case, I’ve tried a few flatter routes to counteract the hills I was trying to run in preparation for Glentress. Some simple routes that make me think how easy it is to go out.

Cheat runs as I discussed here.

But, most importantly, just “Get up!”