Film Friday: Epic 200km Gravel Race (Andrew)

Happy people on bikes. What’s not to like?

Well…

EVERYTHING!

Watch the video and watch the three presenters from website BikeRadar smile their way through the Dirty Reiver 2021 gravel race. Now read my report on the exact same race with almost the exact same bike: Dirty Reiver.

I hate them and their happy faces. I couldn’t sit down for a week!

In Praise of… the Free Haribo from Wiggle (Andrew)

When we used to work in offices it was easy to buy swim/bike/run gear without anyone knowing. A parcel would arrive, it could be opened before you got home, and no one would know that you’ve just bought another pair of trainers.

However, during the pandemic, we no longer get deliveries at work.

Or, to be more accurate, I still get deliveries from work but work has now become my home. And, instead of reception wondering why I get so many round boxes shaped like a tyre, I have my wife asking if I’m getting another delivery instead?

But she’s not complaining about the number of deliveries. She’s desperate for more. That’s because she’s discovered that when the online retailer, Wiggle, sends a parcel, it also includes a wee bag of Haribo sweets.

No sooner do I start to open a parcel before she’s ripping it out of my hands and tearing it open like a lion and a bag of Hula Hoops (assuming lions like Hoops).

“Where it is?” She says.

“What,” I ask.

“You know what,” she says, “the good stuff!”

I think she’s addicted and I think Wiggle know this and that’s why they send a bag of Haribo with each order. They might as well send crack cocaine, it would get the same reaction.

“Where’s my baggy?!”

I tried to search online to see if there was an official reason for why Wiggle includes a bag of sweets but all I could find were complaints.

I’ve never had any problems with missing Haribo, however, having read the comments, I have bought a spare packet, just in case. I would hate to think what would happen if my wife didn’t find a Haribo the next time a parcel arrives.

Film Friday: Hiking The Length of Skye (Andrew)

There are many, many strange genres on YouTube. If you want to watch someone take new shoes out of a box then just search for “unboxing” and you’ll find a million videos of people taking their trainers out of a box. If you want to watch someone whisper into a microphone then welcome to the world of ASMR and a million videos of people being really, really quiet.

My favourite genre of YouTube video is a bit more specialist. I like the genre known as “Man Goes For A Walk And Then Takes A Photo”. In the UK, photographers like James Popsys and Nigel Danson are great at this – every week they release a video where they walk somewhere and then take a photo. It’s not a complicated plot to follow. Usually, they’ll explain why they’re taking the photo but most of the time, it’s just an excuse to see various mountains and woodlands around the UK.

If you want to get started in this exciting sub-genre of filming then I highly recommend this week’s video: Hiking The Length of Skye by Thomas Heaton. Heaton is a great presenter and filmmaker who, earlier this year, walked the length of Skye while taking photos. To say any more would be to spoil the surprise that… there is no more to it than that. He walks a bit. He takes a photo. He walks some more. But it’s a very enjoyable two part video that shows off Skye’s spectacular scenery.

EZ – PCR Tests (Andrew)

No running this week. Instead a woman is asking: “Big man with the glasses?”

“Yes,” I say.

A big sigh and the woman, who has just taken our PCR COVID tests says, for what seems not the first time. 

“You won’t get your results tonight, you’ll get them within 72 hours.”

We’re in a car park beside Toryglen football pitches. There’s a small tent and a couple of people walking around in yellow hi-viz and face masks. It’s not very clinical.

When we drove drive in. I put on a mask and rolled down the window. 

“Please put it most of the way up,” says the volunteer at the entrance, making sure not to come near our now open window.

I do. 

“Higher,” they say.

I leave an inch. 

“Perfect,” they say before they try to pass through two test kits in plastic bags. The gap is so small and the bags so big that it’s like watching someone try and coax an elephant to limbo.

“If you pull the car up, read the instructions, follow them and then put on your hazard lights to let me know when you’re done.”

It sounds straightforward but in practice it feels like we’re dogging. Or setting up a illicit boxing fight. We’re not the only car in the car park. Nor the only one thinking we need to leave some space between us and the next car meaning that every car is circled, everyone is looking into every other car and every couple of minutes emergency lights flash until a man approaches the window.  

“There is bound to be someone somewhere who’s made the mistake of starting to strip,” I say.

“NWAH, MAAW, NNAHFFFGGHH,” says Mrs TwinBikeRun, who has a cotton bud down her throat.

“That was disgusting,” she says when she takes it out. 

“BAAAWWWWWKKKKK,” I say, retching after touching my tonsils with the bud. 

“Three more times,” says Mrs E. 

“BBOOOOKKKKEEEE, BBAAAWWWK, BBBBAAAARRRFFFF. Done.”

“Now you have to stick up your nose too,” says Mrs E.

“The same end?”

“Yes.”

Now I do feel sick. But I stick my phlegm speckled throat swab up my nostril too and circle it 10 times. “I don’t know if I have COVID but I might get laryngitis of the nostrils,” I say.

“You might get a new friend if you keep those hazards on too,” says Mrs E as someone approaches. A large man with glasses.

“You’ll the results later tonight,” he says as he makes sure we close our plastic bags containing the samples correctly. “Just drop them off on your way out.”

Which we do only to find that we would have got better information if he’d actually been a dogger as the woman at the exit tells us the man with glasses doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

LATER

We don’t get our results but Mrs TwinBikeRun’s parents, who were also pinged and tested at the same time in a different location, receive confirmation that they tested negative.

I text Iain TwinBikeRun to tell him we’re still self-isolating until we hear more. He says: “That’s because it takes longer when you also test positive for syphilis.”

Vanlife (Andrew)

I get up when I want 
Except on Wednesdays 
When I get rudely awakened by people looking through the window!
(Vanlife!)
I put my trousers on, have a cup of tea 
And I think about having to spend the next hour converting my bed back into a seat before I can drive to the shops
(Vanlife!)

Not Parklife by Blur

If you search on social media for the hashtag vanlife you will find happy smiling people living out of campervans, classic VW campers and converted Ford Transits. You’ll even find some couples who have converted a full sized bus into a home. Yet, what none of these photos will show is the sheer unmitigating horror of living in a van.

First, in order to sleep at night you need to black out all windows. This can be as simple as a curtain but, if you’re anywhere warm, you’ll need thermal reflective pads to counteract the sun roasting you like a turkey in a metal oven. What they don’t tell you is that vans don’t come with air conditioning when the engine is switched off but the sun still rises in the morning and will turn every window into a magnifying glass with you as the poor hapless ant set on fire for it’s amusement.

But to stick up thermal pads you need to have the reflective screens as close to the window as possible, ideally stuck on them. This involve plastic suction caps that stick on the inner windows – but only if you lick them first to provide some liquid to act as a glue. Licking it stops air getting in and reducing the grip.

So, vanlife means you need to spend every night licking the suction caps to attach the reflective shields to every window and, if you don’t lick them they fall off, which means you wake up covered in sweat because the sun has got through your defensive shield, and your window is open to the world for everyone in the camping site to look in. You’re in your PJs, sweaty and bedheaded. Vanlife!

And then you have to pack away your bed and restore the seats so you can have breakfast and drive away. Which you think would be simple but WHY WILL THE BED/BACK SEAT NOT ROLL BACK LIKE IT SHOULD?!?!? And you have to elbow drop it like The Rock winning Wrestlemania to close it.

And at the end of that day you have to do exactly the same thing but in reverse to get from a seat to a bed and you realise you’ve spent two hours sumo wrestling a sofa bed. Every single day. Twice. Vanlife!

I hated vanlife. I drove round France for two and half weeks to follow the Tour de France. And every morning and every night I hated that van. So much so that by the end I was booking into hotels rather than spend any more time gargling a two litre bottle of water just to get ready to French kiss one hundred suction caps.

Vanlife? Avoid! More like banlife! If you want to live like a Blur song then I recommend Country House. He lives in a house, a VERY BIG house…!

Outdoor Swim Review – Loch Awe (Andrew)

If you want to know Scotland’s most popular lay-by (excluding any featured in late night Channel 5 documentaries) then the lay-by next to Ben Cruachan in Argull must be among the leading contenders for the top stop.

Ben Cruachan is the highest mountain in Argyll. From the top, on a clear day you can see all the way from Northern Ireland in the west to Ben Nevis in the Highlands. Yet, for such a popular mountain, it only has a lay-by for around five cars at the start of the walk. If you want to climb then you normally have to park at Cruachan power station and visitor centre, around half a mile down the road.

When we got there in early September, we were lucky, we’d arrived early and got the last place. But if you really want to bag a space then you need to do what the car in front of us did. Put your backseat dow, convert your boot into a mattress and sleep the night in the back of your car.

If you want to know Scotland’s second busiest car park then you don’t need to go far to find it. Aproximately a mile down the road towards Tyndrum there is another lay-by with great access to Loch Awe. It has plenty of space but just be prepared for cars to pull in and out of it all day. In 30 minutes we saw four cars pull in, stop and then people getting out to admire the view of the loch, before getting back in and driving off.

So, if you love to swim with an audience then this spot is for you!

Ease of access

Very rocky so bring shoes or flip flops to get to the water’s edge.

Water Quality

Very clear.

Other people

No one swimming but you may have spectators from the lay-by!

Film Friday – First Ski Descent of K2 (Andrew)

It’s said that after Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile it only took a few weeks for someone to beat it again. And, by a year later, three runners ran under four minutes in a single race. Once someone does something seemingly impossible for the first time, it redefines what we think is possible. And the impossible becomes normal.

Unless you watch this video.

I cannot believe there is anyone thinking, “you know what, I want to do this too! He might be the first, but I will be the second!”.

I don’t even know why anyone would even think to ski down K2. It’s like asking someone if they’d like to Hula Hoop in a shark tank or solve crossword puzzles while being fired out of a cannon. Why would you even think to do something where clearly you are going to almost certainly die?

Anyway, this guy did it. Good on him. But you won’t catch me skiing down K2 anytime soon – even if it does become ‘normal’.

Race Report – Toddman 2021 (Andrew)

I. CANNOT. FIND. THE WORDS.

This year’s Toddman was won by a dirty, rotten, cheat. Even Lance Armstrong is saying “hey, that’s not fair!”.

Here’s what happened.

But before that: what is Toddman? I’m glad you asked. It is a triathlon race open to everyone with the surname Todd who is related to me or Iain TwinBikeRun. You can find more here and here.

This year’s race featured a new course as we changed the bike route to incorporate two iconic central Scotland climbs: Tak Me Down and the Crow Road aka Todd Me Down and the Todd Road. We also changed the run route by changing the start from Lennoxtown to Todholes aka Toddholes while keep the mid point as a climb to the summit of Mickel Bin before a downhill sprint back to Toddholes car park where the winner is the first to touch the green gate at the entrance – and, for which, they get to wear the now iconic black Peat & Diesel cycle jersey.

Last year, I won Toddman fair and square. This year, it was stolen from me!

SWIM

We both completed the swim at the same time, albeit I’d started swimming 10 minutes before him as he was trying to get some drone footage. But do I bring up the fact I was 10 minutes ahead of him and therefore finished 10 minutes earlier but had then swam an extra 10 minutes? No, because I’m a gentleman. I would never repeatedly mention that I was 10 minutes ahead of him as the end of the swim because I would expect that would be something he would acknowledge. 10 minutes is a HHHUUUUGGEEE gap. But do I mention it? No. Not me. Even though it was 10 minutes.

Anyway…

(10 minutes!)

I don’t mention it.

CYCLE

We complete the bike in the same time. I’m happy to call this a draw.

RUN

We start together. We reach the top of Mickel Bin together. We run back down together until, with a mile to go, I stop and tie my shoelace. I thought Iain would stop. I thought I could rely on him to recognise the unwritten rule that you don’t attack the leader when the leader has a mechanical.

I know this is a bike thing and not a triathlon thing but triathlons also use a bike so I’m borrowing this rule for Toddman.

And what did Iain TwinBikeRun do when I stopped to tie my shoelaces? He ran off, that’s what he did. He didn’t even hesitate. He just kept going and going until he reached the Toddholes gate and declared himself the winner.

But he’s not winner. He’s a CHEAT.

And while the general public doesn’t back me on this. A poll on the Glasgow Triathlon Club Facebook page showed 90% of members supported his claim for glory, it’s worth pointing out that people cheered when Lance Armstrong crossed the line too. But he was still a crook.

So, while Iain TwinBikeRun may think he wears ‘the Black’ and is proudly cycling round in the Toddman Jersey, I think history will be his true judge and the true winner of Toddman will be acknowledged as me!

(Also he only won by 5 mins and I was 10 minutes ahead of him after the swim, which I don’t like to mention. Even though it makes me the winner. 10 minutes!).