Runner, Heal Thyself (Andrew)

When I started running at university I would run on a treadmill for 20 – 30 minutes on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Over a year it became part of my weekly routine as I was studying for my final exams. Then, one day, my knee hurt.

“That’s nothing,” I thought. “A wee run will fix that!”

I’d pop up to the university gym and, after five minutes, the pain would start to fade, and, after 20 minutes, it would be gone.

“See,” I thought, “it was just a wee niggle!”

And by the time I’d have my shower, my leg would fall off.

Not literally. I’d topple. But it might as well have as I couldn’t use it for the rest of the day. It wouldn’t bend. I couldn’t put weight on it. I would hop from gym to library to home until…

I’d wake up in the morning, my knee would hurt and I’d think:

“Really, it’s nothing, a wee run will fix this!”

And I was a cripple for a month until I realised that a ‘wee run’ will only fix this if your problem is an escaped lion and you need to get away fast. If your problem is a damaged ligament then don’t run on it!

You need to follow the RIC (Rest, Ice and Compression) program not the RIC (Run, Ignore, Crawl To Bed) program.

Yet, 20 years later I’ve learnt nothing. Last week I pulled a muscle in my abdomen. Not sure how, think it was twisting to lift something while sitting in my chair at work, however, when I noticed it was sore I thought immediately:

“It’s nothing, a wee swim will fix this!”

And I went swimming. An exercise that requires you to continuously twist and turn.

Because there’s nothing like putting out a fire like pouring more oil on it and shouting “Burn, baby, burn!”

It was stupid.

And on Tuesday I ended up in the minor injuries clinic complaining that I couldn’t turn my body to the right or pick up any weight with my right hand.

Which was also stupid because, despite being a clinic for minor injuries, the doctor listened to my story and immediately said: “We don’t do abdomens.”

Which made me think: “What do you do? Left ankles only. Just the right elbow? How can you distinguish between different parts of the body? You’re a doctor, your meant to do everything.”

He sent me to my GP who’s sole advice was “If it hurts when you twist to the right then don’t twist to the right!”

Genius.

But she was right because she was just telling me what I already knew – if you’re injured, then don’t do twice as much as you did before in the hope that more means less. Rest. Ice. Compression. And don’t go for a run.

Lets talk about fun (Iain)

Did you have a type 1 fun weekend? Or maybe it was type 2? Hopefully it wasn’t type 3!

I thoughtthe only thing that comes in types 1,2 or 3 is diabetes. That is until I read Mark Beaumont’s new book about his 80 day around the world cycle trip. In it he says the number one quality he requires in a support person is that they enjoy type 2 fun.

Fun can be categorised! Although categorising fun does seem to remove the fun from fun.

Type 1 Fun

This is fun that you experience whilst doing an activity and once you’ve finished it you still think of it as fun. For example, a post race pint of beer is fun. You’ll have fun drinking it and you’ll never regret it afterwards.

Type 2 Fun

This is fun that doesn’t feel like fun whilst you are doing it but afterwards you’ll be glad you did it. For example, if you don’t go for a pint before a race you might miss out on fun but when you wake up fresh the next day you’ll be glad you didn’t.

Type 3 Fun

This is fun that is miserable whilst you do it and afterwards you’ll wish you hadn’t done it. This is when you do go for a pint before a race and then have another and another…the next day you race with a hangover. You’ll hate it whilst doing it and afterwards you’ll wish you hadn’t done it.

The interesting thing about type 3 fun is that over time it can become type 2 because you might forget how miserable you felt and might actually be glad you did the race.

Most fun experts seem to stop at 3 types. I’d argue there is a fourth type

Type 4 Fun

Fun that is fun at the time but afterwards you’ll completely regret it. Which sums up any time I’ve been to Krispy Kreme.

Mmm….donut!

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The one where I get a bike fit (Iain)

A few years ago I received a Christmas present – a voucher for a Trackman golf fit session. Trackman is a radar tracking system used by golf professionals to ensure they have a perfect swing.

The session was really interesting. For an hour I hit golf balls whilst a man analysed all the stats generated by the radar system. At the end he said to me “You have the swing of a professional….”

I interrupted him “YES!! I’ve always wanted to be a golf pro. Should I quit my job and concentrate on my game? Should I change my name to Tiger Todd? How many competitions will I need to play before I’m a millionaire?”

He didn’t answer me. He finished his sentence. “…a professional footballer!”

He went onto explain that he had many clients who were professional footballers and they all have the same fault. They balance their body weight on the front of the their feet rather than the back. A professional golfer always balances on the back…in fact most golfers do it except professional footballers and I.

I’d played golf for 30+ years but I didn’t know I was doing it incorrectly until then.

Last Christmas I received a bike fit voucher as a present. I’ve been slightly scared to use it because the only sport I’ve played longer than golf is biking. I didn’t fancy learning I’d been doing that wrong too.

I bit the bullet and went along last week to get tested. The fitter used the retul system which is an adjustable bike rig that setup to be an exact copy of my current bike setup. The advantage of using this rather than my bike is the rig can be endlessly adjusted whilst I’m sitting on it. A normal bike fit would require me to get off the bike to adjust it.

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The first question he asked was what type of fit I was interested in. I choose comfort as 99% of my riding is for fun.

The next question he asked was about my injury history. He was surprised when I said “I rarely get injured.” He said that question normally takes at least 30 minutes to discuss.  In my case it took 30 seconds.

We then did a series of physical tests. By the end of them he declared my legs were almost identical. Which explained my lack of injuries as most people have one side different to the other which leads to imbalances and injuries in the body when doing repetitious actions such as running and biking.

The only change he recommended after the physio exam is that my saddle is too small which I think is the polite way of telling me my ass is too wide

After that I had to sat on the bike as he attached monitoring points to various parts of my body, The points were mapped to the Retul system, so that all my stats could be accurately mapped.

As the system has done thousands of Retul fits a range of good stats has been set. His job as a fitter was to adjust my race position until my stats matched the good stats of a Retul rider.

After thirty minutes of riding as he made adjustments to the bike rig I went from mostly red numbered stats to mostly green.

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He then took my bike and adjusted the setup to match what he’d changed the rig too.

I asked him if I’d been riding incorrectly all these years. He looked at me and said “not incorrectly just differently to everyone else!”

I’m not sure that was a compliment.

Cheat Runs (Andrew)

Every runner has a ‘cheat run’.

For South African Sergio Motsoeneng it was the Comrades Marathon in 1999.

Sergio finished eighth however another runner complained to organisers that he hadn’t seen Sergio pass him during the race. An investigation checked photos of the race at various stages which showed not just a scar mysteriously appearing and disappearing from Sergio’s shin but also his watch jumping back and forth between his left and right wrist. Further investigation discovered the Sergio had a twin and that twin, Fika, had a scar on his shin. Under questioning, Sergio admitted that he’d swapped places with his twin throughout the race when one would run into a toilet and hide while the other would run out and join the race.

Sergio was banned from races for five years and when he was released he swore that he would never cheat again. But he must have swapped places with Fika when making this promise as, no sooner was Sergio free to race, when he failed a drugs test. He didn’t race again.

While I have never swapped places with Iain during a run, except in an official relay in primary school, I too have a cheat run. Just not on the scale of Sergio and Fika.

My cheat run is when I want to run 10 miles but want to do so in the easiest way possible. All I do is start beside the Whitelee Windfarm, near Eaglesham, and then run to Shawlands. A route which, apart from the first 100 metres, is entirely downhill.

Windfarm

It’s a cheat run.

I can run this even when I can’t run 10 miles on the flat. Yet, it still makes me think “wow, I can run 10 miles in training!” Of course it would be easier if I could just pop into the toilet after five miles and for Iain to take over but, in the absence of genetic based cheating, I’ll settle for running downhill all the way home.

Or a skateboard. Now that would be the easy way home!

 

Aerial Yoga (Iain)

On vacation I tried aerial yoga. Which is also known as trapeze yoga, flying yoga or “OMG, I’m going to die yoga!”

It’s a modern style of yoga that incorporates a low-hanging soft fabric hammock as well as a mat. Moves are done on a combination of mat and hammock or just hammock.

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Not me

There was only four of us in the class. My partner, who is a yoga teacher, a German girl who is a yoga teacher and the yoga teacher. I’m not a yoga teacher, I’m not even a particularly good yoga student. I realized I was more out of my depth than a dolphin summiting Mount Everest.

The teacher asked me to test the aerial hammock by sitting in it and then spinning round 360 degrees in the air so he could see if my head touched the ground as I spin past the floor. This didn’t seem the most safety conscious method of testing a hammock. It’s like testing a gun by pointing it at my head and asking if I see a bullet comes out when the trigger is pulled.

I spin 360 degrees in the hammock. My head flew past the mat. My hair nearly touched the mat. The teacher said “you need a higher hammock!”

He adjusted the height higher to remove the risk of decapitation but kept it low enough that there was still a chance of serious head trauma.

We started with some sun salutations. Some moves were done with the hammock i.e. leaning on it, or putting a leg up to it. This meant the moves were harder and more intense than a normal sun salutation.

“Good. Now you are warmed up we can start the class.” The teacher said.

I thought that was the start! I looked at the clock to see how long I had to wait until I could escape my aerial  deathtrap. Those salutations better count towards my time.

“We will do some inversions. Sit in the hammock. Put your hands like this.” He demonstrated a way to wrap the hands round the hammock. I copied him.

“Now spin round. Don’t worry, you won’t fall out”

I wasn’t worrying about falling out. I was too busy concentrating on my hands but, now that he’s mentioned falling out, that was all I can think of!

I tried to spin. I failed miserably. I can’t get my legs over my head. The instructor came over. He watched as I feebly tried to do it again. When I failed he grabbed my legs and before I could say “NO! I DON’T WANT TO DIE” he’s spun me 360 degrees!

“Excellent,” he looks pleased. “Now do it by yourself”

He went to help someone else. I tried to spin. I failed. So instead I stomped my foot loudly on the ground. He assumed the noise came from me stopping after doing a spin. “Did you succeed?”

I looked him straight in the eye and told him the truth “Yes – all the way round. I did it twice just to make sure”

“Great. Do it again so I can see.”

“Umm. I’m tired now….ummm…I’ll show you next time.”

The others stare at me knowing that I cheated.

The teacher heads back to the front of the class. “Lets do some High Intensity Interval Training….”

“Let’s not,” I think.

He demonstrated an upside down hanging in the air stomach crunch.

“Do it 20 times!!!”

I successfully crunch zero times.

Whilst hanging upside down trying to crunch I notice a man staring into the studio. I imagine he’s saying.

“Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No – its Superman….sorry. No. On second glance it’s not superman, it’s Iain. It looks like he’s hanging from the ceiling in a hammock. He doesn’t look well. His face has turned a funny color of red…”

At the end of the class the teacher asks “how are you all doing for time?” He doesn’t wait for an answer “Great. Lets continue!”

Noooooooooooooooooooo!

After another ten minutes of “flying” we get to leave. As I head my partner asks if my stomach muscles hurt after doing the HIIT crunches. I say “No – they feel fine!”

They did feel fine….until the next day when I feel like I’ve been used as a punchbag by Anthony Joshua.

Cycling Mount Teide (Iain)

Last week I visited Tenerife. It’s the the largest of the Canary Islands, 200 miles off the west coast of Africa. It’s a four-hour 30 minute flight from Glasgow which meant I had time for two beers, a bottle of coke, a packet of crisps, 100 pages of my book and an episode of The Grand Tour.

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The day before my holiday

For years cyclists such as Bradley Wiggins have come to Tenerife to escape the bad weather at home. Lance Armstrong used to come to escape drug testers (allegedly).

I wasn’t here to train but, as it was snowing at home, I was glad to escape the bad weather. I was on a family vacation but I was allowed one day off to cycle.

I decided to attempt the iconic Mount Tiede climb. Tiede is the a volcano that dominates the island landscape. The road to it reaches a height of 2250m. Its not the highest road climb in Europe but it is the longest continuous ascent as it starts from sea level and doesn’t flatten out or go down until you get near the top.

I was staying in the southern town of Adeje.  I had an all inclusive deal which meant the hardest part of the ride was resisting ordering free beers the day before.

Initially I’d planned toe climb Tiede via the most direct route i.e Adeje to Los Christianos and then TF-28, TF- 51, TF-21 but I’d driven that route previously and got scared by a) the amount of traffic on TF-28 and the steepness of TF-21.

I frantically googled other options and settled on a longer climb which was supposedly on a much quieter road: Adeje to Guia de Isora via TF-82 then up to Aripe to join the TF-38.

I set off as soon as the sun came up. I was slightly apprehensive as cycling on Spanish roads always scares me due to the speed at which cars approach and enter roundabouts. The climbing started from the moment I left the hotel. The first section to the TF-82 was very quiet. I barely so a car or person.

The roundabout at the start of TF-82 was scary. Multiple lanes and lots of fast cars. I did what any coward would do in my situation. I got off my bike and used the pedestrian crossings to get round it. Once on the TF-82 the road was quiet all the way to Guia de Isora. The road has a large hard shoulder so even when a car did pass at speed it didn’t come near me.

It was at this point I realized I’d made an error and forgotten to take any money with me. I had two bottle of water and seven gels. I decided that would hopefully be enough and if not I could always ask another cyclist to lend me a euro for water.

The next section was very difficult. The town of Aripe was so steep I had to push my bike through it. I made the mistake of leaning my bike against a wall to take a picture to demonstrate how steep it was. Unfortunately the bike fell and one of my water bottles fell out and rolled all the way back down through the town. I had to walk down and then do the climb again!

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A quick rest

Once onto the TF-38 it’s a straightforward 23KM climb up onto the volcanic desert of Tiede. The road surface was amazing and there was hardly a car on it. The road cuts through the forest below Tiede which helpfully meant a lot of the ride was shaded from the sun.

I climbed 5KM at a time before stopping to admire the view and drink some water.

The last section was the desert. Great views but busier roads.  I cycled until I reached Los Rocques. The last high point before it dips down to the road to the cable cars that take tourists to the top of Tiede. I didn’t bother with that bit as I’d been there by car. There isn’t much to see other than a toilet and a load of tourists queing for tickets and the loo!

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My Top!

I went down the direct route to Los Christianos. The road was busy the closer I got to sea level. By the end it was a little too busy for my liking. On the way down I spotted some professionals going up. Team UAE, Team Astana and Team Chris Froome! He’s a team as he was the only one I passed who didn’t have team mates.  For some reason he was training by himself with just a Sky car for company. It’s as if he’s got something to hide…

All the teams were going up the hill faster than I was going down. Which shows you how quick they are and how much of a big Jessie I am when descending.

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The Route

Know Your Place (Andrew)

Here’s an ethical question for you: is it okay to use the disabled toilet if you are not actually disabled?

Not that I would. Or did. Or do. But, if I had or was thinking of doing so, then I would know that it’s much more spacious than your average loo. It also comes with its own sink I’m guessing, not that I would know…

It’s a kind of like a special private deluxe toilet for those who want, well, a special experience. a touch of luxury, and, if they  went to the disabled toilet in my last office, a selection of toothpastes and condoms from a vending machine.

The strange thing was that the normal toilet didn’t have a vending machine. Only the disabled toilet, which was on the other side of the hall. Why the disabled toilet were offered a range of goods for ‘her pleasure’ was never explained. It was a mystery matched only by electrical wiring that meant any flick off a light switch was a lottery as to whether you had to flick up or down to switch a light on.

But not as strange as another office where, in response to transgender issues, decided the only way to sort out the toilets was to change all the disabled toilets in disabled/other, which I’m pretty sure is offensive to everyone involved.

Anyways, I was thinking about toilets because they’re one of those everyday things where we have to decide on what is the right thing to do. There is no law which says a disabled toilet has to be used by a disabled person. We all decide what is right and what is wrong and make our choices accordingly. The only thing about our choice of toilet is that it’s usually a private moment. Not something you do in public. Unless you’re Paula Radcliffe.

Runners though have a very public moment when they need to make a moral choice. At the start of every race they must everyone and position themselves to match their expected finish time.

While most people will be honest, there are some who try and move to the front and start with faster runners just so they have less people ahead of them when they start running. If anyone could enter the 100m at the Olympics I bet you now that someone would stand in front of Uisean Bolt on the basis that “Stuff him, at least I’ve got a clear view”.

This selfish view is one I don’t understand because those runners are missing out on one of the big thrills of running – and that’s running faster than other people.

I think there is a macho problem to running which makes people skip ahead. at big races there are boards boasting of the times that you’ll run. 1 hour 40 minutes. 1 hour 35 minutes. If you start next to here then you’ll be seen as a fast athlete. But start at the three hour point and you want as well say “Wait, you don’t expect me to run this, do you?!”.

That’s why I’d change the signs to the number of people you’ll run pass. Join the two hour sing and find out that you’ll run pass 200 people. Join the 1 hour 30 minutes sign and you’ll only run pass 10. If you’re looking to boast look no further than boasting about the number of people you beat.

Start at the back and you’ll enjoy your race much more than trying to stay at the start. It’s more fun. It’s easier to run. In fact, there’s no other choice, if you want a little convenience..!

Don’t be dull (Iain)

The phrase “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” famously featured in the film The Shining. I thought the phrase was written for the film/book but it was actually first used in a book by James Howel in 1659. Little is known about James other than he worked with a man called Jack who was boring as f**k!

The phrase is equally true when applied to sport. Some people can be so obsessed with their running/biking or yoga that they have no other interests.

I know because I have been that boring bastard.

Back in 2012 I took part in the annual L’etape du Tour bike sportive. A race that allows amateur cyclists to ride a closed road stage of the Tour de France. It was my ultimate bike race. The one I needed to do over any other.

I became obsessed with race to the detriment of any other interest. I trained every weekend, I read everything there was to read about it.

I did the race and then….I became depressed.

I’d done my life cycling goal. Do I do it again? Do I do it faster? What next?

I thought maybe a different race is what I needed so I researched other big races. None of which excited me. I was still depressed.

Then I realized it. I wasn’t depressed. I was bored of myself. I’d become a one dimensional person. I was a biker but nothing else.

If I was bored of myself then Christ knows what anyone else thought of me!

So I vowed from that moment on to always vary my interests. For every sporting hobby, I have to have a non-sporting hobby too.

Since then I’ve tried stand up comedy (badly), acting (badly) and painting (badly)

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My art tutor taught me how to paint fruit and how to paint people so he shouldn’t have been surprised when my graduation piece ended up being a fruit that looks like a person!

Both my girlfriend and Andrew’s had nightmares after seeing what I’ve entitled – Lemon Maradonna. Which makes me slightly proud. At least its not dull.

The Didnae-try-athlon (Iain)

There are many different types of triathlon event. The regular one is the swim/bike/run format but there is also:

The Wanderlust (https://wanderlust.com/gbr/) – A 5K run followed by a 90 minute yoga session and a 30 minute meditation. I’d spend the 30 minutes meditation thinking: “When can I leave?”

The Macnab (http://www.macnabchallenge.co.uk/) – A triathlon for the hunting/shooting set. It’s so posh it should be called ‘Downtonman’. To achieve a Maacnab you have to shoot a deer and a brace of grouse and catch a salmon on the same estate in a 24-hour period. If you’ve done a Macnab then shame on you. You’ve killed Bambi.

The Didnae-try-athlon – Everyone has one of these. An event you entered, you had high hopes for but, on the day, you just did-nae try.

My didnae-try-athlon was the 2008 Rat Race. This was a combination of orienteering, mountain biking, climbing and canoeing.

I did it in a team of three. None of us had ever done an adventure race. We were not well prepared. One friend had a bad back, one had a broken bike and I had a terrible hangover from an after work drinking session.

The first part of the race involved a bike ride to an office block. We had to abseil down the side of the office. This sounded good but, in reality, it was a short bike ride then a long wait in a queue for the 60 seconds it took to abseil down.

We then biked to the next point where we had to climb down a rock face. This again sounded good but, in reality, it was another short bike ride and another long wait for a very short climb.

I asked the organizer of the event what would happen if we skipped the task.

He said “Your team gets a 15 minute penalty.”

“Is that the same for all tasks?”

“Yes,” he confirmed.

The next task was four miles away. A 15 minute penalty was much less than the time it would take to get there and do the task. If we missed out all the remaining tasks it would only be a penalty of a couple of hours. That would have been much less time than it would take to do them all.

I conferred with my team. Should we just go straight to the finish and win this? Even with penalties we’d be hours ahead of anyone else.  They thought this was a great idea so we went straight there… via the pub.

After a delicious burger/pint and dessert we made it to finish.

I’d like to say the organizers were pleased to greet ‘the winners’. They weren’t. They didn’t think what we were doing was sportsmanlike. I’d argue that it wasn’t our fault their rules allowed this to happen! We were disqualified.

After the organizers had finished being annoyed with us, a camera crew came over. “Are you the winners of the race? We’re here from Brazilian TV” To this day I have no idea why Brazilian TV was at an event in Edinburgh.

I owned up and said “Sorry, no. You’ll have to wait a while for them. They won’t be here for a few more hours”.

The Brazilian TV presenter looked unhappy and said “We need to leave now. Can we just interview you anyway?”

I like to think millions of Brazillians saw my interviw where I said: “It was good race. I’m pleased with our victory especially as we didnae try”.

And they all turned to each other and went “what the f%&K word is didnae?”

Sweet tooth (Andrew)

Sunday lunch in Yorkshire a couple of months ago: a warm inn on a dreich day as I tuck into a hot plate filled with slices of roast beef, vegetable and pudding – the identifier Yorkshire being unnecessary in this plain speaking Shire.

“Yorkshire puddin’? It’s jus’ puddin’ round these parts! There ain’ no other kind o’puddin’!”

And, for pudding itself (the sweet kind, not the suet kind, thus proving there is more than one type of pudding) I choose a selection of cheeses, because I am a triathlete and trying to be good.

(Also all the puddings had nuts and I can’t eat nuts because of a mild allergy, but I told myself I was being strong for races).

“Do you have any biscuits to go with the cheese?” I ask, not unreasonably

“Of course”, says the waiter, and then, unexpectedly, he pulls out a large flat drawer from a cabinet against the wall to my left, and places it with a flourish in the centre of the table; not batting an eyelid or pan lid at this impromptu act of dismantling dining room furniture.

“Enjoy”, says the waiter, leaving the large drawer on the table; which I now see is filled with open packets of water biscuits, oatcakes and crumbly digestives.

How strange.

I can’t help but wait until the waiter’s back is turned before I peek into more drawers –  just to check if they contain a similar surprise hoard of savoury snacks. I want to find a pork chop in a folio desk; a cabinet stuffed with nothing but carrots; or condiments in the cupboard, saucy and secret. But, sadly, they are empty.

I wonder if this is what Ann Summers means by ‘edible drawers’ but I don’t want to go into one of her shops to find out.

But why are all the biscuits contained in this drawer? And why bring the drawer out and not just the biscuits?

Perhaps I was witnessing the act of a snack-aholic. Hiding biscuits away in unusual locations so that no one knows exactly how bad their snacking has become. A real crack(er) addict.

Or perhaps the drawer was just a marketing gimmick, a unique way of making you remember the meal long after the taste has long been forgotten.

Remember that restaurant in Yorkshire, you’ll say.

What restaurant?

The one with a drawer filled full of biscuits!

Oh, that one! How delightful and quaint! A meal that was – *groan* – truly top drawer!

Anyways, I tell this story for one reason only – watch out for savoury snacks, even when you’re trying to be good, always order a proper pudding!