Tag: swimming

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! 🙂

IronMan Edinburgh 70.3 (Andrew)

“Is it safe?”

In the film Marathon Man this quote is repeated as Sir Laurence Olivier performs an increasingly painful dental treatment on Dustin Hoffman.

In IronMan Edinburgh this quote is repeated by everyone on the start line as we gaze out to sea.

“Is it safe?”

Swim

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Last week we had a recce of East Lothian to check the swim start and to cycle part of the bike route.

It was windy, over 20 mph, and the water at Preston Links at Prestonpans was choppy and covered in white caps.

A woman got out of a car beside us. She was wearing an IronMan hoodie and IronMan cap. So was her father, who came out next.

“Are you racing?” We said, which was a daft question as he was clearly in his seventies. 🙂

She answered for him.

She was racing. And she was there to practice the swim. But, on looking at the water, she said: “Not today. I’m not going out in that!”

She had an English accent so we thought she wasn’t local (though, with Edinburgh so close, an English accent could be local!) and we tried to reassure her: “It won’t be like this next week – this is a one off! It’s just a bit of wind!”

Unfortunately for her we were completely wrong. It wasn’t just a bit of wind, it was the start of a week long howl that kept going all through Monday to Friday, sped up on Saturday and wasn’t due to slow down until the race was over.

On Saturday, the forecast was for winds of 15mph plus. Too strong for a calm swim. By Saturday night the organisers were predicting a shortened swim and by 6am they’d shortened it from 1900m to 950m. One lap of a course that had been rearranged to try and avoid the worst of the currents.

But not at the start. The first 100 metres would be straight into the waves and current and wind. The perfect storm.

For the first 100 metres I could see people struggling. Not only was there the shock of cold water, the tightness of my chest constricting, the shallow breaths and the constant gulps of salt water as I tried to time the waves correctly so that my mouth is, and this is crucial bit, above the waves, not below them. But there was also the need to sight the first buoy, to avoid fellow athletes and to generally survive in conditions that even blockbuster movie shark Jaws would say: “Don’t go into the water!”.

But, after the first turn, as we swam along the beach, not out to sea, the conditions improved. It was easier to breath with the waves at my side, than right in front.

Of course, being an idiot, I then decided I had to clear my goggles as they’d filled with condensation. I tried to duck under the water, remove my goggles to rinse them out, then put them back on in one smooth fluid motion.

It didn’t happen.

I ducked. I spluttered. I got salt in my eyes. I couldn’t see. I swallowed half of the Firth of Forth, I ended up swimming in the wrong direction – but I did all that in one smooth fluid motion, so at least I got something right.

For the rest of the swim I had leaky goggles, I had to keep taking them off to clear them of water, while, when they were on, I had to keep one shut to avoid the salt water seeping in. And swimming with one eye is not easy – just ask Captain Hook, if he’d had two eyes, he’d have been able to swim away from that crocodile.

Despite my one eye, I got to the final buoy and turned back to shore. The swim back was a relief, and with the current behind, fast too.

The swim was over. I hadn’t drowned, which in itself felt like an achievement.

Bike

Bike

The bike route started in Prestonpans and then headed out through East Lothian, through Haddington and Gifford, before turning back and heading in almost a straight line to Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.

But, it was only the direction that was straight. The elevation promised a course with very few flat sections and plenty of ups and downs with some short sharp climbs.

And, because it was still windy, the course also added 25 miles into the wind as we came into Edinburgh.

The crowds were out in force, at least in the villages we passed. The largest town, Haddington, had the fewest spectators. Literally, one man and his dog. A man, and his dog, standing in his driveway. I can only guess the rest of the town must have been in church. Either that or the four hour road closure on a Sunday morning wasn’t appreciated by locals who decided to protest by staying away.

The course was varied, with plenty to see, from rolling hills, to leafy hedges, to forest canopies, farmlands, and, at one point, one of my work’s housing developments (which was nice to see, though not perhaps a selling point from anyone but me).

The final few miles saw a short burst of pave, the Edinburgh cobblestones, and then a climb around the back of Arthur’s Seat. This comes as a shock after 54 miles but not as much of a shock as the sign at mile 40 that “This is the high point, it’s all downhill from here!”. Only it wasn’t. Not in the slightest.

The last mile is downhill and provides a couple of minutes to relax, stop pedalling and getting focused on the run, or, in my case, to try and swallow an energy gel but forget how fast the road falls away and get tangled between trying to eat the gel and desperately apply the brakes to slow down.

I read afterwards that some people complained the road wasn’t in great condition and that there were a lot of punctures. I didn’t see any more punctures than normal and I thought the road was no better or worse than most Scottish roads.

Run

Run

I’d seen Iain in transition after the swim but couldn’t see him in the run transition. I knew he was ahead of me so I thought he must have left so I decided to follow him out.

And, by quickly, I mean for around 500 metres. Then the climbing starts. A one mile plus climb up Arthur’s Seat.

This was going to be a long run…

The run route is deceptively hilly. Deceptive in that even the flats bit are steeper than you think. Especially on the third time around the four and a bit mile course.

The run up Arthur’s Seat was tough, but the course itself was varied and featured a long run through the Innocent Railway tunnel, which was lit by a spinning light show and soundtracked with classic rock.

It’s worth racing IronMan Edinburgh just for the tunnel. Nothing beats running through a dark tunnel with AC/DC singing Highway To Hell and disco lights spinning round.

And then you have another hill. Followed by another hill. Then another hill. Then you finally get to run back down Arthur’s Seat before you have to do it two more times.

It was tough.

Much tougher than expected and I was pleased to get round in around 2 hours 10 minutes so at least I was getting round in around 10 minutes a mile. Not great, but after the swim and bike, I was happy with it.

I finished the race with Iain. As it turned out, he’d been in the toilet so I’d missed him in transition, but he caught me up, then passed, then slowed down at the end as I caught up with him. I conceded he’d won the Todd Championship point and we finished the run together.

The finish-line

I wasn’t sure if the announcer would shout: “You Are An IronMan!” as we crossed the line. It seemed wrong, you should only get that for the full distance, but, as an IronMan event, I wondered if they’d also do it for 70.3.

They didn’t. Instead we had hardcore dance tracks. “Shake that ass! Shake that ass! Shake that ass!” it cried before the announcer quickly said “Um, maybe that’s the wrong song, let’s get something more family friendly”.

We crossed the line in around six hours. Just under for Iain, just over for me (boo!). A tough race but a fair one with some great views of Edinburgh and East Lothian. Also a race that attracted the highest proportion of female athletes than any IronMan event, with over 20%. It was great to see a less male dominated race and, perhaps next year, IronMan could rename it the IronWoman Edinburgh 70.3.

No asses were shook for the podium picture.

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End Of Month Report (Iain)

My plan for May was not to have any mileage goals but instead complete a number of events:

  • Helensborough 10K – I was hoping I’d get under 45 minutes for one of my 10K’s this month. I surprised myself by managing it in the first race. Link here
  • Bealach Na Ba Race 44 mile race (with the aim to do the climb twice) – My aim was to beat Andrew but he beat me due to a puncture. We didn’t do the climb twice due to the puncture. Link here
  • Loch Leven half marathon – the aim was to beat Andrew but he beat me easily! I was happy with my time so I can’t complain…too much. Link here 
  • Antonine Trail Race 10k – great race. I’ll sign up for the half marathon when it becomes available. Link here
  • Caledonian Etape 81 mile bike  – My aim was to beat Andrew but he cheated 🙂 Link here 
  • Dumbarton 10K – I didn’t make it to this race which I think is the second time I’ve entered it but not made it to the start line.
  • Shettleston 10K – Last race of the month. I was tired and hungover but my time was okay. Link here 

The theme of the month was “My aim was to beat Andrew but….”

Thankfully, despite these losses, the Todd Championship is still close. It’s currently 4-3 to Andrew. Overall, I enjoyed the races and got PB’s for the biking so it was a good month.

My plan for June is not to have a plan. Iron Man Edinburgh is the next goal (at the start of July) so I’ll concentrate on keeping everything ticking over so that I’m fit and healthy.

I also don’t want to let Andrew know what my plan for this month is to ensure I win! I have a secret idea….

Here’s a selection of photos from May. If you want to see more then follow me on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/twinbikerun/

End Of Month Report: April (Iain)

My plan for April was:
– The Dirty Reiver race (you can read about it here
– Bike (on average) 110 miles a week – I managed 129
– Run (on average) 16 miles a week – I managed 16.3
– Do yoga at least once a week – done!
– Swim twice a week – I failed. I managed three swims in a month. I need to do better!
– Plaster the hall. I phoned a man and he’s doing it next week 🙂

I’m happy with how April went. I had a two weeks vacation. I call it a Scottish compass holiday because, by the end of it, I’d visited the north, south, east and west of Scotland!

In the north, I visited Findhorn. A very spiritual community of hippies with eco-homes. I found this book – “Your Pet’s Past Lives & How They Can Heal You”.

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I have so many questions:
– does my cat have nine past lives?
– Was my cat a cat in a previous life? If not, is being a cat a punishment or a reward for past behavior?
– how can my cat heal me? He seems pretty lazy and selfish. I suspect he’s planning to kill me.
– the author is a whale whisperer??? What are whales saying ? And how do you whisper underwater?

and WHO BELIEVES THIS TOSH?

In the south I visited the Garden of Cosmic Speculation. A wonderful garden that’s only open once a year. One of the grass mounds in looks like an ass which meant they needed this sign:

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Which is a motto I live my life by.

In the east I biked from Edinburgh back to my home in Lennoxtown. On the way I passed this sign:

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How many people get shot in Falkirk that’ve had to put a sign up telling them not to?!

And, in the west, I went home to Stornoway. I visited the Callanish Stones. They were much more redder whiter and pointy-er than I remember.

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My Plan for May is not to have any mileage goals as I’ve got loads of events to do:
– Helensborough 10K run
– Antonine Trail Race 10k run
– Dumbarton 10K run
– Shettleston 10K run (which despite the name isn’t in shettleston!)
– Caledonian Etape 81 mile bike race.
– Bealach Na Ba Race 44 mile race (with the aim to do the climb twice)

Here’s a selection of photos from April. If you want to see more then follow me on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/imacivertodd/

Open Water Swimming (Andrew)

Home to the Western Isles for Easter and a chance to join the Hebridean Triathlon Club’s open water swim on Saturday morning. I say club but, as it’s only just started, it’s mostly a nice man called Colin who was happy for us to join him on his weekly swim at Coll beach.

He was prepared. He had an orange buoy to help with sighting, emergencies and generally keeping safe in the water. We had wetsuits and serious doubts we’d last more than five minutes in the water.

It was FREEZING!

“Six and half degrees,” said Colin.

And then 30 second later.

“Good news, it’s now seven!”

I couldn’t feel my feet. I’d not worn swim socks as I find them uncomfortable. They’re like two heavy bags strapped to your feet.

Not that I knew if I had feet. I couldn’t feel anything below my knees as I waded in.

“Dip your face in,” said Iain.

I did.

Like The Weeknd, I couldn’t feel my face.

So, that’s what that song is about. It’s not about cocaine at all, it’s about open water swimming.

I can’t feel my face when I’m with you!”

I tried swimming breaststroke for 10 minutes keeping my head carefully out of the water. Then, once I’d acclimatised, I tried some freestyle. (Or free(zing)style.)

I couldn’t feel my ears.

I was noticing a pattern.

Cold water is, well, cold.

But the sun was out. The swimming was good and it was great to be swimming again in more extreme conditions than a heated pool.

 

This boy can’t… (Iain)

#thisgirlcan is a social media campaign encouraging women to participate in sporting activities. Women are encouraged to tweet/facebook/instagram tales of sporting success (no matter how big or small) so that other women will be inspired.

It’s a great campaign and I recommend you check out the website: http://www.thisgirlcan.co.uk/

Would men benefit from a similar campaign? In my opinion, probably not – men do not have to be encouraged to brag. We’ve all written a blog post about an amazing training session or event, we’ve all gone into work and said how we smashed a bike/run/swim course at the weekend.   Did it inspire people? No, it probably bored them. Nobody likes hearing about success unless it’s their own.

So instead I’ve an idea that I think can inspire men. Let me be the first to say #thisboycant

Because I’ve learnt more through failing at sport than succeeding.

So join me as I admit:

#thisboycant snowboard –  I fell over during the first hour of a five day ski holiday while on the training slope. I accidentally punched myself in the chest. I broke my rib. I haven’t felt that bad after a punch since the last time I went to a house party and drank from a fruit bowl.

#thisboycant play rugby –  I was told by my coach that with correct technique I could tackle anyone. That was a lie. I tackled a man twice my size. My technique was perfect. I ended up concussed. I was more wiped out than the Labour vote at the next general election (oooh. A little bit of politics!)

#thisboycant cycle on the track – I attended four track session. On the test day another cyclist crashed into a wall above me. His bike slid down the track into mine. I fell off, hitting the ground hard. I bashed my head and lost skin on my arm. I looked so bad I was mistaken for the Elephant man.

#thisboycant rock climb – I went to a climbing center. I had to attach the rope to my harness in two places. I attached it to just one. I fell off the wall. Luckily the one place holding the rope was strong enough to break my fall. Unfortunately that one place was my crotch. The instructor said it took balls to survive a fall like that. It certainly did!

I learnt something from each of these failures. I learnt I don’t have to be good at sport to enjoy taking part.

So when people ask me whether they should attempt an event be it running/biking/triathlon? I say, YES! I can’t do it but I’ve never let that stop me so it shouldn’t stop you either 🙂

The next time you write a blog/tweet etc think about writing about something you can’t do.

What a shower! (Andrew)

They don’t cover this in any training plan.

It’s not in any book.

But it’s the one thing you need to know before starting any triathlon programme – how often do you need to shower?

Check your programme. It doesn’t mention it, does it? Your programme will tell you that, today, you need to run five miles and you need to swim two kilometres; but what it doesn’t say is that you’ll also need to shower after that run and shower after that swim – and, probably, shower when you get up.

Unless you don’t sweat when you sleep. Then don’t shower when you get up.

(Ya dirty stop out).

Training programmes will tell you that you will train for five, six, seven hours however, when trying to fit it all in, those programme should also explain how long it’ll take to shower – and to get changed.

You don’t start running without getting changed. Not unless you like nudey jogging, which, in Glasgow, is dangerous as it’s cold and people will think a Smurf is running wild through the streets.

Instead, when looking at your training programme you need to think – “okay, I can run for five miles at lunchtime but that also means I’ll need a shower when I get back. Now, my one hour lunch is looking a bit tight (unless you can run under 7 minutes a mile) as not only do I need to run, I need to shower and I still need to eat.”

Showering is the fourth discipline of triathlon. Maybe, the fifth after transition. But definitely in the top six of tri.

The sixth is getting your wetsuit on without looking like a sausage trying to squeeze back into its skin.

Showers need as much planning as any other part of triathlon.

You need to remember a towel for the pool, a second for work. You need to think about your hair, do you wash it first thing when you wake, or after your run at lunch, or both times, or none at all – you like it tussled.

Hair is a triathletes’ worst enemy. We spend most of the race covering it up with swim cap and bike helmet only to unleash it on the run when it’s damp, sweaty, flat and, possibly, covered in salt. Your hair basically has all the grace of a chip found in the gutter at the side of the road.

(Random thought – why is stylish a compliment? She’s stylish! Normally, when you add -ish to the end of the world it’s an insult, it detracts from what you’ve just said. This sandwich is alright-ish. Stylish should mean you have style, well, styl-ish.)

When planning any training programme the most important thing you can do is plan your showers along with it. I’ll look at my day and see if I need a swim in the morning followed by a run at lunch time means two showers – one after the swim and one after the run – instead of three if I shower in the morning, run in the afternoon then shower, then swim at night then shower.

I then take it further. If I’m cycling at night and shower at 8pm. Does that mean I don’t then need a shower in the morning because it’s been less than 12 hours since I last showered?

I could then have a shower on Monday night, not shower on Tuesday morning, shower on Tuesday afternoon after a run then only have one shower when I would have had two.

Genius.

Assuming you agree that showers are more of a time thing rather than linked to how much you whiff when you get up.

See, planning showers is hard! And they need just as much attention as the training itself.

I mention all of this because a couple of weeks I had a misfortune in the shower. I was at work. I was finishing washing when, instantly, the lights went out.

The work shower in a room off a corridor which is off another corridor. It’s right at the centre of our office, far, far away from any windows. When the lights went out, it instant darkness. No light under the door, no passive light to slip through and provide some illumination. I was effectively blind.

And I couldn’t remember how to open the shower door.

I’d never had to think about it before. I just opened it. With my hands – and my eyes.

Now, I’m trapped in the cubicle, sightless, and unable to remember if it swung in, swung out, slid open or lifted up suicide door style.

I couldn’t get out. Nor could I shout for help. I was naked. Help would come but help would very quickly run away.

For five minutes I tried pulling, pushing, sliding and jostling until I figures out there was a pivot in the middle of the door that meant I had to both pull and slide it to open it.

I then used the light from my iPhone to get changed.

It’s what Bear Grylls would have done.

So, the moral of this story, is that showers are tricky things. Not only can you get trapped in them you can also find them eating into your valuable time. Incorporate showers into your training plan. Plan ahead. Know how they open and close. Master the shower – and you will master triathlon.

The Beer Triathlon (Iain)

Whilst training for an event some people will abstain from alcohol. There’s a name for them – boring bastards!

My fastest ever half marathon time was achieved whilst drunk. Would I have gone faster if I’d been sober? Probably not – I was so hungover and desperate for water that I ran the legs between water stations as fast as possible.

If it’s possible to drink and run, is it possible to drink and triathlon? After a swift Google I’m proud to announce the best and definitely drunkest race ever invented – Beer-athlon!

It comprises a beer swim, a beer bike and beer run. It will take place in Austria because that the only place I could find a beer swimming pool.

Starkenberger’s Castle in Austria doesn’t just have the world’s only beer swimming pool. It has seven! Each pool contains 42,000 pints of beer! That’s 294,000 pints. Enough to keep a Scottish man in beer for at least a few hours. 🙂

If anyone gets out of the pool alive then it’s onto the bike leg. For this I’ve sourced the worlds best beer bike.

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This bike allows you to “refuel” on the move. The distance of the ride is however far it takes to finish both kegs.

The finale is provided by a beer I spotted in the pub – Running Beer.

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Each athlete has to down a pint and then run 100m in a straight line. The winner is the first person to achieve that.

I can’t see what could possibly go wrong with this format. 🙂

Last week’s training (Andrew)

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A full week of training complete.

A tough week. Double the training and back in the pool for swimming and back outside for running (though not yet on the bike).

Swimming had all the grace of a Donald Trump tweet. Every stroke felt like I was flailing, sinking, drowning and moving backwards but, by Sunday, and three swims, I started to feel more comfortable in the water.

Running was good. A bit slow and stiff to start with but I managed at least five miles for each run and, despite very heavy legs on Saturday, nearly 8 miles round Shawlands on Saturday afternoon.

I didn’t manage to get out on the bike, still slightly nervous that two hours of cold air would bring back my cough, but I did manage 90 minutes on the Turbo instead. This week’s challenge is to get outside and get a long ride in. If I waited for warmer weather in Scotland I’d never get out at all…

 

 

Is that a wart on your foot or do you have six toes? (Iain)

My school had three rules for swimming:

  1. No dive bombing!
  2. No kit, no swim!
  3. No verrucas!

If you don’t know what a verruca is, then it’s a wart on your foot. It’s commonly caught off someone else who has one.

To prevent the spread of verrucas swimming pools had a small hole in the ground at the changing room exit. The hole would commonly be filed with a red chlorine like liquid.

On exiting I had to put both feet into the wee pool of red (normally freezing cold) liquid. The liquid supposedly contained disinfectant that protects feet from catching a verruca.

I got a verruca. Andrew got a verruca. In fact most of my school got a verruca.

It put me off going swimming. I didn’t like the wart! I didn’t like wee red pool of disease! I didn’t like the heavy smell of chlorine in the air! I didn’t like all the people in the pool swimming past or across me! I hated everything about swimming!

It put me off going to public pools. I didn’t swim for 15 years.

I didn’t discover a love of swimming until I joined the Arlington bath club. – the oldest surviving Victorian bathing complex in the world. It doesn’t have a small verruca puddle, it doesn’t stink of chlorine and most importantly it has lane etiquette.

Lane etiquette means once I start swimming in a lane its mine until I’m finished. No-one will jump in to the lane with me. No-one will swim across me and no-one will have a verruca…I hope!

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