Be Grateful of the Small Things

Biking

Today was a stunning day. We’ve been truly blessed with the weather thus far during our ‘confinement’, and it was a joy to be out on the trails again today.

Riding out from home, it’s not long before we reach Hazlehead. I love being able to ride across to Countesswells, a favourite running route ordinarily. I’ve managed to the old ‘stables’ but the full route is a step or two (several miles) too far.

On our social Sunday runs we have regular stops to allow everyone the opportunity to regroup. One such stop is our ‘selfie spot’, so in keeping with tradition Bruce and I have taken pictures there on the couple of occasions we’ve been out.

The solitude of the trails is remarkable with so few people out. The car park closed, people are welcome only if they can get there under their own steam.

Reflections

Home and showered I reflected upon the day thus far and decided to look back on previous years to see what I’d been doing then. Way back in December 2014 I decided to start keeping a journal of things I’m grateful for, noting three positives each day. These are often small, relatively insignificant things but the reflection provides some clear light at the end of each day, all the more so during life’s tough times.

Here they are with some annotations along the way:

15th April 2015

1. Relaxed morning in Keswick (Easter holidays – I wonder if it was raining; ‘relaxed mornings’ don’t usually figure in our hols!)

2. Lovely walk with Bruce & Rob (Rob is one of Bruce’s friends and I recall he’d driven some way to join us for a walk)

3. Post walk beers and chat

15th April 2016

1. Last 3 Wainwrights: Ling Fell, Sale Fell, then on to Binsey! (I should clarify that these were the last 3 Wainwrights of OUR holiday; still a long way to go overall!)

2. Home – although I enjoy being away I’m always happy to be home again.

3. Chat with Mum & Dad

15th April 2017

1. parkrun fun as Run Director

2. Nuart walk around Aberdeen with Bruce followed by a visit to CASC

3. Dinner catch up at Dizzy’s with Elaine, Heidi & Jacq – we need to get together when this is all over, although with one in USA and Dizzy’s sadly no longer standing we’ll need a new venue.

15th April 2018

1. Social run (Quite possibly around the trails we did today)

2. Coffee at Cognito – a post run tradition and a place I’m missing very much right now!

3. Trip to Stonehaven for ice cream – probably Aunty Betty’s; I’ve since discovered E Giulianotti (up the hill from the Square) that does equally good ice cream and has less of a queue!)

15th April 2019

1. Happy boys after the holidays – Easter holidays are a moveable feast. One of the joys of working as a teacher is that the kids are generally happy to return; you can’t fail to be swept up in their enthusiasm.

2. More fudge sold – this was part of my fundraising efforts for the London Marathon last year.

3. Sarah – home to a clean house. I work full-time and am a part-time ‘athlete’. What more can I say?

Have you found any small pleasures during the ‘lockdown’? What are you grateful for?

A weekend of running and the Metro Beach 10k

The marathon training’s going pretty well so I was looking forward to the Metro Beach 10k – it’s fast, flat, and usually by the time evening comes the wind along the prom has died down. This unfortunately was not the case last night …

My legs were tired from the weekend’s running. The long run has a nasty habit of hanging around in the background like a bad smell, so I opted to get it out of the way on Friday evening, heading up to Hazlehead on my own, and running solo 2 miles up the road, through Hazlehead, over to Countesswells, 4 loops of Kingshill, the hill at the other side and an extra bit on the flatter terrain before heading back home via Hazlehead once again. To say it was warm is somewhat of an understatement. On the upside though, the run was done. It was one of those character building efforts – what started off feeling easy ended up feeling rather tough.

Saturday saw me hit Aberdeen parkrun. To begin with I wasn’t sure whether my legs would be able to run at all so I opted to walk up round the bend on my warm up run. At this point I reasoned with my body and concluded that a slow shuffle may be an option, so did manage a warm up effort, then was most delighted to meet my sister which meant that we could run together, chat all the way around, and really not think about the miles that are Aberdeen parkrun. She’s getting better – the pace noticeably picked up on the home straight!

Aberdeen parkrun

Then on Sunday I’d contemplated a lie in but the body clock woke me in time to meet the Metro social gang. Once again, we hit the trails at Hazlehead and Countesswells for varying distances. I decided to opt out with Ali and do the 10 mile route (only one lap of Kingshill) as my legs were weary and didn’t fancy venturing around a second time. This also ensured that I’d have suficient time for my post run coffee at Cognito at the Cross before venturing up to Huntly to see Mum and Dad for lunch. Win win!

So, back to the 10k. I ran it last year (and have only just looked back at the diary to find I did it in 43:15). I don’t recall there being any wind then so hopefully that’s what I can attribute to the slowing this year. I went out with the intention of warming up for two miles. However, it was very windy, so I bailed and decided I’d just head out for a jolly and forget about the time. Anyone that knows me will also know that this was never truly going to be the case – the Metro vest was on so this does mean business.

The start was somewhat larger than previous years and everyone was ahead of the start line before having to move backwards. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so hemmed in during a race! I think the last time was Paris Marathon where I was surrounded by tall people and couldn’t see a thing. Suffice to say, I was relieved when we set off and the crowd started to thin out a little.

The headwind along the upper prom was tough, but the legs were fresh at this point (surprisingly so). Before long the Stones marshals were reached and it was a sheer joy to hit the lower prom with no wind! What a blast it was running freely along here, probably why it felt all the harder when we reached the Footdee turn and hit the headwind again!

The second stretch along the upper prom from Footdee all the way to the Stones was brutal! I honestly felt like I was going backwards (and in terms of time I was). However, as with elsewhere on the course it was lovely to hear shouts of support from the marshals (Bryan, the FLJs/Metros) and other friends and clubmates. By this point I think the best you got was a grimace, so please know that your support truly was appreciated!

The final stretch along the lower prom to the finish was again wind free and it was here that I was able to truly relax and enjoy the run. I was delighted to be feeling strong, both in mind and body, and very happy to complete the run in a time of 43:49. I went in with no idea of where I was at and ran faster than I have in any training session to date – so far the marathon training has focused on Endurance and Lactate Threshold. The next part is Race Preparation – wish me luck!

A little addendum: many thanks to everyone that supported our cause last night by buying fudge. Much appreciated! Alongside my work colleagues, you’ve supported me in banking £100 for our charities!

White Chocolate Fudge for Metro Coast to Coast Fundraising

Should anyone wish to donate further, please visit our Total Giving page:https://www.totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/metrocoast2coast

Marathon Training Begins …

Having lacked focus since dropping out of Fraserburgh Half Marathon (in favour of going away to celebrate Mum’s 70th birthday), I decided that I needed a focus, and have therefore made the decision to follow an 18 week training plan in the lead up to Fort William Marathon.

The year got off to a reasonable start with steady miles, but for four weeks I’ve done little or nothing (3 weeks with 7 or 8 miles a week, then a complete rest last week). The upshot is that I am focused and raring to go, at least in my head. I’m hoping the body will follow suit shortly.

I love a plan and favour Pfitzinger and Douglas. I’ve used the plans from the P & D Advanced Marathoning book for my last two marathons and therefore decided to stick with it. This will be a new venture, following the 18 week, up to 55 miles, plan, as previously I’ve done 12 weeks or less. That’s been on top of decent base mileage though, something I feel I’m lacking this time.

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The first mesocycle is all about building endurance which is exactly what I need to do just now. Despite it being a shock to the system I have enjoyed my runs this week. As with all plans, it adapts to fit around life quite nicely, so I ended up doing two runs at the start of the week and two this weekend.

Monday night saw a lactate threshold session, with four of the miles at half marathon pace. Given that this pace was last used in February for Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half it was a bit of an effort to get there and hold it, but I did it. Tuesday saw a far more sedate affair with a lovely session on the Deeside line with Ali and Alan. It’s so good to be able to get back out in the evenings and see some daylight!

Yesterday was a recovery run. Conditions were perfect at Aberdeen parkrun and there were lots of personal bests recorded, including those of my sister and niece. Very well done to them both. I thoroughly enjoyed my run with them, although the younger of the two did try to escape, managing to get a few seconds clear and holding this to the finish, spurred on by her auntie hollering encouragement from behind along with an alert that her mum was starting to pick the pace up on the final stretch.

The legs felt a bit weary as we set off today from Hazlehead. There were five of us to begin, two intending on doing a shorter distance. Conditions were perfect, hardly a breath of wind, and the sun was shining brightly with a wee touch of ground frost remaining due to the clocks having changed. I love the peace and tranquility of running in this area, and it was particularly noticeable running round Kings Hill where the birds could be heard singing in the trees. As always, time passed quickly with the chat along the way, and before I knew it I’d been round Kings Hill twice and was on the way back to Hazlehead. As is traditional, the run ended with coffee, by this time we were a twosome, and had timed it to perfection, hitting Cognito at a quiet moment.

Therein ends Week 1: 34.88 miles and one session of Pilates. I’ve got the plan for Week 2 written through the diary but am not looking further ahead than that. I know what’s in store and will just take it week by week, run by run.

Metro Social Sunday

Alan’s back from his travels (again! Retirement suits him!) so there was some element of organisation for today’s Sunday social run. He’s the one that posts on Facebook to remind others that we’ll be running. Admittedly it is usually the same route, place and time, but occasionally this varies). One such variation was when Ali, Marie and I opted for Scolty a few weeks ago. Marie is not Metro – she is in fact a Garioch imposter – however, we’re sociable and welcome others on our runs. It was only halfway round Scolty that I suddenly realised I’d invited a work colleague and he may well have turned up at Hazlehead at 9 am. Thankfully he had failed in his mission to get up and out; it appeared that way today also as he was a no show again. Rein in the Saturday nights if you’re reading this!

So, today’s run. A merry wee band turned up which was good: Alison and Bill (husband and wife duo, they’re also often joined by their speedy daughter, Sarah – not today though); James (physiotherapist from Spear and on a sub 3:45 marathon quest); Graham (parkrun ED and imposter); Alan (who kindly picked me up on route to Hazlehead again); and George who had run an impressive 5 miles prior to meeting us as he needed to get 15 miles in the bank today as he’s marathon training for Manchester.

We did our usual route from Hazlehead, over to Countesswells and around Kingshill. I had initially set out with the intention of doing 14 miles as I’m looking to get myself back into gear for the forthcoming Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half Marathon and aiming to build the base mileage before starting on my own marathon journey. However, with George having banked 5 miles already and everyone else happy to opt for 10 I conceded a few miles in favour of company. It didn’t take much (any) persuasion!!

Had a very pleasant run, chatting with George at the back of the pack for much of it. The others ran on ahead but waited at regular intervals for us to catch up. Conditions were excellent today. Yesterday’s wind had completely died down and it was a balmy 6C! Perfect. Another dry week also saw the trails mercifully dry.

Time passed quickly and before we knew it we were round Kingshill and headed back towards Hazlehead. As we ran between the gates I got chatting to James and ended up doing an extra loop around the roads at Hazlehead to round off his miles. That worked well for me taking me to just short of 11.5 miles for the day. I resisted the urge to run laps of the car park to round it off, happy with this. It was very enjoyable chatting to him and hearing his thoughts on various running matters, as with the job that he’s doing and his personal mission he’s picked up lots of information and knowledge.

Arriving back at the car park I was relieved to find that my driver had waited for me and wasn’t making me run home – thanks Alan! As usual, onwards to Cafe Cognito we went, with the classic post-run refreshment of scones (George and I), croissant (Alan), and hot chocolate, latte and Americano with hot milk on the side, respectively. Another great run in great company!

 

Don’t leave home without your insoles!

Having fully intended to run yesterday it just didn’t quite happen. I was undecided whether to run from work or home. With a 6:30 Yoga class to attend I decided that home was the better option. However, my car had other ideas … on auto pilot I found it took me to Cafe Cognito again! This resulted in no run but a very good coffee and fruit scone instead.

So, today I had made it my mission – must run! To avoid the same issue as yesterday I headed off to get changed at the end of the day only to find …

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At home in the kitchen the trainers and insoles were reunited.

No insoles! Disaster!

You may wonder why the aforementioned insoles were not in my shoes. Herein lies a top tip from the podiatrist: take your insoles out of your shoes after running if you can, and they will never again stink!

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The horrible whiffy reek to which some of us have become accustomed, possibly smelling like the cat’s peed in your shoes (even if you don’t have a cat!) is in fact due to bacteria breeding. Let them dry out after your run in a more open environment and the problem is solved!

So home, shoes on and out I then enjoyed a 10 mile tour of Aberdeen. Concluded that I definitely prefer daylight and trail, but nonetheless a few miles have been banked.

 

 

Hazlehead & Countesswells

Thankfully despite the cold it’s been very dry (therefore no ice underfoot) and we were able to get out to the woods for one of my favourite long runs: Hazlehead and Countesswells.

Setting off with Ali and Derek, we were nearly a man down before we left the car park with Derek having a minor impromptu slip.

The trails were surprisingly puddle free. It’s very rare indeed that there are no puddles to jump, run through or tiptoe around. Opting for either the former or latter, I have to say I was most delighted! I hate getting my feet wet, especially at the start.

The toughest part of this run is always the start, the first mile leading very gently up, following the route of Hazlehead parkrun. The legs are just getting warmed up and it can be a bit of a slog.

As always, the chatter passed the time and before we knew it we were coming out of Hazlehead and working our way towards Countesswells. I feel sad when I see the urban sprawl that’s developing here as the new houses are built; in my opinion they spoil the views and the overall peace and tranquility of the area.

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Derek and Ali run the gate to gate section

Before long we were in Countesswells. I’ve always loved this forest and adore running here. There are wide forest trails and smaller tracks aplenty. Give me this over the road any day! With so many trails and paths to pick from it’s possible to play here for ages without getting bored.

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Derek stick with us towards the bottom of the forest before heading off as he’s building up strength just now.

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A wee self-timed shot before Derek left us

Ali and I then continued on our way round to conquer Kingshill. This lovely hill takes you round to the back of the forest with views over to Kingswells. It had a special place on Strava where someone has aptly named it to show the love we all feel for it – not! Anyway, we did three loops of Kingshill, managing to run each one pretty steadily so we were happy.

Each loop was unique in it’s own way: the first we chugged up complaining; the second we met a melee of people at the top (including Phil, a fellow Metro man who appeared over the top of Tank Hill, much to my surprise!); the third was great as we felt pretty virtuous having already completed two laps.

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View back over the forest from Kingshill

There’s then the other side of the forest to run. This part always reminds me of Alan (who was running today in sunnier climes, the Gran Canaria Half), as it’s his favourite part of the run, twisting and turning through the trees with little swooping sections. It’s a real fun bit to run. It also reminds me of John (also running the GC Half) as he once performed some sort of levitational feat, attempting to remain upright having stumbled off the path and into the ditch!

We met lots of dogs here including the obligatory one that has to wander in front of you and attempt to trip you up. It failed.

Back over to Hazlehead we ran along to the ‘bus stop’ or shelter at the top of the golf course / Hazlehead  parkrun route before returning to the cars. 14 miles in the bank and 2 happy runners!

At this point Ali headed off so I had to go solo to Cafe Cognito. My favourite coffee shop, it’s an absolute must following the Sunday run. Perfect!

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This is why we run!