Tag: scotland

Try anything once – Mysore yoga (Iain)

A wise man once said: “You should try anything once.”

What a stupid saying! There’s loads of things I shouldn’t try – not even once.

Should I poke a sleeping lion in the stomach? No, I’ve been mauled by my cat for giving him a friendly tummy rub. Imagine what the king of the jungle would do if I poked him in the guts and called him a fattyfatty bum bum.

Should I paint my body blue, stick on a white beard and demand everyone call me Papa Smurf? No – I’d look look like a fat extra from Avatar.

Should I attempt one of the hardest extreme triathlons on the planet? DOH! I entered Norseman.

So, when given the opportunity to do Mysore yoga I asked will it kill me or open me to ridicule? Thankfully, the answers were “no” and “maybe.” I was worried about the maybe…

In a standard yoga class a teacher leads the students through a sequence of moves. In Mysore a student leads themselves through a sequence at their own pace. Everyone in the class follows the same sequence but the pace may be different.

The class started at 0630 but I could join anytime up till 0700. I need as much beauty sleep as I can get. I turned up at 0659. This meant everyone else had already started.

The Mysore sequence is like building IKEA furniture. If you don’t do it in the right order then a bit won’t fit where you want no matter how far you bend it.

Now imagine building a Kvlar wardrobe but only having the picture of a wardrobe as your guide. That’s Mysore.

I knew I needed to start by standing at the top of the mat. I also knew I had to finish by lying flat but I couldn’t remember the steps in between.

I looked around the class. One woman was bent over in a position her chiropractor would call “a broken spine”. Another girl was wrapped so tightly together only a can opener was going to get her unwrapped.

I decided to do neither of those moves. I attempted a bend from the hip. No one laughed so I thought I might be onto something. I do a few more bends to waste a few minutes. The teacher comes over “what are you doing?”

“Warming up?”

She says “Let me give you a guide”.

Great! That’ll help. She hands me some pics of people in positions that would be called pornographic if there was a partner involved. She says “Just do two of these and then three of these.”

I look at the diagram. It might as well be in Hindi as I don’t understand any of it. It turns out it is in Hindi.

I do a few more hip bends. I think I might be the best hip bender in the class. In fact, I think I might be the biggest bender here. Ummm that doesn’t sound right…

She come back over. “What are you doing?”

“Still warming up?” I reply.

“No your supposed to be doing this sequence.” She demonstrates it.

“Ahhh, it’s that sequence. I understand now.” I don’t.

She leaves. I bend my hips some more. I think if there was a hip bending competition in the Olympics I’d win a gold medal.Unless there was a Russian hip bender. He’d probably cheat and I’d get silver. I’d be gutted when I hear the Russian national anthem as we stand on the medal podium. Years later it would be discovered he was cheating! He’d get disqualified. I’d be the belated champion but it wouldn’t be the same. Instead of a podium I’d get my medal through the post. Damn you, Sergei!

She interrupts my daydream, “what are you doing?”

“I’ve warmed up!” I confidently state.

She takes pity on me. “Just lie down. Do you want a blanket to keep warm?”

“No thanks, I don’t like blankets of any size,shape or texture. You you might say I have a blanket ban…”

She doesn’t laugh. It’s probably too early in the morning for chuckles.

I give it five minutes and when she’s busy adjusting/torturing another Mysore student I sneak out.

The wise man was correct to say “do anything once” but he should also have said – don’t do it twice!

King of the Crow 2018! (Iain)

My goal for 2018 is to be the fastest cyclist over the Crow Road. It’s a fairly long climb heading north, out of Lennoxtown. It’s a favourite route of central Scotland cyclists.

It was also a training route for Scottish professional cyclist Philippa York (previously known as Robert Millar) She would ride a dozen reps of it as preparation for the Tour de France.

I could spend months training hard to achieve my goal or I could cheat! As I don’t have any asthma spray and I don’t have Chris Froome’s mobile number to ask to borrow his, I used my wits.

The easiest way to be the fastest cyclist in 2018 is to be the first cyclist in 2018.

Yesterday, I got up early and made sure I was on the route as the sun came up. It was a beautiful morning, made even more beautiful when I got back to the house and checked Strava.

I’m King of the Crow 2018…as long as I don’t check the leader-board again till 2019.

crow

Top of the Pops (Iain)

There are three types of twin – identical, fraternal and Jedward.

Identical twins are… identical (no surprise there,  the clue’s in the name). Fraternal twins are brother and sister. Jedward twins are f&%ing mental! Two untalented brothers who hang out together, have the same hobbies and laugh at each others jokes.

Andrew and I are identical twins!

Ignore anyone who says: “are you sure you aren’t Jedward twins?” We are identical but there is one thing we differ on – music.

I read with interest his top 10 of the year. I’m not sure he was entirely honest with the readers of this blog.

Andrew has a giant picture of Justin Bieber on his bedroom wall. He’s a member of the Belieber fan club. He took Spanish lessons just to understand what JB was singing in Despacito.

What I’m saying is that it was surprising that JB’s no 1 fan, Andrew, had a lack of Bieber action in his top 10.

Andrew, it’s okay! You’re amongst friends. You don’t have to pretend you like cool London bands like The Horrors. Embrace your inner Justin and scream “baby, baby, baby, ooooooooooh”

So, instead of his list, here’s my selection. Which I have not filtered to be cool!

Arcade Fire – Everything Now

I don’t normally like Arcade Fire. I saw them play Glasgow University on there first ever visit to the UK. The drummer had a wee bird flapping about inside his drum kit. I couldn’t enjoy the gig because I kept wondering:

A) Did he put it there? If so, that seems very cruel.

B) If he didn’t put it there, should I have told him there was a bird trapped in his drum?

This though is a great upbeat song with hints of ABBA. Pity, the rest of the album was rubbish.

Bon Appetit – Katy Perry

This song follows the great American song writing tradition of writing about sex whilst pretending to be about something else. It goes back to Chuck Berry singing about his ding a ling, 50 Cent discussing his lollipop and just about every song on an R Kelly album.

This song is not cool or clever but it does have great production and it always makes me laugh because like all the other songs its pretty blatant what its actually about.

Richard Ashcroft – Hold On

Back in the 90’s I loved britpop.  I grew my hair to look like Liam Gallacher. Thankfully only one photo existed of this. I look like a twat. I destroyed the photo.

This was a great return to form for Richard Ashcroft. Who’s mostly stayed out of the limelight since the end of Britpop. He can still write a great tune.

Plan B – Hearbeat

Plan B wrote the greatest song of the last ten years – Ill Manors. An angry punk/rap song that was a retort to David Cameron. It’s accompanied by a self written/self directed film of the same name which showed exactly what its like to grow up in London of ‘Broken Britain’. It’s not an easy watch but check it out if you can.

He’s also been out of the limelight for a few years but this showcases his talent: great vocals and great tune.

Galway Girl – Ed Sheeran 

Is this the worst song ever made?

It certainly elicited the best review of the year (in The Guardian)

“The people of Galway must be hoping a nuclear bomb goes off in their county to save them the embarrassment of having to say – yes that Ed Sheeran song is about us.”

It’s a song so awful even his record company begged him to not include it on his album.

But my song of the year is Galway Girl because I admire a man who released a song even though he knew everyone would hate him. That’s more punk than any punk song. Just don’t make me listen to it!

PS Normal sporty related blogs will resume in the New Year. Over Christmas it’s just blogs about films/music and any other nonsense 🙂

How not to swim (Iain)

Last week I attended a coached swim session. It was great. It’s much more enjoyable swimming with others than doing so by myself.

The only problem is:

  • Triathletes lie about their ability.
  • Triathletes are really competitive

I discovered this when the coach said: “I’d like you all to swim eight lengths (200m) of the pool at 70% race pace. I’ll time you. Who wants to go first?”

No one volunteered to go first.

“Come on! Who’s fastest?”

Everyone started looking at each other in the same way a lift of strangers look at each other after one person has farted. Who is it?

I looked at the man next to me. He was solid muscle. His back had the classic v-profile of an Olympic swimmer. He wore tiny Speedos that were so small and revealing they looked like they’d been tattoo’d to his crotch. His swim goggles cost more than my last car.

“Hurry up! Someone has to go first!”

The only time I’ve been mistaken for a swimmer was when a hairdresser said to me “Are you a swimmer?” I beamed with pride and replied “yes” thinking it was because of my swimmers physique – but my pride was quickly punctured when the hairdresser said “I thought so – I looked at your hair. It’s in terrible condition. It’s dry from chlorine.”

My swim shorts are run shorts. There’s no point buying one pair for running and one for swimming and it means my run shorts get a wash. My goggles are whatever I can find in the lost and of found bucket of my local pool. I am not a swimmer.

He looked at me again. It wasn’t that he was in a different league to me. It was that we aren’t even playing the same sport.

He said: “you first, mate”

I replied, “no thanks. You should definitely go first.”

He thought about it and said, “no – I think your quicker.”

So I went first. I had a five second head start. On the sixth second, he caught up.

I went as fast as I could but he kept having to stop to wait for me.

After we’d finished eight laps the coach said, “are you all happy with your time?”

The man who couldn’t have been more like a fish even if he’d had gills said, “I could have gone faster but I got help up!” Maybe if you hadn’t lied about your ability you wouldn’t have got held up. If you’re good at something it’s ok to say your good at it.

I then looked round and saw everyone else. It was like the scene at the start of Saving Private Ryan. Bodies were strewn in the water. People screaming in agony. One man looked like he’d swum himself into a heart attack.

The coach asked “Was that 70% effort?” No-one replied. They were all completely f&%ked!

At last the man having the heart attack said through wheezy, definitely non competitive, gasps of death “I think I went 65%!”

Glentress Winter Trail Race 21K (Iain)

route

I have two man crushes. One is ex-Celtic striker Henrik Larsson.  I was a season ticket holder at Celtic during Larsson’s time there. At games I’d sing:

You are my Larsson,
My Henrik Larsson
You make me happy when skies are grey
We went for Shearer, but he’s a w******
So please don’t take my Larsson away

He eventually got taken away so I stopped my season ticket! Celtic without Henke was like Ant without Dec – nice setup work but no-one to supply the punchline.

My other crush is…Hugh Grant. I think it’s because we both fancy Liz Hurley and we both had terrible floppy haired curtain haircuts before cutting our hair short. The first film I saw him in was “The Englishman Who Went up a Hill but Came down a Mountain”.

A title which sums up my Glentress trail race experience (but replace Englishman with Scottishman).

I hadn’t done enough research on the race. Actually, I hadn’t done any. I just had a vague memory from biking at Glentress six years ago. Unfortunately that vague memory wasn’t of the course but of a particularly good plate of macaroni cheese I had at the cafe. Mmmm – delicious!

The day before the race I was asked – what are you doing at the weekend? I replied, “I’m running up a hill.”

I was sort of correct except the hill was just a warm-up for the rest of the climb! It was actually a 6 mile 700m+ ascent of a mountain!!! (I might be using dramatic licence here but it was a long climb and I think of hills as being less than 700m…much, much less)

So, although I went up what I thought was a hill. I definitely came back down a mountain.

PS – It’s a great race. The next one is on in February https://www.highterrainevents.co.uk/glentress-trail-race

23734851_526283914419415_6199753637867028480_n

Learning to learn (Iain)

There is an old saying: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach”

Which is certainly true of the teachers I had. Except they could not ‘do’ or ‘teach’.

My physics teacher was a drunk. He had no idea who anyone in his class was. At the start of each year, he would take a photo of the class. At the school parents evening he pointed at the class photo and asked my parents: “Which one’s yours?”

My history teacher used to tell fat kids at the front of the class to move to the back as they were blocking the view of the other pupils!

My tech teacher gave me a bit of wood to make a model boat. He then used my bit to demonstrate how to do it. When I gave it to him for assessment he said it was rubbish and gave me a “D.” It was his work!

All I can say to my physics/history/teach teacher is – all is forgiven! Last month I did the  UKCC Level 1 Triathlon Course. I discovered for myself how difficult it is to teach a group.

The course takes place over three days. On day one, I coached a swim session on sculling. There was only one problem. I did not know what sculling was. Actually, there was a second problem. One of the people I had to teach was the brother of an Olympic swimmer. It’s fair to say his small toe knew more about swimming than I did.

I was very self-conscious as I told people to “catch the water” and “this will make you a better swimmer” as I had no idea what I was talking about. I eventually gave in and made them swim up and down. At least they got some exercise.

The lesson I took from that was its best to teach what I know and if I don’t know it then I need to practice, practice, practice till I do know it.

On day two I had to teach running and biking. This went slightly better. My running drill was balance. I’d done a yoga class that morning with a balance section so I just repeated what that teacher had done. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel.

My bike coaching was terrible so the less said about that the better but it did reemphasize that I need to practice, practice and practice some more.

Day three was the assessment. Thankfully, that went well and I passed the course. Thankfully, there’s a gap of a few weeks before day three so I was able to practice, practice and practice!

Hopefully I can now help out at some club sessions. Fellow athletes can then say about me:

“Those who can tri, those who can’t coach!”

Antonine Trail Race 2017 (Andrew)

Normally you get a banana at the end of a run but, yesterday at the Antonine Trail Race, we got a big banana at the start – along with two skeletons, several witches and a Homer Simpson.

That’s what happens when you have a race on Halloween weekend.

We didn’t join in. It was tough race and the only fancy dress I wanted was a jet pack to help get up and over the two hills that made up most of the route. First up, Croy Hill, a long climb through muddy tracks and thick grass, then Bar Hill, another long climb along a forest track before, cruelly, the race finished with another climb up Croy Hill.

It was a fantastic day, sunny, bright, and with a slight chill that made it impossible to decide what to wear – assuming you were wearing running gear and not a large yellow fruit costume – as it was too cold for a t-shirt at the start but too warm to run in two t-shirts a mile after starting. I choose a single t-shirt and then stayed in the car with the heater on until the race was about to start. This is my version of warming up…!

The race was mostly off-road and on narrow tracks. While dry, the previous week’s rain had left much of it covered in thick mud. The first few miles were spent doing the bandy legged hop leap and jump of someone half runner/half frog.

The good news was that you could follow the runner in front of you and try and follow their footsteps on the basis that if they cleared a path then you would just be stepping into the hole they’ve already created in the mud. So, if you want to keep your trainers clean when running through mud just follow someone with big feet in front of you.

The race was tough, with a few steep climbs (which in this context means, ‘walks up hill’ rather than ‘gets out the rappelling gear’) but some great views across to the Trossachs and outwards Falkirk and the east coast.

You can see part of it on this short video:

Reykjavik 10k (Iain)

The genius of how Icelandic businesses make money from tourists is that they charge a small fortune to buy a drink and then, once you’ve drunk it, they charge a small fortune to use the loo. They get to charge you twice for one drink!

In one place it was £10 for a pint and £2.50 to visit the toilet.

Iceland is the first country were I quite literally pissed money up the wall !

If your not familiar with that British phrase then this might help: Wikipedia

I was in Iceland for my 40th Birthday. I was born the same day Elvis died which makes me the resurrection of Elvis.  Elvis was a twin, so am I. Elvis loved food, so do I. Elvis could play the guitar. I can play the guitar…badly. I bought a guitar 22 years ago. I still have it. It even has the same strings on it as the day I bought it and I can honesty say it sounds the same now as then – bloody awful!

My birthday coincided with the Reykjavik Marathon weekend. There were three races – a marathon, half marathon and 10k. After a week of eating birthday cake and drinking beer all I could manage was the 10k.

I registered the day before the race at the marathon expo. The process was quick and easy. I was in and out in 10 minutes. The expo looked good but the exchange rate meant even the most heavily discounted sale item was more expensive than the UK equivalent.

I was given a race t-shirt. I don’t know if Icelandic people have small heads but both myself and my partner had trouble getting our heads into our t-shirts. The size of the t-shirt was fine but it had a very small head opening…or maybe we have abnormally large heads!

The race was great as the weather was amazingly hot and sunny. The course is reasonably scenic. There’s a nice long section along the water front but the majority was through streets of houses/offices.

The support along the course was amazing. Lots of people cheering, people playing musical instruments and even a boyband performing on the back of a lorry.

They had a couple of water/Gatorade stations but it was in cups. I prefer a bottle so I can carry it. I have to stop to use a cup as otherwise the liquid falls out before I can drink it.

I’d recommend the event if you plan to combine it with a holiday but it’s not worth going for just the race unless you win the lottery as Iceland is so, so expensive. If you’re trying to calculate how much it’ll cost then think about how much you’d like to spend then double it. That’ll be closer to the correct figure!

Visit the Outer Hebrides (Iain)

 

There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to confess something to his partner. He’ll have struggled with the confession for weeks in advance. He’ll spend ages trying to get the correct phrasing. In the weeks leading up to it he’ll use bribery and flattery to get his partner in the right frame of mind to hear him.

But… eventually… he’ll just have to confess – “I’m going on a biking holiday!”

He’ll then try to explain to his partner how his week long “training” trip to Mallorca or the Canary islands wont be fun. He’ll claim – nobody will be drinking!  He’ll say – we’re not going anywhere near Shagaluf…sorry Magaluf.  He’ll state – it’s all about the hills.

A few years ago, I went on a week long “training” holiday to the famous Lanzarote resort of Club la Santa or as  I prefer to call it, Prison Camp la Santa. The accommodation was so spartan the film 300 was filmed here. (I might have made that last bit up).

The accommodation, at that time, was terrible (and subsequently has been upgraded) The room was tiny with old broken furniture. I had to pay a small fortune for food and drink and there wasn’t much to do once I’d been for a spin on the bike as Santa is miles away from any big town. What made it worse was discovering someone else was staying in a 5* all inclusive hotel near by which was half the price!

This year, instead of an overpriced training camp on a windy, desolate, overbearingly hot island I went to a  windy, desolate, cold island – the Outer Hebrides.

During the week, I was able to bike a different route every day on virtually car free roads.

Tour De Harris – https://www.strava.com/activities/1099040596

One of the greatest cycling routes in the UK. The road hugs the coast around the Isle of harris. On the west side I passed golden sand beaches and amazing views across to small islands. On the east coast I biked through a rocky landscape that wouldn’t be out of place on the moon!

Tour De Point – https://www.strava.com/activities/1102079723

A flat out and back route to a lighthouse. From here you can watch whales pass by. On the way back a small detour will take you to a 15% hill climb! It’s short but hard. I needed a quick rest at the top!

Tour De West Side – https://www.strava.com/activities/1103897867

A great way to see some of the island’s best attractions. The route takes in the ancient stone circles at Callanish as well as visiting the blackhouses, the Broch and some of the best beaches on the west side.

Castle Grounds Mountain Bike trail – https://www.strava.com/activities/1100545590

If you tire of road biking then a recently completed mountain bike trial has been constructed in the Castle Grounds. An area of forestry next to Stornoway.  I hadn’t tried it before and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. There’s no major hills but lots of undulating tracks. It was a great way to pass a few hours.

As well as cycling there’s great places to swim, to run run, and to go on walks.

It’s one of the most beautiful places in the UK and everyone should visit at least once. If your partner asks about the pubs then you can says that the Outer Hebrides has the highest rate of abstinence in the UK! Just don’t mention that the one’s who don’t abstain love to drink…a lot! 🙂