Friday, 31 January 2020

Life changing 2019!

Given it's the end of January, it's probably a little late to be posting a review of 2019!

(I've done this every year: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)

However, time is a funny old thing right now and my baby doesn't care that I usually write this post in the first week of the year!

2019 was of course life changing. I spent the first half of the year pregnant and the second half of the year with a newborn baby! It's safe to say 2019 was the craziest, most transformative, emotional, toughest and happiest year of my life!

I didn't blog very much at all last year, and I'm quite sure this will be a struggle for me in 2020 too, but perhaps there is a new direction to be taken. I'm just figuring out life as a mother one minute, one hour, one day at a time.

I wrote the following in my blog post last January:

I'm sure parkrun will be a big part of 2019 too. My aim for this year is to get to my 25th volunteering milestone - 14 stints will take me there, but it's hardly a chore. It feels so good to give something back.

This is a big year running-wise for Dave too. In two months time he'll run the Inverness Half Marathon, and it'll be my turn to be the support team! He may also run his first marathon this year too; if not then 2020 will be the focus for him too.

There's something big on the cards for this year, which I'll write about in due course. Safe to say, it's pretty exciting!

I'm mostly looking forward to time with friends and family, to staying happy and healthy, and to keep building on some of the lessons I learned in 2018. It was a transformative year in so many ways - tough times and challenges yes, but good times and happy memories too.

I hadn't revealed my pregnancy at that point of course. I set myself small manageable goals, and surpassed them. I reached my 25th parkrun volunteering marathon; I supported Dave when he ran a half marathon; I ran until week 30 of my pregnancy; I stayed healthy and managed to have a natural labour and safely deliver a healthy baby girl.

I struggled massively adjusting to life as a mother, and perhaps this is something I will write more about in the future. I had a tough start to the journey with breastfeeding difficulties (proud to say we got through those and we're still going nearly 7 months down the line) and the lack of sleep during and after labour made life rather tough. Of course every new parent has to adjust to sleepless nights in the early weeks and months, but my goodness I had no idea how tough it would be!


But going all the way back to January 2019, the year started in magnificent fashion with two parkruns on the 1st. Dave and I ran Kirkcaldy parkrun at 9am, then Loch Leven parkrun at 11am. It was a brilliant way to spend the morning and really set the tone for the year ahead.

I ran at parkrun on most Saturdays until the middle of April, when it just felt too hard. In February I wrote a blog post all about running during my pregnancy, which included my decision making around running the Nice Cannes marathon in November 2018 whilst 5 weeks pregnant.
Vogrie parkrun at 20 weeks pregnant

In March we took a brilliant trip to Skye and had a really memorable walk up Dun Caan on Raasay, where we got engaged in 2015. It was so special to take some bump pictures at the top, and I can't wait for the next trip to Raasay as a family.

Dave ran the Inverness Half Marathon, and Tig, bump and myself cheered him on proudly over the wet, cold, snowy route. He did really well and it was lovely to be 'on the other side'.

April brought the most amazing surprise in the form of my best friend Emily, who'd flown over from North Carolina to spend a few days with me for my birthday. It really was such a genuine shock, of the best kind! We had a lovely few days together, walking in Stow, visiting Vogrie, and relaxing at Stobo Castle with mum.

I also decided to stop running in April at 30 weeks pregnant, after a rather heavy-feeling parkrun and general fatigue. It was the right call for me, and it meant I could spend the next 10 weeks volunteering, reaching my 25th volunteer milestone on 22nd June (two days after my due date!)

In May we celebrated Ross's 30th birthday, complete with a surprise visit from Colin which was lovely. Our Baby Box arrived and suddenly everything started to feel real! I finished at work at the end of the month, with a lovely send off from my colleagues.

June of course brought my due date! But prior to that, it brought the arrival of baby Arran, a wonderful new addition to the family.
Baby Arran!
8 days overdue!

I found the long hot summer days of June pretty challenging waiting for baby's arrival and not knowing when that would be. I walked a lot, as much as I could, and rested when possible (usually with Tig lying on my bump!).

On the 22nd of June, after volunteering at parkrun, I joined eighteen family members and three dogs to walk to Gameshope Bothy near Talla Reservoir for the third annual Elliot Cursiter memorial walk.

Thankfully this wasn't too strenuous a walk at 40 weeks, and baby seemed to enjoy all the activity of that long summer day.

I started to feel quite frustrated towards the end of June with no sign of baby, and I had eaten at least ten pineapples by that point, as well as curry and any other foods thought to bring on labour. As tough as the wait was, I was confident baby would come when baby was ready.

Sadly I never got to find that out, and was induced (despite my best intentions not to be) at thirteen days overdue. After numerous walks to Melrose and back, baby Eilidh decided to enter this world on the 5th of July, fittingly my mum and dad's wedding anniversary!
The last photo I took pre-baby, 8.30pm on the 3rd of July, in the grounds of Borders General Hospital

Life changed forever. It was a rocky start to motherhood with the aforementioned breastfeeding challenges and lack of sleep. The hot summer days took their toll, and my body took a long time to recover. It was strenuous to walk to the park, let alone even think of ever running anywhere again. I was at a low ebb and really struggled to adjust to my new role.

Therefore, August, September and October passed me by - the days were slow but the weeks were quick. There were many baby-related highlights, as Eilidh continued to developed into the happy wee girl she currently is. I even managed to make it to Vogrie to see everyone in August, and in September I walked round parkrun twice with Eilidh sleeping on me. I was so lucky to be visited by my dearest friends from North Carolina, Susannah and Sunjay, and Emily and Blair around this time. Twice in a year was extra special! October brought our furthest trip from home, as we ventured to Loch Rannoch to cheer on Ross as he set a new personal best over a really tough marathon course.

Post-Loch Rannoch marathon

I started running parkrun again in November; tentatively at Loch Leven, stronger at Lochore Meadows, and faster at Vogrie in December.

I'm skipping ahead slightly now but I'm so chuffed to say that I've run parkrun twice with the running buggy since the turn of the year - I'll write a separate blog post about that soon hopefully!

The winter has been challenging, but it was lovely to have Eilidh's first Christmas to look forward to, and we managed to see both families over the period.

We didn't see the bells on Auld Year's Night (although Tig woke me up at 1.15am!), but I'm chuffed that I manage to bring in the New Year with a parkrun at Loch Leven. 

post-parkrun on 1st January, looking exhausted!
Really 2019 was a year of two halves - the first pregnant and the second as a mother! A truly bizarre, challenging and rewarding journey. We entered 2020 with a six month old, starting on solids and being far more mobile. She's a shining star during a tough winter, and we're looking forward to spring and its longer days!

I'm not ready to write about my mental health yet, as it's hard to say where I'm at. I'm grateful to be receiving help from a postnatal depression charity in the Borders, and perhaps one day I'll feel able to write more about the challenges I have faced becoming a mother.

I'm very hopeful that running with the buggy will give me a new lease of life - I've really enjoyed the two Vogrie parkruns I've managed to complete with it, although my arms ache for days afterwards!

Therefore my goals for 2020 are fairly simple and straightforward - to stay healthy and as active as possible, whilst developing in my new role as a mother. I have ideas of running goals in my mind but I'm trying to be sensible and not get too ahead of myself. I will be prone to injury with relaxin in my body, meaning joints and ligaments may not return to their most strong and stable until after I stop breastfeeding.

There's a couple of exciting trips on the horizon for the year: Dumfries for a wedding, the Black Isle for a family get-together with Dave's clan, and Loch Tay for a family get-together with mine! I'm looking forward to making memories with the extended families - there's a lot of us now!

It's hard to believe that this time next year I'll have an eighteen month old (nearly nineteen months!) and no doubt life will be very very different again.

For now I'm happy to say we have (almost!) survived January and 2020 is looking interesting already...

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Running again!

I actually don't know where the last two months have gone since I last blogged (I don't know where the last six months have gone since I had a baby to be honest!!) but I'm delighted to say that I have - tentatively - started running again!

I've run three parkruns post-baby; Loch Leven, Lochore and Vogrie, and I've done a couple of very short runs in Stow. It has felt incredibly difficult, and has made me wonder how I ever managed to run more than three miles in one go! However it has also felt incredibly liberating, and I've felt like 'me' again for the first time in ages.
Loch Leven parkrun

Vogrie parkrun
Sadly it has been a couple of weeks since my last run, which is frustrating because I'd got into a habit of one a week up until recently. I've been floored by a nasty cold and several sleepless nights have prevented my recovery. Hopefully it is all out of the way before Christmas and I can maybe get one more run - maybe a parkrun! - in by the end of 2019.

I have some big running goals for 2020 and I've no idea if they are achievable or not! I'm learning to not plan too far ahead as life is very unpredictable with a baby.

I would like to attempt some buggy running in early 2020 - a daunting thought, but I'm hopeful it will give me more of that feeling of freedom, as well as quality time with my daughter. After all, she should be used to the motion after all those pregnant runs! Maybe in the not-so-distant future parkrun will be back on my weekly agenda...

This is likely to be my last blog post of 2019 with the way things are just now, but hopefully I'll manage my 2019 review post in early January.

Wishing all my lovely readers and followers a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Post-partum parkruns

*I know we use the term post-natal here but I couldn't resist the allure of the alliteration!

So happy to write that Eilidh and I have now completed TWO parkruns together since she was born! The first in September on a surprisingly warm morning at Vogrie, and she slept the whole way round. The second a couple of weekends ago, on parkrun's 15th birthday, where she was awake for most of the time then dropped off to sleep with a mile to go. Both completed at walking pace I hasten to add!

Last weekend she also volunteered for the first time, helping me with barcode scanning.

I don't think we'll make it to parkrun every Saturday, but to have completed two and volunteered once feels like a victory given how tough the last few months have been.

I'm even allowing myself to start thinking about running again, and have started researching running buggies for when she gets beyond six months (January). I'd like to start building up my fitness again with a few short runs before I commit to buggy running, but it's quite a daunting thought with extra complications such as timing it between breast-feeds etc. But I'm not putting any pressure on myself; I will be so happy when I can run regularly again but I know there is no rush.

In the meantime I am trying to walk as much as I can. Some days are better than others - some days it seems impossible to cross the threshold. Having a dog makes life a lot more complicated at times now, but it also forces me out the door come rain or shine, and that can only be a good thing.

I've been very reflective recently as October brings a lot of memorable dates; four years since we got engaged on the 14th, three years since we got married on the 8th, and now a new one - a whole year since we took a pregnancy test on the 15th and life changed forever.

Fittingly, we found out at Vogrie Country Park. The day before I'd completed my last long run (20 miles) in advance of the Nice Cannes Marathon on 4th November. My period was four days late at this point but I was resisting testing until the five day point. On Monday 15th October we'd been into Edinburgh to meet up with Dave's mum, bought a pregnancy test on the way home, then stopped at Vogrie to walk Tig. We couldn't resist testing there and it seemed so fitting given all the happy times we've had at Vogrie, and how many life-changing things had already happened as a result (I wouldn't have run a marathon or two if it hadn't been for finding Vogrie parkrun for example).

The result was expected and not a surprise, filling us with excitement and anxiety in equal measures.

I tried to take an artistic photo of the test and the park (and Tig!) but didn't realise until I got home that I'd completely failed, oh well!
We then kept the pregnancy a secret until Christmas, which was really difficult to do!

It's astonishing to look back and think that we found out about little Eilidh a whole year ago, and now she is here, fourteen and a half weeks old and blowing our minds at every turn.
The famous toilet block!

Happy one year line on a stick! How you changed our lives 💖

Sunday, 8 September 2019

And just like that the whole world changed...

They say you have the nine months of your pregnancy to prepare for your baby's arrival; to go to the antenatal classes, to read the books, to get ready...

But truly nothing or no-one can prepare you for the way your whole world changes when you are handed a little life into your arms and from that moment on they're yours...

It happened to me at 8.32am on Friday 5th July. Fifteen days overdue and having given me an 'interesting' labour coming into the world sideways, baby Eilidh made me a mother and my whole world changed forever.

And it is without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done. I won't sugarcoat it, it has been a very tough adjustment. Everything I expected or imagined has either been wrong or a hundred times harder than I could ever have thought. The physical and mental recovery from labour has taken a long time - and still isn't (and may never be) complete. The whirlwind of those first few days and weeks of parenthood catches you so completely off-guard and you know for sure life will never be the same again. The lack of sleep makes you feel like you've been hit by a train, and the demands of 'responsive' breastfeeding are brutal. Your body and mind are not your own.

But very slowly I feel I am just starting to emerge from the fog of those early weeks. My beautiful baby girl is happy and healthy, and I am starting to find myself again somewhere amongst the chaos of feeding, crying (me and her), nappy-changing and sleeping (or lack thereof). Not 'myself' as I once was - that life has gone now - but a new self.

Two years ago I found running and parkrun. Without both I believe I would've struggled even more physically and mentally with the demands of labour and becoming a parent. My mind and body were stronger as a result of two years of running including two marathons. Running was - and will be again - my therapy, and I greatly miss being able to do it.

I've spent almost every Saturday at parkrun these past two years, including the Saturday six days before baby arrived. All of a sudden the days are meaningless and Eilidh's timings do not match parkrun's. So I've been greatly missing this one bit of structure in my life, not to mention the feel good factor of volunteering, the camaraderie and the people of parkrun, the fresh air and the mental health benefits.

I know I'll get back more regularly in time and I have to be patient. But I didn't realise how much I'd miss it.

Eilidh is now nine weeks old and we have made one trip in time for parkrun. A couple of weeks ago we took a wee trip and it was so great to be back at Vogrie.

My blog will be infrequent from now on as I adjust to this new life, but in time I hope to be able to share more. Parkrun and Scotland's Munros will always be there for us to enjoy when we're ready and able...

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

A fantastic family walk for Elliot

For the past three years, we've gathered as a family for a walk in late June to remember the fine young man that was Elliot Cursiter. We've picked locations that were meaningful to Elliot and his family, and that hold special memories for some or all of us.

In 2017 ten of us and two dogs set off on the West Highland Way, walking from Kingshouse to Kinlochleven. This was a section that Elliot had joined Dad and I on in 2013, and he'd also walked with cousins as part of the full walk a few years previously. It was a challenging walk (each time!), but we'd enjoyed each other's company and raised a wee dram to Elliot mid-walk.

In 2018 sixteen of us and two dogs enjoyed a flatter walk on the Water of Leith, from Slateford to Ratho, with a lovely lunch at the end at the Bridge Inn. A walk Elliot had enjoyed with his Dad, and the same restaurant where we had celebrated Elliot's 21st birthday in 2015. Another happy day in good company despite the reasons for our gathering.

Last weekend, nineteen of us and three dogs set off from Talla Reservoir to walk to Gameshope Bothy, where Elliot had previously enjoyed (or endured?!) walks with his Dad and cousins. It was a fantastic turnout on a warm summer's day, and we had the whole place to ourselves.

This was a new walk in a undiscovered area for me, and I'm already looking forward to going back. It was absolutely beautiful. There's a great path that follows the Gameshope Burn, complete with falls and pools, up to the bothy. It wasn't too far but far enough to feel challenging (especially at 40 weeks pregnant!). The challenges continued with an interesting river crossing to get to the bothy, which tested our brains and our boots.

Once on the other side, a fantastic lunch carried up there by Uncle Colin was enjoyed - I was just sorry not to be able to sample the fizz on offer!

Gradually our numbers dwindled as members of the group had to leave for other commitments, and after a few hours the rest of us began the downhill trek back to the cars. I dipped my feet in the cool water to ease the swelling, and we said our goodbyes with plans already in place for next year's walk.

Although the reason for our gathering and walking like this each year is so very sad, the walks these last three years have been nothing but happy occasions. I'm sure Elliot has been with us each time.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Making the call

A couple of weeks ago I made the decision to stop running. I thought it would be a tough decision to make but actually it was surprisingly easy - probably because it was natural, unforced, and without a doubt the right call for me to make.

Although I'd originally hoped to keep running - parkrun only - into my late pregnancy, the reality is that I made it to 30 weeks, and I'm incredibly proud of that. I possibly could have gone on longer but to my own detriment, and I would've lost the enjoyment factor and therefore it would have been pointless.

I really noticed a difference between my last two parkruns, at 29 weeks and at 30 weeks. At 29 weeks I ran a reasonably pacey 28.49 complete with a sprint finish - could've been something to do with the fact that my mum and dad plus Dave and my best friend Emily were waiting at the finish! Despite the dreich day I'd enjoyed the run and gone steadily, finishing a minute faster than the previous week's effort of 29.49.
I was certainly very tired after that run at 29 weeks, and was a write-off for the rest of the day / weekend! It was a blessing in some ways that it was a wet dreary weekend, as I got to spend the time resting and spending quality time with Emily - who incidentally had flown all the way from North Carolina to surprise me! It was incredible, the best surprise I've ever had. We had a lovely five days together, including a wonderful day at Stobo with my mum, and she spoiled me rotten with baby and birthday gifts. Memories to last a lifetime!

The following Saturday the sun was shining and it was a beautiful morning at Vogrie Country Park. Dave and I ran together and I instantly knew that this was a very different run to the week before. I felt a lot heavier, and a lot more breathless. I finished in a time of 30.08 which I was very pleased with - and liked the symmetry of 30 minutes at 30 weeks!

I didn't know it at that point but this would turn out to be the last run of my pregnancy.

Again I was very tired after this parkrun on the 13th of April, but the next few days were tougher than previously. I started to notice Braxton Hicks (practice contractions!) which were uncomfortable and made me feel even more exhausted. My stomach hasn't been great since having to take iron tablets, and in general I felt run down. I saw the midwife for a routine appointment at 31 weeks and she emphasised the importance of taking it easy. The decision to keep running or not was up to me, but I knew myself that the time had come.

Dave and I had originally planned to visit Lanark parkrun on that weekend, the 20th of April, but it just would've been the wrong call. We've been itching to go back to Lanark since our first visit there in October with Ross - Dave's first parkrun! - but just haven't managed. It's such a challenging course and I really struggle with inclines, so at 31 weeks pregnant it would have been too tough!

We made the call to go to Vogrie instead, and I got to marshal on another lovely sunny morning.

Last weekend I tailwalked at Vogrie, which actually I found quite tough as it was a pretty fast walking pace with a bump! I love that the tailwalking role gives you a volunteer credit and a run credit too. This weekend I'll be a barcode scanner for my 17th volunteering role, having done 65 parkruns. I can't wait to get my 25th volunteer milestone t-shirt, although I'll have to wait until baby is here as there just aren't enough Saturdays between now and my due date!

I can't imagine my Saturdays without parkrun, and I just love that you can stay involved even if you don't want to or can't run. It's such an inclusive and welcoming place. Parkrun has given me so much, it seems only fair to give a wee something back.

Although I didn't know at the time that my last run would be my last run, I'm pleased with the way it has panned out. Perhaps it was even better because I didn't know. Despite seeing other runners - such as Jasmin Paris! - running at Vogrie at 37/38/39+ weeks pregnant and thinking I'd be the same, I'm so chuffed I managed to run until 30 weeks pregnant. I can look back at my seven months of pregnancy thus far knowing that staying active and healthy has been good for me and baby, and feeling so fortunate I've been able to keep running. I find myself looking back at the Nice Cannes Marathon and feeling so grateful baby and I got to run together :)