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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!

Alloa Half Marathon 2022 (Iain)

Four years have passed since the last time I ran the Allow Half Marathon. You can read (linked below) about my previous attempt to run it…and my attempt try and find anything interesting to say about Alloa.

The course had a new start and end point. So unlike previous years it did not finish next to a supermarket. Which meant I did not get my shopping done afterwards. But other than that, the change meant there was more of a start village and a better finish line.

To get to the start I used one of the provided shuttle busses. There is lots of parking in Alloa and the bus only took 10 minutes to get to the start.

Once at the start there was the usual long toilet queue. Please, will race organizers actually figure out how to manage a toilet queue! Its not difficult, just have a couple of folk who know where the toilets are and point everyone at them. In this case the long queue was because no-one in the queue knew there was actually a number of different toilets in the venue so everyone was queuing for just one.

This meant I was still in the loo at 0859. The race started at 0900. I managed to get to the start in plenty of time which means my watch must be telling the wrong time!

The route had changed slightly but nothing major. Starting out of town was quite nice as it got some of the boring road section out of the way early.

I had done al ot of training during the week and I had an injury. So I wasn’t expecting a great time. My hope was sub 1hr 50min but I’d have accepted anything up to 1hr 55min.

I felt fresher than I thought I would be and I ended up completing my run in sub 1hr 45min…just. 1 hr 44min 55 seconds.

Andrew beat me by 30s but he had rested before the race. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

The finishers goodie bag contained a t shirt, a medal and a covid test kit! I’d have preferred a Mars bar.

Overall, its an enjoyable race that is always a good test of Spring fitness.

Review: Serious Reader Lamp (Iain)

My eyesight isn’t very good. It’s not as bad as Al Pacino’s vision in Scent Of a Woman but it is getting towards a Mr Magoo level of poorness. Thankfully I’ve not crashed my car… yet!

I suspect anyone reading this who understands either of these references is also old enough to be experiencing similar vision related problems.

My vision has deteriorated to the point where I am unable to read a book at night. As the low light means I struggle to get the letters on the page to focus.

I tried every fix I could think of – turning on all the lights, using a Kindle, reading whilst wearing a head-torch.

None of them helped. After a few minutes the words would go out of focus and I’d have to stop reading.

So I threw money at the problem! I decided to spend more money on one lamp than I have spent on all the lamps I have ever bought in my life. I bought a serious reader lamp – https://www.seriousreaders.com/

And all I can say is that is worth every penny I paid for it because for the first time in years I can now read in the evening. I can read for hours without any eye strain or issues. It is life changing. Since getting it at Xmas, I have read four books. That compares to the zero books I read before Xmas.

This review is not sponsored by Seriousreader but if they want to send me a free lamp then please get in touch!

PS – Once you buy the lamp I recommend you try it out with the excellent book Twinbikerun by Twinbikerun https://www.amazon.co.uk/Twinbikerun-Norseman-brothers-attempted-triathlon/dp/B09T61XGMK

My first swim (Andrew)

I can remember swimming, but I can’t remember learning to swim. Instead I remember trunks and towels. 

We would swim on holiday in the small Perthshire town of Aberfeldy. It has a sports centre with a 25 metre pool and every day on holiday we would go for a swim. We would get ready by grabbing our towel, folding it lengthwise in half and the rolling it up with our trunks inside. We’d then carry it under out arm up to the centre. We’d then unroll it, get changed and then repeat again on the way home – except this time our armpits would get wet because we’re carrying a soggy towel and trunks. 

We never thought to use a bag. There was no need, once a towel was rolled up with your trunks then you didn’t need anything else. Not even goggles because for some reason our Dad didn’t believe in goggles. “You don’t need them”, he’d say, “If you duck your head under the water, it’ll sting for a minute but you’ll soon adjust.”

Which was okay for him to say as he only had one good eye. His other eye was damaged due to an operation in his thirties to cure an aneurysm. It was an operation that was so medically advanced he spent the rest of his life with doctors saying “I’ve never seen that before!”

He would start swimming without google and then say “you’ll get used it!”

We didn’t.

I could never put my head under the water. I still struggle now when water gets into my goggles. I need to stop and clear it.

But I never got goggles. It never occurred to me. I was learning from my Dad so I just did what he did. Even if he was medical miracle who thought he was Aquaman and I was a boy scared of getting his head wet.

Today, I always wear goggles but I still keep my trunks in a rolled up towel.

Book Review: The Runner by Markus Torgeby

“Ultra-distance runner Markus Torgeby was just 20 years old when he headed off into the remote Swedish forest to live as a recluse and dedicate himself to his one true passion: running. He lived in a tent in the wilderness, braving the harsh Swedish winters – for four years. This is his story. “

It was a rubbish story.

End of review!

But if you want to know why I didn’t enjoy it…

It says he lived as recluse in the wilderness but writes about how he visited his local town regularly, he writes about how he enjoyed it when his friends popped over for a beer on a Friday night and he writes about how he didn’t just live in a tent. He had a comfy bed. He got bed by popping back to the a fore mentioned town and asking the local hotel for one of theirs to take back to his tent/cabin.

I admire his achievements but his exploits are not as reclusive and as inspiring as the sales pitch made it out to be.

Score: 4/10