Lockdown – One Year On – Part Two (Andrew)

I wrote a few entries a year ago and then decided not to publish them given the uncertainty over how COVID would affect everyone. It seems okay to publish it now to look back at this time last year.

We are living in historic times. Which is just like living in non-historic times except there are fewer books written about it.

Years from now people will look back and ask how we coped with lockdown. I can say this: “today, I cleaned out the shed and catalogued all of my old paint pots by room and colour. Result.”

I also emptied the shed and found a patio strimmer. I don’t even know what that does. Do patios need strimmed? Are they not made of concrete? How do you strim concrete with anything but dynamite? However as it’s in an unopened plastic box I can only imagine it was bought at a point when I did know what it was and thought I would need it but not at a point where whatever it did was actually required urgently as I never opened it. In fact, there was so much junk in the shed that behind the leaf blower – something else I’ve never used – I found the Ark of the Covenant. 

Today, my wife and I decided to go the local Morrisons for a weekly shop. I volunteered to go on my own as it seems selfish to both go together when shops are limiting numbers. We make a list of what we need for the week and think about taking latex gloves – another shed surprise (were we going to carry an operation in there?! Maybe an amputation with the patio strimmer?) – but decide against it as I’m not a serial killer.

Outside Morrisons there are barriers set up to direct people to queue to get in. We stand two metres apart, self  isolating, until one man walks out the shop, and decides to push his trolley back along the queue rather than going straight out into the car park. It’s like watching the boulder coming towards me from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Do I run? Jump out of the way? Or just let it flatten me? Luckily I’m next to a gap in the barrier and he takes his plaguemobile out of it. 

Inside the store a couple wander round the veg aisle touching carrots and onions and saying “These are no good. Not this one.” Well, not now you’ve touched them!

Another man walks round in a white tracksuit and a Burberry checked facemask. I might not be able to see his face but at least I can still tell he’s Glaswegian.

At the checkout I ask if the store has been busy today. “It wasn’t safe earlier,” said the man at the checkout, “but they’ve reduced the numbers coming in and it’s okay now”. Oh, that’s good, because Coronavirus is like a cool party. Once people leaves, it’s doesn’t hang around. (This may not be medically accurate).

I then drive home with an itchy nose. I don’t touch it. At home I try and open the groceries with my hand wrapped in an arm of my jumper, which I’ve pulled down.

“That’s smart,” said Mrs TwinBikeRun, “now you won’t get the virus from that jar of Jalapenos.”

“Exactly!” I said.

“You’ll just get it on your jumper sleeve that you’ll wear for the rest of the night instead.”

I throw my jumper somewhere I know I’ll never touch it again: the shed.  

Lockdown – One Year On – Part One (Andrew)

I wrote the following entry a year ago and then decided not to publish it given the uncertainty over how COVID would affect everyone. I didn’t want to publish an entry talking about going to the swimming pool when it might have been safer to stay at home. It seems okay to publish it now as a way to look back at this time last year.

I am the last person who should be giving medical advice. Except maybe for Doctor Who, who’s neither a medical practitioner or a PHD, just a conman with a phonebox. Or perhaps Dr Hannibal Lecter, who’d eat you as soon as cure you. So, when I try to answer a medical question, can you still train with the coronavirus, I’m not being too serious…

Can you train with the coronavirus? If it was a cold or flu or a broken leg then, for most runners, the answer is “yes, just run it off!”.

Amateur athletes are notorious for training and racing while ill. We assume any cough or headache or Ebola virus is just a sign that the training is working. “Of course, I’m not well,” we say “I’ve been training!”.

But, yesterday, I went swimming and I thought: “Should I be here? Should I be in a swimming pool that’s a coronavirus cocktail of sweat and spit and whatever else has washed off the bodies of a thousands swimmers?”

And what about the changing room? Do I need a hazmat suit to change out of my birthday suit in a room filled with perspiring bodybuilders?

Or do I assume that this is no different to any other cold or flu or bug and live life normally until the government says otherwise?

It seems as if many have already started to panic. There are no toilet rolls or pasta on supermarket shelves. Personally, if I was stockpiling, I’d be stocking up chocolate biscuits and cake. Stuff fusilli pasta, if I’m coughing and hacking, I want a KitKat.

I don’t get the obsession with pasta either. After the virus started in China there were numerous people saying they wouldn’t eat Chinese food. Now the virus is in Italy, we’re eating Spaghetti Bolognese like our lives depended on it (literally). It seems we’re only suspicious of our food when it doesn’t come in a cheese sauce.

We’re also washing our hands for 20 seconds. The Government says you should sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice. I don’t think you need a song though – just wash your hands like you’ve just killed a man and don’t want to get caught. You don’t need soap to clean hands, just pretend you have a guilty conscience.

But, if water and soap is effective, then all you need to do if you want to swim in a swimming pool is pour some liquid soap in the pool. Turn it into a sink. That way 2000 metres will leave you cleaner than an hypochondriac throwing out his Kung Pow Chicken.

And, if you’re adding soap, then why not also add conditioner for your hair? I was told by a hairdresser that if you want to avoid damaging hair with chorine then apply some conditioner before you swim. Now, you’re not just training, you’re protecting yourself too. With all the soapy water, you’re immune from the coronavirus. And you have great looking hair.

Possibly.

Maybe.

However I’m not a Doctor and this is definitely not medical advice.

[Postscript – it turned out this was the last time I was in a swimming pool]

Learning to Swim (Andrew)

No one needs a bag when they have a towel

It’s funny. I can remember swimming, but I can’t remember learning to swim. Instead all I remember is trunks and towels. 

We would swim on holiday in the small Perthshire town of Aberfeldy. It has a sports centre with a 25 metre pool and every day on holiday we would go for a swim. We would get ready by grabbing our towel, folding it lengthwise in half and the rolling it up with our trunks inside. We’d then carry it under out arm up to the centre. We’d then unroll it, get changed and then repeat again on the way home – except this time our armpits would get wet because we were carrying a soggy towel and trunks. 

We never thought to use a bag. There was no need, once a towel was rolled up with your trunks then you didn’t need anything else. Not even goggles because for some reason our Dad didn’t believe in goggles. “You don’t need them”, he’s say, “If you duck your head under the water, it’ll sting for a minute but you’ll soon adjust.”

Which was okay for him, as, due to an illness, he only had nerves attached to one eye so was basically a cyclops when it came to swimming. He’s suffered an aneurysm behind an eye and been subject to a medical procedure that  he said “used a soup spoon to pop out my eyeball so that it could hang down my face like a Christmas decoration.” Somewhere there’s a medical case study describing the procedure he went through. We’ve never looked to find it – in case there’s photos of our Dad sitting proud with an eyeball like a yo-yo.

Because of his operation, he would never use goggles and would dive straight in, swim back and forth for 20 minutes and jump out with bright red eyes. “See,” he said, “you’ll get used it!”

We didn’t.

I could never put my head under the water. I still struggle now when water gets into my goggles. I need to stop and clear it.

But we never got our own goggles. It never occurred to me. Just as it never occurred to me to get a bag. I was learning from my Dad and we just did what he did – even if he was medical miracle who thought he was Aquaman – and somehow I learned to swim. But I don’t remember how. It certainly wasn’t by listening to my Dad.

Outdoor Swim Review: The White Loch Revisted (Andrew)


UPDATE APRIL 21 – Anyone swimming here should respect other users and the environment. Please treat the place respectfully. Do not park in the area reserved for the angling club and if its busy then swim somewhere else. There are lots of good options near Glasgow.

Original Review – The White Loch looking a bit black

I’ve covered the White Loch before – see here – but as you’ll see, if you look back, it was less a review and more of a complaint about the weather. So, having been back a number of times, here’s the updated review….

It’s….

HOACHING!

Which is Glaswegian for really, really, unbelievably busy.

The White Loch is about five minutes drive from the southern edge of Newton Mearns and around 20 minutes drive from Shawlands. It is therefore within easy distance of around 200,000 people, all of whom are looking for somewhere to swim, which is great but… there will be times when you arrive and you’ll struggle to park. For parking see the previous review.

Water Quality

You might feel a slight sliminess after you swim but according to swim forums on Facebook that is due to peat and nothing to be alarmed about even if you might feel like the Creature of the White Loch Lagoon when you come out of the water.

Swim Quality

Excellent location for different lenghts of swims. If you just want a dip then a paddle round the entrance is nice and shallow. If you want to complete a full lap then it will be around 1000 – 1200 metres. You can aim for the opposite bank at 4, then a bright and obvious life buoy post at 2 then a wind turbine at 3 before coming back to the start.

I’m told that some people experience a slight pull in the water around the dam at 1 so keep away from it.

Other people

At least one person every time I’ve been. If it’s been sunny then I’ve seen 10 people here, including swimmers, paddle boarders, a canoe – and one dog swimming laps after it’s owner. It’s a busy place so…

Overall

Avoid. I want to swim here and find a car parking spot so don’t swim here too! 🙂

My First Sporting Memory (Andrew)

My first sporting memory is watching a team in green and white winning the Scottish Cup against a team in orange. I loved football and wanted to follow the team that won. They were Celtic and that was about the only thing they won in the next fifteen years as their rivals, Rangers, dominated Scottish football until 2000. I didn’t know it at the time but chosing Celtic in the Western Isles was like ordering a steak in a vegan restaurant. Everyone on the island supported Rangers because the Isle of Lewis is to protestants what the Vatican is to Catholics. 

Lewis is a very religious island. Sunday or the Sabbath is a holy day and no shops would open, the swings in playparks would be tied up and even clothes lines would be cut if anyone dared to hang their underwear out on the Lord’s day. 

It’s was tediously DULL!

Imagine a day when nothing happened. Slowly. And not just a day because the Stornoway Sabbath started when the minister went to bed on a Saturday night and it didn’t end until he got up on a Monday morning. 

And nothing could happen because, unless you were going to church, everything else was banned. Even watching TV was banned, though not in our house as while Sunday School was compulsory, our Dad still wanted to watch Scotsport on a Sunday teatime. 

It was only in recent years that the airport and ferry opened to allow people to leave the island on an Sunday. We inadvertently ended up on the first Sunday sailing. We were in Stornoway, saw there was a Sunday sailing and booked it not knowing it was the first. At the ferry terminal there were 20 people in black suits and heavy tweed coats silently protesting – because, naturally, on Sunday, shouting was banned. Beside them there were a hundred people clapping to show their support for the new service. On board we hid below deck, while we supported the new service we didn’t want to be in the photo they’d use in the local paper under the headline “Heathens Leave Island. Destination: Hell!”.

When I came back to Stornoway from university, I always loved the Stornoway sabbath. It provides a day each week when you know you don’t need to do anything. However, the Stornoway version was too extreme. If it was sunny outside you couldn’t play football, you still can’t play golf. Today, I’ll go for a run but twenty years ago even that would have been frowned on. Even if you didn’t go to church yourself, you still cared what your neighbours thought and respected their beliefs. 

In many ways growing up in Stornoway was a glimpse not just into the past but into an older past too. While the mainland moved with the times and Sunday became the weekend rather than a special day itself, Stornoway remembered when the Sabbath meant something. It was a reminder that you should spend one day a week doing something different, whether it be resting, praying or tying up children’s swings (lest Satan tempt them to swing on the Sabbath). 

There’s a lesson here for triathletes. The need for a rest day or days. A reminder that it’s just as important to stop as it is to start. And pushing to do something every day is not always progress.

The One Feature Strava Doesn’t Have But Must Add (Andrew)

Kudos, according to the dictionary, is “praise and honour received for an achievement.”

Kudos, according to Strava, is when you do anything. Walk to the shops. Take the dog out. Dip your toes on the beach. It doesn’t matter what it was as long as you record it and add it to Strava. You’ll then receive “Kudos” from your friends and followers when all they should be saying is “Why are you not doing any actual training?!??”

Maybe it’s just me but even with normal day to day running or cycling, I don’t want someone to give me ‘Kudos’. I don’t post any indoor bike sessions, unless I forget to make them private, for that reason. No one should get Kudos for sitting on a bike and watching YouTube videos. Kudos is for an achievement. It’s not an achievement to watch a Vlog, unless it’s the Bonnie Gardner then Iain TwinBikeRun will give you kudos! 🙂

Instead of Kudos, Strava needs new buttons to accurately record your reaction to someone else’s post.

First, it needs a simple stick. Instead of giving Kudos to someone you see posting everyday, you should be able to click a ‘Get Out Of Bed’ button for someone you haven’t seen post since last week. Imagining 20 people telling you to get a move on. That’s motivation and far more likely to get you to do something than another Kudos.

Or, perhaps, if you have posted something, you need a ‘Loser’ button, to show you didn’t think what they did was an achievement at all. A marathon? In lockdown? On your balcony? Loser!

Or, even better, an ‘I Did It Faster’ button. Nothing inspires people more than competition. Of course, this button should be context specific. You couldn’t tell your balcony marathon running mate that you did it faster last week because, unless you’re a weird stalker, you weren’t on his balcony for eight hours last week. At least, not running a marathon… This button would only appear if you are on a leaderboard with them and you genuinely went faster than them. If so, you can click the ‘I Did It Faster’ button. And then the ‘Loser’ button too to really rub it in.

Maybe, for a nicer approach, we could also have a commiseration button, just as Facebook has sad emojis. If you see a friend just miss out on a personal best or segment record then you can express sympathy.

Or you could also click the ‘Loser’ button. Your choice.

And that’s it, that’s what Strava is missing. It’s missing a choice of reactions when you post an activity. It needs more than just Kudos and, if they did, if Strava were to add more button, I’d give them a big thumbs up!

My First Marathon (Andrew)

I don’t remember why I entered the Edinburgh Marathon 2003. I was running regularly, four to five times a week, and, having just started a new job as a trainee lawyer, I would use my lunchtime to get out the office and run four miles. Ha, I would think, you can’t chain this free spirit to a desk! 

There were only a handful of people who were known as runners. One man invited me to run a 10k with him and on the way there he explained how he would unstitch his trainers, cut the fabric and stitch them back together to get a lighter more comfortable shoe. When I asked him how fast he expected to run the race he explained in minute detail the exact second he was aiming for and the likelihood of hitting it depending on the prevailing wind and humidity. He was a real runner. And by real runner I mean a twat.

Another office runner had run the London Marathon the year before. How did you do that? I said. “One foot at a time,” he said, “how else do you do it?”. I liked his attitude and I think it was him who inspired me to enter the Edinburgh Marathon because how hard could it be when it was just one foot at a time. If I’d only asked the other man, I would have known exactly how hard it would be – roughly 138,799 feet harder.

To prepare for the race, I tried to follow a marathon training programme with regular long runs and increasing distances each week. That programme lasted about one week as I’ve never been good at consistent long runs. Instead I would try and run my regular four-mile lunch run faster on the basis that if I could run part of the race faster then, when I slowed down, my average would still be okay.

I managed one 20 mile run before the marathon – and I was feeling confident. Not only was I not drinking I’d also given up sweets. No chocolates, no cakes, no donuts, no sugar. It was horrible and I’ve never done it again – you need a treat when you eat. 

I can’t remember who was meant to run with me. In my mind, Iain was always running it, but I also know that he never intended to finish it and was planning to quit at the half way point. But what I didn’t know was that he had been drinking the night before – though I should have guessed when he had a bacon roll and a packet of yum yums for breakfast. You need a treat when you drink too…

I was excited to run. I was ready. But I also knew that like Iain I would be running on fumes. Though his were at the start and mine would come when I hit ‘The Wall’. 

There’d been a lot of talk about The Wall before the race. I’d checked with the London Marathon runner and he explained how at some point I would feel like I couldn’t run any further and no matter how much I tried I wouldn’t be able to push on. It was like hitting a wall as you would just come to a stop.

For me that happened at mile 16, which just goes to show the difference training can make. His wall was at mile 20 because he’d trained more. Mine was at mile 16 because I thought if I could run a half marathon in 1 hour 40 minutes then I should just double my time and I’d be home in time to have a mid-morning kilo box of Quality Street.

Instead, at mile 16, I felt all energy leave my legs. I switched to a walk/run strategy of walking 10 miles after I’d already ran 16 miles. In the last mile I tried to run when I saw a man in a diving costume ahead. After checking he was running by spotting his race number – you can’t be too careful in Edinburgh on a Sunday morning when stags are stumbling home – I tried to beat him with the thought that I couldn’t lose to a deep-sea diver. Not knowing at this point that he’d started seven days ahead of me I was gutted to lose the final sprint on the Meadowbank athletic track to what I thought was a man who managed to run faster than me in wellies and a snorkel. 

My original aim was four hours with the thought that I should probably beat 3 hours 30 minutes as that would still be slower than two half marathons. In the end, I walked across the line in 4 hours 11 minutes. Just behind the diver and just ahead of two rhinos. 

And within 30 seconds I’d ended my ‘no treats’ fast by eating an entire chocolate muffins in two bites.

Training for Celtman 2021: July (Andrew)

This month I’ve mostly been racing in Spain, Norway, Argentina and Slovakia. Or at least the closest equivalent I could find within a few miles of my house.

I’ve entered the MyXtri world tour. A series of 14 events based on inconic stage of the 14 Xtri extreme triathlons. Whether it’s cycling the Patagonian ridge or running the Himalayas there are 14 events that you can recreate from the not so comfort of near your own home.

For example, for Celtman, one event is to swim 2km outdoors. Once you swim it, you upload your result with a link to Strava or Garmin and you get a race time and position. Other races are harder as the both the bike and runs involve a minimum distance and elevation. In order to complete the Stelvio climb you need to cycle 80km and climb over 1800m. But if you can’t make the elevation then you can also add distance to make up the climb. An extra 1.5k of cycling is an additional 100m of height.

It’s a great challenge and one that will become progressively harder as the distances and elevations increase. It’s hard, even on the shorter runs to find places that can equal the climbs I’m trying to emulate. There’s no equivalent of Everest in the south side of Glasgow. Unless by Everest you mean the double glazing firm.

The challenge lasts until the end of October and I’m aiming to tick off as many of the events as possible between now and then.

Outdoor Swim Review: White Loch (Andrew)

UPDATE 1 AUGUST 2020 AND MORE SWIM DETAILS FROM SEPTEMBER HERE

Original review below but as visit was mostly huddled in a car waiting for the rain to stop I thought it best to add a couple of comments after returning a few more times.

  • Entry shown below is good but you can also enter from south side of loch as there’s parking at a gate here.
  • The loch is in a ‘bowl’ so provides some shelter from strong winds but, as it’s at the top of a hill, and the wind farm next to it is a clue, the water can be choppy. On the plus side, if you’re swimming with the wind then you’ll now what it’s like to swim as fast as Michael Phelps.
  • As the loch is next to the road and one of the most popular cycle routes from the Southside be prepared to ‘flash’ a few cyclists as you get changed.
  • Loch feels very safe, it’s compact, not as ominously deed as one of the larger lochs to the north of Glasgow and a good place to learn open water swimming.
  • And, as always, don’t swim near the barrier and don’t swim alone!

ORIGINAL REPORT

I’ve never been to Egypt but I know that if I go to Cairo then there will be pyramids everywhere. And a sphinx. But mostly pyramids because when I look at photos of Egypt that’s all I see: pointy buildings nestled in golden sands.

But if I did go to Cairo I know that what I would actually see are the MacDonald restaurants, KFC and tourist tat shops that surround the small handful of pyramids that look like they’ve been plonked in the middle of dirty quarry. The reality is very different from the image. Just like wild swimming.

Wild swimming can look fantastic when viewed on Instagram or on Facebook posts of happy smiling swimmers in beautiful locations around Scotland . The reality can be very different – as we found out on Saturday.

We were trying a new loch – the White Loch, just outside Newton Mearns and on the way to Stewarton. I’d passed it a couple of days previously and saw people swimming in it. I’d shouted over:

“Is it good to swim here?”

Yes, they said, but they jokingly added that “You can only swim here if you know us!”

“Well, I do now” I said!

So, with my membership of the secret White Loch swim club confirmed we returned on Saturday only to find…

RAIN! RAIN! RAIN! AND RAIN!

After huddling under the open boot of my car while trying to get changed, I sheltered in Iain TwinBikeRun’s car while we waited for the rain to pass. Which might seem strange? Why wait for rain to pass when going for a swim? We were getting wet anyway, dodging rain wouldn’t make us any less wet than a deep water loch. But I didn’t want to be wet when I tried to dry off and get changed afterwards. There’s no point driving home cold and wet. So, we waited for a clear patch.

After 20 minutes, we had 10 minutes of sunshine – the photo above shows the blue sky – and we had a very quick dip and a promise to return to try it out more fully as the car park is beside the entrance, the loch has a shallow entrance and a nice beds of flat reeds to protect your feet from rocks as you enter. Almost perfect. Except for the rain.

So, while the top photo may show sunshine like an Egyptian desert, the reality was that this swim was a bust and more time was spent struggling at the side of the road to get changed into and then out of a wet suit then actually swimming in the loch.

Glamorous Wild Swimming

Location

Google maps: Location

Parking

There’s a couple of parking spaces on the road beside the loch.

Water

Around 14 degrees on Saturday. Choppy with strong winds but it looked like this would be a great spot if the weather is good.

The Yellow Todd (Andrew)

This week it struck me, that with no competitions taking place, I’m still officially the ‘Yellow Todd’.

I have to admit that I’m not sure about the title of ‘Yellow Todd’, it either sounds like I have a serious liver problem, or I ran away from the convoy when the injuns came to town in an old fashioned western movie.

Who’s that at the bar by himself?”

That be Yellow Todd, a craven and a coward!

But since neither Iain or I speak French, officially, as both of us achieved the lowest possible mark it was possible to achieve at secondary school French, a mark so low that my teacher’s main criticism was: “You couldn’t even pronounce the English words right,” Yellow Todd it is, and not the more exotic sounding Jaune Todd (as per the Maillet Jaune or yellow jersey).

(Though Jaune Todd, does sound like John Todd and John is the English version of Iain, so perhaps it’s with some irony that I will talk about the Todd Championships and a jersey that’s named after Iain but one he rarely wins.)

Competition is important. It started in school with the rather healthier competition of academic achievement. Who could win the most prizes at the end of year prize giving?

One year, I won two – English and Technical Studies. Afterwards, walking along a corridor, a teacher stopped me and said “Congratulations on your award.”

Awards,” I said, holding up two certificates because I won the English prize and he’d used the singular “award” when clearly he’d meant to use the plural.

I don’t remember Iain winning any awards – but who remembers losers? I bet James Cameron, after winning umpteen Oscars for Titanic, couldn’t name another nominee. He didn’t need to. He was king of the world.

Our sporting rivalry didn’t start until university. Iain played squash because he went to Edinburgh and that was the kind of thing you did in Edinburgh while waiting for your turn on the real tennis court or, when you couldn’t play croquet on the lawn. 

We had two squash courts in Stornoway, both in a single building with a shared balcony where people could watch. As the balcony stretched across both courts it meant that anything said on one court could be heard on the other. Which was okay, for the first five minutes. And then Iain would claim a ball was out, or below the line or I’d blocked his shot or any of many other minor rules he claimed I’d broken. After 10 minutes, he would introduce a some random swear words to emphasise how strongly he felt about me breaking the rules. Then I’d introduce a few more, then voices would rise, racquets would be gripped with white knuckles and then next disputed point would lead to shouting so loud you could hear it on the mainland and not just the balcony or the court next door. After a few months we had to abandon our games after one angry father barged onto the court and told us exactly what he thought about our language and the words his two young sons could hear. An argument which was validly made but undermined by him teaching us a few more swearwords too as told us exactly where we could stick our squash rackets.

Either way the Todd Championships were born and every year we race for a symbolic yellow jersey given to the Todd with the most victories over the year. And, since I hold the jersey from last year, with no events, I’m still the Yellow Todd.