Training on Christmas Day (Andrew)

If you’re buying a Christmas present then people say it’s the thought that counts. Which is true,  unless that thought is “this’ll do!” – then you need to think again.

A couple of years ago, at the office Christmas party I was given a book called “Hitler: His Rise To Power” as a Secret Santa present. Given I had neither expressed any previous interest in history, World War 2 or proclaimed to my colleagues that I was going to extend my desk by annexing a break out room I could only think this was some kind of message.

I started wondering if I’d displayed any Hitler like tendencies in the office and I had to admit that after some considerable soul searching and reflection of my despotic moments  I WAS NOTHING LIKE HITLER!!!! 🙂

It was only later I found out the book had come from someone who’d heard I liked reading and they had a book on their bookshelf they’d never read because THEY DIDN’T LIKE HITLER TOO!

Top tip for Christmas – if giving Hitler as a gift please make sure the recipient really, really likes Hitler first. You might be surprised at how many people don’t want Hitler as a Christmas present. (Most of them).

But Christmas isn’t just about presents. It’s also about training because nothing says “I’m a serious athlete” than training on Christmas Day! And nothing says I’m not a serious athlete than eating your weight in chocolate because “I’ve been for a run, you know!”.

Going for a run on Christmas Day is the worst day for going for a run. The 200 calories are then quashed by the 20000 calories consumed as eating’s not cheating when you’ve been sprinting!

Despite it’s lack of any physical benefits, the Christmas Day run is a good mental boost. For the last 15 years I’ve been running on Christmas Day because I remembered a quote from Daley Thomson, the Olympic gold medal winning decathlete. He said he would always train on Christmas Day because he knew his main rivals would all take the day off. He was one day better than anyone else.

So, I’d run on Christmas Day and would then be one day better than everyone else.

But, in researching this post (yes, there’s research!), I found the actual quote from Daley Thomson and it turns out I’ve been doing it all wrong. He actually said:

“Train twice on Christmas Day. Your competitors may only train once…!


Not only  have I not been better than any competitor I’ve been worse because I had two boxes of Quality Street too!


No wonder I’ve never the Olympics!


Burness Gran Fondo (Andrew)

I’m not competitive. I don’t feel the need to win nor do I hate losing. I like ‘taking part’.



I just can’t help myself.

I have to win!

But never do.

(‘Cause I’m not very good.)

Earlier this month I was taking part in a corporate bike ride. A cycle round Aberfoyle and Loch Katrine in the Trossachs. It’s a cracking route and it was a good crisp clear September day.

This wasn’t a race. Everyone taking part was separated into groups of 12 and each group rode as one with a ‘pro’ leading it to keep everyone together and safe.

It was a good set up and promised to be a good day when, after five miles, we started to climb the Dukes Pass – a steep sharp twisting climb of a mile and half. And the ‘pro’ said “Just go at your own pace”.

So I did. And it was faster than the group I was with, and faster than the group in front, and then my competitive instinct kicked in and I thought “I’ll be the first up this hill!”.

Except I wasn’t.

Because when your competitive instinct kicks in there’s also something else that happens: somebody else’s competitive instinct kicks in too! It’s contagious – and deadly. At least for me because, as I said, I’m not that good.

200 metres from the summit the first man passed me. 100 metres from the summit the second man passed me. I wasn’t first. I wasn’t second. I was third to the summit in a race that probably consisted of three men because everyone else, quite sensibly, was just enjoying the ride and going up at their own pace. I was therefore last to the summit.

But, later, first to the café stop. Now that’s a competition worth winning!




Stirling Duathlon (Andrew)


Can you buy speed?

If your name’s Jarvis Cocker and you sing that you’re ‘Sorted For E’s and Whizz’ then… yes…. yes, you can.

But, if your looking for speed and not a criminal conviction for class-A narcotics, speed can be bought legally. A race bike will be faster than a BMX. A pair of trainers will be faster than welly boots. Everything you wear or use can help you go faster.

Take bikes. Every bike is different. Even if you just look at race bikes you still get bikes which are better for climbing, better for sprinting, better for comfort or better for keeping your bum dry when it’s wet. (I may have made that last catergory up, but, if it’s not a thing then Specialised or Trek should definitely make it happen. Who wants to go faster when it’s raining? You just want a dry bum!).

The Stirling Duathlon was our chance to test whether different bikes could make a difference when racing. I was using my TT bike and Iain was using an aero bike, which is the technical name for a smaller less comfy bike sold to big men on the basis they’re sore back will make them think they’re cycling harder.

A TT bike on the other hand is the technical name for a smaller less comfy bike sold to big men on the basis they’re sore back will make them think they’re cycling harder but, and this this crucial bit, they also look cooler than a normal bike because you’ve got handlebars shaped like a unicorn.

The race was on. Well, I say on, but for five minutes I kept pace with Iain before deciding to try an early break to see if he could keep up or if he’d fall away.

After five minutes I looked back and he was nowhere to be seen.

I then spent the rest of bike leg trying to go as fast as I could to make sure he didn’t catch me on the line.

Now some people (Iain) might say that I’d merely bought my speed by buying a different (faster and cooler looking) bike. But I like to think I got my speed the old fashioned way – no, not in a Lance Armstrong blood bag delivered by motorcycle courier – but through hard word, dedication, sheer grit and effective training.

Also, I had a pointy aero helmet. And it looked really, really cool. 🙂

Diagnosis + 8 days

Day 8 and still no news from intensive care. Specialists from Germany have been called. No one will tell me anything. I don’t think they even know themselves what’s wrong.

It started with a simple check up. In and out in 20 minutes. Then they said I’d have to wait. Then they said “Go home”. Then they called and said: “We’ve found a crack!”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means there’s no point you coming back today. Maybe ever. There’s maybe nothing we can do. We’re sorry. You should prepare yourself for the worse.”

And so I stumble from day to day not knowing what will happen next. Waiting for the specialists to finish their checks. Could this be… the end?


Damn you, bike mechanics of Billy Bilsland, my bike has so much to live for – don’t let it die!

Pray for my bike, people, pray for a miracle while there’s still time!


This boy can’t… (Iain)

#thisgirlcan is a social media campaign encouraging women to participate in sporting activities. Women are encouraged to tweet/facebook/instagram tales of sporting success (no matter how big or small) so that other women will be inspired.

It’s a great campaign and I recommend you check out the website:

Would men benefit from a similar campaign? In my opinion, probably not – men do not have to be encouraged to brag. We’ve all written a blog post about an amazing training session or event, we’ve all gone into work and said how we smashed a bike/run/swim course at the weekend.   Did it inspire people? No, it probably bored them. Nobody likes hearing about success unless it’s their own.

So instead I’ve an idea that I think can inspire men. Let me be the first to say #thisboycant

Because I’ve learnt more through failing at sport than succeeding.

So join me as I admit:

#thisboycant snowboard –  I fell over during the first hour of a five day ski holiday while on the training slope. I accidentally punched myself in the chest. I broke my rib. I haven’t felt that bad after a punch since the last time I went to a house party and drank from a fruit bowl.

#thisboycant play rugby –  I was told by my coach that with correct technique I could tackle anyone. That was a lie. I tackled a man twice my size. My technique was perfect. I ended up concussed. I was more wiped out than the Labour vote at the next general election (oooh. A little bit of politics!)

#thisboycant cycle on the track – I attended four track session. On the test day another cyclist crashed into a wall above me. His bike slid down the track into mine. I fell off, hitting the ground hard. I bashed my head and lost skin on my arm. I looked so bad I was mistaken for the Elephant man.

#thisboycant rock climb – I went to a climbing center. I had to attach the rope to my harness in two places. I attached it to just one. I fell off the wall. Luckily the one place holding the rope was strong enough to break my fall. Unfortunately that one place was my crotch. The instructor said it took balls to survive a fall like that. It certainly did!

I learnt something from each of these failures. I learnt I don’t have to be good at sport to enjoy taking part.

So when people ask me whether they should attempt an event be it running/biking/triathlon? I say, YES! I can’t do it but I’ve never let that stop me so it shouldn’t stop you either 🙂

The next time you write a blog/tweet etc think about writing about something you can’t do.

T2 Trainingspotting (Andrew)

There’s a scene in the original Trainspotting where Ewan McGregor’s character, Renton, goes through cold turkey to quit heroin.

He locks himself in his bedroom, boards up the door and vomits, shakes and hallucinates a … well… there’s a reason the film was rated an 18.

And I have to say, after a week of drinking, slurping, sucking and sniffing every drug known to man – and I’m talking the real hard stuff: Lemsip, Sinex, Strepsils, cough mixture (chest and throat) and the class A narcotic known as Night Nurse – I think I’m going to have to follow Renton and lock myself away too if I’m going to quit my new vices.

But the problem is that I don’t want to quit. The drugs are just too good!

It started simply. I just want to get better to start training for Celtman. At first I sucked a Strepsil to help my throat, then I moved onto cough mixture before, just minutes later I was downing a bottle of Night Nurse and desperately searching the kitchen cupboard for the vitamin C tablets I knew were in there but hadn’t seen since the day I bought them.

I was a junkie – and it was all triathlon’s fault.

Now I know how Lance Armstrong started.

First, it was the aspirin. Then it was a flu shot. Next thing you know you’re strapped to a blood bag in the back of a bus parked on the side of hill in France and you really wanted to do was to get back on your bike and train!

It’s a slippery slope!

And the worst thing about it is that drugs are better than actual drugs: I can’t imagine cocaine is half as thrilling as getting a double blast of Sinex up each nostril. How could it be? Does it have that nostril punch of liquid snow and summer mint? Does it have that addictive rush of brain freeze and back of the mouth bitterness?

And as for Night Nurse – how can heroin compare with that moresih mix of what looks like radioactive snot? If you want knocked out, then knock back a cup of Night Nurse before bed. It’s a coma in a bottle.

The Verve sang that ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ but if they’d ever tried Night Nurse then they wouldn’t have sung anything at all because they’d have been up all night* having some of that ol’ Night Nurse!

(*well, 20 minutes, that Night Nurse is potent stuff for knocking you out).

So, as my cough  has changed from a chest cough to a throat cough to a phlegmy cough and back to a chest cough I have changed from the clean cut Andrew Todd of just a week and half ago into a full blown junkie.

And I’ve still not got rid of my cough.

So, until I do, I keep telling myself I can quit anytime. I can stop any day.

But not today.

(Or tomorrow)

Race Nutrition (Iain)

“Are you eating a Subway sandwich?” Asks a man to me.

“Yes,” I reply, as I bite into a delicious foot-long Spicy Italian.

“And your doing the Iron Man race?”

“Yes. Its going well! I’m halfway through the bike leg,” I take a drink of Coke and unwrap a chocolate Twix.

The man looks at me and then cycles off. I think he’s jealous of my mid-bike-leg Iron Man picnic.

Many folk more qualified in nutrition than me can tell you what to eat during a race. They will break it down to the exact level of carbs, protein and salt.

I say: “Eat what you like!”

If you normally have a sausage roll and bit of cake during your long bike rides then bring a sausage roll and cake to an Iron man. Your body is used to it so why have something else?

I had a full lunch on my bike leg of the Iron Man and felt great afterwards. The only time I’ve ever felt ill during a race was when I eat just gels and powders.

During one race I stopped and had a burger, beer and a desert. It was great!

The race itself was terrible. It was called the Rat Race and it took place in Edinburgh comprised  of bike/run/kayaking sections as well as puzzles.

For example one section was a treasure hunt on Arthur’s Seat. I had to find three flags. If I didn’t find them I’d get a 10 minute penalty per flag. I took one look at the massive area I had to search in and left for the next section. The 30 minute penalty was less than the actual time it would take to complete the task.

I then calculated that if I finished the race without doing any of it the penalties I would still have less than the expected winning time. So, I stopped and had lunch at a pub. Afterwards I went to the finish and took my penalties. I was disqualified as the organiser said it wasn’t in the spirit of the competition! I disagreed. I’d out thought the race and surely that’s worth a win.

I’ve never done an adventure race since but it did leave me with a desire for a proper lunch during long races.

Lost in London (Andrew)

It’s very rare that runners now get lost. We have smart phones and GPS watches. We always know where we are because we need to know where we’ve been to upload to Garmin, Strava and the world at large. It’s easy to forget that only a few years ago going for a run sometimes meant memorizing a map or route before you’d left the house.

Want to go on a five mile run somewhere new? Then stare intently at this map until you are absolutely sure how many left and right turns you need to take to end up back at the house and not in the middle of nowhere.

Last week, I went for a run round London. I thought I knew where I was going. I wanted to run to the Thames from Shoreditch then along to Westminster and back. In my head it would be around four miles. A nice 30 -35 minute run in warm sunshine and a cool breeze.

One hour and 10 minutes later I eventually got back to my hotel. I’d run nearly eight miles. What had gone wrong?

First, London streets are not in straight lines. That might seem an obvious statement but, when running round the City, it’s easy to turn left to look at a big tower like the Gherkin or the Walkie Talkie, only to turn left again and find out you’re actually running away from where you think you’re going. Roads double back. Buildings are deceptive. It’s like The Maze Runner but without the rubbish CGI spider monsters chasing you with a pneumatic saw/arm.

Secondly, London is much further apart than I’d remembered. This should also not have come as a shock. London is big. I forgot that. I used to live there. I should have known better…

Thirdly, and this was the main problem, I wasn’t carrying a map. I’d forgotten to bring my headphones with me so I didn’t bother taking my phone as I wasn’t going to be listening to anything. Instead, I had to navigate by bus signs. Every bus stop in London has a small map of the surround area, so, every five minutes, I’d stop check the map, work out if I knew the rough direction that would take me closer to Shoreditch then ran in that direction until I found another bus stop. Repeat until I finally found a street I recognised.

That’s why a four mile run became an eight mile exercise in urban orienteering. D’oh!