Sunday, August 31, 2014

Wild Thang Race Review

I'm doing a Ragnar Trail Race in November, so when I found out from a girl in our local running group that there was going to be a trail race at nearby Long Hunter State Park, I didn't hesitate to sign up.  While I love running trails, I haven't been able to run them as often as I'd like because I'm not a fan of being out alone in the woods.  In my mind, venomous snakes and serial killers are a dime a dozen out there, even though I've never actually met either on the trail... yet.  But I was excited - I considered the Wild Thang to be a training race for Arizona, even though it was a lengthy 9 miles.    

Fast forward to race day.  Why do I always get so bloody anxious before a race?  It's always the same regardless if it's a half, a 5k or a full.   I was awake at 2.30am, but  lay in bed till around 5am when I got up, put on my race clothes, ate breakfast and enjoyed a couple of strong cuppas.  It was going to be hot and humid so I decided to run with my Camelbak for hydration and packed a couple of Gu sachets in my pocket.  

My lovely, supportive family got up early and drove me to the start line where I picked up my race t-shirt and timing chip and paid the first of many visits to the bathroom.  None of the usual race porta potties here, we had the use of the state park facilities which was very nice for a change - even if the ladies did run out of toilet paper!  Everything was very well organized and there were lots of friendly volunteers around from the Nashville Striders who organized the race (and organize many other races too).

Beautiful Percy Priest Lake, Long Hunter State Park
There were only 136 runners, so the start was pretty calm, easy going and not too crowded.  I met up with my trail training partner Aly.  After the gun went off and the race began, I was excited to get on the trail.  Unfortunately, however, the first mile was on the road.  Road running with trail shoes hurts!  I probably started too quickly (my first mile was 8:56) but soon enough, we were running on dirt.

Looking way too happy at the start!  Next to me is the lovely Aly who told me about the race in the first place.

The trail started out pretty easy, but soon I was leaping over rocks and avoiding tree roots, which is challenging but so much fun!  The one time I looked up from the trail, I almost bit the dirt, so my head stayed down for the rest of the race.  Believe it or not, my neck was sorer than my legs the next day!  There were a few folks who did fall but nobody was badly hurt thank goodness.

We ran mostly through the woods alongside the lake which was beautiful.  The shade kept the heat down a bit, but it was still boiling hot and the sweat was pouring off me.  When we ran through clearings, the sun was really beating down on us.  There was a great atmosphere as we all shouted encouragement to each other.  I chugged a Gu around mile 3 and managed to put the sachet back into my pocket without having to stop.  I was feeling pretty steady, and when I hit mile 4, I knew that the halfway point was coming up pretty soon.  But of course, when you have those kind of thoughts, the reality is always different.  For some reason, mile 4 to 4.5, seemed forever!  I stopped at the hydration point for some gatorade which I never usually do.  I hate stopping at all when I'm running, but because of the heat, I thought I probably should.  I stopped for a couple of minutes and downed a gatorade and a couple of waters before getting back on the trail.  It was hard getting back in my groove again, I remembered why I hate stopping when I'm running.

I could feel my pace was a lot slower by now, but I was still pretty steady.  By the time I got to mile 7, my legs were feeling a bit shaky but hey, only 2 miles to go, keep going!! I hooked up with a lady who was running the same pace and we chatted for the last mile or so.  At 400 meters, there were a couple of volunteers yelling "C'mon, just 400 meters to go"!  Ha, like I have any idea how far 400 meters is!  As we approached the finish line, I saw my kiddos running through the trees yelling for me which was the best feeling in the world!  My running partner sprinted for the finish and I tried to catch her, but was 1 second behind.  Turns out we were both in the same age group and she was 3rd (which wins a prize), so I just missed out!!  But she was a very nice lady, so it's all good :)  It did, however, make me determined to finish stronger in my next race!
Me and my new friend :)  I'm looking a bit tired by now! 

Immediately across the finish line, there was a volunteer to cut the chip off your shoe.  I hate this, it's hard to stop so abruptly after running 9 miles!  I staggered off to the side, hooked up with my family and downed some water and a couple of welcome ice pops.  The Striders had put on a free BBQ for us runners and our families which was amazing - especially considering the race fee was a mere $20!  This included t-shirt, running chip, hydration at the mid point, drinks, ice pops and food at the end. 

The scores were up on the board pretty much straight away.  Although I wasn't exactly Speedy Gonzales, I finished in 1:36 which was 24th out of 65 females, 78th out of 136 runners and 4th out of 9 in my age division.  I was really  happy because I'd intended on treating the race as a slow training run, but I ended up pushing myself and even getting a wee bit competitive!  Still got a lot of work to do before Ragnar though. 

So that's my recap of the Wild Thang, it was an amazingly well organized but small race and I'd definitely recommend it to anybody who loves trail running!  I had a blast and best of all, I didn't see any critters or serial killers out there :) 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mind Your Manners

When I was leaving the kids' school the other morning, a lady kindly held the door open for me.  I took the door from her, gave her a smile and thanked her.  Her response was "mmhhmm".  Now this isn't the first time somebody has said this to me in America, but each and every time, I'm speechless - whatever happened to saying "you're welcome"?  I must add that not everybody over here does this, but I definitely have never had anybody say "mmhhmm" to me in the UK. 

As is the British way, I apologize a lot for things that aren't my fault.  Somebody bumps into me?  I immediately say sorry.  Somebody steps on my foot in a queue?  Yep, I apologize, although inside, I'm screaming to myself what a jackass the foot crusher actually is.  I may even tell them it was totally my fault.  When I return something to a store, I apologize profusely.  It's just what Brits do.  

Mostly, we are unfailingly polite.  In restaurants, I sometimes double please.  "Could I please have the taco salad please?"  I know this isn't correct English, but as my children will be happy to tell you, I'm a bit of a Nazi in the manners department.  Over here, it's the norm to just say "I'll have the taco salad."  So although I do like to blend in with my surroundings as much as possible, I just can't bring myself to order anything without at least one please!

Brits are also a nation of thankers.  When I was issued a speeding ticket a few years ago, I know I actually thanked the police officer for it.  It's what we do.  We also don't really like to complain (unless we're talking about the weather).  If we get a bad haircut and are asked if we like it, usually we reply "Oh yes, thank you" whilst gritting our teeth, desperate to rush home to try and fix it.  We're polite.  It's what we do. 

I'm not saying that Americans don't have good manners - of course they do!  American people are very friendly, helpful and courteous.  Both countries just do things differently.  And of course, I'm not perfect.  If I open doors for others and they walk on by without acknowledging me, I like to loudly say "you're welcome", just to make my point that they didn't thank me.  Unnecessary probably, and somebody might just take offense one day and punch me for being rude!

So anyway, if somebody could please enlighten me as to where the mmhhmm comes from, I'd be most grateful.  I may even thank you more than once for explaining it to me! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Breakin' The Law

There are several things I can do in the States that I wouldn't dream of doing back home.  It always makes me feel slightly rebellious that I can do many of these on a daily basis, knowing I won't get into trouble or face any consequences. 

When I run in the early hours or in the evening, I carry my runner's mace.  It gives me a (probably false) sense of security that should somebody with unfriendly intentions approach, I can give them a quick spray and sprint off safely into the distance.  I'm glad to report that I haven't used it yet, but I'm also glad that I'm allowed to carry it should the need arise! 

We don't watch too much TV in our house, but I'm always shocked at what is considered to be daytime viewing in the States.  Swearing, violence, commercials for erectile dysfunction, you name it.  If I didn't have children, this probably wouldn't seem as shocking to me, so I love that the UK has the 9pm watershed on the major TV channels.  This means that shows with inappropriate content are generally not shown until after 9pm.   

I was driving on the freeway the other day.  The 2 fast lanes were going pretty slowly and I was in a wee bit of a hurry, so I overtook on the inside lane.  THE INSIDE LANE people!  Although this is perfectly legal here, I rarely do it because it always gives me major feelings of guilt and wrongdoing.

Us Brits don't really like to complain or cause a fuss.  We like to adhere to rules and regulations.  When we return items to stores, we mostly have our receipts in hand and our feelings of guilt for causing a fuss.  Over here though, it's no big deal.  No receipt?  No problem.  Returning something months after you bought it?  Again, usually no problem.  The customer is always right.  Thank you America!   

During my time in the RAF, I always enjoyed when we got to play with train with our weapons.  On the firing range, in the classroom, in the field - what a blast!  (Excuse the pun).  But after each training session or exercise, our left over ammo and empty casings were handed over and counted.  We were inspected to make sure nothing had fallen into our pockets or boots.  We had to make a special statement saying that we had nothing left in our possession.  Guns are illegal in the UK so it amazes me that you can go into your local Walmart, outdoors or pawn store and walk out with a gun and a bunch of ammo.  A new law was just passed here in Tennessee allowing people to carry loaded guns in their vehicles - even if they don't have a carry permit.  This I find really crazy.  I'm not judging anybody nor am I going to launch into a debate about gun control, because I do have several friends who are (what I would consider) responsible gun owners.  They have even changed my opinion slightly about the general public possessing guns, but again, because I'm just not used to it, gun laws here will probably always seem shocking to me.  At least until the zombie apocalypse starts and then all bets are off...

It's funny, because I've probably spent half of my life living outside the UK, but I guess because I was brought up there, the laws and feelings of British-ness will never leave me.  This isn't a bad thing, I'm very proud to be Scottish (okay, British) and it gives me a laugh every day at the differences between the way things are done both here and back home.  Incidentally, did you know it's illegal in the UK to put a postage stamp on upside down if it has an image of the Queen on it?  It's actually considered an act of treason!  Have a good day y'all, God Save the Queen :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Scottish Castles

You already know how much I love Scotland and that I like to bang on about how beautiful/fantastic/awesome it is over there.  I've been asked a few times - seriously - if I live in a castle or if I know anybody who does live in a castle.  I don't, nor have I ever, but Scotland is FULL of fabulous castles!  These are a few of my favorites, photos courtesy of Google.  If you click on the castle name, it will take you to their websites which will give you all the history and information you need to know - without me boring you :) 


Eilean Donan is quite simply stunning.  Situated on a sea loch, you can't fail to be awed when the castle first comes into sight.  If you're as old as I am and remember the movie Highlander, you'll know that this castle and its iconic bridge were featured in it.


Perched on a rock high above the city of Edinburgh, this castle is not only stunning to look at but also has so much amazing history.  I love it for the amazing views from the castle, the one o'clock gun, the Military Tattoo and even just to look up at from the gardens below.  The approach from the Royal Mile always gives me shivers up my spine, it is truly an awe inspiring place. 


Cawdor Castle is minutes from where my parents live.  It is home to the Cawdor family to this day and  surrounded by the most beautiful gardens and woods.  Well worth a visit! 


Situated on Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle is one of my favorite places to visit when I'm back home.  Climbing up the Grant Tower is not for the faint hearted, but the view from the top is amazing!  If you're lucky enough to have nice weather, you can't beat a day wandering around the ruins, looking for Nessie :) 


The ancestral home of the Clan MacLeod is full of legend and history and also home to the Fairy Flag which is famous for it's magical powers.  Dunvegan is in a beautiful location on the Isle of Skye, surrounded by the sea and scenic gardens.


This picturesque castle is also reputed to be one of the most haunted castles in Britain.  Read about its many ghosts here.  Glamis Castle was also the childhood home of the Queen Mother and is a lovely place to day :)


Just look at this place!  It is truly dramatic and in the most stunning location possible.  Again, well worth a visit. 


Although Fort George isn't exactly a castle, I included it on my list because, well, just look at it!  Built after the historic Battle of Culloden, the Fort is still in use as an Army Garrison today and is in amazing condition having been sympathetically restored and maintained by Historic Scotland.  I am lucky enough to have worked here for a couple of years, so I do have a soft spot for this place.  Especially the dog cemetery for the regiment mascots and the officers' dogs.  History and scenery abound!  You may even see the dolphins jumping in the Moray Firth if you're lucky :) 

I always get homesick when I write these kind of blog posts.  I feel very blessed that I come from a country with such beauty and amazing history.  If you ever visit Scotland on vacation, I promise that you will not be disappointed visiting any of the above locations!   Happy travels! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Fit Of The Giggles

Us Brits are known for our dry sense of humor.   We're also known for our love of naughty/dirty humor - think Benny Hill, who seems to be on TV here a lot for some strange reason!  There are a few commonly used American words that never fail to make me giggle, simply because they are deemed to be 'naughty' words back home.  Whenever I hear these words in conversation, I usually turn bright red and have to work hard to stifle my urge to giggle loudly. 

Pantyhose.  Pantyhose!!!  I'm sniggering just typing the word!  In the UK, we call these tights.  Plain and simple.  I have to bite my lip when Americans say this word to stop myself from giggling uncontrollably.  It just sounds so naughty.  And funny.  And seriously, a 3 syllable word for tights?!

Fanny Pack.  Back home, a fanny is another word for a woman's private parts.   If  you don't like somebody, you might also call them a fanny.  So yes, if you use this word in my company, I may blush and make strange noises because I'm trying to conceal my mirth.  At home, we call it a bum bag, which still sounds kind of naughty! 

Randy.  Unfortunately for me, this is a pretty common first name over here.  Every single time I hear it, it has the same effect as described above.  I have actually choked on my dinner in the past on hearing someone talk about a guy called Randy.  To all you guys called Randy, I hope you never have to move to the UK, because you will probably have to change your name to avoid large amounts of ridicule.  Randy in the UK means you are feeling horny, sexy... you get the picture.  I'm sniggering again.    

Spunk.   Over here, it's normal for parents to describe their kids as being "full of spunk".  When I hear this word being used, not only do I giggle and turn red, I am also likely to snort.  Unmentionable matters may even shoot out of my nose.  You see, when I hear spunk, I think sperm.  Spunk at home is a slang word used for sperm.  Enough said...

Suspenders.  Suspenders to me, are what you buy in Victoria's Secret to hold your stockings up.  A fancy piece of lingerie.  So you will understand that when an American man talks about his suspenders, I usually have to pretend I'm having a coughing fit, both to justify my red face and to hide my giggles.  A man in suspenders!  Yep, I'm thinking Benny Hill again.  Suspenders in the States are what men use to hold up their trousers.  In Britain, these are known as braces.  Ha, that's another two words that have different meanings in the UK and US.  Trousers are known as pants over here, but pants in the UK are underwear - which are panties over here.  This could get confusing.  Braces over here are what you put on your teeth, but now I'm getting off totally off topic!   

So in the future, if you happen to be talking to me about any of the above things, I ask you to please excuse my strange behaviour.  Especially if your name is Randy. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Queen and I

Although I do enjoy meeting and talking to new people, I seem to be a magnet for strangers that ask me ridiculous questions upon hearing my accent.  This week, after standing for a long time listening to a stranger babble on to me about being 30% Scotch, 30% Irish, 30% Greek and 10% Italian (how is that even possible?!)  I was then asked by them if I knew the Queen or Prince Harry.  This person wasn't joking or having a laugh, they were being perfectly serious.  Backtracking a bit, just for the record, Scotch is actually whisky and Scottish is the proper term for being from Scotland.  But I digress.  No, I do not know the Queen or Prince Harry.  Yes, Britain is pretty small, but that doesn't mean we all live next door to each other and are bessie mates with the Royal Family!  I have seen the Queen before, albeit from a distance at events etc, but she's never invited me over for a cup of tea or a glass of champers.  Anyways, the babbling stranger reminded me of a few funny questions that I've been asked in the past by random strangers who were definitely not just having a laugh.  Here are a few gems for you!

"What is it with you Brits' bad teeth"?  Now I have been asked this in jest before and I do enjoy a bit of banter, but when a complete stranger asks you this with a totally straight face, it kind of renders you speechless.  That's like me saying  "What is it with your fat ass/hairy chin/tweety bird t shirt" to somebody I've never met before. How rude!  Sure, my teeth aren't perfect, but they're pretty white and straight with no holes!  I've seen people over here with way worse teeth than I've seen back home.  While it's true to say that us Brits aren't as a rule overly concerned about the appearance of our teeth, it doesn't mean we're all yellow and black toothed with huge holes in our smiles! 

 "My aunt's friend lives in Scotland, her name is Mary MacGregor.  Do you know her"?   A good response to this is "No, but my Mum's cousin lives in Florida.  Do you know her"? 

"Is it awful living in a communist country"?  Communist country?  Really?!  Do you remember Ronald, Maggie and the Cold War?!  There is no good response to this question which I have really been asked in the past.  A few people really do think that every country outside the US lives in fear of its government and has no freedom. 

"Is Scotland on the Pacific side of America"?  I thought this person was joking so I laughed out loud.  Unfortunately though, they weren't joking at all.  

"Do you have Christianity in Britain"?  LOL!  Although the population of Britain definitely isn't as church-going as it is in the US, Christianity in its various forms is still the number one religion there.   

So hopefully these will have given my friends, both British and American a good laugh without me coming across as being too harsh.  I have been asked countless more funny questions in the past, but I'd be here all day writing them down.  It's safe to say though, there is definitely never a dull moment when you're living somewhere you weren't born :)