Norseman Bike (Andrew)

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“Enjoy it”.

The bike leg of Norseman is 112 miles inland from the pier at Eidfjord to the town of Austbygde. It starts with a 1,250m climb to Dyranut, a long stretch along a high plateau, descends back down before the second half hits you with four increasingly longer and harder hills before a 15 mile descent to T2.

The weather forecast all week had been for a north westerly tailwind and for conditions to be mostly dry. That changed on Friday night. It was going to rain for most of the morning and afternoon. I’d brought waterproof cycling shorts, shoes and jacket with me so wore those straight from transition, even though it was dry when I changed. I thought it would be enough, I was wrong.

The bike leg start with a few miles along a flat road from Eidfjord before the climbing starts. The cliff face rises on either side, we follow the old road around the edge of the rock face, dart through tunnels lit by candles, and it feels like we’ve travelled back in time. We’ve left the modern world behind. The road is pitted, but potholes easy to avoid, the drops are steep and tumble down like the waterfalls that scour the sides. I settle into an easy rhythm in my lowest gear and largely keep pace with the rides around me. Occasionally, I even overtake riders on TT bikes standing on the pedals, while I sit down and pass them on the left.

The views are stunning. Wisps of clouds hug the tops of cliff like triumphant climbers about to summit, looking down I can see glimpses of other riders, brightly coloured ants against the dark grey cliff roads, and I keep repeating in my head:

“Enjoy this.”

Because what else is there to do? If I cannot look round and feel that this is the only place I want to be today, that these sights are glimpses of landscape that I’m privileged to see and to be part of.

“Enjoy this.”

The climb consists of two distinct sections. The first strikes through the mountain, climbing through a cleft in the rock like the remants of a giant’s axe strike, the second is a longer climb towards the summit, through moorland and patches of snow along the sides of the road. It’s in the second section that it starts to rain. And rain.

I don’t mind the rain at first. I’m prepared, I have my waterproofs and I’ve used them before in bad conditions so know they’ll be okay. But then the clouds lower. Visibility drops and now it’s not only raining I can only see 50 – 100 metres at a time. This is why we wear a high-viz vest and use lights for the full route. I’m grateful for them. Not for me, but to see others, that I’m not alone.

The next few hours are an increasing struggle. The climb goes further than the profile suggests. Long shallow climbs where, even with a tailwind, progress is slower that I’d hoped. TT bike shoot by. I can’t keep up, nor do I try. I went for a climbing bike and comfort, not speed.

Spots that I remembered from driving across the plateau are rendered indistinct by the clouds. A lake with two black houses on the shore. Three turf houses at the side of the road. It’s always too late when I spot them. But still I tell myself to smile. I’m happy. But wet.

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The support car can’t join you on the climb, I see them in a traffic jam going down the mountain as I climbed up, the single road meaning there’s no place to stop. I’ve brought enough food for two and half hours, eating every thirty minutes. My standard ‘meals’ of ZipVit uncoated orange bars and banana gels. But after two and half hours I’ve yet to see Iain.

I thought I saw him at one point. A black Hyundai estate with 91 – my number – on a sticker on the back. He was down a short lane and trying to reverse the car. I’d shot passed him before I could stop. I thought if it was him, that he was reversing because he’d seen me and was going to follow. I was wrong.

It was another hour before I saw him. Every time a car passed I would hope it was him. After 30 minutes I started to worry. I wondered if he’d had a puncture or, worse, an accident. Every black car that passed was met with a searching look of its back window. 201. 15. 134. Not 91.

I was relieved when I finally saw him. I was soaked through and had run out of food. He pulled in a couple of hundred metres ahead of me. “I’ve got you pancakes,” he said.

By this point, I’d been thinking of quitting. I was starting to shake with hypothermia. I was losing the feeling in my hands. The rain was bouncing off the road and I wasn’t sure if I could carry on for another five hours like this.

“Put this on,” Iain said as I stripped off my hi-viz jersey, waterproof jacket and cycling jersey while sheltering under the open boot of the car.

He gave me a new base layer, my thicker cycling jersey (a Castelli Gabba), a fleece, a Goretex jacket and full length waterproof trousers. I thought he wanted to keep warm while we’d stopped. I didn’t realise that I was going to wear this for the next 60 miles.

“I’ll go to the next town,” I said. The warm clothes having done their job in persuading me to carry on.

“Just keep this on,” Iain said. And I did. I got back on my bike and pedelled off wearing more gear than I would I was climbing a mountain.

But it worked. I warmed up. I stopped shaking. The weather was still awful but as I descended in Greillo it became warmer as I left the plateau.

In town I met Iain again. “I’ll get to the end,” I said while thinking “Enjoy this, you won’t be doing it again.”

The second half of the course is a lot different to the first. It’s feels more part of civilisation, you can see towns, wider roads, and more road signs for evidence of other people.

There are four climbs in this section, nothing too tough or too long but each steady. The final climb is the longest, taking you up to and across a damn. It’s here that a Norwegian woman stands on the porch of a remote house and shouts “Well done, Andrew, keep going!”It takes me a few minutes to work out she must be following Norseman on the website. It’s also here where the support of other teams becomes invaluable. I’m going the same pace as a few other riders so I not only pass Iain every 40 minutes or so I’m also passing other support crews who also shout encouragement.

By now I’ve decided I’ll finish at T2. My temperature is screwy, I’m not sure of whether I should be running after hypothermia and the final climb up Zombie Hill is looking increasingly beyond me. I make the decision to be sensible and  finish while I have Iain as support and not to keep going when I’ll be running for at least 13 miles without support as Iain cannot park on the first half of the course (though it looked like many do!).

The final descent for 15 miles, through thick forest, small villages of colourful chalet houses, and, even better, it’s also the first time it’s dry. The sun peeks out, though not for long, and I’m hitting 35 miles an hour on the sharp descent and 25 mph on the flats. It’s too fast, too late though. I’m still dressed like Ranulph Fiennes.

At T2 I tell the timekeeper that I’m done. There is not a single doubt in my head that I’m doing the right thing. (Though a week later as I write this I think “maybe, just maybe I should have gone on” – but I know that’s a daft thought, I wouldn’t have finished).

After 112 miles, my legs feel okay, I still feel strong(ish) but the desire to keep going has been been washed out by the cold and the rain. The thought of running thought that again is more than I take. I’m done. But I loved it. Every cold, wet, miserable minute of it.

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Norseman – Part 3

“How’s the legs?”

“Sore” replied Andrew.

He’s lying in bed in rjukan. A nice wee town at the base of “Zombie Hill.” The famed section of Norseman where runners switch from running on the flat to climbing  Mt. Gaustatoppe.

I’m feeling fit so I’ve decided to take the bike out and head up the mountain. The climb is hard but its more a mental thing than anything else. It doesn’t have many hairpins so each section feels like a long slog.

On the road people have painted zombies or inspirational words. Its easy to tell the UK supporters as they’ve painted the wrong side of the road!

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I stop once I get to the Furnicular railway that takes tourists to the stop. I notice its open and running so I head back down hoping to convince Andrew that we should go the top. It feels like the logical conclusion to our trip should be on top of the mountain!

Thankfully he’s up for it and even more thankfully he’s done all the packing!

Th13906646_10154314344108162_7927054594518622418_ne funicular is great. Its split into two trains. One that takes us into the mountain and then another that takes us to the top. We share a cabin with an older couple.

From the exit its just a few hundred metres to the Norseman hut. Its great to see the finish line even if its 24 hours later!

We take some pics and record a video of Andrew crossing the finish line.

We then pop into the hut to buy waffles. All races should have waffles at the finish!

On the way back down the same couple are in our train carraige. The man says “Not much to see, was there?”

Not really but if we hadn’t gone up we’d always have regreted it!

The aim of the trip was to enjoy the adventure. We had an adventure and we enjoyed it. What more to life is there than that? 🙂

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Norseman – Part 2 (Iain)

If 3 am is an ungodly time to get up, getting up at 2.30 am is even worse.

Today was the day. It was now or never. Which is a strange expression. It should actually be “It was now or never or…in a minute! Cant’t you see I’m busy. I’ll get to it when I can!”

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We left the B&B quickly and headed to Eidfjord. There’s plenty of parking spaces near the ferry but Andrew refused to use them. He was worried that the police would turn up and fine us. Its 3 am. I think the police have got better things to do than check anyone is parking illegally.

We park at the the school. On the walk to the ferry I point out to Andrew all the Cars parked in the spaces he said not to use.

The port is busy. A lot of athletes and supporters are here. I look at the ferry and notice it has a TV lounge! And comfy chairs! And its showing the Olympics! Extreme Triathalon? My Arse!

On the way into transition Andrew has to show that his bike’s front and back lights work and that he has a reflective jacket.

The volunteer checks his jacket and says its not reflective. It is very yellow but its not reflective! Andrew blames it on buying a cheap one from Decathalon. Idiot!

Luckily the volunteer had a spare so he gave that to Andrew. The winner has a black T-shirt but I bet he doesn’t have a Norseman branded reflective vest.

I wish Andrew luck and he heads onto the ferry.

I decide to drive down the coast to watch the start. Surprisingly no-one else had thought of this so I was on my own watching the start. I can’t imagine what people did in town. It must be pretty dull waiting for the swimmers to come back.

13873048_10153645915211196_6084655913261949439_nAfter they jumped in I headed back to town. I stopped at a pier near the yellow buoy and watched the race leaders zoom past. My watch said 50 minutes so it seemed like they were slow or the race had started late. I later found out this years swim times were slow due to the tide.

I got back to the pier in enough time to watch Andrew come out. I showed him over to the transition point and helped him get changed. About half the swimmer were still in the water so his swim time was pretty good.

I sent him off and said I’d see him in a couple of hours time at the top of the hill.

I notice a man at the pier has made fresh pancakes. I buy four so that Andrew will have a treat at the top of the hill. I then eat two. Oh well. Two is still a treat!

I then headed back to the B & B to get some breakfast. Mmm waffles. Its a hard life being a support team!

I’ve lost Andrew.

I saw him a minute ago. I passed him in the car. I gave him a wave and the parked at the next available parking spot. I’ve now waited 20 minutes and he’s not gone past!

I’m on the plateua. Due to thick mist visibility is 100m and it’s freezing cold. I wouldn’t like to be in a car in these conditions, let alone on a bike.

I decide something has gone wrong. He’s gone past and I didn’t notice or something’s happened before he got here.

I decide to head back down the road. I travel for 10 minutes and don’t spot him!

Its now colder and wetter and I imagine he will be wondering where I’ve gone.

I race along the road. After 10 minutes I still haven’t spotted him.

After 20 minutes, I’m worried. Something must have gone wrong.

After 30 minutes I spot a very cold and wet looking cyclist ahead. Its Andrew!

I pass and wave and this time park where he can see me.

It turns out he had cycled past me. My parking spot was in an awkward place. He assumed it wasn’t my car. I must have missed him as I was too busy concentrating on not crashing the car as I maneuvered into the space!

I thought he’d be angry so I pull out my trump card – the pancakes!

I think quickly and then ask him.

“Do you want a Twix?”

Andrew is standing in front of me. He’s shaking due to the cold. I offer him the sweet. He’s still cold and shaking but at least he gets chocolate biscuit snack.

He says he’s struggling to bike due to the cold. The weather is bad and it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up.

Luckily I’d packed Goretex trousers, thick fleece top and a jacket. He takes off his wet clothes and replaces them with the new ones. He now looks ready…to climb Everest!

At least he’ll be dry and warm even if he’s not going to be very aerodynamic.

He says he’ll cycle to the next town before deciding whether to carry on.

I hope he keeps going. It would be a shame to finish at this point.

We pass the next town and come off the plateau. That section is supposed to be fast but due to the weather he never got up to a good speed.

Thankfully he now feels warmer and decides to continue.

13886465_10153645913911196_8173376943594334046_nThe next half of the race has four climbs. They are all manageable. There’s a climb of 400m near Glasgow called the Crow Road. So we split each section into how many Crow Roads it is. As in, this next climb is 1.5 crow roads. The one after is 2x Crow Road etc It helps to put each bit into perspective.

For the next 50 miles we get into a pattern of he bikes and I drive a short distance up the road. He then either passes me or pulls in and gets food. It seems to work well.

At the top of the last climb support has to end. Its all downhill now so I leave him to it and head to Transition 2. There’s not many folk here. Most of the competitors have already been through. I go for a walk and watch a couple posing for wedding photos.

Andrew eventually arrives. I expect him to call it a day. He’s been out on the bike for 8 hours+ and is pretty knackered!

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He decides to quit. He doesn’t have the energy to run over  a speed bump let alone a huge hill.

We pack up and head off. As we drive the route towards our accommodation we see the athletes struggling along the road. No part of either of us thinks we wish we’d continued.

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Norseman Triathlon – Part 1 (Iain)

The gym manager of the Western Isles Leisure Centre once said to Andrew and I: “If you two were clever you’d only have one gym membership”. Little did he know, that’s what we were already doing!

The membership was a photo ID so, as we’re identical twins, we’d pass the card to whichever one of us wanted to use it.

Similarly, we can both use each other’s bikes.  Between us we have a mountain bike, a time trial bike, an aero bike, a cyclocross bike, a road bike with a 28 cassette and a road bike with a 32 cassette.

For this race Andrew decided to use my 32 cassette bike as it copes best with hills. This decision had one issue. Andrew has the bike bag so he would have to get it from his loft to my house.

He called to say he had the bag and could he drop it off the next day. He then added – “There’s just one problem. I’ve injured myself lifting it down from the loft!”

Idiot!

The adventure was nearly over before it began!

Although it did make me think this may be karma coming back. Revenge for the gym membership.

The physio worked wonders and Andrew was patched back together before the flight. He was as good as new…although he is 38 so the phrase should be – as good as new-ish. The physio isn’t a miracle worker.

We flew from Edinburgh to Oslo. It’s a short flight but, due to the time difference, we land after midnight.

Once we land it takes an hour to retrieve the bags. We head outside to collect a taxi. The driver takes one look at the bike bag and says it won’t fit in his car and even if it did there wouldn’t be room for the two of us.

I put the bike in the boot and sit in the back. He’s wrong. He mumbles something and then probably bumped the fare up to twice the standard rate!

Welcome to Norway!

The hotel has a waffle machine. A hot burning girdle lying open on a table. If British health and safety was here they’d go mad. Thankfully they are not here so I throw caution to the wind and made a waffle. Delicious.

We take the opportunity to cut bread and steal the cheese and ham. We’ll have them for lunch.

According to our car rental instructions the Hotel is across the road from the car rental location. We head over. It isn’t the car rental location. Even though that’s what’s written on our booking. They tell us we have to go back to the airport. Oh well, we have plenty of time it’s only 300km to eidfjord. That won’t take long. We can afford the delay.

An hour later then intended we’re on our way. The car is big and brand new. The man at the rental desk tried to sell us a GPS. We said no. When we get to the car it has one built in. I’m glad we didn’t pay extra for it!

We enter the destination as Eidfjord. The GPS thinks for a minute and then tells us it’ll take five hours. Nonsense! We’ll be there way before then. I was right. It was wrong. It took longer.

Driving in Norway is slow. Cars barely ever go above 50 kmph and even rarer do they overtake.

This may partly be due to their being barely a straight road between Oslo and Eidfjord. It may also be due to speed limits that I have unintentionally broken throughout the Journey.

I wish I could tell you the scenery was stunning but it required full concentration to make sure I didn’t miss the next turn in the road.

Andrew on the other hand raved about the view.

I feel like Morgan freeman in Driving Miss Daisy. If Miss Daisy was a lazy triathlete who claimed he needed the rest in the car to better prepare for his race!

Eidfjord is a beautiful but tiny town. It’s surrounded by mountains and is the perfect setting for a race.

We couldn’t stay there so I’d booked the closest place I could find to it. http://www.ovre-eidfjord.com/

13892307_10154314344768162_1390814182140077994_nThe hotel was quirky but nice. When we arrived a fellow competitor was arguing with the owner about the price of the room. He couldn’t understand why he was being charged more for having six people in a two bed room. He argued that he should pay for two!

I admired his logic and his cheapskatedness.

We left them arguing and decided to visit the biggest waterfall in Norway.

It was a few miles away so it was back into the car. By the end of the trip I’d spent more time with the car then I’ve spent with some friends!

We parked near the viewpoint of the falls. It’s a great view and well worth a visit. Although the markers showing where people have died did make me extra careful with my footing.

We headed back to eidfjord to get some supplies and to check out the town. I decided to test the water temperature in the only manner I knew how. I stick my hand in. It wasn’t too cold. No different from current Scottish loch condition.

We took some photos around town and then head back to the B+B to get some sleep.

Breakfast was waffles. Yay.

Unfortunately they’d all been eaten. The buffet had opened at 8am and everything was eaten by 0801. Triathletes like to eat and they like to get up early.

The waitress said she’d never seen so many folk turn up at once.

Looking at the “competition” it was clear there was some very fit athletes here and they were just the supporters.

I did wonder what they made of myself and Andrew. I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to hear what a Norwegian sounds like laughing.

We headed into town to register and to get the bike serviced. The flight over had damaged one of the disc brakes. It was slightly bent. I wasn’t worried. At worse we could bash it with a hammer.

13876311_10154314344673162_3062910982430429298_nWhilst the bike got serviced we went for a swim.

Huub had sponsored a practice session. Lots of athletes took the opportunity to have a go swimming out to the yellow buoy that would be used on the real course.

Andrew immediacy noticed a problem. He’d forgotten his swim goggles. Idiot (again!)

He went to the Huub stall to buy a new pair. They were 450 NOK which converted to GBP is equivalent to f’ing expensive!

The swim was great. The water was chilly but not unpleasant. Although I overheard a man from Dubai complain about how cold it was. I think his and my idea of hot and cold differ wildly!

The water wasn’t very salty which must be due to water flowing in off the mountains.

Andrew did one lap of the course. I did two. The swim reassured him that the big one wouldn’t be too bad.

The service man had finished with the bike and it now worked like a charm. Things were looking up.

Feck, deck, feck, feck!

The bike was making a sound. Not a good sound like wiiiiiissshhhh of speed but a grrrnnnnnhhhkkk of metal.

It seemed to be coming from the front wheel.

I now regretted taking the bike out for a spin. I’d noticed a big climb behind our B and B and thought it would be a good test for the bike but on the way down it had started crunching.

I stopped and spun the wheel. It was sticking. This was a problem!

I was near the B & B so I spun along. Planning to look at it without Andrew finding out. It would just worry him.

Annoyingly he was standing outside.

I had to tell him. He was worried. The service man was now shut and the race was tommorow.

“We need a plan,” he said

“We need google,” I replied.

I started googling grinding disc brake pads.

Andrew looked worried. He repeated, “we need a plan”

I told him to get the bike

“No, we need a plan”

Get the bike!

“We need a plan”

What’s the point of a plan if we don’t have the bike? He didn’t seem to grasp that whatever the plan the first step would be to get the bike.

He stropped off to get it.

I found the video I wanted. It explained how to loss the callers on the brake.

He came back. I took out an Allen key and loosened the callipers. The wheel ran smooth. Andrew looked relieved and worried. He may have secretly hoped that this would get him out of having to race!

We celebrated our achievement by having Norwegian meatballs. There’s a reason I’d never heard of them over their more famous Swedish rivals. They tasted disgusting.

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Hebridean Triathalon (Iain)

“Blue-green algae occurs when specific types of photosynthetic bacteria forms blooms”

Blue-green algae can be toxic to animal and humans. Although it’s a misnomer as its not actually an algae. There’s a useful/useless fact you can tell your friends.

The Hebridean triathlon is the first ever triathlon to be held on the Isle Of Lewis. This year’s event was a test event. The organisers had never done a triathlon themselves so credit to them for putting on a successful event.

Nine hardy souls had agreed to test the course. A mixture of individuals and teams.

Swim – 30 min

The day before the event blue-green algae was found in the loch. Luckily a retest of water in the morning showed no sign of it.

The swim was two laps. The water was so full of peat it felt like swimming in a pint of Guinness. I could barely see my hand in front of my face. I forgot to start my GPS watch so I can’t check how accurate my sighting was.

I know I took a detour on the first lap as a canoeist came over and pointed me towards the correct buoy. I was swimming towards the wrong one.

The second lap was fine and I was out of the water in 30 minutes. I could have been quicker if I’d gone in the correct direction but I was happy with the time.

Bike – 1hr 26 min

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The bike course was an out and back loop to the Callanish Stones. An ancient stone circle site. There was a strong north westerly wind but it never felt like it was helping on the way out or back.

The route was “lumpy” with one minor 15% climb(!). It was short but I could feel the front of my bike lifting as I tried to go up it.

On the road it was sometimes better to cycle on the pavement. This sounds dodgy but pavements on the island are just an additional bit of concrete next to the road. Some of the pavements have been laid later than the road so they are smoother to ride on.

My time was slow but it never felt like a fast course. I think most people came in slower than they expected.

Run – 57 min

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This is the slowest I’ve ever run a 10k! The route was out and back through a local village. It was as “lumpy” as the bike route.

It was strange running along with so few people about. When I finally saw someone in their garden I gave them a big wave. Relief that someone else was out and about.

Thankfully the last 2km are mostly downhill. The first time in the day I felt it was easy.

Overall

Great first race on the island which should go from strength to strength. The course is good, the location is amazing and the food at the end is the best of any race I’ve done.

Just don’t expect a PB 🙂

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Tenby Long Course Weekender – Bike and Run (Iain)

Last night, I watched a program about people who swim the English channel. The pilot of a boat told one swimmer: “You need to be prepared.”

The swimmer replied “Prepared for what?”

“After doing this you’ll never be the same again!”

Which implies some life changing profoundness will be gained through completing the challenge but I’ve found that’s not always the case. I once had the same conversation as the swimmer and pilot with a friend of mine. He’d accepted my challenge to eat 12 Cadbury creme eggs in one sitting.

“After doing this you’ll never be the same again!”

He was never the same again. He used to love creme eggs but now can’t abide anything with caramel in it.

I don’t think I’ve learnt anything profound by completing race but I have learnt one lesson. I don’t like racing in the cold, rain and wind!

I wish I could tell you how I overcame the hellish weather, the problem with start times and the atrocious food stops at the Long Course Weekend Bike Race but I can’t. It was wet and miserable so I did one lap of the course. That was more than enough.

Instead of battling on we finished early. We used the free time to watch the movie “Central Intelligence” which was very enjoyable.

Some quick thoughts about the bike leg.

– There are no timing mats on the course until near the end of the lap. We should have done the big loop twice rather doing the small one and getting caught out by the cutoff time.
– The feedstops were pretty bad. No sport gels and the “energy drink” was diluted orange. I know this because a woman at one stop told me after I’d asked what it was.
– The course is roughly the same as Ironman Wales. This has a fearsome reputation but I didn’t find it that bad. There’s no long climbs just lots of short one. None of which required me to get out of my seat.

Thankfully the weather was a lot better on the Sunday. Andrew had won the bike leg so this was the decider. I was confident of victory having beaten him in most running races over the last few years. I was too confident.

I started off way to fast and bonked at mile 9. I thought I’d done enough to coast round ahead of him but I was wrong. He caught and passed me. I didn’t see again until the end. He was the deserved winner….this time!

Some quick thoughts about the run leg.
– Its a very undulating course. Don’t start off too fast and be prepared for some steady climbs.
– The food stops were fine for a half marathon but if i was doing the full I’d have preferred a better selection.
– The finish into Tenby is great. A big crowd cheering me on was a relief after the steep hill into Tenby.

Would I do the Long Course Weekend again? No but that’s not due to the race. Its a tricky location to get to due to all the driving from Scotland. Worth visiting once but never again!

Run The Blades Half Marathon (Andrew)

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A few years ago the Edinburgh festival of running gave competitors a medal shaped like a willy. They didn’t set out to make a willy shaped medal, it just happened to look like that when you looked at if from the back rather than the front. If you Google it you’ll see what I mean.

Medals should be easy. They’re round. They have the name of the event on them and, if you’re feeling fancy, you might have the event logo on it.

Ideally, the medal should have the date of the event so that it’s personalised, but, if you’re short of cash just have then name of the event and that way you can print the date on the ribbon and reuse medals from year to year.

I don’t really give much thought to medals. I keep them in a box as a momento of the races I’ve completed but I’ve never looked at them beyond taking them home and packing them away.

I might make an exception for the Run The Blades medal.

Run The Blades is a race round Whiteleee wind farm, just outside of Glasgow. It has a 10k, a half marathon and an ultra run. I was running the half marathon as a final long run before Norseman. There was around 200 – 250 people racing too, with around 75 running the ultra.

I could tell they were running the ultra as they all wore an identical uniform of hydration backpack, compression socks and kinetic tape.

They were prepared. I was not – when I was on the start line I noticed I’d put my number on upside down. It was too late to switch, and, as I wasn’t 666 or 999 it was obvious that I’d got it wrong. Oh well, another thing to watch out for at Norseman: getting my number on correctly.

The race was varied with a good mix of tracks around the tubines, some hills, though nothing compared to Tenby, and some running along the main tarmac spine road. I tried to keep a steady pace while listening to an interview with Jimmy Carr on the Comedian’s Comedian podcast.

Occasionally I would check my time and distance on my watch and I’d think, is this really 13 miles. In my head I could see how the paths we were on would be exactly 13 miles. I was right. As I approached the finish a sign said “400 metres to go” and we were only at 12 and half miles. At the finish line my watch said 12.9 miles so, after I’d picked up my medal, I decided to run a bit further until my watch was over 13 miles.

Once I’d made sure my Garmin record was okay (I didn’t want to record it as having run short), I was able to look at my medal – a standard round medal with the logo, the race name and, the best bit of all, three blades of a turbine that spun round. It was medal you could spin! What a brilliant idea and I can’t wait to see if other races start to copy it: make the medal interactive based on where you are.

Glasgow half marathon could have a flick knife built in. The London marathon could have an oyster card, while the Edinburgh festival of running could be filled with knobs… oh wait, they’ve already done that.

Long Course Weekend – Swim (Iain)

The last time I visited Wales was eight years ago. I went down with my girlfriend (of the time) and a couple of friends. Our plan was to climb Snowdon. My two friends decided to run it, so my girlfriend and I walked and we agreed to meet our friends at the top.

We started walking and we soon came to a break in the path. It wasn’t clear which way to go so we choose the right hand path. After a short distance there was a sign that said “Crib Goch route”. I hoped Grib Goch was Welsh for ‘easy route’.

We weren’t confident about our choice but as there was another couple ahead of us we thought “lets follow them as they look like they know what they are doing”. However, the route started to get steeper and steeper until we were on all fours climbing a vertical wall -and, when we got to the top, we realised we’d climbed the wrong mountain. It wasn’t Snowdon. It was its partner, which I found out afterwards is called Grib Goch. It turned out Grib Goch was Welsh for, well… Grib Goch.

The only way back was down the vertical path we’d just climbed or along a ridge so narrow you couldn’t stand up on it. Either side of the ridge was a huge vertical drop. A fall on either side would lead to death.

Luckily, we made it across. Mostly on all fours while holding on for dear life.

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It was the first and last ridge walk I’ve ever done.

Once we made it to the top of Snowdon my friends asked how we got on. My girlfriend replied that we’d got lost and had ended up rimming – confusing the term for ridge with something a whole lot different.

My friends laughed and then asked –

“Did you enjoy rimming?”

She replied: “I loved it. I want to do more rimming when I get back to Scotland”

I didn’t have the heart to point out her error. It was too funny.

My mistake. I should have pointed it out. She went to work the next week and told her friends and clients that she’d spent the weekend in wales rimming with three guys.

I’ve always wanted to come back to Wales. A couple of years ago I watched a TV show about the Tenby Long Course weekend. At the same time I saw an episode of Grand Designs set in Tenby where a couple renovated the lifeboat house. The race was the perfect opportunity to revisit wales, do a fun event and check out a cool house. I just hoped it wouldn’t involve ridging or rimming.

The swim was amazing. It takes place in a sheltered beach cove surrounded by the town. It comprises two loops of a triangle with an Australian exit. When viewing the course from the town I thought the hardest leg would be the middle section and the easiest would be the last. I was wrong. The easiest was the middle and the hardest the last.

I also thought the sea looked flat calm. It wasn’t. There was enough of a swell to keep the swim exciting/interesting/terrifying.

My sighting was good and according to my GPS I swam the same-ish route on both laps.

I was confident of beating Andrew as I’d swam in the sea more often him and I assumed he’d probably be slightly cautious.

If you do race it then I’d advise:
– Try to start near the front as there’s a lot of people taking part
– The course is setup for the whole weekend so you can have a practice swim at any point.
– Practice sighting. The markers are quite far apart so use landmarks instead. I used the house from Grand Designs.
– Book somewhere to eat for afterwards as the town’s mobbed with hungry swimmers.

I’ll write in my next post about the bike and run…

Tenby Long Course Weekend – Part 1 (Iain)

When learner drivers sit their driving test they have to watch a hazard perception video. The footage was shot in Wales. How do I know this? Because one of the frequently asked questions in leaner centres is – why does it say “ARAF” on the road? “Araf” is Welsh for “slow” and it’s only seen in Wales.

Having now driven through Wales I’ve come to the conclusion Araf doesn’t mean slow down, it means your journey will be slow. Much slower than I thought it would be. It’s so slow I wondered if I ‘d ever get to my destination.

Wales is beautiful but I’d still build a motorway through it!

My destination was Tenby for the Long Course Weekend. Instead of swimming/biking/running in one day I’d be doing it over a more leisurely three days.

Before I detail the race I’ll mention the one complaint I have about it.

My start time for the bike ride was 0945. The organisers of the event implemented a cutoff at mile 66 of 1330.

When signing up for the event I was asked whether I wanted an early or late start but there wasn’t a cutoff mentioned. If I’d known I’d have chosen the early start.

I contacted the organisers to ask for an earlier start. I was told changing the start time was not possible and “sorry for the inconvenience”.

It’s more than an inconvenience to know in advance that I won’t complete a section of an event due to something I was not told in advance when signing up.

I checked the results and of the 3393 people in the race only 60 went at a pace that could have made the 1st lap cut-off (if they had started at 0945). I also checked and a number of riders who were due to start at 0945 had set off much earlier. Their times had been registered despite being told in the race notes that the timing chips would only be active ten minutes before the start time.

I asked why those riders were allowed to start early and it was reiterated that the start times couldn’t be changed due to “health and safety reasons.” Yet they didn’t disqualify any early starters despite the fact those riders must have been breaking the health and safety rules!

Even the top 10 racers in the event got to start earlier.

There was a number of very angry riders at the end of the 1st lap who weren’t allowed to continue.

In future I hope they implement a less strict cutoff time. 15mph is the common timing on most races I’ve entered. They should also ask riders for an anticipated time rather than an early or late start.

The races has rules, punish riders who break them not the ones who follow them.

Continued in Part 2!

Tenby or Not Tenby – Part 4 (Andrew)

Sunday (Run)

On Friday, fireworks explode as you walk down to the surf. Today, a samba band plays as you walk from Pembroke Castle in a parade to the start line at the end of the High Street. Yesterday, we were at a car park and a man in a fluorescent tabard said “You might as well go then”. I think Saturday needs to get its act together…

The start of the Wales half-marathon is impressive. Arguably, more impressive than the marathon we’d watch start two hours earlier in Tenby.

The marathon runners start in the centre of Tenby, run to Pembroke and then come back via the half marathon route. The start is crowded with a couple of narrow 90 degree turns. The start for the half marathon takes place on a wide street, the main street of Pembroke, and has music, a parade, and something Tenby can’t top – a huge castle.

Also Pembroke has Constance Brown’s cafe/chippy, which is almost as old. We’d discovered it on Friday when we popped over to see the castle. Constance opened the cafe in 1928 and was still serving chips there over 80 years later at 102 years old. She’d died at 104 but the cafe hadn’t changed. Neither had the prices, which was handy when we were looking for a cheap and quick lunch.

Originally I was going to run the marathon but that was before I was successful in the Norseman ballot. Now, with four weeks to go, it would be stupid to try and run and marathon and then Norseman a month later. It was the right choice as, while the first few miles were fairly flat, the next 10 were more up and down than a nodding dog.

I’d decided to keep a steady pace, Iain decided to run. Within a mile he was gone and, with him, my chances of beating him this weekend. I didn’t want to try and keep up, I had a plan and was sticking to it. Instead I listened to Hamilton, the musical and kept a steady pace. A pace which would, I’d soon find out, overtake Iain.

At mile 10, I saw him. I felt strong so poked him in the back then ran away. He didn’t follow and I had a clear lead for the last three miles, which were largely downhill until a vicious wee kick up  half a mile from the finish.

And then – a cock up.

There was a red carpet finish. I thought the start of the carpet was the finish line as it was marked with a gantry. I sprinted. I crossed the line. I stopped. I got told off by a man in the crowd who said “You’re not finished yet – it’s another 20 metres!”

Luckily, Iain was still behind me, so I was able to sprint again and finish in 1 hour 48 minutes.

I grabbed a quick selfie with Tenby’s mayor at the finish line – “Can I have a mayor selfie?” I asked, in what I think is the Debrett’s acceptable style for asking for a selfie from a mayor – I was presented with a medal in an alleyway and I was done. Weekend over.

Looking back

The Long Course (Long) Weekend is a cracking weekend. Each event is well run. The swim is in a beautiful habour. The bike ride is varied and challenging. The run is on closed roads with some great open views across south west Wales. If you get a bed & breakfast in town then you’re only minutes from each start and finish line. But…

… if you live in Glasgow or anywhere outside Wales, then check how long it takes to get there. Wales is deceptively far away. And it’s no surprise that it’s national emblem is the dragon because while you drive through it you will definitely think “Boy, does this drag on!”.