With a month of 2020 already in the bag, this post is a touch belated. It’s given me time to reflect more on 2019, and establish realistic objectives for this year.

Setting objectives is important to me. I believe it acts as a spur to do more, to push further, to hold yourself to account.I also firmly believe that telling others about your goals, and getting people on board to help you achieve them, acts like a commitment device, and makes you more likely to succeed.

Reviewing my 2019 resolutions, whilst I’m happy that I achieved most of what I set out to do (6 out of 7- for the record, here they are: https://louiswaterman-evans.com/blog/blog/louis-waterman-evans-launch/ ), I’m disappointed that I didn’t come anywhere near to achieving my main running resolution, which was:

Run at least once per week with a club to nudge my marathon PB closer to 2:30

Here’s why I think it didn’t happen:

1. I was injured for most of the months I was in the city at the beginning of the year.

2. I had very little routine, and my time spent in the city was limited, reducing opportunities to train with a club.

3. I prioritised climbing and getting out into the mountains over road running.

Thinking about it deeper, I don’t think it was ever realistic to achieve this one. My chosen lifestyle over the past 18 months has been to work intensively during the summer months as a hiking guide, and have no fixed routine in the winter months. Improving road running performance seems to lend itself to routine, slotting in alongside work hours and city living. Commutes can be turned into base mileage, lunch breaks can become speed sessions, an evening can become hill reps, and weekends can revolve around long runs. This isn’t my lifestyle at all, and it won’t be for the foreseeable future. I therefore need to rethink how I approach running in the short term, and make objectives that fit for me, rather than setting myself up to fail with unrealistic goals.

With reflections on 2019 in mind, here are my new adventure resolutions for 2020:

1. Move to Norway.

The Lofoten Islands, northern Norway. I still have this image firmly rooted in my memory after hitch-hiking there whilst at university.

This one is big, and something that Sofie and I have not entered into lightly. We are both determined to give it a shot out in Norway, and are sewing seeds to make it happen. This most certainly does not mean severing ties with Scotland though- I 100% intend on returning, for both work and personal adventures. There is still so much more to explore, see and do here, but we feel like we need to give Norway a good shot. Stating it here will hopefully make it more likely to happen.

2. Train for, race and compete to the best of my ability in the Lavaredo Ultra.

Crossing the finish line of the MCC, part of the UTMB series last summer

Running is an important part of my life, and this year I’m lucky enough to have got a place in the Lavaredo Ultra. It’s a 120km race with over 5800m of elevation gain in the Dolomites. It will be the longest I have ever run before, and I want to not only complete it, but enjoy it by feeling well trained and being able to compete to the best of my ability. I feel that it’s easy enough (so long as you’re resilient and don’t get injured) to get round ultra trail races, but to actually race and compete requires a significant amount of commitment and focus on training for many months preceding the race.

3. Explore more locally, in my case the Scottish Highlands and Islands.

Skara Brae, Orkney - a Neolithic site I recently visited, after having wanted to see it for years.

So I’ve got a head start on this one, by currently being on the road exploring parts of the Highlands and Islands that I haven’t been too, such as Orkney and the Small Isles. This also ties in with resolution #7 on slower travel. It’s all too easy to jump on cheap flights to far flung parts of the world, but what about what’s on our doorstep? With the move to Norway has come a burning desire to explore Scotland more, to connect people and place, and broaden my understanding of the landscape, history and culture.

4. Improve my trad climbing. (to make it SMART - lead climb E1 AND/OR Log enough trad climbs to undertake my Rock Climbing Instructor Assessment.)

The Old Man of Hoy, maybe the most famous E1 out there. It definitely won’t be my first (I actually don’t think I ever want to climb it given erosion and climbing surely only further likely to add to its demise)

So this one has two potential measurable outputs. I’m currently working toward my Rock Climbing Instructor Assessment, so logging enough climbs for that would be one measure of improvement. Leading an E1 - graded climb would be awesome too, but I don’t want to get fixated by grades so am not massively fussed if this one doesn’t materialise.

5. Maintain road running fitness to run a sub-3 hour marathon.

After completing the Shakespeare marathon last April off the back of bugger all training. I’ll endeavour to do more in the run up to Bonn this year.

I’ve learned from last year. Running anything quicker is unrealistic, so this year is about maintaining. I’m entered into the Bonn Marathon in April, so a sub-3 there is the goal. With impending nail surgery in February and a far-from-fixed lifestyle preceding it though, it might be tricky. I’ll give it a shot though!

6. Write more about adventures and find ways to inspire others to achieve their goals.

I used to write more about running and adventures, and had a few pieces published (see the Portfolio page for a few examples), but have recently not prioritised it. This year I’d like to reach out to more folk, to engage with others about their goals, and help them to realise their potential. Writing more is one way to do this, as is having good communication with the people I guide on hikes. I’ll try to be creative and find other ways too.

7. Adopt slower, more sustainable travel options for adventures.

Sofie waiting for the Flixbus at Paris on our way out to Chamonix, with duffel bags full to the brim for company.

This should arguably be #1. I firmly believe we in the outdoorsy community can and should do more to reduce our impact, to behave responsibly and refuse to jump on cheap flights when possible. It’s not always easy, especially if time and/or money is tight, but I want to explore alternative travel options to flying at each and every opportunity. This means looking specifically at:

1. Hitch-hiking

2. Coach

3. Rail

Further to the lower impact, I much prefer these forms of slower travel. What they all share is a gradual transition from your start location to your end destination, rather than catapulting you from one place to another, a mental shock I’ve never found easy to deal with.

New Year has always been a time to reflect for me, to think about what went well in the year just gone and to be thankful to those around us that supported, cared for and loved us. I think it’s also important to challenge ourselves to improve in the year to come; against this backdrop I, like many others, like to make resolutions. This year I thought I’d use the first post on my new site to declare these openly to the world (and yes, you can hold me to account on these if I fail miserably!)

Smarter Resolutions

If I were to look back on New Year’s Resolutions that I’ve made in the past, I have no doubt that the vast majority would have been a colossal waste of time; I would have either not succeeded in realising them, or worse, not even known whether I had achieved them or not. The teacher in me is screaming the reason why: they weren’t ‘SMART’, or better, ‘SMARTER’. The SMART framework has been around for years; you may well have used it at work. So why don’t we use it when making resolutions? Do we perhaps take comfort in knowing that our resolutions are destined to fail, so we in fact don’t have to strive to make them happen? I think that’s a sure fire way of letting ourselves off the hook, and leads to resolutions not being achieved. So here goes with my SMARTER adventure resolutions for 2019:

1.Maintain my dietary preference to eat vegan food from ethical suppliers, as sustainably packaged as possible during time spent in the mountains.

Wild strawberry on the trail near Chamonix. Unfortunately I find myself having to buy food in supermarkets sometimes too!

I’ve yo-yoed on this one, from being holier-than-thou vegan to dairy-heavy vegetarian. Recently I’ve got my day-to-day diet back to being mostly vegan, well sourced from ethical suppliers (to the best of my knowledge!), minimising packaging, but there’s been a gaping loophole: nourishment when in the mountains. Given that I spend an ever increasing proportion of my time in the mountains, it’s a gap I can no longer fail to take account of. More fundamentally, what’s the point in having values if they only apply some of the time?

The trickiest part of ensuring this a SMARTER resolution is making it specific and measurablehow do I define ethical vegan food and how will I know whether I have achieved it? I’ll be as strict as possible with my definition of ethical vegan food and drink to be completely free of animal products, from suppliers that I know have healthy supply chains, packaged as minimally and sustainably as possible. I’ll measure it during (with reflection that will hopefully shape whether or not to make the purchase) and immediately after every time I purchase food or drink, by looking into, and being honest with myself, about where the food/drink I’ve bought comes from.

2.Complete the Bob Graham Round in under 24 hours in spring.

The Bob Graham Round

It’s been on my radar for a while now, but has seemed out of reach; I hadn’t even walked most of the Round, let alone run it. But now, having walked it, spent much more time in the Lake District, and broadened my trail and long-distance running experience, I think it’s realistic. That’s not to say it’ll be easy; far from it, it will no doubt be quite an epic, and will require serious training and preparation! It is 42 peaks and over 60 miles of running after all. I’ll be posting about the Round in more detail in the coming weeks, which I’ll then add to the Adventures section of this site.

Agreeing support from other runners will be crucial in ensuring this resolution becomes a reality. To successfully complete a Round without company during the recces, advice from others, and support runners on the day, is unfathomable (and just plain lonely!) It’s also an awful lot nicer to share the journey with others, learn from them along the way, and push oneself to dig deeper.

3.Get out in the Scottish Highlands to make the most of winter conditions at every possible opportunity.

Coire an T-Sneachda: I have a feeling I might be here a fair bit this year!

It’s a big factor as to why I now find myself living in Scotland, so it’s crucial that I utilise the time I have here wisely and enjoy the scottish winter as much as possible. I count only 12 weekends between now and the end of March (I’m away this week, so I’ve excluded that one), when winter conditions usually come to an end. I plan on getting out, in the Cairngorms, Ben Nevis region, Glencoe or further afield, every one of these, throwing in the odd couple of Mondays and Tuesdays when I’m not working too.

To be more specific, I’d like to complete a number of grade II and III winter routes, and feel confident at these grades, by the end of the winter season.

4. Run at least once per week with a club to nudge my marathon PB closer to 2:30.

Running, reduced to the stats game of Strava

Last year I planned for 2019 to be the year that I run a 2:30 something marathon; now I realise that it simply isn’t realistic. To be able to run at such a pace for 26.2 miles requires more serious commitment that I am able to give, given other resolutions and time constraints. That said, I do think it’s doable to train with a club once per week and then commit to pushing myself in the runs I do by myself. Doing so will mean that I should be able to chip away at my current 2:52 marathon PB time (maybe get it down to 2:40 something.)

What’s the point in chasing PBs on road? It’s a question that I increasingly find myself asking. I much prefer trail running and long distances, but I feel that I’ve got unfinished business with the marathon distance on road. After all, it was when I was in full training for the London marathon almost 4 years ago that I had a climbing accident and broke my pelvis. I’d also like to get a solid road marathon PB ‘in the bag’, so that I’m able to hang up my road running, PB chasing shoes for a while and focus on enjoying the trails. Sounds silly? It almost undeniably is, but I’m hooked.

5. Lead climb competently enough to undertake Rock Climbing Instructor training.

Sofie teaching me the basics at Raven Crag in the Lake District

Climbing occupies an ever increasing part of my life, and the trend looks set to continue. It’s one of the ways Sofie and I most love spending time with each other, and brings with it a variety of challenges, both mental and physical. A key factor that has made me want to take it further is its potential to be used as a tool for personal development. Through outdoor instruction at summer camps and voluntary work in Edinburgh I have seen how powerful it can be in building confidence, teamwork and developing communication skills. Being able to take this further and potentially use it in work is incredibly exciting, and involves getting qualified. The first stage in this is to log 15 lead trad climbs, then sign up for and complete the 3 day training course, hopefully before the summer.

6. Run at least one ultra trail race in the Alps.

Collecting my 2nd place trophy at the Short Circuit in November 2018, racking up 2 UTMB points in the process!

November and December of 2018 saw me travelling hundreds of miles to run in races that I otherwise wouldn’t have had any intention of completing, all in the name of accumulating UTMB points. I went to Otley to run the 33-mile Short Circuit, which gave me 2 points. I then travelled for 12 hours by coach, train and car to run the Endurancelife Dorset Coast 46-mile Ultra, giving me a further 4 points. That makes 6 points in total, granting me the privilege to enter the ballot for the OCC race in the UTMB race series. Sounds ridiculous? You bet, but that’s what it takes to enter the biggest trail race series in the world. And even now I only have a 1 in 4 chance of getting a place!

So what’s the fallback in case the OCC race doesn’t materialise? Well, it’s not as if there aren’t other races in the Alps that are just as spectacular. Two spring to mind that I’d love to do: the Lavaredo Ultra and the UTMR. I’ll wait until January 10th (when the UTMB race ballot results are out) before considering these further though.

7. Climb a 4000m peak in the Alps.

The view from the Sphinx at Jungfraujoch. Might the next time I’m here be when returning from my first 4000m peak?

Realistic? Well that depends on the realisation of resolution #3. Given that I’ll be working in the Alps all summer, looking at the high peaks day after day, there can be no doubt that I’ll be itching to be up there myself. Time will also be a factor with this, as I will have limited breaks in between guiding work, and lots of other pulls on my free time. The lure of the high Alpine peaks is too great to be neglected though!