I drink milk and eat cheese. Which means I am a bad Vegan.
Should I call myself a Vegetarian instead? No – I can’t. I should mention that I also eat Tuna
I could call myself a pecscitarian. Someone who eats vegetables and fish but I can’t. I should mention I occasionally eat chicken.
In fact what I cansay is “Hi. My name is Iain and I eat a balanced diet but try to be vegetarian more often than not.” Which does not sound very interesting or sexy.
Being full on 100% hardcore Vegan is sexy. Its cool. I know so because Netflix has said so. They have a glossy film called The Game Changers.
In it the main presenter argues that eating any animal products can hinder athletic performance, wreak havoc on your heart, impair sexual function, and lead to an early death.
Its full of masculine men doing macho things.
Its basically saying “Are you man enough to go Vegan?”
Which is inspiring. Who doesn’t want to kick ass like a MMA fighter, drive fast cars like a F1 driver or play tennis like a wimbledon champ?
There’s only one problem. It seemed a bit lacking in proper science. They had scientists on it but their claims seemed pretty dubious and not very factual.
One scientist claimed that the Gladiators in Roman times were all Vegans and that must have been why they were the peak of manliness. Which assumes the gladiators had a choice in the matter. They were probably Vegan because they were all Slaves and no slave owner was going to waste good food on them. They got the cheapest and most plentiful food – which was plant based food.
Another scientist showed a vial of blood from a vegan and a non vegan. The no vegans was cloudy whilst the vegan was clear. Clear seems better because we are conditioned to think that means pure but he never explained what it meant. Maybe cloudy is what its supposed to be! There was no evidence to say one way or the other.
I google the program afterwards and found a number of articles decrying the science in the program. This is a good example.
I had learnt my lesson from my DNF in 2012. This time I trained for the race, I wore the correct cycling kit and I had bought a new bike – a hybrid! It was a mix of a road and mountain bike. Surely that would be perfect for climbing hills on roads?
At registration I had to fill in a release form stating I absolved the organisers of any blame in the event of an accident. I assume this was due to Malcolm’s accident as I was not asked for this in 2012.
I lined up at the start. I felt confident. I tuned to Andrew and told him that “I thought it was going to be a great day.” I spoke too soon. It started raining.
This time the climb was much better. I made it half way up before I had to get off and push my bike. There was no camera crew at the top this year. There was no one at the top. The conditions were miserable – wet and windy. Nobody wanted to hang about in that type of weather.
I was pleased when I biked past Applecross. The climb was done. The rest of the course would be easy!
It wasn’t. The miles after Applecross are an endlessly undulating series of small hills. There is more climbing in this section than during the Bealach climb.
By the time I hit the umpteenth small hill I had to get off and push my bike. My legs had run out of puff.
Andrew was on a road bike. He felt fine. Maybe when Lance Armstrong was wrong when he wrote “Its not about the bike.” I felt it was definitely about the bike.
I made it to the second last village on the route – Shieldaig. It’s a small coastal town. The organisers had setup a feed stop here. They were packing it away into a van. They looked surprised to see us. A man approached us and said “I didn’t realise anyone was still biking”
I assume that means we are last. Very last. He opens the van and says “Help yourself to anything you want”
I take a packet of crisps, a can of coke and unusually I spot some cheese slices. I’d never seen cheese at a food stop before. I ask the man if I can have some of the slices. He says yes.
I try a bit. It is delicious. The best bit of cheese I have ever had. It was probably the cheapest cheese imaginable but after cycling 75 miles my taste buds must have craved the milk and salt goodness. I’ve never had cheese as good as that again!
To this day I still salivate at the tastiness of that cheese.
Powered up on the three C’s – cheese, coke and crisps we head off to tackle the last section of the course.
It was horrific. For the the last 12 miles we had to ride into a strong headwind. I had to stand up on my pedals to move my bike forwards. It was like biking through heavy mud.
At last we spot the finish. It’s getting dark. We’ve been riding for nearly nine hours.
I’m spent but elated. We are going to finish. We have done it together.
With 100m to go Andrew sprints off. He doesn’t believe in doing it together. He believes in winning. He is the only one at the finish line. We are so late. Everyone else has gone home.
We drive home. He spends the five hour journey telling me how he is the winner of the Bealach na Todd.
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.
Michelangelo (not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle but the painter)
My aim for Celtman is to get a blue T shirt. To do this I have eleven hours to reach the start of the climb to Beinn Eighe. To get there I have to swim 3.4K, ride 202K and then run 15K.
If I take longer than eleven hours to reach Beinn Eighe then I will be sent on the low course and I will receive a white T-shirt. Although the low course does not go over Ben Eighee it is still a hard technical off-road route.
So what does it take to get a blue T-shirt?
Last year the average blue t-shirt finisher swam 01:06:50. The slowest swam 01:39:42.
Last year the average blue t-shirt finisher biked 07:07:59. The slowest ride was 07:57:16. This equates to an average speed of between 15 to 17 mph. I suspect the slowest cyclist was a very quick runner.
The run course has changed slightly this year so I can’t compare it to previous years but based on the average swim and run times I’ll need to run to Beinn Eighe in about 2 hours 30 minutes.
My plan is to get fit in two stages.
Stage 1: Get fit (Dec 1st until 12 weeks before Celtman)
My swim fitness is good. I have spent allot of time in the last year improving my swimming. I regularly swim once or twice a week doing 2K metres a session. I cope well with cold water as I swim regularly outdoors. Therefore I won’t change anything I currently do as I’m happy at my current performance level.
My bike fitness is good for short rides. I commute to work by bike a couple of times a week (16 miles per day) and I occasionally ride a 30/40 miles route at the weekend. I’d struggle with anything longer than that so I need to increase my stamina and speed over the winter so that I can cope with long training rides in the spring.
For Norseman I did allot of work on the Turbo over winter. I will repeat that for Celtman. I will aim to do 120 miles a week by the time spring comes along.
My base run fitness is good for up to half marathon distance. I try to do one long run and one 10K a week. The majority of my training is off road on hills/trails which should stand me in good stead when it comes to the race. I’m doing an Ultramarathon in March. Training for that will hopefully bode well for Celtman.
Part 2: Get Celtman fit
Part 1 will hopefully got me fit enough tthe longer rides/runs necessary to get in triathlon shape.
I’m going to reuse my Norseman training plan. It worked well for me in terms of fitting training around having a normal life. It involves doing one key session a week in each discipline.
10K + half marathon
HALF IRON MAN
I can’t find a half ironman to enter in week 8 so I’m going to do my own instead.
I will come up with a more detailed plan for each month but this will be starting point.
The only races I ever dreamed of entering were Norseman and the Marathon Des Sables. I’ve been lucky enough to have taken part and supported at Norseman but I will never do MDS. My body struggles badly exercising in hot weather. MDS would kill me!
I only entered Celtman because I wanted to do it in the future. Entering this year would increases my chance of getting a ballot place later. Failed entries give you more extra ballot places in future years.
And then this happened
Trust my luck to win the one ballot I didn’t want to win!
…now that it has happened I’m excited about it. It will be great fun to go head to head with Andrew. May the best Todd win!
Although, if you are anywhere near Torridon in June 2020, expect to hear me repeatedly utter the line made famous by Dante in Kevin Smith’s Clerks “I’m not even supposed to be here today! ”
I spent the week before the race full of the cold. Not the normal cold but life threatening man flu.
My fellow men will sympathise at just how potent this horrific affliction can be. Its only known cure is watching TV, drinking beer and replying “no. I’m ill” to any enquiries about whether any housework is going to be done.
I decided I wasn’t going to do the race as it always rains when I take part. Last years event was so biblically wet I spotted Noah leading animals two by two to his boat. I didn’t fancy running whilst being at deaths door.
But for the first time in my five attempts at the race there was no rain. It was actually a very pleasant sunny morning.
I decided to run. I was still ill and I definitely wasn’t fit enough for household chores. In fact, I think it might be a few weeks before I can even think about hoovering or helping out around the house. A run though is fine to do.
The course is two laps of Bellahouston Park. It’s not a very scenic park but it’s pleasant enough. It’s mostly flat but there is one hill that is tackled twice.
I decided I was going to run as fast I could. As soon as the race started I legged it away from Andrew. Later Andrew complained I went off too fast. No – he went off too slow!
The race was pretty dull. I spotted Andrews wife a couple of times so I gave her a wave. Which turned out to be more times than Andrew spotted her. He managed to run past her without seeing her.
I kept a good pace up for the whole race and I was happy with a sub 45 time. I didn’t expect to be as fast as that. Maybe man flu isn’t as bad as I thought….
The Bealach na Ba, in the North West of Scotland, boasts the greatest ascent of any road in the UK. It begins at sea level and rises to a height of 626m. It takes six miles to get from sea-level to the top.
The name means ‘pass of the cattle.’ It was originally a gravel track used by crofters to move cattle between two parts of the Applecross peninsula. It’s now mostly used by tourists. The route is part of the famous North Coast 500 which has been named one of the top coastal road trips in the world.
It is 2012 and I am at the start line of my first ever bike sportive. I look at the other riders.
They are all using road bikes. I am on a mountain bike. I am the only one on a mountain bike. Why are they not on Mountain bikes? We are going to ride up a mountain. Surely a mountain bike is the most effective way to do that?
They are all wearing skin tight lycra. I have wearing a thick winter jacket and a pair of baggy shorts.
They are all clipped into their bike using proper bike shoes. I am wearing trainers.
They all have a bottle on their bike. I do not have a bottle on my bike. I have a backpack containing a sandwich, a two-litre bottle of water, and a map in case I get lost.
It is fair to say I do not know what I am doing.
Andrew is here but he is not on the start line. He has the flu. He has offered to drive a van around the course in case I need him. I spot my friend Malcolm who is also doing the race. I say to him “Good luck.” He says “You’ll need it more than me” and he then rides off. All the other bikes whizz past me.
I now realise why they are on road bikes. Honestly, up until this point, I thought there was no difference between a road bike and a mountain bike. I had assumed road bikes did not go up hills.
I honestly do not know what I am doing.
After two hours of cycling I have cycled further than I ever have. I realise it is two hours back to where I started so I will need to the do the same again to get home.
I stop and eat a sandwich. I wonder how the other cyclists are getting on. They must be starving. They don’t have any sandwiches.
I try phoning Andrew but I don’t get a signal. The race is too remote for mobiles to work correctly.
After another hour I reach the climb. The sign at the bottom says
Road to Applecross (Bealach Na BA) This rod rises to a height of 2053 ft with gradients of 1 in 5 and hairpin bends. NOT ADVISED FOR LEARNER DRIVERS, VERY LARGE VEHICLES OR CARAVANS AFTER FIRST MILE
It does not mention bikes. That means I’ll have to do it.
I start the climb. Within 100m I have started to heat up. I start to sweat. I decide to take off my jacket. I put it in my backpack. I restart the climb. It doesn’t feel too tough yet.
The road gets steeper. I try to switch to a lower gear. I am already in my lowest gear. No wonder the start was easy.
The road climbs higher. I struggle to turn my pedals. I haven’t even done one mile of the climb. I’m still at the part safe for learner drivers, very large vehicles and caravans.
Maybe a bit of food will help. I stop and eat the rest of my sandwich.
I restart the climb. I feel heavy. The sandwich has not helped. I struggle onwards. I stand up on the pedals to make them turn. I stop and admire the view. I consider quitting. I don’t have to think twice. I decided to quit.
I wish I could say I have the stomach to battle it out when things get hard but I don’t. I try phoning Andrew again. He can come and rescue me. There is still no reception. Feck. I’ll have to keep going. Mainly because I assume I’ll get a phone reception at the top of the hill.
I push my bike all the way to the top of the hill. A film crew is waiting for me. Probably not me specifically but anyone doing the race. They are filming for BBC Two Scotland’s The Adventure Show. The reporter approaches me:
– I can’t believe you’re using a mountain bike!
– It’s my only bike
I take out my water bottle to have a swig.
– You carried that all the way up the mountain?
– Yes. I thought I’d get thirsty.
– You do know the organisers supply water and food at regular stops?
I thought I had to supply everything myself! DOH!! I try my mobile. It has a signal. I try Andrew but there is no answer. I send him a text saying. “I quit! Come and get me at the bottom of the hill in Applecross”
The descent of the other side is great fun. Six miles of fast downhill with treacherous corners. At one corner an ambulance is tending to a rider. I think to myself how glad I am that it is not me.
At the bottom of the hill I reach Andrew. There’s 40 miles to go but I’m not doing any more.
I’ve achieved my race by cycling further and higher than ever before.
We head to the finish to wait for Malcolm…and we wait…and we wait…and we….
As it gets dark there’s no sign of Malcolm. I approach the race organisers and ask if they have seen him. They go to check their list of riders. When they come back they have bad news – Malcolm was the man I passed on the mountain who was getting tended to by the ambulance.
The news got worse. He was taken to hospital. Great. He must be in Inverness as that was the closest one to us. We need to go that way to get home. We’ll pick him up on the way but the news got even worse. The hospital was not Inverness, which is close by and on our way home. He was sent to Broadfoot on the Isle of Skye which is miles away and nowhere near our route home.
We head to Skye to collect him. He is sitting on a chair with his arm in a sling. His brakes failed whilst taking a corner on the descent. The bad news was that he had broken his collarbone and will be off work for six weeks. The good news was that it coincided with the Edinburgh fringe. He spends the next six weeks partying.
I learnt to swim in the 1980s. My dad taught me using the “do not drown” approach.
He got me to stand two metres from
a pool wall. I then tried to swim to the wall. If I did not drown, he would
increase my swim to three metres from the wall, and then four metres etc.
My fear of drowning meant I quickly
learnt to swim. Unfortunately, my Dad only knew the breaststroke so that was
all I learnt. He did not see the point in freestyle swimming. His view was “Why
do you want to stick your head under the water? There is nothing to see there
except peoples feet.”
My school attempted to teach me
other strokes but I was not very good at them. I hated the weekly swimming
lesson at our local leisure centre. I found the smell of chlorine in the pool
I have subsequently discovered chlorine
has no smell. The smell in the pool was from chloramines, which build up in
pool water when the water is not properly clean. A smelly pool is an unclean
If I had known that, I would have
hated swimming even more than I did.
A common sight, in a leisure centre, in the 1980/90s was a footbath in the changing rooms. A sign above it would read, “Always dip your feet into the foot-bath before entering the swimming pool.” Supposedly the foot-bath contained chemicals that prevented foot infections like verruca’s.
Modern leisure centres do not have
footbaths. Therefore, have we discovered a cure for verruca’s? No – we haven’t.
What we have found is the cause of verruca’s. It was the foot-bath! Leisure
centres did not clean them often enough. The foot bath was basicaly a seething cesspit
of fungal infection.
I got a foot wart. Andrew got a verruca. Everyone in my school class got something.
As well as pool swimming my first
ever open water swim occurred during my school years. My class went away for a
weekend to an outdoor centre by the Atlantic sea.
For some reason, which I cannot remember,
the teacher made us all stand on a pier next to the sea. Strip to out swim
shorts and then jump in the sea. It was November. The water was freezing. I
nearly drowned. As soon as I divided into the cold water, my body seized up and
I struggled to breathe.
Imagine the scandal now if a
teacher forced a class to jump into the Atlantic in November without checking
if the pupils could swim!
Its no wonder that I didn’t swim again after leaving school for university. My abiding memory of learning to swim was verrucas, unclean pools and nearly drowning.