Outdoor Swim Review: North Third Reservoir (Iain)

North third reservoir is strangely named as I can find no record of a North First or North Second reservoir. Maybe this one was third time lucky after the other two failed.

The reservoir is a great spot for swimming. It is surrounded on one side by cliffs and Forrest. It’s a nature lovers paradise but it’s also a paradise for lovers of a different kind. The Daily Record reported the story of a man put on trial after he was discovered naked in the Forrest.

My favorite bit of the story is his very British excuse – “I can’t possibly be having sex with men. My wife made me sandwiches!”

REVIEW

Ease of Access: There’s a small car park beside a gate next to the path that leads down to the reservoir. If the spaces there are taken then there’s spots nearby to park.

Water quality: A bit murky and a little bit shallow in places. There was much less water in the reservoir than when I was last here in March. The water temperature was 18.5C.

Swim Quality: Excellent – There’s a nice loop around the islands. The water was calm.

Other People: There’s usually folk fishing at the side of the loch and I’ve occasionally bumped into other folk either heading in or leaving after swimming themselves.

Would I go back: Yes. Its one of my favorite places to swim.

Challenge Roth – Support Tips (Iain)

There is a misconception that you can drive as fast as you like on a German Autobahn. You can’t. I found this out during a previous German trip when a policeman handed me a speeding ticket after I’d raced along a road from Cologne to Stuttgart. I had wondered why I was the only car, on this section, driving fast!

My driving has improved since then. During this trip, after I’d completed a left turn, a man wound down his car window to shout “Schweinhund” at me. He also waved his fist. I’m sure that must be German for “Nice manouver. Well done you.”

A car is essential for Roth as the nearest affordable accommodation to town was 40K away in Nuremberg. I’d visited the city before in 2006 during the World Cup. I had a three game ticket to follow the USA and one of the games was held in the city: USA versus Ghana. I can’t remember anything about the place but I hoped a visit back might remind me. It didn’t! I still don’t remember anything about it. The beer must have been good there…

2006 – USA! USA!

TOP TIPS

  1. Get a good navigator. I had three people in the car who each had a shot at navigating. They gave me the wrong directions to the hotel, They gave me the wrong directions to transition, they gave me the wrong directions to the swim start, they even gave me the wrong directions to Roth. As Roth is the one place everyone else was going to too, just follow the other cars, not your passengers!
  2. On race day work out where to park in Roth as it is very difficult to drive from the swim start to Roth due to road closures. We got lucky finding a space but it took us two hours to do what should have been a twenty minute trip.
  3. Go to Solar hill. It’s only a 25 minute walk from the swim start. The atmosphere is amazing. And once your athlete has climbed the hill on lap one, you can head to Roth for the run.
  4. Get petrol before race day! We nearly ran out whilst driving around. There were lots of petrol stations but not many open on a Sunday. Thankfully we got one but make sure you have a full tank in advance.
  5. It’s a long day. I was up at 0415 and didn’t get back to bed until 0030. There’s lots of standing around and walking. I managed nearly 15 miles of walking in the day.
  6. Cross the finish line with your athlete. Challenge allow non-athletes into the finisher chute. Take the opportunity to take in the acclaim of the crowd without actually having to do the race! Like John Terry at the 2012 Champions league final when he appeared on the pitch in full strip despite not having played the match.
  7. The internet reception for mobiles doesn’t work very well on the course or in Roth. Too many phones in one place made it very difficult to get a connection. Make sure you print out maps in advance.
  8. Bring Euros. There was lots of opportunity to buy food and drink on the course but finding a cash machine or an ATM was next to impossible.
  9. The tracker is good for working out what time your athlete should be in places. Use that to plan when to spot them but see point 7. Don’t rely on it always being available.
  10. When you get home. Your athlete will try to claim a lift back to their house because “their legs are tired!” Tell them to GTF and drive you instead! You deserve it!
My lap of honour. Andrew got in the way of the pic!

St Marys Loch Triathlon (Iain)

It is two years since I last did a standard length triathlon. Which is my excuse for why I forgot to take my bike helmet to transition. Thankfully, someone spotted my mistake. I ran back to the car to get it.

It wasn’t my only mistake, I lost my swim cap during the time it took me to receive my swim cap and then walk the short distance to the loch to put it on. I still haven’t worked out how I manged to do that.

The swim temperature was announced as 15C so I was surprised when I got into the loch that the water felt much colder. I swam a little distance to warm up and water suddenly became warm. I assumed it was just a cold patch at the start but the fluctuating temperature was present throughout the swim. On one stroke my hand would enter warm water and on the next the next it would enter freezing cold water. Very strange.

I enjoyed the 2 lap swim. The loch never felt too busy and I was happy to swim round with no one near me. I think swim drafting is cheating so I try to avoid it. I’d rather do the swim using my own power than be dragged along by someone else.

I got into transition after the swim and discovered the socks I had left there were inside out. I had to correct that before starting the bike. A gentleman has got to have standards!

The organiser had warned us that the roads might be slightly busier than usual because there was a classic car rally taking place nearby. There was also a beer festival on. Beer and cars. What could possibly go wrong?

Thankfully the classic car drivers must have been sleeping off their beers as other than a Model T Ford I didn’t spot any classic cars.

The organiser said no-one had ever got lost on the route. It was easy to see why. There is only one road and no option to take any other route.

The route itself was on a decent road surface. The road was undulating rather than hilly but there was a draggy climb near the end.

The race manual describes the course as “It’s almost completely flat (really!) – a couple of small undulations – maybe 5m climb on each. “

Not according to my watch. It shows there was 70m of climbing. Which is not allot but it definitely is not flat course. The trail means there’s lot of small up and down sections.

I like running off-road so I really enjoyed the run but it definitely did not match the description of the course.

OVERALL

It was a great race. I got a PB for the distance and its definitely a course I’d do again. The race gets a bonus point for its t-shirt which is a snazzy baseball style affair.

Outdoor Swim Review: Balgray Reservoir (Iain)

“Is this where the group meets for swimming?”

I was standing half-naked in a car park next to Balgray Reservoir when a man approached and asked me this. I don’t normally frequent car parks in the buff but I was getting changed to go swimming and there was no facilities nearby.

I was not part of a group and did not know what he was asking about so I replied “Sorry I’m not part of a group”

He looked confused by my answer. I realised he was probably confused as to why I would be half naked, trying to get one leg in a wet suit, if I wasn’t part of swimming group.

 So to put his confused mind at rest I added. “I‘m swimming too but just not with a group.”

He didn’t go away. He waited a minute and then said, “is it a 800m loop?”

“Is what a 800m loop?” I asked.

“The swim?” He replied.

“I don’t know. I’m not with the group!” I was starting to get annoyed.

He waited a minute and then said “Are you in charge of the group?”

“NO!!! I’m not in the group! I’m just trying to go for a swim!”

He looked like he finally realized I was not able to help him but it did not stop him from asking one final question.

“How much is it to join?”

REVIEW

Ease of Access: There’s a car park next to the reservoir. No toilet or changing facilities. I had to walk through mud to enter the water.

Water quality: A bit murky and grim but reasonably warm. it was 14.5C when I went (June)

Swim Quality: It was quite easy to do a reasonable loop by aiming for some of the local features e.g. a tall power tower, a big house on the hill etc. The water was calm.

Would I go back: Probably not. There’s nicer places to swim.

Total Immersion Swimming (Iain)

My first Job in IT was for an Internet company who supplied internet access to hundreds of thousands of users in the UK.

One of my tasks was to track down users who had done something bad. Which sounds like a great job – an internet vigilante. I thought I would be tracking down terrorists, or criminals, or gangsters but it was mostly dealing with far worse people than that – lawyers. 

The most common request would be from the lawyer of 20th Century Fox, the owner of The Simpsons, asking that I remove pictures of their characters from our web-hosting site. Homer might act stupid but he is very well informed about copyright infringement.

Occasionally I would receive a more interesting request like the time I received a letter from NASA asking me to track down a user who had tried to hack their servers.

I tracked down who it was. I called them up. A man answered. I confirmed they were the person I was after and then explained they were in serious trouble. NASA was threatening to report them to the police. The man burst into tears and screamed “MUM!!! I don’t want to go to jail”

When checking the user details I had forgotten to check the user’s age. He wasn’t a man he was a 12-year-old boy. His mum came on the phone and shouted at me for making her son cry.

One day a man joined my team. I passed the task of hunting down Simpson fans to him. I explained how to do it:

  1. Get the IP address of the user
  2. Get the time and date they were online
  3. Run a DB script using that info.
  4. Get the username
  5. Check the user database to get their address and telephone number
  6. Contact the user.
  7. Tel them to stop it (whatever it was they were accused of doing)

I showed him how to do the task. I got him to do it again. I got him to do the steps repeatedly until he knew exactly how to do it.

The next day I came to work there was a request from a lawyer. I asked the man to look at it. He said, “What do I do with it?” I said “The task I showed you how to do yesterday” He replied “What task?” He had forgotten all the steps I had showed him the previous day.

Which is a valuable lesson. Doing the same thing again and again is not learning! If you do not understand what you are doing then repeating a task won’t make you any better at it.

Which is why I bought a book on Total Immersion Swimming. The book believes that repeatedly swimming back and forth is the wrong way to get better at swimming because all  I am doing is repeating mistakes without learning anything new.

Instead the book recommends if I stop concentrating on laps and instead concentrate on the how and why of swimming then I’ll get faster quicker and easier.

I’m interested in seeing whether this is true. I’ll report back once I’ve given it a try.

Stornoway Half Marathon 2019 (Iain)

I like running. I like music. I like running whilst listening to music.

Whilst running I tend to fixate on one lyric of a song. The lyric repeats in my mind as I run. It becomes a mantra.

Repeating this mantra becomes a distraction from running and helps me get through tough sections of a race. Usually climbs or sections where I’m tired and sore.

Yesterday at the Stornoway Half Marathon I was listening to Scottish DJ Calvin Harris and his song I Feel So Close To You Right Now.

As I got to a hill I stared repeating the chorus in my mind.

“I feel so close to you right now….I feel so close to you right now…I feel so…”

Each time I repeated the lyric I powered further up the hill. I feel so close to you right now….I feel so close to you right now…I feel so…”

About half way up the hill I passed a female runner. She looked at me. I looked at her. She looked horrified. I realised that I hadn’t been repeating the mantra in my mind. I’d actually been saying it out loud!

No wonder she was horrified. She didn’t wants a big sweaty heavy breathing man running after her declaring how close he felt.

I ran away. Very fast.

My next mike split was my fastest in the race as I ran repeating the mantra “I feel so embarrassed next to you right now!”.

The race itself was cold and damp. I wanted to use it as an ultramarathon training run so I added a couple of miles to the start and end of the race so I could get to 18 miles.

I started off with the intention of running at a slow ultramarathon pace but my ego soon got the better of me. Every time someone passed me it would go “Why are you letting them beat you? You’re faster than them!”

I gave in to my ego and sped up.

I need to work harder to ignore my ego! If not the irony of writing that whilst simultaneously writing a blog about myself…

Bealach Beag (Iain)

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 consistent but….

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 dibbed in.

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.

Number 1!

Glasgow Bridge Run (Iain)

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!

Jeff as the Dude in The Big Lewbowski

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.

Happy runners after been reminded to cross the bridge.

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.

The finish line.

It was a fun route. You can find the GPX for it here

https://strathcloud.sharefile.eu/d-s5657a381cc44b9da

and its on Strava here

and here’s some photo proof

Go-Karting (Iain)

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.

My karting competitors

I got in the kart and waited for the green light to flash

RED……….wait…..wait……GREEN!!

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.”

Why I switched off Strava kudos (Iain)

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.