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Plans and whatnot

Welcome to 2016! Yeah, I'm a little late. Meh, whatever. 

So, after a relatively quiet year in 2015, just sitting in and recovering a bit from the push of 2014, what do I have in mind for 2016 then? I don't really do resolutions exactly, more kind of goals. How I get to them is an entirely different matter! 

This year most of my goals are physical. Not sure why, just the way it works. 

  • I want to run a sub-2 hour half. I've got one booked in for March in Bath, and I've got my fingers crossed. It'll take a little work, but my natural easy pace is around 9 min/mile, which is fast enough for sub-2 so I just need to be able to hold that for the full distance. I got pretty close in Blenheim with 2:03, but I was hoping to keep training after that and I picked up a slight injury instead. If I don't get it in Bath I'll see what I can do for an Autumn half. 
  • I want to do a pull-up. I've been using the Nerd Fitness Beginner Body Weight workout, building in some inverted body weight rows instead of just doing the dumbbell rows. I can now do a single chin-up (palms facing towards me) but I still can't do more than one in a row (or from hanging) and can't get myself off the floor with the palms facing away from me. I have no particular reason for wanting to do this, but I don't exactly carry a lot of weight so it shouldn't that hard... Right?!
  • Grade all three times available to me this year for Taekwondo. I started Taekwondo last April, and I managed to grade twice. I'm massively enjoying the Taekwondo. I love my Friday night stretching session, and the kicking is a lot of fun. I can't see any reason why I can't grade all three times, and that would get me to blue belt by the end of the year. 

All of that obviously depends on me staying healthy and not damaging anything. I've got a new job (again!) with a new commute as well, so that will need a bit of working on. We'll see how it all goes. 

On top of those, Clarkie has offered to buy me a new ukulele if I practice lots, so I'm going to try to practice lots! My current uke doesn't tune very well, and I'd really quite like one with geared pegs - I'm hoping they wouldn't slip as much. I want to learn more finger picking than chords - I don't really sing very well, so I'll need the picking for the tune! 

And there's the garden too. I need to grow some veg this year, get the herb bed up and running, get a few more flowers in... 

Could be a busy old year! 


Dandelion and fairies

I got a new tattoo.

Dandelion and fairies

I know tattoos are divisive. Some love them, some really don't. Clarkie, in fact, really doesn't get it at all. But as she pointed out, it's my (pale and pasty!) leg. 

I do quite like tattoos. I like abstract ones, that add to the body under them. I don't like wearing my heart on my sleeve - I'm not good on public displays of affection, or letting just anyone know what's going on. It's just not very me. Both my tattoos - this one and my previous one on my shoulder - are in places where I can choose whether to show them or not. 

Dandelion and fairies

So why a dandelion? There are lots of potential reasons, aren't there? A dandelion is strong and resilient - just ask any gardener. They are useful plants from root to flower. My cricket nickname was Weed. Honestly though? I was cycling home one night, and I was having a really fun ride. Cycling is often one of the highlights of my working day. And it occurred to me that it was my good, strong legs that let me do that and have that much fun, just like it's my good, strong legs that let me run. And I wanted to celebrate them, and the feeling of joyous freedom that I get thanks to them. So I did an image search for freedom and from the images returned it was the dandelion that leapt at me. 

I mulled it over for probably most of a year. I do that. It's a long term decision, it deserves a bit of consideration. A lot of the images I looked at had the dandelion fluff transforming to birds, or musical notes. That didn't feel right. 

Dandelion and fairies

The fairies, they did feel right. To me, it looks like the fairies have dived through the dandelion seed head, and pulled the fluff up in the draft behind them. These are for the side of me that still loves urban fantasy best of all - stories of magic amongst the mundane. The top one is Cobweb, the second one is Periwinkle. 

So yeah. I got a new tattoo. 


38 and counting...

Yesterday was my birthday. Weekend birthdays are fab.

Of course, having a November birthday in the Northern Hemisphere means you definitely can't count on the weather, and the day 'dawned' (I don't know, I wasn't up at dawn, and it's debatable when it actually got light anyway) wet and windy. Not especially cold, but still, not exactly outdoor weather. This wasn't really a problem - I did parkrun last week and my ankle/achilles/plantar/calf/right leg flared up so I'd already decided to skip parkrun this weekend. A lie-in was definitely called for instead. 

Eventually I woke up, and we had bacon and egg baps for breakfast. I made myself a large cafetiere of coffee (Clarkie doesn't drink coffee) and settled into the conservatory for a spot of reading. 

Lazy morning 

I saw that book when Emma brought it along to knit night in Brighton. It's been on my Amazon wish list ever since. It shows great promise of being just as good as I thought it was then - I see lots of making things up in my future.

Then we went out, braving the weather, and I got a haircut. I love getting haircuts. I go to the local barbers, which is a bit nervewracking the first time (some barbers won't cut women's hair, even if it's cut exactly the same way as the next guy in) but I've been going to the same place for a while now so they know me. I got the slowest barber there, but she is at least thorough. I have to fight a little to convince her to take it as short as I'd like though. I really love it neat and tidy around my ears. 

birthday haircut

She seems to like to style it too - the top bit normally just gets pushed to the right with some wax, but she's put some gel spray on, blow dried it, then waxed it. All sorts. Shame it was such a windy day! 

That photo was taken when we got to Witney. The sun had actually come out by then! Sort of, anyway. I wanted to go to Witney because there is a clock repairer there, and my two wind-up watches needed some TLC. One is just a bit old and needed a clean, I hope, and the other I stupidly put through the wash. Yeah. So we got to go to a workshop full of ticking clocks. I can't imagine what it must be like on the hour. He thinks the washed one might not be worth saving, but the older one is apparently a 'nice mechanism'. We'll see! 

Since we were in Witney, we thought we should have a bit of a nosy. So we had a lovely wander up and down the main highstreet. Then we found the tea shop that had been recommended, and stopped at Huffkins for a rather lovely cream tea. 

birthday cream tea

Cream then jam, if you're interested. 

The day was rounded off with a local firework display. I have to say, it was very good of the local Rotary club to put the fireworks on for my birthday. So convenient, just a short walk away, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sadly the chip shop was rammed on the way home again, so no chips. But I did have a beer once we got back in. All in all, a Very Good Day.


Busy busy busy

Quick update, it's been a bit full on again. Surprise!

We went to our biannual golf extravaganza with the WCAGS. For the end of October we had three fabulous days of weather, even if one of my rounds was completed by the light of the moon! My golf is improving, but still needs a little work.

It was in Abbotsley, near St Neots in Cambridgeshire. I didn't know there were any hills in Cambridgeshire and I lived there for 28 years, but they did all seem to have been herded to Abbotsley. 

The weather changed just after that, and the route I cycle to work on got a bit muddy and slippery - not helped by some work being done on it. The end result will be fab, but for now it's a mud slide. So I put the tractor tyres back on Clara the Long Haul Trucker. 

Mud tyres

That helped a lot. Slowed me down a little, but the wind's picked up too so speed isn't exactly of the essence, and since I'm bombing down that path in the dark now being sure of my footing (as it were) is more important. 

And then I got these:


That is three copies of my corrected and accepted thesis. I have to send one off to the university, and one is for my supervisor, and I will keep the final one. I had to get them printed and bound, and it ain't cheap, but I think it was worth it. Just the graduation ceremony to go, and 5.5 years after I started the PhD adventure will be completely over. 

It was fun while it lasted...


Running all over

Having posted that I was back on the run and loving it, I had a couple more weeks of enjoying it before I got struck down by my first cold of Winter. I had a lovely run with Clarkie in Worcester first - we did the Worcester City 10k together, running on behalf of the Worcester Association of Carers, the charity that our friend Carole works for. Clarkie was desperate to run a sub-1 hour 10k for the first time, and I thought I could probably run her to that quite comfortably. 

Turns out I was right. That was us near the finish (photo from WAC), and I had a really lovely run. It started out misty, but the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful day. Clarkie got her sub-hour, with 57:39. (The slightly odd lump under my shirt is my SPI belt with my inhaler - not that I needed it, but you never know.)

I then got sick. Took 2 weeks to clear it, including 3 days off work with a lot of sleeping. This was a bit of a bugger, frankly. Talk about extreme tapering. I was well enough for the half I was targetting at Blenheim palace, but woefully undercooked miles-wise. Still. Not the first time. 

My day running around Blenheim also started foggy. I had to rescue one of the tops I was going to donate to start the run in, because it was cold and damp. Again, the sun came out during the run, and I ended up running through the beautiful grounds of the palace and beyond on a cracking day. This was not a flat run - nothing extreme, but constant ups and downs. I also goofed with my food. I had a Nature Valley bar to eat beforehand, but decided not to. Of course, I got hungry within a couple of miles of the start. Fortunately Clarkie had donated one of her gels, so I started that at 3 miles and made it last right through. By 11 miles I was knackered, but I kept running anyway. The finish of the run is uphill, with Blenheim Palace laid out behind it. My legs felt absolutely empty, but I was not walking at that point. Finished in a personal best of 2:03:20, but I was a smidge irritated not to get under 2 hours. 

Sadly, my right achilles was really not happy with my efforts. It still hasn't quite eased up, if I'm honest. I ignored it and went to taekwondo anyway, but my star jumps were quite flat-footed. I gave myself the week off. Then (naturally) I got another cold. This one has been more of a slow burn than the previous, but even Clarkie has succumbed now which is most unusual. So fingers crossed I'll be up and running (short distances, slowly) soon. I'm signed up for Bath in March, and I'm definitely targetting sub-2 on that one. I know exactly how flat it is!