Aberdeenshire & Angus
Following the success of their first collaboration event earlier this year with Haddo House, North Hop has again teamed up with the National Trust for Scotland, to put on a range of events across Aberdeenshire & Angus this summer. These family friendly events will be taking place during July, August & September, in the hope the sun will make an appearance – although there will be a combination of indoor and outdoor spaces to keep each even running smoothly regardless. Each event has a different theme, with each showcasing an amazing variety of local produce, street food, bars and market traders.
NTS North East Catering & Hospitality Manager David Edgar said “I’m very excited to be working alongside North Hop over the course of this summer and bringing a series of events to the North East. It’s a great opportunity for the public to enjoy the fantastic castles, mansions, gardens and estates we have here, all whilst having the opportunity to experience some great food and drink from around the region.”
David continued “For us it’s been amazing to see the love that is out there for the venues from both members of the public and our amazing suppliers. We are also absolutely delighted to have partnered with Premier Coaches, who will be making the Aberdeenshire venues accessible from Aberdeen, Inverurie, Old Meldrum and Ellon without the need for a car!”
Michelle Russell, North Hop Director said "“Some folk thought we were completely mad setting up these events for this year with only a few months of build up and planning time, but the energy and effort from all involved has really shown it is possible! The unique themes and different vendor and entertainment line ups for these events has really helped them to stand out, and being able to reach out to both North Hop and National Trust for Scotland’s audience has been great too.”
North Hop x House of Dun - Exploring Angus
First up is the North Hop x House of Dun - Exploring Angus event. Taking place on Saturday 27 July 2019 10am to 5pm and Sunday 28 July 2019 10am to 5pm at the historic House of Dun, which gives stunning views out onto the Montrose Basin. Market goers will be able to enjoy amazing local produce and enjoy refreshments from brands such as 71 Brewing & Arbikie all whilst local musicians perform.
This event is both child and dog friendly.
North Hop x Castle Fraser - USA Roots
Next up at the historic setting of Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire is North Hop x Castle Fraser - American Roots. Taking place on Saturday 31st August & Sunday 1st September, 10am to 5pm, the event looks to bring together some awesome American elements with our Scottish roots. Festival goers can expect loads burgers, doughnuts, themed bars and local market traders, all in a family friendly environment.
This event is both child and dog friendly.
North Hop x Haddo House - Doggy Day Out
And finally, taking place on Saturday 28th & Sunday 29th September from 10am to 5pm is North Hop x Haddo House - Doggy Day Out. Returning to the scene of their first collaboration event, North Hop has again teamed up with Haddo House to bring together an event filled with fun for dogs. Your four legged friends will be able to enjoy the doggy bar, treats, pampering products and more. Of course, there will be plenty for the humans to enjoy too with bars, market traders and more tasty street food.
This event is human friendly.
Tickets are available from http://northhop.com/events
Adults £4 + BF advance, £5 at the door, kids under 12 go free, VIP tickets available, small discount for NTS members at the door.
50% of all ticket sales go to National Trust for Scotland to support the great work they do across their properties.
Premier Coaches will be running shuttle buses from/to Aberdeen, Inverurie, Old Meldrum and Ellon for all Aberdeenshire events for only £5 return.
The Basin Rambler (Angus Transport Group) will be running shuttle buses from/to Montrose Train Station for the Angus event.
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What I Can't Run Without
Ever since starting running, around three years ago now, I have gone through a whole bunch of different gear as I try to find what works right for me. When I first started out, I was wearing trainers that weren't meant for running, baggy assed shorts in which I would carry my phone in the pocket, all whilst going through about four pairs of headphones because they kept breaking. Yeah...it wasn't ideal
Since then, I've slowly built up my running kit - and whilst I still don't quite have all the gear I need, I have definitely picked up a few essential pieces along the way. In this post, I'll run through a few of those items, and why I think they are so great. You never know, you might find something you never knew you needed!
First up is the bit of kit on this list that I've had the longest, and probably the one that I find most useful - a FlipBelt.
Previous to owning a FlipBelt, I used to carry everything in the pockets of my shorts, or whatever jacket I may have been wearing - which would include my phone, keys, energy/nutritional products and occasionally, cards/money. This just didn't really work in the long term, so I started looking for something more suitable. I'd never really been a fan of the running armbands, and had always fancied more of a belt option - and that's when I found the FlipBelt.
The FlipBelt is a lightweight, high quality, one piece lycra belt that can store almost anything you need during a run. It has multiple pockets with plenty room for your phone, keys, cards, energy gels and anything else you might need - it is also extremely compact in width, which leaves minimum room for bounce during your run. It does a good job of protecting your items from the rain too, and it's also machine washable so you can chuck it in the wash to freshen it up when needed.
I would 100% recommend a FlipBelt to any runner. I haven't looked back since buying mine, and if the day comes where it breaks, or gets lost - it will be instantly replaced.
Jaybird tarah pro Wireless Earbuds
Next up are headphones. Now, whilst not every runner likes to run without music - I can't do without it. I can't stand the sound of my own breathing when running, plus the extra bit of motivation the right song can give is priceless and that's why I decided to invest in a good, high quality pair - the Jaybird Tarah Pro wireless earbuds.
Before owning the Jaybird Tara Pro earbuds, I went through countless pairs of wired buds that would all eventually break - sometimes even mid-run, which was ANNOYING! I eventually changed to a cheaper pair of wireless buds, and whilst these were great for a while, they weren't perfect; the wire would get sticky, uncomfortable and bounce around, the battery life eventually gave up and they would soon only last an hour or so - which was less than ideal during marathon training. I decided that I needed to up my game, and after lots of research, settled on the Jaybird Tara Pro's. Honestly, I read so many articles and watched so many YouTube reviews to make sure I'd made the right choice.
And I'm happy to say that I have 100% made the right choice. I love these earbuds. They have such a high quality, premium build, the weighted braided cable doesn't get sticky or bounce around and not to mention the 14-hour battery life, which is just incredible in itself. You can even wear them in two orientations- over, or under the ear (over ear is my preferred when running). I just can't imagine running without them now. They aren't just my running headphones either, they are my everyday headphones that I wear in the office too, and the epic battery life means I can wear them all day, then head out for a run after work without worrying about needing to charge them up, or them dying on me during then run.
Garmin Forerunner 235
Ever since I first started getting serious about running, I always felt that there was something missing, something that would help take my training to the next level. That turned out to be a watch.
I used to just run with my phone in my Flipbelt, using the Strava app to track my runs - which was fine, I mean it worked ok, and it gave me some base level stats to work with. But it didn't give me everything I needed; it couldn't track my heart rate, the GPS could be spotty and it was reliant on my phone's battery - which wasn't always ideal during longer runs. So I did some research, and decided I was going to go for the Garmin Forerunner 235 - I know it's an older model, and there are far more advanced versions out there now, but I knew it would give me what I needed, and not to mention the difference in price! It just so happened that Black Friday was just around that corner, and it coincided with the start of my marathon training plan.
I managed to pick up the Garmin at a very decent price, and I couldn't be happier with it - sure I know a time will come that I'll need to upgrade to a newer model, but for now the Forerunner 235 is one of the most trusted parts of my running gear. It's so simple to use, and it links up with Strava seamlessly. There is the occasional blip, with servers being down etc - but that happens all the time (glares at you, Instagram). It may be part of my running kit, but I also wear it every day...it is a watch after all!
Rockay Blaze Compression Sleeves
Compression is something you have to take seriously. I always knew it was a big deal, but I never really learned how big a deal until quite recently. Over the course of my running career I've quite often suffered with occasional issues with my shins, and calves - which is not ideal. Some basic research taught me that one potential solution could be calf compression sleeves, so I went out an bought a pair. My first pair were nothing fancy, a basic pair that cost around £10, and whilst they never completely solved all the issues (they never would though), they definitely helped.
Over the course of the last year, I've had a fair few calf issues that has hindered my training, and even races (all whilst wearing my sleeves), so I decided to do a little more research. One thing I never really took into consideration with compression was recovery - wearing the compression sleeves after running to help my muscles recover. So I decided to buy a more premium product, and after yet more research I ended up buying the Rockay Blaze Calf Compression Sleeves. These are night and day ahead of what I was wearing before - It's hard to explain fully, but they just fit perfectly, and whilst not every run is pain free, these have helped massively, and I guess a large part of that is down to wearing them for recovery. I now wear these for a couple of hours after almost every run - I'll get home, stretch, jump in the shower and then put them back on and just wear them around the house. I really can feel the difference, and I never run without them, 3 miles, or ten miles, it doesn't matter.
I would 100% recommend these to anyone that experiences any level of discomfort whilst running - I am fairly certain that they will help in some way or another. They fit great, they look great, and that aren't overly pricey either, for a premium product. I can't see me running without them any time soon!
Finally, I have the product that solved probably my biggest problem I encountered whilst running...CHAFING! Previously whilst out on longer runs - around five miles or more, I would almost always encounter some level of chafing, and it would drive me mad! It would occasionally make runs so uncomfortable I couldn't handle it. Thankfully, I quickly found a solution - Runderwear.
I've had my first pair of Runderwear for around five months now, and there's no way I would ever contemplate running without them any time soon. They fit absolutely perfectly, they are made of a great cooling material and they are an absolute dream to run in! There really isn't much left to say about them, other than that if you go off and buy one thing from this list, then make it Runderwear - I guarantee that you will not regret it.
So there you have it, the running kit that I absolutely cannot run without. Is there anything that's absolutely essential to your running kit that you think I should be using? Let me know in the comments.
There's a couple of special mentions I left off the list, because they aren't essential - my Goodr running sunglasses, because everyone needs to look cool whilst running right? And my race number magnets, because it's about time we all stopped making holes in our good running shirts!
I also didn't add my running shoes to the list, because I don't think I've found the perfect pair yet. I'm currently running with the On Cloudflow, but I think they are near the end of their lift and I'm looking to upgrade with the NYC Marathon on the horizon. I'm currently weighing up between sticking with On, or trying out a new brand like Nike or Hoka. Any suggestions?
Beer & Running...My Two Favourite Things!
If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you will know that the two things I write most about are beer, and running. So when I stumbled across a documentary film on YouTube called Beer Runners, of course I was going to watch it.
Directed by Justin Wirtalla, Beer Runners primarily tells the story of David April, a resident of Fishtown, Philadelphia and his running journey. He takes up running following a personal struggle, and during a run in November 2007, his friend Eric Fiedler told him about a study that was conducted by a Spanish professor which stated that beer is just as effective as water at re-hydrating the body after exercise. Intrigued by this prospect, they decided to stop for a beer after their run, and thus the Fishtown Beer Runners were born.
The concept of The Fishtown Beer Runners is pretty simple; Each week the club would run between 3-5 miles, ending up at a different bar, where they would enjoy a couple of beers and most importantly, toast The Professor.
The Fishtown Beer Runners® combine responsible running and consumption in the interest of science. We gather once a week to run three to five miles, and conclude each run at a pub for a beer or two.
The majority of the movie centres around interviews with David, along with personal testimonials of some of the running club members, all inter-cut between various other important events surrounding the club. Initially starting out with just a few members, it's amazing to watch the club grow, exponentially, as the movie goes on. We meet people, who much like David in the beginning, had never really ran before, but are welcomed into the club with open arms. One of the most amazing stories of the film is that of Johanna Goode, who prior to joining the beer runners, was not a runner. She started off small, and within around six months, she ran her first marathon, and in the 2-3 years that followed had completed around 12 marathons/ultra marathons - truly incredible stuff. There are several other stories like that throughout the movie and it's really hard not to watch with a smile on your face when you hear these.
One of the most important points to stress is that the Fishtown Beer Runners are first and foremost a serious running cub, not a drinking club, This is even more evident as the group grows in size, with even seasoned marathon runners signing up. As membership increases, the club starts to give back to the community by holding events, and helping out with local charities, and helping those with disabilities enjoy running to the fullest.
Another aspect of the club that I found extremely interesting was the toast itself. As I mentioned earlier, at the end of each run, the tradition of The Fishtown Beer Runners is to toast the man who started it all - The Professor. Every week without fail, all the members would raise their glass in the air as David would give his speech, and toast The Professor. It's amazing to watch these people get so worked up and excited, toasting a man that they had never met - but purely due to the fact he'd brought them all together.
In 2011, David was invited to Spain by The Professor, whose real name is Manuel Castillo from the University of Granada, to meet those involved with the study and see where it all took place. We soon realise the full scale of this movement, when in 2013 David and several of the club members make the pilgrimage to Spain for the first ever Beer Runners summit and to meet the man who they have been toasting all these years. They are then joined on the streets of Granada by their Spanish beer running counterparts, and it is a truly amazing sight seeing all these people running through the beautiful streets of Spain in the glorious sunshine - it is such a moving scene.
Beer Runners is available to watch in its entirety, FOR FREE on YouTube. Check out the link below.
I absolutely loved this movie - not just because it combines two of my biggest passions, but because it is such an inspiring and moving story. It is also a concept that I can totally get on board with, and one that I'd love to see take shape over here in some way. Sure, we have similar events such as The BrewDog Run, and Run4It's fantastic Takeover Series, but nothing as social, or as frequent as that of the Fishtown Beer Runners.
I can't recommend Beer Runners enough. If you are a runner and a beer drinker then I guarantee you will love it, and even if you are neither of these things, you will at least find some inspiration from these peoples stories. Plus, it's free to watch on YouTube, so what's stopping you?! It is easily the best running movie that I have seen before, and probably one of my favourite documentaries of recent times. All that's left to say is... To the professor! 🍻
Beer Runners gets 5 out of 5 from me.
I RAN A MARATHON!
Did you know that only 1% of the world's population will run a marathon in their lifetime? Well, I can now proudly say that I have joined that 1%.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you will know that since October, I'd been trying my best to get in best possible shape to run my first ever marathon - the 21st Logicom Cyprus Marathon. Unfortunately, my training didn't quite go to plan, and during my second week of training I sustained an injury that caused me to miss five weeks of training. But I managed to recover, and cram as much training in to what time I had left as I possibly could.
Before I knew it, we were on the flight to Paphos - luckily I had a few days of relaxation ahead of me before the big day, which was exactly what I needed. Also, thanks to my in-laws having a car, I even got the chance to check out parts of the route beforehand, giving me some idea of what was in store.
Race day arrived and I was ready to take my place as one of the 3,500 running across all races in Paphos that day. The marathon was due to start at 7.30am, so that meant a particularly early start, and getting up at 5am! I started the day off with a bowl of oats, a banana and some peanut butter to get my energy levels up, as I had a feeling I was going to need it later. I also started getting plenty of water inside me, without overdoing it as I didn't want my bladder going out of control in the early stages of the race! And with that, I was showered, changed into my race kit and ready to go.
We hopped in the car, and my father in-law drove us out to the starting point at Aphrodite's Rock, which was around a 40min drive from our apartment. When we arrived, the starting area was already buzzing with excitement - there were people everywhere, warming up, taking photos and there was even a live DJ to get us in the mood. There was still around 40mins to the start of the race, so I used this opportunity to get in the already long queue for a final toilet break. This is probably where my only gripe with the organisation with the race comes in, and it's something that I see too often - there was maybe only around six portable toilets for all the runners, which was nowhere near enough in my opinion. I queued for around 30mins, and by the time I got to the front, they were in a pretty poor state, with no paper or hand wash left.
Anyway, enough of the negativity, and back to the buzzing starting area. I made the most of the final few minutes to take some photos, do some final stretches and receive my good luck wishes from my family. Then, before I knew it, I'd taken my place at the starting line, and we were off!
I had a 4-hour goal in mind, so I had a plan worked out in my head how I needed the first half of the run to go. I also decided not to take photos during this run, as this was my first marathon, and I wanted to try and achieve the best possible finishing time.
Things started quite well, and despite some hills early on, I managed to navigate my way through the first few miles at a reasonably brisk pace, whilst taking in the stunning scenery. The bright start continued, as we worked our way inland, further away from the coast on our approach to the 10km point. I was feeling good and averaging around 8:30/mile which was the required pace I needed to cover the first half of the run. I was also starting to take advantage of the many water stops that were on offer, with one every 3k, which was perfect as it was already starting to heat up.
The good start continued as we passed mile 8, and turned down the long three mile stretch of road towards the airport, where we would eventually double back on ourselves at the bottom. This was the part of the race I was least looking forward to, as I had learned from parts of my training that running back and forth along the same stretch of road is incredibly mentally draining. On the way down this road, we passed the half way point, which was on the other side of the road, where I also spotted the eventual winner on his way back up, way ahead of the pack. I'm not too sure if this was encouraging, or depressing, but at least I knew I was only six miles behind the leader! It was a long slog down the road to the airport, and we made our way past two water stops on the way, which was a welcome reprieve as the temperature had started creeping closer to 20°C, and we were quite exposed to the sun here. Everything was still going to plan as I closed in on mile 10, and I was still feeling good, maintaining a decent pace along the way. Now, I don't know if you can sense it or not, but there's one big but coming up...
Just before I reached the turning point at the bottom of the road, on mile 11, I felt a sharp pain in the arch of my left foot, resulting in sudden tightness, and causing me to start limping. I could still run, but not very fast, or gracefully. I spent a few minutes wishfully thinking I'd be able to shake it off, but it didn't seem to be going anywhere soon. In our race pack, we were given a sachet of Bio-Freeze gel, which I'd packed in my Flipbelt - so I made the decision to stop at the side of the road and apply this. I removed my shoe, and sock, then applied the gel before giving my foot a bit of a stretch and putting my gear back on. I was soon off again, and I'd actually managed to regain some sort of pace, and even managed to find the 4-hour pacer and keep up with him for around a mile. This didn't last too long, however, and the pain was back, causing me to slow down significantly.
Now, this was a sucker punch of the highest proportions. I can't really describe the feeling - it's hard to put into words, just how mentally draining the feeling of sustaining an injury at that point in the race was for me. I was so hyped for the marathon. I'd trained so hard. I was feeling great. And then this happened. It took so much out of me at the time, but I knew I couldn't let it get the better of me - I could still run, not quite as normal, but I could still run. I knew it could get through it, I just had to take my time. So I slowed it right down, and was running between 10:00-12:00/mile, a pace which lasted pretty much for the rest of the race. For the next few miles, I was trying to manage the pain by running for as long as I could, before giving myself a brief walking break through the water stops to let the pain subside.
Eventually, the sharpness of the pain went away, and I stopped taking any real notice of it. But by that point, the race had taken its toll on my legs, and they were feeling really heavy, and I couldn't really pick up the pace. However, at least I was starting to enjoy myself again and when my watch alerted me that I'd reached mile 17 - I even had a slight smile on my face... we were down to single figures. This continued through the following miles, and as we reached the main roads, crowds of people were starting to appear, offering some much needed encouragement along with live DJ's, and more refreshment stops. Around mile 23, I also took full advantage of a Bio-Free stop, where I was able to get the gel applied to my calves and thighs, to help me with the final push - I can't state enough, just how much of a relief on my legs that was!
I was soon back in familiar territory, making my way along the main strip of hotels in Paphos, with cheering tourists and locals all round. Now, while this was all very encouraging, it also felt a bit daunting as I knew I still had around 2.5 miles of running to go before I reached the finish line. As I made my way towards mile 26, I passed the hotel where we got married, The Annabelle, and it gave me the right amount of inspiration needed to pick up the pace for the final push. The crowds really picked along the home stretch on the harbour front, and by this point, I'd taken out my headphones so that I could soak up the atmosphere - I even managed my first sub 10:00/mile since I picked up the injury!
The finish line was in sight, but there was one final sting in the tail, with an ever so slight hill to traverse before the home straight - I'm fairly certain I let out a curse at that point! But I got to the top, and as I made my way round the final corner, the crowds were roaring, and I managed to spot my cheering family, which gave me everything I needed to push for the finish line.
I DID IT!
Crossing the finish line is a bit of a blur. There were so many thoughts and emotions running through my head, that I can't really remember it fully. I do know, however, that the sense of relief, happiness, and most of all, achievement, that I felt when I crossed the finish line is unlike anything I've ever felt. It was incredible. One of the volunteers put my medal around my neck, and then I think I picked up a banana and a bottle of water as I made my way through the crowds trying to find everyone. I know that I soon found myself in the queue for beer, as I eventually spotted Kerry, whilst I was trying to phone her. I was greeted with huge congratulations along with a big kiss and a hug, and my mother and father in law wasn't too far behind, offering their congratulations too.
We then took a much needed seat, and enjoyed the FREE BEER that was on offer, as we watched the prize giving ceremony, celebrating the runners and their achievements. I really was in awe at what some of the other runners had achieved, especially the older runners - it really was amazing.
Overall, despite the slight setback that I suffered, I am absolutely delighted the way things went. The fact that I was able to suck it up and get through over half the race, whilst carrying an injury left me extremely proud of myself. It may have not been the sub 4-hour marathon that I'd hoped for, but it gives me something more respectable to beat in New York in November. Oh, in case you didn't already know... I'M RUNNING THE NEW YORK MARATHON!
As for the Cyprus Marathon itself, I would 100% recommend this race to other runners. It is such a well organised event that caters for all levels of ability, whilst set against the stunning backdrop of Cyprus - I can guarantee you would enjoy it. All that's left for me to do is thank the organizers and volunteers for putting on such a great event, and most of all, thank everyone for their support - especially those that were there waiting for me at the finish line - it really meant a lot to me.
More Podcast Goodness For Your Ears
It's a little over a year since I published my first non-beer related article, which listed my favorite podcasts at the time. Since a whole year has passed, and I've listened to countless new podcasts since then, I thought it was time to update this list. So in this post I'm going to run through some of my favorites from the last year
Up And Vanished (Season 2)
In the Dark (S2)
Monster - The Zodiac Killer
Now, for something of a lighter tone, with my non-true crime recommendations.
Complete Load of Podcast
Creative Me Aberdeen
So, that's it for now. I hope you have enjoyed reading, and maybe even found a new podcast to listen to. Do you have any recommendations for me? If so, leave them in the comments below.
I'll try and not leave it so long until my next list of podcasts...
Guess Who's Back...
Well, after four weeks without running following my calf injury, combined with slowly expanding over the Xmas period from all the food, chocolate, and beer - my marathon training seems to be finally back on track.
I've been back running for around two weeks now, and I'm feeling pretty great overall. Sure, I don't quite think I'm at the level I was at pre-injury, but I'm slowly getting there. I've made the decision not to follow the initial plan I was following, which seen me running four times a week. I think that this was a little bit too much for me, and I was worried the additional strain could see a re-occurrence of the injury. So, I decided to take it down to three times a week, trying to run on a Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
I started out almost four weeks to the day of my last run, with a planned three mile run with the aim of a pain free run, whilst trying to take it as easy as I could. Before starting I gave my calf a spray with some deep freeze, put on my calf compression socks and had a decent warm up with a bunch of dynamic stretches. I was pretty nervous when I set off - the thought of pulling up after a mile or so was playing on my mind constantly but I soon hit my stride and the realisation came to me that this injury might actually be gone. Thrilled by that prospect, I pushed on and successfully completed the run, with an average pace of 08:53/mile. I was elated. There was some slight pain in my joints, but that was expected due to lack of exercise, combined with the cold - but there was absolutely zero pain in the calf. When I got back in, I was taking no risks, and immediately began to warm down with stretching and foam rolling, and later that evening I kept my calf on ice, as a matter of precaution.
Buoyed by the successful run on Monday, I set out on a planned five mile run on the Wednesday, again planning to take it as easy as I could. Again, I managed to make it through the run pain free (in the calf at least!). Delighted with my progress, I pushed myself even further on the following Saturday, with a 7.5 mile run which proved to be my third pain free run of the week. I'd even managed to pick up the pace slightly, finishing that run with an average pace of 08:32/mile. It finally felt that my injury problems were behind me, and I really could get my marathon training back on track which was great as the marathon was only around eight weeks away!
The second week began with another three mile run on Monday, during which I tried to up the pace as much as possible, finishing the run with an average of 07:30/mile. Now, that may not seem fast to some runners, but to me - that is speedy! I kept this going on the Wednesday by doubling the distance, whilst trying to maintain the pace, successfully finishing a 6.2 mile run at 07:52/mile. I really was feeling good about my running again. Sure, I wasn't running along, pain free with a constant smile on my face, but running has never been that for me - it's always a struggle to some extent, and there's always some sort of niggling pain, whether that's in my shins, knees or stomach cramps. But, it was starting to feel normal again, at least.
So this takes me to Saturday, yesterday at the time of writing, and I decided to push myself even further with ten miles. Ten miles would be the furthest I'd run since the Crathes Half Marathon in September. It was a daunting prospect, but one that I felt that I could manage. I didn't exactly pick the best of days for a long run with it being cold, wet, foggy and windy - but I didn't let that put me off and I set out on my run. It really took me a while to get going on this run and around two miles in I was struggling to see how I was going to finish it but I kept pushing, and I soon hit a decent stride. For this run, I'd chosen to run from Elrick, along to dual carriageway to Hazlehead and back again, and at when I reached the half way point to turn around, I was struggling for motivation - but that's my own fault for choosing a quite mundane route to run. Anyway, I sucked it up and got on with it and before I knew it, I was back in Westhill and the end was in sight. The final mile was a struggle, and I really had to push to get through it - I'm not going to lie, I was so happy when it was over, and it even ended up being 10.5 miles. I was really feeling it in my legs after this run, I still do feel it as I write this and I don't think I'll be running on Monday next week, most likely Tuesday, or Wednesday. But I was delighted that I managed to do it, I even finished with a pretty respectable average pace of 08:23/mile!
So with exactly seven weeks until marathon day, it really is time to push on with my training. My plan is to step up the long Saturday runs, building towards 20/21 miles in 4/5 weeks time and then start to taper back down. Next Saturday, I plan to complete a half marathon (13.1 miles), which will hopefully go to plan. Apologies for my rambles but getting back running was quite a big deal for me! Anyway, thanks for reading, and I'm sure you'll hear from me again once more before the big day.
Things Aren't Quite Going To Plan...
I'm now four weeks in to my training plan for the 2019 Cyprus Marathon in March, and my training so far hasn't exactly gone as I had hoped. I originally planned on posting this blog at the end of my fourth (successful) week of training, but unfortunately that's not the case. Not even remotely...
During week one, I decided to cancel my second run due to "Storm Diana". Excellent start. Seriously the weather was so bad that day, I really didn't think it was worth taking any risks. That day aside, the rest of week one went pretty well, with three pretty good, fast paced runs, with me clocking up an average pace of 07:26/mile over the three runs. Come the end of that week, I was feeling good, relatively happy with myself, and more than ready for week two.
Week two started much the same as the first week finished off, with me continuing my runs at a pretty good pace. I also decided that inserting a lunch time run in to my schedule was a good idea, to get some daylight, so that I'm not almost constantly running in darkness. This week was also the first time that I had ran three consecutive days in a row for as long as I can remember, and although they were all relatively short distances, I definitely felt it in my legs, and shins. However, after a day or so rest, they felt good to go on Saturday morning (the 10+ pints on the Friday evening, however, are another matter altogether!), and I headed out on a planned nine mile run - which would incidentally have been my longest run since Crathes Hall Marathon in September. All was going well, I even headed out on an un-opened section of the AWPR and had the whole dual carriageway to myself for a while, and then around the five mile mark, I felt my left calf go...OUCH.
Shortly after I'd turned to make my way back, I slipped on the slight verge between the edge of the road and the grass and was immediately met by a sharp shooting pain in my calf. I could still run, barely, but it hurt. Being out on the (un-opened) AWPR meant that I was around 1.5 miles from traffic, which meant I would need to limp my way back to civilization in order to be rescued from Kerry in the car. That mile and a half of running/limping was an extremely deflating experience - knowing that I was only two weeks in to my training, and I'd gone and hurt myself was incredibly frustrating. So, unfortunately I missed the whole of week three. My calf did start to feel slightly better by the end of of the week, but I didn't want to risk anything, so I decided against running and concentrated on stretching/foam rolling in order to ensure I was good to go for week four.
Week four came around and my calf was feeling good - the pain was still there, although it didn't really hurt. Tuesday was my scheduled day to run, and there just so happened to be a world ending storm on that day - great. Anyway, I got home from work, and thankfully the weather had started to ease up so I got changed, stretched and got ready to head out for a three mile run. For the first mile, everything was going to plan; I had my headphones in, there was no pain, I was feeling good and enjoying myself. But as I got closer to 1.5 miles, I felt it, my calf was starting to hurt...I knew what was coming. The pain came fast and sharp - not as bad as the first time, but enough to make me stop in my tracks, stop my watch, turn around and immediately start walking home. It was incredibly frustrating - I knew I'd rushed it, but I was so eager to get back out there. I really want to give a good account of myself on this marathon, and was so determined to get back on track with my training that I left no where near enough time for the injury to heal. Deflated, I limped the 1.5 miles home (coincidentally the same distance I had to limp my way back after the first time), in the rain, contemplating my next move.
I've decided that I'm going to give this injury some serious time to heal - at least four weeks I think, then I'm going to reassess the situation, and try and make the most of what training time I have left...and if it takes longer than that to heal, then so be it. I can't risk hurting myself again - I'm DETERMINED to run this marathon, and run it well.
I want to finish off by saying that running through winter is gruelling; the dark nights along with the cold winds, and rain make it really hard to stay motivated day after day. But as gruelling as it was, I'm gutted at the fact I can't get out there. So, hopefully if all goes to plan, then I'll be back, some time in January with an update for you all. In the mean time, wish me luck.
The Road To Cyprus
Starting tomorrow, November 27th, I will be embarking on a 16-week training schedule that will hopefully see me through to the finish line of the 21st Logicom Cyprus Marathon, on Sunday 17th March, 2019. So, I thought it would be good for me to document the struggles, and hopefully successes, every few weeks as I embark on this journey.
I did a bit of researching online, and combined a training plans from a few places that were recommended for someone of my level and ability. I was a bit sceptical when looking at it to begin with, as there's a fair amount of short 3/4/5 mile runs on there where, in my mind initially I was thinking this sort of training should focus on long runs. However these short runs should be really beneficial when it comes to building on my pace, and maintaining it at a decent level. So I'm certainly hopeful that I'll get some sort of benefit out of it.
This training plan will see me run almost 400 miles in 4 months as I prepare to take on the elusive 26.2 in Cyprus in March. It's going to be challenging, I am almost certainly going to hate it at times and want to give up - but I'm going to have to stick to it (providing I don't hurt myself). Sure there will be days where I don't stick to the plan - it has me running on Xmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day for example. That's not to say I won't run on those days, but I have to allow myself to relax the schedule and not get too caught up in trying to catch up.
I am under no illusion of how challenging this is going to be for me, especially for my legs – I actually think I’m dreading this more than the race itself. This training schedule will see me running four times a week, with three of those days in succession. Now, I am not used to running that frequently, I often struggle with runs on a Monday then a Wednesday, so running three days on the trot (albeit relatively short distances) should be quite challenging, at least in the beginning.
One of the challenges (I think it’s a challenge?) I’m going to face, is that I am effectively training through winter in near freezing cold temperatures for a race in roughly 20ºC heat. I’m unsure how my body will react to that, but I’m hoping I’ll be fine. Although, maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way. Just think how good it’s going to feel (who am I kidding?!), running along the beautiful Cyprus coastline with the breeze from the sea in my face after those gruelling 16-weeks of dark, cold and wet nights.
I also took advantage of the Black Friday sales, and managed to pick up a Garmin Forerunner 235 at a great price - so no more relying on just my phone to analyse my runs!
So that's it for now, all that's left to do is start running. I'm going to try to check in here at least once a month, and give an update on my progress - hopefully they are going to be positive posts, and not me complaining how much I am hating life! But for now, wish me luck!
Who decided that running a half marathon less than a week after returning from a two-week all-inclusive holiday in Mexico would be a good idea? Well, me apparently...
Having convinced myself it wouldn't be a problem, I signed myself up for Crathes Half Marathon a couple of months ago, knowing fine well it took place less than a week after my holiday. My first race since Stonehaven Half Marathon, Crathes Half Marathon takes place in and around the grounds of the stunning 16th century Crathes Castle, part of Royal Deeside.
I tried to run once on the treadmill in the hotel gym while I was away (the beach was a no-go) but I HATE RUNNING ON A TREADMILL! So I decided just to chance my luck with one 7.5 mile training run on my return, and then just seeing how it went on the day. I was reasonably confident in my levels of fitness, and everything I read about this race assured me that it wasn't too difficult - I was even secretly hoping I could set a new PB...
Race morning arrived, and by the time I climbed out of bed, the conditions were already looking perfect for running. I started the day with a breakfast of a toasted bagel, with peanut butter and banana along with a coffee as well as starting to get myself hydrated with plenty of water.
I got changed into my kit and before long we were on our way to Crathes. The only real differences to my kit this time out were my now standard running headband (it is a lifesaver!) and I was trying out Clif Bloks energy chews, rather than gels, for the first time after reading about them online (more on them later).
We arrived at Crathes Castle estate at around 10.45am with the race due to start at 12.00pm, so we had plenty of time to spare. After getting parked and making our way to the registration area, I collected my race number (#370), technical t-shirt, and surprisingly a new multi-purpose headband which came in extremely handy. We had a bit of time on our hands, so we spent some time watching the kids 1.5km run, which was good fun - it was great to see so many enthusiastic kids involved.
Before long it was our turn and we are all lined up at the starting line ready to go. The race started with an ever so slight incline up and out the grounds of the castle. The race was pretty congested for the first couple of miles, and it took some time before we could really spread out and get going. These first few miles were reasonably flat, and I started to going at a reasonably decent pace now that we'd opened up - at one point I checked Strava and I was averaging sub 8-minute miles. It was soon time for the first water stop at the 4-mile mark, and I was definitely ready for it, the day had turned out to be far warmer than expected, and my mouth was starting to dry up and I was in desperate need of a drink.
Around the 5 mile mark, we hit the first "off-road" section of the run, and I really didn't enjoy this; the uneven nature of the road, complete with loose rocks made for some really uncomfortable running, along with a couple of nervy moments where I nearly lost my footing completely. I also started to feel some discomfort in my left foot - the blister was back, I knew it. On just about every long distance run I do, I almost always get a blister on the inside bottom of my left foot, now I'm not sure if it's down to my running form, or shoes - but it always seems to come back. I did try to take some preventative action before the run, by pre-applying a blister plaster and some zinc oxide tape, but it didn't seem to work. Anyway, I gritted my teeth, and pushed through it and before long we were finally back on some flat road.
We soon reached another water stop at around the 7-mile mark and the sun was also taking no prisoners at this point, so I took advantage of this by having a much-needed drink and soaking my back in water to cool down. I also had the first of my Clif Blok energy chews and I was certainly impressed with them - they tasted so much better than my usual SIS energy gels, they were easy to chew and swallow and provided a great instant sugar kick along with a dose of caffeine.
There was another off-road section between miles 9-10, and much like the first, I really didn't enjoy this. The loose rocks were causing havoc with the blister on my foot but I pushed through the pain, and before I knew it the 10-mile marker was in sight. Mentally this was a huge boost - knowing there was only 3 miles to go, which equated to around 25 minutes more running, or about 8 more songs on my Spotify playlist. I also took a quick look at Strava and checked my time...a new PB was within grasp.
A few more minutes running followed, and I arrived at the final water stop at the 10.5-mile marker, so I quickly fuelled up with water and one more energy chew and I was on my way to the home stretch. Or so I thought. After the joy of passing the 10-mile mark, and thinking that the end would soon be in sight - there was of course one final sting in the tail. I found myself on a long straight, with the slightest of inclines, but enough of an incline to make it really not enjoyable. It also seemed to go on forever!
Mile 12 eventually arrived and I knew I was nearly there. My legs were feeling rather tired by this point, and I really wasn't able to pick up the pace for the final mile as I'd originally planned - however, I soldiered on! Before I knew it, we were back inside the castle grounds, and the end was actually in sight! I took my headphones out, stepped on the gas and made my way past the cheering crowd towards the finish line - I even managed to spot Kerry in the crowds, ready to catch me finishing on camera. Crossing the finish line was a mixture of joy and relief, I was handed my medal (how good is the medal?!) and I made my way over to the finishers tent where I picked up water, a banana and a Tunnock's Wafer - all of which were consumed within record speed! I found Kerry, where she congratulated me on my efforts before I checked Strava, and confirmed that I had indeed secured a new PB. Yas!
Whilst it wasn't totally accurate at the time, I knew that I'd finished at around 1:53ish - which was around 3 minutes quicker than my previous best. Amazing! I eventually found out that my official time was 1:53:27, officially 2 minutes and 47 seconds faster than my previous PB. We didn't hang around after the finish too long, and before I knew it, I was recovering in a salt bath with a cold beer - bliss!
Overall, I am absolutely delighted with how the run went as a whole. Taking my lack of training over the last three weeks into account and the fact I managed to beat my previous PB by around three minutes - I think I did rather well. It gives me confidence for the next one (any suggestions?) that with the right training behind me, I could potentially shave even more off this time.
As for Crathes Half Marathon as a whole - I think this is a great event. It was extremely well organised, along with a mostly enjoyable route and some awesome scenery, it is definitely a run I'd recommend to seasoned or first time half marathon runners and it's certainly one I'd be interested in running again. As always, thanks to everyone behind organising the event, all the volunteers, the locals who cheered us on and of course Kerry for her support and unrivalled photography skills. I'd also like to thank Compeed for making live-saving blister plasters - they are going to be part of my running kit from this day forward!
As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for your support. Until the next one!
Two Weeks In Paradise
Sometimes you just need two weeks of lying in the sun, by the pool, drinking cocktails all day. That's exactly what me and Kerry have recently returned from - a two week break in absolute paradise, otherwise known as Mexico. Most of that two weeks were spent relaxing in a luxury all-inclusive resort, with the odd excursion here and there to break the holiday up. We had the most amazing time, in which we saw some stunning scenery, sampled some incredible food and drink, met some great people, and of course - relaxed.
During our trip to Mexico, we stayed at the Royalton Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa - a huge, luxury all-inclusive resort, serving up a whopping twelve restaurants, twelve bars and seven outdoor pools. It is a place where there really is something for everyone.
We fell in love with it pretty much as soon as we found it online, and it didn't take us too long after that to book our trip there. We booked with TUI, flying from Glasgow for two weeks between the end of August/beginning of September.
Check out the resort overview video below.
First off, this place is MASSIVE. It literally takes over ten minutes to walk from one end to the other, and probably thirty plus to walk around it in its entirety. It is split into three sections; the "main/family" section, Hideaway (adults only) and Diamond Club (an exclusive area for those who upgrade to DC), with each of these sections having their own pools, bars and restaurants etc.
The main area of the hotel is huge. It has a long, sprawling pool, flanked by dining areas, bars and sun loungers. This alone is bigger than most holiday resorts that I've visited in the past! There is a smaller infinity pool down to one end, and further afield there is another huge splash pool for kids, that is filled with slides. Just off the decking area by the main pool, it leads inside to the lower main hotel lobby that has more bars and restaurants and some welcome shelter from the sun. There is a set of stairs that lead up to the sports bar and nightclub (yes, there is a nightclub on the resort) and an escalator that takes you up to the huge upper lobby that houses the reception areas, the spa/gym, more bars, coffee/ice cream cafe, several shops and the rep offices.
We booked to stay in the adults only section, known as Hideaway - with this you get access to the Hideaway section of the resort, along with one exclusive restaurant and everything in the main section of the resort. The only thing that is off-limits is anything relating to Diamond Club, which is an exclusive upgrade package.
The Hideaway pool area was great - it was always relatively quiet in the morning prior to the bar opening at 10am meaning that there was usually sun loungers available in a decent location. Most days we opted for the "in pool" sun loungers which made it extremely easy to jump in the pool to cool off (which was pretty often). The swim up bar was a particular highlight of the Hideaway pool area with the barmen all usually extremely friendly (especially Henry & Jorge) and occasionally they would put on a bit of a show with a "shot train" or float some coconut cocktails around the pool on a lilo. On our final Friday, there was a "bar show" where two guys came in and put on a show, throwing cocktail shakers, glasses and flaming bottles around - it was absolutely crazy but amazing to watch.
Down on the beach, Hideaway guests have their own "private" section of the beach, and there is also a Hideaway Beach Bar, that is a great place to catch the last of the sun and relax with a cocktail or two.
Entertainment wise, there was always loads on. The Vibe entertainment Team were on hand every day with loads of activities around the pool and beach ranging from pool volleyball, beach volleyball, beach football and table tennis. Each day there was also a "crazy challenge" that usually involved a mixture of physical challenges and alcohol...all good fun! Ivan from the Vibe Team, in particular, was a real highlight - he was so upbeat and could always manage to get people involved. He was also extremely friendly which made a real difference.
There would usually be a mixture of entertainment each evening in the main pool area, and also the Hideaway pool area. The entertainment in the main area would always be family friendly and range from light shows, gymnastics, live music, magicians and discos. Whereas the entertainment in the Hideaway section would usually be aimed more at adults, with silent discos, chocolate parties and a rock show all particular highlights.
When you are staying somewhere for two weeks, your room needs to be as comfortable as possible, and that certainly was not an issue at the Royalton. We stayed in a luxury junior suite (it's not as fancy as it sounds), with a mangrove view (which is also not that bad either). The room was 559 Sqft in size and has a rather comfortable king size bed, a jacuzzi bathtub, double rain shower and ample storage. It also has all your usual amenities such as iron (and board), safe, kettle, coffee maker and mini bar. We certainly didn't have any complaints about our room during our stay - the air con (which is excellent) did break down once, but that was a hotel-wide issue, and was resolved reasonably quickly.
Food & Drink
As I mentioned earlier the Royalton offers a huge amount of dining and drinking options with twelve restaurants and twelve bars scattered throughout the resort.
There really is a huge amount of dining options, with something for everyone:
We tried our best to get around all the restaurants but unfortunately, we didn't manage. A combination of us visiting our favourites more than once, and just not fancying a couple of the menus meant that we didn't visit OPA, Agave, C/X or Dorado (although we had breakfast there once). Particular highlights for me were Hunter, Armadillo, Grazie and Zen, we visited all these restaurants twice. Hunter delivers an absolutely fantastic steak - I had a fillet on my first visit, and a New York Steak on the second, and both were cooked to perfection (although the steak in Ocean Point is arguably better). Armadillo served up a huge range of Tex-Mex options with me going for ribs on my first visit, and chicken fajitas on my second with both being absolutely top quality. If you are visiting the Royalton, then you absolutely must visit Zen, not just to sample the à la carte menu, but also to witness the live Teppanyaki show - it is amazing. You have to book this in advance, you also need to queue up to make that booking (I queued for about 45 minutes) but it is 100% worth it. I can't even begin to explain how good the fried rice was, and it is such a fun experience overall.
For more casual dining/snacks there are plenty of options available dotted throughout the resort with options such as a food truck, pizza oven snack bars and Score Sports Bar offering plenty of choices. Score is defiantly worth checking out for the Poutine Fries alone (basically chips, cheese and gravy) and they also offer things such as burgers, dogs, grilled cheese and wings - they are also open until 6am! The Gourmet Marché buffet is pretty incredible. It is huge! They have just about anything you could want in there for breakfast, lunch and dinner. and they also have plenty of vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and children's options available.
Drinks wise, there is a full range of "top-shelf" spirits available with vodkas such as Grey Goose, Belvedere and Absolute, Havana Club and Bacardi rum, Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire gin and tequilas such as Don Julio and 1800. There is a never-ending list of cocktails too with each bar having a cocktail menu as well as a whole bunch of "off menu" offerings. Particular highlights for me included the "Pineapple Mojito" and the "Melon Colada" which were both extremely refreshing.
As for beer, there wasn't too much to satisfy a craft beer fanatic like me, with only Dos Equis XX, Heineken, and Sol available on draught throughout the resort. But don't get me wrong, I'm not a snob and I was happy to drink what was available - at the end of the day, a cold beer is as refreshing as any other on a melting hot day. I was led to believe that there was local craft beer available in the Sports Bar at $8 a pop, however, I didn't actually see this advertised anywhere inside the resort.
The mini bar in your room also gets re-stocked every day with a selection of beer, soft drinks, water and crisps. It's not the most extensive selection, but it makes a difference and there are times you are extremely grateful for that ice cold bottle of water, or can of coke.
I can't talk about this resort without talking about the beach. Now, after we booked our stay at the Royalton we joined a Facebook group regarding the resort and the initial thing that struck us was the number of negative comments - most of which stemmed around the beach.
For those who are unaware, there seems to be a bit of an issue with certain parts of the South American coast that sees large amounts of seaweed gather on the beachfront. This seemed to gather a lot of attention from people who have visited or were planning to visit the hotel and thus generate a lot of negative comments. Now, I understand that the beach may be an important aspect of many peoples holidays - but bashing the hotel, and potentially putting others off isn't the way to go about it.
In all honesty, when I was there, it really wasn't that bad. Although I don't really go on holiday to go to the beach, and I also don't particularly like sea water - so I guess it was never really going to bother me that much. The hotel seemed to be doing what they could though - there was a tractor on the beach every day trying to clear the seaweed, and it seems the Mexican government are trying to do their part too by installing barriers along the coast.
I'm sure if you take a look at my pictures, you'll agree with me that it doesn't actually look that bad?!
One final thing I want to say regarding the Facebook group if you are planning to join it - be careful not to get too sucked into what you read. For the most part, it is a great place to get holiday tips, get excited about your holiday and even get a hold of something you've forgotten after you arrive. However, it can be filled with so much negativity and people bashing the resort! We actually spoke to some people there who said the group almost caused them to change their hotel.
While we were there, we did three excursions away from the hotel - two through TUI, and one through the in hotel company, Nexus. Through TUI we booked Xel-Ha, a water-themed adventure park and the world famous Coco Bongos show/nightclub. All of these excursions were basically "all-inclusive", with all transport, and pretty much all food and drink included on them.
First up we had Xel-Ha, which is a water adventure park in the heart of the Riviera Maya and regarded as one of the worlds most spectacular natural wonders. It is filled with water-based activities such as a lazy river, cliff jumping, zip slides, snorkelling and cenotes to explore. We had a bus collect us from the hotel in the morning where a tour guide explained what we'd be able to get up to at the park. When we arrived and made our way inside, we were left to our own devices to explore the park for the day. Firstly, this park is beautiful - the blue water set against the lush green jungle is a spectacular sight. We spent our day exploring the jungle area (complete with big ass lizards), working our way down the lazy river whilst basking in the sun and taking part in some of the available activities. Whilst in the park, all food and drinks are all inclusive so we spent some time in a couple of the buffet style restaurants and of course, indulged in some cocktails in the on-site bars before it was time to get back on the bus back to the hotel.
I would 100% recommend Xel-Ha to anyone visiting Mexico, it is a great way to spend a day, especially if it is sunny!
We also did a TUI evening excursion to Coco Bongos along with a bunch of other people from the resort. We had a mini-bus pick us up at 9pm to take us to central Cancun and drop us at Coco Bongos. After entering the club and being extremely fortunate to get great seats, we had a waiter take our drinks orders, who would then continue to keep us topped up all night - along with the occasional shot! The show itself was amazing, and the levels of production on the show were as good as any stage show I've ever seen. The show went on until around 3am where our mini-bus then returned to collect us and take us back to the resort.
I would recommend Coco Bongos to anyone visiting Cancun - it is an absolute must do in my eyes and well worth your money. I didn't save too many photos from the night but check out my Mexico Instagram highlights for a taster of the show.
Our final excursion of the holiday was to the beautiful Isla Mujeres, and this was always one of the main excursions we wanted to do when coming to Mexico. Isla Mujeres is a relatively small island around 6km off the coast of Cancun, and we booked our excursion through the Nexus travel company which has an office in the hotel lobby. Our excursion included a late morning pick up from the hotel, where we were taken to a boatyard and boarded a luxury catamaran. This would be our transport to and from Isla Mujeres and lunch and drinks were all inclusive on board the boat. En route to the island, we made a couple of stops for snorkelling, swimming and a chance to enjoy a drink in the sun and take in the crystal clear waters. When we arrived at Isla Mujeres we were given three hours to explore the island and do as we pleased - we opted to hire a golf buggy for most of that time and try to explore most of the island, which was great fun (despite the odd bump or two on the road!). The island itself is beautiful; a mixture of an idyllic paradise with white sands, crystal clear blue waters and an authentic Mexican town with the locals going about their every day lives - the local children were actually trying to hitch a lift on the golf buggy!
If you want to get out the resort and spend some time with beautiful beaches in what feels like "the real Mexico", then I highly recommend a trip to Isla Mujeres. There is absolutely loads to do that we never got round to, such as swim with dolphins, an Ice Bar and not to mention the numerous shops, restaurants and bars scattered throughout the island.
Overall, I had one of the most relaxing, and enjoyable holidays of my life and I would recommend the Royalton to anyone looking to visit Mexico - you will not be disappointed. I would also like to thank the Royalton and all the staff there for making us feel so welcome during our stay, it is one that I will never forget, it is, without doubt, one place I would 100% visit again.