Preparing for Celtman: December 2019 (Andrew)

Goals for December:

  • Training will officially start in January. December will be about getting into a routine of doing ‘something’ most days of the week but without any pressure to do anything in particular. It’ll just be about getting used to a routine. 
  • Work out training plan
  • See if I can try and be a bit more scientific and check stats like heart rate, functional training power, watts and a whole host of other words I don’t know the meaning of yet.

How did I do?

Training has started and I’ve managed to swim, run or bike six days out of seven with a couple of double days thrown in. I hadn’t intended to double up but it was sometimes easier to swim in the morning on a Wednesday and then catch train and run home than sit in traffic for over hour during the Christmas rush. An unexpected longer trip home to Stornoway due to a family illness also meant a few extra sessions as the weather was unseasonably mild so there were more times to go out then normal. Overall, I’m happy with what I’ve done and feel like I’m settling into a routine which will help when the training starts in January.

Speaking of training, I have a training plan. Unlike Iain – his plan here – I’ve bought a Celtman specific plan on Training Peaks. I’ve never used Training Peaks and I’m not sure yet how closely I’ll follow the plan but I liked the comfort of seeing what would be involved and I can then tailor it (or reduce it!) to suit. One for next month.

I didn’t manage to look at power or any other stats. I was going to do that during the Christmas holidays but being home meant I didn’t have access to a smart trainer. Another one for next month.

Random highlights (and one lowlight)

  • Running: This year’s Christmas Day run was a 10 mile run to the Iolaire monument and then a traditional run around the Castle Grounds.
  • Swimming: A new tradition. Along with the Christmas Day run we had a 10 minute dip in sea. It wasn’t as cold as I expected, but at 6 degrees it was still sharp and gasp inducing. But after a few minutes it was bearable to swim head above water. After 10 minutes though it was time to get back to land!
  • World Champion: Did I mention I was world champion of the War Memorial? I don’t like to talk about it (much!).
  • Mountain bike skills: Wet wood is like ice. A lesson I painfully learned after the bike slipped out beneath me on a wooden bridge in the Castle Grounds. My shoulder and hip took the worse of the fall while my left hand recovered after a night of icing it with frozen vegatables.

January Goals

  • Update and start training plan
  • Look into stats to help with training

The Accidental Celtman (Iain)

The Road To Kinlochewe

I didn’t plan on getting a slot to Celtman 2020.

Unlike Andrew ( https://twinbikerun.com/2019/11/21/dreaming-of-celtman-2020-andrew/) it’s not a race I have always dreamed of doing. In fact I can’t even pronounce it correctly. I always pronounce the ‘Celt’ bit like Celtic instead of ‘Kelt’.

The only races I ever dreamed of entering were Norseman and the Marathon Des Sables. I’ve been lucky enough to have taken part and supported at Norseman but I will never do MDS. My body struggles badly exercising in hot weather. MDS would kill me!

Next year, my plan was to take part in one of the hardest middle distance races in the world https://triathlonx.co.uk/index.php/half-x and then do one of the easiest long distance races – Ironman Denmark.

I only entered Celtman because I wanted to do it in the future. Entering this year would increases my chance of getting a ballot place later. Failed entries give you more extra ballot places in future years.

And then this happened

Trust my luck to win the one ballot I didn’t want to win!

BUT…

…now that it has happened I’m excited about it. It will be great fun to go head to head with Andrew. May the best Todd win!

Although, if you are anywhere near Torridon in June 2020, expect to hear me repeatedly utter the line made famous by Dante in Kevin Smith’s Clerks “I’m not even supposed to be here today! ”

Clerks

Dreaming of Celtman 2020 (Andrew)

IronMan UK was my one and only long distance triathlon. Never again I said. That was it. One go. Done it. Never need to do it again.

Except for Norseman.

And possibly Challenge Roth.

But the chances of getting in were so slim that IronMan UK was, I thought, the only time I’d ever swim 3.9km again, probably the only time I’d ever cycle more than 100 miles and definitely the only time I’d run a marathon as I don’t like running long distances. 

Oh, and except for Celtman too. 

Apart from those three races, I was never going to voluntarily spend an entire day racing again!

But what were the chances of getting into Norseman? Challenge Roth or Celtman? People try for years and don’t get into any of them. I applied, still with no expectation of getting in, and, straight away, I’ve got a place in Norseman.

A couple of years later and I manage to get a place in Challenge Roth too.

And now I have a place in Celtman.

I don’t know whether God likes a laugh, but he certainly enjoys a good ironic chuckle. 

While Norseman was fantastic. I’ve written about it on the blog and you can find out all about it. Roth too. And they were both ‘special’ and they have given me some great memories (along with a deep, deep fear of losing my watch while swimming – read about it here and, four months later, I’m still mentally scarred by it!), it’s Celtman which means the most to me because it was Celtman that got me interested in triathlons.

I never watched triathlons on telly. I’d never heard of IronMan or knew anything about the World Championships in Hawaii. I knew triathlons existed, I’d even tried to the New Year’s Triathlon in Edinburgh but I was like a dog playing football. It might know to chase a ball but that’s all it has in common with a footballer. I knew you needed to swim, bike and run but I didn’t know it was better to swim freestyle, that a mountain bike is not the professional triathlete’s first choice or that the run is something you race, not walk in to finish. 

Celtman changed that. I was watching the Adventure Show on BBC Scotland. Every month it reports from different events across Scotland. In 2011, it reported back from the first Celtman extreme triathlon. 3.4km swim on the west coast of Scotland, a 120 mile cycle round the Applecross penisula and then a marathon up a Munro and finish in Torridon. 

“That’s impossible,” I said, “how do they do that?” 

Every year since I’ve watched the Adventure Show and thought I would love to take part but secretly I knew that I wasn’t good enough. I don’t want to swim through jellyfish in freezing cold water. I’ve never cycled 120 miles. I’ve never run a marathon up a mountain. That’s what other people do.

But as I started to train for races in middle distance, then long distance, then Norseman and Roth, I started to think this year that maybe, with a bit more effort, I could be ready for Celtman. Because I don’t want to just complete it. I want to stand at the top of the mountain and be one of the few competitors who complete the whole course. In order to do that you need to be halfway through the run eleven hours after starting. Which means I’ll have around 8 hours to complete 120 miles on the bike, knowing that my swim time is the one thing I won’t be able to change no matter how hard I train. 

And, to make this Celtman, even better, unlike Norseman and Roth, Iain will be racing too, which will be a good incentive for both training and on the day itself. Though it has spoiled my support runner plans as he was going to run the final half with me!

Now that I’ve secured a spot I keep thinking of the first edition. I think how impossible it seemed and I think how possible it now is. I can’t wait to take part!

Open Water Swimming (Andrew)

Home to the Western Isles for Easter and a chance to join the Hebridean Triathlon Club’s open water swim on Saturday morning. I say club but, as it’s only just started, it’s mostly a nice man called Colin who was happy for us to join him on his weekly swim at Coll beach.

He was prepared. He had an orange buoy to help with sighting, emergencies and generally keeping safe in the water. We had wetsuits and serious doubts we’d last more than five minutes in the water.

It was FREEZING!

“Six and half degrees,” said Colin.

And then 30 second later.

“Good news, it’s now seven!”

I couldn’t feel my feet. I’d not worn swim socks as I find them uncomfortable. They’re like two heavy bags strapped to your feet.

Not that I knew if I had feet. I couldn’t feel anything below my knees as I waded in.

“Dip your face in,” said Iain.

I did.

Like The Weeknd, I couldn’t feel my face.

So, that’s what that song is about. It’s not about cocaine at all, it’s about open water swimming.

I can’t feel my face when I’m with you!”

I tried swimming breaststroke for 10 minutes keeping my head carefully out of the water. Then, once I’d acclimatised, I tried some freestyle. (Or free(zing)style.)

I couldn’t feel my ears.

I was noticing a pattern.

Cold water is, well, cold.

But the sun was out. The swimming was good and it was great to be swimming again in more extreme conditions than a heated pool.

 

Female factory packers of the world unite! (Andrew)

Every six months or so I order new energy gels. I have to order them from the internet as I like ZipVit gels and you can’t buy them in any shops, or at least the shops I know, or at least the shops I know within five minutes of the house. The internet has reduced the need to search any further!

Today, my latest supply of banana gel ZipVit’s arrived  – and they came with a message on the front of the box. An unexpected message. It said:

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Now, while I’m all for manufacturers telling you that they took care packing their products, they really shouldn’t need to tell you that. It should be a basic requirement of delivering anything that you didn’t just throw everything into a box higgledy piggledy before mashing it down, throwing it as hard as you could against a brick wall before stamp on it to make sure the lid closed. That’s Royal Mail’s job. The manufacturer should be sending everything packed carefully.

So, it was nice that they’d taken the time to highlight this as an important step. Unnecessary, but nice.

What I do have issue with, what I really don’t believe, it’s that “Sam” had anything to do with it,

Maybe, I’m wrong. Maybe the ZipVit warehouse is filled with good looking women taking an almost unhealthy interest in packing energy gels boxes in brown delivery boxes to fat guys on bikes. Maybe she placed this sticker here with her own fair hand, a fair hand shared with the hundred other beautiful women of the ZipVit shop floor all desperate to provide MAMIL’s with much needed banana tasting energy boosts.

Perhaps Zipvit is at the cutting edge of female empowerment in the warehouse packing industry. Maybe they sponsor deprived woman from inner city communities, train them and teach them and school them in the ways of packing boxes.

Or perhaps Sam is a lone trailblazer in a male dominated industry where to handle a package you need to, well, be able to handle your own package.

Maybe Sam is the Emily Pankhurst of ZipVit box packers? Maybe she’s a feminist icon in waiting? Maybe just maybe Sam is real.

Or maybe, almost certainly, it was packed by Dave from Rotherham.

Dave who farts on the boxes and scratches his bum.

That Dave.

Not Sam.

Dave.

I hate you, Dave!

You lied to me, Sam!

And you didn’t even pack it carefully – one of the corners was squashed!

The hero pose (Andrew)

For years philosophers have debated a simple question: if an athlete runs in the woods and no one is there to give it a thumbs up on Strava, did it really happen?

That’s why it’s important we record every run, ride and swim and upload it to social media as soon as we press save. If it’s not on Strava then it didn’t happen.

But it’s not just the stats that matter. On social media you also need to manage your image. Not only did you ride today – but you rode like a hero. Oh yeah.

That’s why it’s important that we also take a photo of every run and ride (but not swim as there might be children present in the pool and we don’t want to be reported to the attendant for lurking in the shallow end holding out a portable camera and gurning like a duck).

Today, I had my first ride outside since cough-gate, the illness/conspiracy that took out January and half of February. We (Iain, myself and another keen cyclist) went for a 40 mile spin round Ayrshire, though Eaglesham, Whitelee Wind farm, Kilmaurs and Stewarton.

At the wind farm we spotted a cyclist struggling at the side of the road. “Do you need any help?” We asked.

“My chain’s broken,” he said, “do you have a chain breaker?”

We did. He then asked if we knew how to use it and all three of us looked at each other and went.

“Ermmmmmm!”

No body knew how to use the one tool that everyone has to repair a chain.

“Don’t worry, lads,” he said, “I think I know what to do?”

20 minutes later, as Iain helped keep the chain together while he worked the chain breaker, it finally looked intact. Our good samaritan deed done.

We then cycled off before he tested it so that we would 100% know we did the right thing by stopping and we 100% would never know if it broke two minutes later and he was left stranded in the middle of Eaglesham moor.

Our good deed done we stopped for a photo just after Stewarton. The sun was starting to set. We had a good straight road behind and it was time to adopt the “just out of for a spin, I’m not knackered, honest guv, work it like a boss pose”.

You can see it below. Note:

  1. Lean casually on the handlebars like you would at a bar when you don’t want to show you are really keen to be served.
  2. Smile!
  3. Turn the wheel slightly otherwise you could be posing on a pogo stick.
  4. Smile!

img_0894

It doesn’t show my heavy bike (the one with wheels bigger than tank tracks so as to be comfy when commuting), my heavy legs (the one with a bum bigger than tank tracks so as to be comfy when sitting) or my heavy mind (oh God, this is tougher than a turbo, what is this thing called ‘head wind’?).

I’m a god. A cycling god. Look at that bronze sky. That easy pose. I could ride for miles and miles! I’m Kanye West on a BMX! I’m invincible!

And knackered.

But happy.

First ride outside done.

Been there, (haven’t) done that (Andrew)

I should’ve been racing.

Today was the Kirkintilloch 12k – a race which, like many who visit Kirkintilloch, starts in Kirkintilloch and then gets out of there as quickly as possible.

It’s a nice challenging race. Hilly, run along farm roads, and it should’ve been my third race of the year after two 10k’s in January. However, having only just recovered from the terminal man-flu (it hasn’t got me yet, but it’ll definitely get me some day!) I haven’t been running since early January and I’ve not exercised outside in four weeks. It was too soon to race. Instead, I went for a run round Cathcart and Queens Park to ease myself back into running after a week of cycling on the turbo and swimming indoors showed that I was ready to start training again.

So, while I should’ve been racing today, I’m okay with not racing as I know that ‘should’ve been’ is better than ‘could’ve been’ as ‘should’ve been’ and ‘could’ve been’ are entirely different excuses.

‘Should’ve been’ covers everything. I should’ve been racing says I should have been at the race but I was ill, I was mugged, I was saving the world from an attack by Godzilla. It’s a universal get out.

‘Could’ve been’ suggest you could have been there if you’d really, really tried. I could’ve been racing but I was in my bed. I could’ve been racing but I was too lazy. I could’ve been racing but I was hoping someone else would save the world from Godzilla while I was too lazy and not out of bed yet.

‘Could’ve been’ is the enemy of training. ‘Should’ve been’ is  unavoidable – and, knowing that, I try not to beat myself up too much about them because there’s nothing I could have done differently over the last few weeks.

So, instead, I concentrated on the third type of ‘been’ – and that’s the ‘full o’beans’!

After a ‘should’ve been’ break in training or racing, you should be ‘full o’beans’ to get going again. There’s nothing to stop you, the illness is cured (except for man-flu), the muggers are caught and Godzilla retires to the ocean to plot his revenge. And, as I return to training this week, I’m looking forward to getting back on the bike (literally and metaphorically), dipping my toes in the water (literally and metaphorically) and running round like a madman (metaphorically and definitely not literally as that would involve a hatchett). I’m ready to go. Week 1. (Again). And a fresh start at training for Celtman and Escape From Alcatraz.

No more ‘should’ve been’ just full o’beans!

Freestyling (Andrew)

People say that golf’s a “good walk spoiled” but, as I like golf, I prefer to say that swimming’s a “good drowning spoiled”.

Swimming is a silly sport.

Think about it. You don’t have running events where we move our legs in different ways. We don’t have the 100m normal run, the 100m bandy leg run – nor do we run 100m backwards. Yet, swimming thinks it’s perfectly okay to have umpteen different ways of thrashing your arms to make you go forward – or backwards.

Shouldn’t the person who swims 100 meters fastest be the person who… you know… swims 100 meters the fastest? Stop giving gold medals to people who are clearly not fast enough to swim fast enough.

And swimmers know they shouldn’t reward second place. There’s a hierarchy in swimming. At the top they have ‘free style’ and at the bottom they have ‘doggy paddle’ a stroke so poor they don’t even call it a stroke, they call it a paddle, a name which comes from having to use a boat because you can’t swim. And this hierarchy is clear because although swimmers have free style events where swimmers can swim any of the four main stokes – freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly – they all swim freestyle because it’s the fastest.

You wouldn’t race Uisean Bolt by jogging not sprinting, so you don’t race free style by using any stroke other than the fastest.

Yet, still we celebrate Michael Phelps even though he’s not actually got as many gold medals as you think because many of those medals are for events where, even though he came first, he was still not the fastest man to swim from one side of a pool to another.

Perhaps my views on swimming are based on the fact that I’m just jealous. Swimming is hard. I enjoy it, but it’s hard.

For years I could only swim breaststroke. But, when I entered my first triathlon, I knew I would have to learn to swim free style – and I struggled.

The first lap would be okay, the second not bad, the third was when my lungs gave out, the water leaked into my goggles and into my eyes and, by the time I’d reached the fourth lap I was knackered.

It took a few months to become even vaguely confident about swimming and, even now, a few years later, while I’ve grown to like swimming, I don’t love it the same way I love running and cycling.

Swimming is a silly sport.

But it’s part of triathlon and a major part of Celtman so, to help with getting ready for this year’s race, I’ve changed gym (more on that next time) and joined one that’s easier to get to first thing in the morning. And while I’ve been unable to train the last few weeks I have made one major change to help when I start again. I’m now getting up at 6:15 rather than 7:00 so that I can train in the morning before going to work. And, a major part of that change will be to go to the pool at 7am.

No wonder I hate swimming. It’s made me get up early in the morning.

Damn you swimming!

However my new gym has one advantage over all the other gyms in Glasgow (no, it’s not that the pool is only 21m long so it makes you think you swim a lap faster than anywhere else) , it’s the fact that it has a policy of only allowing one swimmer a lane.

The bottom of the pool has lanes marked on it and, once you’ve picked one, no one else can use it until you’re finished. No more sharing a land with someone really, really slow. (Or Iain, as I call him). No more sharing a lane with someone who wears indecent running shorts instead of swimming trunks. (Or, again, Iain, as I call him). Instead, you can swim back and forth free and uninterrupted swimming any stoke you like – even if you know there only one stroke that really counts.

T2 Trainingspotting (Andrew)

There’s a scene in the original Trainspotting where Ewan McGregor’s character, Renton, goes through cold turkey to quit heroin.

He locks himself in his bedroom, boards up the door and vomits, shakes and hallucinates a … well… there’s a reason the film was rated an 18.

And I have to say, after a week of drinking, slurping, sucking and sniffing every drug known to man – and I’m talking the real hard stuff: Lemsip, Sinex, Strepsils, cough mixture (chest and throat) and the class A narcotic known as Night Nurse – I think I’m going to have to follow Renton and lock myself away too if I’m going to quit my new vices.

But the problem is that I don’t want to quit. The drugs are just too good!

It started simply. I just want to get better to start training for Celtman. At first I sucked a Strepsil to help my throat, then I moved onto cough mixture before, just minutes later I was downing a bottle of Night Nurse and desperately searching the kitchen cupboard for the vitamin C tablets I knew were in there but hadn’t seen since the day I bought them.

I was a junkie – and it was all triathlon’s fault.

Now I know how Lance Armstrong started.

First, it was the aspirin. Then it was a flu shot. Next thing you know you’re strapped to a blood bag in the back of a bus parked on the side of hill in France and you really wanted to do was to get back on your bike and train!

It’s a slippery slope!

And the worst thing about it is that drugs are better than actual drugs: I can’t imagine cocaine is half as thrilling as getting a double blast of Sinex up each nostril. How could it be? Does it have that nostril punch of liquid snow and summer mint? Does it have that addictive rush of brain freeze and back of the mouth bitterness?

And as for Night Nurse – how can heroin compare with that moresih mix of what looks like radioactive snot? If you want knocked out, then knock back a cup of Night Nurse before bed. It’s a coma in a bottle.

The Verve sang that ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ but if they’d ever tried Night Nurse then they wouldn’t have sung anything at all because they’d have been up all night* having some of that ol’ Night Nurse!

(*well, 20 minutes, that Night Nurse is potent stuff for knocking you out).

So, as my cough  has changed from a chest cough to a throat cough to a phlegmy cough and back to a chest cough I have changed from the clean cut Andrew Todd of just a week and half ago into a full blown junkie.

And I’ve still not got rid of my cough.

So, until I do, I keep telling myself I can quit anytime. I can stop any day.

But not today.

(Or tomorrow)

[Cough] [Splutter] [Cough] (Andrew)

Day one.

Perfect. One hour on the bike on a FTP test for Trainerroad. If you don’t know what FTP stands for then I think stands for “Faster Than you normally Pedal*” because, as the name says, it makes you go faster than you normally pedal.

(It also stands for something else entirely in Glasgow!)

The test consists of a warm up, a cool down and 20 minutes of cycling as fast as you can. In my case it kept telling me to cycle at a cadence of 150, which is fast, real fast. Just imagine a kid with a sparkler making circles in the air. Now, imagine that kid hopped up on Sunny Delight. That’s how fast it was telling me to go. Sunny D fast.

I struggled to keep my legs spinning that fast. I went as fast as I could go but I never hit 150.

Or 140.

Or 130.

But I tried.

That’s the main thing (I keep telling myself).

From that Trainerroad was able to adjust all it’s other setting so that…

Jumping Ahead to Day Three

I’d have one hour 15 minutes on the bike at a rate which was just right…

…if I could only pedal faster.

Blimey, charley, luv a duck. Even after the test it was still telling me to pedal at 130 – 140 pedal strokes a minute and I must admit I struggled. I tried to go faster but, by an hour, I was struggling to keep up and slowed down.

I finished it though and, because the programme required a run immediately afterwards, I even went out and ran round the block dodging unwanted Christmas trees on the pavements (today was bin day for collecting trees).

I was tired, lethargic, and I thought it was partly a response to my third day of getting up at 6:15 to fit in training before work and an early start which meant…

Jumping Back To Day Two

I was swimming at 7am and joining the small number of people waiting for the pool to open. I swam 2 km. I’ve not done that since September last year. And I was really happy to see I still could which makes…

[Cough]

Day four 

[Cooooouuuuugghhhhh!] [Throaty rasp!]

Such a disappointment.

My cold from last week, which earlier in the week was the occasional cough is now a full on [cough] can’t talk without [cough] interuptions and [cough] can’t walk [cough] without coughing [cough].

A throat infection or chest infection. A tickly cough just at the base of the neck which makes it impossible to tell if it’s an ‘above the neck okay to train’ type cough or a ‘below the neck not okay to train’ type cough.

It’s now day six. I’m still coughing so, until it goes away, I’ll add two new stats for this week one of training.

Andrew: 0

Cough: 1.

*It actually stands for Functional Threshold Power which is just a fancy way of saying Faster Than you normally Pedal.