Tag: cycling

King of the Crow 2018! (Iain)

My goal for 2018 is to be the fastest cyclist over the Crow Road. It’s a fairly long climb heading north, out of Lennoxtown. It’s a favourite route of central Scotland cyclists.

It was also a training route for Scottish professional cyclist Philippa York (previously known as Robert Millar) She would ride a dozen reps of it as preparation for the Tour de France.

I could spend months training hard to achieve my goal or I could cheat! As I don’t have any asthma spray and I don’t have Chris Froome’s mobile number to ask to borrow his, I used my wits.

The easiest way to be the fastest cyclist in 2018 is to be the first cyclist in 2018.

Yesterday, I got up early and made sure I was on the route as the sun came up. It was a beautiful morning, made even more beautiful when I got back to the house and checked Strava.

I’m King of the Crow 2018…as long as I don’t check the leader-board again till 2019.

crow

Norseman – The journey begins… (Iain)

The Chinese philosopher Confucius wrote “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

The approximate distance from my house near Glasgow to Eidfjord (the Norwegian town where Norseman starts) is 1000 miles.

And I don’t step anywhere until I’ve booked a flight, arranged a hire car and reserved accommodation with AirBnB. So, forget what Confucius said, the phrase should be: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single… mouse click.

Click  1 – Arrange a support crew. 

It’s compulsory to have a support crew. Previously I did this by myself for Andrew. That worked fine but, if I’d had to run the final leg, then the logistics would have been tricky. This time I’ll have two support crew. It’ll make it a more enjoyable day for all of us.

Click 2 – Arrange a flight

There’s two flights from Scotland to Norway. One goes from Edinburgh to Oslo, the other from Aberdeen to Bergen. Bergen is the closer to Eidfjord but Aberdeen is much further from my house. The time I’d save driving in Norway would be lost driving in Scotland. I therefore booked a flight to Oslo.

Click 3 – Arrange accommodation

Eidfjord is very small with limited accommodation but I managed to arrange an Airbnb for a small village nearby – Ovre Eidfjord. I booked a chalet in Rjukan for the finish. I’ve stayed there before. They sell great pizza on site which I’m looking forward to having after the race.

Click 4 – Train for the race

I asked Google “How do I train for Norseman?”

Google replied: “Stop sitting on your ass at the computer!! You won’t get anywhere until you step outside!”

Maybe Confucious had a point after all…

2018 (Iain)

I have wee’d in Harry Potter’s author J K Rowling’s driveway. It is not my proudest moment…

Even worse than that – I met her at an event and, instead of saying, “Hi there, I really enjoy your books,” I said “Hi there, I pished on your gate.”

I told her she could use it in a book – Harry Potter and the Search for a Toilet. A book where Harry Potter has one too many Butter Beers and then tries to make it home. She’s not written it… yet…

Triathlete’s claim an IronMan is the hardest event on earth. It’s not. The hardest event on earth is trying to unlock a door, hopping from one foot to the other, whilst desperate for the loo.

Rowling owns a country house in Perthshire. The house is peaceful and quiet but a b-road passes by her front gate. Every May the Caledonia Etape Cycling Sportive uses the road. 5,000 cyclists pass the entrance to her house but one year instead of wiz’ing by I wiz’ed in a different manner.

I was desperate for the loo and I saw her path was conveniently located close to the road. A bush next to the gate hid me from the view of other cyclists. I knew it was her house but resisted the urge to shout, whilst gripping my wand, “Expelliarmus!!!!”.

I’ve started planning my 2018 “season” hopefully I’ll avoid any incidents with beloved children’s authors! I’m picking races based on the closeness to my house and ones I’ve done before and enjoyed.

2018 Races (until Norseman)

  • January 27th – Buchlayvie 10K
  • February 11th  – Kirkintilloch 12.5K
  • February 24th – Glentress Trail race 21K
  • March 11th – Balloch to Clydebank Half Marathon
  • March 18th – Alloa Half Marathon
  • March 25th – Stirling Duathlon
  • April 22nd – Balfron 10K
  • May 13th – Loch Leven half marathon
  • May 20th – Caledonian Etape
  • July 1st  – Ironman Edinburgh 70.3
  • August 5th – Norseman

Learning to learn (Iain)

There is an old saying: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach”

Which is certainly true of the teachers I had. Except they could not ‘do’ or ‘teach’.

My physics teacher was a drunk. He had no idea who anyone in his class was. At the start of each year, he would take a photo of the class. At the school parents evening he pointed at the class photo and asked my parents: “Which one’s yours?”

My history teacher used to tell fat kids at the front of the class to move to the back as they were blocking the view of the other pupils!

My tech teacher gave me a bit of wood to make a model boat. He then used my bit to demonstrate how to do it. When I gave it to him for assessment he said it was rubbish and gave me a “D.” It was his work!

All I can say to my physics/history/teach teacher is – all is forgiven! Last month I did the  UKCC Level 1 Triathlon Course. I discovered for myself how difficult it is to teach a group.

The course takes place over three days. On day one, I coached a swim session on sculling. There was only one problem. I did not know what sculling was. Actually, there was a second problem. One of the people I had to teach was the brother of an Olympic swimmer. It’s fair to say his small toe knew more about swimming than I did.

I was very self-conscious as I told people to “catch the water” and “this will make you a better swimmer” as I had no idea what I was talking about. I eventually gave in and made them swim up and down. At least they got some exercise.

The lesson I took from that was its best to teach what I know and if I don’t know it then I need to practice, practice, practice till I do know it.

On day two I had to teach running and biking. This went slightly better. My running drill was balance. I’d done a yoga class that morning with a balance section so I just repeated what that teacher had done. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel.

My bike coaching was terrible so the less said about that the better but it did reemphasize that I need to practice, practice and practice some more.

Day three was the assessment. Thankfully, that went well and I passed the course. Thankfully, there’s a gap of a few weeks before day three so I was able to practice, practice and practice!

Hopefully I can now help out at some club sessions. Fellow athletes can then say about me:

“Those who can tri, those who can’t coach!”

My first triathlon (Iain)

On a Monday, in September 2008, I  joined the Royal Bank of Scotland. The first day was amazing. I met my team mates, I got taken out for lunch and, in the evening, we all went to a bar and got drunk.

My second day wasn’t as good – the bank collapsed!

I don’t think the financial crises was my fault but I can’t be certain. I was very drunk that night.

During the night out, the RBS project manager told me about a race he’d entered – the Edinburgh New Year’s Day Triathlon. A 400m swim in a pool, then three laps on a bike of Arthur’s Seat finishing with one lap running around Arthurs Seat.

It sounded great, so I signed up. I then realized I hadn’t swam since school ten years previously. I then realized that at school I hadn’t been very good at swimming.

I should therefore have practiced swimming before the event but like all men faced with a problem – I ignored it!

I’m not sure I took the event seriously. This is what I wrote on Facebook the night before the race.

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and this is what I was doing at 0300, five hours before the start of the race

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I think it’s fair to say my pre-race fueling strategy was flawed.

I woke up very hungover but I made it to the start.

The swim was eight laps of the commonwealth pool. I used the breast stroke for all of them. I remember thinking “this is the furthest I’ve ever swam” and that was at the end of lap one!

The bike didn’t go any better.

I had an old mountain bike. Thankfully I was not breathalyzed before hitting the road. My bike broke on lap one. Everyone passed me as I tried to fix it. I eventually got it working and made it round slowly.

My drinking caught up with me on the run and I threw up at the start, the middle and the end of the lap.

I eventually finished last.

BUT that wasn’t the worst part of the day. After the swim, instead of going to the run transition, I’d gone to the changing room to use the hairdryer. I wasn’t going to go out on new years day in Scotland with wet hair. I’d catch a cold!

As I was blowing my hair the RBS project manager saw me. He strode over and asked how my race had gone” I replied that I was currently doing it. He looked appalled!

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How to chose a new mountain bike (Andrew)

Names are important. They tell you a lot about the thing you’re looking at. A road bike is bike that goes on the road. A track bike is a bike that goes on the track and a mountain bike is a bike that, well, goes on a mountain, possibly, maybe, with someone else who knows what they’re doing. I’ve never been on a mountain with a bike!

But that’s about to change.

I’ve bought a mountain bike and, after a careful search of all the models and specifications open to me, I have, after much consideration, bought…

…. an orange one.

Not an Orange one, though. There is a brand of bike called Orange. Nor indeed have I bought one made out of a citrus fruit. Instead, I’ve bought an orange one (the colour).

Now some people may say that choosing a bike is a complicated process. And it is. If it was a road bike then I’d be considering various types of position – aero or sportive; or the type of riding I wanted to do: TT, triathlon or unicycle (in case I ever decide to become a street performer) – but I don’t know the first thing about mountain bikes. So I thought I should share all I’ve learned in the last two months as I carefully considered my next bike:

Wheels

The big ones look really cool. I think they might also be comfier, like cycling on pillows, but the only thought I had was “How long does it take to blow that up?”. I already spend 10 minutes at the side of the road inflating a skinny road tyre, how long will it take to blow up two wheels that you could hang a basket off and launch it as a balloon?

So, I choose a bike with biggish wheels. Not the biggest. Not the smallest. Just biggish.

I recommend biggish.

Frame

These come in two types. Ones without cool looking suspension type thingamajigs. Or one without. I don’t know what the cool looking suspension type thingamajigs do, but I knew I wanted one so I could be cool looking too. One day I may ever tough the dial on it, but not today, I might break it.

I recommend cool-looking.

Suspension

The front of the bike will have a suspension on it. It should also look cool. Ideally with some kind of logo that people who know logos will be impressed by. I don’t know anything about logos so, for all I know, my logo could say the mountain bike equivalent of “fannybaws” – but it says “Rockshock” and that sounds cool and definitely something that might appear on screen when Batman punches a bad guy, and you don’t get cooler than that.

I recommend fannybaws.

Saddle

Unless its got a spike on it, I really don’t care. It’s a black one.

I 100% recommend a saddle.

Brakes and gears 

Check the bike definitely has them! Mine does so that makes it a good bike.

I recommend stopping.

Colour

The most important thing of all. And one that’s a matter of personal taste so I wouldn’t presume to tell you what colour to go for (orange!) and what to avoid (neon green – it looks like radioactive boogies).

With these top tips and careful research of all the different types of mountain bike I was able to walk into the shop say to myself “that’s a good bike!” as soon as I spotted an orange one with wheels and brakes and a frame and a saddle that didn’t have a spike up the bum.

IronMan UK 2015 (Iain)

This week, I realized I have a lot of old posts from a previous blog. So that they don’t go to waste, and to save me having to write new blogs I’m going to publish some of the more interesting ones.

This is from 2015….

Bolton was home to Fred Dibnah. He climbed chimneys and became a TV star.  When he died a statue was erected in his honor. Bolton was home to Nat Lofthouse. He was one of the greatest English footballers. When he died a statue was erected in his honor. Bolton was home to Vernon Kaye. He presented the TV show which tried to drown celebrity’s – “Splash.” I hope he doesn’t get a statue for it!

If he doesn’t then he will, at least, get a mention in a remembrance book at Bolton Wanderer’s stadium. It lists all the Bolton fans that died that day….which is a bit creepy. Do they phone up the hospital and check who the recently deceased supported?

Bolton

IronMan UK which is based at Bolton’s stadium. The race is a 2.4-mile  swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and then a run of 26.2-mile.

Registration/Setup

Registration and Transition 2 are based at the stadium. It’s convenient for parking and easy to get to/from the motorway. The expo/merchandise is smaller than IronMan Frankfurt (which I’d visited a few weeks beforehand) so don’t wait until after the race to buy anything as it will most likely be gone by then.

You can request a special needs bag for the bike section but its not given out automatically.

We stayed in http://www.hiexpressleigh.co.uk/ which is next to the swim start but about 10 miles from Bolton. It was a good choice. We walked to the swim in the morning and they supplied an early breakfast and a pre-race dinner.

After registration we parked the car in a multistory next to the finish line. The car parks free at the weekend. After the race we’d only have a short walk from the finsish to the car park.  We took a bus back to Leigh and picked up a race essential – a Subway sandwich for the special needs bag. I wasn’t going to spend all day racing without eating some real food.

Unfortunately the hotel room didn’t have a fridge so I created one from ice cubes and a sink. I suspect I was the only one racing who eat a Subway.

Fridge

Our pre race rest comprised walking to the cinema to watch Ant Man. It was rubbish but watchable. I got to bed about 20:00 and set the alarm for 04:00

Swim (01:21:46)

The rain was pelting down when I got up. The start was only a short walk away so instead of getting clothes wet I wore the wet-suit from the hotel to the start line. As I walked along I passed people in wetsuits who also were also wearing rain smocks! Why??? Surely they can’t be concerned about the wet suit getting wet!

The swim is a rolling start so you queue in a line and enter the water and start swimming. Where you stand in the line represents how quick you think your swim time will be. I queued towards the back.

The swim is two laps of the course. The queue start meant there was no getting battered and bumped at the beginning of the race. The second lap was trickier as the weather was abysmal which made it tough to spot the buoys. I was surprised when I got out to do so at the exact same time as my brother. I hadn’t seen him at all on the course during either lap!finisherpix_0955_006476

Transition 

There is only one tent. Other races have two (one for male, one for female) so if you want to get naked you have to do so in a corner of the tent that’s blocked off. Its pretty pointless as it’s not very well blocked off so you can see everything. I apologize to anyone who got an eyeful. I can only claim that the water was very, very cold.

Bike (07:46:48)

It was still raining when we came out of transition. The forecast was for the sun to come out within an hour but I wore waterproofs. I’m glad I did because the weather forecast was wrong and it was mostly a cold and very windy ride.

The first section is a 14 mile urban ride to the start of a two loop circuit. The circuit has two hills on it. Neither of which is particularly difficult as we are used to Scottish hills. The support on both is excellent as a lot of people come out to cheer you on as you make your way up.  The wind never abated on the laps and it felt it was more against than for me.

Nothing much interesting happened on the ride other than a man rode into the back of Andrew at the special needs section. Luckily neither Andrew or his sandwich were hurt. At another point we took a wrong turn but we weren’t the only ones who did so and it was quickly rectified.

In terms of organisation there aren’t many toilet spots on the loop and support vehicles seemed to be few and far between. It didn’t cause us any issues but its worth noting that help might not be immediately at hand.

This years bike split times are much slower than last year’s. This has a good analysis of it http://www.coachcox.co.uk/2015/07/20/ironman-uk-2015-results-and-analysis/

finisherpix_0955_001229Transition 

There was only one tent so a similar system of nakedness replied. Again, I apologize for anyone who got an eyeful.

Run (05:04:09)

The weather in Bolton was nice,  the sun had come out (at last!) We had a strategy of running the flat/downhill and walking the uphill. After two minutes of leaving transition we came to the first hill. It felt strange to stop but a strategy is a strategy!

The first part of the run takes you into Bolton city centre. It’s pretty dull slog along a canal as there are no mile markers. I had to rely on a GPS watch to know how well/badly I was doing.

After this there were three loops of the city centre. The amount of supporters, or they may just be people who like to watch other suffer,  lining the streets was unbelievable. At time I was running into a wall of noise. A wall that likes shouting encouragement. Unfortunately I do better with criticism  so I just ignore the encouragement but I do appreciate the atmosphere. Without it the run would have been a struggle. One women did make me laugh as she shouted “two for the price of one” after spotting myself and Andrew.

The loop is surprisingly hilly. A steady climb out of town and steady descent back. As the hills were long I abandoned the hill strategy and replaced it with ‘the cone game’! I’ll share this wonderful game so you too can go slightly mental on a race.

It’s very simple. The course is lined with cones so pick a number of cones to run past and then a number to walk. On the way down the hill on the first lap we’d do a 4-2 strategy. 4 cones running, two cones walking. On the way back up the hill 3-3. The strategy would change depending how we felt so if we were tired we could drop to a 3 cones on 4 cones off etc

From this I learnt that Andrew has trouble counting as he’d say “was that the second cone or the third?”

I also believe I can now recognize every cone in Bolton! By the end they all had individual personalities. I might have gone loopy. It was a really good way to get through the run as we could always see where our next run or walk section was.

Their was a lack of toilets on the route but luckily neither of us had any issues on the day. We both just eat a little bit of everything in moderation and that worked fine.

The finish was excellent. Big crowds and the man saying “lain…you are an IronMan” but better than that was the free pizza in the finish tent.

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Overall (14:45:50)

A good experience that means I’ll never have do another one! I’ve always preferred shorter races and this didn’t change my opinion although I would like to know – If I did  an IronMan abroad would they say “you are an IronMan?” or would it be”eres un hombre de hierro” or  “vous êtes un homme de fer” or…

Corfu (Iain)

Last week the Bonnie Gardener (https://thebonniegardener.co.uk/ and I were on holiday in Corfu. Here’s five things we learnt.

Corfu is not known as Cor-poo

Before we left someone told us Corfu is known as Cor-pooo due to the bad smell. Thankfully, the only bad smell on holiday was my socks after a day walking about in 30C heat!

I googled this “fact” and so far I’ve found no mention of it by anyone else so I’ll call it #fakenews

What happens in Kavos stays in Kavos.

A few years ago the Daily Mail run an expose of the wild lifestyle of teenagers on holiday in Kavos. The kids were going wild – drinking, dancing and forgetting to phone home. Actually, the last one might have been a different f word,

I spotted this drink:

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If an IronMan is the ultimate achievement in triathlon then a headf*cker must be the ultimate achievement in drinking. The two are very similar. They will both leave you broken after finishing one.

 

 

It’s very easy to hire a boat

“Do you hire out boats?” I ask a woman wearing a t-shirt with “Corfu boat hire” written on it. She’s sitting in an office which has a large sign above the entrance stating “We hire boats”

I’m pretty confident she’ll say yes.

“Yes,” she replies and then adds, “do you have a boat licence?”

“I don’t but I grew up on an island. I’ve got 30 years of boating experience.” I don’t mention that my the experience is sitting on a ferry eating macaroni cheese from the cafeteria as I cross between Stornoway and Ullapool.

“In that case I can rent you a boat!” and with that I was the proud owner (for a day) of a boat!

Don’t bother bringing your bike kit

During my week in Corfu I only saw a handful of cyclists.  The roads aren’t in very good condition and there’s a lot of sharp turns on them. Other than the main routes the roads are only wide enough to allow cars to pass by each other slowly.

This means that you have to have your wits about you on a bike as you never know when a car or bus will come round a sharp corner and how close it may be to your side of the road.

Because of that reason I didn’t cycle.

Corfu is great for swimming

The swimming is excellent. The sea in September is warm and pleasant. The visibility is so clear I could have been in a swimming pool except there’s no lines on the bottom of the sea to show where to go.

I recommend Corfu if you want somewhere to go somewhere cheap with great food and friendly locals but don’t expect to do anymore than swim and drink beer 🙂

Whats your best time? (Iain)

A few years ago, I did an acting course where I performed a scene in front of an audience at the Citizen’s theatre in Glasgow.

The  scene was a conversation between a serial killer and the landlady of a bed and breakfast. I was the serial killer. The acting tutor said I was perfect for the part. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing!

The other actor was an older woman. The first thing she asked me at rehearsal was: “What accent are you going to use?”

“My own,” I replied, “but louder so the people at the back can hear me.”

On the night of the show it seemed to go well. I was myself but louder and she performed the scene with a perfect Yorkshire accent

Afterwards, the tutor said to her:  “You were amazing! You transformed yourself and inhibited that character. You could easily work in theatre.”

He then turned to me.

“As long as you enjoyed yourself.”

I did enjoy myself. I was a terrible actor but I’d set myself the challenge of acting in front of an audience and I’d achieved it.

So, recently, when asked by a fellow triathlete what my best time for a race was, I replied: “I don’t know my best time but I can tell you the race I enjoyed the most”

Because enjoyment should always come before performance.

Visit the Outer Hebrides (Iain)

 

There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to confess something to his partner. He’ll have struggled with the confession for weeks in advance. He’ll spend ages trying to get the correct phrasing. In the weeks leading up to it he’ll use bribery and flattery to get his partner in the right frame of mind to hear him.

But… eventually… he’ll just have to confess – “I’m going on a biking holiday!”

He’ll then try to explain to his partner how his week long “training” trip to Mallorca or the Canary islands wont be fun. He’ll claim – nobody will be drinking!  He’ll say – we’re not going anywhere near Shagaluf…sorry Magaluf.  He’ll state – it’s all about the hills.

A few years ago, I went on a week long “training” holiday to the famous Lanzarote resort of Club la Santa or as  I prefer to call it, Prison Camp la Santa. The accommodation was so spartan the film 300 was filmed here. (I might have made that last bit up).

The accommodation, at that time, was terrible (and subsequently has been upgraded) The room was tiny with old broken furniture. I had to pay a small fortune for food and drink and there wasn’t much to do once I’d been for a spin on the bike as Santa is miles away from any big town. What made it worse was discovering someone else was staying in a 5* all inclusive hotel near by which was half the price!

This year, instead of an overpriced training camp on a windy, desolate, overbearingly hot island I went to a  windy, desolate, cold island – the Outer Hebrides.

During the week, I was able to bike a different route every day on virtually car free roads.

Tour De Harris – https://www.strava.com/activities/1099040596

One of the greatest cycling routes in the UK. The road hugs the coast around the Isle of harris. On the west side I passed golden sand beaches and amazing views across to small islands. On the east coast I biked through a rocky landscape that wouldn’t be out of place on the moon!

Tour De Point – https://www.strava.com/activities/1102079723

A flat out and back route to a lighthouse. From here you can watch whales pass by. On the way back a small detour will take you to a 15% hill climb! It’s short but hard. I needed a quick rest at the top!

Tour De West Side – https://www.strava.com/activities/1103897867

A great way to see some of the island’s best attractions. The route takes in the ancient stone circles at Callanish as well as visiting the blackhouses, the Broch and some of the best beaches on the west side.

Castle Grounds Mountain Bike trail – https://www.strava.com/activities/1100545590

If you tire of road biking then a recently completed mountain bike trial has been constructed in the Castle Grounds. An area of forestry next to Stornoway.  I hadn’t tried it before and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. There’s no major hills but lots of undulating tracks. It was a great way to pass a few hours.

As well as cycling there’s great places to swim, to run run, and to go on walks.

It’s one of the most beautiful places in the UK and everyone should visit at least once. If your partner asks about the pubs then you can says that the Outer Hebrides has the highest rate of abstinence in the UK! Just don’t mention that the one’s who don’t abstain love to drink…a lot! 🙂