It’s a Rollercoaster

Posted on May 7, 2014. Filed under: Austria, brain training, computrainer, escape from alcatraz, escape from alcatraz 2012, great scottish swim, Half ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman regensburg, shakey, swim, triathlon, Uncategorized, virgin london marathon, virgin london marathon 2012, vlm 2012 |

When I wrote Picking Up The Pieces on Friday night I had already picked up the pieces.  Whingeing is not really my style and it is a blog I would never have written while I was on a low ebb.  It was a catalyst, however, to remind me that I am an Ironman and an Alcatraz Escapee and to re-grow a pair, get my kit on and hit the road.

However, that said, it is fair to say that I was totally overwhelmed by the support that I received which was not all of the HTFU variety.  Chest infection aside all I really needed to do was get some consistent miles into my legs to top up the confidence tank.  This afternoon I realised the confidence was flooding back – but I’ll come back to that.


Since Friday I have:

Swum 6km;

Cycled 153km; and

Run 48km


20140505_093717And I still have my long ride to come tomorrow so that, frankly, is a mere drop in the ocean.

That is the kind of mileage that finally gives an old guy confidence.  Saturday morning had a very hilly 21.5km, the longest run that I have had in quite some time.  Sunday then saw a 55km ride which started in glorious sunshine with short sleeves and ended with me feeling that I had been waterboarded.  With hail and snot and ice.  And then on Monday with all of that activity already in the legs I enjoyed a stinking hot (19C, I am Scottish after all), flat, midgie infested 25km.  The midgie clouds were so thick that I resorted to the bank robber look and someone actually asked if they could have my saliva and sweat soaked mask after I was finished.  Pervert.


So, the rollercoaster is on an up.  Undoubtedly.


I would love an extra couple of weeks until Ironman Austria but, I have to face it, they are unlikely at this late stage to move it for me.  So it is when it is.  Which is cool.


So, how did I realise that my iron-confidence was back?  A text exchange that I had with Shakey today.  If you are new to the ironman39 blog you may wonder who Shakey is.  Well, let me explain that first.


Shakey is like my brother from another mother.  Except she is a chick and she is Irish.  Sister from an other mister doesn’t really sound right; but I digress.  Since I started jogging and stuff like that, me and Shakey have been through a lot of scrapes – I dragged her from the bottom of a pool and taught her to swim, Pam and I took her for her first open water swim, I escorted her to her first and second swimming medals, we did a half ironman and we ran VLM.  She is kind, she paced Pam round a half marathon when she was preparing for the London Marathon, but if you read only one of those blogs to get some idea of the eejitry that I have to deal with make it the VLM one.  I am not giving the game away to tell you it involves a daft paddy being taken away in an ambulance.

Anyway, the only other two things that you need to know about Shakey is that she has found some poor bugger to marry her and she is also doing Ironman Austria.  So, cue text banter today:


Me: Need to check – are you planning tears in Austria or at wedding?  Because you need to HTFU.

Shakey: Austria.  Defo.  Want me to bring tissues for two?

Me: Eff off.  I am an Ironman.  I’m just topping up my AWESOME.


IMG_20140507_130815And then I realised I hadn’t been quite so cocky for a few weeks and that the confidence is definitely back.  Less grumpy, more AWESOME (hopefully the English language will forgive my use of the word awesome because it is really reserved for Americans) and ready for the weeks ahead when the battle is as much head as it is body.


In other news The Sultry Temptress was unshackled from the turbo today.  After Ironman Regensburg I hated her.  She wrecked my legs and made my arse look like a baboons.  So, today after a long winter and many, many static miles she is being treated to a compact chainring to save my ageing legs on the rolling Austrian mountainry.  All outdoor rides from here until I climb off on the afternoon of 29th June will be on The Temptress.

So, it’s really just a short update to say the rollercoaster is heading upwards.  Of course it will crash down again but the miles are being banked day in, day out both into the legs and into The Brain.

I expect the updates will get more frequent now, if only to allow me to remind me what is going on in my head when I ever contemplate doing a long distance event again in the future.  😉

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Ironman 2: The Sequel

Posted on August 14, 2013. Filed under: Austria, great scottish swim, ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman regensburg, Klagenfurt, shakey |

“Oh, how cute”, I hear you saying, “We hear nothing from him for months and now he writes a blog to tell us what DVD he is watching.”

Oh no, it is far more serious than that.  Far, far more serious.


Yes, I am getting off the sofa, dusting down the bikes, squeezing uncomfortably into a well lubricated rubber suit and setting off on the long and winding road towards my second Ironman.

“Why?”, I hear you say.  “You have nothing left to prove.”

Well, howsabout the first blog of Project Austria 2014 explains why?


Why? Because I want to fulfill my potential.

I am proud of becoming an Ironman. I learnt more about myself in that year than the previous 39.  Losing 5 stone, seizing back my life and travelling 140.6 miles under my own steam was a herculean effort.  But I can do more.  My bike training was not as effective as it could have been, I barely went in a pool in the last 6 weeks before Regensburg and inexperience with nutrition meant that I very, very slowly shart my way around a marathon course.

I have 11 months to apply science and experience before putting my toes in the Worthersee and swimming, cycling and running to my best Ironman.  Before I get any older!


Why? Because I’m not getting any younger.

As a big boy I don’t know how much longer my body will tolerate me taking part in extreme endurance events.  But Reason 2 is only partly for me.  In Regensburg there was a wee, three month old lump was part of the entourage.  In Austria he will be a bright, active three year old – and while I still have it in me I want him to have the experience of sitting in the bleachers in the finishing tunnel, knowing that his daddy is coming round the corner soon, watching the lights, hearing the music, seeing the very best of humanity and human spirit and being there when the announcer, supported by the crowd, screams at his daddy “YOU………ARE………AN……….IRONMAN”.

That will be one proud daddy.


Why? Because there is nothing else like it.

Ironman is an incredible event.  Ordinary people go out and prove that they can do extraordinary things.  Unlike any other event an Ironman will sacrifice his race to help a struggling competitor.  The camaraderie, the immensity of the distance, the wretchedness of the lows, and the irrepressible spirit of the finishers differentiate Ironman from other events.  It focusses me like nothing else.

When I talk about Ironman I always come back to this passage that I blogged about the night before Ironman Regensburg:

“The water laps your toes and envelopes your skin. Close your eyes. The masses become silent and your heartbeat thunders. You have planned for today, talked about today, trained for today, imagined today, dreamed today, and yet you still don’t know what to expect. A cannon blows and you remember, as you dread the uncertainty and the harsh duration to come, to savor every second because in your memory it will be over in the minutes it takes to recount or reread from your journal.

Move, breathe, drink, eat. Move, breathe, drink, eat. Move and move. One hundred forty and six-tenths miles. Know tenderly, intimately every fiber of your being that propels you forward only because your brain says, “Don’t stop.” And don’t stop. Move, breathe, drink, eat.Manage your day. Stick to your plan. Be flexible. Just finish. Float when your mind and body detach and watch your body move with you – pushed by the crowd, the volunteers, who lust for your finish as if it were their own. But it hurts. And you don’t know for sure why you are doing this and what it will mean when you do. And then you see it. A banner, a clock, a frenzy of applause. And you know you made it happen through whatever means and power source you draw strength from.

Ironman will trivialize past hardship and prepare you to minimize those to come. It makes dreams come true. You have what it takes to bridge aspirations into accomplishments. Crossing that line embraces self: confidence, sacrifice, reliance, invention, worth. Finishing makes you your own hero.”

So that’s why!  Now I just need to work out how!

“How’s it going then?”, you may well ask.  Alright, I think.  Since entering I have cycled 450km and swum 18km.  “The running?  Well, it’s not an Ironman campaign without an injury drama so I broke my big toe immediately upon entering.  I can confirm that a broken toe is a sore thing.  A very, very sore thing.

So, I’m back doing a bit of the blogging.  What have you got to look forward to?

  • This coming weekend I should have been doing a Half Ironman.  I should also have been fitter.  The outcome of  the combined broken phalange and general corpulence is that I have become a relay.  This is not a weight penalty because I weigh the same as a relay team – no, I am bringing in a ringer with 10 fully functional toes for the half marathon.
  • Next weekend is the Great Scottish Swim.  Like a complete dumbass I learnt not a jot from the Great Big Nottingham Swim in a Shit Swamp and have entered the two mile swim.  Oh no, not the nice, cold yet challenging, mass participation 1 mile swim but the complete mentalists sensory deprivation two mile swim.  Oh yes, I am a fool.
  • My goals and my plan.  If you say it you do it, they say.  If you blog it, it is frozen for posterity and the embarrassment of not doing would be mortifying, I say.
  • And if that lot feels a bit serious I can almost guarantee that in the next 10 and a half months there will be illness, injury, and public decency things to tell you about.  As if that lot is not enough Shakey has also entered Austria.  Swims like a brick that girl.

So bike ready, body in recovery, let’s get going.

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A fresh chapter

Posted on January 7, 2013. Filed under: aberfeldy, big swim, big swim nottingham, man flu, race report, race review, shakey, speedo, swim, Uncategorized, virgin london marathon 2012, vlm 2012 |

Today, for the first time in probably 35 years, I had nowhere organised to go.  So, I did a lot.  I shall explain.

My last post, some months ago, was about the Olympic legacy.  My Olympic legacy has consisted of kebabs.  And cakes.  I may have inspired a generation.  Having done no exercise whatsoever, save for the aforementioned cake and kebab munching (clearly not simultaneously, for that would just be plain wrong) for 6 months today I turned a new leaf. Now let me be clear, I am currently no athlete but I aspire to get back there.  As I arrived at the pool a little before 8am this morning there was a whole Heather Small theme tune playing in my head.  I may even have been whistling along, I may have been searching for the hero.

Outlaw Day 530am. The sun rises at Holme Pierrepont

In the locker room, I took out my goggles – the rubber a little spoiled due to a lack of care and attention.  I picked up my tri shorts (knee length lycra shorts) and thought to myself “undignified, yet forgiving” as demonstrated by larger ladies in leggings on a daily basis.  The volume in my head got louder as I walked through the showers, goggles in hand, kebab and cake physique right out front – I was onto “what have you done today to make me feel ………”.  A scratching noise as the mental needle was dragged off the LP.  Awww nawww.  I looked at the lanes – the pool, my pool was like silver soup.  Thick, silver soup.  I resolved to get up earlier before the cocoon crowd’s bones start moving freely in the morning.

It seems a bit rich, expecting the old folks to have maintained a space for me in the pool.  Since Regensburg 2011 training has been sporadic, despite completing the London Marathon, Escape from Alcatraz and and the Big Swim.  Oh, the Big Swim, if ever there were a life changing event that foul smelling, slog of sensory deprivation was it.  Water boarding would be preferable.

The signs should have been obvious.  After a 5 hour drive, as I arrived at Holme Pierrepont for a Saturday 5k and Sunday 3.8k swim, in the bouncing rain, the sign should have been, well, a sign.  But like the guy in the horror film who proceeds into a basement, after the light bulb blows,towards a hungry monster, armed only with a donut I witlessly ignored the sign.  “BLUE GREEN ALGAE.  DO NOT LET YOUR DOG DRINK WATER FROM THE LAKE.”  I assumed that the marshalls would cancel the event and I would have had a long round trip for nothing.  Noooope.

This is what you get for putting your head in a toilet for two hours.

This is what you get for putting your head in a toilet for two hours.

With a warning of blue green algae fresh in my mind I made sure I had loads of Coke for afterwards to clear my stomach out, donned my rubber suit which, incidentally, was a bit tighter than it’s previous outing, and got into the water for a warm up.  As soon as the water was stirred up the smell drifted across the surface and all of the swimmers winced.  The horn went and I gave it laldy, working on the basis that getting in front of the crowd meant less shit being stirred up.  About 800m in I found my mouth, somewhat to my surprise, had been re-occupied by my breakfast.  As much as I had enjoyed the two sausages, roll and brown sauce several hours before, it was now unwelcome in my mouth while my nose was full of the smell of swan arse.  And that really set the tone for the race.  Somewhere, up the first lap the wind picked up and the return journey was brutal.  If you have ever seen the film Perfect Storm, that is how it felt.  One minute I was ploughing deep through the water, the next there was just air.  I felt like Manuel being slapped in the head by Basil as the waves came down on the back of my head.  Some breaths were mouthfuls of “fresh air”.  Some were mouthfuls of “water”.  In a cruel twist we had to exit the water at the end of the first lap, run the edge of the lake and then dive back in for the second lap.  In a double cruel twist there was only a tiny cup of warm water when I got there – anything flavoured would have freshened my mouth up to sub-sewer taste.  On the second lap, I was again bludgeoned to semi-consciousness by the water, I again swallowed the unthinkable, I vommed in my own mouth two more times.

I expected to finish the Big Swim in just under 90 minutes; I took over two hours.  I didn’t come last though – behind me were a brick and a shopping trolley!  I was done in – and to add insult to injury the medal, like the water, was crap.

Better booty from the Outlaw

Better booty from the Outlaw

After a fitful night’s sleep I was up way before 5am to swim the first leg in the Outlaw Iron distance relay.  When you make a deal in a Bavarian beer garden the day after completing an Ironman – no-one is expected to remember – but that swine Pirate Gladys did.  As 1000 people got into the water before 6am on a beautiful morning you can’t begin to imagine how foul the air smelt.  Being a one lap course, the turn buoy was actually invisible to the naked eye from ground level on account of the curvature of the earth.  I can happily confirm that the swim went better than the Great Big Crap Medal Shit Water Swim the day before.  I found my own space in the water, everything felt easier and, other than being swooped by a swan at the turn, it went OK considering.  And by the way, breathing to the side and seeing a dirty pair of swan feet right  in front of your goggles definitely makes your rubber suit a little warmer.  After a quick shower, I spent a few hours on the Pirate aid station before returning to Holme Pierrepont to start cheering the runners.

Team Gladys on the finish line

Team Gladys on the finish line

Now our team was me (obviously), Gladys (who is actually a bloke) on the bike and Lindi on the run who was 20+ weeks pregnant.  Yup, thats right she ran a marathon while quite pregnant.  That is the Pirate spirit.  And after all that we still managed the money shot on the finish line.

And that was when things got interesting.  I developed a rash on my leg and a cough.  I had an Olympian assault on the Docs – two GP visits and two hospital visits in one year – probably beating my previous 5 year total.  Shakey, as a professional health tourist thinks that is an amateur effort but it is more time with the caring professions than I desire.  Lyme’s disease was mooted, but unproven despite a barrage of tests.  Even now I remain in the medical profession’s favourite diagnosis – the virus.  A catch-all that seems to encapsulate everything from spurting ebola to seasonal sniffles.

So, having lived the life a sloth for a few month’s I decided to have a radical shake up.  I finished work in December (which is why I have nowhere to go), took a few weeks off and over the next few month’s I am going to get myself fit.  A fitness sabbatical, if you like. It’s going to hurt.

I have time on my hands (and a beard that is getting bushier by the hour) so I may even blog a bit more.  Shakey is busy pumping her gums about doing a half ironman and wants company.  We have a potential new recruit, lets call him “TrouserShoes” who is targeting Aberfeldy half ironman – after he has had his swimming lessons.  And got a bike.

The aim is to get training fit in January and to get Iron ready fit in February.  By then I may be bored with full time training.  If you are feeling a bit of a chubby after Christmas feel free to join the pain, share in the comments.  Please amuse me, I have time on my hands.

Back to the point of the blog.  Today I swam 1600m (thats a mile!), did a spin class and a body pump class.  I am hurting already.

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The Virgin London Marathon 2012

Posted on June 9, 2012. Filed under: escape from alcatraz, ironman, joggers nipple, man flu, race report, race review, rome marathon, run, shakey, virgin london marathon, vlm, vlm 2012 |

I’m going to give the game away right at the start of this post rather than make you read all the way through the self indulgent nonsense if you can’t be bothered (just skip to the end, think about how much time I’ve saved you, click the link and make a donation to the Make a Wish Foundation in recognition of my sensitivity!). I survived, completed, and loved every second of the London Marathon.


So it was, with 48 hours to go I headed to the expo at the Excel centre with very little in my stomach and not a vast volume of carbs loaded in to my system. I ate a small corner of a Clif Bar, drank some coconut water (not as good as it sounds but better than it could have been) and bought a t-shirt at the Expo and officially declared myself fit to run. For anyone that really doesn’t understand why I was so desperate to run this as it would be my third marathon anyway I probably can’t explain it. The quote from the great Olympian Emile Zapotek seems a pretty good explanation to me…..

“if you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon”.

It’s true, once you have run one you can’t unknow what you know, and most people go back for more. Me included! Oh, and I don’t often quote other folks but I’ve got some good quotes so I am darned well going to use them!

Anyway to cut a long story short I quickly built up my tolerance from a completely empty stomach through pasta, onto Thai via Indian and accompanied by beer, wine and the odd G&T. It turns out that stress testing of my system for athletic endeavours became an obsession. And so it was that my long term training partner, untrained monkey, and professional simpleton Shakey and I made plans to meet up at the crack of dawn to head to the start line (I love her dearly but if you think that is harsh – read on, slack jawed and mesmerised by her lack of common sense!)


By complete coincidence our pad in Canary Wharf was right on the race route and about 5mins walk from the station that would take us to our respective start lines. It was a bit like the film “28 days later” on the streets as the only people out at that glorious hour were shuffling along, drinking energy drinks with giant red plastic bags over their shoulders. It was quickly becoming clear that the promised overcast day and rain was not to be and my extra baselayer (always required in the rain to avoid any nip problems) and trot induced dehydration were unlikely to be the greatest weapons in my arsenal (no pun intended) as the day went on.

Shakey and I had a hug as she got off the train at Greenwich and I continued on to Blackheath. You end up in a bit of a bubble that only marathoners understand so we both ended up bonding with complete strangers and texting each other while we waited. Her – “the guy next to me has spaghetti in a box, it looks really good”; me – “I just peed next to the guy in the bowler hat that lunches on Tower Bridge”.


I have got up really early one Sunday a year and watched the London Marathon for as long as I can remember – probably since the first one in 1981 so you can imagine how excited I was to watch the elite ladies start live right in front of me while the tv transmission it was live on the giant telly behind me. Wow.

I should have explained that the other reason that I really wanted to toe the start line this year and not defer my entry with the other sick boys until next year was that this is Olympic year. I didn’t know why but it felt an important year to run the London Marathon and I knew it would feel a bit special. It did.

Anyway, I dumped my warm clothes and bag on a lorry and wrapped myself in a foil blanket and waited in the pens for the start. It never ceases to amaze me the lengths that people will go to to get another couple of metres closer to the start line. These crazy monkeys clamber over railings and pretty much bar dive into the crowd despite having 40,000 people and 26.2miles between them and the finish line. There is a reason that people use the expression “it’s a marathon not a sprint” and there is absolutely no sane reason to start hurdling before the gun goes on a marathon!

When the gun actually went I thought that it would be dead slow for miles until 40,000 runners squeezed through all the narrow lanes at the start. In reality I never had to alter my pace at all (possibly because I am dead slow) with one exception. As the race hit the first portaloos at a mere 400m in the whole seething morass of humanity stopped dead in its tracks until the desperate and panicky were relieved!

I got a shock at the start when about 10 seconds after I crossed the line somebody cheered my name. I just about snapped my neck trying to work out who it was that was shouting for me, and then I heard it again from in front, and then again from the side and only then did I realise that it was because my name was on my Make a Wish t-shirt. I never bored from start to finish hearing people cheer my name and if you ever contemplate running London I can strongly recommend the warmth, support (and occasional abuse) that you get from the most amazing crowd.

There are apparently 1 million supporters come out on to the street to watch the marathon and they absolutely make the race. I smiled from the second that I crossed the line and through all the pain and discomfort buoyed by the most fantastic spectators. When it started to get really busy about three miles in, where the two starts converge to great banter and panto booing, I started high 5ing and it felt like I high fived all 1million. Sometimes you got a bonus squeeze, sometimes you came away with a jelly baby in your hand and sometimes, like I did just before Cutty Sark, you high 5 the St Johns volunteers who weren’t looking for a high 5, but were holding out iceberg size lumps of Vaseline, with a greasy splatter. Yuk.

I made unexpectedly spectacular process and saw Pam, Roar, Bert, Maddo and Al at the Cutty Sark and then about two minutes later saw Viv, Neil and Gemma who had managed to drag their asses out of bed. The promise I had made myself was that I would run to Tower Bridge and from there on I would allow myself the odd walk for the last 13 miles. And that was the plan I stuck with.

The only blip in the first 13 miles was at mile 8 when, with the words of the race director echoing in my ears, I decide not to pee in a neighbours garden and would queue for a portaloo. I was second in the queue and I watched literally hundreds of people dive behind the portaloos to sprinkle the wall. And then the lady in front of me went in and I waited. She never came out, in fact she may still be there. According to my watch I waited 5 and a half minutes until I headed for the wall and after I was done she was still in there. If she’d known she would be so long she should have brought a paper!

As I crossed Tower Bridge way ahead of schedule I knew I was starting to run out of puff and I started a conservative walk/run strategy walking slowly through each aid station. The half way point is also a really cruel for the mind where you head away from the finish pass runners with only three miles to go heading in the opposite direction. Anyway onwards and upwards out to the Isle of Dogs.

I saw the Sherpas just outside the apartment at mile 15 and then met the Runners World Mudchute team at mile 17. I was offered, gratefully accepted and downed an ice cold can of Stella Artois at this point. At this point, probably unrelated to the Stella, I was also starting to hurt really badly. It was hot, it was just after midday and the legs were starting to weary. It is times like this that Jacqueline Gareau, 1980 Boston Marathon champion can put it much better than I can “The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy…It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.”

The greatest pain that I suffered was the debilitating chub rub that struck me at this stage. On such a hot day with so much water going over your head all preventative lubrication becomes null and void and the thighs become more tender. Eventually I succumbed about 18miles after I had last high 5’d the St Johns boys and took there wares. Two days later my thighs still looked like mince.

Of the previous two marathons I did I never experienced the sensation of the second half starting at mile 20, but with so little training 6 miles felt like a whole marathon to me. I saw Viv and her crowd at Canary Wharf and then saw some sights on the run home. Just after the Isle of Dogs I saw three runners down, absolutely flat out and receiving medical attention presumably afflicted by the heat. At Mile End I saw a whole sofa, armchair and coffee table in the midst of the crowd with the owners well into a party. As we approached the Embankment the crowd moved in claustrophobically and the decibels raised significantly. If you walked the crowd chanted your name until you ran and then cheered manically. It was nearly 2pm and the crowd had been drinking since 10 so it was great fun.

I had planned to run in the last mile and a half and sprint up Birdcage Walk but I just didn’t have it in my body. I would run as far as my legs would take me and then stagger a few steps and then run again. As I ran past the Victoria Memorial and onto the Mall I was momentarily choked up but then MTFU’d to cross the line, receive my medal and join the ranks of the London Marathon finishers. To quote the unknown runner “At mile 20, I thought I was dead. At mile 22, I wished I was dead. At mile 24, I knew I was dead. At mile 26.2, I realized I had become too tough to kill.”

As I got my bag back and let all the important people know that I had finished safely. The finish was absolutely shambolic after you left the secure area and all of the mobile networks were congested. Word started to get to me that Shakey was in the medical tent after spraining her ankle at mile 22 but thatshe had finished. I tried to find her but it was just too confusing, my legs were starting to get disobedient and the adrenaline had worn off to allow me to properly experience the chub rub pain. After chaotic arrangements and the heavens opening, Shakey’s sherpas headed to the hospital and we headed back to the apartment.

You may have thought me harsh when commenting on Shakey earlier but here is why. The true story is that she sprained her ankle at mile 3 and didn’t know how to get back to the start so just kept running, like Forrest Gump but much dumber. At the end the ambulance man was alarmed that her leg looked like a giant donner skewer that he detained her for an X-ray along with the drunks at A&E. Rumours that the x-ray was on her head to see if there was any trace of a brain are inaccurate but not unkind. It was just a sprain – of the ankle, not the brain. Admittedly a bad one that stopped her from running for 6 weeks. Mainly because she ran on it for 23 miles. And thats why she is a muppet.


So that was the London Marathon. Despite thinking 2 days before that I wouldn’t be able to do it I ultimately finished in 4:52 about 7 minutes slower than I had hoped for. It is truly the experience of a lifetime although it was a sobering thought that one runner didn’t go home afterwards. Apart from the phenomenal amount of money raised for charity the one solace her family will have is that she was probably having the time of her life when she was snatched away far too young.

This has been a long update and might be a bit hazy because I’ve left it a month. However, it’s now time to focus on the Escape. Remember I am doing this for charity and I desperately want to raise enough money to grant a wish for one family of a child with a life threatening illness. Please give as generously as you can I will continue to suffer vicariously for you!

link to my just giving page for the Make a Wish Foundation


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One in Five

Posted on October 5, 2011. Filed under: 10k, escape from alcatraz, great edinburgh run, great scottish swim, joggers nipple, race report, run, shakey, virgin london marathon, vlm | Tags: |

I have a lot of big news to share with you.

On Monday night I appeared on the telly and not somewhere shonky like channel five but the Beeb no less.  Unfortunately Shakey the media ho went all me, me, me and muscled in and got in my way.  Being a gentleman I took a step backwards.

Despite hiring Max Clifford, Shakey has done such a great job raising money for the Stroke Association that she was interviewed on the finish line of the Great Edinburgh Run at the weekend.  The whole story of what she has been up to was in the Half Iron Shakey post and you can find her just giving page there if you would like to make a donation to a great cause.  This link will take you straight to the start of her interview where you can take the opportunity to wonder at her glowing red heid and why the Beeb didn’t use subtitles like they do for some other foreign nationals.

Gladiator Siren competes with Shakey as whitest person in Edinburgh

I take only two issues with Shakey in her whole fundraising campaign.  Firstly, when she told me she had been interviewed for the telly, she failed to say it was Ali Paton off the telly better known as the Gladiator Siren who interviewed her.  Failing to mention that you have met a genuine Gladiator is a massive oversight to a real Glad fan although this recent photo of Siren suggests that, like Shakey, she may have been an abuser of fake tan in the past.  And secondly, I taught her to swim front crawl a damned sight better than she models on the telly (thats Shakey not Siren – I don’t know what her front crawl is like).  That was just sloppy.

So this week saw me re-visit the Great Edinburgh Run over two years since I targeted that as my first run to recover my health and my soul after years of abuse culminating in a week long bender in Berlin.  Preparation was sketchy at best having only run 6 miles once since the Ironman so my target was to finish faster than my first run which was tantalisingly just under 60minutes.  Last year in this event I ran the fastest 3k I had ever run however the race was unfortunately 10km long.  When I unpleasantly popped my calf muscle at the bottom of the Pleasance I suffered my one and only DNF to date at ceased to threaten the Kenyan front runners.  To be fair I wasn’t even much bothering the guy in the Womble suit at the back but I was a little faster than normal.

Waking up in the morning I could hear that the rain was dinging down.  I got up and had some peanut butter on toast and a strong black coffee while I contemplated the implications of the climate and the fear that it struck in me.  Two years ago I discovered the perils of running in the rain when I finished the Forth Bridge 10k looking like I had been shot in the chest.  This post captured the dual humiliation of crossing the finish line looking like an extra from the Kennedy assassination behind an old lady in dayglo.  The shame!

With the pain still fresh in my mind I flip-flopped through the whole running wardrobe that I had with me before dispatching a text to Shakey to ask her opinion.  I pinned my race number on one t-shirt, then took it off and put it on another.  I packed under armour, I unpacked it to wear it.  I thought single layer with foil blanket to stay warm at the start.  I was in turmoil.  It was warm as well as wet which made the conundrum even worse as I really suffer in the heat but the only sure fire way for me to guarantee to retain my nipples is through compression layering which is hot.  After about the third exchange of text and clothes options Pam commented that we were a pair of fannies and asked what Shakey had settled on.  With exasperation, fear and despair at the lack of understanding I blurted out “she’ll be fine, she wears a bra!”.  After which kind offers of additional supportive apparel were made through howls of laughter.

I coralled Pam and Rory out the door as they were wanting to watch the start and we made our way out with the rain seemingly getting heavier.  After 5 minutes I realised I had forgotten my timing chip and had to run back and get my chip.  By my reckoning I had now used up about half a mile of my 6 miles that I had in me.  After catching up with the sherpas again we watched the elite ladies shoot by and I got spooked that I had misjudged the start time so I started jogging again.  This time faster and farther.

As usual all plans to meet up beforehand were shot to hell.  Of the original five participants in 2009 not all could be at the meeting point.  Shakey was on time but was obviously in her favourite portaloo.  Really Long Socks may also have been on time, and may have tried to look for a portaloo but was more likely to be away peeing somewhere totally inappropriate desperately trying to cover his race number in case anyone spotted him.  HiViz was fighting his own battle against the rain in the Loch Ness Marathon and by all accounts took full advantage of St Johns Ambulance to sort his chafing.  And finally Hairy appears to have retired, possibly because his shorts got too tight if that is possible or possibly because he is the only one of the original five not to have tried a marathon.  Remember Hairy Boy – it is better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all.

Anyway, as we prepared for the start I got an unexpected round of hugs.  I miraculously spotted Shakey amongst the crowd and we had a quick good luck hug.  Either that or she was cleaning her hands on me post portaloo.  Then as I approached the portaloos myself I met Sean, a fellow recent Ironman and we shared a brief (Iron)Man Hug and finally I bumped into Lee one of the Regensburg Pirates and we also had a hug.  Then the lady who used to be in Spooks hooted the hooter and we were off.

The race was actually really nice and the route was much nicer than I remember.  My plan was to go canny for the long haul up to the Commonwealth Pool and then to push as hard as I could after that until I blew up.  On the way down the Pleasance I saw Pam and Rory and it was great to chuck the torn calf monkey off my back as I burrelled around the corner and up the Cowgate.  Three years ago at the top of the West Port a blind man with a guide dog overtook me and then stopped to tie his laces and then overtook me again.  This year no-one overtook me on that stretch.  At the water stop half way around the Meadows I had to walk through the water stop and take about three mouthfuls of water but then douse myself with the remainder as I was starting to overheat.  Just through 7k on Potterow I saw Pam who had done a decent dash up from the Pleasance and then it was downhill the whole way home.

The Great Edinburgh Run had a great atmosphere this year with speakers and music through a lot of the course and there were loads of kids high fiving down the High Street.  I knew I was well inside the target hour but when I passed the 400m to go sign and glanced at my watch I realised that 54 mins was on so I went head down, arse up for a sprint finish scraping into the 54s.

After the race the whole of Holyrood Park was a quagmire so deep that the tatt was obscured by the clart.   End of season pizza and beers with Shakey rounded off a good day and a good year.

So, I said I have a lot of big news to tell you.  Well as mentioned a couple of posts ago I entered the ballot for the London Marathon of which there is a one in five chance of getting picked.  For years I have got up early on a Sunday morning in April, even in my drinking days when sometimes I hadn’t long been in bed, to watch the elite, the inspirational and the mentalists complete the most iconic 26.2mile course that there is.  And now I have only gone and got myself picked at the first attempt and in olympic year – it really is a dream come true!!  That kind of settles the survival of the blog for another few months anyway!  And to top off the good news Shakey, who is not as lucky as me, got a charity place from the Stroke Association which is a fitting tribute for the selfless effort she has put in this year.  I can picture the sprint down the Mall already – like the race in Run Fat Boy Run – with Sue Barker tutting on the commentary as I will not discriminate against Shakey as a girlie in my competitive enthusiasm.

Sometime tonight or tomorrow I should find out if I have got into Escape from Alcatraz on the first ballot which would provide a lovely main event for next summer.  If not I might have to do some other silly event.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Half Iron Shakey

Posted on July 26, 2011. Filed under: bike, cycle, farky, great scottish swim, Half ironman, Half marathon, ironman, ironman regensburg, knockburn, knockburn middle distance, Pentlands, Referee, regensburg, run, shakey, swim, Threipmuir, triathlon, wetsuit |

Sometimes we have people that come into our life for a reason.  Sometimes they are special, really, really special.  Three weeks after completing our Half Ironman Shakey has eventually managed to type a race report using both of her thumbs and her nose to operate the space bar.  It is understandable that she took so long as English isn’t her first language (or second or third either for that matter) and she views the world through a particularly odd lens. Last year the guest spot in the blog was pretty common with Pam’s monologue on ducks and tirade at Arse and Shakey’s Great Weegie Dook race report being particularly memorable examples.  To be clear at the outset, this isn’t one of the classics as the girl is clearly getting older and less sharp witted but if you hold on to the end I’ll make an offer you can’t refuse.

PARENTAL WARNING – Shakey is from abroad.  Apparently if foreigners say “feck” in front of their Ma it is not a swear word.

January 2010

Stumpy – “I’m signing up for an ironman”

Shakey – “hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha”

Stumpy – “I’m serious”

Shakey – “hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha”

Stumpy – “I’ve bought all the books and lycra so I know I can do it”

Shakey – “hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha – now you’ve made me snort tea all over my computer, tell you what if you survive then sign me up for next year –  hahahahahaha”

January 2011 –

Stumpy – “Here’s your half ironman training programme. You’ve got twenty six weeks.”

Shakey – “……………….Feck”

And so it began, six months floundering in swimming pools and lochs (and the bath on those days when I couldn’t face the shame of armbanded toddlers going faster than me), pedalling a bike (trying to either (a) dodge a bus, or a truck, or a pimped up micra or (b) keep my legs in time to the rocky theme tune as a spin instructor shouted at me), and legging it around Edinburgh and Fife doing my finest Forest Gump impression. Oh and all this while clad in varying forms of lycra and rubber……

When we received the news two weeks before the event that the good folk at Aberdeenshire council had opted for a weekend of covering themselves in mud and drinking in a field (the Knockburn Half Ironman coincided with T in the Park) instead of staging their first Half Ironman, I’d be lying if I didn’t give a little woop woop of joy.  Alright that’s an understatement I was running round my flat delirious with relief that I wouldn’t have to go through with the insanity.  I’d been saved!!!! Woooooohhhhhooooooo!! But then the phone rang……

Stumpy – “It’s been cancelled”

Shakey – “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha……….yyyyyeeeeeeeehhhhaaaaaawwww”

Stumpy – “But we’re still doing it.”

Shakey – “………………………….Feck.”

So at 6am on Saturday 9th July I was rudely awakened by my alarm and the day i became a half ironman began.  Generally when you sign up for any race event you focus on just crossing the finish line and hope for good bling/goody bag/free tshirt.  What you don’t think about is the seedier side of things, i.e the dawn rising to choke down a bowl of porridge and some precautionary/Imodium/ibuprofen/paracetomol or whatever other tablet you can get your hands on – thank god the drug testers were still in bed.

The plan was a 7.30am rendezvous at Threipmuir for an 8am start in the water.   Now as this was not an official Half Ironman event, we were denied the usual glamour of a triathlon, i.e. portaloos, safety canoes, lifeguards, coastguards, ambulance services, road closures, cheering crowds etc etc.  However thanks to my pal Nicole Hatch we did have a race director/race marshal/someone to call 999 in case I needed fished out of the loch and slightly bemused onlooker all rolled into one.  Oh and she also gave me a lift to the start line as I had written off my car, or more accurately an Audi A5 had, the week before the race.  (As a word of warning to anyone travelling down Leith Walk you do not have right of way when turning onto Duke Street).   Needless to say it was a leisurely stroll to the water’s edge from the car park as even loonies aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to hop into a Baltic loch at 8am on a Saturday morning.  As much as it pains me to admit it Stumpy is a faster swimmer than me so I was first into the water (although to be fair he’s got about 60 years more experience in the water than me and swam for Scotland, and water-skied for Great Britain….. or something like that, I tend to switch off when he starts to regale stories of past athletic glories…).   Not to completely lose out on all the structure of a well organised event we did have a prerace briefing…

Stumpy – “OK, swim down there to the rock jutting out, swim straight across the loch to the opposite side, come back down this way until you’re parallel with the boathouse and then into the shore”

Shakey – “Can I put my feet down?”

Stumpy – “Only if you want to drown.  Now man up and get in”

And in I went.  I think everyone is pretty clear of how one heats oneself up when plunged into 10 degree waters in nothing but a rubber suit and hat, don’t judge me but let’s just say I took care of business and set off.  Propelled by a fear of hypothermia/drowning/something nibbling on my feet (and not the type of fish that they keep in those tanks that appear to be all the rage in beauty salons now…. What are they all about by the way?!!?).  I cranked up the pace and made some good progress in the water. My game plan was to stick fairly close to the edge of the loch as, I’ll be honest, my confidence in open water swimming generally errs towards slim to none when there are none of the aforementioned lifeguards, safety canoes or coastguards within a 100m radius.   However as I scraped my knee on some rocks I realised this was going to be a long day if I didn’t just “man up” and get in the depths.  Surprisingly my arms, legs, lungs all held up ok and before I knew it I was on the home stretch.  My elation was short lived when I looked up and saw what I thought was a white cap ahead of me in the water. “How the feck did that happen?? Surely the old man hasn’t passed me out?? He must have taken a short cut?? And he could have at least stopped to say hello??” and so on i ranted to myself.  As I came into the shore, fizzing at this stage partly at the injustice of being overtaken but mainly because he hadn’t stopped to offer me some of his usual words of wisdom, it dawned on me that the white cap was in fact a swan and Stumpy was still swimming.  Oh dear maybe I’ve bonked/hit the wall already…. Or maybe I should just invest in some new contact lenses.  By some miracle (or really just to avoid him moaning at me) I had hit the target time set for me by Stumpy 6 months ago and I crawled out of the water in about 45 mins.  Not exactly Olympic qualification times but for someone who 18 months previously refused to get her hair wet let alone put her face in the water and swim, not a bad effort.

Once Stumpy had emerged from the depths we sauntered back to T-1 (thats triathlon talk for the car park) to get lycra’d up for the bikes (the one advantage of this being an unofficial event was that there was no running deliriously up to a field filled with what appear to be identical looking tricycles trying to look out your own while trying to claw yourself out of a rubber suit).

Now when Stumpy first told me he was joining the pirates (an online group of like minded nut jobs who are not affiliated with any triathlon clubs but do them all the same) I chuckled at visions of him rocking up to start lines with an eye patch and parrot strapped to his shoulder.  Unsurprisingly the reality of what the pirate uniform looks like is very different….. And oh my, it is so much better than I could ever imagine and so worth getting up at the crack of dawn to see.  Dragging my sorry ass out of bed at 6am on a Saturday suddenly became one of the best moves I’ve made all year as suddenly i was faced with stumpy sporting this (actually he didn’t look as good at the start as these guys did at the end of an Ironman!).  Boys and girls going to Regensburg you are in for a special treat!!!

After a few minutes of hysterics I managed to pick myself up off the ground and calm myself to get kitted up for what would turn out to be a 96km instead of 90km cycle (Despite allegedly being an accountant, stumpy can’t count).  A quick visit to the facilities (yes I did previously say that there was no portaloos so use your imagination and don’t judge me – it was going to be a long day) and we were off.  Thankfully the sun appeared about 10 mins in and stuck with us for almost the entire cycle, so needless to say I regretted my decision to forgo the sun cream and I finished the day with some interesting tan (sunburn) lines.   Now as a foreigner (or economic refugee as I now like to be called) my geography of anywhere outside a 2 mile radius of Leith walk (where I live) or Dunfermline (where I work) is fairly poor so for the cycle I was reliant on the old boy for directions.  Little did I realise that he is in fact some sort of middle-aged Evil Knievel wannabe and so our entire route was on back roads where wee boys were drag racing their ma and da’s beamers – there was a particularly close shave with a 3 series outside Winchburgh where stumpy almost lost an ear! For the most part of the cycle we stuck together and as Stumpy had kindly loaded up the Temptress with energy bars/gels/drinks for us he was in charge of nutrition and hydration.  About 60km in I fear I did “bonk” and my legs slowed down as my mind started to wander….. I’d like to report I was lost in deep meaningful thoughts but I wasn’t.  All I could think about was chips.  A quick stop for Stumpy to fix my brakes (which worryingly kept coming loose despite his repairs) and get some energy stuff on board sorted me out.  As marathons have been the longest endurance event I’ve taken part in my mindset on eating when competing has always been that you don’t.  The main concern when running is getting plenty of fluids on board and avoiding the trots but this wee blip on the bike has made me realise that water/powerade/lucozade is just not enough for the serious stuff.

As we crossed the Kincardine Bridge it felt like we were almost there.  We’d gotten over and survived the hump of it so all we had to do now was get back to Stumpy’s pad in one piece, ditch the bikes and run 21.1km.  All sounds easy on paper eh? Throw in though an irrational, angry blue van man, two cyclists and a banana and you’ve almost got a disaster on your hands. For details see Stumpy’s account of the incident but I can testify that the man was indeed a tw@t.

We carried on through Fife and finally we hit 90km…… but something odd occurred….. we didn’t stop, we didn’t even slow down, in fact if anything we sped up.  My oh my was I witnessing a first, had stumpy in fact got something wrong??!  Unfortunately my glee at this was somewhat eroded by the fact that I had appeared to have lost feeling in my feet and as I was now on main roads dicing with motorists this could be a problem.

Shakey -“Are we there yet?”

Stumpy – “No.”

Shakey – “Are we there yet?”

Stumpy – “No”

Shakey – “Are we there yet?”

Stumpy – ………..silence

I wore him down and eventually we stopped.  A quick change into running gear, thankfully Stumpy decided to put a t-shirt over his swashbuckling one-piece and save us from being arrested for public indecency in Dunfermline town centre and we were once again off.  For the first time all day, apart from when I was dreaming of french fries and chunky chips and wedges, there was a deafening silence.  Running a half marathon is bad enough , but try to do one after a 2km swim and 90 (96!!) km cycle and you’ve got a very special type of torture.   The realisation about 5 mins in that we had no water or money did nothing to raise spirits and so we plodded on for the first 3/4 km deep in thought… me focussed on finding the nearest loo, Stumpy focussed on how he could make it over the fence onto the motorway to end it all.  A quick pit stop in McDonalds and we started to get a new lease of life.  Before we knew it we had hit Costa and Subway for cups of water and we were almost 10km in… Half way….wooohoooo!!  Unfortunately the chat restarted but fatigue and dehydration was having an impact on the quality and we shared some deep and dark secrets….

Stumpy- “You had those new Galaxy Counter sweets yet”

Shakey – “oh yeah the ones that are like naked minstrels? They’re brilliant”

Stumpy – “Pam and I ate a whole bag last night. But I still think I prefer maltesers”

Shakey – “Me too. I like to pop 2 or 3 at a time and crunch them”

Stumpy – “Nah, too quick, I go for one and try to suck all the chocolate off…….”

You get the picture.  Thankfully the rain/thunder/lightening kicked off then and drowned us out.  As we approached the bridge (big shout out to the 4×4 who decided to drive on the hard shoulder to make sure he got us with a proper tidal wave) I spotted our race director/race marshal sheltering in a bus stop.  Nicole had been trying to catch us all day but as Stumpy had spectacularly confused miles and kilometres in the race briefing she kept missing us.  We mugged her for water and Lucozade, shouted we had only 2km left to go and headed straight into the rain and mist that shrouded the bridge.  The legs were starting to ache now and the last 2km suddenly felt as long as 20km. We kept at it though and we were at our turning point and heading downhill to the finish line before we knew it.  At around 4.30 we finally crossed the finish line to the rapturous applause of Nicole, John, Pam, Rory and Allistair.

Stumpy now goes on to the madness of Regensburg (if only he’d had a normal mid life crisis and bought an aston martin) but I shall retire to Malta for a week to even out the questionable tan lines acquired in my first ever half ironman.

As much as I cherished the company, I was doing all of this for another reason.  In December of last year, Linda Hunter, a former colleague and friend of ours at Sky passed away suddenly.  When we heard that at age 46 she had suffered from a stroke we were all stunned. In our naivety many of us had thought strokes were something that affected only older people. And so in Linda’s memory I’m hoping my endeavors can raise some funding for the Stroke Association.  It isn’t just about the one event though, the whole painful schedule looks like this…..

19th June – Lochore Open Water Sprint Triathlon

9th July – DIY Middle Distance Triathlon (Half Ironman)

17th Sept – Dublin Half Marathon

22nd Sept – Great Scottish Swim (2km open water)

2nd Oct – Great Edinburgh Run (10km – this is really just to boost my ego after having the inevitable beating it will have take in all of the previous events)

22nd Apr – London Marathon 2012 (That is of course if they organisers decide to give me a place!!)

If you can spare anything at all I have a justgiving page here.



And there it is – three weeks worth of Shakey’s work.  I can safely say that the last 6km of the ride felt like they lasted 10 lifetimes.  What she didn’t say in the race report was that her feet were sore or maybe she did – I just blank it out now.  It was no coincidence that she speeded up in the last stretch as I was trying to get away from her to escape the earache.  Now on return from her holidays she has gone all maternal on me – are you eating well, drink loads of water, I know you’re not very good at sleep but your  body will be really needing it etc.  Despite all that it is fair to say that Shakey now lives by the HalfIron mantra “Pain is temporary, Pride is forever”.

Anyway, as most of you know I decided not to raise money for charity after putting heart and soul into it last year so that I could focus on Project Regensburg,  However, having lost Linda far too soon this is very close to my heart and I will make a magnanimous offer which can only really end in tears for me.  As it stands tonight Shakey has raised £1080 with her efforts so far – if the total were to be £1250 by the time I blog on Sunday night then I will reluctantly post the one photo  in existence of me in my one piece Pirate suit.  And who knows, pictures of Shakey in a rubber suit could be added to the gallery if demand is high enough!  Having already appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News in glorious technicolour sporting her trademark dodgy fake tan lines she is already way beyond public humiliation.

From a guest  authors point of view I am going to deliver technical training to Pam and the Farkies to update the blog during the Ironman to keep you up to speed with progress and maybe even post photos and videos if I go slow enough for them to capture me.  But I’ll be warning you now I’ll be in the Pirate suit.

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Over the hump…..

Posted on July 18, 2011. Filed under: bike, cycle, Half ironman, ironman, ironman regensburg, phelps, regensburg, Rory, run, shakey, Sky Procycling, swim, Team Sky, triathlon, Uncategorized, wetsuit |

With only three weeks to go now and with the hardest training weeks behind me I feel like I have metaphorically gone “over the hump”.  There is still a lot to be done in the coming weeks to keep everything ticking over and to try to stay something like an ideal race weight (to be honest that boat has long since sailed but I am now concentrating on damage limitation as I reduce the volume of training).  The last week of training didn’t go well and in almost 9 months of training I actually let work interfere for the first time last week and lost a couple of key sessions.  I flew to London on what is known as the “red eye” on Thursday morning and didn’t get home until after 10 on Friday – when my alarm went off at 530am I snoozed it and then when it went off again at 7 I got up, got a handful of vitamin C, downed it and went back to bed.  Fatigue and the immune system can be a killer at this stage of the journey so instead of heading out for a 7 hour cycle in the persisting rain while knackered I took some unplanned rest.


A bit unintentionally I seem to have a collection of pictures for this blog post that just make me smile.  I can’t really think why I don’t have any interesting pictures of bikes in interesting places so instead I have pictures of people (mainly my boy) and monkeys (just funny).

Shakey contemplates a witty first line for her race report

As a starter, this is not just a gratuitous picture of a monkey.  For sheer digital dexterity, this macaque that managed to take it’s own picture with a stolen camera deserves some space on my blog.  However, from one talented hairy monkey with opposable thumbs to another.  This monkey represents my training partner Shakey (you could tell from the sunburnt legs in the last post she would be hirstute!) who promised me a race report from the half ironman weekend before she disappeared on holiday with the Maltesers.  Like much of the time I spend with Shakey I would have been as well asking the monkey for a race report.  I now like to call this monkey Shakey.


Speaking of Shakey, after the long haul last weekend we managed to get one 6mile lunchtime jog in before she went off to Malta to try and even up her sunburn lines.  It was pretty hard going on tired old legs but it was reasssuring for me that I could get back on the horse after a long distance effort and without much recovery time.  I followed that up with a long run along the Thames on Friday morning where I spent 3.5miles running out towards Richmond saying hello to everyone I passed with absolutely no reaction back and then on the run back east I was fully expecting to be arrested for being too jolly at 6am.  I always thought it was a myth but there is a real north/south divide that I haven’t seen in any of the other cities whose pavements I have pounded.  Having said that it might just have been me as the two gentlemen in suits canoodling on a park bench in Twickenham seem to be quite friendly towards each other.  Get a room boys – it might be 6am but you’re not invisible!

Right Roar, another couple of lengths backstroke and then we're done

Last week was a hard swimming week with two 4k swims which I am pretty sure are the longest swims that I have done since I retired from competitive swimming when I was 18.  For the avoidance of doubt, I can confirm that 4k is quite a long way.  I don’t have any pictures of me swimming (that’s not strictly true actually – I don’t have any pictures of me swimming that I would post on the internet) however the next Olympian in the family was caught in action in deep water over the weekend.

It turns out that when we stay at the flat the designer stainless steel kitchen sink is a useful bath cum commonwealth pool substitute.  Oh, how our lifestyle has changed with young Phelps swimming lengths of the kitchen and using the dining room table as a changing room!


However, his Ironman aspirations haven’t ended just with the swim leg. Rory apparently has been enjoying the fantasy July that I aspire to – sitting in his bouncy chair watching the live coverage of the Tour de France.  If he could walk he would probably makes his way to the fridge, find the coldest Kronenbourg in there and sit right back down to cheer on Team Sky.  It seems though that having watched all of the cyclists he fancied his own pair of Oakleys in anticipation of getting a bike.  I know there is a serious reason for them but baby shades just make me laugh and laugh.  They’re a bit like dressing your dog up in a santa suit!


With the end of heavy training also came the session that I dread – an hour long deep tissue massage.  Now the theory here is that that masseur sorts out all the muscle damage that has been done in training and reprogrammes the muscles.  In the past I have seen Merell the 5 foot power house but because I could only go on Sunday I had an appointment with Pavel.  Just from his name I should have known that I would suffer some brutal eastern european torture but I wasn’t quite prepared for his persistence in removing troublesome knots in my muscles.  Normally, Merell concentrates on my legs at my request but I think Pavel played dumb with his English, spotted a weakness and went for it.  I haven’t had my top half massaged since I had shoulder reconstruction surgery in November for two reasons – firstly, as a swimmer I can work round injuries in my shoulders quite effectively and secondly, and most importantly because Iknew it would hurt like hell.  And so it did – I like to think (because it is a fact) that I have quite a high pain threshold, however, when massaged or getting physio my reaction to muscle trauma is to sweat (my last physio told me that is quite a common reaction).  Sunday afternoon was certainly warm but when I saw pooling sweat on the floor underneath the hole in the massage table streaming off the tip of my nose I had to tell Pavel to get his pokey sausage fingers out from underneath my shoulder blade tout de suite.  Even now over 24hours later I keep waiting for the bruising to appear from some of his more brutal therapies.

Mmmmmh, bikes

After I was finished I sent Pam in to see Pavel as she has been suffering from a bad back and if nothing else this would give her some new pains to concentrate on.  This gave me and the boy the opportunity to chill out in Stockbridge.  I’m not sure why but he insisted in popping into a bike shop before we went to Starbucks for a coffee.  We wandered around for a while and Rory pointed out the bikes that he might like for Christmas.  He said that it is never too early to get one as the price of carbon fibre might shoot up at any time.  It turns out that he quite likes hinging oot with dad in bike shops.

Anyway, the next 3 weeks may see more blog posts as I try to fill the hours that have suddenly appeared in my schedule as I taper towards the race.  Or indeed I may not post at all as I find something else to fill my time.  Sometime before I turn 40 we may even see a race report from Shakey or I may go to the zoo with an ipad and give it to a Monkey to do a blog.
Three weeks to go!
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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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Summer at last!

Posted on July 5, 2011. Filed under: baby, bike, brad wiggins, cycle, geek spot, Half ironman, ironman, ironman regensburg, knockburn, knockburn middle distance, regensburg, Rory, run, shakey, Sky Procycling, swim, Team Sky, triathlon |

Dad's tales of Ironman training proved overwhelming for Rory

As forecast, the weekend has left me puggled.  Work ended up being even busier than I thought – I took a rest day on Friday (from training) and worked through to just after 2am; I was up at 630am and out for a 7 hour ride; back at work from 3pm through to 2am, home for a quick cat-nap and back in from 7am to 4pm giving me another unplanned rest day on Sunday.

I haven’t drunk caffeine for a couple of months now but when I got to work I was instantly attracted to full sugar Coke to top my system up after the ride and get me through to the early hours.  Having been off the caffeine, combined with the volume I took in I was alternately giddy and sweaty but with a speeding pulse I made it through the day no problem.  When I got home Pam forced me to sleep against my better judgement and I woke a couple of hours later with an incredible caffeine and adrenaline hangover.  By the look of my boy on Sunday morning he was suffering sympathetic fatigue for his old man.

Anyway, fine weather has finally arrived in Scotland which has given me the opportunity to train in a climate more like what I will face in Germany and test my resolve against the elements.  Saturday morning was a lovely ride which provided some rich material for my bike photos.  I headed out over the hills past Knockhill and took in Dollar on the way out to Aberfoyle and then back through Stirling on a 105mile epic ride.  Nutrition strategy worked well with Clif Bars, gels, water and almost 2 litres of carb replacement drink.  It was a course that had a very similar profile to Regensburg so it was great to get some long stretches down on the aerobars and tested some new muscles that I haven’t used in a lot of the hillier courses that I have been over.  It turns out that being forward on the bars for long periods can leave you a little chafed in the moving parts – despite padding and a liberal application of vaseline I still needed to borrow substantial amounts of Rory’s Sudocreme to sort myself out afterwards.

I had a wonderful moment later in the morning when I got beeped at in Stirling when examining my map trying to find a way around the castle rock without going up a hill.  An older fella who I had been riding with earlier in the morning spotted me in my bright yellow cycling shirt and stopped to ask if I was lost.  I like how the Knights of the Road stick together.

The Temptress lounges at the Lake of Menteith

While the sun was welcome relief from the hail, rain and wind that I had suffered in recent weeks it still provides a lot of challenges.  Although I take electrolyte supplements in my water bottles I found I had some mild cramping.  Cramp is basically your body’s way of telling you that you are running low on electrolytes and salt so I have now ordered salt tablets that I will need to test (for compatability with my stomach) on my last long ride.

I passed the Lake of Menteith and stopped for a photo.  I always thought that it was the only Lake in Scotland but it turns out that it is one of 4 but the most famous.  There is a really boring reason why it is called a Lake which I choose to ignore as I prefer the legend that the local Baron betrayed Sir William Wallace and everyone else subsequently referred to it by the English name lake to indicate his true allegiance.

Anyway, it was a great ride with some good lumps and bumps but with long flat drags – all of which are perfect preparation for IM Regensburg.

Monday included a long run (just over 10miles) deliberately done at midday in full tri-gear and sunscreen to replicate a hot race followed by an hour on the turbo in the back garden with completely still air.  The run actually went so well that I completely forgot to rehearse my race strategy.  An Ironman marathon isn’t like a run of the mill marathon as it is done after a warm up of 112miles on the bike and a 2.4mile swim.  So, you need a plan and mine is a 9min run and 1min walk strategy which controls the heart rate, allows you to eat and drink when you walk  and actually keeps up a good average pace.  However, after 45minutes I realised I had forgotten the plan and was just jogging so it will need to be tested properly this weekend coming.  Unfortunately, I think I got myself so dehydrated that I had to dodge my morning swim today and I might as well have been jogging on slow roasted lamb shanks at lunchtime for all the use that my legs were.

Geek spot hasn’t been updated for a while so here goes.  Since I decided to start tracking mileage I have now covered 3400km or 2100miles and with my peak month still ongoing there is a bit yet to come.

The Tour de France started again this week and “my colleagues” in Team Sky have 3 of the top 10 places as I write.  I love the work that ozcycling do at LeTour so although they only have one hilarious video so far this year (bad translation) I have posted their analysis of how riders manage a “comfort break” in tribute to the Tour.

So, this week will see our home-made half ironman event after the cancellation of the Knockburn Middle Distance.  I am hoping for decent weather as at least if she has to drink a lot of water I won’t hear too much of Shakey pumping her gums.  On the other hand I could just make the swim last a lot longer amd I’ll never hear her with my ears submerged!  When we meet Pam, Rory and the rest of the support crew at the end of the Forth Road Bridge on Saturday afternoon I will only have one long distance session left before the drive to Germany.  It’s all getting very real now!

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Mental strength……..and just being mental

Posted on July 1, 2011. Filed under: Half ironman, ironman, ironman regensburg, knockburn, knockburn middle distance, lochore, lochore meadows, lochore meadows triathlon, Pentlands, regensburg, Rory, shakey, Threipmuir, triathlon, Uncategorized, wetsuit |

Tonight on my way home from an open water swim at Threipmuir I saw an eightysomething arthritic, fella standing hunched over his walking stick and thought to myself “I wish I felt as fit and healthy as that lucky beggar”.  I am at the stage in Ironman training where everything hurts all the time.  I wake hurting, I run, bike and swim when I hurt and I go to sleep hurting.  Well, actually that’s not strictly true I had a wee bit on the outside of my left heel just next to the deep, healing blister that I got at Lochore that was fine until last night when I missed a tumble turn and clattered my heel down on the pool deck and left a dark bruise about the size of a 50 pence piece.  Seriously, this nonsense is supposed to be good for you.

I must sort out first things first.  Thanks to everyone that gave me constructive feedback on the last post.  I get it – less about triathlon and feeling sorry for myself and more photos of Rory.  Seems like I have found my place in life – Rory’s dad and official photographer.  So here you go…….

This week is officially my third last week of ultra distance training with a “long brick” on Monday, a 7 hour ride scheduled for Saturday coming and a smattering of 3.5 – 4k swims and it has proven to be as much a challenge of mental stamina as fitness.

Shakey, the training partner with an attention span of a goldfish with dementia, frequently asks if I get bored on some of the long sessions.  And I think that is the difference between an aspiring Ironman (there’s some confusion in my head whether you have to complete an Ironman to be an Ironman.  After all, you don’t have to be crucified to be as christian!) and somebody who just likes to go for a jog.  I have developed a really hard-edged never give up attitude when I am training that I hope will see me good on race day.  I hadn’t really thought about it before now but doing the Lochore Triathlon feeling as rough as I did was more a test of my mental strength than of my stamina – I had a choice to quit when I woke up, I had the choice to quit when I got to the venue, I had the choice to quit after the swim, I had the choice to quit when I had to stop to throw up on the bike and then again when I finished the bike and I had the choice to quit at any point in the run.  But I didn’t and whether it was stubborness, testing my toughness, delirium or stupidity I found a new level of strength that I didn’t have before.

Digger, Shakey and Stumpy discuss rubber suit etiquetteMy final moments of lucidity at Lochore

It’s funny that before I started seriously training for Ironman I thought it was all about the emotion, pride of the glory moment when I stumble across the line late in the evening on the 7th of August as I hear “You are an Ironman” and someone places some giant bling around my neck and then I swiftly get put on a drip and throw up.  But I now worry that will be an anticlimax after the hours and hours of training that I have put in.

In December I made a conscious decision to dump the ipod not only because I had got fed up listening to “I gotta feeling” but because I knew I couldn’t wear it in the race.  Since then I have run only with the sound of my own breathing and my own thoughts rattling about my head which probably doesn’t sound like that much of a challenge until you notice that just about every runner and dog walker wears an ipod because they struggle with the solitude.  Sometimes, of course, I run with Shakey and that is because I can transcend a new level of mental toughness if I can spend a solid hour with her chuntering on in my lugs.  Likewise, on the bike, I always do my long rides on my own and time really flies even during a 7 hour ride as I focus very much on the task in hand – climbing, gear changes, eating, drinking, pacing, heart rate etc – and managing whatever aches, pains and weather that comes along.

So, all that navel gazing said, the focus of this week was the “Big Brick”.  This was a 6am start on Monday followed by a 52mile cycle with a great climb in Glentarkie followed by a run just short of 11miles.  I wore my exotic white cap in anger for the first time and drew only occasional pitying glances.  As I mentioned above I am now in the peak weeks and this weekend will involve a 7 hour cycle and a 2 hour run, next weekend a half ironman rehearsal and the weekend after another 7 hour cycle and 2.5 hour run.  Then I put my feet up for three weeks, eat Bratwurst and get the Rosetta Stone tapes out so that I can fluently order a beer at the end (or get my money back!).

Shakey and I had planned to do the Knockburn Half Ironman next weekend, however, we heard last week that it had been cancelled because they haven’t found enough mentalists like us to make it worthwhile.  With my never say die approach I have subsequently organised my own Half Ironman a deux as I still need to do a full dress rehearsal at half distance before I head off to Germany.  So, the swim will be a 1.9k route around Threipmuir which is in blue on the map.  (The red is tonight’s GPS trace which I am quite pleased with as I did just over a mile over three laps and it looks like I swam as straight as an arrow).  We are in the process of recruiting someone who is almost (but not quite) as daft as us to look after our bikes at 8am on a Saturday morning and take away our “used” wetsuits.  The ride will  take in 56 miles of Edinburgh, West Lothian, Clackmannanshire, Stirlingshire and the Kingdom of Fife followed by a  half marathon finishing at the end of the Forth Road Bridge.  Hopefully, either Pam or the paramedics will be there to pick up the remains and maybe even give me a thimbleful of champagne (I am now officially dry until race day but every race needs champers!) to fend off the pains and get me to sleep.

I should say at this point although loads of people have asked me if I am doing this for sponsorship I have to confess that after the amount of effort it took to raise £4000 for the Anaphylaxis Campaign last year I decided to be totally selfish and just focus on me this year.  The Shakester, however, is doing this as one in a series of events including the Lochore Sprint Triathlon, the inaugural Stumpy vs Shakey Half Ironman (trust me this will catch on!), the Great Scottish Swim, the Dublin Half Marathon, the Great Edinburgh Run and the London Marathon for charitable reasons that are also very close to my heart.  Just before Christmas last year a friend and colleague Linda “the Hunts” Hunter was taken away from us far, far too young from a sudden stroke.  Shakey is raising money for the Stroke Association and, although we know things are really tight, if you did want to make a contribution here it would mean an awful lot to us.

This weekend sees a very painful time for me.  A busy event at work means that I will have an unplanned rest day on Friday getting home about 2am, up at 6am for a 100mile ride followed by a 3mile run, back into work mid afternoon until midnight and then run 12miles on Sunday morning. On Monday I will rest or maybe stretch to another blog update!

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