The Year Of The Mouse!

In the Chinese calendar, 2020 is the Year of the Rat, but did you know that “the Chinese word shǔ​ (鼠) may refer to rat, mouse, or other muroid-type animals”? (Thanks Wikipedia!). And as any regular reader, or person who actually knows me in real life, is aware, I am a BIG fan of a certain famous (fa-mouse? 🙄) mouse. THE Mouse. The Big Cheese. A certain Mr M Mouse and the theme parks associated with his image. Every year I take at least one pilgrimage to the House of Mouse (more since I joined the fun at the Disneyland Paris Magic Run weekend – if you missed it you can read about my experiences here, here and here) and with the plans I have afoot this year, I will most definitely be thinking of 2020 as my Year of the Mouse!

“But what’s so different?” I hear you ask. Surely I mean I’ll be taking my usual trip to Florida in July and popping over to Paris in September for Magic Run Weekend again? Yes, quite right. But as an added bonus, this year I’ll be squeezing in some extra visits to my happy place.

Last year Run Disney France announced the inaugural Princess Run Weekend taking place in May 2020. With the early May bank holiday falling that weekend, the dates worked out perfectly for us to fly out during the day on the Friday (rather than arrive late at night after I finish work and we get on an evening flight), run on the Saturday and Sunday (more on that in a moment) then fly home that evening as we have previously done on the September run weekends. The only fly in the ointment was that with it being a holiday weekend across Europe, the price of a package (Disney hotel, park passes, race bibs) was going to be so much more than we have paid in the past for September weekends, so we took a risk and booked with one of the off-site partner hotels and booked our flights before they got prohibitively expensive. This meant we were waiting for the bib only sales to get our race places. An agonising wait as French systems tend to be a bit laid back about the specifics of when things might actually happen!

While we were waiting, the themes for the races were announced and if anything this added to my desire to be part of the event (although let’s face it, having got flights and accommodation I was going to DLP that weekend, I just hoped it would be for the runs!). On the Saturday there will be a 5k themed to Ariel from The Little Mermaid (you know, the one with my near-permanent ear worm song and general mermaid-y feeling) and on Sunday there will be an 8k themed to Belle from Beauty and the Beast (my absolute favourite and the princess I relate to the most!). Basically, they announced two themes absolutely made for me and the option to take on both as the Cinderella Challenge (because it’s the 70th anniversary of Cinderella) for a third medal. I already knew I would be disappointed not to get a place, and with the theming it became my mission to get that challenge bib!

Finally we got the word that the bibs would go on sale the first Monday in February. I would be at work but Steve and my sister were primed to get on the case – Steve had space in his diary and my sister booked the afternoon off work to make sure she was available as we had heard so many tales of website crashes and lots of stress with people trying to book bibs for the September races in the past. They were keeping in close contact with each other and updating me with how they were getting on as I sat anxiously at work, keeping my fingers firmly crossed. As it turned out, there had been some improvements to the booking system, and although there were one or two hitches along the way, it wasn’t too long before my sister sent me this:

Getting this actually made a big difference to me, coming so soon after the news of a school inspection. I realised last year that not only does Disney make me happy, but knowing that I have trips to a Disney park to look forward to does wonders for my mental health. You would think that the crowds etc might stress me out, but I noticed last summer that being in Disney World made all the stresses of the year and struggles with various illnesses learning up to that point just melt away. I felt refreshed and renewed, happier than I had been in months. Clearly Walt’s original vision was working for me!

And with that in mind, I knew that having the May weekend races to look forward to would really give me a much-needed mental distraction through what is by far the busiest and most stressful time in the school year. Since getting that confirmation of our places, I’ve had great fun turning my attention to what I plan to wear for those runs (I prefer not to reveal those until race day) and making some plans for our time in the theme parks.

But that’s not all. A few days later I discovered that my sister was planning a weekend at DLP in August, towards the end of my summer break. With flights coming in quite cheaply and the cost of a hotel room (off-site) much less when it’s shared, I decided to go with her for a long weekend in the parks. Ever since my first trip there for Magic Run Weekend in 2018 I’ve had it in mind to do something like that since realistically it’s not too far away and although I LOVE taking part in the races there, I thought it might be fun to have a couple of days of dedicated time in the parks without worrying about getting enough sleep before a run, being tired from having just done a run and just generally building all of our plans around the races. August will be that time.

I know not everyone will understand my desire to do this, but it feels like the right thing for me just now. I’ve not entered any other races, nor do I have plans to, so won’t have those entry fees or travel costs to consider. It’s also going to be much more cost effective for me to join my sister in buying an annual pass for DLP so my park entry will be much less overall and I’ll get some food and merch discounts with it too (because obviously I will want to buy All The Things!). I’m fortunate that I earn enough to have the odd weekend away, but it’s not something I often actually do. Yet with budget flights (booked early) and the option of non-Disney hotels shared between two/three of us, it becomes remarkably affordable. It’s something my sister often does as solo trips, and now I’m seeing the opportunity to join her if the timing is right (which saves her some money too as we’ll share the hotel cost). Frankly, I’m much happier spending my money on trips like this than on lots of nights out, meals out, UK mini-breaks, etc. Don’t get me wrong, those are all fun, but I know time in spent in Disney feels much healthier for me and the memories I create are far more vivid and long-lasting than some of these other ways I might spend my time/money. Given the choice between a night away and a fancy meal or a weekend at Disney, I know what my choice would be!

So to summarise that’s:

  • DLP in May for Princess Run Weekend
  • A couple of days at WDW in July as part of our trip to Florida
  • A long weekend at DLP in August with my sister
  • DLP in September for Magic Run Weekend (we booked our package for that one towards the end of last year so bibs etc are already taken care of).

As if that wasn’t enough, it looks like my sister is also heading to DLP in October when I have school holidays, and with no other plans for that time of year, chances are I’ll join her. It would only annoy me knowing I was sitting at home when she was away having some Disney fun!

And THAT is why 2020 will be my Year of the Mouse. The only question is, how many new pairs of Minnie Mouse ears can I add to my collection? 🤔

Clearly false! 😂

Anyone else planning some Disney fun this year?

Week In Review – The Start Of A New Decade!

Happy New Year! I know this isn’t the first post I’ve published in 2020, but it is the first Week In Review and maybe you only stop by to read these ones. Anyway, I hope your year has started well. I’m here today with my usual weekly roundup, and of course it’s a week that spans two years since New Year was in the middle of the week – a fact which amuses me as it means my mileage for the week is, for this one moment, higher than my cumulative mileage for the year haha!

After some indulgence around Christmas Eve/Christmas Day/Boxing Day I was keen to get back to a more regular eating pattern to support my exercise plans – I definitely felt a little sluggish the previous weekend since nothing I had eaten made for the best running fuel! Here’s how my week ended up (it was a busy one!):

Monday – Advent window run + home yoga
Tuesday – PT session with Steve + home yoga
Wednesday – New Year Triple!
Thursday – home yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve + home yoga
Saturday – parkrun pacing + home yoga
Sunday – 10 miles + home yoga

Probably the most unusual week of the year as there was a bit of moving around of workouts and some different things going on. In fact, the week began rather differently to normal with a run. And an evening run at that. With Steve! Normally I run on my own and have been running in the mornings since the tail end of 2018, but I was keen to run a route around the Advent Windows we had popped along to a couple of times, and since the organisers had walked/run them all on Boxing Day (we couldn’t go that time) there was a route that although not consecutive, created a route around them all with very little doubling back. So I suggested to Steve that we move our Tuesday morning run to Monday evening and run around them together. It did feel a bit odd to be out running in the evening, but it was the only time the windows would be lit and it was nice to run together. It was also a bit different to have a focus for the run as we were looking for specific things, a bit like a treasure hunt. To be honest, I felt a little like Anneka Rice haha! (Although that reference firmly dates me 😮).

(Photo Credit: Jaime Lidstone for the Advent Window Facebook Group)

Prior to the run I made sure to do some home yoga. I was really feeling like I needed to do some yoga again so as not to feel stiff and inflexible when classes start back and I had a couple of sequences in an old 30 day series I had been working through so it seemed like a good idea to finish those off ahead of the New Year and the new 30 day series I wanted to start as part of my goal to renew my commitment to a home yoga practice.

Tuesday was a better fit for Steve this week for my PT session so I headed down to the studio mid-morning for my workout. Of course he had another challenging circuit for me, this time the gym ball walkouts on my forearms, the bear crawls with press ups, the bar bell, star crumps, weight, a sort of walk out/squat thrust press up and squat crumps. Phew! I definitely felt like I had worked, making some home yoga later in the day a great idea to stretch it out ahead of what I had planned for the following day.

That day was New Year’s Day, alternatively known as Wednesday, and as has now become our tradition, we were once again going for the triple run challenge. This meant we had eaten well the night before and eschewed staying up for the bells in favour of an early night.

The day began at Camperdown parkrun in Dundee which was going off at the usual (Scottish) parkrun time of 9:30. We were there in good time to get a parking space close to the start/finish line (rather than a trek across the park) and chatted to a few other Perth runners/exchanged New Year greetings while we waited. I knew that this course would be trail, with some muddy patches and there’s a fairly steep hill about half way round, so with two further runs to go I was taking it fairly easy. But as the run progressed I realised that I was on for a pretty good time (I had checked my previous times from Camperdown, all as part of NYDD, in the car on the way through) so probably upped my effort level a tiny bit. And it paid off, because my time of 26:42 was a PB for me on this course (the nature of this course means they tell you you can expect to add a couple of minutes to your time in Perth). I do sometimes wonder how I would get on at this one if it was the only run I was doing that day, so maybe one Saturday we’ll head down there to find out.

After a very quick pit stop at home to change shoes (trail shoes were needed at Camperdown but road shoes were fine for the rest of the day) and go to the loo, we arrived at our home parkrun in Perth ready to run again. One of the big challenges in the NYDD is getting access to a toilet as everything is generally closed that day, but since we near enough drive past our house travelling between the runs we can have a very swift comfort break.

The run in Perth was at 11am and again we were there with a bit of time to spare for a quick chat. I have to say, it did feel strange arriving by car and parking so close to the start since normally we run down, or on the odd occasion that we need a car it’s parked a bit further out where we can park for free.

We were repeating the reverse loop that we had done on our previous parkrunday, and I found myself a starting position ready to go. It was REALLY busy (turned out we had 395 which, outside of a couple of occasions when we have hosted charity events which brought a huge turnout, this is our highest in Perth). I set off thinking I would run fairly steadily, but my legs seemed to have other ideas and as the first mile ticked by I did wonder at what point in the day I was going to regret my recklessness in not running more conservatively. I clocked 24:36 for this one – about a minute outside my recent best but only about 15 seconds slower than on the Saturday just gone. Having checked my stats, it’s the fastest I’ve run in Perth on a New Year’s Day run.

Some kind soul had brought some flapjacks and it was good to get a little something to eat while we chatted to some of our Perth friends who hadn’t been with us in Dundee earlier that morning. And then it was time to get back in the car and head to Blairgowrie for the final run of the day.

The Blairgowrie New Year Fun Run has been going for over 30 years without ever missing a year. That’s pretty impressive! Last year was the last one under the original organiser, but the local running group who had taken it over had kept the exact same model – a 6k route with walkers going out about half an hour before the runners, for a mere £2 entrance fee.

We got ourselves parked and registered, enjoyed access to toilets once again and spent some time catching up with a combination of those who had been on the same circuit as us that morning and those who were arriving to start their 2020 running. The run itself started at 1pm and it was nice to see the original organiser had been asked back as starter.

I have to say, my legs didn’t feel too bad. Yes a bit weary, but it was fine. The thing about this challenge is not the distance – 10 miles is really comfortable for me right now – but the fact that it’s in three bits and I had been running a bit harder than if I had been out for a regular 10 mile run. There’s a short hill about half way round the course and that’s the point at which the legs tend to protest a bit, but I had been running so well in the morning that I was determined to see what I could do around this course (my 5th time at the Blairgowrie event and 4th as part of the NYD challenge). I kept digging in and stopped my watch at 30:08 – my fastest around this route by over 45 seconds! (This run is untimed except for the prize winners, but of course I was using my Garmin).

Ahead of this day I had mentioned to Steve that I was really interested to see how I would perform. In 2018 and 2019 I had suffered chesty coughs in December which set my running back, so I was comparing my times with 2017, the first year I took on this challenge and the last time I ran it off the back of decent training. Three years down the line and I scored 2x PBs, one NY best and thus my fastest cumulative time for the challenge. That’s incredibly satisfying and gives me a real sense of how much I have benefitted from consistent training even without really running more than 10 miles in any one run for several weeks. Clearly I have a sound base to build on now.

Post-run there’s always soup/juice/biscuits available back at the hall and it was nice to warm up with some soup and have conversations with others about how they had done. There were prizes for the top finishers (never going to be me when it’s my third run of the day!) but there were some spot prizes and I actually won something!

By this time we were starving so it was time to head home for some food, starting with an “appetiser” of bacon rolls since I had bought an extra pack of that delicious Christmas spiced bacon for us to have.

And fairly soon after, our New Year dinner of French Onion Soup followed by steak pie, homemade chips and steamed veg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did have another of Steve’s sherry trifles for dessert, but were actually full by this point so saved it until the next day.

I was feeling really tired – not helped by us finally toasting the New Year with a couple of glasses of Prosecco – so headed to bed pretty early.

Thursday was a super lazy day – I barely passed 1000 steps! I had a long lie, reading my book with a cup of tea, watched some vlogs, had a bath and did the first day of the new Yoga with Adriene 30 day journey while Steve met up with his brother for a couple of drinks (it was his brother’s birthday). I basically spent the entire day in my pyjamas. Uncharacteristically lazy, but nice for a change and I kind of feel like the Christmas holidays are the only time I can be so indulgent.

But on Friday I needed a bit more activity – or at least to go outside – so had another workout down at the studio around lunchtime (after sending the morning taking down the Christmas decorations 😢). This time Steve gave me walk in/out press ups in the pike position, bear crawls with press ups, the weight and squat crumps. Apparently not going easy for the New Year 😂

And day 2 of the YWA journey in the afternoon before heading out for some food.

Then it was parkrunday. Again! They sure do come around quickly at this time of year! Following the exertions of Wednesday I was happy to take it easy so volunteered as the 28 minute pacer. I still ran my parkrun sandwich, but there was no pressure – internal or external – to run fast and it was nice to have an easy run around the route. Hopefully I helped someone to a time goal.

In the afternoon I treated myself to a bath, then did YWA day 3 before settling down for a relaxing evening of homemade pizza and a bit of tv.

Sunday felt much more back to the normal routine, although I confess to a pretty lazy start to the day as Smokey cuddled in beside me on the bed so I lay there for longer than intended reading my book. When I did eventually get up and organised, I headed out for 10 miles on a fairly staple route where I can just zone out and run without really having to think about where I’m going. I felt really comfortable despite a fairly decent pace for a longer run, so I think it’s probably time I began increasing my long run mileage a bit again to boost my endurance and fitness. Incidentally, it was mild enough for shorts again. In January. Unheard of!

And then a relaxing afternoon of coffee, a bit of food shopping, tv and a bath. With day 4 of YWA squeezed in as well.

A busy week but quite a lot of running which felt good. Now it’s time to go back to work for the new term.

Did you stay up for the New Year or head to bed?
Did you take part in parkrun (or the double) on New Year’s Day?

I’ve Got 2020 Vision…

It’s that time of year when everyone is setting out their big goals for the months ahead. The indulgence of the festive season has given way to the punishment of January, when everyone seems to feel the need to make the most miserable month of the year even more miserable through a regime of living off lettuce leaves and treating exercise as some kind of penance for the “sins” of Christmas, ably aided and abetted by the media switching seamlessly from “buy this mountain of food” to “here’s how you can be the slimmest/most toned/best version of yourself” overnight. Funnily enough, this is never a recipe for success!

I just can’t buy into all that “New Year, New You” stuff and don’t set resolutions as largely they are doomed to failure. Frankly if I think I need to make a change in my life, the best thing to do is make that change immediately rather than wait for some arbitrary date to make sweeping and unsustainable changes. I do, however, like to set myself goals that build on the things I do anyway: I run, so I set a mileage goal to see how my year measures up; I read, so I join the annual Goodreads reading challenge and set myself a reading target so I can see how different years compare by tracking my reading; and I look to other regular habits in my life and try to renew my commitment to them and/or refresh my approach. In 2019 I didn’t write a post about my goals as I had no intention of writing about my progress and just wasn’t in that kind of headspace, but this year I have decided to come back to writing a post setting out my goals as there will be elements of this I refer to in my regular posts throughout the year.

So this, dear reader, is my 2020 vision:

1. Having reached the 1000 mile mark for the first time EVER in my running in 2019, I have set my running goal as 1000 miles (or more) for 2020. I’ve been running really consistently since the summer and really hope this will continue into 2020.

My 2019 total

2. I read 36 books in 2019, so have set this as my 2020 target. I actually read much more than this in 2018 so it will be interesting to see how this year compares to previous challenges, especially if I make some other slight alterations in my day, like trying to pick up my book for a few minutes rather than mindlessly scrolling through random rubbish on my phone.

Which brings me to…

3. Rather than getting caught up in “stuff” on my phone, I’m setting an intention of being much more purposeful in my phone use. Cutting off my phone use or setting limits doesn’t seem realistic right now, so instead my intention is to use social media to genuinely engage. If I’m on Facebook, I want it to be for active engagement in groups or actually posting rather than lurking or scrolling through mindlessly. If I visit Instagram, it should be to share a moment, catch up with a story or react to posts. If I can eliminate the real time-suck of scrolling for no purpose, maybe I’ll read more books!

4. Another way I intend to use my phone more purposefully is to to use an app to record moments each day that bring me joy or simply make me smile. My thinking is that I take pictures most days, so why not develop this habit to have a more concrete reminder of something that made me happy. I’ve already downloaded a journaling app and have been choosing a picture every day (and hopefully I can mix these up a bit so it’s not too repetitive) to save alongside a short summary of what I found joyful or enjoyable in that day. It’s something I’ve meant to do before but never really sorted out, so it will be interesting to see how this one goes. I’m thinking of it as my way of practising gratitude each day, and since I find it hard to commit to a daily written journal, hopefully this approach will suit me better and I’ve set the app to give me a reminder every evening to complete my entry. Watch this space!

5. Finally, I’m taking the opportunity presented by the annual Yoga With Adriene 30 day yoga journey to refresh my home yoga practice. Although I go to two yoga classes most weeks throughout the year, my home practice has rather dwindled of late and committing to this 30 day series is an ideal way to bring my focus back to it. I won’t actually complete the series in 30 days as I will carry forward the videos published on days I have a yoga class anyway, but on the days when there is no class it will make committing to a home practice much easier as there will be no decision-making as to what video or sequence I will complete. Hopefully by the time I reach the end, my home practice will have been re-established and I will be able to continue with the positive habit I build. I know I run better and feel better when yoga is a more prominent part of my day, so this will be part of my self-care routine (alongside reading, watching Disney vlogs and having relaxing baths) throughout the year. To help keep me accountable, you will notice that “home yoga” will now be listed as part of my roundup in my Week In Review posts so you will see if I’m actually keeping up with this one or not!

So that’s it. Five goals for 2020 which draw on the habits and activities that are part of my life anyway. No sweeping changes or unsustainable new habits, just achievable goals within established parts of my life. None of these are designed to be onerous, simply to help focus me on the things that are important to me and avoid distractions that may fill an idle moment, but don’t really bring any joy or fulfilment to my life. I will try to check in with these later in the year to see how I’m getting on.

What are your goals or intentions for the year?
How do you decide what those goals/intentions will be?

Week In Review – A Very Merry Christmastime!

And just like that, the festivities are done. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t leave me feeling a bit sad as Christmas really is the highlight of my winter. I LOVE all the build up, Christmas movies, delicious food and opportunity to spend copious amounts of time in my PJs, but I know it can’t last forever. Yet even though I enjoy the celebrations, I do keep up my running and other training as I just wouldn’t feel like myself without them, so today I’m sharing how I spent Christmas week (and how I fitted some training around the festive fun!).

Monday – PT session with Steve
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – Christmas turkey parkrun sandwich
Thursday – rest
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun sandwich
Sunday – 8 miles

My usual routine when it’s the school holidays is to switch to three PT sessions in a week, but with Christmas falling on a Wednesday this wasn’t going to work out so I just stuck with two, switching my Tuesday session to Monday as this suited Steve better in terms of the hours he was working. As a Christmas “treat” he mixed things up again so I had forearm rollouts on the gym ball (my poor abs!), those bear crawls with the press up, the bar bell and a finisher which involved something a bit like boat pose on the Bosu. Given that this is a posture I do reasonably easily on my yoga mat, whilst on the Bosu I did a fantastic job of making it look like I’d never tried it before in my life, and when Steve asked me to move my legs and arms, I inevitably fell off the back. Oh well! 😂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the afternoon we had to go out to the farm shop for a couple of things and since one of Steve’s clients had given him a gift card for there, we treated ourselves to a salted caramel hot chocolate and warm mince pie in the cafe there. They were both delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then spent the remainder of the day snuggled in at home watching Christmas movies.

Tuesday was Christmas Eve and after a leisurely start to the day (a cup of tea in bed whilst reading a bit of my book) I headed out for a run. It was so nice to be out in daylight after all those dark runs during the school term!

My sister was coming to us that evening for our usual Christmas Eve party food and board game fun, so I finished getting the house tidied up then had a nice bath to relax for a bit. As well as switching on my Christmas lights, I popped a fireplace app on my tv screen and was amused to then have one cat position himself in front of the “fire” while the other opted for a spot under the tree!

Our board game of choice was Frozen 2 Monopoly (well of course I was going to buy that!) and I jumped at the chance to dip into my collection of Minnie Mouse ears for an appropriately themed pair to wear. Well, it was Christmas after all!

Wednesday began with Christmas Day parkrun. As is now our habit, we ran there and back so we would get a decent length of run. And in case you haven’t seen it on social media, I was dressed like this:

We were on the lap course again but this time some of the path was pretty icy so I took it easy so as not to fall over. Then at the finish there were flasks of hot chocolate and a dish of marshmallows to add to it. With one of our bigger turnouts (338 Christmas Day parkrunners!) there was only a little left by the time I was ready for mine, but I still enjoyed having a hot drink before running back up the road again.

While I grabbed a shower to warm up, Steve organised our Christmas Day brunch – bacon rolls made with Christmas spiced bacon and a glass of clementine and cranberry Buck’s Fizz. Yum!

By which time the kitties were making it very clear that they wanted to start opening presents so there ensued a rather entertaining stretch of time while they pounced on wrapping appear, attempted to wrestle their new toys out of their packaging, jumped in empty boxes and ran around like a couple of utter lunatics! They were hilarious and, between mum and I, totally spoiled with toys, food, treats, a new bed and a play tunnel. Not to mention the wrapping paper and cardboard boxes which they saw as a bonus 😹

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since it was just the two of us for dinner, we opted once again for steaks rather than turkey as it’s so hard to get an appropriately sized bit of turkey, of decent quality, for two people (or two people plus two kitties!). I think we both prefer steak anyway and tracked down a couple of really nice ones. So to start we had a bowl of my French Onion soup (which I had made the day before so the flavours would be nicely matured), followed by beautifully tender steaks with peppercorn sauce, homemade chips, tenderstem broccoli and asparagus. To finish, it was Steve’s infamous sherry trifle – when you hit a sherry well in that stuff, you definitely know about it!

That evening there was one last window being lit as part of the advent window walk and this one was being hosted by our friends who had been organising it all. Walking over there seemed like a nice idea to help digest our dinner so we got changed into “proper” clothes (we’d basically been in our pyjamas since parkrun) and set off.

There were a few people there when we arrived, but by the time the window was revealed there were about 80 people squeezed into the front garden! We enjoyed a hot drink, some festive cakes and nibbles and, once most of the people had drifted away, we toasted Christmas with our friends and gathered around the fire pit to sing some Christmas songs, accompanied by the guitar. It wasn’t how I expected to spend my evening, yet it just felt like the perfect thing to do. So Christmassy and so lovely to see a different group of people who, like at parkrun in the morning, had come together to share part of their Christmas Day in a different way.

After all that excitement, Thursday became a rest day, at least from exercise! We both enjoyed a lazy morning – tea and a book in bed then I had a nice bubble bath whilst watching the Strictly Christmas special. We had some soup for lunch then set off to walk over to Steve’s brother’s house. They had invited us over for drinks, party food and, of course, we ended up playing games, including the maddest came of charades I’ve ever known! It was a great way to spend the afternoon/evening and so nice to catch up with Steve’s nephew. He’s undertaking postgraduate study at the Guildhall in London and is often away performing as well so I suspect I probably haven’t seen him since last Christmas!

Steve was back at work on Friday morning as he had a few clients lined up, but he managed to fit me in later in the morning for another go at the circuit he had set up on Monday. The only difference was that this time he added what he calls “star crumps”. A kind of press up type thing where you jump your hands and feet out and in. All I know is that they are exhausting when added onto the rest of that circuit!

I also devoted a bit of time to tidying out my chest of drawers. To entertain me whilst re-folding running tops, I popped a Disney Christmas parade video on and then this happened:

That’s right, a cat sitting in an open drawer, transfixed by the moving colours on the screen 😹

After a lunch of leftover onion soup I headed into town to spend my Christmas money from my parents (the Pandora shop was calling my name!) then I treated Steve to a coffee before we settled ourselves down for the evening. We still had some party food left in the freezer, which makes for the perfect Twixtmas dinner!

Unsurprisingly, party food left me feeling a little sluggish on Saturday morning, but parkrun was an ideal way to blow the cobwebs away. To mix things up whilst on the lap course, this time we went in the opposite direction. At one point I thought it felt quite hard work, despite the warm up of running down, but then realised that on the most exposed section of the course we were running into a headwind and as soon as we turned the corner it was much easier again. Despite feeling a bit tired and sluggish (I had been awake for a bit in the night for no real reason) I was pleased to finish in 24:11. It may be slower than the previous week, but was faster than I thought I would be on that occasion.

And mild enough for shorts!

Fortunately, the cafe we have been going to was open so after our run home to change we were still able to meet Steve’s brother for our Saturday morning bacon roll.

Sunday was the last longer run of the year and it was still really mild. I had my shorts on and a super-thin long-sleeved top but soon ended up with the sleeves rolled up, wishing I had chosen a T-shirt instead! With plans afoot for our usual New Year’s Day running challenge, it seemed sensible to stick to an 8 mile run so that my legs will feel reasonably fresh come Wednesday. This gave me an ideal opportunity to run out to the woodland park and back (once I’d had a lazy morning, drinking 2 cups of tea in bed and finishing my book – I do love holidays!).

And when I got back I had a bit of time so generated my Instagram top nine for the year. Obviously running features quite prominently (and that time I met Sir Ian McKellen) but what happened to all my Disney pictures and photos of the cats? Sometimes algorithms bamboozle me!

So that wraps up the final full week of 2019. All being well I’ll manage to post something a bit more reflective in the next few days, but the next time I publish a Week in Review post it will be 2020 – how weird does that sound?!?

Did you run/parkrun on Christmas Day?
What was the highlight of your Christmas week?

Week In Review – New Term, New Attitude

After a fairly quiet week at home to finish my October break I was actually feeling ready for my return to work for the start of the new term. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s going to be a busy one, but I got a lot done when I was off so felt ready to tackle things head on. It was also important that I now sustain the training routine I have created, despite the fact that I have absolutely nothing to train for right now…and I am perfectly happy with that! I very much feel like I just want to run, be consistent and feel like I could happily jump in a half marathon at any point or begin to up my training for something bigger without having to start at the beginning. I’ve never been in this situation before and I kind of like it! It’s nice not having the pressure of an impending race, performance goals or expectations from others. Instead, I’m just enjoying running for what it’s all about – getting out in the fresh air and moving. I know this wouldn’t have worked for me in the past, but right now it’s ideal. So with that in mind, here’s what I got up to this past week:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – 4 miles + PT session with Steve
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – drills + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun sandwich
Sunday – accidental half marathon 😂

Most of that is very much as per the pattern I established last term, but what I really noticed was my performance at the weekend. More on that later.

We actually began the term with an inservice day. We don’t usually have one at this point, but there are a couple of additional ones this year and right after a holiday is a good place to have one. It gives you a day to get your head around what needs to be done and have plans in place for the weeks ahead. There was a bit less sitting in one place at this one, but still a bit less active than a teaching day so I was ready to stretch out on my yoga mat at the end of the day. This was the last session in the current block and we now have a two week break before the next block starts so I will have to make time for some home practice over the next two weeks. I left the class feeling really relaxed and ready for the teaching day to come.

That day started early as I was up for my morning run. Not going to lie, it’s quite a shock to have a 5am alarm call when you’ve just had a week off, and I really noticed how dark it had become in the short time since last term. Darkness for the entire run, with not even a glimmer of daylight as I finished, so I think I’m just going to have to accept that it’s going to be dark morning runs from here on in. I don’t mind, but it’s so nice in the summer months to be up and enjoying the early morning light when most other people are still in bed. Apart from that, it was just my usual Tuesday run – 4 miles at an easy pace as a recovery run from my longer one a couple of days before. It was a windy morning, but my legs and body felt good so I enjoyed the run.

That evening after work I headed down to the studio and this time Steve was ready with the resistance band, TRX and weights for my arm workout. I’m really starting to notice the change in the definition of my arms and feeling strong so focusing on this since we got back form our summer holiday has definitely been the right decision for me, even if the TRX parts are getting tougher!

I’m keeping Wednesday as my rest day, which meant I had time to go and get my nails done. My “French Trip manicure” was off and I wasn’t feeling totally put together without my nail polish, so having that done made me feel much better. Sometimes it’s the simple things. And yes, I am a total puzzle – I need to have my nails done but really push it on how long I can get away with not washing my hair!

Another early alarm call on Thursday to get out for a run. Despite not having anything specific to train for, I decided that I wanted to get back to some form drills again as Steve had noted at parkun last week that my form was good and I want to maintain that. I think running with good form is one reason I’ve felt much more robust over the past year or so and not really had much time out of running with any issues, so it’s obviously worth doing. It had been a few weeks though (I did some drills in my preparations for the Disneyland Paris runs) so I went back to the beginning with a mile warm up then 6x 500m drills with a minute recovery between each. I always start off thinking it’s going to be a bit of a chore but then quite enjoy the “work” intervals of the drills.

And then there was Ashtanga that evening. I’m now in the habit of keeping my yoga stuff in the car on a Thursday so that I’m less likely to miss the class if I get held up at work, but I still had time to nip home and change. It was a really good class as it was all the regulars and a couple of interesting things happened. First, I managed to take a bind in Marichyasana B, a posture we have begun working towards in recent months. It basically involves folding yourself up like a pretzel a bit like this:

At first I could barely bend the leg not in half lotus in much at all, but gradually got there and have been working towards taking the bind. I hadn’t really expected to get there just yet – even recently it hasn’t felt possible for me – but for some reason it just felt right to have a go and I managed it. I was so pleased with my progress!

We also tried a different back bend which I enjoyed as I like the challenge of new postures. And when we reached headstand I asked for support, but once I was in position my teacher was able to move away leaving me holding the headstand independently for a few breaths. I was pleased with this as it marked progress towards being able to do it completely independently again, but I’ll not rush and instead get used to being in the posture more often and hopefully get to a stage when I can move into it and find balance without support once again.

Friday was a pretty busy day at work as I had some things I needed to get done, but I was productive so didn’t have to stay too long after classes finished. That gave me plenty of time to get down to the studio – resistance band, dumbbells, press ups, weights and TRX this time. Phew!

After that first week of the new term I was ready for the weekend and kicked it off with the parkrun sandwich. I had actually managed to stick to my shorts for my midweek runs but Saturday morning was pretty chilly so I opted for my new leggings which had arrived on Friday. Any excuse!

Those leggings must have had super powers as I ran so well, finishing in under 24 minutes for the first time since March (and only the second time for the current parkrun year which began in late November!). In actual fact, it was only 6 seconds away from the time listed as my fastest for the parkrun year and since we’re still running on an alternative course which is a little longer than our regular course, I would argue that it might even represent a comparably faster time. After lots of setbacks with illness in the first half of the year, I’m so pleased to have clocked a 23:55 as we get to the tail end of the year.

Interestingly, although we still had a high number of runners, my finish position both overall and by gender are unusually high (2nd female – whaaaa?). I think a lot of the speedy people at the front end of the pack were away taking part in a cross country competition, leaving me the opportunity for a higher placing. Whatever the reason, I’ll take it – pretty sure that’s my highest gender placing ever at parkrun, and with the numbers we get these days it’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything lower than about 70 for my position. Brilliant!

I think I was still buzzing on the way home as I found myself racing against Steve, who admittedly was taking it easy since his back was bothering him, and taking the chance to catch and pass him on the way up the road. Yes, I am competitive!

My Sunday plan was to run 12 miles. I did a few bits and pieces around the house (what a way to take advantage of the extra hour thanks to the clocks going back!) before heading out and decided I wanted to run basically the same route as my 10 miler last week, but add a lap of the North Inch park to bring it closer to 12. But the North Inch is only 1.5 miles so I needed to add a bit more. I ended up getting carried away and adding on too much, resulting in an accidental Sunday morning half marathon. Oops! #runnerproblems. In my defense, it was a lovely, bright autumnal morning, the shorts were back on and I was just enjoying the run. Once again my performance was better than my average time for the distance when I’ve actually been training for something, suggesting that I’m running better without that pressure. I’m all about the process rather than the end goal right now, so seeing that confirms that I’m doing the right things. I was pretty hungry for the rest of the day though and happily ate all the food!

So there you have it. Back to work, back to the routine, but a bigger focus on process and enjoyment than striving for a goal. I’m finding it rather refreshing.

Do you prefer having a goal to strive for or focusing on the process?
In what way have you surprised yourself with your performance in something lately?

Week In Review – A Bit Of Quiet Time

With all the excitement of a(nother) trip to France behind me, my suitcase (finally) unpacked and some sense of normality returning, it was time to use the second of my two weeks off to have a bit of time to myself to catch up on some life admin and recharge before the busy nine week term ahead up to the festive season. I also took the opportunity to squeeze in a few additional workouts, much as I did back in the summer holidays.

Monday – PT session with Steve + Hatha yoga
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – PT session with Steve
Thursday – 4.5 miles plus Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve + Hatha yoga
Saturday – parkrun sandwich
Sunday – 10 miles

I began the week down at the studio for an arm workout involving the resistance band, some press ups and weights. Steve is still mixing up what I’m doing so my body never gets used to it and doing exercises such as press ups and the TRX which rely on body weight mean it will always be a challenge.

I also had my usual Hatha class that evening and although I didn’t have the same need for it as at the end of a work day, having missed the class the week before, it was good to get back on my mat and relax.

Being off meant I could head out for my Tuesday run a little later, which at this time of year means in the daylight! My holiday habit, where possible, is to make a cup of tea when my alarm goes off and take it back to bed to read for an hour or so. It’s such as nice way to start the day when there’s no rush to be somewhere and still plenty of time for my run later in the morning. I stuck to my regular 4 miles since that has been working well for me, and although there was a slight weariness in my legs after the weekend of running following a week off (because I was away on the trip) I knew that would fade through movement.

I also did a little home yoga later in the day…once I moved the cat off the mat – clearly he wanted to be the cat in the rhyme 😹

In term time I tend to take Wednesday as a rest day but don’t have quite the same need for it in the holidays so I headed back down to the studio for another workout. This time it was the TRX and the resistance band.

Once home, I got to work on the first batch of French onion soup (my fave!)  for the winter. Yum!

Then headed into town with Steve as we had free coffees to claim at Caffe Nero.

And to round off my achievements for the day, I prepped a batch of peanut butter fudge ready to set in the fridge overnight.

On Thursday morning I decided to stretch my run ever so slightly by running a loop rather than an out-and-back route. While I was out I realised that the next time my midweek run takes place in daylight it will be during the Christmas holidays. Yay for Christmas and the holidays, but sad times about the diminishing morning light 😢

That evening was Ashtanga and the class had a number of new people there, which always changes the dynamic a bit. I always enjoy the class, but definitely prefer weeks when it’s an experienced group so we can move through postures a little more swiftly and add some extra things into the practice. I opted for a supported headstand again as I’ve decided to park my ego at the door on this one and go right back to start over again. My thinking is if I build up time in the posture with a little support, I can gradually rebuild my strength and confidence to tackle it solo. I do keep meaning to work on it a bit more at home, but time just keeps getting away from me on this one. Watch this space…

When I got home, I finished the traybake I had been making – my first go at this one. I had made the biscuit base and left it to set while I was out so had to melt the chocolate and let it set to finish it. Two homemade sweet treats in as many days? Who even am I? 😂

Friday morning was a busy one, beginning down at the studio for a session. It was the TRX, some press ups and the resistance band, but this time Steve played around with the speed I completed the exercises, e.g. lowering into a press up slowly, then pressing back up fast. This adds a new edge of challenge to the workout.

From there, I dropped my car off at the garage as it was due to be serviced and I had managed to get an appointment while I was still off – that makes my life so much easier! I declined the offer of a lift into town (it’s really not that far) and walked in myself as I was heading to a Hatha yoga class. My Monday night teacher recently started a Friday morning class which I ordinarily can’t get to, but to make up for the class I missed while I was on the trip (we pay for blocks of classes) I went along to this one. It was a bit strange to be doing Hatha on a Friday morning, but after a fairly busy start it actually felt pretty good.

It ended up being a really active day as I walked home from town then walked back to the garage later on to collect my car. Lots of steps!

As ever, it was the parkrun sandwich on Saturday. I had a really nice run down and was pleased that my efforts during parkrun resulted in a time 30 seconds faster than last week! I’m still not quite in my optimal form, but it’s coming and I have to remember that conditions are becoming a little tougher as the grass gets more boggy and the wind picks up. We’re also still using an alternative course which is slightly longer than our regular one, so I need to remember that when I look at my times. As an added bonus, I was 10th female. Top ten when there are 230 runners isn’t too shabby!

I had a fairly busy day planned as after we had breakfast with Steve’s brother, I got in my car and headed off to the Stirling area to meet some friends for coffee. We were coming from all over the place so this was the easiest meeting point. We went to the cafe at a farm shop and I had a delicious slice of mars bar cake to tide me over until my dinner, It was yummy!

In actual fact, when I got in I decided to be a bit indulgent and have a bath to relax for a bit before spending the evening watching some telly. After a couple of days of dashing about, this was just what I needed.

And then it was Sunday. I ended up heading out for my run a little later than planned as I got some housework done first and was “only” running 10 miles. I know that sounds so strange to say “only”, but the reality is that’s about 90ish minutes of running so still easy to squeeze into the day. It would have been a different story if I had 16 miles or something!

What I’m finding interesting is that without anything to train for right now, I’m actually running better than I have in ages for my long runs. I’m sustaining a quicker pace than I have all year without even trying, indeed I’m not actually looking at my watch and just running to feel. I ran the same route I did the weekend between my two visits to France (that still makes me feel so jetset lol!) and at the time noted that it was the fastest I had run since May or June. On this latest run I was faster again, and certainly don’t remember running under 1:32 for a 10 mile training run any time recently. I checked back my stats for a bit and got bored looking, so I can’t imagine it was this year. At best the tail end of last year, but even then I’m doubtful. It feels really encouraging to be running well and I’m curious to see how that pans out in the coming months as I have no plans to put any serious races in my diary right now.

The afternoon was then spent visiting my parents, who supplied us with tea and a slice of tarte au citron. Just the thing!

And for those wondering: 1)Yes I’m still wearing my shorts and 2) the kitties are still friends (although they did have a brief and unexplained falling out this week, now resolved as this photo shows).

It’s been great to have a quieter week, but now it’s time to get back to work and strap in for the busy weeks ahead.

What’s your favourite sweet treat to bake/make/buy?
Tell me something good you’ve read recently.

Week In Review – Bonjour Encore!

Believe it or not, this post actually brings me up to date with my weekly roundups – the only one still to write is the week we’re on right now! Through circumstance, the first week of the holidays was a “down” week in terms of training (but certainly still a very active week since I was in Paris!). It was a really fun week, but very little training to speak of:

Monday – Disneyland Paris
Tuesday – Paris
Wednesday – travel home
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun open sandwich
Sunday – 8 miles

Yes, you read that right, my week began with a return to my happy place: Disney! This was a new addition to our trip itinerary and it looks set to become a permanent feature after everyone had such a brilliant day. Although some Scottish schools were on holiday, it was far from all areas and English schools weren’t on half term yet. It being a Monday meant locals with annual passes were likely to be at work so in comparison to our visit on Run Weekend the parks were much quieter. This meant I was able to tick loads of attractions off my list, pick up some bits and pieces of shopping I had put off, and see the fireworks (although there was a bit of a technical snag there and for a good 10 minutes I thought they weren’t going to happen. Not going to lie, if I hadn’t been with pupils I would probably have been in tears after I sacrificed the fireworks for sleep on Run Weekend!). It was odd being back there so soon, but I did find the layout of the park felt much more familiar (it is not the same as the Magic Kingdom in Florida) which probably helped me to move quite swiftly through the things I wanted to do whilst still soaking up those magical vibes. Stand by for photos!!

I’ve never actually arrived this way before as I’ve stayed on property and only seen this from a flyover during the half marathon.

The “Ear Rule” was applied!

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch. Yes I did order this. Yes it was tasty.

And for the record, although it was covered up by my trip hoody, I was wearing this top:

In one shop a cast member took one look at me in my Beauty and the Beast-inspired leggings, Briar Rose Gold mouse ears and Arendelle Aqua Loungefly backpack (see below) and said, “so you’re a big Disney fan then?” It took every ounce of control I possessed not to reply with, “duh!” or similar 😂

Not me, but since I do have all these Arendelle Aqua items, it easily could be!

Photo Source: disneyphile.fr

That was probably my favourite day of the whole trip – and the one where there was no rain! Sadly Tuesday was forecast to be the wettest and that is exactly how it panned out, but luckily we had mainly indoor things on our itinerary for the the day.

We started at the Musée d’Orsay, a former railway station which is now an art gallery. I last visited here on my own school trip to Paris (more years ago than I care to count!) and remember enjoying the Impressionist art, so after a restorative cup of tea, that’s exactly where we headed.

From there, I walked the group along the Rive Gauche (left bank of the River Seine) to let them see some of the book/souvenir stalls (bouqinistes) and crossed back to the Rive Droite (right bank) on the Pont des Arts, which until recently was the bridge associated with love locks. Now, the railings have been replaced by perspex panels to prevent people attaching padlocks to them as there were concerns about the weight eventually causing them to fall into the water, potentially causing serious injury since the river frequently has an array of different kinds of boat on it. It’s still a nice pedestrian bridge and a nice spot to view the river and its banks.

This bridge delivers us right to the Louvre and we spent a few minutes getting some photos around the pyramid before heading along Rue de Rivoli to our destination: the Forum des Halles, a huge shopping centre which I can find ok, but I ALWAYS get lost within it’s labyrinthine floors! (Although I can find the Pandora store, so that covers the essentials 😂)

Having sent the pupils on their way, the staff headed to a pavement cafe where we sat under umbrellas, warmed by outdoor heaters, and had some lunch while we watched people scurrying out of the rain. I had hoped for more onion soup but sadly it wasn’t on the menu so I settled for a club sandwich which was really tasty.

Satisfied, we went our separate ways for a bit of shopping. I had a couple of things on my list but took care of those quite quickly so ended up marvelling at some of the creations in the Lego Store.

Around there I bumped into one of my colleagues so we went off for a cup of tea at the cafe beside our meeting point, finishing just in time to meet the rest of the group to head back to the centre for dinner – probably my least favourite selection of the trip as the fish was really bony and not well cooked, the rice wasn’t the best and the veg was cold. At least they had that nice dessert on again!

For our final night, we headed over to the Notre Dame area. Following the fire the actual cathedral is blocked off while it is restored, but we still wanted to have a chance to see it and there are lots of other things to do in the area. Our first port of call was one of my favourite places: Shakespeare & Co bookshop. Not only is it an iconic location, but there is a resident cat called Aggie who is most definitely the boss!

The staff then headed to a nearby cafe for a refreshment and most of the pupils went off to find snacks and souvenirs before heading back to the centre and bed.

Sadly it ended up being quite a late night as we had to solve a problem (not caused by our pupils but affecting them) and with the typically laid-back attitude of the French when it comes to getting things sorted out, this took much longer than it needed to. I can tell you I was not pleased when my alarm went off the next morning.

We weren’t due to be collected from the centre until around noon so had considered heading out on some kind of walk/excursion, but it was clear that the pupils just needed a chance to chill out after several busy days – as did we after our late night! We had to check out of our rooms, but luggage was kept in the baggagerie and there was a fairly nice cafe and seating area, so the couple of hours we had actually passed really quickly. To be honest, it felt like no time at all before we were back at the airport, dropping off the bags and picking up some food to see us until our arrival home.

A highlight of the flight was that this time I was on the left of the plane so saw the daytime view of the Eiffel Tower from the air to complement the night-time view I had when I arrived for Run Weekend. That felt like a nice way to round things off.

Everything went pretty smoothly and by 7:30pm we were back at school and delivering the pupils safely back to their parents. A really nice touch was one parent who turned up with flowers for the staff members to thank them for taking time out of their holiday to take her daughter to Paris. So thoughtful!

My only stop after that was to pick up a Chinese takeaway on my way home since Steve wasn’t going to be in much before me and we didn’t have anything in shopping-wise since I was away. Then I headed for a bath before bed. Wine DEFINITELY needed!

After all that I was EXHAUSTED. I didn’t see much need to run on the Thursday, preferring to get plenty of sleep and tackle some of those real-life errands teachers have in the holidays like getting a dental check-up – quite a comedown from being in Paris!

I did, however, make a point of going to Ashtanga since I wanted to stretch out after all the walking around. I also finally swallowed my pride and asked to be supported for the headstand. Perhaps getting used to being in the posture again, with some help, will be useful in getting me back to doing them solo again. It can’t hurt!

Then on Friday I ended up having another rest day. My errand for the day was my annual flu jab and my arm always hurts a little after so I didn’t bother asking Steve for a session. Instead I made some effort to unpack (properly this time!) and get myself organised. This included opening up this year’s edition of “Nope” magazine from the London Marathon. This year it may as well say “hard cheese” given the image they selected! 😂

By Saturday I was ready to get back to it. Steve was RD at parkrun so he drove down earlier with a warm top etc for me and I ran down. This was the day that Eliud Kipchoge completed his amazing sub-2 hour marathon and in my determination not to miss a minute of it, I actually ran there whilst still streaming the live feed (parkrun in Scotland is at 9:30am, I leave by about 9am latest to run down and he was due to finish at 9:15am so I knew I would probably be arriving, or just about arriving, when he finished). You should have seen me trying to look at my phone screen every time I had to pause to cross a road! By some miracle I reached parkrun without tripping, falling or otherwise making a fool of myself, so there’s that.

I had a fairly good run considering I hadn’t run in over a week. A little slower than I would have liked, but it was actually quite windy which definitely made a difference. I was just happy to be there and enjoyed my run.

I helped to sort the tokens while I waited for Steve, then donned my extra layers while the run was finishing up (I was back in my shorts again after that one super-cold day of capris right at the end of term). Steve being RD meant we headed to the cafe for a bacon roll while he processed the results.

Had to take my own picture since Steve was busy 😂

Then it was back to the usual Saturday glamour of food shopping. Oh take me back to Paris!

I spent the afternoon getting myself up to date with Strictly Come Dancing (to be honest, with two trips to Paris I had pretty much been a bit behind from week 1, but had somehow managed to avoid any spoilers. First world problems lol!). And for those wondering, the kitties definitely missed me while I was away, so much so that Smokey has suddenly become a lap cat – this wasn’t part of his repertoire before I left!

For my Sunday run I had considered 10 miles but ultimately decided that this should naturally become a cutback week since I hadn’t run much, and 8 miles would therefore be ideal. I headed out to the path through the woodland park which I like and just kept the pace easy. It felt good to stretch things out with a run after lots of walking. And yes, still in shorts.

So there you have it. Not much running or training but a super-fun week nonetheless. I mean I was in both Paris AND Disney – how could it be anything other than fantastique!

What was the best school trip you ever went on?
Are you in your winter running kit yet?