Sunday, 13 January 2019

Twelve miles in twelve days

I usually find January (and February) quite a struggle, as I'm sure most people do. It's a combination of the post-Christmas and Hogmanay comedown, sometimes feeling a bit daunted and unsure about the year ahead, dark cold days and seemingly not much to look forward to.

However so far - and I'm aware we're not even halfway through the month yet - I've made my peace with January. And I can only put this down to one thing - parkrun. If you're sick of me banging on about how great parkrun is, then this blog post is not for you!

We're less than two weeks into January, and already there have been four parkruns - what a great way to start the year!

I'd heard of the 'New Year double' in 2017, but as we were staying in a remote location near Loch Awe for Hogmanay, it would have been impossible to participate. New Years Day is the only day of the year you can run in two parkrun events and have both results count. Many parkruns also offer a Christmas Day option, and it is possible to run two on the 25th December, but only one result counts.

As we were staying in Dunfermline with friends for Hogmanay, it made sense to participate in two events not too far away. Kirkcaldy parkrun offered an earlier start time of 9am, to allow for runners to travel to their second event of the day - the obvious choices being Dunfermline or Loch Leven, both starting at 11am. We opted for Loch Leven due to the proximity to Dave's parents and the post-run sustenance that would inevitably be on offer!

Despite an alcohol-free Hogmanay for me, it was still a struggle getting up at 7.45am after only getting to bed at 2.30am and not sleeping very well! It was also a much chillier morning than I'd thought was forecast, so after scraping the ice from the car, we finally set off to Kirkcaldy at 8.30am.

I was so pleased that Dave had agreed (been cajoled?) into coming with me - it certainly made it much more fun to have company. We both felt pretty rubbish from a lack of sleep, so opted to take the Beveridge park route slow and steadily. We ran together the whole way, enjoying seeing the sunshine breaking through the trees, and the great support of the marshals and volunteers who'd selflessly given up their 1st of January morning for this to go ahead.

Kirkcaldy parkrun is a really brilliant course and I look forward to a return visit when feeling less tired! It's all on tarmac, and is two loops but with a wee run round the boating pond on the second loop to mix it up a bit. There is an incline - which you have to do twice - but thanks to some brilliant volunteers cheering us on from the top, it didn't feel too bad! There's also a lovely sweeping downhill section after this which you can really make up time on.

In total there were 342 participants, which is a course record for Kirkcaldy, and Dave and I were quite happy to come in at 34.05.

We got back in the car to head to Loch Leven's Larder, and soon realised there were 4 or 5 cars in front of us doing exactly the same thing! We actually got to the Larder for 10am which was perfect as it gave us time to use the toilets and have some food. Subsequently we felt a whole lot brighter and more awake for parkrun number two of the day!

I decided that now I was awake and warmed up, I'd push myself a bit more and see how it felt. There was a bitterly cold wind coming from the loch, but it was a beautiful morning.

I was really pleased to run a time of 25.25, with Dave coming in consistently with a time of 34.15.

We were cheered on and met by Dave's mum and dad, and we all kept saying to each other what a wonderful way this was to bring in a new year!

A brilliant morning for Loch Leven parkrun - the attendance was 383 which was a huge course record and even more impressive when you learn that a few weeks earlier, on the 15th of December, they'd had 31 runners! The volunteers did a tremendous job in keeping everything moving, especially the busy finish funnel, and the results were out within two hours of the event starting!

We also managed to get some brilliant photos, although cruelly the photographer was situated on one of the tough uphill sections!

We were pretty exhausted afterwards of course, but had that post-run glow and feeling of contentment that we'd managed to get up and complete these two parkruns. Too many January 1sts have been lost to hangovers - I now know how I'd rather spend the day!

It felt a bit odd that just four days later we were about to run parkrun again! This time back on schedule at Vogrie on the 5th of January. There was some extra excitement in the park as Persil, one of the corporate sponsors of parkrun, were there taking photos and handing out laundry tablets at the end.

I also opted to run this one a bit faster, although a sub-25 minute time did feel tough after running six miles earlier in the week. I haven't been running all that regularly post-marathon so the legs got a bit of a shock!

By yesterday, the 12th of January, I'd decided to slow it down a bit having had a cold all week. Another brilliant morning at Vogrie, with their second highest attendance (266) and a new finish funnel to alleviate a bit of the congestion there.

Four parkruns by the 12th of January, and as alluded to in my 2018 review post, I'm looking forward to continuing my parkrun journey in 2019. I can't imagine Saturday mornings without it!

Monday, 7 January 2019

Goodbye 2018...hello 2019!

It's hard to believe we're now a whole week into 2019...and so far so good!

I like to write a 'yearly review' blog post to look back on the year that has past, and look forward to the year ahead.

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

I started 2018 feeling quite positive about the year ahead, after a challenging but transformative 2017. In many ways 2018 was even tougher, bringing some tough times and some unique challenges. But I feel I'm in a better place because of these challenges, and look forward to seeing what 2019 will bring with my new found wisdom 😄

I wrote the following at the end of my 2017 round up, looking ahead to 2018:

I do feel positive about the year ahead. There are plans in place and amazing adventures on the cards. In a few months I will have a newborn niece or nephew, and I'm looking forward to a trip to France to meet baby! In July Dave and I will head to Copenhagen to see our nephew Arran compete in the RaceRunning Championships.

I have some big goals, which I'm not ready to say (or write!) just yet. I also have some targets - I'd love to reach 50 Munros, a target I didn't reach in 2017. I also would love to get to 50 Parkruns and bag my first of the free 'milestone' t-shirts!

Aside from that, I wish for a happy, healthy year for all my family and friends. 2017 brought some unique challenges and no doubt 2018 will have a few twists and turns along the way... 

I'm really chuffed that I managed most of the goals I set out to achieve, with two notable exceptions: - I didn't manage to bag any Munros in 2018
- I didn't manage my 30th blood donation due to illness, so am currently on 29 and looking forward to reaching 30 pints!

Aside from that, I achieved far more than I actually thought I was capable of. That's what 2018 taught me - I'm stronger than I think I am.

The big theme of 2018 was RUNNING. When I started this blog way back in 2011, it was to document my progress in bagging Scotland's highest mountains, and trying to conquer my anxiety demons along the way. Interestingly I have found that running has done wonders for my mental health - I really noticed the impact of this in 2018. This doesn't mean that I will not aim to bag all of Scotland's Munros in my lifetime - it just means that they haven't been the priority for a number of reasons. My blog certainly seems to have lost some support out here in the 'virtual' world due to this change, although perhaps that's partly due to the fact I am blogging less (only managing once a month in 2018). Life has got in the way of Munro trips - money worries, car issues, work schedules, lack of just hasn't happened for a variety of reasons. I'm not going to give myself a hard time about this. The Munros will always be there. I need to make sure I'm in the best possible place - physically, mentally, and just in life - to get to the top of them.

This blog will continue to focus on my running, in particular my parkrun journey, as well as life 'stuff' that's going on too. It's basically my online diary and even if it had no readers, I would still write it for my own wellbeing. That being said, I appreciate each and every one of you who reads it!

Bizarrely, I started 2018 with a massive panic attack, the worst I've ever experienced. We were staying in an old house on the shores of Loch Awe: A trip to the west was the perfect way to end such an interesting year. Six Scots, five Germans, three kids and one dog stayed in old former hunting lodge on Loch Awe, bringing in 2018 with plenty of food, drink, fresh air and even a wee loony dook. We saw in the New Year with sparklers and merriment, and it was a great evening. I wasn't feeling too well so went to bed, waking up a few hours later in the pitch black not having a clue where I was. I couldn't breathe, I felt claustrophobic, disorientated and extremely dehydrated (I'd been on a run earlier that day followed by a long walk, and just hadn't eaten or drunk enough to recover from that!). Thank god Dave was with me to see me through the next hour or so, and talk/reassure me out of it. I never told anyone else about this panic attack - to be honest it really scared me.

So not a great way to kick off the year! After a day of recovery on January 1st, we started the year more properly on the 2nd - with a swim in Loch Awe! Dave, Gibson and I donned our wetsuits and swam out to Innis Chonnell to explore the ruins of an old castle. It was incredible! I'm not a whisky fan but I greatly needed a wee dram to warm up once we were back on dry land!
We felt rejuvenated and restored by our stay on Loch Awe - dodgy moments aside - but returned to reality with a bump. On arrival home, the business we had started six months previously came crashing down around us at the hands of another; it was devastating and upsetting at the time, but we managed to escape as relatively unscathed as possible - if a bit jaded, bitter and demoralised.

I returned to work, starting a part time job with NHS Borders, which I've found challenging but enjoyable. It's been a real wake up call to me, and is often a reminder to be grateful for everything I have in my life - the struggles of many I have encountered is incredibly humbling.

January also brought snow, cancelled parkruns, trips to the gym, dog walks and fresh air. I wrote my first blog post (not including my round up of 2017) in early February, and clearly I was still struggling a bit with the challenges of the business failing and the winter months:

February was a very similar month to January in terms of my mental health, feeling low and struggling to find the positives. Although I was marathon training, I was keeping this a secret from everyone but Dave, so I didn't talk about it with anyone. I did have a great training run round Loch Leven with Paula, the furthest either of us had run, and great training for our first half marathon in March. The last day of February also saw the arrival of the 'Beast from the East'.

March arrived with a lot of snow! We made the most of the opportunities to get out and get some fresh air, whilst battling through 18 inches of snow!
March also brought the Inverness Half Marathon, my first half marathon, and a brilliant weekend away with friends. I found it incredibly emotional, and cried for ages afterwards! After the half marathon, I finally made my fundraising page for the Edinburgh Marathon live, and told my nearest and dearest that not only had I just run a half marathon, but I'd be running a full one in two months time! I'd actually entered the marathon in November 2017, so it was a long secret to keep, and I was very relieved when it was 'out'.

I wrote about the snow fun and the half marathon here:
I greatly appreciated the longer spring days March brought, providing more opportunities for running, and a brilliant day out at Loch Lomond on the seaplane with Andrew:

March was a great month - but perhaps that was because it started with the arrival of my nephew Matthew on the 4th! Such a wonderful addition to the family, he has brought us all such joy.
In time for some of the Six Nations games!
When April arrived, I was upping my distance on my long runs (managing 13, 15 and 18 mile runs this month!) and looking forward to a trip to France to meet Matthew. Dave and I stayed out at West Linton to dog sit, and I enjoyed a low-key birthday. I spent a beautiful morning marshalling at Vogrie parkrun - my happy place whether running or volunteering!
The end of the month brought an amazing trip to visit Colin, Emma and Matthew, and we seemed to pack a lot into the week - a trip to the mountains, two runs, lots of nephew snuggles, a wee swim in the sea, and supporting Colin as he completed the Cannes Triathlon - incredible! The sunshine and happy family memories made this such a wonderful trip.

I wrote a blog post whilst out in France with a running update, with just a month to go until the Edinburgh Marathon:

May brought a ton of marathon-related anxiety, but I managed to complete my longest run of 20 miles on the 5th of May, a hot day, finishing with a dip in Loch Leven to ease my sore legs!

I did a craft fayre in May too, which was a good distraction from the marathon. But honestly, the month of May was about the Edinburgh Marathon, my first marathon. And I really enjoyed it! It was an emotional day - I had worked so hard to get to this point - and I was so chuffed that Andrew was well enough to come and support. This had seemed impossible just weeks earlier, but he had worked so hard too, and the improvements were starting to show. After seven or so months being nil by mouth and fed through a stomach PEG, he was starting to push his boundaries by trying to eat again. The improvements came with an increase in weight, sleeping better, and having more energy. And the improvements have continued ever since, thankfully.

But the day of the marathon was the first day I'd seen him up, out and about in a long time - and it meant so much. He was the main reason I was running my first marathon - a reminder to us all that the future, and our health, isn't something we can take for granted. My JustGiving page reached £5200 for Myositis UK, an incredible testament to Andrew.
I loved the marathon so much, and subsequently wrote one of my longest blog posts about it here:

June was certainly a month of recovery, and winding down. I wasn't enjoying my running so much post-marathon, but did love a spot of parkrun tourism, visiting Lochore Meadows and Chelmsford Central. The visit to Chelmsford was to see our friends Kirsty and Mike, and we had a wonderful weekend. Sadly we missed my Mum complete an epic challenge for Myositis UK that weekend, also raising over £5000. She played golf continuously for 24 hours - such a legend!
June also brought the second Elliot Cursiter Memorial Walk, a brilliant stroll along the canal from the Water of Leith visitor centre to the Bridge Inn at Ratho, followed by a delicious lunch!

I blogged about my training for the Edinburgh Marathon:

And wrote about my struggles getting back into running:

We had an fantastic spell of sunny hot weather that lasted into July and beyond. We enjoyed an amazing trip to Copenhagen with Dave's family, to watch Arran represent Australia for the first time in the RaceRunning world championships. I also got the opportunity to run my first international parkrun at Amager Faelled - I love that parkrun has changed travel for me!

July also brought Colin, Emma and Matthew back to Scotland, and we had a great time at Vogrie on a Saturday morning at the end of the month. It also brought the Dog Jog, marking my year anniversary of running. Safe to say it has changed my life!

Thankfully I rediscovered my love for running in July, and started training for marathon number two, although I hadn't entered it at that point! I felt pretty down that I still hadn't managed a Munro and it wasn't looking likely, but as I mentioned at the start of this blog, that was just the way life was in 2018.

When August arrived, there was plenty to look forward to including a trip to Ireland for Matthew's christening. We had a brilliant family weekend, very chilled and lots of laughs. Definitely one of my highlights of the year!

I also completed my first ever inaugural parkrun, at Loch Leven. A challenging one! But it's great to have one on my inlaw's doorstep - I've been back a couple of times since.

August also brought the Abbotsford Trail race, which Ross and I had entered. A challenging five mile run, and my fourth run of that week - marathon training was well underway! I had by this point entered the Nice Cannes marathon, due to take place on the 4th of November.

I got my running mojo back in September, definitely helped by smashing my Vogrie parkrun PB from 24.09 to 23.04! I was on cloud nine for a very long time - and in fact I still am; when I wanted a sub-24 minute time in 2018 I had no idea I'd get so close to sub-23! It perked me up so much, and the next day Dave and I had a brilliant walk in the Pentlands, one of only a few hill walks of the year but certainly a memorable one:

In September I also had my first running fall, a tumble nearly six miles into a run round Loch Leven. And Dave's brother was over from Australia, so we enjoyed Loch Leven parkrun on a very chilly September morning. I also volunteered the next morning at Loch Leven junior parkrun, something I'd like to do more of in 2019 - it was brilliant seeing the kids enjoying their running so much!

October saw my 29th blood donation, and my return to long runs - I did my 18 miler and my 20 miler this month ahead of the November marathon. I was pretty tired in October! I also wrote a blog post about embracing the feeling of being uncomfortable, whether in running or in life:

Parkrun adventures continued with a trip to Lanark Moor parkrun with Ross and Dave - Dave's first parkrun! - and we all enjoyed this challenging course.

Dave and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary, and we also enjoyed a nice meal for mum's birthday.

When November arrived I was feeling marathon ready, and in the best possible shape I could be in. We travelled out to France on the 1st of November and attended the expo in Nice. Sadly on the 4th I had a bad day in the marathon office (running 26.2 miles without having gone to the toilet first is not recommended!!), but I'm really proud of myself for completing this tough run. And I'm really proud of Colin for his 3.36 marathon PB!

I wrote a long post about my second marathon adventure here:

It was so lovely to spend time with Colin, Emma and Matthew too. A real bonus that we got to visit them twice in 2018.

I spent the rest of November feeling exhausted! With the shorter days and darker nights, I took some proper time off from running. I made an exception for the brand new Peebles parkrun - it's great to have one in the Borders at last!

November also brought the amazing news that I will be an Aunty again, to a baby not very far away! Exciting.

I wrote a post in early December about my training for marathon number two:

Parkrun was a big focus for me in 2018, as I was determined to reach the fifty parkrun milestone, but also to try and volunteer as much as possible. With five cancellations at Vogrie due to dodgy weather in January/February/March/December, plus four Saturdays where I couldn't possibly run or volunteer, I was pushing it to reach 50 by the end of the year. On a side note, I am amazed to find there were only four Saturdays in 2018 I didn't run or volunteer (well nine including the cancelled events) - it really shows me how much of a priority I made it!

I didn't manage to volunteer every month, however with a bit of focus on the running, I did manage to complete my 50th parkrun on the 1st of December. It was brilliant! I ran with Dave and my cousin Colin, who is hoping to join the parkrun family in 2019. Ten days later I received my free red milestone t-shirt, and I feel incredibly proud to run in it!
Thus 2018 brought 37 parkruns (two of these were tailwalking), 8 volunteer stints (nine if you include one Sunday marshalling junior parkrun!), 4 Vogrie personal bests, and 6 visits to other parkruns: Lochore Meadows, Chelmsford Central, Amager Faelled, Loch Leven, Lanark Moor, and Hay Lodge.

The rest of December was spent gearing up for Christmas, as well as running a Festive 5k at Tweedbank with Ross. We were so chuffed to see Dave's brilliant book in print at last, a real achievement for him.

Christmas itself was all about family time. We spent time with both of our families, complete with dog walks and plenty of food eaten. I even managed a Christmas Day jog to run off some of the food consumed in time for next round!

I felt pretty rundown in between Christmas and Hogmanay but thankfully we had quite a quiet New Years Eve planned. We spent the last hours of 2018 in Dunfermline with our friends Gibson, Paula and Gibson Oskar, who we've enjoyed many happy moments with this year. I shared some non-alcoholic beer with 24-weeks pregnant Paula, enabling me to drive early on the 1st of January to...parkrun of course!

Dave and I brought in 2019 with the 'parkrun double' - the only day of the year you can do two parkruns. The first one - Kirkcaldy at 9am - was a bit of a struggle due to tiredness, but we'd woken up by the second one - Loch Leven at 11am - and really enjoyed it! It was a brilliant way to bring in a new, exciting year ahead. Far better than the panic attack that brought in 2018 anyway!

2018 in numbers (I love numbers!): 
1484.5 miles walked
682 miles run
23 Zumba classes
0 Munros
1 Loch swim and 1 swim in the Med!

So there we go - that was 2018. There was lots of running; I'm so impressed I ran 682 miles this year including two marathons! Although I entered 2018 knowing I was going to run the Edinburgh Marathon in May, I never once imagined I'd run two in a year. I had one very positive experience and one fairly negative experience, however I am ready for a third experience at some point in the future - but it won't be in 2019!

As you can tell from this blog, parkrun has been a massive part of my year, and I can't imagine life without it now. It has helped me in so many ways, physically and mentally. It has given me a sense of community, and a positive structure to my sometimes chaotic week.

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.

Goodbye 2018 - I'm ready for you 2019!