Reykjavik 10k (Iain)

The genius of how Icelandic businesses make money from tourists is that they charge a small fortune to buy a drink and then, once you’ve drunk it, they charge a small fortune to use the loo. They get to charge you twice for one drink!

In one place it was £10 for a pint and £2.50 to visit the toilet.

Iceland is the first country were I quite literally pissed money up the wall !

If your not familiar with that British phrase then this might help: Wikipedia

I was in Iceland for my 40th Birthday. I was born the same day Elvis died which makes me the resurrection of Elvis.  Elvis was a twin, so am I. Elvis loved food, so do I. Elvis could play the guitar. I can play the guitar…badly. I bought a guitar 22 years ago. I still have it. It even has the same strings on it as the day I bought it and I can honesty say it sounds the same now as then – bloody awful!

My birthday coincided with the Reykjavik Marathon weekend. There were three races – a marathon, half marathon and 10k. After a week of eating birthday cake and drinking beer all I could manage was the 10k.

I registered the day before the race at the marathon expo. The process was quick and easy. I was in and out in 10 minutes. The expo looked good but the exchange rate meant even the most heavily discounted sale item was more expensive than the UK equivalent.

I was given a race t-shirt. I don’t know if Icelandic people have small heads but both myself and my partner had trouble getting our heads into our t-shirts. The size of the t-shirt was fine but it had a very small head opening…or maybe we have abnormally large heads!

The race was great as the weather was amazingly hot and sunny. The course is reasonably scenic. There’s a nice long section along the water front but the majority was through streets of houses/offices.

The support along the course was amazing. Lots of people cheering, people playing musical instruments and even a boyband performing on the back of a lorry.

They had a couple of water/Gatorade stations but it was in cups. I prefer a bottle so I can carry it. I have to stop to use a cup as otherwise the liquid falls out before I can drink it.

I’d recommend the event if you plan to combine it with a holiday but it’s not worth going for just the race unless you win the lottery as Iceland is so, so expensive. If you’re trying to calculate how much it’ll cost then think about how much you’d like to spend then double it. That’ll be closer to the correct figure!

Ultra Iron Mega Badass Brutal Hardcore Three Legged Race (Andrew)

What’s in a name?

I’m reading ‘Iron War’, the story of the 1989 Ironman championship and the battle between two of the greatest ever triathletes – but also a history of the spot of triathlon itself as it places the race in context.

The book tells the story of how Ironman got it’s name. It referred to the iron will needed by competitors to compete the challenging conditions of Kona in Hawaii. It wasn’t the fastest who would win, or the most physically capable, the winner instead was the one with the iron willpower to compete through draining heat and strength sapping head winds.

The name fitted the course – if not female competitors, is it not time for IronWoman? And, as such, it stuck.

But it struck me that many races have followed this template. They’re named after their defining characteristic. Usually the place the race takes place. The London Marathon. The Great Scottish Run. Or they describe the worst aspects of the course. Slateman refers to the slate covered hills of Snowdonia. Brutalfest has a series of races that are, well, brutal.

It’s human nature, it seems, to concentrate on the worst that could happen. All race organisers are pessimists.

I realised this while in Iceland this week on holiday. I was checking out all the tourist spots and I was reading the guides for each place and, in every one, they seemed to tell the same story. The name of the place was always the name of a tragedy that had happened there.

In the town of Borgarne, the bay was named after a man who was stoned to death on it’s shore. The waterfalls of Hraunfosser were named after the children who fell to their death. The entire country is basically a a cross between a OS map and a graveyard.

But what about the hundreds of people who played at the beach and enjoyed it’s soft sands and sheltering dunes? What about the children who paddled in the pool at the base of the waterfall and their children and their children and their children and their children and centuries of children all of whom called the falls “the really safe and not at all dangerous falls”, yet when one child said “hey, look at me, I can balance on one leg while standing right on the edge!” all the good times are forgotten.

As I said, it’s human nature. We’re pessimists. We remember the bad, not the good. The suffering, not the finish line.

And it’s time for a change. Who wouldn’t want to enter “Flatfest” or, better yet, “The Downhill Marathon”. Why should suffering be celebrated? Bring on “The Easy Peasy Triathlon”!

Whats your best time? (Iain)

A few years ago, I did an acting course where I performed a scene in front of an audience at the Citizen’s theatre in Glasgow.

The  scene was a conversation between a serial killer and the landlady of a bed and breakfast. I was the serial killer. The acting tutor said I was perfect for the part. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing!

The other actor was an older woman. The first thing she asked me at rehearsal was: “What accent are you going to use?”

“My own,” I replied, “but louder so the people at the back can hear me.”

On the night of the show it seemed to go well. I was myself but louder and she performed the scene with a perfect Yorkshire accent

Afterwards, the tutor said to her:  “You were amazing! You transformed yourself and inhibited that character. You could easily work in theatre.”

He then turned to me.

“As long as you enjoyed yourself.”

I did enjoy myself. I was a terrible actor but I’d set myself the challenge of acting in front of an audience and I’d achieved it.

So, recently, when asked by a fellow triathlete what my best time for a race was, I replied: “I don’t know my best time but I can tell you the race I enjoyed the most”

Because enjoyment should always come before performance.

The sound of silence (Andrew)

I listen to voices in my head. Not in a mental way. Not in a ‘They’re all out to get you!’ type way. I mean Podcast voices. Intelligent voices that talk about science and design, movies and sport. Voices from Radiolab and 99% Invisible. Interviews from Desert Island Discs. Voices that make you smarter.

I used to listen to the music in my head until, a few years ago, I ran the Lossiemouth half marathon while listening to Radiohead’s King of Limbs.

Music should make you run faster. You feet should follow the beat as you pound the streets in time with the music.

Unless you’re listening to Radiohead.

Unless you’re listening to Radiohead at their most experimental, which in this context means: “without any hint of a tune, melody, beat or any sense of where one song finishes and the next begins”.

I swear the first mile of the half marathon felt like I was running in ultra-slow motion. 10 years passed while I passed just one house. Another decade passed and Thom Yorke’s only just sung his first decipherable word. A century passes and, in the distance, I can just see the one mile marker.

I stopped. I had to. I wouldn’t normally take out my phone during a race but I had to change the music. It was treacle. It was the aural equivalent of queuing at the Post Office.  (Which I always thought was the worst thing to do in all the world until I realised there was one thing worse than that – working at the Post Office).

I switched to Kanye West’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Fantasy’.

“HE’S A MUTHA*********ING MONNNNNNSSSSSTTTTTEEEEERR!”

It was an instant boost. I was flying. It was the aural equivalent of whatever Sir Mo Farah’s on – which, for the avoidance of doubt and for any of Sir Mo’s lawyers reading this, is only Quorn sausages and hard work.

Music matters.

But I have a problem with listening to music. I count the songs as I run. If I’m listening to an album I know that I will need to run for 50 minutes to hear it all and I don’t like thinking “Oh, that’s the first song finished, that’s three minutes done, just another 47 to go. Groan…”

I had to stop listening to music. Instead I switched to Podcasts, to speech, and not knowing how long I was listening to it.

But, this last month, I’ve been trying a new idea. I’ve been listening to… nothing.

I’ve left my phone at home.

Because I have this idea, that I’ve been concentrating on the wrong thing. I’ve been concentrating on the latest scientific news, the six songs you’d choose on your desert island, but I’ve not been concentrating on running. I don’t think about form or technique or anything other than what I’ve been listening to.

So, instead, I’ve tried to run without headphones. An experiment, now three weeks old, and one I’ll report back on in a few weeks – and you’ll be the first to hear how I’ve got on.

(But not while you’re running, obviously).

Visit the Outer Hebrides (Iain)

 

There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to confess something to his partner. He’ll have struggled with the confession for weeks in advance. He’ll spend ages trying to get the correct phrasing. In the weeks leading up to it he’ll use bribery and flattery to get his partner in the right frame of mind to hear him.

But… eventually… he’ll just have to confess – “I’m going on a biking holiday!”

He’ll then try to explain to his partner how his week long “training” trip to Mallorca or the Canary islands wont be fun. He’ll claim – nobody will be drinking!  He’ll say – we’re not going anywhere near Shagaluf…sorry Magaluf.  He’ll state – it’s all about the hills.

A few years ago, I went on a week long “training” holiday to the famous Lanzarote resort of Club la Santa or as  I prefer to call it, Prison Camp la Santa. The accommodation was so spartan the film 300 was filmed here. (I might have made that last bit up).

The accommodation, at that time, was terrible (and subsequently has been upgraded) The room was tiny with old broken furniture. I had to pay a small fortune for food and drink and there wasn’t much to do once I’d been for a spin on the bike as Santa is miles away from any big town. What made it worse was discovering someone else was staying in a 5* all inclusive hotel near by which was half the price!

This year, instead of an overpriced training camp on a windy, desolate, overbearingly hot island I went to a  windy, desolate, cold island – the Outer Hebrides.

During the week, I was able to bike a different route every day on virtually car free roads.

Tour De Harris – https://www.strava.com/activities/1099040596

One of the greatest cycling routes in the UK. The road hugs the coast around the Isle of harris. On the west side I passed golden sand beaches and amazing views across to small islands. On the east coast I biked through a rocky landscape that wouldn’t be out of place on the moon!

Tour De Point – https://www.strava.com/activities/1102079723

A flat out and back route to a lighthouse. From here you can watch whales pass by. On the way back a small detour will take you to a 15% hill climb! It’s short but hard. I needed a quick rest at the top!

Tour De West Side – https://www.strava.com/activities/1103897867

A great way to see some of the island’s best attractions. The route takes in the ancient stone circles at Callanish as well as visiting the blackhouses, the Broch and some of the best beaches on the west side.

Castle Grounds Mountain Bike trail – https://www.strava.com/activities/1100545590

If you tire of road biking then a recently completed mountain bike trial has been constructed in the Castle Grounds. An area of forestry next to Stornoway.  I hadn’t tried it before and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. There’s no major hills but lots of undulating tracks. It was a great way to pass a few hours.

As well as cycling there’s great places to swim, to run run, and to go on walks.

It’s one of the most beautiful places in the UK and everyone should visit at least once. If your partner asks about the pubs then you can says that the Outer Hebrides has the highest rate of abstinence in the UK! Just don’t mention that the one’s who don’t abstain love to drink…a lot! 🙂

The Hebridean Triathlon (Iain)

My mum was born in the Outer Hebrides. She is a native Gaelic speaker who didn’t learn English until she went to primary school. If she spoke Gaelic in school, a teacher would punish her with a cane! She very quickly became a fluent English speaker.

I was born in Glasgow but grew up in the Outer Hebrides. I’m a native English speaker who didn’t learn Gaelic until I went to primary school. Nobody hit me with a cane. I failed Gaelic. I blame the lack of “motivation”. I know only two Gaelic phrases: “How are you?” and “I am cold and wet.”

Which, in Scotland, is all you really need.

I was reminded of this whilst battling wind and rain at last weekend’s Hebridean Triathlon.

This was the second time the event has been held. Last year I came in the top 10…because there was only 10 competitors!

In the last year the organisers have done a great job encouraging participation from both men and woman. 25 people took to the start line with an almost equal split of men and woman.

Swim

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Last year the swim was in a loch by the sea but this time it was in the sea by the loch. Which is a bit of a tongue twister but it was a great move from the organizers as the sea was much more enjoyable to swim in.

Last year I wrote: “I took a detour on the first lap…”

I was determined to sight better this year. I did! This time I took a detour on the second lap.

Bike

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The bike course is an out and back route to the Callanish Stones. It was an undulating route into a very strong headwind. If that wasn’t hard enough. The heavens opened and the rain/hail started.

The wind was so strong. it took nearly an hour to do the out route but only 35 minutes to get back.

By the end of the cycle I was battered by the elements. All I could think was “Tha mi fuar agus fhluich” I’ll let you work out which of my Gaelic phrase that translates to.

Run

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I’d finished the bike just ahead of a fellow athlete from the Glasgow Triathlon Club. I was determined to stay ahead so set off at a steady pace.

The weather wasn’t any better but this was helpful because instead of letting my mind think about how much I hate running. Instead, I thought about how much I hate the rain!

I felt quite good on the run and managed to overtake a few people who were ahead of me.

Overall.

I was happy with my performance. My time was down on last year but due to the weather so was everyone else’s.

I’ll leave the last word to one of the competitors who wrote:

“Thank you all for putting on one of the best triathlons I have participated in. The course is hard to beat and the relaxed atmosphere was just perfect. Well done to everyone involved.”

The Hebridean Way (Iain)

Andrew and I grew up on the Isle of Lewis. It’s the furthest north and west you can go in the UK before you get to Iceland. Although we moved away from Lewis after university, our parents still live here.

I had some vacation days to use so I decided to pop up and see them….and get some biking and running in.

The Isle of Lewis is famed for three things – Harris tweed, sheep and rocks. The stone is called Lewisian gneiss and it’s a group of rocks three billion years old. The only rock group older is The Rolling Stones.

If you want to see more rock than you’d find in a Fast & Furious film, visit the Isle of Harris. Harris is joined to Lewis and it’s only a forty minute drive from where my parents stay in Stornoway.

I’ve only ever driven around Harris – except for one disastrous half marathon attempt

The Harris half marathon is a point to point race starting in southern Harris and ending at the capital Tarbert, in the north. I got so drunk the night before the race I struggled to get to the start on time. Thankfully my dad drove me.

Before the race began I said to my dad to wait ten minutes and then drive along the course and check up on me. Due to my hangover I wasn’t confident about finishing

The race started. Everyone else started running. I started vomiting. This was going to be a long day…

I waited for the heaving to stop and then started running. I lasted five minutes and then threw up again.

I scanned the road hoping to spot my dad driving towards me. There was no sign of him, I wanted to stop. I checked my distance. 13 miles to go.

I jogged on. My head hurt and I was rough as… and I scanned the road for my dad. No sign of him. 12 miles to go

I restarted my death march. The world was spinning before my eyes and I wanted to go to bed. Still no sign of him. 11 miles to go.

No sign of him. 10 miles to go!

Where is he? 9 miles to go!

Oh God. I think I’m going to die. 8 miles to go!

What do you mean the next four miles are up hill???? 7 miles to go

This is harder than trying to climb Mount Everest without oxygen…with no shoes …in underpants! 6 miles to go.

I see him! YES! Screw this race I’m out of here….oh. That’s not him. Just a car that looks similar. Oh Lord. Make this end. 5 miles to go.

If I drink all the water at this water stop will it dilute the alcohol and make me feel better? 4 miles to go.

Downhill. Weeeeeeeee. I’m flying now. 3 miles to go.

I think I’m last. 2 miles to go!

I’ll kill my dad when I see him! 1 mile to go,

There’s a big crowd at the finish line. They spot me. They start cheering and whooping. The crowd are going wild! One man shouts “you can do it!” Wow I didnt expect such a big reaction. I raise my hand to thank them. They must be really impressed by my effort. Wait a sec. I cross the finish line but the man’s still shouting. “You can do it”. He doesn’t need to say that. I’ve done it.

I turn around, I’m not the only finisher. They weren’t cheering me. The were cheering a man behind me. An  80 year old man!

After the race I ask my Dad why he didn’t come, He said he wanted to teach me a lesson. He certainly did – I will never rely on him for a lift again!

Extreme to the max to the edge to the limit!!! (Andrew)

I want to walk on the moon.

I want to follow in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin because… moon men are fannys!

I’ll show them how a real man walks on the moon!

Take Neil Armstrong. He could have said anything when he opened that door and stepped out onto the lunar surface. He wanted to talk about what a giant leap it was for mankind. Me, I’d have said “Does anyone smell cheese? Because this moon is made from chedder!”

That joke, copyright me, aged 7.

Instead, he went for the safe route, the boring route, the route of the second man on the moon, Buzz Aldrin. Why was he called Buzz? Because he was NASA’s B man….

That joke, copyright me, aged 39.

No-one remember Buzz because he was the man holding the camera, not the one posing in front of it. Buzz was an intergalactic skivvy whose sole job was to avoid getting his thumb on the lens and to make sure he’d didn’t cut off Neil Armstrong’s head when he planted the flag.

Of course, today, Buzz would have been in the shot because he’d have taken a ‘moon selfie’ and he and Neil would have trout pouted on the surface before taking an artfully lit photo of their space rations and captioned it “Trying to open your breakfast while wearing space gloves 🙂 #firstmoonproblems #yolo #blessed.”

But, if Buzz had been smart, he could have been more famous than Neil Armstrong. I don’t know about you, but when I’m driving, I always need to go to the toilet. It’s something about the rhythm, the bumpiness of the journey, but within five miles I’m desperate for the loo. Imagine doing that for three days. Cooped up in lunar module. The door opens. What do you do? I know, what I’d do. I’d have a pish in the nearest crater. That’s if I could wait that long. Neil would be half through his speech when –

“It’s a small step for man, it’s a giant – PENIS. MY GOD, MAN, PUT IT AWAY.”

I tell you what I don’t get. Why the push to be the biggest, best, furthest, fastest? It’s always extremes. But there are two sides. Fast must have slow. Best has worst. When skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped from space, I wanted to show the world instead the shortest skydive in history: me, lying down on the floor and not moving for twenty seconds.

While Usain Bolt breaks record books I’d take part in the 100 metres by having a picnic on the Olympic track. I’d be munching on a plum tomato and not making any move to move even an inch. The stadium could go home. I’d go home. I’d get a good nights kip and, in the morning, or maybe the afternoon, or maybe even the next day, or year, I’d come back and I’d cross the line. F*ck it, I might never cross it because I’m the world’s slowest man.

And I was thinking about this because I read this letter in the latest issue of 220 Triathlon.

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And part of me thought: “When did Triathlon progression become a race to Iron distance?” Progression is not just about going longer and longer until you’re running, swimming and cycling all day? You progress by getting faster, or getting better at a part of the race, or by just enjoying it more no matter what speed you go.

So, part of me rebels and says “I don’t want to go to the moon”.

At least not yet.

At least not first.

It wouldn’t be special. I’d wait until everyone else has gone. My mum, my dad, the folk I went to school with, even Steven Hawking in his wheelchair, and when, and only when, everyone else in the world has been will I go. Me, Andrew Todd, the last man on the moon!

What I think about when I think about running (Iain)

The author Haruki Murakami has written many books. He’s been acclaimed in his homeland of Japan and abroad. He’s been acclaimed by everyone except….Peter Gaffney.

Peter bought a copy of Murakami’s book about running. Its called “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.” Peter read it and wrote:

 

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I’ve read Murakami’s book. It was an excellent read but Peter sums up in two words what Murakami takes a whole novel to do: running is “obsessive stupidity!”

Running is obsessive. Runners keep logs of times, routes and training plans. Some runners have more spreadsheets than accountants. I know a man who logs all the food he eats before a run so he can correlate it with his performance. Do you know what he’s called – “a boring git!”

Running is stupid. There’s two types of runners. The ones currently injured and the ones recovering from an injury. Ask any runner if they’re fit and you’ll get more medical jargon than an episode of Casualty. The last time a runner was fully fit was the day before they took up running.

What do I think about when I think about running? When can I stop!

Use As Directed (Andrew)

“Stick it where the sun don’t shine!” is a threat, not an instruction. Top tip: do not confuse the two – you will regret it!

Let me explain.

Around 10 years ago I was taking part in the Caledonian Challenge, a 54 mile walking challenge from Fort William to Loch Lomond and following the West Highland Way.

I was walking with three team mates. It was our first challenge of this type and we had no idea what we were doing.

We’d barely trained. We’d walked 20 miles along the Fife coastal path and, while using walking poles to help us get used to using them in action, we were spotted by a local gang in Kirkcaldy. “Oi, yous!” They shouted, “‘ave yous lost yer skis?”.

Which was very funny – if you’re not the prat trying to keep his dignity while walking with walking poles outside a chip shop in Kirkcaldy.

After that, we let training slide and we thought we could just turn up at Fort William and wing it.

Big mistake.

But not our biggest.

Our biggest was not reading the instructions. If we had, we’d have spotted that long distance walkers wear tight fitting cycle shorts and not, I repeat NOT, ordinary boxers.

Why?

Let’s just say one word – friction – and leave it at that.

Or, if that doesn’t help, let’s just say one phrase – don’t let Tarzan swing free – and leave it at that.

Okay, okay, let’s just spell it out. If you don’t have tight fitting shorts then there’s a whole lotta rubbing going on down there in a 54 mile walk. The kind of rubbing that a boy scout could use to start a fire.

By mile 40 we’d realised our mistake. We were the bow-legged walkers. If you’d seen us you’d have shouted “Oi, lads, ‘ave yous lost yer horses?”. We looked like cowboys, felt like pillocks – until one of us had an idea.

“We’ve got sun-cream!” He said.

“So?”

“It’s a lubricant, isn’t it?”

“Is it?”

“Well, it’s wet.”

And, with that rigorous debate over, three of the four us were hiding behind a bush, trousers round our ankles and applying sun-cream to areas that frankly the sun had only ever shined out of.

Five minutes later, no longer bow-legged: “This is BRILLIANT!”

And it was.

For five more minutes. Then the first cry went up.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH”

The second cry went up.

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK”

The third cry went up.

“JAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYZZZZZZZZZZZUUUUUUSSSSCCCCCCHHHHHRRRIIISSSSTTTTT!”

Then we all fell down.

It was agony. It turns out sun cream is not a lubricant at all. It was chilli oil. There was heat and pain in places that only a Mexican who’s followed on a red hot burrito will ever experience.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH”

But, it wasn’t the worst thing to happen that day.

It turns out one of us had an even smarter (dumber) idea. He’d said he didn’t need to use the cream however it was only after the race that we found out why.

He’d wrapped zinc oxide tape around his toes to prevent chafing and blistering. Then, in a move that only the Darwin Awards can truly appreciate, he’d decided he should use the leftover tape on other parts of his body that might be subject to chafing.

He, and, well, let me be delicate about it, had wrapped, um, Tarzan’s hanging baskets in tape.

And it worked. He didn’t feel a thing for the entire race.

He was very smug… until he got home.

Then he realised that the only way to take the tape off was to rip it off.

And when it was ripped off, it took everything with it. Every little and not so little hair.

He spent three hours in the bath hoping the tape would soak and fall off naturally.

It didn’t.

He had no choice. He had to let it rip.

He had smooth toes.

And Tarzan was bald.

“AAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!”

He never used zinc oxide again.