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Wednesday, 28 January 2009

It's the small things....

....That keep you going. 

Pic is of me utterly failing to swim like a pro at last year's Peebles Triathlon. Will things be any better in 2009?

There are times when I feel as though I'm make no progress at all with the various sports that I do. Mostly I exercise for enjoyment but there is still a part of me that strives to improve. And this week - after of months on a seemingly long, flat plateau - I have had a couple of minor but exciting breakthroughs. The first wee improvement has been in yoga. After the session yesterday morning Jo-Yo said she was amazed by the sudden increase in my hip and back flexibility. I, too, have found it much easier to get into many of the poses. 

This is not to say that I've suddenly become what you could call "supple", but I have now feel less "arthritic old lady" and more "middle aged stiffy". 

I can't give a reason as to why this has happened. I have not been practising in between the weekly sessions but perhaps it is to do with consistent attendance at the classes. I have now gone from thinking that I would never get much out of yoga, to wanting to achieve greater things! 

The same wee improvement has come in my swimming. When I first joined the swimming sessions at the Tri Club I swam like clothes in a washing machine. I had never been taught the crawl and so I had no idea just how technical it is. I now think it's rather like driving: there are so many different aspects to get think about and get right at the same time. 

For those who learned to swim as a child, the technique seems to come together naturally but for someone who has had to completely relearn to swim it is a frustrating nightmare. It has taken 2 years of going, giving up, paying for one-to-one lessons, giving up and then going again to finally make it out of the beginner's lane and in to the lane with the intermediate swimmers. (I still find myself  trailing behind these super-slick guys some 10 mins into the session but at least I make it to the end of the session without wanting to cry.) 

Most of the progress has come thank to some excellent Tri Club coaching. Pointers about my leg kick, my arm pull, my head position and turning have made significant differences to my overall performance. Although swimming will always be a difficult sport for me I can now manage to complete a session without feeling utterly wrecked – and, most importantly – I want to go back to improve some more. 

Monday, 26 January 2009

Super speedy service

How about this for a great service from my local bike shop. On Saturday at 11am I discovered that there was something majorly wrong with my bike's back gear cogs. Mr Outdoors kindly dropped the bike into Solid Rock Cycles at Balmore at 1pm en route to visiting his kids in Edinburgh. 

At 3pm I received a call from Dave at the bike shop to tell me what was wrong with my bike, how much it was likely to cost - and that it would be ready by close of play that day. I actually picked it up the next day. How fantastic is that for a bike fixit turn round?

Perhaps Solid Rock were having a quiet day but I think that's unlikely. It's a very popular shop and if you tell them you're a commuter then they try to aim to fix your bike that bit quicker. 

Cheap flights farce

Why do some airlines (or maybe it's all?) insist on treating customers to a total "cheap" flight booking farce? I have had reason to book a couple of flights this weekend with different firms and in both cases I was utterly taken aback by the cheek of the airlines. 

We have all become accustomed to a few "added extras" when booking on-line. For example, there are frequently "taxes" to add on to the initial seat price. But over the last year, these "added extras" have become frankly ridiculous.

Let me give you an example. When booking flights from Glasgow to Birmingham with BMI Baby I was delighted to find that the cost of a seat would be just 4p. Now, I'm not so gullible as to imagine this would be the final price and I thought at the very least there would be tax additions.  

And duly I was informed that for the return flights (a total of 8p remember!) I would have to pay £27.90 in "taxes and charges". This still seemed reasonable enough for a Bank Holiday weekend in May.

But then came the baggage and check-in. Even if I wanted to simply check in with no luggage I would need to pay £7.98 (I could get around this by checking in on-line apparently). But since I needed to take a big bag I had to stump up another £23.96. Then I noticed that the website had automatically charged a cost of £7.25 for "no hassle travel insurance". I quickly unticked this box. Luckily I wasn't planning to take a musical instrument (£17.99 extra) or any sports equipment (between £17.99 and £24.99 for the pleasure!).

I you're paying attention the total price so far for two 4p flights is  £51.94. Then I'm asked if I want to pay £5.99 for the privilege of choosing where I sit. Next up is the offer of the chance to wait in an exclusive lounge at Glasgow airport, including a free drink and snack, for the grand sum of £15. Again, er, no thanks very much. Ta.

And so I think I'm home and dry. No, I have to go through a page of "great car hire deals". Then it's time to get out the credit card. Now we all know that we need to pay for flights etc with a credit card in case they end up going bust. But now you have to pay a massive £7 for this. To pay with a debit card would have cost £5 extra. The only way to waive this charge is to have the airline's own credit card. Yeh, rightio.

So in total my 8p flights come to £58.94. Yeh, this is still a cheap deal for return flights from Scotland to Birmingham but still nowhere near as fabulous as 8p and nothing even close to BMI's pledge on their home page of "thousands of seats guaranteed at £13.99". I just don't believe these exist.

But really what rankles me most with all this is that airlines like BMI Baby seem to think that we customers are happy to put up with this nonsense. If they had simply said at the start that the flights would be around £25 each then this would still have represented a good deal. Instead, at every step, and with every hike in cost, I became even more infuriated.

I won't go into the details of the other flights. Except to say that an original price of around £60 for a flight one way form Scotland to France with ended up being  closer to £120. How can this make any sense for business?

There, rant over. I know what you'll all say: "But you still booked." Yes, I did this time. But I might not bother next time. 

I've a good mind to act all middle class and middle aged and write to Which?...

Off the beaten track

Quite often I find myself on auto-pilot as I head out for a run. I'll maybe make a decision about the direction from my house but after that I tend to stick to 10 or so set routes.  I suppose a  lot of it is to do with knowing the distance. If you run you do not want to get lost - and mostly I have a plan about how far I want to run in that one outing. 

But then sometimes plans do not go, well, according to plan!

Just before setting out for a run on Saturday afternoon I happened to be chatting to our pal Douglas (he's a friend of Mr Outdoors and also helped us to build a super-lovely extension to our home. You can find him here) who lives on one of my usual running routes out through the village of Balmore. Douglas occasionally decides to get fit and most years he trains for the Deerstalker event (not the Mighty one but the shorter version. Although I do think he's being a bit girlie about this!) and so he knows a number of routes around his village. In particular he told me about a lovely wee off-road section that heads towards the nearby towns of Torrance and Bishopbriggs.

Of course, I couldn't resist trying this new route. So on Saturday I set out from home at a reasonable pace, headed for Balmore. The only thing is I imagined that home to Balmore was about 3 miles on road. The off-road route, according to Douglas, would be about 4 miles, followed by a 3 mile home again. It turns out that it was closer to 5 miles to the other end of Balmore. Added to this I decided to do more off-road than was strictly necessary. 

The muddy-ish path, which is very popular with walkers, added a nice diversion through fields and along the side of the River Kelvin.  At a crossroads near Cadder Golf Course there was a signpost for Bishopbriggs and/or Torrance and because I'm nosey I decided to check out both routes. First I ran through the golf course towards the Briggs before doubling back to then head to Torrance. This wee network of trails offers a great location for locals looking for 30 mins to an hour of pleasant off-road running. Access is via a path opposite Balmore Garden Centre.

But by the time I was headed back home from Balmore I realised I'd possibly run a bit more than I really wanted to.  I haven't been running more than about 8 miles recently so 13 miles was a a tad OTT. The last couple of miles were admittedly a slog, but it was fab to find a new off-road running trail. 

Maybe next time I'll put my sensible head on and cycle to Douglas's house, then head off road for a run and then cycle home again. Or perhaps I should just get myself a wee bit fitter?!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Kids on the run again

This morning was the last of three Garscube Harriers Schools X Country league races held at Mugdock, near Strathblane. Daughter, Miss Outdoors, was up for another muddy outing. Except today is was more of an ice rink than a mud bath. 

Miss Outdoors also said there were an number of bovine obstacles. "I was running along and there 
was this cow on the path," she told me afterwards. "It was quite funny but a bit scary too. I had to run round 
the cow." Well, she didn't seem too bothered by the extra hurdle and again crossed the finish line smiling. 

Again, Running Potter Rachel's Fabulous Running Daughter finished in a great time. She has improved a lot over the last year and she looked delighted with her time. Go girl!

It was fab to see so many youngsters up for a run on a freezing Saturday morning. Read my article about kids and running to find out why Garscube are a success story.

Now you can see we're no Slackers

Thanks to Super-Fit dave here is the Slacks route in all its glory. How cool is that?!

And thanks to Fabulous Running Potter Rachel here is a link to a shop that sells Jalas fell running  shoes.

Friday, 23 January 2009

No slacking on The Slacks

Pic of Fabulous Running Potter Rachel, Steve-the-Camel and Super-Fit Dave

It was the fortnightly hill running outing last night with my equally mad friends, Super Fit Dave, Steve-the-Camel (because he seems to be able to lope on, and on, and on without ever  tiring) and Fabulous Running Potter Rachel. Although a cold night, the wind had dropped and I was looking forward to an uphill and downhill blast. (I'd wisely scoffed a bowl of beany hotpot and rice some two hours before heading out.)

After a little deliberation we decided to head to The Slacks in the Kilpatrick Hills, near Erskine. I think Super-Fit Dave was looking for a Super-Fit workout and certainly he seemed to bounce up the full-on 35-minute ascent. He also ran at least another quarter of the hill looping back many times to encourage those further down to make it to the summit. He's grand like that!

For the rest of us it was a long, thigh and Achilles tendon-bursting slog. Towards the top Super-Fit Dave waited for me to catch up then said it was only another 5 or 6 minutes to the cairn. Maybe it was just a 5-min jaunt for him, but I swear it took me twice as long. There were more false summits on this stretch than toes on my freezing, waterlogged feet!

But then you get to run down. And this is the bit I really love. It's mad and quite possibly extremely dangerous, however the adrenaline rush is awesome. The conditions last night were  muddy and slippy but for the other three, wearing super-duper orienteering Jalus shoes with ground gripping spikes, this hardly seemed to cause a problem. Fabulous Running Potter Rachel had borrowed a pair and she talks about their wonders on her blog. While my Inov-8s pretty much do the same job I could tell they were not as good as their Jalus shoes. Hmmm. Now I might have to buy a pair, too, so I can descend with the same confidence as they do. 

As we descended the final section back to the start we passed a car coming the other way. The look of the woman driver as we ran by, each wearing our super-fabulous orienteering head torches, pretty much said it all. Laughing out loud, shaking her head and raising her eyebrows her expression clearly said: "What the f***!" But do we care? Not one bit. Hill running at night has to be tried to be fully appreciated!

Highs and yos

This is brilliant! Not only have I somehow learned overnight how to get into a very difficult yoga pose, but I've also gained a cleavage! Check me out...

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Slow cooker is fast way to go. . .

I'm not a cooking fan and so any meal that takes more than 20 mins to prepare feels like a total bore. In fact I'm famed in our house for making meals that take just 10 mins from scratch. It's not that I'm a straight from the freezer kind of mum, either. Many of the fast food meals that I cook comprise fish, pasta or couscous and boiled fresh veg. 

But recently I have discovered a love of "slow cookers". It utterly appeals to my hassle-free cooking concept to throw in a load of beans/meat and veg, plus a litre or so of stock, and a few herbs and spices at 9 in the morning – then leave it all to bubble away (sending out delicious smells) for the whole day, before lifting the lid come tea time to serve up to the hungry family.

My fabulous cooking friend Ellen (who lent me the slow cooker) believes that the slow cooker takes away most of the joy of cooking. I have to say I couldn't disagree more. But then each to their own. (And it is true that Ellen cooks much more delicious and innovative meals than I could ever manage.) 

The other great thing about slow cooker meals is that it jigsaws nicely into our family timetable. On nights when I'm off  for a run or to circuits and swimming I can eat a bowl of  beany hotpot and rice served straight from the slow cooker at 5.30pm. At 6.30pm Mr Outdoors and Miss Outdoors can sit down to their their  hotpot and rice. And then I can have some more for my supper when I get home.

Brilliantly, for a fitness mad family,  beany hotpot and rice is also extremely sustaining.  I ate a bowl of it last Tuesday at 5.30pm, before heading for for an evening of circuits and swimming (from 7pm to 10pm) and it was only when I got out of the pool that I started to feel hungry again. 

Now all I need is to buy my own slow cooker, and maybe even one of those nice, plug-it-in-and- leave-it rice cookers  that I hear other people talking about. 

Know anyone who has got on their bike?

From time to time (every day, I hear my friends shouting!) I look for case studies for newspaper features. This time, I'm hoping to find someone who has traded their car for a bicycle, and in particular those who have done so to get to work. Perhaps you've done this for financial reasons, or for fitness, (or both). If you are this person, or you know of anyone who fits this description, then please do contact me. The article is for a national broadsheet. I'll need a phone chat and ideally they'll be up for a pic. Go on, you know you want to...

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

My famous friend

My very good friend Mark is unashamedly Dr Who mad. I can't say I understand it at all although I did rather like the life-size Dalek that he used to have sitting in his kitchen. Anyway, he's even had a short story published in a book of Dr Who themed tales. It's called Dr Who: Short Trips

Depsite being way too, well, Dr Who-y for my tastes I did think his story was very good. Reviewers (yes, he's so famous that his short story, The Man on the Phone, has been reviewed) appeared to like it very much, too. (Thanks Mark for ensuring that I am emailed every review of your entry in this fabulous book.)

I believe Mark has met pretty much every Dr Who and a good number of associated characters. He goes to conventions and makes strange trips to visit places where Dr Who programmes were filmed (or maybe where Dr Who once landed, or ate his tea, or visited the loo?! Who knows!)

Now he's bringing Dr Who to Glasgow. I thought I might go but Mark says he won't let me in. I think he's scared I'll ask a question he can't answer or start giggling in the front row. But for anyone who has always been a Dr Who fan, or who has become a Dr Who "returner", or for those so young that this century's Dr Who is all new and shiny, then why not head to his event?

Mark himself is chairing the event at the Glasgow Book Festival "Aye Write" on March 7. There will also be a few Dr Who stars (including Mark obviously) in attendance.  

And Mark is right. If I went along I would have an overwhelming desire to scream, "Exterminate", before leaping up and running behind the nearest sofa!

PS. Amazingly Mark is only 2 letters from becoming Dr Who himself. The Eleventh Dr Who is played by actor Matt Smith (Mark is called Mark Smith). Spooky!

A Tuesday in the life of...

Tuesdays are busy. I don't just mean with work (every day is busy with work) but with exercise. In our house there is a timetable of days of being mum/step-dad and days for fitness. It's the only way it works for us.

So on Mondays and Wednesdays Mr Outdoors plays football, while I am mum. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays I do my fitness activities, while Mr Outdoors is step-dad. Friday evening and most of the weekend are for being together as a family (and for Mr Outdoors to see his kids).

But the problem is that because time is short for fitness both Mr Outdoors and I try to squeeze in as much as we can to our allotted evenings. Which is why on a Tuesday I go to a circuits class from 7pm to 8.15pm and then straight to a Tri Club swim session from 9pm to 10pm. This might actually be manageable if it wasn't for the Ashtanga yoga class I do on a Tuesday morning.

Ok, so most people think of yoga as an activity for girls and wimps but Ashtanga is not at all like that. It's a full-on 80 mins session of sun salutations, difficult postures and sweat. 

The fact that I have to walk (we only have one car and it's not always with me!) to the yoga class and back and then walk to collect my daughter from after-school childcare and then walk back again and then walk to the circuits class just adds to my feelings of total knackeredness by 10.15pm on a Tuesday evening. 

I do not even have the energy to luxuriate a little in post-exercise smugness. 

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

If only . . .

A tri club friend told me abut his 18-year-old son's success in a recent national swimming competition. As I do the press stuff for the club (volunteer position) I duly posted the fab story on the forum. I thought little more about it except to believe that his record breaking times must be awesome.

But then, a little later, I stopped to consider his times. 4mins 24 secs for 400m individual medley which apparently includes 100m fly, 100m breast, 100m back and 100m freestyle. Wow! I'd struggle to do 400m of freestyle only in less than 7 mins (and that's after spending quite a bit of time in the pool being coached).

If only I'd learned how to swim properly as a child I might a) look less like a teddy bear in a washing machine b) be faster at crawl than breast stroke c) have a much improved chance of making it out of the pool during a triathlon before everyone else has done their first lap of the bike course.

Then again, it might also be a talent thing. Whatever, I am now utterly in awe of my pal's son.

Monday, 19 January 2009

What are you runners/adventurers waiting for?

Word has it that the Highlander Mountain Marathon is filling up fast. So if you haven't entered this brilliant event then you'd better get your finger out. Th event is Scotland's "more remote" answer to the OMM and the LAMM and is quickly gaining a reputation for being smart, safe and well-organised.

The event takes place on April 18/19 so it's a great early season challenge and because there are so many classes it's open to a wide range of adventurers.

From the mouth of a competitor last year: "Brilliantly organised, fantastic scenery, amazing courses and a fabulous overnight campsite plus Ceilidh. I know where I'll be planning to spend my Easter hols in the next few years. The HMM is simply unique." 

The Highlander is part of the adventure race portfolio of Hands On Events, which is also behind the famously tough Strathpuffer24 and the legendary Bealach Mor cycling challenge.

Go on, you know you want to...

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Hill tops!

Dumgoyne is the first hill I ever ran with my husband (after a big night out and with a hangover. But that's another story!) – and the place where we subsequently got married in 2006. Standing proud at the edge of the Campsie Fells and only about 15 miles from Glasgow, the 1400ft (400m or so), rounded-top hill is a pretty well-known landmark. 

... And it's a place I can never resist for a short, sharp hill run. Today was a case in point.

Setting out from Blanefield with a couple of pals we had every intention of running the undulating trail that skirts the base of Dumgoyne and heads on towards Killearn. We reckoned on about 45 mins out and similar (!) back. We had absolutely no plan to climb Dumgoyne.

...But then as we rounded the corner towards the path that leads off and up Dumgoyne I somehow couldn't resist the suggestion that we make a diversion to the top of my favourite hill. 

And so we pushed up the steep, leg-zapping front of the hill before finally linking with the flatter path that heads round the back of Dumgoyne to the summit. 

The only problem was that because we thought we'd be doing a trail run we were wearing normal road trainers. I have never climbed Dumgoyne without wearing my trusty Inov-8 off-road trainers - and I doubt I will again. Much of the hill was water-logged (kind of like heading up through a muddy waterfall!) and rather than being able to run we kind of slipped and slid our way up and down the hill. 

Still it was totally worth the effort. Every time I reach the summit of this hill I am over-awed by the views. On occasions I've been able to see as far as Ben Lomond, Scotland's most southernly  Munro, but whatever the weather and whatever the season the view is fantastic.

However, there is always a little touch of anticlimax compared to our wedding day. On that day, Glengoyne Distillery, which sits at the bottom of Dumgoyne, sent up some of their staff with whisky to greet our 60 or so guests. They did not charge us for this amazing service, but seemed as delighted as we were over our special Dumgoyne wedding! (Actually, when i think about it: Whisky combined with the skid back down Dumgoyne today would have surely ended in disaster!)

In total we ran 7.2 miles and climbed a total of 1000ft elevation. Not bad for a wee Saturday afternoon jaunt.

Kids on the run

Today was the second race in the East Dunbartonshire Schools Cross Country League (organised by the Kirkie Olympians). My daughter Havana's school, Mosshead Primary, takes part so we were up early to arrive at Kirkintilloch for 8.30am. Most of us (parents included) managed to get extremely muddy doing a walk of the course before the first race, the Primary 6 girls, got underway.

The star of our school was Rebecca (who is usually up there in the first four or five along with her Fabulous Running twin Hannah). Today Rebecca came in a superb 4th (sadly Hannah ended up pulling out of the race because she felt sick). Other front runners for Mosshead included Rheagan, Lucy (my running pal Rachel's Fabulous Running daughter) and Kirsty (my tri club pal Ross's Fabulous Running daughter). 

Further down the field but still enjoying herself was Havana. She grinned as she crossed the line, which is how it should be. Strangely, despite being a girly girl, Havana loves the muddy races - and this one at Oxgangs Primary was about as muddy as they come. 

Other races today included the P6 boys, plus P7 girls and boys. We'll find out how everyone did in due course. But even just turning out on a cold wet Saturday morning has to be commended. 

It just goes to show that not all of today's kids are as lazy as the stats would have us believe!

Friday, 16 January 2009

Hilly wake-up run

I sometimes join the 3 Ms (Moira, Maureen and Mairi) for an early morning run on Wednesdays and Fridays. They have been doing early runs for years ever since Maureen's now grown-up children were young. For them, these morning outings are the ideal opportunity  to squeeze in a run before their children get up and/or their husbands head off for work.

While I could run at other times in the day because I work from home, I find that getting up early and getting  out the door for a run gets it over with before I have time to think.

Admittedly I'm not as dedicated as the 3 Ms. I don't always find it easy to rise at 6.30am for a 6.45am start (especially after tri club hill reps the night before!) but today I managed it. 

The usual run  is a well-worn three-mile route around Bearsden and we tend to run on autopilot, while also catching up on chat and gossip. 

But today, we took a different route and one I had never run before. It's always nice to find new routes, especially if you've been living in an area for a few years, and even if the going was quite tough. At 7 in the morning I am not at all at my best and the hills on this run, that headed from Bearsden via Westerton, where short and steep-ish. Still, the chat was non-stop (my husband would say we weren't running fats enough if we could talk!) and the 3Ms are great company so the run felt like it was over quite quickly.

I was back home and showered by 7.40am in time to wake my daughter up and to say bye to my husband as he headed to work. 

How good it feels to do the walk to school knowing you've already done your daily exercise. The only thing is that by 2 in the afternoon I'll be falling asleep at my desk!

Thursday, 15 January 2009


It's amazing what you can learn in a day. Even if you sometimes feel as though your brain is over-the-hill. Thanks to Simon Willis (he of former BBC reporter fame) I am now capable of shooting video for publication on the internet. 

There is a lot more to it than you'd ever imagine but Simon made it seem quite simple. This example video was my first effort and obviously, being fionaoutdoors, I will now want to take my camera outdoors. But it does go to show how it's possible for a total beginner to film, cut, edit, overlay and produce a reasonably good looking video.

Now all I need to do is go out and spend a lot of money on shiny new technical kit such as proper pro camera, a tripod, a furry mic, a radio mic, a lighting thingy etc etc... and then pratise a lot!

Simon offers all kinds of video training for all kinds of people. He even came to my house to teach me. (And he's very patient if technology is not your thing. It isn't mine!) See Sunart Media

My first video:

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Do it while you can. . .

When I first joined the Glasgow Triathlon Club a few years ago I remember overhearing some club members chatting about the number of training sessions they did in a day. "Oh, I've been out on the bike for two hours already today so I doubt my running will be up to much," said one woman, as she sped off into the distance ahead of me. Others talked of cycling for 10 miles to swimming sessions, or else cycling to work and then running home before heading to the pool in the evening. At one training weekend there were numerous GTC forum posts suggesting that a group cycle to Aberfeldy from Glasgow before they even started on the "proper" training session. 

"They are all totally bonkers," I thought quietly to myself.

A year or so later and I was at it myself. When I worked in the city I would cycle the 12-mile round trip to work before heading off in the evening for a swim training session or the weekly running session. On one memorable day last summer   I ran from Bearsden for 12 miles (marathon training)  before being picked up by a friend to head to Loch Lomond for an open-water swimming session (open-water triathlon training).

Although the double whammie of two training sessions in one day certainly gets you fit, especially for the multi-sport of triathlon,  my main reason for squeezing in a couple of training efforts on some days is due to the tight work/life timetable that is operated between my husband and I.

His football nights are Monday and Wednesday (while I look after my daughter) and so the only nights I have to train are Tuesday and Thursday (Friday is family night). If I'm to maximise the time I have available  – and pack in all the sports I like – I sometimes end up doing a couple of sessions in one night. 

So on Tuesdays in the winter I do a circuits class from 7pm to 8pm and then a tri club swim session from 9pm to 10pm. As it happens my yoga class (fab Ashtanga-style with Jo-Yo) is also a Tuesday, but in the morning. 

I am usually completely exhausted (but feeling smugly exercised) by 10.15pm on a Tuesday. Now who's the mad one?

Go girls

I'd forgotten about this article that I recently wrote for the shiny new-ish magazine Scotland Outdoors. It highlights the rise in the number of women-only outdoors courses. While most women still love to spend time with their men it is clear from my research that many like to learn about climbing, navigation  and general outdoors adventure with their own type. Find out why...

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

If the celebs are at it . . .

So, well, apparently all the celebs are into boxing for fitness. I can't tell you exactly who but I've heard that loads of them are doing it - and losing a ton of weight because of it. I mean, don't you all believe what they write in the papers?!

Anyway, I was invited to try an new boxing-based class called Punch at private club Virgin Active in Glasgow. (BTW I'd never attended this club and I thought it looked really nice... if you're a gym bunny kind of person).

The class was split into "rounds" and participants paired up to do 3 mins with gloves, and then as the pads holder. It's as tough or as easy as you want but me, being me, wanted it to hurt. You should have seen the look on the face of my partner when I took my first sock at the pads she was holding up for me. I did adjust my power a little after this but it still proved to be a good workout.

The class also included bouts of skipping, press ups and sit-ups, all set to motivational music and with the assistance of a super-charged, super-enthusiastic instructor. I reckon I could have gone for longer than the 55 mins of exercise that the session offered but even so my shoulders, arms and back have been aching ever since. 

My friend Jo-PM was also in the class and according to her heart rate monitor she burned 350 cals. The class bumph reckons you can burn up to 700 cals (maybe that's for much fatter folk?!) But 350 cals is still a reasonable burn.

What the class did show was that I don't use my upper body nearly enough - which is why I'm developing the dreaded bingo wings at an alarming rate. (Doesn't it annoy you that men do not suffer this affliction?!).

The chances are I'll not take up a membership at Virgin Active because gyms do not suit my lifestyle but I will be writing about the merits of the Punch class. Watch this blog... 

And I've decided I'm going to buy a set of gloves and pads so that my hubbie and I can knock each other into the dust.  I expect I'm going to come off worse in this set-up but it might contain the bingo wings for a few more years. Every little counts...

Mighty One continues...

My lovely friend at the award-winning Southern Reporter (the editor no less!) found the piece I wrote after the Mighty Deerstalker. So here it is... 

My Running Potter pal read my last blog and is now planning to enter. I think I might do it again with her... if there are any places left. Anyone else? See

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Rainy Sunday

It rained and rained this morning during our regular Glasgow Tri Club Sunday morning run - but no-one seemed to care that much. Good chat and a nice route through Pollok Country Park on the southside of Glasgow kept our minds off our soaked kit and sloshing trainers.

The great thing about the Sunday run is that you're back home by 11am and feeling smug already. It's around this time that the rest of my family surface so I feel as though I've not missed anything but gained a good workout and a mental boost.

The other advantage to Sunday morning running is that it tends to curb the amount I drink on Saturday night. I have never learned the art of running with a hangover (although many of my hardier tri  club pals seemed to have this one sorted.)

In any case, after the hangover from hell yesterday (following a very good, but drunken, 50th party on friday night) I'm now officially off the booze for the rest of January and maybe February.  I shall be drinking only limited amounts when on a night out and nothing in the house. I did this last year and I felt so much healthier, slept better and lost a few pounds.

Well, that's the plan anyway!

The Mighty One

Walking back from school on Friday with my daughter I bumped into a dad (sorry but I don't know his name so let's call him Dad Who Runs with Big Black Dog). As usual we got to talking about running. Dad Who Runs (w BBB) is just back to his running after a few months of doing less. He's pleased with himself for doing three runs this week.

Then he mentioned a race a couple of his pals are planning to do. "The deerstalker or something," says Dad Who Runs. "Do you know it?" he adds.

Oh boy, do I know this event. It's a fab one. It's called The Mighty Deerstalker (see and is an alleged 10k off-road adventure style race at Traquair, near Peebles. More like 17k, the event takes place mostly in the dark in chilly march and includes lots of mad obstacles such as chest-deep river crossings, tunnels, wooden planks plus an awesome scree slope climb with only the light of your head torch to guide you. It is, however, great fun and is organised by the guys behind the Edinburgh Rat Race (see

If you can manage a 10k in normal conditions then you'll face a challenge with the Mighty Deerstalker but you'll have a ton of fun along the way. I did the first event three years ago and managed to come home 3rd lady (not bad for an old bird like me), despite getting lost and ending up running down the local high street at 8 at night covered in mud and wearing a ridiculous-looking head torch. (Oh how the locals laughed!). 

(I'm trying to find the article I wrote about the event - when I do I'll post it on my blog.
In the meantime, here's one I wrote for the Daily Record about adventure racing in general.)

Anyways. . . after finding out about the rather challenging side of the Mighty Deerstalker, Dad Who Runs seemed absolutely delighted. "Oh, I can't wait to tell my friends about this," he said, chuckling away. "They think it's just a 10k. But it's got river crossings and obstacles, you say? I really can't wait to tell them all this. Hee, hee."  I was delighted to have made Dad Who Run's day just that bit cheerier!

Friday, 9 January 2009

What do you pink?

Much of the early part of this week was taken up writing an article about the pinkness of the 21st century girlie for The Herald. The debate went back and forth, between experts and on-the-ground mums, and the more people I spoke to the deeper I became tangled in a pink-coloured web.

My personal experience is that while I was a diehard Tomboy (and my daughter still calls me a Tom-mummy) I somehow managed to give birth to a fluffy, girlie girl. I never introduced pink into our home and the first clothes I bought her were in blues and yellows. But still my daughter Havana has loved pink from the moment she could choose. Havana has even managed to introduce some pink into my wardrobe over the years.

At the end of the day no-one really knows how much one colour can influence our young girls.

But I think my 10-year-old daughter summed it up quite well: "So what you're saying is that some people think that because I like pink now it'll mean I grow up to be a fairy princess. I think that's just a load rubbish!" Well said, my girlie girl.

For article see:

Tri harder

I've not been to my normal Glasgow Triathlon Club ( Thursday night running session for while. This is mainly because I suddenly became hooked on hill running (thanks to my Running Potter pal Rachel) in early December. But I was missing the guys and girls at the club and so I've decided to alternate between Thursday Tri runs and Bearsden hill runs.
The first night back after a few weeks off is always hard to take, and although I heard mention of this being a "recovery" week it still made me feel a little pukey. 
The format this week was a 10-min jog to warm-up, dynamic stretches and running technique drills, then eight 30-second hill reps to warm up further. The main set was 1 min 15 seconds up a long gentle hill, a run down for recovery, with either 10 squats or lunges in between each rep, all done 10 times.
And so it goes like this in the main set. First few reps I run off like a happy gazelle, bounding up the hill and chatting to my tri pals. By rep 5 I can't talk and I am regretting my starting pace but feel that I can't slow down now. By rep 7 I can't believe there's still 3 to go. By rep 8, another 2 reps seems impossible. On rep 9 I feel nauseous and my legs wobble a bit. Lap 10 hurts like hell but it's the last one so we all hit the road like last-lap heroes. 
Despite feeling weary afterwards I'm on a total high for the rest of the evening. I know I wouldn't bother doing anything so worthwhile if it wasn't for the club sessions. 

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Double whammie

Two fabulous runs in two days! It's not often that happens (well, certainly not to me.) Thanks to some holiday time away from my desk on Friday I managed a chilly, but dry and sunny, run from Bearsden, out to Balmore, up over the hills beyond and back to Milngavie via the infamous (in running circles) bumps. The bumps comprise five steep but mini hillocks that lead you back into the Glasgow suburb of Milngavie. They are entirely not what you want after eight or nine miles of running, but somehow offer an extremely satisfying post-run glow! (I wish i was more like my running pal Rachel, see, who always logs the distance she runs via a GPS. I'm just not so disciplined.)

The run also gave me the chance to try a new Skins top that I've been sent to, aherm, test-run. Skins are meant to be worn tight and close to your skin and claim to offer improved muscle recovery through enhanced circulation and maintain optimum body temperature, among other seemingly fabulous things. The long sleeve-topped is certainly tight (I had to wrestle with myself to get it on!)  and it felt really slinky against my skin. In terms of temperature gauging I felt more chilly than warm for the whole run, but then I normally complain about being too hot so perhaps it was doing its job properly. Has anyone else experienced this "just on the wrong side of cool" feeling while wearing Skins?.

And I do think the top improved a few muscle aches in my shoulders and back picked up from a recent Wii contest at a pal's house. (I admit that I used to be a snob about the fitness benefits of the Wii, but after a 2-min boxing round on Hogmanay I was left with more sore muscles than an hour at a circuits class. Hmmm.) 

The Skins tights claim to do much the same and having worn a pair post-run for the last couple of weeks I'd agree that they definitely improve the speed of muscle recovery. I was as much a sceptic as anyone else, but Skins do appear to do what they say on the label. I've just no idea how! 

And run number 2? The following day my husband Vik and I headed out for an all-the-way-up, then all-the-way-down run at Glentress forest, near Peebles. The mountain bike Mecca is right next door to my parents' house (where we stayed overnight) and it's one of my absolute fave places to run. Not only can you run off-road and through beautiful woodlands but you also get the chance to beat the myriad bikers uphill. Oh the joy of burning someone off on their shiny bike! I would never have believed this was possible but even running at a very slow trot, you still overtake most mountain bikers as they slog uphill in their smallest gear. 

From the top of the forest back to the Hub car-park feels like one, long glorious coast  downhill. While it's tough on the quads it requires little lung power and means you can look around and take in the wonderful views. 

And if you don't know about Glentress, then you also won't know about the wonderful coffee and cakes they sell at the Hub Cafe. The best reward for a hard run in the forest!