A Triathlete’s Travel Guide – Automobiles (Andrew)

Whenever you enter a race you will need to travel. Unless you live by the ocean or a loch with enough space for a transition area then you’re going to plane, train our automobile it. Previously, I looked at planes – don’t fly! – and trains – don’t catch them! – and this week, the worst of them all… automobiles!

Some people may think a bike is the most important vehicle you need for a triathlon. But those people have, clearly, never tried to get a bike box into a hire car with umpteen suitcases and a boot that’s guaranteed to be one centimetre short of the length of your bike box – and the boot door won’t shut no matter how hard you press it down!!!

I collected one hire car from Geneva airpor. On the way to the rental car park, I had to get a minibus. Three other men were on it. Two friends from England, who were excitedly talking about all the Cols they were about to cycle, and Sir Clive Woodward, the former English World Cup winning manager.

The two guys got very excited when they spotted Sir Clive. They started asking him about the World Cup and then, once they ran out of stories about how they watched the final, they asked him for tips for improving their cycling. What could Sir Clive teach them about a winning mentality?

I didn’t ask anything. I have no interest in rugby so, apart from knowing vaguely who he was, I couldn’t think of anything to say to Sir Clive except “is a rugby ball just a squashed football or is it more complicated than that?!”

Once we left the mini-bus I thought I wouldn’t see the guys again but, as I collected my car, they were collecting their car in the next parking bay. Unfortunately, Sir Clive wasn’t there to help them as they hadn’t asked him the most important question of all about winning: how do you get two bike boxes into a tiny Renault Clio? Clearly, neither had thought to compare the bike box with the very small car they’d hired.

I thought of them again in Norway last year. We’d hired an estate for Norseman. Unfortunately, we also had three people to fit in the car too – and hadn’t thought to check how the third person would sit in the car if the back seat had to come down to fit the bike box.

A game of vehicular Tetris developed as we tried umpteen different angles to try and rotate and fit a bike box, three suitcases, three bags and three people into the estate while still keeping one seat up so that we didn’t have to crouch in the boot for a five hour drive to Eidfjord from Oslo.

In Roth, we came up with a better idea: we’d dismantle the bikes, as we tried to fit two bikes and four people into an SUV. This worked well until, after the race, we came back to the car and then had to spend the next hour on a dark street, using mobile phone torches for light, to pull together an impromptu workshop. It worked, everything fitted, but if you want to avoid any travel problems there’s really only one answer – always race at home!

So, I did.

Next week, the Hebridean Triathlon!

Devil O’ The Highlands – Part 3 (Iain)

67577532_2583083361736825_5999390484340932608_nThe number 666 is commonly associated with the Devil but did you know the number 33 is associated with God?

The reason why is because:

  • AMEN in numeric form is 1+13+5+14=33.33 degrees latitude and 33 degrees longitude is where angels are supposed to have fallen to earth. and 33 Celsius was the temperature on Saturday that caused me to shout “OH MY GOD! It is so hot!” 

This year The Devil O’The Highlands was aptly named because it was hot as hell.

Glencoe (CP3) to Kinlochleven (CP4)

Up until CP3 the the conditions were warm but bearable but as soon as I left Glencoe the clouds parted and the sun broke through. It got hotter and hotter as I approached the Devils Staircase. There was no wind to cool me down which made the climb tougher than usual.  At the top I was greeted there was a Devil handing out Jelly Babies. I took one. I may have sold my soul in the process. I’m not sure. I didn’t have a chance to check the terms and conditions for taking a sweetie. 67503001_2582997831745378_4241893929856794624_nFrom the top it was mostly downhill to Kinlcohleven. I enjoyed this section as the views were great and the running was easy although towards the end of the run I felt a slight pain in my left leg. I ignored it and hoped it would clear up once I was on flatter terrain. Just before the finish I heard someone sing “Woah, we’re half way there!” which worried me as i was sure we were two thirds of the way there. They than sang “Woah, livin’ on a prayer!”. Thankfully it wasn’t a runner proclaiming the distance but a walker playing Bon Jovi very loudly from a stereo strapped to his rucksack. He was walking with a few other folk who I hope all loved Bon Jovi too. 67922300_10156299200341196_6121587084210733056_nI reached Kinlchleven about twenty minutes slower than planned but I was happy to have got this far in good time.Only 15 miles to go! 

Second on Strava… Again (Andrew)

Damn you, Florent Schaal – whoever you are!

The best thing about Strava is the Strava segments. Each one is a mini race that allows you to compare your effort with everyone else. I wrote about them here a couple of weeks ago when I discussed my attempt to become the fastest person to run the tallest hill in Stornoway.

But, damn you, Florent Schaal, you’re still the champion as while, my latest attempt was four seconds faster, it was still four seconds too slow to overtake your number one spot. I’m still second on the Strava leaderboard.

I don’t know who you are, but one day, I promise, you’re going down (to number two spot)!

so close yet…

Screen Free Saturday (Iain)

During January I read eleven books.

The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese
Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry
Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
Battle Scars: A Story of War and All That Follows by Jason Fox
How to Be a Footballer by Peter Crouch
The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken by The Secret Barrister
Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict
The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee by Paul D. Gibson
A Boy in the Water: A Memoir by Tom Gregory
Delete This at Your Peril: The Bob Servant Emails by Bob Servant, Neil Forsyth
Bob Servant: Hero of Dundee by Bob Servant, Neil Forsyth

During February I read

Nowt. Not even a single word in a book.

What was the difference between January and February? In January I had hardly any access to the internet or to a television. During February I had unfettered access to the internet and television. I checked my internet usage using my iPhone’s screentime app.

18hr a week – that is time I could be reading a book….probably two books!

So, from last week I instigated #ScreenFreeSaturday and #SlightlyLessScreenTimeSundayToFriday. I need to work on the slogan for the second one!

The rules are simple. On a Saturday:

  1. No TV
  2. A phones is allowed but not for web browsing or social media.
  3. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are allowed

On the rest of the week during the hours 8pm to 7am

  1. TV is allowed
  2. A phones is allowed but not for web browsing or social media.
  3. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are allowed.

It could be argued that WhatsApp and Messenger should be blocked too but I class them as tools of communication in the same way as a phone call or a text message should be allowed. Blocking communication from friends and family is not the point of the exercise. It’s blocking mindless consumption of information i.e. status updates, tweets etc

I’ve been doing it for a week and I’ve already finished reading a book! I’ve watched TV and concentrated on the show instead of having one eye on TV and one eye on twitter. I’ve also had to face the truth – sometimes its good to have screen-time!

In that regard, I caved in on #ScreenFreeSaturday and used a screen. I wanted to watch telly in the evening. I’d done a race, it was a long day of driving and I just wanted to switch my brain off.

I’ve had a long relationship with TV so its hard to break it off!

Saturday is a day I normally watch a film or something on the telly in the evening so it was hard to go cold turkey. So instead I did #ScreenFreeSunday which was still hard but I managed it!

I think I’ll aim to do Saturday eventually but for the moment I’ll break myself in gently by doing Sundays.

The Chase (Part 3) (Iain)

The wardrobe department choose my shirt! Thats my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

“Do you want to know who you will be facing today?”

The Chase has five chasers. I didn’t mind who we got as long as it wasn’t Mark “The Beast” Labbett as he rarely lost.  

We all looked towards the chasers empty seat. The lights dimmed. A silhouette appeared and then sat down. The lights come back on and it was….THE BEAST.  

BUGGER!

Bradley Walsh turned towards my team and said “Maggie, are you ready to face the Beast?”

At this point all I could think was that Maggie will be eaten alive! Bye Maggie it has been nice knowing you. Imagine coming all this way and going out in the first 5 minutes of the show. She was certain to get a  “Maggie – for you the chase is over” from Bradley Walsh.

Maggie went up and stormed the quick quiz round. She was amazing! In the one on one round The Beast offers her £26K to take a step closer to him.

We all advise her not to take it. Don’t take on the Beast!

She ignores all of us and goes for the money. She’d definitely a goner now! She wins easily. I was wrong…again. Maybe we have a chance after all.

The chairs are not very comfy and the back of the desk is all wires and cheap plastic buttons.

I was up next. I did well in the quick quiz. I got the first question correct and that settled my nerves. I managed to get £6K. My only goal for the day was to get to the final chase.

I move onto the one on one round. The Beast offers me money to move close but there was no chance I was going to take it.

It felt like The Beast was higher up than it looks on the telly.

The first question was something to do with the English civil war. I’m Scottish. I don’t know anything about the civil war! I’m screwed. The beast will definitely know the answer. I take a guess. The answer is revealed and by some fluke I get it correct! A lucky start.

The second question is equally obscure. Something about county sizes in the USA. I have to guess again. So does the Beast. We both get it wrong. When this gets shown on TV this question is edited out. They must have decided it added nothing to the show to see two people get the same answer wrong when we both at this point had nothing to play for.

The next question “What is the name of the sitcom that stars Brendon O’Carroll as an Irish Mother?”

I choose “Mrs. Brown’s Boys”

He looks at me and says, “Are you confident with your answer?”

Yes – I was 100% confident in my answer. I also remembered that my mum had watched the show once but absolutely hated it. She couldn’t understand why it was so popular. So I replied to Bradley

“Yes – it’s my mum’s favourite show. She watches it all the time.”

I looked forward to seeing my mum’s face when she watched the show.  This relaxed me and I get the next few questions correct. Eventually, it came down to one last question. If I got it correct I was through. If I got it wrong then I’m out.

It’s about the biggest selling song of 2015. One option is Happiness by Pharrell Williams; another option is Let It Go from Frozen.

I choose Pharell because I have a keen interest in music and I was positive I’d read an article which had said it was the biggest selling song of 2015. Bradley Walsh asks if I’m sure? I say yes. He asks if I’m really sure? I now start to doubt myself. Are you really, really sure? Does he know something I don’t? I’m really quite doubtful now but I stick with my answer.

I’m correct!

Bradley admits he was sure it was Frozen and was sure I was going to be wrong. The Beast congratulates me and admits he thought it was Frozen too.

 Ellen is next. She doesn’t do well and is easily beaten.

Lewis is up next. He seems very nervous. He gets a couple of easy questions wrong in the quiz. He is loses to The Beast. He was easily the best quizzer of the three of us when we practiced beforehand. It shows how nerves can make even the best perform poorly.

The money was mostly Maggi’s.

Onto the last round. I’m not confident about winning but I think if we can score high teens then we might stand a chance.

The round starts. The questions come quickly. Maggie buzzes everything. I can barely get an answer in. if she doesn’t know a question she buzzes to say pass before I can answer. It was very annoying but we score a respectable 17. I think we could have scored more if she had taken a second to let me answer but we may have scored less. I’ll never know!

The Beast starts well but then he gets a question wrong. We get it correct. We push him back one. Then he gets another wrong and another. Eventually we push him back 5 times!

Unfortunately, it is not enough. He scores 18 with one second to go! I admit as I watched the clock tick down I was starting to think about what I would spend the winnings on.

Afterwards I sit on a train heading home from the studio. A couple are opposite me. They are holding a small trophy. I ask what it is. It’s a Pointless trophy. They’d won it that day. They ask if I’d come from the Studio. I tell them I was on The Chase. They ask If I’d won. I say no but I do have a signed pic of The Beast.

Kirkintilloch 12k (Andrew)

Most folk know the story of why a marathon is 26.2 miles. In 1908, the organisers of the London Olympics had planned a 26 mile race but, at the last minute, Queen Alexandra asked them to move the start to the gardens of Windsor Castle so the royals could see the race begin and the end to right in front of the royal box so they could see the winner cross the line. That added an extra point two to the race.

Not that 26 miles was the right distance to begin with. The marathon was first run in the 1896 Olympic Games in Greece in honour of the myth of Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens to deliver the good news of an improbable Greek victory over the Persian army.

Pheidippides ran the entire 25 miles from Marathon to Athens. After he announced ‘Victory!’ to the awaiting Greeks, he collapsed from exhaustion and died. Probably because he forgot to wear any clothes. Or trainers.

So, the 1896 race became the Marathon in honour of the town and the distance was set at 25 miles to replicate his achievement. Before it then became 26 miles – presumably because no one died the next time they ran it and they wanted to keep making it longer until someone did. Sadists! Thank the lord for Queen Alexandra putting a stop to it all!

(This explanation may not be true but, as I can’t find any other reason, it’s as good as any!)

Last week we ran the Kirkintilloch 12k, which isn’t a 10k and presumably has an equally inspiring story of why they’ve added an extra point two to the race. Except… I can’t find one. So, I’m just going to make it up.

The Kirkintilloch 12k used to be 10k after Shug McGlinty ran between Cumbernauld and Kirkintilloch to celebrate Clyde FC finally winning a match against East Stirling. Just like Pheidippides he was stark naked and, just like him again, he died when he reached the end because, well, Scotland in February. I don’t go out without at least a scarf, gloves, woolly jumper, bobble hat and a three bar heater.

The original route was 10k but, when they ran the race for the first time, Queen Elizabeth lived in a semi detached beside the finish line and she wanted to see the winner while she prepared toast for Prince Philip in the morning.

Hence, the Kirkintilloch 10k became the Kirkintilloch 12k and we have a unique race on the Scottish running scene.

Or, if you don’t believe that story, here’s another one: just try running it. The Kirkintilloch 12k has 12 hills in 12 kilometres, which is clearly 11 too many. However, it is well named, with its extra point two, because it does make you feel like you’ve run a marathon as, just like Pheidippides, you’ll want to keel over at the end! 🙂

Sold Out Swimming (Andrew)

Since November I’ve tried to join a weekly swim session with Glasgow Triathlon Club at 7am on a Wednesday morning. I say “tried to join” because there’s only eight places and the on-line booking system is more popular than David Attenborough and places fill up within minutes of opening. It’s got to the stage where you need to camp out overnight if you want a spot. 

Who knew a 7am spot would be so popular? But, despite the early start to get there, it’s a great session as, for the first time, I’m swimming to a coached session rather than swimming back and forth until I get bored. 

Swimming is my least favourite sport. I enjoy it but, given the choice between running or cycling or smelling of chlorine, I choose with my nose every time. 

During an average session, we swim between 1.5km to 2km, which is more than I would swim on my own. So, as a good way of swimming longer, it’s good to join a coached session. On the downside, I also found out that everything I was doing was wrong. Wrong hands, wrong arms, wrong legs. Even my hips weren’t in the right place, and, as anyone who’s seen me dance know, they don’t move. 

For the first few weeks I’ve had to relearn how to swim. I need to pat the water not karate chop the water with my hands. I need stretch my arms out like I’m celebrating not bring them in like I’m about to fall asleep on them. Legs need to kick more. Hips need to turn. I need to ‘push’ the water back, not flail my arms like a helicopter. And I have to get up at 6am to get there.

Which is why I ask again – why is it so popular?! It’s torture. But maybe, because it’s torture, it’s popular because you then have the rest of the day to recover – as long as you can book a place!

Cycling in Kerela (Iain)

Nic and I did a four day bike trip through the Kerela countryside. You can find more details here https://www.spiceroads.com/tours/kerala

Kerala is one of the wealthiest parts of India. Its
a serenely beautiful state and a world away from the frenzy of India elsewhere.

That was the marketing blurb. It is quieter than other Indian states but don’t underestimate it. The roads can be busy. The traffic can be scary and the infrastructure can leave a lot to be desired. Don’t expect nice coffee stops!

Day 1 (https://www.strava.com/activities/2080013255)

Our guide picked us up from our hotel. I was worried that we’d be the only people on the tour but, thankfully, another group was doing it too: a mother and two daughters.

They were a lovely family and great company on the tour.

The tour comprised a guide who biked at the front and a driver who drove a van at the back. This was a good setup. It meant we always had access to food and water from the van and if the road did come to a busy crossing he would park the van across it and stop all traffic until we had gone through.

The tour is advertised as being on quiet roads but I estimate there was at least 10% of the ride on busy roads. Indian roads seem scary because traffic undertakes, overtakes and generally ignores all road rules you might be used. I was scared at first but it was OK once I told myself that the traffic was like a river. Everything floats along and as long as I jump in and go with the flow then it will work out fine.

Which worked well. The only hairy moments were when I either hesitated or stopped which you can’t do when floating in a river of cars as it confuses all the other road users.

It seems scary but it sort of works. I’d not recommend it for the feint of heart but I’ve felt more unsafe cycling on some Glasgow streets than in Kerala.

Day 2 (https://www.strava.com/activities/2082213616)

“Today will be hilly….”

Which is not a phrase I want to hear before setting out on a 60KM ride

The guide then added

“…and hot”

Which is the other phrase I don’t like hearing!

It wasn’t actually too hilly. It was like biking in Perthshire. Some good roads, some bad. Some minor hills, some short steep sections but mostly small undulating sections BUT it was hot. Very hot! 37C by lunchtime. So hot that any shop only sold soggy melted chocolate bars.

I was thankful we reached the end after only 50KM. It seems the Indian idea of a KM is less than a UK one as every day the guide would say how far we’d need to cycle and every day we’d finish short of that goal. Thankfully!

Day 3 (https://www.strava.com/activities/2086045301)

Day 3 was a ride to a houseboat. We were all looking forward to this section and thanks to an early start we got to to the boat in time for lunch.

The boat came with a cook and butler. Which sounds fancy but it actually two greasy men who also do the driving, cleaning and all the work on the boat.

It reminded me of the time I took a Megabus to London. One of the ticket option on the bus is to get two seats so you can sleep across them like a double bed. I’d booked this thinking it would be more comfortable and because it was relatively cheap. Only £10 more than a single.

As I relaxed in my double bed/seat a man walked past and said “Ooooh! Look at him. Little lord Fancy and his double seat!”

Well this time he would have been justified saying it as every-time the butler/handyman got me a drink all I could think of was that voice saying ”
Ooooh! Look at him. Little Lord Fancy and his beer” or “ooooh! Look at him. Little Lord Fancy and his dinner”

Day 4 (https://www.strava.com/activities/2086572187)

At the end of the week the guide told me that I reminded him of someone famous.

I was hoping he’d say Ryan Gosling or Brad Pitt but he actually said “Lional Messi!”

I’m 6ft 1″ and Lionel Messi is 5ft 5. I’m 13 stone and Messi is 11 stone. I have a beard so does Messi. This is the only similarity yet he was so convinced by my likeness to the Argentinian superstar he said “We should charge people to meet you. You could sell Autographs and photos!”

Some white people say Africans/Indians/Chinese all look the same. In his case he might think all white people look the same!

I’ll let you make up your own mind about the similarity.

Overall

A great few days biking. I think it’s probaly too hard (due to road conditions and weather) for casual riders but it’s great for slightly adventurous riders.

Films of the Year 2018 (Iain)

Stornoway (where I grew up) had a small one-screen cinema. The first film I saw there was E.T.  I think I was 5 years old. I remember a man in a ticket booth took the money for the film from my Mum before handing me a small bit of paper that had “Admit one” written on it. 

I then gave that ticket to another man who ripped it in to two half’s. He kept one half. I then handed my remaining half to another man as I entered the screening room. All three transactions occurred in a single corridor that couldn’t have been more than 5 meters long.

I clearly remember this because even back then, with my limited knowledge of the world, I thought to myself – this is really inefficient. The first man could have done all three of these jobs. 

The cinema closed down shortly after this. Probably due to high staffing costs.

I don’t think this year has been a classic year for films. I can count on one hand the number of films I saw that were truly great so I wont list my top films of the year as there’s not enough. Instead I present my list of”things I noticed at the cinema that deserve a mention” I need to work on a better name for my list.

Best Stunt that deserves a mention

The Mission Impossible films aren’t films. They are potential crime scene recordings. Each one records an attempt on Tom Cruise’s life. From getting Tom to free-climb rock faces in MI2 to getting Tom to hang off aircraft in MI5 each film ups the ante in trying to kill off TC.

MI: Fallout wins this award for its closing action sequence – Tom Cruise hangs off an aircraft and then hangs off a rock face whilst a nuclear bomb threatens to go off. It’s a superbly filmed and choreographed sequence, which made me fear Tom would not make it out alive to be able to do MI7.

If the world was ever to end in a nuclear Armageddon, the only things that would survive are Cockroaches and Tom Cruise.

Scariest real life cinema Incident that deserves a mention

Whilst watching A Quiet Place I had to ask a woman to stop talking over the film. It’s afilm about people who get killed for making a noise. She could have get me  killed !!!!

The film that I think deserves a mention but lots of people hate

I loved the Han Solo Star Wars movie but afterwards the guy I saw it with said “I hated every f’ing second of it!” I think it’s fair to say reviews were mixed.

The film I think doesn’t deserve a mention but lots of people love

Black Panther has a 97% rating on rotten tomatoes. I must have seen a different film because the pantherI watched was boring! It should be called Bland Panther.

The cinema display that deserves a mention 

Spiderman and Ironman look ok but then someone at Cineworld must have said “We need a female Marvel character for our display but we don’t have an official Marvel model we can use. Lets make one! How can difficult can it be?”

Its very difficult. It looks like a the hulk in drag.

The film that most deserves a mention

There is only one film that came to mind when I thought about a film of the year. Its not the best made film of the year – in fact, it looks very cheap in places. Its not the best written film of the year – some of it makes no sense what so ever. Its not the best acted film of the year – the lead actor is notoriously hammy. Its not the best directed film of the year – its overlong with scenes that add nothing to the story BUT its the only film I saw this year which made me think “what the fuck did I just watch???” 

Its also the only film I saw that would only work when viewed at a cinema because it needs to overpower you with its visuals and sound. 

The film is Mandy. A film its best to know nothing about before viewing. Just be aware that its going to be a head fuck of sound, visuals and performance. I still have no idea after viewing it what it was I saw but I’m glad I did.