How not to swim (Iain)

Last week I attended a coached swim session. It was great. It’s much more enjoyable swimming with others than doing so by myself.

The only problem is:

  • Triathletes lie about their ability.
  • Triathletes are really competitive

I discovered this when the coach said: “I’d like you all to swim eight lengths (200m) of the pool at 70% race pace. I’ll time you. Who wants to go first?”

No one volunteered to go first.

“Come on! Who’s fastest?”

Everyone started looking at each other in the same way a lift of strangers look at each other after one person has farted. Who is it?

I looked at the man next to me. He was solid muscle. His back had the classic v-profile of an Olympic swimmer. He wore tiny Speedos that were so small and revealing they looked like they’d been tattoo’d to his crotch. His swim goggles cost more than my last car.

“Hurry up! Someone has to go first!”

The only time I’ve been mistaken for a swimmer was when a hairdresser said to me “Are you a swimmer?” I beamed with pride and replied “yes” thinking it was because of my swimmers physique – but my pride was quickly punctured when the hairdresser said “I thought so – I looked at your hair. It’s in terrible condition. It’s dry from chlorine.”

My swim shorts are run shorts. There’s no point buying one pair for running and one for swimming and it means my run shorts get a wash. My goggles are whatever I can find in the lost and of found bucket of my local pool. I am not a swimmer.

He looked at me again. It wasn’t that he was in a different league to me. It was that we aren’t even playing the same sport.

He said: “you first, mate”

I replied, “no thanks. You should definitely go first.”

He thought about it and said, “no – I think your quicker.”

So I went first. I had a five second head start. On the sixth second, he caught up.

I went as fast as I could but he kept having to stop to wait for me.

After we’d finished eight laps the coach said, “are you all happy with your time?”

The man who couldn’t have been more like a fish even if he’d had gills said, “I could have gone faster but I got help up!” Maybe if you hadn’t lied about your ability you wouldn’t have got held up. If you’re good at something it’s ok to say your good at it.

I then looked round and saw everyone else. It was like the scene at the start of Saving Private Ryan. Bodies were strewn in the water. People screaming in agony. One man looked like he’d swum himself into a heart attack.

The coach asked “Was that 70% effort?” No-one replied. They were all completely f&%ked!

At last the man having the heart attack said through wheezy, definitely non competitive, gasps of death “I think I went 65%!”

Marcothon 2017

The Marcothon is a 31 day challenge to run 5km or 25 minutes every day in December. 

Day One

Bugger. I forgot today was day one. I’m sitting on my turbo trainer halfway through a 45 minute session when I remember that today’s the first day of December and I was going to attempt the Marcothon. Bugger.

I debate for 25 minutes whether I should go for a run after I finish the bike. It’s dark. It’s cold. I don’t want to but…

… isn’t that the point?

You have to go out no matter what, even if you’ve stupidly started riding when you could have been running.

I go out. It’s dark. It’s cold. I plod round a circle of street round the house until my watch says I’ve run 3 miles then I stop.

Then I remember I promised to go mountain biking in the morning. Bugger.

Day Two

After two hours of mountain biking round Whitelee wind farm I debate going for a run straight after or leaving it to later in the day when I’ll be at Turnberry for the night. Having checked out Google maps I can see there’s a nice 1.5 mile run to the Turnberry lighthouse which means an out and back run will at least give me something to aim at as, while it’ll be dark, you can’t miss a bright white lighthouse.

My legs are heavy but running in the dark keeps me distracted as I look out for cars driving on the main road, then look out for potholes in the ground while running on a closed road to the lighthouse. There’s a Land Rover outside the lighthouse and lights in the house below. It’s only the next day I find out that you can hire the lighthouse and I was standing outside, breathing heavily, sweating profusely, trying to stare in the windows…. at hotel guests who were not expecting a red-faced stranger to be standing outside!

Day Three

Run in the morning? Yes. Definitely. Back to the lighthouse! But first, a spa! Then breakfast! A buffet? Don’t mind if I do? Run now? No chance…

Back to Glasgow. Run at lunchtime? Definitely. Wait. Is that Rangers v Aberdeen? I should watch that first…

Run after the game? Okay. Wait. The dog needs walked.

Run after the walk. Legs heavy. Body sore after yesterday’s ride and run. Still thinking of breakfast. Okay! But it wasn’t fast and it wasn’t pleasant.

Day three done.

Day Four

Stress injury in left foot. Bit of a niggle but I decide that the Marcothon is a stupid idea. Day off.

Marcothon done – I can now enjoy the rest of the month! 🙂 

Triathlete’s Dictionary: Rushing Roulette

Rushing Roulette
phrase

A lethal game of chance in which a cyclist decides to go for a ride without a spare inner tube.  Frequently involve rushing to leave and forgetting to replace the flat tube in your saddle bag that you absolutely meant to replace the night before. Also involves the phrase “I’m sure I’ll be alright – what’s the chances of getting a puncture?”. Phrase frequently uttered 10 miles from civilisation and 30 seconds before puncture.

Usage: “I had to walk home after a game of rushing roulette!

2018 (Iain)

I have wee’d in Harry Potter’s author J K Rowling’s driveway. It is not my proudest moment…

Even worse than that – I met her at an event and, instead of saying, “Hi there, I really enjoy your books,” I said “Hi there, I pished on your gate.”

I told her she could use it in a book – Harry Potter and the Search for a Toilet. A book where Harry Potter has one too many Butter Beers and then tries to make it home. She’s not written it… yet…

Triathlete’s claim an IronMan is the hardest event on earth. It’s not. The hardest event on earth is trying to unlock a door, hopping from one foot to the other, whilst desperate for the loo.

Rowling owns a country house in Perthshire. The house is peaceful and quiet but a b-road passes by her front gate. Every May the Caledonia Etape Cycling Sportive uses the road. 5,000 cyclists pass the entrance to her house but one year instead of wiz’ing by I wiz’ed in a different manner.

I was desperate for the loo and I saw her path was conveniently located close to the road. A bush next to the gate hid me from the view of other cyclists. I knew it was her house but resisted the urge to shout, whilst gripping my wand, “Expelliarmus!!!!”.

I’ve started planning my 2018 “season” hopefully I’ll avoid any incidents with beloved children’s authors! I’m picking races based on the closeness to my house and ones I’ve done before and enjoyed.

2018 Races (until Norseman)

  • January 27th – Buchlayvie 10K
  • February 11th  – Kirkintilloch 12.5K
  • February 24th – Glentress Trail race 21K
  • March 11th – Balloch to Clydebank Half Marathon
  • March 18th – Alloa Half Marathon
  • March 25th – Stirling Duathlon
  • April 22nd – Balfron 10K
  • May 13th – Loch Leven half marathon
  • May 20th – Caledonian Etape
  • July 1st  – Ironman Edinburgh 70.3
  • August 5th – Norseman

Glentress Winter Trail Race 21K (Iain)

route

I have two man crushes. One is ex-Celtic striker Henrik Larsson.  I was a season ticket holder at Celtic during Larsson’s time there. At games I’d sing:

You are my Larsson,
My Henrik Larsson
You make me happy when skies are grey
We went for Shearer, but he’s a w******
So please don’t take my Larsson away

He eventually got taken away so I stopped my season ticket! Celtic without Henke was like Ant without Dec – nice setup work but no-one to supply the punchline.

My other crush is…Hugh Grant. I think it’s because we both fancy Liz Hurley and we both had terrible floppy haired curtain haircuts before cutting our hair short. The first film I saw him in was “The Englishman Who Went up a Hill but Came down a Mountain”.

A title which sums up my Glentress trail race experience (but replace Englishman with Scottishman).

I hadn’t done enough research on the race. Actually, I hadn’t done any. I just had a vague memory from biking at Glentress six years ago. Unfortunately that vague memory wasn’t of the course but of a particularly good plate of macaroni cheese I had at the cafe. Mmmm – delicious!

The day before the race I was asked – what are you doing at the weekend? I replied, “I’m running up a hill.”

I was sort of correct except the hill was just a warm-up for the rest of the climb! It was actually a 6 mile 700m+ ascent of a mountain!!! (I might be using dramatic licence here but it was a long climb and I think of hills as being less than 700m…much, much less)

So, although I went up what I thought was a hill. I definitely came back down a mountain.

PS – It’s a great race. The next one is on in February https://www.highterrainevents.co.uk/glentress-trail-race

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Racing into 2018 (Andrew)

Triathlon and running magazines will tell you that Autumn is a time to relax. The race season is over. The nights are drawing in. It’s time to let injuries heal and training decrease because, damn it, you deserve it, you magnificent athlete, you!

You did so well this year!

You smashed that A race.

You got the PB!

You ran out of acronyms to describe your achievements!

Except, what happens if you didn’t?

You got round your A race (just). Your PB stood for peanut butter and the sandwiches you ate by the dozen. And then you stopped doing anything at all for two months because you didn’t have time to train.

Do you get to relax?

Well, yes, Because it’s cold, and wet and frankly, it’s Scotland in Autumn. What other excuse do you need, you magnificent athlete, you?

And it is an excuse. Because the one thing the magazines don’t tell you is what happens when everything goes wrong, like this year for me.

The summer was a write off. A project at work meant I had very little free time for three months. And while I completed Escape From Alcatraz and IronMan 70.3 Edinburgh it was very much a case of “Thank you, Lord, for cancelling/shortening the swim and making it easier to get round!”.

So, Autumn for me is a chance now to get back to training, to start a few months earlier to be ready for next year and another attempt at Escape From Alcatraz and, as Iain’s announced, being the support for Norseman.

Because racing isn’t really about racing. And that’s something the magazines don’t get. Not some years.

This year wasn’t about racing as other things were more important and next year won’t really be about racing either, it’ll be about making sure Iain completes Norseman. Taking part and supporting others are just as, if not more important, than racing.

Though results always matter when you do race! 🙂

So, while I’ll be supporting Iain, I’ll also be secretly hoping he finishes Norseman after 111 miles on the bike so I can say I’m the best Todd at Norseman by getting to 112 miles!)

 

Norseman 2018 (Iain)

 

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Feck – I’d better start training!!!

I feel very lucky to have won a place through a ballot. Although – is it really a win to have to jump off a ferry into a freezing Norwegian fjord? Is it a win to then bike 112 hilly miles? Is it a win to have to running up a mountain called zombie hill?

I think most people would describe it as a punishment.

I’ve read they’re going to change the entry process from next year. I suspect to make it harder for no-hopers like myself to get in 🙂

Considering the rise in the number of long distance extreme races I’d guess Norseman will become like Iron Man Kona and an athlete will have to qualify to do it.

Unfortunately, I forgot I’d also entered the ballot for Celtman so I was a bit shocked when I got

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I haven’t ever been successful in a ballot for a race. Then I get in twice in a row! D’OH!

I’ve written to Celtman to apologize and ask they give the place to someone else.

Hopefully, another lucky person will also ‘win’!

Learning to learn (Iain)

There is an old saying: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach”

Which is certainly true of the teachers I had. Except they could not ‘do’ or ‘teach’.

My physics teacher was a drunk. He had no idea who anyone in his class was. At the start of each year, he would take a photo of the class. At the school parents evening he pointed at the class photo and asked my parents: “Which one’s yours?”

My history teacher used to tell fat kids at the front of the class to move to the back as they were blocking the view of the other pupils!

My tech teacher gave me a bit of wood to make a model boat. He then used my bit to demonstrate how to do it. When I gave it to him for assessment he said it was rubbish and gave me a “D.” It was his work!

All I can say to my physics/history/teach teacher is – all is forgiven! Last month I did the  UKCC Level 1 Triathlon Course. I discovered for myself how difficult it is to teach a group.

The course takes place over three days. On day one, I coached a swim session on sculling. There was only one problem. I did not know what sculling was. Actually, there was a second problem. One of the people I had to teach was the brother of an Olympic swimmer. It’s fair to say his small toe knew more about swimming than I did.

I was very self-conscious as I told people to “catch the water” and “this will make you a better swimmer” as I had no idea what I was talking about. I eventually gave in and made them swim up and down. At least they got some exercise.

The lesson I took from that was its best to teach what I know and if I don’t know it then I need to practice, practice, practice till I do know it.

On day two I had to teach running and biking. This went slightly better. My running drill was balance. I’d done a yoga class that morning with a balance section so I just repeated what that teacher had done. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel.

My bike coaching was terrible so the less said about that the better but it did reemphasize that I need to practice, practice and practice some more.

Day three was the assessment. Thankfully, that went well and I passed the course. Thankfully, there’s a gap of a few weeks before day three so I was able to practice, practice and practice!

Hopefully I can now help out at some club sessions. Fellow athletes can then say about me:

“Those who can tri, those who can’t coach!”

Antonine Trail Race 2017 (Andrew)

Normally you get a banana at the end of a run but, yesterday at the Antonine Trail Race, we got a big banana at the start – along with two skeletons, several witches and a Homer Simpson.

That’s what happens when you have a race on Halloween weekend.

We didn’t join in. It was tough race and the only fancy dress I wanted was a jet pack to help get up and over the two hills that made up most of the route. First up, Croy Hill, a long climb through muddy tracks and thick grass, then Bar Hill, another long climb along a forest track before, cruelly, the race finished with another climb up Croy Hill.

It was a fantastic day, sunny, bright, and with a slight chill that made it impossible to decide what to wear – assuming you were wearing running gear and not a large yellow fruit costume – as it was too cold for a t-shirt at the start but too warm to run in two t-shirts a mile after starting. I choose a single t-shirt and then stayed in the car with the heater on until the race was about to start. This is my version of warming up…!

The race was mostly off-road and on narrow tracks. While dry, the previous week’s rain had left much of it covered in thick mud. The first few miles were spent doing the bandy legged hop leap and jump of someone half runner/half frog.

The good news was that you could follow the runner in front of you and try and follow their footsteps on the basis that if they cleared a path then you would just be stepping into the hole they’ve already created in the mud. So, if you want to keep your trainers clean when running through mud just follow someone with big feet in front of you.

The race was tough, with a few steep climbs (which in this context means, ‘walks up hill’ rather than ‘gets out the rappelling gear’) but some great views across to the Trossachs and outwards Falkirk and the east coast.

You can see part of it on this short video:

Burness Gran Fondo (Andrew)

I’m not competitive. I don’t feel the need to win nor do I hate losing. I like ‘taking part’.

But…

Sometimes…

I just can’t help myself.

I have to win!

But never do.

(‘Cause I’m not very good.)

Earlier this month I was taking part in a corporate bike ride. A cycle round Aberfoyle and Loch Katrine in the Trossachs. It’s a cracking route and it was a good crisp clear September day.

This wasn’t a race. Everyone taking part was separated into groups of 12 and each group rode as one with a ‘pro’ leading it to keep everyone together and safe.

It was a good set up and promised to be a good day when, after five miles, we started to climb the Dukes Pass – a steep sharp twisting climb of a mile and half. And the ‘pro’ said “Just go at your own pace”.

So I did. And it was faster than the group I was with, and faster than the group in front, and then my competitive instinct kicked in and I thought “I’ll be the first up this hill!”.

Except I wasn’t.

Because when your competitive instinct kicks in there’s also something else that happens: somebody else’s competitive instinct kicks in too! It’s contagious – and deadly. At least for me because, as I said, I’m not that good.

200 metres from the summit the first man passed me. 100 metres from the summit the second man passed me. I wasn’t first. I wasn’t second. I was third to the summit in a race that probably consisted of three men because everyone else, quite sensibly, was just enjoying the ride and going up at their own pace. I was therefore last to the summit.

But, later, first to the café stop. Now that’s a competition worth winning!

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