In Praise of… the DryRobe Compression Travel Bag (Andrew)

A couple of years ago I worked with a guy who was an enthusiastic but rubbish sailor. And an alcoholic. Not a great combination – especially when you throw Ebay into the mix – as, one night, he bought a inflatable dirigable and arranged for it to be shipped from China.

Now, you and I, when faced with a blow up boat ordered while drunk from a country not known for it’s accurate descriptions of products bought on quasi-black markets may have be cautious in opening the box when it arrived. Not so, our drunken and excited sailor, who decided he couldn’t wait for an ocean and instead decided to open it in his living room. At which point he pulled a cord which should not have been pulled and automatically inflated a 10 feet dinghy in his front room. Whoops.

Even worse, he hadn’t realised you needed a specialist pump to deflate it so couldn’t get it out of any door or window without going to back to Ebay and buying a very expensive pump from the same Chinese sellers. Sellers who had very smartly spotted the opportunity to sell very cheap boats but very, very expensive parts…

I share this story because while most of us will never know what it’s like to wake up with a hangover and the Titanic blocking your telly, if you have a Dryrobe then you’ll know what it’s like to live with something that takes up more space than a frigate in a bathtub. DryRobe’s are huge. They have to be as you use them to get changed underneath so need space to take on and off clothes and swim gear. But they also take up loads of space in closets and coat hangers. They, like a dog on a sofa, expanding to take up all available space.

That’s why I’m praising something very simple. A vacuum/compression bag. A bag that you store clothes in and then sit on to expel all the air before sealing it shut with a simple air plug. It’s brilliant, it condenses clothes until you can almost fit a robe into your pocket. It also makes it the robe easy to store as it no longer fills your house like an unwanted guest.

And while DryRobe sell a branded bag, you can use any bag, just search vacuum bags on Amazon and you’ll find plenty of cheap bags you can use.

They’re brilliant. They’re perfect for Dryrobe, perfect for taking clothes on holiday when you need space and it’s just a pity they don’t have one big enough for a lifeboat in a living room.

Dryrobe: Compression Travel Bag

Amazon: Compression Bags

Rugged Run – East Lothian Beach Marathon (Iain)

John Muir was one of America’s most famous and influential ‘Outdoor Enthusiasts’ – although he described himself (in a ltter to a friend) as a “poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist and ornithologist-naturalist etc. etc.” Which must be annoying to write when he was filling in the job title section of application forms.

The John Muir Way is a 130 mile walking/biking route that stretches from his birthplace of Dunbar to where he left Scotland to head to America – Helensburgh. That is too far to run in one day but whilst looking at the route I noticed the section from Edinburgh to East Lothian is almost marathon distance if I went via as many beaches as possible.

I planned to start in in North Berwick and then get the train to Edinburgh but due to heavy traffic on the Edinburgh bypass it looked like I was going to miss the train. I drove to Longniddry instead and caught the train I should have got from North Berwick.

This complicated my run slightly as there is only one train an hour from North Berwick to Longniddry. I’d have to keep an eye on the time so that at the end of my run I didn’t miss a train and then have a long wait.

The first section of the route was from Waverly Station to Portobello beach.I used to live near the route so it was interesting to see places I used to visit – look there’s the Safeway I got my shopping in, look there’s that weird that always had scary people outside it, and look there’s that gym owned by a personal trainer to Hollywood celebrities’.

I was at the opening night of that Gym. I remember the personal trainer thanking everyone for coming. He asked his girlfriend to stand with him. He then he burst into tears as he blubbed about how much he loved her, how she had changed his life and how he’d do anything for her. She was really embarrassed at his speech and so was most of the audience. A couple of year later, I saw him on the front page of a tabloid paper. It turned out he wasn’t a nice man!

The first beach was Portobello beach or Puerto Bello Beach. Which I saw written in Graffiti on a wall next to the beach. I like the Spanish vibe of the name. It seems fitting when the weather is nice and the beach is full of happy people but maybe it is not so appropriate in the depths of winter.

The route from here to Gullane is very easy. Follow the John Muir way signs. I enjoyed this sections as I wasn’t very familiar with the towns of Musselburgh, Port Seaton and Cockenzie. They all had nice seas fronts to run along.

In Gullane I decided to ignore the John Muir Way. The official route goes south of the town but I wanted to go to the beach. It was definitely the correct decision. The coastal section here was my favorite part of the run. There was big sandy beaches and nice trail running.

Gullane was a good spot to pick up refreshments. I got chocolate and water from the local CO-OP.

I rejoined the John Muir Way as I left Gullane. I wanted to head to Yellowcraigs beach but I was conscious of time. The detour to the beach would mean I’d miss the next train from North Berwick to Longniddry and then I’d have a long wait.

I decided to head straight for the train. I’d see enough beaches for one day!

Check out the video below to see what the rote is like. I was running by myself so it’s mostly shots I could film quick and easily as I didn’t want to add too much time onto the run.

VIDEO

MAPS

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

An interesting route but the road section might put people off doing it. If so you could start at the forest entrance instead

Parking

Rating: 3 out of 5.

North Berwick can be very busy so get there early to find a spot.

Facilities

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Plenty of cafes and shops on the route.

Nearest cafe

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Plenty of cafes and shops on the route.

Run Surface

20% road, 50% path. 30% off road.

Dog Friendly

Yes it is possible but I wouldn’t recommend the distance for a dog. I would only take my dogs on a shorter stretch of the route.

Elevation

344M of elevation.

Film Friday: Chris Froome Vlogs (Andrew)

In a world where sporting champions images are carefully controlled and managed by PR advisors and social media managers it would be refreshing to see a genuine sporting great film his own videos while sitting in an empty train carriage on the way home from a race, which is exactly what four time Tour de France champion Chris Froome has done.

Chris Froome joined Israel Start Up nation at the end of 2020 after many successful years at Team Sky/Ineos Grenadiers. Following a horrendous injury in 2019 Chris Froome was looking for a new start and team to support his ambition of competing again for one of cycling Grand Tours. It would have been easy for him to keep a low profile as he returned from injury but, instead, he has posted regular updates on his training and races as he tries to regain his place in the peloton. And what’s refreshing is that while it’s clearly a result of his contractual requirement to promote his new team, it’s also done in a way which appears open and sincere about his challenges as he films himself at training camps, at races or working on equipment or technique.

Training for Celtman 2021 – April (Andrew)

I cannot lift my arms. Every time I try and raise them a ripple of pain runs from my elbows to my shoulders. The same happens when I try and lie on them. Any weight on them leaves them throbbing and numb. After an hour of trying to get to sleep I get up and get some painkillers before sitting in the living room waiting for them to kick in. It takes three hours, 4am, before I can move an arm without hurting. I finally go back to bed cursing every stroke I swam tonight.

It’s mid April and Pinkston Watersports has reopened for swimming in Glasgow. As it’s April, and the temperature is hovering around seven degrees, I decide to swim in full hood, boots, gloves and an extra vest. Unfortunately so much lycra twists my body in the water so I’m gliding through it like a broken corkscrew made of concrete. Every stroke feels like I’m trying to contort my body round a u-bend. After a couple of laps, one kilometre, I can’t swim any further. I think I’m just out of practice, my technique poor and my arms weak, but through the rest of the evening my arms become more and more sore.

In six weeks I need to swim three kilometres, that night I couldn’t even lie down for three minutes.

The following week, I don’t bother with boots, swim slower and concentrate entirely on stretching out flat in the water. It helps. I don’t need to raid a pharmacy on my way home but it does show that trying to get to a 3K swim in just a few weeks is a big ask. I’ll keep adding some distance with every swim and hopefully I’ll build some confidence that I won’t need more drugs than Lance Armstrong to complete the bike leg after the swim.

Saying that, I’m still not sure the race will go ahead. Triathlon Scotland are limiting waves to 30 people (including support and volunteers), which would mean Celtman would need have starting waves. I believe Celtman is not part of Triathlon Scotland, so doesn’t have to follow the guidelines, but for insurance, I wonder how it can avoid them completely. Further details on how the race will be run will be out in the next few weeks. For the moment, I continue to try and get ready to start.

Rugged Run – Lews Castle Grounds (Iain)

Sir James Matheson bought the Isle of Lewis for £190,000 in 1844. Yes – the whole island.

This was a lot of money back then. I wish I could say he earnt it legitimately but he earned his money through the sale of opium. He was a drug baron like Pablo Escobar but without all the murder and cocaine. Maybe not all drug barons are bad but I’ve seen a lot of Narco’s episodes on Netflix. It doesn’t paint drug barons in a good light.

Matheson did not immediately endear himself to locals. According to Stornoway Historical Society, the creation of the castle grounds involved the clearance of tenants and the re-routing of public roads. But over the next three decades, he spent a further £200,000 on island improvements such as roads, schools and harbours in an attempt to kickstart the island economy. So, maybe he wasn’t all bad.

The castle took six years to complete but the surrounding land took even longer. He imported trees to turn the area into extensive woodland. The area is now a great place for walking and running. The grounds are accessible to anyone courtesy of Lord Leverhulme. He bought the Isle of Lewis from Matheson. He had many ambitious plans, some of which were followed through, but most collapsed. He only owned the island for a few years before he gifted the Castle and grounds to the people of Stornoway.

The castle was closed for many years due to disrepair but in recent years it has been renovated and is now a popular hotel https://www.lews-castle.co.uk/

VIDEO

MAPS

https://www.strava.com/routes/2818817373164312010

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I have to rate it highly. Its my home running/biking/walking place and full of wonderful memories and experiences.

Parking

Rating: 5 out of 5.

There are a few entrances and car parks and I’ve never had any issues using them

Facilities

Rating: 5 out of 5.

There is a Cafe in the castle and in the castle grounds. https://www.facebook.com/TheWoodlandsCafe/

Run Surface

100% fire track gravel roads

Dog Friendly

Yes

Elevation

100M of elevation.

Film Friday – The Yeti Trail Runners Movie (Iain)

Film Friday is a weekly (when I remember to do it) recommendation of one video to watch this weekend.

The Yeti Trail Runners are the self styled punks of trail and ultrarunning. They are irreverent, slow and have a devotion to community above competition.

This is a great advert for enjoying running and not taking events seriously. It shows how with the right attitude an event can treat the runner who comes last just as well as the one who comes first.

I do have one complaint about the video – it is a bit too long. Which is ironic as punk music is normally very short.

Lockdown – One Year On – Part Five (Andrew)

I wrote the following entry a year ago and then decided not to publish it given the uncertainty over how COVID would affect everyone. It seems okay to publish it now as a way to look back at this time last year.

There are rainbows in windows. Mostly hand drawn, mostly the work of young children but others are clearly the work of parents with a steady hand and a good eye for a radius while drawing onto a window. I didn’t know what they were so, for the last two days, I thought that Pride had moved indoors. That’s nice, support the LBTG+ community. However, it turns out to be a project started by schools and spread online to encourage children to put up paintings to spread hope. This week the rainbows have been joined by soft toys. Teddy bears and plush dolls hanging in the windows next to the rainbows. Now it looks like Pride has moved indoors and started lynching Big Ted.  

On Thursday we were outside walking the dog when the clap for the NHS started. We were in a park and could see people stand on their doorsteps in the houses which surrounded it. As the clapping started, as people banged on pots and pans, I joined in and thought: “this must be what it’s like to be a footballer for a team with no supporters. I thought of ‘doing the airplane’ and maybe a celebratory knee slide but joining in and clapping instead was the right thing to do.  

It’s peak week. Two weeks into lockdown and life has a routine. Get up at 7am. Breakfast. Mrs TwinbikeRun walks the dog and I start work at 8am and she starts at 9am. Team call at 9:15. Less about work and more about seeing everyone. Yesterday we were asked what we did at the weekend. I said: “On Friday, I watched One Man Two Governors streamed from the National Theatre. On Sunday, I watched Swan Lake from the Paris Opera House. God, I miss Scottish football.”

I was called a middle class tosser. I couldn’t argue with that.

Lunch is 12:30. Mrs TwinBike Run has tried lunchtime yoga while I have a toastie. If you want to survive the apocalypse, don’t get flexible, get a toastie machine. You’ll run out of stretches, but you’ll never run out of fillings.

Work until 5 then close computer and try not to check work again until next day. We’ll have dinner, walk the dog and then watch some television. Normally I would have the news on a loop but I don’t think it’s healthy to have hours of virus news with updating death scores and speculation about what might happen next. I like my news with indirect consequences. Brexit. Politics. A disagreement about ideologies not a scythe cutting through the nation. Boris Johnson is seriously ill. Last night he was admitted to hospital and has been given oxygen to breathe. I do wish him well though. I disagree with his complete lack of beliefs but I offer my best wishes to him and his family. And his family. And his family. And his American IT woman. And the woman he met down the pub on Tuesday night. And…

[Postscript. Boris got better. Wait, that’s not right. Sorry. He recovered. He didn’t get better, he’s still useless.]

Rugged Run – The Seven Hills Of Edinburgh? (Iain)

I’ve previously written about the Seven Hills Race held annually in Edinburgh here. It is a great race and I recommend it however I didn’t realize just how hilly Edinburgh was until I ran all the hills in one go.

To celebrate the first day of the end of the travel ban in Scotland, I decided to avoid the countryside hills where I thought everyone would go. Instead, I treated myself to a trip to Edinburgh. My friend Fiona Outdoors (https://www.fionaoutdoors.co.uk/) had never done the route. She decided to join me. She was relying on me for directions.

I thought the route was 14 miles and seven hills. We ended up doing 18 miles and 8 hills! Next time she won’t rely on me for directions.

You might ask, how is it possible to run eight hills in a seven hill race? Well, it was because one of the hills is actually two summits. The race only goes over one summit. We went over both. I’d argue that it is quite clearly two hills not one but I’m not a geologist. I presume there is a proper explanation for why it’s not two hills so I googled it and got:

“The two summits of Craiglockhart Hill form a prominent landmark which has resulted from the fact that the igneous rock is more resistant to erosion than the surrounding sedimentary rock. The recent ice sheet in particular has helped to mould the present landscape. The igneous rock consists of lava flows and ash layers giving the appearance of bedding which dips towards the west. A short walk to the summit rewards you with breathtaking views of Edinburgh while the southern slopes offer recreation in the form of golf. The local nature reserve is frequently used by the community and has also achieved status as a Biological Site of Special Scientific Interest. The valley between East and West Craiglockhart is probably a glacial meltwater channel.”

https://www.edinburghgeolsoc.org/geological-site/craiglockhart-hill/

I’m not sure that answers the question but it was the best I could find.

Check out the map below to see the route we took. There is a link to the Strava route page.

The video does not do justice to how warm the day was or how steep some the hills are.

VIDEO

MAPS

https://www.strava.com/routes/2818211007306029450

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A great way to see Edinburgh but there are some long slogs on pavement. Castle hill via Cortstophine hill to Craiglokhart is particularly urban.

Parking

Rating: 1 out of 5.

We took the train. Parking or drving in Edinburgh can be a nightmare.

Facilities

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Lots of cafes, shops, toilets on route.

Nearest cafe

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thre are many cafe’s on the route.

Run Surface

50% concrete. 50% trail

Dog Friendly

It could be done but mostly on a lead.

Elevation

841M of elevation.

What is a decent time for 2000m row? (Iain)

A young man, carrying a very large box up the driveway of my house, screams, “this is too heavy. I can’t carry it any further.”

An older man is supervising the lift. He shouts back, “stop your whining!”

The young lad retorts, “its too heavy! My fingers hurt!”

I do not think he is suited to life as a delivery driver.

He is carrying a rowing machine. I ordered one a long time ago but due to a rowing machine shortage and delays caused by Brexit it had taken 6 months to arrive. Which means its unlikely I will now be able to qualify for this years UK Olympic rowing team. That’s definitely the reason that has stopped my selection….

I decided I needed a goal for my rowing so I tried to find out what is a good time and distance for a row. I came across the answer from an unlikely source, Australia’s favorite singing mutant – Wolverine or as as he prefers to be known Shug Jackman.

Shug is what people in Scotland call people called Hugh. I have no idea why.

So there’s my goal. I decided to try to get good enough to do 2000m in seven minutes. If so, i’ll be as good as Shug.

I decided to do a test row of 2000m so I’d have a benchmark time to improve on. I didn’t row too hard but I kept a good pace. I did 2000m in 6 min 45s.

Bugger! It turns out my target time was set by a man who is not very good at rowing.

Oh well – I’m now off to check if any of the other X-Men have set a better time that I can aim for.