The Balance Between Family, Work & Blogging

As we near the end of March you might have noticed the distinct lack of activity on the www.pixelscotland.com site this past month. Instead of the usual 20-30 posts, there’s been a grand total of 4 posts all month, 5 if you include this one!

My ‘excuse’ is the arrival of my son Harris, one month old today. My time has been taken up by our new arrival and I wouldn’t change a thing. Parenthood is amazing, but a little more sleep would be most welcome!

I do feel guilty that I haven’t managed to keep up with the blog this month. I have a number of reviews to write up. Thankfully, having made lots of notes along the way, I don’t have to start from scratch. However, polishing these notes into something that constitutes a review takes time, and that’s something that I just haven’t had since the arrival of Harris.

I’m not the only one with a problem balancing family, work and blogging. Check out this article from Barefoot Beginner that deals with exactly that issue.

One month in, we are now starting to find our feet. A bit more sleep would be great but we are starting to get used to the total change in lifestyle that accompanies a newborn, and especially when that newborn is your first child. I am getting used to the reality of partial blogging, spending 10-15 minutes here and there working on articles and reviews that I might previously have devoted a few hours to. Normal service will resume shortly(ish).

Watch this space, reviews to follow!

D33 Or Bust

Normally I live for the weekends. This weekend, however, CAN come too quickly for me. Not that there’s time to do anything about it. You see, the 2013 Scottish Ultra Marathon Series kicks off with the 33 mile D33 race this coming Saturday. This time last year I had run in excess of 400 miles, including plenty of long runs, and was actually looking forward to the event. On the day, I took a chunk out of my PB, smashing my 2011 time of 5:58:00 by some 22 minutes.

This time around, things are not looking quite so positive.

I haven’t been logging my run details quite so compulsively of late. I do still have the details of each run on various bits of paper scattered throughout the house but they have yet to make their way into SportTracks, my favoured software for keeping on top of mileage and all the associated details.

What I do know is that my total mileage for 2013 comes to no more than 130 miles so far, with no run in excess of 11 miles. Hardly the best preparation for the D33 or, indeed, for any of my other 2013 ultramarathons!

So why the lack of preparation? Why, with the D33 only days away have I not run further than only 1/3 of the total race distance?

Well, back in June 2012, days from participating in the West Highland Way Race, we found out that we were expecting our first child. Let me just save you the bother of doing the math – that gave us a due date of 20th February.

The chaos all started with some ‘nesting’, preparing the nursery for our new addition. Seeing the resulting dust and mess, we accelerated our plans for the house, sprucing up practically every room, and replacing the antiquated 30 year old kitchen. There was just no way we wanted to be doing this kind of thing once Bubbs arrived. The kitchen was finalised 2 weeks before the due date and our attentions then turned to unboxing and putting the house back together, made more stressful by the need for speed and our impending arrival.

With the house complete, I had hoped to get back in to long slow runs in preparation for the D33. However, I just couldn’t bring myself to venture too far from home, just in case! I didn’t want to find myself miles down the track with no way of getting home in a hurry!

As if we didn’t have enough on our plate, I had a cancer scare right before the birth. Not the kind of thing you want at any time, least of all with the birth of your first born looming. Thankfully, tests brought us the news we wanted and I could again turn my full attention to our new arrival.

Back to my master plan. Bubbs would arrive as expected on or around the 20th and I would start a month of paternity leave, giving me ample time not only to be the best dad possible but also to train and ‘catch up’ in time for the D33.

If you have any experience with newborns, please do feel free to rejoin us once you have stopped laughing at the naivety of the above ‘plan’. The reality has been something quite different.

Harris Robert Mackintosh finally joined us on the 28th February after a protracted birth that started some 5 days earlier. I can’t complain about the self inflicted pain resulting from running ultramarathons after witnessing what can only be described as a painful ‘ultra labour’, far exceeding anything that I have ever had to endure!

I will never forget the feeling of finally seeing my son, so tiny and covered in blood, being passed to his mum for the very first time. Words can’t adequately describe it, the emotion and intensity of it all, coupled with a feeling that the air had been sucked out of me as I tried to catch my breath. It certainly puts everything in perspective.

There was a time when I would have felt aggrieved at not getting out for my daily run. Now, I am happy just to make it through the day, to watch my son develop, and for my head to hit the pillow, even if it is only until the next nappy change or feed. While running will still play a part in my life, it certainly won’t have the same prominence as before. Priorities have changed. I knew that this would likely be the case, I just didn’t appreciate how comfortable I would feel with that change.

So, almost 12 days in now, the deluge of visitors (all very welcome I hasten to add) has subsided and we find ourselves redefining ‘normal’ when it comes to our new life. This normal certainly doesn’t include a decent 8 hours sleep, something that I relied upon to get me through the day and keep me training pre Bubbs!

Despite the lack of training, I will likely toe the start line for the D33 this weekend (as mad as that might seem!). I have resigned myself to the fact that this will most likely not be a PB performance and, in fact, if anything, it may well be a personal worst! I actually don’t mind. Given the circumstances, I will be glad just to grind out a finish. What’s more, the race is actually the best training opportunity that I have for the forthcoming 53 mile Highland Fling race, scheduled for April 27th.

A number of people have suggested that a DNF is definitely preferable to a DNS and, as much as I hate DNFs, it makes sense to at least give it a go. Hopefully muscle memory will save the day and see me through to the finish line! Only time will tell.

One thing that will be driving me forward on the day is the thought of getting home to my wife and son.

All the very best to everyone participating in the D33 this weekend.

Happy Running.

Harris Robert Mackintosh

It’s been an ultra event of a different sort for me these past few days and, for once, one where it’s not been me who has been in pain. Our first child, a son, was due to arrive on 20th February 2013 but decided not to make an appearance until today, the 28th. Leanne’s waters broke back on Saturday evening, with contractions starting the next day, making for an ‘ultra birth’ by the time baby actually arrived. Unlike most of my ultra events, I had the ‘easy’ part this time round – staying awake – and even that proved tough enough!

Welcome to our world Harris Robert Mackintosh,

  • Weight: 7 pounds 11.5 ounces
  • Born: 14:45 28th February 2013

Gear Junkie

My long awaited Ultimate Direction Signature Series PB Adventure Vest will not be with me in time for Christmas. Fortunately however, I will have a lovely new Montane Minimus to test out on the trail and, given the weather these past few days, it’s going to get a considerable amount of use!

Christmas is a great time of year for the gear junkie, especially when friends and family appreciate that you use the opportunity to get much needed items of kit, whether it be smaller items like socks (Drymax) or larger items such as a new waterproof and vest pack.

I came across a great blog post by Red Wine Runner that documented the transition from ‘casual hobby jogger‘ to ‘runner (with a capital R)‘. The turning point for Rhona (Red Wine Runner) was the realisation that, despite numerous non-running events (festivals, weddings, holidays), all she had bought throughout the year was running kit.

The sentiment of the post struck a chord with me. While I haven’t been to any festivals or weddings this year, I seized the opportunity presented by a holiday in the sun to stock up on some new Salomon running vests and Salomon recovery sandals.

A quick glance in the shoe cupboard confirms my fears. My trainers outnumber my wife’s shoes by at least a ratio of 5:1 (conservative estimate!). Bag check. I win again. Waist packs, vest packs, rucksacks, lightweight packs, all day packs – a running pack for every eventuality.

I have a confession to make. I am a gear junkie, and I have no problem with it. I love the feeling of getting some new kit to try out, be it a new pair of trainers, the latest running pack, or some running clothing. Whoever said running was cheap certainly didn’t have my fondness for new gear! Fortunately, I have received a fair bit of kit this year for review which helps keep costs down, something that will be even more essential in 2013. Thanks to everyone who has supplied product for review.

Hope everyone gets some great new kit this Christmas :o)