Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Filling Station Cocktail Masterclass

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to my first blogging event. All very exciting, I know. It was a cocktail masterclass at the Filling Station and they had me at the word 'cocktail'. On the night, I made my way there, a little bit nervous about turning up solo to an event where I wouldn't know anyone. The lure of the free food dispelled some of those nerves though, I won't lie.

Upon arrival a drink was instantly offered to me and I took the opportunity to get a strawberry Daiquiri in my hands. This was a drink that I first fell in love with in Ibiza and since returning from that holiday, I've been searching for one which lives up to the Ibizan masterpieces I tasted. This one was hands down the best I've tasted in the two years since that holiday and I'm not just saying that because there was free food at the event. Honest.

We were persuaded over to the bar and the Cocktail Masterclass started, led by Andy Pearson, the Filling Station's choice of Mixologist. There were a number of cocktails on display in this class including a Red Berry Cheesecake (which genuinely tasted like a cheesecake. Bit weird in a good way), an Old Fashioned (very Mad Men-esque) and a lime Mojito. To finish up we also had the opportunity to help Andy create our own cocktail. It was patently clear that I'd only had one drink because at no point during the cocktail creation did I shout,

'Go on, chuck in some Tequila!'

I don't like to brag here but I'm pretty *ahem* talented at creating cocktails. My standard concoction normally involves Vodka, Champagne and orange juice and maybe a bit of Tequila too. A form of rocket fuel if you will. As you might therefore imagine my history of creating cocktails hasn't typically ended that well for me. For example there are vague memories of attempting to climb through a stranger's window in student halls in a vain effort to get to some biscuits. On another occasion my foray into cocktail making ended with me swinging my parka round my head on the dance floor, one thigh high sock round my ankles and everyone staring on in disbelief.

Much to everyone's benefit Andy steered clear of any such mixture though and the final result was a delicious Edinburgh Handbag which might make it on to the menu at the Filling Station in the future so be sure to ask for it if you venture in. If it doesn't make it onto the menu and the bartender looks at you like you've lost your mind then I take no responsibility for that.

One of the key lessons I picked up from the masterclass was that making cocktails is all about making sure that the balance of the ingredients is perfect. This is somewhat different to my usual method of adding a 'splash for luck' but I'm nothing if not keen to learn so on this occasion I'll go with the expert's advice.

My favourite drink of the night was the lime Mojito pictured above. I don't normally like Mojitos as they're too minty for me but this one had so much lime in it that it gave it a lovely zesty taste which was just to my liking. Do you know what goes well with lime? Yep, Tequila.

'Go on, chuck in some Tequila!'

Monday, 23 June 2014

There's so much to write about...

The next month is an exciting one for me as I set off on a number of adventures and hopefully will return with lots of stories to share here on the ol' blog.

Dolly Parton

I don't have a credit for this image. OOPS.

Dolly is one of my favourite people ever and I'm going to see her this weekend in the O2 arena in London. To make it even better, this means that I get to catch up with a few of my other favourite people in the world who live down in the Big Smoke. It's almost too exciting for words. I best get digging out my cowboy hat now eh?


Found on Flickr

Not long after returning from London I'll be jetting off to Berlin. This is so exciting that every time I think about it I start practically hyperventilating. I'm a culture/politics/history geek at heart and so going somewhere steeped in a history as rich as Berlin's is truly my idea of a good time (I'm too cool for words - I know). One of the best things about this holiday will be my ability to impart any of my vague knowledge of German history and politics on the other half who I'm sure is as excited about this as I am.

Showing that I really know how to have a good time, I've already planned out an itinerary for every day. I have also invested in a pair of sturdy 'activity' sandals. This is definitely the nail in the coffin to any illusions I had about being fashionable. When Ryan sneered at my precious new sandals I responded with,

'Well, just think about how COMFORTABLE they will be!!'

Which is, I'm certain, the phrase that signals my decline into middle age and is a sure sign that I'm past it. Whether I ever really had it or not is debatable but let's ignore that point. I think ugly shoes are cool and anyway, comfort is of utmost importance to me these days so I frankly do not care how they look. They bloody better be comfortable though. Knowing my luck I'll get blisters all over my feet in them so I'll have been just as well wearing the tiny, strappy things that I've made a conscious effort to avoid.

A whole week off 

Upon returning from Berlin I have a whole week to spend exactly as I please. I'm thinking of trying to extend my jaunt by travelling around Scotland but there are some issues in regards to this which are mainly of the cash flow variety. It shall remain to be seen exactly how this week will be spent but hopefully I'll find a way to keep myself entertained. If the weather holds up in Scotland I might even find the opportunity to wear my middle age sandals again, which is an exciting thought. Those babies have practically paid for themselves already.

Ben Nevis

Image found here 

At the very culmination of the next month's worth of adventures is one of the biggest adventures of them all so far... a climb up the UK's highest mountain. Here's hoping for good weather (which is never certain in Scotland even in July) and a lack of avalanches. That would be good.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Challenge 6: Tough Mudder

 Me and Caitlin looking clean and happy before the race. What fools.

I signed up for Tough Mudder in January, on a whim and without really considering my ability to get over any of the obstacles. Since January a lot of my time has been taken up with sleeping and watching tv  training for the Triathlon and so any strength training or distance running which might have helped me with Tough Mudder was pretty much ignored until the last three weeks at which point extreme panic set in and I desperately tried to gain some strength in my scrawny little arms.

I was feeling quite positive about my 'gains', easily cracking out twenty push ups at a time until a random man at the gym informed me that my form was wrong. Once corrected, I managed one push up before collapsing face first on the floor. The running part of my training was equally as useless with the furthest distance I'd attempted before this challenge still firmly set at 10k.

It's safe to say, therefore, that I was not as prepared as I could have been for this challenge but regardless of that, my friend Caitlin and I travelled to Dalkeith Country Park yesterday, got ready and made our way to the start line. We were off on our way around a 12 mile assault course before I even had time to say,

'hmm think my ankle's playing up. Probably best if I just sit this one out'.

There were 24 obstacles (you can see the course map here) so it would be a fairly long blog post if I were to write about all of them. Instead I'll just tell you that most of them involved crawling through mud, wading across rivers or climbing over things (bales and walls mainly). Below is a summary of the most difficult obstacles and also a couple of my favourites.

Artic Enema

I've written before about the fact that I detest the cold so entering into an ice bath was never going to be one of my favourite things to do. I got in and made my way to the tyres in the middle of the bath, at which point I was supposed to put my head under the water and swim under the tyres. Yeah that wasn't happening. 

The water had already taken my breath away and I just couldn't psych myself up enough to put my head under. I looked at the Tough Mudder volunteer at the side of the bath.

'I can't do it.' I whimpered.

He told me that I could but I needed to hurry up. The longer you spend fannying around debating whether or not to go under, the more likely you are to get hypothermia. I'm not a big fan of hypothermia so I put on my best pouty face and asked for his assistance in getting me the hell out of this devil's contraption. It took two of them to lift my pathetic self from the water because I was too cold to expend any energy pushing myself up over the side.

I'm going to say that this counts as a half completed obstacle because I at least got into the freezing water. Caitlin did manage to put her head under and go through the tyres and she said that it felt like she had died when she did so. With this information in mind, I think that my decision to chicken out of this obstacle was probably a pretty sensible thing to do. Which is unusual for me.

Walk The Plank

Image courtesy of Tough Mudder Facebook

In the run up to Tough Mudder this was the one obstacle that I had informed everyone that I would probably miss out because I've got a bit of a complex about water. In particular I'm terrified about being below the surface of the water. Let's be clear that a 12 foot drop into a muddy body of water is not my idea of a good time. However, spurred on by my success over many of the other obstacles and with the adrenaline pumping I made the decision to climb the ladder up to the top, made my way to the edge and the countdown began.

'3.....2.....1.....GO!' shouted the volunteer in charge.

 I didn't move. She counted again


Again I stood firmly rooted to the plank. I let a couple of people pass in front of me, the nerves building stronger with each second that passed. I looked at my arm and noticed that it was trembling uncontrollably.

Then out of nowhere my guardian angel  a Tough Mudder volunteer pulled me aside and asked what my problem was.

'I just can't do it. I'm scared of the water.' I told him.

My throat was sore with the effort of swallowing the desire to cry that kept rising to the surface. His face was really close to mine and he looked me straight in the eyes.

'Can you swim?' he asked.

'Well actually I did a Triathlon last month but I couldn't swim well before that'

It was admittedly a pathetic attempt to engage him in conversation and delay the inevitable leap into the water.

'Right so if you can swim, this is a mental problem, not a physical problem' he said sternly. 'Look ahead at the trees, don't look below you and step off. That drop will only last a few seconds and then you'll be up before you know it.'

I nodded defeatedly, and made my way back over to the edge.

The volunteer at the edge of the plank counted down again


I stepped off. My heart was thundering and I felt sick to my stomach. In the two seconds it took for me to hit the water I had visions of exorcist style vomiting over everyone in the vicinity but I managed to hold it in. I hit the water and went under. The panic rose as I felt the pressure of the water above my head. I kicked my feet and flapped my hands in a demented sort of way, the aim being to reach the surface as quickly as possible. When I felt my head break through the surface of the water, I think it might have been the happiest I have ever been. I swam the 40 feet to the other side and emerged victorious and perhaps looking a little bit like a drowned rat.

Mud Mile

Image again from TM Facebook. I have no idea who the people in the photograph are but I think it highlights quite how muddy it was!

Still soaking wet from launching ourselves into the water in Walk The Plank, Caitlin and I found ourselves confronted with a whole mile of mud which we had to run through. Compared to all the other obstacles you might consider that this would be one of the easier ones.

On the contrary, this was mud like I have never seen it before (even worse than the duathlon which will now be considered my second muddiest experience). At points the mud was up to our thighs and the whole thing was made more difficult by the fact that Caitlin's shoe decided to get stuck in the mud and so she made her way along most of the mile with only one shoe on. By the time we finished mud mile we were covered head to toe in mud (and I think perhaps something else because the smell wasn't particularly pleasant). The photographs of us at the end of the course don't really do justice to quite how muddy we were because some of the obstacles after this one were water based and so we came out slightly cleaner.

Electric Eel

This obstacle involved crawling on my belly through water with dangling electric wires above me.

I was relatively confident about this one because the farm that I kept my horse on had electric fencing and I'd had a shock from that. I was naively under the impression that the shock couldn't be as strong as those fences. I was wrong.

I'm quite small so I figured that the way to attack this obstacle would be to weave my way in between the hanging electric threads. This worked out pretty well for me for a little while but unfortunately I forgot to take into account that my back end is slightly larger than my front and so I got about three electric shocks to the arse. Oh how I screamed. Big, burly men were screaming too so I didn't feel too pathetic about my cries of pain. Let me tell you that I moved pretty quickly after receiving that first shock and I probably only took about ten seconds to complete the rest of that obstacle. I think the clear moral of the story here is that an electric shock to the backside is a great motivator.

Island Hopping

This was one of my favourite obstacles because I was pretty good at it. It essentially entailed jumping across floating squares on a river. I made it across no problem and looked so good while doing it that the men behind my friend in the queue exclaimed

'Oh look at her, she's good at that. She must have been a dancer.'

From this comment you probably imagine that I was leaping daintily from square to square with pointed toes and a few pirouettes thrown in for good measure. In reality I probably looked something like this...

Image from Buzzfeed

However it's likely that this is the only compliment I would receive while covered in mud, sweat and maybe a few tears and so I'm bloody well going to take it and believe that I looked like a prima ballerina prancing my way across those floating squares.

The Finish Line

After 12 miles of mud and obstacles I was pleased to see the finish line in sight, with only Electroshock Therapy standing in my way. Remembering acutely the shocks to the arse that I'd received from Electric Eel, I have to admit that it took a few false starts before I was brave enough to weave my way through the dangling wires. I managed to make it through without being shocked though (the benefits of being small). Once I had completed that final obstacle I gratefully received my Tough Mudder headband and made my way over to the free alcohol (as per usual).

The Day After

Ouch. Just ouch.

If you think my efforts are worth a quid or two please donate to either Sick Kid's Friends Foundation or Stroke Association

Thank you!!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Colour Me Rad - Edinburgh

Colour Me Rad technically isn't one of the monthly challenges (June's main challenge is Tough Mudder) but my work colleague suggested that I join them in taking part in this event. Given that I might have lost my mind at some point during the last six months, I decided that it would be a good idea.

It was a nice 5k run around a flat route so it wasn't too hard core which is just as well because there are only 5 days between me and a 12 mile assault course! As it was quite short, I don't have many words to go with the pictures.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Life lately

I've been pretty much AWOL from the blog since writing the last post after the Triathlon. It's honestly not because I was so broken by said Triathlon that I couldn't think straight or type and it's not even due to a lack of time either (although that's partly the reason). It's actually because for the first time since I started this blog, I've been faced with writer's block.

Normally, I advise writing quick, fast and dirty. Sit at your computer, write what comes out of you without overthinking it too much, edit it and then post and stick it out there for everyone to see. Many times it might be crap but other times, you'll end up with an unself-conscious piece of writing that gives people a real insight into what you were thinking. To my mind, perfectionism is the antithesis to creativity, stifling the thoughts in your head before they are ever uttered, written or turned into something tangible and potentially wonderful.

Yet for some reason, the words haven't been coming. It's impossible for me to write about my life without writing about other people whose lives are intertwined tightly with mine and its tricky to take on the responsibility for putting a part of their lives out into the public domain. There are stories I'd like to tell but they're not my stories alone and so it's difficult to know how to do them justice. What if I write something that unintentionally upsets someone? I suppose that all writers must encounter this internal debate but it's a little more apparent in blogging because there are no characters to hide behind.

I've also been a little bit tired and drained of enthusiasm this week. The first few months of this year have been busy and exciting but demanding. I threw myself into training for the challenges, I spent hours trying to drum up raffle prizes, spent most of my spare hours thinking of blog posts, spent my Saturdays writing and spent longer than I care to admit on twitter hashtagging the shit out of everything with the aim of getting my blog posts seen by people. This week I've taken a slump in my desire to do these things. The exercise routine has gone out the window despite the fact that Tough Mudder is just around the corner. I've been returning my head under the covers each morning instead of getting out and going for a run and I haven't even looked in the direction of the computer or noted any ideas down in my notebook.

But as I sit writing about how I've been drained of enthusiasm for the blog, I realise all the reasons that it has been worth the time I've invested in it. Every time someone favourites or retweets my blog link I feel a little buzz of excitement. I've been listed in Sleepwalking in NY's list of favourite blogs and the fact that people across the world have read words that I've written makes me feel warm and fuzzy every time I think about it. Eduncovered reckoned that my blog was worthy enough to be considered one of the ten best fitness blogs in Edinburgh and also, I've been invited to my first ever blogger event - a cocktail masterclass! Which (and this is an inside joke which I might explain later) I'll definitely be swinging my parka at. These may be small achievements but they are real nonetheless and it's been a real boost of confidence that I've managed to get anyone to read my blog at all.

Writing this blog and taking on the challenges means that I've achieved a lot in the first six months of this year. I've learned to swim, learned to enjoy exercise again, discovered how beautiful Edinburgh is, explored other parts of Scotland, climbed a mountain and generally just reinvigorated my lust for life and adventure. Now I just need to learn how to inject some balance into that schedule and how to relax and enjoy the adventures without feeling a burning desire to document it ALL.