Tag: triathlon

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!

Ultra Iron Mega Badass Brutal Hardcore Three Legged Race (Andrew)

What’s in a name?

I’m reading ‘Iron War’, the story of the 1989 Ironman championship and the battle between two of the greatest ever triathletes – but also a history of the spot of triathlon itself as it places the race in context.

The book tells the story of how Ironman got it’s name. It referred to the iron will needed by competitors to compete the challenging conditions of Kona in Hawaii. It wasn’t the fastest who would win, or the most physically capable, the winner instead was the one with the iron willpower to compete through draining heat and strength sapping head winds.

The name fitted the course – if not female competitors, is it not time for IronWoman? And, as such, it stuck.

But it struck me that many races have followed this template. They’re named after their defining characteristic. Usually the place the race takes place. The London Marathon. The Great Scottish Run. Or they describe the worst aspects of the course. Slateman refers to the slate covered hills of Snowdonia. Brutalfest has a series of races that are, well, brutal.

It’s human nature, it seems, to concentrate on the worst that could happen. All race organisers are pessimists.

I realised this while in Iceland this week on holiday. I was checking out all the tourist spots and I was reading the guides for each place and, in every one, they seemed to tell the same story. The name of the place was always the name of a tragedy that had happened there.

In the town of Borgarne, the bay was named after a man who was stoned to death on it’s shore. The waterfalls of Hraunfosser were named after the children who fell to their death. The entire country is basically a a cross between a OS map and a graveyard.

But what about the hundreds of people who played at the beach and enjoyed it’s soft sands and sheltering dunes? What about the children who paddled in the pool at the base of the waterfall and their children and their children and their children and their children and centuries of children all of whom called the falls “the really safe and not at all dangerous falls”, yet when one child said “hey, look at me, I can balance on one leg while standing right on the edge!” all the good times are forgotten.

As I said, it’s human nature. We’re pessimists. We remember the bad, not the good. The suffering, not the finish line.

And it’s time for a change. Who wouldn’t want to enter “Flatfest” or, better yet, “The Downhill Marathon”. Why should suffering be celebrated? Bring on “The Easy Peasy Triathlon”!

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 Hebridean Triathlon (Iain)

My mum was born in the Outer Hebrides. She is a native Gaelic speaker who didn’t learn English until she went to primary school. If she spoke Gaelic in school, a teacher would punish her with a cane! She very quickly became a fluent English speaker.

I was born in Glasgow but grew up in the Outer Hebrides. I’m a native English speaker who didn’t learn Gaelic until I went to primary school. Nobody hit me with a cane. I failed Gaelic. I blame the lack of “motivation”. I know only two Gaelic phrases: “How are you?” and “I am cold and wet.”

Which, in Scotland, is all you really need.

I was reminded of this whilst battling wind and rain at last weekend’s Hebridean Triathlon.

This was the second time the event has been held. Last year I came in the top 10…because there was only 10 competitors!

In the last year the organisers have done a great job encouraging participation from both men and woman. 25 people took to the start line with an almost equal split of men and woman.

Swim

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Last year the swim was in a loch by the sea but this time it was in the sea by the loch. Which is a bit of a tongue twister but it was a great move from the organizers as the sea was much more enjoyable to swim in.

Last year I wrote: “I took a detour on the first lap…”

I was determined to sight better this year. I did! This time I took a detour on the second lap.

Bike

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The bike course is an out and back route to the Callanish Stones. It was an undulating route into a very strong headwind. If that wasn’t hard enough. The heavens opened and the rain/hail started.

The wind was so strong. it took nearly an hour to do the out route but only 35 minutes to get back.

By the end of the cycle I was battered by the elements. All I could think was “Tha mi fuar agus fhluich” I’ll let you work out which of my Gaelic phrase that translates to.

Run

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I’d finished the bike just ahead of a fellow athlete from the Glasgow Triathlon Club. I was determined to stay ahead so set off at a steady pace.

The weather wasn’t any better but this was helpful because instead of letting my mind think about how much I hate running. Instead, I thought about how much I hate the rain!

I felt quite good on the run and managed to overtake a few people who were ahead of me.

Overall.

I was happy with my performance. My time was down on last year but due to the weather so was everyone else’s.

I’ll leave the last word to one of the competitors who wrote:

“Thank you all for putting on one of the best triathlons I have participated in. The course is hard to beat and the relaxed atmosphere was just perfect. Well done to everyone involved.”

What I think about when I think about running (Iain)

The author Haruki Murakami has written many books. He’s been acclaimed in his homeland of Japan and abroad. He’s been acclaimed by everyone except….Peter Gaffney.

Peter bought a copy of Murakami’s book about running. Its called “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.” Peter read it and wrote:

 

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I’ve read Murakami’s book. It was an excellent read but Peter sums up in two words what Murakami takes a whole novel to do: running is “obsessive stupidity!”

Running is obsessive. Runners keep logs of times, routes and training plans. Some runners have more spreadsheets than accountants. I know a man who logs all the food he eats before a run so he can correlate it with his performance. Do you know what he’s called – “a boring git!”

Running is stupid. There’s two types of runners. The ones currently injured and the ones recovering from an injury. Ask any runner if they’re fit and you’ll get more medical jargon than an episode of Casualty. The last time a runner was fully fit was the day before they took up running.

What do I think about when I think about running? When can I stop!

Ironman Edinburgh 70.3 (Iain)

PRE-RACE

The IronMan Edinburgh expo had for sale IronMan branded t-shirts, IronMan branded shorts and IronMan branded socks. They have more IronMan clothes than Tony Stark’s wardrobe. And they don’t just sell clothes, they also had an IronMan branded cake tin – maybe they plan to launch a new type of triathlon – a swim, bake, run.

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Normally registration involves filling in lots of forms. But not me. I didn’t need to fill in a form as someone had already done it. Which was a shock  but not as much as discovering that the someone who’d filled in my forms was a middle aged woman from America.

I offered to sign her forms but the registration desk rejected my offer. It would have made the finish line interesting. The announcer would said to me “Congratulations…Barbara????”

Originally the swim start was to be in Gosford House – one of Scotland’s grandest homes. I’ve always wanted to visit it so I was dissapointed when the start was moved. Instead of racking my bike in a beautiful garden I did it next to a construction site and a lidl supermarket.

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I’ve never had a puncture on my race bike so guess what? Yes – my bike had punctured in the car. We’d booked accommodation near the start so once everything was setup and the tyre replaced we went a pre-race feed of nachos’s and ice cream!

 

SWIM (24:51)

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We were one of the last into the water as queuing for the toilet had taken priority over queuing to get into the water.

The swim had been shortened due to the weather. Luckily (or unluckily) my first ever sea swim race had been in horrendous weather. The swim was in Fife and, on that day, the Woman’s golf open in St Andrews had to be cancelled due to the conditions! If a land event had to be cancelled then my swim should have been to, but it went ahead anyway. This swim was choppy but it wasn’t half as bad as that day in Fife.

I enjoyed the swim and would have happily done another lap.

BIKE (3:19:50)

I wish something interesting had happened on the bike as it would make this section a better read but it was thankfully uneventful!

The bike route is pretty flat. The longs climbs aren’t very steep and the steep climbs aren’t very long. The first 30 miles are the best part of the course- good road surfaces and nice views over the East Lothian countryside. The route back into Edinburgh had some ‘interesting’ sections – some cobbled roads, a farm road and some pavement.

The only issue I had was towards the end. There was a sharp left turn immediately followed by a slight rise in the road. A lot of people (including myself) misjudged which gear to be in. I heard a lot of “clanking” sounds as people tried to drop to a lower gear. Unfortunately, one of my club mates broke his chain at this point.

RUN (2:09:51)

Run

I thought I was ahead of Andrew after the bike so it was very disappointing to spot him ahead of me on the run! He shouted “What lap are you on?” as he passed. I should have said “My last!” as that would have played mind games with him.

I spent the next couple of miles trying to work out when he’d passed me on the bike but I came to the conclusion that it must have been in transition as I’d gone to the loo.

Running is my weakest discipline so my aim was to do two laps then take the last one easy.  Thankfully I caught up and passed Andrew on the second lap. If he’d kept ahead of me until the last lap then I wouldn’t have caught him.

At one point a man ran next to me. He muttered “nearly” after ever footstep. He kept this up for the mile he was alongside me. Eventually he ran off. I wonder if he kept up his muttering until the end and then did he mutter “done!”?

On the third lap Andrew was only a minute behind me so I slowed down and let him catch up. Better to walk down the finish line with him than do it on my own. Nothing what so ever to do with getting to spend the last mile gloating about beating him at all three disciplines 🙂

Although I think he’s still ahead in this year’s Todd Championship. It’s still all to play for…

OVERALL

The course was good, the event was well run and I got home in time for my dinner. What more can you ask for in a race.

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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

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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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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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Escape From Alcatraz 2017 – The ‘Duathlon’ Version (Andrew)

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Have you read the Mind Chimp by Dr Steve Peters? It’s a good book, well, good chapter, about sports pyschology. I say chapter because after the first chapter explains his theory the rest of the book… explains his theory and then explains it again and again.

I can only imagine that Dr Steve Peters inner chimp wasn’t an editor.

If you’ve not read it then the basic theory goes something like this: everyone has a chimp, but not in a Michael Jackson type way. He had an actual chimp. We have an inner chimp. A voice in our head that reacts emotionally to events. The book shows how to understand how your mind works and how to ignore negative thoughts like doubt and fear.

It also tells you to ignore losing (which reminds me that I should really get a copy for Iain before next year’s Etape Caledonia) and that you should approach each event on the basis that you can only judge it on how well you trained and how well you raced and that position is not important.

Wise words for this year’s Escape From Alcatraz. After the swim was cancelled, I was disappointed, half thought of not finishing it. Why bother if it’s not the full event?

But that was my chimp talking.

Not that chimps talk. They just say OOOOK, which means “chimp wanna banana”, unless it’s Michael Jackson’s chimp talking in which case OOOOK means “get away from me ya big weirdo”.

Instead, I ignored my chimp and thought: “This is the race. There is no swim. You can only start what’s before you. You were on the boat. You were ready to dive in. You can’t do any more than what you’ve done. So, pull yourself together and get on that bike and get out and run!”

And I did.

And it was brilliant.

Even though I felt like a sausage.

Iain had loaned me a tri suit. Normally, I’d wear tri shorts and change and use a cycling top for the bike and swap t-shirts for the run. But, this time, I was going ‘full triathlete’.

But what they don’t tell you about ‘full triathlete’ is that ‘full triathlete’ involves a garment, the tri suit, which is designed to be slim, sleek, figure hugging and aerodynamic. Or, if you’re a normal body shape, designed to make you look like a strong man has just squeezed a sausage. A plump sausage.

I will not be posting any pictures from the race of anything other than my head!

Bike course

Bike

The bike course is out and back from transition to Golden Gate park. It’s closed road, which is fantastic, and his great views of the bridge, Lands End, the west coast and Ocean Beach.

The hills are relatively shallow, but I was surprised at the number of people stopping and walking up them. Maybe Scotland is better training for San Francisco than other places, but, if you are training somewhere flat, then practice for hills, the course goes up and down faster than Theresa May approval rating.

For those travelling from the UK, India, Australia, the Caribbean, Malta and Cyprus (and anywhere else that drives on the left hand side of the road), then watch out for overtaking. Americans overtake on the left, not the right. Which is more obvious when driving, the oncoming traffic being a big clue (!), but, on a closed road on a bike, it’s easy to overtake on the right, and some folk don’t like that. “Sorry!” to whoever I cut off at Cliff House, I don’t know who you are, but you certainly had a loud voice!

The final few miles are flat, and, with a windy day, gusts were hitting 35mph on Sunday, and with the wind behind, it’s a very quick finish.

Run route

Run

Let’s talk about hills. And steps. Hills are okay, you slow down, shorten your stride, switch your mind off and keep climbing. Steps on the other hand are made to be walked on. It’s automatic. See a step. Walk on it.

At least that’s my excuse for not running all of the run route. There’s two sections with steps. The first at two miles, where you climb steps up to the Golden Gate bridge and the second at 4.5 miles where you tackle the ‘sand ladder’.

I’d read about the ‘sand ladder’ before the race. I knew it involved a steep climb after a short run on a beach but I didn’t realise just how steep it was. (Ladder should have been a clue, it wasn’t called the step stairs, or the step easy incline, it was the step ladder). I didn’t even try and run it. I grabbed one of the guide ropes at the side and used that to help me climb.

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Once those two climbs are done, it’s a nice two and bit mile run back to transition on flat ground.

I play a game as I run. At registration everyone has their age written on their left hamstring with a black marker. I don’t know why. Maybe the sharks in the bay want to know how old a leg is before they bite it off?

But, as I run, I check out people’s legs to see how old they are. Then when they pass I have a quick sideways look to see if they look older, younger or spot on.

It’s basically a very judgemental version of Bruce Forsyth’s Play Your Card Rights. Higher! Lower! Blimey, see a doctor, you’ve had a hard life!

It’s only at the end that I realise that everyone could be doing the same for me. Except they’d add, I’d thought at his age he’d at least be trying to run the stairs?

Sorry, chickened out!

The finish line had a large crowd but one which was quite quiet. My wife was waiting and she said afterwards that people only tended to cheer athletes they knew rather than everyone as they came in. She also overheard the following conversation:

Mother: C’mon children, let’s get ready to cheer daddy!

Small child: Why?

Mother: Because he’s just finished a big race and it’s a massive achievement!

Small child: Is it?

Mother: (After a long pause) Well, he thinks it is…

I think many triathlete widows and widowers can empathise!

At the finish, I get a big medal, a big meal (pasta, soup and various barbecue options) and a great sense of achievement – I could do no more than what I did, I was ready to jump, but better to be safe than to risk your life in dangerous waters. I’d escaped Alcatraz (albeit that maybe this year, the guards had left the keys in the lock to make it slightly easier)!

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Alcatraz Top Tips

Pre-race:

Registration is very busy between 11am and the first briefing at 1pm. You will need to queue. We had to wait 30 minutes in a queue that snaked all the way around transition. However, if you arrive later, the queue is much shorter.

You can’t take your bike into registration so, if you don’t have a handy wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend/partner with you, then you’ll want to bring a lock so you can leave your bike safely while you register.

Transition has security guards so leaving bike on Saturday is perfectly safe. You can’t leave your kit, so you will still need to prepare transition on Sunday morning but at least your bike is racked.

There are lots of buses on Sunday morning to get from transition to the boat, so no need to worry about catching the bus.

You can leave a bag at a collection point outside the boat but, if you leave it on the boat, you’ll need to wait longer on Sunday to collect it.

Unlike Norseman, where there a hose of seawater to help you acclimatise, you just jump straight into the bay. I recommend the (untested) frozen water bottle trick!

I hired a bike from Blazing Saddles. You need to bring your own pedals but they provided a helmet and seat bag with pump, spare tube and puncture repair kit, which was great. The store at 550 North Point Street is less than 15 minutes from transition, easy to get to before the race and easy to return bike afterwards. Excellent service and a wide selection of bikes to choose. Though order early if you need a specific size.

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.