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!”.

Run #EveryStreet in May – How Did I Get On? (Andrew)

What’s the longest ultra-marathon in the world? I’d imagine it would involve some form of country crossing or jogging from one continent to another. Something EPIC. Something LOOOONNNG but also something achievable. A continuous race would need competitors to sleep eventually so no more than a few days would be possible before the race must end. I’m thinking of the Ultra Marathon Mont Blanc.

And, if not continuous, if multi-stage, then bodies would eventually tire and runners would not be able to continue even with some rest. I’m thinking of the Marathon De Sable and five days across the Sahara desert.

But the actual longest ultra-marathon is none of these things. It doesn’t cross continents. It doesn’t cross countries. It doesn’t even cross the street. It’s entirely held around one New York city block. It’s the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race – and it takes place each June for around 50 days as runners run around the same block every day from 6am to midnight clocking up around 60 miles each day.

You can read more about here: Block Run

But even with it’s hyper-local setting and it’s easy to manage support it too has been cancelled by the coronavirus. There will be no race this June.

However, perhaps it does point to the future of racing? There has been a trend for further and more exotic events. The fun run in your local park has been replaced by a extreme triathlons in settings so far away you couldn’t pass on the coronavirus if you had a twenty foot pole.

Instead, could we reverse the trend? Make races smaller and more local? Instead of the London marathon crossing the Thames and running from one end of the city to another, could runners instead run back and forth in front of Buckingham Palace until they reach 26.2 miles?

Equally, what’s the point of most sprint stages at the Tour de France. It’s four hours of flat cycling followed by 20 minutes of excitement at the end as the sprint team battle it out. Just ditch the whole scenic tour of France and go straight to the dash through an industrial suburb of Marseille.

As for Everest? Get a helicopter to drop you at the Edmund Hillary Step and just climb the last 20 metres.

Easy.

So, while there may be no long distance ultra-marathon this year there’s nothing to stop there being the shortest ultra-marathon such as my challenge earlier this month to try and run around every street. See here.

How did I get on?

In May I ran 10 times on the challenge for a total of 66 miles and average of 12k a run and…

… look at the map! It’s barely filled a page yet I’ve been running further and longer than I ever would have run in a normal month.

So, I suppose the challenge has worked and I’ve managed to remain local and keep within the spirit of the lockdown guidance. 🙂

As lockdown continues for a few more week I’ve decided to carry on and see how much of the page I can fill before the next three week review of lockdown on Thursday 19th June. Well, it was either that or run round the block again and again and again and again and again and again….

Training For Celtman: May (Andrew)

With Celtman postponed until 2020 I didn’t give any thought this month to training for it in June next year. Instead here’s some socially distancing and post 28 May lockdown easing photos. Look at the happy non-training faces. There’s definitely something in not planning anything and just going out for fun…

54 weeks to go until Celtman.

Outdoor Swim Review – Carron Valley Reservoir 2020 (Andrew)

If you want to know the current state of lockdown in Scotland then you really need to know the story of Cinderella because the current Coronavirus laws have been relaxed so that:

  • Cinderella can finally leave the home she share with her evil step-sisters
  • She can leave for “recreation” and not just for “exercise”
  • She can meet one other household – her Prince
  • She doesn’t need to socially distance and keep two metres away from him
  • She can have a dance – recreation, not exercise!
  • And she can stay out as long as she wants as long as she’s back by Midnight as that’s not popping out, that’s a bunk up!

I’m paraphrasing but that’s really where the we are. There’s a whole host of non-binding guidance and talk of being out for one hour or only travelling five miles but none of that is covered by the law. Guidance is not law. (Though it’s still very sensible to listen to it).

So I must admit that I broke the guidance and travelled more than five miles to go for a swim on Saturday but I did stick to the law and I only travelled for “recreation” and I only met one other household – Iain TwinBikeRun (not a Prince) and Bonnie TwinBikeRun (a dog).

We chose Carron Valley as it’s a favourite swim stop and one that would have a reasonable amount of water despite the long dry spell. We were right. Conditions were perfect and, in fact, the water was too hot for a wetsuit. It was nearly 20 degrees!

Which was still cold for the first few minutes but after swimming in a wetsuit for 20 minutes I stripped it off to swim in trunks instead.

Iain’s previously covered where to park and where to swim here so I’ll only add that if you’re going to go swimming in the next few weeks after weeks of observing lockdown then be sure to follow the following tips:

  • Stick close to shore until you get your ‘swim arms’ back. I was swimming a few thousand metres a week before lockdown. I could barely swim 100m on Saturday. Stick close to shore so that you don’t get into trouble.
  • Remember to bring a tow float so that everyone can see you. The end of lockdown for swimmers is also the end of lockdown for fishermen and you want to be seen if someone is out on their boat. Thankfully there were no boats out on Saturday as I’d forgotten my tow float.
  • Swim with someone so that you have someone else look out for you.
  • Make sure that someone is a person and not a dog. Bonnie TwinBikeRun was enthusiastic but I’m not sure she’s a Lassie The Wonder Dog able to warn others that I’d fallen down a well while out swimming.
  • Remember water temperature is like a fireman’s pole – easier to go down than up. So while temperatures were good on Saturday always assume it will be colder than you think. It’s easy for a colder current to take you by surprise.
  • Enjoy – and be back home by midnight!

Youtube Yoga (Andrew)

I like the idea of yoga more than I like yoga itself. I’ve tried going to yoga classes and what I found was that while I can feel the benefit of stretching and contorting and balancing on one toe I absolutely hate all the omming and ahmnning and “show your body you love it” nonsense that most yoga teachers spout. The one time I tried to show my body I loved it, I was thrown out.

I went to one class in Glasgow city centre that would play whale noises for an hour while the teacher would talk about the mystical link between nature and movement. Every time she talked about how we walked taller when the sun came out I couldn’t help thinking that there is nothing mystical about it: it’s Scotland, we’re only walking taller because we’re not been doubled over by the driving rain and wind.

The same class would always end with five minutes of relaxation. This involved lying on your back while the teacher urged you to close your eyes, sink into the mat and appreciate the benefit of corpse pose. I didn’t go back. One hour of whale noises and corpses was not my idea of a fun night out. For the same reason I’ll never watch Blackfish.

I’ve tried other classes. I used to go along to a Saturday morning class ran by a very tall man who could make himself very small just by curling up. He was brilliant. He used to say “Listen to the sound of your heart, or, if that’s not your thing, the air conditioning unit.” Mysticism with a choice of reality. That was more like it. Sadly, the class was cancelled after the air conditioning packed in – we clearly weren’t listening closely enough – and I stopped going.

Now that we’re in lockdown I thought it would be good to try yoga again. My wife was trying an online class where people would video conference into the yoga teacher but my aversion to (a) paying for anything; and (b) dialling into a strangers house while we all get near naked, meant I looked at Youtube instead. Surely, Youtube would have yoga videos?

And yes, yes it does. There is yoga for everyone. Including yoga videos which, had I dialled into someone else’s cam in a similar state of dress, or undress, would have led to a divorce.

But after a few searches for yoga for cyclists, having assumed that would be less mystical and more practical I found ‘Yoga for Adriene‘. A woman who seemed just as happy pointing out the air conditioning as my previous Saturday teacher.

And while I’d like to think I’d stumbled on some unknown Youtube teacher, after I’d checked out a few more videos I discovered she’s one of the biggest ‘stars’ of Youtube and my search for a yoga teach had basically found Robbie Williams when I thought I’d found a star in the pub.

Oh well, here’s a plug for her anyway. And if you fancy that and want to listen to a great song then Robbie Williams has a song called Angels that noone else has heard…

Run #EveryStreet – Day 9 (Andrew)

With one week to go to complete my challenge to run every street in May I’ve had my first non-block block running session. I’ve tried to be methodical and pick off ‘blocks’ of streets but this was the first time I went out to try and pick up some streets I’d missed.

It can be tricky to remember every street while you’re running them. I thought I’d done a good job but, when I check the map later, I usually find that there’s one or two sides of a block that I’ve missed. D’oh!

But the good thing about missing a street is that it does give another reason for going out. It’s been a good motivation to keep running and to pick off streets – and missing a street only gives you another reason to go out.

One week to go though – so once complete I’ll check and see how much of Glasgow I’ve managed to run in a month.

Hot Stuff (Andrew)

The world has changed. Things we thought acceptable two months ago are unacceptable today. Things like shaking hands or picking pockets – it’s the light fingered larcenists who are the real victims of the coronavirus – or just generally being anywhere remotely near another human being. We need to adjust to the ‘new normal’, a phase which instantly suggest life will be worst. No one adds ‘new’ to a word without making you think you prefer the old one. New Coke? New Mutants? New York? All worse than old Coke, the original X-Men and an ugly cathedral that’s easily flooded.

In this ‘normal’ (I’m not using ‘new’) there is one thing that we all did that seems even more abnormal now. Two months ago we would voluntarily sit in a wooden box and be sweated on by strangers. We called it a sauna, to make it sound more continental, we wore shorts, so as not to make it weird, but, when you break it down, a sauna nee sweatbox is nothing but a small room where strangers met up and dripped on each other.

Some saunas were weirder than others. The one in Stornoway was made of plastic so that it felt like you were a carrot in a steamer. To be accurate it was a steamer as it was a steam room rather than a sauna but room would suggest it was larger than a kettle pot while steam would suggest it wasn’t a molten bast of heat that shot straight-out from underneath a single seat flaying any stray ankle that happened to be in it’s way. It wasn’t an accident waiting to happen. It was an on-going disaster that required to be put out. It was Chernobyl in a sports centre.

In Glasgow, the Arlington Swimming Pool has a garden door as an entrance to its steam room. A proper white plastic fire door more commonly found in cheap extensions and infection control labs. The glass was so thick it could have a been a PE teacher. This room also featured a single furnace of heat to be avoided at all costs. But if it did hit you then you could cool off in the rivers of sweat that swept down the walls. The walls were so wet that Noah would have started building a second ark.

At my local gym the sauna is slightly more civilised. There is a pretend coal fire and you can ladle water from a bucket onto it to create steam. I don’t bother though as I’ve seen the lifeguards collect the water by scooping it from the pool. Adding it to the fake fire doesn’t create a nice steam effect, it turns the water into chlorine and the steam into mustard gas.

But the strangest thing I’ve ever seen in a sauna was a drug deal. Or at least I thought it was.

I was in a sauna with Mike Skinner of The Streets and his band. It was in a hotel in Glasgow and they must have been playing a show. One of the band started talking about the Dragon and how great it was in Leeds the previous night. I thought “Dragon, that’s clearly drug slang for heroin – don’t you chase the dragon?”

I thought I was going to get a tale of drugs and rock and roll until Mike Skinner said:

“The Dragon. Yes, lovely Chinese. I had the lemon chicken.”

Today I can only look at the sauna and think about what made us think that sitting in a room surrounded by the accumulated sweat of strangers and foot critics was ever acceptable, or fun. Hot stuff? Hot zone, more like.

What’s the Point of Singlets? (Andrew)

What’s the point of the singlet? Do sleeves slow you down? Do armpits make you run faster? Or do guys just want to look like Bruce Willis in Die Hard?

To be fair, Bruce Willis does a lot of running in that film but you can’t say that he was wearing the right clothes. He doesn’t even have shoes on. You don’t see Kopchoge lining up at the front of the London Marathon barefooted and ready to go. No, he’s wearing his Nike Cheat Boots because he knows that clothes don’t just maketh the man, they maketh the man run faster.

So, why a singlet?

I can understand why you might wear a singlet to the gym: you want to show off your arms. You want bare bulging biceps while curling large weights in front of a mirror. Then you want to lie on a bench and press even larger weights while showing the world your underarm pubic hair because you think folk are impressed by a chest that looks like it’s got armpit shrubbery. Clearly, you are a tool, and you should be covered up but I can understand why you do it. You don’t mind being a dick. But I don’t understand singlets for running because runners, at least the ones I know, aren’t dicks. So, again, why singlets?

Looking at some running forums and I find comments such as:

“it’s one of the great distinguishing marks between guys and gals who are serious about their running and the running tourists.”

Forum member: NotSoSure

Now while you should never trust a source called “NotSoSure” – that would be like trusting Jack the Ripper with his assurance that he won’t rip you too, there is something in this comment. Is the singlet just a way of showing you’re different? Does wearing the singlet suggests you are better than other people? If top runners wear a singlet then, if I wear one too, I must be a top runner. Perhaps. Or maybe there’s another answer: does wearing a singlet make you faster? Is that why the top runners wear them? They’re CheatTops.

I had to investigate. Do singlets give you a performance boost?

The only answer I can find is that wearing a singlet may have cooling effect for an athlete greater than that of a sleeved top. The open arms allow air to circulate and the heat benefit for a long race may reduce the amount you sweat and the energy used to run fast. Which, if true, leads to the question, why wear anything at all? Which question led me to the following article: Should Men Wear Shirts When Running Races?

The answer is clearly “no, a shirt is for the office, not a race!” but if they mean should men wear t-shirts or singlets then the answer is “Yes!”. And not just because a race demands decorum, not a naturist exhibition. The simpler answer is that if a man runs topless, then where does he hang his race number? From his nipples? Is that how pierced nipples were invented? Someone forgot to take the safety pin out when taking their number off?

Perhaps, we do have our answer though to the question: what’s the point of singlets? Maybe it is to help cool down elite athletes. Equally, it’s also a way for elite athlete to hang their race number without nipples, anaesthetic and a sharp needle. Which means we have our answer to the question of what’s the point of singlets? Singlets do serve a purpose: they are the minimum requirement for racing with a number.

Run #EveryStreet – Mayrathon Challenge (Andrew)

Start of the challenge: loads of streets to run!

I spotted this challenge on adventurer Alistair Humpher’s Instagram account. Can you run every street within one mile of your home?

It’s a great idea. It fits in with the spirit of lockdown by exercising locally and next to your home while also including a sense of adventure and exploring as you realise that you have never actually ran down the street right next to you.

Not sure if there’s any rules to the challenge (I was too lazy to Google it!) so I’ve invented my own.

Step 1

You’ll need to join Strava. There may be other ways to record this but this is the one I know.

Step 2

Sign up for their Summit package – which should be offering one month free.

Step 3

Remember to diary to cancel the package in 29 days!

Step 4

Go out for a run then, when you upload it to Strava, you can check “Heatmap” and it will show you where you’ve been. Every time you run, you can update the heat map and it will travel the streets you’ve run along.

Step 5

Try and run every street within one mile of your house.

And one final rule – it’s cheating to live in a small village where it is a challenge just to find another street…

Oh, and one other rule. Don’t try and run every single street unless you’re Ricky Gates who ran every single street in San Francisco. Keep it local during the lockdown! 🙂

Training for Celtman: April (Andrew)

After last month’s postponement of this year’s race… only 62 weeks to go!

This month was a short month as I still felt the effects of being ill in March. I tried a couple of rides and runs but I still wasn’t feeling right so I rested for another week before starting up again gradually. Thankfully the last few weeks have seen no reaction and I’ve been feeling stronger each time I go out. The only challenge is motivation. 62 weeks is 434 days – and that’s definitely too many days to make me think anything I do now will matter.

I enjoy training but I know there are some days where I need the extra motivation of a race to get me out the front door. A bit of rain, a cold day or just tired legs. If you have a race then you know that you need to go out in order to give a race your best shot. But when you have 434 days, you know that you don’t need to go out – well, at least not for at least another 433 days.

So, this month has been about trying to find some new ways to motivate myself. Rather than thinking about races I’ve been thinking instead about how to keep injury free over such a long time and to try some new training to help – whether that’s something simple like warming up on a bike before going on a run or, more challenging, taking part in some Yoga online. Either way, it’s been a strange month, one that should have seen training start to peak but instead saw a postponement to 2021. Oh well, with 434 days to go, I can’t complain now that I don’t have enough time to train!