Goals for a new year

So 2016 was a year that happened. Frankly it’s developed a pretty bad rep, as well as quite a body count. It would be easy to wallow in all the bad shit that happened last year. Sod that, I want to waltz into 2017 on a cloud of positivity.

We had two fantastic family holidays in 2016, to Mallorca in June then Dornoch in October. I ran (slowly) the fantastic 15 mile Illuminator night race in Glen Tanar in September.  We had some great weekends away and I got to endure the hardship of being sent to Paris for a few days to work. I also celebrated some important birthdays with my extended family, went to some brilliant weddings and received news of some more to come.

Above all else, the year was full of the sound of my daughter and nephew laughing and playing.

Now it comes to the start of a new year and I naturally start thinking about what lies ahead. Hopefully a lot more of my daughter’s laughter, but what else? I toyed with the idea of setting vague resolutions like “Play more music” or “Run more”. However I work best when I have a set goal in mind, like a 15 mile night race to train for without my feet exploding halfway through.

With that in mind here’s a few (achievable) things I would like to accomplish this year:

  1.  Record an EP
  2.  Publish a poem or a short story
  3.  Run a sub-2 hour half marathon
  4.  Get my weight down to 11 stone

A couple of these are a little more difficult than the others but should still be achievable over the course of the year, or at least have significant progress towards them.

Record an EP

I’ve played guitar since I was fourteen and for most of my adult life I’ve written music and played in local bands. I left my last band a few years ago to concentrate on a solo music project I was working on, but once my daughter arrived I slowly played less and less until I pretty much put my instruments down one day last year and never really picked them up again.

Over the last month I’ve made a conscious effort to get back on the horse and pick up either a guitar or mandolin almost every day. The aim is basically to get involved again and start pushing the project I started 4 years ago back into being. Eventually I hope to play some gigs but I think my self-confidence is a long way from that milestone. For now I’d be happy getting my playing and my singing into a good enough condition to record the EP I wrote down a tracklisting for shortly after I left that band.

Publish a poem or short story

As a member of local writing group Mearns Writers, I’ve produced a number of poems and short stories over the last two years. While I’ve submitted a few of these occasionally to some local poetry magazines and the odd competition I’ve not made a serious effort to get anything published (aside from posting a few on this site and the groups own self-published anthology). I need to step up my submission game in 2017 and see if I can at least place in some competitions and get some good feedback.

Run a sub-2 hour half marathon

This is simultaneously the easiest and the hardest of my 2017 goals. I should have a sub-2 hour half in my legs. I’ve ran 2:01 at Skye, which is bloody hilly and there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to break that barrier. At the same time I’ve not been running nearly as much as I used to and I need to get my routine fixed and stick to it if I’m going to get anywhere close to this goal.

The Great Aberdeen Run is at the end of August and I entered on the day it was announced. That’s the target, though I might try a warm up race at the start of summer to see how I’m getting on.

Get my weight down to 11 stone

This goal will tie in with the previous one. If I train properly for a sub-2 hour half marathon I should lose weight. Since I started getting into fitness and sorted my weight issues over 10 years ago I’ve been stuck floating around the 12 stone mark. At the peak of my running routine, before my daughter arrived, I did manage to get down to under 11 and a half stone but that didn’t last long. I’m now back up to 12 and a half. That needs to be reversed.

Getting back below 12 stone should be easy. Exercise will fix that. Slimming down to 11 stone will need a bit more determination and willpower but hopefully I can get there by the end of the year.

There are of course plenty of other things I would like to do this year. I would like to worry less, focus at work more, cut out internet habits which reinforce negative thoughts, climb more hills and cycle many miles. Those are all good things to aim for but I think if I concentrate on these four achievable goals then I’ll be well on the way to a memorable year without putting too much pressure on myself.

Hill Running

It takes a special kind of masochist,
To want to run up a hill,
Walking up can be bad enough.
To see the steep path to the summit
And think ‘Yes, I want to run up that’

We could run on woodland trail,
Or plod round the urban street,
But better to float over the tops in trainers,
With the world spread out below,
Picking over rocks holding our wings out wide

Ahh, but to get to the summit is a relentless slog,
We kid ourselves we run,
Spirited walk might be more apt,
Lift and push, lift and push,
One leg after the other in short, short steps

When the going is too steep,
Or the legs are out of gas,
The arms lend a hand and push
Down on the thighs, left, right, left, right
The important thing is to keep going up

Often the climb is broken by flat,
Or less steep, sections.
Releasing the runner to a canter,
Free of the punishing climb,
For now, for it must return

It’s return is often worse than before,
We spent too much on the easy bits,
Saving little for the final push towards the sky.
We arrive on the summit a broken shell,
Sweating, panting, pretending we ran to the top

We lay there and collect our thoughts,
Taking a moment to refuel body and mind,
Admiring the landscape painted just for us.
The same summit we’ve run before,
Different each day, every time

Finally we take off,
Racing along the top and blasting downhill,
On the very edge of control
We slip, slide and leap
Avoiding rocks, scree, bog and mud

Down, so often as hard as up,
Constantly braking to stay
On the limit of control,
Knees and thighs screaming,
Mad grin ever widening

A final sprint to the car if legs can cope,
Then stop, stretch and head for home,
Or a well earned pint to aid recovery,
Now the soul is fueled with the joy of hills,
And we are lighter for the rest of the day

Lunchtime Running

I wish someone had told me sooner. I’ve been running for years now and if I’d known how good going for a run at lunchtime was I’d have started doing it ages ago. Over the last 6 months (which, funnily enough is the same time since my daughter was born) I’ve found it really hard to stick to an exercise routine. My old trick of getting changed as soon as I got home and heading out for a run or cycle doesn’t work when I get handed a baby to feed or a nappy to change instead. With Ride The North approaching fast at the end of August something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be my beautiful daughter!

Despite having quite good changing facilities at my office I’ve not taken the opportunity to run at work before. I’ve tried running to and from work with some success but at the moment I’m commuting by train and the station is beside my office, so that won’t do much for my mileage. The main thing that always put me off was my own insecurities about body image and personal space coming into conflict with gym changing rooms. Eventually I realised that no-one really cares what anyone else looks like in a changing room  so there’s no point worrying about it.

My office is well positioned for some good short routes perfect for fitting in over a lunchtime. First up I decided to try a run over the bridge to Torry and up to Girdle Ness lighthouse. This route takes you up the south side of Aberdeen harbour, rising up to Torry Battery and the lighthouse with some stunning views out to the harbour, Aberdeen beach front and beyond to Balmedie. If you’re lucky you can even see the dolphins at the harbour mouth where the silt from the River Dee makes for rich feeding grounds. While I didn’t see any I was told by another runner back at the office that he stood and watched two dolphins on his loop just after we passed each other going in opposite directions.

On Monday I opted for a flatter run along the River Dee from the harbour all the way to Bridge O’Dee before looping up to the A90 roundabout and coming back past the football pitches. As it was a flatter route I threw in some fartlek intervals for a bit of speed work too. While running along the busy roads on this route wasn’t as nice a break from the office as the lighthouse route, the new path along the river between Riverside Drive and Bridge O’Dee is lovely.

Next up in a rare patch of summer sunshine I went back to the lighthouse route but ran it anti-clockwise. I think I liked this way even more than the clockwise route. The hills felt more substantial and I got to enjoy the view over the harbour and Aberdeen for longer. Nasty headwind on the return leg of the loop though.

Usually I spend my lunchtime staring blankly at my internet browser or reading a book on my kindle. Which is fine, but then I find myself getting annoyed that I’ve spent the whole day in the office. Especially when it’s nice outside! Lunch times have just been dead time in my schedule. Like I’m just sitting, waiting for the clock to tick over to one o’clock and I can start work again.

Now on the three occasions I’ve gone for a run at lunchtime I feel like I’ve done something constructive with my dead time. Plus through the magic of endorphins  I feel much happier in the afternoon and can concentrate better on my work! I feel less guilty about my mid-afternoon chocolate break too…

Then there’s the added bonus that I don’t need to take time out of my evening to go for a run so I can spend more time helping round the house or looking after the baby, which means everything feels a bit more organised and relaxed later on once she is fed and put to bed.

I should have started this months ago.

Back in the swing of things

Since my daughter was born I’ve not done much running, cycling or anything really. For the most part I’ve just been too tired to care about exercise or when I get home from work I’d rather help with Chloe than go out for an hour, missing what little time I have with her.

However I can see my waistline slowly getting squidgy and my jeans are getting tighter again so needs must. Besides that I’m also committed to doing Ride The North – a 170 mile bike ride from Inverness to Stonehaven over two days in August so I have to get fit again!

Today I made the most of the fine spring weather and went for a wee run up to Dunnottar Castle. I’ve run up to the war memorial a couple of times but not gone the full distance to the castle yet. Well I couldn’t have picked a better night for it. The weather was stunning and the castle, the bay and Stonehaven all looked beautiful in the setting sun (see the photo at the top of this page for proof).

It was pretty tiring though. I can tell I’ve not done much running since last year! The path from the memorial to the castle was a lot hillier than it looks but that’s a good thing, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. I think I’ll be using this route a lot over the summer.

Two races, two PBs

The racing season is firmly upon us now and after missing most of it last year through injury I’ve already been busy with two races under my belt and another couple fast approaching! My plan for the year is to concentrate on the half marathon so in May I ran what intend to be my only 10k of the year – the City of Aberdeen Baker Hughes 10k. If I could get under 50 minutes I’d have a new PB and can put the 10k to bed for the year. Then in June it was over to Skye for the first of a handful of half marathons on what I was assured was a very hilly course. Progress, not PBs was the aim here. A good run was all I wanted. Read more Two races, two PBs

Running 2014

I’ve not posted anything about my running for a long time. To be fair, I’ve not posted much at all for a long time! Forgive me. One of the reasons for that is that I’ve been pretty busy with my day job and I’ve not found much time or inclination to come up with blog posts. Sad times.

Anyway, last year’s running season was greatly hampered by a chronic knee injury (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome) which hugely limited my mileage in the first half of the year and it wasn’t until the end of summer that I was anywhere close to normal again. I only entered one proper race all year, a 10k near Forres which although it got me a new PB it fell short of getting me under the 50 minute mark for the first time. Read more Running 2014

Running year so far

The main reason I’ve not been posting to the blog as often as in the past is that I’ve been incredibly busy this year. Between wedding planning, work (something that sadly gets in the way of fun all too often) and various other commitments I haven’t been able to find the time to come up with interesting blog posts. One thing that’s been taking up a huge amount of my time this year is running.

Now I’ve posted about fitness and running before but I thought I’d go into a bit more with this post and go over some of the training and events I’ve done this year. Read more Running year so far

Punishment and reward

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On saturday I was up bright and early to take part in the 5k parkrun race at Aberdeen beach. Despite the bitter cold making for a very frosty route, it was a beautiful clear morning and I was very happy with a time of 26 minutes. Not bad for my first time at the race and something to build on for the next time.

Later on as a reward for my efforts we nipped over to Buchanan’s for lunch. For the second time I was thwarted in my plan to try their awesome looking meat hotpots by them switching to a chicken pot for that day’s menu. Instead I went for a ragout of chestnuts, mushrooms, aubergine and haricot beans. This was one if the most delicious veggie dishes I’ve ever had! Very rich and filling. If I ever turn my back on meat I’d be happy knowing I could eat food like this.

Fit and healthy

Finally! After 2 months of knee pain and enforced rest I went for a run last night and finished it without any discomfort!

It’s been a very frustrating couple of months and it would have been easy to get down about things (a knee injury being just one of many problems we’ve gone through recently) but on the plus side all the spare time has meant I can concentrate on other hobbies, like cooking and music. Read more Fit and healthy

One month of sloth and counting

A month ago I went for a run. It was nothing spectacular, just a short 3k jog round Banchory. Not long after starting I felt some pain in my knee, this is when I made a mistake. Instead of stopping, turning round and going home I continued my run for the full route. Then I spent the next week having to push my self up and down stairs using the banisters as I couldn’t put any weight on my leg when it bent. Oops. Read more One month of sloth and counting