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.

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/ )

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

Christmas Day Swim (Andrew)

Whoops!

This book was bought as a Secret Santa gift for a colleague moving to Elgin. As normal for Secret Santa, the draw was random and every gift was meant to be sent anonymously. It 100% should not be in Stornoway. And it 200% should not have been opened by my brother. It was 1010% meant to be a thoughtful gift to a colleague moving to a new town. Instead, my colleague must have Iain’s gift and I made a mistake when wrapping presents: bringing this book home to be opened by Iain and sending Iain’s gift via Secret Santa marked only with the message: “From Santa, you’ll need this in the new year!”

And now, for the past few days he must have been wondering why on earth an anonymous stranger has sent him a book called “So you want to be a gold digger?”.

(Iain was getting a gold prospecting lesson from the Wanlockhead Lead Mining Museum, but without context, my colleague is probably going to think someone’s rumpled why he married a rich widow).

I may have some apologising to do when I get back to work…

After that mistake on Christmas morning there was only one thing to do. After the traditional Christmas Day run, I had to drown myself in the North Atlantic. Unluckily the water was so cold I didn’t fancy putting my head under the waves and will still need to apologise in the new year.

All I Want For Christmas Is Strava King of the Mountain (Andrew)

The Christmas number one is the most coveted chart position every year. Everyone wants to know who will be number one on Christmas Day. This year, in America, the Christmas number one battle saw Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You finally reach the summit 25 years after it was first released. (It had previously stalled at number two).

But, over on this side of the Atlantic, the UK celebrated as another person reached the summit in first place many years after first trying to get there.

Yes, forget about the pop charts, and check out the Strava charts as I finally, finally, finally conquered the War Memorial segment on Strava to become the fastest person in the world to climb Stornoway’s highest spot. You can read about my challenge here.

It almost didn’t happen. First, when Iain checked the Top 10 it turned out that another competitor had secretly conquered the top spot just three weeks before. No longer was Florent Schaal my nemesis – read about our imagined rivalry here – nor was Iain – read about his cheating ways here – instead a new man, Michael, had sneaked in under the radar and stolen the top spot. I needed to not only run faster than Florent, but also Iain and now, Michael.

I was planning to attempt a run on Boxing Day but, when we went out yesterday morning, Iain wanted to give it a go. I wasn’t up for it. I felt tired and was only wanting an easy run around the Castle Grounds. But, after he said to give it a go, I thought it would be good practice for the ‘real’ attempt later in the week.

There was no wind, so I thought this run would be slower. How was I meant to run fast if I didn’t have a helping push? So, I tried running fast, but not necessarily as fast as I could. This was just a practice anyway.

I didn’t even check the time when I got home. I thought there was no point as it would only show how much faster I would need to go.

But, when I did, all I can say is…

HAIL TO THE KING, BABY!

Books 2019 (Andrew)

This year I read two books again and again. At least three times straight all the way through and probably six or seven times by the time I read and re-read individual chapters. But, despite reading them repeatedly, I can’t list them among my favourite books of the year because, well… I wrote them.

In 2016 I co-wrote a Scottish legal textbook. This year the publisher asked for an English version and a second edition of the Scottish book.

From December 2018 to July 2019 I had to update and rewrite the first book to, first, remove all Scottish references and then include all English laws and regulations. And then, after finishing the English edition, converting it all back for Scotland.

I thought it would be easier than writing the book from scratch but it turned out to be much harder. It’s easy to juggle one ball when all you have to do is throw a ball from hand to hand. Now imagine juggling the same ball while trying to put your trousers on. That’s the same as writing a second edition. You try and keep the first but at the same time you’re trying to do something entirely different without embarrassing yourself.

So, for eight months I mostly read my own book. Even on long flights I would re-read chapters. So, my list of favourite books is mostly based on what I’ve read in the last few months and, in the case of my recommended read, one I read two weeks ago: Ronan Farrow’s ‘Catch & Release’.

Catch & Release is the story behind his research and eventual article about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which led to the #metoo movement. It’s a gripping and disquieting story of what power and money can do to people – and how both can be used to intimidate and manipulate politics, the press and the people around you.

Or, if you want something less cheerier to read, but equally brilliant, then I reccomend A Boy In The Water which I reviewed here.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Me – Elton John

I’m not a fan. Not my generation. But this is a cracking read about what happens when you become more famous than Elvis and what do you do when you can do anything you want.

Wild & Crazy Guys – Nick de Semlyen

The story of the biggest and best 80s American comedians (and Chevy Chase).

Ultraluminous – Katharine Faw

A Chuck Palahhuik novel if written by a woman. A nameless narrator, a hooker, drugs, a gun and sentences which are almost slogans.

Whatever random Jack Reacher I read on a plane

Couldn’t tell you it’s name but any novel which has Jack go to London and be told that he can’t bring a dangerous weapon only to reply with something like “You’ll have to ban me then because I’m a dangerous weapon!” is up there with the best of not just this year, but the decade. Cheese on toast on cheesy toast fantastic! Also I gave Jack Reacher a plug in Commercial Awareness for Lawyers. Now, if Lee Child is reading this, if you could return the favour and give Commercial Awareness for Lawyers a plug in the next Jack Reacher… 🙂

Watching Stuff 2019 (Andrew)

20 years ago I finished a film script. It was a fantasy film with a quest, a battle, a king, a tyrant and a comedy dwarf. It was, I thought, quite good. It had a cracking start but I gave to confess to you now that it was one that I’d ‘borrowed’ from my favourite fantasy novel. But that was okay. Because no one else knew about this book. No one had taken it out from the library. No one knew it’s name whenever I mentioned it. It was ripe for stealing. So, I did. And, earlier this year, I found the script again, I read it and I realise that I have to say I’m sorry to… George R R Martin and that I didn’t mean to steal the opening of Game of Thrones from you! Please don’t sue me!

Anyway, 20 years later, my favourite book when I was at university became the biggest TV show in the world. And this year it came to an end. A story that started when I was 20, finished when I was 42 and it was… alright.

It wasn’t the worst ending in the world, it wasn’t the best (That would be Leftovers). It was… alright.

But what could cap 22 years of living with a story? It would be like ending Coronation Street or trying to tie together The Simpsons in one episode. Some things become too big to ever end. Instead, I celebrate the small achievements. The one liners. Every scene at The Wall. The dead rising for the first time. The fate of the Ice King. Tyrion’s trial. And drinking in Winterfell the night before the final battle.

(And the less said about Jon Wood – because that’s what his acting was made from – the better!)

So, while it doesn’t make my TV list of the year, it’s only because I’m judging this series and not every series. While this series was good. A couple of episodes were great but it’s not made the best of the year because the best programme on TV was ‘Documentary Now’ a programme presented by Helen Mirren that featured a 1970s documentary about a flop Broadway musical that didn’t exist either as a documentary or a musical. But once you watch it you will believe that somewhere there is a musical called ‘Co-Op’ that closed after one night. And you’ll fall in love with Documentary Now.

Good evening, I’m Helen Mirren and you’re watching Documentary Now.

Three series, all on Amazon Prime, and all introduced by Helen Mirren as she presents a different classic documentary every episode. Except they’re all made up. From the Hollywood rise to power bio-pic to fictional band’s reminiscing over classic albums or investigative journalist’s repeatedly dying while tracking drug lords in Mexico. Each episode is perfectly made and completely untrue – except for the story of ‘Co-op’ the musical, which definitely did happen, even though it didn’t. That’s how good Documentary Now is – it’ll make you think you watched something that actually happened, even though you know it didn’t.

BEST FILM ABOUT A NORSEMAN NOT IN THE AVENGERS

Arctic has Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen try to escape a plane crash in the Arctic. Despite very few words, despite most of the few words being in Norwegian, you always know exactly what he’s thinking and what he’s doing and what a good man would do when in an impossible situation. A cracking film about a Norwegian hero not called Thor.

BEST FILM ABOUT A DAD NOT CALLED TONY STARK

Hearts Beat Loud is a small film with big songs about a man who tries to form a band with his daughter before she leaves to go to college.

BEST TEAM UP NOT INVOLVING SUPERHEROS

The return of The Lonely Island with The Bash Brothers Experience.

BEST FILM ABOUT A MAN MADE OF IRON WHO’S NOT IRON MAN

Upgrade is just fun. One man, paralysed, gets a new body – and eventually starts fighting… himself. A high concept sci-fi cross between Evil Dead 2, Robocop and Her.

BEST FILM

Joker.

BEST COMEDY THAT’S NOT THAT FUNNY (EXCEPT JASON) BUT JUST REALLY NICE

The Good Place.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Alan Partridge

The Americans – final season – finale got it exactly right

Avengers: Endgame

Barry

Detective Pickachu

Leave No Trace

Real Kashmir FC

Watchmen – which could have been number one, particular for the Hooded Justice episode, but I’ve not seen it all yet.

Getting Changed When Outdoor Swimming (Andrew)

Some times great ideas are not so great when someone else spots the obvious flaw in them. I remember watching an episode of Dragons Den where an inventor claimed to have developed a brand new spout for bottles that always guaranteed a smooth flow when pouring. (Not something I’d ever thought needed a solution but try pouring a large 2 litre bottle of milk quickly and you’ll see the milk comes out in ‘spurts’). The inventor spent five minutes telling the Dragons about the benefits of his invention and how an investment of £100k for 10% of the company was the best investment they would ever make. This optimism lasted only until one of the Dragons explained to him that if you just turn a bottle on its side then any liquid will flow smoothly anyway, without any invention needed, due to the greater air space created in the bottle. The inventor looked devastated and needless to say he didn’t get any investment that day…

I had a similar moment this year when I thought I’d invented the ideal solution for changing clothes when swimming outdoors.

Indoor swimmers don’t have this problem. They go to warm comfortable swimming pools with warm comfortable changing rooms. You can strip safe in the knowledge that (a) you won’t have a cold wind blowing up the north west passage; and (b) you will have a locked door between you and any unfortunate accidental nude incidents involving an outraged mother and the swimming pool manager.

Outdoor swimmers don’t have the same facilities. There’s no changing room at Loch Lomond. No locker for your clothes next to Troon Beach. Instead, you have to improvise – and most of the time that involves your car.

For some people getting naked in the back of a car is natural. But I don’t want to dwell on what you get up to in discreet car park on a Friday night, instead, I want to ask what you do on a Sunday morning when you’re parked beside a busy road and want to get changed into rubber. How do you get naked without breaking the Highway Code by flashing without using your indicators?

You can get changed in the back seat. This is one method I’ve tried which I can recommend as long as you’re prepared to lay down some basic covers because, and there’s no other way to say this, if you’re going to get changed in the back seat then you’re going to be rubbing your posterior on your rear leather interior. You might want a towel.

Instead, you might want to get changed outside your car. But then you run the risk of (a) hypothermia and, you’re a man, (b) shrinkage so that if you do share your budgie with a passing motorist, they won’t, as J-Lo so succinctly put it, be impressed by the rocks that you’ve got.

That’s why I thought I’d come up with a full proof alternative that combined the best parts of changing indoors and outdoors. My way involved opening both the front and rear doors and then getting changed in the middle between them. Genius, I thought. The front door acts as a wall to protect from the wind and any rain. The rear door acts as wall to protect your modesty. You can keep your clothes in the car to keep them dry if it’s raining – and it was all working absolutely perfectly until Iain said:

“You do know I can see your ass through the windows!”

Damn, windows in car doors!!!!

So, now, I recommend one way to get changed above all others. Buy a DryRobe and get changed under it.

A DryRobe is basically a large towel with a hood and two sleeves. It fits over your body and covers you from head to feet with enough material to host a marquee for 50 wedding guests. It’s as close as you can get to wearing a tent without actually wearing a tent.

I love it. And so do passing motorists who no longer have to avert their eyes.

So, if you’re looking for perfect gift for Christmas for the outdoor swimmer in your life (or, frankly, any relative who says they love dogging but doesn’t appear to own a pet) then you can buy them the perfect gift here: DryRobe

Politics 2019 (Andrew)

ELECTION 2019: A MODEST PROPOSAL

Boris’s Brexit: basically, when you think about it, Boris’s Brexit is all about the UK’s right to choose whether we want our kids to stitch footballs for peanuts in sweatshops in Kent.

While the EU want footballs made by trained adults – damn the EU and their regulations! – Boris believes small nimble fingers will build a better Britain.

And who’s to say he’s wrong?

(Everyone)

Maybe child labour is the future? You don’t have to pay anyone under 18 a minimum wage. Kids are cheap. So, we’ll all benefit from reduced costs. Also, kids don’t drive so we’ll have less cars on the road as more of the workforce use public transport. It would be an environmental disaster not to employ children. It’s the green choice. Extinction Rebellion would support it. No need to picket a runway to save the planet when you can support 10 year old children working the assembly line for a brand new Nissan Leaf electric car in Sunderland.

Now, some people may say that Boris has no intention of cornering the global market in furry yellow Mouldmasters footballs. He’s only cosying up to the Hard Brexiteers to get their votes until he’s secured a new five year term. But the haters only say that because they lack VISION – also a common problem of anyone who’s tried heading a rock hard Mouldmaster. However, Boris has proved the doubters wrong before, when everyone thought he would not get the EU to sign a new deal, and he can prove them wrong again! Back Boris!

But won’t parliament stop Boris if he tries to restore good old fashioned child slavery just like we had when Queen Victoria was on the throne? Won’t they talk about universal human rights and the need for children to have a childhood instead of a steady 9 to 9 job (with 30 minutes break for lunch, unpaid)?

Why, yes. Yes, they will, unless we all vote Tory. That’s why I’m suggesting that everyone across the entire country votes Tory so that there is not a single opposition MP in the House of Commons!

Give me Boris a free reign. No excuses. Let him do anything he wants for five years. And then let’s see how Great Britain will be! 

(And, even better, we’ve all ready got a head start on restoring Britain’s competitive edge on the world stage as Boris has loads of kids)

So, choose Boris’s Brexit! Think of your children and the glorious future that awaits them! You know it makes sense! Back Boris bairns! Vote Tory and, just like Boris, bonk for Britain!