Lockdown – One Year On – Part Four (Andrew)

I wrote the following entry a year ago and then decided not to publish it given the uncertainty over how COVID would affect everyone. I didn’t want to publish an entry talking about going to the swimming pool when it might have been safer to stay at home. It seems okay to publish it now as a way to look back at this time last year.

I thought I had trouble breathing last night. Every so often I’d need to take a deep breath while I could feel a heaviness over the top of my chest. It didn’t help that I was also coughing… and had turned green and smelt faintly of decay.

Those last two symptoms might be hyperbole.

Did I have the Coronavirus? Or, after 130 minutes on the indoor bike cycling through Zwift, was I just tired?

We seem to be gripped by a fear that everyone is about to die. Even though the statistics show that we’re not. That most people will pick up the virus and then recover a few days later, we’re treating it like the end of the world, which is depressing. I thought the world would end in fire and brimstone, not with a mountain of bogroll and tinned tomatoes.

Maybe we’ve been spoiled by films and television. We see the endtimes in terms of the spectacular when, in fact, for everyone but the heroes battling to save the planet, it ends with a full fridge and a clean bum.

I worry about catching it. I’m being irrational but still I scour websites for “What are the symptons?”, “What does it feel like to have the virus?” and “how many 42 year olds have died from the Coronavirus?”.

It’s pointless. I’m looking for answers to confirm a fear. I should be looking for “How many people have recovered from the Coronavirus?” and “How many 42 years olds have the lottery?” because the numbers are much more comforting. 

At work today we had a call to plan how we’ll deal with the virus. Travel stopped between offices. Cancelling meetings. Limiting use of the kitchen. Asking people to let us know if they think they are ‘vulnerable’ and what to do with someone who decides to self isolate for two weeks then comes back only to self-isolate again and again until it starts to snow in December and they can take the Christmas break.

We have an action plan but it’s already out of date. We issued it 5pm. By 5:05, Boris Johnson was recommending everyone worked from home and that whole households should isolate for 14 days if one member showed symptoms. Maybe the extra toilet roll has started to make sense?

Lockdown – One Year On – Part Three (Andrew)

I wrote the following entry a year ago and then decided not to publish it given the uncertainty over how COVID would affect everyone. I didn’t want to publish an entry talking about going to the swimming pool when it might have been safer to stay at home. It seems okay to publish it now as a way to look back at this time last year.

We’ve been at home all week. On Monday, Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown, which we’d missed as we were walking the dog and, with the announcement trailed in advance as a ‘big statement’ we pretty much expected to find that we’d been incarcerated on our return. Not that it made much difference to us. Mrs TwinbikeRun has been home for six days and I’d been home for four. We weren’t going back to work or out and about now. 

At home we’ve divided the house in two with each of us at opposite ends of the top floor. We share a speaker and she gets to choose the playlists as I don’t need to listen to music while working and can easily tune it out if I need to. However, after one day we need to establish some Spotify ground rules when choosing tracks. And, according to Mrs E, rule number one is that it’s entirely reasonable to listen to One Direction’s album ‘Made In The AM’ five times in a row.

At work, on Monday lunchtime the Scottish government announced that we must close down all work for the foreseeable. On Monday night the UK government announced we could stay open. We listened to Nicola Sturgeon and not Boris and closed down on Tuesday. Others didn’t which led to one newspaper report of angry staff recording conversation with their boss to ask him “Who was more important, the chief exec who ordered them to work, or Nicola Sturgeon?”. The answer: “Well, Nicola doesn’t pay your wages does she?”.

A day later everyone was shut. Everyone was on “furlough” and we just had a skeleton crew. “I don’t think that’s an appropriate name!” I said and the next day we were the “core team”. 

Today, is the weekend and I can tell because my laptop is closed.

Other than that I’ve tried to clean my bikes, get them ready for summer and generally potter around the garden. I don’t potter round gardens. I pay people to do the gardening. I hate gardening. Instead, I realised something bad about me today: it takes around 500 people to die before I will willingly take out a lawnmower and cut the grass. 

Film Friday: A Day In The Life Pro Triathletes (Andrew)

Lucy Charles-Barclay and Reece Barclay are both professional triathletes and husband and wife. Both were swimmers before converting to triathlon in 2014 having no background in running or cycling. They are now both successful professionals and Lucy has become one of the best triathletes in the world.

Their YouTube channel is worth a follow and this video in particular is worth a watch to see what a typical day of training if like for them as they get close to a race. I say “typical” but as the video was shot in lockdown it also shows how they are training and having to comply with COVID regulations.

Lockdown – One Year On – Part Two (Andrew)

I wrote a few entries a year ago and then decided not to publish them given the uncertainty over how COVID would affect everyone. It seems okay to publish it now to look back at this time last year.

We are living in historic times. Which is just like living in non-historic times except there are fewer books written about it.

Years from now people will look back and ask how we coped with lockdown. I can say this: “today, I cleaned out the shed and catalogued all of my old paint pots by room and colour. Result.”

I also emptied the shed and found a patio strimmer. I don’t even know what that does. Do patios need strimmed? Are they not made of concrete? How do you strim concrete with anything but dynamite? However as it’s in an unopened plastic box I can only imagine it was bought at a point when I did know what it was and thought I would need it but not at a point where whatever it did was actually required urgently as I never opened it. In fact, there was so much junk in the shed that behind the leaf blower – something else I’ve never used – I found the Ark of the Covenant. 

Today, my wife and I decided to go the local Morrisons for a weekly shop. I volunteered to go on my own as it seems selfish to both go together when shops are limiting numbers. We make a list of what we need for the week and think about taking latex gloves – another shed surprise (were we going to carry an operation in there?! Maybe an amputation with the patio strimmer?) – but decide against it as I’m not a serial killer.

Outside Morrisons there are barriers set up to direct people to queue to get in. We stand two metres apart, self  isolating, until one man walks out the shop, and decides to push his trolley back along the queue rather than going straight out into the car park. It’s like watching the boulder coming towards me from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Do I run? Jump out of the way? Or just let it flatten me? Luckily I’m next to a gap in the barrier and he takes his plaguemobile out of it. 

Inside the store a couple wander round the veg aisle touching carrots and onions and saying “These are no good. Not this one.” Well, not now you’ve touched them!

Another man walks round in a white tracksuit and a Burberry checked facemask. I might not be able to see his face but at least I can still tell he’s Glaswegian.

At the checkout I ask if the store has been busy today. “It wasn’t safe earlier,” said the man at the checkout, “but they’ve reduced the numbers coming in and it’s okay now”. Oh, that’s good, because Coronavirus is like a cool party. Once people leaves, it’s doesn’t hang around. (This may not be medically accurate).

I then drive home with an itchy nose. I don’t touch it. At home I try and open the groceries with my hand wrapped in an arm of my jumper, which I’ve pulled down.

“That’s smart,” said Mrs TwinBikeRun, “now you won’t get the virus from that jar of Jalapenos.”

“Exactly!” I said.

“You’ll just get it on your jumper sleeve that you’ll wear for the rest of the night instead.”

I throw my jumper somewhere I know I’ll never touch it again: the shed.  

Film Friday: Bob Graham: Ultra Running Documentary

The Bob Graham Round ultra running challenge is a challenge to run up and down 42 mountains (aka Fells) in the Lake District within 24 hours. The challenge is named after the first person to complete it back in June 1932, Bob Graham, a guest house owner. For the next 90 years he would have be pleased that other people have followed in his footsteps as his challenge inspires people to travel to the Lake District to complete it – and he can rent them a room when they arrived. It should be called the Bob Graham Advert.

This documentary about the Bob Graham Round follows Danish runner Kristina Madsen as she attempted the round in 2019. I’ve read a number of books about the challenge and they all say the same thing: if you’re attempting the challenge there will be a big community of runners willing to help you. Previous racers, local runners who know the fells, everyone will go out of their way to help anyone trying the challenge. And this documentary is no different, it shows the problems she had when some of her support pulled out, the people who stepped into help her, and it shows how grateful she is for everyone’s support. It’s nice. Very nice. But…

… wouldn’t it be great to see just one film where someone turns round and says “why are you talking about my support crew, they didn’t run it/cycle it or swim the Atlantic – I did! It was all me! I am the greatest!”

Humble is nice but it would make a change to see Kanye West or Donald Trump complete the Bob Graham.

Lockdown – One Year On – Part One (Andrew)

I wrote the following entry a year ago and then decided not to publish it given the uncertainty over how COVID would affect everyone. I didn’t want to publish an entry talking about going to the swimming pool when it might have been safer to stay at home. It seems okay to publish it now as a way to look back at this time last year.

I am the last person who should be giving medical advice. Except maybe for Doctor Who, who’s neither a medical practitioner or a PHD, just a conman with a phonebox. Or perhaps Dr Hannibal Lecter, who’d eat you as soon as cure you. So, when I try to answer a medical question, can you still train with the coronavirus, I’m not being too serious…

Can you train with the coronavirus? If it was a cold or flu or a broken leg then, for most runners, the answer is “yes, just run it off!”.

Amateur athletes are notorious for training and racing while ill. We assume any cough or headache or Ebola virus is just a sign that the training is working. “Of course, I’m not well,” we say “I’ve been training!”.

But, yesterday, I went swimming and I thought: “Should I be here? Should I be in a swimming pool that’s a coronavirus cocktail of sweat and spit and whatever else has washed off the bodies of a thousands swimmers?”

And what about the changing room? Do I need a hazmat suit to change out of my birthday suit in a room filled with perspiring bodybuilders?

Or do I assume that this is no different to any other cold or flu or bug and live life normally until the government says otherwise?

It seems as if many have already started to panic. There are no toilet rolls or pasta on supermarket shelves. Personally, if I was stockpiling, I’d be stocking up chocolate biscuits and cake. Stuff fusilli pasta, if I’m coughing and hacking, I want a KitKat.

I don’t get the obsession with pasta either. After the virus started in China there were numerous people saying they wouldn’t eat Chinese food. Now the virus is in Italy, we’re eating Spaghetti Bolognese like our lives depended on it (literally). It seems we’re only suspicious of our food when it doesn’t come in a cheese sauce.

We’re also washing our hands for 20 seconds. The Government says you should sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice. I don’t think you need a song though – just wash your hands like you’ve just killed a man and don’t want to get caught. You don’t need soap to clean hands, just pretend you have a guilty conscience.

But, if water and soap is effective, then all you need to do if you want to swim in a swimming pool is pour some liquid soap in the pool. Turn it into a sink. That way 2000 metres will leave you cleaner than an hypochondriac throwing out his Kung Pow Chicken.

And, if you’re adding soap, then why not also add conditioner for your hair? I was told by a hairdresser that if you want to avoid damaging hair with chorine then apply some conditioner before you swim. Now, you’re not just training, you’re protecting yourself too. With all the soapy water, you’re immune from the coronavirus. And you have great looking hair.

Possibly.

Maybe.

However I’m not a Doctor and this is definitely not medical advice.

[Postscript – it turned out this was the last time I was in a swimming pool]

Training for Celtman 2021 – March (Andrew)

Celtman is going ahead!

But I must admit to some nerves. Swimming pools don’t reopen until the end of April and the lochs have only just started to warm up and reach 5 degrees. Yet, just a few weeks later, we will need to swim 3K in the sea. That’s a big ask and one that I do worry about as a lack of training will certainly mean a slower swim, at best. There will be an increased risk of hypothermia and I’ll certainly be more tired on the bike after swimming without adequate training.

To help prepare, Iain TwinBikeRun spotted that Pinkston Watersports was starting open water swimming in it’s canal lock again in April. We were able to book a weekly session through to the end of May so at least we’d have one swim a week. I’ve also applied for the Arlington Baths for membership so I can use their pool once they reopen, which I thought was an expensive but safer option than trying to get in the Glasgow Life swimming pools. And, finally, I hope it’s sunny for the next two months so that the water can heat up and I can get back to wild swimming. Five degree is my cut off for swimming as the effort to swim is not matched by the time in the water. If I’m going to spend at least an hour trying to get to a loch then I want more than just a few minutes in the water.

Hopefully, all this effort, will help bring back some swimming ability before June, assuming it does go ahead. Because although the organisers have announced that it will I think it may be too ambitious to hold it so soon after lockdown eases because athletes may say that a lack of swim practice is just part of the “extreme” nature of an “extreme triathlon”, sometimes athletes need protected from themselves.

I am reminded of sitting in a boat waiting for a swim to start when the organisers announced it was cancelled due to high winds. The safety boats couldn’t sail and there would be no one to protect the competitors. “It’s okay,” shouted one man, “I don’t need a boat!”. However, some decisions need to be taken out competitors hands, especially when those hands haven’t been in water since lockdown 3 started in December.

Film Friday – Davide’s Way Against The Clock (Andrew)

What do you do if you are a racer who has no races to race? If you are rising star of trail running, Italian runner Davide Magnini, then you continue to race the one thing you can still race: time itself. He challenged himself to try and beat the current records for running three iconic Italian courses: Ortles, Stelvio Pass, and Presanella.

If you like watching someone running up a hill faster than most of us can run down it, and if you like watching someone run down a hill faster than we could sky dive down it, then each of these short films are well worth a watch:

Run Every Street (Andrew)

The last street

After 50 runs averaging six miles each time, I have finally completed a single page of my Glasgow Street map. To put this in context: there are nearly 200 pages in my street map (though it does cover half of Ayrshire, the Central Belt and as far north as Kincardine) so I have completed 0.5% of central Scotland!

Aside – I really should have got a street map with a smaller area, my progress would seem much more impressive, just like an advert for a sofa always makes the cushions seem bigger by hiring very small models to sit on them. Oh well, I’ll know better next time.

With one page complete, I thought I’d share some tips in case you think of trying to run the streets around your own home:

Tip One – There is a purity in running every street from your own home. It’s what the Pope would do, as he’s very pure, though I have to point out that he’d have it easy as the Vatican state is very small and he’d be able to run every street just by crossing St Peter’s Square to give a speech. However, if you’re not the Pope, and I’m fairly confident the Pontiff will not be reading this so it’s unlikely your name if Francis and you’re going to appear on Strava next week with the Vatican’s local hero tag, then you’ll probably have quite a few streets to run. And while the first ten or so runs will spiral out from your home, the next runs will involve you having to run along the streets you’ve previously claimed to get to your new world of virgin streets. After a few more runs, you’ll find you’re running 1 – 2 miles to get to the new streets and suddenly your average run has risen from 4 – 6 miles to 6 – 9 miles because you feel that you at least need to make a good effort to claim the streets after you get there.

So, just like the Pope, I feel I need to absolve you of your sins. Once you get to that stage, it’s okay to drive a bit or cycle over before starting. I didn’t. But I am pretending to be the Pope in this example so must be whiter than white. However, in future, now that I’ve finished my page, I will have no hesitation in driving from my house to get to a ‘start line’.

Tip Two – You may feel tempted to look at your phone to check where you are or what streets you need to cover. And for this, I must confess, that I have sinned! For yea, didst I look upon the Google Maps whilst trying to find a street in Orchard Park that I’d missed the first time and didn’t want to miss a second time as I’d already ran two miles to get there. But, if you can, try not to use your phone. There is nothing more satisfying than working out the layout of a new housing estate just by looking at the road and checking whether it’s covered in tarmac like a public road (which is likely to have roads branching from it) or is made of bricks like a private drive (and likely a dead end). And, you know what else? Orienteers use maps. And you don’t want to be an orienteer. Orienteering is nothing but advanced geography with trainers. Who knows what an ox-bow lake is? Orienteers, that’s who! The dweebs! Avoid!

Tip Three: After running all of these streets I have found a new love of the area I live – because these are no longer Glasgow’s streets, these are my streets. I am the Snake from the old Nokia mobile game. I have conquered these streets and turned them red, blue, green, brown, orange, yellow, blue and purple in my name. Now, to add the other 199 pages to complete my atlas.

Film Friday – A Mile An Hour: Running A Different Kind Of Marathon (Andrew)

It sounds simple: run three miles and then run one mile every hour for 24 hours until you run a marathon. It sounds so simple that maybe you should make it more complicated. How about running one mile every hour and also build a table, some oars, clear all the rubbish along the way you run and maybe 30 odd other household tasks. Why not try and do as much as you can in 24 hours? And run a marathon?

If you like the sound of simple ideas that clearly collapse when you get to around hour 20, mile 20 and you’re utterly knackered then this is the video for you. Optimism, idealism and a healthy dose of stupidity. But such a simple idea that you think: “maybe I should give it a go too?”