Etape Caledonia 2018 (Andrew)

Recovery

It’s not often you see someone carrying a spare tyre when they’re out riding. A tube, yes. A tyre, not so much.

What are the chances you’ll need a spare tyre in the middle of a race? Or worse, in the middle of a race that you ‘d be planning to race for six months? Or worse, 10 miles into that race, you need a tyre and you don’t even get the sense you’d even started it.

What are the chances? Pretty high actually, if you’re me. I had a tyre explode 10 miles into the Etape Du Tour – a race which follows a stage of the Tour De France.

A rip in the tyre wall meant a wait at the side of the road for a motorbike support.  And then another wait as the support checked if they had any spare wheels they could give me before I was finally told “the only wheels you’ll see are the four on the bus that’s coming to pick you up!”.

I remembered this horrible memory on Sunday as I waited at the side of the road, this time just after the five mile point, for motorbike support. I was taking part in the Etape Caledonia and had selected the wrong gear before climbing a short sharp hill. I tried to change gear. My chain slipped. It became caught in the crank and it became so twisted and knotted even Alexander The great would have said “I may have conquered the world – but, fek’s sake, even that knot’s beyond me!”

But, as I waited for the inevitable conversation with the mechanic that would lead to the sweep up truck, he said:

“Wait, is that a quick release link?”

Before he pressed the chain, split it in half, threaded it through and released the knot in 30 seconds. He then threaded the chain back, linked it together and said: “You’re good to go!”

And I had a second flashback. I remembered in January I’d tried to change the chain, failed miserably at removing the pins, destroying the chain tool in the process, before I’d replaced the chain again with quick release links.

Thank you, January Andrew! You’re a star! (Even if you didn’t know what you were doing and was just following the first YouTube mechanic video you could find).

So, despite starting again near the back of field, as every one had passed as the bike was fixed, at least I was starting again this time

As for the race, a new three mile loop adds an interesting challenge to the first half and some cracking views of Schiehallion. A rebrand gives some cracking looking jerseys. And, despite a heatwave on Saturday and forecast of a dry day with more to come, there was still a couple of spots of rain as we passed Loch Tummell. The Caledonian Etape – never knowingly dry no matter what the forecast!

The highlight of the race however came as I reached the 70 mile point. I saw a man with a spare tyre tied onto the panniers on the back of his bike, I didn’t think “Ha! He won’t need that!”. Instead,  I thought: “Well played, sir, well played indeed!”

(Oh, and Iain claims he won – but the official time shows a dead heat, so I’m still the undisputed heavy weight champion of the Etape Caledonia!)

It’s a game of two sick parrots (Andrew)

“Does anyone want to play football? Eleven a-side. You don’t need to play, you just need to be able to run.”

My first thought was “No!” and my second thought was “Hell NO!!!” because full fat football, the eleven a-side version, is horrible.

First, you have to have a position. A position that says where you should be, who you should mark, when you should run and when you should defend. Which sound easy. If you’re a left side defender you should be on the left side of pitch. However, you might think that’s where you should be, everyone else in your team will shout “FFS! You’re out of position again!” To everyone else, you couldn’t be more out of position if you were a dyslexic reading the Karma Sutra.

Because here’s the thing. In every eleven a-side game there’s at least one, if not half a dozen players, who think they have the motivational skills of Sir Alex Ferguson. Not in the inspire you to victory and to give your all until the very last minute type way. More in a “I will *****ing kill you, you *****ing **** if you ******ing don’t get *****ing back in *****ing position” type motivational speech way.

Playing eleven a-side football turns some people into tyrants. Usually Dave from IT, the one you least suspect of Hulking out as he never says a word to anyone, just sends email that you delete without reading because you know he’ll be talking about the server again.

It could be worse though. You could volunteer to play and you hear language that no one should ever hear. Words that would terrify Rambo and make The Rock cower in fear. Those words: “Barry’s not turned up, can you go in goals?”

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

New Pool Rules (Andrew)

I don’t know an awful lot about torture but I do know that water torture must be the worst kind of torture –  because what can be worse than swimming behind someone in the fast land as they only go and swim the bloody breast stroke… grrr! Now, that’s torture!

And, with all that water torture that goes on at Guantanamo Bay, I can only imagine it’s like an evil Butlins. I bet they don’t even water the slides and make the prisoners slide down on the hard plastic giving them all friction burns. The monsters! Damn you, George W Bush and your slow lane hogging legacy war on terror!

However, for those like me, who hate water torture but also hate asking people to move lane, I have an answer that fixes both the torture and the akward conversation. We need to rethink how we divide swimming pools. Slow, medium and fast lanes are too subjective. What is fast?  Is it someone swimming the crawl slowly or someone swimming doggy style quickly? And who even knows what medium is? Is that when you try and swim with one arm only? It’s too difficult to work out!

Instead, we need to come up with an entirely objective approach. One where we can quite happily approach strangers and tell them that there in the wrong lane without any risk of an argument.

So, howabout:

·     The little old lady lane for little old ladies who don’t like to get there hair wet.

Now, before you say I’m sexist and ageist by picking on (a) ladies; and (b) pensioners, please read on to the next lane before you make judgement. I’m also picking on men too.

So, who would be in this land. That’s an easy one. I’m picking woman who are over 60 and below 5 foot 6 inches but, crucially, always swim with their head at least 10 feet out of the water. You know the type. Gets in gingerely. Makes sure they don’t splash and then tries to slowly, slowly swim no more than two laps by not creating a single ripple.

Ladies, I salute you, and, to you, I give you your own lane.

·     The big dick, dick lane for men who not only think they’re big dicks they’re also big dicks.

This lane is for the dick who swim back and forth no matter who is in front of them. You know who they are. They’re the ones who always swim around you and into other people because it’s more important that they keep swimming and everyone else stops than it is not to be a dick.

You can usually tell the big dick in the pool because they’re also the only ones who wear Speedos in a way which cause maximum exposure of their… big gut.

·     The lane for those who like to swim, not just paddle.

This is the lane for most of us. You can tell it because it’s the lane with the swimmers in goggles, even though they don’t really need them, and the constant question of “Is it okay if I go?” when they get to the end of the lane and someone is waiting at the wall. It’s the anti-dick lane. The ‘no, you go first’ lane.

·     The ‘kids shouldn’t be here’ lane.

This is a lane for all the parents who bring their kids into the adults only time and then take a whole lane to themselves even though little Timmy is only paddling beside the wall. You’ll find this lane in the changing room beside a clock with a timetable reminding them when they can go in!

Etape Caledonia 2018 – New Route (Andrew)

A few weeks ago it was reported that the UK Government was going to scrap 1p and 2p coins because no one used them anymore and they just clogged up space in your purse or wallet.

Within a day, after front page stories attacked the idea, the Government u-turned as it announced it had no plans to scrap them at all, proving once and for all that everyone both loves and hates change.

Runners love change because change represents variety. I usually try and run different routes each time I go out so that while I might follow streets or paths I’ve run before I try and not have too much of a fixed route in my mind. That way I can change direction, pick a side road I’ve not in in a while or, my new favourite hobby, run along a back alley and find the secret routes through Glasgow hidden behind houses, offices and shops.

Running’s all about the route, not the destination.

Cyclists on the other hand hate change. When you’re on a bike, while it’s nice to explore new routes, it’s also reassuring (and safe!) to ride the roads you know well. The ones where traffic is light, where you’re not likely to meet an unexpected pothole, and you can concentrate more on the destination than the route. You have somewhere to get to, and you want to get there in the fastest possible time.

That’s why I’m disappointed to read that this year Etape Caledonia will have a new route. Not much of a change, an extra three miles to incorporate a short climb before Loch Rannoch, but a change nonetheless.

After several years of trying to get faster and aiming to beat four hours, an extra three miles means that history is lost. I can’t compare this year with previous years as we’re now riding a new route.

And while the new route will be good – any ride in Perthshire is good – it’s also bad as it means the history is lost.

So, just like the penny, change is both bad and good!

Balfron 10K (Andrew)

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I left my legs in Wanlockhead.

On Saturday, it was a beautiful day and we went to Wanlockhead – the highest village in Scotland – for a 40 mile cycle down through the Menock pass and back via Drumlanrig Castle and Elvenfoot before climbing to the top of the radar station.

Before we started, we parked in the centre of the village. A smiling man with an old large rucksack approached.

“Are you here to open the shop?”

We explained we were cycling.

“Oh, my bus leaves in 10 minutes and I need to buy my licence.”

“You need a licence for the bus?”

“No, I need a licence from the land owner as I’m here to find GOLD!”

Which was not what I was expecting to hear at 9am on a Saturday morning when (a) we’re not in California; and (b) it’s not the nineteenth century!

“How do you find gold?”

He opened his rucksack and then showed me a tube that was used to collect gravel from the bottom of riverbeds. He showed me a large plastic tray with grooves where the lighter soil would be washed away but the heavier gold would be caught in the grooves. Then he showed me his pan where he gently washed the last of the gravel leaving behind the millions and millions of pounds of GOLD!

“Do you find much?”

“I usually find a few specks the size of a grain of salt.”

Really?!? I looked round to see his Rolls Royce.

“And how much is that worth?”

“Nothing really, not even a pound, but it’s FUN!”

I didn’t want to hear about fun. I wanted to hear about making millions just washing gravel. But despite, as I found out later, Wanlockhead being known as ‘God’s Treasure House in Scotland’ due to the abundance of minerals found in the area, there’s not a lot of gold in them there hills.

In fact, the licence was £5 (I checked) and if it was possible to make more money panning for gold than selling licences for £5 then you can bet the land owner wouldn’t be selling licences for £5.

Despite the small chance of striking riches, as we cycled round I began to see that all the people I’d previously thought were  fishing were actually panning for gold instead. It seems that gold fever is alive and well and can be found in Wanlockhead.

Gold though was the last thing on my mind on Sunday at the Balfron 10k. Iain’s already described the race (see here). I can only add that it was the first time that I’d taken part and I can confirm that it was hilly and that every down hill seemed to lead to an ever longer uphill.

It was either that or my legs were still tired from cycling round Wanlockhead and every kilometre felt like a struggle today.

The race though is very well organised and has a good turnout of runners. And if you’re chasing a fastest 1K time on Strava then I can recommend the first 1K. A downhill so steep it can only be described with one word: “Geronimo!”

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Made Up Movie Monkeys (Andrew)

Hello. My name is Andrew Todd and I’m a hypochondriac.

Some people have a cough. I don’t. I have lung cancer.

Some people have a twitch. I don’t. I have sclerosis, sclerosis, sclerosis, scleroris, also called multiple scleroris.

Some people have nothing at all. I don’t. I always have something. I’ve even had Motaba, the fictional disease from the film Outbreak, because I’m a hypochondriac, and I don’t let fiction stop me catching a made up disease from a made up movie monkey.

Hypochondria messes with your mind. Not just in the obvious ways. The thinking you’re ill when you’re not type ways. Hypochondria makes me jealous of those who are genuinely ill – at least they know what they have. I don’t. Not until I’ve checked NHS Direct, WebMD and the ‘TellItToMeStraightDocAmIDying?’ internet forum where GPBobaFett357 confirms that “Yes, tiredness and heavy eyelids immediately after waking up first thing in the morning is definitely caused by… sleep tumours. Deadly, deadly sleep tumours!”.

It’s ridiculous.

I even feel jealous of people who are genuinely ill because at least they know they can be cured. There’s no cure for hypochondria. Even if there was, I’d just catch something else. Like the Black Death, which I’ve also had. It’s remarkably similar to the common cold. If only Dark Age doctors had prescribed two paracetamol, a cup of Lemsip and a Netflix subscription, they could have avoided a global pandemic. It worked for me, it would have worked for them.

Every headache’s a brain tumour. Every tremor a sign of Parkinsons. My nose bleeds will never end. I know my response is neither rational nor sane, I know that. But, while everyone is aware, on some level, of their body clock counting down the days, my body clock is bloody Big Ben. Every hour on the hour: “DOOM! DOOM! DOOM! DOOM!”.

DOOM! That brown mole is… the start of skin cancer! DOOM! That white spot is… a leprous pox! DOOM! That red itch… is viral meningitis!

I should see a doctor. But I don’t trust doctors. How can you trust someone who gave dyslexics such a hard word to spell? Or stutterers and stammerers such hard words to say?

Doctors don’t even know any medicine anymore. Last time I went to my doctor, all he did was check Google. To book a holiday. Do you know how much that hurt? To be ignored by a man who has sworn the Hippocratic oath. Especially when I had cerebral palsy. Again!

Hypochondria’s not even a cool mental illness. We don’t get to wear a black bin bag and get off with her-from-The-Hunger-Games like Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook. Ironically, for an illness that’s all about being ill, we don’t even consider it a proper illness. Hypochondria’s other name is ‘Man Up Syndrome’.

“I think I might have bird flu because a seagull shat on my head.”

“Man up!”

“I think I might have brain parasites because I fell asleep watching Star Trek 2: The Wrath Of Khan and they crawl in your ear while you sleep you know.”

“Man up!”

“I think I might have scurvy because I don’t like bananas.”

“MAN UP!”

But I can’t help it. I can’t choose my mental illness. I can’t pick nymphomania, kleptomania,  Wrestlemania or Romania (research note to self – double check these last two are proper manias).

If I had a choice I’d choose nice mental illnesses. Something like Foreign Accent Syndrome – “I am lookin’ for ze Madonna wiv ze big boobies!” or the Cotard Delusion, also called the Zombie Delusion – “I’m a zombie and I want BRAINS!” – or, my favourite, Tourette’s Syndrome, which is 50% genuine mental illness and, I believe, 50% opportunistic heckling.

 

And the strange thing about hypochondria is how predictable it is. There are tens of thousands of illnesses yet hypochondria acts like there’s just three. The big three. Cancer. Cardiac Arrest. Athlete’s foot. Imagine going to a garage that acted like every emergency was the worst possible thing that could happen to you.

“Hi, I’ve think I’ve got a flat tyre – can you take a look at it?”

“No need. I can see the problem from here.”

“Oh, is it the tyre,  it looks lower than the other three?”

“No. It’s definitely exhaust pipe AIDS.”

“Are you sure? The exhaust pipe isn’t connected to the wheels.”

“Sorry mate, and your tyres have athletes foot. If I were you I would just curl up in a ball and cry yourself to sleep just like you do every single night.”

“Oh, imaginary mechanic, you know me so well!”

It’s the lack of variety in hypochondria that makes me watch every medical drama on telly. Many hypochondriacs avoid all medical information because it makes them more anxious. “Got that! Got that! Got that too! Oh God, I’m going to die!”

But, when my Big Ben strikes DOOM I don’t want what everyone else had, I want to be unique, I want to be the world’s first hypochondriac hipster.

DOOM!

“Is this brown mole skin cancer? No, it’s malignant hyperpigmentation – it’s the next big thing!”

DOOM!

“This white spot? Leprosy? Do I look like Jesus? Yes, I know I’m wearing sandals, I am a hipster, but that spot is clearly Denghe Fever which I caught after watching a Discovery Channel programme about rafting in the Congo.”

If hypochondria is all in my head, then I want my head to be bloody brilliant at picking fictional diseases.

But’s that’s the problem, isn’t it? It all in our heads.

Hypochondria is something that no one can see. People think I must be making it up. It’s a mental illness and we’re not good with mental illness. We don’t even have it in the Paralympics – and they’ve got blind people playing basketball: how mental is that?!

I have this theory. In the hierarchy of illnesses you get one point for a losing a limb, two points for a coma and three points from any disease that would actually get people to respond to an office wide email for a charity challenge. The mentally ill get minus one point. Hypochondria minus two.

We don’t get sympathy. All the mentally ill get is a straight jacket and a padded cell because, you know, it really help the mentally ill to have their arms strapped together so they can’t protect their delicate brains when they ricochet off the walls in an all-white padded bouncy castle/loony bin. Yes, we protect the mentally ill by making it impossible for them to protect their brains. I told you, Doctors are pricks.

Well, I say fek that. It’s time for me to “Man up!”. Yes, “MAN UP!”

My hypochondria’s an illness: as destructive as cancer, as strong as AIDS, as difficult to cure as athletes foot. I’ve don’t need to be ashamed. I have a big boy sickness. A proper disease. Just like Spanish flu, syphilis, scarlet fever and, my current illness, the all consuming rage virus from 21 Days Later*. Which I’ve also had, because, as I told you, I don’t let fiction stop me catching a made up disease from made up movie monkeys!

Say it loud. Say it with me. Say it proud “My name is Andrew Todd and I am a hypochondriac

*Though I might just have had the cold and that’s why I wasn’t training last week.

 

Know Your Place (Andrew)

Here’s an ethical question for you: is it okay to use the disabled toilet if you are not actually disabled?

Not that I would. Or did. Or do. But, if I had or was thinking of doing so, then I would know that it’s much more spacious than your average loo. It also comes with its own sink I’m guessing, not that I would know…

It’s a kind of like a special private deluxe toilet for those who want, well, a special experience. a touch of luxury, and, if they  went to the disabled toilet in my last office, a selection of toothpastes and condoms from a vending machine.

The strange thing was that the normal toilet didn’t have a vending machine. Only the disabled toilet, which was on the other side of the hall. Why the disabled toilet were offered a range of goods for ‘her pleasure’ was never explained. It was a mystery matched only by electrical wiring that meant any flick off a light switch was a lottery as to whether you had to flick up or down to switch a light on.

But not as strange as another office where, in response to transgender issues, decided the only way to sort out the toilets was to change all the disabled toilets in disabled/other, which I’m pretty sure is offensive to everyone involved.

Anyways, I was thinking about toilets because they’re one of those everyday things where we have to decide on what is the right thing to do. There is no law which says a disabled toilet has to be used by a disabled person. We all decide what is right and what is wrong and make our choices accordingly. The only thing about our choice of toilet is that it’s usually a private moment. Not something you do in public. Unless you’re Paula Radcliffe.

Runners though have a very public moment when they need to make a moral choice. At the start of every race they must everyone and position themselves to match their expected finish time.

While most people will be honest, there are some who try and move to the front and start with faster runners just so they have less people ahead of them when they start running. If anyone could enter the 100m at the Olympics I bet you now that someone would stand in front of Uisean Bolt on the basis that “Stuff him, at least I’ve got a clear view”.

This selfish view is one I don’t understand because those runners are missing out on one of the big thrills of running – and that’s running faster than other people.

I think there is a macho problem to running which makes people skip ahead. at big races there are boards boasting of the times that you’ll run. 1 hour 40 minutes. 1 hour 35 minutes. If you start next to here then you’ll be seen as a fast athlete. But start at the three hour point and you want as well say “Wait, you don’t expect me to run this, do you?!”.

That’s why I’d change the signs to the number of people you’ll run pass. Join the two hour sing and find out that you’ll run pass 200 people. Join the 1 hour 30 minutes sign and you’ll only run pass 10. If you’re looking to boast look no further than boasting about the number of people you beat.

Start at the back and you’ll enjoy your race much more than trying to stay at the start. It’s more fun. It’s easier to run. In fact, there’s no other choice, if you want a little convenience..!

Alloa Half Marathon 2018 (Andrew)

 

We were meant to run the Alloa half marathon on Sunday but it was postponed after the mini ‘Beast From The East’ brought sub-zero temperatures and more snow.

The organisers couldn’t guarantee the safety of competitors or, just as important, the safety of marshals who would have to stand for hours  in freezing conditions. It  was the right call and hopefully the race be rearranged for later in the year.

In the meantime, if you want to know what racing in sub-zero temperatures is like here’s a video of me with hypothermia trying to warm up on the Norseman bike leg in August 2016.