Kirkintilloch 12.5k 2020 Race Report (Andrew)

It’s winter, it’s windy, but that’s weather. Or at least it was until last year when the Met Office started to name its storms. Now, it’s not weather, it’s an event. And this year’s Kirkintilloch 12.5k had a hell of a lot of event…

The Kirkintilloch 12.5k has been our first race for a few years now – you can read some of the previous reports here and here. It’s longer than a 10k, so feels more of a challenge, and it has more ups and downs than a 90s raver, including almost a mile uphill to start, which is a shock first thing in the morning. Races should start downhill, or at worst, a flat. Running uphill to start is just cruel. If you start uphill then you should call your race an ultra, even if the rest is flat. It’s fair warning.

Along with the race conditions there’s the challenge of finding a car parking space as the start line is next to a main road into Kirkintilloch and there’s not a lot of room on the streets nearby to park. Saying that, it’s always a busy race with many club runners (resplendent in their new singlets) and just-get-rounders sharing the start line, so everyone must come by the Kirkintilloch canal to get there.

This year, there was a new challenge: the weather. The race was held right in the middle of Storm Dennis and 50mph winds swept the course. I don’t mind running in bad weather, if you’re wet, you’re wet. You can’t get wetter than wet no matter what Bon Jovi might sing. And wind is okay, as long as it’s behind you. If it’s behind you, you can fly. Unfortunately, we were running a loop so not only were we flying, we were also being pushed back so hard we ended up in Ireland.



Race route: First mile is uphill, the next three are up and down until you reach Woodilee village where you turn and then run up a slope steeper than the north face of the Eiger, before taking another road home until the final 2 km when you reverse the climb back to the start and finish with a nice one mile downhill race to the finish.

Finishing bag: It was the 15th anniversary of the race and there was a special commemorative mini towel (as shown above) instead of a medal. A chocolate biscuit and a bottle of water were also handed out at the finis.

I’m not sure of a towel as a commemoration. It was the 50th anniversary of the the creation of heavy metal last week but no one gave Ozzy Osbourne a soft plump towel to commemorate the first Black Sabbath album. Towels are for beaches and pretending to be Roman. In a race, a towel is what you thrown in disappointment when you quit during it, not what you get at the end when you should be celebrating.

Holiday Mile: Berlin (Andrew)

On a Saturday night in Berlin I had half a raw potato for my first course. This was followed by 34 more courses including, as a particular highlight, a single pak choi covered in butter. It was less a meal and more a single plate presented one ingredient at a time. I’m all for trying new things when eating but a menu designed to showcase every ingredient really made me crave a Big Mac and chips.

Even worse, before we could eat the potato we had to listen to it’s origin.

“This is a potato from the farm of Gunther and Helga, just outside Leipzig. Each morning they carefully spray the potato field with a fine mist of honeydew while Gunther sings Dolly Payton’s ‘Jolene’. When it comes to harvest, they ask a local priest to bless their trowel before it is transported by electric car to the market in Berlin.”

After 35 holier than thou pretentious tales I really craved a noose.

I can’t say I enjoyed the meal. It definitely an experience, one I won’t repeat, but if you want to spend three hours slowly eating a grocers one vegetable at a time, then Ernst in Berlin is the place for you.

If, on the other hand, you just want to run, then Berlin is the opposite of Ernst. It’s as simple as can be. It’s completely flat. And because it’s completely flat, you can’t go anywhere in the city centre without being able to see the radio tower that stretches into the sky over Potsdammer Platz. It’s impossible to get lost.

So, for this holiday mile, I decided to run to the main site for the Berlin Wall and back and I decided not to use a map to find my hotel because I knew how to get to it from the tower. An easy run followed with no chance of getting lost. No wonder Berlin is one of the world’s fastest marathons.

Saying that, the lack of variety does mean that it wasn’t the most interesting of runs. Even a treadmill can have an incline. But if all you want is a easy run along wide streets then Berlin is the place for that.

Dog Walking for Triathletes Part 2 (Andrew)

Tyler is a Jack Russell. And a dog – except when he’s pretending to be a cat.

Tyler is my aunt and uncle’s dog. They live in a village in the Western Isles. There’s very little passing traffic so they let Tyler walk on his own. He has the run of the village.

Every night at 11 o’clock, Tyler would bark and run to the back door to be let out for a final walk before bed. 30 minutes later he’d be back. A single bark to announce his presence and my aunt and uncle would let him back into the house.

This happened every night for six months until, one day, my aunt saw a neighbour’s post on Facebook. “Does anyone know a small white and brown dog that’s been running round the village before midnight’

It could only be Tyler.

She didn’t know the neighbour that well so went round to her house to explain that Tyler was just out for a walk and to see if he’d been barking or making a noise to disturb them.

“He’s not been barking,”said the neighbour, “he’s been shagging! Our dog’s pregnant!”

No wonder Tyler was so keen on his final walk of the day. He’d been playing Romeo to some other dog’s Juliet!

“Was he sneaking into your back grden?’ Asked my aunt.

“No,” said the neighbour. “We knew our dog was in heat so we’ve been keeping her indoors.”

“Then why do think Tyler’s involved? He can’t get into a house” Asked my Aunt.

“He’s been sneaking in through the car flap! We caught them at it in the middle of the kitchen!”

My aunt was quick to apologise but it turned out that the neighbour was really only interested in finding out if Tyler was a pedigree because it turned out she had a Jack Russell too. When my aunt confirmed that Tyler was indeed a pedigree dog genetically, if not morally, the neighbour was delighted.

“Excellent, I’ll be able to sell the puppy’s for £500 each!”

And Tyler was encouraged to continue his midnight walks.

I thought of this story as I start to think about training over autumn and winter. It’s always hard to go outside when it starts to get dark and cold and wet. It’s easy to come up with excuses to skip a run or a bike ride. But dog’s don’t have that excuse. They go out in all weathers and wait patiently at the door for their chance to walk and run so we too need to take our inspiration from dogs and find our reason to always head outside. But not to have an affair with someone down the street – and definitely not to break in first! That’s not an excuse to get out of the house, that a reason for the cops to come round and encourage you to spend a lot more time inside!

Winner, you are a loser (Andrew)

How do get slower by going faster? There’s a riddle for you.

If you’re a physicist then you would probably talk about how time slows down the faster you go and you’d try and convince me that Interstellar is a great film and not a deeply silly film about a mumbling Matthew McConaughey knocking over a bookcase for three hours. If he can push books then why doesn’t he push a keypad and type out his message?! It should have been called InterTheBin.

If you’re a novelist you might say how time slows down when you’re about to get shot. That life flashes before you’re eyes and you might have some meaningful flashback or revelation. Which isn’t true. The closest I’ve got to being shot is standing on a football pitch as a mishit ball shoots straight to my groin. The only thought that went through my head was “don’t scream like a girl when it hits me!”. It did and I did. I think I still speak with a falsetto.

But in triathlon going slower by going faster describes what happens when you’re moved up a coaching group. On a Wednesday morning I’ve been quite happily swimming in the masters lane – a lane for people who swim 1 min 53 seconds per 100m or slower. There’s also a performance lane for those who swim 1 min 42 or faster.

I swim around 1 min 50 seconds which means I swim at the front of the masters but I’m not fast enough for the performance. I’m like Matthew McConaughey’s accent – neither fast nor slow but some drawl in between.

Until today.

Today I was ‘promoted’ to the Performance lane permanently. I now swim at the back of a bunch of swimmers who all swim faster than me.

I also need to swim further. As they swim faster they cover more distance in the same time as the masters lane so will swim, for example, 150m instead of 100m.

“You won’t go faster unless you swim with people who are faster than you!”

Which was nice of the coach to say but I’d never asked to go faster or further as, again like Matthew McConaughey, I’m quite happy with my limited range.

Instead I spent this morning slipping further and further behind people who could swim much faster than me and while I was going faster it sure felt like I was going an awful lot slower.

Dog Walking for Triathletes Part 1 (Andrew)


It’s entirely possible to meet a complete stranger, have a five minute conversation and for both of you to speak and not say one thing to each other. Instead, you both pretend to be dogs. And talk a lot about bums. Walking a dog does that to you. Let me explain.

if you don’t have a dog then here’s what happens. You’re walking along. Minding your own business when you see another person coming towards you with their dog on a lead too. The dogs spot each other. You can see tails wagging, ears down, a silent battle of wills developing between them as they decide whether this is a dog they want to sniff or one they want to bark at instead.

“Hello,” you say.

“‘Who’s this? They say back.

But they don’t look at you, they look at your dog.

As a dog walker you know that the question is not for you. instead they’re really asking for the name of your dog.

“‘I’m Barney The Schnauzer,” you say, “and who are you?”

And they tell you but you’re not listening as Barney is sniffing the other dog’s bum and it’s time to carry on the conversation by telling them exactly what Barney is thinking.

“Oh, I like sniffing bums,” you say. And as everyone knows the routine and we’re speaking as dogs you can get away with comments like that provided you don’t add “and so does the dog!”.

Nor should you ever respond to someone saying ‘”I like sniffing bums” with a “Well, doesn’t everyone!” while staring straight into the other owners’ eyes.

But it is awkward. The bum sniffing. And trying to make it less awkward by offering a running commentary is just one way of making it seem acceptable. So, you have conversations that may include “I just can’t stop” Or, if you’re canine friend is having a particularly vigorous sniff, “This is a good bum!’

Which is a risky one. Not every owner is prepared to grade the smell of their dog’s bum, not even while pretending to be a curious Jack Spaniel. But if they go with it then you open up a whole world of conversation including:

“I love sniffing – but I don’t like being sniffed!”

Or, if you’re feeling particularly curious.

“Oooh, what’s that smell?”

Which is a phrase which is only ever acceptable if visiting a show home for sale, a spicy restaurant or if you are testing perfumes or aftershave. Everyone knows what that smell is when you sniff a bum. It’s not fresh coffee, lemongrass or Chanel Number 5.

But still you don’t break the spell by addressing the other owner directly. You’re both still pretending to be dogs. Really, really awkward and embarrassed dogs because now the bum sniffing has finished and one dog is trying to mount the other.

And both you and the other owner are frozen to inaction while you fear you are about to start a commentary track for some hardcore canine porn.

“‘I like sexy time!” you don’t say.

And you definitely don’t add “And so does my dog!”.

So, the best bit about walking a dog is that, for triathletes, who don’t want to just walk the streets because they think they should be doing something longer, you also get to cross the street again and again because you’ll do anything to avoid meeting another dog and what you thought was a twenty minute walk will actually take a hour.

Training for Celtman: December 2019 (Andrew)

Goals for December:

  • Training will officially start in January. December will be about getting into a routine of doing ‘something’ most days of the week but without any pressure to do anything in particular. It’ll just be about getting used to a routine. 
  • Work out training plan
  • See if I can try and be a bit more scientific and check stats like heart rate, functional training power, watts and a whole host of other words I don’t know the meaning of yet.

How did I do?

Training has started and I’ve managed to swim, run or bike six days out of seven with a couple of double days thrown in. I hadn’t intended to double up but it was sometimes easier to swim in the morning on a Wednesday and then catch train and run home than sit in traffic for over hour during the Christmas rush. An unexpected longer trip home to Stornoway due to a family illness also meant a few extra sessions as the weather was unseasonably mild so there were more times to go out then normal. Overall, I’m happy with what I’ve done and feel like I’m settling into a routine which will help when the training starts in January.

Speaking of training, I have a training plan. Unlike Iain – his plan here – I’ve bought a Celtman specific plan on Training Peaks. I’ve never used Training Peaks and I’m not sure yet how closely I’ll follow the plan but I liked the comfort of seeing what would be involved and I can then tailor it (or reduce it!) to suit. One for next month.

I didn’t manage to look at power or any other stats. I was going to do that during the Christmas holidays but being home meant I didn’t have access to a smart trainer. Another one for next month.

Random highlights (and one lowlight)

  • Running: This year’s Christmas Day run was a 10 mile run to the Iolaire monument and then a traditional run around the Castle Grounds.
  • Swimming: A new tradition. Along with the Christmas Day run we had a 10 minute dip in sea. It wasn’t as cold as I expected, but at 6 degrees it was still sharp and gasp inducing. But after a few minutes it was bearable to swim head above water. After 10 minutes though it was time to get back to land!
  • World Champion: Did I mention I was world champion of the War Memorial? I don’t like to talk about it (much!).
  • Mountain bike skills: Wet wood is like ice. A lesson I painfully learned after the bike slipped out beneath me on a wooden bridge in the Castle Grounds. My shoulder and hip took the worse of the fall while my left hand recovered after a night of icing it with frozen vegatables.

January Goals

  • Update and start training plan
  • Look into stats to help with training

Christmas Day Swim (Andrew)


This book was bought as a Secret Santa gift for a colleague moving to Elgin. As normal for Secret Santa, the draw was random and every gift was meant to be sent anonymously. It 100% should not be in Stornoway. And it 200% should not have been opened by my brother. It was 1010% meant to be a thoughtful gift to a colleague moving to a new town. Instead, my colleague must have Iain’s gift and I made a mistake when wrapping presents: bringing this book home to be opened by Iain and sending Iain’s gift via Secret Santa marked only with the message: “From Santa, you’ll need this in the new year!”

And now, for the past few days he must have been wondering why on earth an anonymous stranger has sent him a book called “So you want to be a gold digger?”.

(Iain was getting a gold prospecting lesson from the Wanlockhead Lead Mining Museum, but without context, my colleague is probably going to think someone’s rumpled why he married a rich widow).

I may have some apologising to do when I get back to work…

After that mistake on Christmas morning there was only one thing to do. After the traditional Christmas Day run, I had to drown myself in the North Atlantic. Unluckily the water was so cold I didn’t fancy putting my head under the waves and will still need to apologise in the new year.

All I Want For Christmas Is Strava King of the Mountain (Andrew)

The Christmas number one is the most coveted chart position every year. Everyone wants to know who will be number one on Christmas Day. This year, in America, the Christmas number one battle saw Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You finally reach the summit 25 years after it was first released. (It had previously stalled at number two).

But, over on this side of the Atlantic, the UK celebrated as another person reached the summit in first place many years after first trying to get there.

Yes, forget about the pop charts, and check out the Strava charts as I finally, finally, finally conquered the War Memorial segment on Strava to become the fastest person in the world to climb Stornoway’s highest spot. You can read about my challenge here.

It almost didn’t happen. First, when Iain checked the Top 10 it turned out that another competitor had secretly conquered the top spot just three weeks before. No longer was Florent Schaal my nemesis – read about our imagined rivalry here – nor was Iain – read about his cheating ways here – instead a new man, Michael, had sneaked in under the radar and stolen the top spot. I needed to not only run faster than Florent, but also Iain and now, Michael.

I was planning to attempt a run on Boxing Day but, when we went out yesterday morning, Iain wanted to give it a go. I wasn’t up for it. I felt tired and was only wanting an easy run around the Castle Grounds. But, after he said to give it a go, I thought it would be good practice for the ‘real’ attempt later in the week.

There was no wind, so I thought this run would be slower. How was I meant to run fast if I didn’t have a helping push? So, I tried running fast, but not necessarily as fast as I could. This was just a practice anyway.

I didn’t even check the time when I got home. I thought there was no point as it would only show how much faster I would need to go.

But, when I did, all I can say is…


Books 2019 (Andrew)

This year I read two books again and again. At least three times straight all the way through and probably six or seven times by the time I read and re-read individual chapters. But, despite reading them repeatedly, I can’t list them among my favourite books of the year because, well… I wrote them.

In 2016 I co-wrote a Scottish legal textbook. This year the publisher asked for an English version and a second edition of the Scottish book.

From December 2018 to July 2019 I had to update and rewrite the first book to, first, remove all Scottish references and then include all English laws and regulations. And then, after finishing the English edition, converting it all back for Scotland.

I thought it would be easier than writing the book from scratch but it turned out to be much harder. It’s easy to juggle one ball when all you have to do is throw a ball from hand to hand. Now imagine juggling the same ball while trying to put your trousers on. That’s the same as writing a second edition. You try and keep the first but at the same time you’re trying to do something entirely different without embarrassing yourself.

So, for eight months I mostly read my own book. Even on long flights I would re-read chapters. So, my list of favourite books is mostly based on what I’ve read in the last few months and, in the case of my recommended read, one I read two weeks ago: Ronan Farrow’s ‘Catch & Release’.

Catch & Release is the story behind his research and eventual article about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which led to the #metoo movement. It’s a gripping and disquieting story of what power and money can do to people – and how both can be used to intimidate and manipulate politics, the press and the people around you.

Or, if you want something less cheerier to read, but equally brilliant, then I reccomend A Boy In The Water which I reviewed here.


Me – Elton John

I’m not a fan. Not my generation. But this is a cracking read about what happens when you become more famous than Elvis and what do you do when you can do anything you want.

Wild & Crazy Guys – Nick de Semlyen

The story of the biggest and best 80s American comedians (and Chevy Chase).

Ultraluminous – Katharine Faw

A Chuck Palahhuik novel if written by a woman. A nameless narrator, a hooker, drugs, a gun and sentences which are almost slogans.

Whatever random Jack Reacher I read on a plane

Couldn’t tell you it’s name but any novel which has Jack go to London and be told that he can’t bring a dangerous weapon only to reply with something like “You’ll have to ban me then because I’m a dangerous weapon!” is up there with the best of not just this year, but the decade. Cheese on toast on cheesy toast fantastic! Also I gave Jack Reacher a plug in Commercial Awareness for Lawyers. Now, if Lee Child is reading this, if you could return the favour and give Commercial Awareness for Lawyers a plug in the next Jack Reacher… 🙂