The Big Weekend

Posted on July 11, 2011. Filed under: baby, bike, Half ironman, Half marathon, ironman, ironman regensburg, knockburn, knockburn middle distance, Pentlands, regensburg, Rory, run, shakey, Sky Procycling, swim, Team Sky, Threipmuir, triathlon, Uncategorized, wetsuit |

Get yourself a coffee, find a comfy seat and put your feet up because this is a big one.  A month before Ironman you need to do the Big Weekend – a half distance training event.  About a year ago, after I did my first Half Ironman, Shakey decided that she wanted a piece of the action, however, the event that we signed up for – the Knockburn Half Ironman in Aberdeenshire  – was cancelled so we had to do it ourselves.  This is the story of our DIY Half Ironman with a few meandering detours along the way.


When the alarm goes off on a day when you have promised someone that you will join them for an 8 hour endurance event it is tempting to hit snooze, roll over and pretend you knew nothing about it.  However, with a heavy burden of responsibility I dragged my ass out of bed, applied lubricant, got on my yellow lightweight gimp suit and loaded food, bikes, cycling gear and rubber suits into the car.  The weather forecast was typically Scottish in the 24 hours before the event – sunny and 20deg, white cloud and 15deg, thundery rainstorms and so on literally changing on an hourly basis but as I drove up into the Pentlands it was overcast but with sun breaking through.

I arrived in the Threipmuir car park, which was understandably empty at 0730 on a Saturday morning, to meet Shakey and Nicole who, very kindly and with the patience of a saint, would be providing bike security and support for the event.  After a bit of bike unloading we discussed the weather and I pointed out to Shakey that although I already have a bit of colour I had already applied a double dose of P20 all day sunscreen and asked if she wanted some.  Shakey, who has the complexion of Casper the ghost’s albino brother who has been kept in a cellar, politely declined and said that she would be “grand” – more on that later.  I think Shakey sometimes confuses her fake tan for a real tan and she will no doubt become a little more l’orange and be spotted falling out of nightclubs now that she has achieved Z-list celebrity status in the Edinburgh Evening News.  It’s a jolly good read although the lady who calls her an “inspiration” has clearly never met her!


I am still impressed how straight I swim

Anyway, we had an “arrangement” that I would give Shakey a 20minute start in the swim and then we would complete the rest of the event together.  So we wheeled the bikes up to the reservoir and left Nicole to look after them while she fought off the midgies that were about the size of Spitfires.  Shakey was first into the rubber suit and the long pause before she set off swimming was a clear sign that she was trying to warm up the reservoir.  As her PR machine pointed out in the Evening News, Shakey is new to swimming (I am apparently the unnamed “coaxer”) and I had thought that the headstart was reasonable but on a gloriously still summer morning she went off like a shot down the loch – mainly due to fear rather than athletic prowess and I am still not sure how she would have reacted had she seen the brown trout leaping three feet in the air in her wake.  20minutes later I got into the water, got my head down (tried not to think too much about what Shakey had been doing up ahead) and set off at a reasonable pace down the loch.  In a half mile long loch I hadn’t appreciated how difficult it is to sight someone else swimming  so about half way round and mildly concerned for Shakey’s wellbeing I paused for a few seconds to have a good look and ended up engaging in conversation with a fisherman who very politely asked if I could swim somewhere else.  As he asked nicely, I obliged and headed back down the loch to finish just under 2km in 31mins which is a much quicker pace than I have been averaging.  And before you ask, Shakey actually finished a few minutes ahead of me completing the course in the target time we had set for her at the start of the year.

As a veteran of one Half Ironman I can certify that the only soft option that we took was that transition was done at a leisurely pace.  So we sauntered back to the cars with our bikes while still dressed in rubber suits.  In a style that could only be described as very Edinburgh, a few dog walkers cast us disinterested glances as if it were the kind of thing they saw every Saturday morning.  I like to think that they were looking at Nicole as the odd one as she hadn’t gone for a walk with her bike in a gimp suit.  With one small towel between us we dried quickly and got into cycling kit ready for the off.  And then we stopped.   And Shakey disappeared into the bushes in cycling shoes and helmet to “powder her nose”.  And then we were off in matching Team Sky cycling kit – just like a pro team but without the competence.


The bike turned out to be in beautiful weather and after about half an hour Shakey nipped into the john of a service station to strip down the layers and, of course, because we had been on the road for half an hour she needed a pee.  Early on we rode side by side and had a nice chat but as Shakey’s chat deteriorated I started to push the pace on a bit.  But then I felt bad about my selfish mental self preservation and started to drop back again because Shakey had stopped even trying to initiate conversation and I got worried about what state she was in.  Quite often endurance events come down to mental strength as much as stamina and if you go too deep inside yourself it is difficult to come out.  So I dropped back….

“What’s up?”

“Just thinking”

“Thinking about what?”

“What I’ll eat later.”

“What do you fancy?”

“Just wondering if I could have two starters before my main course”

…….and so it carried on.  Somewhere around 70km her feet got sore and so did my ears and, to my eternal regret, I had mis-measured the course and for an additional 20minutes I had to listen to feet stories.  I would have loved to drag Shakey through the 100km landmark distance but with ears bleeding I pulled up at home 7km over half iron distance and 3km short of the century.  Her feet quickly recovered.


Now I consider myself a polite and considerate kind of guy, however, I received some feedback that I was F-ing ignorant during the ride.  Just after coming off the Kincardine Bridge (where I will confess to breaking the law because I should have dismounted and walked across) a fellow road user decided to approach Shakey and I, who were riding side by side on a three lane stretch of road, with his hand pressed on the horn from several hundred metres behind.  Probably ill advisedly, I gave him some the univeral signal of displeasure and for the first time in my cycling career I had an angry man approaching me with fists clenched.  Noting that he had neither a gun or knife in hand I took the opportunity to finish the banana I had just peeled as he opened with “I am a cyclist too you ignorant f and riding like that is the heght of effing ignorance” although to be clear he didn’t actually say effing.  Now at this point I had to suppress a snigger as a fella the size of a sumo who had let himself go launched into his interpretation of the Highway Code and we ended up having a pantomime “it’s legal”, “no it’s not”, “yes it is” debate.  At this point Buster Bloodvessel threated to punch me out – I still hadn’t unclipped my pedals so it would have been about as fair as Mike Tyson punching out Darcey Bussel in lycra in stilletoes.  Thankfully, if only for his heart and blood pressure, he decided not to punch me and to get back to his sausage roll and lard ass sandwich in his van leaving Shakey and I at the side of the road.  We would probably have taken his registration and called the cops at this point except as he spluttered into the distance he would probably have had a view of me just about falling off my stationery bike as I overbalanced with one foot still clipped in while stuffing my banana skin in my pocket and Shakey had to catch me.

And for the record fat boy, if you could read, section 66 of the Highway Code says “never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends”.  Stick that up your fat arse.


As we pulled up at home Pam thought it was awfully funny that we were dressed the same and, to be fair it probably was quite funny, as typically we don’t have the same taste in clothes.  But we didn’t care as we horsed down a pint of water and got into our running shoes.  We left our mark at home as we left a steaming, stinking pile of cycling gear and I left Pam with a throbbing big toe.  I think I can safely speak for both of us when I would describe the first three miles of the run as the absolute low point of the day.  We didn’t talk for the first half hour with the exception of asking if the other was OK.  I am happy to confess, and this is a compliment, if Shakey wasn’t such a tough old bird and had suggested that we turn back I would quite happily have done so.  However, in 25deg temperature with no water, no money and 13miles running ahead of us we resorted to contingency measures and hit Mickey D’s for water and a quick audit of the facilities.  We followed my Regensburg plan perfectly with 9minutes of running and 1 minute of walking and surprised ourselves with the pace that we managed to maintain.  Water stops followed at Costa Coffee and the Subway and then the skies opened, the thunder roared and the lightning lit.

By about 5 miles in we were back on talking terms which was good from the point of our friendship but, for our sanity, a continued cold war would have been preferable.  When you spend so much time together without a telly, conversation can always take bizarre twists but with added hypoglycaemia and fatigue we rambled from the dull to the surreal and then right on through to the plain weird.

As we ran up the ramp of the Forth Road Bridge with flash flood water flowing over the top of our trainers we saw a couple of forlorn characters in a bus shelter.  Due to some confusion (entirely mine) between kilometres and miles and some incompetence (entirely Shakeys – “I’ve miscalculated the distance do you know Nicole’s phone number?”, “Sorry, no”, sometime later……..”Does Nicole not have your phone?”, “Oh yeah – I forgot”) we had missed Nicole at the Kincardine Bridge but now, for some inexplicable reason, she had gone to the trouble of finding us again with her other half John.   We could have said “hi” or “sorry we miscalculated the distance” but instead we dived straight into her bag and downed so much Lucozade and water that we made ourselves feel ill with 2miles still to go.

Well the last two miles were just a valedictory trot and the last kilometre got close to a sprint as we sniffed the end.  Nicole had prepared an official finish line sign and John, Pam, Rory and Allistair were there to celebrate the end of an epic day out.  Medals were presented under a biblical storm and then we left the Bridge.


Artist’s impression of Shakey’s sunburn lines

After showers,  banana smoothies and cups of tea I inhaled a two course curry and a heap of fruit and then I woke up and polished off a bowl of porridge and a bagel.  Rory got a long walk while I stretched out my legs and got the last News of the World (fully expecting an orange Shakey staggering out of Fingers Piano Bar in the D-list column) and then we went out for lunch when I recovered my car and I hoovered up another couple of courses at the Bridge Inn at Ratho.

I received a text later in the evening that Shakey was feeling the heat which was confirmed in the morning to be sunburn.  It turns out that she probably should have used some of my P20.

I am sure that before Shakey heads off to Malta for some R&R that she will contribute her own race report to immortalise her first half iron distance event.  That is of course if she doesn’t try and serialise it in the Daily Mail now that she is officially a media ho.


To avoid complaints here is this week’s gratuitous Rory shot.


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2 Responses to “The Big Weekend”

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You were a swimming instructor!!! Red speedos and a tight cap flash through my mind, instantly followed by nausea.
Loving the updates and hugely impressed by the commitment. I cycled to Inverness from Glasgow a couple of weeks ago, can’t imagine getting of the bike and starting to run, never mind swimming before hand. I was brought up strict protestant, these activities had to be carried out in separate days of the week or the Lord would smite you (or something like that!).
Good Luck for the big one.



Thanks Duncan – always one to support those suffering from body dysmorphia – I have moved on from red speedos to black Lycra shorts if that helps the imagination any.

And remember before your cycle you would have to have gone 5 times back and forward under the Kessock Bridge before you got on your bike sopping wet to ride to Glasgow to run a marathon! It’s not a knitting club you know!


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