Sunday, 20 April 2014

April Adventures

This month I've discovered that I really like cycling. This is mainly because it has been glorious weather here in Edinburgh and no doubt as soon as the rain comes I'll change my mind. A bit of sunshine evidently does wonders for your motivation to train as I'm itching to get out there and do something active. All I need is for this perfect weather to continue until August although somehow I don't think that the Scottish weather is that kind.

The very elusive Scottish sun - how long it shall stay nobody knows.

On Wednesday the sun was streaming through my window at work, casting a glimmer across my computer screen and warming my face slightly. I felt a little flutter of excitement as I had the idea to go out exploring on my bike that evening. I looked up some of the routes which follow the cycle paths in Edinburgh and quickly discovered that the cycle path nearest to my house leads to Cramond which I'd heard nice things about so I thought that a venture down was called for. It was also a nice coincidence that the route was 20km, the exact distance of the Triathlon cycle. It was perfect, and thus my decision was made.

The eagle eyed will notice that the purple warrior appears to have been replaced. It's true. Sad times

It will seem quite glib perhaps, but there was something about this cycle that reinvigorated me. I'd felt so terribly bored with training, so bored of set distances on the stationary bike and treadmill, cycling and running to nowhere, that to actually get out and feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair was a revelation. I was surprised at how easily my legs pedalled, even making light work of the few hills that I came across, rewarded after the climb by a quickening of pace downhill.

There's something about cycling that reminds me of my youth and relieves me of the burden of exercise. For a long time, perhaps longer than I care to admit, I've exercised as a punishment. A punishment for eating too much, a punishment for a body which doesn't look as I wish it to look. I feel like this about running. There is little enjoyment in it for me. I began running before I had even become a teen in a bid to melt away the puppy fat I carried. As the fat melted, I kept up the running in a vain attempt to keep a few paces ahead of what I'd left behind but there was no love lost between us. Yes, sometimes I have the urge to go out and run, but more often than not it is an obligation, a chore, an adult task stripped of any element of joy.

Cycling is different. As a child I cycled for the sheer joy of it and often was allowed to cycle further than I would normally be able to wander without adult guidance. It allowed me to explore parts of the countryside normally just seen fleetingly through the window of a car and it allowed me to indulge my sense of adventure. Often, I have a feeling that the days were warmer in my childhood than they are now, that the world more beautiful and exciting but I realised during my cycle on Wednesday that I'm just looking at my surroundings through different eyes now and that in fact the days are still warm, the world still beautiful and the adventures are still there to be had should I care to look for them - and I'm out looking for them now.

Over the past week, I've been out for two cycles and have discovered parts of Edinburgh that I have never seen before. I'm itching to get out there again and find more places to explore, more sights to take pictures of. My legs pedalled, not for the sake of reaching a target distance on the pedometer, a target pace or even a target calorie burn, but because when I pedalled harder, the wind whipped more strongly at my face and refreshed me and because I wanted to travel further, to see more of what was out there. And my, what is out there indeed. The more I see of Edinburgh the more it becomes one of my favourite cities in the world.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Birthday Gifts

Today is my birthday. Yes! I love birthdays.

Whilst hopefully, I'll be getting lots of nice presents today - I haven't opened any of them yet so all that excitement is still to come - I also thought that it would be nice if on my birthday I offered others some presents.

So here's the deal. I have three prizes to give away

  1. A gift voucher for two people to dine at First Coast on the lunch/early evening menu(three courses).
  2. A £20.00 New Look voucher.
  3. A nice bottle of white wine.
Y'all are lucky that I'm even offering these up as prizes because I was so tempted to keep them for myself, especially that meal at First Coast which is one of my favourite places in Edinburgh to dine out. It's situated on Dalry Road which is a little out of the main hustle and bustle of the centre but it's still always busy because it has such a good name for itself. Just check out the reviews and prizes its won...

"Superb value and full of integrity" - Peter Irvine, Scotland the Best

"Just might be the perfect neighbourhood restaurant" - The List Eating and Drinking Guide

"...a regular hangout for the city's chefs on their nights off" - Richard Bath, Scotland on Sunday.

Winner - List Readers' Award - List Magazine Eating and drinking Guide 2012/13
Winner - Budget Restaurant of the Year - List Magazine Eating and Drinking Guide 2007/08

I first came across First Coast when my sister and her husband went there for a meal and raved about it afterwards. On their recommendation, I decided to go there for my graduation meal and I wasn't disappointed with the amazing venison dish that I was served. 

I'm really chuffed that I'm able to offer up a prize like this which I myself would love to have as a birthday present this year.

So here's what to do if you fancy winning this prize. Make a donation of any amount via either of these two links

Make sure to write your full name under the donation. For every pound that you donate, you'll be entered into the prize draw, so just to be clear, a £10 donation means you'll get 10 entries!

I'll announce the winner on the 30th of April via Facebook and Twitter so be sure to follow one of these to make sure you know if you win.

Monday, 14 April 2014

A love affair with Princes Street Gardens

I've lived in Edinburgh for four years and still, despite all the other corners of the city that I've discovered, my favourite part of the city is Princes Street Gardens.

Today I had a day off work and although I probably should have done something physical given that the clock is ticking until I have to complete a Triathlon and Tough Mudder, instead I spent the day sitting in Princes Street Gardens, happily idling away the time.

The sun was warm on  my face today, the first attempts at Scottish spring desperately trying to break through. One of my favourite things about the gardens are the sturdy wooden benches, all a little worn from many other bodies sitting on them. Each of the benches is dedicated to someone who has passed and I like to read the inscriptions and realise that I'm sitting somewhere that was so loved by someone that they have a remembrance bench placed here. I sat on the first empty one that I came across today and when I leant in to read the plaque I saw that it was dedicated to someone with the same surname as me which was a nice little twist of fate.

It's not hard to explain why Princes Street Gardens is one of my favourite places in Edinburgh. It literally throbs with life, from the vibrant green grass, to the numerous trees bursting into flower with the advancing of the year into the spring and of course the multitude of people walking through the gardens, sitting on the benches like me or sprawled out on the grass, soaking up the feeble Scottish sunshine.

Normally I like quiet places where the world feels like it belongs to me alone, but there is something pleasant about the people in the gardens. Everyone seems so happy. The couples drape themselves over each other, lazily and contentedly. The parents clap excitedly and coo as their toddlers take wobbly steps on the grass. Older children chase after each other, full of childish exuberance, some adults sit alone, lost in the pages of a book and others like me just sit, thinking about nothing in particular and yet everything all at once.

The grandeur of the castle casts an impressive shadow over the gardens, reminding me that I'm situated in the heart of one of Scotland's most iconic cities and the buzz of the shoppers on Princes Street drifts down to the gardens, a perfect juxtaposition between the ancient world of the castle and the modern world in the street above.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Things I've been doing instead of training hard for the upcoming challenges

Over the next three months I'll be completing three pretty physical challenges (I might have mentioned it). You would think with those looming that I would be training hard and gearing up towards the challenges but alas, over the past few weeks my motivation appears to have dropped off a cliff and actually what I've been doing instead is;

Eating too much

It's totally fine to eat loads of carbs and cheese because I'm training for a Triathlon so I'll totally be burning it all off. Carbs are energy don't you know? Except I'm not really training so my argument is redundant.

Drinking too much

Well a girl's got to have fun. All work and no play makes Kylie a very dull girl.

Sleeping too much

These are old photographs but they illustrate my point well I think. I like sleeping. I like sleeping a lot. For the past three months I've been getting up at 6.30am to train. It was starting to get really bright in the morning and so it was becoming easier and then, THEN, the clocks went forward and now suddenly, overnight the mornings were dull again and I just lost all motivation to get out of my bed. Every morning last week when my 6.30 alarm went off I got up, switched it off and went back to sleep.

In short, I'm failing drastically to prepare for the challenges. Anyone got some motivation I can borrow?