All posts by Andy Todd

Back to training (Andrew)

A full week of training after two full weeks of feeling full.

Stomach bugs are strange things. You spend your time clearing your stomach out by all means possible and, even though you’re emptier than a promise from Boris Johnson, you don’t feel like eating anything at all. You feel full and when you try to eat something your stomach complains that it’s already had enough. You full of nothing. Just like Boris Johnson.

After two weeks my appetite returned and I was ready to start training again. A swim on Monday, two long runs on Tuesday and Wednesday, three hours on the bike on Thursday and then a break to rest before another three hours on the bike today. Not the longest training I’ve done, but a good start to get my legs moving again.

On Thursday, I was in Elgin and cycled to Dufftown and back in a loop round Moray and Speyside. On the way back I had a tailwind behind me (well, it was hardly likely to be in front of me, what with being a tailwind….) and sat between 25 to 30 mph for a 12 mile stretch between Rothes and Elgin. It was easy. Too easy in fact, I then went for a spin round Elgin to get some extra miles after finishing faster than I expected.

As I cycled round I passed a street with the following sign:

elgin

And I thought that’s a funny name for a road. Imagine if more roads were named after protests. We’d have the “What do we want? When do we want? Terrace”. The “Die Capatalist Pig Boulevard” before police arrived at the “Letsbee Avenue”.

In the sick of it (Andrew)

A stomach bug and, I think, some food poisoning has stopped my training for the last nine days. I tried 10 miles on the turbo last night but then felt ropy for the rest of the night.

So, it’s feet up, do nothing and just wait it out.

Last year I was also ill around the same time. I had the flu and lost two weeks when I should have been hitting the hardest weeks of training. I remember feeling frustrated and worried. If I wasn’t training would I be fit enough to complete the race? Even after recovering, the doubt remained. I never trained more than 100 miles and I felt that I was a few weeks behind where I should have been.

This year, I know my training has been better so I’m not as worried about illness affecting Norseman. I tell myself I still have six weeks to go, I have the Tenby Long Weekend as a final ‘big’ practice. But it’s still frustrating. I tell myself I should be training even though I know that I shouldn’t. I just have to wait.

Chester Triathlon 2016 (Andrew)

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, or at least that’s what Albert Einstein said*. But Einstein wasn’t a triathlete. Doing the same thing again and again is known as training and doing the same thing in races is all about being consistent.

Because I’m consistent there are certain things I know.

Swim

I know that I will leave the water at the same time as Iain. It doesn’t matter the distance we race or where we race, we have a remarkable ability to always exit the water together. This time it was even easier as Iain had a thermal skull cap on which was easy to spot in the water. Once I saw him I just kept on his feet until we got to the end.

Bike

Training on a bike is all about consistency and aiming for Norseman. I want to be able to keep a steady speed and to feel strong from start to finish. I don’t want to “leave it all out on the course”, which is a curious phrase. If you leave it all out on the course then you should really use a toilet before you start…

So, I decided that my tactics were right last week, the only thing I got wrong was the length of the race. A sprint triathlon was too short for the tortoise to beat the hare. This time, the tortoise would win as the race was longer and, with 10 mile gentle descent back to Chester and with the wind behind there would be no way I wouldn’t be able to overtake him.

I was wrong. The story of the tortoise and the hare is not what you think. It’s not a tale of how consistency conquers all. It’s actually a tale of how consistency conquers all if, and only if, the hare takes a break in the middle of the race. Iain didn’t take a break. He started fast. He finished fast. He rode the middle bit fast. Fast beats slow. Always.

The tortoise and the hare is a stupid story.

Run

The run course involves three laps and, on each lap, I could see Iain at the same point each time, about five minutes ahead of me. It didn’t change thus, showing my consistency again, as I couldn’t run faster even if I’d tried.

Overall

I was pleased with a new personal best of 2 hours 48 minutes and also that I still felt strong at the end and could have kept running, which, with two months to go until Norseman, is a good sign.

*Although Einstein is often credited with this quote, it appears unlikely that he ever said it. Check out: Examinemint 

 

Fear of a Blue Planet (Andrew)

“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink…”

… because I can see a shopping trolley, a thin layer of green slime and an alkie having a piss behind a bin.

The River Clyde that splits Glasgow in half like a razor through a throat is not a river you swim in, not unless you have a radiation suit, a snorkel and bath of hydrochloric acid to scrub yourself clean. The River Dee splits Chester apart like a blue ribbon. It’s clean, genteel and demands that you dip more than your toes into it. It’s a proper river. Not like the Clyde, which, to Glaswegians, is less a river and more a naturally occurring accessory to murder.

Until three years ago I would never have thought of swimming in any river. I could barely swim in a swimming pool. But, after accepting Iain’s challenge to take part in Challenge Henley Middle Distance Triathlon and swim 1.9 miles in the River Thames, I knew I would have to learn to swim ‘proper’ as I only knew the breaststroke.

They say that before you walk you should learn to crawl, but, for swimming, before you crawl, you need to learn how to drown. Repeatedly. I spent three months just learning to breath out of the side of my mouth without swallowing half of the pool. It was slow going but I kept practicing and followed my coach’s instructions to the letter. Unfortunately, that letter was W for “wrong”, my couch was Iain and while he should have been teaching me my ABC’s he missed out the basics and had me working on a swim shape that made me look an epileptic squid. You’re meant to glide through the water. I sunk.

Lesson: don’t appoint a ‘coach’ who only learnt to swim the week before you.

By July, I’d started to feel more comfortable swimming and had entered the Deva Triathlon in Chester which involved a 1.5km swim in the River Dee. I was nervous. It was my first time swimming in a river and I wasn’t sure what would happen. Would I be able to swim in a straight line? What if someone kicked me in the face during the mass start? And, most importantly, would the water be as warm as a bath or as cold as a shower when the hot water switches off (which everyone knows is the coldest feeling in the world)?

I shouldn’t have worried. I started at the back, so avoided the fight for the front. I swam in a straight line, which was brilliant, but, unfortunately, it wasn’t always the right line…. and the water was warm. Well, warmish. Well, not cold. Well, okay, it was cold, but I soon adjusted.

The Deva Triathlon was the first time that I thought I would actually complete Challenge Henley. I’d survived the swim. The bike race was fantastic, with a trip to Wales, smooth roads, and largely open and traffic free roads, and the run was a very pleasant three laps round the river, a park and a suspension bridge.

In one go, it became one of my favorite races – and I’m looking forward to returning this Sunday for another go. This time, I know how to swim (not like Iain taught me), I know more about racing and I’m out for revenge. I lost to Iain last weekend at the Stirling Sprint Triathlon and this is my chance to even the score.

This Sunday, it’s Todd v Todd.

Chalk & Cheese at the Radar Ride (Andrew)

You can buy a synthetic gel that tastes like a banana. You can buy a bar made of nuts and grains that tastes like a chocolate cake. You can’t buy a banana that tastes like a chocolate cake, but, with advances in sports nutrition, it won’t be long before you can. Because sports gel and bars are all about disguising what you’re actually eating.

Who wants a gel that’s a Bakewell tart or a bar that’s pretending to be a strawberry cheesecake? Manufacturers should be honest and describe things accurately. I’d much rather choose between “Chalk”, “Superglue” and “Smell Like Boak”. At least then I’d know what I was buying.

That’s why I loved the Rader Ride 2016. Instead of the usual selection of gels and bars it had read food at its feed stations. It had everything: cheese rolls, ham rolls, cheese and ham rolls. You name it (as long it involved cheese and/or ham), it had it. It had also home baking with flapjacks and banana bread and great treat like Jaffa cakes and jelly beans. And, for those that wanted a banana that tasted like a banana it had a banana.

This buffet was my downfall.

At the end of the Radar Ride, you cycle a service road to a radar station above Wanlockhead. It’s 2.5 miles of pure climbing culminating in a stunning view of Dumfries and the Borders. But, at the bottom, they had a food stop – and I couldn’t resist it. I just had to have another cheese roll. I stopped. Iain stopped. We shared a roll and then, with the road immediately ramping up, I was in the wrong gear. I had to push off a number of times to get enough speed to turn the wheel and change my gear but It was too late. Iain was already 100m up the road. He might as well have been at the top of the hill. I couldn’t catch up.

But I’d had cheese, so I was happy.

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Twinning the Etape Caledonia (Andrew)

Last year at the Caledonian Etape Iain tried a break away at mile 70. We were heading to Aberfeldy, on a long flat stretch, he had his brand new aero bike, he turned round, took one look at me and started pumping his legs as fast as he could. He was off.

For the next three miles he didn’t look round. He kept his head down and his speed up. I sat on his wheel, waiting.

At Taymouth he finally looked round, I knew in his mind he was thinking “my job’s done, I’ve dropped him” but that’s when I picked up speed, went straight passed him and didn’t look back.

That was my fifth victory in a row.

This year, I thought it would be closer. I was wrong. I picked up speed at mile 20 as I thought we’d entered a sprint section. In previous years this section was just a mile long. This time it was 10 miles. I thought Iain was with me and we’d have a race towards the finish but, as the miles passed and I realised that I’d miscalculated I also realised Iain had not kept up. I was on my own.

I was feeling good. Despite a cold during the week I was breathing okay and not coughing too much. I kept going, setting small goals for myself. Keep up with this group. Join this chain. Pass these people on Schiehalion. Use the drops on the way to Taymouth.

I know the course so well. We would go on summer holiday to Aberfeldy and I’ve cycled parts of the route many times. It makes such a difference to know the course. You know when to push, when to relax and how long it takes between places.

With every mile I still felt fresh so I just kept going. I had some gels in my pocket so didn’t need to stop so I wondered how fast I could go. I’d hoped to finish in under 4hrs 30 mins. In the end I finished in 4 hours 11 minutes, 18 minutes faster than my previous personal best.

The twinner* again.

*twin + winner = twinner (trademark pending)