[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.

How Long is ‘Long’ (Andrew)

It’s Boxing Day. Iain and I are running a three mile route around Stornoway and I say: “Tomorrow, we’ll run the long way round the Castle Grounds”.

I know what I mean. I mean we’ll run from our parents house to the Castle Grounds then we’ll run anti-clockwise through Willowglen, the golf course, Lews Castle, Cuddy Point, the Porter’s Lodge and then out and back around town via the harbour.

Iain should have known what I meant.  It’s our usual route. The one we run most times we’re at home. It’s the long way round because, well, it’s 5 miles, and that’s quite long. Hence, it’s the long way round the Castle Grounds.

Iain, on the other hand, hears an entirely different route. The next day we don’t take a left and run down to Cuddy Point, which is about midway along the Castle Grounds, he takes a right.

“Where are you going?” I ask.

“The long way,” he says.

“That’s not the long way.” The route he’s going will take us to the very end of the Castle Grounds before coming back via the outer road.

“Yes, it is!” He insists. “You said we’re going the long way round and this is the long way!”

“No,” I say, “That’s is the ULTRA way!”

It’s amazing how the word long means different things to different people. When I started running and I was going for a long run I meant I was going to run a couple of miles. A couple of years ago a long run was  6 – 8 miles. Now a long run is 10 to 12. My idea of long has changed.

It’s the same with triathlons. My first triathlon felt like it lasted forever. The 10k run at the end was chalked off a kilometre at a time with each kilometre feeling as slow as waiting for a Dominos pizza to arrive (the slowest feeling in the world).

Now, a triathlon doesn’t feel slow (though my times tell me otherwise) because my perception has changed. Long has become short.  And long has become longer.

That’s why you can’t yourself when training. You’re idea of a long run or a long ride changes over time and it’s easy to kid yourself when training for a race that you’ve put in the miles when your long runs and rides were all in your head.

That’s why I’m going to try an experiment in the next month. I’ve had a heart rate monitor for over a year but I’ve never used it. Next week I’ll start to use it. I’ve joined TrainerRoad and I’m going to see if science and technology will help with my Celtman training.

This year “long” won’t mean “long”. Instead “long” will mean “a scientifically generated objective number based on verifiable testing and quantitative analysis”.

All I want for Xmas is sunscreen (Iain)

He’s making a list,

And checking it twice,

He looks again!

He can’t believe the price!

Santa Claus is buying prezzies for triathletes!

Ho, ho, ho! Merry Xmas!

It’s the time of year my mum asks what I’d like for Xmas and I say “How about this saddle for my bike?” I show her the saddle and she goes “HOW MUCH!!!”

In fairness, I said the same when she said she’d like Jo Malone perfume.

It’s easy to get a present for Andrew. I just get something I’d like myself. That way – if he doesn’t like it,  I keep it!

This year, I’ve found the perfect present for Celtman: Sunscreen.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lifesystems-Active-Protection-Cream-200ml-x/dp/B0050DD74S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1481712678&sr=8-1&keywords=jellyfish+repellent

You may wonder why he needs sunscreen for a race famed for its lack of sun. This sunscreen is special. Not only does it prevent sun burn it also repels jelly fish! Celtman is famed for its jelly fish so this would be the perfect gift except for one thing…

Celtman is an extreme triathlon! It’s not a cuddly triathlon. It’s not going to give Andrew a hug and tell him everything’s going to be okay! He’s supposed to suffer.

Giving him sunscreen would be against the spirit of the event.

So, I’ve ordered a different sunscreen. One which will make his swim extreme. I don’t want to spoil his Christmas surprise by saying which one it is but I will reveal one thing – it was really difficult to find one containing a jellyfish aphrodisiac!

Celtman Day 0 (Andrew)

Celtman training began today, unofficially. Officially, it will begin on Christmas Day with a jog around Stornoway – the Christmas Day Stornoway jog is the traditional start of training.

So, today’s 10 miles on a Turbo was just a warm up. A warm up to the proper training in three weeks. That’s why I checked my email, watched a couple of trailers on YouTube and generally didn’t actually do anything that resembled training. Because training hasn’t started, at least not officially.

(Which is good because I was knackered!)

Escape From Alcatrazman (Andrew)

Damn.

That’s all I can say to that.

Damn.

I entered three race ballots this year. The first was Norseman, which I didn’t want to race, but I did want to increase my chances in the future as every failure to be selected gives you an additional chance in the next ballot.

So, I was successful. Not because I was selected. But, because I was not selected, which was the selection I wanted, if you know what I mean. I won by losing.

The second was Celtman. This one I wanted to win. And I did by winning, not losing, and being lucky enough to be selected to race in 2017.

The third was Escape From Alcatraz. This was a long shot. A ‘I’ll never get in but might as well enter cause you never know’ race. There are only 2,000 places. There are 10s of thousands of entrants. I had no hope of getting in… until I got in.

Two days ago I received this email.

untitled

Damn.

Escape From Alcatraz is a once in a lifetime race. A chance to jump off a ferry beside Alcatraz island (they can’t start on the island because of the current) and to swim back to shore next to the Golden Gate Bridge. An 18 mile closed road bike circuit and a 8 mile run follow. All in San Fransisco – a city I’ve always wanted to visit.

But there’s a problem. A Celtman shaped problem.

Escape From Alcatraz is the week before Celtman. It would be silly to try and do both, wouldn’t it? I should be tapering, not taking part in a triathlon half across the world.

But…

… could I just take it easy. Use the swim as good practice and use the bike and run as gentle exercises?

But…

… what about jetlag? I’m just back from the States. I flew 8 hours on Monday night to London, then had a four hour wait before a connecting flight to Glasgow. I was awake for nearly 36 hours after getting up at 10am (UK time) in the States on Monday and not going to bed until 10pm on Tuesday. I can barely muster the energy to walk today, never mind swim three miles, cycle 120 and run a marathon up and over two Munros.

But…

I want to do both!

But…

Can I do both?

Should I do both?

Hence…

Damn.

The one with jellyfish in it (Andrew)

Some people get survival tips from a TV adventurer Bear Grylls. A man who hides his luxury caravan hidden just out of shot. Other people get their tips from Ray Mears, a man who tries to avoid being bitten by snakes but whose very name is an anagram of “Ar! My Arse!”

Me, I get my survival tips from 90s sitcom Friends.

There’s not many 90s sitcoms that you can turn to for survival tips. Frasier could help you charm a maître-d. Only Fools & Horses would warn you about the dangerous lack of support in wine bars. But only Friends could help you in the wild, and by wild, I mean beach. And, by beach, I mean tourist beach, with lifeguards and flags to warn you before you go for a swim. Also ice cream. And cocktails. And a lounger and free towels. 

In Friends, six friends, hence the title of the programme, in case you’ve not seen it, go the beach. One of the friends is stung by a jellyfish and another of the friends suggests they, ahem, relieve themselves on the spot where it stings as, ahem, urine, ahem, is a cure for jelly fish stings…

Now, you have to ask yourself how this cure was first discovered. Who’s first thought was “I know, let’s piss on it!” and, having found success in combatting jellyfish, did they try and expand?

“I have a headache, does anyone have any aspirin?”

“No need, I know what to do – let’s stand on a chair and piss on your head!”

“I’ve broken my leg, can someone call an ambulance?”

“Save yourself a phone call – I’ve got a better idea – let’s piss on it!”

In Friends that’s exactly what they do. They piss on the friend with the jellyfish sting and, lo and behold, the friend is cured. Or at least I think that’s what happens. I’ve not seen this episode in years so I can’t absolutely say that there is an episode of Friends where five friends form a circle and piss on the sixth. I can imagine that happening in Seinfeld, but somehow it doesn’t seem right for Friends. Perhaps they all did it into a cup and then it was poured on delicately.

Anyways, whether circle pished or applied from a potty pot, that episode of Friends stuck in my mind and I’ve always known what to do when a jellyfish stings. Fortunately, I’ve never had to put this into practice as I’ve never been stung by a jellyfish. Until now…

I thought I would be during Norseman. I even grew a beard to protect my face. (I say beard, it was more bum fluff with ambition). A beard stops the jellyfish from stinging. But, the beard wasn’t necessary as there was something else that stopped the jellyfish from stinging: cold fresh water. It was too cold and not salty enough for jellyfish in the fjords.

Celtman is a different story. There are thousands of jellyfish in the swim section and all race reports talk about swimming through them.

Luckily, unfortunately, in my first sea swim since entering Celtman I had a chance to experience a jellyfish sting. I was swimming off South Beach in Miami (which, with its loungers, cocktails, warm water and dusky heat is ideal training for the cold sharp Scottish water of Celtman) when I felt small electric shocks along my arm. I knew I was stung but I wasn’t sure by what. I could feel an itchiness and knew I had to swim back to shore and speak to the lifeguard but all I could think was “Is he going to piss on it?”

I’d seen Friends, I knew what happened next.

I climbed the lifeguards’ tower, showed him my arm, now turning blotchy red, and said “I think I’ve been stung.”

He said “It’s a jellyfish, let me get something for that.”

And he grabbed a bottle.

While part of me thought how good it was that he prepared for this emergency by bottling himself in advance, another part of me thought “Please let it be something else, please let it be anything else”.

“It’s vinegar,” he said, spraying the liquid on my outstretched arm.

I sniffed.

I smelt chips.

I realized I was the chips.

It was vinegar.

Vinegar is a cure for jellyfish.

Thank you, Jesus!

Now I can tell Iain he doesn’t need a special water bottle to help at transition or that the only place he can go to the toilet is my left arm. Instead, along with the gels, energy bards and high energy drinks, he just needs a bottle of Saxo vinegar – filled with pish.

Celtman 2017 (Andrew)

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I’d entered the ballot for Norseman and Celtman but only wanted one to succeed. I want to do Norseman again, but not next year. It’s too soon. But, because it’s a ballot, and I won’t get to choose if I’m lucky enough to enter it again, I entered anyway, to build up my chances in future years. Luckily, I didn’t get in.

However, Celtman was the race I wanted to enter. I’d seen the very first race on BBC Scotland’s The Adventure Show and I’ve always wanted to do it. After Norseman I didn’t fancy another race abroad so Celtman was my first choice. I just had to hope I’d be lucky in the ballot.

I got the email mid-afternoon. I read it. It said “You are in the race!.” and I thought: “Why has it got a full stop after the exclamation mark?”. Then it said “Please read the whole of this message very carefully”. And I thought: “I have and, really, why has it got a full stop after the exclamation mark?”.

It’s strange the things you think of when dream come true. Neil Armstrong probably thought: “Have I switched the oven off?” when he landed on the moon.

It takes a second or two for the reality to hit. I was in.

Ironically, and just like last year when I heard about Norseman, I’m injured at the moment. A twinge. A dodgy right hip. A few weeks of rest to take care of it. This week I started running and cycling again. A run through some trails north of Aviemore and 10 miles on the turbo, which have now become the first run and the first ride towards Celtman 2017!