Outdoor Swim Review: The White Loch Revisted (Andrew)

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.

There is an ‘overflow’ car park. A gate across the road from the parking space at the start of the loch but be careful to close it behind you when you leave. I’m told the landowner is happy for it to be used by swimmers but he doesn’t want it left open and open to abuse by fly tippers. So, if you use it, make sure to close it.

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.

Outdoor Swim Review – Loch Ard (Andrew)

Good news last week as the UK Government announced that it had found a medicine which would help treat some of the most serious CoVid-19 cases. However, if they want to know what medicine will actually defeat it then I have the answer: a peloton.

Admittedly, this is based on my limited research carried out in the Aberfoyle car park but, given the number of cycling clubs meeting there who were all wearing their club jerseys and failing to socially distance, then a peloton is clearly been seen as an effective way to not catch the virus. Either that or the Octomum’s eight kids have all met in Aberfoyle as one household to climb the Duke’s Pass and pop over to the paddle steamer on Loch Katrine. But if it wasn’t one household then it may be that the cycle club’s are CovIdiots. Definitely one of these. Either way, it’s still better than Donald Trump’s favourite medicine: a spoonful of Domestos.

We didn’t stop at the Aberfoyle car park though and carried a couple more miles to Kinlochard, a small village at the western end of Loch Ard. Normally there’s a small car park open here beside the village hall. But, with parking restrictions in place, and signs asking visitors to not park on the road, we found a couple of open car parking spots on the northern bank instead.

There’s only a handful of parking spots right beside where we swam but there’s another larger spot two minutes walk along the road. Both are open and isolated from any houses.

What was the water like?

Nice and clear and the bay itself is only a few metres deep, if you follow the shore, and it’s sheltered from the wind. The western bank has a lot of geese so I’d stay away from that because it is… honking. <groan>. But normally I’d stay away from birds because (a) they might attack; and (b) they will almost certainly be doing to the water what bears do to the woods.

On Saturday the water was a very pleasant 20 degrees and I’m told (but haven’t confirmed as I’ve not swum here before) that the loch keeps it’s temperature well throughout the year. Hopefully, with Covid moving in the right direction, I’ll continue to get the chance to test that out.

Anything else to know? It’s a popular spot for fishermen, kayakers and other swimmers (we saw three while were there) so remember a tow float so that you’re visible when you’re in the water.

And, as always, don’t swim alone!

Toddman 2020 (Andrew)

52 weeks to Celtman.

Last Saturday should have been Celtman 2020 however, with social distancing still in effect and organised triathlons still banned by Triathlon Scotland, it was the right call two months ago to postpone it for a year. But that didn’t mean we couldn’t race…

In order to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the law we chose to race using Iain TwinBikeRun’s house as a transition. We could start at Carron Valley Reservoir, cycle around the Campsies to Iain’s house, then run back over the Campsies to get back to the start. The finish line would be the car park to Meikle Bin with a gate and a sign that said Todholes (for the nearby Todholes Farm).

In order to make it CoVid compliant I would travel to another household, Iain’s, and that would mean only Todd’s can take part. So, instead of Celtman we had TODDMAN!

Now, while it’s not really the time for winners and losers. Everyone is a winner no matter what they do during this endless lockdown. It’s also right to say that the history books did record an actual winner. Me.

It was close. If you’ve ever read or watched documentaries about the legendary Iron War between Dave Scott and Mark Allan as they battled to become the iron man world champion in 1989 then you will know what ToddMan was like, toe to toe except this was even closer. A race for the ages.

While Dave Scott and Mark Allan were never more than a couple of metres apart for hours of swimming, cycling and running. We were side by side (two metres apart) for the whole race except for final 20 meters when I saw the car park and sprinted to the finish line and Iain saw the car park and said “car park” and forgot to run. Winners act, losers state the bleedin’ obvious.

Now, while I know that there is some controversy to my finish as the winner had to touch a gate to finish, no one said which gate. And I touched ‘a gate’, if not ‘the gate’ Iain meant when he came up with the finish line. But, just as Iain said “car park” instead of running, he also said “gate” without naming which one to touch. The fool.

So, after the disappointment of Celtman not happening, I am at least proud to say that this year’s training did not go to waste because I am the inaugural winner of the first ever Toddman. Championnneeee!

Lockdown Haircut (Andrew)

“Oops” said Mrs TwinBikeRun, which is not something I wanted to hear.

“Oops” is okay when coming from a clown pretending to throw a bucket of water over a crowd, or an insincere apology from someone who’s thrown you a surprise party when you told them you don’t want anything at all. Those are nice “oops”. What you don’t want is the kind of “oops” that follows your wife attacking your head with hair clippers as a large tuft of just shorn hair falls to the ground. Oops, indeed.

We’re in week 11 of lockdown and I need a haircut. I can tell I need a hair because it’s started to bounce when I run and I feel I need to shake my head like a horse to get my ‘mane’ out of my eyes. It was time to brave a ‘lockdown haircut’ and cut it myself.

I checked a few articles on the web and the overwhelming advice was to not to do it; but, if you had to do it, then make sure to get a decent clippers and pair of scissors. Normal scissors are for Sellotape, not hair. Hairdresser scissors are sharper and won’t make it look like you have the haircutting equivalent of Boxing Day parcels in the bin.

I checked Amazon and decided to follow the popular vote when buying the clippers and scissors – I’d pick the ones with the most four and five star reviews as that way it would at least show either they were genuinely popular and useful or that the manufacturer had at least made the effort to try and rig the reviews. Either way it had to better than taking a chance of cheap clippers from China on the Silk Road website that promised both a haircut and a bag of crack cocaine and a voucher to hire a hitman. 

Next I found a WikiHow article on hot to cut hair. I then read it and thought, “there’s no way I can do this myself as I’m left handed and I have the steady hand of a clown with a fake bucket of water instead I’ll ask Mrs TwinBikeRun to do it.”

Which was a good idea. She read the article. We got ready. I sat on the edge of the bath so the hair would fall into it and be easier to clean and she had the clippers in her hands when I had to ask “Do you not need the instructions with you?” 

“I can remember them”

“I’d rather you followed them!”

So, five minutes later, with the instructions before her, we started to work on a safety first principle. She’s start cutting with the longest settings so that I wouldn’t be going straight to join the marines.

“Son! Why do you want to join the marines?”

“I had my clippers on ‘scalp me’ setting and I don’t want to go out in public for the five years it will take to grow back.”

“An excellent reason. Join the hundred men over there who are joining for the same reason. By the time you all leave in five years time you’ll have a fine short back and sides!”

Mrs T started on the sides and I tried not to look at all the hair falling away. She then used the scissors for the top. Again cutting a wee bit and then slightly more so as not to make too drastic a cut. This was not an ‘austerity’ haircut.

And, apart from an “oops” when she tried to trim my sideburns and got half my head instead, and apart from the giggling, it was just a normal haircut. In fact, better than some other haircuts I’ve had including one disaster that led to me being asked by a shocked barber the next time I got my hair cut: “Did you cut it yourself?”. And it took all my willpower not to say “No, you f****r, you cut it!”.