Treble Trouble (Andrew)

As Manchester City win the treble in England – Premier League, League Cup and FA Cup – it’s time to remember where it all began: their first Premier League title in 2011, and that time I punched a fan in Manchester city centre during City’s open top bus parade – and it was all caught on a perfectly timed photo.

He walked into my flag, honest

Whoops!

Etape Caledonia 2019 (Andrew)

Winner to the left, loser to the right

Last week, while walking along a neighbouring street, a man ran out his front door with a woman shouting after him. As he got in his car, she screamed at him: “I don’t know why I stay with you!” before she slammed the front door shut and he drove off.

This week there was a ‘For Sale’ sign on their house…

I tell this story because, despite the sadness of an imploding relationship, it had two bright points. One, I always liked their house, so I finally got to see inside it when the estate agent posted photos on Right Move. Two, it just goes to show that you need to follow through with actions to back up your words. There’s no point shouting about something unless you actually do something about it to.

Just like the Etape.

Every year I say I’ll beat Iain and every year I then beat Iain.

Last year was close though. To be fair, he did wait while I had a mechanical so he could have won, if he’d carried on. But he didn’t, so he didn’t. Who said good guys come last? Accurate words!

Last year was also more of a contest because Iain was training for Norseman. He was riding every day. And yet, he still couldn’t beat me. (He might have the legs, but he still had the good heart to wait).

But when we could only draw when he was at his fastest on a bike, it meant that this year I didn’t need to say anything. The contest was over before we even started. I could see the ‘runners up place’ in his eyes. He had a haunted look on the start line. He looked old. Weighed down by a history of failure.

It was BRILLIANT!

Not that I’m gloating. Much.

Anyway, with the result a foregone conclusion it was only a matter of turning up and paying attention to the course.

Pitlochry

The first 10 miles are fast, if you want them to be. As each wave leaves the high street, groups quickly find their own pace. Some sprint, some take it easier as they warm up. A few tight corners and sharp wee hills cause bunches to form but after 10 miles, the roads clear and while you’re never free from other riders, it’s easy to find some space at your own pace.

Hill

The first hill is not steep but it does have three miles of steady climbing. It’s almost a straight road so there’s no need to think about turning or any hair bends to negotiate. Just sit and grind it out.

Loch Tummell

One of my favourite sections. A 15 mile flat run around Loch Tummell. With nice flat roads, good views across to Schiehallion and across the loch, it’s a great section to find a group and make quick progress to…

Schiehallion

Which is not as bad as it appears on the profile. There’s a few steep slopes. A final drag that some will sprint for that ‘frog dancing on a hot plate cycling legs and arms akimbo climbing out of your seat’ shot from the official photographer, but the real kicker is the next mile, which continues to rise even after you’ve passed the King/Queen of the Mountain checkpoint. After that, it’s five miles downhill and a chance to enjoy some easy curves and quick times.

The other side

Largely flat for the final 20 something miles with a good mix of moorland, trees, villages and wide roads. By this stage, you’ll see less bikes but, if you’re lucky, and want to joint them, you’ll find a few groups to latch onto to get your speed up until…

The second climb

Ballincluish. And a 20 metre ladder that starts as soon as you turn off the main road. If you haven’t changed gear before you turn then you’ll be looking at a slipped chain as your ‘reward’.

After that, there’s a couple of miles of rolling hills before the final descent into Pitlochry and a short climb back to the High Street where you can get…

The Goodie Bag

Or bad. As there’s never any goods in the bag. It’s always empty. Don’t expect a banana or a biscuit or anything at all. One year, all it had in place of a treat, was a single page flyer for a new Sainsbury’s… that was opening later that year. (And, in fact, never opened at all after local protests). But while I always complain about the bag, Iain never does. Well, he is used to coming home from the Etape empty handed…

The Todd in The Water (Andrew)

The Creature from the Black Loch

The best thing you can do before swimming open water is to splash your forehead with water. The last thing you want to do before swimming open water is to splash your forehead with water because… it’s BLOODY FREEZING!!!

Or at least it is in May in Scotland. The water has 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 brainfreeze, 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 tempteture 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 Aquaman is hugging you, and not in a good way. In a “I’m going to crush your chest coz I’m a strong superhero type” way.

However, next time, it get’s easier. And the time after that you’re Aqua-man’s equal. You’re Kettleman! The only man who can make Aqua-man disappear!

But first you’ve got to get in. So, this weekend, I went for my first open water swim of 2019. 10 minutes in a loch near Applecross. It was freezing. And it was fantastic. And by next week, not only will I have adjusted, I might also have the feelings in my feet back.

Bealach Beag (Iain)

Is the winner of a race the person who crosses the finish line first or the person with the fastest time?

You might think that these two statements are mutually consistent but….

At the weekend, Andrew and I headed to the north west of Scotland to take part in the Bealach Beag sportive – a 72km race that includes the UK’s biggest road climb. An ascent of 626m from sea level in just 10km.

I’ve done the race four times. Andrew has done it three times. He has beaten me every time.

Race 1 – I did it on a mountain bike. Not because I am an amazing biker but because I did not know any better. I quit half round because I was knackered.  

Race 2 – The first year Andrew did it too. We both did the long version of the race. I had learnt my lesson from my experience with the mountain bike. I brought a hybrid bike instead. Andrew brought a road bike. He won.

Race 3 – We both used road bikes. The temperature was unseasonably warm. It was nearly 30C during the climb. Andrew was wearing shorts bib shorts and a light cycling top. I was wearing winter gear. I felt I was biking in a vertical sauna. He won.

Year 4 (this year) – I had been training for the last four weeks and I hoped that was enough to beat Andrew’s five months of Challenge Roth training. Just in case it was not enough, I had taken radical weight saving action to eek out the best performance from my bike. I removed the bell

I also had a cunning plan….

At the start of the race we were both given a time dibber. We had to dib in at the start and dib in at the finish to record our time. At the start line, I let Andrew dib in first. I then deliberately waited 10s before I dibbed in.

At the finish, we both raced for the line. Andrew thought he had just pipped me as he dibbed in first. What he didn’t realise was that I had a 10s buffer on him. We received the paper results and it shows quite clearly I’m the winner or am i?

If you look at our Strava times it clearly shows Andrew beat me by 5 minutes because he did the climb 5 minutes faster than me and then paused his Strava at the top until I appeared. He then restarted it and we continued on the course.

So… is the winner of a race the person who crosses the finish line first or the person with the fastest time? All I’ll say is that on paper I’m the fastest Todd.

Number 1!

Glasgow Bridge Run (Iain)

When people talk about favourite bridges they might pick the Forth Rail Bridge or the Golden Gate Bridge but neither is my favourite. I like Jeff Bridges. He’s the only one of the three that has won an Oscar!

Jeff as the Dude in The Big Lewbowski

Glasgow has 21 non Oscar winning bridges.

A couple of weekend ago I decided run to across as many of the bridges as possible. I invited some members of my triathlon club along. The rules for the run was very simple – every time we get to a bridge, cross the bridge. Let me repeat that – get to a bridge, cross the bridge.

We got to the first bridge. People ran past it. I shouted at them to come back. “Get to a bridge. Cross the bridge!” I repeated. “oh – I understand now.” they said. We got to the second bridge. They ran past it again. Its a really simple rule – “GET TO THE F’ING BRIDGE, CROSS THE F’ING BRIDGE!” Sometimes I despair.

Happy runners after been reminded to cross the bridge.

We started at Dalmarnock and ran East to West. We could have done it the other way but East to West meant starting at a McDonald’s restaurant next to a scrap year before finishing at two Glasgow landmarks – the Armadillo and the Science Tower. West to East would have meant starting at the landmarks but finishing with a big mac and a Mcflurry. I choose the scenic rather unhealthy option.

The finish line.

It was a fun route. You can find the GPX for it here

https://strathcloud.sharefile.eu/d-s5657a381cc44b9da

and its on Strava here

and here’s some photo proof

What Runners Never Talk About (Andrew)

The greatest email I’ve ever recieved wasn’t sent just to me – it was sent to me and to everyone in my office. Over 250 people. It was from a new trainee. Someone who had not yet realised that “Reply To All” meant “Reply to… ALL”

Later, I discovered that he thought he’d sent a message back to his pal but, even then, I’m not sure his pal wanted the following message, because this is what he replied:

“I’ve just been to the loo. Did you know there’s two buttons. One for a pee and one for a poo…?”

Which he sent to everyone.

Not just his pal.

Everyone.

10 seconds later everyone also recieved the “Trainee@twinbikerunswork would like to recall his message” message. But, by then, it was too late. Everyone would recall this message from now until the day he died.

I’m sure, even at his funeral, his eulogy will say “Trainee may have become a Supreme Court judge and changed the world with his far reaching decisions but, I’m sure everyone can agree, his greatest achievement was accidentally telling 250 people how to flush the bog.”

I was thinking of this guy as I was running last week – because there’s a secret that runners don’t share with the world. A secret that every runner doesn’t discuss because it’s too disgusting to share.

Sometimes, when out for a run, you can’t worry about whether you’re going to use the big button or the wee button because you just don’t have time to get to a proper toilet. Sometimes, you have to improvise.

Normally, you’ve eaten too much or you’ve headed out too soon after a meal or a combination of the two.

The first few miles are okay but, the stomach growls, and you know that the only way you’re going to carry on is if, like a guilty sinner, you find some ways to unburden yourself.

I was trying to run 10 miles last week. A five mile there and back trip from the house. In the third mile, I received a warning from my gut. By mile four, the warning was raised to Defcon 5 and I had no choice but this choice: do I knock on someone’s door for an emergency stop or do I find a bush?

Now, knocking on someone’s door is something I’ve considered before. But I’ve never worked our what I would say. Hello. You don’t know me but I would love to get to know your toilet. Or help. Emergency. This desperate man would like you use your little boy’s room?”.

There was no way whatever I said was not going to sound creepy and it would be nature’s call I’d be answering it would be a call to the local police station to arrest the nutter with the crossed legs.

Instead, I searched for a park. Then, once I found a park, I searched from a spot that couldn’t be seen from any direction. I didn’t want this week’s headline to be: “Runner in park peek a poo scandal”

But as I sped away, safely, and without anyone seeing me, I started to wonder. I can’t be the only runner to have had this problem. I’m not the only runner to find themselves in the bushes when it’s not a trail race. But, no one has ever mentioned it before. What to do when you need the loo and you’re 30 minutes from home and your credit cards are in the kitchen where you left them?

So, in the spirit of openness, I’m sharing that question here. Just for you. What do you need to do when you need the loo?

And I promise I’ll keep the answer to myself.

Unless I accidentally publish this blog to everyone.

Oh, bugger, I have…

Recall! Recall! Recall!

A Boy In The Water Review (Andrew)

Last year I caught the train to London with Iain.

“Have you got the tickets?” I asked.

An innocuous question, only made less innocuous by the fact the train was pulling out of Glasgow Central.

“No,” he said, “you’ve got them”.

Which I did – or didn’t. Because, while I had them on my phone with all details teasingly shown on my Trainline app, it was just a reservation and not the tickets themselves. The tickets were still sitting unprinted in the ticket machine at Central Station.

I could have cried. But, critically, didn’t because I’m a man and men don’t cry on trains. Not unless they’ve just read “A Boy In The Water”.

“A Boy In The Water” by Tom Gregory tells the story of how he became the youngest person to swim the English Channel. It’s no spoiler to confirm he succeeds, because, unlike most sports biographies, this one doesn’t rely on peril.

There’s a trend in biographies to tease the did he/she or didn’t he/she do it. The first chapter inevitably details some element of danger as the lone cyclist tries to cross the world only to inadvertently cycle into the middle of warzone, on the very day that the local Celtic and Rangers fans are watching the Old Firm game, during a hurricane  – and they get a puncture. Oh my, I definitely need to read all of this now!

Instead, A Boy In The Water, deals with trust and faith between a boy, Tom Gregory, and his coach as he’s pushed to swim further and further. And it’s this trust which provide the tension because it’s never clear how much of the goal was driven by the boy or the coach and whether it was right for an 11 year old to even attempt such a swim.

Written from a child’s perspective, the book is simple and clear, with the relationship explored through a back and forth between the swim itself and the three years of training leading up to it. Training sessions in Dover Harbour, solo swims across Lake Windermere, and a sense of sporting success achieved through coffee mornings, battered vans and digestive biscuits as treats. And very little discussion of swimming. There’s no passages describing swimming strokes, or the goals of any training sessions, just brief powerful descriptions of the swimmers, the coaches and the music listened to on homemade mix-tapes. And, an ending, which managed to show how powerful trust and faith and belief can be and what happens when they’re gone. I may even have shed a tear on the train on the way to work this week as I read the final chapters on the way to work…

You can buy it here: Amazon

Go-Karting (Iain)

A few years ago, I went go-karting. Before the race a marshal gave a safety briefing. The marshal explained that if he waved a black flag then that was a warning that I was driving beyond my ability. If he waved it again then I was disqualified.

My karting competitors

I got in the kart and waited for the green light to flash

RED……….wait…..wait……GREEN!!

My kart accelerated from the start line. I was immediately in the lead but a car was coming up quickly on my outside right. We both approached the first corner, a tight left hand turn.

It looked like he was able to turn left before me. I should have slowed down but instead I accelerated and slammed into the side of the other car. This pushed him off the track but allowed me to take the left turn!

A masterful bit of driving but the marshal black-flagged me for driving beyond my ability!

A couple of minutes later I received a second black flag for a manoeuvre that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Mad Max film. I was disqualified.

I could not understand what I had done wrong. I should be have been praised. Driving beyond my ability is surely a compliment!

Did Schumacher win all his Grand Prix’s by driving within his ability? No – he drove to the limit and beyond.

I was thinking about this as I drove home from the go kart track…in an AA van. I was so pumped up with adrenaline from karting I’d crashed my car after leaving the track. I had to phone the AA to get me home.

The AA man asked how I’d crashed. I replied “I was driving beyond my ability.”

Second on Strava… Again (Andrew)

Damn you, Florent Schaal – whoever you are!

The best thing about Strava is the Strava segments. Each one is a mini race that allows you to compare your effort with everyone else. I wrote about them here a couple of weeks ago when I discussed my attempt to become the fastest person to run the tallest hill in Stornoway.

But, damn you, Florent Schaal, you’re still the champion as while, my latest attempt was four seconds faster, it was still four seconds too slow to overtake your number one spot. I’m still second on the Strava leaderboard.

I don’t know who you are, but one day, I promise, you’re going down (to number two spot)!

so close yet…

Why I switched off Strava kudos (Iain)

Strava is a great tool. It allows me to see how far, how fast and how often I swim, bike or run.

I have data going back years on it. I can see just how much or how little progress I’ve made.

BUT there’s one thing about it that I hate – Kudos!

I don’t want kudos because its mostly undeserved. For example, last week, I played squash. I lost 5-0.

So far this year I’ve lost every squash match that I’ve played. I recieved Kudos for every loss. I don’t deserve kudos! I deserve a stern talking too and a final warning about my performance.

Once, due to a mistake with my GPS watch, I uploaded a swim of one length of a 25m pool, I got Kudos for it! I shouldn’t have got Kudos I should have got a call asking if I was ok? Asking why I hadn’t swam back? Nobody does just one length of a pool unless they’ve gone to a pool party at Michael Barrymore’s house.

Its like the Great British Bake-off. In earlier seasons Paul Hollywood would rarely give his “Hollywood handshake” of congratulations to a contestant but during last years season he was giving one to everyone.


Does your cake has a soggy bottom? Don’t worry about it. Have a handshake.

Is your scones so hard enough you could sink the titanic with it?
Don’t worry about it. Have a handshake.

Have you lost both your arms in tragic bread mixing accident?
Yes? Don’t worry about it. Have a handshake…actually probably not in this case considering they are arm-less but you get the idea.

Once it becomes routine to get a handshake/kudos then it becomes meaningless. Kudos should be about achievement not failure.

So I’ve switched off Kudos alerts and I’m happier for doing so. I can now concentrate on getting true kudos – a win at squash.