Country #2: Germany

At the beginning of this year I vowed to visit at least two European countries other than my country of residence. Last week, I reached the half way point of this target by visiting Germany for the first time in a couple of years. We’ve spent a nice two weeks close to the German border, and looking for a day trip on a day with not-so-great weather, we decided to cross the border and visit a zoo in the town of Nordhorn, in the Lower Saxony state.

Germany

So that’s one under the belt, only 48 more countries to go! Looking forward to the rest of the journey already… As for the end of year goal: I’ve managed to land a public speaking gig in another European country in November, so I’m definitely going to make it. I’ll post another update on that afterwards!

Bring on the speed work!

Today is a good day! For the first time in what seems like eons, I’ve been able to run more than 10k consecutively and comfortably. Last Thursday I somehow wasn’t even able to run 6k without stopping (twice!), but today I did over 11k without any problem. Strange…

This means that I can finally start doing some speed work to work towards running a 5:59 mile, since I promised myself I wouldn’t start speed work until I’d reached the 10k mark without too much trouble. This to prevent injuries from doing speed work without a decent aerobic base. I’m looking forward to it! I will definitely keep the long and easy runs in my schedule as well though, I’m still a long distance runner by heart so I wouldn’t want to miss the feeling today’s run gave me for the world.

Also, I just love the feeling of being able to get out for a run on a Tuesday morning. This time it was a coincidence, I quit my previous project last week and my next one doesn’t start until tomorrow, but this is yet another reminder for me to work towards a professional career where I don’t have to trade time for money (i.e., move away from billing by the hour). I love my freedom!

Progress on other list items has been slow since we’ve got our hands full raising our two sons. I expected that though, so it’s not that bad, plus, things are definitely getting better compared to the first two-three months of this year.

More progress next time!

Long-Distance-Running

New beginnings

I am glad to report that after almost three months of little sleep, hard work and lots of bottles of milk I am back on the running track! It were only two miles or so, and certainly no longer than 15-20 minutes, but you have to start somewhere… Hopefully this marks the start of my second running ‘career’.. First, I’ll try and tackle the 6 minute mile goal before the end of the year, then it’s on to distance running and completing the 12 half marathons list item. As the year progresses, the broken nights and sleep deprivation should gradually disappear, so things are certainly looking good, running-wise.

Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed being back on the road, breathing fresh air, letting my body do some actual physical work again after three months of not much more than eating, working and sleeping!

Back on the road!

Welcome to the world!

As I have said in my post looking forward to 2016, my wife and I have been expecting our second child, which was going to have a major impact on what I was planning for for this year. I am happy to announce that last Monday our son and little brother Tom was born in good health!

As expected, nights have been a little shorter, but so far we’ve been off to a far better start than with #1. I can already tell this will have some impact on my energy levels and overal fitness, but I expected nothing less. For now, we’re going to focus on staying happy and as well rested as possible, all other plans can wait for a couple of months..

Looking forward to 2016

After having looked back on the year that’s almost behind me in my previous post, it’s time to make plans for next year.. Here’s what I want to achieve from my list in 2016. There are less items on it compared to last year, but that’s to make sure that more will be achieved. To quote one of the few truly helpful personal development books I’ve read: less but better!

#20 – Have and raise children
As we’re expecting our second child mid January, most of my time and energy will probably be dedicated towards caring for and raising him, next to taking care of his older brother and my wife, of course! This is another reason there aren’t any other truly big things planned for next year, I just don’t think I will have the time and energy for it!

#81 – Run a 5.59 mile
The only sports-related item on my planning for next year. Even though I’ll be busy with family life and work, like every year I do want to have a fitness goal to work towards. Since running and especially shorter distance running will cost me relatively little time, I think this is a very suitable goal for 2016. If all goes well I can always strive for more after this one’s ticked off..

#91 – Complete a Coursera course
Since my field of work (IT) requires me to constantly keep myself up to date and learning, a personal education item is a good fit for next year. Also, the Coursera format allows me to invest time and effort whenever I want to, so again, this will fit perfectly given my situation the coming year.

#100 – Visit at least two other countries in Europe
Even though I don’t think we’ll be traveling much this year, I do want to tick off at least two European countries from the list. Even if it’s ‘only’ Belgium and Germany, for example. They’re close to where I live, so it shouldn’t be too hard. Now to find a good reason to visit either one (or any other European country, for that matter..).

#73 – Pay off another 20k of the mortgage (if we don’t move)
Last year was very successful with regards to lowering our mortgage, and we would like to keep chipping away at it this coming year. 20k seems a very feasible amount to pay off, if we don’t move house. That’s also a (not yet very concrete) plan for the near future.. If we do move house, we’ll probably end up with a higher mortgage as we would like to move into a bigger house, so in that case we’ll have to start over again from scratch.

We’ll see what the next year brings. Have a great NYE and I hope to post a lot of progress in 2016!

2015-2016

Looking back on 2015

As the year nears its end, it’s again time for the annual end-of-year review based on my plans as presented in this post. Let’s see how I did!

Cycle to my parents’ house (#6)
Yeah.. Let’s get the most disappointing part of 2015 out of the way.. Fitness-wise, it wasn’t nearly as good a year as I hoped it would be. I did a bit of running, a bit of cycling and I also started a new sport (more on that later), but no big goals either running- or cycling-related have been met. I hope 2016 will be much better, although it won’t be easy for reasons I’ll explain when I look forward to next year.

Visit Italy (#78)
Done! We made a trip to Tuscany in June, so the first of twenty provinces of Italy has been visited. Only 19 more to go!

Visit another continent (#43)
As I predicted, this would probably be the hardest item to complete, and indeed I didn’t manage to go outside Europe. No worries though, I’m sure this will happen in a couple of years. It’s not on the list for next year, though.

Be regarded as an expert in my field (#57)
Done! Albeit in a different way than expected. I have been asked to give a course on software testing at a university here in the Netherlands, and as we speak most of the lectures have been delivered. I also published an article on a renowned international website related to the software testing field, which also generated some interesting feedback and reactions.

Run another half marathon (#33)
See the first point. I don’t think I’ve done any run longer than 10k this year, so no way I would have been able to complete a half marathon (and be even remotely happy with the outcome).

Stay active throughout the year
This item I somewhat managed to complete. I did some running, some cycling and I started pilates lessons, but I can’t say I’m terribly happy with my current fitness level. Let’s see what next year will bring…

Put another 10k payment towards our mortgage (#73)
We aced this. Starting freelancing has done wonders for our financial situation, so instead of paying off 10k, we managed to lower our mortgage by no less than 30k. This will surely come in handy if we decide to move house next year, which is a realistic option.

Pass the PLIDA B1 exam in Italian (#3)
I decided to quit studying Italian for a while, since I don’t feel I got the most out of it by only following a single 1,5 hour class a week, and I didn’t know how to motivate myself to do more studying. I’ll probably pick it up again in the future as I still love the language.

Add another five items to the list
Done as well! Even better, I added 12. This brought the list to exactly 100 items and I decided that was enough for the moment. So from then on I’m focusing on completing items rather than adding new ones, as that’s what having a bucket list is all about!

Other completed items
Apart from the items mentioned above, I managed to complete a couple more this year:

Conclusion
Bucket list-wise, the year has been so-so.. I completed a couple of items, but not as many as I’d hoped, probably because work and family life have taken up most of my time and energy. I can’t wait to see if next year will be better, but more on that in my next post, where I’ll look forward to 2016!

2015 review

Sharing knowledge

About two months ago, I received an email from someone I have worked with quite often in the past couple of years, and who has become not only a valued colleague but also a personal friend over time. He was asked to teach a class closely related to the field we’re working in at his alma mater, something that he would love to do. However, his busy agenda didn’t allow him to do this on his own, so he asked me to join him. Even more so, he asked me to be in the lead as he was having a pretty full agenda but didn’t want to say ‘no’. As you can imagine I was honored and agreed to it almost immediately. As you might know, I have attended university myself, although it wasn’t the same as the one we were about to start teaching at. Still, I realized immediately that this could only become a great experience, as well as a wonderful way of reliving a bit of the university life.

We’re almost three weeks in now, and we’ve done quite a bit of work already freshening up the course, preparing lectures and slides and a practical assignment. We’ve delivered two lectures so far, which also adds to my public speaking experience. Even though it is a relatively small group of students we’re teaching (about 20 enrolled), there’s no better way to prove (not in the least to yourself) that you really know something about a particular subject than to explain it to others. The fact that we have to teach everything in English (of which I am not a native speaker) only adds to the challenge. So far, I think we’re doing pretty well, even though the theory we have to teach (there are some guidelines) is a bit dry in places.

It’s a paid job as well (and it doesn’t pay half bad either), plus the university told us that they weren’t looking for a one-off teacher, as they have had to look for suitable teachers every year for the past couple of years. They would like us to deliver the course in the years to come as well, which means that we get the chance to further improve on both the course contents and our delivery of it.

Still, just being asked to do this alone warrants me checking off the ‘being regarded as an expert in my field’ list item, I think. This won’t keep me from trying to get more exposure in the years to come, though! I haven’t been a speaker on any conference this year, but I am looking at re-entering the public speaking thing next year. I’ll focus on domestic conferences at first (if only because of the little one that’s coming up), but there are some very interesting conferences abroad that I would like to present at some day…

In the meantime, this teaching gig is a great way to practice the public speaking and a very fun thing to do too! Who knows what it will lead to in the future..

That's not me, by the way...