Twinbikerun – the book

The 1st draft of twinbikerun the book is complete.

We’ve previously written a book about Scottish politics

and Scottish football.

but this time we have picked a subject even more prone to disagreements and petty squabbles – ourselves!

More details will be announced later.

PS – The book is not called twinbikerun the book. It has a much better title (we think!)

Dog Walking for Triathletes Part 1 (Andrew)

It’s entirely possible to meet a complete stranger, have a five minute conversation and for both of you to speak and not say one thing to each other. Instead, you both pretend to be dogs. And talk a lot about bums. Walking a dog does that to you. Let me explain.

if you don’t have a dog then here’s what happens. You’re walking along. Minding your own business when you see another person coming towards you with their dog on a lead too. The dogs spot each other. You can see tails wagging, ears down, a silent battle of wills developing between them as they decide whether this is a dog they want to sniff or one they want to bark at instead.

“Hello,” you say.

“‘Who’s this? They say back.

But they don’t look at you, they look at your dog.

As a dog walker you know that the question is not for you. instead they’re really asking for the name of your dog.

“‘I’m Barney The Schnauzer,” you say, “and who are you?”

And they tell you but you’re not listening as Barney is sniffing the other dog’s bum and it’s time to carry on the conversation by telling them exactly what Barney is thinking.

“Oh, I like sniffing bums,” you say. And as everyone knows the routine and we’re speaking as dogs you can get away with comments like that provided you don’t add “and so does the dog!”.

Nor should you ever respond to someone saying ‘”I like sniffing bums” with a “Well, doesn’t everyone!” while staring straight into the other owners’ eyes.

But it is awkward. The bum sniffing. And trying to make it less awkward by offering a running commentary is just one way of making it seem acceptable. So, you have conversations that may include “I just can’t stop” Or, if you’re canine friend is having a particularly vigorous sniff, “This is a good bum!’

Which is a risky one. Not every owner is prepared to grade the smell of their dog’s bum, not even while pretending to be a curious Jack Spaniel. But if they go with it then you open up a whole world of conversation including:

“I love sniffing – but I don’t like being sniffed!”

Or, if you’re feeling particularly curious.

“Oooh, what’s that smell?”

Which is a phrase which is only ever acceptable if visiting a show home for sale, a spicy restaurant or if you are testing perfumes or aftershave. Everyone knows what that smell is when you sniff a bum. It’s not fresh coffee, lemongrass or Chanel Number 5.

But still you don’t break the spell by addressing the other owner directly. You’re both still pretending to be dogs. Really, really awkward and embarrassed dogs because now the bum sniffing has finished and one dog is trying to mount the other.

And both you and the other owner are frozen to inaction while you fear you are about to start a commentary track for some hardcore canine porn.

“‘I like sexy time!” you don’t say.

And you definitely don’t add “And so does my dog!”.

So, the best bit about walking a dog is that, for triathletes, who don’t want to just walk the streets because they think they should be doing something longer, you also get to cross the street again and again because you’ll do anything to avoid meeting another dog and what you thought was a twenty minute walk will actually take a hour.

Book Review: The Rise of the Ultra Runners

You wait ages for someone to use the title “The Rise of….” and then two come along at once.

Last week I went to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I did not realise until I got to the cinema that it was an autism friendly screening.  

The interior of the cinema screening was pitch dark and the room was silent. I assumed this was to provide a calming atmosphere.

I sat in darkness for a few minutes. Nothing happened but I could hear other people talking.  

Then, without warning, the Star Wars theme tune came blasting out of the cinema speakers. The room stayed dark. Then there was loud explosions and laser noises but still darkness.

This to me seemed like the least autistic friendly screening imaginable.

I waited a few minutes whilst the cacophony of noise went on but then suddenly all the lights came on. An usher came out and explained that the cinema screen was broken. They explained that if we waited a few minutes, they would fix it. Now that I have seen the film, I wish they had not bothered.

The Star Wars trilogy is similar to an ulrarun. There’s good bits, there’s bad bits and the finish is rubbish. An ultra is about the experience not the ending.  

In Rise of the Ultra Runners (https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07NDNCB8J/) the author Adharanand Finn travels the world investigating why people feel the need to run long distances in challenging environments.

He places himself very much into the narrative as the book follows his quest to collect enough points to get into the Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc and then actually run and finish the race.

He is an experienced (mostly road) runner who was mainly interested in speed and times. It was interesting to see how his mind-set changed when faced with challenges where the journey is more important than the destination and time.

He covers the history, personalities and his experience of ultra-running. It felt like it was a good informal history of the sport as much as his personal narrative.

There is a very interesting section on why Kenyans don’t do ultra’s even though they should be amazing at them.

I would have liked to have heard more about the training. You don’t get as good as he is at racing without hours and hours of training. Did his wife mind him training all the time? Did his kids appreciate him being away?

There is a number of interviews with ultra-runners but he never asks the question I want to know the answer to.

“What are you running from?”

Because spending that much time doing anything is usually an indication you are avoiding something!

For example I spent time writing this blog at work because I was running away from doing some proper work!

Overall – It was a good easy read. After reading his section on 24 hour track running I’m intrigued to try it myself. So give the book a go, it might inspire you to try something new too.

University – part 1 (Iain)

The view of the Uni in the prospectus

I studied Computing at the University of Edinburgh. I remember my first day at the University. I was informed I’d have to do a Maths course as part of my degree.

I asked “Why? I’m here to study Computing.”

The tutor replied that it was a requirement of the British Computer Society.

I said “Why? I’d rather learn something useful!”

He looked at me and said “Stop arguing. Just sign up to the Algebra course!”

At the end of the year I did the Algebra exam. I answered every single question and included my working out.  I got a score of 0/30 and the tutor wrote “This shows no knowledge of Algebra what so ever!”

I finished the course with a third class honours degree. Mainly due to laziness. I hate learning a subject if it’s something I feel is irrelevant. Allot of the course was irrelevant. I was good at the things useful for a career in Computing and hopeless at the bits that wouldn’t help me get a job.

Since then, I’ve had a successful IT career and not once has anyone ever asked what I got in Uni, whether I passed algebra or whether they could they see my British Computer Society membership.

The lesson I learnt is that you don’t need to go to Uni to be successful. You just need to work hard. People will judge you on what you achieve in life, and not by what bit of paper you hold.

The actual uni building I studied in. I was in the basement!

2020 (Andrew)

I saw a ghost in a motel in Pennsylvania. I woke up. There was a man in a checked shirt in the room with me. He walked towards my bed, I put an arm out to stop him and he walked straight through it.

Unexpected cleaners in your bedroom at midnight don’t do walk through arms. Ghosts do.

But I don’t believe in ghosts. Instead I rationalised it by telling myself that I was jet lagged after arriving in the States earlier that day and, after driving four hours, I was tired and when I woke up I was still dreaming. It was nothing but a trick of my mind.

I also don’t believe in New Year resolutions. Unlike ghosts these are dreams that can come true – but I find them pointless. Why make a resolution on the first day of January when you are almost certainly still on holiday for, if you’re Scottish, two more days. You can’t commit to a resolution when you’re on holiday. It’s pointless. I won’t eat chocolate! But, what’s that? There’s a gigantic box of Quality Street in the cupboard and 48 hours to sit in the house and watch telly. You might as well ask a lemming to not leap off a cliff. It’s against nature not to finish a box of chocolates as soon as it’s open.

That’s why I believe in New Year + 2 days (possibly more with weekends) resolutions. This year my resolution didn’t start until Wednesday 8 January as it was new year, then the office was shut on Friday, then it was the weekend, then I was still on holiday and then I finally finished the Quality Street box and the resolutions could begin.

This year my resolution was a simple one – and an obvious one for our regular readers (hello, mum!): Complete Celtman. There’s no B-plan. No backup race. My aim is Celtman and everything else is lined to that. So, that’s meant this year’s races all help with either running, swimming or cycling training and feature no triathlons. Race will be training events for Celtman.

This year I’ve entered:

February

Running – Kirkintilloch 12.5K ( https://www.entrycentral.com/kirkintilloch125k )

Hill running practice – Glentress Trail Race ( https://www.highterrainevents.co.uk/glentress-trail-race )

March

Cold water swim practice – Red Bull Neptune Steps: (https://www.redbull.com/gb-en/events/red-bull-neptune-steps-uk)

May

Applecross peninsula practice – Bealach Beag ( http://www.handsonevents.co.uk/bealach-beag/ )

Bike practice – Etape Caledonia ( https://www.etapecaledonia.co.uk/ )

June

RACE – Celtman ( https://cxtri.com/ )

October

For fun! Dramathon ( https://www.thedramathon.com/ )

Outdoor Swim Review: Hebrides – Braighe Beach (Iain)

Recently I was browsing Instagram and I spotted this photo from the Isle of Lewis. It shows a couple walking a dog on a nice beach. It’s a nice pic.

Something about the pic seemed familiar but I couldn’t work out what. I looked at it more closely and realized that the couple in the photo are my Mum and Dad. They were walking on one of their favorite beaches – the Braighe. I doubt either of them have ever heard of Instagram or know that the photo even exists.

Braighe is an apt name for the beach as it means sandy strand in Gaelic. The sandy side of the beach is a fine sandy strand between two parts of the island.

You can swim on either side but normally the west side is calmer as it faces a protected bay.

REVIEW

Ease of Access: There are three car parks available. The middle one has toilets. It is only a 10 minute drive from Stornoway to the beach.

Water quality: The water quality is crystal clear and perfect for swimming although on a wild day it can get a bit sea weedy on the bay side.

Swim Quality: Cold. In December the temperature was 7C. I had a short swim in a circle. In the summer I’ve been here and swam the length of the beach.

Other People: Not a soul.

Would I go back: Yes. Its the easiest place to get to have a sea swim that is near my parent’s home in Stornoway. Normally one side of the beach will protected from any bad weather.

Outdoor Swim Review: Hebrides – Reef Beach (Iain)

Next month Lewis Pugh, an endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans, will attempt to swim 1km of a lake of melting Antarctic ice ( https://lewispughfoundation.org/east-antarctica-2020/ )

To train for the brutally cold endeavour he could have chosen anywhere in the world –Norway or Iceland etc. He chose the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

He trained twice a day on the island. Each day he would post details of his training swims on social media and invite anyone to come and join him.

Initially he was based on the west side of the island. Its a great location for swimming. Some of the beaches are stunning. Especially when the weather is good.

Cliff beach in summer

Occasionally the weather is bad…very bad. In England, during bad weather, the MET office might issue a “danger to life” warning. In Lewis, during bad weather, you just get on with it. As my Dad said whenever I complained about the weather – it is only a bit of wind and rain.

The stunning views and bad weather makes Lewis the perfect place to train. if you can swim here you can swim anywhere!

Scottish outdoor swimmer/filmmaker Calum Maclean, me, Lewis Pugh

REVIEW

Ease of Access: Reed is 60 minutes from Stornoway. There is a parking spot beside the beach. It is a 5 minute walk from there to the sea.

Water quality: The water quality is crustal clear and perfect for swimming.

Swim Quality: Cold. In December the temperature was 7C. The beach is 1km long. I did a length of the beach and then jogged back.

Other People: Not a soul other than a few hard folk joining Lewis for a swim

I’m in the wet suit.

Would I go back: Yes. Uig is a beautiful spot. When I was younger I hated coming here because the road to it was terrible. I would get car sick. Nowadays the road is much better!

Preparing for Celtman: December 2019 (Andrew)

Goals for December:

  • Training will officially start in January. December will be about getting into a routine of doing ‘something’ most days of the week but without any pressure to do anything in particular. It’ll just be about getting used to a routine. 
  • Work out training plan
  • See if I can try and be a bit more scientific and check stats like heart rate, functional training power, watts and a whole host of other words I don’t know the meaning of yet.

How did I do?

Training has started and I’ve managed to swim, run or bike six days out of seven with a couple of double days thrown in. I hadn’t intended to double up but it was sometimes easier to swim in the morning on a Wednesday and then catch train and run home than sit in traffic for over hour during the Christmas rush. An unexpected longer trip home to Stornoway due to a family illness also meant a few extra sessions as the weather was unseasonably mild so there were more times to go out then normal. Overall, I’m happy with what I’ve done and feel like I’m settling into a routine which will help when the training starts in January.

Speaking of training, I have a training plan. Unlike Iain – his plan here – I’ve bought a Celtman specific plan on Training Peaks. I’ve never used Training Peaks and I’m not sure yet how closely I’ll follow the plan but I liked the comfort of seeing what would be involved and I can then tailor it (or reduce it!) to suit. One for next month.

I didn’t manage to look at power or any other stats. I was going to do that during the Christmas holidays but being home meant I didn’t have access to a smart trainer. Another one for next month.

Random highlights (and one lowlight)

  • Running: This year’s Christmas Day run was a 10 mile run to the Iolaire monument and then a traditional run around the Castle Grounds.
  • Swimming: A new tradition. Along with the Christmas Day run we had a 10 minute dip in sea. It wasn’t as cold as I expected, but at 6 degrees it was still sharp and gasp inducing. But after a few minutes it was bearable to swim head above water. After 10 minutes though it was time to get back to land!
  • World Champion: Did I mention I was world champion of the War Memorial? I don’t like to talk about it (much!).
  • Mountain bike skills: Wet wood is like ice. A lesson I painfully learned after the bike slipped out beneath me on a wooden bridge in the Castle Grounds. My shoulder and hip took the worse of the fall while my left hand recovered after a night of icing it with frozen vegatables.

January Goals

  • Update and start training plan
  • Look into stats to help with training

2020 (Iain)

According to the Daily Mail Astrologer my Horoscope for 2020 is.

“You’ll want to keep your vehicle in good shape for endless errands.”

Normally a horoscope has positive statement like “you will come into money” or “you will meet a tall dark strange who will give you good news”

But mine is make sure you MOT the car as you’ll be going to Tesco’s allot. What a fun year for me!

I prefer the Daily Record’s horoscope which claims I should

“Look out for a Taurus, who is super-sexy. Your dream partner!

I googled “sexy Taurus” and it suggested Uma Thurman, Adele or The Rock.

Uma Thurman or The Rock would both make good partners but I don’t think my wife would forgive me if I didn’t shack up with Adele. My wife loves Adele!

I once bought my wife two Adele tickets for her birthday. The tickets were very expensive but I as least with two tickets I would see Adele as well.

My wife took one look at the tickets and immediately said. “I can’t wait to tell Mairi about this.” Mairi is her best friend. I worriedly asked “Why do you need to tell her?”

“Because she loves Adele and will want to come with me!”

I never got to see Adele.

Other than Marrying Adele my sporting goals for the year is the same as every previous year. Stay fit and healthy and do some fun races

So far my plan is

February

Kirkintilloch 12.5K ( https://www.entrycentral.com/kirkintilloch125k )

Glentress Trail Race ( https://www.highterrainevents.co.uk/glentress-trail-race )

March

Scottish Winter Swimming Championship ( https://swimwilduk.com/events/scottish-winter-swimming-championships )

John Muir Ultra ( https://foxtrailscotland.co.uk/races/ultra/ )

May

Etape Caledonia ( https://www.etapecaledonia.co.uk/ )

Stornoway Half Marathon ( https://srac.org.uk/half/ )

June

Celtman ( https://cxtri.com/ )

July

Wasdale half X ( https://triathlonx.co.uk/index.php/half-x )

October

Dramathon ( https://www.thedramathon.com/ )

I also aim to do the Gullane Triathlon. I’ve said this every year for the last five years but every time I try to do it something comes up that gets in the way.

Hopefully this year Ill finally do it!

My main reason for wanting to do the race isn’t sporting but is instead culinary. The Old Course Inn in Gullane ( http://www.oldclubhouse.com/ ) does the best Nachos in Scotland. I’m always looking for an excuse to visit and have some!

mmm Nachos

Boardgaming Club (Iain)

What does this bit do?

The first rule of board gaming club is: You do not talk about board gaming club. The second rule of board gaming club is: YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT BOARD GAMING CLUB.

I am a rebel so not only will I break the first rule, I will break the second too!

I’ve never been a big fan of board games. My idea of hell is Scrabble. Nothing gives me the rage more than the long wait between turns as other players spend ages pondering the next word. They should be thinking of words in advance of their turn and be ready to play with minimal waiting!!

When I was asked by a friend whether I would be interested in playing a board game. My reaction was “no f’ing way” but I was too polite to say that. Instead, I said “Ok – maybe next month” in the hope he would not ask again.

He did ask again…and again…and again until I eventually said “Ok – I’ll play! Stop asking me! But just one game and it better be quick…and not be Scrabble!

To make the evening more enjoyable I invited some other friends over and supplied some beer and food. Most things in life are better with beer.

I expected he’d bring round Monopoly or Trivia Persuit or Cluedo. Being the only board games I know.

Instead he brought round Blood Rage – A strategic board game were Viking clans pillage and battle in a quest for glory at the end of the world!

I was surprised. The game was great fun. It was competitive, the rules were easy too learn and there was enough strategy to make me want to play it again to see if I could do better.

I asked where he’d got the game from and he explained there was a whole world of board games that I was unfamiliar with. Games like Pandemic, Gloomhaven and Carcassone.

The beast of a game that is Gloomhaven

The names meant nothing to me but I was intrigued to learn more.

Since then we’ve met up once a month to try out other games. It is a great excuse to meetup and to drink beer.

We’ve played a variety of games. You can read about them in future posts as long as you promise that YOU WILL NOT TALK ABOUT BOARD GAMING CLUB.

Trying to figure out the rules.