Tag: training

Reykjavik 10k (Iain)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whats your best time? (Iain)

A few years ago, I did an acting course where I performed a scene in front of an audience at the Citizen’s theatre in Glasgow.

The  scene was a conversation between a serial killer and the landlady of a bed and breakfast. I was the serial killer. The acting tutor said I was perfect for the part. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing!

The other actor was an older woman. The first thing she asked me at rehearsal was: “What accent are you going to use?”

“My own,” I replied, “but louder so the people at the back can hear me.”

On the night of the show it seemed to go well. I was myself but louder and she performed the scene with a perfect Yorkshire accent

Afterwards, the tutor said to her:  “You were amazing! You transformed yourself and inhibited that character. You could easily work in theatre.”

He then turned to me.

“As long as you enjoyed yourself.”

I did enjoy myself. I was a terrible actor but I’d set myself the challenge of acting in front of an audience and I’d achieved it.

So, recently, when asked by a fellow triathlete what my best time for a race was, I replied: “I don’t know my best time but I can tell you the race I enjoyed the most”

Because enjoyment should always come before performance.

The sound of silence (Andrew)

I listen to voices in my head. Not in a mental way. Not in a ‘They’re all out to get you!’ type way. I mean Podcast voices. Intelligent voices that talk about science and design, movies and sport. Voices from Radiolab and 99% Invisible. Interviews from Desert Island Discs. Voices that make you smarter.

I used to listen to the music in my head until, a few years ago, I ran the Lossiemouth half marathon while listening to Radiohead’s King of Limbs.

Music should make you run faster. You feet should follow the beat as you pound the streets in time with the music.

Unless you’re listening to Radiohead.

Unless you’re listening to Radiohead at their most experimental, which in this context means: “without any hint of a tune, melody, beat or any sense of where one song finishes and the next begins”.

I swear the first mile of the half marathon felt like I was running in ultra-slow motion. 10 years passed while I passed just one house. Another decade passed and Thom Yorke’s only just sung his first decipherable word. A century passes and, in the distance, I can just see the one mile marker.

I stopped. I had to. I wouldn’t normally take out my phone during a race but I had to change the music. It was treacle. It was the aural equivalent of queuing at the Post Office.  (Which I always thought was the worst thing to do in all the world until I realised there was one thing worse than that – working at the Post Office).

I switched to Kanye West’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Fantasy’.

“HE’S A MUTHA*********ING MONNNNNNSSSSSTTTTTEEEEERR!”

It was an instant boost. I was flying. It was the aural equivalent of whatever Sir Mo Farah’s on – which, for the avoidance of doubt and for any of Sir Mo’s lawyers reading this, is only Quorn sausages and hard work.

Music matters.

But I have a problem with listening to music. I count the songs as I run. If I’m listening to an album I know that I will need to run for 50 minutes to hear it all and I don’t like thinking “Oh, that’s the first song finished, that’s three minutes done, just another 47 to go. Groan…”

I had to stop listening to music. Instead I switched to Podcasts, to speech, and not knowing how long I was listening to it.

But, this last month, I’ve been trying a new idea. I’ve been listening to… nothing.

I’ve left my phone at home.

Because I have this idea, that I’ve been concentrating on the wrong thing. I’ve been concentrating on the latest scientific news, the six songs you’d choose on your desert island, but I’ve not been concentrating on running. I don’t think about form or technique or anything other than what I’ve been listening to.

So, instead, I’ve tried to run without headphones. An experiment, now three weeks old, and one I’ll report back on in a few weeks – and you’ll be the first to hear how I’ve got on.

(But not while you’re running, obviously).

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! 🙂

The Hebridean Way (Iain)

Andrew and I grew up on the Isle of Lewis. It’s the furthest north and west you can go in the UK before you get to Iceland. Although we moved away from Lewis after university, our parents still live here.

I had some vacation days to use so I decided to pop up and see them….and get some biking and running in.

The Isle of Lewis is famed for three things – Harris tweed, sheep and rocks. The stone is called Lewisian gneiss and it’s a group of rocks three billion years old. The only rock group older is The Rolling Stones.

If you want to see more rock than you’d find in a Fast & Furious film, visit the Isle of Harris. Harris is joined to Lewis and it’s only a forty minute drive from where my parents stay in Stornoway.

I’ve only ever driven around Harris – except for one disastrous half marathon attempt

The Harris half marathon is a point to point race starting in southern Harris and ending at the capital Tarbert, in the north. I got so drunk the night before the race I struggled to get to the start on time. Thankfully my dad drove me.

Before the race began I said to my dad to wait ten minutes and then drive along the course and check up on me. Due to my hangover I wasn’t confident about finishing

The race started. Everyone else started running. I started vomiting. This was going to be a long day…

I waited for the heaving to stop and then started running. I lasted five minutes and then threw up again.

I scanned the road hoping to spot my dad driving towards me. There was no sign of him, I wanted to stop. I checked my distance. 13 miles to go.

I jogged on. My head hurt and I was rough as… and I scanned the road for my dad. No sign of him. 12 miles to go

I restarted my death march. The world was spinning before my eyes and I wanted to go to bed. Still no sign of him. 11 miles to go.

No sign of him. 10 miles to go!

Where is he? 9 miles to go!

Oh God. I think I’m going to die. 8 miles to go!

What do you mean the next four miles are up hill???? 7 miles to go

This is harder than trying to climb Mount Everest without oxygen…with no shoes …in underpants! 6 miles to go.

I see him! YES! Screw this race I’m out of here….oh. That’s not him. Just a car that looks similar. Oh Lord. Make this end. 5 miles to go.

If I drink all the water at this water stop will it dilute the alcohol and make me feel better? 4 miles to go.

Downhill. Weeeeeeeee. I’m flying now. 3 miles to go.

I think I’m last. 2 miles to go!

I’ll kill my dad when I see him! 1 mile to go,

There’s a big crowd at the finish line. They spot me. They start cheering and whooping. The crowd are going wild! One man shouts “you can do it!” Wow I didnt expect such a big reaction. I raise my hand to thank them. They must be really impressed by my effort. Wait a sec. I cross the finish line but the man’s still shouting. “You can do it”. He doesn’t need to say that. I’ve done it.

I turn around, I’m not the only finisher. They weren’t cheering me. The were cheering a man behind me. An  80 year old man!

After the race I ask my Dad why he didn’t come, He said he wanted to teach me a lesson. He certainly did – I will never rely on him for a lift again!

Extreme to the max to the edge to the limit!!! (Andrew)

I want to walk on the moon.

I want to follow in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin because… moon men are fannys!

I’ll show them how a real man walks on the moon!

Take Neil Armstrong. He could have said anything when he opened that door and stepped out onto the lunar surface. He wanted to talk about what a giant leap it was for mankind. Me, I’d have said “Does anyone smell cheese? Because this moon is made from chedder!”

That joke, copyright me, aged 7.

Instead, he went for the safe route, the boring route, the route of the second man on the moon, Buzz Aldrin. Why was he called Buzz? Because he was NASA’s B man….

That joke, copyright me, aged 39.

No-one remember Buzz because he was the man holding the camera, not the one posing in front of it. Buzz was an intergalactic skivvy whose sole job was to avoid getting his thumb on the lens and to make sure he’d didn’t cut off Neil Armstrong’s head when he planted the flag.

Of course, today, Buzz would have been in the shot because he’d have taken a ‘moon selfie’ and he and Neil would have trout pouted on the surface before taking an artfully lit photo of their space rations and captioned it “Trying to open your breakfast while wearing space gloves 🙂 #firstmoonproblems #yolo #blessed.”

But, if Buzz had been smart, he could have been more famous than Neil Armstrong. I don’t know about you, but when I’m driving, I always need to go to the toilet. It’s something about the rhythm, the bumpiness of the journey, but within five miles I’m desperate for the loo. Imagine doing that for three days. Cooped up in lunar module. The door opens. What do you do? I know, what I’d do. I’d have a pish in the nearest crater. That’s if I could wait that long. Neil would be half through his speech when –

“It’s a small step for man, it’s a giant – PENIS. MY GOD, MAN, PUT IT AWAY.”

I tell you what I don’t get. Why the push to be the biggest, best, furthest, fastest? It’s always extremes. But there are two sides. Fast must have slow. Best has worst. When skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped from space, I wanted to show the world instead the shortest skydive in history: me, lying down on the floor and not moving for twenty seconds.

While Usain Bolt breaks record books I’d take part in the 100 metres by having a picnic on the Olympic track. I’d be munching on a plum tomato and not making any move to move even an inch. The stadium could go home. I’d go home. I’d get a good nights kip and, in the morning, or maybe the afternoon, or maybe even the next day, or year, I’d come back and I’d cross the line. F*ck it, I might never cross it because I’m the world’s slowest man.

And I was thinking about this because I read this letter in the latest issue of 220 Triathlon.

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And part of me thought: “When did Triathlon progression become a race to Iron distance?” Progression is not just about going longer and longer until you’re running, swimming and cycling all day? You progress by getting faster, or getting better at a part of the race, or by just enjoying it more no matter what speed you go.

So, part of me rebels and says “I don’t want to go to the moon”.

At least not yet.

At least not first.

It wouldn’t be special. I’d wait until everyone else has gone. My mum, my dad, the folk I went to school with, even Steven Hawking in his wheelchair, and when, and only when, everyone else in the world has been will I go. Me, Andrew Todd, the last man on the moon!

Use As Directed (Andrew)

“Stick it where the sun don’t shine!” is a threat, not an instruction. Top tip: do not confuse the two – you will regret it!

Let me explain.

Around 10 years ago I was taking part in the Caledonian Challenge, a 54 mile walking challenge from Fort William to Loch Lomond and following the West Highland Way.

I was walking with three team mates. It was our first challenge of this type and we had no idea what we were doing.

We’d barely trained. We’d walked 20 miles along the Fife coastal path and, while using walking poles to help us get used to using them in action, we were spotted by a local gang in Kirkcaldy. “Oi, yous!” They shouted, “‘ave yous lost yer skis?”.

Which was very funny – if you’re not the prat trying to keep his dignity while walking with walking poles outside a chip shop in Kirkcaldy.

After that, we let training slide and we thought we could just turn up at Fort William and wing it.

Big mistake.

But not our biggest.

Our biggest was not reading the instructions. If we had, we’d have spotted that long distance walkers wear tight fitting cycle shorts and not, I repeat NOT, ordinary boxers.

Why?

Let’s just say one word – friction – and leave it at that.

Or, if that doesn’t help, let’s just say one phrase – don’t let Tarzan swing free – and leave it at that.

Okay, okay, let’s just spell it out. If you don’t have tight fitting shorts then there’s a whole lotta rubbing going on down there in a 54 mile walk. The kind of rubbing that a boy scout could use to start a fire.

By mile 40 we’d realised our mistake. We were the bow-legged walkers. If you’d seen us you’d have shouted “Oi, lads, ‘ave yous lost yer horses?”. We looked like cowboys, felt like pillocks – until one of us had an idea.

“We’ve got sun-cream!” He said.

“So?”

“It’s a lubricant, isn’t it?”

“Is it?”

“Well, it’s wet.”

And, with that rigorous debate over, three of the four us were hiding behind a bush, trousers round our ankles and applying sun-cream to areas that frankly the sun had only ever shined out of.

Five minutes later, no longer bow-legged: “This is BRILLIANT!”

And it was.

For five more minutes. Then the first cry went up.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH”

The second cry went up.

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK”

The third cry went up.

“JAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYZZZZZZZZZZZUUUUUUSSSSCCCCCCHHHHHRRRIIISSSSTTTTT!”

Then we all fell down.

It was agony. It turns out sun cream is not a lubricant at all. It was chilli oil. There was heat and pain in places that only a Mexican who’s followed on a red hot burrito will ever experience.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH”

But, it wasn’t the worst thing to happen that day.

It turns out one of us had an even smarter (dumber) idea. He’d said he didn’t need to use the cream however it was only after the race that we found out why.

He’d wrapped zinc oxide tape around his toes to prevent chafing and blistering. Then, in a move that only the Darwin Awards can truly appreciate, he’d decided he should use the leftover tape on other parts of his body that might be subject to chafing.

He, and, well, let me be delicate about it, had wrapped, um, Tarzan’s hanging baskets in tape.

And it worked. He didn’t feel a thing for the entire race.

He was very smug… until he got home.

Then he realised that the only way to take the tape off was to rip it off.

And when it was ripped off, it took everything with it. Every little and not so little hair.

He spent three hours in the bath hoping the tape would soak and fall off naturally.

It didn’t.

He had no choice. He had to let it rip.

He had smooth toes.

And Tarzan was bald.

“AAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!”

He never used zinc oxide again.

Challenge Weymouth 2014 (Iain)

Next weekend we’re both racing Ironman Edinburgh. It’s three years since we last did a middle distance triathlon (1.8KM swim, 55 mile bike, 13.1 mile run). Here’s how we got on last time…

Up until 2014, the UK “Challenge” triathlon had taken place in Henley-on-Thames. A place so posh it needs hyphens. The people of Henley hated the triathlon. The closed road race would often be interrupted by a Range Rover or Aston Martin. The locals having decided that closed only meant closed to cheap cars.

In 2013, Andrew and I entered Challenge Henley, a middle distance triathlon. It was well organised and, as it was at the end of the summer, we could train for it when the weather was good rather than over the winter. We enjoyed it so much we wanted to do it again but the locals had decreed no more triathlon so the race moved to Weymouth.

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Weymouth is a place that doesn’t need hyphens. If you love ice cream, chips and donkey rides then this is the town for you. It’s also worth a visit if you want to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper recreated as a sandcastle.

We drove down on the Friday before the race. We wanted the extra day to get ready and recover from the drive. Google maps said it would take 8 hours but it doesn’t take into account any other cars or roadworks. It was closer to 12 hours. We should have got a medal for just getting there.

There’s plenty of accommodation in the area. We stayed in an ex Ministry Of Defence building that was used to test bombs. This meant the walls were so thick, WiFi and mobile phones didn’t work.

Registration/Setup

Registration took place at the pier, which is the end point of the race. The transition areas for the swim/bike/run was about a mile and a half away along the beach. This is ok but it meant you have to work out where to park your car on race morning. Do you want a long walk to the start but be close to the finish or vice versa?

Registration takes a couple of minutes and we were given all the usual – a race number, a tattoo of the number and different colored bags to put our transition stuff in. One for the bike, one for the run and one for post event.

We went back to the hotel to sort everything out. Once we had all the stuff ready we headed over to transition. At this point my brother remembered that he had not put any his bags into the car. So it was back to the hotel…and then back to transition! As a forfeit he had to buy me dinner. I picked the expensive options.

Swim

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The hotel was open for breakfast from 3AM so I popped along at 5AM for some Weetabix. There was a few others eating. They all had Weetabix too except one man who was having a full English breakfast. I assume he was just a hungry insomniac rather than an athlete.

We choose to park nearer to the finish than the start. As we walked along the beach to transition  we noticed just how fierce the waves were. A quick check of Twitter (always a useful reference to find out whats going on) revealed the waves were so strong the course was going to be altered and the full length race was going to be shortened. Our race would be delayed by 30 minutes.

This meant a long cold wait by the sea as we watched the full distance athletes struggle in the waves. I’d swam in similar conditions last year in a charity event in fife. That day the weather was so bad the Women’s Golf open was cancelled. I hadn’t enjoyed it as it became an exercise in survival rather than fun. I wasn’t looking forward to the swim!

Luckily it calmed down slightly by the time we were due to start so we decided to give it a go. After all, whats the worse that can happen?

It was two laps out and back to a buoy. The way out was very choppy. I quickly lost my brother in the swell. Sighting was straightforward as there was so many folk around I just followed everyone else. I actually quite enjoyed it but it probably helped that I’d been swimming in the sea whilst on holiday the week before so I was used to the salt.

I finished the swim in about 45 minutes.

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Transition 

We have an agreement that we wait for each other in transition. As neither of us is going to win the race we just race each other so all we care about it the times for each section. I had a 10 minute wait for him before he turned up. He said he was delayed as he’d gone for a spin on a boat! If I knew that was an option then I’d have taken it. He had felt fine on lap 1 but, near the end of lap 2, he was sick so had to hitch a lift on the boat so he could be ill. Luckily it was just all the salt that had upset his stomach – or maybe he’d ordered a full English breakfast when I wasn’t looking.

Bike

Experts say you shouldn’t change anything before a race. I decided to ignore that advice and put aero bars on my bike and I adjusted my seating position. I’d never used aero bars and I was surprised at just how great they were! I’m going to use them all the time now. [NOTE: I wrote this in 2014. I’ve barely used them since!] The race was one lap of 55 miles into the countryside. It was fairly flat with some slight hills. I saw some riders getting off their bikes and walk up the hills. They should move to Scotland and learn what real hills are like.

Highlights of the ride was passing a Tank Museum. The speed signs on the road to it had separate speed limits for tanks and cars.

I enjoyed the bike ride and I finished it in 3hrs 10min

Transition 

I waited for about 15 minutes for my brother. He likes watching his speedometer and keeping to a steady pace whilst I don’t bother with any tech and just cycle faster when I feel good and slower when I don’t. I think this is why he is better at going up hills than me but I’m usually better on flatter courses.

Run

Annoyingly the run was 15 miles. Which I thought was a bit unfair, as it was a half marathon race not a half and a bit race. We had no choice in the matter so off we went. The course was two and a half laps of the seafront taking in a section past all the pubs called “the beer mile.”

Whilst on the run we passed a section of beach which contained just one man: one man playing the bagpipes. One man playing the bagpipes badly. It was clear why he had that part of the beach to himself. Even in one of the most southern parts of England there was still a reminder of home.

The run was good and I dropped my brother after half way as his chat was dull 🙂 I then made a fatal error! I thought I’d run for a bit with headphones on. I didn’t realise doing so is a complete no-no! I do it on all running races so I assumed it was okay here. I’d find out about it at the end when I wanted to check my result….

I finished the run in 2hr 3min and then hung about for 15 minutes until my brother finished.

We both checked the distance on our watches and it had only been 13.1 miles so we were thankful it had been changed from 15. It later transpired this change meant the full distance runners didn’t do a full marathon. Their race was 4k short.

Overall

It was a good well organised race in a nice part of the world. Both myself and my brother beat our time from last year on all three disciplines so we were happy. Afterwards I went to check our times and found out

A) My brother had been DQ’d. It turns out a ride in a boat isn’t allowed

B) I was marked as “withdrawn from race” which was news to me! I then found out it was due to been spotted wearing headphones.

Luckily neither of us care about the final result other than who beat who and we still got our medal 🙂

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Aberfeldy Middle Distance – Bike Course (Iain)

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Whilst Andrew was failing to escape from Alcatraz, I was in Aberfeldy visiting our parents. They were staying here, instead of at home in the Western Isles, as my Dad had a hospital appointment to attend.

During his appointment he had to sit a memory test. To pass, the test required a score of at least 82 out of 100. If he failed then he could lose his driving licence.

This seems very unfair as I only needed 40% to pass my university exams and, with that limited knowledge, I’ve been in charge of things much more dangerous than a car.

During the test, one of the question was name an object beginning with P. He said penis. My mum was appalled. He was then asked to name the President of the United States, he couldn’t remember. I suspect he’d have got it correct if he’d also said a penis!

The Aberfelday Middle Distance Triathalon bike route starts in Kenmore. The town is famous for being the place where the first cast of the salmon season takes place. Less well known is it’s a town evil Iranian dictator Colonal Gaddafi bought property in!

http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/14496744.Libya_claims_ally_of_Gaddafi_bought_hotels_in_Highlands/

I wonder if any other dictators have property in Scotland? Maybe North Korea’s Kim Jung Un has a little flat in Saltcoats? Maybe Syrian President Bashir likes nothing better than a day on the beach at Prestonpans?

Unfortunately, I’m away when the Aberfeldy race is on, but, if you are doing the event, here’s what you need to know.

The first three miles are flat. There is a single lane bridge with traffic lights in Kenmore. I assume a marshal will be here and wave bikes through if it’s clear otherwise your race would stop before it’s barely began.

After three miles of flat it’s nearly five miles of uphill. It’s a straightforward climb but keep a look out for the turn onto the Schiehallion road. I missed it and had to turn back. Again, I assume a marshal will be at this point.

Once on to the Schiehallion road it’s mostly flat and fast but there are some tight corners where you can’t see what’s coming. I had to brake in case a car was coming the other way. The roads aren’t very wide so I didn’t want to drift into a car’s way. The descent on the way down to Kinloch Rannoch had two steep sections with tight corners.

Once in Kinloch Rannoch its virtually flat all the way round the loch. The road was good quality and I used tri bars all the way round.

The climb back up Schiehallion isn’t as bad as the first time as there’s less of it! It’s then virtually downhill all the way back although watch out as some of the corners are tight.

Overall it’s a enjoyable ride. Nearly 850m of climbing but with lots of places you can get the head down and bike fast.

Escape From Alcatraz – Swim (Andrew)

Athletes, listen, this is an important announcement! You must –

Pfffffftt. Ziiipppp. Fffffuutttt. PA broken. Silence.

I’m waiting in transition. I’m wearing a wetsuit and trainers. I should be swimming in San Francisco bay but I’m not – the 2017 Escape From Alcatraz swim has been cancelled (for the first time ever!) and I’m waiting to find out what happens next.

It was an early start, 4am alarm, but, with the time difference between UK and the US it still felt like mid-morning. I got an Uber to transition, having left my bike there yesterday, the first time they’ve let people rack up on the Saturday. I didn’t know at this point it wasn’t the only weekend ‘first’ .

At transition I have plenty of time to set up my gear (unroll towel, check bike helmet, 10 seconds, done), check bike for air (press both tyres down with my thumb, 5 seconds each) and then catch a bus to the boat which takes you out to Alcatraz (just a couple of minutes to catch the bus).

The last bus leaves at 6am but, as I wasn’t sure of queues, I’d  got to transition early and after completing my rigorous and thorough transition routine… I was on the bus by 5am, which was too early. I was on the boat by 5:30 and had two hours to wait until the swim start.

On the boat, a former sternwheeler (I Googled this), you get divided by age: over 40 onto the top deck, under 40 on the main deck. In case you forget how old you are you can check your leg: at registration they write your age in black marker on your left hamstring.

I’m under 40, and with my memory intact, I don’t even need to check when asked, so I get to sit on the main desk. As I’m there early, there’s plenty of places to sit, so I sit down.

Sorry, you can’t sit there.

The man to my left is indicating an empty space of 10 metres.

My friend’s just coming back.”

It’s okay, I’m sure we’ll both fit.

I sit down and then worry that a man with a 10 metre wide butt will sit on me. Luckily, when the friend returns, he has a normal size butt – as do the two others who later join us. Not that I was checking out butts. But how much room does one butt need?! Even Sir Mix-A-Lot, the world expert on big butts and a man who cannot lie, would have said there was room for plenty of butts on that part of the boat.

I close my eyes. Listen to random conversation and think about the swim.

I’m nervous. Scared. But I have a secret weapon. Last night I left a water bottle in the fridge and I plan to pour it on my face and down my back before jumping into the bay. I think the cold water will help me acclimatise before I plunge in.

But, I never get to check that theory. At 6:30am, just as we’re due to sail to the start, a man with a loudspeaker tells us to be quiet and to listen to the PA. The PA then tells us that there’s been a “small craft advisory warning “and that the “swim is cancelled“.

There’s a loud groan. A protest. We’re asked to leave the boat and it’s still not clear why.

People talk about refunds. About ditching the whole event. One man says he can’t run or ride a bike, the only reason he was here was for the swim. Others talk in foreign languages. People travelling around he world to be here. And the swim, the iconic swim from Alcatraz back to San Francisco is cancelled.

Now I know how Al Capone must have felt – there was no escape from Alcatraz today.

Later, I find out that the wind and current was too strong even for the safety boats. The small craft warning was a warning that the kayaks and paddle boards who marshal the swim would not cope with the conditions. And if it was too dangerous for the safety boats it was too dangerous for swimmers.

I’m disappointed. I’d travelled a quarter of the world to.be here but I know safety comes first. And, after seeing the bay later, with whitecaps heading east, rather than west, and with winds hitting 35mph, it was the right call.

We queue to get back on the buses. It takes nearly two hours to get everyone back to transition. We still don’t know what’s happening but announcements say that a bike run race will take place and details will follow.

I keep warm by staying in my dry wetsuit. I thought of pouring the frozen water on my head just so I can have the Alcatraz experience but that would have been a stupid idea.

At transition, the PA gives our just as the announcement of the new race is made: “Athletes, listen, this is an important announcement – you must –

We gather at the entrance instead as a loudspeaker is found. The organisers will send us out in waves. Pros first then by number, five at a time, every 10 seconds, to ensure people are spread out along the course just as they would be if they’d completed the swim.

I finally take off my wetsuit and get ready to… ESCAPE FROM TRANSITION!