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Friday, 22 January 2010

Inspiration – or designed to make you feel guilty?

I came across this website, which offers an amazing resource for finding out about running events. One glance is sure to inspire you to get out and do more races – or make you feel guilty for not even entering one this month! Scottish Running Guide

Running in the rain

It might have been wet and puddley underfoot but at least the ice and snow had gone. And it might have been heavy rain but there was a great turnout and lots of new faces. Last night's running session at the Glasgow Triathlon Club was tough but fun and all-inclusive.

Led by Captain T, we all took up the challenge of a pyramid set of speed intervals. Each pyramid had a 30-second sprint, followed by the same length of jogging recovery, then a 60-second sprint, followed by a recovery, then a 90-second sprint and recovery. At the "top" of the first pyramid we then proceeded to complete the set in reverse. We did this five times in total.

It was possible for all participants to complete the pyramids according to their own ability and with some time for jogging there was the chance to enjoy a few snippets of chat in between the sprints.

I pushed it and found the training session hard-going but at the end it felt good to have completed something that wasn't my ordinary comfort-zone outing.

These sort of sessions might just get me in shape for having a go at another sprint triathlon sometime this year. I know I should!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

A diploma in what? Eyelash extensions, that's what!

Trawling the internet looking for a possible course in massage therapy (maybe holistic, maybe sports) I began reading through a list of qualifications obtainable in the beauty therapy industry. One that made me laugh out loud was an Eyelash Extension Diploma.

I know that academic achievements have changed a tad since I was choosing my post-school college/university avenues (English, maths, geography, politics or the likes) but even so, I don't think would ever have imagined that one could follow a course in such a bizarre activity – and pass a test!

Apparently the course also covers "semi-permanent individual eyelash extensions". And the "intensive training course" last for a whole day. The mind boggles that there is so such to learn about this beautifying treatment!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Have you ever heard a storm petrel?

I'm currently writing an article about wonderful natural hotspots across Scotland. I love this kind of writing as it means I get to research all manner of interesting things – and speak to a wide range of fascinating outdoorsy people.

In the course of a phone chat with Hugh from Shetland Wildlife I learned all about the colony of storm petrels that inhabits Mousa Brosh on Mousa island. Hugh then directed me to an audio recording on his website where I could have a listen to the amazing sound of these seabirds.

Shetland Wildlife boasts a huge array of other audio recordings but I thought other people might like to find out exactly what a storm petrel sounds like. Click on the audio start button on this link. So cool!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Call to the girls

So it seems (according to the comments on my latest blog) that perhaps the girls do want to have more fun in Scotland's great outdoors but they are either a) stuck at basecamp while the chaps are out there enjoying themselves instead, or b) feel a bit scared at the prospect getting out and about in winter weather or on their own.

So maybe we should come up with a Girls Out in the Outdoors Day. (GOOD for short!) How about a Saturday or Sunday in April or May? This would be a day earmarked for us women only and would be a day when the men could stay home and mind the kids/dogs/guinea pigs or whatever.

On this day, perhaps a range of walking and cycling guided companies could offer discounted prices for women-only outings and trips?

Or there could be a plan to arrange for group walks/cycles among like-minded and like-fitness women?

And if this works, why not set aside a "GOOD" once every three or four months.

Come on, you know you all want to make a bid for some freedom and adventure. So spread the GOOD word!

The latest female tally

I've blogged a few times about the seemingly disproportionate number of men enjoying our hills and the great outdoors in general. In fact, every time I'm out and about I make a point of trying to keep a tally of men to women.

The proportion is usually very few women to lots of men.

So it was with great delight on Saturday that I counted an even number of women to men during a glorious run in Glentress forest. (Yes, I know this is where you're meant to get out on a mountain bike but it's also one of my favourite places to run - and conveniently located next to my parents' house).

As I ran and everyone else cycled I counted. Okay, okay, so I only actually counted three other people (it's still very icy on the Glentress trails) but one was a woman and two were male. If you include me in the tally that's a 50:50 split for the first time. Ever.

Come on girls, one day I'll be enjoying the outdoors and pass more women than men.

Anyway, as I said, the run in Glentress was gorgeous. It doesn't really matter what time of year you're out in the forest as the views are always stunning. On Saturday as I climbed and climbed I looked out over beautiful whitened hills and snow-capped trees. The snow was piled high on either sides of the trails, too, which made the forest seem even more magical than normal.

And the descent was fantastic. After all the climbing the downhill kept coming and coming until my thighs felt they could take no more. It was great to feel the cold air in my lungs and to reach the end of my run just as the sun began to set.

Don't you just love Scotland?

Monday, 11 January 2010

Winter Munros wonderland - Part 2

Yet more glorious hiking and climbing in Scotland's amazing winter wonderland this weekend. I think perhaps I have struck it lucky and embarked on my first experiences of winter walking during a year of unprecedented stunning conditions!

According to so many other people who have walked through other Scottish winters, conditions are normally awful and so rarely calm and gorgeous. In fact, as one walker I met on Saturday put it: "Surely this can't be Scotland, can it?" - as we surveyed the glorious 360-degree panoramic views.

And, of course, in the last few weeks there have been several deaths in the Scottish mountains. These were all experienced walkers/climbers who were unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with two being caught out by an avalanche. This does go to show that I should never underestimate the hazards of winter walking, even during the relatively straightforward ascents of the two Munros near Tyndrum, Beinn a'Chleibh and Ben Lui.

So, setting off early on Saturday to make the most of the winter daylight, I took the precaution of walking with an experienced winter Munroist pal (the "G-Force") and carrying a very heavy rucksack packed to bursting with winter survival kit, crampons, ice axes, food and hot drinks.

On this outing I even got the chance to use the ice axe and I wore the crampons for most of the day. Normally a reluctant outdoors climber (I hate heights), I now know that I totally love climbing in the snow and ice. While we did not encounter anything too sheer, some of the slopes were steep and did require the use of crampons and a firm ice axe placing. The going was tough but the exhilaration was more than rewarding. The G-Force managed a short but safely located section of vertical ice, too, which looked impressive and extremely exhausting. Maybe next time!

We were also in for an unexpected treat at the top Ben Lui. Just after reaching the summit, three guys also arrived on the peak. Within minutes one of the walkers had the video camera out and began filming his two pals as they sang a mickey-taking pop song to another pal who had been adamant that none of them would be able to wade through the snow to reach the top. Seeing these guys having such a laugh after their trek through the snow was funny and heart-warming at the same time. They were so thrilled with themselves.

But it wasn't the last giggle of the day. Because of tired legs on the descent (crampons are very muscle draining) I took to sliding some sown shorter sections on my waterproof trousered butt. I was careful, obviously, not to choose steep slopes and I made frequent use of my ice axe to arrest my speed. I have not had so much fun for a long, long time. Whizzing down sections of a beautiful mountain on my bum was masses of fun and hugely spirit lifting. I don't think I've stopped smiling since. See the grinning pics for myself in this blog!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Running on ice - the solution

Thanks to fellow runner Superfit Dave, I may now have the answer to how to run on the ice and snow.

First, Superfit suggested that I use orienteering shoes with spikes. These are like your usual off-road running trainers but come with extra metal spikes for added grip on wet wood and trails while orienteering.

But I actually prefer Superfit's second suggestion: ice cleats for ordinary shoes. Really you need to check out this link to get the full idea but essentially the ice cleats (or grips or grabbers) are like simpler, lighter weight crampons that you'd normally use on hiking boots but for ordinary shoes and trainers. You simply fix the cleat, which comes neatly fitted with non-slip spikes, over your ordinary shoes/trainers and off you go - hopefully with not a single slip or slither along icy or snowy pavements.

This link for "snow grabbers" shows the kind you might use for trainers - but I really loved the grips designed for high-heeled shoes. I know most people wouldn't venture out in the snow and ice in four-inch stilettos but you've got to remember this is Glasgow. I have seen at least a dozen women in recent weeks risking their lives on icy pavements in ludicrous high -heeled boots!

The ice cleats are apparently known as granny spikes (because they are most commonly worn by women in their later years) in countries where they are already popular, such as Germany and Sweden. It can only be a matter of time before these gadgets catch on in our snow-blasted country, too.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Running out of places to run

The snow is beautiful and I've loved the sledging and the gorgeous views. For the first couple of days I also enjoyed the fun of running ankle deep in the white stuff. But then came the ice. First I gave up running on icy pavements, and headed for the trails. Then I gave up running on the well-used trails because of ice and headed further afield on to less well-trodden trails. But even these have now become so icy and slippery that it's almost impossible to run anywhere anymore.

The only solution i can now come up with for any amount of decent leg-stretching running (rather than old lady style slippy-slidey on ice jogging) is to maybe get up at 5am and run actually on-road and while most people are not in their cars. I've not quite resorted to this but if the big thaw doesn't happen soon I know I'll be going out of my mind.

Does anyone know of any great ice-free paths to run along in the Bearsden area? Pllllllllease.

Oh, and a happy running new year to your all!