The Year of Me!!! – March Update

It hardly seems like any time at all since I was setting my goals for the year – this year focusing on process over outcome and looking at ways to create positive habits and add value to my life – yet here we are at the end of March already! I’m checking in each month to keep me accountable and reflect on how I’m getting on.

1.Run 1000km (621 miles)
I have, once more, completed all the runs on my training schedule, but thanks to some pretty insane weather this month there were a few tweaks along the way – most notably when we were hit by The Beast from the East. Running in the snow seems to have made me stronger and has made some of my longer runs actually feel a bit easier! With increasing mileage I come in at 107 miles for the month and Strava tells me I’ve now at 250 miles for the year. That’s 97 miles ahead of schedule, but I’m not going to get over-excited about that since I don’t anticipate particularly high mileage in May as I take some time out to recover post-marathon.

2.Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
I think this is the one I’m loving best of all. I’ve easily fallen into the habit of an at-home yoga practice on 3-4 days of the week (and go to a yoga class on 2 days). Far from the minimum 5 minutes, most of the home practice has been around 30 minutes long. Still using the Yoga with Adriene videos and having completed one 30 day journey, I went back and began a previous one so I maintain the consistency. I’ll confess to one week where I only managed yoga 4 times, but that was due to time constraints in a super busy week. Had I known, I would have planned around it better but one yoga session isn’t something to get worked up about and I can’t expect a perfect result with my goals all the time!

3.Read at least 30 books
Somehow I’m still ahead of schedule here with 9 books completed. This time last year I had read 8 books, however by the end of June I was only at 11 books and I never quite got things back on track. I’ll need to keep making sure that I set aside time for reading as the days get longer as I’ve really been enjoying my reading so far this year.

4.Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
I really didn’t expect to be very good at this one, but getting to bed a bit earlier is now becoming a habit. I’ve set the “bedtime” function on my phone to give me a nightly reminder and that usually galvanises me to head upstairs and get settled in to read a few pages of my book. Yes I feel tired from the combined effects of a busy school term and marathon training, but overall I do think I’m a bit better rested than usual. The real test will be to see if I can keep this habit up while I have my spring break as the lure of it not being a school night has tended to keep me up later in the past!

5.Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
This has been great! To fit in with my schedule I’ve been watching reasonably short talks (including one delivered by the author of a book I read – look at my goals crossing over!) however I’m hoping to find time for some longer ones while I’m on holiday for the first two weeks of April. Let’s see how that goes…

6.Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
Having been quite far behind with episodes, I’ve now managed to just about catch up. I’ve generally been listening to a couple of podcasts every day across my morning walk, commute and training, then the longer training runs on a Sunday are often another 3. It’s great to feel a bit more up to date with the shows I listen to regularly and I no longer feel like I’m missing out on information being shared. I might even try listening to something different if I keep going like this!

7.Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
This month I chose a photo prompt and published my response to I’d Rather Be… I have a couple of others lined up too for the coming weeks so it’s so far so good on this one.

8.Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
I began the year really well with this one, however the weather issues at the start of March sucked me back in a little as this was where information was being shared the quickest. Since then I’ve noticed some slippage into random scrolling, however I figure that my awareness of it means I’ll be able to do something about it. I suspect I’ll use my phone a bit more while I’m not at work, but I’ll also be careful about making sure I don’t lose precious time to a mindless time suck. A lapse, but not a serious one and I can easily get back on track again.

Overall I’ve not been too bad at maintaining the positive habits I introduced in the early part of the year, even with some pressures on my time. I’ve spotted a couple of snags to iron out, but for the most part I’m really happy that the choices I’m making are adding value to my life and are worth continuing long term.

Which of your goals for the year are going well?
Any setbacks you need to overcome?

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Week In Review – Local Tourism

Another week gone and some tentative signs of spring (even if the forecast for the coming days is less than favourable). It was a super busy week for me but the core of my training plan still went ahead, although one or two things were rather squeezed in!

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 16 miles

Thing got off to a fairly reasonable start on Monday. Most of the snow from Sunday had disappeared (so bizarre!) and after work I headed for my usual Hatha yoga class. I’ve really been enjoying this block in the new studio space and feel really relaxed and chilled out afterwards. Definitely the best thing about Mondays right now!

It was on Tuesday that things began to get busy We had a meeting after work then I headed to the gym for my bike reps. This week I was dropping the number of reps back down to 10, but taking the intensity of the bike up a level. At the start of this training cycle I tried the very same workout but only managed a couple of reps before I dropped the intensity so being able to do this indicates a clear progression in my fitness. I was, however, thankful that the workout was pretty short as I had further evening plans. So it was a super-fast shower and change, home (with hair still wet) for a speedy dinner then a quick blast of my hairdryer before heading out the door to meet my sister at the theatre. We were using her comps again to see the latest play – Shakespeare’s Richard III. I actually wasn’t familiar with this one so it was interesting to draw some comparisons with some of his other works and I really enjoyed it. It didn’t finish until after 10pm though, so I was up past my bedtime!

As a result I felt tired on Wednesday but knew I had some drills to do. This week it was a warm up (about a mile) then 10 reps of 800m focusing on form and a minute recovery in between. This brought me home with about 7 miles completed. On the last rep (near my house) I spotted something on the path in front of me which I thought was a leaf. Just as I was about to step on it, I realised it was a frog! Anyone driving past at that moment may have wondered what my odd side-stepping dance was all about, but the good news is I avoided stepping on it. Phew!

QQTEd59GSwaz7twr1g4iFgPost-run I felt really tired. I think I’ve reached that point in the school year where all the demands of supporting senior pupils through drafts and redrafts of their coursework (and meeting the deadlines!) starts to affect me. I felt a bit “off” and could feel myself shutting down so headed to bed almost as soon as I’d eaten. I must have fallen right asleep as I woke up when Steve came to bed and realised I still had my glasses on and my book in my hand!

I actually felt pretty refreshed on Thursday but was glad to get to my Ashtanga yoga class as it always makes me feel so much better. It was a great class and Julia, my teacher, helped with a couple of adjustments to let me move further into one or two postures. I had been working on stretching out my right hip flexor a bit during the week and it felt back to normal after this class, as I had suspected. Sadly I had more coursework essays to check through afterwards so my eyes felt pretty heavy by the time I was heading to bed!

It was on Friday that things got a little more exciting. During The Beast from the East Steve revealed he had booked us a night away in a hotel as a surprise treat, but thanks to the snow we couldn’t go. Fortunately he was able to re-book for a different date so I didn’t feel too put out since I hadn’t known I was going and had something to look forward to. Friday was the night and all I knew was that we were heading to nearby Dundee. We had originally planned to leave about 6pm, giving me plenty of time to get home, get myself organised and write my Friday Finds, but when Steve confirmed the details with the hotel during the day he found that our dinner booking was quite early at 5:30! This meant I had to dash straight home at the end of the day, fling some things in a bag and then we were away. We got to the hotel (Malmaison) about 5pm which was perfect to get checked in, go to our room then head down for dinner.

8Rwn+rElTl6cOTbbgd2LSwTo make things easier we had just driven there wearing the clothes we planned to eat in. That meant all we needed was our overnight things and our parkrun kit for the morning (because everyone books a night away in a nice hotel and plans to go to a parkrun in the morning, right?).

The hotel package was lovely. We had our room for the night complete with a bottle of champagne, a three course meal from their fixed price menu and a continental breakfast in the morning. This could be upgraded to a cooked breakfast for very little extra, but with our parkrun plans a continental breakfast was fine.

o7vhOCYsQkm%Y9uS7sDuLADinner may have been early, but we were definitely hungry. The waiter took our orders for starters and main courses then said he would get our dessert orders after we had eaten them in case we were too full (rookie mistake lol!). I had grilled asparagus wrapped in Serrano ham to start, chicken Milanese with a side salad for my main course and we both wanted the chocolate fondue for dessert so it came on one big plate. This was accompanied by a small glass of red wine as we were conscious we had a bottle of champagne in our room which would NOT go to waste, but we were determined to run in the morning!

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Ob2Nj7BVQNK9VQXfLiDf6wThe early dinner meant it felt like we had a lovely long evening ahead of us. We opened the fizz and since I had been complaining of a dull headache all day, Steve checked my neck and upper back – definitely the culprits as I was all tight and knotted so he worked on that for a bit then I took my fizz into a nice hot bubble bath (I ALWAYS have a bath in a hotel if I can). So nice and relaxing.

FiXVIXuERGaciqK71uTELgBefore bed we got our things ready for the morning and thought it would be funny to take flat lay photos as if we were heading to a race. The irony of our situation hadn’t escaped us – usually we stay in a hotel specifically to go to a race; this time we were having a relaxing night away but couldn’t resist the lure of parkrun!

qaLYMvkFT+2KHOwokkSotwBreakfast started at 8am and we planned to be away around 8:30 as although there is a parkrun in Dundee (at Camperdown park), we have done it twice before as part of the New Year Triple, so instead we thought it would be fun to drive the half hour over to St Andrews and take part in the parkrun at Craigtoun park as ordinarily this would be about an hour’s drive for us and a little out of reach.

I usually don’t eat before parkrun so just had a coffee and small croissant while enjoying the views of the new V&A and the RRS Discovery. Then I wrapped a couple of pastries up to take with me for later. Not letting my breakfast go to waste!

cs35ypKwRuqRzKA8WJMxDQIt was such a nice spring-like morning and Craigtoun park looked lovely. Of course Steve managed to meet someone he knows and I spotted a few familiar faces from my school community as St Andrews is only about 10 miles away from where I work. We felt really welcome as people told us about the course and the expected winner (a young guy who completes the course in around 15:40!) ahead of the first timers briefing.

emkdye2AQ0m3KxC1boEUkgThe course was three and a bit laps of the park. The start is right by the car park and the route begins on a smooth tarmac path then changes to gravel path for the bulk of the rest of the lap. Compared to Perth, there as a few more ups and downs, but nothing like Dundee which is known for being quite hilly. Perhaps a bit more unique is the “railway” crossing as Craigtoun has a little train for kids which circles the park in the summer months.

RnwmeZ6jRK2e7l2lXb19iAI probably got a little carried away on my first lap and slowed a bit for the second two when my body remembered the three course meal, champagne and breakfast! Still, 24:32 is a decent time and I’m pretty pleased with that. I later found out that the winner set a new course record with his time of 15:38. Speedy!

Post-run we walked back along the route to return to the car and took a few photos to remember. Note I have my sunglasses on and no gloves – must be spring!

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IMG_5968It was really nice to do a bit of parkrun tourism as here in Scotland it’s not so easy as in some other parts of the UK. We have plenty of parkruns (I believe 35) but spread far and wide so very few are within about 30 minutes of home. St Andrews was the first time I’ve been at a different parkrun at the exact same time as my usual run in Perth (Dundee has always been at New Year when I run Perth either before or after and Clermont is in a different time zone). Although I KNOW that everyone in Scotland is parkrunning at the same time, this was the first time that I was really struck by the concept that while I was running in St Andrews, my parkrun pals in Perth were getting underway at the exact same moment. It really made me feel part of a bigger community, which I suppose is the idea.

For Sunday, my plan originally said 14 miles as it was to be a cutback after 20 the week before, but with the shortening of last week’s run thanks to the snow, I knew I would need to do more. After consulting with Steve, we decided on 16 miles but he left it up to me to decide if I wanted to include any faster sections. The clocks had changed, thus “losing” an hour overnight and the tightness in my upper back/neck was still bothering me a bit and making me feel “off” so I decided to set off and just see how I felt.

My plan was to follow the same route as my last 16 mile run so I would have a point of comparison, and since I felt ok I thought my previous pattern of 2 miles slow followed by 1 mile at/faster than marathon pace would be ideal.

It was a lovely morning and I ended up feeling great. Such a difference to last week when it took me 2 hours to run 12 miles and it felt so hard. This week I was just shy of 13 miles in the same time and the whole 16 felt much easier. Not only that, but I was over 4 minutes quicker than the last time I followed that route with the same workout. That’s really encouraging!

In the afternoon we headed into town to relax with our weekly free coffee and on the way were able to pick up a free Easter egg courtesy of our mobile phone provider. Awesome!

Now, just 4 more days of term to survive then a much-needed break to recharge (and get those big miles done…!).

Do you like to visit different parkruns?
How is your training going just now?
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Week In Review – Normal Service Resumes

And just like that, the snow was gone! After a pretty epic snowfall and a great deal of disruption (continued into Monday) with above freezing temperatures and some heavy rainfall, the snow is all but gone save for the odd random miserable looking patch. Now everything just looks a bit grey and soggy. Oh well, perhaps spring is on its way…

But regardless of weather, marathon training continues and I was pleased to put in a pretty solid week of running despite work pressures (a coursework deadline which couldn’t change but was affected by our snow days). Here’s how my week ended up:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym + sports massage
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 18 miles

Monday was a bit of a strange day. The schools in the region where I live were all back to normal after the snow, but I teach in a neighbouring region which had been worse hit and there were a lot of difficulties organising school transport and getting pupils safely to school. In the end the schools were shut to pupils but open to staff and since my journey is on main roads I had no problem getting in. It was actually quite a nice way to ease back into routine after our “bonus” days off and I got a lot done in my classroom that I hadn’t expected to get to for a while yet. I headed home at the end of the day knowing that I had no yoga class (there was never going to be a Hatha class this week as my teacher had another commitment) so I did a Yoga with Adriene video and enjoyed a restful evening before the coursework onslaught.

In order to support pupils with the deadline and make sure I was keeping up with checking all the work they had completed while school was cancelled, I decided to stay later at work as much as I could this week. I was able to stay for a good hour or so beyond lessons on Tuesday then headed to the gym for my bike reps. I had the same focus as last week to try and pull UP on the pedals rather than thinking about pushing DOWN and had an additional 2 reps to do. It’s a tough workout but I can feel the difference it makes to my fitness without the constant impact that, for me, often leads to injury. No time for a swim unfortunately as I had my monthly sports massage booked and with staying later at work I had only left enough time for my bike workout. The massage was great and was probably well-timed after all that running about in the snow last weekend!

For once, my Wednesday run went ahead as planned (these have been rather disrupted this training cycle thanks to a few weeks where I had planned not to run due to other commitments and at least 3 weeks where there was snow so could only do a steady run rather than hills/drills) although I was at work a bit later again. This week I had form drills to complete – 1 mile warm up then 10x 600m focusing on good form. Despite some gaps in my Wednesday training these went well, presumably helped by all those long runs I did with every 3rd mile faster/focusing on form.

YU0CrHaAQLS6B8Kxx6P%ZgOn Thursday I was pleased to have my Ashtanga yoga class. I missed this the previous two weeks (I had a parents’ evening a couple of weeks ago then the following week class was cancelled due to the snow). There were some newer yogis in the class so we simply worked through the asanas from the primary series that we normally do, no opportunity to work on my headstand this time. Still, it was great to be back in the yoga studio and I really enjoyed the class.

Friday had to be a rest day as I had an appointment to get my nails done (they were a bit of a disaster thanks to playing in the snow followed by all the work I did in my classroom at the beginning of the week). Steve had offered to do a PT session afterwards, but I thought it would be getting a bit late for him to hang about the studio and I had an errand before going home, so made it a rest day. Probably for the best as we’re in one of the annual “pinch points” at work and since the body can’t tell the difference between work stress and training stress, making sure rest is a priority is important to avoid injury/burnout.

XB02xfRrQX2kFjQKq25zzAAs parkrunday rolled around again, we were still on the alternative course as thanks to the melted snow and heavy rainfall, the grass section was completed saturated and churned up. For variety, it was decided that we would run the double loop course in reverse this week. It initially sounded appealing, but in the end was not the best week for this decision as there was some pretty heavy rain and one of those “Scottish headwinds” (a headwind in every direction – how is this even possible?!?!?). On the first lap I felt like I was working quite hard, much harder than the pace my watch was giving me, but I was still surrounded by all the same people I usually am so just went with it. In the end I managed another Royal Flush Negative Split and with a finish time of 24:49 was just 8 seconds slower than a couple of weeks ago when I ran my fastest this year. Given the conditions, I’m pretty happy with that, even if I did look like a drowned rat when I finished!

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IMG_0421Post-parkrun I headed home for a really quick shower before a brief stop at our neighbour’s house. He had run his 200th parkrun that morning and had invited people round for a cup of tea and cake/biscuits afterwards. I couldn’t stay long but had enough time for a quick chat, cup of tea (always awesome after a chilly parkrun) and one of his homemade biscuits which were marking the occasion.

O1X8cb7FRPWX0eNkHQ2T6wI then had to speed off to go and get my hair cut before getting on with the usual Saturday errands of food shopping and catching up on various jobs. Probably fir the best oterhwise I might still be there eating biscuits 😂.

Sunday was, as ever, my long run. I had 18 miles on the schedule and Steve had put something different into my plan. Having done lots of runs with every 3rd mile quicker, now he wanted me to do sequences of 3 miles at marathon pace and 1 mile recovery. Thing is, I’ve set no time goal for this race as I’m all about the process this year. Since sub-4 has previously been my goal, I decided to make my target pace for this run around 4 hour marathon pace and decided on a range of 8:50-9:10 since the route would be undulating (which I still think is a euphemism for hilly!). I wasn’t sure if I would be able to sustain this, but still wanted to give it a go. I took the first 2 miles as a warm up since they were mainly uphill, then settled into the pattern. At first I found myself running much faster than goal pace so it was an interesting exercise in controlling my pace in order to save something for later, but overall I was really pleased with the results. The recovery miles were super-slow and I just missed the target pace on 2 of the quicker miles, but this was because of an incline that’s encompassed the end of one mile and the start of the next – I just focused on running at the same intensity and only missed the pace by 10 seconds and 2 seconds respectively, which was pretty good! I even managed to hit my target in my last cycle which was miles 15, 16 and 17 so that’s encouraging. In many ways this run actually felt easier than last week’s 14 miles which came on the back of 7.5 the day before and were, of course, over the snow.

fullsizeoutput_242aWhen I run 18 miles I always feel near enough ready to run the marathon, but with a few weeks and more long runs still to go, it will be interesting to see how things progress for me. I’m still not setting a time goal though! I just want to see what happens when there’s no pressure.

IMG_5880Sunday finished in a pretty chilled fashion with a trip into town for coffee, some TV and lots of food before my usual Epsom salt bath. Lovely! And my legs didn’t feel too bad either…

How is your training progressing?
Do you have any time goals right now?
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The Year Of Me!!! – February Update

When I set my goals for 2018 I declared it to be The Year of Me – a year of developing positive habits and adding value to my life. As I am focusing on processes over outcomes, I’m aiming to provide an update every month to keep myself accountable and see how I’m getting on.

1. Run 1000km (621 miles)
Just like last month, I’ve completed every run on my training schedule. There were a couple of Wednesdays when I couldn’t run but I knew this would be the case and the gaps were planned so I’m ok with that – life happens! My monthly mileage should be 70-something again and slightly higher than January. According to Strava, this puts me ahead of target but there will equally be times in the year, eg post-marathon, when I don’t run as much so it should all even out.

2. Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
This has been going really well too and I’m cultivating a great at-home practice. I still go to 2 classes per week (Hatha on Monday and Ashtanga on Thursday) and aim to complete a yoga video at home on at least 3 other days. I’ve now finished the Yoga with Adriene 30-day journey I signed up to at the start of the year and will likely now turn to her monthly calendars for inspiration. I’m loving doing so much yoga and really think it is helping me both mentally and physically.

3. Read at least 30 books
I remain ahead of schedule here and am currently finishing up my 6th book of the year. I’m making reading a priority in the evenings and have been choosing a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. I’m also involved in a couple of online book groups so can dip into the choices there when I need inspiration or want to try something I might not otherwise have chosen.

4. Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
I think I’ve been adjusting my mindset on this one and am much better at heading upstairs earlier in the evening. The idea of getting cosy in my bed is very appealing and there’s not really anything to keep me up now that I’m working on not getting caught in the “infinite scroll” of social media (see below) so early to bed, my Lumie light gradually dimming and a book to read is bliss!

5. Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
I’m still watching relatively short talks (10-15 minutes on average) but am steadily building this into my weekend routine. I’m already thinking that I might try and watch more during school holidays and over the summer should definitely have time for some of the slightly longer talks I have saved. In the meantime I’m really loving hearing from a range of interesting speakers and can’t wait to learn more from them.

6. Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
I’m still a bit behind in my episodes but am listening to loads of podcasts each week. I’ve returned to my previous habit of a short walk in the morning before getting ready and this gives me a chance to get some air, enjoy some of a podcast and get my head ready for the day ahead. I then finish listening on my commute home and also listen to podcasts during my gym session on the bike and my training runs – a Sunday long run right now could see me easily listen to 2 podcasts and when I hit the Big Ones it could be 3 in one morning alone. Listening to podcasts is a habit I really enjoy and I’m keen to get a bit more up to date with some of my favourites.

7. Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
This month I had an idea I might want to write about leggings after all the crazy, patterned pairs I started wearing, but when I saw an op-ed written by someone clearly not a fan of leggings (yoga pants) I decided to add my voice to the debate and picked the prompt Controversy.

8. Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
I’m still being very disciplined about when I pick up my phone and trying hard not to just pick it up and mindlessly scroll at random moments. I’m trying to set aside points in the day to check emails/notifications then leave my phone aside so that I can read/watch tv/blog without feeling the pull of the phone. The combination of this with my goals of reading more and being in bed earlier are working beautifully together to help me establish a positive routine.

February has been a bit of a strange month with the usual pressures of this time in the school year plus a few commitments which kept me out a bit later in the evening, but the routines built in January have continued and I have been able to make a few further adjustments to develop them. Now to keep it all going into March…

How are you getting on with your goals for the year?
What’s your favourite thing you set out to do/achieve this year?

Week In Review – Me Time!!!

Hola! Finally a bit of space in my week as we enjoyed a two day break for “half term” here in Scotland. That meant just two teaching days, one inservice day and then a glorious four day weekend to relax, read and recuperate. Perfect!

Of course training was still front and centre (this marathon isn’t going to run itself, you know!) but there was a bit more room to get things done without rushing around all the time:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Swim + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 16 miles

My week didn’t get off to the greatest start as I had hoped not to have to stay at school too late, but it turned out we had a meeting at the end of the day. By the time I got away I was REALLY ready for my Hatha yoga class. I decided this was a great time to try out some new kit to cheer me up. They both came from a website called Lucy Locket Loves and while I paid for the awesome Space Adventure leggings, the headband was a free gift as I volunteered as a product tester. I don’t normally wear this style of band but was really impressed as it was comfortable and stayed in place through the whole class. I loved how bright and cheery it was too.

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I’m quite impressed with the company as the owner sends friendly, personal emails and the packaging is gorgeous.

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The class itself was just what I needed to unwind – gentle stretching, relaxing music and dim lighting. Bliss!

We have an earlier finish on a Tuesday and I made a point of getting away pretty quickly. I headed straight for the gym to get my bike intervals done and since I had found the intensity level quite challenging last week, I took it down a notch in order to maintain the quality of my workout. I still worked hard as my red and sweaty grimace confirms!

sGuA6htqQ%uNhVnYJ99TuwThat evening I took advantage of my sister’s comp tickets for the current play at the theatre. It wasn’t a play I knew but was pretty powerful.

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On Wednesday we had our inservice day which meant no pupils, but a full day of meetings and planning. The real highlight of the day was the curry lunch laid on by the World Challenge group. They are preparing to go to Borneo and this formed part of their fundraising. It’s the third year in a row the curry lunch has taken place on the February inservice and it just gets more and more popular. It wasn’t the “done thing” to take too much on my first visit to the curry buffet, but I definitely didn’t hesitate to lead the charge and go back for seconds!

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That evening I got straight home to head out for a set of 500m form drills. I was a little wary as there had been some rather unexpected heavy snow in the morning and while most of it had melted away, there were still stretches of pavement that were slushy and slippy. I still set up my watch to do the intervals and decided that I would aim to do the workout but was prepared to ditch it for a steady run if the conditions weren’t good enough. As it turned out the first few intervals were over slippy paths but I was able to focus on good form while keeping the pace down, then as the underfoot conditions improved I was able to get some quality intervals in in the second half of the workout.

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I was also really entertained by this fantastic snow creation in our street (I think whoever built it must have used all the snow in the street as there wasn’t really much left!).

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I then had a really quick turnaround to get to orchestra. I’ve probably managed every other rehearsal this term which is a massive improvement on last year when I had to accept that I wouldn’t be playing in our spring concert, but this time I am going to make it.

After all that Thursday was a welcome relief. I actually allowed my usual alarm to go off just so I could have the pleasure of shutting it off and going back to sleep! I started my day with a walk to the gym to have a swim. Being able to take my time and with no other pressures on my day, I felt I got into a rhythm pretty quickly despite very little swimming of late. I really must try to fit it in more often moving forward. I spent the afternoon on some bits and pieces of tidying up then headed out to my Ashtanga yoga class in the evening. It was a small class again so once more we were able to try some newer postures, including working on our headstands. I’m really enjoying having the opportunity to try new things and am feeling the benefit of more yoga throughout the week.

I had an appointment in town on Friday morning so I walked there and ran a few errands before heading home again. After lunch I had my PT session with Steve and since my right shoulder was feeling tight (it flares up a bit from time to time) we did a lot of work to help that before some more specific exercises to help my running. As usual, we used the TRX and the Core Momentum Trainer. For the occasion I chose to wear my Wonder Woman leggings, because it’s good to feel like a superhero from time to time!

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Session done, I headed round the corner to have my nails done. I fancied something a bit different this time as I usually go for dark reds/purples. A sparkly silvery colour hit the spot!

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And then the weekend. Having already had a couple of days to myself meant I didn’t have a stack of things to do and was able to relax and enjoy myself. First up, of course, was parkrun. We’re still on the alternative course to allow the grass section to recover and to round off a week of madcap leggings I chose to wear my latest, and possibly maddest, pair.

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My favourite picture on them is the cartoon cats with unicorn horns!

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I was certain that my parkrun streak of each week being a bit faster than the one before would definitely be over but somehow found another few seconds to keep it alive. So including the New Year parkrun double that makes my 2018 “streak” 29:16 (Dundee and a trickier course), 27:20, 27:01, 26:31, 25:34, 24:56, 24:50, 24:43. I was slightly faster this time last year but I also had a stronger starting point with more consistent training at the tale end of the year, so that just motivates me to keep working hard and see if I can keep improving and get back to sub-24 form.

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The rest of the day was nice and chilled – coffee and bacon croissants with Steve’s brother, food shopping and some quality time on the sofa catching up on some reading. I finished reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and can highly recommend it.

On Sunday morning I got myself moving fairly sharp to head out for my 16 miles. I wanted to not only run my usual pattern of 2 easy, 1 harder with good form, but to break the bad habit I’ve been forming of having to stop for road crossings that could be avoidable. This made the run feel harder as I think I’ve been relying on those stops, but overall I was a little quicker than a comparable run this time last year so that’s a positive sign and I know the consistent running will make me stronger for race day.

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Once home and showered/fed we headed off to Edinburgh (hence why I wanted to be out a bit earlier). Steve has been planning to upgrade his iPad ever since I got mine in the summer but was waiting until he got his new phone as he knew he could trade that in against the new device. Today was the day to go and sort it all out and there was no way we were going to go to Edinburgh after a 16 mile run and not visit Hotel Chocolat for a hot drink. This time they had Easter specials (perhaps a little early, but who am I to judge!) and the picture on the sandwich board sold me before I even walked in the door! I ordered the Hot Crossed Caramel Hot Chocolat (the caramel was mixed with almond, orange, cinnamon and molasses. Delicious!) and yes, it was the chocolate bunny on the top that sealed the deal for me 😂

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By the time we’d done all that and driven home again I was pretty tired as my Sunday is usually pretty chilled after my long run. Good thing I had those extra days to relax beforehand!

And with that, another week came to an end. Apparently there are now 10 weeks until the marathon…

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Week In Review – Too Much To Do!

The annual “crunch time” that is February continued to rumble on this past week as I had ANOTHER parents’ evening and two sets of report cards to write.  It would all be fine if I didn’t have to teach as well lol!

Fortunately I was still able to fit in most of my training and find a bit of time for myself in there – experience has taught me to do what I can to avoid overload at this time of year!

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym plus sports massage
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 14 miles

Going to a Hatha yoga class on a Monday evening is proving to be a great decision. Monday can be a bit of a shock to the system as it is, and as my mileage increases I can find myself quite weary as the week begins. I’m finding the yoga class a great way to take some time for myself and the timing means I don’t have to rush about in order to get there. This week we were in a new venue as my teacher has been looking for the perfect location for her yoga and pilates classes. I really liked the studio space she found – easy to access, nearby parking and it felt really chilled with low lighting and peaceful pictures on the wall. This week was a trial to see how the venue fared and I suspect it’s going to be a permanent move. No arguments here!

IMG_5545On Tuesday I worked a bit later to try and get on top of some of my reports. When I arrived at the gym I realised I hadn’t checked my training programme to see how Steve was progressing my bike reps this month and yup, you guessed it, a longer work interval but the same rest as I have been doing. The number of reps came back down but I found the last couple a bit of a challenge so dropped the intensity level by one in order to get a quality workout.

IMG_5546With a sports massage booked I had no time to squeeze in a swim but I’m hoping to pay an extra visit to the pool when we have our half term weekend next week. The massage was just what I was needing to flush out some of the tension beginning to build up in my legs and it helps to keep me feeling as fresh as possible throughout the training cycle.

Wednesday was the parents’ evening. I was already miffed to be missing a run and this was compounded as due to the way the two evenings had been organised for this year group, I had far fewer appointments and, unfortunately, they were really spread out so I was in for the duration! I made use of the time in between appointments to get some more reports done (I proof-read them the next day just in case!) and although mentally worn out at the end of the day, I felt better for making a dent in my workload.

Of course I felt pretty tired all day Thursday as a result, but I had my Ashtanga class to look forward to. There were only 2 of us in the class and both of us go regularly so that meant the teacher could move a little more quickly through the sequence than when there are less experienced practitioners in the class. As a result, we were able to try some postures we don’t normally do which was great fun. I particularly enjoyed having a go at a headstand and was able to hold it for a few seconds with the teacher helping to support me. Something to work on perhaps…!

I spent as much time as I could on Friday working on my reports and when the school day finished (we’re a bit earlier on Fridays) I decided to stay and get the last 10 done before the weekend. I’ll still need to proof read them, but it was such a relief to get them all written as I know there’s plenty more work to come this term! I did, however, have to sacrifice my PT session with Steve as I needed to be home to take delivery of a parcel (my new phone and I had missed the delivery driver twice already – oops!). Not ideal, but another example of how it’s ok to skip the odd workout when life gets in the way without it being a total disaster!

The rest of the evening was nice and relaxing and after we had eaten Steve discovered an unopened bottle of mulled wine from Christmas. Just to prove we’re still rock ‘n’ roll we not only had some, but served it in Christmas mugs. Party on!

IMG_5551On parkrunday we were still using the alternate course on the path just like last week. This time the conditions were a bit better (no sleet or painfully cold fingers!) but I was doubtful that I could maintain my current streak of each parkrun in 2018 being a bit faster. I’m not delusional and know it has to end some time, in fact I’ve been fairly certain for the last couple of weeks that I had reached my current limit there, but as it turned out I had a few more seconds in me so my 24:50 kept the streak alive. I was a little miffed to lose my Royal Flush Negative Split by just a second though – gah!

IMG_5603Steve’s brother was busy but the two of us still headed into town for our post-parkrun bacon croissant which was satisfyingly well filled this week. Just the thing!

IMG_5605The rest of Saturday was spent getting my new phone set up (something I actually quite enjoy) and making sure I was logged into all my apps again. My dad always takes my old phone so he’s excited to be getting an upgrade too!

Of course we finished the day with Steve’s homemade pizza, this week a belated celebration of (Inter?)National Pizza Day on Friday. I don’t know what TV programmes my parents are watching over in the States, but just about every day my mum sends me a text informing me of the random holiday being marked (my favourites so far include Spaghetti Day, Book Your Travel Day and Hugging Day). This time I actually already knew about Pizza Day as I had entered a virtual race to mark the occasion. Yes, I did enter because the medal was shaped like a slice of pizza. Wouldn’t you?

2yW%4W28T%W90AXKvgShugAnd then it was Sunday. 14 miles on the schedule and it was another bright but cold morning. I plotted a route fairly similar to last week’s and used the same pattern of running every third mile faster, with a focus on good form. There were some points when I felt a little sluggish, but I suspect that’s a reflection of the busy week and missing my midweek run rather than anything else, and my overall average was still where I wanted it to be so I’m not giving it any more thought. It’s still all about the process and part of the process is runs where things feel a bit tougher. I know it will all come together when it needs to.

IMG_5607Later in the afternoon we headed out for our usual Sunday afternoon coffee and Steve bought me a Valentine cake. It must be love!
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The Valentine theme carried on through dinner as we indulged in our M&S Valentine Dine-In meal:

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Salmon, avocado and prawn starter

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Rack of lamb with garlic & rosemary crust served with triple cooked chips (rack of lamb supper? 😂)

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Black Forest rose dessert

I even did my very best to taste it all and not just inhale (the runger is getting real now!). The deal also included a small box of chocolates and a bottle of prosecco so it was good value and all delicious. A lovely way to end the weekend.

How is your training going?
Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?
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Week In Review – Frantic February!

Ah February! Slightly less dark and miserable than January, but as a teacher in Scotland, one of the busiest times in the teaching year – far too much to do and definitely not enough time to do it in! Fortunately, I know that taking time out for my training helps me to stay focused and be more productive, so I’m still managing to be consistent.

Here’s how the past week looked:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – Hill reps
Thursday – rest
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 12 miles

After Hatha yoga being cancelled last week it was great to get back on the mat for a gentle practice. I know that as my Sunday long runs increase in miles I’m really going to appreciate this time to stretch out and take some time for myself. And at this busy time of year, I think my long runs and my yoga time are really going to help me keep it together!

We had a meeting at the end of the day on Tuesday so I was later getting away from work. I headed straight to the gym for my bike reps (same workout, more reps) but skipped the swim this week in favour of getting home for a bit of time out. I’m conscious that I really have to take time for myself right now as in the past the stress of this time of year has led to me feeling really run down or, worse, getting injured. Even in years when I haven’t been training I’ve still felt awful, so my goals of resting, reading and doing more yoga are really helping me right now.

On Wednesday I had hill reps on my schedule. Thanks to factors such as snow in January, this was the first time in this cycle that my workout has been hill reps. I was conscious as I headed to my “favourite” hill that I hadn’t done this since before the Loch Ness marathon so wasn’t sure how I would feel. Steve gives me a workout that involves reps to various lampposts on the hill – more reps to the nearest ones then fewer to the ones further up the hill. It’s a real lung-buster but I know it’s helping me to get stronger and fitter so I keep asking for hill reps in my plan. Yes, I know I’m a weirdo lol!

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IMG_5537I had made sure to get away from work in enough time to complete the reps and get to orchestra. Our final concert of the year is a month away and I know that it’s difficult for me to get to every rehearsal (I actually didn’t take part in our spring concert last year as it was too stressful to make it to the rehearsals) but I REALLY want to play the music in this programme so I’m doing my best to make it work. I do really enjoy the rehearsals, I just need to get into a routine that allows me to be there.

Thursday was a rest day but not out of choice. I had a parents’ evening which kept me at school until almost 8pm and meant I couldn’t get to my Ashtanga class. I hate missing that class as it’s a real highlight of my week, but it couldn’t be helped. I had hoped to be home a bit sooner and had plans for an at-home yoga practice, but by the time I got back and had some food all I wanted to do was go to bed as time was marching on and I was knackered!

And this was followed with another rest day on Friday. I had a (long overdue) dental checkup (all fine) and Steve had an appointment in town so we just couldn’t co-ordinate for a PT session. After my visit to the dentist I headed home and got out my yoga mat. I’m still doing the Yoga with Adriene 30 day yoga journey as although I’m doing all of the days, I’m not doing them in 30 consecutive days as I work around yoga classes and maybe a day or two in the week when I don’t do any yoga (my goal is at least 5 times per week so it fits my plans). I felt refreshed and ready for a chilled evening afterwards.

Parkrunday (I believe some people call it Saturday) was grey and cold. It had been decided that we would use our alternative course which is 2 laps of the park on the tarmac path as we need to give the grass section a rest and a chance to recover a bit. We did this for a few weeks last year too. I had expected to be a pacer but this was once again called off so I was able to run as I pleased. As I listened to the briefing I was conscious of some rain, then realised that the rain had…substance! Yep, it was going to be a sleety one! I chose to run at a comfortably hard pace as I wanted to test my pace and I have to say it felt tough, although that might have been the cold air. I wore light gloves and my fingers were still so cold that they were really hurting – I couldn’t even stop my watch when I finished! If I look miserable in my photos it’s because I really was in some pain.

IMG_9629When my time came in I was pleased to note that my “streak” had continued – each parkrun in 2018 has been progressively faster. I’m not sure this pattern can continue any longer, but it has been interesting to watch the improvements as it’s tangible proof of improving speed and fitness, even if I am still slightly slower than I would ideally like to be. This year is about process rather than pace, so I’m simply enjoying seeing those times come down as it tells me I’m on my way towards my next marathon and the training is taking effect. From 27:20 on January 1st (although I did have TWO parkruns that day!) to 24:56 this weekend, I’ve taken a decent chunk off my times as I get back into training after that enforced time out through late November and a good chunk of December. Very pleasing.

Which brings me to Sunday Runday. After a cutback last week it was time to start ramping up the miles again, beginning with a 12 mile run to kick off the month. Conditions and circumstances in January prevented me from returning to my Loch Ness training method of running every 3rd mile faster, but it was an approach I liked and found successful so I was keen to do it again. Thanks to much brighter, crisper conditions I was able to do that and was pleased to find my average pace comparable to a similar run in my last training cycle. I may not have quite the short distance pace I’m looking for just yet, but my longer runs don’t seem to be suffering. My legs felt good afterwards too so I must be adapting well to my training.

IMG_5544So all in all I’m pleased with my progress so far. I’m trusting the process and just enjoying the ride, so to speak. There are still a few hurdles to overcome this month, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can continue to get fitter and stronger.

How is your training going?
How do you measure progress? Is it about the outcome or the journey?
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The Year of Me!!! – January Update

As I set my goals for 2018 I declared it to be The Year of Me i.e. a year of developing positive habits and adding value to my life. In the past I have checked in with my goals on a quarterly basis, but since this year is more about the processes than the outcomes, I’m aiming to provide a short update at the end of each month to keep myself accountable and see how I am getting on.

1. Run 1000km (621 miles)
I’ve completed every run on my training schedule for January and it looks like I’ll finish up with 70-something miles. In 2017 I ran 67 miles in January so I’m already up on that. So far so good!

IMG_53742. Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
I’m loving this one. Currently I go to 2 yoga classes per week – Hatha on a Monday and Ashtanga on a Thursday. I signed up to Yoga with Adriene‘s 30 day yoga for January and have been doing that on almost all the other days of the week. It’s tricky to fit in on a Wednesday if I’m going to orchestra, but overall there are very few days in January that I haven’t done any yoga. I’m already feeling the benefit of it so this is definitely a valuable habit to create.

3. Read at least 30 books
Currently finishing up my 4th book of the year which puts me ahead of schedule. I think I was ahead at the start of 2017 but fell behind so I’m hoping to avoid that this time. Over the last week or two I’ve tried to carve out a bit of time in the evening to read a little before going to bed (where I always read to help me fall asleep) so if I’m able to continue that then I might find time to read even more books. That will definitely make me happy!

4. Be in bed by 10pm at least three times per week
I wasn’t sure if I’d be very good at this one, but I’m finding that as I settle down to read I’m more inclined to head upstairs and get ready for bed around 9:30pm. I’m using the sunset feature on my Lumie light to help me wind down and can be asleep just after 10. Right now I’m feeling pretty well rested but this is a busy term so I’ll see how that progresses.

5. Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
I’ll admit to missing this the week I said goodbye to my cat as I was too unsettled, but I did make up for it by watching 2 talks the following weekend. So far it’s mainly been short talks but as this habit grows I’ll hopefully find more time for the longer ones I have saved in my list. There are just so many good talks out there that I want to watch!

6. Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
I’m actually about 3-ish weeks behind on most of the podcasts I listen to, but am getting back into the swing of listening to them daily and have so far listened to 8-10 per week. I know this will increase as my long runs get longer plus I want to get back into the habit of a morning walk as that really sets me up for the day, so that will give me another chance to listen to something.

7. Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
This month I knew I would write about Morven so responded to a photo prompt titled Friend.

8. Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
I’m happy with how this is going too. I’ve stopped looking at my phone when I wake up which means I’m actually ready quicker and take a few minutes to check emails and notifications over breakfast. I then largely ignore my phone until I’m home for the evening and do the same thing BEFORE I settle down to read. Being more into my book means I’m less likely to get sucked in by my phone at bedtime so this is probably having a real impact on my rest, my reading and my bedtime, which will in turn benefit my running. Brilliant!

January may not have been the happiest month for me as I said goodbye to Morven, but the positive habits I have adopted have helped me to cope by providing a routine and adding things I enjoy/benefit from to my life. Now to build on this in February…

How are you getting on with your goals for the year?
What positive habits have you created?

Week in Review – No More Snow

I wasn’t really sure what to title my post this week. It was just another January week of darkness, rain and wind, with me out training anyway. But after getting so much enjoyment out of my snowy runs last week, the sudden melting of that snow was probably the thing that stuck out the most.

Here’s how my week shaped up:

Monday – Hatha yoga rest
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym + swim
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10k

Monday didn’t quite go to plan as my yoga teacher had a bit of a family emergency so the class was, understandably, cancelled. I ran a few errands then did my own yoga session using the Yoga with Adriene 30 day journey I have been following. Not quite the same, but I still got some yoga in.

On Tuesday things were a bit more productive. As part of my role supporting a probationer teacher this year I had volunteered to join one of the panels offering them mock interviews in school ahead of their first proper teaching interviews which are coming up. It was really interesting for me to be on the other side of the table and I think I learned a lot from the process. Thanks to our earlier finish on a Tuesday I still had plenty of time afterwards to get to the gym for my bike intervals then followed this up with a swim. Having felt a bit rusty last week, I thought my swimming felt much better this week. Smoother and with less intake of water. Time will tell if this was a fluke or if I’m actually beginning to get the hang of it!

Sadly Wednesday didn’t quite pan out again. I got caught up in some things at work (there are what seem like a million mock exam papers to mark in a really short space of time!) and knew I couldn’t fit everything in. Since training is my priority, I had to miss my orchestra rehearsal but I’ll make sure I get there next week. My Wednesday workouts have been a little disrupted with the snow, so Steve told me to do another set of the form drills I did a couple of weeks ago, this time adding on two further reps. It was a REALLY windy day (Storm Georgina apparently) so it wasn’t an easy run, but since the drills are about form rather than pace I was still able to do it. I certainly knew about it in the last rep which was on a slight incline AND into a headwind. Character building I’m sure!

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The windswept look lol!

Thursday was, of course, my Ashtanga yoga class. I was really feeling in need of it to clear my head as I had been tying up the loose ends of vet bills and insurance payments related to my cat – not easy but it had to be done and yoga was exactly what I needed to settle myself down again. There were some beginners in the class so some parts of it moved a little slower, but I was really pleased to manage a full round of Yoga Wheel, a posture I was working on throughout 2017. Next is to manage 2 rounds as we usually do 2 or 3 rounds of a back bend and I tend to mix Wheel and Bridge in my practice.

I ended up with a rest day on Friday purely down to logistics. I fit my PT sessions around Steve’s paying clients, but had an appointment to get my nails done (badly needed, they were such a disaster and far too long for me) so our diaries just didn’t match up. This meant a home yoga practice for me again before we headed out to eat.

IMG_5451For some reason Steve fancied a dessert and since I’m a team player I wasn’t going to let him eat alone and made the sacrifice to have a sticky toffee pudding.  The things I do for love lol!

IMG_5452After a good sleep I was up and ready for parkrun on Saturday morning, wearing my new Mr Men/Little Miss running tights (apparently I’m developing a leggings habit but the mad patterned ones I’ve been buying are really cheering me up and let’s face it, at this time of year I’m manny in work clothes, running clothes or pyjamas!).

IMG_5455Since the ground was so soft the decision was taken to use an adjusted version of the route (we missed this a couple of weeks ago as we were at the vet). Basically it means avoiding the quagmire of the grass section and returning on a different section of grass (which is in much better condition) just behind where we normally run. It adds very minimally to the route, but is realistically faster as the ground is in better condition.

It was one of those days fairly common in Scotland where there is a headwind no matter which way you turn and I was starting out easy as I had been working through a slight niggle in my right leg (all good, just the effects of a movement pattern that needed adjusted so it’s fine now thanks to Steve’s intervention). I got a bit faster as I went on and was initially a little disappointed with my 25:34 until I remembered that last winter was very much the same with the effort level not really giving the return when it came to pace. It’s really best to forget about pace and just run to feel at this time of year so when the better weather comes the benefit will be there. When I received my result I realised that this was actually the fastest time I’ve run since the “parkrun year” began at the end of November, and on a slightly longer course. Not only that but each parkrun since the 1st January has been getting gradually faster so the training effect is in there, I just have to pay attention to it.

IMG_5460Post-parkrun I was getting my hair cut so missed out on the coffee and bacon croissants this time. I’m already looking forward to next week!

Since this was a cutback week, my long run was “just” 10k. Since I felt well rested I decided to get up and go quite sharp so as to create a bit of time in my Sunday. I was out the door before 9am and we were actually out on our Sunday errands before noon. Unheard of during training! I took it easy on my run and enjoyed one of my favourite loops close to home which involves a few challenging hills but also the fun of a nice long downhill stretch. Lovely!

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IMG_5520Then with all that time I was able to relax, tend to a few household bits & pieces and generally relax ahead of another work week.

How is your training going just now?
Has your parkrun course been affected by the weather?

I’m running for Cats Protection this year in memory of my cat, Morven.

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The Daily Post – Friend

Friend (noun): a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.

These days “friend” means many different things. There are the friends we’ve known since childhood, the friends we make through our interests or work and the “friends” we make online. But what does true friendship look like?

For me, a true friend:

  • is there for you no matter what
  • listens without judgment
  • gives unconditional love
  • knows when you need comfort
  • shares mutual trust and respect
  • is loyal
  • is good fun
  • makes you happy
  • helps you to be your best self

True friendship is a beautiful thing indeed, and perhaps it doesn’t only come from our human friends but our furry/four-legged friends too.

Morven was my best friend. For over 17 years she was by my side. Many believe cats to be aloof, yet I knew she loved me unconditionally, trusted me to the extent that even while in pain at the end of her journey she let me handle her, and she always knew just how to make me feel better when I was sad or sleep when I was tired. I have so many wonderful memories of the games we played, the moments we shared and the “conversations” we had. It’s hard for me not having her around and I’m trying to adjust to the hole she has left in my life.

Not everyone can understand the bond we share with our pets, but those who do know that they are a big part of our lives, a member of the family. When we lose a pet we grieve in the same way we would if we lost a member of our family. That grief is hard, yet I wouldn’t trade in all the years of love and companionship for anything. No matter what other cats come into my life, Morven will always remain my special girl, my first cat, and nothing can ever change that.

Run free my special girl. I’ll meet you at the Rainbow Bridge when the time is right.

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