Up, up, up, and more up

‘I’ll let you go past, you like the downhills’.

Exactly.  So why on earth was I running this race?!?

That morning my first task was to get myself there.  It’s a small village I have been to many, many times so it should have been an easy task.  I set my google maps on and was confident I could do this… until I drove past the village I thought I was going to and then, according to the map, past 3 signs that all clearly stated Milnathort this way (Milnathort being the destination).  So after a quick tour of where a Scottish music festival used to be and an impromptu u-turn I eventually found it. Deep breath, it’s ok.

I collected my race number and joined the queue for the bathroom.  All around me all I could hear was nervous chatter about the race.  I wasn’t hearing or seeing the usual ‘look at me, I’m faster than Mo’ type runner, it was more ‘just hoping to finish’.  

Hmmm

Then it was ‘its fine if you make it to mile 9.’

IF?!?!?  

And hold on. It’s only 13 miles.  9 miles is two thirds of the way there!!

Good thing I was already in the queue for the bathroom that’s all I’m going to say.

Off to the start line and the same nervous chatter continues.  I stuck to the back but I did hear them say they had accidentally ordered sparkling water instead of still for the finish.  That’s if I finished of course.

Slow and steady, that was my plan.  And I stuck to it.  Or more accurately the hills made me stick to it.  The first six were ok as it goes.  I had the right trainers on (lesson 1) and the right socks on he right feet (lesson 2).  I had eaten breakfast and I had drank a good amount.  There were no head phones as it wasn’t closed roads – although I think a maximum of 2 cars went past the entire race – so I stared singing my 80’s ballads in my head. ‘Here I go again on my own, walking down the only road I’ve ever known’.  Over and over that time went through my mind as I made my way through the country side. 

I found myself following a woman from a local Tri club who was with a guy with an Ironman tattoo on his leg.  I can only presume this was a training or recovery run for them or maybe they were coming back from injury, but, in that moment, yup, they were my competition.  I think everyone plays this game.  Picks someone out and uses them as their challenge.  Helps to push you. 

As I came down a steep part just after mile 5 I could see in front of me what can only be described as an actual mountain.  My jaw dropped, my knees started to shake, I genuinely began to wonder how on earth I was going to get up it without proper climbing gear.  Thankfully I saw the marshalls directing us left and not on to the monstrosity.  I was saved! I joked with the marshalls as I went through and asked them where the taxi was that I had ordered.  

They just laughed.

Probably because they knew what was coming.

If I thought the other mountain was steep then this was just down right vertical! I would love to know who chose this route. Saw this part and thought ‘yes, this would make an ideaL running route, slap a big mother f…. hill bang in the middle of it!’.

Sadists, the lot of you.

The song in my head quickly changed to ‘I’m just a sucker for pain’.  

I did manage to run up the whole hill although I do use that term very, very loosely. A cup of water at the top was much needed and very appreciated (and thankfully not sparkling ha ha).

There were very occasionally downhill sections and I was able to speed up a little.  I managed to pass Ironman and Tri Woman at these points but they always caught me up at the inclines.  And there were not many downhills. 

Mile 9.  I need to keep going to mile 9.  Just think of mile 9.  

Onward and forever upward I kept going.  The couple were still in my sights but only just. Despite the elevation it was still a nice place to be running.  The sun started to come out as well and it soon heated up.  Shorts and vest a good choice, well done Ella.  I had been really worried it was going to be windy but there was just a slight breeze.  

Eventually, after about 10 hours I think, I knew I was coming up to the sought after mile 9.  Come on, keep going, keep running, you can do this.  Of course it was still a 13 mile race but all thoughts of the last 4 miles just didn’t enter my brain at this point.  It was mile 9 I had to get to and that was my achievement. So naturally, when I did, I took a photo of the sign, as you do.  


It generally is downhill for the last 4 miles so I turned my attention to my watch and aiming to come in under 2 hours.  Ironman and Tri Woman were still in front so I lengthened my stride to try and make up time.  Slowly I caught up with them and just as I did a car came so we moved to go single file to let it past.  ‘I’ll let you go past as you like the downhills’ she said. ‘It’s the only parts I can run!’ Was my reply.  This did make me wonder why I hadn’t checked the details of this run before entering.

At 12.5 miles I heard someone coming up behind me and I thought to myself ‘damn it, they are going to over take me again’.  By this point I couldn’t really be bothered with the cat and mouse game so just stayed at pace.  It wasn’t them though.  It was a fellow Perth Road Runner.  And she didn’t just creep past me she sailed past me.  What the…. Where did she come from?!?  Are you kidding me? Speaking to her later on that night she told me she had been following me from early on.  She must have done what I was doing with Ironman and Tri Woman.  That will teach me ha ha.

Down the hill and round the corner and yup, you’ve guessed it, it was back UP hill to the finish.  Seriously guys come on! Who puts the finish line up a hill?!? What is wrong with you! 

Needless to say, no sprint finish.  Just no.

I collected my medal and got a ‘well done’ from another road runner.  He had finished at about the time I was at mile 9.  There are no words for that!  I checked my watch and was just thankful I was under the 2 hours – 1hr 56.  I will take that.  

Back to the car and I take my phone out for a photo only to discover the dye from my hair I had done the day before was now flowing down the side of my face and all over my shoulders.  Yet another lesson.  I should write a book of what not to do.

A tough route definitely.  Character building? Well it was only yesterday so I’m still in the ‘don’t care, it was hard’ mindset.  I’m sure it was good for me though.  Maybe.

Signing up for a race is no longer quite the ‘knees shaking, sharp breath inhale, turn white, what the hell am I doing’ experience it once was.  Still hard but just not quite that bad.  I wasn’t too bothered when I signed up for a local half – happening tomorrow.

However, after reading nothing but ‘warning, not for first timers’ and ‘the race that can throw anything at you’ then hearing that there were quite a few DNF picked up in an ambulance last year, topped with less than 150 people signed up and it being uphill for the first 9 miles – it’s fair to say, I’m definitely bricking it now.

I’ve entered races when I thought I was going to be really far back in the field and it didn’t bother me too much.  I ended up at worst middle of the pack.  This ones different though.  There aren’t many entries for a start so there is absolutely no hope I am anything but bottom of the field.  It’s also quite clearly a difficult route.  9 miles of elevation, and not gentle elevation, I’m talking the kind of steep you need a harness and ropes to get up.  There’s no earphones so I can’t use my 80’s power ballads to get me through it and oh, let’s not forget, it’s October in Scotland.  The weather alone could kill me.

Because of course, it’s very open in the middle of the countryside.

Why wouldn’t it be?
So, the plan.  Simple really.  Take it slow. Let the other runners go off and take my time.  Pace myself.  The aim for this one is to pace it right and finish.  No time in mind, just the finish line.

And my reward? I’m actually going out on Saturday night! First time in a long time!

Presuming I haven’t died on the run of course.

This may be my last blog……

Everydays a school day

Last week my routine changed as I had a weeks holiday from work with the schools being off.  At first I was delighted with this and planned loads of activities to do with the kids envisioning quality, family time together only to be met with ‘I’m going to my friends mum bye’. 

I felt used.

If they didn’t have their friends staying over they were sleeping at their friends and I had to be on call at the end of the phone ready to jump when they said so.  I barely managed a run or two and spent the majority of the time trying to do yoga but ultimately just falling over and spraining every possible joint in my body (and my head still hurts – my feet are just not meant to go over it, end of story).

It also gave me a little reflection time though over my last few runs and I have come away with some golden little nuggets.  

Firstly, there’s the trainer thing.  Just don’t ever change your trainers close to a big race.  No matter how good an idea you think it is because you’ve worn them before – don’t.  Your feet will end up looking like they were used for an advert for The Walking Dead. 

Second is socks.  There actually is a reason you get left socks and right socks. Your left foot is different from your right foot.  Your big toe is on the right of your left foot and on the left of your right foot.  Mind blown.  I know! Cushioning is different on both socks so do the right thing and match the left sock to the left foot and the right sock to the right foot. Or you will get blisters.

Blisters.  It IS possible to get a blister underneath a blister.  Fascinating yes but  also a pain in the arse.  So, wear the right trainers and the right socks (and the left trainer and the left sock).

Core.  You need to do core work.  You need to strengthen that stomach.  That pain you are feeling and fondly referring to as your abs screaming to get out is actually just your body screaming for help.  Listen to it.  Sacrifice the odd run a week to do those planks, lunges, sit ups, etc and do your body a favour.  Or you know, you can feel like you are contracting and having a baby at every race – your choice.

So yeah, a little down time has been good on reflection.  I’m thinking of next years goals and beginning to wind down a little as we get nearer Christmas.  I have a half marathon this Saturday which I think has the very real possibility of breaking me given the elevation and the guidance notes stating ‘not for beginners’.  I’m trying not to think about that though and finding a tree swing on my lunch time run today certainly helps! 


I know what route I will be running for the next few weeks ha ha.

Aviemore Half – the truth

Aviemore Half – the truth

Warning – if you have a weak stomach probably best not read this.

I started my blog as a way to track my progress, remember the good bits and learn from the bad. 

I learnt things in Aviemore.

My friend picked me up the day before as I was staying at her holiday lodge which was only a few minutes away from registration – fantastic.  It was about a 2 hour drive what with the road works on the A9 but the kids kept us entertained.  It was tea time when we got there so food needed ordered.  After a quick check of the takeaway menu (and a phone call to the other half to check to see if I liked cannelloni) it was off to the supermarket to pick up breakfast for the morning – something I had forgotten about.

When tea arrived I was starving and really looking forward to being able to eat quite a bit.  So when I opened it up and saw this…..


I was more than disappointed.  It may have been really tasty but new born babies eat more than that!  So I filled up on Asti – great choice ha ha.

Morning of the race and I put my big girl pants on and walked to registration all by myself! I collected my pack and put on my timing chip, sat for a minute whilst waiting on the buses – all by myself! No tears, no panic, nothing! Progress indeed.  I even sat chatting to a lovely girl on the bus.  She lived in Aviemore, had forgotten she had signed up to do the 10k so was expecting to walk quite a bit.  ‘God look at all these athletic types’ she said as we set off, (clearly I didn’t fall in to that category in her eyes).  We had a laugh about it being downhill anyway so we could just tuck and roll.  Turns out her sister lived in Perth not far from me as well.  Small world.

Off the bus and it’s a walk to the outdoor centre where the start is.  They had put up a big marque with hot drinks and a little music so I headed in there and got chatting to another woman.  She had only started running this year and had ran Loch Ness 10k.  She suffered sciatica quite badly in her leg and her aim was just to enjoy it today.  She found it funny there were people wearing plastic bags and I told her about my jumper I had had to leave at the start in Loch Ness (I’m still not over that).


I found the other road runners for the group photo before we started and headed for the last toilet break before the race got going.  I was aware I had not had my morning poo (disclaimer at the start of this post!) but it wasn’t happening.  I decided not to have my gel at the very start just in case it started movement so carried it with me.

I was only about 400metres in when my stomach started lurching.  I ignored it.  It screamed louder.  I focused on where I was putting my feet as it was loose ground.  My stomach was about to explode.  I briefly looked at the bushes but didn’t want to have to stop so early on so kept running.  I took a deep breath and tried to suck everything in, clenching with all my might and kept going.  

Around the 1 mile mark another woman took off in to the bushes and I was seriously tempted to follow suit.  There were no actual toilets along the route so it would have to be a bush.  But, I was wearing shorts and there was no toilet paper out here.  Also, the track was muddy and wet and I was aware I already had mud up my legs.  What if I came out of the bushes and people behind me saw the mud and thought it was something else? 

Yes, this is the kind of thing I worry about. 

So I didn’t go.  I sucked it in even more.

Aviemore is a race of two halfs really.  The first has a very steep but short hill and is on forest track and the second is on the road going slowly downhill.  I knew once I hit the road it wasn’t too far. I was finding it harder than expected but I’m putting that down to having ran a marathon just a few weeks before.  Another lesson I am learning through doing – or not doing – the importance of recovery.  

When I hit the road I took my gel I still had.  A big risk but I was just focusing on getting to the end (i.e. A toilet) as fast as I could.  Of course I couldn’t really pick up the pace as it would ‘move’ things but I could stay steady.

As I came in to the final stretch I could hear my friend shouting my name at the top of her lungs and it made me smile.  ‘You’re so loud!’ I shouted back at her laughing.  Through the finish line and I met my other half with our youngest on his shoulders.  It was lunch time so we decided to head back to the lodge for food and get heated up.  Joe had parked at the supermarket and I glanced longingly at the toilet but I knew it wasn’t going to be a quick in and out job so got in the car.

At the lodge I finally got to the toilet. But….. nothing.  Stomach still sore but nothing was moving.  Had I actually sucked it right back up so it wouldn’t come out? Can that happen? There’s no internet in Aviemore so I couldn’t google it (and no doubt find out I had caused myself a very slow, painful death).  I jumped in the shower and when I came out tried again but nothing.  All that time trying to keep it in and now when I wanted, no needed, it to come out it wasn’t moving.  Great!  I tried some toast hoping that might shift it and even had some chocolate which usually opens flood gates for me but still nothing.  Car journey home was going to be fun!


Now usually I’m one of those that tells their partner everything (yes, I know, very sad, but I’m sure he loves hearing about how I almost got a paper cut opening the post or how I only drank a third of my last cup of tea), but he has a thing about that, this is where he usually draws the line.  So the fact we got about 2 miles in to the journey home before I told him was somewhat of a miracle. 

‘I knew as soon as you sent that picture of your tea last night this would happen’.  Eh? He said I would like it? ‘You shouldn’t change what you eat the night before, you know this’.  

The penny dropped as soon as he said it as to why it had happened.

But just the penny! 

It was after 8pm before relief came.  And naturally I announced it to the entire household.

So yeah, nice race, nice weekend, more mistakes made, an insight in to my bowel movements (or lack of) but most importantly….

Progress on being in crowds! 

I see that as a good result.

A Letter to 2015 Ella

Dear Ella

You’ve started your running ‘journey’ – and that’s what it is, a journey.  Right now you can’t get round the park.  In fact right now you can barely make it from bench to bench.  But you’re trying.  You’ve got no one to beat (and not just because you are that slow it’s walking pace for most) but because you are only doing this for you.


It’s hard right now.  It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s so dark you can’t see anything, you’re convinced everyone is watching you wondering what the hell you’re playing at because you quite clearly are not a runner.   You think your ass should be back on the couch looking after your kids because taking 30 minutes to yourself is a bit selfish isn’t it? And let’s be honest, right now, running 5k in under 30 mins just isn’t going to happen.

But…

You keep going.  


It’s a long time before you get that elusive ‘sub 30mins’ – a very long time.  I’m not going to tell you it gets easier, I’m not sure it does! You just feel better when it’s done.  The first 2km are the hardest.  You can’t breathe, you sweat within seconds but you still feel cold, you’re wearing Lycra and you most certainly are not a skinny bitch! It’s pinching at your waist, riding up your bum in what is now really quite a painful way.

But

You still keep going.

For some reason it’s now the first 3km that are difficult and you hit that ‘wall’.  But you break through it each and every time you go out for a run.  You don’t give up.  You start very slowly going further distances.  Still with walk breaks but you are out there longer.  Your goals start getting bigger whilst your waist gets smaller.  (So do your boobs but hey, you can’t have everything, deal with it).  You start entering races.  There are many, many tears.  There’s even some up chuck action.  Eventually there’s also blisters and loss of toe nails but you’ll need to file that in the same bucket as the disappearing boobs.  Be honest, you never liked sandals anyway.

5k turns into 10k, which then makes you set your sights on a half marathon.  You find a running group and email them practically begging them to let you join promising that you won’t waste their time.  (An email you’ll look back on and laugh at the embarrassment, hoping it was deleted). You enter the half marathon and although you achieve your target time you’re not happy?!? You wanted better, faster! So you enter more. You run more.  


People start commenting on how you look, start asking your advice on running, joking about asking if you run everywhere now, it feels good.

And before you know it – you’ve signed up to a marathon! That’s 26.2 miles! (You don’t even know how far a marathon is in 2015). 

And guess what?

You complete it! 

In fact, you don’t only run one marathon, YOU RUN BLOODY TWO!!!

You also complete 3 Triathlons!! And right now, in 2015, you haven’t even heard of a triathlon! 

And as for your ‘sub 30mins’ on your 5k…

Last night you smashed it out the park in under 22 minutes.  22 bloody minutes!

I wish I could tell you when you are struggling that THIS is what you are going to achieve but I can’t.  When you’re tired and yes, a little miserable, that it’s all going to be worth it and you’ll love it. But I can’t. 

Yet…

I don’t have to.  You just get out there and you do it.  

I can’t even guess what you’re going to do next year! 

Love from 2016 Ella

PS You even wear shorts in the end!

Sorry but ‘no’

London Marathon.  Didn’t get in the ballot.


Now, moving on, I’ve got sh’t to do! I’ve had my ‘gutted’ moment, but sitting around complaining about how ‘unfair’ the ballot is isn’t going to change it. So what am I going to do?

Well first there’s the New Years Day Tri that I am going for again.  That requires swimming (and lots of actual depressing moments at the realisation of just how bad I am at it and how much I don’t like it).  My local pool is generally friendly though so could be worse.

It also involves cycling, in the cold, and in the wet.  I can see my peppermint tea addiction rising to extremities.  

And of course, there’s running.  Ah running.  I do love to run.  It’s not easy….but it is kind of.  It requires effort…..but not much.  It makes me feel good……every time.

But….

To get my place at London Marathon I am going to have to speed up.  

I said I was over not getting through on the ballot – I’m not over having to wait every year trying!

I insist on staying positive, and positive says ‘what can I do about it?’. My club will have allocated spaces but the want will be high.  I think they do their own little ballot to allocate them but chances for me are low (although how awesome would it be!!).  My other option is to try for a Good For Age place next year.  I’ve only got to shave 24 minutes off my best time.

Only.

Only 24.

And I’m someone who doesn’t like sprints.

Positive.  Must stay positive.  

This week my running club hits the tracks and from what I read literally everywhere, this is what will help my speed.  Although it may also make me throw up! From what the others were saying, that’s almost guaranteed.  

Maximum effort it is then. 

I have a half marathon this weekend which I plan on pushing myself at.  Then another more challenging one just two weeks later.  I can do this.  I totally can. All I need is some proper structure to my running.  Less ‘let’s just see what happens’ and more ‘push, push, push – feel those lungs bursting’.

Appears my husbands way of running will be taking over from my ‘hippy’ style over the next few months.  

This does not mean he is right though!

Let’s hope I’m still as positive after Aviemore this weekend.

A Week On

Back to proper running this week – and I feel so much better for it!  First couple of runs were a little weird in the sense they were slower and felt harder but all is ok. I joined a faster group with the running club and that really pushed me on Tuesday.  If I stay in that group I won’t be running Tuesday lunch times as well.  I also stuck a quick bike and rowing session in on Wednesday as I wanted to give my legs a rest from running.  I can’t remember the last time I was on the rower but I don’t remember it being so hard! Truth be told I will be back on it, I need to improve what I did.  

Speaking of which I now have a lunch time route that is the new goal to improve on.  Reversed my favourite route and it was a killer! I struggled with it.  So, naturally, half an hour after finishing, I wanted to go back out and do it again (but obviously I didn’t).  I plan on doing it once a week and hopefully I will see an improvement.

I have had an easy session though.  Last night the running club did a tribute run to Ben from the 401 challenge.  If you don’t know who he is you really should google him!  He was in Perth earlier this year but I couldn’t run with him as had my youngest but I did see him at the Edinburgh Marathon.  He has ran 401 marathons in 401 days to raise awareness of bullying and money to support 2 charities he is close to.  There were about 30 of us last night and we went all together at the same pace along some of the route he ran when here.  It was really nice having the opportunity to chat to people you wouldn’t normally and getting to know a few more Road Runners.  


And that just leaves me with my last activity – swimming.  Yup, I’m back in the pool.  Both the hubby and I are doing the New Years Tri in January so I need to up my game.  My goal is simple – faster than last year but ideally a very good improved time.  So it’s sets and drills 3 times a week.  Oh the joys. It’s not a great distance I have to do, I just have to suck it up and get on with it. 

(Doesn’t stop me having the odd moan about it though ha ha).