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Edinburgh Swim Festival

The Edinburgh swim festival was a fun race for me! I entered the 2km event two years ago and was 13th – this year I wanted to be top 10 and beat Andy by 10 minutes (he set the gap, not me 🙂 ).

At the festival, your entry fee covers as many of the races as you like. First up was the 2km. Clad in our wetsuits with bare feet we clambered on the coach in Portobello and were whisked off to the pier at Musselburgh.

Next task – warm up, get in and get ready to swim back again! The water was quite warm, so it was OK getting out ready to run back in again when the gun went off :-). Here we are just after the start. I can’t be sure which is me, but I’m near the front-ish on the right-hand side in an orange hat!

The start

I seemed to go a bit wide at first and, as usual, found it impossible to get onto some good feet for drafting. Halfway over one of the bouys was more inland and I had to decide whether to follow the bouys and the people or cut straight over to the one after. I did the latter and it felt strange to be out alone. I couldn’t even see a safety boat when I was turning to breathe!

Funny faces getting out!

At the final bouy before the turn, I rejoined the field and put the effort in to strike for shore. I finished 25th overall, 8th female, 5th ‘senior’ female (i.e. when you discount any juniors and veterans who beat me!). Goal one achieved, but Andy was only 7 minutes behind – so he won that one!

Andy making sure he finished hard

Last time I felt seasick at the end. This time I was fine, though I always look a bit weird getting out 😀 !!

A smile on my face as I do the turn in the 800m!

After a long wait on the beach it was time for the 800m. This was two laps from the beach. I had got quite stiff and never really felt into this one as a race. However, it scored high in the fun stakes as the wind and swell were getting up. We were swimming straight out into the waves, then across them, then surfing back in. I was with a group of other girls and didn’t realise at the time that if I had been motivated to push past them and swim 6 seconds faster I’d have been on the podium :-).
14th overall, 6th female, 3rd senior female.

High elbow or straight arm?! (I’m the one with pink squiggles!)

Finally, after a quick turnaround (good for staying ready) it was straight back in for the 400m. It was free, so why not?! And knowing it was my last chance, I went for it, was clear of the group I was with in the 800m and finished in the top 3 females! Persistence pays off :D.
11th overall, 3rd female, 2nd senior female.

The weather stayed sunny, we all had fun and even Andy’s jellyfish sting didn’t put a dampener on things. We rounded it off with a fantastic meal at the Roseleaf.

One of the safety kayakers – Jim from the Wild Ones – thanks Jim!

Thanks to Bob Marshall for the great photos.

Next race – a big one – the 5-day Adidas Terrex Sting in Stirling. I haven’t met all the team before, let alone ever raced with them. This is also the first time I’ve done anything as long as this. I hope it will be all about the experience and having a bit of fun! You will be able to follow us live on the trackers (it’s team AVT Asset Management) and look out for my report when I’ve recovered enough to write it!

SMBO – Pentlands

I’m a little late with this one … other training and life keep getting in the way!

The first event in the summer SMBO (Scottish Mountain Bike Orienteering) 3h series was last weekend. Just like last year, the weather was lovely and sunny! I had helped out a bit with the map, but not much, so I was allowed out to compete in the ‘generation category’ with my favourite cycling 10 year old.

It's so relaxing when someone else is doing the planning!

The day started with a logistical hiccough – which meant that Iain had to cycle all the way to the event centre in Balerno. For those that don’t know Edinburgh, this is 12.5km uphill from where he lives. We helped him along a bit with some gentle pushing, so that he wouldn’t be exhausted before we even started!

Last year he rode with his dad, who insisted he should do it all himself – and that I should do the same this year. Sometimes it was hard to resist, but I tried to keep my ‘help’ to open questioning, gentle suggestions and handing out of sandwiches 🙂

This applied before the start:

“Think about making a loop”
“Look at the contours”
“What will you do if we start running out of time?”
“What difference will the control values make?”

And during:

“Is there anything to look out for that will tell you we are nearly there?”
“How far do you think it is?”
“Which way at the next junction?”

And at the very end:

“Are you really sure you don’t want to go up that big hill for just one more control?!”

Luckily, Iain had been warned about this one before the start and insisted NO – just as well, as we only got back with 4 minutes to spare! 😀

This is how it's done

Picking a line alongside Threipmuir Reservoir

I was very proud of him as he was doing a good job of the map reading and navigating, his technical biking skills are improving nicely and his fitness and stamina are really beginning to develop.

The generation class can be a funny one. There are 7 year olds competing against 15 year olds and kids who just ride competing against kids who plan their own strategy and read the map. But it is all about encouraging new people into the sport, and the good news is, numbers are going up – there were 7 in the class at this event. Hopefully they will all come back again another time!

Iain came 4th – and only just missed out on a podium spot by a few points. Not to worry, a fun time was had and he also managed to beat one or two adult teams. The proof of success was that he asked if he could go out biking again the next weekend.

Luckily, I was able to wangle this into my training plan. On the hottest day of the year so far, we did a fantastic proper hilly loop from his house, going up higher than last week and taking in some much more technical trails. He’s a star! This is my long term plan in the making – watch out for us taking the mixed pairs by storm in a few years’ time!

The things you can stop and play with when you're not in a racing hurry!

The Roseleaf and Café Nom de Plume

It’s been ages since I’ve done any ‘eating places’ reviews and now I have two at once!

The Roseleaf

For ages Andy has been saying “can we go to my mate Jonny’s pub?” Last weekend it finally happened. I had been ill all week and this was my first proper trip out of the house! Although I had a sore head walking there, by the time food was served and I was merrily chomping through my tasty meal, I felt about a hundred times better :-).

This place was really busy even at 2pm, and I can tell why. We both had the tomato and fennel soup to start with … yummy. Andy then had a veggie breakfast served on a metal platter thing with a hot handle. It looked great. I had something called an ‘Amazing Grazer’. After generously donating all the bits of lettuce to Andy, I was very happy with what was a mixed plate of bulghar wheat salad with pomegranate seeds, veggie pâtés, toast and hot halloumi. I couldn’t resist a fudge brownie and ice cream for afters. The drinks went down well too – homemade ginger beer and ‘rooibois cappucino’ which came with a frothy top and honey.

I was left intrigued by preparations for a madhatter’s tea party on the table next to ours, and the concept of cocktails served in teapots …. I should also mention that the toilets had great character and were definitely worth two trips :D. I can’t believe this has been just down the road all this time and I only just discovered it. Must go back soon!

Roseleaf: 23/24 Sandport Place, Edinburgh, EH6 6EW

Tel: 0131 476 5268, email:


Café Nom de Plume

My recorder group has relocated from Southside to the Northside for the month of January. The great thing about this is the opportunity to sample new pre-playing eating places! However, we’ve only made it to one place and have kept going back.

Nom de Plume is near the bottom of Broughton Street. I’ve seen it many times and never been in before. I was pleasantly surprised though! I love the atmosphere; warm, cosy and inviting. The menu is also good, with not only several vegetarian options, but as many again vegan! So far I’ve tried the French onion soup and a chickpea curry. The hot mulled ginger wine did wonders for my sore throat last week  :-).

This place meets all of our Tuesday night criteria, namely: veggie options, nice ambience, quick, good value, decent food.

Next week I am going to save a special hole for veggie mince in a giant Yorkshire pudding!

Café Nom de Plume: 60 Broughton Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3SA

Tel: 0131 556 5758


The bike bus. Without this we wouldn't have even got started. Excellent service!

I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for some time – I’d made a booking with the brand new Edinburgh bike bus to take myself and Iain (aged 10) for some fun biking at Glentress!

Having collected him at 8 (I had to ride there with lights and he looked like he had just fallen out of bed), we made the short trip over to the pick up point. I had a moment of panic when the driver, Karl, said “does he need a booster seat?” What?! I don’t drive, I had no idea … luckily, he did, and had put one in just in case – phew! We were soon safely ensconced and on our way.

Good work on a short rocky climb

I wasn’t sure how Iain would cope with the first long climb, so was pleased to find that we got dropped off at the top and picked up at the bottom! 🙂 We set off from the near-deserted car park to ride the blue route. I was immediately impressed with the improvements since last time. He was putting in efforts to get up  hills, using his gears properly and not giving up at the first difficult bit. We were at Betty Blue before we knew it and I was delighted that it was declared ‘really fun’ and that the following fast fire road descent was equally exciting; “I’ve never been so fast on my bike before!”

Unfortunately the first tumble followed soon after – it’s heart stopping watching from behind as someone else’s child that you’re responsible for suddenly goes shooting forwards like superman, whilst the bike somersaults away …. Luckily no harm was done and we were soon snacking on a cereal bar and laughing about Iain’s attempts to learn to fly! 😀 Another climb and we were at the top of Blue Velvet – a bit he had been looking forward to all day. We started off at some speed and I was very impressed at how he handled the turns. Until … oops … another ‘flying’ attempt. This time a little more serious, as complaints about a sore wrist were persistent. After some cuddles and words of encouragement we set off again. Luckily Iain wasn’t so traumatised we couldn’t give it another go – slower! And much slower on ‘crash corner’!

Looking like a pro!

Berm Baby Berm came next – now that the sun had come up and everyone else was out of bed, this section was proving popular; kids, teenagers and grown ups alike were queuing to go down. We had a good first run and were soon climbing up for another go. And another one. A slight squeak from me as Iain nearly flew off the edge of one giant berm, but it was well rescued. I had decided that the best general policy was to let him experiment and learn for himself where his limits are – within reason! – whilst picking trails of an appropriate grade. I think it worked and he will soon develop the judgement he needs and become better and better.

One thing I especially noticed was how well Iain responded to instruction. By the end of the ride we were on to standing up, level pedals, knees out and looking ahead. He really looked the part! What an opportunity to help someone young acquire all the skills I wish I haven’t had to battle to learn as an adult. I also realised I was being copied, so I was very careful to have perfect positioning myself!

Given the choices of heading down for cake before we left, or doing more riding and having ice-cream back in Edinburgh, Iain opted for more biking straight away. Must have done something right. The final run down to the bottom was fast and fun. After some hesitation and a discussion of line choice, the steep bridge was conquered (“Did you like it?” “I was scared!” “Never mind, next time it will be less scary and more fun!”) and we did a good job of racing back to the bus to arrive, ahem, just a few minutes late.

Iain’s parents were right when they joked that they should have charged me for the loan of their son – I can’t wait to take him again! I’m already thinking what might make it even more fun – knobbly tires? Less air pressure? New bike?!

Just rewards for hard work and super riding!

ps If you like the look of this ice cream, thick Spanish hot chocloate and churros, then you can find it all at The Chocolate Tree. Very tasty!

Broughton Delicatessen

I can’t believe I didn’t know this café /deli existed before now! I went for my first visit at the weekend and was bowled over.

Vegetarian options abound. This time, my partner and I had the fantastic bean enchilada on toasted flatbread (one of the two special main courses) and a mushroom, gruyere and spinach crêpe. Both came with a selection of the salads which were definitely not your usual limp lettuce. On offer were: quinoa and green bean, beetroot and egg, carrot and pumpkin seeds and fennel, courgette and pea. Servings were generous so we both got a full plate of food for only about £7 each. Bargain!

It took us a long time to choose our lunch and we’ll have to go back to sample some of the other items on the menu, including; adventurous baguette fillings, soup of the day (salsify and potato when we were there), a vegetable ramen noodle soup, flatbread pizzas with a choice of toppings, a daily tart or tortilla and a veggie breakfast. You could also order a full plate of just the salads, which change regularly (even whilst we were there, in fact!). A look at the twitter feed on their website will give you a taste for what has been on offer recently.

To finish off our meal we had a large slice of freshly baked cake, plus homemade granola with Greek yoghurt and fruit compote. The latter was strictly part of the brunch menu but I fancied it for pudding!

There was an informal atmosphere and you order at the counter when you’re ready, or you can go for the takeaway option. It is also now open until 7.30 pm if you want an early evening meal. Finally, a nice touch was the fact that every customer was asked if they had enjoyed their food when they paid, and the lady seemed genuinely interested in the answer! Highly recommended.

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