The Great Scottish Run (Iain)

Last weekend, I attended a level one triathlon coaching course. I’ll write about the course later, in a post I’ve provisionally titled: “He who can, tri’s. He who cannot, coaches”. Due to attending the course I missed this year’s Great Scottish Run but it did remind me of some of my previous attempts.

The Great Scottish Run is the first race I entered. I knew a marathon was 26 miles but I mistakenly thought a half marathon was 10 miles. I’d never been good at maths. At university I did an algebra exam. The tutor wrote on it: “This shows no knowledge of algebra whatsoever.”

You can imagine my disappointment when I got to the 10 mile point and I didn’t find the finish line. I quickly realised my mistake and calculated how far I still had to go. “Oh no,” I thought, “I still have 5 miles to go.” I told you I’m not very good at maths.

I did the race again a year later. I took a bus to the start. I put my bus ticket in the pocket of my shorts. Unfortunately the heavens opened and the rain came down. I got so wet, my ticket dissolved! I didn’t have any money so after the race I had to walk four miles home.

You’d think it would be third time lucky but I forgot my trainers and ran my third attempt in leather shoes. I gave in at the eight mile point as it was close to my house and my feet hurt.

Last year, I decided to do the 10k. Luckily the distance is in the title of the race so I knew how far it was to the finish.

The course started with a slog up a hill before flattening out. The course then winds its way through motorway underpasses and ugly streets. The race won’t trouble any “most scenic race” lists. The course is a bit slow as there are numerous pinch points where the sheer number of people force everyone to slow down.

The highlight of the race  was watching an old women run alongside her daughter. The daughter was proudly shouting at her mum encouraging and praising her. Repeatedly shouting “you can do it!”

It was so sweet to see them share this special moment across the generations.

It became even better when the mum took one look at the daughter and thanked her by shouting “Why don’t YOU just F&#K OFF!!!”.

Reykjavik 10k (Iain)

The genius of how Icelandic businesses make money from tourists is that they charge a small fortune to buy a drink and then, once you’ve drunk it, they charge a small fortune to use the loo. They get to charge you twice for one drink!

In one place it was £10 for a pint and £2.50 to visit the toilet.

Iceland is the first country were I quite literally pissed money up the wall !

If your not familiar with that British phrase then this might help: Wikipedia

I was in Iceland for my 40th Birthday. I was born the same day Elvis died which makes me the resurrection of Elvis.  Elvis was a twin, so am I. Elvis loved food, so do I. Elvis could play the guitar. I can play the guitar…badly. I bought a guitar 22 years ago. I still have it. It even has the same strings on it as the day I bought it and I can honesty say it sounds the same now as then – bloody awful!

My birthday coincided with the Reykjavik Marathon weekend. There were three races – a marathon, half marathon and 10k. After a week of eating birthday cake and drinking beer all I could manage was the 10k.

I registered the day before the race at the marathon expo. The process was quick and easy. I was in and out in 10 minutes. The expo looked good but the exchange rate meant even the most heavily discounted sale item was more expensive than the UK equivalent.

I was given a race t-shirt. I don’t know if Icelandic people have small heads but both myself and my partner had trouble getting our heads into our t-shirts. The size of the t-shirt was fine but it had a very small head opening…or maybe we have abnormally large heads!

The race was great as the weather was amazingly hot and sunny. The course is reasonably scenic. There’s a nice long section along the water front but the majority was through streets of houses/offices.

The support along the course was amazing. Lots of people cheering, people playing musical instruments and even a boyband performing on the back of a lorry.

They had a couple of water/Gatorade stations but it was in cups. I prefer a bottle so I can carry it. I have to stop to use a cup as otherwise the liquid falls out before I can drink it.

I’d recommend the event if you plan to combine it with a holiday but it’s not worth going for just the race unless you win the lottery as Iceland is so, so expensive. If you’re trying to calculate how much it’ll cost then think about how much you’d like to spend then double it. That’ll be closer to the correct figure!

Is that a wart on your foot or do you have six toes? (Iain)

My school had three rules for swimming:

  1. No dive bombing!
  2. No kit, no swim!
  3. No verrucas!

If you don’t know what a verruca is, then it’s a wart on your foot. It’s commonly caught off someone else who has one.

To prevent the spread of verrucas swimming pools had a small hole in the ground at the changing room exit. The hole would commonly be filed with a red chlorine like liquid.

On exiting I had to put both feet into the wee pool of red (normally freezing cold) liquid. The liquid supposedly contained disinfectant that protects feet from catching a verruca.

I got a verruca. Andrew got a verruca. In fact most of my school got a verruca.

It put me off going swimming. I didn’t like the wart! I didn’t like wee red pool of disease! I didn’t like the heavy smell of chlorine in the air! I didn’t like all the people in the pool swimming past or across me! I hated everything about swimming!

It put me off going to public pools. I didn’t swim for 15 years.

I didn’t discover a love of swimming until I joined the Arlington bath club. – the oldest surviving Victorian bathing complex in the world. It doesn’t have a small verruca puddle, it doesn’t stink of chlorine and most importantly it has lane etiquette.

Lane etiquette means once I start swimming in a lane its mine until I’m finished. No-one will jump in to the lane with me. No-one will swim across me and no-one will have a verruca…I hope!


Baldy Men Club (Iain)

Andrew and I used to go to the same gym. It was a corporate shed in a posh suburb of Glasgow. The people who went were so rich the car park looked like a Range Rover showroom.

The gym had every facility two ‘world class triathletes’ could possibly need – state of the art gym, state of the art weights and a state of the art pool. Everything was state of the art, except the art – that came from Ikea.

Unfortunately back then the only thing we were world class at was our ability to use a Jacuzzi.

Some people say there’s nothing better than jumping in a jacuzzi after a hard gym session. They’re wrong. It’s even better if you’ve not used the gym! Why work up a sweat and get tired when you could have spent that time floating in soapy bubbles?

We’d head in and spend ten minutes in the jacuzzi but then we’d get out and get in the other jacuzzi. Yes – this gym was so posh it had two jacuzzis. At least we got some  exercise walking between the two.

We didn’t just use the two jacuzzis. We’d often get out and head to the pool…and then past the pool to the sauna. The sauna in any Glasgow gym is predominately a male environment. I’ve often thought the main reason women pay so much for a spa is to avoid sauna-ing with men.

This sauna never had any women but three bald men were always there. Sometimes just one of them, sometimes two but often all three. We called them the “Baldy Men Club”

A sauna is quite small so we could hear their conversation. They only had one topic – themselves. Namely, how well they had used the gym before getting to the sauna.

Week after week. We’d listen as each tried to out compete each other.

“I just did 10K on the running machine in 30 minutes” One would say. Another would reply “Did you bike 20K first? I always bike first and then run”. The third man would try to beat this and add: “Did I mention I bench pressed three time my body weight today and I didn’t even sweat once?”

We talked about the baldy men club and their strange ways until we realised when we’re not there they probably did the same to us – “Can you believe how much nonsense they talk? One of them claims he’s done Norseman but the only exercise I’ve seen him do is dry himself with a towel after the jacuzzi!”

For the last few years we’ve been members of different Gym’s but as of this week we’re both members of the same one. It has a sauna…so welcome back twin club!

PS – I once saw a bald man bring shampoo into a shower. I turned to Andrew and said “What does he need that for?” The man heard me and replied: “Bald men get dandruff too!” I learnt something new that day!

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!

Dumgoyne run (Iain)


What dick would park his car and block a remembrance parade?

The brass band couldn’t get past it. The people watching and remembering couldn’t stand next to the graves.

Seriously, who would do that?

It definitely wasn’t me!

<I look round, wait till everyone leaves, get in car then drive off>

In my defence – the ‘no parking’ sign was only put up after I’d parked. I’d left my car while I ran up a local hill. When I came back, not only was my car in the way, but I was also the only one covered in mud while wearing a bright yellow fluorescent running jacket. I assume everyone guessed the car was mine…

It was a good run but I tweaked my hamstring on the way down. I’ve taken it easy this week and stuck to yoga, walking and not blocking solemn ceremonies.




A short history of my bikes – part 7 (Iain)

Bike 7 is a summer bike which in Scotland means it’s used once a year!

It’s a Planet X Nanolight with super light carbon wheels. Its the fastest and most expensive bike I’ve ever owned which means it spends most of its time in doors as i’m too afraid to get it dirty.

I currently have it set up on a turbo trainer. Its my cuddle closet! See


Last winter, I did my turbo sessions following a strict schedule…a TV schedule.

My training regime was

Hard Session – Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location.

Medium Session – Grand Designs.

Easy Session – George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces

I didn’t get any better at biking but I can now design my own home.

This year I’m taking training seriously. My aim is to beat Andrew at the Caledonian Etape. A feat I’ve never managed.

So I’m going to investigate Zwift ( Trainerroad ( the two leading turbo training software companies to see which is the best home trainer. I’ll report back next time unless I get distracted working on the blueprints of my dream home!

A short history of my bikes – part 6 (Iain)

I ask the man at the local bike shop. “I’d like to buy a bike to commute to work?”

“What type of bike are you looking for?”

“One which is so boring that nobody would ever want to steal it!”

“I have just the bike for you…”

Bike 7 was a Ridgeback velocity. There was nothing interesting about it at all until it was stolen from outside my work.

I thought the bike was safe – it was boring, it was parked in front of a security camera and it was locked.

I don’t know who stole the bike or how they got through the lock because when security reviewed the camera footage they could only see cobwebs and spiders. It seems when they bought the camera they didn’t realise just how appealing the casing covering it would be to eight legged creatures!

I thought I’d never see the bike again but about six months later I was jogging past a railway station when I spotted it chained to a bike rack.

It couldn’t be my bike. Could it?

I checked and it looked the same. It had the same mud guards, the same mark across the frame that mine had and it had mountain bike pedals. The same as I’d put on.

It had to be mine!

I called the police and asked them what to do. They sent two officers who waited at the bike for the thief to return.

A few hours later I got a call asking me to come back to the bike. When I got there they were standing with a man who looked similar to me. That man said the bike was his.

The police checked his story and it turned out he

  1. Worked in a university. Just as I do.
  2. Bought the bike on the cycle scheme.  Just like I had.
  3. Went to the same bike shop as I had.
  4. Added the same mud guards as I had.
  5. Added the same mountain bike pedals as I had.
  6. Had the same mark across the frame as it was a design flaw in the bike.
  7. But unlike me he had a serial number for the bike so the bike shop could confirm it was his.

I never saw my bike again. The most boring of bikes had the most interesting of endings!

A short history of my bikes – part 4 (Iain)

One of my ambitions in life is to appear on Channel 4’s Grand Designs. I know I’ll die happy if Kevin Macleod looks at my plan to self-build an eco-pyramid with an underground swimming pool and says: “Well, I admire your ambition!”

One of my other ambitions was to do a stage of the Tour De France. In 2012 Andrew and I signed up for “Le Tour D’etape”  a closed road sportive held every year on a stage of the Tour de France. It was a tough mountainous stage that would challenge the best cyclists. People train for years to get to the level required. I had six months and I didn’t own a road bike.

So, I purchased Bike 4. A cycle to work scheme road bike. I knew very little about bikes so I didn’t check out what gears it had – or even attempt to ride it beforehand. I bought it because I liked the colour.

All we knew about the route was this map.


The stage is 197KM from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon over 2 Haute Categories climbs and two Cat 1 climbs. The only cat I knew about goes “miaow” so the terms meant very little to me. But, I now know HC means “holy crap – how can this road keep going up!”

Over the next 6 months we trained harder than we’d ever trained before. Looking back I can see it wasn’t even close to how hard we should have trained.

At the start of race we hoped for the best but expected the worst.We positioned ourselves in the start pen for slower riders. This was a mistake as the sweeper van leaves as soon as the last pen leaves. The slowest riders, the ones who need the most time, are the ones who get the least time.

I started cycling but disaster struck as I crossed the start line  – my pump fell off! I had to stop and go back for it. The sweeper van waited as I picked it up. I was nearly swept up before I’d even got going!

I restarted and crossed the start line successfully. Andrew hadn’t stopped so it took a while to catch up. The first section to the base of Col D’Aubesque was fine. Our speed was ok. We then hit the climb….and it the road went up and up and up and….

It took us over two hours of climbing to get to the top. It was the hardest biking I’d ever done. What did we find at the top? Nothing! The weather was so wet and cold we couldn’t see anything. Which was annoying as the previous day had been beautifully sunny and warm.

The ride down the hill was torture. I’d never free wheeled for such a long distance. The lack of moving meant my hands and body were freezing cold. By the time we reached the bottom I was F**KED!

No time for a rest as we now had to start the long climb of Tourmalet. Unfortunately the sweeper wagon wasn’t far behind us.

We did our best but got swept up on Tourmalet. If a picture paints a thousand words then this picture sums up my Etape experience.


Looking back I can see where we went wrong – lack of fitness, preparation and knowledge but there’s one thing you can’t fault:  if asked I’m sure Kevin McLeod  would have said “Well, I admire your ambition!”