Alloa Half Marathon 2018 (Andrew)


We were meant to run the Alloa half marathon on Sunday but it was postponed after the mini ‘Beast From The East’ brought sub-zero temperatures and more snow.

The organisers couldn’t guarantee the safety of competitors or, just as important, the safety of marshals who would have to stand for hours  in freezing conditions. It  was the right call and hopefully the race be rearranged for later in the year.

In the meantime, if you want to know what racing in sub-zero temperatures is like here’s a video of me with hypothermia trying to warm up on the Norseman bike leg in August 2016.

The Steamy Room (Andrew)

All I could see was another man’s knackers.

It was difficult to avoid them. They were staring me in the face. It was surprising to see them because, well, I was sitting in the middle of a sauna at the Emirate gym that was, crucially:

A.     Open to men and woman; and

B.     Not a nudist beach!

“Hello,” said the knackers. Or the man. It was difficult to know where to look. Kackers or man. Man or knackers.

“Hello,” I said, wondering if I should say something like “PUT SOME CLOTHES ON!”

“It’s nice here,” he said.

“It is,” I said, again wondering if I should say something like “PUT SOME CLOTHES ON NOW!!!”

“I’ve never been here before,” he said.

Clearly not.

He than sat up.

I should mention that throughout this entire conversation he’d been lying down, stretched out on his back on a raised wooden bench that encircled the sauna, while I’d just sat down on a lower bench and had turned my head and gazed straight into his knackers.

Sitting up didn’t improve anything. Now everything dangled.

And still he acted like it was perfectly normal to be sitting in the nude in the middle of a sauna open to all.

And still I didn’t tell him to put some clothes on because, well, I was just trying to be polite. I should have left. But there are strict rules about leaving saunas or steam rules. You can’t leave as soon as you get in because you’re then showing that you don’t like the people already there while you can’t leave when someone else comes in because that saying you don’t like the person who’s just arrived.

There is only a small window of opportunity to enter and leave a sauna without offending anyone else.

Also, don’t me started with the awkwardness of sitting in a sauna when someone of the opposite sex comes in and you’re the only person there. Do you stay, but then that might make them uncomfortable to be a sauna with a stranger? Or do you leave, but then that might make them think you’re leaving because you don’t like them?

It’s a minefield!

That’s why it’s best just to sit. Even if the person you’re sitting next to has their crown jewels on display. It’s just polite to stay.

But still. If you are going to a sauna can you please keep your clothes on?

Running The Dreadmill (Andrew)

I hate treadmills.

I’ve tried running on treadmills but the boredom of it makes every minute feel like an hour and every mile feel like a marathon. I’ve tried listening to music, Podcasts, watching TV, watching a graph of how high up an imaginary hill I am, even surfing the web on the latest models, and nothing shakes off a feeling of utter pointlessness.

The whole point of running is to run. The whole point of treadmills is to not fall off. They’re completely different skills!

I’ve never fallen off the back of a treadmill but I have seen someone who had – and I admit that it was really funny. There’s a split second of arms flailing, a topple, a fall, and then they’re shot backwards faster than a human cannonball. Before – tah dah! – they jump up from the ground and try and pretend it never happened.

“I meant it,” they say, blood oozing from their knees.

“I was just getting some water,” they say, a large bruise forming on their forehead.

“Please call an ambulance!” They say, collapsing.

It’s been four years since I last ran on a treadmill. We had a treadmill at work in a gym/cupboard near reception. At lunchtime, when it was raining, I’d occasionally pop in for a run. And, by occasionally, I mean once in three years. I’d sooner get soaking wet than spend any time on a machine that was a cross between a conveyor belt and a jet engine for Boeing 737. The building would shake as soon as you reached walking pace. By the time you were running, people were sheltering under doorways preparing for an earthquake.

But the bad weather last week, over a foot of snow and no chance of it shifting, meant I had to venture back to a treadmill and try and complete at least one run.

And it was…

… not bad.

I don’t know why I hated it so much.

It was almost pleasant.

For 10 seconds then I had to run for another 25 minutes and time stopped, my brain melted, dear God, please make it stop!

I hate treadmills. But at least I complete one run last week.



Glentress Trail 21K (Andrew)


“Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance” is referred to by the British Army as the ‘seven P’s’.

Let me add another P. Prior Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

You might say ‘prior’ is implied by ‘proper’ but, after the Glentress Trail Half Marathon, I want to emphasise how important it is to plan things in advance.

Not that I’m very good at that. I change route and distance mid-run depending on how I feel and whether I ran down a particular street before or “Oh, what’s that over there?”. Which makes runs more interesting but it doesn’t help me prepare for races where running a route is part of the whole challenge.

Perhaps I should take up orienteering but, the only time I met an orienteer, he patiently (and in depth) explained why and how he adjusted the stitching of his shoes to craft a pair of trainers that were better suited to run on an incline. No sport should require a detailed knowledge of cross stitching. Orienteering is just fast rambling with embroidery.

I thought I’d prepared for Glentress. I’d checked the weather – a perfect dry, if cold, day after a week of dry cold days guaranteeing a mud free run – and I’d checked the pre-race information for recommended kit and brought it all with me in case there was an inspection.

I even checked Iain’s Strava profile for the race from November. And, from that, I worked out that it would be six miles of climbing and six miles of descending. The profile almost looked like a pyramid.

So, mile 1, with ankles stiff and complaining as they failed to warm up while running up hill, I started to count the miles in my head as my Garmin beeped them off.

Mile 1 done. Okay, only five miles of climbing to go.

Mile 2. Some flats. Free speed. Only four miles to go.

By mile 10, when I was thinking, “What another false summit?!?”, Iain finally admitted something he’d suspected from mile 2. It was a different route!

Instead of six miles up and six miles down it was over 10 miles up (with some flats) and then a legs flailing, almost falling two mile descent back to the start.

Of course, if I was a soldier, the seven P’s would have told me to read the website course and not rely on Iain’s previous route. If I’d checked the website I’d have spotted it was a different course.

That’s why I add the eighth P. There’ no point figuring out where you went wrong halfway up a hill on mile 10 –  checking is essential!

The race itself is tough – did I mention the 10 miles of climbing? – but an excellent and varied route through the mountain bike trails of Glentress. There’s also a 10k and a marathon option (twice round) if you fancy a different challenge.

Sweet tooth (Andrew)

Sunday lunch in Yorkshire a couple of months ago: a warm inn on a dreich day as I tuck into a hot plate filled with slices of roast beef, vegetable and pudding – the identifier Yorkshire being unnecessary in this plain speaking Shire.

“Yorkshire puddin’? It’s jus’ puddin’ round these parts! There ain’ no other kind o’puddin’!”

And, for pudding itself (the sweet kind, not the suet kind, thus proving there is more than one type of pudding) I choose a selection of cheeses, because I am a triathlete and trying to be good.

(Also all the puddings had nuts and I can’t eat nuts because of a mild allergy, but I told myself I was being strong for races).

“Do you have any biscuits to go with the cheese?” I ask, not unreasonably

“Of course”, says the waiter, and then, unexpectedly, he pulls out a large flat drawer from a cabinet against the wall to my left, and places it with a flourish in the centre of the table; not batting an eyelid or pan lid at this impromptu act of dismantling dining room furniture.

“Enjoy”, says the waiter, leaving the large drawer on the table; which I now see is filled with open packets of water biscuits, oatcakes and crumbly digestives.

How strange.

I can’t help but wait until the waiter’s back is turned before I peek into more drawers –  just to check if they contain a similar surprise hoard of savoury snacks. I want to find a pork chop in a folio desk; a cabinet stuffed with nothing but carrots; or condiments in the cupboard, saucy and secret. But, sadly, they are empty.

I wonder if this is what Ann Summers means by ‘edible drawers’ but I don’t want to go into one of her shops to find out.

But why are all the biscuits contained in this drawer? And why bring the drawer out and not just the biscuits?

Perhaps I was witnessing the act of a snack-aholic. Hiding biscuits away in unusual locations so that no one knows exactly how bad their snacking has become. A real crack(er) addict.

Or perhaps the drawer was just a marketing gimmick, a unique way of making you remember the meal long after the taste has long been forgotten.

Remember that restaurant in Yorkshire, you’ll say.

What restaurant?

The one with a drawer filled full of biscuits!

Oh, that one! How delightful and quaint! A meal that was – *groan* – truly top drawer!

Anyways, I tell this story for one reason only – watch out for savoury snacks, even when you’re trying to be good, always order a proper pudding!

Kirkintilloch 12.5K 2018 (Andrew)

There are two types of runners. There are runners who park beside the start line and then there’s runners who park on Mars – to give themselves a bit more of a challenge by running 55 million kilometres as ‘warm up’.

I’m a runner who parks beside the start line. If I had a choice, I’d park on the start line. Warming up is just wasted energy after all. Why run before you need to run?!?

Now, some people – coaches, athletes and professionals – will tell you that warming up is an essential part of the whole running experience. If you don’t warm up then your muscles are cold and stiff and more likely to break. But those people – those experts – have clearly never had warm up in Scotland in January when it’s cold and wet and miserable and the thought of spending 30 seconds stretching each hamstring is as enticing as sharing a hot tub with Donald Trump.

Scotland is not a country for warming up. It’s a country for running as fast as you can out your front door until you run as fast as you can back in your front door and straight into a hot shower.

Which is what I wanted to do after Kirkintilloch 12.5K.

The Kirkintilloch 12.5 is a hilly circuit around the edge of Kirkintilloch on mostly old farm roads. It’s also one of the most exposed races with the top of every hill giving the freezing cold winds a good 50 mile standing start to breeze right through you.

It also doesn’t help that there’s very few car parking spaces near the start so, before the race, there was also a battle between the runners who like to park next to the start line to actually park next to the start line. Most failed.

We saw quite a few running a mile along the road from the centre of Kirkintilloch to the edge of the town, where the race started.

Luckily, we found a spot on a side street not far from the start as otherwise who knows what might have happened if we’d had to run before we ran. (We’d have probably run round faster as we were warmed up but that’s beside the point!)

The race itself featured a cold wind, some ice on the side of the road and a Penguin biscuit at the finish line. It also had a few sharp wee hills and a couple of longer drags. The good thing though is that the hill you race up at the start is also the hill you race down at the end. At which point we could see people cooling down.

Don’t get me started on cooling down. It’s Scotland. In Scotland, if you cool down any further you’ll turn into Frosty the Snowman.

Instead, don’t warm up, never cool, just park near the finish line, you know it makes sense.



A Rally Good Adventure (Andrew)


In 2005 I entered the Plymouth to Dakar Rally. This was a rally from Plymouth to Dakar (the rally was well named!) in which I had to drive a car bought for less than £100.

I was raising money for Save the Children and, in our 1982 American Town and Country Station Wagon, we had pens and pencils, notepads and first aid kits to hand out to the villages on our route.

And, in the back, in a sealed case, we had filthy dirty erotica.

If we got into trouble, or were stopped by border guards, the organisers’s rules were quite clear, we weren’t to use cash to escape – we were to use porn!

Border guards were lonely guards….

So, for the first time in my life, I had to go into a shop and buy a girly magazine.

I didn’t know what to do.

I’m looking at all these different images: big jugs; bouncy butts; but all I can think is “What would Abdul likes as a kinky backhander?”

Cause it wasn’t like I was buying it for myself. It was a gift. I couldn’t give Abdul the border guard any old book. What would he like in his lonely Saharan outpost?

So, I asked for help.

That was a big mistake.

Don’t get me wrong, I now know that asking for help could come across as a little bit weird, but tell me this, what’s weird – me, asking for recommendations or the guy at the counter exclaiming in delight “I thought you’d never ask!”

I should have been shocked but all I could think was: “Cool, my pornography is bespoke!”

Sadly, for Abdul, he never saw his adult gifts. Although I was buying erotica like my life depended on it – because my life did actually depend on it – we crashed our station wagon near Paris and the car was wrecked. Our rally was over.

Luckily, the French scrappy who examined the wreckage offered to find a home for our pens and pencils at the local orphanage. Our charitable endeavours would not go to waste. It was only when he was gone that we remembered that not all of our gifts were meant for children….

But, I think the orphans were secretly happy when they discovered our secret stash. When you’re 13 you’re not looking for a pen or a pencil – all you really want to get is your very own dirty book.

Smile! (Andrew)

“Can I take your photo?” Is not a question I get asked often. In fact, until last week, I’d only been asked it once.

I was on holiday in India and walking round Jaipur palace when two Indian boys approached me and asked “Can we have a photo?”.

I thought they wanted me to take a photo of them. In fact, they wanted to take a photo of me. I said “okay” and they happily took a number of snaps of a puzzled looking Scotsman. I still don’t know why they asked.

Last week I was asked again if I wanted my photo taken.

I was buying a car, I’d arranged to collect it from the dealer, when, after I’d been given the keys, they asked: “Do you want your photo taken?”

I didn’t know what to say. Why would I want my photo taken? I’m collecting a car, not receiving a Nobel prize.

Then I thought, how do I even get my picture taken with a car? Do I need to pose? Do I stare at the camera? Do I face the car and look back seductively? Do I splay myself on the bonnet? How do you pose with a car?

I said “No.” I thought it was the safe choice. Less awkward from me. Definitely less awkward for them.

“Please God, no, don’t ‘make love to the camera’! Just hold the keys up and smile!”

I asked: “Does anyone say ‘yes’?”

And they said. “No.”


(Though I admire their persistence.)

On the way home, driving along the M8 I started thinking if there were any other times people take your photo. Then I remember – you get your photo taken when you finish a race.

At the end of races, sometimes in the middle of them, you get your photo taken. Of course, it’s not the best photo in the world, even though it represents a great achievement. Your face is red. Your stomach is like a squashed pillow as the photographer somehow manages to take thier photo halfway between your elated arms in the air joy and you’re ‘bloody ‘ell I just want to collapse’ slump.

Which is better than the photos you get mid-race when the photographer ambushes you just as you have a facial expression which looks like an action man/barbie (depending on your sex) that has been left too close to the fire while you’ve been simultaneously hosed down in chip fat oil. Also, you probably did ‘the point’

You know ‘the point’. That’s where you think pointing at the sky, a rock, the photographer or just a passing seagull will somehow translate into a really cool kick ass photo. It doesn’t. Just look at any finish of any bike race ever. If a professional cyclist can’t look cool pointing at the sky while winning Paris Roubaix after six hours on a bike across the battered fields of Belgium then you look as cool as Jacob Rees Mogg in a mankini.

But still we want these photos.

Yet, when asked if I want a photo with my car, when I’ve brushed my hair, scrubbed my face, wearing normal clothes and not sausage skin Lycra, I say “no”.


I can think of only one reason.

A picture is worth a thousand words. And when you get a photo of you running then that photo says “Winner!” one thousand times. But when you get a photo of your new car the only thing that photo says is “You Plonker!”.

Queen Elizabeth Swimming Pool (Andrew)


There are few sports where you can take part in the same venue as the professional sports people.

You can’t book Celtic Park for a game of football, nor Murrayfield for rugby. You can’t play cricket at the Oval or tennis at Wimbledon. You can run a marathon or cycle a sportive on the same roads as Mo Farah or Chris Froome but those roads are not a venue, they’re a street. I’m talking purpose built sports venues – not a venue you can share with  a bus, the bin lorry and an ice cream van.

Yet, when sports venues are built, many talk about sustainability and community involvement. A legacy.

For Glasgow that means we have a velodrome and Tollcross swimming pool as venues built for the Commonwealth Games and open to the public after the games ended.

I say open but, despite having two 50 metre pools (the only 50 metre pools in Glasgow), one remains permanently split into two 25 metre pools and the other only opens as a 50 metre pool when the moon is ascending in the ninth circle of the eastern cosmos and Jupitar is in alignment with Uranus. Or something close to that. It’s timetable has been so erratic over the last few years that you just turn up and hope. Even when it’s scheduled to open you can still find the staff saying “not today”. And that’s if the pool is even open. It’s been closed for repairs almost as many times as Donald Trump has sent a dodgy tweet. The only legacy the Commonwealth Games left Glasgow was regular work for builders.

The Velodrome on the other hand is fantastic. If you can get an introductory session booked. A process that involves getting up a 5am in the morning to try and a book a session one month ahead so that you beat those people who set their alarm clock for 6am to beat the people who set their alarm clock for 7am to be the first to book.

It’s popular. Very popular. And I think they’ve added more classes to address a booking system that favour insomniac cyclists so everything may be okay now. If not, good luck, and remember to set that alarm clock early!

In London there are two similar venues. In the Queen Elizabeth Olympics park you can now ride on the London Velodrome or swim in the Olympic swimming pool.

I was in London at the weekend and dropped in on Saturday night to try it out.

A few things you should know:

1.     It’s in the middle of nowhere. Or Stretford as it’s now called.

2.     You have to walk through a shopping centre to get there. Westfield.

3.     It’s in the middle of the park, behind a building site and a large well lit path between construction sites  far , far away from busy roads or other people that means London’s legacy is to provide better lighting to see your mugger.

4.     It’s almost empty!

5.     Which means ignore 1 to 3! It’s brilliant!

6.     There’s two pools. One a 50 metre which is actually open and you can, at least at 6pm on a Saturday night, get a whole lane to yourself.

I’d not swam since November so the only Olympian I resembled was Eric the Eel, it was cool to swim in the same venue as Michael Phelps and to know that we had shared the same water. Which was also cool until I remember he didn’t like to get out of the pool before going to the toilet…

I’d definitely recommend a trip to the pool if you’re in London and, even if you forget something, don’t worry, you can pick up everything you need from a…. vending machine. This one, filled with trunks and goggles.



(Jigsaw) Piece of cake (Andrew)

Are you a masochist or a sadist?

Most people would say they were neither as (a) they don’t like pain; and (b) really, who likes pain?!?

But, if you’re a runner, I bet that you’re secretly one or the other because anyone who runs either wants to beat other people and be first across the finish line or they want to beat themselves by running faster than they’re run before.

I’m a masochist. If I was a sadist, a genuine one, I’d be the one in the corner struggling and failing to untangle my whip (not an euphemism). Which I imagine is a bit of a genuine problem. Think about how hard it to keep a headphone cable untangled. If you’ve got a five metre long whip then you’re going to spend most of your time trying to untie the knot in the middle. Indiana Jones would be a very different film if, when he confronts the bad guy, he pulled out his whip and said “Damn, I only just put this away how can it have more knots than a speedboat?!?”

Anyways, I’m not a sadist. Not in the real world, not as an athlete. I don’t want to beat other people. I like running my own race and judging what I do against my own times. In that way, I’m a masochist except… when it comes to Iain.

Then I want to beat him.

It’s amazing how a little competition will make you achieve impossible feats. We only put a man on the moon because the US wanted to beat Russia. We only reached each pole because explorers challenged each other to be first. And I only completed a 1,000 piece jigsaw in 48 hours this Christmas because Iain challenged me that I wouldn’t be able to do it.

You will notice that all of these achievements are comparable. Neil Armstrong may have got to the moon – but, other than sitting down for three days and then taking a couple of steps, what did he actually do?!? And those Arctic explorers had huskies who did all the work. So, really, my achievement was greater than them.

By the way, why was ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, the second man on the moon, called Buzz? Easy, he was NASA’s plan B!

Did I mention I can also write Christmas cracker jokes?

Anyways, we were home for a few days and my mum had just completed a 1,000 piece jigsaw. It had taken her a month so I said “I bet I could do it in a day”, because, you know, I had no idea what I was talking about and had never completed a jigsaw so just said the first thing that came to my head.

Iain said “I bet you £40 you can’t complete it in even 48 hours?”

I said “Deal!” and we shook on it.

Then the sadistic streak kicked in. I would beat him. And I would take his money. So, I got to work and –

– who knew jigsaws were so tough?!?!?!?

Why do they have pieces that are just one colour, and not just one piece but 100 pieces all coloured blue for the sea, and another 100 coloured grey for clouds?

And why won’t this one fit?

And I’ve tried all the pieces and there’s clearly one missing!???

And – oh, wait, now it fits. How many to go? 998.


But, 36 hours later, having carefully and systematically tried to fit every piece to every other piece, this happened.


And then this happened.


Which clearly makes Iain a masochist. He might have thought he was a sadist in setting the challenge but he made a fatal mistake. I said I could complete it in a day. He gave me two days. There was no way I could complete it in a day – I’d have lost. He’d have won. But, in giving me two days, it just showed he wasn’t trying to beat me at all but wanted to lose not only the challenge but his cash. What a masochist!