Lockdown and Out The Door (Andrew)

There was a trade unionist in the Clyde shipyards who once said that among his men he had a Wimbledon champion – even though none of them had ever lifted a racquet. Now, until Andy Murray becomes a welder on a new Royal Navy frigate, that trade unionist is talking about potential. He wanted to show that everyone had the potential to do something, and perhaps even be the best in the world, if they only had the opportunity.

Today, we’re putting that theory to the test. You can’t go outside (responsibly and for essential travel only!) to find yourself surrounded by people running and cycling.

This time last year the only time you heard about other people running was when Bob from Accounts tried to badger you for sponsorship money to run the London marathon. The absence of which this year is a fortunate side effect of the lockdown. Not that I’m against giving money to charity, I’m just against feeling obliged to do it because Bob is nice when you talk to him in the kitchen and you’d feel guilty about not giving him money. It’s not for the cause, it’s so that he doesn’t “forget” to bring you a cup of tea.

However, with everyone outside today, think about a year from now. The rest of Europe is in lockdown. You can’t go out in Spain or France. Yet the UK is still running and training and building up the biggest relay squad the world has ever seen. We’ll be unstoppable – and we may also have a world champion.

Maybe Pete the Postie is the world’s greatest steeple jumper? Maybe Mary from Margate can run the 100m faster than Uiseen Bolt can blink?

Think about it. We could have the greatest Olympic squad the world has ever seen!

And not just that. With the number of Tiktok dance videos, next year’s Greatest Dancer is going to be epic. And only 30 seconds long per dance. So a bit repetitive but, boy, will those dancers know how to move!

And it’s not just physical activities that will benefit. Right now we have a entire nation of under 16 year old training 20 hours a day on Fortnite, FIFA and Call of Duty. Esport will need to be renamed UKSports as no other nation will be able to compete against us.

The only downside to all this exercise and potential fulfilled is that next year, once this is all over, we are going to be faced with so many emails asking for sponsorship for Derek’s first marathon and Carol from Marketing’s first 10k… Olympic final.

Training For Celtman: March (Andrew)

When working from home with your spouse it’s important to establish some Spotify ground rules. And, according to my wife, 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.

I added a second rule this month. It’s entirely reasonable to watch Celtman’s 2019 official video ten times in a row until I stopped crying…

It’s over. Celtman is postponed. The organisers have made the sensible and correct decision to cancel this year’s race and offer everyone the opportunity to take part in 2021.

It’s the right call. My parents live in the Western Isles and I know how stretched support can be for people looking for medical treatment. The islands struggle to recruit doctors, patients are flown to the mainland for complex operations, and even consultation takes place via videolink with staff on the mainland. They don’t need tourists increasing the demands placed on them and they don’t need visitors increasing the risk of bringing infection to the island. 

Applecross is no different. The peninsula is remote and has an older population. It wouldn’t be fair to race until the only public safety issue is whether you might get run over by a cyclist on a time trial bike failing to look up. While the risk of the virus is significant, no one should be using the Highlands and Islands for ‘fun’.

I’m disappointed. I can’t deny that. I started training in November 2018. I’d entered Challenge Roth and November 2018 was the first month where I went out with a thought that this was ‘training’ and not just ‘fun’, even if the only difference was in attitude rather than how far or fast I would run. At the back of my mind though was another thought, a distant dream, one as out of reach as Applecross should be now, I would use Challenge Roth as the springboard for Celtman. If I could get fit enough for Roth then I would carry on and work towards Celtman in 2020.

I’m 42. I know that taking part in long distance triathlon’s requires time and commitment. As I get older I have family and work commitments. I know that training for long distance is optional. I don’t have to do it. And I taking time away from others to concentrate on myself. It’s inherently selfish, which is good that Iain does it too, as it means that we’re both being selfish, but selfish together, which kind of cancels it out… 🙂

That’s why I thought this would be my final chance to race Celtman. Life would get in the way. And it has, just not in the way I expected. 

Celtman has been cancelled. But it’s not been cancelled because of the threat of death, the fear of an unknown virus, it’s been cancelled by the possibility that cancelling it could help save and protect people. 

That’s why, although I’m disappointed, I’m also happy. The decision was right. It was taken to protect people. A triathlon will never save a life but if cancelling one can, then it should be cancelled.

So, here’s to 2021. I’ll be there and I hope, with the actions of Celtman and others and through the actions of the government and of other countries, everyone else will be there too.  

Monthly Stats

No stats this month. A dose of lurgy (not sure if Coronavirus but some minor lurgy or other got the best of me) meant I was out of action for a couple of weeks. 

Lockdown Diary (Andrew)

DAY ONE 
Up at 6am. Breakfast: homemade kale smoothie.
Shower. Shave. PE with Joe Wicks. He’s BRILLIANT. 
Isn’t this fun? No telly for me, I’m going to learn to play Metallica’s Enter Sandman on a 12 string Mandolin. Can’t wait for rest of the lock down!

DAY TWO
Up at 7am. Breakfast: Coffee (two cups).
PE with Joe Wicks. Eff off, Joe, it’s too early in the morning. 
Back to bed.
Watch every episode of Friends on Netflix except the London episodes. They’re awful. I still have standards. Skip!

DAY THREE
Wake up. Surf net. Find a punchbag of Joe Wicks and order on Amazon. Up at 8am.
Breakfast: All the purple ones from a Quality Street selection box.
Switch on Joe. Switch off, Joe. Joe must die. 
Is 10am too early for Jack Daniels?
Look out window. Why are people jogging on the street? Don’t they know the world is ending? You can’t outrun death – he’ll get us all in the end!
Watch London episodes of Friends. Twice. Why did Ross say “Rachel” at the wedding?! Why, Ross, why?!? Emily loved you!

DAY FOUR
Up at noon. 

Food runs out. Bed surrounded by empty Quality Street wrappers. Must go out but supermarkets are filled with infected checkouts. According to a post I saw on Facebook I can only survive if I gargle lukewarm PG Tips and rub my chest in marmite. It must be true. I saw it on Facebook. But I have no marmite. 😦

Never-mind, I can survive without food. I’ll need too to as I have no bog roll.

Joe Wick’s punchbag arrives. The masked courier complains my delivery was not “essential travel”. They’re wrong: Joe. Must. Get. TWATTED.

DAY FIVE
Later, as I sit on my balcony eating the dog, I reflect on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge country during the previous four days.

Book Review: Full Gas (Andrew)

What’s the point of a breakaway? Every time I watch a stage of a bike race I wonder why does the peloton allow a group of riders to race ahead – break away – and then spend the rest of the race chasing them so that they can overtake them in the last few miles? Once or twice, a break away rider would win but, given the number of races in a season, it seemed an exercise in futility. Why spend all day racing ahead when you could spend all day in the main group and end up in the same place all battling to get to the finish line. This book answered my question. If you weren’t in the breakaway then those riders would never win so they take their chance that their race might be the one in one hundred chance they have of winning a stage or race.

But why race on other days? Why continue to battle even when it’s clear the peloton will overtake you. The answer to that is experience It’s about finding out information on your opponents and how they and their team react so that when you’re in a break that could matter you might have an advantage over the other riders because you know their team is slow to react or that they tend to bluff and pretend to be stronger than they are.

While ‘Full Gas’ is not a complex book. It assumes the average reader knows little about bike racing, it is one which has unexpected depths by interviewing a wide number of riders to offer an impressive range of opinions on different parts of racing – from race tactics, how teams work, winning sprints or just what each member of a team is expected to do.

I’d recommend this to anyone who’s interested in knowing more about why cycling is a team sport and who want to know more about how every race is both a mixture of team work and individual brilliance.

Celtman Training And The Coronavirus (Andrew)

My mum said that when she first went to school on the Isle of Lewis in the 1950s that there was a teacher who spoke with a posh English accent. Every day the teacher would tell the class of crofter’s children to “wash their hands”, which puzzled one boy who couldn’t understand the teacher. He turned to my mum and asked “why does the teacher always tell us to wash our hens?”

Last week I worked four days in the office and one, Friday, at home. On Thursday I had a slight cough and a feeling of tightness in my chest. I didn’t have a temperature and the cough was so infrequent it could have been a bus.

To be on the safe side, in case I was asystematic, and, as I could, if I wanted, work from home. I decided that I should keep away from work and try home working.

Mrs TwinbikeRun (Andrew) was already at home, she started on Thursday. She’s working one week in, one week out. We’d set up her desk on Wednesday night. It was beside my Wattbike. “You won’t be able to use it while I’m working,” she said.

“Maybe you won’t be able to work while I’m cycling,” I replied, “the bike did have the room first”. 

“Does the bike pay the mortgage?”

“No.”

“Exactly.”

I may need to move the bike next week…

On Saturday we popped to the supermarket. A few people wondered the aisles clutching 16 packs of toilet rolls like a shield. We’ll be okay, they say, we have bog roll!

There a gaps in the shelves, though more there to buy than expected. Pasta was empty but nachos were okay. Currys were empty, so was chicken but there was plenty of pork and steak. Also no diet coke. So, that’s panic buying logic for you, while everyone might be binging, at least they won’t get fat.

With all this going on, this has not be a week for training. Instead I wanted to preserve my strength, see what happens with the mild symptoms I do have (thankfully, they appear to be easing on Sunday so may just have been a cold) and then, once there’s a sense of routine, see what I can do. Training comes third this week. Maybe even fourth. Health and family first. Then work. Then finding Diet Coke, of course, we’re nearly out – dear God, we might have to have Coke Zero! Then training.

Glasgow Triathlon Club (Andrew)

Late last year I volunteered to become a Trustee for Glasgow Triathlon Club when it converted to become a charity. I’ve not written about it here partly because I’m still working out what’s involved and partly because I’m on the board of trustees to help provide legal advice. And if I’m proving advice I don’t want to do anything that breaches confidentiality, which I’m sure would be fine as we don’t discuss many confidential things, but I like to be cautious about anything which could get me thrown out of the Law Society..!

Yesterday, we had to make one of our hardest and easiest decisions: we had to stop all events and sessions. It was our hardest decision because we know how important it is to continue life as normal and to provide a way for people to meet and train. It was our easiest because anything that can be done to help fight the virus should be done, and it’s no sacrifice to give up sessions for a few weeks.

After we made the decision I wrote this which we sent to all members:

After a meeting of the club trustees, here is our club statement:

Triathletes help each other. Everyone remembers when a dazed Jonny Brownlee was helped over the line by his brother Alistair in a dramatic end to the World Triathlon Series in 2016. Alistair gave up his chance to win in order to help his brother because that’s what triathletes do: we look out for each other.

The Covid-19 crisis is unprecedented. And while sport is insignificant in the challenges the country faces in the next weeks and months, that doesn’t mean it’s not important. For many of us, our lives are dominated by racing, training and the friendships that come from shared goals: whether that’s to learn to swim, to train to improve, or to race to win. We find meaning in routine, happiness in pushing ourselves and the comfort of know that we’re not alone.

Glasgow Triathlon Club is more than just the sessions we run or the events we hold. It’s about our members, our families and the wider community we hope to inspire to join us. We are a community – and we must look out for each other. That means taking actions now which help reduce the strain on our public services and help support the government’s desire to reduce non-essential contact. As such, we will be guided by the UK and Scottish Government and by Triathlon Scotland. Yesterday, Triathlon Scotland released the following guidance: Triathlon Scotland Covid-19 update statement and while guidance can, and is likely to, change as events demand, the Club’s trustees have, after much debate and with an emphasis on placing health and wellbeing of not just our members and coaches but also of the wider community, decided to take the following immediate actions:

Big Bobble Hats Bishopbriggs Sprint & Novice Triathlon 3 May 2020 – This will be postponed, and the race organiser will investigate whether we can rearrange for later in the year. More details will follow for all entrants, including refund arrangements.

Weekly coached sessions – All coached sessions will stop from (and including) today. This was a difficult decision, given many venues remain open, however the Trustees believe coached sessions do not fit in with the principles of social isolation and until such time that there is greater clarity it is better to take a cautious approach.


Online support – our head coaches are looking at the support they can offer members over the short term. This may include exercises we do alone, at home or online. More details will follow.


These are unknown times however we hope that everyone understands that the actions we take are with the best of intentions to ensure, even in a small way, we offer a helping hand – or elbow tap – to those who need it.

Coronavirus and CeltMan 2020 (Andrew)

Finally, a good use for a buff

No football. No golf. No tennis. Not even a professional game of tiddlywinks will be played in the next few weeks as Coronavirus has led to an almost global pause in every sport, including triathlon. This week the International Triathlon Union suspended all events until the end of April. Whether they resume in May is still to be determined. Hopefully, some normalcy will resume. However, no one knows and no one can predict what will happen when we talk about how to deal with an illness that no one can predict.

There’s no announcements yet about Celtman. It’s in June, so it’s too early to see how it could be affected but there are some clear signs as to how event organisers are reviewing races. It’s not just the risk of illness but also the impact on public services or having medical or police resources at events when they could be dealing with much more important things than whether Frank from Accounting can get round the London Marathon dressed as an African rhino.

Celtman is a smaller event. It has less than 300 starters and the race is unsupported so it’s impact on public services is minimal so I remain hopeful that it will go ahead, that the next two months will see a routine established (even if that months rather than weeks away), and that we can line up in Applecross in June just the same as any other year.

But who knows. No one. So, the only thing I do know, is that this comment on the Celtman Facebook group summed it all up perfectly. Will Celtman be cancelled?

Swimming and the Coronavirus (Andrew)

This is not medical advice. 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 Dr Hannibal Lecter, who’d eat you as soon as cure you. So, when I ask, can you still train with the coronavirus, I’m being half 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 that any cough or headache or Ebola virus is just a sign that the training is working. Of course, I’m not well, 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?

What about the changing room? Do you need a hazmat suit just to change out of my birthday suit in a room filled with perspiring bodybuilders?

Or do you 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 for two weeks 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).

Not to mention we’re 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 is pour some liquid soap in the pool. Turn it into a sink. That way 2000 metres will leave you cleaner than an Italian hypochondriac eating Kung Pow Chicken.

And if you’re adding soap then 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.

Possibly.

As I said, I’m not a Doctor, and this is definitely not medical advice.

But if you want proper advice then I’d point you in the direction of the Swim England guidance for swimming in swimming pools, which includes the following quote:

“Water and the chlorine within swimming pools will help to kill the virus. However, visitors to swimming pools are reminded to shower before using the pool, to shower on leaving the pool and to follow the necessary hygiene precautions when visiting public places to help reduce the risk of infection.”

You can read the full guidance here

Night Running (Andrew)

If you say “I’m not lost” then that is a sure sign that you are, in fact, lost. Not that I was lost when I said it. I knew exactly where I was – in a wood, near Elgin, at night, in the dark, surrounded by deer – but I admit I may not have known quite exactly which path to take to get back to Elgin and not end up, hours later in Inverness…

Last week, I decided to try some night time trail running. I was in Elgin and, while there is a lot of nice varied routes to run round, there is one thing missing: hills. Elgin is flat. If you dropped a slinky, it would not slink. Elgin’s completely flat. Run through town, flat. Run through Cooper Park, flat. Run to Maggot Wood (one of my favourite place names as it does make you think how many maggots must there have been to name a whole wood after them), all completely flat.

For a change, I decided to run out of Elgin and try some trails I could see through the hills on Elgin’s western edge. I brought my head torch, found a willing companion who didn’t baulk when I said “fancy going to the dark woods tonight”, and we decided to see if we could find a route through the trees. 

Problem one: we didn’t know where we were going or where any path might start.

Problem two: we didn’t know that everything looks like a path when you only have a head torch to guide you. A flat bit of grass between two trees looks like the start of a patch when you can’t see further than three metres in front of you. 

Problem three: Dear, God, what are those glowing eyes in the woods!!!! Head torches, we discovered, make every deer glancing in your direction and caught in your headlight, look like they’re possessed by the eye of Sauron. 

Problem four: sometime the darkness in front of you is not just darkness but a twenty-metre drop from the side of an old quarry. A good tip, quickly learned, was to only step where you can see the ground in front of you.

Problem five: if you hit an A road, turn back. A roads don’t have pavements and cars racing at 70mph to Inverness pass very close to you if try and venture onto the verge. 

Problem six: if you turn back, remember where you have come from as, when you finally meet three mountain bikers out cycling with powerful beams you don’t have to say “I’m not lost but, do we turn left or right here to get back to Elgin?”.

Apart from that, night running is fun, just remember to keep safe though when out!

Training For Celtman: February (Andrew)

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.

Did I achieve it?

In a word: no. But it wasn’t through a lack of effort, more a lack of opportunity as February was, according to the Met Office, the wettest month ever recorded. 

Every weekend we saw a different storm hit the UK. For three of the weekends, we were hit by named storms, including Storm Jorge, who had been named by Spanish weather authorities when it developed in the Atlantic on the basis that it was due to head south and not north. When it started moving towards the UK not even a Brexit passport and an Australian style immigration system could stop this storm exercising its right of free movement. 

I don’t understand why we name storms. In Stornoway, the crofters will name their sheep, but only before they slaughter them. Maybe, it’s similar thought. If it’s going to hurt then you need to make it personal. Let’s name the storm. 

Maybe it’s to make the weather more approachable? Storms sound less dangerous if they are called Kitty (a genuine name from this year’s list). But to that I say: “I don’t want to be friends with the weather!”

It’s also pointless naming the weather when the weather is happening every weekend. In Scotland we already have name for the weather: it’s called Winter and it lasts from September to May.

With Storm Winter brining strong winds, heavy rain, near freezing conditions and even some thundersnow, a 50 mile bike ride was out of the question. I did manage one ride outdoors for 90 minutes in the middle of a dry spell during the first storm but my goal for March will definitely be to ride more outside. Instead, I concentrated on some hillier rides on Zwift including a couple of sessions including the lower slopes of Alpe Du Zwift.

In general, a weaker month than I would have liked but with some business trips, my Dad spending two weeks in Glasgow for medical tests and, generally, February living up to its annual claim to be one of the busiest months of the year at work, I’m pleased to have at least been consistent, if not as long as I would have liked. I did manage my first race and achieved a personal best. I’m taking confidence that my run training must be heading in the right direction.

Also, swimming was weaker this month after I missed two training sessions because of work trips but, as one of the sessions was a 2500 metre session, I was glad to miss out! 

March’s Goals

Keep swimming at least one 2k session a week, keep running at least 10 miles most weekends and ride at least 50 miles outside (weather permitting!).