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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Oh well, perhaps I am mad!

The contrast between my triathlon club mates and other pals always makes me laugh. When I mentioned over the last couple of days to various people that I plan to cycle from home to New Cumnock in Ayrshire to visit a friend my tri club mates look kind of envious but not in the least bit surprised. It could amount to about 50 miles all in but to the tri club folk this sounds like a I was going in case they might be able to fit in the ride, too.

However, when I talk about such an outing with other people they raise their eyebrows in shock. They ask why I would not take the car, train - perhaps a plane! They wonder why? They look at me as if I'm insane.

When I think back to my early days in the club I can recall the same feeling. I clearly remember a few conversations where members told me that before coming to the track for the running session they had been out for a 60-mile cycle. Many triathletes think nothing of training twice a day. Back then I thought they were mad. For me a 6-mile cycle to work and back was enough and I ran only twice a week.

Now, having become quite a bit fitter, I look forward to the chance to cycle 50 miles to visit a friend. I don't think it's madness - just a good use of time and a great opportunity to do some training while also seeing some of Ayrshire's countryside.

It would be rubbish if we were all the same, eh?!

Monday, 29 June 2009

How far would you go for a fish supper?

The start

Some people will go a long way to buy a fish supper – but it could be that myself and fellow members of the Glasgow Triathlon Club went the furthest ever this weekend. I blogged previously about the Big Long Chippie Run triathlon but I had no idea, until taking part, what a hugely fantabulous event this would be. Every single person who participated or supported the event arrived at Sunday evening exhausted but utterly uplifted. Some people said it was one of the best weekends of their lives.

The event saw members cycling from Helensburgh to the southern end of Loch Lomond. An 11.5 nour relay swim took our triathletes some 22 miles north to the top of the stunning loch. After a fairly nightmarish night (for those eaten alive by midges at Beinglas Campsite. PS It won't help now but you could read my summer guide to nasty Scottish beasties for future reference!) the following day comprised a mass 95-mile cycle to Kinross. While some went the whole distance others did whatever mileage they fancied, while being supported by a Mitchells Hire drive van and mini bus. (Thanks Mitchells for your generous sponsorship.)

Sunday was another fabulous cycle (should have been 27 miles, ended up 40 miles due to terrible navigation!) and then a 11-mile run. The final mile of the run involved all participants as we ran together into Anstruther.

While utterly knackered I have to say it was one of the most amazing weekends I've ever enjoyed. Fab company, an amazing route and all for charity. Plus I don't think a fish supper has ever tasted so good as it did yesterday after cycling and running some 52 miles!

Let's do it this again next year. . .

The End at the Anstruther Fish Bar

...And you can still donate money to the three charities in recognition our epic effort.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

(I think) I'm loving this. . .

With forecasters predicting a sunnier summer and tourism bods reporting a rise in the value-for-money staycation, it's likely that good old-fashioned camping is going to be a hot trend. So maybe this strange new product is going to be a novel hit.

Actually, when you see it up close, the Slanket (not a great name - but it pretty much does what it says on the label) is a great idea. Essentially a blanket with sleeves, the Slanket offers warmth for campers or any outdoorsy folk on cool UK evenings.

I know it will work for me. Last year on a camping hol in Wales I spent hours every evening sat on a camp chair trying to keep warm by snuggling into my sleeping bag. However, every time I needed to get up to pop to the loo or fix another drink I had to climb out of the bag (or alternatively do a series of incongruous sleeping bag jumps). With a Slanket I would never need to discard the warm outer.

The only thing is the Slanket does look a bit granny-ish (although some colours are better than others) and I don't think the publicity pics do it much justice but having tried one for size I know it'll be the first thing to be packed for this year's camping trip. See

Sunday's "instead" hill run

Campsie Fells

Having not even made it into the car to head north to support the West Highland Way race, let alone on foot into the great outdoors, I was keen to find a hill run to offer some replacement therapy. While I've been up and Dumgoyne a few times recently I have not done so with Mr Outdoors for ages, so this is where we headed.

Mr Outdoors is keen to rediscover his hill walking legs for a forthcoming trip to the Cuillin Ridge so he suggested the idea of running up and down "our hill" (remember, this is where we were married in 2006) twice . This seemed like a good challenge until we reached the summit (in a great time) and looked over to the next summit in the Campsie Fells. Strangely we've never ventured over to this hill called (I think) Earl's Seat (578m). (See here for info about these hills). So two hills in one outing rather than one hill twice became our new goal.

We found the trail was easy to identify and while there was a reasonable ascent it was very easy-going compared to the steep side of Dumgoyne. The views from Earl's Seat (the highest summit in this string of hills) were every bit as gorgeous although I'm still pleased we chose Dumgoyne for the wedding.

The route back would have been oh-so-simple if we'd just retraced our steps but this is so not the way of Mr Outdoors. He likes to try new routes. Instead he decided to navigate us off the hill by another route he swore he could see from the top of Earl's Seat. Only, it turns out, that this trail didn't quite go where he'd expected and we ended up spending 20 minutes traipsing through tedious ankle twisting heather. (Apparently I was also to blame as this route had been a "joint" decision. Hmmm!).

Finally, though, we picked up a trail at the bottom of the hills running back towards the Strathblane Valley. I believe this is called the "pipe trail" or similar. It did offer a lovely final mile or so to our run and meant that we arrived back at Glengoyne Distillery (and the car) with smiles back on our faces.

Update: West Highland Way madness

So it seems that Charlie was proper poorly. Just a few hours into the event he felt weary, clammy and ended up with bad diarrhoea. He was right to stop where he did and to recognise that to continue would have been a disaster, not to mention the potential for laying him up for weeks afterwards. It's a brave man that admits defeat! I spoke to Charlie on Monday and he is majorly gutted not to have completed however he plans to try again next year. Hopefully he'll ask me to support him again.

Monday, 22 June 2009

The madness that never happened

Sadly Charlie was forced to pull out of the bonkers WHW race at Beinglas. He had been running for about 8hrs (some 40 or so miles) by this point and while I haven't spoken to him yet I imagine he was gutted to have come so far.. yet have to go home early. His wife called me at 10am to tell me the news and she thinks it had something to do with a sore throat that Charlie had been suffering the week before.

I was really disappointed for Charlie after all the amazing training that he'd put in this year. I was also (selfishly) a tad disappointed myself. I was really excited about supporting Charlie on those final 20 miles or so.

But the real bummer was that because I wasn't heading north for the event I had to stay home and attend to domestic chores, including the gardening. Boy did I feel sorry for myself by the end of the day. I kept thinking about the allure of the hills vs the repulsiveness of the weeds.

The WHW race did not provide any record breaking runs this year. Bradley Scott won in 16hrs 11 secs (the record is held by Jez Bragg in 15:44 from 2006). While the fastest woman was Sharon Law in 19hrs 55mins (2007 saw the fastest ever lady Lucy Colquhoun in 17:16). I've not heard a race report but the results suggest that conditions were tough at the weekend.

Friday, 19 June 2009

West Highland Way madness?

For those of you who don't know, the West Highland Way is a long distance walking route that stretches 95 miles from Milngavie, near Glasgow, to Fort William. Most people take around five days to walk this trail, stopping overnight at one of numerous B&Bs or campsites. However every year a group of people take part in a truly mad race – walking/jogging/running the full length in one go.

It's hard to believe that anyone can run this far over such tough terrain (we're talking here about a rough trail, lots of big hills and a mountain or two). The West Highland Way Race record is an incredible 15 hrs and 44mins. The female record is 17hrs and 16 mins. Every participant is required to complete in less than 36hrs and for most the Holy grail is sub 24 hours.

Now I have no real desire to complete such an event. The Loch Ness Marathon last year was way more than enough for me. However, I am keen to support anyone bonkers enough to want to give it a go, especially if it's in the name of charity.

Which is why, this weekend, I will be joining one competitor, Charlie M, for the final 23 miles or so. Charlie is a member of my tri club and an all-round adrenaline junkie. He has done this race before but he's also completed a host of other insane events including the Marathon Des Sables. He always raises money for the Beanfeast children's charity. (You can see his justgiving site here)

The things is, until last night, I hadn't really given much thought to what I would be doing. It was another tri pal Jim that first suggested the idea many months ago. Jim supported Charlie on the final 12 miles of the WHW Race a couple of years ago. "Go on." Jim told me. "It's a good thing to do and actually quite ok because Charlie is only able to walk by that point."

Only Charlie has got himself super fit this year. He's ahead of me at tri club track sessions and I've been keeping an eye on various events he's taken part in over the last six months. Charlie has clocked some impressive times.

But I've committed myself and I want to help Charlie out. I hope to start at Kingshouse, head over the Devil's Staircase, then on to Kinlochleven before the final descent into Fort William. Put like this it all seems fine. Afterall I know I can walk 23 miles. But in reality it will be at night, it is likely to be wet and windy, Charlie will be desperate to finish (and in under 24 hours) and I have no idea if I'll be a good support or not. I mean, will Charlie want me to chat to him? Or just be there? Will he be grumpy? Will I be able to keep up?

Goodness knows. Still, I'm pretty excited about it all. I'll report back after the weekend to tell you how Charlie got on. And how it felt to do only a fraction of the epic event.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Bearsden & Milngavie Highland Games

A casual chat with a friend ended up with me as volunteer press officer for the local Highland Games. Hmmm.. Well, at least I feel I'm doing my bit for the good of the local community. So just to add to our publicty drive don't forget to get yourselves aloing to the Bearsden and Milngavie Highland Games 2009 tommorrow (that's Sat June 13th) at the West of Scotland Rugby ground, Milngavie. There looks like being a tons of fabulous attractions.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

One sister walks Five Sister - but where are all the other sisters?

We found Scotland at its best again last weekend when Mr Outdoors and I joined dozen or so other walkers to hike The Five Sisters of Kintail. The outing was organised to raise money for Water Aid and was initiated by a group of workers (including one of Mr Outdoors's sons) from Edinburgh.

With three Munros, a Munro top and a Corbett to complete during the magnificent, seven-hour ridge walk, this outing was clearly meant for the generally fit. But surely this doesn't mean that all women are incapable/uninterested of/in such hikes.

Mr and Mrs Outdoors
and step-son David

To start with it appeared that I might be the only woman on the ridge that day. Being the only female in our large group of men I was surprised to find that all their various wives/girlfriends had decided to stay home. When asked, the guys suggested that the WAGs were "happier at home doing a bit of shopping", "not fit enough", "not interested enough", "not bothered enough".

Of course, the lack of women could be because the girls were simply content to have some peace and quiet at home while the guys head off for male-only weekend (except I was there!).

But it wasn't only our walking group that was notably lacking in girls. During the entire day I saw only three other women. Now this was a busy route and the weather was mostly fine so it was pretty surprising to find myself in such a male-dominated arena.

Still, it made little difference to my enjoyment of this fabulous walk. The guys in our group proved that they can chat as much as the girls and have as many laughs. The atmosphere was up-beat and the pace was perfect. And if they minded that there was a woman among their laddish group they never said it out loud.

But, really, sisters. You don’t know what you’re missing....

For route details see

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Tri giving - you know you want to

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Glasgow Triathlon Club, our club is planning a coast-to-coast charity triathlon challenge.

The “Big Long Chippy Run Triathlon” will see various club members swimming, cycling and running up to a total of 165 miles (266km) from Helensburgh in the west to the east coast village of Anstruther (where there is an award-winning chippie!), either as individuals or as part of a relay team.

The event will take place from Friday June 26th to Sunday the 28th and will start with an 8-mile (13km) group bike ride from Helensburgh to Balloch. From here, a group of swimmers in relay will head 21 miles (34km) along the entire length of Loch Lomond. The following stage on the Saturday will again be a group cycle, travelling 96 miles (155km) and taking in some stunning scenery, from Ardlui to Kinross. On the Sunday, the final leg will be a 40-mile (64km) run from to Anstruther - PHEW!

The main aim is to provide the club with a unique challenge while also raising as much as money as possible for:
- Loch Lomond Rescue Boat (LLRB)
- Erskine Hospital for ex-service men and women
- The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice in Glasgow
All funds will be divided equally between the three.

Every penny really does count, so please donate whatever you can - we promise we'll be earning it. Thanks.

Please check out this link for ther justgiving site...

Yo-Ho-Ho - at last

I admit it has taken me some time to be wholly convinced by the benefits of regular yoga practice. Despite practising with Jo-Yo for well over a year I had not actually noticed any major improvements in my physical well-being. Yes, I feel a little less stiff. Yes, I can bend myself a little further. But I could not have reported anything more significant.

That was, until this weekend.

On Saturday Mr Outdoors and I joined one of his sons and a group of some 10 other men on a hike along the Five Sisters of Kintail. The expedition included three Munros, one Munro top and a Corbett. So, as you can appreciate, there was a fair amount of ascending and descending.

Perfect posture: Jo-Yo

While my legs are usually up to the job of climbing mountains it is my lower back that always causes me pain. Within the first 500ft of ascent I can feel a grumbling discomfort that stays with me until the summit. Over the years I have tried all sorts of different postures: walking upright with my hands on my hips; bending slightly forward while leaning my weight though my hands and on to my knees; and even gorilla style crawling on steeper slopes when the pain gets too much. But nothing had worked. . . until now.

For the entire 7.5 hour walk I felt not a flicker of discomfort in my back. Nothing. It was a total revelation and simply added to the joy of such a fabulous adventure in Scotland’s fabbie outdoors.

Now I finally believe Jo-Yo when she tells me that yoga is ideal for stretching out all those tight running muscles – and for strengthening my core muscles and subsequently my lower back muscles.

It seems amazing to me that just an hour or two of yoga each week can make such a big difference. I wonder how much more I’d improve physically if I could just manage to squeeze in another session a week. It's no wonder that Jo-Yo looks so great!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Views to a thrill

Sometimes luck is on my side. And on this occasion the luck came in a very big way indeed.

For many years Mr Outdoors's dad has wanted to visit Plockton. I don't think he really knew why except that he had seen pictures of the stunning coastal village and so he had it in his mind that one day he would like to go. But at the age of 85, getting to Plockton on his own was not really option.

So at Christmas Mr Outdoors and I gave him the gift of a weekend trip to Plockton (so long as he could stand the thought of being accompanied by the Outdoors family). Finally, last weekend we headed off for the five-and-a-half hour drive north.

But we did not simply head off in the usual Scottish dankness. No, we set out on Friday afternoon in the most amazing sunshine. For the entire journey (and weekend) we were treated to fabulous sun-kissed views and miles of glittering, flat sea lochs. You really would not want to be anywhere else in the world when the weather is so fabulous.

Even luckier still was the gem of a B&B that I had booked quite by chance. Finding that many places in Plockton were either fully booked (I tried to book months ago.. definite signs of the "stay-cation") or were not set up to accommodate a family of three and my father-in-law we were finally directed, via word-of-mouth, to a new B&B in the nearby village of Duirnish. But with only the start of a website (therefore no pics) and no reviews on the likes of TripAdvisor (this I will now amend) it was impossible to know exactly what I had booked.

Amazingly Tigh-Arran B&B turned out to be one of the best such establishments that I have ever stayed in. The two en-suite bedrooms were huge, bueatifully decorated and boasted stunning views from the mainland, across the Atlantic ocean and over to the Isle of Raasay and the Cuillin Mountains of Skye in the distance. There was also a guests’ lounge and dining room, again with the same fantabulous view. For much of our two-night stay we sat looking out over the scenery, completely mesmerised – and drinking drams of the “local” whisky Talisker, of Skye.

Thanks, too, to the extremely welcoming host family, Mary, Ian and 2-year-old Isabella, plus dogs and a rabbit, we enjoyed one of the most wonderfully relaxed and companionable weekends for many years, summed up by my father-in-law who was apt to repeat out loud: “I just feel so contented, so contented.”

These photos do not even come close to showcasing the awesome views of this weekend but they do give a flavour. It really is worth the long, long drive north – and then the long, long return journey south again.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Sun, fun and the happiest happy couple

Sun, space hopper fun and amazing fairy cakes were some of the delights encountered by the Family Outdoors at a tri club pal's recent wedding in Herefordshire. The bride Jo's amazing attention to detail meant that despite the obvious stress that must have taken place prior to her big day, the wedding itself was a dream of relaxation, fabulous food and great company.

Just take a look at a few of the piccies to see how smiley and content everyone is. The funniest moment had to be the two bridesmaids (and one small page boy when he was allowed a shot of the hopper) bouncing across the field next to the village hall (where the reception was held) on a pair of space hoppers.

We had decided to make a long weekend of our trip, having never visited this part of the UK. And what a great decision. We spent four nights staying at one of the best self-catering cottages we've ever found. The Buzzards offers several cottages to rent and is essentially a low-key organic farm with sheep, pigs, hens and cats. The owner Elaine made the perfect host and if it hadn't have been for our return flights from Birmingham to Glasgow I swear we would have happily stayed here for the rest of the year. Certainly Little Miss Outdoors thought The Buzzards was pure heaven. She was allowed to feed two orphan lambs, collect eggs from the hens and take a sneaky peek at two new-born piglets. "Can't we live here?" was her repeated question throughout our stay…

Wonderfully quiet, quintessentially English country lanes and days of sunshine meant we also enjoyed one of our best outdoors family trips yet. Hiring mountain bikes from Wheely Wonderful Cycles we headed off for a delightful 12-mile round trip on undulating roads and taking in a beautiful tea shop en route. (Of course, every family cycle should also have a delicious incentive!) The total mileage ended up being 12 miles, which was three times as far as Little Miss Outdoors has ever managed. "Awesome," she reported.

The fact that we only made check-in of our return flight by a scary and very stressful 2 minutes just goes to show how reluctant we were to return home. Or perhaps it was simply because of some appallingly bad plannng and navigaton by Mr Outdoors?!