Triathlon Christmas Gift Guide (Iain)

Many years ago I asked Santa for a computer. I got a pair of socks.

The next year I asked Santa for a video recorder. I got a pair of pants.

The year after that I asked Santa for a socks and pants! I got socks and pants. At least I proved the b*****d reads my letters.

If you are struggling to think of what to give (or get) this Christmas then here’s some suggestions.

Book – Rise of the Ultra Runners

In Rise of the Ultra Runners (https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07NDNCB8J/) the author Adharanand Finn travels the world investigating why people feel the need to run long distances in challenging environments.

The Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance:  Amazon.co.uk: Finn, Adharanand: 9781783351329: Books

The book follows his quest to collect enough points to get into the Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc. Before starting his qurst he was an experienced (mostly road) runner who was mainly interested in speed and times.

He covers the history, personalities and his experience of ultra-running. It felt like it was a good informal history of the sport as much as his personal narrative.

There is a very interesting section on why Kenyans don’t do ultra’s even though they dominate long distance road events.

The only negative comment I can make is that I would have liked to have heard more about his training. You don’t get as good as he is without hours and hours of training. Did his wife mind him training all the time? Did his kids appreciate him being away? I always wonder who people find the time to get that good.

Bike – Cycle top

The Cycle Jersey Store (https://www.thecyclejersey.com/) has some unique fun tops. My favorite being this one for the Western Isles band Peat & Diesel

The top was so good it was used as the prize in this year’ss Toddman race. You can read about it here https://twinbikerun.com/2020/06/18/toddman-2020-andrew/ and https://twinbikerun.com/2020/06/19/toddman-2020-iain/

I still believe I should be declared the true winner of the race!

They also do tops for beers, whisky and charities.

Board Game – Flamme Rouge

This is a great board game to get if you like cycling.

Flamme Rouge is 2 to 5 player game which recreates a cycle race. Each player controls two riders. Each player gets a set of movement cards for each rider. Each card can only be played once.

On each turn a player decides which cards to play. Normal rules of cycling apply so riders at the front get more tired than those at the back, riders move quicker going downhill, and sprinters are fast but burn out first.

The skill is trying to work out when to sprint and when to draft so that you can leave enough energy to win at the end. Al the games I’ve played have been very open. Anyone was able to win until the end of the game which meant it was exciting for all participants.

The theme is really good. The artwork and game pieces are high quality and it does feel like a virtual cycle race.

Prints – The Crow Road

If you are looking for pictures or prints then I recommend you check out etsy (https://www.etsy.com/uk/). Its a marketplace for small sellers. Its really good for cards and birthday presents.

Have a look at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BreakawayArtist who does prints of famous Scottish and European climbs.

If you search for terms like triathlon or swimming you will discover lots of sellers offering interesting products.

Just be careful when ordering pictures or cards that you are getting something physical. Some seller sell digital downloads of their designs which means all you get is an email with a picture to print out at home.

Swim Cap – Batman

If you want to stand out from the crowd whilst swimming then invest in an interesting cap. I recommend swimming as Batman. https://www.zoggs.com/dc-super-heroes-batman-3d-swimming-cap

But if you check out kids swim caps you will find lots of interesting designs and becasue the cap is stretchy it will definitly fit on your head even if it claims to be kid size.

Meggings – tartan

Meggings are Mens leggings and they are great for wearing underneath shorts on a cold day.

I bought these for Andrew. When he wears them at races he gets at least half a dozen folk asking where he got them from.

So here’s the answer – https://meggings.com/products/tartan?variant=21727294881870

They come in other styles and this isn’t even close to being the wildest design!

And if anyone wants to know what I’d like for Christmas – I’ll be happy with a new pair of socks and pants but preferably tartan ones!

Rugged Bike – Whitelee Windfarm (Iain)

In landscape photography the golden hours of sunrise and sunset are considered the best time of day for any type of photography since the light is properly diffused and warm. Basically good light at this time can make any picture look good.

This month, the weather has been wet and the sky has been grey but on Saturday we were blessed with some spectacular winter sunlight.

It was a great opportunity to get the GoPro video camera out and shoot some video at Whitelee windfarm.

The Whitelee is just outside Glasgow and provides free parking, a visitor’s center, a cafe to enjoy lunch, and bus tours that take you around the entire complex. Although current restrictions mean only the free parking is available. Which proved very popular. By 10AM the car park was full and people were queuing to park.

The wind-farm has more than 62 miles (100 kilometers) of trails for cyclists, walkers, and dogs to explore. I’ve been here many times but usually to run. You can read about some attempts at racing here

https://twinbikerun.com/2018/07/25/run-the-blades-half-marathon-iain/

or here

https://twinbikerun.com/2016/07/24/run-the-blades-half-marathon-andrew/

I ride a mountain bike but the tracks would be suitable for gravel bikes too. The route I choose was a nice loop of Loch Goin with a detour to the highest hill. From there I could see across Glasgow as well out west to Arran.

After watching the video, my brother said it made him look like a good mountain biker. I’m sorry to say the golden hour can make anything look good but even the best CGI couldn’t make him look like Danny MacAskill!

Judge for yourself.

Video

Difficulty:

Route Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Nearly 300m of climbing but the routes were very easy to ride.

Views:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great views over Glasgow and nice stretches of forest riding.

Traffic: 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

None

Parking

Rating: 2 out of 5.

It was very busy. On a nice day, if you are not there early, then it might be full.

Toilets

Rating: 1 out of 5.

There were no public toilets open.

Cafe

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The cafe was closed (Nov 2020) but normally it does a nice range of teas/coffees and baking.

Route

Rugged Bike – Easy MTB – Carron Valley (Iain)

I live near a mountain bike route. Part of the route goes through a forest. In the forest section there is a very steep drop.

Earlier in the year, during “lockdown” I saw lots of middle aged men cycle into the forest. They were on old mountain bikes that they hadn’t touched in years. Many of them did not cycle out of the forest. They pushed their bike out after braking a bone falling off the steep slope.

I have to admit I’ve never cycled the slope. I get off my bike and push it to the bottom of the drop before getting back on and continuing. So I am not the person to turn too to tell you where scary technical routes are unless you want to know how to avoid them.

I do love cycling off-road BUT on nice tracks. So, over the years, I’ve found lots of safer routes that are technical enough for me and safe enough that anyone could do them.

This is a great route near Glasgow. It comprises two different forest sections and its all on good wide fire-track roads. There’s plenty of options on the route to make it more technical.

Video

Not yet!

Route Review

Difficulty:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Nearly 600m of climbing in 16 miles is a lot but that means there’s some great downhill sections.

Views:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Great views over Carron valley reservoir and there a mix of different types of forests to ride through.

Traffic: 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

There is only a very short section on road and normally there are very few cars along this way.

Parking

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I parked at Todholes car park. This can be full by 10AM in summer as it’s a very popular spot. If the car park is full go further along the road and ride to the start.

Toilets

Rating: 1 out of 5.

There were no public toilets open.

Cafe

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I haven’t tried it but there is a café at the Carron Valley main car park.

Route

Old Photographs (Iain)

I have approximately 10 thousand photos dating from 2006 onwards. I recently decided to go through them and edit them down to a more manageable number.

I’ve only reached 2013 at the moment but I thought it would be interesting to share some that I’ve come across

  1. Sherpa or Cyclist? (2010)

There’s a cycling idiom “All the gear, no idea” which describes novices who splash out on expensive equipment but who lack the aptitude to use it properly.

This picture proves I had “none of the gear and even less of an idea.” it was taken during the Radar Race in 2010. A 40 mile race near Wanlokhead.

I look like I’m dressed to climb a mountain but I’m actually a mashup of different sports. If you look closely at my shoes you might recognize that they are football boots just in case the race finished with a penalty shootout.

2. Is that cargo pants you’re wearing? (2010)

A couple of months later I’d learnt my lesson from the previous race. I dressed better – I wore cargo pants and trainers.

3. Is that the same shoes? (2008)

The trainers were very versatile and long lasting. They make an appearance in this photo from 2008 when I did a Stornoway Marathon with Andrew. I used to buy just one shoe that could be used for every sport and then use it for as long as possible.

Nowadays I have a trainer for 10Ks and less, a trainer for long runs, a trainer for trail runs, a trainer for wet trail runs, golf shoes, squash shoes, walking shoes, work shoes, casual shoes and a pair of crocs. Because crocs are great no matter what other people say.

I’m the Imelda Marcos of sports shoes. That’s a joke has dated almost as badly as my haircut in the photo.

4. Is this the best view in Scotland? (2013)

No.

5. Will it be a white xmas?

One of the nice things about old photos is rediscovering pictures and memories. This one made me think “Whatever happened to this jacket. I loved this jacket”

The Bonnie Gardener: Season Two (Iain)

One of the joys of the first UK Lockdown was learning new skills. I decided I’d learn how to create videos. You can read about it here.

Trying to create a show every week from scratch was hard work. So, for season two, we decided we’d film videos during the summer and then put them together into episodes in the Autumn. This has hopefully resulted in a more interesting show to watch as its not just shots of my garden for 10 weeks.

Here’s a preview of season 2.

There is no running/biking or swimming in the videos but it does fit into the general theme of this blog which is a love of Scotland and a passion for showing off all the great places you can visit.

Rugged Run – John Muir Way – Longniddry to North Berwick (Iain)

John Muir was one of America’s most famous and influential ‘Outdoor Enthusiasts’ – although in a letter back to his native Scotland he did describe himself instead as a “poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist and ornithologist-naturalist etc. etc.” Which must be annoying to write when he was filling in the job title section of forms.

The John Muir Way is a 130 mile walking/biking route that stretches from his birthplace of Dunbar to where he left Scotland to head to America – Helensburgh.

John Muir Way - Falkirk, Scotland | AllTrails

I didn’t realize, until I looked at the route map, that I have actually done all of it but unintentionally whilst exploring various routes and paths along the Central Belt.

One of my favorite sections is Longniddry to North Berwick. I love the beaches in East Lothian and this section includes a run along one of the best: Yellowcraigs.

This section was easy to run. I parked my car in North Berwick. Got a train to Longniddry (10 minutes away) and then jogged back following the easy to follow route. There are lots of signs pointing out the route.

Check out the video to see the route in full.

VIDEO

MAPS

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Its not a wild trail run, more like a mild trail run as it passes through some of the most affluent towns in Scotland. Its mostly flat and there are some sections near roads.

Parking

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I had no problem parking in North Berwick but it can be busy on a nice day.

Facilities

Rating: 1 out of 5.

No facilities.

Nearest cafe

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Plenty of options allong the route and in North Berwick.

Run Surface

80% off road, 20% pavement.

Dog Friendly

It depends on your dog. I ran with mine but she had to be on the lead a lot due to nearby traffic.

Outdoor Swim Review – Pinkston Water Sports (Iain)

“Pinkston is home to Scotland’s only artificial whitewater course, a flat water basin with bathing quality water, meeting rooms and storage facilities for clubs and groups, Pinkston Watersports is an official Glasgow 2014 Legacy project and is operated by Glasgow Watersports Ltd, a registered Scottish charity run by a volunteer board of trustees.”

https://pinkston.co.uk/facilities/what-is-pinkston-watersports

Threre is much debate about where the name Pinkston originates from.  Supposedly the Scottish version of the name originated in the old barony of Pinkerton near Dunbar. The barony had the motto “Post nubila sol” which translates to “After clouds sunshine,” which is a fittingly apt motto for an outdoor pool because anyone who uses an outdoor pool needs a positive attitude – it might be cloudy today but the next time I swim it will be sunny!

I’ve used the facility for the last few years. It’s a great place to get an outdoor swim in a safe environment.

This year they have been running pay and swim session which has been hugely popular. During lockdown Pinkston was the only swimming pool that could open as it could operate in a COVID safe manner due to it being outdoors.

The only downside is that Pinkston can’t open the changing rooms to users. Everyone has to get changed outside. Which I think is a positive move as getting changed outdoors is a skill all outdoor swimmers have to learn.

I’ve been swimming regularly at 1700 on a Monday. Up unti this week (late Oct) the swim was in daylight. But this week the clocks went backwards. My 1700 swim became a night swim.

I didn’t realize just how dark the swim would be. I brought the wrong swim googles. I brought my shaded ones. I couldn’t see a thing. I was blinder than Stevie Wonder in a dark room with his eyes shut. I’m glad I did not record the swim on my GPS. It would have shown me swimming all over the place and, at one point, I’m sure I was swimming in a circle.

Lesson learned. I’ll bring a torch next time… and clear googles.

Link to booking: https://pinkston.co.uk

REVIEW

Ease of Access:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The area around Pinkston is getting regenerated. Local roads and access points are sometime closed so always check google maps first to find the best way there.

Water quality:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The water is murky. Don’t expect to see the bottom of the basin. The pool is not that deep. I can stand up at any point in it (I’m 6ft tall)

Swim Quality:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Their is a 400m-ish loop when the basin is fully open. The site is open to the east and west which means it can be tricky swimming at sunrise/sunset as the Sun shines directly into your face.

Other People:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Due to Covid regulations only a small number of people can swim at a time. It never feels busy and there is plenty of room to swim in.

Would I go back: 

Yes – it is convenient to have somewhere in the city. It is good for beginners and it is a great starting point for people who want to move from the pool to outdoor swimming.

Tour De Ben Lawers (Iain)

My Granny’s favorite mountain was Ben Lawers. She grew up in nearby Aberfeldy. During her youth she climbed Ben Lawers many times. Before she passed away she asked to be cremated so that her ashes could be spread upon the top.

So if you ever climb it, say hello to my granny. Knowing her, she will be haunting the trig point shouting at anyone nearby to stop chatting so she can concentrate on her crossword.

The Etape caledonia (https://www.etapecaledonia.co.uk/) uses some of the roads near Ben Lawers but I think this route is much more beautiful.

Video

Climb Review

Difficulty:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It can be brutal on a bad weather day but when the weather is nice its a steady climb but no big gradients.

Views:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Views across Loch Tay on the way up. Views into Glen Lyon on the way down. Scotland at its best.

Traffic: 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s normally a quiet road but there may be a few cars on the first part of the climb heading to the Ben Lawers car park to start climbing.

Parking

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I parked in Aberfeldy. There is plenty of parking.

Toilets

Rating: 3 out of 5.

There are public toilets in Aberfeldy but bring 20p to use them

Cafe

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Glen Lyon has an amazing cafe at the bottom of the descent of Ben Lawers. Soups, sausage rolls and great home baking. https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g551795-d2075739-Reviews-Glenlyon_tea_room-Aberfeldy_Perth_and_Kinross_Scotland.html

Route

First Aid (Iain)

A couple of week ago I had to attend a first aid course. The course covered all the major topics – sprains, injuries etc. but it also covered some unusual topics.

I have to admit I have never thought what would be in my top 10 communicable diseases BUT that’s because it’s so hard to pick a favourite. I love ebola but COVID is so hot right now…decisions…decisions…what to put as number 1?!

The instructor of the course tried to keep it light hearted but in doing so he did come out with some cracking phrases like his introduction to the course: “Blood, guts and gore are your bread and butter but first let’s get these gory pictures on the go!”

He then went on to show some gory pictures. One of which he was very proud of. It was a puncture wound. It looked sore. I know he was proud of it because when he put it up on screen he said “I’m very proud of this one”. Although, now I think about it, maybe it was the wound he was proud of not the picture.

He then showed a few more pictures. which he introduced by gleefully shouting, “gory picture time! gory picture time!”

To pass the course I have to demonstrate on video how to give CPR. I was thinking I’d use a pillow to demonstate on. He said “don’t use a pillow find something interesting instead like a teddy bear”

I now have a vision of him sitting at home watching a video of me giving CPR whilst he gleefully shouts, “teddy bear time! Teddy Bear time!”

6 Ways to Learn Infant and Toddler CPR - Mom365

Rugged Run – Devilla Forest (Iain)

Devilla Forest is just north east of the Kincardine Bridge. I’ve always been intrigued by the name. If it has ‘devil’ in the title it must be a pretty scary place – right?

Wrong! According to https://fife-placenames.glasgow.ac.uk/placename/?id=317 Devilla means “bad farm” because the land is bad for growing things. How boring. I’d have written he farm was bad because of devil worshiping. That would be a more exciting story.

The forest is slighly scary. It has a stone which a local legend says is marked by the grooves from a witches apron string. Do witches have aprons? I though aprons are just used by great British Bake Off contestants?!

Other than a dubious connections to baking witches there are four lochs, burns, meadowland and rich wildlife – including red squirrels. Lots of variety packed into a small area.

The route I choose was an eight mile loop from the car park. The routes is signposted but I’d advise taking a map or a GPS device with you. I took a couple of wrong turns and its easy to lose track of how to get back to the car park.

The paths were a mix of firetrack road and muddy trails. There isn’t much elevation on the route so its good for a flatter trail run.

It was pretty wet when I visited But I look forward to going back in better weather so I can see more of it. I might even spot a witch.

VIDEO

I’ll need to go back and film one!

MAPS

Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

An interesting and varied route. Good running surfaces but I’ll need to go back on a nice day to fully explore it.

Parking

Rating: 3 out of 5.

There’s a car park that was pretty full even on a bad weather day. It might be pretty congested on a good day.

Facilities

Rating: 1 out of 5.

No facilities.

Nearest cafe

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I was too wet to be bothered looking for one. I’ll look next time.

Run Surface

100% off road

Dog Friendly

Yes – although mine jumped off a wall before realizing he couldn’t get back up again. I had to lift him back over the wall.