Tag: edinburgh

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!


IronMan Edinburgh 70.3 (Andrew)

“Is it safe?”

In the film Marathon Man this quote is repeated as Sir Laurence Olivier performs an increasingly painful dental treatment on Dustin Hoffman.

In IronMan Edinburgh this quote is repeated by everyone on the start line as we gaze out to sea.

“Is it safe?”



Last week we had a recce of East Lothian to check the swim start and to cycle part of the bike route.

It was windy, over 20 mph, and the water at Preston Links at Prestonpans was choppy and covered in white caps.

A woman got out of a car beside us. She was wearing an IronMan hoodie and IronMan cap. So was her father, who came out next.

“Are you racing?” We said, which was a daft question as he was clearly in his seventies. 🙂

She answered for him.

She was racing. And she was there to practice the swim. But, on looking at the water, she said: “Not today. I’m not going out in that!”

She had an English accent so we thought she wasn’t local (though, with Edinburgh so close, an English accent could be local!) and we tried to reassure her: “It won’t be like this next week – this is a one off! It’s just a bit of wind!”

Unfortunately for her we were completely wrong. It wasn’t just a bit of wind, it was the start of a week long howl that kept going all through Monday to Friday, sped up on Saturday and wasn’t due to slow down until the race was over.

On Saturday, the forecast was for winds of 15mph plus. Too strong for a calm swim. By Saturday night the organisers were predicting a shortened swim and by 6am they’d shortened it from 1900m to 950m. One lap of a course that had been rearranged to try and avoid the worst of the currents.

But not at the start. The first 100 metres would be straight into the waves and current and wind. The perfect storm.

For the first 100 metres I could see people struggling. Not only was there the shock of cold water, the tightness of my chest constricting, the shallow breaths and the constant gulps of salt water as I tried to time the waves correctly so that my mouth is, and this is crucial bit, above the waves, not below them. But there was also the need to sight the first buoy, to avoid fellow athletes and to generally survive in conditions that even blockbuster movie shark Jaws would say: “Don’t go into the water!”.

But, after the first turn, as we swam along the beach, not out to sea, the conditions improved. It was easier to breath with the waves at my side, than right in front.

Of course, being an idiot, I then decided I had to clear my goggles as they’d filled with condensation. I tried to duck under the water, remove my goggles to rinse them out, then put them back on in one smooth fluid motion.

It didn’t happen.

I ducked. I spluttered. I got salt in my eyes. I couldn’t see. I swallowed half of the Firth of Forth, I ended up swimming in the wrong direction – but I did all that in one smooth fluid motion, so at least I got something right.

For the rest of the swim I had leaky goggles, I had to keep taking them off to clear them of water, while, when they were on, I had to keep one shut to avoid the salt water seeping in. And swimming with one eye is not easy – just ask Captain Hook, if he’d had two eyes, he’d have been able to swim away from that crocodile.

Despite my one eye, I got to the final buoy and turned back to shore. The swim back was a relief, and with the current behind, fast too.

The swim was over. I hadn’t drowned, which in itself felt like an achievement.



The bike route started in Prestonpans and then headed out through East Lothian, through Haddington and Gifford, before turning back and heading in almost a straight line to Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.

But, it was only the direction that was straight. The elevation promised a course with very few flat sections and plenty of ups and downs with some short sharp climbs.

And, because it was still windy, the course also added 25 miles into the wind as we came into Edinburgh.

The crowds were out in force, at least in the villages we passed. The largest town, Haddington, had the fewest spectators. Literally, one man and his dog. A man, and his dog, standing in his driveway. I can only guess the rest of the town must have been in church. Either that or the four hour road closure on a Sunday morning wasn’t appreciated by locals who decided to protest by staying away.

The course was varied, with plenty to see, from rolling hills, to leafy hedges, to forest canopies, farmlands, and, at one point, one of my work’s housing developments (which was nice to see, though not perhaps a selling point from anyone but me).

The final few miles saw a short burst of pave, the Edinburgh cobblestones, and then a climb around the back of Arthur’s Seat. This comes as a shock after 54 miles but not as much of a shock as the sign at mile 40 that “This is the high point, it’s all downhill from here!”. Only it wasn’t. Not in the slightest.

The last mile is downhill and provides a couple of minutes to relax, stop pedalling and getting focused on the run, or, in my case, to try and swallow an energy gel but forget how fast the road falls away and get tangled between trying to eat the gel and desperately apply the brakes to slow down.

I read afterwards that some people complained the road wasn’t in great condition and that there were a lot of punctures. I didn’t see any more punctures than normal and I thought the road was no better or worse than most Scottish roads.



I’d seen Iain in transition after the swim but couldn’t see him in the run transition. I knew he was ahead of me so I thought he must have left so I decided to follow him out.

And, by quickly, I mean for around 500 metres. Then the climbing starts. A one mile plus climb up Arthur’s Seat.

This was going to be a long run…

The run route is deceptively hilly. Deceptive in that even the flats bit are steeper than you think. Especially on the third time around the four and a bit mile course.

The run up Arthur’s Seat was tough, but the course itself was varied and featured a long run through the Innocent Railway tunnel, which was lit by a spinning light show and soundtracked with classic rock.

It’s worth racing IronMan Edinburgh just for the tunnel. Nothing beats running through a dark tunnel with AC/DC singing Highway To Hell and disco lights spinning round.

And then you have another hill. Followed by another hill. Then another hill. Then you finally get to run back down Arthur’s Seat before you have to do it two more times.

It was tough.

Much tougher than expected and I was pleased to get round in around 2 hours 10 minutes so at least I was getting round in around 10 minutes a mile. Not great, but after the swim and bike, I was happy with it.

I finished the race with Iain. As it turned out, he’d been in the toilet so I’d missed him in transition, but he caught me up, then passed, then slowed down at the end as I caught up with him. I conceded he’d won the Todd Championship point and we finished the run together.

The finish-line

I wasn’t sure if the announcer would shout: “You Are An IronMan!” as we crossed the line. It seemed wrong, you should only get that for the full distance, but, as an IronMan event, I wondered if they’d also do it for 70.3.

They didn’t. Instead we had hardcore dance tracks. “Shake that ass! Shake that ass! Shake that ass!” it cried before the announcer quickly said “Um, maybe that’s the wrong song, let’s get something more family friendly”.

We crossed the line in around six hours. Just under for Iain, just over for me (boo!). A tough race but a fair one with some great views of Edinburgh and East Lothian. Also a race that attracted the highest proportion of female athletes than any IronMan event, with over 20%. It was great to see a less male dominated race and, perhaps next year, IronMan could rename it the IronWoman Edinburgh 70.3.

No asses were shook for the podium picture.


Top 5 things people have thrown at me when running/biking (Iain)

It’s not every day a yogurt lands on my head.

In November 1995 I was walking along a street in Edinburgh, minding my own business whilst listening to a Sony mini-disc. That was state of the art back then. But, before I could say “Is that a Muller lite falling from the sky?”, a Muller lite had fallen from the sky and landed on my head leaving its trail of too-sweet-tasting-creamy-awfulness across my forehead. I looked upwards.

A man was laughing from a third floor window. He had a spoon. I guess he was the yogurt chucker. As much as I was shocked to have been “Muller’d” I was impressed with his aim. I’m sure I’d miss If I tried to throw an non-aerodynamic yoghurt pot at someone from a height of 30 ft.

I never found out why he threw it but, this week, I was reminded of him when I read that someone was throwing things at cyclists who use a local bike path. Its awful that they’re doing that. I hope the police catch them but it does let me list the top 5 things that have been thrown at me when biking/running.

5 -Verbal Abuse/Comedy

Sometimes it’s not physical objects thrown from vehicles but verbal ones. Whilst biking this week I passed two school girls eating chips. One shouted “OH MY GOD! I’m going to marry you!” and then ate a chip.

Which was a nice offer but I’d rather she’d proposed in a more romantic manner than over a poke of chips!

Its also amazing how many times cars (but mainly van) drivers wind down their windows to shout”Run Forrest! Run!”

4 – Snowballs

One Xmas, whilst jogging, in the east end of Glasgow I passed a group of youngsters. My Spidey sense kicked in – I instinctively knew they were going to pelt me with snowballs as soon as I was far enough away to hit but not close enough to run after them!

I counted to three in my head and braced myself for the inevitable pelting. I got pelted. it was sore!

3 – Waterpistol

Whilst jogging near Kelvingrove a van pulled up next to me. The passenger opened his window and shot me with a water pistol. The van drove off. I was too shocked to do anything! To this day I can still hear the passengers shout “HAHA!”

2 – Yoghurt

Surprising this was not the most unusual thing to hit me.

Number 1 is …..

1 – A fish and chip supper. 

Yes. Honest! I once was assaulted with a fish and chip supper. It was whilst jogging in the meadows in Edinburgh. I stopped at a t-junction. As a car turned and passed me a fish and chip supper was thrown out. It hit me in the stomach.

Is it a crime to throw a fish and chip supper at a stranger? Yes. Probably. But the biggest crime is to throw a fish and chips supper away without eating all the chips? This is Scotland. You don’t throw away chips!

Seven Hills Race (Iain)

Edinburgh is famous for its castle…which is on a hill;  its folly…which is on a hill; and its observatory…which is on a hill. Also its zoo…which is on a hill and its volcano…which isn’t on a hill. It is a hill.

The city’s slogan is “Inspiring Edinburgh” but it should be “Edinburgh – hilly as f**K!”

Every year a race takes place where runners navigate to and run up all the hills. I did it once before in 2008. One of my friends was doing it too. He said we should take it easy and treat the race like a training run.

As soon as the race started two good looking woman ran past at a speed faster than training pace. My mate immediately ran off. The last I saw him he was chasing the girls down shouting “Where are you two from?”

This year I was running it by myself as Andrew hadn’t fully recovered from his stomach bug.

The race begins on Calton Hill before heading to Castle hill. Unfortunately the race almost immediately stopped as 300 runners tried to get down Calton Hill’s steps but a group of Spanish holidaymakers were trying to get up. When they got out of the way the race resumed.

After Castle Hill its a long run out to Corstorphine Hill. I wasn’t 100% sure of the way so I followed the crowd. Thankfully the crowd wasn’t Spanish so I went the right way.

It’s another long run to the next hill. This section is not very scenic as its mostly through streets. At the summit a man said to me “Well done Andrew!” I replied “Iain!” He looked disappointed. Which means I must be a disappointing Andrew (to some people!)


The next two hills are the most scenic part of the course. From the top I got great views of the city. One of the summits had a bagpiper. He looked very sweaty as the sun was out and it was very warm. My legs were starting to feel the effects of all the climbing so I’d walked rather than ran to the top.

From there it was onto Arthur’s Seat. You can skip through a halls of residence to scale a wall to get there quicker but the organiser warned us the walls is 7ft high. I took the long route. I walked most of Arthur’s Seat as my ankle was sore.

It was then back to the start. I crossed the finish line and was handed….a medal? No! I crossed the finish line and was handed a beer mat. Which is one of the most unusual finishing prizes that I’ve ever received.