Tag: running

Escape From Alcatraz – Swim (Andrew)

Athletes, listen, this is an important announcement! You must –

Pfffffftt. Ziiipppp. Fffffuutttt. PA broken. Silence.

I’m waiting in transition. I’m wearing a wetsuit and trainers. I should be swimming in San Francisco bay but I’m not – the 2017 Escape From Alcatraz swim has been cancelled (for the first time ever!) and I’m waiting to find out what happens next.

It was an early start, 4am alarm, but, with the time difference between UK and the US it still felt like mid-morning. I got an Uber to transition, having left my bike there yesterday, the first time they’ve let people rack up on the Saturday. I didn’t know at this point it wasn’t the only weekend ‘first’ .

At transition I have plenty of time to set up my gear (unroll towel, check bike helmet, 10 seconds, done), check bike for air (press both tyres down with my thumb, 5 seconds each) and then catch a bus to the boat which takes you out to Alcatraz (just a couple of minutes to catch the bus).

The last bus leaves at 6am but, as I wasn’t sure of queues, I’d  got to transition early and after completing my rigorous and thorough transition routine… I was on the bus by 5am, which was too early. I was on the boat by 5:30 and had two hours to wait until the swim start.

On the boat, a former sternwheeler (I Googled this), you get divided by age: over 40 onto the top deck, under 40 on the main deck. In case you forget how old you are you can check your leg: at registration they write your age in black marker on your left hamstring.

I’m under 40, and with my memory intact, I don’t even need to check when asked, so I get to sit on the main desk. As I’m there early, there’s plenty of places to sit, so I sit down.

Sorry, you can’t sit there.

The man to my left is indicating an empty space of 10 metres.

My friend’s just coming back.”

It’s okay, I’m sure we’ll both fit.

I sit down and then worry that a man with a 10 metre wide butt will sit on me. Luckily, when the friend returns, he has a normal size butt – as do the two others who later join us. Not that I was checking out butts. But how much room does one butt need?! Even Sir Mix-A-Lot, the world expert on big butts and a man who cannot lie, would have said there was room for plenty of butts on that part of the boat.

I close my eyes. Listen to random conversation and think about the swim.

I’m nervous. Scared. But I have a secret weapon. Last night I left a water bottle in the fridge and I plan to pour it on my face and down my back before jumping into the bay. I think the cold water will help me acclimatise before I plunge in.

But, I never get to check that theory. At 6:30am, just as we’re due to sail to the start, a man with a loudspeaker tells us to be quiet and to listen to the PA. The PA then tells us that there’s been a “small craft advisory warning “and that the “swim is cancelled“.

There’s a loud groan. A protest. We’re asked to leave the boat and it’s still not clear why.

People talk about refunds. About ditching the whole event. One man says he can’t run or ride a bike, the only reason he was here was for the swim. Others talk in foreign languages. People travelling around he world to be here. And the swim, the iconic swim from Alcatraz back to San Francisco is cancelled.

Now I know how Al Capone must have felt – there was no escape from Alcatraz today.

Later, I find out that the wind and current was too strong even for the safety boats. The small craft warning was a warning that the kayaks and paddle boards who marshal the swim would not cope with the conditions. And if it was too dangerous for the safety boats it was too dangerous for swimmers.

I’m disappointed. I’d travelled a quarter of the world to.be here but I know safety comes first. And, after seeing the bay later, with whitecaps heading east, rather than west, and with winds hitting 35mph, it was the right call.

We queue to get back on the buses. It takes nearly two hours to get everyone back to transition. We still don’t know what’s happening but announcements say that a bike run race will take place and details will follow.

I keep warm by staying in my dry wetsuit. I thought of pouring the frozen water on my head just so I can have the Alcatraz experience but that would have been a stupid idea.

At transition, the PA gives our just as the announcement of the new race is made: “Athletes, listen, this is an important announcement – you must –

We gather at the entrance instead as a loudspeaker is found. The organisers will send us out in waves. Pros first then by number, five at a time, every 10 seconds, to ensure people are spread out along the course just as they would be if they’d completed the swim.

I finally take off my wetsuit and get ready to… ESCAPE FROM TRANSITION!

End Of Month Report (Iain)

My plan for May was not to have any mileage goals but instead complete a number of events:

  • Helensborough 10K – I was hoping I’d get under 45 minutes for one of my 10K’s this month. I surprised myself by managing it in the first race. Link here
  • Bealach Na Ba Race 44 mile race (with the aim to do the climb twice) – My aim was to beat Andrew but he beat me due to a puncture. We didn’t do the climb twice due to the puncture. Link here
  • Loch Leven half marathon – the aim was to beat Andrew but he beat me easily! I was happy with my time so I can’t complain…too much. Link here 
  • Antonine Trail Race 10k – great race. I’ll sign up for the half marathon when it becomes available. Link here
  • Caledonian Etape 81 mile bike  – My aim was to beat Andrew but he cheated 🙂 Link here 
  • Dumbarton 10K – I didn’t make it to this race which I think is the second time I’ve entered it but not made it to the start line.
  • Shettleston 10K – Last race of the month. I was tired and hungover but my time was okay. Link here 

The theme of the month was “My aim was to beat Andrew but….”

Thankfully, despite these losses, the Todd Championship is still close. It’s currently 4-3 to Andrew. Overall, I enjoyed the races and got PB’s for the biking so it was a good month.

My plan for June is not to have a plan. Iron Man Edinburgh is the next goal (at the start of July) so I’ll concentrate on keeping everything ticking over so that I’m fit and healthy.

I also don’t want to let Andrew know what my plan for this month is to ensure I win! I have a secret idea….

Here’s a selection of photos from May. If you want to see more then follow me on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/twinbikerun/

Shettleston 10K (Iain)

The Shettleston 10k is misnamed – it wasn’t in Shettleston. It was in Glasgow green.

The Edinburgh marathon works under a similar ruse. Visitors think they’re going to run through one of the worlds great cities but instead the race heads out of the city. Before you know it, your running thought a council estate in Prestonpans.

It should be called the “leaving Edinburgh and running through crap towns” marathon.

I did the race when the course was in Edinburgh. Andrew had trained for months to do it. I got a place at the last minute when someone else dropped out. I hadn’t trained. The night before the race, I drank shots in a bar til 3 AM.

The race started at Meadowbank stadium. the first mile was a brutal climb of Arthur’s seat. I felt ill. I kept pace with Andrew till the halfway point and then I retired.

The winning time for the Shettleston 10k was the fastest 10K time in Scotland this year. The man who ran it is called Wayney Ghebresilassie. With a surname like that its not a surprise he’s good at running! He cruised round in 30.11.

I was slightly hungover having attended a wedding the day before. Having learnt a lesson from my Edinburgh marathon experience I didn’t drink shots till 3AM. I drank beer.


Caledonian Etape 2017 – Part 1 (Andrew)

You could hear the school bell ring from our living room in Stornoway, that was the sign to go. We lived across the road from our primary school so could pack, leave and be in class before the bell stopped. It was brilliant.

Then we went to secondary school. It was five minutes away, less than a mile but still we said to our parents:

“We have to MOVE!”

We didn’t. We had to walk and we had to watch the clock because, now, we couldn’t hear the bell.

So, we walked. And, every time I’ve moved, whether for university or work, I’ve always walked or ran or cycled home.

In Glasgow, I’d walk around the Westend at university. At work, during two spells in London, I’d run first from the City to West Hampstead and then, after a second spell, from the City to Battersea. I would time how long it would take me to run and, every time, it was always quicker than catching the tube or the train – and, despite running six miles, it was also less sweaty.

In Glasgow, I commuted from the city centre to the Westend and to the Southside. Now, today, I work in Larbert and have cycled to and from Glasgow along the canal, a 90 – 120 minute commute depending on which way the wind’s blowing.

I love doing this. If I’m in a car, or bus, or underground train in London, I don’t get a sense of where I am. Running or cycling helps me connect everything together.

Running through London I would start in the City, surrounded by offices, run along Fleet Street with it’s mix of sleek offices and 17th century pubs, past the church in Aldwych and the Courts of Justice, still scarred from bombs dropped in World War 2, along past Trafalgar Square, Number 10 and the Houses of Parliament. Tourists, red buses, armed policeman and buildings that define London like the Thames. On the south bank, reaching home, I pass new flats overlooking the river, Battersea Park, a golden Buddha facing Chelsea townhouses owned by the super-rich, a dog pound, a sense of dislocation, and a roar of a plane overhead every 10 minutes descending on the Heathrow flightpath bringing new life, renewal, like blood returning to the heart.

Without running I’d never know how the world is connected. Not just by location but also by time. Every time I run I remember the times I’ve been there before. Running through London last year while on holiday, I wasn’t just running through the streets I knew, I was running through the times I knew them.

Running is time travel. Going forward, going back.

I get that feeling most of all when I return to the Caledonian Etape, 81 miles round Tayside, from Pitlochry round Loch Tummel, climbing over Schiehallion and back through the valley of Fortingal, Weem, Aberfeldy and Strathtay.

Not just a race. A memory.

A memory of coming to Aberfeldy for two weeks every summer on our summer holiday. The only two weeks we’d leave home on Stornoway and cross the Minch and come to the mainland.

Aberfeldy was a foreign country.

It had shops open on a Sunday, you could read a paper on a Sunday, you could go to the playground and the swings would be open, not tied up. It was not Stornoway where the Sabbath was sacred. It was as exotic as Istanbul.

And every year through school we would return, and most years after we left for university too. It was a second home. Our place in the sun(day).

So, when I started riding it was the Caledonian Etape I wanted to enter. A chance not just to ride but to ride my summer, to ride the roads where Aberfeldy was always, when we asked how long to go, “around the next corner and over the next hill!”.

The first time we entered we had no idea of what we were doing. We had the wrong bikes, the wrong gear, the wrong training programme (none) and a backpack filled with water and a packed lunch. It took us over six hours to finish. We would have been faster but there’s no quick way of having a cheese sandwich.

The second time we entered we were better. Better bikes. Better ideas. Still no training but, with more of an idea of what we had to do, we could help go faster even if by faster we only improved our time to under six hours.

The next few times so a gradual improvement. We’d join other riders to form groups. We’d train harder. We’d get faster. We get round in under five hours.

But one thing was constant. I always won.

This time we were riding for the seventh time. Iain promised a “secret weapon”. He was going all out for the win. I knew it would be tough but I also knew that this was my race. I wasn’t just riding against Iain, I was riding with a peloton of memories – and I was going to win.

To be continued…




Loch Leven Half Marathon 2017 (Iain)

Scottish Athletics bans the use of headphones during road races.  This is a major issue to me because, instead of listening to music, I have to listen to Andrew’s chat.

This is his “banter” from Saturday’s Loch Leven half marathon.

He spots a tree – “Look there’s a tree!”

He spots a hill – “Look there’s a hill!”

He spots a sheep – “Look there’s a cow!”

Animal recognition isn’t one of his strong points.

Quite frankly, after his umpteenth, “Look there’s a ….” I was quite happy to let him run off. So, at mile 9, I decreased my speed and let him go ahead.

He thinks he ran off because I was tired. Yes – I was tired of his chat!

Loch Leven Half Marathon 2017 (Andrew)

Have you ever run a half marathon backwards? Or any race backwards?

And by backwards I mean running the route in reverse – not running backwards yourself, looking over your shoulder and trying not to run into an oncoming car.

I have. The last time I was here.

For some reason, when we arrived at registration at Kinross in Fife, the organisers didn’t have my entry.

(I cannot comment on whether this may have something to do with me get my entry wrong in the first place and maybe not, you know, actually, kind of, maybe… entering. Though I swear I thought I had entered at the time.)

Since we were there and ready to start we thought we’d run the race anyway. But, because it wouldn’t be fair to join a race without an entry, we thought we run the route in reverse.

And everything was fine. The first few miles were quiet, the middle miles saw a flood of runners approach us, and the last few miles saw…. horrendous rain. Rain so bad that we thought it best to take a shortcut, leave the road and cut across a field to take a trail to Kinross.

Only one problem.

The trail didn’t go to Kinross.

It didn’t go anywhere. It stopped beside Loch Leven.

So, we ran across another field.

A cow got mad.

We ran back.

We got lost.

We eventually ended up back at the road we’d left. Wet. Tired. No further forward.


We ran to the finish/start and checked our mileage – 15 miles, for a 13 mile half marathon ran in reverse.

There’s clearly a lesson here about always checking your entry before going to the start of a race. Either that or always carry a compass if you want to take a short cut.

That was around five years ago. The Caledonian Etape and Loch Leven Half Marathon moved to the same weekend and it became impossible to enter both (or not enter even).

This year the Etape has changed weekends, moved back a week and we were free to run the Loch Leven Half Marathon again.

It’s one of my favourite races. It has great views of the loch and the surrounding hills. It has some nice long descents and only a couple of longer climbs. Every few miles the view changes, starting in an industrial estate in Kinross, moving through fields, then Loch Leven, moving closer to the hills, climbing through Scotlandwell before finishing with farms, fields, rolling roads and a final couple of miles along a track back to Kinross.

It’s a great race and I’d definitely reccomend it – but I might only be saying that because I beat Iain.

I saw he was struggling. A few grimaces here and there. An inability to keep up when I tried to run faster. But I waited until mile 9 before seeing if it was just a faint.

It wasn’t. When I started to run faster, he didn’t try to keep up. I was able to run home without any competition for the final few miles, drawing the Todd Championship level with three victories each.

My only complaint was a warning at the start of the race. The marshall warned everyone not to listen to headphones: “This race is sanctioned by Scottish athletics and anyone wearing headphones may be withdrawn from the race.”

I like listening to headphones when I run, usually Podcasts, occasionally music, sometimes the radio.

I can understand that organisers want to keep runners safe. But banning headphones seems over the top. Why not just say that runners with headphones run at their own risk?

Which isn’t much, given that statistics showed that “SERIOUS ACCIDENTS TRIPLE WHEN WEARING HEADPHONES”, as one headline put it. Which does indeed sound serious, but it only involves 47 accidents a year in the United States, up from 16, eight years earlier.

Which is not to belittle the 47 accidents which occurred, but merely to point out that half of the accidents involved people struck be a train at railway stations (not somewhere you normally go for a run) and perhaps studies like these are not appropriate when judging people running on roads and trying really, really hard not be hit, especially if they’re running backwards!

Saying that, if I get hit by a car tomorrow while out for a run while listening to ‘My Dad Wrote A Porno’, please delete this post. I really, really don’t want to die an ironic death.

Or at least change my Podcast to ‘Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History’ so at least people think I was listening to something a little bit more high-brow! 🙂

Current Todd Championship Standing

Me: 3

Iain: 3

End Of Month Report: April (Iain)

My plan for April was:
– The Dirty Reiver race (you can read about it here
– Bike (on average) 110 miles a week – I managed 129
– Run (on average) 16 miles a week – I managed 16.3
– Do yoga at least once a week – done!
– Swim twice a week – I failed. I managed three swims in a month. I need to do better!
– Plaster the hall. I phoned a man and he’s doing it next week 🙂

I’m happy with how April went. I had a two weeks vacation. I call it a Scottish compass holiday because, by the end of it, I’d visited the north, south, east and west of Scotland!

In the north, I visited Findhorn. A very spiritual community of hippies with eco-homes. I found this book – “Your Pet’s Past Lives & How They Can Heal You”.


I have so many questions:
– does my cat have nine past lives?
– Was my cat a cat in a previous life? If not, is being a cat a punishment or a reward for past behavior?
– how can my cat heal me? He seems pretty lazy and selfish. I suspect he’s planning to kill me.
– the author is a whale whisperer??? What are whales saying ? And how do you whisper underwater?


In the south I visited the Garden of Cosmic Speculation. A wonderful garden that’s only open once a year. One of the grass mounds in looks like an ass which meant they needed this sign:


Which is a motto I live my life by.

In the east I biked from Edinburgh back to my home in Lennoxtown. On the way I passed this sign:


How many people get shot in Falkirk that’ve had to put a sign up telling them not to?!

And, in the west, I went home to Stornoway. I visited the Callanish Stones. They were much more redder whiter and pointy-er than I remember.


My Plan for May is not to have any mileage goals as I’ve got loads of events to do:
– Helensborough 10K run
– Antonine Trail Race 10k run
– Dumbarton 10K run
– Shettleston 10K run (which despite the name isn’t in shettleston!)
– Caledonian Etape 81 mile bike race.
– Bealach Na Ba Race 44 mile race (with the aim to do the climb twice)

Here’s a selection of photos from April. If you want to see more then follow me on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/imacivertodd/

Balfron 10K – 23rd April 2017 – 47min 35s (Iain)

Does anyone read this blog other than my mum? Yes – the organisers of the Balfron 10k! Last year I wrote this about the race:

“I started near the front as I’d noticed a left turn 100m after the start. I don’t know why races start with a turn so soon. It always causes a bottleneck.”

They must have read it as, this year, the race had a right turn instead – and there was no bottleneck. The power of a blog post or the fact the left turn is now a housing estate 🙂

I wonder if I can use the power of a blog post to reach anyone else. Let me try:

“Kate moss – call me anytime!” Let’s see what happens…

Last year, I also wrote:

“The Balfron 10k was undulating which is Gaelic for “hilly as f**k”. It’s an out and back course along a b-road. The first 3k was mostly downhill which meant the last 3k was mostly uphill. The weather was great (warm and sunny) and their was approximately 600 runners.”

Its still hilly as ….! The weather and turnout was almost identical but the change to the start was welcome. The first 1k is now all down hill and, according to Strava, I ran my fastest ever 1k. Does a PB count if its more like falling downhill  than running?

My aim was to go at a steady pace and get less than 50 minutes. I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel as I’d completed the Dirty Revier bike race the day before. Luckily they didn’t feel too bad and I got round the course in 47:35

Female factory packers of the world unite! (Andrew)

Every six months or so I order new energy gels. I have to order them from the internet as I like ZipVit gels and you can’t buy them in any shops, or at least the shops I know, or at least the shops I know within five minutes of the house. The internet has reduced the need to search any further!

Today, my latest supply of banana gel ZipVit’s arrived  – and they came with a message on the front of the box. An unexpected message. It said:


Now, while I’m all for manufacturers telling you that they took care packing their products, they really shouldn’t need to tell you that. It should be a basic requirement of delivering anything that you didn’t just throw everything into a box higgledy piggledy before mashing it down, throwing it as hard as you could against a brick wall before stamp on it to make sure the lid closed. That’s Royal Mail’s job. The manufacturer should be sending everything packed carefully.

So, it was nice that they’d taken the time to highlight this as an important step. Unnecessary, but nice.

What I do have issue with, what I really don’t believe, it’s that “Sam” had anything to do with it,

Maybe, I’m wrong. Maybe the ZipVit warehouse is filled with good looking women taking an almost unhealthy interest in packing energy gels boxes in brown delivery boxes to fat guys on bikes. Maybe she placed this sticker here with her own fair hand, a fair hand shared with the hundred other beautiful women of the ZipVit shop floor all desperate to provide MAMIL’s with much needed banana tasting energy boosts.

Perhaps Zipvit is at the cutting edge of female empowerment in the warehouse packing industry. Maybe they sponsor deprived woman from inner city communities, train them and teach them and school them in the ways of packing boxes.

Or perhaps Sam is a lone trailblazer in a male dominated industry where to handle a package you need to, well, be able to handle your own package.

Maybe Sam is the Emily Pankhurst of ZipVit box packers? Maybe she’s a feminist icon in waiting? Maybe just maybe Sam is real.

Or maybe, almost certainly, it was packed by Dave from Rotherham.

Dave who farts on the boxes and scratches his bum.

That Dave.

Not Sam.


I hate you, Dave!

You lied to me, Sam!

And you didn’t even pack it carefully – one of the corners was squashed!