Friday, 30 June 2017

Mountains, Mud & Marathons | Tough Mudder 2017

It's official - we're 2x Tough Mudder Legionnaires!

Challenge number two of my Mountains, Mud and Marathons fundraising took place at Drumlanrig Castle (Outlander filming location!) on a beautifully sunny day. We stayed at the Kenbridge Hotel just a forty minute drive away, and made our way along the windy roads bright and early for the 8.30am starting wave. 

As usual our Epic team mates joined us for the day. We had a bigger team than last year. I was worried we'd end up splitting up but we stuck together for the whole course, helping each other along the way. Team work makes the dream work as they say!

As expected we were covered in mud at the very first obstacle. Helped by the random who splashed me right in the face! I made a big mistake and wore different trainers than usual which I instantly regretted at the Kiss of Mud. Bad times when you have to dig your trainers out at the very first hurdle - or rather my team mates did, thanks guys!

That moment you realise your trainers are stuck in the mud and not coming out with you!

I spent the whole race wondering when they'd come off again but luckily one of the marshalls showed me a trick, putting little loops into my laces and tying them at the sides so they were much more secure around my ankles. They stayed on for the rest of the race, including two rounds of Mud Mile. (Below!) Top tip - wear trainers that are tight with no movement at all around your ankle. I'll stick to my old faithfulls in future.

Shoe problems aside, we had a brilliant day out. Tough Mudder felt totally different to last year. It was the same location and very similar route but felt, dare I say it, easier. Whether that's down to my own fitness, the slightly shorter length (from close to 12miles, down to 10.5), the change in obstacles or just that I'd done it before and knew what to expect, I don't know. Even the icy water of Arctic Enema didn't feel so bad! Well, it did but I was slightly less shocked, traumatised or drowned. It took us just under four hours to complete with 18 of us sticking together.

My favourite obstacles are still the team based challenges - Everest, Pyramid Scheme and the Blockness monster. Some had been made slightly easier, with ropes to help climb Everest, and an extra wooden plank across the Pyramid Scheme, which we chose to ignore and use the same human ladder tactic as last year. Where's the fun in just running up it? That's what Everest is for!

At the top of Everest - in one attempt!

My biggest worry leading up to race day was King of the Swingers, which I failed to conquer last year. I was relieved to see it missing from this year's course map! There were a few new additions - my personal favourite being the Snot Rocket, where we had to climb up a tube with water raining down on top of us. The worst, in my opinion, was Shawshanked! You crawled backwards through a tunnel and had to drop backwards, like a diver, down into the water below. My mind got the better of me and I couldn't drop back head first, I had to awkwardly get my feet out first.

ElectroShock Conga

I felt like they'd removed some of the mentally challenging obstacles and replaced them with more physically demanding ones. Funky Monkey 2.0 and Kong were Ninja Warrior style monkey bar/hoop challenges and I couldn't get further than the first bar on either of them. A few of our team smashed both though - high fives to Gordon, Doug and Billy!

As a Legionnaire, you can skip the infamous electricity that everybody dreads. And we would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those pesky kids! The commentator spotted our Epic t-shirts at the final obstacle and waited for us to finish Kong, before rounding up all 18 of us to take on Electroshock Therapy together - in a conga. My face says it all!

I have to admit it was a great way to finish the day though. All 18 of us together, just like we had been at the start, holding on for dear life. I bloody love Team Epic - we couldn't have done it without them!

We received an orange 2017 headband at the finish line, as well as the extra green one for completing our second course, along with a finishers tshirt, bottled water, Trek bars, For Goodness Shakes protein or recovery drink and a bottle of Kingston Press. Cider has never tasted so good!

Check out our GoPro footage from the day on my YouTube Channel. Don't forget to give it a thumbs up and subscribe to see more! Despite being adamant this would be my last Tough Mudder, I've got the bug again and signed up for Scotland 2018 already!

Have you completed Tough Mudder? Which obstacles do you love or hate?!

Saturday, 24 June 2017

A to Z Dating | H is for Highlands

H is for Highlands!
Harry Potter World  - Hiking - Hogwarts Express - Horse Riding

Is there any date better than a romantic weekend away, surrounded by beautiful scenery? Scotland has lots to offer but the highlands are definitely up there as one of the most scenic parts of the country with its rolling hills and peaceful lochs. I thought I'd use this chance to share what we got up to and put together a little travel guide. So if you're planning a trip to the Highlands any time soon, this is for you!

Where We Stayed

Craiglinnhe House

I can't recommend this B&B enough. Our host, Lawrence, greeted us in the driveway and showed us to our room, overlooking the Pap of Glencoe! We'd struggled to find anywhere to stay and ended up booking twin beds at Craiglinnhe's but it wasn't an issue and the view made up for it. The house was beautiful, situated right on Loch Linnhe with a guest lounge looking out onto the water.

Gordon appreciated the honesty bar in the evenings, but it was Lawrence who really made our stay. He gave us the warmest of welcomes every time we arrived back at the house and was always happy to help. Chilling our post-hike champagne in the fridge, making us dinner reservations and even lending us a map and compass - nothing was too much trouble!

What to See & Do

Culloden Battlefield

We left early on the Saturday morning and reached Inverness by lunch time, stopping off at Culloden Battlefield along the way. The visitor centre tells the tale of the rise and fall of the Jacobite's on Culloden moor in 1745, from both the Scots and the governments perspectives. It ends with a powerful reenactment of the battle projected onto the four walls around you which really helps you get a feel of how the final fatal battle went down.

Outside you can walk the moor which is marked with flags and a memorial to those who lost their lives in the battle. Individual Stones mark the graves of the clans who fought and died there. Its a sombre experience but a must for any Outlander fan or clan descendant.

Castle Stalker

Otherwise known as Castle AAAARRGGHH! to fans of Monty Python & the Holy Grail. Just five minutes along the road from Craiglinnhe House. We didn't visit the castle itself but stopped off at the Castle View Café for the photo op. Turns out the view is rather distant! Luckily Lawrence had tipped us off on a little side road that led us down to the shore for a closer look.

Visit Glencoe

You can literally just drive through Glencoe and appreciate the most spectacular place I've ever seen in Scotland. There's no need to stop anywhere, but I guarantee you'll want to! Those hills, looming over that twisty road... wow! The Three Sisters of Glencoe are just an incredible sight to behold and I'm desperate to get back and climb. Buachaille Etive Mor and the Devil's Staircase are high on my priority list. I might even take part in next year's Great Glencoe Challenge!

It's also worthwhile driving into Glencoe village itself. Here you'll find a memorial to those of the Macdonald clan who were savagely murdered in 1692 by Government forces they'd played host to in their own homes, in what became known as the Glencoe Massacre.

Highland Folk Museum

Another Outlander one guys. Scenes from the first series - where Claire is seen getting her hands dirty with the locals while out collecting taxes with Jamie and Dougal - were filmed at the 1700's Township here! The Highland Folk Museum gives you a peep into the lives of locals right up to the 1960's with it's periodical buildings - some of which have actually been moved here from elsewhere in the highlands.

Entry is free which we hadn't expected so gladly bought a £5 programme to contribute to the upkeep of the open air museum. The 1930's sweet shop and the working croft were a particular highlight with the ponies, goats and symbolic Highland coos!

Where to Eat

Clachaig Inn

The Clachaig Inn features in CAMRA's Wild Pub Walks and plays a big part in the history of Highland adventurers. It's where the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team formed in 1962 and Sir Hugh Munro features in one picture of a Scottish Mountaineering Council meeting at the inn, dating back to 1906! A sign at the entrance reads "No Campbells or Hawkers" relating back to that infamous Glencoe massacre!

We dined in the Bidean Lounge, looking out over the surrounding mountains. I sipped a Porter's gin with slimlie tonic and orange slice, while Gordon enjoyed a pint of Cairngorm Gold. Starters were a delicious haggis parcel with neeps and tatties, and Stornoway black pudding with sweet cure bacon, oatcakes and apple and plum chutney. We both had the Clachaig chicken for main - oat crusted chicken in a whiskey mustard sauce served with chips and veg. If you call a baked sweet potato veg that is.

Other than the definition of veg, we had no complaints and thoroughly enjoyed our meal as well as another drink in the cosy Boots Bar. Later in the evenings there's live music but as we were climbing Ben Nevis the next day we gave it a miss. I'd definitely fit this in next time though, I imagine the atmosphere would be fantastic.

Holly Tree Hotel

Just a half hour walk from our B&B, located right on the edge of Loch Linnhe, the Holly Tree Hotel has a strong focus on seafood and local fare. We dined here after our epic day of walking and thoroughly enjoyed four courses. The bar selection needs a bit of work but the food was fab.

"The world is your oyster, go grab an oyster!" reads one of the bucket list ideas added by a guest at our wedding last year. So when I spotted fresh Hebridean oysters on the menu it had to be done. Gordon wasn't a fan of the slimy texture and salty taste, but I didn't mind them - mostly thanks to the tonne of Tabasco I'd showered them in!

For starters we stuck to the seafood theme chowing down on Moules Mariniere (mussels in garlic, white wine and cream) and Scottish salmon salad. Mains were more meaty with Barbary duck breast served with black pudding, red cabbage and "a rich port and berry jus". The lightly chargrilled venison was the star of the night, closely followed by dessert. Not surprisingly after all that I couldn't finish my white chocolate and vanilla cheesecake.

Mountain Café Aviemore

Scotland meets New Zealand at this café, located above an outdoors specialist store in Aviemore. We stopped off on the way home and despite a short time queuing enjoyed a lovely, relaxed lunch. My steak flatbread was a treat but I have to admit I was jealous of the burger!

The cakes at Mountain Café were out of this world. We couldn't help but grab a brownie and a chocolate whoopee pie for the journey home. Vegan, dairy free, gluten free and wheat free options are all available and colour coded on the menu.

We can't wait to go back to the Highlands already - please send us your recommendations for next time!

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