My Granny’s favorite mountain was Ben Lawers. She grew up in nearby Aberfeldy. During her youth she climbed Ben Lawers many times. Before she passed away she asked to be cremated so that her ashes could be spread upon the top.
So if you ever climb it, say hello to my granny. Knowing her, she will be haunting the trig point shouting at anyone nearby to stop chatting so she can concentrate on her crossword.
A couple of week ago I had to attend a first aid course. The course covered all the major topics – sprains, injuries etc. but it also covered some unusual topics.
I have to admit I have never thought what would be in my top 10 communicable diseases BUT that’s because it’s so hard to pick a favourite. I love ebola but COVID is so hot right now…decisions…decisions…what to put as number 1?!
The instructor of the course tried to keep it light hearted but in doing so he did come out with some cracking phrases like his introduction to the course: “Blood, guts and gore are your bread and butter but first let’s get these gory pictures on the go!”
He then went on to show some gory pictures. One of which he was very proud of. It was a puncture wound. It looked sore. I know he was proud of it because when he put it up on screen he said “I’m very proud of this one”. Although, now I think about it, maybe it was the wound he was proud of not the picture.
He then showed a few more pictures. which he introduced by gleefully shouting, “gory picture time! gory picture time!”
To pass the course I have to demonstrate on video how to give CPR. I was thinking I’d use a pillow to demonstate on. He said “don’t use a pillow find something interesting instead like a teddy bear”
I now have a vision of him sitting at home watching a video of me giving CPR whilst he gleefully shouts, “teddy bear time! Teddy Bear time!”
If you want to know the first signs of hypothermia then here’s a video of me trying to eat a Twix after 90 minutes of cycling in zero degrees in just a short sleeved t-shirt. I’m wearing three layers of clothes to warm up and I still look like this:
Now, try to imagine swimming when you can’t control your body. Grim – and dangerous.
I normally stop swimming in October, once the water temperature falls below 12 degrees, and will only try a few quick dips until April. While I like the ‘shock’ of cold water I don’t like the ‘reward to travel’ ratio as it shrinks considerably in winter months. Why do I want to travel for an hour or more just to spend five minutes in the water? Instead I could walk to my bath and sit on some icecubes for five minutes and still have time to read a good book by an open fire?!?!
For anyone considering longer swims in winter than I thought it would be helpful to share a few links on how to prepare, what to expect and what to do if you get too cold – or, worse, get hypothermia and can’t eat a Twix. The links are below but if I had any tips to share these would be them:
Never swim alone
Swim for less time than you think you would comfortably manage
Never swim alone
Keep to the edge, the water will be much colder the deeper you get
Never swim alone
If in doubt, don’t get in or, if you are in, get out.
The forest is slighly scary. It has a stone which a local legend says is marked by the grooves from a witches apron string. Do witches have aprons? I though aprons are just used by great British Bake Off contestants?!
Other than a dubious connections to baking witches there are four lochs, burns, meadowland and rich wildlife – including red squirrels. Lots of variety packed into a small area.
The route I choose was an eight mile loop from the car park. The routes is signposted but I’d advise taking a map or a GPS device with you. I took a couple of wrong turns and its easy to lose track of how to get back to the car park.
The paths were a mix of firetrack road and muddy trails. There isn’t much elevation on the route so its good for a flatter trail run.
It was pretty wet when I visited But I look forward to going back in better weather so I can see more of it. I might even spot a witch.
I was told before I swam outdoors for the first time that the best thing I should do is to splash my forehead with water.
This seemed like terrible advice. The last thing I want to do before swimming in open water is to splash my forehead with water because… well, the water is BLOODY FREEZING!!! Firemen don’t set themselves on fire before tackling a burning blaze so why do swimmers have to freeze before they jump in??!
But cold water it was.
Or at least it was in May in Scotland: the water had only started to reach 10 degrees aka Highland Tropical.
Below 10 degrees, if you’re going for a dip, you need balls of steel – and toes of steel and feet of steel and basically an entire body made from a metal that doesn’t know how to gasp. Above 10 degrees and you can start to consider a paddle, just as long as you don’t dip your head below the surface as otherwise it’s instant brain freeze, faster than sticking an ice lolly up your nostrils.
But the thing is, you adjust to it. The more you do it, the easier it gets. It’s an ice lolly this week, next week it’s a three bar heater. The more you swim outside. the more your body adjusts to the temperature until eventually your skinny dipping in Ben & Jerry’s and wondering why it’s so warm.
First, you have to go in. And the first dip is always the hardest. The water runs down your back. You’re slapped in the face with an ice cube and you lose all feeling in your feet and toes.
If you’re really unlucky, the shock of the cold, causes you body to contract and it feels like Mr Freeze is hugging you, and not in a good way. In a “I’m going to crush your chest coz I’m a strong supervillain type” way.
However, next time, it get’s easier. And the time after that you’re Mr Freeze’s equal. You’re Kettleman! The only man who can make Mr Freeze disappear!
But first you’ve got to get in. So, I splashed my forehead with water and got in the loch. It was freezing. And it was fantastic. And one day I might get my feeling in my feet back.
Mark the day. Sunday 27 September 2020. That was the day I started to ride away from the house for a cycle round Renfrewshire and, before I got a mile away I turned round, rode home and picked up full length gloves and an extra jacket. Brrrrrr. It’s getting cold!
Now the cold should be good training for Celtman but I can see from my training this month that I’m starting to do more indoor rides rather than heading outside. I think October will see that accelerate along with the last of any serious swims (anything longer than 10 mins!).
The water temperature is falling too. I didn’t think of starting a swim in skins this month but I did manage to finish a few swims with a five minute dip without a wetsuit at the end of a swim. I then spent the rest of the night trying to warm up. Baby, it’s cold outside… and in the water.
The Laig Ghru route (not race) start in Linn of Dee and ends in Coylumbridge. As you can see on the map, the route doesn’t pass many shops. A shop is the most important thing I look for when doing a long run. I never know when I might want a Twix.
I packed a Twix in my backpack…and a second Twix just in case one wasn’t enough.
The first part of the run was relatively straightforward but there was one river crossing. The water was quite deep so I took my shoes off and waded it through it bare foot. I’d rather put wet feet into dry shoes than get my shoes and feet wet.
There was a bothy about half way along the route. I thought they were all closed due to CoVid but the door was wide open. I was wet and cold so I quite happily took the opportunity to dry off for 10 minutes and eat my Twix.
It was wet when I left but I was hopeful the sun would come out once we got to the Aviemore side.
I wish I could say the views in the valley are amazing but it was so wet and grey their wasn’t much to see.
Towards the top of the route I came to the boulder fields. This is a 1KM section of fallen rocks. It’s very easy to navigate. Just keep going straight along the valley. None of the boulders are big but you hurt yourself if you trip.
The sun came out as I reached the Aviemore side. It’s much easier to run this part. The paths is better and it’s all downhill.
I was told this part was the most beautiful section and it is… for a little while. I can only run through a beautiful forest for so long before I start thinking – will this forest ever end? I’d like to see something else other than trees!
The last section is along the road into Aviemore to the Police Station. Which is not the most scenic finish in the world. Unless you like 1980’s style office block.
That wasn’t the true finish. I then had to walk half a mile to get the car. When I reached it my watch said Id done 49.9KM. I was so tired I didn’t bother doing the extra .1 to get to 50K.
Due to lockdown restrictions I haven’t been to to a pub since March. Is there a better time to return to a bar than the night before a marathon? I didn’t think so the night before the run I treated myself to a couple of pints.
I enjoyed my drinks and ordered some food to go with it. The food was slow to arrive, it was overpriced but it was absolutely delicious! It was the first dinner I’ve had in six months which was not cooked by either myself or my wife. I could have been served cat food and I would still have found it delicious just because it was a change from what I’ve been having for months on end.
The forecast for the run was sunshine. Which meant it was unsurprisingly raining when I woke up.
The start of the run is the old police station in Braemar. I didn’t realise there was an old station so I started at the nice new modern one.
The plan was to run the first 10K to Linn of Dee where I would meet some friends.
Normally I would run with two 500ml plastic water pouches but I’d forgotten to take them with me so I improvised and bough some capri-sun orange pouches. The pouches fitted easily into my backpack and I thought they would collapse to a small size once empty.
What I didn’t realize is that the straw in the pouch is very sharp. A pouch with a straw bounces around whilst running. A sharp straw easily punctures bouncing pouches. Within a couple of hundred metres I had orange juice pouring out my backpack. Oh well, the plan was good in theory!
The first 10K was relatively easy. It was initially on the road and then I cut through Mar Lodge estate.
The building is the third lodge on the estate. The first Mar Lodge was damaged in a flood. the second was was destroyed by fire and even the current one was damaged by a fire.
If that happened to my house. I’d take the hint and move somewhere else.
It was only once I got to Linn of Dee that the run started to get a bit harder…
The towel is not something we spend a lot of time thinking about. We mostly take them for granted – until we forget to bring one to the shower, or, worse, a loch after swimming outside.
There is nothing worse than coming out of a loch, looking in your bad and finding nothing to dry yourself except the t-shirt and jumper you were going to use to keep warm.
That’s why it’s important to dress right for swimming outdoors and there is no way you can go wrong if you wear a dryrobe.
Now some folk have fancy dryrobe’s with a waterproof outer shell and a nice soft inner lining to keep you dry and warm. I however have no time for such luxuries. If you want to wear a towel then wear a towel, like the one above.
It’s still a dry robe, for that all important branding when lochside, but it is nothing more than a towel stitched to another towel with an added hood and arm holes.
It’s brilliant. (And cheap).
Once you get out of your wetsuit you can use all of your new towel robe to dry every single bit of you just by rubbing yourself all over. It’s actually better than a towel because, while wearing it, you can feel it rub against all the bits you can’t normally reach if you had a towel. Between the shoulder blades? No problem. Just sit in your car with your towel robe on and rub your back against the back of the seat. It’s brilliant, and despised.
I will admit that it’s not the fashionable item. In fact it’s banned in my house as, when my wife sees it hanging up, she does threaten to burn it on the basis that it is a crime against fashion. But it’s not meant to be fashionable. Just look at the photo above. No one is going to go out on a Saturday night to a fancy restaurant in a towel robe. But it is practical and effective and I would recommend it to all budding open water swimmers… and to monks who want to keep warm.
However, despite my wife’s claim that it is not fashionable, I would beg to differ. Maybe it’s too fashionable?
Hear me out: perhaps the highest praise for the towel robe is the fact that it is so ingenious and forward thinking an item that it’s not even listed in Wikipedia as a form of towel. Check it out. Here’s the entry: Towel but, under types of towels, there is not one mention of it as an item of clothing. So, there you go, a towelrobe is so fashionable that it’s not even mentioned on the website which knows everything.
So, get ahead of the public, get ahead of the fashion pack, next time you’re at a loch, or being dined out at Gordon Ramsay michelin starred restaurants, why not wear a towel?