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.

I used to be a contender (Iain)

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!

PPS – I don’t regret it. they were delicious.

Paisley Mural Run (Iain)

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.

I was also surprised at how many murals Paisley has which got me thinking that the town should advertise a Mural Run just like Glasgow’s
https://twinbikerun.com/2018/11/30/glasgow-mural-run-iain/

So to help them out I’ve come up with a suggested route. Its 5K-ish and takes in all the interesting bits (that I could find in Pasiley centre) including

  1. A statue dedicate to the 1932 legal case of Donoghue v Stevenson. You can read about it here
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8367223.stm Its an interesting story involving a cafe and a snail.
  2. A mural to Rangers…sorry St Mirren Legend and BBC radio star Chick Young.
  3. An Alien

The route can be found here
https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2461031551


And if you don’t believe me about the Alien. Here is the proof.

John Muir Trail Ultramarathon Part 2 (Iain)

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.

The Start

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.

Nic and I running together.

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.

Support Team

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???

Getting my twix fix

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.

Overall

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.

We’re squinting becuase its too sunny!