Training for Celtman 2021 – November (Andrew)

This month I have climbed:

  • Col de Soudet
  • Cote De Revel
  • Port De Bois
  • Grand Colombier

And I’ve not left my house.

November is normally a wet month with few opportunities to ride outside so it was good to have a challenge to keep myself interested in spending 60 – 90 minutes sitting on a bike and not moving.

What was even better is that by not moving I don’t have to experience how tough it is to climb an actual Grand Tour mountain or “Col”, particularly when I don’t have 35 degrees of a baking sun one my back or – the biggest problem of all when climbing: no training!

Back in 2013 we climbed the Tourmalet. One of the Tour’s most famous climbs. I say climb but the best we managed about a kilometre before getting picked up in the sweeper’s van during that year’s Etape Du Tour race – a one day recreation of a Tour de France stage. We’d already climbed one mountain, albeit very slowly, and this was to be the second. But it was a failure. However I don’t look at it as failure. Failure suggests there was a chance of success. We were never going to be successful because we had no idea what we were trying to do. You might as well as your pet cat to round up sheep or ask Gerard Butler to use any accent other than his own. While technically possible, neither are ever going to work without considerable work and a whole lot more thought and planning. 

We didn’t plan and we certainly didn’t think – my sole thought was “Dougie, did this so we can do it too”.

Don’t worry if you don’t know Dougie, I didn’t really either. He was a guy I worked with on a university project when I was studied for an MBA in 2009 and 2010. He spotted me cycling into the university one day and told me that he was also a cyclist. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was the equivalent of me driving into the university in Ford Fiesta and bumping into Lewis Hamilton who said “Do you like driving? I like to drive too”.

Dougie, I found out later, used to take one way train trips to England just to jump out in the Lake District so he could cycle round the Lakes – and then cycle home. Wow.

He would cycle 50 miles or more on a mid-week night and I would think I was on the same level because I cycled 15 minutes to get home from work. 

During one class he told me that he’d taken part in a race which allowed you to ride the route as the professionals in the Tour de France. I thought it sounded brilliant and immediately checked out how to apply. What I didn’t do was check out the route or work out how high an actual Alp was. I thought it was a hill, not a mountain, and no higher than some of the hills around Glasgow. And even when I checked the elevation and saw that we would be climbing higher than Ben Nevis, I still had no idea how high that would be because I’d never climbed Ben Nevis. 

Ignorance is bliss – until you find yourself climbing an Alp for 10 minutes and expecting it to take half an hour, only to find you’ve still got two hours of climbing and you’re half a day behind everyone else. Ignorance, then, is stupidity. And the end couldn’t come fast enough on the slopes of the Tourmalet.

So, this month in preparation for the undulating roads around Applecross, I’ve been training for height by taking on various virtual climbs. I’m not keen on spending 2 – 3 hours on an indoor bike to try and get the distance needed to train for Celtman, instead, I’m swapping distance for metres climbed. Longer rides can wait for Spring.

Triathlon Christmas Gift Guide (Iain)

Many years ago I asked Santa for a computer. I got a pair of socks.

The next year I asked Santa for a video recorder. I got a pair of pants.

The year after that I asked Santa for a socks and pants! I got socks and pants. At least I proved the b*****d reads my letters.

If you are struggling to think of what to give (or get) this Christmas then here’s some suggestions.

Book – Rise of the Ultra Runners

In Rise of the Ultra Runners ( the author Adharanand Finn travels the world investigating why people feel the need to run long distances in challenging environments.

The Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance: Finn, Adharanand: 9781783351329: Books

The book follows his quest to collect enough points to get into the Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc. Before starting his qurst he was an experienced (mostly road) runner who was mainly interested in speed and times.

He covers the history, personalities and his experience of ultra-running. It felt like it was a good informal history of the sport as much as his personal narrative.

There is a very interesting section on why Kenyans don’t do ultra’s even though they dominate long distance road events.

The only negative comment I can make is that I would have liked to have heard more about his training. You don’t get as good as he is without hours and hours of training. Did his wife mind him training all the time? Did his kids appreciate him being away? I always wonder who people find the time to get that good.

Bike – Cycle top

The Cycle Jersey Store ( has some unique fun tops. My favorite being this one for the Western Isles band Peat & Diesel

The top was so good it was used as the prize in this year’ss Toddman race. You can read about it here and

I still believe I should be declared the true winner of the race!

They also do tops for beers, whisky and charities.

Board Game – Flamme Rouge

This is a great board game to get if you like cycling.

Flamme Rouge is 2 to 5 player game which recreates a cycle race. Each player controls two riders. Each player gets a set of movement cards for each rider. Each card can only be played once.

On each turn a player decides which cards to play. Normal rules of cycling apply so riders at the front get more tired than those at the back, riders move quicker going downhill, and sprinters are fast but burn out first.

The skill is trying to work out when to sprint and when to draft so that you can leave enough energy to win at the end. Al the games I’ve played have been very open. Anyone was able to win until the end of the game which meant it was exciting for all participants.

The theme is really good. The artwork and game pieces are high quality and it does feel like a virtual cycle race.

Prints – The Crow Road

If you are looking for pictures or prints then I recommend you check out etsy ( Its a marketplace for small sellers. Its really good for cards and birthday presents.

Have a look at who does prints of famous Scottish and European climbs.

If you search for terms like triathlon or swimming you will discover lots of sellers offering interesting products.

Just be careful when ordering pictures or cards that you are getting something physical. Some seller sell digital downloads of their designs which means all you get is an email with a picture to print out at home.

Swim Cap – Batman

If you want to stand out from the crowd whilst swimming then invest in an interesting cap. I recommend swimming as Batman.

But if you check out kids swim caps you will find lots of interesting designs and becasue the cap is stretchy it will definitly fit on your head even if it claims to be kid size.

Meggings – tartan

Meggings are Mens leggings and they are great for wearing underneath shorts on a cold day.

I bought these for Andrew. When he wears them at races he gets at least half a dozen folk asking where he got them from.

So here’s the answer –

They come in other styles and this isn’t even close to being the wildest design!

And if anyone wants to know what I’d like for Christmas – I’ll be happy with a new pair of socks and pants but preferably tartan ones!

Old Photographs (Iain)

I have approximately 10 thousand photos dating from 2006 onwards. I recently decided to go through them and edit them down to a more manageable number.

I’ve only reached 2013 at the moment but I thought it would be interesting to share some that I’ve come across

  1. Sherpa or Cyclist? (2010)

There’s a cycling idiom “All the gear, no idea” which describes novices who splash out on expensive equipment but who lack the aptitude to use it properly.

This picture proves I had “none of the gear and even less of an idea.” it was taken during the Radar Race in 2010. A 40 mile race near Wanlokhead.

I look like I’m dressed to climb a mountain but I’m actually a mashup of different sports. If you look closely at my shoes you might recognize that they are football boots just in case the race finished with a penalty shootout.

2. Is that cargo pants you’re wearing? (2010)

A couple of months later I’d learnt my lesson from the previous race. I dressed better – I wore cargo pants and trainers.

3. Is that the same shoes? (2008)

The trainers were very versatile and long lasting. They make an appearance in this photo from 2008 when I did a Stornoway Marathon with Andrew. I used to buy just one shoe that could be used for every sport and then use it for as long as possible.

Nowadays I have a trainer for 10Ks and less, a trainer for long runs, a trainer for trail runs, a trainer for wet trail runs, golf shoes, squash shoes, walking shoes, work shoes, casual shoes and a pair of crocs. Because crocs are great no matter what other people say.

I’m the Imelda Marcos of sports shoes. That’s a joke has dated almost as badly as my haircut in the photo.

4. Is this the best view in Scotland? (2013)


5. Will it be a white xmas?

One of the nice things about old photos is rediscovering pictures and memories. This one made me think “Whatever happened to this jacket. I loved this jacket”

Not So Smartbells (Andrew)

The one thing no one warns you about when you buy dumbbell weights is how heavy they are when you pick them up. It might seem obvious to you. It may seem obvious to anyone but, the first time I bought a set of weights, I had not thought at all about how I was going to get them home.

I was in the final year of university and decided that it would be good to have a set of weights in my flat to use between studying. I lived on the edge of Glasgow city centre and thought I could pop into my nearest Argos, about 20 minutes walk away, and get a cheap set of weights. It was a simple plan for someone with a simple mind because…

They gave me a box. And in that box there was a set of weights and those weights weighed at least a tonne. If not two or ten. Because no one buys dumbbells in order to lift weights they can already manage. You buy weights that you can grow into and that can be increased as your biceps bulge.

Nor had I thought that the weights would be the total weights of both bars. I thought I could lift 10kg in one hand so I’d bought a 30kg weight set – 15kg for each hand. But now the set was in one box. So it wasn’t just 30kg, it was 30kg plus packaging and a large unwieldy box.

And I then had to carry this awkward package from Argos back to my flat, an easy 20 minute walk without weights. A trip through hell with weights.

Firstly, no one lifts weights for twenty minutes. You curl, you release. You put them down and have a wee break and a sip of water. Then you pick them up again. You don’t lift them for 20 minutes.

Not that it was 20 minutes. On the way in it was a 20 minute carefree, arms swinging, song in my heart kind of walk. On the way back, I couldn’t walk one minute without nearly dropping the box on my toes as I struggled to lift it across a street. Within two minutes my arms felt stretched like home made pasta. Everything ached. I couldn’t find a comfortable position to carry the box. I tried both hands, I tried under one arm. I even tried carrying it on my head like an Italian grandmother bent back from the fields of Tuscany. Nothing worked. I’d bought more weights than I could lift.

And what was worse was that the weights were in a box. To any passerby it looked like I was struggling with an ordinary box. There was nothing to indicate that I was trying to carry home an elephant wrapped in cardboard. Instead, I look like the very guy that someone would come up to and say “I think you need to work out!”

I did. But I couldn’t cause I couldn’t get the flipping’ box home with me!

Eventually, I decided to risk splitting the box. I took out the weights and, hiding behind a bin so no one saw me, I put the weights together and hid one in a bush and carried the other home. I then had a not so wee break and a gallon of water before going back and bringing the other home. Luckilly, it was still there but that was probably because no one could lift it.

And, once I got them both home I put both them under my bed and never touched them again for six months because my arms were as weak as a plastic bag handle when you’re trying to get a big shop home from the supermarket.

So, let my lesson be your lesson if you’re thinking of getting a lockdown weights set to avoid going to the gum. If you’re going to buy weights make sure you know how to get them home.

Training for Celtman 2021: October (Andrew)

The day I didn’t make it to the Windfarm when my derailleur broke

Through lockdown I’ve tried to keep to Windfarm Wednesday. This is a ride out to Eaglesham wind farm on the Southside of Glasgow on a Wednesday. Unless it’s raining in which case it’s wind farm Thursday. Or, because it’s Scotland in the summer, Windfarm Maybe Next Week When The Rain Finally Stops.

Now that the clocks are going back I will need to pause Windfarm Wednesday until the Spring, assuming that we’ll still be working from home, which, given current conditions, is a safe an assumption as Donald Trump will lie when he opens his mouth.

I will miss Windfarm Wednesday because it’s been the first time in six years that I’ve had the chance to consistently ride outside during the week. Normally I’d be commuting to and from Larbert and would only get the occasional chance to head out between arriving home and dinner and dog walking and all the other things we need to do at night. Instead, I would try and grab 45 minutes on an indoor bike before the evening overtakes me.

Having the chance to spend at least one night a week outside has been fantastic and has provided a good break from lockdown life as it allowed me to not become too insular by living and working from home 24 hours a day. Instead, it’s an escape to flee the city and, most importantly, to find new places and visit parts of Scotland I’ve never been before, even if only an hours distance from my house.

Over the last six months I’ve tried to explore new routes but to always pass the windfarm on the way out or the way back. It’s good to have a target – the Windfarm – but the journey changes every week.

Over the winter I hope to flip this approach to the long nights and not fall into an easy routine on the indoor bike as the journey doesn’t change: the bike doesn’t even move.

Instead I’m going to try various simulated climbs and try a new one each week through Zwift and other apps so while my journey may not change each week then at least I’ll always have a different target.

First Aid (Iain)

A couple of week ago I had to attend a first aid course. The course covered all the major topics – sprains, injuries etc. but it also covered some unusual topics.

I have to admit I have never thought what would be in my top 10 communicable diseases BUT that’s because it’s so hard to pick a favourite. I love ebola but COVID is so hot right now…decisions…decisions…what to put as number 1?!

The instructor of the course tried to keep it light hearted but in doing so he did come out with some cracking phrases like his introduction to the course: “Blood, guts and gore are your bread and butter but first let’s get these gory pictures on the go!”

He then went on to show some gory pictures. One of which he was very proud of. It was a puncture wound. It looked sore. I know he was proud of it because when he put it up on screen he said “I’m very proud of this one”. Although, now I think about it, maybe it was the wound he was proud of not the picture.

He then showed a few more pictures. which he introduced by gleefully shouting, “gory picture time! gory picture time!”

To pass the course I have to demonstrate on video how to give CPR. I was thinking I’d use a pillow to demonstate on. He said “don’t use a pillow find something interesting instead like a teddy bear”

I now have a vision of him sitting at home watching a video of me giving CPR whilst he gleefully shouts, “teddy bear time! Teddy Bear time!”

6 Ways to Learn Infant and Toddler CPR - Mom365

Introduction to Winter Swimming – Part 1 (Andrew)

If you want to know the first signs of hypothermia then here’s a video of me trying to eat a Twix after 90 minutes of cycling in zero degrees in just a short sleeved t-shirt. I’m wearing three layers of clothes to warm up and I still look like this:

Now, try to imagine swimming when you can’t control your body. Grim – and dangerous.

I normally stop swimming in October, once the water temperature falls below 12 degrees, and will only try a few quick dips until April. While I like the ‘shock’ of cold water I don’t like the ‘reward to travel’ ratio as it shrinks considerably in winter months. Why do I want to travel for an hour or more just to spend five minutes in the water? Instead I could walk to my bath and sit on some icecubes for five minutes and still have time to read a good book by an open fire?!?!

For anyone considering longer swims in winter than I thought it would be helpful to share a few links on how to prepare, what to expect and what to do if you get too cold – or, worse, get hypothermia and can’t eat a Twix. The links are below but if I had any tips to share these would be them:

  • Never swim alone
  • Swim for less time than you think you would comfortably manage
  • Never swim alone
  • Keep to the edge, the water will be much colder the deeper you get
  • Never swim alone
  • If in doubt, don’t get in or, if you are in, get out.
  • Never swim alone

And for more on hypothermia.