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Saturday, 28 February 2009

On my bike...

I went out for a three-hour cycle on Saturday with the lovely ladies and gents from the Glasgow Tri Club. It's my first weekend ride with them and I was a little nervous about how I'd cope. These are dedicated tri club members who get up early every most Saturday mornings to ride – while I tend to enjoy a nice lie-in!

But I know I must get some miles in my cycling thighs in preparation for the Etape, so I am now sacrificing my only lie-in of the week.

Meeting a couple of guys in my neighbourhood at 9am, we cycled for 30 mins out to Strathblane to meet the other eight or nine cyclists. Among all the men was super-tri lady, Kay, who I'd not seen for months. This meant we had lots to chat about, which had the added bonus of taking our minds off the cycling pain.

The route was quickly agreed - to Lennoxtown, over the infamous Crow Road, to Fintry, then Killearn and home to Bearsden. As a Crow Road newbie I had no idea what to expect, which was probably for the best. As some of the guys sped on ahead I stuck with Kay and tried to concentrate on the gossip, rather than the increasingly sore thigh muscles as we slowly but very surely ascended the long, long hill to the summit. After this hill the rest of the route could probably be called easy, except that my legs never really recovered from this muscle-zapping onslaught.

I needed to be home by noon prompt (Mr Outdoors was heading out and couldn't take Little Miss Outdoors) and I was trusting in Reliable Ross (a fabbie neighbour who introduced me to the tri club 3 years ago) for time-keeping. We did manage to cycle into our street with 5 minutes to spare but only because the last 5 miles were done at muscle ripping speed. Well, my muscles felt ripped, although Ross still looked pretty relaxed! That'll be because he rarely does lie-ins and usually cycles, runs and swims most weekends.

We clocked 38 miles, which was a job well done for me. Sadly I'm not exactly on track to break any speed records at the Etape. In fact I'll be lucky if I make it home at all...

PS One of the guys had a new bike gadget that records all sorts of wonderful data. His ride was a little shorter but this was pretty much our route. I now have serious gadget envy.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Running out of ...

Ah.. and so it's back to those killer speed sessions that I so clearly recall from last Spring. Round about now each year the Glasgow Tri Club move to Victoria Drive in Jordanhill for a couple of months of killer speed reps running as fast as we can along the edge of Victoria Park for set time intervals.

The fact that I can remember how sick I felt during every single weekly session last year should lead me to leave the club for these next two months. That would be the sane way to go.

But I doubt I could ever be described as sane. And in reality I know that the pain and nausea will pay off in the end with smarter, better times for 5ks and 10ks during the summer months. Whether I will actually get around to running any 5k or 10k races in the summer is another matter but all I know is that if I do want faster race times I need to train faster. It's as simple as that (apparently!). Except that doing any fast running really hurts.

This is my first week of speed reps for 2009 and while thought I was doing just fine for the first four reps, by the sixth I could feel a rising nausea, by the 7th I thought I'd collpase half way and by the last rep I could only imagine how amazing it would be to stop RIGHT THERE RIGHT NOW. For a short while after the session I felt good knowing I'd done it - but now sitting at my desk
my thighs are aching and complaining. By tomorrow I just know I'll have trouble getting down the stairs.

Still, I think it will be good for me in the end...

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

What is snowboarding good for?

Heading out for my first run after our fantabulous (Little Miss Outdoors' word) skiing/boarding holiday in Tignes les Brevieres I suddenly had the awful feeling that I might be getting old. Every step threw up one niggle or another, from creaking hips to sore calves to a stiff neck. Then at yoga and then circuits and swimming (usual Tuesday fitness epic) the following day I was alarmed at just how achey and tired I was feeling. All this after just one week away from my usual fitness regime.

But then I got to thinking about the snowboarding trip. Since I'm not an expert on the slopes (far from it) every day was a big challenge. Simply tryimg to keep up with Mr Outdoors and all the other skiers that we met on our trip meant that I was pushing my body all the time. While snowboarding might not seem particularly cardiovascular is does work out a wide range of muscles. Snowboarding for many hours each day left my calves, thighs and glutes screaming. And because boarders are required to repeatedly perform a movement from sitting (after clamping into bidings) to standing, my stomach muscles were given a thorough going over too.

If you add into this the high altitude, the steep climb back up to the chalet a few times a day and the general outdoorsy way of life I guess, in retrospect, it's no wonder I'm feeling a tad weary this week.

There are many other things that snowboarding are good for. Fabulous bright blue skies, a growing sense of achievement, much-needed time away for the desk, lots of quality family time, socialising and having fun with a great group of new friends. Ahh, if only i didn't have to come back to work!

Monday, 23 February 2009


Top marks go to Ross of Just Mac in Clydebank. His free advice over the phone has made a self-employed journalist a very happy person this morning. I now have a functioning Mac Book again.

Top service

He didn't have to help me there and then - and over the phone. In fact, he could have told me to bring my sick Apple Mac laptop to the shop, where he could have told me that it needed to wait in a queue for days even to be looked at, after which he could have presented me with a huge repair bill. Because I know nothing about computers, pretty much anyone could tell me pretty much anything about my Mac and I'd believe them - and I'd no doubt feel forced to cough up the dosh. Instead the nice computer guy Ross from Clydebank-based Just (Mac) took the time (for free) to explain over the phone how to proceed to fix my Mac Book Pro. As I said, he didn't have to help me but he did.

The alternative plan was to go to the Glasgow Apple Mac store. To do this you have to book an appointment on-line at their "Genius" bar. The first slot I could make would be tomorrow. I have not visited the Genius bar and I believe the first consultation is free. However, I can only imagine that after this there would be charges for whatever they would have told me was wrong with my Mac. And, as I've said, they could have told me that everything or anything was wrong - and charged me any odd ludicrous sum if they'd fancied.

Instead I find out from Ross that what might have happened is that when I followed a request by Apple to install some Java update yesterday (after returning from a fantabulous ski hol in Tignes), the instruction caused my Mac to hang up ie. It wouldn't start whatever I tried. I looked on numerous help forums, I found tons of postings from people with similar problems, I followed various instructions but nothing would kickstart the Mac, I read all about the people who had lost their whole life's work. I became tearful, I became shouty, I got frustrated, I hit a post-holiday patch of total bluedom. I booked my slot at the Genius bar.

Then this morning I thought I'd search for an alternative Mac repair place - and came across Just (Mac). The nice computer man Ross offered some instructions over the phone and helped me to launch a reinstall disc for the OS operating system (yes, I know what this means now). He patiently answered all my (no doubt) dim questions and took at least 20 mins out of his working day to talk me though the required button pressing. And all this for free. The Mac is still going through a re-install and this will take another 2hrs apparently but I'm hopeful this could fix the problem (and retain all my saved work on the hardrive). So here's a big thanks to the lovely Mac guy Ross.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Little Miss Outdoors pulls it off!

And so for Valentine's Day this year I did not receive a set of Allen keys, nor a bike chain clean kit and not even a new rucksack. Today I welcomed a lovely box of choccies and a cute teddy. I think Little Miss Outdoors has a great deal of influence over the choice of teddy but still it was nice to receive something Valentine's-y for the first time since meeting Mr Outdoors. 

Thankfully there will be no Valentine's meal out (I hate the tradition) as we
'll be flying and driving towards the French Alps for a much-longed-for family ski/snowboard holiday. Now that's what  call a perfect Valentine's gift for all the family!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Talking of special things for Valentine's

Mr Outdoors is well known for his practical gifts. His first ever present to me was a Leatherman penknife. While it was pretty, purple and much loved I don't think I imagined it would be a sign of the gifts to come. Over the last 7 years I have received a rucksack for running, a rucksack for cycling, a bike chain cleaning kit, a set of allen keys, a heart-rate monitor, heated skiing gloves, a grown-up rucksack, a Timex GPS watch, a heated mug, off-road trainers, maps ...and on. 

I have loved every gift (expect perhaps the chain cleaning kit for Valentine's 2007) but sometimes a girl hankers after something a little more romantic. Now Little Miss Outdoors has taken Mr Outdoors' gift-buying technique to task. The other day I overheard her whispering to Mr Outdoors: "Now, you know mummy won't like it if you go to Tiso's Outdoors Centre for her Valentine's gift. At Christmas she said you should be banned from there. I think I might have to help you buy something from Asda."

While Asda might not be resplendent with a wide ranging stock of perfect presents it does at least sell chocolates and flowers. I have my fingers (warmed by a very useful pair of fingerless gloves - yes, that was another Mr Outdoors gift) crossed! 

Something special for Valentine's

Another great reason to take up running... read about it here.

Monday, 9 February 2009

A load of pants

Hilarious conversation of Friday night centred around Mr Outdoors and his pants! In the pub with the group of Tri girls and some of their partners the topics, as usual, began to get more and more base-line. 

 For years I've been telling Mr Outdoors that it might be a lot more comfortable – and not to mention "normal" – to wear his padded cycle shorts sans pants. But the thing is that Mr Outdoors isn't always that keen to take his wife's advice – and anyhow he thought that wearing pants was what most cyclists did.

But now he knows this is not the case. Every so often throughout the evening Mr Outdoors would repeat to various people in the group: "So no-one wears pants under their cycle shorts? Like no-one?" Until he finally understood that pretty much no-one who cycles in a bike club or a tri club wears pants under their shorts.

"It's just not that comfy," suggested World Champion Vicky. "All those seams just don't help with the chaffing potential. And it's more sweaty with pants on."

"It might be alright on a short bike ride if you wore a G-string under your shorts but I can't see many men taking to that," piped up gorgeous bride-to-be Jo Pm.

Only when handsome groom-to-be Rich, who wasn't drinking, called time on the pants chat did Mr Outdoors finally acquiesce. "Hmm, so maybe I'll try this whole non pants wearing thing next time I cycle to work. I bet it won't make much difference though," he said, forlornly.

Expect a report on pant-free cycling report to follow over the next week.

Tri as I might....

I expect that for most normal people a Friday night down the pub would not include a long debate about whether to spend the next day mountain biking or road cycling. But thankfully I do not have normal friends – instead I have a whole bunch of pals who are up for a big adventure, even if they have had one too many glasses of white vino the night before.

And so, after much discussion, mulling over the merits of mountain biking versus road cycling on an icy, wintry February Saturday morning, it was finally, ever so finally, decided that Vicky, Jo PM, Ele and I would head out for a spot of relaxing road cycling.

What I'd managed to overlook was that this was "relaxing" according to World Champion Vicky (first by masses of minutes in the age-group 2008 World Triathlon Championships in Canada). I am sure that Vicky thought that the 3 hour trip around the wonderfully scenic Renfrewshire hills (with a cake a coffee stop at Lochwinnoch) was a doddle.
I imagine that both  Ele (I haven't drunk so much since New Year and now I've drunk too much all in one night Ele!) and Jo (just because I looked at the scales doesn't mean I'm going to think about my weight much Jo!) found the trip on the reasonable side of hard-going.

But due to weedling legs and an almost total lack of road cycling this winter I spent a lot of time being dropped on hills and struggling to keep up with the group on the flats. If nothing else the outing gave me a great big boot up my cycling pants. I need to get out on the road more – and quickly if I'm to survive the Etape in May.

The thing is though I really did enjoy the experience. I might not be as strong as these girls but they never made me feel like I was holding them up and when I was cycling as part of the group the chat was fun and lively. And now I have a target to aim for. Going out for a ride with people who are better than you (but also considerate) is great for honing your ambitions. Thanks girlie Tri girls.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

All brushed up

Girls get dressed up. From left to right: Me, Ele and Charlotte. While we're normally more likely to be seen in sweaty running or cycling kit, this pic taken at the Tri Club Xmas night out proves that we can look quite smashing occasionally! ;)

Running challenge for the guys

If the girls can have their own 10k in Glasgow, then why not the boys? Following hot on the heels of the hugely successful Glasgow Women's 10k, which takes place annually in May, the Men's Health Forum Scotland Men's 10k, this year on June 21, is now inspiring the guys to pull on their trainers to improve their health. 

Running is good for you in so many ways (burns cals, beats stress, improves your love life, prevents disease etc) that I find it hard to understand why you WOULDN'T do it. When I mentioned this to a friend recently she said I only like running because "you're good at it". But like most people I had to start from scratch. Seven yeas ago in my early 30s I could manage only about 2 mins of jogging before I was gasping for breath.

It was the Glasgow Women's 10k 2001 that inspired me to get fit and enter my first running race. It was extremely hard to begin with but I followed a programme, built up slowly and when I crossed the finish line of the 10k I was on a total high.

Since then I've had running highs and lows,  completed several 10ks, a couple of half marathons, my first marathon (the Loch Ness Marathon 2008) and now I've moved on to triathlons. 

Running is, for me, an ideal way to keep fit because it's time efficient, flexible and cheap (a busy work and family life dictates a flexible timetable). Running also seems to hold back the years (very important in your 40s!). It has also offered me a whole new circle of friends (great if you work at home in your own little lonely office). 

I reckon if I can turn from sofa sloth to running addict then anyone can.

And the guys do still have some way to go to catch up with us girls. With entry levels for the Women's 10k at around 14,000, the Men's 10k sits at around 3000 participants.  Now, boys, it's your turn to get up off the sofa...

Read more about the MHFS Men's 10k 2009 in my article

Monday, 2 February 2009

Weekend of fun

The Tri Club isn't just about fab training and coaching, it's also a lot about making friends. When I first went freelance I realised with a sudden gut-wrenching jolt that I missed people. I missed the office banter and the socialising. So I looked around for a club to join. Obviously the club needed to involve some kind of exercise, and this exercise needed to take place on "my" nights of Tuesday and Thursday. And so I found the Glasgow Tri Club.

Over the past few friends I've made some great friends through the club – and because most of them are a little nuts there is always at least a
 dozen people doing something adventurous on any one weekend. This weekend proved my point per

On Saturday, despite 
forecasts of howling wind and rain, two o
f the Tri Club guys, C & J, decided they 
would venture out for the first bike ride of the season. When they invited me I agreed with a reluctant s
mile. You see, I know that I need to get some cycling miles in my legs because I've signed up for the Etape Caledonia in May. This epic 90-mile ride up north is supposed to be gorgeous, but also a leg-burner. But since I've not been on a proper ride for about 5 months I 
worried the boys would out-ride me.

In the end the afternoon couldn't have been more 
pleasant. With only a slight threat of rain and just a quietly howling wind, 
the conditions seemed pretty good when we set out from J's in Erskine. Meeting C en route to 
Bridge of Weir we then spent three hours trundling around Renfrewshire, chatting, 
joking and pushing out the miles. Our route included the wonderfully flat and 
traffic-free cycle way to Port Glasgow, a testing (eh, J?!) hill out of Gourock (one 
mile, my erse, C!) and some fantastically scenic countryside as we rolled back towards Bridge of Weir. 

The only really strenuous section was the final eight miles back t
o Erskine in a building head wind. I swear, too, that someone had been out building roundabouts all afternoon.
 I'm sure I counted way more of the fre
aking cycling interruptions on the way back, than on the way out. 

It felt great to have finally made it out for a decent ride on the bike, and now the Etape only looks moderately massively daunting!

Normally this would 
have been enough exercise for one weekend but one of the 
Tri Club girls mentioned an unofficial urban Rat Race style outing (organised by 
one of her Bellahouston running club pals) on Sunday in Glasgow. How could Ms Outdoors 

So at 8.30am I pitched up in chilly George Square where 
I was invited to join a girls' team of two (Louisa and Hollie) for two hours of fantastically 
fun orienteering. The concept of the event was to try to tick off as many checkpoints spread for miles across the city centre. More points for more distant checkpoints.

You could also gain  points along the way for taking part in activities and performing certain tasks. Eg having your pic taken with a  Chinese tourist, wearing a policeman's hat while being 
handcuffed, pole dancing, juggling. I kid you not!
Pic of Louisa performing a hand-stand 
outside Run 4 It

If running for two hours has ever seemed like a total bore/chore then you should 
try urban orienteering. 
The time and miles just disappeared in a blur of ticking off checkpoints,
 navigating, laughing and chatting. By the time we arrived back at George Square, having ticked off all but about eight checkpoints, we were not at all surprised to find we needed to have our pic taken while growling like a lion (in front of a lion statue) and complete a circuit of George Square on a space hopper. That pedestrians were watching in amazement  didn't bother us in the slightest. We were high on adrenaline and relieved to finally sit and rest our weary legs.

Pic of Hollie and I acting 
out the statue!

Thanks Louisa and Hollie for putting up with an old lady like me. I had a ball! If only every long Sunday morning run could be as much fun. . .