To train for the brutally cold endeavour he could have chosen anywhere in the world –Norway or Iceland etc. He chose the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
He trained twice a day on the island. Each day he would post details of his training swims on social media and invite anyone to come and join him.
Initially he was based on the west side of the island. Its a great location for swimming. Some of the beaches are stunning. Especially when the weather is good.
Occasionally the weather is bad…very bad. In England, during bad weather, the MET office might issue a “danger to life” warning. In Lewis, during bad weather, you just get on with it. As my Dad said whenever I complained about the weather – it is only a bit of wind and rain.
The stunning views and bad weather makes Lewis the perfect place to train. if you can swim here you can swim anywhere!
Ease of Access: Reed is 60 minutes from Stornoway. There is a parking spot beside the beach. It is a 5 minute walk from there to the sea.
Water quality: The water quality is crustal clear and perfect for swimming.
Swim Quality: Cold. In December the temperature was 7C. The beach is 1km long. I did a length of the beach and then jogged back.
Other People: Not a soul other than a few hard folk joining Lewis for a swim
Would I go back: Yes. Uig is a beautiful spot. When I was younger I hated coming here because the road to it was terrible. I would get car sick. Nowadays the road is much better!
I also aim to do the Gullane Triathlon. I’ve said this every year for the last five years but every time I try to do it something comes up that gets in the way.
Hopefully this year Ill finally do it!
My main reason for wanting to do the race isn’t sporting but is instead culinary. The Old Course Inn in Gullane ( http://www.oldclubhouse.com/ ) does the best Nachos in Scotland. I’m always looking for an excuse to visit and have some!
The first rule of board gaming club is: You do not talk about board gaming club. The second rule of board gaming club is: YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT BOARD GAMING CLUB.
I am a rebel so not only will I break the first rule, I will break the second too!
I’ve never been a big fan of board games. My idea of hell is Scrabble. Nothing gives me the rage more than the long wait between turns as other players spend ages pondering the next word. They should be thinking of words in advance of their turn and be ready to play with minimal waiting!!
When I was asked by a friend whether I would be interested in playing a board game. My reaction was “no f’ing way” but I was too polite to say that. Instead, I said “Ok – maybe next month” in the hope he would not ask again.
He did ask again…and again…and again until I eventually said “Ok – I’ll play! Stop asking me! But just one game and it better be quick…and not be Scrabble!
To make the evening more enjoyable I invited some other friends over and supplied some beer and food. Most things in life are better with beer.
I expected he’d bring round Monopoly or Trivia Persuit or Cluedo. Being the only board games I know.
Instead he brought round Blood Rage – A strategic board game were Viking clans pillage and battle in a quest for glory at the end of the world!
I was surprised. The game was great fun. It was competitive, the rules were easy too learn and there was enough strategy to make me want to play it again to see if I could do better.
I asked where he’d got the game from and he explained there was a whole world of board games that I was unfamiliar with. Games like Pandemic, Gloomhaven and Carcassone.
The names meant nothing to me but I was intrigued to learn more.
Since then we’ve met up once a month to try out other games. It is a great excuse to meetup and to drink beer.
We’ve played a variety of games. You can read about them in future posts as long as you promise that YOU WILL NOT TALK ABOUT BOARD GAMING CLUB.
It shows I managed to cover just over 3000 miles of swimming, biking and running which is enough to take me to Monrovia in Liberia.
I googled Monrovia to see what it is like. According to a map of the town there is an area inside it called Chocolate City. Which sounds delightful. I imagine its a wonderful place to live. Everyone loves chocolate.
I then Googled how Chocolate City got its name. It is not as delightful as I thought. Chocolate City was a place where people went and defecated. Families riding in cars along the highway would smell the stench of human excrement but instead of telling kids what it was they would instead say it was chocolate. Hence the chocolate area became known as Chocolate City.
I looked at my info-graphics from previous years. It revealed I did less distance this year than last (4,500 miles) That is about 1500 miles less. I like to think it was higher quality. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
This year one cinema trend dominated the box office. It started with Avengers: Endgame and other films swiftly copied it.
2019 was the year of the colon mark
Terminator: Dark Fate
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
Alita: Battle Angel
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
The colon proved useful became it indicated a film was utter tosh!
Terminator: Dark Fate was so bad Arnie grew a beard to disguise the fact he was in it.
Hobbs and Shaw is should have been called the Fast and Furious presents: Top Bantz and Mega LOLs. Two hours of the Rock and the Stathe shouting “YOUR’RE GAY”! “YOU’RE GAYER” at each other in the misguided belief accusing a man of being gay is the funniest thing in the world. I kept hoping they would both just kiss and admit they had feelings for each other. Brokeback Mountain with explosions would have been an infinitely better film.
Alita: Battle Angel is what happens when you let a video game cut scene last two hours rather than two minutes. I kept hoping an option would appear allowing me to skip the scene and get straight to the game.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse gave me a headache. It is beautifully shot to look like a comic book. The action look like its taking place on comic book paper but if I wanted to read a comic I’d have stayed at home and read a comic! Its a movie so shoot the action like its a movie.
Martin Scorsese recently criticised Marvel, calling the studio’s movies “theme parks” rather than cinema. If films are theme parks then all those films would be Disneyland in comparison to one absolute monstrosity of a film – 6 Underground!
The only theme park comparable to 6 Underground would be Blobbyland
I watched 6 Underground so you don’t have to. The story was barely coherent. When asked about one important plot point a charter replied “you don’t need to know that” because even the screenwriters couldn’t bother working it out!
It looked like it had been edited together by someone with no concept of plot, story or pacing. It was casually offensive to woman, foreigners and my intelligence. The film might not have had a colon in it but that just means they have room for a sequel. Please God no.
So that was the worst of the year. How about the best.
Wild Rose is a sweet film about a Glaswegian woman with an attitude problem, is there any other kind of Glaswegian woman? Its about her struggle to break into Country and Western singing. Its full of great performance and good music.
Joker has a superb performance from Jaquain Phoenix and unlike the Marvel films it tries to do something interesting with a comic book character.
Hustlers is the true story of New York strippers robbing men. It stars J Lo and it is not the exploitative film the tag line would lead you to believe. It is beautifully shot and directed by a first time female director. A man would have made it very differently.
Once upon a time in Hollywood. If a colon is a sign a film is terrible then Leonardo DiCaprio is a sign a film is worth watching. He never gives a bad performance and this is one of his best.
But the best film I saw this year disproves everything I’ve said about colons. My film of the year is O.J: Made in America
It came out in 2015 but I only saw it this year. Its is a biography of disgraced athlete O.J Simpson. It covers the issue of race in american society, the role of sport, the rise of celebratory culture and the failure of the US legal system. Its full of fascinating interviews and history. The highest compliment I can give it is that even with a 7hr 42 minute run time it felt too short.
On August 16th 2007 Kanye West performed at my birthday party.
Some people will claim it was because he was on tour and he just happened to be performing on the day of my birthday but I like to think he was there for me… even though he forgot to sing me “Happy Birthday”
There was no support band. A true star/ego like Kanye doesn’t share the stage with anyone.
I waited patiently for the show to start. It didn’t start at 2000, it didn’t start at 2100, it didn’t look like it wasn’t going to start at all but then without any warning Kanye walked on stage.
He looked at the crowd. He did not say anything. He waited for a second and then the music began. He performed for an hour non stop. Hit after hit. No break between songs. Each song flowed into the next. Then the music stopped. He said nothing. He walked off stage.
He came, he rapped, he left.
It is one the best (and shortest) concerts I have ever seen. He was in his prime. He was cocky and charismatic. He was a pop star and a musical force. He was the best in the world and he knew it.
In the years since then he has gone a bit mental – he married a Kardashian, he supported Donald Trump, he recorded, released and scrapped numerous albums. He even wrote an opera.
“As an act of authentically mind-blowing pop-star folly, of a kind we rarely see nowadays it exceeded all expectations…. If it didn’t work in artistic terms, as a bulwark against the argument that pop music is devoid of character and spectacle and crazed, foolhardy ambition, it worked perfectly. “
I drink milk and eat cheese. Which means I am a bad Vegan.
Should I call myself a Vegetarian instead? No – I can’t. I should mention that I also eat Tuna
I could call myself a pecscitarian. Someone who eats vegetables and fish but I can’t. I should mention I occasionally eat chicken.
In fact what I cansay is “Hi. My name is Iain and I eat a balanced diet but try to be vegetarian more often than not.” Which does not sound very interesting or sexy.
Being full on 100% hardcore Vegan is sexy. Its cool. I know so because Netflix has said so. They have a glossy film called The Game Changers.
In it the main presenter argues that eating any animal products can hinder athletic performance, wreak havoc on your heart, impair sexual function, and lead to an early death.
Its full of masculine men doing macho things.
Its basically saying “Are you man enough to go Vegan?”
Which is inspiring. Who doesn’t want to kick ass like a MMA fighter, drive fast cars like a F1 driver or play tennis like a wimbledon champ?
There’s only one problem. It seemed a bit lacking in proper science. They had scientists on it but their claims seemed pretty dubious and not very factual.
One scientist claimed that the Gladiators in Roman times were all Vegans and that must have been why they were the peak of manliness. Which assumes the gladiators had a choice in the matter. They were probably Vegan because they were all Slaves and no slave owner was going to waste good food on them. They got the cheapest and most plentiful food – which was plant based food.
Another scientist showed a vial of blood from a vegan and a non vegan. The no vegans was cloudy whilst the vegan was clear. Clear seems better because we are conditioned to think that means pure but he never explained what it meant. Maybe cloudy is what its supposed to be! There was no evidence to say one way or the other.
I google the program afterwards and found a number of articles decrying the science in the program. This is a good example.
I had learnt my lesson from my DNF in 2012. This time I trained for the race, I wore the correct cycling kit and I had bought a new bike – a hybrid! It was a mix of a road and mountain bike. Surely that would be perfect for climbing hills on roads?
At registration I had to fill in a release form stating I absolved the organisers of any blame in the event of an accident. I assume this was due to Malcolm’s accident as I was not asked for this in 2012.
I lined up at the start. I felt confident. I tuned to Andrew and told him that “I thought it was going to be a great day.” I spoke too soon. It started raining.
This time the climb was much better. I made it half way up before I had to get off and push my bike. There was no camera crew at the top this year. There was no one at the top. The conditions were miserable – wet and windy. Nobody wanted to hang about in that type of weather.
I was pleased when I biked past Applecross. The climb was done. The rest of the course would be easy!
It wasn’t. The miles after Applecross are an endlessly undulating series of small hills. There is more climbing in this section than during the Bealach climb.
By the time I hit the umpteenth small hill I had to get off and push my bike. My legs had run out of puff.
Andrew was on a road bike. He felt fine. Maybe when Lance Armstrong was wrong when he wrote “Its not about the bike.” I felt it was definitely about the bike.
I made it to the second last village on the route – Shieldaig. It’s a small coastal town. The organisers had setup a feed stop here. They were packing it away into a van. They looked surprised to see us. A man approached us and said “I didn’t realise anyone was still biking”
I assume that means we are last. Very last. He opens the van and says “Help yourself to anything you want”
I take a packet of crisps, a can of coke and unusually I spot some cheese slices. I’d never seen cheese at a food stop before. I ask the man if I can have some of the slices. He says yes.
I try a bit. It is delicious. The best bit of cheese I have ever had. It was probably the cheapest cheese imaginable but after cycling 75 miles my taste buds must have craved the milk and salt goodness. I’ve never had cheese as good as that again!
To this day I still salivate at the tastiness of that cheese.
Powered up on the three C’s – cheese, coke and crisps we head off to tackle the last section of the course.
It was horrific. For the the last 12 miles we had to ride into a strong headwind. I had to stand up on my pedals to move my bike forwards. It was like biking through heavy mud.
At last we spot the finish. It’s getting dark. We’ve been riding for nearly nine hours.
I’m spent but elated. We are going to finish. We have done it together.
With 100m to go Andrew sprints off. He doesn’t believe in doing it together. He believes in winning. He is the only one at the finish line. We are so late. Everyone else has gone home.
We drive home. He spends the five hour journey telling me how he is the winner of the Bealach na Todd.
The only races I ever dreamed of entering were Norseman and the Marathon Des Sables. I’ve been lucky enough to have taken part and supported at Norseman but I will never do MDS. My body struggles badly exercising in hot weather. MDS would kill me!
I only entered Celtman because I wanted to do it in the future. Entering this year would increases my chance of getting a ballot place later. Failed entries give you more extra ballot places in future years.
And then this happened
Trust my luck to win the one ballot I didn’t want to win!
…now that it has happened I’m excited about it. It will be great fun to go head to head with Andrew. May the best Todd win!
Although, if you are anywhere near Torridon in June 2020, expect to hear me repeatedly utter the line made famous by Dante in Kevin Smith’s Clerks “I’m not even supposed to be here today! ”
I spent the week before the race full of the cold. Not the normal cold but life threatening man flu.
My fellow men will sympathise at just how potent this horrific affliction can be. Its only known cure is watching TV, drinking beer and replying “no. I’m ill” to any enquiries about whether any housework is going to be done.
I decided I wasn’t going to do the race as it always rains when I take part. Last years event was so biblically wet I spotted Noah leading animals two by two to his boat. I didn’t fancy running whilst being at deaths door.
But for the first time in my five attempts at the race there was no rain. It was actually a very pleasant sunny morning.
I decided to run. I was still ill and I definitely wasn’t fit enough for household chores. In fact, I think it might be a few weeks before I can even think about hoovering or helping out around the house. A run though is fine to do.
The course is two laps of Bellahouston Park. It’s not a very scenic park but it’s pleasant enough. It’s mostly flat but there is one hill that is tackled twice.
I decided I was going to run as fast I could. As soon as the race started I legged it away from Andrew. Later Andrew complained I went off too fast. No – he went off too slow!
The race was pretty dull. I spotted Andrews wife a couple of times so I gave her a wave. Which turned out to be more times than Andrew spotted her. He managed to run past her without seeing her.
I kept a good pace up for the whole race and I was happy with a sub 45 time. I didn’t expect to be as fast as that. Maybe man flu isn’t as bad as I thought….