Summer has finally arrived and changes to my race plans

The hundred miler I entered last year is now seven weeks away…Seven weeks!

But first, how absolutely lovely is it to finally have full on sunshine after so many weeks of doom and gloom and all that heavy snow in March?!

Oscar and I had a day out planned at a sand and water outdoor area a few miles away today but my car wouldn’t start this morning so I had to check it in at the garage – crushing our plans for the morning.  Although we couldn’t make it to the water park we did still make time to get outside in the garden this morning where Oscar happily held my hand for a good twenty minutes whilst stirring various sticks through the weed in our garden pond!

Oscar by the pondOscar by the pondWe have big plans for our garden this year.  When we bought our house three years ago we didn’t have a child, but our garden is definitely not one I would describe as child friendly at the moment.  (See picture below.)

New house garden(Picture taken just before we moved in to the house – long before the garden became overgrown with weeds and the bushes grew out of control!)

Our pond definitely needs a cover on it now that Oscar is toddling around and we hope to remove the monkey puzzle tree which has grown out of control at the back of the garden, putting everything to the right of the path to grass for Oscar to play on.  Wish me luck.  It’s going to be a big job over the next few months whilst trying to keep a very active toddler busy!

Bella joined us outside earlier and rolled around in the sunny patches on the brickwork most of the morning!

Bella in the garden

I can’t wait to get some sunshine trail miles in and Dan has promised that when he gets home from work this evening the three of us can head out on a family run with Oscar in the running buggy.

Dan, Oscar and I on a buggy run togetherDan said that he would like to get some more running in the other week and now that the nights are lighter again as long as we head straight out as soon as he returns home from work (6:20pm-ish) we can fit 5-6 miles in before getting Oscar ready for bed.  We went for our first family evening run together the week before I ran SDW50 and it was so nice to spend time together as a family whilst I was getting some miles in my legs.  Oscar loves being out in the buggy with both of us and you can hear him constantly singing away and pointing things out that he can see along his ride!

I did have my alarm set for another 5am wakeup call this morning, but a late night last night and backlog of lack of sleep over the past six months meant that my miles this morning needed to be replaced by an extra hour of sleep, so snoozed my alarm and rolled over for another hour instead.

I have arranged to meet up with a few other ladies from the Run Mummy Run Facebook group for some early morning runs over the coming weeks and I’m hoping this will help to encourage me to get out for some of my miles first thing in the day.  I much prefer running in the mornings and feel so much better for it for the rest of the day then.  The poor weather and dark nights has meant that my early morning runs have been mainly on the treadmill this Winter, and there’s nothing more depressing than a solo treadmill run in a silent, dark house when you’re feeling tired!  I’m looking forward to being able to chat running once more!

Dan has also promised that he will ask at work if he can adjust his hours for a Thursday – meaning that he will start and finish earlier, giving him time to get home and take over Oscar from me, allowing me to get out on a club run in time.  I’ve really missed running with other club runners since Dan has been at this job and I would love to be able to get back out there again.

So, back at the end of last year when I sat down with my race calendar for 2018, achieving a marathon PB and completing a 100 mile ultra were the two big goals right at the very top of my list.

Fast forward a few months and I am now less than three weeks away from running the Milton Keynes Marathon and less than eight weeks away from the South Downs Way 100.

Following my performance at the SDW50 a fortnight ago I feel fully prepared for the 100.  It was a real confidence boost that I achieved a time I hadn’t thought I was capable of, even though I didn’t actually ‘race’ the 50 event, slowing in places as I was concerned my calf injury might reappear.  Touch wood, all being well, I am feeling fairly confident of completing the 100 at the start of June, provided no outsider issues ruin the day – heat, nutritional, etc.  I’ve been talking tactics and times with some of the guys from my club who have finished the SDW100 in the past and every time it’s mentioned I can feel my excitement about the event continue to grow!

The marathon is a different ball game though.
Ultramarathons are all about tactics – getting your nutrition right and keeping moving, knowing which sections to walk and where to pick up the pace.  Road marathons are a more pressured environment and can be time-driven.  My continuous runs haven’t been very continuous and I haven’t completed as many longer runs as I would have liked throughout this training cycle.  The plan I roughly put together for this training cycle was based very loosely on the Hanson’s Marathon Method and I am certain that this is a plan I would do well using when training solely for a marathon, – I just haven’t had the full opportunity to do so yet!  Last year I ended up traveling back to Norfolk to visit my Mum several times during each week and this time round the plan could never have my full focus as the bigger goal has always been about running 100 miles.

I want a sub 4h 30m marathon this year, but I don’t think I will achieve that at Milton Keynes next month, and I don’t want to break myself by trying.  I no longer plan on tapering for the marathon and instead plan to treat it as a long training run (with other people, and a shiny new medal!).  I have been running strongly on my runs, and so, (with a current marathon PB I am aware doesn’t do my running justice) know that a new PB is perhaps possible even if I don’t ‘race’ the event as such.  But if not, that’s OK too.  My new target for the sub 4h 30m marathon is going to be a marathon at the end of September/start of October (still to decide which one) meaning I will be able to focus on solid training purely for the marathon over the Summer months when I won’t be persuaded to run other races (as it will be out of race season) and when I will be able to run outside rather than on the treadmill for the majority of my runs as it is already light by 6am in the mornings.

Have you changed your goal races for the season before?
Do you prefer Summer or Winter running?
How is your garden currently looking after such a rough Winter?

Falling back in love with ultra running

Over the past few months there have been times where I think I’m starting to fall out of love with running.  In the early days, running was such an easy thing to do…throw on some running clothes, lace up my trainers, strap my watch to my wrist and just get out there.  I really never appreciated just how easy running was back then.  Now getting out on a run can become a military operation, planned weeks in advance for a run which might end up being cut short due to lack of sleep (Me) or the spotting of a park on route (Oscar) !

This Saturday, running the South Downs Way 50 reminded me of everything I love about running though, and everything I love about running ultra distances in particular.

I was always going to sign up for the SDW50 this year.  The event had been my main running goal for 2017 – my comeback race from having a baby, booking the race was incentive to return to running and to hopefully feel more like ‘Me’ again once the baby had arrived, rather than just a ‘Mum’.  It worked.  I had a great race last year and, despite having to stop for 25 minutes on route to express(!) I continued to book races into my calendar, including the South Downs Way 100 for this year.

Knowing that the SDW100 was firmly booked in for June, it only made sense to enter the SDW50 again.  Those 50 miles (give or take a couple) are the last 50 miles of the 100 mile race – and miles which I’ll likely be running in darkness next time round.  Having refreshed my memory of the route this weekend I feel confident that I can navigate the miles again in nine weeks time in the dark along with the help of a strong headtorch!

I haven’t really been focusing on the SDW50 this year to be honest.  I’ve actually been a little blase about it all, with my main focus as the 100, closely followed by Milton Keynes Marathon at the start of May where I hope to PB.  I’ve run the 50 before, and know that I can complete the distance.  However, I was a little on edge going in to this event as so many runners from my club of a similar speed to me would also be running the race, with six of them going for the Grand Slam of four Centurion 50 mile events across the year.  Last year I didn’t feel pressured to run at anybody’s pace or to perform a certain way, but this year I worried that I would end up running with one of the other runners from my club or would stress myself into trying to keep up with them.  I’m much slower over road races than all of the others who were there.  Don’t get me wrong – I love chatting to other runners when out on the course, but I hate feeling like I need to keep up with somebody’s pace, or hang back with them when actually that section suits me really well and I can run easily along it.  I race much better when I’m running on my own, even though I always find other runners to chat to along the way.

Friends Kev and Gary were crewing us all and so Kev arrived in his van outside my house to collect me a little before 4:30am on Saturday morning.  I’d set my alarm for 3:30am that morning but definitely hit the snooze button after Oscar decided to wake for a (very unlike him) two hour party at 12:30am.  Tip number one if you’re thinking about running an ultra…don’t live with a toddler!

After picking up another three runners along the way we arrived with the perfect amount of time before the start.  Kit check, numbers on, loo trip, drink, snack, bags on and a walk to the start.

South Downs Way 50 startline

It was lovely to finally meet Lauren properly after having cheering her on at Milton Keynes Marathon a few years back and also to bump into Ally as well, who I also saw at the finish for a chat.  Both ran amazing races in super fast times.  Lauren is also running the 100 later on this year like me and Ally is running the next Centurion 50 mile event in a few week’s time – the North Downs Way.

South Downs Way 50 startline

There was time for a quick photo of our club runners before the off and then followed a gentle jog to the gap in the field, with a bottleneck!South Downs Way 50 WDAC lineup

I felt good from the get go and having started right at the back, the pace was easy.  I didn’t rush to get past anyone, although I saw plenty of others jostling for positions.

South Downs Way 50 starting at the back

(Screenshot of the bottleneck taken from a video shared on the Centurion Facebook group)

About a mile in I started to regret having a peanut butter smothered bagel as a snack less than an hour before the race start.  I had eaten a bowl of porridge with blueberries when I first woke but knew I would need a top-up snack before the run, as I had already been up for so long that morning.  Turns out, a bagel was not the snack I required and I needed a loo stop from early on, on a course when I knew there was barely any course coverage!

Other than the first couple of miles (when everyone was stuck behind other runners along narrow sections anyway), it is fairly easy going until the first checkpoint at mile 11.  My strategy at checkpoints is to grab what food I need, have the lid of my water bottle unscrewed ready for topping up if needed and get in and out as quickly as possible.  Why hang around when you could be moving?!  It wastes time and means you end up getting stiff.  At this first checkpoint I grabbed a couple of grapes and some cheese sandwiches before moving on.  Fruit and cheese sandwiches are always winners for me during an event!  I’d already eaten half of a cocoa orange nakd bar on the way to this checkpoint, and grabbed a carton of chocolate milk out of my bag as I made my way up the hill along the other side of the road.

South Downs Way 50 the first big hillI’m aware that these pictures don’t make the hill look too ‘hilly’, but trust me, it was!  And, just like last year, the photographer was perched up at the top taking photographs!South Downs Way 50 the first big hillAnother runner struck up conversation when he spotted I was wearing the event t-shirt from last year and I ran with him for a few miles until he told me he needed to slow down.
Mile 15 was our first crew ‘checkpoint’ and I felt slightly guilty for not stopping as I waved at Kev and Gary as they stood cheering me by.  I passed two of the runners from my club here as they had stopped to top up on supplies from our crew.  There was just one from my club ahead now, which really surprised me and I knew wouldn’t last.  (Although I later surprised myself by coming in as 3rd runner of our 7).

Not long after this we headed slightly downhill through a small wooded section and I almost ran into the back of another runner who had squatted down on the path to pee!

Checkpoint two at mile 16 was in a slightly different location this year and I walked in, got some Tailwind, watermelon, more cheese sandwiches and made my way back out again in less than 30 seconds.  Smooth going!  I still felt good.

There were a couple of rather steep hills between checkpoints two and three at 26 miles.  There were also several runnable sections too which I made sure to take advantage of.  The course really suits me as it has rolling hills – dictating which sections to walk.  I usually really struggle mentally and also with my consistency over long flat sections, but had no problems with these this time round, which I’m putting down to the large number of miles logged on my treadmill this Winter!

South Downs Way 50

The third checkpoint was where I had stopped to express last year and this year, where I finally spotted a portaloo to use!  I grabbed some chocolate chip cookies, MORE cheese sandwiches and watermelon, Tailwind and topped up my water.  All in all I think I stopped for about 5 minutes here, but it was 5 minutes well spent.

South Downs Way 50

I knew I was having a good race and used the climb following this aid station to check in with Dan.  He hadn’t realised that he could track me online and so I let him know how to do this.  He also let me know that ‘Oscar’ had sent me a good luck video earlier that morning.  I had turned my internet off in order to save battery but after hanging up with Dan I quickly checked WhatsApp to find a lovely little video where Oscar waved madly at me, said “Sit down Mumma!” and then gave the camera a kiss!  It definitely made me smile.

South Downs Way 50

For the next aid station you have to cross over a set of railway tracks.  Oh how I’m going to love all those steps at mile 84 of the 100 mile version of the race(!)  I knew I needed more Tailwind here but couldn’t see any on display so asked one of the volunteers for some.  She told me that I was lucky, and they had just a little left.  Taking a few gulps from my bottle after being topped up I spluttered out that she could definitely make it go further by watering it down more…it was super strong!

I nicknamed the next section ‘Australia’ last year as the views, with the sun disappearing behind the hills reminded me of scenes I’ve only seen in programs about Australia.  This year though, the sun was still high in the sky (albeit hidden behind clouds!)

South Downs Way 50 It also definitely looked less Australia-like this year!South Downs Way 50The last two checkpoints follow in quick succession; starting with a lovely little pitstop in Alfriston at 41.6 miles with indoor seats to perch on for a few minutes.  This checkpoint is quickly followed by the final checkpoint at Jevington just four miles later.  It’s perched high up some steps alongside the road and I felt rather bad that I just called up the hill to thank the volunteers, continuing on my way rather than stopping in, but I didn’t need anything with only four miles to go and thought it better to keep moving at this point.

I strongly made the final climb up to the Trig point and started to make my way along the narrow, slippy path back down towards Eastbourne.  The clouds were threatening to rain at this point, and we’d been very lucky with the weather until now.  I had twice put on my jacket for the odd spitting shower but the temperature was fairly warm, and the rain never really stuck around.  It had made the rocks on this section rather slippery though.  This being the most technical section on the whole course.  My hamstrings had a few spasms along this section and out loud I told my legs they needed to co-operate for just a little longer…pretty please!

In my head I had secretly hoped to run 25 minutes faster than my time last year (12h 06m).  25 minutes was the amount of time I had stopped to express so I thought it was probably fairly achievable for me to gain back those minutes in my finishing time this year.  As I reached the bottom of the hill though and broke into a faster run I realised I would most likely go sub 11h 30m.

Running and maths never work and despite being just two miles from the finish now and having been out on the course for 10h 40m I was convinced I would have to run really fast to go sub 11h 30m.  Mile 48 ticked by starting with a 12:xx and I realised that actually, I should probably be targeting 11:15 instead.

I still felt really good.  No pains, no aches, I’d fuelled well, I was still running!  In fact, other than road crossings and twice when I walked a handful of steps, I ran pretty much the whole of the last two miles, passing several other runners along the way and changing my target at the last minute to 11:10 – coming into the stadium to the most glorious sunset.  It was honestly the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen and I really regret not asking somebody to take a photo of me in front of it after crossing the finish line.  Unfortunately my official finisher photo, despite showing colour, definitely does not do the sky justice as the photographer was using a flash so that I was the focus of the photo.

I could not stop beaming as I ran around the track!  I’d picked the pace up for the track finish, although definitely not enough to be considered a sprint finish!

As I turned the corner at the bottom of the stadium I noticed that opposite the gorgeous sunset, was a gigantic rainbow.  What a lovely finish arch!

South Downs Way 50 finish archI took this shot a few minutes after I finished but I wish I had taken more pictures, and actually of something, rather than just randomly pointing in the direction of the sun!

Looking on the Centurion Running Community Facebook page yesterday, I found these two images which another runner had taken which give a much better impression of the view we finished to…

SDW50 sky pictures

South Downs Way 50 sunset

It tipped it down not long after I finished and I was glad to bump into Nic, who had finished about ten minutes ahead of me and who had the keys to Kev’s van so that I could grab some warm clothes.  I took a quick picture with my medal in the fading light and queued up for my free sausage bap and hot drink, unsure of how long the other 4 runners from my club would take to come in.

South Downs Way 50 medalOfficial time: 11h 7m 22s
Position: 277/353
Gender position: 52/81
Category (senior female) position: 21/35

Turns out I took quite a lot of steps that day(!)

South Downs Way 50 Garmin step count

My planned races for the first half of 2018

This year I’m going to have to be rather careful about the races I choose, looking closely at which days races fall on and ensure that I check out my work shifts in advance of that week.

Currently, I’m contracted to work just Saturday nights in the supermarket where I work (10pm-7am).  If I manage to get a fair amount of sleep on the Saturday (often not possible if Dan is away at a Wolves’ game) then I can power straight through on the Sunday and complete a shorter race before falling into bed and catching up on my sleep.
However, the supermarket I work at operates using ‘flexi-hours’, meaning alongside my one shift a week, I also have to be available for two others if required – potentially being added on to the rota for Friday and/or Sunday nights if staff numbers are looking short when the rota is drawn up the previous month.

Although I can ‘power through’ for a little while following one night at work, I struggle with two or three in a row, especially if Dan is not around during the daytime to have Oscar so that I am able to have some much needed sleep.  I found myself arriving a little early to Oscar’s 9:30am swimming lesson this Monday morning.  I had worked all three nights over the weekend so I pulled Oscar’s spare blanket over my legs and set my alarm for three minutes.  I enjoyed every one of those three minutes of nap time.  They were very much required!

My work schedule has also meant that I’ve had to change my marathon/ultra training plans around slightly, and the majority of my longer runs during this training cycle will probably take place on a Friday morning when Oscar is in nursery.  If I’ve only worked a couple of shifts over the weekend then I might be able to fit in a mid-length run late on a Sunday afternoon, but once I’ve had a nap first!



Therefore the races I currently have pencilled into the calendar for the first half of 2018 are as follows:

Biggleswade XC – this weekend.
I really hope that I can make this race.  I will have only worked the Saturday and Sunday nights of this week in the supermarket, but I am also working all day down in Wendover, marshaling at Checkpoint 3 of the Country to Capital ultra on Saturday, which always leaves me exhausted as it usually ends up being rather a full on day!
love cross-country and this is the final race of the season for our club.  I missed the last event before Christmas as it coincided with my first three-night weekend of work and I just didn’t have the energy to make it to the start line.  I’ll be sensible, and if my body tells me I need to go home rather than to the race then I will.  But, if you see a green vest poking out from underneath a child’s blanket in the front seat of a red Ibiza on race morning, please just knock on the window and make sure I’m up in time for the race warm up!

MK half marathon – March 11th
I really want to run a half marathon at this point in my marathon training cycle to see where my fitness level is at.  Fingers crossed by that point I will be looking somewhere around a sub 2h 5m half time.  By typing numbers into calculators online, everything points towards a 2h 1m half marathon, but I have my doubts I will be running quite that quickly by March.  We shall see…

Oakley 20 – March 18th
I don’t intend on ‘racing’ this event, but I will use it as part of my long run training.  A long run alongside hundreds of other runners where I don’t have to carry my water bottles and can pick up a nice cozy hoodie at the finish!  I’ve run the event several times before and it’s a lovely course – two laps; one of twelve miles and then a lap of eight.  A few rolling hills, but I much prefer this type of elevation to the flat.

South Downs Way 50 – April 7th
I am loosely following Hanson’s Marathon Method for my marathon training again this training cycle as I started to see such success with it last time (and can already see success in the paces I am using from the book during this cycle).  However, Hanson’s long runs top out at 16 miles.  My training cycle will not only include Oakley 20 along with a couple of other 20s, but also the Centurion 50 miles at the South Downs Way.  Not quite what the plan reads with one month before marathon race day(!) but with my main goal race for the year being almost four times the distance of a marathon, a couple of longer runs needed to be slotted in.
I ran the South Downs Way 50 six months after Oscar was born and was so happy with my achievement.  I really want to go back and see what I can do when I don’t have to stop and express mid-way round though and when I have been able to slot in a few more training runs during the months leading up to the event.
I am a little nervous that there are seven runners from my club all running the event, all from the same running group as me.  I don’t want to feel pressured to run with anybody or to find myself ‘competing’ to place where I feel I should around others from my club as I very much need to run my own race over an event as far as 50 miles.
As the final 50 miles of my goal race, it will hopefully help me when it comes to running the 100 mile event, as I will be more likely to remember the path if it is fresh in my memory.

SDW50 route 2018

Milton Keynes Marathon – May 7th
It will be my fourth time running the MK marathon this year and I am determined for a sub 5 at the event this time round.  Hopefully achieving a sub 4:30 on race day if I’m honest.
Fingers crossed it’s not too hot on the day, as that is when I struggle most.  As a fairly local marathon, there is usually a great turn out of support from our running club and the end of the race is a lap of the MK Dons stadium.  Always a great finish!

Shires and Spires 35 – May 20th
Much like Oakley, I don’t intend on racing this event either, but instead simply using it as part of my long run training.  Held slightly earlier in the year than usual (it’s usually a June race), Shires and Spires falls just three weeks before my main goal race so should fit in nicely before starting to taper for race day.
I’m thinking about offering to navigate a beginner ultra runner round on race day, so they don’t have to worry about the self-navigating element of the event alongside the fuelling and running of 35 miles.  I’ve run the event four times now, and headed out to recce the course as part of training runs numerous times.  There are usually quite a few from our club who tackle this as their first ultra event, so I thought it might be nice to give something back and offer to run with them if they were interested, and it would also help me by getting the miles in without seeing me push myself too hard on the day.

South Downs Way 100 – June 9th
The main event!
There are two guys from my club also running the SDW100 this year, both experienced in ultra running, and much faster runners than me, but like me, not having run a 100 mile race before.
I’d like to think I can make it.  100 miles scarily doesn’t sound as far as it used to a few years back.  I’m feeling positive about achieving the distance at the moment and I’ve received such lovely comments from friends and other runners since announcing my (rather ambitious!) goal for the year.  I had offers of a pacer and crew immediately and so many people had wonderful things to say about my determination.  It was so nice to know people had faith in my ability to complete the event.
I will do it.

SDW100 start list

I will wait until after the 100 to see what races I want to schedule in for the second half of the year, but I hope to focus on some new-to-me races.  All of the races above I’ve already run in the past (with the exception of SDW100) and whilst it’s great that I loved them so much that I want to return and run them again, I really want to add some different events to my list.

What races do you have lined up for 2018?
Any race suggestions for the second half of the year?

My goals for 2018

2017 whooshed right by without me feeling like I was really able to clock what was going on.  Four family deaths in as many weeks was quite an emotional hit for our family at the end of the year and although we now seem to have brushed ourselves off and gotten back up again, spending time with family and looking after ourselves was a higher priority this Winter.

At the start of 2017 I set myself several goals that I wanted to work towards.

  • Achieve 100 parkruns and order my black parkrun t-shirt

    Typically leaving it all to the last minute I completed my 100th parkrun on Christmas day, having run 33 events across 2017 to achieve my goal.  Year on year my participation at parkrun has increased – in 2015 I ran 24 parkruns, and a further 26 in 2016.  My participation will most likely drop during the coming year though, as I work overnight on both Friday and Saturdays at the moment, leaving me needing all the sleep on Saturday mornings before Dan heads off to the football.
    Unfortunately I haven’t been able to order my black parkrun t-shirt yet as parkrun are awaiting more stock.  The email currently implies that I should be able to order the t-shirt by February, so I will look forward to wearing that in the Summer when the weather gets a little warmer!
    Christmas Day parkrun at Sheringham

  • Increase my parkrun tourism to twenty different courses

    19!  Argh, so close!  I could have made it, as I had pencilled in a visit to Buckingham on the final Saturday of the year.  But, Dan was due to work that day and unsure of his start time (as it relied on other developers rolling out different portions of the software before him).  I was working until 7am, so would have had to drive home to collect Oscar before driving back past my workplace on the way to Buckingham.  It would have been very stressful for a super tired Mary so in the end, I managed to catch up on a little sleep before Dan went into work that day.
    My 20th course will be this coming weekend, as I am heading down to Wendover to marshal the Country to Capital ultra for Go Beyond.  The car load of marshals I am heading down with are all parkrunners so the decision was made that we would set off a little early for our marshal point and ensure we got some tourism in on the way down!

  • Bring my weekly mileage back up to at least 50 miles on average each week

    This was a no-go due to all the traveling I did towards the end of the year, although over the past few weeks I have been able to start working back up towards this higher mileage again – ready for the races I have planned in 2018.  I should easily hit this by the end of the month.

  • Complete at least five more events of marathon distance and above

    Five completed!  South Downs Way 50m, Pembrokeshire Marathon, Shires and Spires 35m, Chelmsford Marathon and Gower Marathon.

  • PB at the 5k distance

    Tick!  So chuffed with this because it came from nowhere towards the end of the year when Laura offered to pace me to a sub 27m parkrun…and I came away with a new PB of 26m 35s!

  • Take more pictures with my DSLR

    I took several pictures with my big camera throughout the year, including plenty of Oscar – having played with the settings a little more.  I would like to continue taking more photographs this year, as the results are so much better than the photographs I take with my phone, although time is an issue.

  • Find an easier way of living

    I’m no longer teaching(!) having given up my job as a Computing teacher at the end of September.  I don’t think there is ever an ‘easy’ way of living though and I am someone that will always find myself looking for bigger and better and easier, even if I am doing OK.  I think I’m doing OK at the moment.  Dan and I are making it work and Oscar’s happy, so that’s all that matters.

  • Make more time for my family

    I was able to make a lot more time for my parents and Oscar throughout 2017, but feel I neglected my relationship with Dan, especially towards the end of the year.  Bringing a child into the relationship hugely shifts the dynamics of everything you’ve always done and been.  Dan and I had been together for nine years before Oscar arrived and we were used to our monthly cinema trips and meals out when it took our fancy.  We haven’t been to the cinema since Oscar was born and although we have been out for dinner, it’s usually during the day so as not to disrupt Oscar’s bedtime routine.

Five goals out of eight definitely achieved, and another two very close to being achieved.  I’d call that a success overall!

Goals for 2018:

  • Volunteer at least six times at parkrun including in the role of pacer

    parkrun ICE numberLooking back on my parkrun page the other day I realised that I hadn’t volunteered at all during 2017!  Having Oscar around does make it infinitely more difficult to guarantee I’ll be able to volunteer during a certain week, but there are still several roles I can volunteer in with him by my side, especially as the weather gets warmer again.
    I’d also love to give pacing a go this year, having informally paced several friends in the past.  Running a 30 minute parkrun is something I am fairly confident that I can achieve at a chatty-pacer pace.  I can run parkrun in this time whilst pushing Oscar in the buggy, and the run obviously becomes much easier without a two stone baby slowing me down!  I wouldn’t be able to sign up to pacing an event knowing that I had Oscar though, as I wouldn’t be able to nip round other runners to ensure I definitely made the time.

  • Complete at least six more distances of marathon and above

    I have at least this many pencilled in to the calendar already, although more on that in another post.  Having ticked off my 100 parkruns I am slowly working towards joining the 100 Marathon club, with thirteen marathons and eight ultras under my belt.  Just another 79 events to go then(!)

  • Complete a 100 mile race

    This is the big stretch goal for the year.  The one I will be working really, really hard towards.  I’ve entered the South Downs Way 100 in June, and am currently in two minds whether or not to also enter the Autumn 100 in October as a ‘back up’ event just in case it’s not my day on the day of SDW100.  I want to complete 100 miles this year!

  • PB at 5k, half and marathon distances

    This goal is rather vague, but definitely achievable.  These three distances aren’t my main focus for this year (the 100 is) but I would like to think I can improve my speed further in order to bank a 5k PB, my half marathon is out of line of all of my other race times and that with the added exercises from the physio I have been working on each evening lately, that my body will be much stronger to deal with the latter half of the marathon distance and help me to tick off a faster time there too.

  • Put aside £500 from side hussles each month towards the deposit for a second property

    Purchasing a second property has been on my to-do-list for a long while, but I need to stop talking about it and start actively working towards it a little more.  Although I’m no longer bringing home as much money from working my main employment as I once did, I have begun drawing in money from several odd jobs as well as saving money in several areas for our household.  Dan and I sat down and looked through our budget when we decided I was going to step away from teaching, and before the new year we sat down and clearly went through a budget for the year, to be reviewed monthly.

  • Respond to/clear notifications on my phone quickly

    I’m awful at responding to anything straight away and often end up leaving notifications on the top of my phone screen for a really long time until I remember to deal with them (usually on my 4am break at work on a Saturday morning!) or until Oscar swipes them off by mistake.
    It really bugs several of my friends to see so many little icons on the top of my screen, and I must admit, every time I pull out my phone my heart drops a little to think of all the messages I still need to reply to or action.  If I’ve taken the time to pull it down to check, I can surely spend a few extra seconds responding to that message as well?

  • Phone notificationsEat less processed food and encourage my Dad to do the same

    I spent a lot of time with my Dad in December.  New to living alone my Dad is currently going for the quick and easy to prepare/pull out of a packet deal when it comes to meal time.  He’s all about the here and now.  “I’m hungry?  Well I must need feeding immediately!”  At the moment he doesn’t think twice about buying a pack of five donuts (because that works out cheaper per donut than purchasing them individually) and then eating them all in the space of a day and a half (because otherwise they don’t taste as nice).  He can cook, and will cook, but doesn’t enjoy doing so for just him, which is perfectly understandable, and I’ve often felt similar in the past.  He has had false teeth since a teenager (when he stood too close to a friend playing with a cricket bat) so doesn’t worry too much about damaging his teeth.  But he doesn’t understand the problems this type of food can do to his heart and sugar levels, so I’m hoping to educate him a little.  When I stayed with him for a week before Christmas we spent some time making large quantities of vegetable lasagne (Dad is like me and isn’t a massive meat fan) and he has enjoyed these, so perhaps I could also have a think what snacks we could make in bulk to prevent him dipping his hand in the biscuit tin seven times a day!
    Vegetables for Vegetarian LasagneI tend to make home-made meals for Dan, Oscar and I at least 5 days of the week, but it is the snacks and sugary things I struggle with when it comes to processed food.  When Oscar is hungry, just like my Dad he’s hungry immediately, only as he’s only 15 months old I can’t reason with Oscar that he just has to wait five minutes whilst I prepare something!  I often keep a handful of raisins or child fruit gummies in my bag for ease, but I would prefer him to have actual fresh fruit or vegetables as a snack.
    As I work the hours of 10pm-7am a couple of nights each weekend, I’ve struggled with not having processed snacks just lately as well.  Because I only work part time I don’t want to go about meal times the same way as the full time night staff do.  (They tend to have their main meal at 1am during our ‘lunch’ break, have breakfast as normal when they return from work, sleep through lunchtime and then have their tea with family at a normal time.)  I’ve been having my three daytime meals at the normal times, but am ravenous by the time I finish work and have been snacking on anything I can quickly get my hands on at the end of the shift.  Not good!

*Edit – I just thought of two more goals I want to add to my list…

  • Move at least 10,000 steps each day

    I know 10,000 is just an arbitrary number, but I used the number 10,000 as a focus to get moving each day during my pregnancy, achieving at least 10,000 steps on every one of the last 71 days before Oscar arrived.  I felt so much better for remaining active during those days where I often just felt like slobbing out at home.  I’d like to have another go at sticking to 10,000 steps for each day of the whole year this time.  (Currently nine days in and achieving it with ease!)  It’s on days when I travel that I really struggle with getting up and about.

  • Raise money for a cancer charity

    For obvious reasons.
    I haven’t decided fully how I’m going to go about it yet but I’ll announce on the blog when I do.

Do you set yourself goals each year?  What are your goals for 2018?
Were you successful in achieving your goals for 2017?
Any suggestions for bulk baking snacks I could get my Dad to make?