Six days before Norseman 2016 I did something stupid: I picked up my bike bag while taking it down from the attic – and pulled a muscle in my back.
Five days before Noresman I was prodded by a physio and told “this will hurt, but in four days, everything will be okay.”
For the next four days my back hurt every time I twisted or turned. And then, on the fifth day, everything was fine. But I have to admit, it was a worry and didn’t help my nerves in the run up to the race.
This year, yesterday, I was careful. I took no chances. I asked my wife to get my bike bag from the attic…
Well, at least the first transition will be a PB as I won’t need to change out of my wetsuit after the swim…
My last ride before Ironman 2015 was my usual circular route to Whitelee wind farm and back. I wanted to see if, after months of training, it felt any easier and did I notice a difference.
I did. I felt stronger, faster and that I could have easily carried on – which was good, as it’s a 25 mile loop and the Ironman had another 87 miles…
I decided to ride the same loop this time but in a more scientific way: I would check Strava to see if I could beat my records around the course.
I came second… again and again and again. All my records, a silver medal.
I blame Iain.
He lent me his time-trial TT bike and for the last couple of weeks I’ve tried it on this loop and have, inadvertently skewered all my records with the TT bike times rather than my own bike.
Now I know how F1 driver feel when they race Lewis Hamilton. You can be your best, you can even train harder than anyone else, but the person with the best tech always wins.
Damn you, TT equipped Andrew!
With a heatwave of 40 degree plus across central Europe I think I may need to revise the following list to include a portable fan, a bucket of ice cubes and lifetime of living in the Sahara desert.
As it may be too late for a pasty Scotsman to suddenly develop a tolerance for hot weather (which, as any Scotsman knows, is any time it’s not raining), I’ve prepared the following list of Roth essentials and will now spend the next week trying to work out the one item I need but have forgotten to include – because there’s always one thing I forget!
Bike – VERY IMPORTANT!!!!
Shoe cover (rain)
Waterproof shorts + jacket (rain)
Camera + charger
Laptop + charger
Kindle + charger
Out for dinner. Work thing. A few colleagues and a supplier. Usual dinner talk. Work. Weather. Who ordered what? When someone says they’d talking to their partner last night and they both decided that they were too “beige” and had both decided to get a tattoo.
That got us talking. Did anyone else consider themselves “beige” and, if so, did they want to be less beige? More… orange?
One man said he wanted to listen to more new music as he only listened to Ed Sheeran.
One woman said she wanted to skydive.
Another said they wanted to travel more.
And as we went round the table I could help thinking that all of the answers were, well, beige.
Travel. Skydive. Get a tattoo.
Were we talking about excitement or planning a gap year?
But afterwards, I felt ashamed for that thought. Who says that challenging yourself has to meet some kind of novelty threshold. That you can only be a rebel with a tattoo if that tattoo was of Ed Sheeran’s face on your face in a perma-ginger tattoo facemask.
Or that you’d Skydived strapped to a cow.
Or you travelling is not travelling unless you set out to discover the Lost City of Gold.
(Which is pretty much how holidays worked in the old days. You didn’t go on holiday. You went on an expedition! If Christopher Columbus was alive today then you just know he’d have sent out a charity email before he sailed off to find America)
Anything can be a challenge. In some parts of Glasgow, some people rarely leave their postcode. Getting on the bus is a challenge. While, for me, Skydiving would literally be a step too far.
It’s up to everyone to decide what their challenge might be. And even then, to decide if they want to challenge themselves or not. Because it’s okay to be beige because being beige is entirely subjective. One person’s beige is another typical weekend.
I have a colleague at work who dives every weekend and evert holiday. He swims around sunken wrecks, looks for fresh scallops in shallow waters and thinks nothing of having his oxygen tank fail – “just something that happens!” – and have to work out how to quickly get back to the surface before he drowns.
Yet he was the one who said he was beige!
For the last year, a man and a woman park their cars at the end of my street and have a canoodle underneath a railway bridge.
They usually meet on a Wednesday and a Saturday. He arrives first. She then parks in front of him and pops into his passenger seat. She’s usually wearing gym gear as if she’s either just been to the gym – or, perhaps not going at all and using it as an alibi. They then proceed and….
… read a magazine, mostly, these weeks. It’s very dull. Occasionally, they share a bag of crisps.
The rendezvous has been going on for so long now – over a year – that they’ve moved into the “I just want to meet and complete a crossword with you” phase of their relationship.
It’s very strange. Although we don’t live on a through road, so it is quiet, we do have work going on and they’re parked right next to Scottish Gas’s compound and portable toilet.
It’s not discrete. Though they think it is.
“Ah”, they think, “no one will spot us if we meet every week at the same time, in the same spot in the same way!” (Except the people who live on the street and walk their dog at the same time they meet – people like me, who, after two weeks, thought “that’s the same cars!”).
I wonder now if they’ve reached the point now where it would be just too awkward to leave their spouses.
“What do you do under the bridge?” They would demand.
And they’d have to admit that it’s mostly reading Take A Break with an occasional cheesy Wotsit.
Either way, it doesn’t appear to be one thing or another. It no longer looks like a torrid secret affair and, yet, it’s definitely not two friend’s catching up.
For some reason, this couple came to mind after running the RunMhor Half Marathon. Or MhorRun as I like to call it, just to to say Moron.
It starts in Balquhidder besides Mhor 84 Motel before running on B roads and cycle tracks loop to Strathyre and back before heading out for a shorter, steeper loop onto hill trails.
It’s both a road race and a trail run. Neither one thing or another.
The first loop is mildly undulating but largely flat. The second features a very sharp climb through switchbacks up a hill before a gentle descent to the finish.
Throughout there’s plenty of water stops and jelly babies to hand. And at the end, if you can handle it, there’s even a free pint.
I took the pint just for a photo but then switched back to water – as a pint after a half marathon would be the equivalent of a Christmas party in one plastic glass.
It’s enjoyable race, with some great scenery, very little to no traffic, and a feeling that you’re running not one race, but two. Eights miles on the road then a trail run 10k to finish. But is it a road race or is it a trail run? I don’t know.
Six degrees of separation is the idea that all people are six, or fewer, social connections away from each other. When, last week, I met a man who’s wife was a cousin of Donald Trump, I knew, because of six degrees of separation, that because I knew the man and he knew his wife (presumably, unless they’d stopped talking!) and she knew Donald Trump then I also knew Donald Trump.
This six degrees of separation connects the entire world to everyone else, which is nice as it shows that we’re all connected. Though Donald Trump would claim not to know me. Or the man. Or his cousin. And it would all be FAKE NEWS!
Six degrees of separation also means something else. It’s just six degrees which separates a Scotsman from his wetsuit because, this week, Challenge Roth posted an apology/warning. Watch out, they said, the water in the swim leg is only 16 degrees – it’s going to be a cold, cold swim!
Unless you’re Scottish – and the water temperature’s currently 10 degrees – in which case 16 degrees sounds like a warm bath. Or at least a warm bath that you’ve been sitting in for an hour and it’s starting to turn cold.
In order to test this theory that the swim would be pleasant, this week I decided to go without a wetsuit and swim in just my trunks.
I was in London for a few days and had spotted that you could swim outdoors in the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Whenever I go to London I always like to try something new. This time I tried modern opera* and swimming in the Serpetine.
First, I had to buy a towel. As I was swimming after I’d checked out of my hotel, I had to find a towel to dry myself. As the Serpentine is in Knightsbridge, and I’d forgotten to buy a towel from a cheap shop before heading over, it looked like I was faced with either buying a monographed gold set from Harrods or the finest designer ostrich feather towel from Harvey Nicholls. Luckily I spotted a Laura Ashley with 50% off sign and managed to get one there. Even that though was a struggle.
“I’d like to buy a towel, please,” I said to the assistant
“What kind of towel are you looking for,” they asked.
“The cheapest!” I said
They gave me a look which said “Knightsbridge is not for you, sir!”
The Serpentine Lido is an old white building with a marked 30 metre by 100 metre bay at the edge of the Serpentine lake. While the changing rooms were small – only two changing booths – the Lido was clean and the staff pleasant.
It was raining, and a Monday morning, so that probably explains why I was the only one there. Although three women in wetsuits left as I arrived, that was a coincidence – they’d already left the water when I got there! They said “You’re brave” as they saw me in my trunks. I assume they meant for swimming in the cold water and not wearing trunks when over 40.
The water was bracing but, after swimming in 10 degrees for the last few weeks, it was almost, but not quite, a warm-ish. Either way, nothing to complain about for Challenge Roth itself.
With no one else in the pond, I had the Serpentine to myself. Except for a few swans. And the lifeguard who clearly thought he was going to get to go back inside when the women got out of the water and was annoyed he had to stay when I came in. But knowing there was someone watching was reassuring in case the Swans decided to attack.
If you’re in London I’d recommend a trip to the Lido. It was fun to swim in the middle of Hyde Park and, with the pool to myself, it was quite a change from the crowds around Harrods.
*P.s. I cannot recommend modern opera. The singing was good and I got caught up a few times in the music, but the lyrics were awful. Or at least the lyrics as translated and projected above the stage as surtitles.
At one point, the hero, a man in love with a woman, spent 10 minutes singing about “the oxen in the field are looking strong”, “tonight’s a good night to pick strawberries” and “this is not the time for my plough to break” while the woman he was in love with repeatedly sand “I’m not as black as you think I am – it’s just the light!”.
Farming and mild racism.
That’s modern opera.
It wasn’t for me.
Watching a man with a mouthful of water, blindfolded, wearing a weight belt, blasted by cold air and trying to cycle fast as fast as he can on an exercise bike was not what I expected to see on Thursday. But, as a way of showing how Ross Edgeley had to spend six hours at a time, swimming through freezing water, half drowning while waves crashed over him and unable to see during night swims, it was effective stunt to get a volunteer on stage to show how tough the Great British Swim had been.
In November 2018, Ross Edgeley became the first person to swim around mainland Great Britain. When he finished, he revealed the salt water had destroyed his tongue, so it was no surprise it’s taken another six months for him tour and speak about his achievement as, I imagine, he had to wait for it to grow back(!).
On Thursday night, Ross’s Great British Swim tour reached Glasgow and, over two hours, he passed on some of the lessons he learned and some of the stories behind the swim – from how it came about, to what it was like to swim blind in the Irish sea during night swims. He also invited some volunteers on stage to demonstrate what happened – like the man on the bike with the weight vest, blindfold and mouthful of water.
Another had to cycle while eating a lettuce to show how you can both consume and expend 30 calories at once. Folk say you need to eat your greens and they say you need to exercise more, but no one says you need to do both at once…
The one tip that stayed with me though was this one. “Be naïve enough to start, and stubborn enough to finish.”
A good quote to describe most things we enter. Enter events with enthusiasm, but without completely thinking it through… then be stubborn enough to keep going when it turns out to be more work or more time than you first thought.
Or in other words: don’t think, just do it.
Because if you do think, you’d never do it.
Triathlons? Really? Swimming then cycling and then you go back out again and run. Why would anyone enter a triathlon who had any idea what it would be like?
Or run a marathon?
Or swim around Great Britain?
Maybe naïve is the wrong word. It’s not strong enough to describe most events. Instead, now I think about it, the quote should really be: “Be dumb enough to start, and stubborn enough to finish”.