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!”.

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….

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.