Kirkintilloch 12.5k 2020 Race Report (Andrew)

It’s winter, it’s windy, but that’s weather. Or at least it was until last year when the Met Office started to name its storms. Now, it’s not weather, it’s an event. And this year’s Kirkintilloch 12.5k had a hell of a lot of event…

The Kirkintilloch 12.5k has been our first race for a few years now – you can read some of the previous reports here and here. It’s longer than a 10k, so feels more of a challenge, and it has more ups and downs than a 90s raver, including almost a mile uphill to start, which is a shock first thing in the morning. Races should start downhill, or at worst, a flat. Running uphill to start is just cruel. If you start uphill then you should call your race an ultra, even if the rest is flat. It’s fair warning.

Along with the race conditions there’s the challenge of finding a car parking space as the start line is next to a main road into Kirkintilloch and there’s not a lot of room on the streets nearby to park. Saying that, it’s always a busy race with many club runners (resplendent in their new singlets) and just-get-rounders sharing the start line, so everyone must come by the Kirkintilloch canal to get there.

This year, there was a new challenge: the weather. The race was held right in the middle of Storm Dennis and 50mph winds swept the course. I don’t mind running in bad weather, if you’re wet, you’re wet. You can’t get wetter than wet no matter what Bon Jovi might sing. And wind is okay, as long as it’s behind you. If it’s behind you, you can fly. Unfortunately, we were running a loop so not only were we flying, we were also being pushed back so hard we ended up in Ireland.

Overall…

Course:

Race route: First mile is uphill, the next three are up and down until you reach Woodilee village where you turn and then run up a slope steeper than the north face of the Eiger, before taking another road home until the final 2 km when you reverse the climb back to the start and finish with a nice one mile downhill race to the finish.

Finishing bag: It was the 15th anniversary of the race and there was a special commemorative mini towel (as shown above) instead of a medal. A chocolate biscuit and a bottle of water were also handed out at the finis.

I’m not sure of a towel as a commemoration. It was the 50th anniversary of the the creation of heavy metal last week but no one gave Ozzy Osbourne a soft plump towel to commemorate the first Black Sabbath album. Towels are for beaches and pretending to be Roman. In a race, a towel is what you thrown in disappointment when you quit during it, not what you get at the end when you should be celebrating.

Holiday Mile: Berlin (Andrew)

On a Saturday night in Berlin I had half a raw potato for my first course. This was followed by 34 more courses including, as a particular highlight, a single pak choi covered in butter. It was less a meal and more a single plate presented one ingredient at a time. I’m all for trying new things when eating but a menu designed to showcase every ingredient really made me crave a Big Mac and chips.

Even worse, before we could eat the potato we had to listen to it’s origin.

“This is a potato from the farm of Gunther and Helga, just outside Leipzig. Each morning they carefully spray the potato field with a fine mist of honeydew while Gunther sings Dolly Payton’s ‘Jolene’. When it comes to harvest, they ask a local priest to bless their trowel before it is transported by electric car to the market in Berlin.”

After 35 holier than thou pretentious tales I really craved a noose.

I can’t say I enjoyed the meal. It definitely an experience, one I won’t repeat, but if you want to spend three hours slowly eating a grocers one vegetable at a time, then Ernst in Berlin is the place for you.

If, on the other hand, you just want to run, then Berlin is the opposite of Ernst. It’s as simple as can be. It’s completely flat. And because it’s completely flat, you can’t go anywhere in the city centre without being able to see the radio tower that stretches into the sky over Potsdammer Platz. It’s impossible to get lost.

So, for this holiday mile, I decided to run to the main site for the Berlin Wall and back and I decided not to use a map to find my hotel because I knew how to get to it from the tower. An easy run followed with no chance of getting lost. No wonder Berlin is one of the world’s fastest marathons.

Saying that, the lack of variety does mean that it wasn’t the most interesting of runs. Even a treadmill can have an incline. But if all you want is a easy run along wide streets then Berlin is the place for that.

Training for Celtman: January 2020 (Andrew)

January Goals

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

How did I do?

For the second month in a row – see Nov and Dec – I set myself the goal of looking at stats to try and be more scientific with training. And, this month, I managed to look at FTP, which is not a brown brogue allegiance for anyone who knows their Scottish football acronyms. Instead it stands for functional threshold power or, too put it simply, the average amount of power you can exert in an hour.

As I’ve being using Zwift for 18 months I already knew I could ride at over 200 watts for an hour but the test – ride for an hour in Zwift with your power recorded over a 20 minute segment – managed to confirm that I was wrong. I could ride at 191 watts. Which is good to know but as I don’t know what’s watt and what’s a watt, it doesn’t mean anything to me yet. Apparently I should now try and increase it and test myself again in six weeks. If the watts have increased then my training will be going in the right direction.

The only other stat I tried this month was to run at least 13 miles in one training run, just to prove to myself that I could run a half marathon six months before Celtman.

I went out with Iain mid-month and, as he’s training for an ultra race in March, I ended up running 15 miles, the longest I’ve run in 10 years (the marathons in Ironman UK and Challenge Roth don’t count as I walk/ran them). It was great to think I could run that far and still feel I could do more. Unfortunately, and stupidly, I ran in new trainers and ripped my heel to shreds so running was restricted to short runs for the rest of the month while it healed.

On swimming, I’ve moved up to a faster lane in my weekly swims. I complain about it here

February Goals

More cycling. I’ve been restricted to indoor cycling and I’d like to get at least one 50 mile ride outdoors, weather depending.

Dog Walking for Triathletes Part 2 (Andrew)

Tyler is a Jack Russell. And a dog – except when he’s pretending to be a cat.

Tyler is my aunt and uncle’s dog. They live in a village in the Western Isles. There’s very little passing traffic so they let Tyler walk on his own. He has the run of the village.

Every night at 11 o’clock, Tyler would bark and run to the back door to be let out for a final walk before bed. 30 minutes later he’d be back. A single bark to announce his presence and my aunt and uncle would let him back into the house.

This happened every night for six months until, one day, my aunt saw a neighbour’s post on Facebook. “Does anyone know a small white and brown dog that’s been running round the village before midnight’

It could only be Tyler.

She didn’t know the neighbour that well so went round to her house to explain that Tyler was just out for a walk and to see if he’d been barking or making a noise to disturb them.

“He’s not been barking,”said the neighbour, “he’s been shagging! Our dog’s pregnant!”

No wonder Tyler was so keen on his final walk of the day. He’d been playing Romeo to some other dog’s Juliet!

“Was he sneaking into your back grden?’ Asked my aunt.

“No,” said the neighbour. “We knew our dog was in heat so we’ve been keeping her indoors.”

“Then why do think Tyler’s involved? He can’t get into a house” Asked my Aunt.

“He’s been sneaking in through the car flap! We caught them at it in the middle of the kitchen!”

My aunt was quick to apologise but it turned out that the neighbour was really only interested in finding out if Tyler was a pedigree because it turned out she had a Jack Russell too. When my aunt confirmed that Tyler was indeed a pedigree dog genetically, if not morally, the neighbour was delighted.

“Excellent, I’ll be able to sell the puppy’s for £500 each!”

And Tyler was encouraged to continue his midnight walks.

I thought of this story as I start to think about training over autumn and winter. It’s always hard to go outside when it starts to get dark and cold and wet. It’s easy to come up with excuses to skip a run or a bike ride. But dog’s don’t have that excuse. They go out in all weathers and wait patiently at the door for their chance to walk and run so we too need to take our inspiration from dogs and find our reason to always head outside. But not to have an affair with someone down the street – and definitely not to break in first! That’s not an excuse to get out of the house, that a reason for the cops to come round and encourage you to spend a lot more time inside!

Winner, you are a loser (Andrew)

How do get slower by going faster? There’s a riddle for you.

If you’re a physicist then you would probably talk about how time slows down the faster you go and you’d try and convince me that Interstellar is a great film and not a deeply silly film about a mumbling Matthew McConaughey knocking over a bookcase for three hours. If he can push books then why doesn’t he push a keypad and type out his message?! It should have been called InterTheBin.

If you’re a novelist you might say how time slows down when you’re about to get shot. That life flashes before you’re eyes and you might have some meaningful flashback or revelation. Which isn’t true. The closest I’ve got to being shot is standing on a football pitch as a mishit ball shoots straight to my groin. The only thought that went through my head was “don’t scream like a girl when it hits me!”. It did and I did. I think I still speak with a falsetto.

But in triathlon going slower by going faster describes what happens when you’re moved up a coaching group. On a Wednesday morning I’ve been quite happily swimming in the masters lane – a lane for people who swim 1 min 53 seconds per 100m or slower. There’s also a performance lane for those who swim 1 min 42 or faster.

I swim around 1 min 50 seconds which means I swim at the front of the masters but I’m not fast enough for the performance. I’m like Matthew McConaughey’s accent – neither fast nor slow but some drawl in between.

Until today.

Today I was ‘promoted’ to the Performance lane permanently. I now swim at the back of a bunch of swimmers who all swim faster than me.

I also need to swim further. As they swim faster they cover more distance in the same time as the masters lane so will swim, for example, 150m instead of 100m.

“You won’t go faster unless you swim with people who are faster than you!”

Which was nice of the coach to say but I’d never asked to go faster or further as, again like Matthew McConaughey, I’m quite happy with my limited range.

Instead I spent this morning slipping further and further behind people who could swim much faster than me and while I was going faster it sure felt like I was going an awful lot slower.

Dog Walking for Triathletes Part 1 (Andrew)

Barney

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/ )

Training 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