It shows I managed to cover just over 3000 miles of swimming, biking and running which is enough to take me to Monrovia in Liberia.
I googled Monrovia to see what it is like. According to a map of the town there is an area inside it called Chocolate City. Which sounds delightful. I imagine its a wonderful place to live. Everyone loves chocolate.
I then Googled how Chocolate City got its name. It is not as delightful as I thought. Chocolate City was a place where people went and defecated. Families riding in cars along the highway would smell the stench of human excrement but instead of telling kids what it was they would instead say it was chocolate. Hence the chocolate area became known as Chocolate City.
I looked at my info-graphics from previous years. It revealed I did less distance this year than last (4,500 miles) That is about 1500 miles less. I like to think it was higher quality. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
The Christmas number one is the most coveted chart position every year. Everyone wants to know who will be number one on Christmas Day. This year, in America, the Christmas number one battle saw Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You finally reach the summit 25 years after it was first released. (It had previously stalled at number two).
But, over on this side of the Atlantic, the UK celebrated as another person reached the summit in first place many years after first trying to get there.
Yes, forget about the pop charts, and check out the Strava charts as I finally, finally, finally conquered the War Memorial segment on Strava to become the fastest person in the world to climb Stornoway’s highest spot. You can read about my challenge here.
It almost didn’t happen. First, when Iain checked the Top 10 it turned out that another competitor had secretly conquered the top spot just three weeks before. No longer was Florent Schaal my nemesis – read about our imagined rivalry here – nor was Iain – read about his cheating ways here – instead a new man, Michael, had sneaked in under the radar and stolen the top spot. I needed to not only run faster than Florent, but also Iain and now, Michael.
I was planning to attempt a run on Boxing Day but, when we went out yesterday morning, Iain wanted to give it a go. I wasn’t up for it. I felt tired and was only wanting an easy run around the Castle Grounds. But, after he said to give it a go, I thought it would be good practice for the ‘real’ attempt later in the week.
There was no wind, so I thought this run would be slower. How was I meant to run fast if I didn’t have a helping push? So, I tried running fast, but not necessarily as fast as I could. This was just a practice anyway.
I didn’t even check the time when I got home. I thought there was no point as it would only show how much faster I would need to go.
There are three starts to a race. The first start is when you start running. For most of us this will be a few metres before the start line as we don’t start at the start as we don’t want to mix it with the top club runners looking to win races. The second start is when you start your watch so you can keep track of how far you’ve run and how long you’ve been running. This second start will be as close as possible to the third start – the point we cross the start mat and hear the beep of timing chips.
Three starts. Three times we control exactly when we start a race as we decide when to start running, when to press start, when to cross the mat, yet still I like to hear the sound of a starting gun, klaxon or just a loud whistle. There is something ‘official’ about having a starting signal that Garmins and beeps cannot replicate. Even better, the start should be marked with an official starter, and in most years, for the Jimmy Irvine 10K it’s been Jimmy Irvine himself. You can read about it here (including more about Jimmy Irvine). This year, he wasn’t here in person, but he was here in portrait as the finisher’s t-shirt had a picture of him and his wife on the start line at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow.
The race has taken a number of different routes around Bellahouston Park however, this year, it stayed the same as last, which I originally thought was great as it features two laps and three visits to the same downhill section. As the race starts on a hill you run downhill for most of the first kilometre. You then repeat it again at the end of the first lap and again at the end of the second. Two laps, three downhill sections.
However, when I say I “originally thought it was great”, I have now changed my mind. Last week, Iain and I ran around Edinburgh, taking in a number of hills including Blackford and Arthur’s Seats. After checking Strava, I notice something curious. The highest heart rate was recorded at the bottom of hills, and not the top. With the peak rate being recorded at the bottom of Arthur’s Seat after running down from the summit.
I’d always thought that running uphill was harder. It certainly feels like it. But, the scientific evidence – and what is more scientific than a record on Strava! – shows that running downhill was much, much harder.
So, when I originally thought I was going to write about how the Jimmy Irvine 10K is a nice route as it’s more downhill, than up. I’m now here to warn you that the Jimmy Irivine 10K is a hard race because it’s mostly downhill! Avoid, do something easier like the Ben Nevis Hill Race or the Mt Everest Marathon. Anything except run downhill!
Saying that, I might just be annoyed because I missed out on breaking 45 minutes by 8 seconds. It was still the fastest I’ve run a 10k in a few years but, still, even with three starts, I couldn’t find one that would take my time below 45 minutes…
I blame Iain. He ran off to fast and I decided not to keep up as I wanted to warm up a bit first. Then, to make matters worse, he ran the rest of the race too fast as well! What a cheat! I bet he even ran the downhill sections. I didn’t. I walked them* – you can’t be too careful you know!
So, while there was three starts, there was only one way to finish: second place to Iain again.
*This might be a lie to avoid saying I couldn’t catch up with him even when I was trying to sprint.
I spent the week before the race full of the cold. Not the normal cold but life threatening man flu.
My fellow men will sympathise at just how potent this horrific affliction can be. Its only known cure is watching TV, drinking beer and replying “no. I’m ill” to any enquiries about whether any housework is going to be done.
I decided I wasn’t going to do the race as it always rains when I take part. Last years event was so biblically wet I spotted Noah leading animals two by two to his boat. I didn’t fancy running whilst being at deaths door.
But for the first time in my five attempts at the race there was no rain. It was actually a very pleasant sunny morning.
I decided to run. I was still ill and I definitely wasn’t fit enough for household chores. In fact, I think it might be a few weeks before I can even think about hoovering or helping out around the house. A run though is fine to do.
The course is two laps of Bellahouston Park. It’s not a very scenic park but it’s pleasant enough. It’s mostly flat but there is one hill that is tackled twice.
I decided I was going to run as fast I could. As soon as the race started I legged it away from Andrew. Later Andrew complained I went off too fast. No – he went off too slow!
The race was pretty dull. I spotted Andrews wife a couple of times so I gave her a wave. Which turned out to be more times than Andrew spotted her. He managed to run past her without seeing her.
I kept a good pace up for the whole race and I was happy with a sub 45 time. I didn’t expect to be as fast as that. Maybe man flu isn’t as bad as I thought….
Which reminds of a posh man I met at University who claimed
he was working class despite growing up in a castle. He claimed it was true
because his nanny was working class!
There is a phrase “An Englishman’s home is his castle.” In that man’s case it was literally true but in most cases it implies a homeowner (whether a castle or hovel) should have the right to defend their home from invaders. Not in an amusing Home Alone style way in which a criminal is hit in the face with an Iron by a small child but in a mad farmer way where a criminal is blasted by a shot gun.
This meant I was slightly afraid of Trail running in
In Scotland I can go anywhere (just about) as the public has
a right of access over land and inland water as long as they behave
In England no such right exists. The freedom to roam is only
as long as the public follow public rights of way.
I saw how protective people are of their “castle” whilst walking
along a public path. At one point, the path seemed to lead into the garden of a
house. I wasn’t sure about the path so I looked at a map and discovered that the
route through the garden wasn’t a public path but a private path. The public
path involved skirting round the garden.
I skirted around the garden. When I got round to the other side I noticed someone else had not checked the route and was now walking across the garden. It did not take long for a man to appear from the house. The man wore red trousers. Which matched the colour of his angry face. He shouted “WHY ARE YOU IN MY GARDEN?”
I don’t think the correct answer was “to admire your roses?”
For the rest of my trip I was very careful to check where I walked and ran.
When you are at a dentist, getting a tooth removed, do you close your eyes or keep them open?
According to my dentist, most people close their eyes, but I prefer to keep my eyes open so I can see what they are doing. I’ve paid enough money for the “experience” so I might as well get my money’s worth!
Which is why the day before the race I was looking up at a dentist as he prodded around my mouth trying to work out which tooth was causing me tooth ache.
After he wrenched the offending tooth out of my mouth I asked whether it was wise to run a race the next day? He went quiet and said “hmmmm…” which I took as ringing endorsement of my decision to run!
Last year, I wrote that due to limited parking I had to park the car one mile from the start. This year they had changed the parking: it was now a 1.5 mile walk.
Which turned the race into a 16 mile run/walk.
One thing they had improved since last year was the toilets. This time thhey had plenty of loos and plenty of loo roll.
There was a lot of rain before the start of the race but it cleared up to leave warm muggy conditions and one very large puddle on the course.
The route was the same as the previous year. The first half has a number of small hills and second half has two longer ones.
I started off well but quickly ran out of energy. I think my body was expanding all its effort on recovering from my tooth trauma. I managed to plod round in the roughly the same time as last year but if at any point there had been a way to quit and go home I’d have taken it!
It’s a well organised race on a scenic course. I’d recommend it to anyone thinking of taking the leap from road to trail racing.
After the race I put the tooth under my pillow. I’m still waiting for the tooth fairy to take it away. It’s as if she might not be real…
I wanted to wear the shirt of shame. Iain’s Norseman run top from last year, the run I didn’t manage to complete myself two year’s earlier. It would remind me to keep going. To complete this.
But first I needed to ask someone the time.
After a quick change in transition, as one volunteer takes your bike and racks it, another volunteer helps you find your bag and help you unpack your run kit and pack it again with your cycle kit.
As soon as I left transition I asked another competitor if they had the time. 1540, they said. Excellent, I thought, I had been aiming to start between 4 and 5pm so this was a bonus to be out so early.
I also felt good. Legs were fine and I didn’t have any of the feeling of trying to adjust from cycling fast to plodding along and wondering why I was no longer moving as fast as I’d been 10 minutes earlier.
My plan was to run to 10k, then walk a bit then run as much as I could until the half way point.
(Also my plan was to work out how many kilometres there were in a marathon as I’d been relying on my watch to tell me and I’d never checked the metric equivalent of 26 miles – for half the race I thought I was running 44 kilometres as I’d miscounted).
My plan didn’t last long though – it lasted until 2km when I saw Iain. He had a Twix. I almost gave in. I almost ate it but I thought – be good, keep going, you don’t need this!
Then 2 km down the road as we started to run down the canal I thought. “I want a Twix!!!!”
On the canal, you run south for around 4 kilometres, then north by around 10 kilometres then back south again by 6 kilometres. A long straight flat course along the banks of the canal and over white, light, dirt trails.
Every kilometre is signposted. Every two kilometres, if not sooner, has a feed station. At this point I switched to a run/walk strategy.
I played the Dariusz Dziekanowski* game. Along the bank are green and white poles and I would run between them and then walk for a minute then run to the next pole again.
(A Polish Celtic player. Geddit?)
I would also stop at every feedstop and have a bite of something and a cup of something. At first, just water, electrolyte drinks and a pretzel, then, as the feed stops got more elaborate, a choice of:
Cups of salt water
Slices of bread with liver pate!!!
This was less of food stop and more a Continental cafe.
To keep us going on the canal, there was a band playing rock covers. Stripped to the waist, the middle aged singer was belting out Highway To Hell…
Who said the Germans don’t like a laugh?!
As the canal section finished, and the second half of the race began, I knew that there was still one thing missing. Luckily, I saw Iain again and he had…
The second half of the course is hillier, I walked more, and you could see my time per kilometre drop by minutes from the start of the run. I didn’t mind. I’d never trained to run a marathon, I trained to run a half marathon and then take however long it might take to complete the rest.
The second half takes you back through Roth and along the main streets. Pubs blared music – more AC/DC – people cheered and the atmosphere is fantastic.
Until you get to 10 kilometres to go and you realise there’s a long, long hill to climb before you return to the finish line.
I didn’t run at all on the hill. Instead, I’d picked up my phone from Iain, along with the Twix, and listened to a Podcast interview with the comedian Lee Mack. Headphones are allowed on the run course at Roth so this was a welcome change after hours with no conversation.
At the end of the hill, there’s a great turning point around a pond, with flags and posters designed by school kids. One of the last posters was of the Scottish flag so I tapped it for good luck and began the final plod back to the finish. This time, going downhill. I could start running again, and I was able to keep a good pace back round to the finish where I met Iain. He said that he could run in with me, which was great, as I didn’t know you could be accompanied.
I now had a second wind (or fourteenth wind after hours of swimming, cycling and running) and was able to jog to the finish line.
The stadium was noisy, chaotic and, while I kept thinking I needed to make sure I had a decent finishing photo I also now had my time and saw that I could finish below 14 hours if I could finish within the next few minutes.
Across the line, a medal and then a quick trip to the finisher’s tent to get changed and back out to meet everyone else. On my way out I checked my final time and found out, without my watch, I’d got my times completely wrong, I hadn’t been running to finish within 14 hours, instead it was 12 hours 53 minutes.
I didn’t mind losing my watch for that! Well, almost!
With a heatwave of 40 degree plus across central Europe I think I may need to revise the following list to include a portable fan, a bucket of ice cubes and lifetime of living in the Sahara desert.
As it may be too late for a pasty Scotsman to suddenly develop a tolerance for hot weather (which, as any Scotsman knows, is any time it’s not raining), I’ve prepared the following list of Roth essentials and will now spend the next week trying to work out the one item I need but have forgotten to include – because there’s always one thing I forget!
For the last year, a man and a woman park their cars at the end of my street and have a canoodle underneath a railway bridge.
They usually meet on a Wednesday and a Saturday. He arrives first. She then parks in front of him and pops into his passenger seat. She’s usually wearing gym gear as if she’s either just been to the gym – or, perhaps not going at all and using it as an alibi. They then proceed and….
… read a magazine, mostly, these weeks. It’s very dull. Occasionally, they share a bag of crisps.
The rendezvous has been going on for so long now – over a year – that they’ve moved into the “I just want to meet and complete a crossword with you” phase of their relationship.
It’s very strange. Although we don’t live on a through road, so it is quiet, we do have work going on and they’re parked right next to Scottish Gas’s compound and portable toilet.
It’s not discrete. Though they think it is.
“Ah”, they think, “no one will spot us if we meet every week at the same time, in the same spot in the same way!” (Except the people who live on the street and walk their dog at the same time they meet – people like me, who, after two weeks, thought “that’s the same cars!”).
I wonder now if they’ve reached the point now where it would be just too awkward to leave their spouses.
“What do you do under the bridge?” They would demand.
And they’d have to admit that it’s mostly reading Take A Break with an occasional cheesy Wotsit.
Either way, it doesn’t appear to be one thing or another. It no longer looks like a torrid secret affair and, yet, it’s definitely not two friend’s catching up.
For some reason, this couple came to mind after running the RunMhor Half Marathon. Or MhorRun as I like to call it, just to to say Moron.
It starts in Balquhidder besides Mhor 84 Motel before running on B roads and cycle tracks loop to Strathyre and back before heading out for a shorter, steeper loop onto hill trails.
It’s both a road race and a trail run. Neither one thing or another.
The first loop is mildly undulating but largely flat. The second features a very sharp climb through switchbacks up a hill before a gentle descent to the finish.
Throughout there’s plenty of water stops and jelly babies to hand. And at the end, if you can handle it, there’s even a free pint.
I took the pint just for a photo but then switched back to water – as a pint after a half marathon would be the equivalent of a Christmas party in one plastic glass.
It’s enjoyable race, with some great scenery, very little to no traffic, and a feeling that you’re running not one race, but two. Eights miles on the road then a trail run 10k to finish. But is it a road race or is it a trail run? I don’t know.
When people talk about favourite bridges they might pick the Forth Rail Bridge or the Golden Gate Bridge but neither is my favourite. I like Jeff Bridges. He’s the only one of the three that has won an Oscar!
Glasgow has 21 non Oscar winning bridges.
A couple of weekend ago I decided run to across as many of the bridges as possible. I invited some members of my triathlon club along. The rules for the run was very simple – every time we get to a bridge, cross the bridge. Let me repeat that – get to a bridge, cross the bridge.
We got to the first bridge. People ran past it. I shouted at them to come back. “Get to a bridge. Cross the bridge!” I repeated. “oh – I understand now.” they said. We got to the second bridge. They ran past it again. Its a really simple rule – “GET TO THE F’ING BRIDGE, CROSS THE F’ING BRIDGE!” Sometimes I despair.
We started at Dalmarnock and ran East to West. We could have done it the other way but East to West meant starting at a McDonald’s restaurant next to a scrap year before finishing at two Glasgow landmarks – the Armadillo and the Science Tower. West to East would have meant starting at the landmarks but finishing with a big mac and a Mcflurry. I choose the scenic rather unhealthy option.
It was a fun route. You can find the GPX for it here