Outdoor Swim Review: Portobello Beach (Iain)

At my workplace, I sit next to a Dutchman. Last Friday, he asked me what my plans for the weekend were. I told him I was going to a Wim Hof Method workshop.

Wim is also Dutch. His nickname is The Iceman because of his ability to endure cold conditions. He has swam under the ice at the North Pole, he can sit in ice baths for 90 minutes and he ran a marathon in the Arctic Circle shirtless and shoeless. I assumed he must be very famous in Holland.

My colleague looked at me and said “Wim who????”

Wim needs to work harder on his Dutch PR.

My colleague then asked what the Wim Hof Method is?

“If I knew what his method was I wouldn’t be going on the course!” I replied.

#spoileralert (Don’t read on if you don’t want the method spoiled)

The Wim Hof Method can be summed up as “remember to breathe when you go experience cold conditions. Also try to go in cold conditions regularly”.

It was a fun class and I took away a lot of information about breathing correctly. Which is more than can be said for one attendee who, when told to breath calmly and gently, exhaled his breath so violently through his nose it was like a volcanic eruption of snot and air.

Despite the instructor reminding everyone to breathe calmly, the volcano continued his overly enthusiastic eruptions. I think he was trying to impress his partner who was also attending the course. Like a gorilla in the jungle marking their territory by huffing, puffing, and bashing their chest he was making sure she knew he was the manliest breather in the room.

When it came to the exposure to the cold we had to swim in skins in the North Sea. Unsurprisingly Wim Kong – the breathing gorilla was first to run in. I hope, like a gorilla, he didn’t piss in the water to mark his territory!

REVIEW

Ease of Access: Portabello is close to Edinburgh. Parking near the beach can be tricky but normally a space can be found in a side street

Water quality:  Murky. I was once told that it was a beach best to avoid for swimming due to nearby sewage pipers. I don’t know whether that is true or not but its always put me off.

Swim Quality: Cold. Water temperature was 12.2. I managed 10 minutes of skin swimming (without a cap) There wasn’t anywhere to swim to so I just swam aimlessly and admired the view of the town.

Other People: Even on a cold, grey, dreich day the beach was busy with walkers and dogs.

Would I go back: No. I’d rather travel a bit further and go to the beaches in East Lothian. They are sandier and more enjoyable to be at.

Warming up before swimming

Great Scottish Bike Climbs – The Crow Road (Iain)

Crow Road (towards Lennoxtown)

An episode of the channel 4 house hunting program “Location, Location, Location” featured a flat in Glasgow that was described as a desirable two bed home, in a quiet neighborhood, with stunning views across the city.

I recognized the flat because I lived around the corner from it. The flat was not at all desirable. It was next to a very busy noisy road and the only view out the window was of MacDonald’s drive in restaurant.

The flats location is on Crow Road. So when I heard cyclists say they were off to cycle Crow Road this is where I thought they were going. I couldn’t understand why they said the climb took them 30 minutes. I could walk it in 5. Maybe they stopped for a MacDonald’s McFlurry?

It was only once I got a road bike that I discovered the other Crow Road was on the outskirts of Glasgow in Lennoxtown.

The first time I saw it I didn’t think it looked too hard. Little did I know that from below I could only see half of the climb. The first section up to a car park. Then there is a big right turn over the hill.

 

One year I decided I was going to be the quickest man up Crow Road. Now this is quite a challenge because allot of good cyclist use the climb for training. The Scottish Tour De France Cyclist David Miller used to ride a dozen reps of it as training in preparation for the Tour.

So my choice was either train hard and smash it or be smart!

I choose to be smart. So one new years day I got up early and became the first man up the Crow that year. Which also meant I was the fastest that year….as long as I didn’t check Strava again for 12 months.

Climb Review

Difficulty: 6/10

Its not a steep climb. I’d describe it as steady. Although when the wind is in the wrong direction it can be a bit of slog!

Views: 8/10

Great views on both sides of the Campsie hills. Ona clear day you can see for miles around.

Traffic: 8/10

Its normally a quiet road. Especially on Sunday mornings or weekday evenings.

St Marys Loch Triathlon (Iain)

It is two years since I last did a standard length triathlon. Which is my excuse for why I forgot to take my bike helmet to transition. Thankfully, someone spotted my mistake. I ran back to the car to get it.

It wasn’t my only mistake, I lost my swim cap during the time it took me to receive my swim cap and then walk the short distance to the loch to put it on. I still haven’t worked out how I manged to do that.

The swim temperature was announced as 15C so I was surprised when I got into the loch that the water felt much colder. I swam a little distance to warm up and water suddenly became warm. I assumed it was just a cold patch at the start but the fluctuating temperature was present throughout the swim. On one stroke my hand would enter warm water and on the next the next it would enter freezing cold water. Very strange.

I enjoyed the 2 lap swim. The loch never felt too busy and I was happy to swim round with no one near me. I think swim drafting is cheating so I try to avoid it. I’d rather do the swim using my own power than be dragged along by someone else.

I got into transition after the swim and discovered the socks I had left there were inside out. I had to correct that before starting the bike. A gentleman has got to have standards!

The organiser had warned us that the roads might be slightly busier than usual because there was a classic car rally taking place nearby. There was also a beer festival on. Beer and cars. What could possibly go wrong?

Thankfully the classic car drivers must have been sleeping off their beers as other than a Model T Ford I didn’t spot any classic cars.

The organiser said no-one had ever got lost on the route. It was easy to see why. There is only one road and no option to take any other route.

The route itself was on a decent road surface. The road was undulating rather than hilly but there was a draggy climb near the end.

The race manual describes the course as “It’s almost completely flat (really!) – a couple of small undulations – maybe 5m climb on each. “

Not according to my watch. It shows there was 70m of climbing. Which is not allot but it definitely is not flat course. The trail means there’s lot of small up and down sections.

I like running off-road so I really enjoyed the run but it definitely did not match the description of the course.

OVERALL

It was a great race. I got a PB for the distance and its definitely a course I’d do again. The race gets a bonus point for its t-shirt which is a snazzy baseball style affair.

RunMhor Half Marathon 2019 (Andrew)

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.

DrinkMhor

Etape Caledonia 2019 (Andrew)

Winner to the left, loser to the right

Last week, while walking along a neighbouring street, a man ran out his front door with a woman shouting after him. As he got in his car, she screamed at him: “I don’t know why I stay with you!” before she slammed the front door shut and he drove off.

This week there was a ‘For Sale’ sign on their house…

I tell this story because, despite the sadness of an imploding relationship, it had two bright points. One, I always liked their house, so I finally got to see inside it when the estate agent posted photos on Right Move. Two, it just goes to show that you need to follow through with actions to back up your words. There’s no point shouting about something unless you actually do something about it to.

Just like the Etape.

Every year I say I’ll beat Iain and every year I then beat Iain.

Last year was close though. To be fair, he did wait while I had a mechanical so he could have won, if he’d carried on. But he didn’t, so he didn’t. Who said good guys come last? Accurate words!

Last year was also more of a contest because Iain was training for Norseman. He was riding every day. And yet, he still couldn’t beat me. (He might have the legs, but he still had the good heart to wait).

But when we could only draw when he was at his fastest on a bike, it meant that this year I didn’t need to say anything. The contest was over before we even started. I could see the ‘runners up place’ in his eyes. He had a haunted look on the start line. He looked old. Weighed down by a history of failure.

It was BRILLIANT!

Not that I’m gloating. Much.

Anyway, with the result a foregone conclusion it was only a matter of turning up and paying attention to the course.

Pitlochry

The first 10 miles are fast, if you want them to be. As each wave leaves the high street, groups quickly find their own pace. Some sprint, some take it easier as they warm up. A few tight corners and sharp wee hills cause bunches to form but after 10 miles, the roads clear and while you’re never free from other riders, it’s easy to find some space at your own pace.

Hill

The first hill is not steep but it does have three miles of steady climbing. It’s almost a straight road so there’s no need to think about turning or any hair bends to negotiate. Just sit and grind it out.

Loch Tummell

One of my favourite sections. A 15 mile flat run around Loch Tummell. With nice flat roads, good views across to Schiehallion and across the loch, it’s a great section to find a group and make quick progress to…

Schiehallion

Which is not as bad as it appears on the profile. There’s a few steep slopes. A final drag that some will sprint for that ‘frog dancing on a hot plate cycling legs and arms akimbo climbing out of your seat’ shot from the official photographer, but the real kicker is the next mile, which continues to rise even after you’ve passed the King/Queen of the Mountain checkpoint. After that, it’s five miles downhill and a chance to enjoy some easy curves and quick times.

The other side

Largely flat for the final 20 something miles with a good mix of moorland, trees, villages and wide roads. By this stage, you’ll see less bikes but, if you’re lucky, and want to joint them, you’ll find a few groups to latch onto to get your speed up until…

The second climb

Ballincluish. And a 20 metre ladder that starts as soon as you turn off the main road. If you haven’t changed gear before you turn then you’ll be looking at a slipped chain as your ‘reward’.

After that, there’s a couple of miles of rolling hills before the final descent into Pitlochry and a short climb back to the High Street where you can get…

The Goodie Bag

Or bad. As there’s never any goods in the bag. It’s always empty. Don’t expect a banana or a biscuit or anything at all. One year, all it had in place of a treat, was a single page flyer for a new Sainsbury’s… that was opening later that year. (And, in fact, never opened at all after local protests). But while I always complain about the bag, Iain never does. Well, he is used to coming home from the Etape empty handed…

I used to be a contender (Iain)

This time last year, I cycled the 2000m climb of Mount Tiede in Tenerife. It was 3 hours of climbing and afterwards I felt fit and strong.

Last weekend, I cycled the 300m climb of the Dukes Pass in Aberfoyle. It was 22 minutes of climbing and afterwards I felt so tired I called the Police to report my cycling fitness had gone missing.

The Police explained that they don’t investigate crimes against fitness but if they did they would have arrested me years ago – “ello, ello, what is going on here? Do you call that a front crawl? I’m taking you to the nick for G.B.S. Grevious Bodily Swimming!”

I graphed my performance on the Duke’s pass and it looks like my latest result took a dive off a cliff of consistency.

Afterwards I put this onto Instagram

Thge key point is the “I wonder if my consumption of macaroni pies and bakewell tarts is anyway related to this? “

How can you tell a diet is unhealthy? When the dessert is larger than the main course. Check out the size of my bakewell tart.

On a positive note the dinner was vegetarian so there must be a slight bit of healthiness in it.

Afterwards my wife said to me “how can your time be that bad due to the food. Did you eat it before you went up the hill?”

No – I had it afterwards but I think it points to the conclusion that I’m not a clean living performance machine.

So from now on I have to eat a little bit healthier and try to get back to my previous times…or I do what any middle aged male cyclist does when faced with getting slower – spend lots of money to fix the problem.

I’ve often noted the more expensive the bike the wider the waist of the owner.

PS – I actually had two macaroni pies but I only took a pic of one so people wouldn’t think I’m a fat bstrd!

PPS – I don’t regret it. they were delicious.

Paisley Mural Run (Iain)

A couple of weeks ago I attended a training course in Paisley. It wasn’t a very exciting course but one afternoon my tutor received a phone call.

“Hello….what…who is this?” He said into his phone.

I assumed it a local Garage. He’d told me earlier in the day that he’d put his car in for a MOT.

“OK…great…23,637 pounds and 17 pence?”

OMG! What the WTF had he done to his car that he had to pay that amount of money for an MOT?

His face went bright red and he said

“….is this a windup? Really??? Oh my god. I don’t believe it”

It wasn’t the garage. He’d just won £23,647 and 17 pence on a radio show by answering his phone and telling them the prize figure they’d revealed on the breakfast show.

Unsurprisingly, for the rest of the afternoon, he struggled to concentrate on the course!

I had only been to Paisley once before. It was in the evening in winter. It was dark and I couldn’t see anything. Paisley does not have a great reputation so some might argue not seeing it was a good thing.

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Paisley. I walked from the train station to the training centre and I was surprised by how nice the buildings in the town centre are. At one point on my walk, I passed a man. He greeted me warmly with “What the fuck are you looking at?” I wanted to say “the neo-classical and Georgian period architecture” but instead i just walked on very quickly and didn’t look back.

I was also surprised at how many murals Paisley has which got me thinking that the town should advertise a Mural Run just like Glasgow’s
https://twinbikerun.com/2018/11/30/glasgow-mural-run-iain/

So to help them out I’ve come up with a suggested route. Its 5K-ish and takes in all the interesting bits (that I could find in Pasiley centre) including

  1. A statue dedicate to the 1932 legal case of Donoghue v Stevenson. You can read about it here
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8367223.stm Its an interesting story involving a cafe and a snail.
  2. A mural to Rangers…sorry St Mirren Legend and BBC radio star Chick Young.
  3. An Alien

The route can be found here
https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2461031551


And if you don’t believe me about the Alien. Here is the proof.

SUP Boarding – North Third Reservoir (Iain)

At the weekend, I went Stand Up Paddle Boarding at North Third reservoir near Stirling . The reservoir is strangely named as I can find no record of a North First or North Second reservoir. Maybe this one was third time lucky after the other two failed.

The reservoir is a great spot for swimming, paddle boarding and walking. The reservoir has high cliffs on one side, which form a dramatic backdrop. The surrounding area is forested with bike and walking trails. It’s a nature lovers paradise but it’s also a paradise for lovers of a different kind…

My favorite bit of the story is his very British excuse – “I can’t possibly be having sex with men. My wife made me sandwiches!”

I don’t think I helped the reservoir’s reputation. A van of men pulled up at the car park just after I’d got changed. The looked at me like I was a weirdo. I can’t think why…

Dressed like the Gimp from Pulp Fiction!

If you look closely at the start of this video you’ll notice a bridge across a river.

I decided to stand on the bridge to get a photo. Unfortunately the entrance to the bridge was blocked off. There was a sign on it that read “Condemned – do not cross.” I thought about it for a second and then decided to ignore it. Whats the worst that could happen?

The bridge had slats missing so I had to be careful as I walked across to not fall through the gaps. I reached the half way point successfully. I took a photo, turned around and took a step forward. I’d forgotten to look where I was going. My foot landed in one of the gaps in the bridge and my leg fell through it!

I took a hefty knock to my thigh but as I fell I did have the wherewithall to place my camera down gently on a slat rather than see it fall into the river. I was impressed with my quick thinking to save the expensive item but annoyed by how stupid I’d been!

As I lay on the bridge with one leg stuck through it all I could think about was the bridge scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

I managed to get back to my feet and thankfully was able to get out on the board. The only thing hurt was my pride. I managed to SUP round one of the reservoir’s islands and I’d highly recommend it as a SUP’ing spot. Just remember to bring sandwiches.

Glentress Trail Half Marathon (Andrew)

Last year, about a week after the Glentress Half Marathon, the Beast from the East arrived and covered Scotland in snow. There were some signs of the Beast when we ran Glentress: some small snow banks at the side of trails, in the shadows of sheltered hollows and in the patches of ice where the snow had melted and the run off and frozen over across the paths.

This year, Glentress was completely different. It was 15 degrees and my first mistake was to wear a running jacket (though it’s obligatory to carry one). I was boiling. Yet, despite that, I kept mine own even when others had discarded there’s – and their t-shirt. Around mile seven a topless man ran passed. ‘Taps aff’ in February, that’s how warm it was. But, since he was still carrying a rucksack I can only imagine it was ‘nips aff’ too as no t-shirt meant no protection from rubbing and chafing across your chest. Ouch!

He wasn’t the only one wanting people to focus on their chest. A number of runners wore t-shirts with ‘Vegan Runner’ written across it. To change an old joke, how do you know if a runner is a vegan? Just wait and they’ll show you on their chest!

For my next race, I’m going to get a t-shirt which says ‘Sausage Runner’ but, to change the same joke again. How you know if a runner loves a sausage? Just wait and look at their stomach!

I tried to be a vegetarian once. It lasted four years. Until, one day, someone told me that pepperoni was a meat and not a pepper and I realised that I’d been a vegetarian for maybe one or two weeks at a time at most. D’oh!

The Glentress Trail half marathon also doesn’t love up to it’s billing. Just as I wasn’t a vegetarian, so the Glentress Trail is not a half marathon despite it being called a half marathon. It’s just over 12.5 miles long. But, if you include vertical distance then it makes up the numbers easily because this is a long, long climb.

The first 100 metres are downhill (which is a horrible kick up on the return to the finish line) then it’s a constant climb for nearly nine miles before an undulating descent for 2 miles and a sheer arm twirling-just-let-go and run final mile.

The race is varied. With sections on the wide fire roads, others on trails sneaking through the forest, bars of light slanting from the low lying early Spring sun like lunar finish lines across the path, to mossy moorland with fantastic views across the tweed valley.

It’s a cracking race, though you do need to prepare to run nine miles uphill – and for all weather conditions, even, some times, if you’re lucky, sunshine and a warm breeze.

Foxtrail Harvest Moon Half Marathon (Iain)

The FoxTrail winter series is a running series based in and near Dunbar in East Lothian. The six race series ranges in distance from 5K to half marathon distance.

I love East Lothian for the sandy beaches, the beautiful weather (it’s always sunny when I visit) and the nachos. Yes – I said nachos. The Old Course pub in Gullane http://www.oldclubhouse.com/ does the best nachos in Scotland and believe me I’ve eaten a lot of nachos in Scotland…which may explain my deteriorating athletic performances in recent years.

I’d promised Nic I’d try to be vegetarian this year. I’d managed all of January but, as soon as I got to the clubhouse, I forgot all about it and I ordered chicken nachos. it was only once I’d finished eating them that I realized what I’d done! It was very tasty though….

Definitely not vegetarian

Andrew was supposed to be doing the race but he pulled out on Friday night. He said he’d been looking at the course and noticed their was a river crossing. The temperature was due to be 1C. He claimed that “a river crossing at that temperature is dangerous. I’m not doing it!”

I’ll let you judge the river crossing for yourself (see the video below) before you make a judgement on what a big scaredy cat Andrew is. I’ve seen jellyfish with more backbone than Andrew!

The start of the race was near a field of animals that looked like this

Is it a llama or an alpaca

Which led to two runners having an argument on the starting line:

Runner 1 – It was a llama
Runner 2 – It was an alpaca!
Runner 1 – No! It was a llama!!
Runner 2 – Look mate! If there’s one thing I know, it’s alpacas. It’s a fucking alpaca!
Runner 1 – Fuck off! It’s a llama. You’re talking out your arse.
Runner 2 – Stick the llama up your arse!!

It was an alpaca. I know this because I googled it after the race. I now know more about llamas and alpaca’s than I ever wanted to know. Did you know
llamas are vegetarians ? Although I bet they’d make an exception if they saw how good my chicken nachos were.

The race itself was a good mix of trail, farmland and beach. The weather was cold which meant there was no mud and the tracks were all easily runnable. I felt good at the end of the race and I was happy I hadn’t lost much fitness after my long Indian vacation.

On the way home I reflected on the day. One question kept coming to me – I wonder if llama nachos would be tasty?