Dopey training – Week 21

It’s all getting very close and very real now and I think that’s making the training a mentally much harder task. Not to mention the fact that Term 4 is the most draining of all school terms for teachers (ignore all comments about ‘Aren’t you winding down for the end of the year?’) with a constant and demanding ‘to do’ list. And, while I know neither of those are an excuse, they may go towards explaining my mood this week.

So I didn’t run on Tuesday. I can’t even remember why or whether there was a particular reason. I just didn’t. I know I was ridiculously tired and our side of the planet has heated up considerably this week so both were contributing factors. I set the alarm for Wednesday morning instead…..then turned it off and had a sleep in. ‘I can make it up’ I told myself and moved on.

On Thursday, I knew I really had to do it so went out after school, showing some resilience as it was raining when I left and built up to a drenching by the last 2 kms. I ran around the block, which I haven’t done for a while and enjoyed it. Even more shocking, I was quite speedy for the first time in ages and felt strong throughout my run. I guess that’s what the combination of long runs and rested legs do for you. I dripped my way back into the house (literally) with a smile on my face.

I was due to do my 2nd 45 minute run of the week on Saturday at parkrun and was intending to head to Melbourne for my friend’s 50th parkrun. I woke up feeling rather ill but pushed through it and got ready. Just before turning onto the freeway, feeling ill had grown into a panic attack so I turned around and headed home. For whatever reason, my body and brain had decided that it wasn’t a running day for me and had given me no choice but to listen. Would I have felt better if I had somehow made myself? Probably. Husband kindly came with me for a no pressure walk on the beach later in the afternoon to get me out of the house which helped me reset. I say it often but brains really are amazing things – who knows why they do the things they do? I can only assume, after an intense week (and with a wisdom tooth causing both pain and anxiety) that I couldn’t cope with any expectations or commitments and needed to give myself a rest day. So I did.

It clearly worked as I was back at it again this morning. I didn’t set an alarm but woke up at 5.30am feeling refreshed and ready to go. I drove out to the You Yangs and set off along a new trail for me. It turned out to be exactly the tonic I needed. There was a weird fog hanging around thanks to the humid weather which added to the atmosphere. I was alone in terms of humans but stopped counting at 20 kangaroos so definitely had animal company which made me smile. The track I followed went along the edge of the park for a few kilometres before heading through the middle and gave me a different perspective than I usually get. And, as usual, my mind wandered a lot. I was thinking about how easy this run was, not the individual minutes (which were suitably challenging) but the whole thing. There was a time not that long ago that going out for an 11km run was a major undertaking whereas this just involved getting up, eating a banana and heading out. Before I knew it, the 11km were done and I was back at the car. Tonic taken, stress levels reduced and another week of training done.

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Dopey training – Week 20

Week 20 – wow. It really doesn’t feel like we’ve been training for that long. Although in other ways, it feels like it’s gone on for much longer!

I always knew this week would be tough – the week after a long mileage week always is. Clocking up 55km last week left me tired and then 3 days away on school camp sapped any energy I had left. Luckily, I haven’t got sick like I normally do while away on camp – I wonder if my stress levels were lower than usual and my fitter body and immune system from all this running helped. I shall pretend it did 😃.

It was easy to fit my run in on Tuesday as it was Melbourne Cup day (I’ve always been dubious about a country that declares a public holiday for a horse race but whatever!) so I wasn’t at work. I headed up to the You Yangs in the afternoon and ran our parkrun course which is a bit of a novelty as, despite being a Run Director there, I don’t run it very often. It was a pretty cruisy run and I soaked up the scenery. I really am so lucky to have such places in my backyard.

I then couldn’t run for a few days as I was down the beach with my Grade 4s on camp. The only option would have been to do laps of the camp itself before they got up but I decided just to be kind to myself and push it out until Saturday. It wasn’t like I got no exercise on camp – we walked on the beach, went surfing, walked all over the place and I even managed to bounce on the trampolines (much to the kids’ amusement).

I may have said a few swear words when the alarm went off on Saturday morning for parkrun – I really could have done with the sleep in. But I got up and went then ran/walked/walked some more with my fabulous friend Jo. And it was lovely, if not more than a little hard. My legs were absolutely dead and I was tired. But it was done.

Today I had my ‘long’ run of the week – a mere 10km. I pushed it out to a little later in the day as I knew it would be sunny and want to get a few runs in hotter temperatures as a way of preparing for the ‘who knows’ nature of Florida’s weather. I chose to run along the river in Geelong with dappled shade and enough variety to keep me entertained. Pulling up in the car park, I really didn’t want to be there and do it – still tired and still with dead legs. But I did it anyway. It wasn’t so bad although I only sporadically stuck to intervals and just kept an eye on overall pace instead. I expected to see a few snakes along the way but none were about today – possibly a result of my running style warning them that I was coming 😂. Overall, I was pretty happy with my pace today – just a smidge over 9min/km which isn’t bad in my world for a 10km in the heat. I had to go the supermarket on my way home and felt myself drawn towards the fridge – I have become somewhat addicted to flavoured milk beverages after long runs and today’s chocolate milk barely hit the sides as it was devoured.

So another week done. 7 to go 😳. I still don’t feel ready or close to being ready but I continue to plod along and trust the training. I know I’m certainly capable of more than I was before and have to take some reassurance from that. And, ready or not, I’m doing this. Someone let Mickey know, we’ll see him soon 🐭.

Dopey training – week 19

Get yourself a cup of coffee and settle in – this is going to be a long blog post. As that’s really the only way to deal with a week like this one.

Before I tell you about it, I feel like I need to make a disclosure – I still have a love/hate relationship with running. I sometimes think my blog might paint it in a more positive light than I always feel but that’s because these posts are written while looking through the endorphin coloured glasses of post-run euphoria. If I blogged before or during a run? A whole different perspective. Most of the ‘love’ side of the relationship occurs after a run while the ‘hate’ side is before and during. It’s not always terrible but it’s certainly not always great either and I struggle as much as anyone to get my shoes on and get out the door. Anyway, with that said, let’s begin.

My first run of the week was on Tuesday and, thanks to School Council in the evening, needed to be done before work. When I can make myself, I do like that time of day and Tuesday was a perfect morning for it. However the run sucked. It was hard, I couldn’t get my breathing right and the minutes seemed to take forever. The best thing about it was that it was done and I could spend the rest of the day feeling smug. Actually another good thing was that I wasn’t tired all day afterwards like I usually am (and managed to stay awake during School Council 😃).

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do on Thursday and was home earlier than usual which gave me options. So, of course, I opted for the familiar and headed to the You Yangs although ran a different trail to usual. It wasn’t as hard as Tuesday although, being on trail, it couldn’t be compared which is probably why I did it. Trail feels more forgiving of all speeds of runner. As well as generally being tonic for the soul.

Saturday was parkrun which used to be easy as we had limited options around here. Now, with too many options, I can’t choose so I ended up at my home parkrun. I needed to get in some extra kms so I got up early, parked at the beach and ran along the waterfront before running to parkrun and finishing my run with an easy 5km. I was tired at the end but glad to have got the kilometres in early so I could enjoy the rest of my day and get ready for the really long on Sunday. I got all of my things ready, rechecked the route and was in bed by 7.30pm – such a party animal.

So, today. My alarm went off at 4.30am and husband and I were on our way to Melbourne. It’s funny that he doesn’t worry about me out on the trails but didn’t like the idea of me running in Melbourne alone so had offered to drop me off and asked me to text him every 5km. I was grateful to have somebody along for the journey. Even if he wasn’t running with me, it was really reassuring to know he was there.


We arrived at Southbank at 6am so I took advantage of a final toilet stop then set off on the Capital City Trail. The first part was very familiar as I’d run it many, many times before, albeit in reverse. I settled in well to the early kilometres and it all felt good – I was running 1:30/1:00 run/walk intervals (as recommended by my friends who ran their loooong run last weekend) and they were perfect for keeping me well under pace but not tired. I was trying out podcasts for the first time and was really enjoying the one I was listening to which also helped the time tick away. I ran along the river then over it and into the Docklands before joining up with the creek trail that took me under CityLink – a very strange experience that reminded me of being in canals around cities in the UK.


There weren’t many people around, just a few cyclists and it was very peaceful by the creek, despite the traffic overhead. The peace ended when I came to the end of that particular trail – the sign telling me where to go wasn’t there and, confronted with a busy road ahead, I had no idea where to go. I took out my phone to double check, only to find that my battery was down to 24% (no idea why – still investigating). I searched the map and tried my best to quell the rising panic attack – the thought of no music or entertainment for the remainder of the run, limited contact with Gary, limited access to maps, on top of the fact that I still didn’t know where to go next were all contributing.

Eventually I found my way back onto the trail then texted Gary to tell him that, despite being only 7.5km into my run, I was turning my phone off to conserve power and would be unreachable between my text messages. The next section of the trail heads towards and through Royal Park and is, again, quite scenic although not brilliantly signposted and I took another wrong turn before realising and finding my way back.

This section of the trail after that had much better signposts, including information about how far things were which I found very reassuring. At this point, I was still feeling pretty good and keeping up the intervals. I took a few photos when I turned on my phone to text Gary with my progress but wish I’d been able to take more. It’s a great trail and you get to see such a variety of Melbourne landscapes. I was also feeling quite lonely as I couldn’t text Gary as frequently as I wanted – I loved knowing he was out there, supporting me and looked forward to ticking off another 5km so I could message him.

Highlights in the next section included Dights Falls and Collingwood Children’s Farm, complete with strange animal noises and quaint farmyard scenes. The Children’s Farm also was my one and only toilet stop with fabulous facilities right next to the trail. There were more people up this end and I also started to come across participants in the ‘Bloody Long Walk’ which made me smile and feel a little less alone.

I don’t remember exactly where it started getting harder but my Strava file seems to show it around the 26th kilometre as that’s where my speed really slowed. I was edging closer to the city, was on more familiar paths and had had enough. All sorts of unhelpful thoughts were sneaking in and, no matter how much I looked at my ‘Run Brave’ bracelet wrapped around my wrist, they wouldn’t leave me alone. Most of them were about how hard this was and how much harder it was going to be to add another 10km to this to complete the marathon. How, despite all the training, I wasn’t good enough or fast enough. Even though I knew they were irrational, they were still there and making it so much harder than it needed to be. I think, had I had enough energy, I would have cried to clear it all out but instead just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. I constantly checked my pace – up until 26km, it had been a perfect 9:20/km but it was slipping lower and lower.

My last text to Gary said ‘30km Swan st bridge Very slow’. I wanted to say a whole lot more but didn’t have the energy to look at the screen. I wanted to say that it hurt and that it was taking every fibre of my being not to just sit down in the gutter and cry. I couldn’t even really put a finger on what hurt – it wasn’t injury type hurt, just ‘I’ve been on my feet too long’ kind of hurt. Blisters, sore feet, sore hips, tight calves – all of it. Just keep moving.

I got back to Southbank to discover I was 1km short of my target so had to keep going then, while waiting for Gary, ended up doing laps of the roundabout to finish off the last 250m. And, finally, I could press stop on my Garmin. 32km – done. At a pace that was just in front of the virtual balloon ladies – 9:58/km.

A few hours on, I still have mixed feelings on this one. Of course I’m proud to have finished it – 32km is a huge achievement that I never thought I’d be capable of. However it was far too close on pace and I am disappointed with that. I know I’ll go quicker at the event with all the adrenaline and crowds but still realise I face a very real possibility of not being able to finish this. I’ve known that from the start but tried to just ‘trust the training’. That’s getting harder. 3 weeks now until the next ‘longest run’ and I’ll certainly be reflecting on whatever I can do to start and finish with confidence.

Weekly summary – 55.9km total:

Tuesday – 5.2km (45:15)

Thursday – 5km (45:07)

Saturday – 13.6km (2:03:55)

Sunday – 32km (5:18:58)

Dopey training – Week 18

Another ‘low mileage’ week of 21km. Definitely made easier by sunshine and blue skies this week as well as daylight savings extending my opportunities. I do quite like running in the dark but feel a bit limited on my routes at those times so daylight savings lets me change things up, at least a little.

On Tuesday, I didn’t want to stray too far from home as I had too much to do so I took myself off to some trails close by which I haven’t been on for a while. I tried out some podcasts to keep me amused but it didn’t work and I flicked back to my music very quickly. I’m really hoping I can find some variety as I think I’m going to get bored with my playlist for the long hours that the marathon will take.

Thursday was a bit of a ‘hmmmmm’ sort of day – I knew I needed to run but couldn’t quite decide where. My friend messaged me in the afternoon and we headed out to the You Yangs for the usual trail up a hill and down the other side. It ended up being one of my quickest times on that route and, while the hill wasn’t any less painful than usual, at least it was over faster.

I was run directing at parkrun on Saturday so didn’t get my usual 5km in which meant I had a whole day of delights to choose from. This, of course, meant I spent much of the day not making a decision and not doing anything. In the end, I opted to go out to Torquay and run the Surf Coast trail and was joined by my husband. It’s the first time we’ve run together and was actually really lovely. He’s much faster than me and I’m sure it would have pained him to slow down to my pace but it was a great way to spend the evening and we were treated to beautiful weather and a pretty sunset along the coastal trail.

Weekly summary:

Tuesday – 5.5km (45:24)

Thursday – 5km (49:33)

Saturday – 10.4km (1:31:29)

Dopey training – week 17

After last week’s mega-mileage, this is technically a low mileage week although the ‘long runs’ of 5km are now behind us as we ramp up towards the big event.

I was really, really pleased with how well I pulled up after last Sunday’s 27km – I wasn’t sore the next day at all, just a bit tired so I took it easy in the first half of the week. I’m sure I could have run on Tuesday but work and other things got in the way and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take a few extra days so I headed out for my first run of the week on Thursday. I made a last minute decision to go up to the You Yangs and got there just before they shut the gate to get in. I ran our usual loop and managed to equal my best time, well under balloon lady pace despite the large hill in the middle of it. So that gave me a confidence boost.

Saturday was parkrun day and, as is often the case, I wasn’t sure how I was feeling or what I wanted to do. My friend and I settled in to 2 min run/1 min walk although I had rather speedy legs and definitely pushed the run segments to the edge of my comfort zone. And it paid off – I got a course PB and my 6th fastest 5km ever so was very pleased with that. I was starting to feel like all this endurance training was slowing me down (which I’m ok with) but, again, it was a great confidence boost to know that I can still pull out something quick if I set my mind to it.

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Apologies for the blurry photo – must be an indication of our speed this morning!

I’ve said before that my training plan tells me how far to run but my soul tells me where. For my long run today, it was being quite specific. Somewhere near the water, with trees but not too familiar. I drove a little further than usual to a part of the Surf Coast trail I’ve only done in the Surf Coast trail half marathon last year. It was perfect. The weather was warm-ish with blue skies but enough cloud to not be burnt to a crisp. The start of the trail went uphill (which I had completely forgotten) which was the perfect way to clear everything else from my mind – all I cared about was getting up that hill. The views from the top of the cliffs were spectacular and running down the other side towards the beach was bliss. I even enjoyed running along the beach today, lost in my thoughts and feeling very contemplative. It was definitely with a degree of reluctance that I turned around – I pondered whether I should just keep running but thought, in the mood I was in, that I might not stop and then where would I be? So I smiled as I let the waves eat my feet then headed back towards my car. In the last few hundred metres, I had to sprint and weave as I was being chased by some very protective duck parents, having clearly gotten too close to their babies. It made me giggle and was the perfect conclusion to my run.

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Weekly summary:

Thursday: 5km (45:58)

Saturday: 5km (37:20)

Sunday: 8km (1:16:47)

Dopey training – week 16

First week back of term is not really the ideal week for training to go up to another level but it is what it is and there’s not much I can do about it. So I just got on with what the training plan told me. Be ready for a long post – it was a loooooong training week.

On Tuesday, I set my alarm for 5.45am, got up and ran around my neighbourhood. I am not at all an early morning runner, as much as I’d like to be. The thing that got me up was knowing husband and I had movie tickets that night that would give me no chance to run after work so it was early or not at all. So early it was. I’m pleased to say I actually enjoyed it. Now that it’s getting light earlier, I didn’t need my head torch and was treated to the soft, welcoming colours of dawn as the neighbourhood woke up. And I got to bask in that ‘I’ve already done my run’ kind of feeling all day. Tick.

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Tuesday night, husband and I did go to the movies but not ordinary movies – it was the Run Nation Film Festival in Melbourne and we had won tickets thanks to a parkrun competition. I think it deserves a blog post of its own but, in summary, it was brilliant. The films chosen were a perfect mix and provided exactly the inspiration I needed this week.

Thursday afternoon ended up being a hill day as my friend and I headed out to the You Yangs for our regular trek up the Saddle. I’d been getting a bit paranoid about my leg which had been doing what it does – flare up for no reason when I have an event coming up. However it was perfectly ok after the hills so which reassured me that it was all in my head.

Saturday called for 11km which meant parkrun plus some extra. We were going to Bannockburn Bush parkrun launch so we went out early and ran the course (and a bit) before the others got there. It was actually really, really lovely. It’s a very peaceful place and the fog added to the atmosphere. We took it easy, aiming for a pace that would keep us a bit ahead of the balloon ladies and achieved this without a problem. Completing parkrun afterwards was also very low stress and I had no soreness at the end as we tucked into breakfast. I did take it easy for the rest of Saturday – not sore, just a bit tired and knew we had an early morning this morning.

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Today was our long run – 27km on the training plan which suited us as we’d signed up for the Melbourne half marathon. We arrived early, dropped off our bags and then set off on some laps around the MCG to add on some extra kilometres. I think the people arriving for their events thought we were possibly a little insane but it was actually quite enjoyable. We then joined everyone else at the start line and were off, leaving our Garmins running to track our longest long runs yet.

I ran with a friend for quite a while and really, really appreciated having her there – I am sure I wouldn’t have had as much ‘run’ in me without her. It’s funny how, even without pushing you or telling you you have to, having someone there makes you instantly more accountable. You don’t want to let them down. And so it was today which was exactly what I needed.

The first part of the run went off pretty well and the kilometres flew. It certainly helped that we were surrounded by people all buzzing with event excitement and had glorious blue skies. Albert Park lake, the site last year of wind and bugs, was stunning today and my regular check-ins with my body confirmed that nothing was hurting. The only thing that was starting to get to me was that I was tired but that’s to be expected – a big part of this training plan is learning to run on tired legs.

Once we were back on St Kilda Road and felt like we were on the home stretch, I found it harder to keep up the intervals and set my friend free – time to knuckle down and just get on with our own journeys. My mantra today was ‘This is hard, yes but not impossible’ and that was enough to keep me going.

Clearly the fatigue and endorphins combined to leave me prone to random tearing up – cheers on the course from a parent of one of my students (who was running the marathon) made me teary as did hearing the cheers in the final stretch. I took a big gulp and entered the MCG. Last year, I remember finding I had to dig deep to keep running as I had run a PB and had nothing left. This year was very different – I was certainly tired but my legs and lungs were still well and truly strong enough to get me there.

However crossing the line wasn’t enough – I still had another 1.5km to go to reach my training plan distance so I got my medal, headed up the steps and found another friend who kindly offered to collect and carry my bag and do a couple of laps of the MCG with me to finish. 27km – done.

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48.7km run this week – my biggest training week ever. Will see how I am tomorrow but, for tonight, I feel great.

Weekly summary:

Tuesday: 5.6km (47:12)

Thursday: 5km (51:30)

Saturday: 11.1km (1:46:15)

Sunday: 27km (4:08:56)

The ups and downs of marathon training

Let me preface this blog post with an important caveat – I am not an expert on marathon training. I am 15 weeks into training for my first marathon which simply qualifies me to talk about my experiences. If I finish this thing and ever decide to do another, it’ll be interesting to reread this and see if the experience remains similar for my next marathon. But I’m getting very ahead of myself there so let’s pause and get back to the job at hand.

The downs of marathon training

I like to start with bad news – it’s just how I do things. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. So let’s start with the stuff I’m not enjoying. Some it I expected, some has been an unpleasant revelation but it’s all part of the experience…

  • There is no down time for things to heal. Specifically at the moment, this refers to my blisters. They are just becoming blisters underneath blisters. None of them are life threatening or run stopping. They’re just annoying. I had one that took up the entire bottom of a toe after last weekend’s long run. Then I had to deal with it and run on it again a couple of days later. Same with chafing – there are bits that I think are probably permanently scarred now, despite the copious amounts of BodyGlide I use. Whatever.
  • Post run highs are great but I also get a bizarre mix of high and exhaustion that isn’t quite so pleasant. This has only happened to me after the really long runs and manifests later that night as I’m trying to sleep. I am so tired I am sure I should fall asleep immediately but, instead, I lie in bed completely hyped. Body weary but brain and heart buzzing. It’s not until the following night that I can actually get the much craved sleep.
  • Anxiety goes up. With less than 80 days to go until take off, I’m becoming paranoid about everything. Avoiding children with viruses (not easy when I’m a teacher). Worrying about tree roots on my favourite trails in case I trip. Religiously reading blogs about others completing the Dopey challenge to try to reassure myself that I can do it. Bleurgh. Just get me to the start line already!
  • It takes over your life. I knew this in theory but, now that the kms are really ramping up, it’s really kicking in. And I’m aware that our marathon plan is much more limited than some. However all weekend activities need to be carefully measured against what mileage long run I’m completing and where I want to run that. Social invitations aren’t always compatible with pre-long run early nights.
  • Everyone has an opinion about what you’re doing. And you’re doing it wrong. I’m possibly being unfair with this one as it hasn’t been ‘everyone’ but there have been some comments that have been delivered, wrapped up as ‘advice’. For example, your plan is too long/too short/not enough kilometres/too long a long run, etc. Why do a marathon? You should stick to half marathons. You should be eating better than that. Actually that last one is particularly annoying – the assumption that, just because I run, that I also embrace all other forms of healthy living. I eat a fairly balanced diet and, due to the whole ‘balanced’ thing, it also includes chocolate and cake. Unless you are a dietician and I have made an appointment, I don’t need your advice on what I eat. It currently works for me, hence why I eat it. If it stops working for me, I’ll deal with that then. The fact that you think marathon runners should be eating lettuce leaves, blueberries and <insert latest fad superfood here> is just peachy but I’ll stick to what works for my body, ok?

The ups of marathon training

So why do I do this? Oh yes, there are certainly some ‘up’ bits and I’m pleased to say, so far, they definitely more than make up for the list above…

  • I feel strong. As my distances have grown, my speed has decreased but I have never felt stronger. Physically and mentally. I feel like I can do anything. Pushing aside the doubts that come at the start of the long run, by the time I’ve finished, I could take on the world! I ran 24km! Seriously!
  • Running and post-run highs. This is the flip side of one of the points above. Somewhere about 4km into a run, the endorphins start flowing and everything in the world is beautiful. Passing people on the trail who smile and say hello makes me happy. Someone passing and saying ‘go you’ may even induce happy tears. Trees, flowers, cows, ocean, birds – all of it makes me grin maniacally. And the huge smile when I’m done is all encompassing – not just on my face but like my whole being is smiling. I might be walking funny and make a face at stairs but I am blissfully, smugly, ridiculously happy. Euphoric even.
  • Anxiety goes down. Yes – this is completely against what I said up the top but, while I’m paranoid about individual incidents, my general mood has never been more zen. My training plan is set so I’m not dependent on my mood to run – I just have to do it anyway. And regularly. So, in many ways, it’s keeping my mental health in check. It clearly is exactly the right dose of ‘medication’ for my needs and I’m very, very thankful for that.
  • You find fabulous places to run. I can’t do long runs on the same old paths – I need variety to keep me interested on those long, lonely kms. So I spend quite a bit of time mapping out potential routes as the distances stretch out. I spend long enough doing neighbourhood runs during the week – weekends are for exploring.
  • You learn a lot about yourself. As most of my training runs are done solo, that’s a lot of hours of alone, thinking time. Once I’ve overcome the first few kilometres which always consist of ‘How do I run again?’ and ‘How do I breathe?’, that still leaves ample time to ponder. And lots of ‘digging deep’ is required. But I now know I can. I know that I can push through painful parts, talk myself out of self doubt and complete things I start. Even when they’re hard.

As I said, I’m only part way through this journey but, at this point, am feeling very lucky to be on it and wouldn’t change it for anything.