What Runners Never Talk About (Andrew)

The greatest email I’ve ever recieved wasn’t sent just to me – it was sent to me and to everyone in my office. Over 250 people. It was from a new trainee. Someone who had not yet realised that “Reply To All” meant “Reply to… ALL”

Later, I discovered that he thought he’d sent a message back to his pal but, even then, I’m not sure his pal wanted the following message, because this is what he replied:

“I’ve just been to the loo. Did you know there’s two buttons. One for a pee and one for a poo…?”

Which he sent to everyone.

Not just his pal.

Everyone.

10 seconds later everyone also recieved the “Trainee@twinbikerunswork would like to recall his message” message. But, by then, it was too late. Everyone would recall this message from now until the day he died.

I’m sure, even at his funeral, his eulogy will say “Trainee may have become a Supreme Court judge and changed the world with his far reaching decisions but, I’m sure everyone can agree, his greatest achievement was accidentally telling 250 people how to flush the bog.”

I was thinking of this guy as I was running last week – because there’s a secret that runners don’t share with the world. A secret that every runner doesn’t discuss because it’s too disgusting to share.

Sometimes, when out for a run, you can’t worry about whether you’re going to use the big button or the wee button because you just don’t have time to get to a proper toilet. Sometimes, you have to improvise.

Normally, you’ve eaten too much or you’ve headed out too soon after a meal or a combination of the two.

The first few miles are okay but, the stomach growls, and you know that the only way you’re going to carry on is if, like a guilty sinner, you find some ways to unburden yourself.

I was trying to run 10 miles last week. A five mile there and back trip from the house. In the third mile, I received a warning from my gut. By mile four, the warning was raised to Defcon 5 and I had no choice but this choice: do I knock on someone’s door for an emergency stop or do I find a bush?

Now, knocking on someone’s door is something I’ve considered before. But I’ve never worked our what I would say. Hello. You don’t know me but I would love to get to know your toilet. Or help. Emergency. This desperate man would like you use your little boy’s room?”.

There was no way whatever I said was not going to sound creepy and it would be nature’s call I’d be answering it would be a call to the local police station to arrest the nutter with the crossed legs.

Instead, I searched for a park. Then, once I found a park, I searched from a spot that couldn’t be seen from any direction. I didn’t want this week’s headline to be: “Runner in park peek a poo scandal”

But as I sped away, safely, and without anyone seeing me, I started to wonder. I can’t be the only runner to have had this problem. I’m not the only runner to find themselves in the bushes when it’s not a trail race. But, no one has ever mentioned it before. What to do when you need the loo and you’re 30 minutes from home and your credit cards are in the kitchen where you left them?

So, in the spirit of openness, I’m sharing that question here. Just for you. What do you need to do when you need the loo?

And I promise I’ll keep the answer to myself.

Unless I accidentally publish this blog to everyone.

Oh, bugger, I have…

Recall! Recall! Recall!

A Boy In The Water Review (Andrew)

Last year I caught the train to London with Iain.

“Have you got the tickets?” I asked.

An innocuous question, only made less innocuous by the fact the train was pulling out of Glasgow Central.

“No,” he said, “you’ve got them”.

Which I did – or didn’t. Because, while I had them on my phone with all details teasingly shown on my Trainline app, it was just a reservation and not the tickets themselves. The tickets were still sitting unprinted in the ticket machine at Central Station.

I could have cried. But, critically, didn’t because I’m a man and men don’t cry on trains. Not unless they’ve just read “A Boy In The Water”.

“A Boy In The Water” by Tom Gregory tells the story of how he became the youngest person to swim the English Channel. It’s no spoiler to confirm he succeeds, because, unlike most sports biographies, this one doesn’t rely on peril.

There’s a trend in biographies to tease the did he/she or didn’t he/she do it. The first chapter inevitably details some element of danger as the lone cyclist tries to cross the world only to inadvertently cycle into the middle of warzone, on the very day that the local Celtic and Rangers fans are watching the Old Firm game, during a hurricane  – and they get a puncture. Oh my, I definitely need to read all of this now!

Instead, A Boy In The Water, deals with trust and faith between a boy, Tom Gregory, and his coach as he’s pushed to swim further and further. And it’s this trust which provide the tension because it’s never clear how much of the goal was driven by the boy or the coach and whether it was right for an 11 year old to even attempt such a swim.

Written from a child’s perspective, the book is simple and clear, with the relationship explored through a back and forth between the swim itself and the three years of training leading up to it. Training sessions in Dover Harbour, solo swims across Lake Windermere, and a sense of sporting success achieved through coffee mornings, battered vans and digestive biscuits as treats. And very little discussion of swimming. There’s no passages describing swimming strokes, or the goals of any training sessions, just brief powerful descriptions of the swimmers, the coaches and the music listened to on homemade mix-tapes. And, an ending, which managed to show how powerful trust and faith and belief can be and what happens when they’re gone. I may even have shed a tear on the train on the way to work this week as I read the final chapters on the way to work…

You can buy it here: Amazon

Go-Karting (Iain)

A few years ago, I went go-karting. Before the race a marshal gave a safety briefing. The marshal explained that if he waved a black flag then that was a warning that I was driving beyond my ability. If he waved it again then I was disqualified.

My karting competitors

I got in the kart and waited for the green light to flash

RED……….wait…..wait……GREEN!!

My kart accelerated from the start line. I was immediately in the lead but a car was coming up quickly on my outside right. We both approached the first corner, a tight left hand turn.

It looked like he was able to turn left before me. I should have slowed down but instead I accelerated and slammed into the side of the other car. This pushed him off the track but allowed me to take the left turn!

A masterful bit of driving but the marshal black-flagged me for driving beyond my ability!

A couple of minutes later I received a second black flag for a manoeuvre that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Mad Max film. I was disqualified.

I could not understand what I had done wrong. I should be have been praised. Driving beyond my ability is surely a compliment!

Did Schumacher win all his Grand Prix’s by driving within his ability? No – he drove to the limit and beyond.

I was thinking about this as I drove home from the go kart track…in an AA van. I was so pumped up with adrenaline from karting I’d crashed my car after leaving the track. I had to phone the AA to get me home.

The AA man asked how I’d crashed. I replied “I was driving beyond my ability.”

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…

Why I switched off Strava kudos (Iain)

Strava is a great tool. It allows me to see how far, how fast and how often I swim, bike or run.

I have data going back years on it. I can see just how much or how little progress I’ve made.

BUT there’s one thing about it that I hate – Kudos!

I don’t want kudos because its mostly undeserved. For example, last week, I played squash. I lost 5-0.

So far this year I’ve lost every squash match that I’ve played. I recieved Kudos for every loss. I don’t deserve kudos! I deserve a stern talking too and a final warning about my performance.

Once, due to a mistake with my GPS watch, I uploaded a swim of one length of a 25m pool, I got Kudos for it! I shouldn’t have got Kudos I should have got a call asking if I was ok? Asking why I hadn’t swam back? Nobody does just one length of a pool unless they’ve gone to a pool party at Michael Barrymore’s house.

Its like the Great British Bake-off. In earlier seasons Paul Hollywood would rarely give his “Hollywood handshake” of congratulations to a contestant but during last years season he was giving one to everyone.


Does your cake has a soggy bottom? Don’t worry about it. Have a handshake.

Is your scones so hard enough you could sink the titanic with it?
Don’t worry about it. Have a handshake.

Have you lost both your arms in tragic bread mixing accident?
Yes? Don’t worry about it. Have a handshake…actually probably not in this case considering they are arm-less but you get the idea.

Once it becomes routine to get a handshake/kudos then it becomes meaningless. Kudos should be about achievement not failure.

So I’ve switched off Kudos alerts and I’m happier for doing so. I can now concentrate on getting true kudos – a win at squash.

Not Swim Training (Andrew)

Every Wednesday morning at 7am I join the Glasgow Triathlon Club’s swim session at the University of Strathclyde. I’ve been going along on and off for around six months and, this week, for the first time, our coach didn’t ask me to change my stroke or the position of my head or the way I kick my legs, instead I was asked to concentrate on turning around when you get to the end of a lap.

That’s right – I’m being coached on how to turn round!

The phase “like a tanker” was used.

Tanker should never be a word used with a swimmer unless you’re saying “hey, swimmer, watch out for that tanker!”

According to our coach you need to be pushing in and then pushing off and your head should act like a schythe through the water and not a brick.

All of which made no sense to me.

You swim to the end. You turn around. You come back. How can I get that wrong?!?

For the next hour every time I got the end I became nervous, not knowing whether my hand was right to push in an push off or if my head was as light as reinforced concrete.

On one lap, I even did a tumble turn. Not deliberately, I just sunk through indecision then tried frantically to right myself up while not drowning.

I know that swimming is all about technique but when that technique involves something you’ve never thought about before it’s very hard to change what you’ve always done. Thousands of laps of the pool have always seen me turn one way. Now, I’m being asked to think again. It’s not easy.
But it is good to be challenged even if, next week, I’m sure my next lesson will be how to climb into the pool using the ladder correctly.

Either that or, having mastered coming back, the coach will say “Now, let’s talk again about how you actually swim a lap correctly…”

I used to be a contender (Iain)

This time last year, I cycled the 2000m climb of Mount Tiede in Tenerife. It was 3 hours of climbing and afterwards I felt fit and strong.

Last weekend, I cycled the 300m climb of the Dukes Pass in Aberfoyle. It was 22 minutes of climbing and afterwards I felt so tired I called the Police to report my cycling fitness had gone missing.

The Police explained that they don’t investigate crimes against fitness but if they did they would have arrested me years ago – “ello, ello, what is going on here? Do you call that a front crawl? I’m taking you to the nick for G.B.S. Grevious Bodily Swimming!”

I graphed my performance on the Duke’s pass and it looks like my latest result took a dive off a cliff of consistency.

Afterwards I put this onto Instagram

Thge key point is the “I wonder if my consumption of macaroni pies and bakewell tarts is anyway related to this? “

How can you tell a diet is unhealthy? When the dessert is larger than the main course. Check out the size of my bakewell tart.

On a positive note the dinner was vegetarian so there must be a slight bit of healthiness in it.

Afterwards my wife said to me “how can your time be that bad due to the food. Did you eat it before you went up the hill?”

No – I had it afterwards but I think it points to the conclusion that I’m not a clean living performance machine.

So from now on I have to eat a little bit healthier and try to get back to my previous times…or I do what any middle aged male cyclist does when faced with getting slower – spend lots of money to fix the problem.

I’ve often noted the more expensive the bike the wider the waist of the owner.

PS – I actually had two macaroni pies but I only took a pic of one so people wouldn’t think I’m a fat bstrd!

PPS – I don’t regret it. they were delicious.

Second Best on Strava (Andrew)

There are many different records. Some will never be beaten. You can’t be the first person on the moon when Neil Armstrong got there first. Nor can you climb Everest when Edmund Hillary did it over sixty five years ago. Some records last.

Others are less serious. If you read the Guinness Book of World Record you’ll find a record for the world’s longest fingernails. A world record which literally doesn’t require you to lift a finger – in case you break a nail.

Or how about Etibar Elchyev, who took the title for ‘Most spoons balanced on a human body’ by balancing 50 spoons. He’d have balanced more but Sharon from accounts wanted to make a cup of tea and he ran out.

You’d think he’d have balanced more if he’d used tea spoons??!!??

Or, worse, instead of spoons. How about balancing bees? Chinese beekeeper She Ping covered his body with 330,000 bees.

Honey, I’m home!

I think I’ll stick to cutlery.

But as records become devalued – you cannot compare spoons and bees with standing on the moon – we each have the opportunity to find our own records. If you join Strava you too can be a record breaker as every route or part of routes is carefully broken down into segments to create mini record opportunities. Do you want to be the fastest person to run along your street? Then create a segment and run faster than anyone else running along it. Or, if you can’t run fast, at least walk it while carrying 330,000 bees and claim the record for fastest person to be stung to death on your street.

Despite how easy it is to claim a record, record still matter. Or at least they do to me. We want to know who’s the fastest, who’s the strongest, who’s the most likely to open a cafe and not need cutlery. And I want to know who’s the fastest at running the only hill in Stornoway: The War Memorial.

It’s not the steepest or longest or hardest climb but it does provide a few minutes of running to take you to a vantage point over the whole of Stornoway and out to the mainland.

And for the last few years I’ve been trying to be the fastest to run up it. It’s my Everest, moon and jumbo onion (another official world record).

How do you like dem onions?

And two weeks ago I almost managed it. I almost had my onion.

The weather was poor. The wind was in the wrong direction. I didn’t even think I was running hard enough to make an attempt on the record when, I got home, checked Strava, and, blimey, I was the second fastest in the world.

Which is the one record no one wants – no one wants to be second! What’s the point of having 49 spoons on your body when the man up the road has 50?!?!?

So, in two weeks, I’ll be home again and I’m going to go all out for the record. I’m going to run like 330,000 bees are chasing me. This record will be mine or I’ll cry like a man who just peeled the world’s largest onion!

Paisley Mural Run (Iain)

A couple of weeks ago I attended a training course in Paisley. It wasn’t a very exciting course but one afternoon my tutor received a phone call.

“Hello….what…who is this?” He said into his phone.

I assumed it a local Garage. He’d told me earlier in the day that he’d put his car in for a MOT.

“OK…great…23,637 pounds and 17 pence?”

OMG! What the WTF had he done to his car that he had to pay that amount of money for an MOT?

His face went bright red and he said

“….is this a windup? Really??? Oh my god. I don’t believe it”

It wasn’t the garage. He’d just won £23,647 and 17 pence on a radio show by answering his phone and telling them the prize figure they’d revealed on the breakfast show.

Unsurprisingly, for the rest of the afternoon, he struggled to concentrate on the course!

I had only been to Paisley once before. It was in the evening in winter. It was dark and I couldn’t see anything. Paisley does not have a great reputation so some might argue not seeing it was a good thing.

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Paisley. I walked from the train station to the training centre and I was surprised by how nice the buildings in the town centre are. At one point on my walk, I passed a man. He greeted me warmly with “What the fuck are you looking at?” I wanted to say “the neo-classical and Georgian period architecture” but instead i just walked on very quickly and didn’t look back.

I was also surprised at how many murals Paisley has which got me thinking that the town should advertise a Mural Run just like Glasgow’s
https://twinbikerun.com/2018/11/30/glasgow-mural-run-iain/

So to help them out I’ve come up with a suggested route. Its 5K-ish and takes in all the interesting bits (that I could find in Pasiley centre) including

  1. A statue dedicate to the 1932 legal case of Donoghue v Stevenson. You can read about it here
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8367223.stm Its an interesting story involving a cafe and a snail.
  2. A mural to Rangers…sorry St Mirren Legend and BBC radio star Chick Young.
  3. An Alien

The route can be found here
https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2461031551


And if you don’t believe me about the Alien. Here is the proof.