The Naked Triathlete (Andrew)

How much breast is too much breast? A couple of years ago that was the question facing Glasgow Sheriff Court when it was asked to decide whether a flyer for a strip club banned by the licensing board was obscene.

Glasgow City Council’s licensing board presumably didn’t mean to criticise the flyer for strip club, showing a dancer wearing a pair of yellow pants and just an arm covering her breasts, as depicting the woman as “unsuitably clothed” because that could only mean she was wearing too much. What else would would be suitable clothes for a stripper except a birthday suit?  But that comment by the board meant a trip to the sheriff court to work out how much – or how little – was too little clothes for a flyer for a strip club.

This led to an interesting discussion as Sheriff Taylor said: “Only a very small part of the side of her breast is depicted in the photograph. There is certainly more breast exposed in certain daily tabloid newspapers.”

And, he added: “If one looks at adverts for perfumes and the like in magazines normally read by women, one sees more breasts exposed than in the flyer.”

In short, he said: “I can see nothing wrong in the degree of breast exposed”

And he was really looking.

I remember this debate when I was thinking about how we take stripping in public as natural. Go to any transition and you’ll see a bunch of athletes pulling off wetsuits, bearing their chests and, generally, mooning friends and family watching on from the side.

It’s like Stringfellows but with less fake tan and gold jewellery (and that was just Peter Stringfellow).

I swear one time I was in transition a man tried to stick a tenner in my pants!

Yet, we accept this as normal. Even though it’s not. And it’s Scotland and we look like we’re starring a XXX version of Avatar as the blue people strip in the open air.

But then again. Maybe it is normal. Maybe the strange thing is to feel self-conscious about it all. Why not strip in the open air? Why not let it swing free and stand there bold and proud with nothing to protect you but a well positioned bike stem? We shouldn’t be ashamed! We should be free! There’s nothing wrong with letting it all hang out!

And hopefully, the Sheriff Court will agree with me after the police arrest me…

Runner, Heal Thyself (Andrew)

When I started running at university I would run on a treadmill for 20 – 30 minutes on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Over a year it became part of my weekly routine as I was studying for my final exams. Then, one day, my knee hurt.

“That’s nothing,” I thought. “A wee run will fix that!”

I’d pop up to the university gym and, after five minutes, the pain would start to fade, and, after 20 minutes, it would be gone.

“See,” I thought, “it was just a wee niggle!”

And by the time I’d have my shower, my leg would fall off.

Not literally. I’d topple. But it might as well have as I couldn’t use it for the rest of the day. It wouldn’t bend. I couldn’t put weight on it. I would hop from gym to library to home until…

I’d wake up in the morning, my knee would hurt and I’d think:

“Really, it’s nothing, a wee run will fix this!”

And I was a cripple for a month until I realised that a ‘wee run’ will only fix this if your problem is an escaped lion and you need to get away fast. If your problem is a damaged ligament then don’t run on it!

You need to follow the RIC (Rest, Ice and Compression) program not the RIC (Run, Ignore, Crawl To Bed) program.

Yet, 20 years later I’ve learnt nothing. Last week I pulled a muscle in my abdomen. Not sure how, think it was twisting to lift something while sitting in my chair at work, however, when I noticed it was sore I thought immediately:

“It’s nothing, a wee swim will fix this!”

And I went swimming. An exercise that requires you to continuously twist and turn.

Because there’s nothing like putting out a fire like pouring more oil on it and shouting “Burn, baby, burn!”

It was stupid.

And on Tuesday I ended up in the minor injuries clinic complaining that I couldn’t turn my body to the right or pick up any weight with my right hand.

Which was also stupid because, despite being a clinic for minor injuries, the doctor listened to my story and immediately said: “We don’t do abdomens.”

Which made me think: “What do you do? Left ankles only. Just the right elbow? How can you distinguish between different parts of the body? You’re a doctor, your meant to do everything.”

He sent me to my GP who’s sole advice was “If it hurts when you twist to the right then don’t twist to the right!”

Genius.

But she was right because she was just telling me what I already knew – if you’re injured, then don’t do twice as much as you did before in the hope that more means less. Rest. Ice. Compression. And don’t go for a run.

Cocaine For The Nose (Andrew)

Sinex nasal spray is cocaine for the nose. Which means it’s just like cocaine in that it goes up your nose but, unlike cocaine, it’s good for you!

Not that I’ve ever had cocaine. But I watched Scarface and I know how it works. First, you get a pound of cocaine then you sniff it up your nose before gunning down a Mexican cartel and half the Miami police force.

Now, you can call me a square, but I don’t want to gun down no cartels, thank you very much. So, I’ve never touched the cocaine! Or the heroin! That’s worse – no sooner have you had some then you have to live in Edinburgh!

But Sinex. That’s cocaine for athletes (unless you’re British tennis player, Dan Evans, then cocaine is cocaine for athletes). One minute you’ve got a bit of cold. Maybe a blocked nose. Next thing you know, two squirts of Sinex up each nostril and you’re ready to take on the world.

I say two squirts but, I am legally required to say that you should only use one squirt. I use two because I have a big nose and have more snot to clear. Ordinary folk are medically recommended to only have one squirt.

Don’t abuse the Sinex, kids!

It’s great stuff and one I’ve had to use all last week after developing a bit of a cold on Tuesday. I say a bit of a cold but what I actually mean is… I WAS DYING!!!!!

And then it cleared up after a couple of days, so, false alarm, but you can’t be too careful when it comes to your health. And the NHS is free. So always go and see your doctor, even if you’ve recovered because, who knows, it might come back?!

(Don’t abuse the NHS, kids, unless you’re Jeremy Hunt then, stop abusing the NHS, Mr Hunt even though you’re now Foreign Secretary!)

Anyways, I had a cold this week. It was serious. I had a sniffle. And a cough. St Peter was ready to welcome me to Heaven but, don’t worry, I’m okay now.

And it was all thanks to Sinex. God bless, Sinex!

The Patron Saint Of Uselessness (Andrew)

Every Jean Claude Van Damme film explains why he has a funny accent. He’s French. He’s Belgium. He was raised in the bayou by wolves. It’s the same for Ryan Gosling – except in every film they explain why he can’t act. Let’s look at the evidence…

  • Bladerunner 2049. He can’t act ’cause he’s a robot.
  • La La Land. He can’t act ’cause he’s too obsessed by jazz.
  • The Place Beyond The Pines. He can’t act ’cause he’s dead.
  • Crazy Stupid Love. He can’t act ’cause he’s busy working on his abs.
  • Drive. He can’t act ’cause he’s got a cool jacket.
  • Half Nelson. He can’t act ’cause he’s on crack.
  • The Notebook. He can’t act ’cause you can’t tell the difference between Ryan Gosling and the timber he uses to build a dream house!

In short, unless you’re looking to remake Lord of the Rings and need someone to play a tree, Ryan Gosling can’t act.

But that doesn’t stop him from trying. And that perseverance is something we can all admire as we can’t run, swim or ride a bike we keep trying anyway.

So, God bless you, Ryan Gosling, you’re an inspiration to the hopeless everywhere!

Dream On Review (Andrew)

Last week someone recommended that I read ‘Dream On’ by John Richardson, the story of how one hopeless golfer tried to become a brilliant golfer in just 12 months.

He set himself a challenge – he would play a perfect round of golf. He’d shoot a level par round – a round of 18 holes where he equalled or bettered the course score without the help of any extra strokes. The only problem he had was that he started the year as a hopeless golfer who needed 20 extra strokes or more to get round.

Did he do it? Normally in these types of books the pleasure of reading it is to find out whether the author was successful… or not…

But, spoiler alert…

The author gives the game away in the first few chapters by randomly including a sentence starting with “After I did it…”

Thanks, John or your sub-editor for that one!

Apart from that, and a minor quibble that it would have been interesting to see some of his training logs so as to see the work required, what did I learn from it and how could it apply to triathlon – it’s not about the glamour

John made the mistake for most of his training of concentrating on his first shot – the drive. He wanted to hit the ball further and faster and with a bigger THWACK than anyone else. The drive is what impresses you’re playing partners and your club mates. It’s the most visible part of being a good golfer. The big shot from the tee.

However, for over six months he didn’t practice at all at putting. The sedate cousin of driving. There’s no big swing. No THWACK. It’s a gentle motion that seemingly requires no skill even though holing a long putt is one of the main things every golf programme focuses on in their daily highlights. It’s the glamour shot no one notices.

Yet, for John, it was only when he started to concentrate on his putting that his score started to improve because isn’t just one skill, it’s multiple skills. You need to be able to drive, you need to be able to hit a long iron for your second shot, you need to pitch short shots around the green and then you need to put. Also you need to keep all your womanising quiet, but that’s just Tiger Woods.

It’s the same for triathlon. The skills bit. Not the womanising bit. Triathlon is a mix of skills. From swimming to cycling to running and the all important getting your wet suit off really quickly in transition without falling over.

Yet, in order to improve, do we spend the same amount of time on all four parts?

If you’re anything like me then you concentrate on the bits that are easy – the running and cycling – and work less on the bits that are hard – swimming faster or further. In order to improve we need to concentrate on all parts.

Which seems obvious but it’s worth repeating because it’s easy to get seduced by the quick fixes that triathlon offers. A new wet suit, a faster bike, when all that matters is concentrating on the basics. Swim technique, pedalling and moving your feet faster for long than you did before.

Oh, and not falling over when trying to pull your wetsuit of your legs.

Anyway, all this came to mind because, in other news, Iain’s bought a time trial bike and he thinks it’ll make him faster and he’ll finally beat me. Well, all I can say to that is “Dream on!”.

Top Tips For Norseman Support Teams (Andrew)

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the union of swim, bike and run…”

With these words the race director opened the Norseman briefing the day before the race. However, he missed one important element. Triathlon is not just the union of swimming, cycling and running, it’s also the union of athlete and supporter. The race is unsupported by the organisers so every athlete needs their own team on course to feed them, clothe them, pick up their swimsuit and bike after them and generally support them throughout.

And, after 18 hours, here’s what I learned:

  1. Accommodation – It’s an early start. Athletes must be on the ferry by 4am. If you don’t want to be getting up the day before then finding accommodation near the start in Eidfjord is vital. Top tip though – if you do find accommodation make sure it has curtains. Mine didn’t and I now know how hard it is to get to sleep in a country where the sun rises in April and sunset is October. Groan. So, so tired…
  2. Nutrition – the athlete will get hungry and will start to demand every food type they can think of in order to escape the monotony of their twentieth energy gel. “Bring me a steak sandwich!”, “I want a black forest gateaux!”, “Where’s my swan!”. A good alternative to energy gels is a small bit of grated cheese. The flavour will reset their tastebuds and provide a contrast to the rest of what they eat. Top tip though – don’t store the grated cheese in a plastic bag in the car. It will soon become a big ball o’melted cheese.
  3. Timing – there is no need to rush out of Eidfjord when athletes leave the first transition. Unless they’re eventual Norseman winner Allan Hovda, it’ll take your athlete at least an hour to clear the first climb and for them to reach the start of the route where support is allowed. Have a nap! Have some breakfast! Let the traffic clear! Then follow them up the mountain!
  4. Decoration – Personalise your car with the athlete’s face. Allan Hovda did but we didn’t but then have you seen Iain’s face?!?!?
  5. Amusement – If/when it’s sunny, taunt the athlete with a Magnum. They won’t appreciate it and that’s what will make it funny.ptr
  6. Stocking up – there’s not many places to stock up with food and drink between Eidfjord and Zomebie Hill. It’s important you make the most of each stop by learning Norwegian. That might sound like a big effort just to buy extra supplies in the local Spar but, trust us, when you buy sparking water and not still water because you can’t read the label and the athlete is expecting Norway’s answer to Evian, you’ll thank us for this tip.
  7. Fellowship – Remember to cheer the other athletes until… you realise it’s the same ones passing every time on the run route. Then remember you have something to check in the car so you don’t need to shout “Good luck!” for the tenth time that hour.
  8. Fellowship – Remember to give the other athletes names too. Shout out in particular to Nic Cage, who was the spitting image of Nic Cage, the Walking Dead, who we were sure died on the bike but was still shuffling along the run route bent over and doubled up, and Stephen, who’s actual name was Thomas and who was always just behind Iain, but we got his name wrong once and it then just stuck. Go Stephen!
  9. Photography – Take lots of pictures. Particularly of the athlete changing and looking hot, sweaty, beat or depressed. When they complete the race and two years later they are still going on about it, you’ll have the perfect blackmail material to keep them quiet.
  10. Photography 2 – Top tip, don’t use a zoom lens near transition 1. You never know what you will see through it as everyone seems to ignore the “Keep Yer Pants On, Dear God, Man!” policy.
  11. Clothing – only someone wearing the official supporters t-shirt can enter transition. At the briefing they said their would be two t-shirts for each team however the race pack only contained one. We never found out which was correct. One t-shirt or two. But, check your pack when you pick it up and check with the volunteers that you have the right number.
  12. Timing – there are some sections of the bike route which are very fast and cyclists are almost going as fast as the cars. Or at least that’s our excuse for when Iain arrived at the second transistion 30 seconds before we did.
  13. Rjuken – don’t try and check in to your hotel while the athlete climbs Zombie Hill it takes much longer than you think to drive through town and back up the hill. Though it was good to see the room had curtains…
  14. Rjuken 2 – … and only half a double bed…
  15. IMG_20180804_223426.jpg
  16. Rjuken 3 – … and the toilet had a lock on the outside of the door. Why? Who’s going to lock you in??!??
  17. Rjuken 4 – Basically, don’t stay at the Ryuken GuestHus…
  18. Enjoy it – the day flys by. You get a front row seat of 250 inspiring people who battle on no matter how hard it gets and you get to see lots of brilliant bits of Norway.
  19. Crisps – also you can eat crisps in your car all day. Mmmmm, crisps!ptfbty

Wet Wet Wet Suit (Andrew)

Can you smell chlorine? Any one who has ever been to a public swimming pool will say ‘yes’ – that strong smell that hits you as soon as you walk in the pool is the smell of chlorine. Except it’s not. Chlorine doesn’t smell. What you’re smelling is the sweat and dirt and who knows what else that’s come into contact with the chlorine in the pool. A strong smell just means that the odourless chlorine has done it’s job and kept the water clean by reacting to everything in it.

Chlorine is counter intuitive. The truth is the opposite of what you think it should be. The smellier the pool, the cleaner it will be.

The same thought applies to swimming. Why do we shower before we swim? We’re just about to cover ourselves in water so why do we… cover ourselves in water before we go in. Or why do we shower afterwards? Surely, the whole point of swimming is to avoid the need for a shower?

Which reminds me, I was getting my hair cut last year when the hair dresser said, with no prompt or link to our previous conversation: “Are you a swimmer?”.

I thought he must recognise my swimming from my broad shoulders, strong biceps and v- shaped back. (Also my deluded opinion of myself).

He said: “I can tell because your hair is so damaged!”.

He then went on to tell me that the best way to protect your hair is to add some conditioner to it before you start. The conditioner will protect he hair from the chemicals in the water.

Which made me think – why don’t they just fill the pool with soap?! Why don’t they just turn it into a giant bath?

In fact, people say when they are going swimming that they are “going to the baths”.

It’s a genius idea.  And no fact or sensible claim that you can’t actually swim in soap because you’d die if you swallowed it will change my mind!

Anyways, I was thinking about all of this when I washing my wetsuit at the weekend. I thought: “Why am I washing a wetsuit? It was in water. I’ve now got it in more water. Isn’t this pointless?”

And even though I was thinking this while everything I brought back from the Carron Valley reservoir was washed through my wetsuit – from twigs and grass to at least two boats and a fisherman with rod – I thought it’s brilliant idea. From now on – no more washing my wet suit!

And even though I’m typing this covered in a red rash from head to toe why don’t you give it a go? Trust me, it’ll be as clean as a swimming pool!

 

 

 

 

 

Race the Blades Half Marathon 2018 (Andrew)

Who gives socks as a present?

Normally, that’s the question you ask every Christmas as you open the package that felt like a Cashmere jumper only to find it’s five socks from Tesco – and the sale price has been left on.

I don’t mind though. I love getting socks as it means I’ve not had to buy socks in years. See also boxers. See also aftershave (received once, never used). See also a coffee machine (still unopened as I don’t drink coffee).

That’s why I was really excited to finish the Race The Blades half marathon, a 13.1 mile race on the tracks running through Whiteelee wind farm. At the end, along with the obligatory t-shirt and medal there was also a paid of socks in the goody bag.

Brilliant!

If there’s one thing you want after a race it’s the ability to change into a clean paid of socks!

(Even if those socks are covered in images of wind turbines).

So, well done to the organisers and to the sponsors, Scottish Power, you gave me another chance to avoid buying socks for the foreseeable future.

If only you’d start giving away smart trousers for work or shirts then I’d never need to shop again.

(Unless they were covered in images of wind turbines)

The race itself is deceptively hilly: it lulls you into a false sense of flatness in the first six miles before throwing all the hills into the final six. Last time I ran it – see here – the race came up short, literally. It was 200 metres too short. This time it was the right length and with the summer heatwave abating for a few days it was also a pleasant morning with nice dry trail roads to run on.

It was also my last ‘official’ race this year – I’ve got nothing booked now until July 2019.

So, for the rest of the year it’s feet up (with socks on, of course!).