Jan 1st (Iain) – What Is A Tradition?

I have a New Years day tradition which I started last year. Does that count as tradition? How many years do I have to do it before it becomes traditional?

I climb a hill on New Year’s Day. It doesn’t matter which one. I’m not picky.

I decided to climb the hill nearest my house. Before I left I double checked the route on the map. It seemed simple. Walk to the top via one route and follow a different path down.

I decided to go Alpine style which is a another way of saying I couldn’t be bothered carrying a bag or a map. I’d regret that later…

How hard could it be to walk to the top of a hill and then find a path back down? Surprisingly difficult. There was no path back down. Whoever drew the map must have failed map school.

I could have walked back the way we came but instead I decided to make my own path. I went to the hill edge and headed down the steep slope. I could see the town so I aimed for that. There must be a path eventually…

40 minutes and no path later I was standing in the middle of a very muddy field. My shoes were muddy, my jeans were muddy and my nose was muddy. I’m not sure how that happened!

The field was the only thing keeping me from reaching the town. I could see the houses. All I had to do was walk across this field. The choice was simple. Retreat and spend time looking for a better way that might not exist or commit to the mud.

I choose mud.

I squelched my way across the field. The closer I got to the houses the more I realised I faced a non mud related issue. Their was no gaps between the houses. The only way to get to town was to jump into someone’s garden.

I hoped whoever’s house I invaded would be too hungover from the night before to notice their first footer is a 6ft tall stranger covered in mud.

I choose a delightful 3 bed bungalow to invade. They didn’t have a dog (I hoped) and their garden wall looked sturdy enough to clamber over.

I couldn’t see anyone in their windows so I jumped over. I landed in the garden next to their trampoline. At that exact moment a women appeared at the window.

She looked at me

I looked at her

I waved hello

And legged it!

I stopped running when I got to the house.

My new New Year’s Day tradition is to not scare the neighbors!

Physio (Andrew)

I’m wonky. Officially.

After four weeks of pain from my lower back I went to see a physio today. Her description was short and to the point: “You’re wonky”, she said.

Of course, in my mind, I’m not wonky. I’m dying. It’s spine tumours. Its cancer. Its everything but the very reasonable explanation that I tweaked it training for Iron Man UK and I pulled it while out cycling round the Campsies in October.

I was cycling with Iain, my brother, when he got a puncture at the wrong side of the Trossachs. The Trossach are the hills that you can see to the north of Glasgow. The first wave you can see in the mountains that stretch broken like the sea all the way north towards the Highlands and home. The wrong side is the other side. Behind the crest of the wave and back down to a long road that flows along a gully from Killearn to Stirling. It’s a road filled with bumps, holes, and, most crucially, for this story, no mobile reception.

We’re about five miles from when my brother gets a puncture. We stop at a parking space and, while he tries to fix it, I read a poster tied to a pole. It asks if anyone has seen two cats who were “Out for a walk in the woods”. And I can’t help thinking: who takes cats out for a walk? Cats don’t walk. Cat’s don’t hike. Cats like to play hide and seek so, whatever you do, don’t take them for a walk in the woods.

While Iain manages to fix his bike we cycle on and he immediately gets another puncture. He only had spare tube with him. I have another but as he has deep section rims my tube won’t fit his wheel. He has no choice, he needs to walk because, and here’s the crucial bit of the story, this road, as it’s the wrong side of the Trossachs, has no mobile reception. He walks for three miles to Fintry, the nearest town, while I pedal slowly beside him trying to keep walking pace but upright at the same time. After an hour of balancing on pedals my back is sore but I don’t think anything of it, just ordinary tightness from being on the bike. A week later and its still sore. A month later and I admit that I’ve got a problem. I’ve not run except for one game of football a week, I’ve not been swimming and I’ve definitely not returned to the bike. I’m wonky.

I make an appointment and the physio confirms it. She prods my back and stomach, mentions tightness and things not moving as they should. She pulls my arms and shoulders. Puts pressure on my legs as I curl and uncurl on a massage table then she tells me to come back in two weeks for another session. It already feels better but she tells me to come back in two weeks for another session to check the muscles have become more flexible.

Worseman (Andrew)

Saturday 7 November 2015

I’m not ready. Not physically. Not mentally.

I’m currently injured. A dull ache in my hip has developed into sharp pains in my lower back when I ride a bike or stretch forward. Other than a weekly game of football I haven’t done any exercise in a month. Not that I was doing that much before. I completed Iron Man UK in July and since then I’ve been ticking over, the occasional long ride or run but only when the weather was good and, even then, only when I felt like. Which again, hasn’t been often.

After Iron Man I promised myself I would never attempt such a distance again. I enjoyed my Iron Man experience. I had a perfect swim (for me), I enjoyed the cycle and I managed to grind out the run by running and walking. I wasn’t fast but I wasn’t competing for a time. I just wanted to get round and enjoy it – and to be able to walk again the next day.

Now, four months later, it’s catching up with me. It’s like the film ‘It Follow’. A monster slowly walking, always walking, until it reaches and kills it victim. Perhaps Iron Man is my monster and its only four months later that it has finally caught up with me. That dull ache was the warning. The sharp pains, the monster striking. And it couldn’t come at a worse time.

I’m in Norseman. The world’s toughest triathlon. A 3.6km swim in a freezing Norwegian fjord. A swim that starts by jumping off the back of a ferry. A 112 mile cycle though freezing mists, snow, hail, rain and across five mountains before a marathon run to the summit of another. This wasn’t my choice.

Well, not quite. Although I promised I would never attempt such a distance again, I knew I was lying. I’d caught the bug. I’d pushed myself as far as I thought I could go and I found I could have gone further, I could have gone faster. I’d not found my limit. I wanted to do more. But not next year. Not in 2016. Instead, in the back of my head I thought of two races I would love to do: the Marathon Des Sables (a five run across the Sahara desert) and Norse Man (the world’s toughest triathlon).

Both races are tough to enter. The Marathon Des Sable is fully booked two years in advance, you enter now for 2017. Norseman only has c250 places but nearly 3000 people enter. After that it’s a lottery. I had no thought of entering Norseman in 2016 but when the organisers announced that they’d changed the entry rules so everyone who missed out on a place in 2016 would have an increased  chance in following years I thought it would be daft not apply. Why not increase my chances for the times I wanted to apply?

Instead, I was lucky. Or unlucky. I was in. First time. Bugger.

I couldn’t not do it, could I? I couldn’t reject a place in an event  I may never have the chance to do again. This was a lottery, and my winning number was NorseMan ID3047.

So, here I am, sitting in front of the computer, wallet in my pocket, credit card on my desk, looking at the entry form and getting ready to press ‘submit’. I’m not ready, physically, or mentally. Jump off a ferry, swim a freezing fjord, cycle through a blizzard or run up a mountain? That’s for other people. Not me. I like cake. But this is it: a decision, a moment, nothing less than a leap of faith. I’m in.

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