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Outdoor Swim Review: Bayble Pier 2022 (Andrew)

We’ve reviewed Bayble Beach before. You can find the reviews here and here so this review is more a warning than a review.

The beach is beside a working pier and when I arrived there was a tractor pulling a boat out into the surf. I waited a few minutes while the boat was floated and the fishermen (a grandfather, father and young son) left before I waded out into the water. The board quickly skirted the pier and left my sight. I thought I had the water to myself and started to swim only to find, a few minutes later, the boat came back.

“Well that was rubbish!” I heard the sound son say over the unmistakeable sound of something mechanical broken.

I stayed next to the pier while they grounded the boat and the father jumped out to get the tractor to pull it up to the beach.

And all I could think was “I should have worn a tow float!”

I’d started swimming in a spot I knew well, one that I knew was safe as it was near high tide on a calm day and I didn’t think to wear a two float. I was wrong. Even in the safest spots, something can change. An empty ocean can suddenly be filled by an anguished shout and next you see, a broken boat is bearing down on you.

So, for this review, I repeat everything Iain said about how great a location this is for a swim and I only add what should be an obvious plea: always wear a tow float when swimming outdoors!

Not The Seven Hills Of Edinburgh Challenge (Andrew)

I don’t know much about Edinburgh. It was Iain TwinBikeRun’s city. I lived in Glasgow, he lived in Edinburgh. Together we divided up Scotland like a giant game of Monopoly.

So, when Iain asked if I wanted to try the Seven Hills of Edinburgh Challenge – a run to summit the seven hills that make up Edinburgh – I asked how long would it take. He said about two to two and half hours. I asked how many miles it would be. He said about 12. And I said, “hell yeah, let’s do it!”

(I might not have said “hell yeah” as I’m not American, but I was excited.)

There was only one problem. The run is no where near 12 miles. We had ran 16 miles and still not reached the sixth and toughest hill, Arthur’s Seat. We’d also been running for nearly three hours and still had another 45 minutes to go. I had no choice but to say “see ya, sucker!” and run back to the start.

So, instead of the Seven Hills of Edinburgh Challenge, I ran the Seven Hills of Edinburgh Minus Arthur’s Seat Challenge and I learned an important lesson: never trust Iain TwinBikeRun’s directions. I should have known better, I should have read this, where he admits to running eight hills because he got the route wrong. In future, I should always check the route I’m running before I run it.

Book Review: Up – My Life’s Journey to Everest by Ben Fogle (Andrew)

The first ‘adventure book’ I read was Ben Fogle and James Cracknell’s ‘The Crossing’. Their story of how they rowed across the Atlantic – and a book which inspired the format of book TwinBikeRun – which you can buy here! – as chapters jump between the viewpoints of both of them. A format which leads to two perspectives on events. And a format which would have greatly benefitted ‘Up: My Life’s Journey To Everest’ as while I don’t quite agree with this one star Amazon review:

“Fairly well written but disappointed to discover Mr Fogle is such a selfish man. Will not be buying anything else he writes.”

It does have a point. If you want to read about Ben Fogle and only Ben Fogle then this book is the one for you even though his attempt to climb Everest was a joint challenge with former Olympic cyclist, Victoria Pendleton, she barely gets a mention. Even though hers is arguably the better story – she had no experience of climbing, no history of adventure and the challenges she faced and the decisions she made were far harder than any Ben Fogle faced. His toughest challenge was paying his Sherpa a summit bonus and to head back down the mountain before they’d reached the top so that Fogle could take their equipment when his own failed.

While the book is called “My Life’s Journey” and not “our journey” and it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than his story, it did feel like another voice was missing and only part of the journey was told.

You can buy it here

Cycling Gran Canaria (Iain)

A couple of week ago I went on vacation to Gran Canaria. It was a trip that was originally booked back in 2019 but the small matter of a global pandemic got in the way.

It was a 4 hour journey from Glasgow to Gran Canaria. All passengers had to wear a face mask on the plane. I thought maybe I could get away with taking it off whilst drinking but the stewardess announced over the radio “If you’re thinking you can order one drink and then nurse it mask-less all the way to GC then forget about it! Keep your masks on!”

You can’t get anything past an air stewardess. They have seen every trick in the book.

Both Glasgow and Gran Canaria airport were very quiet. Which meant we were in and out of both pretty quick.

I could claim the holiday was winter weather training but I’ve never understood why people go somewhere sunny to train. 90% of Scottish races are in the cold and rain.

If I want to train I should go somewhere with weather worse than Scotland. Then, on race day, even if the weather was bad I be relieved that it’s not as bad as the time I trained in hailstones and a gale in the the Arctic circle.

I hired electric mountain bikes from http://www.free-motion.com/en/gran-canaria/ I’ve free-motion bike a few times. They are easy to deal with and the bikes are good quality.

From out hotel in Melonares there was a few good on and off road routes to try. Check out the video below to see an example.

I’ve cycled in Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Lanzarote, Of the three islands. I prefer Gran Canaria. The roads are quieter than Tenerife and it is not as windy as Lanza.

But I didn’t see any professional cyclists training. I have seen professional on both Terneriffe and Lanza so maybe don’t come here if you have any ambitions to win the Tour De France. Just come if you want a lovely place for a spin on your bike.

A selection of routes to try:

Degollada de las Yeguas

Popular lookout point in an expansive nature reserve offering sweeping views of the canyon.

https://www.strava.com/routes/2954827771921487844

Ayagueres

An easily accessible climb that starts in Melonares. Quiet roads make it perfect for cycling.

https://www.strava.com/routes/2954828309085539176

El Pajar

A quiet coastal road from Melonares to a small local village

https://www.strava.com/routes/2954829480665579368

Ayagueres (off road)

A tough off road route but very scenic!

https://www.strava.com/routes/2954829805937932260

My first injury (Andrew)

Like many kids, my first injury involved falling off my bike.

And like many kids, it also involved crashing into a car.

However, unlike any other kid, I crashed into a parked car. Even worse I crashed into a parked car while cycling uphill. I can’t even say I lost control, or my brakes failed, or any of the many other reasons an accident could happen. I cycled deliberately into a parked car that I could have easily involved if I’d just looked up.

It was raining. My head was down and I cycling uphill towards our house, which is near the top of a steep road. One minute I was cycling, the next I was face planting onto the rear window of a Ford Fiesta.

I can’t blame my bike, I can’t blame the conditions, I can only blame myself for not looking where I was going. A common cause of accidents as, this week, I managed to do exactly the same thing.

(Though not a Ford Fiesta, this time it was a tree).

There are many ways to have an accident while riding a mountain bike. You could crash while riding downhill through a particularly gnarly black run. You could fall off a cliff while attempting a dangerous Danny MacAskill ridge crossing. Or you could do what I did and ride up a path, get stuck in a rut, see a bush ahead and think, I can just cycle through that.

(Not stop and avoid the bush, oh no, I had to keep going.)

And that’s why Iain TwinBikeRun asked “Why did you ride into that tree, while going uphill, on a clear path, when you could have just stopped?”

And I didn’t have an answer because I was lying on the ground, nursing my elbow and wandering why 30 years after my fist accident I still wasn’t looking where I was going.

Alloa Half Marathon 2022 Race Report (Andrew)

The good thing about writing a weekly blog about running is that you can use the search box to find your old race reports.

If you’d asked me when was the last time I’d ran the Alloa Half Marathon I would have guessed 2018 or 19. In fact, it was five years ago, and you can find my report here.

I blame lockdown. After two years of the pandemic, my sense of time is screwy. I discount the two years spent at home and assume everything is two years shorter than it actually is, which is why I’m planning to celebrate my twenty first birthday this year…

I see from my report that I was complaining about the traffic. It’s also the one thing I remembered about the race as I phoned Iain TwinBikeRun to say we should try and get to Alloa for 7:45 (for a 9am start) but he disagreed. The start line had moved from near the town centre to a community campus on the edge of town. He didn’t think the traffic would be as bad as there was a lot more routes to get to the start, including buses from the town centre for those who wanted to park further away.

He was right. It was easy to drive in, find a bus and get to the start. The only queue this year was at the pre-start toilets. But there’s always a queue at the toilets before any race and it’s alway the case that no matter when you join that queue, whether one hour or five minutes before the start, and no matter how many people are in the queue, ten or a hundred, you’ll never reach the front until two mins before the race starts and you’ll come out to find everyone has already left. Alloa was no different.

I also see from my report that I complained about the hills. The change to the start though has improved the route as there’s now a three mile gentle descent and flat before you climb the first hill. The warm up makes the hill feel easier, while there’s another long descent afterwards so you have time to recover before turning west toward Alva.

There’s another long hill around the 11 mile point as you come back to Alloa but while it’s long, it’s not that steep.

Overall, it was a cracking day for a race. Blue skies and no wind and the changes to the route has really improved the whole experience. I was pleased with a time of 1 hour 43 mins, which was faster than my previous time of 1 hours 48 mins and shows that while lockdown may have lost two years, I’ve also gained five minutes. Result.

Changing Times (Andrew)

For six years I worked at the Western Isles Hospital as a porter. I would provide cover whenever I was home from university and I’d generally work full time most weeks on either morning, evening or night shift. 

Night shift was the best and worst. It was the best because I was paid time and half, and if it was the weekend I’d get another half for working a Saturday and another half again for working Sunday. (And if it was a public holiday like Christmas then it would double again – jackpot!).

But there was one night I hated working – the night the clocks went back an hour. At 2am, when the clocks changed, I’d walk round the hospital and move all the clock hands back by one hour to 1pm. And then I’d have to work that hour again… without pay. 

That might sound harsh but, when the clocks jumped forward and 2am became 3am, I would work one hour less and still get paid for an eight hour shift. So, I would try really hard to be available to work at the end of March but to be away at the end of October. 

For that reason, I’ve always like when the clocks go forward. It reminds me of getting paid for doing nothing.

This year, as I’ve worked more from the office than from home, it’s great to get the extra hour of light in the evening so I can run or cycle home without having to wear more lights than a Christmas tree. It’s good to feel the sun on my skin and to start to wear t-shirts rather than a running jacket, hat, gloves and, in Glasgow, oilskins for the days it’s really wet. 

I do however miss the pleasures of night-time running – which mostly involve people leaving their curtains open and getting a good gawk in their living room. But also, the pleasure of running and not seeing where you are going. Night-time running reduces distances as you tend to focus on the light pool around you rather than looking to the end of a street in daylight and seeing everything before you clearly.  (It’s for the same reason muggers hate the clocks going forward, people can now see them.)

The good thing about living in Glasgow though is that the clocks going forward is not a guarantee of daylight – in Scotland it can just as dark at 3pm as midnight when the rain clouds gather so while it’s good to see the change of the seasons, it’s also good to know that we don’t lose nighttime running even in June. 

My First Squid Game (Andrew)

Either you will instantly recognise the image above and be glad you don’t have the umbrella, or it will mean nothing at all. The only difference is whether you’ve watched Squid Game on Netflix. If you have, then you know exactly what happens when you have 10 minutes to to carve out the triangle with nothing but a needle – a challenge known as Dalgona in South Korea.

The triangle itself if made from melted sugar and baking soda. You melt the two together in a frying pan and then pour the mixture into small discs. You then press a cookie cutter lightly into the surface to create the shape to be cut out by the player.

The player’s challenge is to then cut it out without snapping the shape.

However, if you want a real challenge, don’t just try and cut the shape out of the cookie – you need to eat it too.

WOOOOOAHH!!!!

Sugar RUSH!!!!

I have never taken class A narcotics but I can’t imagine that crack cocaine could be as good as pure sugar mixed with baking powder. A combination that requires a dentist on hand before you even take a bite.

BLIMEY!

It tasted good.

If you want to try it yourself then I found this video really helpful with tips on how to make it.

And if you want to recreate Squid Game then I’m afraid you’re going to have to find your own guard with a gun to stand over you – sorry, I can’t help you with that one!