Don’t be dull (Iain)

The phrase “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” famously featured in the film The Shining. I thought the phrase was written for the film/book but it was actually first used in a book by James Howel in 1659. Little is known about James other than he worked with a man called Jack who was boring as f**k!

The phrase is equally true when applied to sport. Some people can be so obsessed with their running/biking or yoga that they have no other interests.

I know because I have been that boring bastard.

Back in 2012 I took part in the annual L’etape du Tour bike sportive. A race that allows amateur cyclists to ride a closed road stage of the Tour de France. It was my ultimate bike race. The one I needed to do over any other.

I became obsessed with race to the detriment of any other interest. I trained every weekend, I read everything there was to read about it.

I did the race and then….I became depressed.

I’d done my life cycling goal. Do I do it again? Do I do it faster? What next?

I thought maybe a different race is what I needed so I researched other big races. None of which excited me. I was still depressed.

Then I realized it. I wasn’t depressed. I was bored of myself. I’d become a one dimensional person. I was a biker but nothing else.

If I was bored of myself then Christ knows what anyone else thought of me!

So I vowed from that moment on to always vary my interests. For every sporting hobby, I have to have a non-sporting hobby too.

Since then I’ve tried stand up comedy (badly), acting (badly) and painting (badly)


My art tutor taught me how to paint fruit and how to paint people so he shouldn’t have been surprised when my graduation piece ended up being a fruit that looks like a person!

Both my girlfriend and Andrew’s had nightmares after seeing what I’ve entitled – Lemon Maradonna. Which makes me slightly proud. At least its not dull.

The Didnae-try-athlon (Iain)

There are many different types of triathlon event. The regular one is the swim/bike/run format but there is also:

The Wanderlust ( – A 5K run followed by a 90 minute yoga session and a 30 minute meditation. I’d spend the 30 minutes meditation thinking: “When can I leave?”

The Macnab ( – A triathlon for the hunting/shooting set. It’s so posh it should be called ‘Downtonman’. To achieve a Maacnab you have to shoot a deer and a brace of grouse and catch a salmon on the same estate in a 24-hour period. If you’ve done a Macnab then shame on you. You’ve killed Bambi.

The Didnae-try-athlon – Everyone has one of these. An event you entered, you had high hopes for but, on the day, you just did-nae try.

My didnae-try-athlon was the 2008 Rat Race. This was a combination of orienteering, mountain biking, climbing and canoeing.

I did it in a team of three. None of us had ever done an adventure race. We were not well prepared. One friend had a bad back, one had a broken bike and I had a terrible hangover from an after work drinking session.

The first part of the race involved a bike ride to an office block. We had to abseil down the side of the office. This sounded good but, in reality, it was a short bike ride then a long wait in a queue for the 60 seconds it took to abseil down.

We then biked to the next point where we had to climb down a rock face. This again sounded good but, in reality, it was another short bike ride and another long wait for a very short climb.

I asked the organizer of the event what would happen if we skipped the task.

He said “Your team gets a 15 minute penalty.”

“Is that the same for all tasks?”

“Yes,” he confirmed.

The next task was four miles away. A 15 minute penalty was much less than the time it would take to get there and do the task. If we missed out all the remaining tasks it would only be a penalty of a couple of hours. That would have been much less time than it would take to do them all.

I conferred with my team. Should we just go straight to the finish and win this? Even with penalties we’d be hours ahead of anyone else.  They thought this was a great idea so we went straight there… via the pub.

After a delicious burger/pint and dessert we made it to finish.

I’d like to say the organizers were pleased to greet ‘the winners’. They weren’t. They didn’t think what we were doing was sportsmanlike. I’d argue that it wasn’t our fault their rules allowed this to happen! We were disqualified.

After the organizers had finished being annoyed with us, a camera crew came over. “Are you the winners of the race? We’re here from Brazilian TV” To this day I have no idea why Brazilian TV was at an event in Edinburgh.

I owned up and said “Sorry, no. You’ll have to wait a while for them. They won’t be here for a few more hours”.

The Brazilian TV presenter looked unhappy and said “We need to leave now. Can we just interview you anyway?”

I like to think millions of Brazillians saw my interviw where I said: “It was good race. I’m pleased with our victory especially as we didnae try”.

And they all turned to each other and went “what the f%&K word is didnae?”

Welcome to the Velodrome (Iain)

“This is not a race! Do not treat it as a race. There will be no winners or losers. Are we clear about that?”

I was with a group of about twenty people. We were doing the “Introduction to Track Cycling” course at Glasgow velodrome. The man giving the instruction was the track cycling coach.

“Get on your bikes and do not race! I’m judging you on your ability to ride safely not quickly.”

We were all ready to start. One of the other riders was in full cycling club team kit. Even his socks were branded with the name of his cycling club. He wore sunglasses indoors. He looked like a twat.

“Are we ready to start?” Asked the coach.

A man suddenly appeared next to twattymactwatface. He too wore full cycling kit. He turned to his identical twat and said: “You can win this.”

No – you can’t. Its not a race! Did you not hear what the coach just said?

He started giving Luke Twatwalker a pep talk: “Take it easy on the first lap and then use your power on the second. Don’t be afraid to cut people up.”

No – don’t cut people up! Take it easy on the first lap and then even easier on the second. Demonstrate you can do this safely!

He then added “Fuck them up!” and slapped Encyclopedia Twatania on the back.


The ‘not a race’ started. Everyone set off at a steady pace except Lance Twatstrong. He shot off. I could hear him mutter: “You can do this”

There’s nothing to do! It’s not a race. It’s a bunch of middle aged men living out a Chris Hoy fantasy. We just want to spin about a bit and then go home for tea.

His mate started shouting “YES! You’re at the front. Keep it up!”

Twatasuarous Tex soon caught up with me. We were both about to reach the tiered banking. He pulled out wide to go round me but he was going too fast and couldn’t control his bike. He hit the top of the track. His bike slipped and he came off. I looked up. The bike and him were now sliding down the banking towards me. I did what any man would do in this situation. I closed my eyes and hoped for the best. Track bikes have no brakes and even if they did I couldn’t use them on the banking.  I had no way of avoiding being hit.

His bike went through mine. I fell off. I hit my head of the wooded boards of the banking and scraped the skin off my arm and shoulder.

The coach came running over. He took one look at the two of us and asked “Are you ok?” My head hurt and I had a bit of skin rash from the slide but nothing serious. Twatzilla looked surprisingly chipper all considering. We both said “I think so…”

The coach thought for a second and said “Thank fuck for that. Now imagine how sore it would have been if you’d been racing!”

I’ve never been back to the velodrome since that day.

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.


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.



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


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!


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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 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 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.


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


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


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.


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…