Is the winner of a race the person who crosses the finish line first or the person with the fastest time?
You might think that these two statements are mutually
At the weekend, Andrew and I headed to the north west of Scotland
to take part in the Bealach Beag sportive – a 72km race that includes the UK’s
biggest road climb. An ascent of 626m from sea level in just 10km.
I’ve done the race four times. Andrew has done it three
times. He has beaten me every time.
Race 1 – I did it on a mountain bike. Not because I am an amazing biker but because I did not know any better. I quit half round because I was knackered.
Race 2 – The first year Andrew did it too. We both did the long version of the race. I had learnt my lesson from my experience with the mountain bike. I brought a hybrid bike instead. Andrew brought a road bike. He won.
Race 3 – We both used road bikes. The temperature was unseasonably warm. It was nearly 30C during the climb. Andrew was wearing shorts bib shorts and a light cycling top. I was wearing winter gear. I felt I was biking in a vertical sauna. He won.
Year 4 (this year) – I had been training for the last four weeks and I hoped that was enough to beat Andrew’s five months of Challenge Roth training. Just in case it was not enough, I had taken radical weight saving action to eek out the best performance from my bike. I removed the bell
I also had a cunning plan….
At the start of the race we were both given a time dibber. We
had to dib in at the start and dib in at the finish to record our time. At the
start line, I let Andrew dib in first. I then deliberately waited 10s before I
At the finish, we both raced for the line. Andrew thought he had just pipped me as he dibbed in first. What he didn’t realise was that I had a 10s buffer on him. We received the paper results and it shows quite clearly I’m the winner or am i?
If you look at our Strava times it clearly shows Andrew beat
me by 5 minutes because he did the climb 5 minutes faster than me and then
paused his Strava at the top until I appeared. He then restarted it and we
continued on the course.
So… is the winner of a race the person who crosses the finish line first or the person with the fastest time? All I’ll say is that on paper I’m the fastest Todd.
When people talk about favourite bridges they might pick the Forth Rail Bridge or the Golden Gate Bridge but neither is my favourite. I like Jeff Bridges. He’s the only one of the three that has won an Oscar!
Glasgow has 21 non Oscar winning bridges.
A couple of weekend ago I decided run to across as many of the bridges as possible. I invited some members of my triathlon club along. The rules for the run was very simple – every time we get to a bridge, cross the bridge. Let me repeat that – get to a bridge, cross the bridge.
We got to the first bridge. People ran past it. I shouted at them to come back. “Get to a bridge. Cross the bridge!” I repeated. “oh – I understand now.” they said. We got to the second bridge. They ran past it again. Its a really simple rule – “GET TO THE F’ING BRIDGE, CROSS THE F’ING BRIDGE!” Sometimes I despair.
We started at Dalmarnock and ran East to West. We could have done it the other way but East to West meant starting at a McDonald’s restaurant next to a scrap year before finishing at two Glasgow landmarks – the Armadillo and the Science Tower. West to East would have meant starting at the landmarks but finishing with a big mac and a Mcflurry. I choose the scenic rather unhealthy option.
It was a fun route. You can find the GPX for it here
A few years ago, I went go-karting. Before the race a marshal gave a safety briefing. The marshal explained that if he waved a black flag then that was a warning that I was driving beyond my ability. If he waved it again then I was disqualified.
I got in the kart and waited for the green light to flash
My kart accelerated from the start line. I was immediately in the lead but a car was coming up quickly on my outside right. We both approached the first corner, a tight left hand turn.
It looked like he was able to turn left before me. I should have slowed down but instead I accelerated and slammed into the side of the other car. This pushed him off the track but allowed me to take the left turn!
A masterful bit of driving but the marshal black-flagged me for driving beyond my ability!
A couple of minutes later I received a second black flag for a manoeuvre that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Mad Max film. I was disqualified.
I could not understand what I had done wrong. I should be have been praised. Driving beyond my ability is surely a compliment!
Did Schumacher win all his Grand Prix’s by driving within his ability? No – he drove to the limit and beyond.
I was thinking about this as I drove home from the go kart track…in an AA van. I was so pumped up with adrenaline from karting I’d crashed my car after leaving the track. I had to phone the AA to get me home.
The AA man asked how I’d crashed. I replied “I was driving beyond my ability.”
Strava is a great tool. It allows me to see how far, how fast and how often I swim, bike or run.
I have data going back years on it. I can see just how much or how little progress I’ve made.
BUT there’s one thing about it that I hate – Kudos!
I don’t want kudos because its mostly undeserved. For example, last week, I played squash. I lost 5-0.
So far this year I’ve lost every squash match that I’ve played. I recieved Kudos for every loss. I don’t deserve kudos! I deserve a stern talking too and a final warning about my performance.
Once, due to a mistake with my GPS watch, I uploaded a swim of one length of a 25m pool, I got Kudos for it! I shouldn’t have got Kudos I should have got a call asking if I was ok? Asking why I hadn’t swam back? Nobody does just one length of a pool unless they’ve gone to a pool party at Michael Barrymore’s house.
Its like the Great British Bake-off. In earlier seasons Paul Hollywood would rarely give his “Hollywood handshake” of congratulations to a contestant but during last years season he was giving one to everyone.
Does your cake has a soggy bottom? Don’t worry about it. Have a handshake.
Is your scones so hard enough you could sink the titanic with it? Don’t worry about it. Have a handshake.
Have you lost both your arms in tragic bread mixing accident? Yes? Don’t worry about it. Have a handshake…actually probably not in this case considering they are arm-less but you get the idea.
Once it becomes routine to get a handshake/kudos then it becomes meaningless. Kudos should be about achievement not failure.
So I’ve switched off Kudos alerts and I’m happier for doing so. I can now concentrate on getting true kudos – a win at squash.
This time last year, I cycled the 2000m climb of Mount Tiede in Tenerife. It was 3 hours of climbing and afterwards I felt fit and strong.
Last weekend, I cycled the 300m climb of the Dukes Pass in Aberfoyle. It was 22 minutes of climbing and afterwards I felt so tired I called the Police to report my cycling fitness had gone missing.
The Police explained that they don’t investigate crimes against fitness but if they did they would have arrested me years ago – “ello, ello, what is going on here? Do you call that a front crawl? I’m taking you to the nick for G.B.S. Grevious Bodily Swimming!”
I graphed my performance on the Duke’s pass and it looks
like my latest result took a dive off a cliff of consistency.
Afterwards I put this onto Instagram
Thge key point is the “I wonder if my consumption of macaroni pies and bakewell tarts is anyway related to this? “
How can you tell a diet is unhealthy? When the dessert is larger than the main course. Check out the size of my bakewell tart.
On a positive note the dinner was vegetarian so there must be a slight bit of healthiness in it.
Afterwards my wife said to me “how can your time be that bad due to the food. Did you eat it before you went up the hill?”
No – I had it afterwards but I think it points to the conclusion that I’m not a clean living performance machine.
So from now on I have to eat a little bit healthier and try to get back to my previous times…or I do what any middle aged male cyclist does when faced with getting slower – spend lots of money to fix the problem.
I’ve often noted the more expensive the bike the wider the waist of the owner.
PS – I actually had two macaroni pies but I only took a pic of one so people wouldn’t think I’m a fat bstrd!
A couple of weeks ago I attended a training course in Paisley. It wasn’t a very exciting course but one afternoon my tutor received a phone call.
“Hello….what…who is this?” He said into his phone.
I assumed it a local Garage. He’d told me earlier in the day that he’d put his car in for a MOT.
“OK…great…23,637 pounds and 17 pence?”
OMG! What the WTF had he done to his car that he had to pay that amount of money for an MOT?
His face went bright red and he said
“….is this a windup? Really??? Oh my god. I don’t believe it”
It wasn’t the garage. He’d just won £23,647 and 17 pence on a radio show by answering his phone and telling them the prize figure they’d revealed on the breakfast show.
Unsurprisingly, for the rest of the afternoon, he struggled to concentrate on the course!
I had only been to Paisley once before. It was in the evening in winter. It was dark and I couldn’t see anything. Paisley does not have a great reputation so some might argue not seeing it was a good thing.
I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Paisley. I walked from the train station to the training centre and I was surprised by how nice the buildings in the town centre are. At one point on my walk, I passed a man. He greeted me warmly with “What the fuck are you looking at?” I wanted to say “the neo-classical and Georgian period architecture” but instead i just walked on very quickly and didn’t look back.
When is a 50k race not a 50k race? When it’s the John Muir Trail Ultramarathon. I pressed stop on my GPS watch as I crossed the finish line. It said I’d only done 49.8K!
It says a lot about how hard the race was (for me) that I had absolutely no desire to walk another 200 metres to get the distance to 50k.
My pre-race aim was to run the first 30km, run/walk the next 10km and for the last 10km just do whatever it took to finish under six hours.
0K to 6K
A marathon is 44k. This ultramarathon is 50k. My first goal was to do 6k to get to the point there was only a marathon left to do. My reasoning was that I could then tick off that I’d done the ultra bit.
This section was mostly beach trail. it was a little congested with little room for overtaking which was a good thing. It meant I could settle into a nice steady slow pace.
After a couple of kilometres I regretted my choice of clothing. I had a waterproof jacket and a beanie on but it was too warm for them.
Which made me thankful my next goal was only at the 8k point
5K to 8K
Nic’s sister has just moved to Aberlady (the 8k point) and she promised to come to support us. Nic’s parents and sister would be there too as they’d popped over from Glasgow to offer support and see the new house.
I dropped off my jacket and beanie with them. I immediately felt cooler. I won’t need those items again…
8K to 15K.
A nice section through the fields near Gullane. It was relatively flat and easy running but as we exited Gullane the sky darkened and the rain began.
A lot of people have trouble pronouncing Gullane correctly but its very easy. Just say “that town with the weird name next to Aberlady” Everyone will know where you mean.
15K to 25K
The rain had made me COLD, WET AND MISERABLE. I regretted not having my jacket and beanie.
The rain wasn’t heavy but it was pretty relentless. The route passed nice sections of forest around Archerfield Estate. The estate had a great food stop. I had a chocolate brownie. Delicious!
As we approached North Berwick there was a few tiny hills. Hills that normally I wouldn’t even call a hill. Most people would call them slight bump in the road. I looked at Nic. She looked at me. We both said “Walk the hills!”
It was a relief to get to the half way point. Mainly becasue it had a roof so we could get out of the rain for a few minutes. Nic’s parents were here so I thankfully got my jacket and beanie back.
I had another chocolate brownie and to be healthy I also had a Twix. Its vegetarian so it must be healthy! Correct???
They say you should race on what you train on. I eat Twix’s the rest of the week so I might as well eat them on race day too!
25K to 30K
I felt great after the stop. This lasted about 100m when I got told by a marshal to run on the beach. It was a heavy thick sand which made my legs feel very heavy but at least I had a jacket and beanie.
And then the rain stopped!
After the beach it’s uphill past North Berwick Law. Again it wasn’t that hilly and normally I wouldn’t think twice about running it but we still turned to each other and said “walk the hills!”
30K to 35K
We headed into a nice forest section which looped round a small loch. At this point Nic suddenly got a second wind and started to run much faster than me.
I did what any proud husband would do when seeing how well his wife is doing. I screamed “Woaaah! Slow down. I can’t keep up!”
She slowed down a little but stayed about 100m ahead of me. Taunting me with her pace and ease of running.
At one point I spotted some gravestones in the trees. I thought “That’s a strange place to be buried” but I then noticed the names of the graves – Mr Tiddles III, Dwayne Mousecatcher II and Rex. I hope it was a pet cemetry and not real people.
35K to 40K
This section was slightly downhill through fields. It seemed to be a new path as the track and fencing seemed new. We bumped into our suppoirt team again so I was able to remove my jacket again and get another Twix. You can never have too many Twix’s.
40K to 44K
There’s one hill in this section. Again its minor but definitely a “walk the hills” moment.
My legs were sore and tired. I was happy I’d ran 40k but I now switched to walking a couple of 100m every time I completed a kilometer.
Up till this point I’d high fived Nic every time we had reached a goal. I told her the next goal was 44k: the marathon end point.
At 43K she asked for a high five. I refused! I don’t give out high five at any time. Does Paul Hollywood from The Great British Bakeoff gave out one of his Hollywood handshakes before the bake is complete? NO! He gives them once the job is done. I made her wait until 44k and then we had a congratulatory high five!
44K to 49.8K
The sun was out and it was quite warm on the course. This was a really nice section along a river and then along the shore near a beach.
Nic said her knee was sore so she wasn’t going to run anymore. I was quite happy about that so we enjoyed a nice paced walk to the finish.
Occasionally a runner would pass and would say “Sorry! I’m just a relay runner!” to explain why they looked so fresh when we didn’t.
I finished in just under six hours so I was happy that a) I’d achieved my goal time and b) I’d actually run further than I thought I would.
It’s a great race. The route is varied. I never once felt bored running. The marshals are all friendly and supportive. The foodstops were great and came along at just the right time.
I learnt allot for my attempt at the Devil O’ The Highlands later in the year. Mainly remember to bring a Twix.
Anyone walking past my hotel room before the start of the John Muir Ultra-marathon would have heard the following conversion between my wife and I.
“I’ve never done this before. Will it be sore?” I asked.
“I’m not sure but I think lube will help,” she replied.
A couple of seconds later I scream. “Aaaargh!!! That’s stings!”
“It’s not that bad. Take it like a man!”
“Ooh, matron” as Kenneth Williams used to say in the Carry On Film.
I’d applied a generous portion of chamois cream to my thighs hoping it would protect my bits from chafing. I had been so worried about chafing that that I’d actually packed the cream, into my bag of stuff for the race, a few week previously to ensure I’d not forget it.
I’m glad I did because about 15KM into the race I overheard a male runner ask one of the volunteers.
“Do you have any vaseline?”
The volunteer replied “no” so he asked “Do you think anyone ahead will have some? Please God! My bits are on fire! It feels like my baws are trapped between two bits of sandpaper!”
He might not have said the last bit but I could hear the
fear of chafing in his voice.
He was not the only one who had forgotten something. At the end of the race, I heard a woman say to her friend.
“NOOO! I can’t believe it. I went to stop my watch and it didn’t stop, it started! I must have not pressed start at the beginning of the race.”
Which is annoying because everyone knows Strava kudos does not count if you manually create your activity. You need to have GPS tracking or it did not happen!
Thankfully I remembered my lube and to press start.
Bishopbriggs has a reputation as one of the best beginner friendly triathlon races in Scotland. Which is why Andrew and I decided to do our second ever triathlon here. It was 2014 and the race came 5 years after our first attempt at a triathlon https://twinbikerun.com/2017/10/23/my-first-triathlon-iain
My preparation for the race didn’t go well. I didn’t realize I had to be there early to put the bike into transition. By the time I arrived the official car park was full. I managed to get a car parking space in a side street but I didn’t write down the name of street. I wouldn’t realize until later that Bishopbriggs has allot of very similar looking side streets…
I’d like to say the swim went smoother than my parking but I made some rookie errors:
Mistake 1: I under estimated my swim time.
When entering the event I had to give a predicted time for the swim. I took a guess and added a couple of minutes to make sure I wasn’t in a fast lane.
My estimate was too slow! I was actually much faster than everyone else in the lane. I should have realised I wasn’t among fast swimmer when everyone else arrived wearing rubber rings and snorkels.
I’m not a fast swimmer but I’m not slow either. I should have checked my time in advance and I should have had confidence in my ability. It would have been an easier swim for me and the other in the lane if I’d been in the correct lane.
Mistake 2: I didn’t have a tri top
I was the only one in my lane without one. It was a cold wet day. When we headed outside for transition I felt every cold blast of wind and rain on my bare naked skin. I was more more Frozen than children singing “Let It Go”
I should have worn clothes appropriate for the weather condition outside and not just for the tropically warm indoor condition.
Mistake 3: Leaving clothes outside uncovered
The weather was dry when I placed them in transition but now that it had rained all my stuff was wet. I should have put a plastic water proof bag over them to keep the rain off.
My bike seat was soaking wet. If I’d put a plastic bag over it then I would have enjoyed a nice dry seat instead of a “wet Andrew” which is my code for a soaking wet arse.
Mistake 4: Safety pins!
My biggest mistake was that I’d accidentally put my safety pins through the front and back of my cycle top preventing me from getting into the top! DOH!
I had to do undo all the pins. Put the top on and then tack on the number. Ever since this I’ve used a race number belt.
There was quite a variety of bikes on the course from mountain bikes to hybrids to full on time trial specific machines. Maybe triathlons shouldn’t be just about age group results but about how much was spent on the bike.
But then again I saw one man on a hybrid race past a man on his time trial bike. Maybe it is actually about how hard people train!
The run was the first time I’d ever seen a spray can used as a course feature. After running 2km I had to run round a spray can, which was placed in the middle of a path, back to the start. I remember thinking why don’t they just spray the ground instead of putting the can there?
The last km was through a muddy path but annoyingly I had on new trainers. I abandoned running quickly and instead ran cleanly as I gingerly avoided every bit of mud. That was my excuse for my slow run time.
POST RACE (1:26:47)
As I’d forgotten where the car was parked I had to spend twenty minutes on my bike, exploring the back streets of Bishopbriggs, trying to find it.
Andrew was on the phone to me. “Where are you?” he asked. I replied “I’m in the car park.” I’d agreed to meet him at the official race start – Clydebank Leisure Centre. I was parked in the car park and I thought I was quite easy to spot as it wasn’t too full of cars.
“Where in the car park? I don’t see your car.”
I looked around. I was the only car in my part of the car
park. I was very visible. “I’m the only one here. Look towards the back of the
“I can’t see you. There’s nobody parked at the back of the
car park!” He sounded annoyed.
It suddenly dawned on me – “Are you at the old leisure centre rather than the new one?”
“There’s two lesuire centres???”
“Yes – you’ve gone to the old one! Idiot!”
It was a fair mistake to make. The race had always started at the old leisure centre. I drove over to collect him. There was a number of other runners waiting there. Which goes to show how few people read pre-race instructions as it was quite clear from the notes where to go.
The race is a point to point from the shores of Loch Lomond back to Clydebank. Clydebank is where the band Wet Wet Wet come from. It was also an apt description of the weather. The rain was hammering it down as I got changed in the car but thankfully, I had packed a Gore-Tex hat and jacket. Once I had them on it looked like I was off to climb a mountain rather than run a race.
To get to the start the organiser put on buses. They must have asked the bus company “How much for a bus to Balloch for 700 runners….HOW MUCH!!!…Can you do it cheaper? How much for a bus with no heating?”
The cold miserable bus ride was more of an endurance test than the race itself. Shortly after leaving Clydebank the rain turned to snow. The talk on the bus was whether the race would be cancelled. I saw one man in small shorts and sleeveless vest. I don’t know what weather forecast he’d seen that morning to be dressed so inapproriatly. He must have assumed the yellow weather warning meant “Danger – there may be sunshine!”
When we arrived a man told the bus driver not to leave as he
might be needed to take all the runners back to the start. The organisers were
consulting and would announce shortly whether the race would go ahead.
Word soon came through that the race would go ahead but anyone who wanted to go back to the start could get back on the bus. I was happy to run. It had stopped raining and it didn’t feel too cold although I was worried what the paths would be like.
Runner are a hardy bunch so quite a number did choose to start including the man from the bus who had hardly any clothes on.
The first couple of miles are along a canal path. There’s not much room to pass people which is annoying as faster runners get caught behind slower ones. Which is why I was behind Andrew… honest!
There was a lot of puddles on the path due to the rain. Runners like to think of themselves as hardy souls prepared to run through rain, hail and sleet but the one thing they won’t run through is a puddle. It was amusing to watch the different techniques other runners used to avoid getting their feet wet.
Some do a swerve at the last second to avoid the puddle and other attempt a long jump to stride over it. I prefer to go straight through the first puddle I see and let my feet get wet. I then don’t have to care about avoiding puddles for the rest of the race. Its a wet race just get soaked and then get on with it!
The last few miles of the the course is normally run on pavements. The organisers very clearly state “Stick to the pavements. Do not run on the road.” But many chose to ignore this as the pavements were covered in slush. Some were running on the road with headphones on as car’s wizzed by. I’d rather get my feet wet than be hit by a car.
Race organisers should offer a email/text service were you can grass up other competitors to get them disqualified. It would be for peoples own good as they’d then learn not to so stupid things in races!
I’d ran with Andrew until the last mile. At that point he increased his pace and I couldn’t keep up. I was happy to have stuck with him until then as I was still a bit sore after falling down a hole on a bridge the previous week.
Although the start of the race has changed the end has not. It still finishes at at the old leisure center which meant a one mile plod back to the car via some of Clydebank’s most glamorous spots
POSTSCRIPT: I asked for a medium sized t-shirt but I didn’t try it on until I got home. The organizers must got their t shirts from the same place as they got the buses. “Hello, how much for 300 medium sized t shirts….HOW MUCH!! Do you do kids sizes? is that cheaper? I’ll take 300 kids medium sized T- shirts.”
Its the smallest medium sized t shirt I’ve ever received at a race. It barely covers my belly button. I’d like to wear it as its a smart design but I’m afraid I’d look like a 1980’s dancer from Fame!