St Marys Loch Triathlon (Iain)

It is two years since I last did a standard length triathlon. Which is my excuse for why I forgot to take my bike helmet to transition. Thankfully, someone spotted my mistake. I ran back to the car to get it.

It wasn’t my only mistake, I lost my swim cap during the time it took me to receive my swim cap and then walk the short distance to the loch to put it on. I still haven’t worked out how I manged to do that.

The swim temperature was announced as 15C so I was surprised when I got into the loch that the water felt much colder. I swam a little distance to warm up and water suddenly became warm. I assumed it was just a cold patch at the start but the fluctuating temperature was present throughout the swim. On one stroke my hand would enter warm water and on the next the next it would enter freezing cold water. Very strange.

I enjoyed the 2 lap swim. The loch never felt too busy and I was happy to swim round with no one near me. I think swim drafting is cheating so I try to avoid it. I’d rather do the swim using my own power than be dragged along by someone else.

I got into transition after the swim and discovered the socks I had left there were inside out. I had to correct that before starting the bike. A gentleman has got to have standards!

The organiser had warned us that the roads might be slightly busier than usual because there was a classic car rally taking place nearby. There was also a beer festival on. Beer and cars. What could possibly go wrong?

Thankfully the classic car drivers must have been sleeping off their beers as other than a Model T Ford I didn’t spot any classic cars.

The organiser said no-one had ever got lost on the route. It was easy to see why. There is only one road and no option to take any other route.

The route itself was on a decent road surface. The road was undulating rather than hilly but there was a draggy climb near the end.

The race manual describes the course as “It’s almost completely flat (really!) – a couple of small undulations – maybe 5m climb on each. “

Not according to my watch. It shows there was 70m of climbing. Which is not allot but it definitely is not flat course. The trail means there’s lot of small up and down sections.

I like running off-road so I really enjoyed the run but it definitely did not match the description of the course.

OVERALL

It was a great race. I got a PB for the distance and its definitely a course I’d do again. The race gets a bonus point for its t-shirt which is a snazzy baseball style affair.

RunMhor Half Marathon 2019 (Andrew)

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.

DrinkMhor

Stornoway Half Marathon 2019 (Iain)

I like running. I like music. I like running whilst listening to music.

Whilst running I tend to fixate on one lyric of a song. The lyric repeats in my mind as I run. It becomes a mantra.

Repeating this mantra becomes a distraction from running and helps me get through tough sections of a race. Usually climbs or sections where I’m tired and sore.

Yesterday at the Stornoway Half Marathon I was listening to Scottish DJ Calvin Harris and his song I Feel So Close To You Right Now.

As I got to a hill I stared repeating the chorus in my mind.

“I feel so close to you right now….I feel so close to you right now…I feel so…”

Each time I repeated the lyric I powered further up the hill. I feel so close to you right now….I feel so close to you right now…I feel so…”

About half way up the hill I passed a female runner. She looked at me. I looked at her. She looked horrified. I realised that I hadn’t been repeating the mantra in my mind. I’d actually been saying it out loud!

No wonder she was horrified. She didn’t wants a big sweaty heavy breathing man running after her declaring how close he felt.

I ran away. Very fast.

My next mike split was my fastest in the race as I ran repeating the mantra “I feel so embarrassed next to you right now!”.

The race itself was cold and damp. I wanted to use it as an ultramarathon training run so I added a couple of miles to the start and end of the race so I could get to 18 miles.

I started off with the intention of running at a slow ultramarathon pace but my ego soon got the better of me. Every time someone passed me it would go “Why are you letting them beat you? You’re faster than them!”

I gave in to my ego and sped up.

I need to work harder to ignore my ego! If not the irony of writing that whilst simultaneously writing a blog about myself…

Etape Caledonia 2019 (Andrew)

Winner to the left, loser to the right

Last week, while walking along a neighbouring street, a man ran out his front door with a woman shouting after him. As he got in his car, she screamed at him: “I don’t know why I stay with you!” before she slammed the front door shut and he drove off.

This week there was a ‘For Sale’ sign on their house…

I tell this story because, despite the sadness of an imploding relationship, it had two bright points. One, I always liked their house, so I finally got to see inside it when the estate agent posted photos on Right Move. Two, it just goes to show that you need to follow through with actions to back up your words. There’s no point shouting about something unless you actually do something about it to.

Just like the Etape.

Every year I say I’ll beat Iain and every year I then beat Iain.

Last year was close though. To be fair, he did wait while I had a mechanical so he could have won, if he’d carried on. But he didn’t, so he didn’t. Who said good guys come last? Accurate words!

Last year was also more of a contest because Iain was training for Norseman. He was riding every day. And yet, he still couldn’t beat me. (He might have the legs, but he still had the good heart to wait).

But when we could only draw when he was at his fastest on a bike, it meant that this year I didn’t need to say anything. The contest was over before we even started. I could see the ‘runners up place’ in his eyes. He had a haunted look on the start line. He looked old. Weighed down by a history of failure.

It was BRILLIANT!

Not that I’m gloating. Much.

Anyway, with the result a foregone conclusion it was only a matter of turning up and paying attention to the course.

Pitlochry

The first 10 miles are fast, if you want them to be. As each wave leaves the high street, groups quickly find their own pace. Some sprint, some take it easier as they warm up. A few tight corners and sharp wee hills cause bunches to form but after 10 miles, the roads clear and while you’re never free from other riders, it’s easy to find some space at your own pace.

Hill

The first hill is not steep but it does have three miles of steady climbing. It’s almost a straight road so there’s no need to think about turning or any hair bends to negotiate. Just sit and grind it out.

Loch Tummell

One of my favourite sections. A 15 mile flat run around Loch Tummell. With nice flat roads, good views across to Schiehallion and across the loch, it’s a great section to find a group and make quick progress to…

Schiehallion

Which is not as bad as it appears on the profile. There’s a few steep slopes. A final drag that some will sprint for that ‘frog dancing on a hot plate cycling legs and arms akimbo climbing out of your seat’ shot from the official photographer, but the real kicker is the next mile, which continues to rise even after you’ve passed the King/Queen of the Mountain checkpoint. After that, it’s five miles downhill and a chance to enjoy some easy curves and quick times.

The other side

Largely flat for the final 20 something miles with a good mix of moorland, trees, villages and wide roads. By this stage, you’ll see less bikes but, if you’re lucky, and want to joint them, you’ll find a few groups to latch onto to get your speed up until…

The second climb

Ballincluish. And a 20 metre ladder that starts as soon as you turn off the main road. If you haven’t changed gear before you turn then you’ll be looking at a slipped chain as your ‘reward’.

After that, there’s a couple of miles of rolling hills before the final descent into Pitlochry and a short climb back to the High Street where you can get…

The Goodie Bag

Or bad. As there’s never any goods in the bag. It’s always empty. Don’t expect a banana or a biscuit or anything at all. One year, all it had in place of a treat, was a single page flyer for a new Sainsbury’s… that was opening later that year. (And, in fact, never opened at all after local protests). But while I always complain about the bag, Iain never does. Well, he is used to coming home from the Etape empty handed…

Freezing Your Ballochs Off At The Clydebank to Balloch Half Marathon 2019 (Andrew)

It wasn’t a good start. I was in the back of a taxi and having to point out to the driver that he was driving away from where we need to go. “Are you sure Clydebank is not back this way”, I pointed. He took one look at the sign saying “Clydebank” behind us and said: “I don’t know that way”. I asked if he was following his satnav and he added “Never use it – it gets things wrong all the time!”.

Given I had been tracking him on an app as he approached the house and I could see he’d missed the road, done a u-turn, missed the road again, got caught in a one way system and had parked for 5 minutes in a laybay (I assume to try and work out where he was going), he maybe wasn’t one to judge others on directions. Never mind criticise the location prowess of multiple geo-stationary satellites and the software calculations of Google.

“Can you just turn round and I’ll tell you where to go?”

“We’re going the fastest way,” he said.

We weren’t.

“You won’t get there any faster,” he claimed.

We would.

“But if you insist…”

I did.

And 10 minutes later we were in Clydebank for the start of the race and not in Hamilton, which is where we would have gone because ‘that’s the way he knew!’.

On the way over, between giving directions, I could see the weather was turning. Grey clouds were turning black. A few spots of rain became a shower became a powerwash from heaven. 

By the time I left the taxi, I was soaked through just spending 30 seconds looking round for Iain.

He wasn’t there.

Hardly, anyone was there.

I phoned him.

“Are you in the car park?”

“Yes!”

“No, you’re not. I’m here and I can’t see you.”

Then he asked if I was in the right car park as the race start had moved from the old sports centre to the new one. 

“Errr…”

Turns out my taxi driver wasn’t the only one with no idea of where he was going…

The Balloch to Clydebank half marathon should be called the Clydebank to Balloch to Clydebank half marathon as you start in Clydebank, the finish line, by jumping on a bus which takes you to the start at Loch Lomond shores in Balloch.

This year it might also have taken you back to the start because, as we drove up, the rain turned to snow, and you could see it start to cover the pavements. When we arrived, the driver was told to wait, in case the race was cancelled.

I thought it would be cancelled. The snow was heavy and I couldn’t imagine either runners racing on it or volunteers standing outside. I didn’t think it was safe. I was wrong. And right.

I was wrong that it would be cancelled. The race went ahead but with the option for people to jump on the bus and return to the start. But I’m not sure it was safe. There’s was a lot of snow and slush on the pavements and runners moved onto the road at points to run through Bowling and Clydebank.

While the roads were quiet, there were cars and buses driving behind them and I heard a few frustrated honks from the drivers. 

The race itself was a challenge to remain warm and comfortable as the weather changed from snow to rain to dry spells to rain again. 

Knowing that it might rain I’d just worn shorts and not leggings. My theory is that leggings don’t help in the rain. They just get wet, then your legs get cold as leggings cool you down. You’re better off with just your hairy legs – nature’s leggings! – when it rains.

I don’t know if this is true though but for half the race I congratulated myself on my choice as the water dried from my legs during the dry spells, and the other half of the race cursing my choice as everyone else looked like they were running as a happy as runner with toasters strapped to their thighs.

You can’t call the race scenic. There’s a few nice spots, mostly at the start as we run along the canal from Balloch, but most of the race is through housing or industrial estates. It does though have the advantage of feeling like you’re running downhill as there’s very few climbs, or even gentle inclines, and there’s a few long stretches when you run downhill. 

But at least the finish line is scenic. If you like skips and bins. 🙂

IronMan UK 2015 (Andrew)

I found my race report for IronMan UK that I’d posted on the Glasgow Triathlon Club forum and you can tell that I wrote it within a couple of days of racing because the first line is far too emphatic. And I then broke it by entering Norseman and now, this year, Challenge Roth. Oh, if only I’d listened to Wise 2015 Andrew!

Here’s the report:

Swam a bit. Rode a bit. Ran a bit. Walked a lot. Happy to finish. Will never do it again.

I just wanted to share six AMAZING tips I learnt from the race that you won’t find in Don Fink’s training guide*.

Tip 1: Crash at least once when it’s totally not your fault. I did and I promise that you’ll forget about your legs as you spend the next 20 miles daydreaming about a bike pump, the rider who crashed into you and the elaborate torture porn of the Saw films. 

Tip 2: Your nose will run. It will never stop. Why not devise your own word for wiping your nose on your sleeve, arm, shoulder, any dry patch of jersey really. Snotting anyone? 

Tip 3: You can leave a special needs bag to pick up during the bike course. You could leave spare gels and energy bars or, you could do what I did, and leave a cheese & ham sandwich and a packet of crisps. It may take a couple of minutes to stop and eat it but, after a constant diet of gels, bars and electrolyte drinks those few minutes were the highlight of my day. Mmmm…. Cheesy Wotsits!

Tip 4: We all run our own races. That’s true. But, secretly, in our heart of hearts, we all get a boost when we see a fat bloke struggle. (This is an equal opportunities tip – remember, for the people ahead of you, you will be their ‘fat bloke’ ). 

Tip 5: Spectators will cheer you. They’ll shout “You’re doing great”, “Keep going”, “You’re running really well” etc, etc. However, sometimes, you know you’re not doing great. You’re walking. You’re crawling. You’ve given up and had a cry at the side of the road. At those times, the spectators should shout “You’re crap”, “You’ll never make it”, “The fat bloke’s beating you”. Sometimes we need a bit of humiliation and tough love from strangers. For your next Ironman, to run faster, why not wear a gimp mask?

Tip 6: Finally, a tip I’ve never read before. This must be a special tip reserved only for the most dedicated Ironmen and women. I call it “Recycling”. It works like this: at some point during the race, you’ll need to go to the toilet. When you do – why not eat a banana? You’re hands are free. You’ve got time. You’re not going anywhere. So why not put in what you’re… erm… putting out? 

I’ve no other explanation for the amount of food found in the portaloos: folk are chewing and pooing – and they’re heading to Kouna! This could be you (but, please God, wash your hands, you’re an athlete, not an animal!).

*tips not found in Don Fink’s book for good reason!

Jimmy Irvine Bella 10K (Andrew)

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There are two things I know about the Jimmy Irvine Bella 10k race in Bellahouston Park. One, it will rain. It’s held in November so it would probably be more of a surprise if it was ever dry…

Two, I don’t actually know who the heck is Jimmy Irvine? And, despite running a few times, this was the first year I thought: “Let’s find out!“.

I’m glad to report that the Jimmy Irvine 10k is not a race named in memoriam  – in his memory  – as he’s very much alive. He is quite old though. He was born in 1935 and first raced for Bellahouston Harriers in 1952 at the age of 16. He last raced in 2015, a broken hip finally bringing his running days to an end.

But what a career he had. He raced almost every weekend and turned out in the McAndrew Relays, the District relays, the County relays, the Glasgow University road race, the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay, the Nigel Barge New Year race, the County championship and all the other major championships.  And that was almost every year for several decades. Even as a veteran he was running under three hours for a marathon. No wonder they named a race after him!

So, with that knowledge, I was feeling inspired on the start line. Although the course had changed this year, the start had not. It starts on a hill in the centre of Bellahouston Park with a short climb before running round to the ski slope, then Bellahouston sports centre before circling out towards Mosspark Avenue and back before repeating itself for another loop and a half.

But one thing hadn’t changed. The rain. It started raining 20 minutes before the race start and it didn’t stop. Big heavy rain drops designed to get right down the back of your neck and freeze your spine. Ugh!

However, I was prepared, I had a jacket with a hood and ran the race Batman style – hood up, as far over my eyes as possible and only my chin showing to the rain.

The change of course meant a harder route, with some longish climbs up and through the park. In return, there was a couple of nice descents down the back of the hill, but, with the weather, you needed to be careful where to place your feet to avoid puddles and slippery leaves.

One brave man though, appeared to laugh in the face of the weather by stripping off his top halfway through the race. No one followed him. Glasgow in the rain in November is no time to bear any flesh. It’s Marti Pellow weather – wet, wet, wet.

Overall, it’s an enjoyable race, with a good number of runners but not so many that it causes any bottlenecks at corners. And, at the start, there was none other than Jimmy Irvine. At least this time I knew who he was!

For more on Jimmy Irvine: Biography

 

Antonine Trail Race 2018 (Andrew)

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Two bumblebees get out of the car. One of them adjusts his wings and his trainers and then starts to run.

Death stands beside an angel and both start to stretch.

This is the Antonine Trail Race. A half marathon up, over, around and back over Croy Hill between Kilsyth and Cumbernauld. Every year it’s held on the last of Sunday in October and the organisers encourage runners to take part in Halloween costume. At the start line you see a lot of photos, high fives and people not realising that they’re about to start swearing when they hit the first hill and realise how hot it is to dress like a bee while trying to run a mile up a trail.

It was a fantastic day for the race. It was cold but with an almost cloudless sky it was just the right temperature for running.

It starts with one mile on a narrow path so try and get near the front if you don’t want to be blocked in. After the first mile, the hill climbing starts with a mile and half of trail runs and climbing to the top of Croy Hill. After that it’s undulating before a mile long descent down to the canal and Kilsyth marsh. A few miles of flat trails are broken up by an environmentally friendly water spot – there was no plastic cups.

The organisers had warned in advance that the only cups would be “sharing cups” – and they warned that there might be more than just water in the cups after twenty sweaty runners had swigged from it. So, they recommended bringing your own bottle. I ran with a trail belt with a couple of small water bottles. I didn’t fancy sharing anything!

After the water stop it’s a steady climb through the forest around Barr Hill. A few sharp inclines near the top make it a challenging run before another long drop down to the base of Croy Hill and another lap up it – this time from the opposite side.

The good news at that point is that you finish with a final mile back on the narrow paths and with a gentle descent (apart from one sharp shock) and a cracking photo opportunity at the finish as you beat a red devil to the line.

And if that wasn’t enough to recommend it – the organisers lay on a bumper food stall at the finish with cakes, biscuits, bananas, more cakes and selection of gels and liquids.

Roll on 2019!

More info: https://antoninetrailrace.com

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Race the Blades Half Marathon 2018 (Andrew)

Who gives socks as a present?

Normally, that’s the question you ask every Christmas as you open the package that felt like a Cashmere jumper only to find it’s five socks from Tesco – and the sale price has been left on.

I don’t mind though. I love getting socks as it means I’ve not had to buy socks in years. See also boxers. See also aftershave (received once, never used). See also a coffee machine (still unopened as I don’t drink coffee).

That’s why I was really excited to finish the Race The Blades half marathon, a 13.1 mile race on the tracks running through Whiteelee wind farm. At the end, along with the obligatory t-shirt and medal there was also a paid of socks in the goody bag.

Brilliant!

If there’s one thing you want after a race it’s the ability to change into a clean paid of socks!

(Even if those socks are covered in images of wind turbines).

So, well done to the organisers and to the sponsors, Scottish Power, you gave me another chance to avoid buying socks for the foreseeable future.

If only you’d start giving away smart trousers for work or shirts then I’d never need to shop again.

(Unless they were covered in images of wind turbines)

The race itself is deceptively hilly: it lulls you into a false sense of flatness in the first six miles before throwing all the hills into the final six. Last time I ran it – see here – the race came up short, literally. It was 200 metres too short. This time it was the right length and with the summer heatwave abating for a few days it was also a pleasant morning with nice dry trail roads to run on.

It was also my last ‘official’ race this year – I’ve got nothing booked now until July 2019.

So, for the rest of the year it’s feet up (with socks on, of course!).