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Monday, 31 May 2010

My blog is on the move...

I have finally almost finished the blog that I have been working on for some time now (er, maybe about 2 years!). Thanks to Duncan, my ultimate wordpress pal for his kindness and support in my new project (he has been a total star), and to Ramsay, who also helped me to make some finishing touches to the site.

And so I will now be writing my blogs at (my own domain name!). In due course I'll be moving all the old blogs to the new site. The new site allows me to put blogs into categories (for easier access to previous post reading). Plus there are all kinds of exciting widgets, plugins and shiny gadgets that I have already/will be adding. I'm hoping to expand this blog site into a more useable fionaoutdoors resource and to add reviews of kit etc. You can still view all my published articles, on-line work etc here too but it will now be stored neatly in sections.

You can see my latest blogs here

I have really enjoyed being with blogspot and it has offered an invaluable outlet for my witterings and for building up my work base. But I felt it was time to try a new platform and to use my own domain name (I bought it about six years ago so it's about time it was put to use!).

The new blog is still a bit of a work in progress so my apologies for any wee gremlins. In fact, if you spot anything really rubbish please do email me. I would welcome any favourable comments, too.

If you are currently a follower of my blog (and thanks so much for being so lovely) you can continue to keep in touch with my new blog by clicking on the RSS feed on the new blog. I will continue to add new blog links to this old blog for the time being. I'm very keen for you all to come with me if you'd like to. I'm hoping the new blog site will be just as good - but shinier and more useful. I do hope you'll like it.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Why Twitter has improved my "solo" work life

Working on your own at home as a self-employed journo, writer, blogger etc can be a lonely business. I've actually grown to like spending most of my time on my own but there are still times when I long for some friendly office banter or a spontaneous exchange between colleagues. Still, the advantages (such as no commuter travel, wearing any old clothes, having no-one to tell you when you need to be in your office, being at home for Little Miss Outdoors, having coffee making and lunch making facilities just a short trip downstairs etc) mostly outweigh the disadvantages (no regular wage, no sick pay, no paid holidays).

And then along came blogging, Facebook and Twitter. Suddenly there was chatter in my office from people I already know and a growing number of new on-line friends/colleagues. While the chatter is "silent" it does fill the gaps when I need a break from my work (sometimes it takes over my work time to be honest!) and quite often it makes me smile. In particular, I've become a huge fan of Twitter. Quick bites of chat/info from a wide range of people has given a whole new lease of life to my solo worker situation. It does feel like a conversation, the sort I used to have at the school gates when Little Miss Outdoors still allowed me to walk her to school; the kind of chat I used to have over a coffee at work; the quick bites of this and that that make your life so much more fun and informed.

And today I woke up to a tweet from ProScot that really made me smile out loud. It came (unprompted and I believe with sincerity)
Now following @fionaoutdoors who also has a great blog she is full of energy and inspiration

Because the other thing that is all to often lacking from a life of freelancing is feedback and encouragement. Yes, there are some clients who are really good about praising your work but there are an awful lot of other people who forget that self-employment means doing a lot of hard work for no feedback whatsoever.

Today was also warmed by another tweet from RSKSports:

I've also had a FFs (Follow Fridays). While Twitter is mostly used as a great business tool for marketing etc it still does offer a place for generous and warming tweets. Thanks guys for making this sunny Friday morning even sunnier!

Wild Man goes even Wilder for charity

Some people will do the maddest things just to get a fish supper. Last year, the Glasgow Triathlon Club completed their own crazy Big Long Chippy Run Triathlon from the west coast of Scotland to the east, where all participants enjoyed a fab fish supper at the famous Anstruther Chip Shop. They also raised lots of money for charity.

Now a GTC member, Rich Wild, is doing a solo event, again from coast to coast (this time in the north of England) and again it will finish with a fish supper. He's raising much needed funds for the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice in Glasgow. And this is what the Wild Man plans to do (he's clearly a bit nuts but obviously super fit):

His plan is to cycle from Walney in Cumbria to Whitby in North Yorkshire, starting on the Irish Sea and finishing on the North Sea. The total distance is 175 miles, which he hopes to complete in one day with the goal of reaching Whitby in time for a portion of its well-renowned fish and chips. The route is a very hilly one, reaching a maximum height above sea level of more than 500m, but the scenery should motivate him, as should the prospect of dinner.

He hasn’t chosen a specific date yet, but is going make a decision based on the weather forecast. Ideally a strong tailwind would help things along, but he will settle for warm and dry weather.

The charities he is raising money for are:

Help for Heroes

The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice in Glasgow

Click on the links to see his donation pages

This is going to be TOUGH so please make it worth his while and get sponsoring him – it’s for two very good causes…

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

My new business website

I've been writing the content for websites for a while now. And I've a good range of clients that I blog for. I have completely embraced the world of Twitter and Facebook. And I have my own well-followed blog here. Now I have a proper business website for The Number 1 Writing Agency.

It looks good - but it also reads well (I think it does in any case!) So if you know anyone or any businesses that are looking for help to write the words on their new or relaunched website, or you want your blog to be written for you, or you want some help with social media, or you would like me to come along to give you some in-house training then please do pass this website link around. Thanks.

Monday, 24 May 2010

3 Scottish outdoors guides

Perhaps you have seen these VisitScotland guides at local tourist centres or in accommodation providers around Scotland? They are filled with info about great places for adventure, walking and mountain biking/road cycling in Scotland. I was the writer for all three titles. It was my ideal kind of project as it combines two of my passions: writing and Scotland's great outdoors! You can order free guides or see digital versions on-line

Only the finest dining for Cal Chall hubbies

Snack happy: Look what the men
will be eating on the Cal Chall!

The husbands of several friends are taking part in this year's Caledonian Challenge. The event involves a hike of 54 miles non-stop along the West Highland Way (the original in a stable of Scotland's glorious long-distance walkways) - hopefully in less than 24 hours. Teams are supported along the way by generous wives, friends and other relatives.

Having taken part a couple of times before Super-Sore-Feet-Craig (partner of JoYo) knows how important it is to make sure the team will be properly refuelled en route. This is aside from adequate training walks, all the right kit, comfy boots and a huge barrel of morale. Last year, it seems there were three too many bowls of chilli con carne (where one was more than enough) and so this year there has been a lot of serious talk about what food will be provided at each refreshment break.

Then in steps Top Entreprenurial Mummy, aka the blog writer of Feeding A Family of Five for Under Fifty Quid a Week. TEM's latest business idea is to cook delicious meals for busy people. She's a fabulous cook and she's already on the way to creating a successful culinary empire. So, it seemed like an obvious solution for TEM to create the perfect refuelling dishes for the hungry Cal Chall hubbies.

TEM has put some amazing meal options on the table (so to speak) but I would be going for several of these: Chicken Couscous, Rigatoni al Forno, Casserole and Mash, Chicken Paprika and Rice, as well as the good old Chilli and Rice. The key to sustaining energy levels over a long-distance walk is lots of carbs, lots of flavour, savoury, salt and not forgetting litres of water. The worst choice over such a long period would be gallons of energy gels and lots of really sweet stuff. (Believe me, I tried this on my first Moonwalk snacking on jelly babies and gels and by half way I felt extremely nauseous. The second time was far more successful thanks to a feast of sandwiches and sausage rolls).

One snack that TEM is insisting on, however, is her latest delish discovery: Schnecken Bun, now renamed by her as "Happy Cake". TEM recently enjoyed a Happy, Happy evening tucking into the high carb, sugary, fatty and nutty treat. And now the Cal Chall Hubbies will be able to look forward to a few of these amazing snacks en route.

I'm almost tempted to take part myself given the fine dining on offer - but then again I think my feet are a little delicate!

Even if you're not taking part in a big walking challenge TEM is happy to discuss all kinds of meal options, perhaps for a family tea, a Friday night supper or a Saturday dinner party.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Proud of my latest web writing project

I am very excited to see the launch of the Glasgow Service with Style website. This has been my biggest copywriting project so far and I'm really proud to be able to show it off on my on-line portfolio. I enjoyed working with all the people involved in this project.

Early next week I'll also be launching my shiny new business website for the Number One Writing Agency. This will showcase the new direction that my journalism writing career has been going over the last couple of years. I'm really enjoying the new challenge of website writing and blogging work. The website will detail exactly what I can offer businesses who are launching or relaunching their websites and who want the copy and words to be as fab as the design.

Friday feels good - even if I'd prefer to be outdoors doing outdoors things rather than indoors at my desk earning a wage!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Fitness article for brides-to-be

Here's one I wrote earlier for the Daily Record. A six week shape-up countdown to your big day.

A guest blog: Mountain rescue funds raiser

I've known Simon Willis for many years as a journalist and latterly as a keen kayaker. He asked me if he could post a blog on my site because he believes the Kintail Mountain Rescue team are worthy of as much support as possible. I agree. Here's what he is blogging about.

A mountain rescue team would like your help

The old headquarters of Kintail Mountain Rescue Team is past rescue itself. The ancient barn and croft in Morvich is, like many a weary walker, struggling to stay upright. Especially in the teeth of a howling gale, ice battering its roof and sides, in the dead of night. Which is, of course, when the MRT need it most.

If you walk Scotland's hills, you might too.

The team are raising money to create a purpose-built centre. A series of fund-raising events are planned. The first is this weekend and you can follow it at KintailCompassChallenge.

Team members cycle from this base, in continuous relay, to the four cardinal points of Scotland.
North: Dunnet Head
East: Peterhead
South: Mull of Galloway
West: Ardnamurchan

They'll pedal 1,200 miles, climb 32,000 feet (yes, that's not a typo!) and pass through many of Scotland's villages and towns.

If you feel you can help them or donate a fiver (or more) to help keep a roof over their heads, then there's a PayPal Donation button on the bottom of their homepage.

* Simon Willis used to have a proper job as a BBC correspondent. He quit to make films and write about his outdoor adventures, and to live in a remote corner of Scotland. With three international awards for his first DVD, it's going pretty well. He blogs eclectically about sea kayaking and life in the Scottish highlands at

Nevis Range host the exciting Motorcycle Trials Champs

Fancy a bit of exciting spectating? Nevis range, Fort William, is set to host the UK leg of the SPEA FiM Motorcycle Trial World Championships from June 25 to 27. And the event promises to be a stunning, thrill-a-minute show.

Just recently Red Bull two wheel athletes Dougie Lampkin (12 times motorcycles trials world champ) and Danny MacAskill (the talented YouTube Street trials guy from Skye) joined forces to mark the final countdown to the event.

It's been eight years since Scotland hosted a stage of this prestigious Wold Champs series and spectators will be treated to 60 of the world's best riders from 15 countries. The competition will see riders hoping to gain valuable points towards the 2010 World Pro, World Junior and World Youth titles.

Yorkshireman Dougie Lampkin has dominated the scene for many years and will be leading the UK's bid for a title win.

He said: "This is the biggest event for me this year. Fort William has some of the best trials terrain on the planet. Nevis Range is an incredible venue for this event and confirms why the region is regarded as the Outdoor Capital of the UK."

To book your place alongside an expected 8000-strong crowd check out the official website

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The ultimate extreme pursuit on "death road"

There will always be some people looking for that ultimate adrenaline rush. Whether it's the thrill of sky diving, free climbing, back country snowboarding, bridge jumping, burn bashing or whatever, you can be sure that there will be a group of daredevils taking a sport to the extreme.

Reading the latest exploits of cyclists on the so called "world's most dangerous road" in Bolivia just shows how far some will go to get that extreme madcap tick. Eighteeen people have now died cycling this truly bonkers descent on a road that is barely rideable and when it is it's life-threateningly steep, with ridiculous hairpin bends, and has ludicrous drop offs (600m cliffs) to avoid. It is difficult to understand the allure of such a risky rite of passage but we all have our individual aspirations.

The mind boggles! But then again I do take my life in my own hands every time I cycle Glasgow's busy and pot-hole knackered roads. I've seen my life flash before me more times than I recall.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Snap happy: A shiny new camera for my birthday!

Birthdays in your 40s aren't so bad when you get to celebrate them like this!
* A weekend at the fabulous hotel The Lovat in Fort Augustus
* Divine dinners at The Lovat, too
* Lots of nice wine and whisky at The Lovat, as well
* A gorgeously scenic, 70-mile cycle right around Loch Ness
* A trip to the romantic and fascinating Urquhart Castle
* A hugely informative photography workshop with NevisPix
* A challenging run up the Munro Geal Charn (Monadh Liath)
* And last, but by no means least, the wonderful company of my boyfriend, the G-Force.

And thanks to The G-Force I now have a shiny new camera (to replace the last one that suddenly died during a hill walk last month).

In this blog I reveal some of the weekend in pics:

Finally we reach the top of the hill on the
east side of Loch Ness. Huge slog but great views

Urquhart Castle, on the west bank of Loch Ness

A scenic picture taken on a NevisPix workshop

Another scenic picture taken on a NevisPix workshop

Me (in the distance!) atop Munro Geal Charn (Not so sure the G-Force
was paying so much attention in the photography workshop!)

The G-Force clearly very pleased to be on the Munro top, too!
(Quite pleased with my pic taking skills!)

Thursday, 13 May 2010

"Brick" an' that

It's funny to hear what other triathlon friends think is the origins of the word "brick", as in "brick session"...
... as in training on the bike and then doing a run..
... as in this is what you'll need to be able to do to become great at triathlons.

The Flying Triathlete thought the term "brick" came about because the sessions are layered on top of each other like building block or bricks. Nice idea.

The Mighty Vickster simply imagined that "brick" meant "well hard". The MV commented: "Well it's really hard going from the bike ride to the run so I thought 'brick' was just another way of saying 'brick hard'!" I love this idea, too.

Another thought is that most people will be "bricking it" as they come off the bike and on to the run section of a triathlon. As in: "I was bricking it that my legs would turn to jelly!"

In fact, it seems that the term "brick" comes from the person who first coined the phrase for the consecutive training sessions, one Dr Matt Brick. The duathlete was an advocator of the bike-run, run-bike training sessions that all "brick hard" duathletes and triathletes have come to loathe.

Reckon I should be out doing another "brick" session this evening as the Peebles Triathlon begins to loom. Let's hope it stops raining and the wind dies down! May is a bit chilly...

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

I would run this... but!

I would be taking part in this new event but... it's my birthday the day before and I might want to enjoy a couple of large glasses of wine, or more!

Anyway, it looks like there'll be more than a few eager mountain goats running the new OUTDOOR CAPITAL TRAIL HALF MARATHON AND 5KM FUN RUN on Sunday May 16 in Lochaber.

Get ready to run in gorgeous Leanachan Forest

The race (another from No Fuss Events) takes place on the stunning mountain bike and walking trails of the Nevis Range, near Fort William, and runners will be the first to test themselves on world famous mountain biking trails, used during the legendary World Cup, World Championships and Benromach Ten Under The Ben mountain bike events.

The 21.1 kilometre figure of eight loop follows forestry roads, disused narrow gauge railway line and cycling and walking tracks within Forestry Commission Scotland's Leanachan Forest. It also includes stages of the new Cour Trail that winds its way towards Spean Bridge offering stunning views of the Great Glen, the Grey Corries and Ben Nevis.

An excited Chloe Patterson, of No Fuss, said: "This is our first trail half marathon event and like our other annual events the emphasis is firmly on fun with a friendly atmosphere for runners of all abilities. Entrants can expect a challenging but manageable course of stunning beauty and a warm welcome at the finish!"

Runners can register their £20 race fee online at . Pre-race registration will take place between 17:00 and 19:00 on Saturday evening and from 07:00 at the saddlespan at the Nevis Range HQ on the Sunday morning. The Outdoor Capital Trail Half Marathon starts at 12:00.

Good luck to you all. I'll likely be doing a walk-off-the-birthday-hangover Munro instead!

I won a race! And a box of choccies!

I have won a few medals and trophies in my life but my only golds were during my childhood when I competed in judo. But my childhood is a very long time ago and I have come to the conclusion that judo must have been the one thing I was actually talented at. It's a shame I gave it up aged 16 but I've no real regrets. It was simply something I was good at as a child - and it kept me focused for much of my teenage years.

As an adult I have never expected to be good enough at any of my sports to win any prizes. I just don't have the time to train, nor the talent, but I do still enjoy what I do. I have been surprised a few times to win third prizes, twice for an off-road 10k and once in the Mighty Deerstalker. And I am usually in the top 5-10% for many of the races I enter but I had never actually won a first place.

That was until last night! Reluctantly I agreed to take part in the Garscube Harriers annual parents and kids 3k race. I was reluctant because I would normally avoid a race that I had no experience of running. 3k is definitely not a distance I'd choose to run at speed as I prefer longer distance events. And I'm not that keen on races anyway. But since Little Miss Outdoors was expected to run the race I felt it was only right that I should too.

To start with there didn't appear to be that many parents taking part, and especially not mums. So I thought I'd be safe simply jogging the course. But then the entry list filled up and there appeared to be some quite serious looking athletes. A large number of the parents were actually part of the adults section of the Garscube Harriers. Oh well, I thought, I could just get in the car and go home for fear of being truly hammered by the competition or I could just smile, run as fast as I could and enjoy the experience. Certainly Little Miss was delighted to see me lining up at the start of the race.

And so we set off. I had no game plan as 3k is not a distance I've ever ran in a race before. I simply ran. There was another woman in front of me - a fit-looking woman - and I just kept running behind her. I thought she'd speed off into the distance at some point but she didn't. A little way into the race a group of women overtook me but then I overtook them again a little further on. Some halfway round the course another lady came between the front runner and me. Really, I thought I'd never hang on and so I decided that a third place in the female section might actually be quite good. Much better than I'd ever imagined, in any case.

And then, with only about 20 metres to go to the finish line I suddenly realised I could overtake the two ladies in front if only I had a sprint in me. And I did! I passed the third place woman quite quickly and then pipped the second place lady with only about a metre to go. Okay, so I know it was only a small local club event but I felt really rather proud of myself for giving the race a proper go. I'm not sure what my time was but I did win a box of choccies!

I never actually got the chance to pick up the prize as I had to dash off to a swim session at the tri club. Instead Little Miss Outdoors proudly collected it for me. She had also enjoyed her race and although she was as reluctant as I was to run it she came home smiling and clearly pleased with herself.

The race had the best ever attendance of parents and everyone seemed to enjoy the occasion. It was great to see some really awesome junior runners, too. While I might have been first lady, there were a fair number of youngsters ahead of me. (Loads of men, too!) It's encouraging to see so many kids and parents out running when we're forever being warned about the poor health of Scots. Not all of us are couch potatoes it seems!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

40 miles on a bike without getting lost!

The Crow Road is so much longer!...

I have the navigation skills of very sick and horribly disorientated homing pigeon. Ie. None. So I was very pleased with myself this morning when I managed my longest ever solo cycle without the need for a map. I had actually taken the precaution of printing off a map from but that must have flown away with the wind when I took off an outer layer of clothing quite early on in the ride.

My 40 miles from Bearsden took in Killearn, Balfron, Fintry, the ever-so-long ascent of Crow Road, Lennoxtown, Strathblane and back home to Bearsden. There were quite a few road turns to remember but for once I kept it all in my brain and only once needed to check with a pedestrian in Balfron to make sure I was about to take the correct back road to Fintry. I had been, and I was chuffed I had actually known where I was going.

This is great progress. I have quite often found myself travelling 20 miles down a motorway in the wrong direction. This is a motorway I know well and so it should be apparent that I am passing major buildings and landmarks in the wrong direction. I get lost while running just about every time I veer off the few routes I have imprinted in my navigationally challenged brain. Little Miss Outdoors even has her version for "Is mum lost again?" She'll ask instead: "Oh, are we on one of our adventures again mum?!" We get lost all the time in the car, even when I'm heading to places I've been a dozen times before.

I have tried navigation courses. They seem so straightforward at the time and I can see exactly how to read the map and the landscape. But when I'm out on my own, and need to make a decision to turn left or right, I somehow always guess incorrectly!

So you can see why I'm so delighted with my excursion this morning. It is the same route that I followed with the Mighty Vickster last weekend and I managed to complete it a little quicker. This time the ride came after a 1hr 40 min "brick" session on Thursday and a fast 5 mile run on Friday (not to mention a late night with friends and wine!). So despite having slightly jaded legs and not quite enough sleep I still felt quite strong for most of the outing. Thanks to the glorious weather I really enjoyed the training session.

Now all I need to do is build on the miles over the next four months - and capitalise on my new-found map reading bravery!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Cycling, Bealach Mor and the Mighty Vickster

There are some very fit people in Glasgow Triathlon Club and I can only dream of being able to keep up with most of them. In particular I wish I was as good as them on a road bike. With my entry in for the infamous Bealach Mor (that 90-mile cycling sportive that includes the UK's longest Alpine-style hill climb at Applecross) in September I need to put in some serious pedalling miles of training.

So on Sunday I got my act together and set out with the Mighty Vickster (world age group triathlon champion and fabbie cyclist) for a two-and-half-hour ride. Various people have been in contact since spotting me to say that I must be really fit just now if I was keeping up with the Mighty Vickster. The truth is that the MV had cycled 115 miles the day before and so I could just about keep apace with her and her very tired legs!

To be honest the MV's dedication to her friends went well beyond the ordinary call of duty on Sunday. I'm sure the last thing she wanted to do was join me for more cycling but she knew I needed the bike miles under my belt and so she very kindly led me on a really pleasant country road cycle out to such places as Balfron, Killearn, Fintry and back over the dreaded Crow Road.
We even found some nice smooth tarmac to cycle on instead of the usual pot holes.

Perhaps it was the girlie chat, or perhaps I am a little fitter than I thought, but I managed the full outing without too much hassle. I now need to up the mileage a little every week to reach the goal of managing 90miles of ridiculously tough terrain come September.

I will forever dream of completing the distance in as short a time as the tri club cyclists. In reality it will be a slog - but hopefully a rewarding challenge. Read my progress on two wheels over the coming months.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Conic Hill: My favourite family walk

Little Miss Outdoors and her hill walking pal on top of
Conic Hill with Loch Lomond stretching out below

Conic Hill, at Balmaha, is the perfect family walking spot. I've walked this hill more times than I can recall and every time it has been a success. From children as young as six to a mum with a baby on her back, from small dogs to impatient dads, and from the reasonably unfit to the really rather fit, everyone I've taken to this beautiful location over looking Loch Lomond has been thrilled by the outing.

On Sunday I enjoyed another trip, this time with the G-Force, Little Miss Outdoors, a pal of LMO, plus the family Arnison/Seel/Lowry (including two boys, mum and baby on board).

Here are a few reasons why it's such a good hill:

* With a summit of only 350m the total outing adds up to enough of an adventure for the average child or adult - but not too much of an exhausting expedition.

* The effort to reach the top is far superseded by the wonderful views across Loch Lomond and some of the grander mountains of southern Scotland.

* While there are a couple of steepish sections few people will be daunted and at times there even helpful steps created to make the going easier.

* There is an "over-halfway" point that offers fabulous views along Loch Lomond and a hint at the promise of even better views from the top.

* There is enough of a view of the "almost-summit" to con the children that "we're nearly there now".

* The almost-summit is in fact very close to the actual summit and requires only a few more minutes of uphill plodding to reach.

* There is plenty of mud for keeping little boys happy.

* There are trickling rivers for cleaning off little boys on the way back down.

* Sometimes, if it's quiet enough, you'll glimpse exciting wildlife, such as snakes.

* The car park at the bottom is huge (lots of people come here) and there's a good children's play area. There are also toilets.

* The trail up and down Conic Hill is on the West Highland Way and so you often meet and pass friendly hikers with big packs on their backs. It makes your smaller pack filled with chocolate, sweeties and juice seem oh-so-nothing in comparison.

* You only need a few bars of chocolate/sweeties to bribe the kids on a short hill outing such as this.

* Finally, but in most people's eyes, most importantly, The Oak Tree Inn opposite the car park offers a great range of cakes for a post-walk snack and also a reasonable lunch and evening meal menu. Plus pints of refreshing beer! They welcome folk with muddy boots, too, which was helpful seeing as we had two mucky boys with us by the end of our lovely afternoon hill stroll!