Book Review – The Pants of Perspective

“When I ran, I ran for pleasure. I didn’t run for times, to win, to impress: I ran for me. When I ran my bum cheeks rubbed together, so much so that if I was going on a long run I’d have to ‘lube up’. I maintained that I was not a ‘real’ runner – I just liked to run so that I could eat cake.”

Anna was never anything like those ‘real’ runners on telly – all spindly limbs, tiny shorts and split times – but when she read about New Zealand’s 3,000-kilometre-long Te Araroa Trail, she began to wonder… perhaps being a ‘real’ runner was overrated. Maybe she could just run it anyway? Travelling alone through New Zealand’s backcountry for 148 days, she scrambled through forests, along ridge-lines, over mountain passes, along beaches and across swollen rivers. Running up to 52 kilometres in a day, she slept wild most nights, and was taken into the homes and hearts of the kiwi people in between. The Pants of Perspective is a witty, colourful and at times painfully raw account of a journey to the edge of what a woman believes herself to be capable of. It is a coming-of-age story which will lead you on a roller coaster ride through fear, vulnerability, courage and failure. For anyone who has ever dreamt of taking on a great challenge, but felt too afraid to begin – this story is for you.

Back in the summer of 2017 I decided to explore the trails of the world vicariously. Whilst basking in the Florida sunshine I traversed the Appalachian Trail with Bill Bryson in A Walk in the Woods, joined Cheryl Strayed on her voyage of self-discovery along the Pacific Crest Trail in Wild, and finally I took to New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail with adventurer and “mischief maker” Anna McNuff in her book The Pants of Perspective.

I first came across Anna McNuff when she was interviewed on the Tough Girl Podcast. I was drawn to her sense of fun and adventure, the way she wanted to speak to school children and inspire them to go after their dreams, so when I saw that she had written a book about her New Zealand adventure, I was quick to grab a copy and devour it straight away.

And I certainly want disappointed. Anna (it somehow feels right to use her first name rather than be all correct and write”McNuff”) is such an engaging writer. I mean, even from the title and cover art we can tell that she is going to have a sense of humour. There are certainly times when the going is tough, but we are rooting for Anna all the more because her warmth and enthusiasm come through on every page, fostering a connection with her. Reading the book almost feels like a catch up with a good friend.

We join Anna as she undertakes a 148 day run from Bluff, at the southernmost tip of New Zealand, to the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, 3000km away in the north. Yet this is not really a book about running, per se. For me, it’s more a book about the journey (both literal and metaphorical) that Anna undertakes and the unforgettable “trail family” she creates along the way. Despite her taking on what feels like an overwhelming challenge, Anna is very “real” and somehow makes the whole thing seem so much more accessible. We are shown that even with some oversights in planning, taking on an adventure like this is possible and through the cast of characters she bonds with along the way, we are reminded of the inherent good in people when complete strangers look out for each other and provide support.

Yet Anna also lays bare some of the low moments, the times when it is a struggle to keep putting one foot in front of the other because she’s exhausted, or hurt, or the weather is awful (or all three!). We are inspired by her mental strength and fortitude when fear takes hold, and we celebrate her successes along with her. At times I almost wished I was there, sharing a slice of cake (there’s quite a lot of cake/chocolate consumption) before hitting the trail once more in a pair of ludicrous leggings.

Yes, the leggings (or “pants”, used in the US rather than UK sense). We’re around half way through the book when the significance of the title is revealed to us:

“Setting my empty coffee cup down beside me, I rummaged around in my bag until my fingers found what I was looking for. Pulling out the mess of brightly coloured Lycra material, I laid it flat so I could see the entire pattern. Moments earlier, over another morning’s serving of cold porridge, I had remembered something. I’d thought in spending over five months on the trail that perhaps, just perhaps, I was going to have one or two days when I didn’t want to get out of my tent and run, and instead I might just want to curl up in a ball and cry. For this situation, I had packed myself a secret weapon – a pair of magic Lycra pants.
One leg was adorned with a unicorn, the other with a robot. Both were engaged in a fierce battle and above them was a star-spangled night sky. Naturally, across the sky was a bright rainbow.”

Basically, the “pants” are Anna’s mental safety net. She may not have planned every other detail to perfection, but she had recognised the importance of mental strength in undertaking a challenge like this and had found a way to give herself a boost when the going got tough:

“Everything around me, the facts, so to speak, would indicate that I should be miserable, but it was scientifically impossible to be miserable whilst wearing these pants. They were a sheer act of defiance, flying the flag of ridicule in the face of what should be a serious and grave situation. I laughed, and immediately felt more like me.”

I loved this idea, and as someone with a penchant for more “unusual” leggings, the discovery that I could buy my very own pair of THE pants via Anna’s website was fantastic. Yes, I did buy them (and got a very lovely email from the lady herself as part of the process!). As such, I can confirm that Anna’s right – you really can’t be miserable whilst wearing these beauties!

IMG_5334If you haven’t already read this book then I highly recommend it. Not only is Anna easy to relate to and engage with, but she is also a very good writer. Sometimes books about adventures can have a “detached” feel about them, or they read a bit like a series of notes. But not this one. This one takes you along on the journey (whether you have the pants or not!) and leaves you feeling like you’ve made a new friend. I believe Anna has been writing a new book about one of her other adventures and I, for one, can’t wait to read it.

You can find out more about Anna McNuff here.
You can watch Anna’s TED talk here.

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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?

Weekly Photo Challenge – I’d Rather Be…

Today I thought I would respond to a Daily Post photo challenge. As this busy term rumbles on and winter continues to keep a tight grip, it’s easy to find myself wishing to be somewhere else, doing something else. But what?

To answer the question, I considered two things – WHAT do I like to do and WHERE do I like to be?

  • I like to run
  • I like to read
  • I like to practice yoga
  • I like to be in Paris
  • I like to be in the sunshine

So to respond to this photo prompt, here are some pictures that demonstrate the above things I enjoy (and would definitely rather be doing), sometimes in combination!


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UntitledWhat would your answer be…?

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?

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?

2018 – The Year of Me!!!

That’s right, the year of me. I don’t mean I’m going to be utterly selfish in 2018, more that my goals for the year ahead are going to be about creating habits that add value to and/or improve my life. As I reflected on my goals for 2017 the thing that struck me was that the goals I felt most invested in were those that were about a process rather than an outcome, and that got me thinking: how can I set goals that will challenge me but also allow for some kind of progress, regardless of outcome? For example, by setting the goal of a marathon PB, my only options were to achieve it or not (I didn’t) but that didn’t take account of all the miles I ran in training that helped my running to progress. In contrast, by setting the goal of reaching my 100th parkrun, even if I hadn’t made it to 100 I would still have reached a number that advanced on the 60 I began the year with. That requires consistency and therefore is a progression. Since I celebrate a “significant birthday” in 2018 I want to focus on myself and how I can enrich my life, so it’s out with “I want to run X time in a race” and in with aims that involve a year-long process of self-improvement and developing positive habits, aims that will take time and commitment to achieve rather than hanging on a one-off performance. I didn’t set out to come up with 8 for 2018 (to follow 7 for 2017), it just worked out that way – apparently even my unconscious mind likes things to be neat!

1. Run 1000km (621 miles)
Rather than focus on time, this year I want my running to be about cumulative distance. On average, I probably do run around 1000km in a year but have never made this a goal before as I was so conscious of being injury-prone. I probably still am, but I’m also better at listening to my body now and have done a lot of work to help keep me injury-free, so this year I want to make my total distance a goal. 2017 may have been a year of very little racing (I actually only raced 5 times!) but I ran very consistently and my final total of 752 miles was my highest annual mileage ever. Of course I won’t be aiming to meet my goal no matter what – if I get an injury or have an illness then recovery will be my priority, but it’s important to me that my miles mean something beyond “just” another training run. To that end, I have signed up to the 1000km challenge on Virtual Runner UK so assuming I reach my goal, there will be a medal at the end of the year to mark my achievement. Running consistently make me a better runner, and I want every mile in 2018 to count.

2. Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
Last year one of my goals was to commit to more yoga, but I was a little vague about what “more” meant. Not a very SMART goal! But when I did finally get to grips with it thanks to the Tough Girl 100 challenge, I absolutely loved it. My Ashtanga class is a real highlight of my week and throughout the 100 days when I was doing some yoga daily, I felt great. It became my habit to turn to a yoga practice that met my needs that day e.g. to address a tight muscle or aching shoulder, to help me to sleep better or to energise me in the morning. For that challenge my goal was at least 10 minutes per day, but I discovered a number of shorter sequences that I really enjoyed, so when thinking about my goals for 2018 I kept coming back to yoga. I really regretted letting that regular practice fall by the wayside towards the end of the year, so decided that 5 minutes (minimum) of yoga on 5 days of the week would be achievable. To get back into the habit, I signed up to the Yoga with Adriene 30 Days of Yoga to begin the year and am really looking forward to it. Steve has been promising to turn our smallest room int a space where I can roll out my yoga mat so perhaps we’ll finally get that done too…!

3. Read at least 30 books
Back in 2016 I set myself the goal of reading “more” as I was conscious that I just wasn’t finding as much time to read as I had in the past. I’ve ALWAYS been a reader (hence a degree in English!) and it frustrated me that I seemed to be completing so few books. To make that a SMARTer goal I used Goodreads to track my reading and joined their annual reading challenge, setting a target of 15 books on the basis that I probably read about a book a month with some extras during my summer holiday. I actually ended up reading 27 books, so my 2017 target was 30 books, a goal I met by the skin of my teeth! This year I’m keeping the goal this same, but hoping to stay a little more on top of it (although I suspect that the first few days of January will be the only point in the year when 0 books will be declared “on track” haha!). I actually read a fair amount of non-fiction in 2017 so plan to have a balance between fiction and non-fiction on my reading list. I can’t wait to see where reading will take me in 2018…

4. Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
This one is a development of my 2017 goal to prioritise rest more during the work week. I did make progress on this one but still would fall into the trap of staying up a bit too late sometimes (I’m a natural night owl) so in 2018 I want to do even more to make sure I’m as well rested as possible. This goal is really for term time as it’s much easier to be well rested during school holidays, and by making it a public goal then that will hopefully make me more accountable. I often start thinking about going to bed around 10pm, then spend time getting changed, brushing my teeth, etc and before I know it another half hour has passed. This goal is set in such a way that I should do all this earlier and actually be IN my bed at 10pm, settled with my book. Perhaps I’m just getting boring with age, but the thought of more time in my cosy bed is rather appealing and I know that being better rested will make me feel more alert, keep my immune system more robust and improve my running performance.

5. Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
I LOVE Ted talks and use them frequently in the classroom. There are so many incredible speakers sharing a range of fascinating information and I’ve worked up a massive list of talks I would like to watch…but never take the time to do so. This year I’m committing to watching at least one per week, either on the Ted Talks website or one of their youtube channels. There is so much out there to learn about and by making this commitment I’m committing myself to broadening my mind and learning more about the experiences of others. What a huge offering from a free platform!

6. Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
When I first started to run I couldn’t set foot out the door without my trusty iPod and some music to distract me. These days I’m happy to run with just my own thoughts for company, but I much prefer listening to podcasts and use them to learn a lot, mainly about running or incredible adventures and challenges that inspire me. I have a huge number of podcasts that I enjoy (and a list of others I’d like to try!) but for various reasons have fallen a little behind in listening to them. So in 2018 my aim is to listen to at least 8 per week, which is basically one per day (usually on my drive home) and a couple during my Sunday long run. My only “rule” is that it must be over 10 minutes to count. I do listen to one or two shorter, daily updates and will continue to do so, but 8 short podcasts (maybe 80 minutes in total) is not quite the same as, say, 8 hours of quality content when it comes to broadening my horizons. If you fancy joining me then I wrote about some of my favourites here and here.

7. Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
I wanted to have a blog-related goal as well to help me develop my writing a little bit further, but I know that time-wise I’m quite limited in being able to produce any more content than I am at the moment. However I often see the WordPress daily prompts/challenges and think it would be a good idea to produce a response to them – I’ve even wondered about a mini-goal of completing all of them for a month in the summer, but never actually done it! – and so I thought it might be fun to try one (or maybe more) each month. I’m being fairly flexible with my “rules” around this one so the prompt doesn’t have to be from the month in question, it might be an older prompt or even come from one of the ebooks of daily prompts. I might choose a prompt requiring a written response or I might choose a photographic prompt. Who knows where this might take me…

8. Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
My final goal is interesting as it’s a little harder to quantify, but I am concerned in general about the amount of mindlessly scrolling through social media and/or staring at smartphone screens in the world today. As a teacher I find that my tolerance for phones is getting pretty low and I am catching myself getting more and more annoyed when I look around me and just see people staring at screens rather than interacting. People don’t look around and notice the world anymore and even when groups are together they are often sitting in silence all tapping away on different screens, any conversation being to ask if someone has seen a particular post. Is that what the future is going to be? When I was in France in October I barely looked at my phone all week other than to take photos and communicate with Steve, and I found it rather liberating. Since then, I have tried to cut back on the amount of time I spend using my phone as it’s so easy to get sucked into infinite timelines, especially when little of what I see enhances my life in any great way. I enjoy being part of some specific groups, and interacting with people I rarely see, but it’s a problem when I can’t sit and watch a TV programme without checking my phone. And so I want to be a bit more present in my own life and mindful in my phone use. If I’m on social media then it should be for a purpose (e.g. interacting in a running group or sharing my blog posts), not mindlessly scrolling through drivel when I could be reading blog posts from writers I’m interested in or getting lost in a good book. I often feel like my time is squeezed, so why waste it looking at “copy and paste” status updates, vague posts fishing for “u ok hun?” responses and people falling for hoaxes like to-good-to-be-true competitions or that privacy statement that keeps resurfacing? Yes, I will keep posting photos from my runs, yes I will share content that I find interesting (or might win me a good prize!) and yes I will “like” things I genuinely like. What I won’t do is let these things suck away my precious time and prevent me taking part in more fulfilling activities. It will be interesting to see how that goes.

So there you have it, my goals for the year which will (hopefully) develop positive habits and add value to my life. I will post the usual updates throughout the year to keep myself accountable and share how I’m getting on, but in the meantime, let’s go…!

What are your goals for 2018?
What one thing would you like to do to either create a positive habit or add value to your life this year?

Week In Review – Christmas And The In-Between

What a week! We kicked off with Christmas Day then, with both Steve and I not at work, soon found ourselves lost in the “in between” limbo where most conversations seemed to revolve around food, drink or whether we were supposed to put the bin out! The week wasn’t entirely bereft of activity though, so this won’t just be pictures of Christmas turkey haha!

Here’s how my week ended up:

Monday – Christmas Day parkrun
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – 6 miles
Thursday – rest
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – rest

After all the excitement of running my 100th parkrun just a couple of days before, I was really keen on the idea of a Christmas Day parkrun. We’ve not had a Christmas Day event in Perth before so for the team this was a bit of a test. Our festive RD was very open in saying that he would have been happy if 30-40 people turned up, so imagine his surprise when we had 217 parkrunners in an assortment of festive finery! The course was pretty muddy which made for an interesting run, but it was Christmas, I was dressed up and a Christmas elf gave me a sweetie at the end, so what’s not to like? And by some weird coincidence I ended up with exactly the same finishing time as on Saturday. I’m nothing if not consistent!

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IMG_9237Post-parkrun we headed home to change and get started on the rest of our celebrations. This year was a Christmas Day à deux so I saw absolutely no reason to make any further effort with my clothing: cue me spending the rest of the day in my cosy Christmas onesie! We opened the Bucks Fizz, made our bacon rolls (with Christmas spiced bacon which was DELICIOUS) and got down to opening presents.

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Guess who was interested in the bacon!

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Steve was thrilled with his new trisuit and dry robe (Santa must’ve got his email 😂) whilst I was happy that Santa got my “subtle” hints about wanting to see the touring production of Wicked when it returns to Edinburgh in the spring. Oh, and there were gin baubles so that made my day!

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IMG_5031And if you follow me on social media, you may have seen that we managed (not for the first time) to buy each other the same Christmas card!

IMG_5011As for the cat, she doesn’t need much these days as she really just likes to sit on my lap and sleep (and her health conditions rule out any food-related treats) but the fleecy lap blanket I saw in a pet shop over the weekend turned out to be a big hit. (My mum bought some pouches of the food she used to enjoy as a special treat and told me to donate them to a local cat shelter on her behalf, and I was delighted to do so. It breaks my heart thinking about pets without a warm and comfortable home like my little fur baby has).

IMG_5015Christmas dinner didn’t happen until much later on as we were on a pretty flexible schedule. I had made a pot of French onion soup for our starter then the main course was turkey and all the trimmings. For dessert, Steve made his (in)famous sherry trifle, which I enjoyed in front of the TV after a short break while I descended into a food coma!

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IMG_5026It was a gloriously relaxing day, and although Christmas seemed to sneak up on me a bit this year, I was perfectly content.

On Boxing Day we decided we should really get out of the house so took a walk into town. Some shops were open and I ended up buying a Fabletics gift pack in the sales to re-stock my gym bag for the new year. I’ve never tried any of their products but was tempted by the half price offer.

IMG_5111Other than that it was Christmas dinner leftovers and hot drinks in front of the TV while I placed a couple of online orders. First, I was so impressed with the quality of the Christmas running tights I had for Christmas Day parkrun that I decided to jump at the chance to buy a second pair in the sales. These ones feature my childhood favourites the Little Miss and Mr Men by Roger Hargreaves. It will be next Christmas before I wear them, but I’m already looking forward to it!

IMG_5112My other purchase was my own pair of “the pants of perspective” as featured in Anna McNuff’s book by the same name. I loved this book when I read it earlier in the year (I’ll write a review soon) and thought it was brilliant that I could buy my own pair from her website. After all, as Anna herself says: “because everyone needs a unicorn and a robot having a fight under a rainbow, on their legs.”

IMG_5113The day after that was Wednesday (I think!) and I wanted to get a run in to build on my consistency of heading out every other day since getting back to running last week. It was pretty frosty so I decided to stick to main roads and wore my all-terrain shoes which have a pretty good grip. 6 miles without falling on my bottom was definitely a good run!

IMG_5044To be honest, I had to ask Steve what we did on Thursday as I had no pictures and all of the days have merged into each other! It turns out that we went into town for a bit to have coffee with some old friends of his who are here from Italy for a short time. Given that I can’t remember anything else, I probably spent the rest of the day watching TV, reading and working on blog posts!

On Friday we had considered a trip to Glasgow, but by the time we had been out for our New Year food shopping it was beginning to snow quite heavily and we thought it best to stay close to home (as it turned out, Glasgow airport was shut for a while and several Glasgow parkruns were apparently cancelled on Saturday so it seems like we made the right decision). Since we were out, we went out to the farm shop for a couple of things and went to the cafe while we were there. I had a cinnamon hot chocolate and mince pie whilst watching the snow coming down.

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IMG_5058I also enjoyed their display of the gin baubles:

IMG_5055Once home I got started on another pot of French onion soup (a great winter warmer), then we had a relaxing afternoon before going out for our usual Friday food at the pub down the road. This week we both fancied the not-very-festive chilli burger!

IMG_5062Saturday was parkunday again. I didn’t realise until afterwards that this was actually my 100th in Perth (102nd overall since I have a couple of runs elsewhere in my history). The snow had mostly melted but the paths were slippy in places, the grass section frozen solid and it was pretty chilly. I donned my warm kit and chose my all-terrain shoes again to give me some confidence on the paths but kept the pace down so I felt a bit more in control of what I was doing – no point in starting the new year injured! Fortunately, I remained upright the whole way around, although I did clock my slowest time (outside of pacing duties) for 2017. Oh well!

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Fun fact: whilst setting up for this photo a dog ran off with one of my running gloves. The dog was on a lead though so we were able to retrieve it! 😂

Post-parkun it was another bacon croissant with Steve’s brother. Good job too since I got a text from my mum later declaring it to be National Bacon Day. There’s a holiday I don’t mind celebrating!

IMG_5101We then had a few errands and I came across a very tempting book:

IMG_5106I amused myself that afternoon by joining a linkup about my year of running and claiming my Instagram Best Nine for 2017. Mainly running and some epic food = quite a year!

princessallison78_fullWe also decided that since we have plans to repeat the New Year Triple on Monday, we should have homemade pizza (aka running fuel!) on Hogmanay, so had our awesome Dine-In deal on Saturday night: salmon royale (basically a blini topped with a poached egg wrapped in salmon and served with hollandaise sauce. Delicious!), steak with peppercorn sauce and chips, then profiteroles for dessert. Yummy!

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IMG_5109Sunday was pretty chilled to save energy for Monday. Steve did brave Storm Dylan to get in 5 miles since Strava told him he had 995 miles for the year and he wanted the round 1000! While he was out I tidied up a bit around the house and we finished the chores together later on – we even hung some pictures we’ve been meaning to get to! Then an evening in front of the TV with nibbles and a couple of drinks before getting to bed early ahead of our New Year running. Don’t worry, we plan to celebrate the New Year after we’ve completed the challenge!

To finish, I want to thank you for joining me in my weekly roundups this year. Much more to come in 2018 I’m sure!

Have a wonderful New Year, however you spend it.
The Running Princess

Week In Review – A Musical Interlude!

Hola! It’s been a super busy week for me, especially over the weekend, so I had to be quite creative with my time to get some workouts squeezed in. Let me share the details as I link up, as ever, with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL.

I’m keen to get a bit more focus in my workouts as I begin to build a strong base ahead of my next round of marathon training, however that wasn’t possible for all of my workouts this week. Here’s how things ended up:

Monday – rest
Tuesday – bike @ the gym
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10k

Yes, my week did begin with a rest day. I was quite tired from our trip to Edinburgh last Sunday, and with an after school meeting I just couldn’t summon the energy to do anything else. Aside from that, I wanted to pay a quick visit to my mum who, following a mishap on holiday in Tenerife, has torn her hamstring and is not very mobile right now. A colleague had given me some magazines to help keep her entertained and I wanted to drop those off as well as hear about her visit to the doctor that day. My mum is generally quite fit and healthy so I’m sure this will heal well, but right now she’s needing some painkillers to help keep her comfortable as even sitting is a bit tricky right now!

I did, however, get back on it on Tuesday. I’m still not sure how best to use my Tuesday bike workouts and need to get Steve to give me some kind of progressive structure to follow again, but for this week I simply set up my Kindle and pedalled hard for half an hour. I actually covered slightly more distance that the previous week with the same effort so it is still a useful gauge of fitness. I’m reading a really great book called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell all about the factors which influence success, and I’m finding it really interesting so the time seemed to pass quite quickly (it’s also a sneaky way to maximise my time and catch up on my reading goal for this year!).

Wedneday presented a bit of a problem: I had intended to leave work at the end of the school day, but ended up staying for almost an hour beyond that. I had an orchestra rehearsal (the final Wednesday before our concert) which I definitely wanted to be at and spent some time in the car debating whether or not to go for a run. In the end I decided I had to go for it as I’ll miss out next week thanks to a parents’ evening at work. I just had to maximise the benefit of running a short distance. Basically, I had to run hard for 20-25 minutes as that’s all the time I had. I chose a route and just went for it, getting home within my target time and being very efficient with getting some food organised while I showered and changed. Miraculously I was ready for my sister picking me up and enjoyed a great rehearsal.

IMG_4694Thursday was a little less manic in that I managed to be at home for longer than 8 minutes before my yoga class. I’m so convinced that yoga has made a big difference to my running, my flexibility and my strength that I try to prioritise getting to this class and it’s rare that I miss one. I felt good throughout and since I want to progress to more than one round of Wheel, this week did it twice but for a shorter amount of time so that I could feel what it was like to push myself up into the position twice (the bit I find hardest due to the limitation in the range of movement in my left arm). I did start to drift off during the relaxation at the end though, thanks to all the rushing about in the days before!

Speaking of which, I was back to rushing around again on Friday. I had two things I definitely needed to do and one desirable extra. First, I needed to collect the cat’s medicine from the vet, then I had an appointment to get my nails done, and I was hopeful of squeezing in a PT session with Steve after that. I did manage all of it thanks to some impressive time management on my part, but it did mean that Friday Finds just didn’t happen and went out later in the weekend. Sometimes something has to give and I prioritised what I had to do.

IMG_4695The PT session was good. I asked Steve to give me some exercises to help with my upper back mobility as my right shoulder has still been feeling a little tight, and also to help me to build a good strength base to support my forthcoming marathon training. We began with the usual mobility exercises using the broom handle, then used the TRX after that, returning to some exercises I probably haven’t done since he moved studio. I found this really interesting as at one point I stopped to ask if I was doing it right as the movement felt different. It turned out that I was actually performing the movement better thanks to the improved strength, flexibility and balance that yoga has given me. Good news!

I had known all week that Saturday was going to be super busy and there wasn’t much I could do to mitigate that. The day began, as ever, with parkrun. It was a bright but chilly morning and I decided to test out my fitness. I was running comfortably sub-24 minutes before the Loch Ness marathon, but with time off and some easing back since then my best of late was 24:20. I would love to squeeze in one last sub-24 before the end of the year, but conditions tend to be less than conducive to that as it’s more likely to be windy and the half mile or so over the grass can get pretty muddy. This was all about seeing where I was and working out if this goal would be possible. Imagine my irritation, then, to finish with a time of 24:01. So close! Still, it’s an encouraging sign and tells me that although I’ve scaled back some of my training recently, I am still improving my fitness with shorter, faster runs and some hard cycling on the bike at the gym. Watch this space to see if I manage my end of year mini-goal…

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fullsizeoutput_22d3Post-parkrun I had time for a quick shower then headed off to get my hair done. I had all my stuff ready to go and was accompanied by my violin as I was going straight from the hairdresser to our final orchestra rehearsal before the concert that night. I was prepared to be late to the rehearsal, but actually ended up there in good time and it was great to hear our repertoire being played in the venue where the acoustics are a little different to our rehearsal room!

IMG_4699Usually my Saturday evening is spent in my pyjamas, curled up with the cat and a cosy blanket watching TV. This time I was scrubbed up with my hair done (I’m usually pushing it a bit on hair washing by Saturday!) and make up on. I felt tired when I went home to eat between the rehearsal and concert, but as soon as we went on stage the concert adrenaline kicked in and I was ready to go.

IMG_4700I really enjoyed playing so need to work out how I can continue to fit in my weekly rehearsal and my training up to our final concert of the season in February.

After all that activity I allowed myself a bit of a lie-in on Sunday morning, then got organised for a run. Steve’s still having an issue with his calf so a trail run together was out of the question. Instead, I decided it was time I went for a slightly longer run (i.e. longer than 4 miles!) at a steadier pace so came up with a loose plan for 10k. This put me in town just as the High Constables were lining up for the council officials to walk from the council chambers to the Remembrance Day service and it looked quite a sight! (The High Constables are a society dating back to 1830 with a common interest in upholding the history and traditions of Perth and all of whom have sworn allegiance to the Queen. Their primary duties involve parading on civic occasions at the request of the Provost and Council of Perth and Kinross).

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IMG_4710I also stopped by to see my favourite riverside pals as I made my way home again.

IMG_4711I had covered my watch with the sleeve of my top so I would have no idea of pace and could just run however I felt. This was interesting as I probably ran much faster than I would have done if I’d been looking at my watch. My average pace was just outside of 4 hour marathon pace, however this was skewed by the last mile being uphill and most of the run was much faster than that. An interesting experiment that I may repeat some time.

IMG_4715Thankfully I found some time in the remainder of the day to relax a bit. It was a rather full-on week and I can’t see that changing much in the last few weeks of the year. I shall have to be vigilant about finding time to relax whenever I can.

Do you play a musical instrument?
What are your current running goals?

7 For 2017 – Nearly There!

Well hello there October! Where did you sneak up from? It hardly seems like any time since I was setting my goals for 2017 and here we are three quarters of the way through the year. Time to check in and see how I’m doing (you can read my previous updates here and here).

1. Set some new race PBs
This one has been at a bit of a standstill since my success at the Inverness half marathon back in March, and with no race plans for the remainder of 2017, I suspect I’ve done all I can here. My main aim was to set a new marathon PB and beat that 4:05:07 that’s been hanging over me since Paris 2014. Unfortunately it was not to be, although I did make some positive progress. Back in April I was thwarted by the Paris heat, however did manage to run what was then my second fastest marathon time of 4:32:07 (yup, my PB is somewhat of an outlier!). I followed this up at the end of September with another try at the Loch Ness marathon, and while I still didn’t crack that elusive 4 hour mark, I did lower my 2017 performance to 4:18:10 (now my second-fastest). I’m not giving up though, and have already entered a spring marathon to have another try.
I had thought I might have a go at a new 10k PB (sub-50) but have not actually raced a 10k this year. I did, however, come tantalisingly close to my 5k parkrun PB of 23:14 when I ran a 23:19 a couple of weeks before Loch Ness. This was really pleasing as this was also a real outlier in my performance history so it was good to prove to myself that it had not been a fluke, even if the time is two years old! Now onwards into 2018!
Progress: 1/3 achieved; Improving picture

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IMG_39502. Run my 100th parkrun
This goal relies on consistency. I’ve missed very few parkruns this year, mainly planned misses due to post-marathon recovery, and still have enough of a cushion to achieve my 100th run before the end of the year. At present I’ve completed my 93rd, so just 7 more to go. Definitely achievable, perhaps by the start of December.
And my bonus parkrun goal is to achieve my 25 volunteer T-shirt. Thanks to my pacing duties this year I only have one more to go before I have that one all wrapped up.
Progress: On track

IMG_37133. Maintain my step goal streak
Back in July I achieved the first part of this goal – one full year of taking 10,000 steps per day. Now, I’m working on completing the second part of the goal – a calendar year of 10,000 steps per day. I’ve not yet broken my streak (currently at 472 days) so continuing the habit for now should be achievable.
Progress: On track

4. Read at least 30 books
This is now the goal that needs the most attention. I’m tracking my reading on Goodreads this year and, with 19 out of 30 books read, am 4 behind schedule to complete this one. This is an advance on the 25 books I read in 2016 and I did set this goal knowing it would push me. I had hoped the summer might bring me up to speed, but I now need to try and set aside a bit more time for reading. Watch this space!
Progress: Needs Attention

5. Make more time to relax and prioritise rest during the work week
The summer break allowed me to reset a bit on this one, and as soon as term began I made sure to prioritise rest right from the start. This meant trying not to allow my natural night-owl tendencies to take over and stay up too late on week nights, as well as scheduling an afternoon nap into my Saturday routine to help counter the busy week. It’s not always easy to fit in everything I want to do, but I am getting better at this one.
Progress: Much improved

IMG_38546. Commit to more yoga outside of my weekly classes
I’m really pleased with this one. Thanks to the Tough Girl 100 challenge I was able to make regular yoga much more of a habit for me, and enjoyed doing so. Things have faltered a bit of late thanks to the time pressures of being away on a trip, but now that I’m getting organised again I’m looking forward to adding some more yoga to my days. My favourite is some bedtime yoga to help me unwind and rest well, helping me with that goal too!
Progress: On track

IMG_41967. Blog more consistently
Another one that’s going well. I wanted to improve on my 2016 pattern by publishing at least one post per week IN ADDITION to Friday Finds. So far, so good. I think I’ve only had one late Friday Finds, but it has gone out every week. I’ve also published a Week in Review post every Monday, as well as many additional posts when I can. I’m trying to use school holidays to work through the ideas in my drafts and have posts scheduled in advance, but it definitely feels much more consistent than last year. Very pleasing.
Progress: On track

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A bit of a mixed bag right now, but then goals are there to be a challenge rather than a guarantee. I’ve definitely made positive progress towards each of these, and will do my best to achieve those I still can. Hard to believe that the next time I write about my goals will be a review at the end of the year! I wonder what I will achieve…?

How are you getting on with your goals for 2017?
What would you still like to achieve this year?

Week In Review – Vive La France!

Bonjour! I’m back home from France. It was a great trip, but definitely tiring!

As usual, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL, but since last week’s post didn’t cover the full week thanks to my travel commitments (and lack of wifi to update the weekend’s events) I thought I’d begin this week’s post by filling in the gaps. Unsurprisingly, I have plenty of photos to share – this might be one to enjoy over a cup of tea!

The trip began in Normandy then we headed to Paris. Once home, it was time to get back to my regular routine (whilst also making sure to rest from the demands of a full-on itinerary and 40 pupils to keep an eye on!). Here’s the itinerary:

Saturday – travel to France
Sunday – explore Normandy
Monday – explore Bayeux then travel to Paris
Tuesday – Paris
Wednesday – Paris
Thursday – travel home
Friday – rest(!)
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – easy run

Saturday was a travelling day. While France is not really that far away, we had an early start to ensure we were at the airport in plenty of time (45 people to get checked in and through security!), then once in France we had a coach journey north to Normandy. An early highlight for the pupils was the presence of the Scotland football team in the departure lounge (a few were able to get photos). For me, arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport felt really familiar – I’m losing count of how many times I’ve been there now! – and I was pleased to find we had a great coach driver who not only drove us north, but provided some commentary and information about various things we passed as we left Paris, including the Stade de France.

IMG_4015Once in Normandy we headed to our base for the first couple of nights which is a youth centre opposite the most beautiful church tower.

IMG_4024We were hustled right in to dinner as we were a little later arriving that usual. The teachers had a most welcome arrival drink awaiting them, but I found the food a little strange – edible, but an odd combination. Fortunately, the meal was rescued by dessert which was these delicious pastries:

IMG_4017Our knowledgeable coach driver, who had stayed for dinner, told us they are known as Paris-Brest. Shaped like a bicycle wheel, they were created to commemorate the cycle race of the same name which began in 1891. I can confirm that they are delicious!

By the time we’d finished eating and been shown to our rooms, there was really only time to unpack the things we would need then start getting ready for bed. Of course the pupils were excited, and many had slept on the coach so felt wide awake, but I know how busy and tiring the trip is so was keen to get everyone to bed at a reasonable time.

Sunday was all about Normandy. We began the day in the beautiful town of Caen exploring the Sunday market and the castle which was built for William the Conqueror. We had our packed lunch in the castle grounds then headed on to Arromanches, at the heart of the D-Day landing sites (Jour-J in French). We were there to visit the 360 cinema which has a powerful 20 minute film which gives a real flavour of events in June 1944. The cinema is above the town and from the elevated position we could see the remains of the Mulberry harbour which was created to bring cargo ashore during the D-Day landings. We then took the short walk down to the town and had a look around for a short time before heading on to our next port of call: the American cemetery at Colleville.

IMG_4036The cemetery sits above Omaha beach and was featured at the start of the movie Saving Private Ryan (two of the brothers whose story inspired the film are buried at this cemetery). We didn’t have much time there, but I found time to watch a short film in the museum which I had not previously seen, before having a look around the cemetery itself. It’s a very sombre place and the mood can be felt in the air. It always really brings home the scale of the sacrifice made by allied forces as over 10,000 crosses are in this location alone.

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IMG_4043We began Monday still in Normandy with a visit to Bayeux and the famous tapestry which depicts the events around the Norman conquest of England in 1066. It’s quite spectacular and intricate, 70 metres long and 50 cm high. I remember learning about the tapestry at primary school, and always remember the part where Harold is killed with an arrow through the eye. Ouch!

IMG_4065After the tapestry there was some time to explore Bayeux before our packed lunches. There’s a beautiful cathedral in Bayeux and overall it’s a very attractive town.

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IMG_4079After lunch we were back on the road and heading to Paris for the remainder of the trip. Again, staying in a youth centre but more modern than the one in Normandy. We arrived in time to have a little time to relax before dinner, then it was time to head out.

Our first evening was spent in the Notre Dame area. We allowed the pupils some time to explore in their groups, so I opted to pay a visit to the nearby bookshop Shakespeare & Co. It’s a famous independent bookshop, traditionally English-language. Its location is close to Kilometer Zéro, the point from which all French road distances are measured. The shop is part of the rich history of ex-pat literary Paris in the 1920s and was a meeting place for the likes of Joyce, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Eliot. Today it’s still full of nooks and crannies inviting visitors to get comfortable and read. There’s even a resident cat whose favourite sleeping place is well defined!

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IMG_4124I absolutely adore this place and could easily spend hours (days?) there, but contented myself with a couple of books. You can ask to have your purchases stamped with the store logo, which is a nice touch and something I recommend if you ever visit.

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fullsizeoutput_229cTuesday was probably the most tiring day as we had no coach so were both walking and using the metro. It was also a day when there were public sector strikes, which ended up affecting our itinerary.

The first visit on the agenda was the Musée d’Orsay, a one-time railway station now home to a number of exhibits including Impressionist art. In the past we have visited the Louvre, so this was new. Unfortunately, just as we got there the museum was in the process of closing as the strikes meant they did not have enough staff. We gave our pupils some time to themselves to look around, take photos, buy food, etc while we made alternative plans and I drew on what turned out to be far more impressive knowledge of Paris than I realised I had as I was able to look at my map and come up with a plan almost immediately. All those Paris marathons were good for something!

IMG_4172We needed to do something that would not incur a cost (including additional metro tickets) so I created a tour of the area we were in. From the Musée d’Orsay we walked along the Rive Gauche past the bouquinistes to the Pont des Arts. This is the pedestrian bridge which attracted controversy due to the number of “love locks” attached to it. The locks have now been removed due to safety concerns, but it’s still a great bridge to cross as it’s quite spacious and there’s no traffic so you can take some time for photos.

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IMG_4231The bridge leads into the Louvre courtyard so we spent some time there taking photos around the iconic pyramid (and I decided this would be the the ideal location for some yoga photos!). I had thought of maybe heading into the Tuileries gardens next, perhaps even along to the Place de la Concorde to see the obelisk, however we needed to start heading to our lunch at a quick service restaurant close to the Pompidou centre so we made our way along Rue de Rivoli to get there.

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IMG_4196The afternoon was devoted to some shopping so we walked the group along to the Forum des Halles, a huge underground shopping mall. There has been a lot of work going on remodelling the area and it was fascinating to see how much it has changed. I didn’t really do much shopping, but did enjoy the chance to slow down a bit and spend some time in a nearby café.

Unfortunately, our evening was also affected by the strikes. We had been due to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, but it was also closed. We had a bit longer to think about alternative activities and I suggested going along anyway to see the monument from ground level and spend some time on the Champs Elysées before walking along to the Trocadéro to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up. This turned out to be an ideal solution – another score for all that time I’ve spent exploring Paris on foot!

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IMG_4219The pupils were pleased to see the coach again on Wednesday morning as they were so tired from the day before. Wednesday began with a visit to the Eiffel Tower. I ended up waiting at the bottom with a pupil who was unable to go up because of a fear of heights. I amused myself with a coffee and pain au chocolat for second breakfast!

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IMG_4241Once the group was back on the ground we walked across the road to the Port de la Bourdonnais where we had a one hour cruise on the Seine. I’ve done this a few times so didn’t bother listening to the commentary and instead just enjoyed the Parisian scenery and chance to relax for a while.

Back at the coach we had a quick packed lunch (it was a little chilly) before heading off again. We asked our coach driver to go around the Arc de Triomphe, which he did, then took a fairly scenic route to our next port of call all the while keeping up his very knowledgeable and interesting commentary.

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IMG_4255Soon, we passed the Moulin Rouge and got off the coach to make our way up the 270 (I think) steps to the Sacré Cœur. I had to go up them fairly briskly as some of the boys raced up and a member of staff needed to be up there to keep everyone together as they arrived. After a pause at the view point, we walked around to the Place du Tertre to enjoy the artists, cafés and souvenir shops. The staff sat at a café by our meeting point and I ordered a delicious bowl of soupe à l’oignon gratinée.

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IMG_4397Our evening activity was a visit to the Montparnasse tower and its panoramic observation deck. We made our way there on foot, and it was well worth it for the stunning views of Paris by night.

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IMG_4297Thursday was, sadly, the day we had to go home. I was up early to take one of our pupils to the airport as a family funeral required her to be on an earlier flight than ours. It was actually quite nice to have a couple of hours to myself and not constantly hear my “teacher name” followed by Are we…? Can we…? When are we…? Where is…? etc.

IMG_4307Back in Scotland our journey home took us over the new Queensferry Crossing (my first time) which was exciting, but by the time I finally got home I was exhausted so Steve treated me to a Chinese takeaway for dinner before I went to bed.

IMG_4320Unsurprisingly, Friday was a very quiet day. I slept a little later then usual, got unpacked and paid a visit to my parents before going out to eat with Steve. Even better, my favourite special was on so I had a lovely steak dinner 🙂

IMG_4335By Saturday I was ready for business as usual. What with my recovery weeks and the trip, I hadn’t trained since the Loch Ness marathon and was keen to get started again with a parkrun.

IMG_4336It was a lovely autumnal day, perfect for running. I had no expectations of time, but enjoyed moving my legs and pushing my body again. I ended up running really evenly and was quite surprised to finish in 24:41. Not too shabby after three weeks off!

IMG_4343The rest of the day was pretty relaxing as Steve was away, so I chilled out with the cat and caught up on some TV.

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IMG_4409Sunday was another return to the usual routine as I headed out for my second run of the weekend. Nowhere near as long as my marathon training runs, but a nice 5.5 mile loop at an easy pace to start reminding my body of how to run again. I felt sluggish at first, but by the end I could feel everything clicking into place.

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IMG_4408What a week! So strange to think that I started the week in France and ended it on my usual running route. Life is so funny sometimes! It was great to have some time in Paris, but now I’m ready to re-focus and get back to some regular training again.

Have you been on any trips recently?
How is your training going?