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

Outdoor Swim Review: Carron Valley (Iain)

neoI recently purchased core buoyancy shorts for swimming. They are made of neoprene and they aid swimming by raising my hips slightly in the water. Similar to the effect of swimming in a wet suit.Higher hips mean higher legs, which means less drag therefore I can concentrate on good swimming form.  I think they are great. Andrew thinks they should be banned. He calls them floaty (or cheat) pants. My only reply to that is: I am not a pants doper! If you repeat the accusation then I’ll see you in court!

To be clear – if you even looks at me funny whilst I’m wearing my definitely not cheating pants then you will get a visit from my lawyer. Lance Armstrong said it best – “hard work, sacrifice and focus will never show up in tests.” I swim clean. End of story. Other than giving me a performance enhancement….ummm….skills enhancement the main reason I purchased them was for outdoor swimming. I wanted to swim without a wet-suit but still have some benefit of neoprene. I combine the pants with a neoprene top.
UntitledIts great for swimming as you get all the freedom of skins and all the benefit of a wet suit. Although it does make me look like a character from Little Britain.Daffydt

Carron Valley Reservoir is the closet loch to my house. I usually swim on the Fintry side as its furthest away from the fisherman who use the Loch. I’ve never seen them at this end of the loch. There’s a spot to park that’s next to the Loch that allows for an 800m swim straight across to the other side of the loch. It can be a bit choppy as the wind blows down the loch but its never too bad to swim in.55726593_167528670908225_6800533163390802350_n

REVIEW

Ease of Access: https://goo.gl/maps/vkcjfRm5cx6dYWt7A Park at the gate next to the loch. Its 10m to the waterside. 

Water quality: Warm and shallow at the edge of the loch but it can noticeably drop in temperature the further out you get. 

Swim Quality: Excellent. Lots of things to sight against. Water is choppy but that makes it more fun!

Other People: A couple of folk out walking and the odd car/cyclist going by. 

Would I go back: Yes. It’s my default swim location. 

Outdoor Swim Review: Loch Venachar (Iain)

In a scene from the comedy film Zoolander the eponymous male supermodel hero, Derek Zoolander, dresses as a merman and swims towards the camera to utter the line:

” Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.”

But in real life Merman are anything but beautiful. In contrast to mermaids, mermen are traditionally described as unattractive extremely ugly creatures with green hair, teeth and skin, narrow eyes and a red nose.

Which is also a valid description of what I look like when I’m hungover.

I learnt this “fact” after spotting two swimmers at Loch Venachar. It was a hot day. The water was perfect for swimming without a wet-suit but they were wearing multiple layers of neoprene . One of them was so covered up he looked like the gimp from Pulp Fiction.

But they were not swimmers or gimps. They were free-divers practicing their skills. They hold their breath diving 20m to the bottom of the Loch.

I looked them up on Google and discovered they do mermaid courses https://freedivers.co.uk/mermaid-course/

REVIEW

Ease of Access: I parked at the Loch Venachar cafe car park. It was just a short walk from here to the Loch side. There’s a few other car parks along the shore.

Water quality: Clear water close to shore. I could see the bottom of the Loch. Temperature (in July) was 19C

Swim Quality: Hard work. It was a bit windy. I battled waves as I swam out from shore. It made the swim more exciting.

Other People: There was a lot of folk in the cafe. They were watching from the terrace as I swam. There was also a few folk walking along the shore.

Would I go back: Yes. It was a nice spot. I’d like to try swimming to the other side of the Loch but on a less windy day.

Outdoor Swim Review: North Third Reservoir (Iain)

North third 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. It is surrounded on one side by cliffs and Forrest. It’s a nature lovers paradise but it’s also a paradise for lovers of a different kind. The Daily Record reported the story of a man put on trial after he was discovered naked in the Forrest.

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!”

REVIEW

Ease of Access: There’s a small car park beside a gate next to the path that leads down to the reservoir. If the spaces there are taken then there’s spots nearby to park.

Water quality: A bit murky and a little bit shallow in places. There was much less water in the reservoir than when I was last here in March. The water temperature was 18.5C.

Swim Quality: Excellent – There’s a nice loop around the islands. The water was calm.

Other People: There’s usually folk fishing at the side of the loch and I’ve occasionally bumped into other folk either heading in or leaving after swimming themselves.

Would I go back: Yes. Its one of my favorite places to swim.

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.

Outdoor Swim Review: Balgray Reservoir (Iain)

“Is this where the group meets for swimming?”

I was standing half-naked in a car park next to Balgray Reservoir when a man approached and asked me this. I don’t normally frequent car parks in the buff but I was getting changed to go swimming and there was no facilities nearby.

I was not part of a group and did not know what he was asking about so I replied “Sorry I’m not part of a group”

He looked confused by my answer. I realised he was probably confused as to why I would be half naked, trying to get one leg in a wet suit, if I wasn’t part of swimming group.

 So to put his confused mind at rest I added. “I‘m swimming too but just not with a group.”

He didn’t go away. He waited a minute and then said, “is it a 800m loop?”

“Is what a 800m loop?” I asked.

“The swim?” He replied.

“I don’t know. I’m not with the group!” I was starting to get annoyed.

He waited a minute and then said “Are you in charge of the group?”

“NO!!! I’m not in the group! I’m just trying to go for a swim!”

He looked like he finally realized I was not able to help him but it did not stop him from asking one final question.

“How much is it to join?”

REVIEW

Ease of Access: There’s a car park next to the reservoir. No toilet or changing facilities. I had to walk through mud to enter the water.

Water quality: A bit murky and grim but reasonably warm. it was 14.5C when I went (June)

Swim Quality: It was quite easy to do a reasonable loop by aiming for some of the local features e.g. a tall power tower, a big house on the hill etc. The water was calm.

Would I go back: Probably not. There’s nicer places to swim.

Bishopbriggs Sprint Triathlon (Iain)

Bishopbriggs has a reputation as one of the best beginner friendly triathlon races in Scotland. Which is why Andrew and I decided to do our second ever triathlon here. It was 2014 and the race came 5 years after our first attempt at a triathlon https://twinbikerun.com/2017/10/23/my-first-triathlon-iain

My preparation for the race didn’t go well. I didn’t realize I had to be there early to put the bike into transition. By the time I arrived the official car park was full. I managed to get a car parking space in a side street but I didn’t write down the name of street. I wouldn’t realize until later that Bishopbriggs has allot of very similar looking side streets…

SWIM (16:09)

I’d like to say the swim went smoother than my parking but I made some rookie errors:

Mistake 1: I under estimated my swim time.

When entering the event I had to give a predicted time for the swim. I took a guess and added a couple of minutes to make sure I wasn’t in a fast lane.

My estimate was too slow! I was actually much faster than everyone else in the lane. I should have realised I wasn’t among fast swimmer when everyone else arrived wearing rubber rings and snorkels.

I’m not a fast swimmer but I’m not slow either. I should have checked my time in advance and I should have had confidence in my ability. It would have been an easier swim for me and the other in the lane if I’d been in the correct lane.

Mistake 2: I didn’t have a tri top

I was the only one in my lane without one. It was a cold wet day. When we headed outside for transition I felt every cold blast of wind and rain on my bare naked skin. I was more more Frozen than children singing “Let It Go”

I should have worn clothes appropriate for the weather condition outside and not just for the tropically warm indoor condition.

Mistake 3: Leaving clothes outside uncovered

The weather was dry when I placed them in transition but now that it had rained all my stuff was wet. I should have put a plastic water proof bag over them to keep the rain off.

My bike seat was soaking wet. If I’d put a plastic bag over it then I would have enjoyed a nice dry seat instead of a “wet Andrew” which is my code for a soaking wet arse.

Mistake 4: Safety pins!

My biggest mistake was that I’d accidentally put my safety pins through the front and back of my cycle top preventing me from getting into the top! DOH!

I had to do undo all the pins. Put the top on and then tack on the number. Ever since this I’ve used a race number belt.

BIKE (42:30)

There was quite a variety of bikes on the course from mountain bikes to hybrids to full on time trial specific machines. Maybe triathlons shouldn’t be just about age group results but about how much was spent on the bike.

But then again I saw one man on a hybrid race past a man on his time trial bike. Maybe it is actually about how hard people train!

RUN (23:21)

The run was the first time I’d ever seen a spray can used as a course feature. After running 2km I had to run round a spray can, which was placed in the middle of a path, back to the start. I remember thinking why don’t they just spray the ground instead of putting the can there?

The last km was through a muddy path but annoyingly I had on new trainers. I  abandoned running quickly and instead ran cleanly as I gingerly avoided every bit of mud. That was my excuse for my slow run time.

POST RACE (1:26:47)

As I’d forgotten where the car was parked I had to spend twenty minutes on my bike, exploring the back streets of Bishopbriggs, trying to find it.

Norseman Training Plan (Iain)

This is my last post about Norseman. Normal blogs about any old nonsense will resume next week! Although reading Andrew’s latest post he seems to have started a week early. NOTE: He is wrong – Ryan Gosling is great. La La Land, Crazy Stupid Love and Bladerunner 2049 are all superb!

This is not the most interesting blog I’ve ever written but I thought I’d write it as it is something I looked for when I got my Norseman place – a Norseman training plan.

My aim was to complete not compete. I split my training into into two distinct parts

Part 1: Get fit (Jan 1st until 12 weeks to go) 

My base swim fitness was poor as I barely swam in the three months previous to January but but my swimming technique is good. I was confident I would quickly get my stamina back and that I wouldn’t need to work much on technique.

My base bike fitness was good for short rides. I was commuting to work by bike four days a week (15 miles per day) and I would occasionally ride 30/40 miles at a weekend.

My base run fitness was ok for short races. I could run 10k in 45 minutes and I’d run two or three times a week at lunchtimes.

For each discipline I created a schedule but deliberately didn’t put days against any session. I prefer to fit training into my week rather than fit my week into training. I also took the view that if I missed a session, I wouldn’t try and catch-up. I’d just continue as if I had done it. That way I wasn’t putting pressure on myself if plans went awry.

Running Schedule (per week)

1 x hill run – 4 miles comprising 3 laps of a hill.

1 x tempo run – 4 miles where I pushed myself to run above my normal pace

1 x recovery run – 4 miles easy pace on flat route

1 x long run – anything up to half marathon distance at an easy pace.

I commute to work by bike which meant I could do most of my bike training to or from work. My plan was to stick to my normal biking but to increase my mileage each month. As the weather was not great this winter/spring I added in some turbo sessions with a similar steady increase in time rather than distance.

Bike Schedule

In January I did 60 miles a week, in February I did 80, in March 100 etc

I stopped increasing it when I got to 120 miles as that was about as far as I could go with the free time I had available.

On the turbo in January I did one 45 minute sessions a week, in February I did an hour and  then in March I hour 30 minutes etc.

I stopped increasing the length when I got to two hours as any longer than that on a turbo was incredibly boring.

Swimming didn’t really happen. I had a plan to swim twice a week but didn’t do it. Instead my sechedule became

Swim Schedule

In April I started going to my triathlon club’s swimming session. This ws a 2K-ish weekly swim. I went most weeks until Norseman.

Part 2: Get Norseman fit

Part 1 got me fit enough to do part 2 which was to take my now increased base fitness and attempt to do longer rides/runs.

I based it on starting 12 weeks out from Norseman. I listed the one key thing I had to do each week in each discipline. I’d normally manage to run and bike outside of this BUT the priority was to do these. By only having thee key points I was able to fit them into my week. I also preferred time over distance as distance can be a cheat. A hilly 100 miler is different to flat 100 miler but five hours in the saddle is always five hours in the saddle.

Week Run Bike Swim
1 2hr run 5 hour 2k swim
2 2.5hr run 5 hour 2k swim
3 half marathon 2k swim
4 10K + half marathon 5 hour 2k swim
5 10k 5 hour 2k swim
6 2.5hr run 5 hour 2k swim
7 Easy week
8 HALF IRON MAN
9 Recovery week
10 2.5hr run 5 hour 2k swim
11 2.5hr run 5 hour 2k swim
12 1 hr 3 hour 2k swim
13 RACE

Final Result

I was 172nd in the swim with a time of 1 hr 21 min
I was 209th on the bike with a time of 8 hr 1 min
I was 41st/58th run (white tshirt) with a time of 6hr 13 min

SO I comfortably made the white shirt times and cutoff. I also felt fine all the way round. I wasn’t quick but I was steady.

Looking back at my plan I couldn’t have done much more based on the time I had available and the desire to still have a life outside of training.

The downside of my plan – I had low level anxiety for weeks leading up-to the race. Every day I’d wake up thinking what do I need to do today to get through the race? If I was to do it again I wouldn’t have that anxiety because I’d trust in my plan. I could have avoided this by having a coach but I hate being told what to do. A coach would have made me more anxious!

If you fancy giving it a go hopefully this post and the one about logistics will give you a good idea about how to do it.

I am a Norseman 2018! (Iain)

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INTRO

Norseman is point-to-point (or fjord to peak) race starting at sea level, with a four meter drop off a ferry into a fjord. It comprises a 3.8k swim to the beautiful town of Eidfjord, then a hilly bike leg (3.5K elevation) crossing Hardangervidda mountain plateau, and finally a marathon run to the top of the 1850m peak of Gaustatoppen.

The race is limited to 250 competitors of which 160 finish at the mountain peak and the rest finish at the town below the summit. The originator of the event describes the race perfectly:

“I wanted to create a completely different race, make it a journey through the most beautiful nature of Norway, let the experience be more important than the finish time, and let the participants share their experience with family and friends, who will form their support. Let the race end on top of a mountain, to make it the toughest full distance triathlon on planet earth”.

I have only ever cycled a 100 mile bike ride twice before. The last time was IronMan UK back in 2015. I had never done a non-stop 3.8K swim. My only two times doing so had involved loops with an Australian exit. I also had not ran a marathon since IronMan UK.

Basically I prefer shorter events.

Despite this I’d always wanted to do Norseman. I think it’s the jump off the ferry start that attracted me. I grew up on an island and regularly travelled by ferry to the mainland. It was a very boring journey and I used to joke with my brother that one of us should jump off just to add some excitement to the trip.

I decided from the beginning that my aim was a white t-shirt so I wouldn’t have to worry about how fast to race. I would instead concentrate on being fit enough to do the distances.

Swim (1hr 22 min)

Capture

The race starts at 0500 which meant getting up at 0230 to catch the 0400 ferry. What they do not show you on the videos of the event is that the ferry has a very comfortable TV lounge. I sat and read a book on my Kindle. It helped keep my mind off the race.

At 0445 I went down stairs and entered the water using what could only be described as a belly flop. I didn’t see many other people use this technique. Possibly because upon entry most of the fjord ended up on the ferry.

It was a short swim to the start line. I’d swam the previous day in skins so wearing a wet suit meant this felt tropical in comparison.

I kept a steady pace for the swim. It was very easy to sight the route. I kept the land 20m to the side of me and followed the coastline back to town. Occasionally the water would get very cold. I suspect that was the points streams were entering the fjord.

I reached the exit and stood up and promptly fell face first back into the water! I always struggle with staying upright after a swim. I paused for a minute and then tried again. Thankfully this time I stayed up.

I ran into transition and was met by Nic. She said she’d won a bet with Andrew as she thought I’d be out in 80 minutes. He thought it would be at least 90.

BIKE (8 hr 10 min)

Capture.JPG

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Campsie Hills

The bike leg starts with a 40K climb. I’d broken all the climbs down into units of measurement known as “crow roads” The Crow Road is a climb starting at the back of my house up the side of the Campsie Hills.

I find cycling more manageable if I break objectives down into things I know I can do. The first climb is five Crow Roads. Similarly, for the flatter section I’d think of in terms of how many commutes to work it would be. My normal commute to work is a 8 mile cycle so when cycling the plateau I’d calculate how many commutes to the next town.

This made the experience manageable but I do not particularly enjoy long bike rides so its always a struggle to enjoy it. My support team said I was like a stroppy teenager. One minute I’d be demanding a banana but then as soon as they got one I’d say “Why’d you get me a banana. I wanted an apple!”

Because I don’t ride long distances often enough I also struggle to refuel on the bike. I prefer to stop at a cake shop and enjoy a break so I did the same here and enjoyed a particularly good bakewell tart from a shop in Geilo.

Other food delights on the bike (other than gels and bars) were a Twix, a chocolate brownie and an ice lolly which I refused to take as even I have limits of what should be eaten in race!

RUN (6hr 3 min)

My aim was to get to the bottom of Zombie Hill in 2hrs-ish and then walk from there. The great thing is from that point I could have a support runner. I was really looking forward to having someone to speak to but after my stroppiness they probably weren’t looking forward to speaking to me!

I made it to Zombie Hill in good time and thankfully Nic was pleased to see me. She’d filled a bag with food so we were good to go. I felt good so we were able to walk quickly. I’d cycled zombie hill a few years previously o I knew roughly what to expect when climbing. That made it easier to do.

Thankfully I was not in the top 160 so I got to head to the village rather than the summit.

The village finish is 10 laps of a hotel complex. There’s a great atmosphere as competitors finish, music blares out and Norwegians wave flags.


I was happy to cross the finish line in under 16 hours as I was desperate to get to the pizza place in Rjukan before it closed 🙂

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CONCLUSION

Norseman is the ultimate triathlon experience because its about sharing the journey with friends and family. We all had a great time in Norway with experiences that’ll last a lifetime.

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Norseman Training Stats (Iain)

This week was the last week of Norseman training. Thank f$%k!!!

I don’t know whether I’ve done enough training. I’ll discover that in a couple of weeks time when I attempt the race BUT I do know that I’ve done all I could in the time I had available.

My aim has always been to complete rather than compete so, on that basi,s since the start of the year my training stats are:

BIKE
Distance: 2,720.5 mi
Time: 184h 41m
Elev Gain: 100,682 ft
Rides: 164

If I was to ride 2,720.5 miles from Glasgow then I’d end up in Baghdad in Iraq. I suspect at some point in Norseman I’ll wish I was in Baghdad as, even getting shot at, will be more pleasant than the swim/bike/run!

100,000 ft of elevation is the equivalent of cycling three times the height of Everest. Which sounded impressive until I looked up the record number of climbs of Everest.  Kami Rita Sherpa has summited 22 times! So, my paltry three times is just a walk in the park to him.

184 hours is a long time to be biking. I could have used that time to learn to paint, speak a foreign language or more likely just watch television. 184 hours of TV means I could have binge watched:

All of Game of Thrones (63 hours)
All of Breaking Bad (62 hours)
Every Marvel film (36 hours)
Every Harry Potter film (22 hours)
One episode of love island. (1 hour)

RUN
Distance: 544.1 mi
Time: 100h 1m
Elev Gain: 37,493 ft
Runs: 101

If I’d have run from my house for 544 miles I’d have ended up in the sea but, if I ignore that pesky issue, then I’d have ended up in Schleswig-Holstein in Germany. Which until now I’d never heard of! After a quick Google search I can reveal the most interesting thing I could find about the place:1493996935_courthouse lubeck dpa

On the coat of arms for the state, the symbols of Holstein and Schleswig can both be seen. The two lions represent Schleswig while the leaf of a nettle is for Holstein.

Before the Prussians took over the region, the lions faced away from the nettle. But legend has it that Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck couldn’t bear the idea of the ‘Danish’ lions pointing their bums at the Holstein nettle, so they turned to face it instead.

Sorry – it was not that interesting a story but its the best I could find!

SWIM
Distance 40,808m
Time 19h 4m
Swims 27

When training for an Olympics Michael Phelps would swim 80,000m a week. That’s 1600 laps of a 50m swimming pool. I’ve managed half a week of his training in six months. Which is why I don’t have any Olympic medals but how many episode of Love Island has he seen? I bet its none. I’ve seen loads. Who’s the success now?! Umm, probably still him!

Hopefully, I’ve reached the start line fit, injury free and happy. I can’t ask for any more than that.

(Although I have one long run and one long bike ride still to do. Hopefully I haven’t jinxed them!)