Category Archives: Race Report

Run The Blades Half Marathon (Andrew)



A few years ago the Edinburgh festival of running gave competitors a medal shaped like a willy. They didn’t set out to make a willy shaped medal, it just happened to look like that when you looked at if from the back rather than the front. If you Google it you’ll see what I mean.

Medals should be easy. They’re round. They have the name of the event on them and, if you’re feeling fancy, you might have the event logo on it.

Ideally, the medal should have the date of the event so that it’s personalised, but, if you’re short of cash just have then name of the event and that way you can print the date on the ribbon and reuse medals from year to year.

I don’t really give much thought to medals. I keep them in a box as a momento of the races I’ve completed but I’ve never looked at them beyond taking them home and packing them away.

I might make an exception for the Run The Blades medal.

Run The Blades is a race round Whiteleee wind farm, just outside of Glasgow. It has a 10k, a half marathon and an ultra run. I was running the half marathon as a final long run before Norseman. There was around 200 – 250 people racing too, with around 75 running the ultra.

I could tell they were running the ultra as they all wore an identical uniform of hydration backpack, compression socks and kinetic tape.

They were prepared. I was not – when I was on the start line I noticed I’d put my number on upside down. It was too late to switch, and, as I wasn’t 666 or 999 it was obvious that I’d got it wrong. Oh well, another thing to watch out for at Norseman: getting my number on correctly.

The race was varied with a good mix of tracks around the tubines, some hills, though nothing compared to Tenby, and some running along the main tarmac spine road. I tried to keep a steady pace while listening to an interview with Jimmy Carr on the Comedian’s Comedian podcast.

Occasionally I would check my time and distance on my watch and I’d think, is this really 13 miles. In my head I could see how the paths we were on would be exactly 13 miles. I was right. As I approached the finish a sign said “400 metres to go” and we were only at 12 and half miles. At the finish line my watch said 12.9 miles so, after I’d picked up my medal, I decided to run a bit further until my watch was over 13 miles.

Once I’d made sure my Garmin record was okay (I didn’t want to record it as having run short), I was able to look at my medal – a standard round medal with the logo, the race name and, the best bit of all, three blades of a turbine that spun round. It was medal you could spin! What a brilliant idea and I can’t wait to see if other races start to copy it: make the medal interactive based on where you are.

Glasgow half marathon could have a flick knife built in. The London marathon could have an oyster card, while the Edinburgh festival of running could be filled with knobs… oh wait, they’ve already done that.

Long Course Weekend – Swim (Iain)

The last time I visited Wales was eight years ago. I went down with my girlfriend (of the time) and a couple of friends. Our plan was to climb Snowdon. My two friends decided to run it, so my girlfriend and I walked and we agreed to meet our friends at the top.

We started walking and we soon came to a break in the path. It wasn’t clear which way to go so we choose the right hand path. After a short distance there was a sign that said “Crib Goch route”. I hoped Grib Goch was Welsh for ‘easy route’.

We weren’t confident about our choice but as there was another couple ahead of us we thought “lets follow them as they look like they know what they are doing”. However, the route started to get steeper and steeper until we were on all fours climbing a vertical wall -and, when we got to the top, we realised we’d climbed the wrong mountain. It wasn’t Snowdon. It was its partner, which I found out afterwards is called Grib Goch. It turned out Grib Goch was Welsh for, well… Grib Goch.

The only way back was down the vertical path we’d just climbed or along a ridge so narrow you couldn’t stand up on it. Either side of the ridge was a huge vertical drop. A fall on either side would lead to death.

Luckily, we made it across. Mostly on all fours while holding on for dear life.


It was the first and last ridge walk I’ve ever done.

Once we made it to the top of Snowdon my friends asked how we got on. My girlfriend replied that we’d got lost and had ended up rimming – confusing the term for ridge with something a whole lot different.

My friends laughed and then asked –

“Did you enjoy rimming?”

She replied: “I loved it. I want to do more rimming when I get back to Scotland”

I didn’t have the heart to point out her error. It was too funny.

My mistake. I should have pointed it out. She went to work the next week and told her friends and clients that she’d spent the weekend in wales rimming with three guys.

I’ve always wanted to come back to Wales. A couple of years ago I watched a TV show about the Tenby Long Course weekend. At the same time I saw an episode of Grand Designs set in Tenby where a couple renovated the lifeboat house. The race was the perfect opportunity to revisit wales, do a fun event and check out a cool house. I just hoped it wouldn’t involve ridging or rimming.

The swim was amazing. It takes place in a sheltered beach cove surrounded by the town. It comprises two loops of a triangle with an Australian exit. When viewing the course from the town I thought the hardest leg would be the middle section and the easiest would be the last. I was wrong. The easiest was the middle and the hardest the last.

I also thought the sea looked flat calm. It wasn’t. There was enough of a swell to keep the swim exciting/interesting/terrifying.

My sighting was good and according to my GPS I swam the same-ish route on both laps.

I was confident of beating Andrew as I’d swam in the sea more often him and I assumed he’d probably be slightly cautious.

If you do race it then I’d advise:
– Try to start near the front as there’s a lot of people taking part
– The course is setup for the whole weekend so you can have a practice swim at any point.
– Practice sighting. The markers are quite far apart so use landmarks instead. I used the house from Grand Designs.
– Book somewhere to eat for afterwards as the town’s mobbed with hungry swimmers.

I’ll write in my next post about the bike and run…

Tenby Long Course Weekend – Part 1 (Iain)

When learner drivers sit their driving test they have to watch a hazard perception video. The footage was shot in Wales. How do I know this? Because one of the frequently asked questions in leaner centres is – why does it say “ARAF” on the road? “Araf” is Welsh for “slow” and it’s only seen in Wales.

Having now driven through Wales I’ve come to the conclusion Araf doesn’t mean slow down, it means your journey will be slow. Much slower than I thought it would be. It’s so slow I wondered if I ‘d ever get to my destination.

Wales is beautiful but I’d still build a motorway through it!

My destination was Tenby for the Long Course Weekend. Instead of swimming/biking/running in one day I’d be doing it over a more leisurely three days.

Before I detail the race I’ll mention the one complaint I have about it.

My start time for the bike ride was 0945. The organisers of the event implemented a cutoff at mile 66 of 1330.

When signing up for the event I was asked whether I wanted an early or late start but there wasn’t a cutoff mentioned. If I’d known I’d have chosen the early start.

I contacted the organisers to ask for an earlier start. I was told changing the start time was not possible and “sorry for the inconvenience”.

It’s more than an inconvenience to know in advance that I won’t complete a section of an event due to something I was not told in advance when signing up.

I checked the results and of the 3393 people in the race only 60 went at a pace that could have made the 1st lap cut-off (if they had started at 0945). I also checked and a number of riders who were due to start at 0945 had set off much earlier. Their times had been registered despite being told in the race notes that the timing chips would only be active ten minutes before the start time.

I asked why those riders were allowed to start early and it was reiterated that the start times couldn’t be changed due to “health and safety reasons.” Yet they didn’t disqualify any early starters despite the fact those riders must have been breaking the health and safety rules!

Even the top 10 racers in the event got to start earlier.

There was a number of very angry riders at the end of the 1st lap who weren’t allowed to continue.

In future I hope they implement a less strict cutoff time. 15mph is the common timing on most races I’ve entered. They should also ask riders for an anticipated time rather than an early or late start.

The races has rules, punish riders who break them not the ones who follow them.

Continued in Part 2!

Tenby or not Tenby – Part 3 (Andrew)

Saturday (Bike)

I’m rubbish at reading instruction. That doesn’t mean I read instructions and end up doing the exact opposite of what I’m asked to do. It means I’m rubbish at even glancing at instructions. I give them a quick look, check there’s nothing I need to know, then forget about them until the night before race day.  Then I panic.

This time the panic was over whether we’d actually be able to get round the 112 mile course before the cut off time for the second lap – the course involves a 66 mile circuit and then a 56 mile lap of part of it again.

We were given a 9:45 a.m. start time however the cut off was 1:30 p.m, which meant we’d need an average speed of c16 m.p.h. to make the cut off. And we’d need to make that speed despite a lumpy course and a 25 mph wind. Oh, and it was raining. And it was misty.

We didn’t make it.

Not that I minded. After four hours of cycling through the rain, the mist, the wind and up and down every valley in south west Wales I was glad to finish. I wasn’t too tired so could have gone on but I wasn’t keen to use all my tolerance for bad weather now rather than waiting for Norseman. If Norseman is bad, let it be bad, but at least let it be one of the few times I’ve got to cycle in it. I’ve got enough bad weather over the years that I don’t need to try an train in it to adjust. I know what it’s like to have cold hands, a wet body and a face so scrunched up from the elements that you looks like you’re trying to lift an oil tanker with your mind.

For what we could see, the course was nice and varied with plenty to see. It starts in Tenby, heads through Pembroke before a long but not too steep climb out to the coast where you cycle through dunes and pass beaches that, for this ride at least, were buffetted by strong waves and spray. Returning to Pembroke you then cycle through high hedges as the wind and rain swirls around you like midges. There’s some fantastic closed road sections where you head downhill among the hedges and feel like a pinball in a tunnel as they tower above you. The last third of the course has the majority of the steepest hills. A sharp climb up a valley  and through the town of Narbeth before returning along the coast with 18% plus climbs at Wise Man Bridge and Saundersfoot.

I ride with Iain for most of the route but start to edge ahead when we get to the final climbs. With only a few miles to go I stay ahead and, because I’ve not read the instructions, I get the finish all wrong. I didn’t know that riders would be redirected to the finish line if they missed the cut off. I thought I’d taken a wrong turn and almost stopped before the finish line to wait for Iain to check where we should go but I was through the finish line before I knew and relieving a medal I didn’t feel I deserved. I’d not finished the race. However, it turned out I had, by missing the cut-off we’d finished the 66 mile race instead, and still received a medal.

In the end we’d missed the cut-off by 24 minutes. Not long given the circumstances and the fact we’d not raced to try and beat it. But, even if we’d made it, I’m not sure I’d have gone out again. While I don’t read instructions, I do read the weather and the forecast for the afternoon was for heavy rain and gales and I was happy to miss that.

Tenby or not Tenby – Part 2 (Andrew)

Friday (Swim)


There’s no water, which is a problem when you’re swimming.

We’re one hour away from starting and the tide is out. We could jog to the first buoy and walk half the course. However, as the beach is flat, it didn’t take long for the water to rise and for me to take off my trainers and put on my goggles.

By the time we start, as fireworks explode to our right blanketing the start in smoke, we actually have some water to swim in, which is good, as there’s 2000 people behind us in wet-suits.

The start area is crowded. Somehow we ended up near the front of the pack. The swimmers aren’t separated into different groups so it’s everyone for themselves as we’re herded into a big pen on the beach. It’s good to be near the start because even with only a few hundred around us the water is crowded for the first 10 minutes. Everyone is turning, kicking and trying to find their rhythm. 2,000 people means 4,000 legs and 4,000 elbows to avoid.

But the swimmers quickly become spread out. The swim course at the Long Course Weekend takes in two laps of Tenby harbour in a rough anti-clockwise triangle along the coast, back through some fishing boats, before turning back to shore for an Australian exit, which is not an upside down exit, but a short run along the beach before returning to the start for a second lap. I don’t know why it’s called an Australian exit. It should be an Austrian exit as you’re surrounded by land.

I’ve not swam 3.8 km this year. The longest I’ve swum is 2.5 km. It’s also a sea swim and the last time I swam in the sea I was sick after drinking too much salt water. I wasn’t looking forward to this but, while choppier than it looked, the conditions were good, I was able to settle into a rhytmn and I had the advantage of being near the start and getting the benefit of the tide. How can the tide be a benefit? Well, as it was coming in, those at the back has to swim further than those at the front who get the benefit of splashing through the first few meters and having more of the beach to run up for the Australian exit.

It’s not enough of an advantage though to beat Iain. As our GPS showed later, he was able to swim in a straightline, I, on the other hand, made at least three breaks for the open sea. My sighting is so erratic that for one leg of the swim it looks like I’m drawing a staircase on the GPS map.

I finish five minutes behind Iain. The second lap feels easier than the first though at one point I spot one man clutching the anchor rope of a fishing boat with an expression which said “I will only release this for death or a rescue boat – and I will gladly accept death than swim another meter!”

I know how he felt after needing the rescue boat myself the last time I tried a sea swim. It was at the Weymouth Half in September 2014. The organisers had promised a calm swim but the wind was in the wrong direction and the water was choppier than a hyperactive lumberjack. It was impossible to swim over the waves, instead I had to duck under and try and swim round while trying not to drown or get pushed back to shore. By the second lap I was vomiting from drinking too much salt water. By the final 400 metres I’d called over a canoe twice to give me time to hang on while I vomited over my wetsuit. The third time I called the canoe I knew the swim was over. I was too weak to keep fighting and I just needed to get back onto shore.

That’s why I was nervous about this swim. I hadn’t swum in salt water since and I knew I needed this swim as good preparation for Norseman. I needed to know I could swim the distance and that I could swim in the sea.

So, while I was feeling tired towards the end of the swim, I was also feeling happy as I knew the distance was okay and I’d overcome my nervousness about swimming in the sea.

Then I found out that Iain had finished ahead of me. And that I needed to win the run and the bike if I was to have any chance of beating him in competitions this year.

Tenby or not Tenby: the Long Course Weekend part 1 (Andrew)

I’ve only been to Wales three times (excluding the Deva Triathlon’s bike leg in and out).

The first time I’d booked a room in an 18th century inn near Cardiff. It was lovely. Or at least I think it was – I never saw my room. They’d double booked me and the previous resident hadn’t left. They were very apologetic as they were completely sold out. They tried to find me another room but all they could find was an ex-council house in a room so small it had a sink above the bed to save space. If you want to find out what it’s like to brush your teeth while tucked up in bed then let me know and I can point you in the direction of “Sheila’s B&B”.

The second time I was in Wales I ran down a mountain. I was taking part in the Three Peaks Challenge and we’d reached Snowdon on hour 21. It took two hours to get to the summit so we had no choice but to run as fast as we could down the mountain to complete the challenge. I’m not saying I’m a hero for performing such a, well, heroic feat but, if you want to use that term…

The third time I was in Wales I faced another mountain. I was having dinner and ordered the Eton Mess. The Eton Mountain would have been a better name.  It wasn’t a plate of food, it was a clear out of their freezer.  A mound of meringue, a field of strawberries and more cream than a cat who’s actually got all the cream. I didn’t need a sink above my bed that night, I had no teeth left after all that sugar.

But, in all the times I’ve been to Wales, I’ve never realised how long it takes to drive through it. It’s around 130 miles from Chester to Tenby on the south coast but, four hours later, you’ll still be driving through a series of road signs that look like my texts before auto-correct fixes them.

Wales is a long way away…

Last weekend, I had my fourth visit to Wales for the Long Course weekend – though, as it starts on a Friday, it should be called the Long Course long weekend…

The Long Course weekend does what it says on the tin. It’s a weekend where you can take part in a long course triathlon (Ironman Wales) but over three days rather than one. It also offers shorter distances too each day.

We were due to take part in the 2.4 mile swim on Friday, the 112 mile ride on Saturday and the marathon (for Iain) and the half marathon (for me, as I didn’t want to run 26 miles a few weeks before Norseman) on the Sunday. But things didn’t quite go to plan as not only is Wales a long way away, it’s also quite hilly…

Seven Hills Race (Iain)

Edinburgh is famous for its castle…which is on a hill;  its folly…which is on a hill; and its observatory…which is on a hill. Also its zoo…which is on a hill and its volcano…which isn’t on a hill. It is a hill.

The city’s slogan is “Inspiring Edinburgh” but it should be “Edinburgh – hilly as f**K!”

Every year a race takes place where runners navigate to and run up all the hills. I did it once before in 2008. One of my friends was doing it too. He said we should take it easy and treat the race like a training run.

As soon as the race started two good looking woman ran past at a speed faster than training pace. My mate immediately ran off. The last I saw him he was chasing the girls down shouting “Where are you two from?”

This year I was running it by myself as Andrew hadn’t fully recovered from his stomach bug.

The race begins on Calton Hill before heading to Castle hill. Unfortunately the race almost immediately stopped as 300 runners tried to get down Calton Hill’s steps but a group of Spanish holidaymakers were trying to get up. When they got out of the way the race resumed.

After Castle Hill its a long run out to Corstorphine Hill. I wasn’t 100% sure of the way so I followed the crowd. Thankfully the crowd wasn’t Spanish so I went the right way.

It’s another long run to the next hill. This section is not very scenic as its mostly through streets. At the summit a man said to me “Well done Andrew!” I replied “Iain!” He looked disappointed. Which means I must be a disappointing Andrew (to some people!)


The next two hills are the most scenic part of the course. From the top I got great views of the city. One of the summits had a bagpiper. He looked very sweaty as the sun was out and it was very warm. My legs were starting to feel the effects of all the climbing so I’d walked rather than ran to the top.

From there it was onto Arthur’s Seat. You can skip through a halls of residence to scale a wall to get there quicker but the organiser warned us the walls is 7ft high. I took the long route. I walked most of Arthur’s Seat as my ankle was sore.

It was then back to the start. I crossed the finish line and was handed….a medal? No! I crossed the finish line and was handed a beer mat. Which is one of the most unusual finishing prizes that I’ve ever received.


Chester Triathlon 2016 (Andrew)

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, or at least that’s what Albert Einstein said*. But Einstein wasn’t a triathlete. Doing the same thing again and again is known as training and doing the same thing in races is all about being consistent.

Because I’m consistent there are certain things I know.


I know that I will leave the water at the same time as Iain. It doesn’t matter the distance we race or where we race, we have a remarkable ability to always exit the water together. This time it was even easier as Iain had a thermal skull cap on which was easy to spot in the water. Once I saw him I just kept on his feet until we got to the end.


Training on a bike is all about consistency and aiming for Norseman. I want to be able to keep a steady speed and to feel strong from start to finish. I don’t want to “leave it all out on the course”, which is a curious phrase. If you leave it all out on the course then you should really use a toilet before you start…

So, I decided that my tactics were right last week, the only thing I got wrong was the length of the race. A sprint triathlon was too short for the tortoise to beat the hare. This time, the tortoise would win as the race was longer and, with 10 mile gentle descent back to Chester and with the wind behind there would be no way I wouldn’t be able to overtake him.

I was wrong. The story of the tortoise and the hare is not what you think. It’s not a tale of how consistency conquers all. It’s actually a tale of how consistency conquers all if, and only if, the hare takes a break in the middle of the race. Iain didn’t take a break. He started fast. He finished fast. He rode the middle bit fast. Fast beats slow. Always.

The tortoise and the hare is a stupid story.


The run course involves three laps and, on each lap, I could see Iain at the same point each time, about five minutes ahead of me. It didn’t change thus, showing my consistency again, as I couldn’t run faster even if I’d tried.


I was pleased with a new personal best of 2 hours 48 minutes and also that I still felt strong at the end and could have kept running, which, with two months to go until Norseman, is a good sign.

*Although Einstein is often credited with this quote, it appears unlikely that he ever said it. Check out: Examinemint 


Stirling Sprint Triathlon – 01:20:06

This year was my third attempt at the this race. Last year I improved my time by just one second over the previous result.

At that rate of improvement it’ll be nearly 1200 years before I’ll be quick enough to win the Olympics. I

I started in the same swim lane as my brother.. After 10 laps I realised he was drafting behind me and I was making his swim easier! I immediately stopped at the end of the lane and made him go ahead. I then drafted him. Towards the end I tapped to overtake as I had a cunning plan which relied on getting out the pool first.

I accelerated to give me a short lead but just enough to get to transition first. I knew Andrew would take longer than me as he had an Aero helmet and it would take longer to put on than mine. I changed quickly and sped off.

Once I was out on the road. I went as fast as possible so that I’d be out of sight when he hit the road. I anticipated he’d then take it steady in the belief that his time trial bike and aero helmet would give him an advantage. If he could see me then he’d know what to pace to go at but this way I bet he’d choose a speed steady but slower pace.

Throughout the ride I thought he’d zoom past but luckily he didn’t. I didn’t know at the time but he thought a guy ahead of him was me. He kept the other “me” in his sights!

The run is two laps of a loop on the campus. I spotted Andrew towards the end of lap 1. He was at least 5 minutes behind so I knew their was no chance he’d catch up which made the remaining section of the run very enjoyable!

I was pleased to be 5 minutes better than last year which means if I continue that rate of improvement I could win the Olympics in Tokyo 2020!

I wonder what odds a bookie would give me for that that?

Swim: 00:15:16, Transition: 00:02:03, Bike: 00:37:48, Transition: 00:01:31, Run: 00:23:27