John Muir Way Ultra

John Muir Way Ultra

‘Your mum looks like she’s about to cry’ he says to Oliver.  This is met with a sharp look and the sternest of cold replies ‘Don’t!’.  He grins.  I leave the room.

I don’t know what it is but at certain races – typically the bigger ones that mean something to me – I have to fight back the tears.  And it’s been 4 years!!  I didn’t cry though.  Not this time.  But it did make me realise how much I wanted this.

I had decided to stay overnight near the race even though it was only 2 hours down the road if that.  Being 5 years old Oliver sees this as a little holiday so it makes it more fun for him.  Being only 10 minutes from registration made for more time in bed too.

Registration was pretty straight forward.  Are you running the half?  ‘No, full’.  This is your envelope.  Inside it is your bib and your chip.  Here’s your map.  Bus is over there.  I got on the bus, pulled my hat as far over my eyes as I could and concentrated on not letting the nerves get the better of me.  The chat on the bus was casual and not running related which was weirdly relaxing.  And I received a few good luck messages on my phone which made me smile.  A small gesture that goes a long way in times like that.

All the runners were bussed to the start which is on the promenade (because where else do you want to be in shorts and t-shirt other than a beach front in the cold wind?!?)  Luckily there was a bag drop so I kept my hoodie on until the very last minute.  Waiting in the queue for the bathroom I got chatting to 2 other ladies running.  They looked at me and asked if I was running the half.  Again I said no to this question.  ‘Oh’ was the reply.  ‘Have you ran this distance before?’.   ‘Just a couple of times’ I said.  Conversation was then cut short as the bathroom became free.

At the start line and we were told to get in to our waves.  How did we know what wave we were in?  ‘Competitive runners at the front, leisurely competitive in the middle and those out for a good day at the back.’  Leisurely competitive – I love it!!  Best comment of the day!  Squashed in to the crowd and the conversation around me turned to expected time.  Most were aiming for about 9 to 10 minute miles and a good day.  I relaxed some more, thankful it wasn’t a case of sub 7 min milers.  Then an older man turned to me and asked ‘are you running the half?’

What is going on??  Do I not look like a runner?? (What ever a runner looks like).  Why am I being asked this question so much?  I picture my reflection in the mirror from that morning – trainers check, shorts and t-shirt check, hydration vest check, proper running jacket check, running cap check, fear of god expression on face as if I’m about to die – oh wait, that might be it.

Very quickly we are off and I start slow.  Within just a few hundred metres I’m already warm enough and strip off my jacket and put it in my bag.  Whilst still running might I add.  Quite proud of this.  Ha ha.  And yes, I have been practising.  I’m wearing road trainers mainly because I have been training in them but also because someone from the club had said road were fine if it hadn’t been raining too much.  We start on tarmac but are soon on the trail and then on the beach.  When I first see the beach I naturally have Chariots of Fire playing in my head and I almost begin a slow motion run.  However once I have taken a few steps on the beach I am no longer in ‘let’s have fun’ mode and quickly move to ‘how the f@ck do you run on sand?!’.  Answer?  You don’t really.  You find the most solid looking bit and then miserably make your way to the end.  Thankfully it wasn’t a long patch and we were back on trail once again.

Then we were on gravel.  Then we were on tarmac.  Then back to trail.  I’ve never noticed the cushioning on my trainers other than on day 1 of a new pair but this route was giving me an education in foot wear let me tell you.  You want to learn the difference between trail shoes and road shoes?  Run the John Muir Way Ultra.  (Probably a bit extreme to run 50km to learn that but you get my point).

By now I’m at 8 miles and I am cheekily grinning to myself as I am only just feeling a slight twinge in my hamstring.  This is good for me.  I am happy with this.  I fully expected it to kick in at about 3 miles and be torture from the get go.  It has however started to rain but I know the aid station is at 10 miles so decide to stop and put my jacket on there.  I may be able to take it off whilst running but putting it on is a different challenge altogether.  As I reach there I see Joe and Oliver so I get a nice cuddle before sending them back to the car as they are cold.

My goal at this point is to get the half way point before cut off which is 3 and half hours from the start.  A goal which is, in reality, not really a goal as my pace has never indicated that it could be an issue but in my head, it was.  So when I saw Joe and Oliver again only 500 metres before the halfway point I couldn’t bring myself to stop.  Not even when he asked if I wanted the jelly babies I had asked him to get for me.  Karma got me straight away though as I had to run on the beach again straight after that to get to the life boat station.

Having learnt my lesson from The Stones I knew not to waste too much time there.  I waited for a little bit to see if Joe would make it there but I wasn’t surprised when the text came through to say he couldn’t get parked so he would see me further up.   My legs were hurting now and it wasn’t getting any warmer so I had some banana and headed back out, wishing I had remembered a spare pair of socks as there was a definite ‘feeling’ going on down there on the soles.

As soon as I left the life boat station I was back on the beach.  Good old karma just making sure I felt bad for not stopping to speak to Joe and Ollie.  I pulled my hat right down so I could barely see a foot in front of me and grumped and groaned for every step.  Every step that is, until I stepped in something I really didn’t want to see.

What do you get at a beach?  The sea.  What is the sea made of?  Water!  Instead of being focused on where I was going I was focused on being a moaner and so had gone off track and ended up in the sea!  What the actual hell! Good thing I hadn’t changed socks as that would have been pointless.  Needless to say the grumping and the groaning just hiked it’s way up another level after that until I reached tarmac again.  Bloody water.

Unfortunately though, as soon as I was back on the road, it was a hike up a little hill.  I say ‘little’ but it was bloody steep.  And not welcomed after what had been quite a gloriously flat run so far.  Still.  Shouldn’t complain.  (But of course I did ha ha).  By now I was breaking it down to 5 mile blocks.  10 miles was my first quick stop.  15 miles was ‘halfway’.  Just another 5 to 20 miles then it’s only 10 miles to the finish from there and I do 10 mile runs all the time.  It’s only 10 miles to my mum and dads and I run that quite a bit.  I am of course ignoring the fact its actually a 31 mile run but the last mile doesn’t really count does it.

Maths.  Running is all about maths.  Fact.

At 20 miles I am going round a loch and I have entered the hurt locker.  The infamous hobble has appeared (or should that be hobbit given my size?) and I am zig zagging my way up every mount everest/mole hill thrown at me.  In truth, I look like I’ve pooped myself.  But I’ve still got 10 miles to go and I am not giving up.  (I do occasionally wonder if I have indeed done the deed but rest assured, I had not).  By about 23 miles I am running just behind a man with a Leven Las Vegas t-shirt.  This running club’s name makes me laugh as I think it’s a pretty cool play on words.  I go past a couple of girls I have seen a few times and they shout ‘love your tattoo by the way’.  I’m grinding my teeth at this point because of the pain so this couldn’t have come at a better time.  It’s amazing how the little things get you through.

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Rounding the corner and it’s back on road.  I see Oliver at the bottom of the hill and he runs up towards me with a much needed cuddle.  He runs down the hill with me and asks why I’m going so slow, pointing out he can run faster.  Ah kids.  Don’t you just love them?  Joe tells me the aid station is just at the bottom of the hill so keep going until I get there.  Which I do.  Gravity has a way of pulling even those who hobble towards the bottom of a hill.  At the aid station the lady behind the food asks me twice if I am ok.  At this point I am just staring at her.  You see, I was trying to make a very, very difficult decision.

Should I eat the flap jack on the table?

This could have some quite serious consequences.  I already look like I have pooped myself.  I had no intention of actually doing that.  But then, it could also help.  Give me a bit of a push.  It’s a very hard call.

I take a tiny bit and set off again.

I’ve only taken about 5 steps and I decide to turn back round and grab some more.  ‘That’s right, get a sugar fix love.  Do you good.’  She understands.  I wasn’t being rude.  I’m just not all there at this moment.

Back on the track and I see Leven Las Vegas man again.  He steps to the side to let me past and offers some encouraging words and I say some back.  And thus begins the final stretch and a beautiful running friendship game of cat and mouse.  He would run past me and then stop to walk a little further up, then I would run past him before stopping to walk and so on and so on.  Always exchanging comments of ‘I will be seeing you soon’ and ‘well done, just you keep going’.  We walked together at one point and I found out he had run this route as a relay last year and this was his first ultra.  I told him the ones I had done before.  ‘You like the hills then?’ he asked.  ‘God no, hate them’ I laughed.  He thought I had sprained my ankle from the way I was hobbling but I explained the pain was further up.

Then we were down to the last 2 miles.  I was determined not to lose him.  I used him to keep me pushing and eventually I reached the marshall who said those blissful , magical words ‘It’s only 1.5km from here’.  He was a fantastic marshall.  He was either a triplet or he had been moving places around the route, helping out and always, always cheery and happy.  But not your usual ‘not far now’ kind of encouragement’.  More ‘I don’t know what to say.  Well done guys you are awesome’.   He deserves a medal.

I see the 400 metres to go sign.  Relief waving over me.  I’m back of the field but there’s still a cheer for me as I cross the line.  I make sure I high five the kids at the side too.  At the finish I turn round and wait for Leven Las Vegas man to come across.  He had kept me going in those last few miles and I was very thankful.  What a lovely man.

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The finish is at a lake – strange given the name of it is Fox Lake…..  Joe was playing with Oliver at the play park whilst I was gathering my things and I saw 2 people wade in.  I love an ice bath.  It was amazing at Manchester.  So I limped over and peeled off my socks and trainers.  It was slippy.  Not ideal.  It was also freezing.  Absolutely blood freezing.  Nope, nope, nope I’m getting out.  Possibly the fastest I had moved all day not a word of a lie.  My ankles have never been in so much pain.  But oh man it felt so good.  Ok.  Deep breaths.  Huff, puff, huff, puff – back in I go.

And straight back out.  Too much.

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I would definitely recommend this race.  From the marshalls to the aid stations to the route itself.  I really liked it.  I’m very tempted to go back next year if I ever get rid of this pain in my legs, just to see how well I could do it injury free.

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Ever Changing

Last week it was snow and ice. This week it was sun and more sun. Does anyone still not believe in climate change?

Last week was brutal at work – the dreaded middle shift. Everyone hates it. I had a minor pro-lapse when I forgot I had swapped a day for a late to cover SLA but many apologies later to Joe and it was sorted. I also banked a few more hours teaching. I seem to always get the kids who talk about death. ‘What happens if you don’t turn your head to breath’ I ask them. ‘You die’ comes the rapid reply. I’m still unsure how to answer that when it instigates flash backs for me. But on that cheery note…..

Monday didn’t go as planned as the latest infusion has knocked Joe about. So Lucie did the cooking and I did the rest of the adulting. (We don’t need food poisoning on top of everything so best letting someone who knows what they’re doing handle the food). He had a bit more energy Tuesday and used that to shove me out the door with an order of ‘an easy 6 to 8’. Weather was amazing – just the right level of cool – and I loved that run.

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Wednesday. Third day of a middle shift. The plan was to run home from work. Joe was meant to have a quieter day at work (meant to, but I don’t think it’s been happening) so he had the car. He gave me instructions of when to eat – not that I need an excuse to shove a biscuit in my face – and he would see me at home. However, when finishing time came it was clear I wouldn’t be able to run with ALL my stuff so the plan changed to a short run then a walk home.

‘You need to do hills’ came the text.

I’ve just done 25,000 steps, I’m not running up and down no hill.

‘Get it done’.

‘It’s dark!’

‘Stop being a @*#${% and get it done’

The thing with this new found interest that Joe has taken is that I feel guilty that I can still exercise and train. He can’t. And it’s killing him. Obviously he has no interest in what I do – he’s more go hard or go home and I’m more oh let’s take a photo, finish line will still be there in an hour – but it’s not easy.

So off I go. In a complete mood don’t get me wrong, but I’m doing what he says. I get to the dreaded hill and I have to walk to the start point. Great bloody start. I have to remind myself everything’s changed in the last year and it affects my body greatly.

Off I go. Grumbling away under my breath. Just get it done. Come on. A couple of cars crawl past me and I mean crawl. Oh yeah, they’re having a really good look at the crazy lady running up and down a hill. Joe said do 3 repeats. I’m not coming all this way to just do 3. I’m doing 6. As I force the last one out, telling myself if I walk it doesn’t count, I realise what’s just happened.

He. Has. Played. Me.

How did he get 6 hill repeats out of me when I was only going to do 3 easy, flat miles??

I run back to work and text him. I’m not walking home. He can pick me up.

Which he does. With a grin slapped on his face.

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Thursday and Friday involved more ‘normal life’ and it was then big run Saturday. I say big run but it wasn’t really. ‘You need at least 12’ he says to me. Well that’s alright as I’m aiming for 14.

The plan was for Joe to cycle with the kids and chase me down then keep me company until their moans of child abuse got far too close to becoming a reality and he would head home. I set off, fully expecting to be caught within the first mile but put my music in to try and up my pace.

Mile 1 clicks by and they don’t so I aim to get to 2 before I’m caught. Still nothing. Ok. Let’s go for this. I know exactly where 3 miles is (having previously had to stop and vomit there before) so I set my sights on an impossible task. Every second rocking by I’m expecting to see my daughter sail by.

But. Nothing.

There’s absolutely no way I’ve out run them and realise there must have been some tantrum going on. Could have been from any of them – could have been all 3. By the time I get to 7 miles I’ve seen my first bumble bee (entirely relevant to my story) and I get a text saying ‘we will just see you at home’ with a laughing face. Can’t be too bad then.

My stomachs starting to go now so I make my way to Rodney to use the bathroom. I’m having to ‘pause’ every now and then and I’m beginning to think a walk might be in order. Then I check the time. Is 2:57pm. Rodney shuts at 3pm.

Thus commences the ultimate runners battle. Have you ANY idea how hard it is to run fast whilst also stopping dead for a wave to pass? Honestly – it’s like 3 steps forward one mighty lunge backwards in to the bushes.

The musics up full blast in an attempt to distract me from the potential volcano and I all but burst – as in person, not bodily fluids – in to the reception and beg to use the toilets, far too loudly thanks to my headphones. They are locking up but this is a case of life or death and thankfully they understand. Although I may pay for it next time I’m on shift there ha ha.

I manage a good few miles more but the hamstring and glutes start their ever reliable screaming so I call it quits at 16 miles.

16. I’m happy with that. I’m also happy with the pace. (Yes I did pause my garmin for the toilet saga). And I find out the reason they didn’t catch me was all down to a flat tyre. It was nice to think I had out run them for a little bit ha ha.

I’m not expecting miracles this weekend. I will be happy with a better time than Glen Ogle given – as far as I’m aware – this route is a lot flatter. However, this route requires more navigation. Could be a very interesting run!

Quite a bit has been happening over the last few weeks, and I’m not just talking the apparent change of seasons every day.  Let’s start with something uber exciting.

Couple of weekends ago it was the Scottish Cycling and Running Outdoor Pursuits Show (seriously, what a mouthful, couldn’t just call it a fitness show no?).  The weather was depressingly wet so spending the day wandering around stalls of trainers, bikes and gear was an attractive choice for a rest day.  We went with good old Frazer who had tagged along previously and can always be relied upon to come out on the bike with me.  After I whipped his ass on the travelator (I fell and I still beat him!) we were looking for somewhere to eat when we wandered past a small stall that only had one stand in the middle of it with some nutrition bars.  Now perhaps unsurprisingly I leave all the nutrition up to Joe as lets be honest, I don’t have a clue on that front.  As I go to walk past my eye catches something though.  Is that a Marathon Des Sables top up there?  Nice.  I look to the right and my jaw hits the ground.  I do a double take.  On the other side of the wall is none other than a Barkleys Marathon booklet, ripped out pages that clearly have been collected en route and a t-shirt.

‘Have you spotted the Barkleys t-shirt?’ a voice says to me.  I instantly turn in to a babbling teenager and ask stupid questions like have you actually been? Oh my god!

It’s clear I won’t be moving from this stall for a while so Joe and Frazer leave me in my awestruck trance and wander off.  The owner is selling a nutrition bar that he and his wife have devised and I learn that they are made not very far away from where we live at all.  I chat to the wife for a while and discover that she has taken up running as well and is down for a big race this year which is on my to do list.  I could have talked to her all day she was lovely.  I talk to James when he is free and he tells me lots of things about his adventures at the Barkelys.  Truly amazing.

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Joe comes past again and he tries the bars.  Unfortunately there are none to buy at the stall as they are just starting out so we go online to MACEBAR and order some.  Needless to say Joes already been diving in to them!

Now.  I don’t know if it was meeting someone who has actually done something as amazing as MDS and Barkleys, but I’ve managed to re-focus my attention to running.    I’ve been struggling with accepting that I am running slower right now and that I am still in bloody pain.  I’m signed up to an ultra at the end of the month which I want to complete as well as I can and enjoy.  Joe has also turned round and said he wants me to do well in it so together we have been planning my sessions.  He wasn’t keen on me doing the half marathon I had signed up for and I wasn’t really feeling it so when an opportunity at work came up it was a no brainer really and I didn’t go.  (It’s not like my new career plan ends with being a lifeguard and doing gym inductions so that was obviously going to come first)

So instead of running races I’ve been picking up extra shifts at work and we have been going for a nice family walk up a mountain and then Joe has been kicking me out of the car on the way back and telling me to run the 10/12 miles home.  No word of a lie.   Do you know how hard it is to run after walking up a Munro? (A Munro being a really big bloody mountain in Scotland).  Very hard!  This new style has been working though.  He has been telling me what to do and naturally I have done the opposite.  In a true happy marriage style.

Only joking.  It has been pushing me on.  And I have found that my mileage is back up and I am not caring about anything else.   We have even been out for a run together.  It was a very slow 5 miles before his hospital appointment but it was something.  And I didn’t even take a photo!  (Did it even happen then? It’s on Strava and Garmin – don’t worry, it did).   But it was only 5 miles and he claims I procrastinated too much so what did he do?  He sent me out on the ONE day we had snow and ice pelting down insisting I run for 2 hours!

THAT ladies and gentleman – is marriage!

Sod was sat at home in front of our lovely wood burning stove in the warmth with a green tea and gluten free bacon sandwich whilst I was being drenched by bloody boy racers recreating Frozen by spraying me with the slush puddles!  There were no Disney PG 13 glistening white snow phrases coming out of my mouth when they did that let me tell you.  I definitely let it ALL go!  This was then followed by a change from my pod cast to some solid angry girl music and my pace picked up.  Pink will forever be my go to ‘I hate the world’ soundtrack.

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11.5 miles I managed in that.  Less than Gestapos instructions of 2 hours but it was a good effort and I value my fingers and toes too much to take the frost bite risk.  Must remember 2 pairs of gloves next time – or at least some form of tissue, eugh.

So now I am 2 weeks away from my first proper ‘training’ race.  A 50km laid back trail run – just how I like them.  I have no intentions (read that as ability) to try and whack out a good time.  My goal is my mindset.  I want to run this race with a positive attitude and the occasional push saying ‘little bit further, just a little bit further’.   Maybe one or two less picture stops too – there is no viaduct to run over this time.

I do though know exactly what’s going to happen after it.  Joe is going to scrutinise every detail of my ‘performance’, including every sip of water and bite of flap jack, and then come up with a training plan for The One this year.   He’s already insisted on a 30 mile run by the end of April.

I like this though.  It’s motivating me.  Telling me I can’t do something does nothing for me.  I’m not one of those that turns round and says ‘watch me’.  I bloody hate being watched.  Hence why I hide behind a keyboard and my water logged antics aren’t on YouTube.  But someone telling me to do something – that I will do.  Obviously I’m not talking ‘jump off a bridge’ – although ironically my brother told me to do that and I did last year ha ha.  Single most STUPID thing I have ever done.  Only time I have seriously thought ‘this is a very bad idea with your heart Ella’.  Didn’t die though so, you know, all good.  Sorry Mr Cardio.

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Let’s see what the next two weeks brings and what happens on this training run.  Taking bets now to see how the element that is water will try and take me out.  We all know it’s going to happen.  Must remember to pack my arm bands.

A Punch To The Gut

Joe hasn’t been training as late due to not being well but now that we have a diagnosis for him and treatment has started things have been looking up for him.  So with that in mind I suggested we both go to the tri clubs swimming session last week.  To my surprise he agreed so I sorted child care (faithful Nanny to the rescue again) and searched for my swimming costume.  I couldn’t find the usual one I wear so had to grab my spare.  This would mean that instead of looking like an 8 year old little boy I was going to be paranoid over yet another camel toe situation.   The question remains – how can someone as small as myself have an ongoing issue with camel toes?

I don’t actually get a camel toe from said costume.  It’s just that, to me, it’s extremely high cut and therefore makes me feel very, very self conscious.  I reasoned with myself that once I was in the water it would be fine as no one would be able (or even want to) be looking in that area anyway.  I would just be the first in the water and the last out.  Job done.

On Wednesday’s the faster group swims first and the slower/not so fast/people like me who clearly have lane issues swim second.  So I sat at the side with another from my group – also called Jo but no ‘e’ – watching the first group and their coached session.

They swam a few lengths for warm up then headed down the deep end.  This is intriguing I thought as I babbled away to Jo about my stroking of another person on Monday, near death experience from ‘attack of the pug’ and the issues us women have of swimming costumes.  We chatted away occasionally glancing up at the deep end (we were monitoring but some of these swimmers are full Ironmen – not your typical parent I see at the pool holding their kids heads under the water to teach them a lesson (true story – you wouldn’t believe what I see at work!).

I’m talking away to Jo and as I look to the deep end to try and figure out what their session is I suddenly see the strangest thing.   Did I…..are they….no, I’m not seeing this right….really?

Yup.  I am indeed seeing this right.  They are practising floating.  I teach this to kids?  Really?  Well, ok, I can see some benefit to ensuring you are comfortable in the water and you get the feeling of being in control etc.  I find it quite tranquil actually so I begin to look forward to doing it in my session.

I get changed and jump in when it’s time to switch over and warm up.  The plan going well that no one can see my costume.  When I’m done I glance at the board.  It has been scrubbed and the tranquil session I thought I was about to have has been replaced with arm drills.  Hmmf.  Still.  Could be worse.  At least it isn’t leg drills.  We set off and complete the drills – hard at first until I get used to the feeling of swimming really slow but concentrating on my arms.  Drills done we congregate at the pool end again and the coach explains what we are about to do.

Get in to pairs and split the lane.  First person in the pair sprints 50m whilst the other climbs out and planks at the side until they finish.  She wants us to work on our core.  I hesitate, bearing in mind I’m wearing a costume I’m pretty sure would give a Kardashian a run for their money on inappropriateness.  This is uncomfortable.  I try not to draw attention to it and decide the best plan of action is to immediately get down in the plank position.  This however comes with it’s own set of issues.  A swimming costume does not hold ANYTHING in.  I try to ‘suck in my stomach’ but gravity clearly has the upper hand and starts messing with my head.  So now I am not only trying to prevent any wardrobe mishaps and end up looking like a desert animal who holds probably about the same amount of water as I am at this moment but I’m also trying to prevent my stomach from dangling down in a very slime like action.

How come the other group got FLOATING?!?!?  Bloody floating!!  Fat floats – I can float!!

Joes at the side in hysterics.  This is the last time I try and encourage him to get back in to working out.  Stuff it.  Let him get fat.  Then I won’t look like an oozing puddle of fatness at the side of the pool.

The planks turn in to squats and then press ups.  I turn in to a heap on the floor.  At one point I pretty much gave up and just had a nap whilst Jo pushed herself through what was now feeling like an impossible 50m sprint swim because all of our arms were dead.

They got floating!!

Session over and I now no longer care about any animal or Kardashian and just feel sorry for myself.  I thought my core was not bad but this just proved it’s not good.  The following couple of days confirmed this.  I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.  Although weirdly enough just on one side.  A colleague offered to even that up for me the next day.  I declined and stopped moaning about it so much ha ha.

So there you go.  Try and do a good thing by encouraging your partner to get back in the swing of things and you end up getting put through the pain mill.

I will of course be trying that session again.  Naturally.  I’m not letting basic exercises like that get the better of me.  I will however NOT be wearing the spare costume but will instead be covered neck to knee with the strongest spandex swim suit I can find.  Trust me, no one needs to see that ha ha.

 

 

A True Near Death Experience

After my disastrous unicorn run/walk/stumble last time I took to instagram to vent and it was mentioned that I may need more iron. My physio also explained because I had had such a long gap of not running it could have just been ‘runners stomach’. Either way, I went straight back on the iron tablets and headed out the following day for 8 miles.

As you do.

It actually went not too bad. The stomach subsided and the legs did hurt a little but not as bad as before. So the next day I decided to increase it to 10 miles.

I was sensible. I set off at a slow pace I intended to keep to. To help this I stuck to a pod cast and swerved the music. I again went along the river as Joe had been out just before me for a little tester run himself so I was following his route and adding some. I put on my hydration vest so I had water with me and a jacket as it looked like rain was imminent. And I do love a run in the rain!

Ambling along, listening to the owner of twitter talking about algorithms and how it actually works I was enjoying myself. Ok I’m no Mo Farah but I was moving and I was finally beginning to understand and ‘get’ Twitter (for someone who enjoys social media I’ve never bloody understood that platform). I stopped to take the usual arty/farty photos and carried on, telling myself this is good practice on trails for the ultra I’m doing.

Soon I see a familiar face too and yes it’s another stop but it would be rude not to and I’m not exactly going flat out. She tells me the route is 14km out and back from her house so I calculate I may have to find some extra to get my 10 miles. She also tells me not to run right down at the river as it’s not great for running and one slip will mean your in the water. Given that I am indeed that person guaranteed to fall in or be dragged in by the water I choose to heed her advice. I’ve still not forgotten the number of times water has tried to kill me! The bottomless puddle, the smash to the face of the water bottle – I’m lucky to still be alive honestly.

I see the fork in the trail and take the one away from the river. Oh yes. Today I have my sensible hat on thank you. Silently congratulating myself on acting responsibly I confidently follow the now tarmac path. Hmm. Didn’t expect to be going past houses. Thought it would still be trail. Ok never mind. I follow it round. And round. And round. And then stop.

I’m back at the fork. I’ve just done a circle. Bugger. Oh well, that’ll be some extra mileage then!

I finally find some more trail and decide to be a bit more adventurous so constantly pick the harder to follow route. Although with my sense of direction it’s not exactly my best plan. I pick my own way through thick, sharp branches and bushes and come ridiculously close to ending up the river but somehow I make it through! I head ‘back inland’ to get the extra mileage to make 5 before heading back along the same route to make my 10 miles.

Oh yes. I have a plan. And it’s bomb proof!

Not wanting to get lost I choose to run round the local park I have now found myself upon. I head round the edge and towards the play park where a couple are walking their dog.

As I get closer it spots me and starts running towards me. It looks friendly enough – ie it’s not frothing at the mouth – so I continue at my leisurely pace towards the park. The owners don’t react so I doubt it’s a ‘vicious killer’.

It gets faster towards me. It’s now bounding heavily, panting as it gets closer. I can feel the ground shudder with every thud of paw. Then all of a sudden it rears up on its back legs. It’s almost the same height as me now and this thing is big! It’s huge! The sun is blocked behind it’s gigantic figure. This dog is a tank! It’s front paws land on my leg and I’m stopped dead in my tracks. I try to stay upright because if I fall and this thing gets on top of me I’m going to be pinned. Think wizard of oz with the house landing on the winding witch. (Although not so sure why I am comparing myself to a wicked witch with a green face?)

I check my leg hasn’t snapped in two under the weight of the most solid dog I’ve seen. Still in one piece. Phew. I decide the best thing to do is to just carry on and get out of there – just in case it jumps up on my shoulders and tries the whole wrestle mania smack down on me.

What are the owners doing I hear you ask?

Laughing.

Not horribly or maliciously. But like the parent of a child would laugh at little John who just punched Sophie in the face. ‘What a scamp’ I can imaginary hear them say.

I decide it’s best just to keep running on, praying I can put run their little beast. When I get back to the river my glutes are hurting so I pause for a minute and glance down at my leg, praying I don’t see the bone.

There are 3 very bright claw marks across my leg. I immediately take a photo and text Joe.

‘You know that guy that killed a mountain lion when out running? Well I’ve just been attacked by a pug! No one died though.’

Yes ladies and gentlemen. It was a pug. One of the smallest and possibly cutest dogs in the world and I was ‘attacked’ by one. What followed in the next few days was torturous.

‘You mean to say you can’t out run a pug? How slow are you?’

‘How did that small and fat a dog manage to get you that far up your leg?! My word you’re small!’

‘I don’t understand. It’s a pug!’

It’s unclear just now if I will ever live this down but I’m trying to remain positive. I managed to continue my run after such a vicious attack from one of the worlds deadliest animals. I was able to get away without having to resort to taking its life. And I have lived to tell the tale. Even if it is a tremendously embarrassing one.

Who said running was boring?

The Belly’s Gonna Get You

Ok 10 days – 10 solid days.  24 hours in each of them and I didn’t run once.  Not once.  I even dramatically cut down my steps every day aided by the fact I was teaching and not on pool side for 3 of those days.  Surely that was going to be long enough to get rid of the issue in my butt.

The day was set.  Schools were off (are they ever on?!) and my mum was having Oliver so I could get out and get it done.  10 miles.  That’s my aim.  This is going to be BRILLIANT!  10 pain free miles, including hills, pushing on the down hill cause I love to scare myself and almost fall (not so great when a little pee comes out but hey, it happens).  The route was planned.  I would catch up on all the miles I had missed in those very long 10 days.

Then my mum said she was staying in town so running to her house didn’t really work.  Ok.  No problem.  Different route then.  Hmm.  Well, to be honest, 10 miles might be pushing it.  Probably not the best idea to push that out just in case it pushes me back and deem the rest completely pointless.  Ok.  Up the river then.  And it feels good I ‘could’ always add on the extra (and by could I obviously mean I’m 100% doing 10 miles but trying to fool myself that I am not).

Oliver happily waddles off with his Nanny having not seen her in a little while.  Lucie (my daughter) has only just got out of bed in that typical ‘I’m a teenager I need to sleep’ state.  Ok.  T-shirt and shorts.  Where’s my shorts?  WHERE’s my shorts! HOW do your clothes go missing so quickly when you don’t wear them?  For goodness sake!  Can’t find them and the other pair are currently swirling round the washing machine.  Sake.  Ok,  I will try out my new adidas leggings.  Oooohh these are nice!  Little bit camel toe but no one should be looking there! Really comfy though (not the camel toe part, I can’t feel that, just looks like that).

Garmin on and I opt for music instead of a pod cast because this WILL be a great run!  It’s going to be all flying through the air with grace and speed.  There may even be rainbows.  Off I go.  Yup.  It’s awesome!  I feel great.  Little tricky breathing but that will settle down.   Pants appear to be falling down though (thank goodness I don’t run in a skirt).  I discreetly try to pull them back up – and by discreetly I mean I ram my hand down and yank them up so I now have a thong to go along with my camel toe.  I’ve opted for along the river which is flat because I know I love it further up.  I get to one km (this used to be my original 5km route when I started running so I know where every kilometre is ha ha).  Hmm, stomach is a bit funny.  I did do my pre run visit though so all should be good.  Maybe it’s just the Trek bar I had last night, it had chocolate on the top.  I get to a mile and have to stop.  I have to stop!  Nope, this definitely isn’t just a bit of chocolate.  It’s one mile!  Come on!

Ok back off running.  That was just a blip, ignore it.  8mins 20 for your first mile is still better than what you have been doing.  Half a mile more and my stomach is cramping.  What the actual hell.  Nope nope nope I will run it off!  No no no you won’t Ella!  I’m stopped at mile 2 again.  Every single human in the world is now looking at me wondering if I even know how to run as I am spending more time resting than actually moving.  Even those at their desks working away can see me and are just staring.  Paranoid much.  Ok get moving.

Mile 3 and I have to sit down.  Head in my hands.  Curled up in a ball.  I check my phone to see if Joe is nearby.  Dunfermline.  He sends me a photo of the golden post box.  I choose not to tell him I am out running and in need of a lift home due to a sore stomach.  I consider phoning my mum but I know I could get home faster by myself.  Do I really want to walk though?  Am I honestly going to walk when I should be running?   Not a chance.  I stand up and realise I have of course sat in mud and now look like I have poo’d myself.   Just another thing to add to the list.  Fantastic.  What’s next?  My sports bra breaks?  Let’s not joke about these things.

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3.5 miles and it’s another stop as I’m convinced I’m about to throw up.  The smell from the abattoir is most certainly not helping.  Note to self, if you ever learn how to run again don’t come along the river anymore.  It is actual death.  Although if someone could kill me now I’m not sure I would object.

Onward’s I go in my camel toe, pants falling down, mud that looks like poo on my bum state of athleticism.   Aren’t I setting the perfect picture example to all around.  (Which thankfully is no one even if I do think I’m on the Truman Show – is that a camera on that tree?).  I’m stopping constantly but my goal is 4 miles and then I will walk home.  2 miles is too far not to run so I force myself to go to 5 miles switching tactics and putting a pod cast on.  It’s a guy that has walked across the Antarctic in 54 days unsupported.  Well don’t I feel bloody pathetic!  I’ve stumbled to 4 miles and am doing the whole ‘I can’t go on’.  Suck it up.  I plod along eventually making it to 5 miles, pace has gone out the window – obviously – and keep going to stop and walk but instead….just keep going.  Stubbornness.  Pure stubbornness.

I get home and lie down straight away.  Lucie asks if she should phone Nanny.  What a mess!  I tell her no it’s just a little sore stomach, nothing much.  ‘I thought it was your legs that hurt mum?’

My legs!  I haven’t felt my legs – or my butt – at all!  Well just a little in the hamstring but nothing really.  But then to be fair I wasn’t exactly running.  So it wasn’t really a good test.  Still, I’m taking that as a positive.

So that was that.  My first run after 10 days rest which should have been all rainbows and smooth flying but was instead cramping soreness with god only knows what going on with my bottom half – no leg or butt pain though!

Who said running was boring?

How is this happening?

Serious question. Needs to be asked in all caps.

HOW IS THIS STILL HAPPENING??

I’m still suffering from pain in my glutes and hamstring. That’s a year. An entire year! 52 weeks, 365 days – a bloody year!!

Yes I still managed to hobble round a 100km race and a 33 miler but they weren’t exactly stellar performances! Quite frankly they were borderline embarrassing. In fact, let’s not talk about them. Given a baby could crawl faster.

I had a few weeks of next to no running – just 2/3 days. Slight improvement. I mean, I can run a few miles before the pain hits. I no longer care about my pace as my focus is distance so if I’m doing 9 minute miles than so be it. Even if it is just a 5 mile run. But I would prefer it to be closer to 8 let’s be honest.

I’ve been back to physio who discovered I had no reaction what so ever to being hit by a hammer (very strange as I was immensely worried my leg would fly up and kick her in the face but nope, nothing). Are you doing any stretching or exercises to help your legs she asks me.

Ermmmm

This is the odd bit. You see I very much know exactly what I should be doing to help build up my incredible lack of muscle (sometimes I wonder how I’m able to walk my body appears to be that pathetically weak right now) but for some unknown reason I’m just not doing them. I have no discipline what so ever. It’s insulting. The drive and thirst has gone. I can run. It hurts like a mother f…. but I can run. Therefore the arrogance – or could it be laziness – in me has decided to go f@ck it. Run slow, run in pain, but don’t try to fix it.

I would love at this point to say ‘well enough is enough!’ Or something equally as self righteous and poignant but I know it would be a lie. So I’m not going to. I’m not going to declare some huge master plan of how I’m going to fix myself and get back to the goal of a 3:45 marathon. Nope. I’m just going to honestly say – bleurgh.

2 days ago I had planned a 10 mile run. I should be running further just now but 10 miles fitted in to the days schedule. I forced myself to 7 and phoned to get picked up. I was on my way to my parents and Joe was bringing the car anyway so it was more of a ‘don’t drive past me pick me up please’ request. It hurt. It hurt really bad. I carried on and just as the garmin said 9 miles our car pulled up in front of me.

The old me, the me a year ago, would have said ‘it’s only another mile, doesn’t matter, I will see you there’ and forced that last torture. Not now. Not that day. And I’m so glad I didn’t. It didn’t stop hurting until the next day. I couldn’t sit comfortably, couldn’t lie in bed easily, it just hurt all the time.

So after reality hit me on the head (or arse to be more accurate) I decided I have no choice but to stop running for a solid 5 days.

I’m on day 2 and it is KILLING me. I’ve been to the gym, I’ve been swimming, I’ve bought 2 more books to read and countless magazines but oh my god I’m bored!! And restless.

But every time I think ‘maybe just a few miles’ I remember stopping at mile 9 of my 10 mile run. I don’t do that. That isn’t me. So something was killing me.

I’ve booked an ultra for the end of March. I can’t really afford any time off training. But if I can’t really run it what’s the freaking point?

I also have another race in which there is someone who is going to try their damnedest to beat me. I am their target, I am their goal. If I’m honest, it’s that that has maybe finally made me get up off the couch and do my stretches. It’s pee’d me off I won’t lie. Yes I pick people to try and beat in a race but not people who are injured! That’s not a win! Have some respect.

Do I have a grand master plan? No. Are they going to beat me? There’s a high possibility. The ultra – at the moment – is my main focus, not that piddily wee race. So if I have to slow down to prevent further issues I will (I say that now but on the day…. who knows).

As you can probably tell I’m just a bit frustrated right now. Im fed up of my arse hurting and I just want to run. Pain free. I’ve found an entertaining pod cast that helps keep my sludge of a pace even so I’m ready for Saturday to lace up the trainers and get out there.

Will I last it out until Saturday? Who knows. Will I completely fall out of love with running if I don’t run until Saturday? That’s a fear, I won’t lie. What if I decide to just stop altogether? (I’m starting to have a panic attack now).

We will see.