Isn’t It A Wonder

Isn’t It A Wonder

Templeton 10. The last race of the championship. The last chance to prove I hadn’t lost the ability to run.

Or at least, that was the plan.

The 500 mile road trip the day before probably wasn’t the best foot to get off on but it was worth it. We had a great time at a family wedding.

So here it was. Sunday morning. Race day. Winter had definitely come, it was bloody freezing, so the shorts were left in the bag. I debated just a vest but chose last minute to put a tshirt on underneath. I don’t like being cold. The honest truth is, I’m an absolute cow when I’m cold. A hungry runner ain’t got nothing on this runner when she’s shivering.

The conversation before the start was, well, interesting. Everyone was glad it was the last race of the season. Many were there to get their Championship medal (Run 7 out of 10 selected races and bam – new medal). More importantly though, we needed to know the toilet situation. Which naturally led on to exchanging stories of the weirdest pee related thing you had seen whilst running. Sonjia’s story of the start of one of her World Major Marathons was the winner. Details not to follow! Ha ha.

The start line was freezing. In the shade and amongst trees my inner bitch was beginning to come out. I was shivering and swearing in equal quantities. So I kept to myself. For that reason and also because I was worried I was about to have a repeat of Jedburgh the week before. This was 3 miles less but I had struggled from about 7 or 8. And when you’re miserably disappointed with yourself, running even one mile is a mission.

Team photo done we headed to the start and quickly we were off. Clutching my clif bloks which I had thankfully remembered this time I had my plan in my head. There was a short downhill to start (which truly nastily we would be coming back up at the end) followed by 5 miles of climb. This was no PB course. There was no fast start, it was about taking it easy and saving something in the legs for the last climb. We went in and out of the shade which meant in and out of the cold and sun. Very difficult. One minute it was hot and I was regretting the double top layer and the next minute it was freezing and I was wishing I had my gloves. There was no winning.

There was also no pain. I was ‘comfortable’. I didn’t let myself believe this though so I concentrated on just moving forward and getting to the top of the hill. Then I could use the downhill as recovery.

Now I’m told the views were lovely but quite frankly my only concern was having a good run. I just couldn’t end the season with another atrocious run in pain and disappointed. So I kept pushing. Said hi to Derek as he passed me and slowly kept putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward.

(That’s how you run by the way. By putting one foot in front of the other. Not at the side. You won’t go the right way if you do that. Good tip for you).

5 miles and I had my clif blok. Didn’t feel like I needed it but it was a distraction. As was the incredibly enthusiastic Marshall at mile 6. ‘Wish I had her energy right now’ I said to the runner next me. He laughed in agreement. He knew.

Mile 7 and I adopted the usual ‘just a park run left’. Of course I knew mile 9 had the potential to completely ground me to a halt/end my life. I wasn’t thinking about that though.

Mile 8 – done. (I feel I should be making an Eminem joke here – striking resemblance to Justin Bieber don’t you think?)

Mile 9.

Here it is. The last mile. The last hill. I’m not in pain. I don’t need to clutch my chest and enter the ugly duckling contest. I’m fine. Knackered because running 9 miles is quite tiresome but I’m ok. I can do this.

Top of the hill and I turn left. It evens out but it’s never ending. I’ve still got Derek in my sights and I briefly consider trying to catch him but I blink and he’s gone.

Finally I come up on the finish and I actually have a grin on my face. I just ran that race like a proper runner!! I did it! Nothing held me back!! (Or bounced around pulling at my muscle). FINALLY! I can run!!

In hindsight the implant probably just needed time to ‘plant’ itself (eugh) but I was told I could carry on as normal. Of course the doctor probably didn’t know what normal was to me but never mind. Lesson learned. I’ve been back to have the implant checked and everything is ok at the moment. A little worrying the nurse asked if my heart rate was usually really slow but we will let that pass.

Finishing that race not only got me my championship medal but it put me back on track. I can run comfortably again. I can run distance again!

Sometimes I guess you have to just wait your time then unleash your inner Wonder Woman and let her run free.

(Me running the last part through the woods ha ha)

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Losing The Battle

Defeated. That’s …. well …… that’s ……. almost how I feel about Jedburgh Half Marathon. I was very, very, very nearly defeated.

Let’s see how it panned out.

Joe came along with the youngest and unfortunately it was a quite a drive. ‘Why do you always have to do races that are so far away!’ was the general topic of conversation in the car. Luckily Jedburgh turned out to be a pretty awesome place and he found lots to do or the drive home may have ended up one person short!

I had my porridge and banana. I had my water. I had my trainers and socks (left and right, very important) and I had my chest bandaged up and my new sports bra on.

I didn’t have my gels or my clif blocks. Bugger.

‘We could find an Asda’ Joe said. I tried. I failed. I had no nutrition to take with me to help me run 13.1 miles. ‘I’ve ran most my half’s without taking gels or anything, I’m sure it will be fine. It won’t be that that causes me problems.’

Famous last words.

All registered and I quickly dived in for the team photo – didn’t miss it this time! This was a championship race so the Green Machine were out in force. It was also an out and back race so lots of opportunity to encourage others along the way. A quick chat at the start line and we were soon off.

There was a very gradual uphill at the start and when my first mile clicked in at about 8 minutes I quietly congratulated myself. ‘Well done for not going off too fast Ella! Well done!’. The first few miles were steady and everything seemed fine. No pain, no discomfort, just fine. ‘You might actually see that finish line before it gets dark!’ I said to myself. I think I got to about 5.5 miles before the lead runners starting coming back the way and I concentrated on spotting the green vests so I could shout the ever useful ‘well done’ to those clearly putting in more effort than me.

Pace Ella, it’s all about pace for you.

As I headed towards the little circle part for the turn around I started to feel a ‘pulling’. Not great. I decided it must have been the wind (in what world does that make sense?!?) and tried to readjust my bra a little, giving the area a little nudge as if to say ‘get back in there’.

As I was having my little wardrobe adjustment I spotted a woman at her window waving very enthusiastically so I waved back grinning. This kept me smiling for about half a mile, she was just so energetic!

On reflection she was in the warmth and comfort of her own home, she hadn’t just ran over 6 miles and she could sit down when ever she wanted. Still. I appreciated her effort.

Past the 8 miles and I started to struggle. Just a little bit but I recognised the signs. Breathing was heavy, it hurt to take a very deep breath, my legs were very slightly beginning to get heavier.

‘Come on, 5 miles left, that’s just a lunch run, you can do that’ – I desperately tried to motivate myself. ‘Get to 9 miles and it’s only 4 more from there which is only 1 mile more than parkrun. You enjoyed Parkrun this week. You’ll be fine, come on.’

9 miles crept past and I felt like I was losing it. If only I had remembered my gels I would definitely had taken one, if not two! When have I ever had 2 gels whilst running? Never, but that’s not the point. Well actually it is because a gel isn’t going to help your chest at the moment or your breathing.

This internal arguing carried on and on and on by the way. At one point it was full blown swords drawn at dawn you’re going down love! Don’t worry though, I survived it.

I couldn’t run. I couldn’t move. I was barely putting one foot in front of the other. I saw the 10 mile sign but I stopped before it. My rule is I have to go past a mile marker sign before I can stop when I’m struggling but that was blown out the water. Clutching my chest I tried to take a deep breath to settle everything down. It just hurt. Didn’t do anything productive. My legs were now just solid lead. Two tree stumps refusing to move along in a timely fashion. I could hear them saying ‘we’re in no rush’.

Yeah no sh!t Sherlock, I noticed that a mile back!

Right. Can I do this? Can I make the last 3 miles back to the start? Do I have it in me?

I will tell you what I DONT have in me and that’s energy! Should have brought your gels.

How is that helping right now?!?!?

I shuffled my way along, one ear bud in because the other didn’t work, playing – and let’s be honest here – really crap music.

Ok, let’s change it up. Find a decent song and get a decent pace going.

I settled on Justin Bieber.

Wait, wait, I have my reasons ok, just hear me out!

When I was in London last year – not running the London Marathon, hmmf – we went to Madame Tussaud’s and one of his songs came belting on and I loved it. My daughter loved it, my mum loved it, it just reminds me of a really happy time. So yeah, Justin Bieber.

It worked. It got me moving just marginally faster than a dying snail but moving none the less. Every Marshall I went past asked me if I was ok and one asked if I wanted to stop. It wasn’t until afterwards I realised I was gripping on to my chest and looking like a contestant in a gurning competition so it must have been quite a sight! Elite athlete I am not!

Eventually, after hours of pretending I’m a runner, I make it through those last 3 miles. I. Need. A. Seat.

I look like I’ve just ran 50 miles at a 6min mile pace. Not 13.1 miles at over a 8min mile pace. Most of the Perth Road Runners got pbs on the route. I did not. I finished. Just.

It’s frustrating because I needed a certain time for club standards (oh yes, there’s never just one goal is there) and knowing most people found it a fast course kills me a little inside. But. It is what it is.

Clearly my best side ha ha 🙂

Was it the lack of gels? A friend at work had an interesting theory I was using that to try and ignore the reality of being ‘knocked about a bit’. She could be right. Or I could just be a really crap runner right now.

There’s one more championship race left and I don’t want to walk away from it disappointed with how it’s gone.

Maybe I will use Christmas songs to keep me going this time? Now there’s a thought!

The 2 Mile Wall

‘Yeah, you can run, not a problem.’ Said the doctor. This is the doctor who used to live in my house. Well let me to you this Scott! Yeah I remember your name! I will find you. I will hunt you down and I will make you fix me so I can run properly again!

Liam Neeson ain’t got nothing on this injured runner!

But. I’m not even injured. That’s the worst of it. This thing is in there for at least 3 years. If it comes out earlier it means they are putting something else back in. And it’s that that I am trying to avoid.

I tried my first run 4 days after it went in. I didn’t even make it to a mile before I stopped. My sports bra kept rubbing against it and it looked like the wound was going to split open. There was lots of stopping. My planned 4 miles turned in to just over 2 and my other half found it very difficult to go at such a slow pace. When I got back I sat outside fighting back the tears from both the pain and the frustration.

The next day I bandaged it all up, changed my sports bra to a more adjustable one (Brooks, bought at Loch Ness Marathon) and set off by myself – nothing but pure determination forcing me forward. There were still multiple stops so I could wince and grimace but it was slightly better. I managed 4 miles but admittedly that was too far. It was too painful to do anything the next day.

Wednesday I went out again. I set off and just as I hit the first mile I was smiling – it didn’t hurt as much! This I could handle! 2 miles clicked by and still I was ok. Then just as it hit 2.1 it must have moved or something because all of a sudden it was painful. It feels like there’s a solid box only being held up by a thin layer of skin bouncing away on my chest. For someone with no chest, this isn’t a feeling I’m used to! By 3 miles I was considering phoning to get picked up. By 3.5 I had stopped completely – finger hovering over my phone. Was it time to admit defeat?

But it hadn’t hurt at the start – so surely that means it’s getting better? I set off really slowly, face completely screwed up in pain but determined to get myself home. I very carefully chose songs to listen to that I knew would help me – and I got home. 5 miles done.

The next morning my friend Lorner was going out so I joined her. She’s skipped a few runs lately for her own reasons so we both knew we were going to be slow. It wasn’t a great performance and again there were stops but it was good to chat. It was easier at the slower pace too. I still couldn’t really manage anything that resembled a decline (which surprisingly seem to be absolutely everywhere now – when did that happen?) but it was good, even better with a friend.

Then there was Parkrun. A simple 5k – or at least it used to be a simple 5k. I knew it was going to be a test. I had to start further back, not try and go out fast, just relax.

Didn’t work. Didn’t sodden work in the slightest.

I gave my keys and jumper to Lorner who was volunteering with her eldest (how awesome are they?) and went mid way in the pack. I think I got to about 400 meters in the run before the claustrophobic feeling started to cave in on me and there were just too many people. I sprinted through resisting the urge to flap my hands and scream ‘get away from me!’.

It wasn’t a great idea.

I charged through the massive puddle and had a giggle to myself. I swear water is out to kill me! Thankfully, this time, no water wings were needed – I was going too fast ha ha.

Shortly after I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Brian who often comes down with his dad. We chatted a little but I had absolutely no spare breathe and he quickly went on ahead. I’ve found my runs this last week have been hard both on the chest thing and also on my breathing – I’m not happy about this. I can’t afford to lose what I’ve gained when I haven’t hit my 3:45 on a marathon yet.

There’s a trail section at Perth Parkrun and if I’m honest I’ve never been a fan of it. I just can’t seem to get any speed on it. It certainly wasn’t happening now. I couldn’t clutch my chest because I needed two arms to prevent me falling (how do people run with a broken arm? I’ve seen it many times, but, how?). Holding my chest alleviates some of the pain as I can ‘hold’ the monitor and prevent it from bouncing. So it hurt like a mother f@cking b!txh at this point!

Teeth well and truly gritted together I stumbled my way back to the path. There’s a very, very slight decline as you come back on to the park further on and at that point I almost had a screaming match. If it hadn’t been for the massive puddle which I could take my frustration out on (think Rihannas video to Umbrella but more Tom Holland’s version!) I would have called it a day.

Finally across the line and Lorner gave me my finisher token. I didn’t even look her in the eye as I could feel the bloody tears starting to roll down my cheeks. It wasn’t even a fast run!!

Gillian came over to say hi (and check I wasn’t about to drop down dead haha) and we chatted about her recent marathon and her new found love of coke. First ever marathon and she absolutely smashed it! I need to start chasing her when this settles! Get my elusive 3:45! (She was way under that by the way!)

And it will settle. I know this. But no, I do not have patience for it. I have a half marathon next weekend and for the first time ever I honestly don’t know if I can do that distance. Hand on heart it will be touch and go if I make that finish line.

But at least I still have a sense of humour about it. (See what I did there? Hand on heart? Heart is the problem I have?).

And The Beat Goes On – Slowly

And The Beat Goes On – Slowly

I’ve been putting off writing this one. Truth be told I thought it was going to be more of a ‘hey this is common for those who do a lot of running but it’s nothing’. Turns out, for me, that’s not quite true.

I’ve had dizzy spells on and off for as long as I can remember but they got worse this year and when I collapsed outside my house with my youngest alone still in the house it was time to do something about it. Having your elderly neighbour have to help you through your own front door isn’t the best either. She’s a great neighbour though.

At the doctors and they wanted the nurse to do one of those ECG reading things – the ones that take longer to set up than actually perform. ‘How are you feeling?’ She asked me. ‘Much better than before thanks, little dizzy but it’s nothing.’ She then says she’s just going to run it past the doctor. ‘Just as a precaution, wont be long’ she said as she scurried away.

2 hours later I’m still at the doctors and they want to do more tests. I instantly think it’s something to do with my diet and I’m convinced they are about to tell me I’ve given myself diabetes! When will you listen about the red bull?!

I had to wear a heart monitor for a week. Pretty standard and very common but it was an ugly thing. Huge! They told me I could still run with it. They lied. It ripped off layers and layers of skin and left a horrendous mark. One or two people asked what it was which didn’t bother me and that’s how I found out just how common it was to have your heart monitored like this. Everyone knew someone who had had to wear it before, mainly those in the running community I knew. Your resting heart rate drops as you get fitter, that’s just a fact, nothing to worry about.

I then had a scan of my heart. Again still common place, a lot of people have this done just to check. I even manage to look at the screen and the nurse starts telling me all the different sections. (I now know there are 4 heart chambers and there’s a flappy thing that goes up and down.). She gives me a couple of funny looks and asks how tired I am. I’m pretty wide awake love. I’m lying here with no top on whilst you roll a very cold object covered in slime on my chest. Yup, I’m definitely wide awake!

I think nothing of it at all after that. I thank my lucky stars it wasn’t diabetes and again swear off the red bull. I even purchase a replacement and it goes quite well.

Then I get a call.

‘This is consultant x from Ninewells in Perth’.

‘Oh really? Well that’s interesting seeing as Ninewells isn’t in Perth. What ever you’re selling I’m not interested thank you.’

I go to hang up, fed up of how my number seems to have made it in the cold callers list of marketing hell.

‘Mrs Webley! This is the consultant you saw at the hospital about your heart! I need to speak to you!’

He has my full attention.

They found something. Not 100% sure what it is but they think the best course of action is to implant a permanent heart monitor until it picks it up and they have the detail they need. Then they can take it from there. I don’t say much. Still waiting on him telling me it’s probably diabetes and I should be embarrassed and ashamed to have given myself that. He wants to put me on the list right now for it rather than waiting but if I feel I need to discuss it he can do that now or we can make an appointment – ‘but’ he says, ‘that will delay it and I don’t think we should do that’.

He then mentions cutting in to my chest muscle and I stop him right there. That is not the kind of detail I need thank you very much! He’s the specialist so I go with if he says I need it then I need it.

‘Can I still run?’ Is my only question.

He hums and ha’s a little then tells me they have nothing that tells them I should stop but to be watchful. That’s the same with everyone – if you don’t feel well you should stop. I understand this.

The appointment comes through and a couple of days before I realise I don’t have a clue what’s about to happen. I didn’t want to hear it before and that was my choice but now, well, maybe that wasn’t so wise. The night before I couldn’t really sleep. And going on google most certainly did not help that! (Don’t ever do that, trust me!)

In the morning I go for a run to calm my nerves and try to chill out – well aware that freaking out over this isn’t going to help matters. We then take the youngest to look for conkers before heading through. It helped, I didn’t feel too bad after that.

Sitting in the waiting area and I can’t help but notice everyone there is at least twice my age, if not three times. I try to ignore this but my other half seems to take great delight in pointing out this is proof I am really old.

For someone with as many grey hairs as he does he’s got some nerve.

In the room I go. There’s two doctors. One with a very rich Scottish accent called Scott and the other I think was called Kaiser. I start singing ‘I predict a riot’ in my head before realising the irony of it and quickly stop.

Scott tries to distract me as I’m clearly not comfortable with this. I’m trying to shrug it off but it’s about as convincing as telling the world Donald Trump was a good choice for president. I’m awake for the whole thing which has its positives and negatives.

Kaiser (?) then covers me in the iodine solution and starts poking about looking for the right place guided by Scott. I get the distinct impression Kaiser may not be as experienced at this as he is. I’m then asked to confirm all my information – name, date of birth, address. He takes a while to find my year of birth on the computer and comments it seems to think everyone that has this is closer to being born in the 30’s not the 80’s. He then asks me to confirm my address again.

‘No kidding’ he says. ‘Eh, yeah, that’s definitely it’.

‘I used to live there! When I was about 10.’

‘No way!’

‘Ok, small scratch’.

Oh you crafty git!! And that’s not a small scratch you prick, that’s more like barbed wire ripping through my chest!

I’m grumping about the distraction technique when he asks me if there is still the small white wall at the front. So he’s not lying! Talk about a small world!

This is the only time I smiled whilst in that room – for obvious reasons.

There was a lot of pushing and shoving, a joke about breast tissue (you’re not likely to find much of that on me I’m afraid!) and some immense will power to hold back the tears but that was it done, it was in.

I left the hospital with a box of ‘goodies’ and a tan that would of made that guy from bargain hunt look like a milk bottle thanks to the iodine.

So now I am officially an Iron Woman ha ha, just not the kind I would prefer. Plus I’m more a Wonder Woman fan but ah well. It hurts. I won’t lie, it hurts like hell right now. I woke up crying from the pain, poor Joe didn’t know what to do. I usually only cry when he says I can’t sign up to a race. I’ve spent all day resting – which I’m my world means I’ve been bored to death all day. I’ve had to cancel my race at the weekend which, at first I was annoyed about but now, I know I couldn’t do it. There will be no swimming for a couple of weeks. I will run next week but it will be very slow and careful.

I’m still kind of hoping they turn round to me and say they all got it wrong and it is in fact something that can be cured with a vitamin or a change in my diet. At the end of the day this heart has got me through 2 marathons, a Half Ironman and an ultra – and that’s just this year! So it can’t be all that bad.

My trainers are most certainly staying on my feet – just not for the next few days.

Roar Like A Tiger

Roar Like A Tiger

For all those that hate the whole ‘journey’ thing may I start off with an apology.

Actually no scrap that, this is my blog, I can call it what I want.

Before I started My Journey (which was basically me trying to run from lamppost to lamppost – no map and compass needed, thank god) I signed up to an obstacle course. Not just any obstacle course. I signed up to Tough Mudder.

Truth be told I got a ticket free through work as part of an incentive to bring the office together. What ever the intention, I’m afraid the old cliche is right in this case, and my life took on a completely different direction after that.

I spent a year doing every obstacle course and mud run I possibly could before deciding running was where it was for me. I loved the obstacles but I hated having to walk in between them as part of a team. There was always someone who hadn’t done any cardio and that frustrated me truth be told.

Fast forward to last weekend and I found myself at the start of another obstacle course after a bit of a break from them. The Tiger Escapade.

7 of us from the Road Runners had signed up for a bit of fun, something different. Although we are a competitive bunch we were there to have fun so no pressure. We could all run too so there wasn’t going to be the walking periods I hadn’t enjoyed before.

I was secretly hoping for some really hard obstacles and even though the thought of a skip filled with water was quite clearly going to be a drowning experience yet again, I was up for it!

The location was where I have done my open water swimming (because a Loch is the same as the sea – duh – maybe I subconsciously want to drown?) so I knew the area and it wasn’t far.

At the start line and we couldn’t hear a word the emcee was saying. Not a thing. We picked up a few hand gestures but I genuinely think he may have been speaking a different language. Those around us were unable to translate either so we turned our attention to the inevitable – what team were we going to beat!

The red tshirts were going down.

Off we went in search of the first obstacle. Even though it was less than a week ago, I can’t remember what it was – oops. I do remember the usual tyre ones, the cargo net I caught my watch in and nearly ripped my arm off on and the standard bales of hay. I also remember the long run at the start. Didn’t bother me so much but had me wondering where the obstacles were.

Then we came to the skip. Ok then, a proper obstacle! Let’s do this!

The water barely covered my ankle.

No, I didn’t drown.

(And before any one says it, I am not quite that small!)

To be fair I don’t think everyone in the team was hoping for some death defying obstacles as much as I was.

Time for the hill. You would think being runners that we would nail this, sweep past every other person on the course. Nope! I huffed and puffed and wheezed my way up there.

I will say it again. I am NOT a hill runner.

After that we had a few good obstacles that left us with cow pat in our hair and fish in our pants. A standard weekend for Perth Road Runners ha ha. We did enjoy the one where we went in the Loch. Freezing and wet (hi, my names Sherlock Holmes) makes for a good water fight.

The long running sections gave us a chance to chat and we discussed what races we all had coming up. We also wondered how others were getting on in Chicago, Bournemouth and other exotic places we tend to find ourselves.

Approaching the finish line and we crossed together as a team – in front of the red tshirts, just saying.

It was a low key event but Natalie, who had had to pull out due to injury, had come to cheer us on along with Scott’s wife (who ended up laden with our coats, thank you) and my other half and youngest. He loved the mud in his wellies – Joe, not so much.

The obstacle course was a great morning out. A bit of fun and bonding for a change. It just shows me I really did make the right choice in joining the road runners last year. And afterwards we had another water fight in the Loch when we were getting washed down. Why wouldn’t you?

Next on the calendar for me is a rest period. I have had to pull out of the Dramathon but that’s another story. Probably to be written when I’m grumpy and feeling sorry for myself. Bet you’re looking forward to that one!

Ochil Ultra – And The Fear Was Back

Ochil Ultra – And The Fear Was Back

I’ve noticed a trend in my thinking.

I came across a new race that would start in Glen Devon and end in Perth. I live in Perth. So where did my head go? Why would I not do it?

It’s an Ultra. You have the choice of 50 miles or 30 miles. After briefly contemplating the 50 I very wisely chose the 30. There’s pushing yourself and there’s outright stupidity (and let’s be honest, I do enough stupid things without needing to add to them).

It’s 6 days after Loch Ness Marathon.

Stupid.

I signed up.

It was sold out but luckily I was able to get a place from another road runner who had decided not to do it as he had a lot on. One of the many benefits of being in a club is finding places for races! Although I did have to chase him down to give him the money for the place but I just used that as training ha ha.

Turned out that quite a number of road runners were doing it. 4 others were running the 30 miles and there were 2 teams of 5 doing the relay over 50 miles. That’s a lot of Green Machine! The club also had people marshalling the course.

If I’m honest, I didn’t really think about it a lot until after Loch Ness. That was the race that started out as my intended London GFA – my golden goal, London. Until I had to take that step back so as not to ruin my love of running. London will come though! My YES magazine is out next week!! (Positivity is key).

So The Ochils was my ‘let’s see if you can’ race. Run. Not a race, a run. I tried to work out the route but it was a new one and over trails so couldn’t really. Hmm. This could be difficult.

‘Could be’. Oh how I laugh now!

I took advice where I could get it. What was a drop bag? Why would I need one? 30 miles is only 4 more than a marathon why on earth would I need to stop twice to eat?!

Oh how naive you are Ella.

I messaged another club member who I knew had done a few ultras to try and work it all out. Then, list at the ready, headed to the shops.

My biggest worry was getting lost. (No not to the shops! On the course!). I’m notorious for taking the long way round when I’m driving or walking somewhere. I didn’t want to be doing that on the run. I must have begged at least 5 people to follow me on the tracker and promise to phone me if I went the wrong way. It was honestly worrying me. Over a 30 mile course I knew there would be times I would be completely by myself which I’m ok with but has greater risk of getting lost.

The night before the run I picked up my route book – along with my tracker – and poured over it, pretending I knew what I was looking at. Seeing the section that read ‘no clear path’ didn’t fill me with joy.

The bus was at 6am – not that I was going to sleep much anyway the night before. I realised I hadn’t felt like this before a run in a while. In a strange way I missed this. The not knowing if everything will be ok. I took it as a good sign (my names Ella and I appear to be a weirdo). We were dropped outside a small Inn which unfortunately didn’t want to let us in, much to the very loud annoyance of a fellow road runner ha ha. Some of his many comments being ‘I should have got the cheaper dentures because all this teeth chattering is going to break them’ (I liked that one), and ‘what’s wrong are my hints not loud enough’. Turns out they were as the RD came along quite furious the Inn hadn’t let us through the door. Teething problems I don’t doubt will be fixed for next year.

We headed off to the start line which was nothing more than a field and a flag. This wasn’t a big fan fare type of run with the music blaring and motivational quotes over the tannoy – and I liked that. Didn’t know what direction I was going but I liked it. We were off.

Within 20 metres we had to stop to walk over a cattle grid. Yup, this most definitely was not what I was used to.

500 metres later and my feet were soaking and already caked in mud. Welcome to trail running. The first few miles were up hill but I felt good, better than ok. People were friendly, there was some chatter, and I ticked off each arrow I saw with a thumbs up and a ‘well done Ella’. It’s the small things.

6.8 miles in and I climbed a very steep hill. I’m talking crawl and pull yourself up. At this point I was thankful I had done the Hill Series in the club. The runner beside me commented ‘They don’t call it the Ochil Hills for nothing’. I was instantly thrown back to the Knockhill Race a few months ago. For crying out loud Ella you would think you would learn!

And by the way, I know it was 6.8 miles in because I took a video to record it. I recorded all my moments of pain that day.

First check point was just shy of the 10 miles. I didn’t feel I needed to stop but everyone else did so I took some flap jack from my drop bag (homemade by my other half – I love it!). I was reminded to get my chip scanned and then I was off again.

The terrain got a lot more tricky after this and there were a lot of bumps and divets on the ground. At 11 miles the worst happened – I went over my right ankle and heard a crack. My other half had strapped it up again for me the night before for reassurance but it wasn’t going to stop me going over in this. I did what every runner does in this situation and immediately carried on. If I pretend it didn’t happen then it didn’t right? I was able to put weight on it so it couldn’t have been bad. The crack I heard couldn’t possibly have been what you first think of. I distracted myself with thinking about air which causes your knuckles and back to crack and wondering how air got in to my ankle. I then had more flap jack in case I was beginning to get delirious.

I was having a lot of pain at the ‘v’ at the top of my legs. (I’m not a doctor, I don’t know what the area is called!). This was causing me a lot of issues trying to push on. Unexpectedly I came across Daile from the club who was marshalling and that was a great little pick me up. She was in one of the relay teams and had done the first leg. Have to admit, I was slightly jealous she was already finished. After seeing her I tried to break my run down in to sections and originally started with the next one being 15 miles however that had to drop quickly to half marathon distance. At about 12 miles I had to climb a wall with a ladder and jump down in to what can only be described as a bottomless river! To say I wasn’t happy about this is an understatement as my Instagram showed. Raging. I was raging! Then I had to run through a nettle field with nettles taller than me!

Who comes up with these routes?!? Why the hell would you think it’s a great idea to have people running through sh!t like this! I could have drowned! I honestly could have drowned! What then? Another runner comes along and discovers my blue and bloated body just floating in the river? That will make for a great race photo – cheers! And if the river doesn’t finish you off the giant nettles will!

No. I wasn’t happy. This wasn’t easy. All made harder by the pain.

Once at a farm I decided to strip off to my shorts. Again something I would never do on a marathon – stop and change. But I thought if I put my shorts on I would feel better. Could probably have picked somewhere more remote than a working farm but I’m not so sure I was thinking straight at this point. A lovely older woman got a right eyeful of my rear end as she went by me but hopefully she’s seen worse. Either that or I gave her a memorable moment of the race ha ha.

Through the wind farms and I found I was by self. No one in sight. But I was fine with this. The noise of the turbines was company enough. Reminded me of my brother who works on them (I use the word ‘work’ very lightly) and who’s house I would be running past if I made it that far.

Down a very muddy path and I have to walk for fear of falling. I wasn’t going to make up any time on the downhills on this run. I passed someone walking up who gave me a cheery ‘well done’ and I couldn’t help but think why would you walk up here?! Then realised she must have been a Marshall. Time for more flap jack and maybe a piece of chocolate too.

Just before 19 miles I get a text from my lunch time running buddy asking how I’m getting on. I tell him where I am and that I’m in a lot of pain. I get a reply of ‘you’re over half way, stay focused, baby steps’. I tell him it is baby steps it’s that bad and ask how his birthday is going. He’s not feeling well so I tell him to stop whinging – great coming from me right now! Good thing I wasn’t expecting sympathy! I also start getting messages from my mum but she’s using WhatsApp and they aren’t coming through great. I consider texting her and trying to tell her to use text but it’s my mum, best not complicate things for her ha ha. My friend is trying to track me but she’s struggling to use it. She does however successfully send me a picture of a bottle of prossecco she has bought me to celebrate at the finish – love her!

My focus is now the second check point. I’m not sure where it is but it can’t be far. I see some people in the road and my Sherlock Holmes detective skills tell me they must be waiting for someone. As I very, very slowly get closer I hear my name. It’s the Reid’s from the club! So happy I am to see people – and people I know – I almost miss the check point! Steph had ran the first leg of the relay and was already washed and changed and out supporting everyone else. Stewart came over and asked if there was anything he could do to help me. ‘Run the last bit for me’ I jokingly said, although was I joking? That check point definitely gave me the pick me up I needed though. Encouragement, smiles and a reminder that no wonder I was finding it hard, I had done a marathon just 6 days before. After Stewart opened my chocolate bar for me (it seemed my fingers weren’t working any better than my legs) I was off again, with a very slight spring in my step.

I was down to my last 10 miles. The last leg. Closer to home. I can do this! I am over the bad bit!

Nope! No you are not!

You know Moncrieffe Hill Ella. It’s. Hard.

Walk it. I’m going to walk it. Run until it gets really steep then walk. That’s the reality of it. So I run through the village we have now reached and along the road to the dreaded last hill. I think I know the turning but there’s no Marshall and no sign so I keep going and continually look behind me to see if anyone is there or if anyone turns up that way. I can’t really see anyone. There would have been a sign I tell myself. There have been many, many signs up to now you wouldn’t have missed it.

Aw god what if I did miss it? And on the last section? How embarrassing! Please don’t say I’ve missed it. Keep going just a bit further and if you don’t see a sign stop and check the map. Please don’t say I’ve gone wrong!

Then in the distance I see someone dancing in the middle of the road. That must be a Marshall surely! Who else would be out here? And by themselves? Sure enough it’s not only a Marshall but it’s Barry from the road runners. ‘You’re doing good’ he says.

I love how folk lie when you’re running.

Re-assured I’m on the right track I keep going. As I climb further up the hill I get more and more messages from my friends. I’m less than 10 miles away now. I know I can run 10 miles. I’m not going to give up now. I start counting them down – albeit very slowly. The climb is hard so I stick to running the flat and walking the up hills. I’ve nothing to prove, my goal is to see if I can do this.

Further in to the hill there’s another surprise Marshall in the form of Brian from the club. He’s set himself up with a campsite! It’s amazing! ‘Do you need anything? Do you want some water?’ He asks me. ‘I’m good thanks’ I reply as I trundle by. I wish I had taken a photo of his station, it was amazing.

The advantage of knowing the hill is knowing where the actual last climb is. So when that was done I could ‘relax’. Then I realised I had just run 2 marathons in 6 days as my watch went past 26.2 miles.

Happy Ella!

Well almost. Once off the hill I follow the road out and I know it’s a rolling road. I don’t let this bother me though as this is where my brother lives. I almost let myself think he will be there to wave at me as I go by but it’s Saturday afternoon – he will still be in bed. The only running he does is to the bar when they shout ‘last orders’ ha ha.

Ok, last few miles, and I’m going slower than a turtle through treacle but I’m going! I’m joined by a woman out for a leisurely run. She asks me if there is a race on and I explain it’s an Ultra. She then asks if I have far to go and I tell her I’m on my last couple of miles. She says she is thinking of doing a marathon then asks me how many km a marathon is and is it 20.

I stop running with her.

At this point I see Gair – also from the road runners, we are everywhere! – sitting in his van. Oh how much do I need to sit down and get off these blistered feet! I give him a cheery wave and a smile as I trundle on. Happy that I’m almost finished.

Just round the corner I spot my mum. It’s roasting now and she has a long thick cardigan on. It takes her a good few minutes to spot me so I wave to make sure she knows it’s me. She tells me Joes at the finish line and she’s going to phone him to tell him I’m coming. ‘I’m not going to be there any time soon’ I joke with her. She then starts running with me and it’s awesome! My dad shouts after her ‘Netty, you’re going kill yourself’. ‘Not at this pace’ I shout back at him.

Through the Inch and I have to cross the road at the other side. There’s a Marshall there who pushes the lights for me and a car stops right in front of me. Oh please don’t make me stop I’m begging you! I won’t get started again! My face must have been a picture of despair as he then tells me to go behind the car, clearly unable to solve this problem alone.

On to the finishing straight, I got this! Where’s the finish? Where is the finish? I can’t see anything indicating the finish! Surely there is more to the finish line than a couple of people standing at the side? I’m just about to ask them when I catch a glimpse of the all too familiar inflatable arch way. It’s right there! I just need to go round the corner and back again! I hit the corner and force myself in to a sprint. I can sit down as soon as I cross that line!

Move, move, move!

Ok stop, stop, stop!

The man holding the medals is braced for impact. This about to go badly wrong! Luckily I grind to a halt just in time.

‘Oh god!’ I say as I finally manage to breath. ‘I’ve had quite a few people call me that today’ the Race Director replies quite pleased with himself. ‘I’ve a few names for you, not sure God is one of them!’ I laugh back at him.

That’s it though. That’s it done. I just ran an ULTRA!!

I need a seat!

Joe was there with Ollie and Lucie and Lorner was there too who promptly presented me with my prossecco – love you! My mum and dad then appeared and I managed to get a photo of everyone.

I may have had the odd moan and groan but I loved this run. I loved the fear, the change in terrain, the people, the marshalls, the different things it has opened my eyes to – I loved it! Would I do it again? Definitely! I can see my running taking a new direction after this!

Scott from the club came in first place and Marlena was first female. Amazing achievements and great for the club! We had so many people running it, out supporting or marshalling – it was amazing!

Whoa Nessie

You would think by now I would know the basics of running. The do’s and (most importantly) the do nots. Well I don’t. Plain and simple – I do not.

After running Loch Ness last year and thoroughly enjoying it despite the pain in my feet from changing my trainers last minute and what turned out to be a weak core (still insulted by this) I was determined to do it again but better. The original plan was to get my GFA time for London (Good For Age ridiculously fast time to get a guaranteed entry). However reality crept in and I soon realised that, for this moment in time, it wasn’t to be. It is still the goal – and I will get in to London – it’s just going to be a longer journey than I first thought.

Leaving for Inverness with my mum I purposefully only took one pair of trainers with me so as not to make the same mistake twice. I have been working on my core so I was quietly confident I shouldn’t get the same issues there again (dare I say there’s even a very slight glimmer of abs there. Well, under all the scones and jam I seem to have taken a liken to recently).

We arrived at the expo early afternoon and I went to register. Mum loved how everyone asked her if she was running as well! I will get her doing the couch to 5k if I have to lend her trainers myself! (That’s a lie, I won’t, no one touches my trainers, I will buy her her own pair.). We then headed over so I could buy a new top to replace the one I’ve worn almost every day since last year.

‘We sold out at about 11am’.

What?!?!? You sold out before mid day the day before the marathon??!! Are you kidding me?? That top is one of the main reasons I’m doing this marathon again!

A very short tantrum later and many, many dirty looks thrown at the man who had shrugged this most unacceptable sentence to me and we went to the pasta party – still fuming. I had had to settle for a new bra. Don’t even ask. Had I been able to phone their head office and spoken to the Director of the company believe me I would have! (Might actually still do that!).

Anyway, the pasta party. Very tasty, very filling, lovely cup cake and great Scottish music from what I presume was a local band. I loved it. Miraculously it managed to take the insult that was the ‘Top drama’ down a notch.

We then drove to the hotel which was as near to the start line as you could get at Loch Ness and settled in for the night. Mum tried out my foam roller whilst I poured over the route trying to memorise where all the trouble areas could be.

It was only a 10 min drive to the bus pick up so we weren’t up too early. As soon as I was on the bus though another woman came on declaring loudly how she gets travel sick and hadn’t taken her tablet that morning. What is it about that bus and eccentric characters? Last year it was a guy speaking loud enough for the supporters at the finish line 26.2 miles away to hear him recall every marathon he had done!

Off the bus and I didn’t even consider waiting in the queue for a hot cup of tea – it was only an hour until the start and that line was clearly double that. The toilet queue wasn’t any better so yup, it was the bush for me! Hey, when nature calls do what nature does!

I waited until last minute to load my bag on the baggage bus and brave the elements. Miraculously I found 3 other road runners on the way to the start line and we got a fab team photo (although we did miss Kenny unfortunately). My scrap book has come out of hiding again!

Hugh and Caroline were there to enjoy it, Duncan wanted to try for a time and it’s one of his favourites and me? Well I had decided if I felt good I would go for a PB but ultimately I didn’t want to ruin my day chasing a time. I really didn’t have the confidence a 3:45 was in me right at that moment.

The bag pipes started and off we went – bang on time. My feet felt good and I was comfortable. Ok, good start. First mile clicked in at 7:02. Time for the maths. This gave me 1min 28 in the bank. That’s if I was to go for the GFA. Up to mile 5 and I was still under 8min miles. Hmmm, should probably slow down. There’s a hill at mile 5 anyway.

I run along (note how I don’t say plodding here) thinking what a great first marathon for someone this would be. It breaks you in gently with an easy start which gives you a confidence booster. Yes, I think, definitely a good one. I don’t know why they don’t recommend it to first timers!

Up the hill and I get a good luck text from my brother. ‘Cheers bro, I’m 6 miles in’. He replies with a photo of himself still in bed. Sheets covering his beer belly. Nice.

I miss my split at 7 miles and I go into panic mode. How am I going to know my time now?!? How do I know how much time I have to play with when the killer hill comes? Why is my leg hurting?

Cramp. I get cramp in my left leg.

Oh that’s quite sore. Bugger. Should I stop and rub it? Walk it off?

You’re not a masseuse, you don’t know what muscle to rub and you’re meant to run a marathon Ella.

You’re right. Ignore it.

‘Still feeling fresh?’ Steve asks me as he goes past. ‘Yup’ I reply through gritted teeth. If you don’t say it out loud it’s not true right?

By mile 10 with the cramp still there and clearly not going I slow down a little. Isn’t cramp caused by lack of water or something? Your muscles are dehydrated so they contract? Believing this to be true I down a full bottle of water and have a couple of jelly babies. Once that kicks in I will be fine I say to myself.

Pushing on to half way the cramps still there, my ankles niggling like a bitch causing my knee to now pound with pain and my bladders full – no I don’t mean the one on my back. This is not going well. I need to stop to pee and rub my leg. So what do I do? I take a selfie.

I then remember that the headache you get from a hangover is caused by your brain being dehydrated and contracting. No relation what so ever to do with cramps. Great. So glad I drank all that water now! Not! Would have been better off with vodka! (Well, maybe not, but could have made for a very entertaining run).

I get a message from my lunch time running buddy telling me my pace is looking good. I tell him I can’t keep it up though and I’m goosed. He replies just drop it a tiny bit until the last mile or 2. Does he know how far away that is?!? I do!! 11 bloody miles!! 11 long miles that include a ruddy big hill!! I’ve already ran 13!! Sake.

Trudging on I text my other half to say I’m halfway but I can’t keep it up. His reply? ‘Get the finger out.’ I tell him my knees gone and he asks where? For a run?

He doesn’t get a reply.

I count down to mile 17 where the hill starts. I’ve written this on my hand along with !London! In the hope it spurs me on. Well that ain’t happening today love. But I had already known that if I’m honest. For some reason my mind just wasn’t focused enough. The past couple of weeks have me thinking and to achieve that GFA it needs to be my one and only goal.

Mile 17. The Hill. It’s not the steepest hill I’ve climbed (hey there Birnam) but it’s just so long. Never ends. Ever. At all. So out comes the phone and I record myself walking. Yes. Walking.

My names Ella Webley and I walked when I did the Loch Ness Marathon in 2017.

After 3 hours I reach the top and pick up the pace again. I now no longer care for time and I’m just counting down the miles listening to my music. I then remember I had needed to pee earlier but don’t anymore. After a frightening few seconds of wondering if I had peed myself (I hadn’t, I assure you) I relax back in to my plodding.

Soon I come across a roundabout. And with it comes civilisation! People! There are people here! Oh my god I had forgotten what they were like! Yes there were one or two scattered along the route but this was actual people. That cheered me up. My leg still hurt but I was smiling. I even recognised the loud supporter who had been in the exact same place last year and exchanged a joke with him.

Down to the final couple of miles now and I spot a familiar back pack. ‘Are you Melanie?’ I ask her. She turns and smiles and says yes (thank god, could have been awkward). ‘I’m Ella’. We have been following each other on Instagram for a while now and had both been at another race but missed each other.

We spent the next couple of miles chatting about how tough the run had been and how close we were to finishing. She gave me some tips for my ultra next weekend too. It was just what was needed at that point – you can’t beat seeing a friendly face when you’re hurting. She was aiming for under 4hrs and was comfortably under that. She said she always aimed for under 4 as that meant she didn’t have to do it again – I like her thinking!

I spot my mum and stop to give her my hydration pack as it had been rubbing a bit. I carry on and chase down Melanie in the hope I can come in under 4hrs. My pace picks up as I get closer to the end and as I see the finish I give the last of my energy and go for it.

Turns out that last push was a bit much and I genuinely feel like I’m going to throw up. I apologise to the woman who goes to hang my medal round my neck for being all sweaty and to my surprise she insists on giving me a huge hug! What a lovely woman!! She then gets me a bottle of water as she thinks I’m about to pass out insisting again that that was what she was here for. If I had had any energy I would have cried!

Walking round the finisher chute a guy behind me taps me on the shoulder. ‘I don’t like you’ he says. I laugh ‘oh why’ presuming he had tried to use me as a pacer. ‘I had just managed to get past those 4 guys at the end and you came flying out of nowhere past me.’ ‘Oh sorry’ I apologise and explain I was trying to get under the 4hrs. 43 seconds over I was – ah well. He said he had been trying to but had come in at 4hrs 7. He blamed his wife because he had stopped to give her a hug. He made me laugh.

After cuddles with my mum and my other half who had brought our youngest up for the day I headed straight to the massage tent.

Best. Thing. Ever.

She was amazing! It really helped my legs! I could have stayed there all afternoon no word of a lie.

It was straight home after that and I stupidly didn’t eat anything. Combining that with having felt sick during the run and sitting in the back of the car and I eventually did throw up. Not pretty.

So lessons learnt – again. I need discipline. 7 minute miles at the start of a 26 mile run are not good if you’re not in that league. Water doesn’t cure cramp. If it did you wouldn’t get cramp when swimming – doh. The hydration pack was good but it needs adjusted. Loch Ness Marathon is NOT an easy marathon – this is fact – and not just confirmed by me. Although apparently I said this last year too? I do like it though. Very much. I have more wonderful memories of this one from my mum trying to use the foam roller to seeing other road runners at the start to the wonderful woman at the end who insisted on hugging me, and that massage!

Today my legs hurt – a lot. On Saturday I am running my first ever ultra. This week is most definitely a rest week!