All posts by Andy Todd

Jan 24 – Nigel Barge 10k (Andrew)

UntitledThe Nigel Barge 10k was traditionally the first race of the year in Glasgow. It was held on the first Saturday of January and attracted hundreds of runners to a hilly and challenging course around the West End.

It was set up in 1943 to commemorate Nigel Barge, an officer killed at Dunkirk. Nigel was a keen runner and a member of Maryhill Harriers running club. After his death, his father set up the race in his memory. It has been held continuously for over 70 years and is now one of Scotland’s oldest road races.

You can find out more about its history here: Scottish Road Running History

Today, the course has moved from its original route to Garscube sports grounds, about four miles further west. Unfortunately, the race may have moved but the hills have remained. It’s a two lap course with two steep hills, tackled twice.

I was looking forward to running. I’ve never raced as early as January before and I thought it would be good practice to see how I’d perform after a couple of weeks of training. I thought 47 – 50 minutes would be a good time and give me something to build on for the months ahead. It would also be a good test of running in bad weather, or at least I thought it would…

Unusually, Sunday turned out to be almost Spring-like. The temperature was in double figures and the sun even threatened to peak out three months early.  I ditched running gloves and an extra top and went with a base layer, t-shirt and leggings. It was too much and I found myself wishing I’d just worn a t-shirt after the first kilometres.

I also felt I started too fast. The course is downhill for the first 500m and, with everyone jostling for position, I couldn’t help running faster. Iain also starts faster than me and I tried to keep up even though it felt like I was running faster than I should. Normally, he would start to pull away, but this time I kept pace.

After 500m there was a short 100m section across playing grass before re-joining the main path. However, after raining most of the week, the grass was just a boggy swamp. Runners lept from foot to foot like Cossack dancers to avoid touching the ground. A few slide. One even found a sink hole that went down to his knee. It was funny until I remembered I was running in (no longer) bright white new trainers.

The first hill came a minute later. A long steady slog near Garscube vet school. The second hill a short sharp climb to Maryhill Road. Neither were pleasant but they both had longish descents after them where I tried to open my stride and run faster. On the second lap, on the descent after the first hill, I started to lose Iain. On the second descent, I grew the gap to 100m.

After that, my only thought is: “Don’t let him catch me, gotta keep ahead of him.” I looked back once, with 200m to go, and saw he was still 100m behind. I knew I was safe but still tried to finish with a burst, my thoughts now turning to Norseman: “Only another 20 miles to go (and a mountain)”.

I finished in 45 min 58 seconds, pleased with my time and with beating Iain after he’d “won” our last few 10k races.

One race done. One race won. A good start to the year.

Triathlete’s Dictionary (Ranxiety) – (Andrew)

Ranxiety

Noun

  • A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent race or something with an uncertain outcome.

“He felt a surge of ranxiety about tomorrow’s Nigel Barge 10k”

  • A desire to go running, typically accompanied by various excuses not to go running and a strong desire to watch some telly instead.

“His ranxiety increased throughout the week until he admitted defeat and watched four episodes of Making A Murderer in a row.”

 

Jan 20th – Football’s a stupid game (Andrew)

I’ve retired  from playing football two times. The first time I was 25, just returned from six months in London, and without a regular game of fives to join I chose to ‘retire’. Though I wasn’t so much retired as abandoned. I didn’t mind though, I just wanted to run and I concentrated on half-marathons (and eating cake) instead.

The second time I retired was when I was 34 and I’d snapped my ankle. I’d started playing again after a new game had started through work on an indoor pitch near my flat. After 18 months, I mistimed a tackle, snapped an ankle ligament and ended up in the Victoria Infirmary x-ray department. “12 weeks to heal” they said. 12 weeks later I walked out onto the pitch, ran scared from any tackles, then played on a further three months to show I’d overcome it. Then, I retired. This time, definitely, officially, over. Football is a stupid game, and people get hurt. People like me.

This time I retired until 18 months ago. A new job. A weekly game. A good chance to get to know the people I worked with. I’ve been playing regularly since then in a freezing cold shed in Falkirk and tonight I’ll swap a running session for a game of football. I know it’s not in the training program and I’ve got more chance of injuring myself but, despite retiring, I still like to play, just slower and with even less skill than when I was 25. Then home for some cake. I’ve never retired from cake.

 

 

Physio (Andrew)

I’m wonky. Officially.

After four weeks of pain from my lower back I went to see a physio today. Her description was short and to the point: “You’re wonky”, she said.

Of course, in my mind, I’m not wonky. I’m dying. It’s spine tumours. Its cancer. Its everything but the very reasonable explanation that I tweaked it training for Iron Man UK and I pulled it while out cycling round the Campsies in October.

I was cycling with Iain, my brother, when he got a puncture at the wrong side of the Trossachs. The Trossach are the hills that you can see to the north of Glasgow. The first wave you can see in the mountains that stretch broken like the sea all the way north towards the Highlands and home. The wrong side is the other side. Behind the crest of the wave and back down to a long road that flows along a gully from Killearn to Stirling. It’s a road filled with bumps, holes, and, most crucially, for this story, no mobile reception.

We’re about five miles from when my brother gets a puncture. We stop at a parking space and, while he tries to fix it, I read a poster tied to a pole. It asks if anyone has seen two cats who were “Out for a walk in the woods”. And I can’t help thinking: who takes cats out for a walk? Cats don’t walk. Cat’s don’t hike. Cats like to play hide and seek so, whatever you do, don’t take them for a walk in the woods.

While Iain manages to fix his bike we cycle on and he immediately gets another puncture. He only had spare tube with him. I have another but as he has deep section rims my tube won’t fit his wheel. He has no choice, he needs to walk because, and here’s the crucial bit of the story, this road, as it’s the wrong side of the Trossachs, has no mobile reception. He walks for three miles to Fintry, the nearest town, while I pedal slowly beside him trying to keep walking pace but upright at the same time. After an hour of balancing on pedals my back is sore but I don’t think anything of it, just ordinary tightness from being on the bike. A week later and its still sore. A month later and I admit that I’ve got a problem. I’ve not run except for one game of football a week, I’ve not been swimming and I’ve definitely not returned to the bike. I’m wonky.

I make an appointment and the physio confirms it. She prods my back and stomach, mentions tightness and things not moving as they should. She pulls my arms and shoulders. Puts pressure on my legs as I curl and uncurl on a massage table then she tells me to come back in two weeks for another session. It already feels better but she tells me to come back in two weeks for another session to check the muscles have become more flexible.

Worseman (Andrew)

Saturday 7 November 2015

I’m not ready. Not physically. Not mentally.

I’m currently injured. A dull ache in my hip has developed into sharp pains in my lower back when I ride a bike or stretch forward. Other than a weekly game of football I haven’t done any exercise in a month. Not that I was doing that much before. I completed Iron Man UK in July and since then I’ve been ticking over, the occasional long ride or run but only when the weather was good and, even then, only when I felt like. Which again, hasn’t been often.

After Iron Man I promised myself I would never attempt such a distance again. I enjoyed my Iron Man experience. I had a perfect swim (for me), I enjoyed the cycle and I managed to grind out the run by running and walking. I wasn’t fast but I wasn’t competing for a time. I just wanted to get round and enjoy it – and to be able to walk again the next day.

Now, four months later, it’s catching up with me. It’s like the film ‘It Follow’. A monster slowly walking, always walking, until it reaches and kills it victim. Perhaps Iron Man is my monster and its only four months later that it has finally caught up with me. That dull ache was the warning. The sharp pains, the monster striking. And it couldn’t come at a worse time.

I’m in Norseman. The world’s toughest triathlon. A 3.6km swim in a freezing Norwegian fjord. A swim that starts by jumping off the back of a ferry. A 112 mile cycle though freezing mists, snow, hail, rain and across five mountains before a marathon run to the summit of another. This wasn’t my choice.

Well, not quite. Although I promised I would never attempt such a distance again, I knew I was lying. I’d caught the bug. I’d pushed myself as far as I thought I could go and I found I could have gone further, I could have gone faster. I’d not found my limit. I wanted to do more. But not next year. Not in 2016. Instead, in the back of my head I thought of two races I would love to do: the Marathon Des Sables (a five run across the Sahara desert) and Norse Man (the world’s toughest triathlon).

Both races are tough to enter. The Marathon Des Sable is fully booked two years in advance, you enter now for 2017. Norseman only has c250 places but nearly 3000 people enter. After that it’s a lottery. I had no thought of entering Norseman in 2016 but when the organisers announced that they’d changed the entry rules so everyone who missed out on a place in 2016 would have an increased  chance in following years I thought it would be daft not apply. Why not increase my chances for the times I wanted to apply?

Instead, I was lucky. Or unlucky. I was in. First time. Bugger.

I couldn’t not do it, could I? I couldn’t reject a place in an event  I may never have the chance to do again. This was a lottery, and my winning number was NorseMan ID3047.

So, here I am, sitting in front of the computer, wallet in my pocket, credit card on my desk, looking at the entry form and getting ready to press ‘submit’. I’m not ready, physically, or mentally. Jump off a ferry, swim a freezing fjord, cycle through a blizzard or run up a mountain? That’s for other people. Not me. I like cake. But this is it: a decision, a moment, nothing less than a leap of faith. I’m in.