Singularity

The Saturday after the Thursday before – thoughts on the referendum

Sep.20, 2014, filed under Miscellany

avatarSo, here we are. It’s all over, and this is where the recriminations and thuggish celebrations could so easily undo all the good that has been done during the campaign.

I’ve been silent on the issue, and will remain so as far as which way I voted — that being a matter between me and my ballot paper — as there is a political sensitivity to my day job profession. As a writer, it has been an interesting experience, to be both part of the process but also, because I was obliged to remain apart from the arguments, to be an outside observer.

I’m with Irvine Welsh, as much as I’m with anyone. No matter which way you voted, no matter how you feel about the outcome, what was achieved was almost 100% voter registration and a massive 85% turn-out. The one thing no one can accuse Scotland as a nation of being is apathetic or disengaged.

I’m distressed to see people I know posting insults about “No” voters, accusing them of being traitors or feart*. The one thing that really would see Scotland as a nation lose from this exercise is if the population were to be split down the middle, with one half hating the other. As the campaign went on, and the polls came out, I knew only one thing was certain: whatever happened, approximately half the population was going to be extremely upset and pissed off by the result.

I didn’t need hindsight for that.

I hope, with every fibre, that this split does not come to characterise our nation as we move forwards. I don’t think this matter is settled. As the promises of three old Etonians, made in their panicked run-up to the referendum without any backing from Westminster, crumble to dust in the cold light of the morning after — as we all knew they would — there is every chance that Scotland will see another referendum before this generation has made way for the next.

There are already disappointed Yes campaigners organising themselves to go again, and do it better this time.

I’d make a plea, to anyone trying to fathom how it is someone could have voted differently from them, whether Yes or No, to bear some things in mind. These are things I learned during my years of cycle campaigning, things that were often ignored by my fellow campaigners.

  • DO accept that other people have different opinions from you, and it’s not because they are bad people; it’s because they have reached a different conclusion from you after assessing the evidence available to them.
  • DON’T assume you know the reasons why people who feel differently from you feel that way. If you could see valid reasons for them to feel that way you might feel the same. You will therefore be forced to imagine invalid reasons for them to take that position, which will only lead to arguments and frustration.
  • DO try to engage with people who feel differently from you, and do so in a constructive and open manner. It might be worth starting with what they thought of the question they were being asked in the first place. For a great many people, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” is neither straightforward nor easy to answer.
  • DON’T assume people who were quiet about their decisions will give you a heartfelt answer when asked why they feel the way they do. There is a degree of peer pressure and fear of judgement when it comes to positions that have a social impact. Everyone has a Social Survival Mammoth, and for a great many, it’s the mammoth answering the questions. People are more likely to answer honestly about their primary reason for their opinion to those who feel the same way, because additional reasons for feeling that way will cement their acceptance in that peer group. If asked by someone who takes an opposite stance, people will probably give one or more of the commonly reported responses.
  • DO stay positive and keep agitating for change. This wasn’t, no matter what the media might say, an overwhelming outcome. Very nearly half of all those living in Scotland voted to leave the UK. That’s a near miss, not a routing.
  • DON’T be surprised by a catankerous old boys network hurling scorn and reneging on last minute promises. Politics has become a hive of playground tactics, and the only surprise should be that they haven’t yet yanked their shirts over their heads while running around with their arms out as if doing an impression of a fat aeroplane.
  • DO try to remain civil, open, understanding, non-judgemental, co-operative and forward-looking, no matter how hard it is. Defeatism is the last thing we need. The No voters didn’t vote that way because they are traitors; nor did the Yes voters. Fear characterised much of the campaigning on both sides: if it had gone the other way, plenty could have said it was because Scots were afraid of being forced to leave Europe, or losing the NHS. As it is, there are those saying the No vote came about because selfish people were afraid of losing their pensions. It’s just not that straightforward.
  • DON’T let what happens next be informed by spite, bitterness, hate or revenge.

Rather than focus on what might have been, let’s look at what we can do to make things better now. At the end of the day, that was what the No campaign promised: “Better Together”. Well, okay then. For a whole host of reasons, slightly more than half of the people of Scotland believed that was true, or at least more plausible than better apart.

Never mind the details for the moment. Just think on this: while the Scottish referendum was decided by the 5 million people north of the border, the rest of the world was watching. If, in fact, “Better Together” turns out to be fabricated entirely from tissue paper and lies, false promises and wishful thinking, a dying sense of empire and an archaic, tight-fisted grasp on historical precedent, then what are the 56 million other British people going to think of promises made to them?

This has been a wake up call. Let’s make the most of it.

*Please don’t assume this tells you how I voted.

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A Triathlete’s Guide to Words – Bench Fat

Aug.31, 2014, filed under Planet Sam, Word Guide

avatarbench fat /bɛn(t)ʃ fat/
noun
Unwanted weight gained by an athlete when taking a break from training as a result of injury or illness. Caused by the failure of permanom to go away and bacon to cease existing just because training has been suspended. Not to be confused with normal, healthy weight gain that occurs when an endurance athlete stops training so goddamned much she barely has time to brush her hair in the morning. Neither should it be used pejoratively. This term is reserved for athletes to vent about the frustrations caused by being unable to participate in one’s sport.

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A Triathlete’s Guide to Words – Witching Hour

Aug.10, 2014, filed under Word Guide

avatarwitching hour /ˈwɪtʃɪŋ ˌaʊə(r)/
noun
22:00 hours (10pm) local time. All bicycle repairs should be completed by this time. Any repair or fettling taking place later than this has a substantially increased risk of going terribly, horribly, dreadfully wrong. Replacing bar tape will result in severed brake cables, spoke tensioning will result in pringled wheels, etc. The only exceptions are emergency repairs carried out while on a ride that is not due to finish until later than this time.

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A Triathlete’s Guide to Words – Permanom

Jul.11, 2014, filed under Planet Sam, Word Guide

#1 in a new series of random definitions.

permanom /’pɜr mə nɒm/
noun
A hunger that exists perpetually, without significant change, no matter how much food is eaten. Generally assumed to arise from significant daily calorie expenditure. Can continue for a significant period after daily exercise has stopped (c.f. ‘bench fat’). Makes all foodstuffs more appetising, especially bacon.

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Aberdeen Assault 1 – ride report

Jul.06, 2014, filed under Aberdeen Assault, Cycling

avatarI know I owe a couple of race reports, however let’s ignore the triathlons for a moment and reflect on this year’s inaugural Aberdeen Assault.

I posted about it previously — as is usually the case with LGC events, the route was carefully thought-out, considered in detail and ridden in advance to ensure it would be enjoyable, pleasant and practical.

Oh, no it wasn’t. They never are. All LGC event planning consists of me, some maps, Google, a few G&Ts and an over-riding sense of, “Fuckit, what’s the worst that could happen?”

I arrived at Kirkcaldy station on my recently polished Pinarello (that’s not a euphemism), where I met with my two intrepid companions, M & V. They admired my bike (who wouldn’t?) while I availed myself of the facilities in the Platform 1 waiting room, knowing that all the coffee I’d been drinking that day would mean I was going to be counting the miles to the next set.

It was M’s first night ride, first century, first ride on a new saddle. It was V’s first overnight century. It was my first ride of more than 30 miles in about 3 years. What could possibly go wrong?

Dura Den Damage
Not much, as it happens. M & V showed an odd lack of desire to stop at The Ceres Inn for a wee dram, even though it was a beautiful evening and the beer garden looked friendly. (Can any Dumb Runners imagine not stopping at the Kirkhouse? It would be weird and wrong.) Dura Den was interesting — it has been closed to motor traffic ever since floods took out the road, but when I checked on the Fife Council website there was no listing for it, so I thought it would be open. Friends confirmed that it was closed to cars but bikes could get through. When we got there, the big concrete barriers left just enough room for a bike to squeeze onto what’s left of the road, and the signs saying “DANGER, KEEP OUT, UNSTABLE GROUND” lent a frisson of excitement. Bats swooped around our heads as we picked our way nervously past the orange fence lining the devastation, the gloom enhancing the prickling sense of moist verticality off to our left.

The waterfall, sadly, was invisible behind thick, verdant vegetation, but we could hear it.

Onwards, then, and up to Tayport and thence the Tay Bridge. I was pretty glad for V’s familiarity with the roads here — the car park I was expecting to appear on the right turned out to require a left turn first, so I’ll be adding that note to the route sheet for next year.

We stopped at the big Tesco’s on Riverside Drive for a rest break, where M bought snaplights and I bought beef jerky (having come amply provided with snaplights). After a slow start we’d got back on my tentative schedule, and were feeling good.

Swooshing through Broughty Ferry, we passed a few Herberts who had been pulled over by the police. I wasn’t sure if they’d been stopped for speeding or if it was a stop-point for random breathalyser tests. I asked the woman officer if we should stop too, but she waved us on. We were then onto the only part of the route where I wasn’t 100% sure of my directions, and, as always when the turn isn’t familiar, it seemed to take longer than I was expecting to reach the turn onto the Arbroath road.

There we found ourselves on a dual carriageway, but at 1am, in a group of three, with serious amounts of rear lighting, it was perfectly safe and probably one of the most enjoyable sections. Straight, clear, fast, and with the refreshing nocturnal chill that leaves your skin feeling like a shell over the thermonuclear core of your exercising metabolism. I love that feeling, and it’s one of the many reasons I do overnight centuries.

We stopped briefly on entering Arbroath to add some layers, as the chill was starting to become less enjoyable. M set his helmet down on the wall there, which was to have unexpected consequences later.

On the Dumb Run it was always dark, but with a faint orange glow just above the horizon. On this route the sun was a dirty stop out, and it didn’t ever get properly dark. We took the required jelly baby shot at 3am in Montrose, and the sky in this shot is only a little lighter than it had been an hour before:

Aberdeen Assault Jelly Babies

I’d raced in Montrose only a few weeks previously, and had driven home via most of the route we intended to take from here, so we were back on familiar roads. We stopped again just outside Montrose to answer the call of nature, more bats flitting around our heads. I disturbed a badger in the undergrowth (sorry!) and M made a terrible discovery: when he took his helmet off there were slugs on his head. It would seem they’d hitched a ride in Arbroath. I don’t think they expected to end up the other side of Montrose.

Slugs
The next section was a beautiful, undulating coast road up past St. Cyrus and Johnshaven, with bunnies fleeing from the verges. Into Inverbervie, then the slow climb up to the dual carriageway before a right turn and a fast, twisty descent into Stonehaven. Although Frood had agreed to come and bring us breakfast in Stonehaven, we agreed to press on in an effort to make it to Aberdeen before the rain hit.

The climb out of Stonehaven was the only serious climb of the ride. I made it with some swearing, and waited for M and V to catch up. M was suffering by this stage, not being the kind of person who routinely stays up all night (see, there are advantages to being an insomniac). V had gone into motivational mode, and I followed suit. I confess to a few little fibs about the lack of uphill bits in the next section (I’d never ridden it, but I knew we’d just done the only hard ascent, so the rest of it couldn’t count as proper hills). But we didn’t have far to go, and the rest of it was relatively easy.

Through the drizzle and the odd early morning lorry overtake, then down and down onto the South Deeside Road, where it was a flat run straight through to the beach. At the first sign that said “Beach” I started yelling “BEEEEEACH!” and kept yelling it every couple of minutes as encouragement, while biting back the urge to sprint hell for leather for the end.

We arrived at the Pirate Dolphin to find Frood waiting with bready comestibles and hot coffee, the absolute superstar.

Aberdeen Assault - DONE

Why do I do these things? It’s for that sense of cold skin around a hot inside. It’s for the banter. It’s for sights you would never see otherwise — noctilucent clouds above skittering bats, rabbits bouncing white and brown up the hillsides, hares accelerating across a field, a grown man wiping slugs from his head, crows calculating whether it’s worth stepping away from roadkill to let you by, bike lights shattering in dawn rain. It’s for the nocturnal silence broken only by the huff of breath and the ticking of freewheels, the hum of tyre on tarmac. It’s for running around a major supermarket at midnight in skintight lycra and socks, and no one paying a blind bit of notice because anyone shopping at midnight on a Saturday is a bit out of the ordinary anyway.

I do it because I get a primal sense of satisfaction from turning the pedals for hours on end. This ride provided all these things, and I’m definitely doing it again.

It’s a great ride, and with the regular Dumb Run crowd I reckon it would be a fast one. It’s an easier route, the scenery is fabulous, the midnight sun amazing, there are more bridges and the roads are quieter. It’s on a par with the Dun Run in terms of ride effort, and although we rolled to the finish at around 07:30, I think you could get to the end by 06:00 with fewer stops and more experienced riders.

I don’t know that I’ll never do the Dumb Run again — anyone who wants to do it can pitch up at LGC and ask for the route sheet, we don’t mind) — but the difference in light means that the Aberdeen Assault is now my favoured Overnight Summer Solstice Century.

Next year it will be on Saturday the 20th June at 8:30pm (20:30). See you there!

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Aberdeen Assault 1

Jun.27, 2014, filed under Aberdeen Assault, Cycling, Dumb Run

avatarIn previous years, we’ve done the Dumb Run, and it has been good. It has been great. I have splendid memories from those rides, from Will yelling “WILDFLOWERS AND SHAME” at the sleeping citizens of Linlithgow at 3am, to the little guy in hi-viz who threw a total hissy fit at us for taking pictures of jelly babies on the Forth Road Bridge at 4am.

But this year is different. This year I don’t have the motivation to ride a train all the way to Dumbarton, ride a bike to St Andrews, then ride in a car all the way back up to Aberdeen again. Frood doesn’t have the motivation to drive all the way down to St Andrews at silly o’clock on a Sunday morning, just so we can have coffee and beer at the side of a golf course. He’s not keen on being the calamity wagon if it’s going to take him 3 hours just to get there.

So we’re changing.

A couple of years ago, the LGC mooted the idea of the Aberdeen Assault – in addition to DR, not as a replacement. Well, this year it is the replacement.

Aberdeen Assault Route

If this is as nice a ride as I think, this is likely to become my replacement overnight Solstice Century. Most of the people who have done the DR in the past are either east coast folks or have been staying with me as a guest, so this is equally convenient. Aberdeen has better transport connections for the return trip than Leuchars, and the scenery will be much better.

I’ll report back and let you know how we get on.

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By The Light Of The Dazzling Stream

May.17, 2014, filed under Planet Sam

avatarMy Dad. Scientist, engineer, aquanaut, racing driver, yachtsman, adventurer, philanthropist. Ambitious, driven, restless, passionate, romantic, generous.

My hero.

I mean ‘hero’ in the sense of Odysseus battling gods and monsters across the sea in his quest to return to Penelope and Telemachus. When I was young, he was this amazing figure who was as handy in a laboratory as he was under the bonnet of a car, and as useful under the sea as he was helming a boat over it. He encouraged me to participate in things most girls were too busy swooning over boy bands or collecting Cindy accessories to consider — I dived, sailed, snorkelled, beachbombed on uninhabited islands. I learned to track, to fish, to build fires.

He taught me to be independent: to have faith in my ability to learn new skills and look after myself. To be sensible and pragmatic in unfamiliar and scary situations. To think critically and not panic when things don’t go to plan. I wasn’t pressed into pretty pink dresses or told I was going to be a princess; my parents gave me wetsuits, snorkelling gear, ski lessons, a sailing dinghy. He gave me the support and encouragement I needed to step outside my comfort zones and rely on my own strength to get me through. It is possibly the most valuable lesson a father can give his daughter: to stand up for herself and know she can be strong and has the intelligence to work out solutions to her problems herself.

He raised and cultivated a family of do-ers, but do-ers who were also thinkers. My brother and I had an amazing childhood, and my Mum has never been the kind to sit in a kitchen discussing cakes and knitting while the men smoke cigars and talk about cars. Like all true heroes, he expected those who stood and worked with him to be loyal, courageous, practical and clever, and helped them achieve it.

Above all else, beneath all else, running through all else like butter gluing pastry layers in a mille feuille, I’ve always wanted to make my family proud, and never to disappoint them. This has been the compass in my cockpit, helping me navigate life. I have looked up to my Dad with the kind of hero worship young girls reserve for celebrities and women leave behind as they age.

Despite of, or perhaps because of, his foibles, imperfections and frailties, I never left it behind.

I owe him more than I can possibly recount, and he will always set the standard to which I hold myself.

My Dad died in a motor-racing accident at the Jim Clark Revival at Hockenheim, on 11th April, and while the phrase “he died doing what he loved” is of little comfort to those who have to carry on without him, in this case it is very true.

I am extraordinarily grateful to the people from the motor-racing community, both British and international, who came forward to support my Mum and my brother during that difficult time. A more generous, kind, thoughtful bunch of people I’m not sure you could meet. Their help and contributions, big and small, made a very difficult time that little bit less so. The friends and family who have given us their support and a steady shoulder are hugely appreciated by all of us.

I’m also grateful to all those who came to the funeral. It made me incredibly proud of my Dad, to see so many come to pay their respects. My thanks to those who gave so generously in support of the RNLI in his memory — it meant a lot.

I’ve written several poems in my efforts to navigate this experience, but none of them does justice to the man, nor is a tenth as good as the piece my Mum wrote. The following poem was left in the book of condolences. It’s by Adam Lindsay Gordon and expresses something I will set next to my compass in memory of my hero.

Potters’ Clay
Though the pitcher that goes to the sparkling rill
Too oft gets broken at last,
There are scores of others its place to fill
When its earth to the earth is cast;
Keep that pitcher at home, let it never roam,
But lie like a useless clod,
Yet sooner or later the hour will come
When its chips are thrown to the sod.

Is it wise, then, say, in the waning day,
When the vessel is crack’d and old,
To cherish the battered potter’s clay,
As though it were virgin gold?
Take care of yourself, dull, boorish elf,
Though prudent and safe you seem,
Your pitcher will break on the musty shelf,
And mine by the dazzling stream.

Al Fleming, Snetterton
Dr Al Fleming
21 June 1944 – 11 April 2014
(Photograph courtesy of John Allan, used with permission.)

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Last Call for Last.fm

Mar.29, 2014, filed under Planet Sam, process, Writing

avatarI’ve been a long-term paying subscriber to Last.fm. Paying, mind. I include a link to my profile in any list of social media addresses. If you look down and to the right, you’ll find a widget showing what I have most recently listened to, a service provided by a Last.fm app.

Music is important to me for my writing. As a neuro-atypical synaesthete, for whom background noise can occasionally be physically distressing, music is an obligatory defence against the outside world when I’m trying to lose myself in a story, whether writing or reading. I listen to music when I’m training. I can’t imagine life without it. I spend more than I should on music – for the shapes, for the soundscapes, for the inspiration, for the motivation, for the rhythm, sometimes for the distraction – and I love discovering new artists. I used to be a heavy Pandora user. When that ceased being available in the UK, I switched to Last.fm, which offered a similar service.

Two days ago I received an email that said the service was changing.

From 28th April, our subscription radio streaming service will come to an end. This means subscriber radio will no longer work on any platform or device. We’re making this change to focus on improving scrobbling and recommendations, while continuing our goal of being your #onemusichome. Of course you’ll still be able to listen to all of your favourite stations on the new Last.fm Player, as well as listen to your favourite tracks with our recently launched on demand playback feature via Spotify.

If, like me, you’re not sure what that means, allow me to simplify.

The last.fm streaming service ceases to be from the 28th April. You will no longer be able to open the desktop app, turn on your favourite radio channel, and have it play for as long as you like with no ads. Instead, you will have to go to the website, where you can start your radio station, but it will stream videos from YouTube, complete with the adverts.

Even if you subscribe.

As a subscriber, you can get 30% discount in the forthcoming merchandise store (woot, I’m sure) and use tags to exert some illusion of control over your ad-filled youtube stream. And your avatar will say “subscriber”, so everyone knows you’re a sucker prepared to pay for a 30% discount on a lousy t-shirt.

Needless to say, I am cancelling my subscription.

I don’t know if there’s anything out there offering Last.fm’s comprehensive level of curation and discovery. They had one of the largest catalogues on the internet for streaming music and cross-platform availability. They had a range encompassing obscure industrial ambient and popular classical. I had prog rock, opera, trance, dance, electronica, baroque… I have yet to find a genre Last.fm has excluded, whether by act or omission.

Last.fm claim that they are going to focus on scrobbling, but I have no idea where they get the idea that anyone is going to pay for a service that merely records what one has been listening to recently. Don’t get me wrong: it’s fun knowing how my musical habits are changing, but my musical habits are constantly changing. I don’t really need something to tell me that.

There are plenty of artists who have earned royalties because I discovered them on a streaming service. Artists I didn’t know, like Roly Porter (I now own his two most recent studio albums on CD); artists I knew and loved but whose catalogue included songs I hadn’t heard before, or hadn’t heard in a very long time. Streaming radio is a way for people who love music to discover new things to love, and people are willing to pay for things they love.

Yes, there will always be those who say why pay for something if it’s available for free, but they’re the hawks of Game Theory, and they’re outnumbered by those who want to reward the creator of something good. If we don’t reward our artists, they will stop making art. Most people with half a brain cell can comprehend that.

I have spent 6 years teaching Last.fm what I like, which is a considerable investment, and now starts the difficult quest for another streaming service, and the painful process of teaching it what I like.

Any recommendations?

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I can haz music?

Mar.07, 2014, filed under Planet Sam, rambling

avatarI have a Ford Mondeo Estate. He’s called Claude, in line with the Frood Standard Naming Convention*. I do love my car. He’s big and red and swallows two bicycles without thinking about it. When I race, I can lay Thokk or Peregrine nicely in the back and don’t have to worry about them being damaged.

The one problem is the stereo.

Back in the day, this thing had a 6 CD multichanger, but it ate my CDs. It just swallowed them, much like Claude swallows bikes. I ended up with 8 CDs in there, all trapped, while the CD player insisted it was empty.

Feed me, it said, whenever I pressed the eject button. I’M HUNGRY.

Needless to say, it wouldn’t play.

So we had to use the radio. Which was fine, until the radio started cutting out. Initially we thought it had got damp in the car wash, but no. It was merely possessed. After a while, whatever demon was infesting it and eating the tunes gave up and went away, presumably sated, and I have spent the last couple of years listening contentedly to Classic FM while driving around in my big red Claude (not a euphemism).

When Frood achieved New Job recently, we had to acquire another car, as he needs one for work. We now have a small, greenish-grey Ford Fiesta, called Bill for short (we’re still working on pronunciation of his full name). Claude took against Bill – not in any specific, spiteful way. He’s a big boy, he’s above that sort of thing. He knows Bill can’t take two bikes and all our plush camping gear. He knows he’s more comfortable for long journeys and is one of my most important pieces of triathlon gear. He knows he’s loved.

Nevertheless, he has decided to host a radio demon again, and my FM radio is now cutting out after a couple of minutes. I don’t know if he felt sorry for the one living in Bill’s radio when we first got him (as Bill’s radio was doing the same thing but works fine, now), or what, but Classic FM is lost.

I’ve been listening to Absolute Radio on Medium Wave, instead. They have a no-repeat guarantee, and that means they play a lot of old favourites, including songs I haven’t heard in years.

I listen to music when writing, and need to match the shape of the music to what I’m writing. Thus, I necessarily have a wide range of music in my collection. I acquire music usually by hearing something I really like, or which matches a specific shape in a work in progress, or gives me an idea for a brand new story. My most recent purchases have included Verdi’s Macbeth (they used Patria Oppressa as the music in the Hannibal episode Sorbet and I fell in love), Sky (a prog group with John Williams, ermagerd – one day someone will buy me a copy of the now highly-collectible Cadmium and I’ll have a wibbly-wobbly flashback to being 11 years old and reading Ursula Le Guin in bed), and Aion (I love The Serpent’s Egg).

Then along came Absolute Radio, and I’ve had too many moments of “Oh gods, I love this!” over the past couple of weeks. I’ve had to add two R.E.M. albums (WHY did we not have any already?) and today I gave in to the impulse to grab some Kula Shaker.

I need to stop. I know this stuff is cheap, mostly – certainly cheaper than a night out, which we don’t do – but, seriously, I have books and bike parts looking at me reproachfully from my “to get” list, and I’m at serious risk of falling out with Fingal permanently.

I should persuade that radio demon to depart from Claude so I can have Classic FM back. Or switch to the Gaelic language radio station, which is largely unintelligble.

*Names must use the final three letters of the number plate in order, although they may occur any place in the word. Claude’s number plate ends AUE. I’ve also had cars named Rasputin and Voltaire.

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2013, the triathlon comeback year

Nov.26, 2013, filed under Race reports, Triathlon

avatarI injured my foot back in 2010. According to the person posting to Runner’s World social media at the time, what I did wasn’t possible: I’d ruptured my plantar fascia. For 9 months I was reduced to hobbling and limping. I was signed off field work – I couldn’t drive; could barely get from my desk to the staff canteen, never mind walk far enough to do my routine work. I could just about cycle, as long as it wasn’t for more than 30 minutes.

As far as I could tell, my racing career was over. And I’d just bought a TT bike. It wasn’t cheap.

Malheureusement.

Late that year, while camping, I discovered I was just fine when barefoot. In fact, I was just fine when I was wearing a pair of neoprene booties that formed part of my wetsuit. This got me to thinking, and so, although I did seek the advice of both a private podiatrist (rubbish AND expensive) and the NHS biomechanics specialist (brilliant and FREE), what I ended up with was a set of Vibram Fivefingers.

In 2013, after spending about 2 years re-learning how to run, having suffered swine flu and ended up with exercise-induced asthma (but of course), I went back to racing.

And it has been my most successful year ever.

My first race of the year saw a PB in the run. I DNSed one, because of illness, and completed four. I’ve won prizes worth 40 quid (which isn’t a lot, but is more than I’ve won in all my previous races). In my last race, I suffered a 3D failure, fell flat on my face, and fractured my wrist (which is why the blogs have been lacking in updates of late).

So imagine my surprise when Triathlon Scotland published the rankings (MS Excel spreadsheet) for 2013 and I discovered I’d come top in my age group for the North Region Sprint series. I was more surprised to discover I had the second highest points accumulation at Sprint distance in the whole of Scotland for my age group.

I am, needless to say, chuffed to bits. In 2007 I did my first race, for a bet. In 2013, after a 3 year break for injury and illness, I won my first race. And here’s the joy of triathlon: yes, the elite racers are untouchable by most of us Age Groupers, but that’s no barrier to success. You might think you could never do a tri, that it’s too hard or you’re too unfit. Give it a go. There are plenty of events aimed at beginners, nice and short to give you a taste for it. Or, indeed, any other sport. It’s never too late, you’re never too unfit to start. Everyone starts somewhere, and everyone, ultimately, is competing against themselves. Just taking part, whatever your chosen sport, means you’ve achieved something fantastic.

You never know. You might win something. It might even be a prize.

Knockburn Loch T1

Knockburn Sprint finish line

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