Tag Archives: running

Stornoway Half Marathon – 1hr 44min 59s (Iain)


It’s late at night. So late that it’s no longer today but tomorrow. Our “hero” is at the bar. He’s ordering his 7th pint of the evening/early morning. It could be his 8th. It could be his 20th. He lost count a while ago.


Didn’t you say you were running a half marathon tomorrow….sorry, today?


What….ummm..pint…YAY….music! <starts dancing>

BARMAN (laughing)

I’ll see you at the start then!

OUR HERO (singing)

Do you remember when we used to sing,
Sha la la la la la la la la la la te da


The next day our “hero” made it to the half marathon but was so hungover he couldn’t hold the pen to fill in the entry form. He ran the first three miles quicker than he’d ever run before as he was desperate to get to the water stop.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the drink poured out of him in alcoholic sweaty drops. He finished the race faster than he’s ever done a half marathon before – and he spends the rest of the day in bed ill. He misses the Scottish cup final because he’s asleep/comatose.

He vows never to drink before a race again but…

He repeats this scene the next four times he enters the same race. Each time he vows never to drink again.

This weekend was the fifth attempt, and this time he vowed he would definitely do the race sober…

I achieved my goal and reached the start line sober. There was a good turnout for the race and the sun was shining. A rare sight in Stornoway – about as rare as a sober runner.

The organisers had changed the route since the last time I’d entered but it was still undulating with a few wee hills. The weather was good and I set off strongly. Too strongly: I tired in the second half and couldn’t keep up the same pace.

I finished with a personal best for the race so I was happy with that. I was only one minute quicker than my drunk time which implies I was fitter back then or that its actually okay to have a drink before the race!

Now, where did I put my dancing shoes…


The one where I get naked (Iain)

I have allot of things in common with a male stripper – rock hard abs, sweet dance moves and a massive talent!

<Waits for laughter to end>

OK – I’ve only one thing in common with a male stripper. I’ve seen all my workmates naked! Not in a creepy, hiding up a tree with binoculars type of way but in a lets all get naked in a shower way. Mmm – that sounds just as creepy as the tree…

I work for a University and we have an onsite gym. Until recently the male locker room had a communal shower. In the 10 years I’ve gone there I’ve seen a lot of naked men. Its fair to say I’ve seen all members of staff and all staff’s members.

One time I went to use the shower but realized I had no towel to dry myself. My options were:

1. Don’t shower. I ruled this out as I had a meeting to go to and couldn’t turn up looking like something the cat had dragged in.
2. Use my t-shirt to dry myself. I ruled this out as my t-shirt was soaked through with sweat so I’d end up just as dirty as I was before I’d showered.
3. Use the hand dryer.

Which is why a bunch of naked men and students looked on as as a naked 6ft man tried to get his body underneath the hand dryer. Do you know how hard it was to dry my back using a hand drier? It’s really hard! The blower kept switching off as the angle of my back couldn’t keep the infra red beam on!

Since that day my workmates have looked at me with a new found respect because not only have they seen me naked. They’ve seen me naked limboing under a hand drier. That takes real skill!

Caledonian Etape (Iain)

B+B Owner – what time do you want breakfast? 5am?

Me – Its ok. I don’t like a cooked breakfast. If you leave out cereal and milk then I’ll have that.

B+B Owner Are you sure? How about tea and coffee?

Me – No thanks! You don’t need to get up. Cereal will be great.

B+B Owner – As long as its not an issue….

Me – Thanks! Ill be happy with the cereal. Enjoy your lie in!

When I got home I rated the B+B on tripadvisor. “1 star – No cooked breakfast!!”

If that review was true (the story is but the review isn’t) then you’d think the B+B was terrible. The review is a snapshot but its not the full story.

Similarly a picture at a race is a snapshot that doesn’t give the full story.


We both look fit and happy. It doesn’t show that we both had a heavy cold.

We’ve been doing this race since 2011. My first attempt at it was on a hybrid bike and it took nearly 7 hours to cover 81 miles. Since then we’ve been back every year. Our times have got better but there has been one constant – Andrew always beats me.

This year I thought I’d win. I didn’t. He dropped me at mile 20. I tried to catch up but when I pushed hard my chest would seize up and I’d have to cough.

I accepted it wasn’t going to be my day. The rest of the race was spent at a steady non coughing pace. I finished with a personal best so I can’t complain….too much.

The next day I felt rough so I worked at home. I felt much better for doing so.

When I got back to the office on Tuesday nobody believed I felt rough. My boss said: “But you and your brother look fine in the picture!”

Holiday Flu’s (Andrew)

I’m on holiday this week. A week at home to catch up with some DIY, some writing for work and, what I thought would be a chance to catch up with my swimming after a poor month of getting to the pool.

The swimming started fine. I went to Tollcross on Tuesday and swam 2k and could have swam more. “I’ll do 2.5k” on Thursday I told myself. In the meantime, I started each day with an hour on the turbo to get my legs spinning before the Etape Caledonia on Sunday.

And then Wednesday happened. A sore throat. The beginnings of a head cold and, today, Thursday, I’m not at the pool. Or on the bike. I’m looking out the window at an almost blue sky and wishing that I was out on the bike. Instead, I have a head cold.

It’s frustrating to be off work and to have the time to enjoy swimming, running and cycling without trying to fit them around the rest of the day. But I know there’s nothing I can do. It’s a head cold. Possibly chronic. Definitely terminal. At least for today.

I’ll be better tomorrow. And this is a good reminder that training is not just about what you planned. It’s what happens when you’re planning.

Last year I was ill for a week six weeks before Iron Man UK. I should have been going on my final long rides and runs. Instead I had to take it easy. There’s no point pushing it, it’ll only make things worse.

So, instead, I ripped apart a plastic shed and carried old paint pots back and forth from the house to the car to the skip. But I didn’t run. Or cycle. Or swim. So, that’s okay then.

Getting to “My Top” (Iain)

I got to the top of Kilimanjaro.

Not the real top. That would be the bit the map claims to be the top.

I got to “My Top”!

I’d never planned or desired to Climb Kilimanjaro but the opportunity arose so, at short notice, I decided to do it. My thought  was it can’t be that hard – even Cheryl Cole had done it.

I was fit. I could run marathons, I could bike for miles but I hadn’t considered altitude sickness. From the moment I arrived in Tanzania I felt ill. I’d left Edinburgh (which is at sea-level) and within 24 hours I was at camp one at an altitude of nearly 2000m.

A porter saw I was ill so he offered me a Custard Cream.

I’m not sure a sweet biscuit is a cure for altitude sickness. If sweet biscuits are a medicine then I’ve eaten so many, I should never get ill.

Each day I felt worse and worse. I barely ate, and I slept appallingly. Most days I was walking only a few hundred meters before I had to disappear behind a bolder to throw up.


Yet on summit day I woke up and felt great. Unfortunately, it was too late. I didn’t have the energy to get to the top. Once I got as far as I could I turned to the porter and said “I’m heading down”.

The two of us then headed down whilst everyone else headed up. For the first time since I’d started walking, the mountain was empty of people. There was no queue of walkers, no waiting for people to get out of the way. There was just  silence and an amazing view as the sun came up. I’d got to “My Top” and it was great.

Would I have had the same experience if I’d gone to the top. Would I have enjoyed sharing the top with everyone else? I’ll never know but I don’t feel I missed out.

The lesson here is – don’t worry if you fail. Sometimes failing is the best bit. Embrace “Your Top”


JK Rowling’s Driveway (Andrew)

Iain and I met JK Rowling two years ago. It was at a drinks reception at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh and, because badgering her for Emma Watson’s phone number is not cool, we asked her what she thought about the Etape Caledonia bike race closing the road in front of her house in Aberfeldy.

Because talking about bikes is cool.


However, it turned out Iain didn’t want to talk about roads, or whether she was the mystery figure who threw tacks in front of the riders (she wasn’t, we asked and she denied it) he actually wanted to ask if she knew what happened in her driveway during the race.

“There’s no loos,” he begun.

JK’s not sure where this going…

“And by the time you’ve cycled for four hours you really need to go to the toilet.”

I knew where this was going. But there was no stopping Iain.

“And all the driveway’s make ideal places to stop…”

JK Rowling now knows where this going too…

“… all the bikes pull over, and, you know…”

She does.

I do. I have to change subject: “Have you got Emma Watson’s phone number?” I ask.

She doesn’t.

Funny that.

Balfron 10k – 22 April – 44:59 (Iain)


The name Balfron  means ‘village of mourning’ in Gaelic. This originates from a legend that the village was attacked by wolves, who stole children out of the villagers homes. To me, this sounds like a story made up by people who’d got rid of their kids and had to think of an excuse when the police investigated.

Policeman – I’ve heard children have gone missing. Do you know anything about that?

Villager – Not me, officer. I’m innocent. It was those wolves. Pesky creatures, always wolving around.

Policeman – Wolves you say?

Villager – Oh yes. <Turns away from policeman, makes howling sound> Did you hear that? That was one! He’s probably coming right now to steal our kids.

Policeman – You’re knicked!

I didn’t spot or hear any wolves on the course.

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.

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.

I started well and felt good. The course was quite narrow in places but there wasn’t any issues with people getting in the way. My aim was to get as close to 45min as possible so I was pleased to just beat that. Especially considering how ‘undulating’ it was.



Mechanical Doping (Iain)

When you’ve been overtaken by a runner, have you ever checked their shoes and thought that’s why their quicker than you? I bet the answer is never!

Occasionally, when running, I get overtaken by another runner. (Andrew will claim this happens more than occasionally). When this occurs I barely give it a second thought. That runner was simply running faster.

Occasionally, when cycling, I get overtaken by another  cyclist. When this occurs I do give it a second thought. I check their bike to see if its better than mine. If it was, was it the bike or the man that’s faster?

If the man has a better bike than I call this ‘mechanical doping’ – buying a better  performance through buying a better bike.

To test this, I bought a new bike. I did a route over a hill and back again that I had done the previous weekend. My time should have been pretty similar to that attempt as my fitness hasn’t changed in any meaningful way. I beat all the Strava records I had for the course.

Which is why I don’t consider triathlon a pure sport. I think a pure sport is one where the best athlete wins. In a running race, the fastest person wins. At a triathlon, a man on a TT bike will always beat a man on a road bike if they both have identical fitness. That’s not a fair sport.

I have a solution: at the end of a triathlon weigh everyone’s bikes in pounds. Take this weight off the athlete’s time. A heavier (cheaper) bike would give an athlete a bigger boost than a light (expensive) one.

If a race was close then the better athlete would be the one on the worse bike.

Although there’s one thing I’ve noticed at races – the most expensive bike is owned by the middle aged men with the most expansive belly.

Todd’s rule of triathlon – the price of a bike is inversely proportional to the size of your belly!

Maybe the solution should also include weighing the athlete and taking that off too!

Then I’d have a chance of winning.

Gran Canaria (Iain)

Last week I went on vacation to Gran Canaria. I did some biking, running and swimming.

Some athletes would claim this is winter weather training but why train in the sun when 90% of Scottish races are in the cold and rain?

If I want to race faster I should go somewhere I can train in weather worse than my planned events. Then, on race day, I’d wake up, see the bad weather but be relieved that it’s not as bad as the time I trained in hailstones and a gale in the the Arctic circle.

So last week wasn’t winter weather training, it was a holiday!


Gran Canaria is very hilly! Be prepared for long ascents. The road surface is great because they don’t get frosts that break up the concrete.

http://www.free-motion.com/en/gran-canaria/ is a great place to hire a bike.  Although, minutes after receiving one, I accidentally dropped it against a concrete column. I spent the rest of the hire period worried I’d damaged it! Thankfully it was OK.

At home I use a 11-25 cassette. On vacation I used 11-32. What a difference it made to climbing hills. I’ve now ordered an 11-28 for my own bike so that I can change it depending on the event.

Electric bikes are amazing! I set a speed and then started cycling. The bike takes my pedalling speed and then then gives the bike a boost to get the speed up to what I’d set. I wasn’t aware of the boost whilst cycling on the flat but as soon as I reached a hill I could feel it kick in. It meant I could race up hills without breaking a sweat. If you’ve ever worried about getting sweaty biking to work then get an electric bike. You’ll never sweat again!

Spanish roundabouts are lethal! You go round them on the right but cars seem to come onto them at high speed. I found it easier to stop and let the cars clear before crossing when it was empty.

Spanish pedestrian crossings are even worse than roundabouts. They don’t have traffic lights so you step out onto the road and the cars will stop. That’s the theory but in practice I ended up eyeing up the driver hurtling towards me and only starting crossing if they registered they’d seen the fear in my eyes. A number of cars didn’t and failed to stop.

Once I’d left the main town the roads were very quiet and I’d hardly see any cars.


By the end of the week I’d cycled, ran and swam further than any other week this year! So this week I’ve done bugger all. Training is all about balance!