My second ultra is the Devil O The Highlands race. A hillier longer race comprising 42 miles from Tyndrum to Fort William. I choose this because I wanted a distance that was scary (31 miles isn’t that different from a marathon but 42 is very different) I love this section of the West Highland Way, and, if I complete it, I get a funky looking t-shirt….there is a theme developing about how I choose events.
The best graffiti I’ve ever seen was in London shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attack. I noticed someone had sprayed a wall with the phrase “Osama Bin Laden has a small willy”
Which distils the complicated geopolitics of western and eastern religions down to a simple playground insult.
Bin Laden is not the only one whose nether regions have been mocked. Similarly, during World War Two, Hitler was ridiculed in an equally childish manner with a song claiming he only had one ball
Hitler has only got one ball The other is in the Albert Hall His mother, the dirty bugger Cut it off when he was small
Glasgow has recently launched a Mural trail. Mural is a posh word for graffiti. The murals are helping to rejuvenate streets and revitalize buildings and vacant sites that look a bit tired, reincarnating them as beautiful pieces of public street art.
I won’t list any of the murals because I think the joy of them is the surprise you get when you see them for the first time. Much like that joy I got the day I discovered Bin Laden and his small winky. Which is a phrase I never thought I’d use in a public forum!
It was the end of the race and a man was discussing the state of his ‘baws’ with a friend. I assume it was a friend. Discussing your ‘baws’ with a stranger would be an unusual conversation starter.
The friend replied “Did you wear your new pair of shorts?”
“Aye! And now my baws have more cuts than a Tory budget!” He actually only said “Aye” but I’m using artistic licence.
“Did you wear pants?” His friend asked.
His friend tried to walk “It burns!” he screamed. I took that as a no to the pants question.
Thankfully my race was friction free although I did get annoyed by how slow some of the sections of the course were.
My pet hate at races is people who stand at the front at the start who should be at the back. If you’re going to run slowly then start further back. I spent the first ten minutes of the race trying to get past people who had no intention of running quickly.
I don’t blame the runners as it happens at every race because people don;t want to start at the back but there’s a simple fix. Start the race in two waves. One wave for people who want to race and then five minutes later start the wave for people who just want to run.
Because congestion is inevitable when there are too many slower runners on a single track course
Last year it wasn’t noticeable as there was only 235 runners but this year there was 439. People were walking on sections that last year could be easily run because someone up ahead was blocking the way by going slowly.
Hopefully next year they fix the start so that the race doesn’t feel as congested as this years race.
A few years ago, I attended a Stand Up Comedy course. At the end of the course I performed a 5 minute “comedy” set. You can see the alleged “comedy” below
At the end of the gig a man came up to me to say “I really enjoyed that! You must let me know when you’re performing again”
I was pleased. I’d only done one gig but I’d already gained a fan!
I told my fan that I had a gig booked for the following week at a comedy club. He promised to attend.
I was a bit nervous before the gig. After all it was only my second ever gig but before I went on, I looked out and saw my fan sitting in the front row. I thought to myself. At least there’s one man here who’ll laugh. I went out and performed my “comedy.” My fan didn’t laugh once.
Afterwards I went up to him and asked if he’d enjoyed it. “Not really.” he replied “I preferred your early stuff!”
I never saw him again.
I was reminded of this whilst thinking about my race plans for next year. Nothing has been exciting or motivating me to enter.
I thought, maybe I should do an Ironman BUT I can’t be arsed! Last years effort and training for Norseman was hard work. I’d rather have an easier year with less pressure.
I thought, maybe I should do a Marathon BUT I can’t be arsed! I’ve done marathons before and the thought of doing another one doesn’t excite me.
What I really needed was a race that captures the excitement and feeling I get when its the first time I do it. The early stuff!
The only race I’ve never done before is an Ultra marathon. I’ve always been scared of the distance and the loneliness of running for that far and long.
So as its the only event I’m scared of and its the only running distance I’ve never done before then I knew immediately that’s what I have to do in 2019.
I recently read a post about completing a marathon.
“The marathon is such a huge commitment and is a lot of work. But it is the most rewarding race I’ve ever done. The first time you cross that line is so emotional. The relief, the pain, the tears, it’s a moment that will live with you forever.”
It really chimed with me because when I first completed a marathon I felt none of those things because all i felt was my nipples. That sounds weird. Let me explain….
It took me three attempts to complete a marathon but I’d argue the first two don’t count.
My first attempt was the Edinburgh Marathon. Andrew had entered and trained for months. I had not entered or trained at all yet I found myself on the start line when a spare place became available the day before the race. I only did it to keep Andrew company for the first half of the race. I dropped out after the half way point to catch a bus home.
My second attempt was an out and back course at the Fort William Marathon I ran out but couldn’t be bothered running back as it was a really boring route. I have never done an out and back race since.
My third attempt was the Tokyo marathon. I do not remember much about the race other than it was a bit chilly and not very scenic. Once I’d run down one Japanese road full of office blocks then I’d seen them all.
As I got nearer the finish, I felt a pain in my chest. My first thought was “Am I having a heart attack?” so I did what all men do in the face of a medical issue. I ignored it. I stared ahead and concentrated on making it to the finish line. As I crossed the finish line, the pain got worse. I put my hand to my chest. It felt damp. I looked down. My top was covered in blood. Had I been attacked by a Japanse vampire – Count Japula? I moved my hand around. I felt my nipples, I screamed in agony! They were bleeding.
I now regretted my decision to run the race in a Celtic FC football top. The thick heavy polyester of the top had chafed my nips like a cheese grater. I was practically nip-less.
Now the panic set it. Maybe I’d need nip replacement surgery! Would Andrew donate one of his to me? If he didn’t where would I get one from? Should I get big or small ones? So many questions!
I didn’t have a replacement top so after the race I got the subway and then walked to my hotel after the race in my green and white and blood top. To this day I’ve never felt the magic of the marathon as every time I finish one I immediately check my nips and thank they lord they are still there.
In the six weeks since Norseman I’ve done relatively little training. The break has been good, as my body/mind were pretty fatigued, but all good things must come to an end. Last weekend, I was back running by taking part in the Arrochar 10K.
This is my last post about Norseman. Normal blogs about any old nonsense will resume next week! Although reading Andrew’s latest post he seems to have started a week early. NOTE: He is wrong – Ryan Gosling is great. La La Land, Crazy Stupid Love and Bladerunner 2049 are all superb!
This is not the most interesting blog I’ve ever written but I thought I’d write it as it is something I looked for when I got my Norseman place – a Norseman training plan.
My aim was to complete not compete. I split my training into into two distinct parts
Part 1: Get fit (Jan 1st until 12 weeks to go)
My base swim fitness was poor as I barely swam in the three months previous to January but but my swimming technique is good. I was confident I would quickly get my stamina back and that I wouldn’t need to work much on technique.
My base bike fitness was good for short rides. I was commuting to work by bike four days a week (15 miles per day) and I would occasionally ride 30/40 miles at a weekend.
My base run fitness was ok for short races. I could run 10k in 45 minutes and I’d run two or three times a week at lunchtimes.
For each discipline I created a schedule but deliberately didn’t put days against any session. I prefer to fit training into my week rather than fit my week into training. I also took the view that if I missed a session, I wouldn’t try and catch-up. I’d just continue as if I had done it. That way I wasn’t putting pressure on myself if plans went awry.
Running Schedule (per week)
1 x hill run – 4 miles comprising 3 laps of a hill.
1 x tempo run – 4 miles where I pushed myself to run above my normal pace
1 x recovery run – 4 miles easy pace on flat route
1 x long run – anything up to half marathon distance at an easy pace.
I commute to work by bike which meant I could do most of my bike training to or from work. My plan was to stick to my normal biking but to increase my mileage each month. As the weather was not great this winter/spring I added in some turbo sessions with a similar steady increase in time rather than distance.
In January I did 60 miles a week, in February I did 80, in March 100 etc
I stopped increasing it when I got to 120 miles as that was about as far as I could go with the free time I had available.
On the turbo in January I did one 45 minute sessions a week, in February I did an hour and then in March I hour 30 minutes etc.
I stopped increasing the length when I got to two hours as any longer than that on a turbo was incredibly boring.
Swimming didn’t really happen. I had a plan to swim twice a week but didn’t do it. Instead my sechedule became
In April I started going to my triathlon club’s swimming session. This ws a 2K-ish weekly swim. I went most weeks until Norseman.
Part 2: Get Norseman fit
Part 1 got me fit enough to do part 2 which was to take my now increased base fitness and attempt to do longer rides/runs.
I based it on starting 12 weeks out from Norseman. I listed the one key thing I had to do each week in each discipline. I’d normally manage to run and bike outside of this BUT the priority was to do these. By only having thee key points I was able to fit them into my week. I also preferred time over distance as distance can be a cheat. A hilly 100 miler is different to flat 100 miler but five hours in the saddle is always five hours in the saddle.
10K + half marathon
HALF IRON MAN
I was 172nd in the swim with a time of 1 hr 21 min
I was 209th on the bike with a time of 8 hr 1 min
I was 41st/58th run (white tshirt) with a time of 6hr 13 min
SO I comfortably made the white shirt times and cutoff. I also felt fine all the way round. I wasn’t quick but I was steady.
Looking back at my plan I couldn’t have done much more based on the time I had available and the desire to still have a life outside of training.
The downside of my plan – I had low level anxiety for weeks leading up-to the race. Every day I’d wake up thinking what do I need to do today to get through the race? If I was to do it again I wouldn’t have that anxiety because I’d trust in my plan. I could have avoided this by having a coach but I hate being told what to do. A coach would have made me more anxious!
If you fancy giving it a go hopefully this post and the one about logistics will give you a good idea about how to do it.
Norseman is point-to-point (or fjord to peak) race starting at sea level, with a four meter drop off a ferry into a fjord. It comprises a 3.8k swim to the beautiful town of Eidfjord, then a hilly bike leg (3.5K elevation) crossing Hardangervidda mountain plateau, and finally a marathon run to the top of the 1850m peak of Gaustatoppen.
The race is limited to 250 competitors of which 160 finish at the mountain peak and the rest finish at the town below the summit. The originator of the event describes the race perfectly:
“I wanted to create a completely different race, make it a journey through the most beautiful nature of Norway, let the experience be more important than the finish time, and let the participants share their experience with family and friends, who will form their support. Let the race end on top of a mountain, to make it the toughest full distance triathlon on planet earth”.
I have only ever cycled a 100 mile bike ride twice before. The last time was IronMan UK back in 2015. I had never done a non-stop 3.8K swim. My only two times doing so had involved loops with an Australian exit. I also had not ran a marathon since IronMan UK.
Basically I prefer shorter events.
Despite this I’d always wanted to do Norseman. I think it’s the jump off the ferry start that attracted me. I grew up on an island and regularly travelled by ferry to the mainland. It was a very boring journey and I used to joke with my brother that one of us should jump off just to add some excitement to the trip.
I decided from the beginning that my aim was a white t-shirt so I wouldn’t have to worry about how fast to race. I would instead concentrate on being fit enough to do the distances.
Swim (1hr 22 min)
The race starts at 0500 which meant getting up at 0230 to catch the 0400 ferry. What they do not show you on the videos of the event is that the ferry has a very comfortable TV lounge. I sat and read a book on my Kindle. It helped keep my mind off the race.
At 0445 I went down stairs and entered the water using what could only be described as a belly flop. I didn’t see many other people use this technique. Possibly because upon entry most of the fjord ended up on the ferry.
It was a short swim to the start line. I’d swam the previous day in skins so wearing a wet suit meant this felt tropical in comparison.
I kept a steady pace for the swim. It was very easy to sight the route. I kept the land 20m to the side of me and followed the coastline back to town. Occasionally the water would get very cold. I suspect that was the points streams were entering the fjord.
I reached the exit and stood up and promptly fell face first back into the water! I always struggle with staying upright after a swim. I paused for a minute and then tried again. Thankfully this time I stayed up.
I ran into transition and was met by Nic. She said she’d won a bet with Andrew as she thought I’d be out in 80 minutes. He thought it would be at least 90.
BIKE (8 hr 10 min)
The bike leg starts with a 40K climb. I’d broken all the climbs down into units of measurement known as “crow roads” The Crow Road is a climb starting at the back of my house up the side of the Campsie Hills.
I find cycling more manageable if I break objectives down into things I know I can do. The first climb is five Crow Roads. Similarly, for the flatter section I’d think of in terms of how many commutes to work it would be. My normal commute to work is a 8 mile cycle so when cycling the plateau I’d calculate how many commutes to the next town.
This made the experience manageable but I do not particularly enjoy long bike rides so its always a struggle to enjoy it. My support team said I was like a stroppy teenager. One minute I’d be demanding a banana but then as soon as they got one I’d say “Why’d you get me a banana. I wanted an apple!”
Because I don’t ride long distances often enough I also struggle to refuel on the bike. I prefer to stop at a cake shop and enjoy a break so I did the same here and enjoyed a particularly good bakewell tart from a shop in Geilo.
Other food delights on the bike (other than gels and bars) were a Twix, a chocolate brownie and an ice lolly which I refused to take as even I have limits of what should be eaten in race!
RUN (6hr 3 min)
My aim was to get to the bottom of Zombie Hill in 2hrs-ish and then walk from there. The great thing is from that point I could have a support runner. I was really looking forward to having someone to speak to but after my stroppiness they probably weren’t looking forward to speaking to me!
I made it to Zombie Hill in good time and thankfully Nic was pleased to see me. She’d filled a bag with food so we were good to go. I felt good so we were able to walk quickly. I’d cycled zombie hill a few years previously o I knew roughly what to expect when climbing. That made it easier to do.
Thankfully I was not in the top 160 so I got to head to the village rather than the summit.
The village finish is 10 laps of a hotel complex. There’s a great atmosphere as competitors finish, music blares out and Norwegians wave flags.
I was happy to cross the finish line in under 16 hours as I was desperate to get to the pizza place in Rjukan before it closed 🙂
Norseman is the ultimate triathlon experience because its about sharing the journey with friends and family. We all had a great time in Norway with experiences that’ll last a lifetime.
It was a collection of stories about football and music e.g. what was the first team to play music at a match, why do Man United sing Glory Glory Man United, and who sings about chip buttys?
We managed to find something interesting (to us) about every football team in England and Scotland. We wrote it originally for a Scottish football blog but when that stopped, we collected all the articles in the book.
So, who sings about chip buttys and why am I mentioning it now? Sheffield United fans sing the song. It goes like this:
“You Fill Up My Senses
Like A Gallon of Magnet
Like A Packet of Woodbines
Like A Good Pinch of Snuff
Like A Night Out in Sheffield
Like A Greasy Chip Butty
Like Sheffield United
Come Fill Me Agaaaaaaaain
Na Na Na Naaa Naaaaa “
I had to google the exact meaning of the lyrics – Magnet refer to a pint of beer (bitter) that’s no longer made, though it used to be widely available in Yorkshire. Woodbines are cigarettes. Snuff is ground tobacco that goes up the nose and, lastly, a chip butty (chips in a roll) is simply delicious – the greasier the better.
Sheffield United are nicknamed ‘the Blades’, which is a tenuous link to last weekend’s race – Race the Blades. Which is not as I first thought a race around Sheffield but instead it’s a race around Whitelee wind farm, the UK’s largest onshore wind-farm.
The race is an off road half marathon. It was my last long run before Norseman so my aim was to do it at a steady pace to finish in 1hr 50min.
There wasn’t much car parking at the start so the organizers had opened up some of the track road for parking. We thought we’d arrived in plenty of time to get a good spot but we ended by over a mile and a half away from the start.
It meant I didn’t need a warm up as the walk from the car did a good job of that. Registration was quick and easy but like all races there was a massive queue for the loo and no toilet roll.
I was curious about how many toilets a race should have so I checked online and the recommended number is 1 per 10 users. No wonder there’s queues as a 400 person field should have 40 toilets but I I suspect the cost of that would bankrupt the race!
The course was well marked with two water stops. I wore trail shoes which turned out to be a good choice as the toe protection came in useful when I occasionally kicked a big stone.
There’s a couple of hills on the course which are both in the second half. I think a few people ran the first half too quick as I passed a lot of folk on the hills as they dropped to walking rather running pace.
Overall I was happy to finish in 1h 50min. Exactly the time I aimed for. I was even happier when I opened the goody bag at the end and saw a great selection of sweets, fruit, drink and freebies such as a pair of socks and a medal which spins like a wind farm blade.
This week was the last week of Norseman training. Thank f$%k!!!
I don’t know whether I’ve done enough training. I’ll discover that in a couple of weeks time when I attempt the race BUT I do know that I’ve done all I could in the time I had available.
My aim has always been to complete rather than compete so, on that basi,s since the start of the year my training stats are:
BIKE Distance: 2,720.5 mi Time: 184h 41m Elev Gain: 100,682 ft Rides: 164
If I was to ride 2,720.5 miles from Glasgow then I’d end up in Baghdad in Iraq. I suspect at some point in Norseman I’ll wish I was in Baghdad as, even getting shot at, will be more pleasant than the swim/bike/run!
100,000 ft of elevation is the equivalent of cycling three times the height of Everest. Which sounded impressive until I looked up the record number of climbs of Everest. Kami Rita Sherpa has summited 22 times! So, my paltry three times is just a walk in the park to him.
184 hours is a long time to be biking. I could have used that time to learn to paint, speak a foreign language or more likely just watch television. 184 hours of TV means I could have binge watched:
All of Game of Thrones (63 hours)
All of Breaking Bad (62 hours)
Every Marvel film (36 hours)
Every Harry Potter film (22 hours)
One episode of love island. (1 hour)
RUN Distance: 544.1 mi Time: 100h 1m Elev Gain: 37,493 ft Runs: 101
If I’d have run from my house for 544 miles I’d have ended up in the sea but, if I ignore that pesky issue, then I’d have ended up in Schleswig-Holstein in Germany. Which until now I’d never heard of! After a quick Google search I can reveal the most interesting thing I could find about the place:
On the coat of arms for the state, the symbols of Holstein and Schleswig can both be seen. The two lions represent Schleswig while the leaf of a nettle is for Holstein.
Before the Prussians took over the region, the lions faced away from the nettle. But legend has it that Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck couldn’t bear the idea of the ‘Danish’ lions pointing their bums at the Holstein nettle, so they turned to face it instead.
Sorry – it was not that interesting a story but its the best I could find!
Time 19h 4m
When training for an Olympics Michael Phelps would swim 80,000m a week. That’s 1600 laps of a 50m swimming pool. I’ve managed half a week of his training in six months. Which is why I don’t have any Olympic medals but how many episode of Love Island has he seen? I bet its none. I’ve seen loads. Who’s the success now?! Umm, probably still him!
Hopefully, I’ve reached the start line fit, injury free and happy. I can’t ask for any more than that.
(Although I have one long run and one long bike ride still to do. Hopefully I haven’t jinxed them!)