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Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Reservoir blogs

I imagine that the Mugdock and Craigmaddie Reservoirs at Milngavie are going to feature frequently in this blog. Located just a few of miles from my home, they often provide a handy destination for a run that requires little thought or planning. 

But this is not to say that the route isn't fulfilling. While I am forced to run on pavements for the first stretch, within 15 minutes I'm on to the start of the West Highland Way (bizarrely the start is located in the middle of Milngavie shopping precinct, next door to a coffee shop!) From here it's easy-going trails and a few short ups through a section of the dog walking haven Mugdock Park. From there I head through Drumclog car park and across a road to the reservoirs.

According to those who claim to know, a figure eight around the longest perimeter of both lochs adds up to a total of 3 miles. I've never measured it so I've no idea if this is true but it feels about right. 

Reaching the reservoirs entrance I turn left and run the longest circuit possible taking in both lochs before heading back home again. I did this route yesterday and even managed to put in a burst of faster running for two-thirds of the reservoirs' circumference (the reason I could do this is because I know it's mostly downhill from leaving the reservoirs to getting home. Downhill momentum is a great thing!)

I'd often find myself at these lochs during training for my first marathon in October. Usually I'd underestimate the distance I needed to run during training and so I'd use up time and miles by running loops around the reservoirs. (Watch this blog for links to my marathon training diary as featured in The Scotsman.)

This might not sound like the most interesting running but actually the lochs are stunning. And despite being close to the suburb of Milngavie they feel quite countrified. Whatever the weather the waterscape provides a great variety of eye candy for the weary runner. 

Yesterday the reservoirs where the most still I'd ever seen them. The flat surface shone in the cold, wintry sun like a huge mirror.  Usually I encounter a headwind down one entire length of the largest reservoir but this time there was none whatsoever. For once, I felt like I was running like the wind myself!

Monday, 29 December 2008

Going somewhere...

If you ever lose the motivation to exercise then try this tactic: run/cycle back from wherever you are. Of course, you need to be realistic about this (running back from you parent's house 100 miles away ain't very sensible) but I find that it can work a treat. 

So on Saturday, after dropping my  daughter in Glasgow at the train station (to meet her dad who lives in England), I ran back home. It was an amazingly pleasant 6 or 7 mile run in cold, wintry sunshine along the River Kelvin (dodging more than  the usual number of dog walkers) and even bumping in to a couple of tri club pals coming the other way. 

Then on Sunday I cycled back from Bridge of Weir after visiting friends for a lovely meal and sleepover. I'd planned ahead for this one, popping my bike into the back of our car the night before and relying on my husband to drive back the next day. I found a  cycle path from BoW to Paisley that I'd never cycled before (thank you Sustrans) and then joined the roads to head into Glasgow and back to Bearsden on the Kelvin Cycle Way (again!). 

The weather was fab also. Sunny but cold and no wind. If you live in B0W and work in Glasgow then there can hardly be an excuse for not cycling into town, or at least cycling to Johnstone to get the train in. It almost made me think about moving house (but not quite!).

One thing, though. I overheard a Glasgow dog walker offering his opinionated view to another dog walker in Kelvingrove Park. "I mean, if parents have kids who are afraid of dogs then they shouldn't be in the park, should they?" he was opining. "This is our park ain't it? Where there are dogs all the time. I mean, what were the parents thinking of, bringing kids here who are scared of dogs. My dogs were only jumping up a bit and I can't see why I should have to have them on leads, should I?" Hmmm. Isn't it lucky that not every dog walker thinks the same?

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Munro tops!

A tri club pal texted last night to suggest an early morning run up Ben Vorlich, close to Loch Lomond. How could Fiona Outdoors resist this challenge? As luck would have it, the husband (Mr Outdoors) was off work and had already agreed to take care of our daughter so I took the rare opportunity to nip off for a few hours.
Leaving at 6.30am we were at the foot of Ben Vorlich by 7.30am, topped it by 9.45am and got back to the car by 10.30am. It was utterly awesome.
While Scottish winters can be crap, there are odd days that really make up for the rest. This was one of the those wonderfully clear, rain-free days, with breath-taking views across autumnal painted mountains and glittering lochs. 
If freelance life can be tough at times, it's the flexibility, and the chance to make your own hours, that truly sells this life to me. I was back home and at my desk by 11.45am.
I know i'll be smiling for the rest of the day - and fast asleep by 9.30pm.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Hot on the heels...

So what is it with hot water bottles this year? My brother suggests my daughter buys his son a hot water bottle for Christmas. Sounds easy, I think... Until i have to trawl the shops. I look everywhere. Every supermarket that I happened to shop in over the last fortnight (and even some that I stopped at for the very purpose). I make a special evening trip to a big, ugly out-of-town shopping centre on a big, ugly evening last week. Still no bottle to be found. Every shop says they either had a huge range but now they don't, or they never had a huge range in the first place. 

There are two theories going on here. Perhaps everyone's home is now too warm for hot water bottles so fewer companies are producing them. Or perhaps because of rising fuel bills everyone is buying a bottle for their loved one this Christmas.

Anyway, I go on searching. I ask friends if they have seen any bottles. I search the internet. And finally, afer putting in a call to a branch of Boots in Glasgow, I come across a couple of "left-over" hotties, either Sean the Sheep or some kind of piggy-wig. So I dispatch a reluctant husband during his lunch hour to quickly snap up a Sean the Sheep.

Brilliant, I think. Job done, I imagine. All my pressies ticked off, I congratulate myself. But sadly when the husband brings home the Sheep hottie it is minus the actual hot water bottle. "Didn't you think I'd need one of those too?" I ask. 
"I thought you'd know that it didn't gave a bottle in it," he mutters.
"Couldn't you have called me from the shop to check?" I retort in frustration.
"Well, no, I didn't think of that," he mumbles.

So yesterday afternoon I set off to hunt for a basic, straightforward rubber bottle to fit inside Sean the Stupid Sheep. But neither of our local Chemists had such a thing. 

Today, in Tesco, I ask a shop assistant but she says they don't have plain bottles, and they've run out of novelty ones (Yes, I know that, I seethe). Nor does the nearby small branch of Boots stock plain bottles. 

 In a final search-for-the-blasted-bottle bid this afternoon I enter another Chemists in another nearby high street. But the shop assistant said they do not sell the inners either. "However, we do have some really nice novelty covers with the bottles inside," she says.
Right, I think, Ok. Now what do I do?

I buy the eerie-looking Eeyore (with bottle included) – and I take it home to meet Sean the Stupid Sheep. And then I try to work out how to tell the husband that he'll need to make another trip to the Boots near his work. (He's going to go baa-rmy!)

Friday, 19 December 2008

At long last...

So I've finally reached the starting line of a (allegedly) great blogging adventure. It's taken me ages to get here, but if you write for a living then why would you ever want to spend your spare time writing some more?

According to my Running Potter Blogging Pal Rachel: "It's about time you got my act together." And after a prompt from her latest posting to write about my boobs I thought, well if ever there was a good place to start then it was with my "less than ample bosom". If nothing else, it'll give readers a laugh!

So this is the beginning. Mammograms (report by Fiona Indoors wearing Outdoor clothes). 

I had no idea what the mammo machine would look like. I know it's aim is to take X-ray pics of your bosoms. I know, from friends, that it would flatten my breasts in preparation for the piccies. But, for some reason, I imagined I'd be lying prostrate on a cold hospital bed (possibly squashed down so flat that I'd wouldn't be able to breath. I'm a drama queen!) as the X-rays were taken from above. 

So I was rather intrigued to find myself standing face-to-face with a strange pink and grey (colours presumably chosen to give the machine a fluffy, girlie look) machine. I saw a ledge at breast height, I saw a clamp above that and then I suddenly felt the warm hands of the doctor/nurse (she never said) holding on to my right boob.

She had my whole boob in her one hand (not difficult, I imagined my husband saying) and then she proceeded to sort of stretch and eek it forwards, encouraging it towards the ledge where I presumed it was suppose to rest. But there ain't much to my A-cup-on -a-good-day breasts so all I could think to do was push the front of my body up tight to the machine in the hope that the said breast would stay put. 

Continuing to hang on to my breast (clearly afraid that it would plop back off again like a fried egg on the edge of a frying pan if she didn't) the nurse/doctor then pulled a lever, which brought a clamp-style gadget down on to the top of my bosom.  Think Breville toastie machine and you'll be close to the image. Except instead of a nice cheese and tomato filling, the mammo toastie machine was obviously planning on serving up a "today's special" of Fi's boobie toastie.

Although friends had told me that their experiences in the clutches of the mammo machine were agonising I only experienced a little pain from as the skin around my boob was pulled taut. I wondered if this was because their more ample bust required more significant squishing to get them flat enough for an X-ray photo. But not according to the nurse/doctor, who told me it depends on the shape of your rib cage. 

I wasn't  really sure what she meant but since I was standing topless, wearing only socks, clippity, cloppity bike shoes and an unflattering pair of lycra cycle shorts (I cycled to Glasgow's Western Infirmary) with my right tit clamped tight and my mouth pressed up again the cool apparatus I didn't feel inclined to chat this through.

Then it was the turn of my left boob, before the attention was returned to my right boob for another pic, this time with my arm stretch awkwardly up and round. The final clamping proved to be the sorest (not sure why) but as each X-ray takes only a few minutes it was over before I could even start to thinking about crying.

A little shell-shocked after the somewhat sobering experience I returned to a cubicle to re-dress and then awaited news of what the great mammo machine had revealed. Nothing, thank goodness.

Although I'd been pretty sure that the lumpy bits I feel at the side of my breasts around the time of the month were, as my GP had indicated, simply annoying cysts, until you are given the all clear you always have a few nagging doubts. Apparently I could reduce the cysty lumps simply by drinking less caffeine. Or not. But mostly these extra (harmless) lumpy bits are to do with getting older. Changes in hormones (that also bring the delight of more frequent and heavier periods) can also do annoying things to your boobs.

It wasn't until later in the day, during a fabulous night hill run (more of this another time) with Rachel and a couple of guys that the mammogram experience fully sunk in. While I joked with them about the comical side of the breast-clamping machine in another part of my brian I suddenly realised how fortunate I was to walk away with an all-clear. For many other women in the hospital unit on that day, the sobering visit to the big mammo machine would have also ended with the life-shattering news that the X-ray had revealed a lump; a potentially fatal lump.

Having your boobs turned into a toastie sandwich didn't seem quite so humilating afterall.