The Devilla

I ran the Carnegie Harriers Devilla Trail Race last year and I remember being really worried I wouldn’t make the cut off.  It wasn’t the type of running I was used to so I had no idea if I could do it.  Thankfully, I did manage to cross the line before the sweeper so I duly signed up again this year – as you do.  Despite it still not being my type of running.

A 15km trail race doesn’t bring with it the same fears as it used to but that doesn’t mean I’m any better at running them now.  The aim was to beat last years time but the reality was it was unlikely.  I’ve found now I’m concentrating on distance my sub conscious refuses to let me go fast (well, fast for me, maybe not compared to everyone and definitely not compared to most but, fast in my terms).

A couple of days before and the weather returned to it’s usual troublesome self.  Jack Frost seriously needs to do one and let the Easter bunny make an appearance.  Shorts and a vest were unlikely.  But trousers could cause issues when caked in mud and at this race, that was a guarantee.  I decided to make the decision when I was there so packed both.  I also packed a towel for a shower after, congratulating myself on being organised.  For once.

Suitcase in hand I went along to registration where I was handed a bottle of beer.  Scheihallion to be exact.  I rarely drink but I do like this craft beer.  I briefly considered opening it pre-race, you know, for that extra boost.  That little drop of Dutch courage.  And if I’m honest, the only reason I didn’t was because it wasn’t cold (sacrilege).  The entire walk to the start line I was debating whether this had been a good decision or not.

I went with shorts – the cold was no longer keeping these cellulite enhanced legs covered up – and a long sleeve top under the club vest.  At the start I bumped into a few fellow road runners.  We had quite a few running the 15km and some doing the 5km.  No one was drinking the beer – yet.  I also saw a couple of people from our local tri club who came over and said hello, so quite a few from Perth!

We started talking about what was ahead and Catriona, who had also ran it last year, reminded me of the bottle neck section.  She mentioned she had been caught up in it last year and had had to wait to get through.  I remembered people just stopping in front of me and trying to go round them.  I looked up and realised we were probably starting a bit too far back and were likely to get caught in it this year.

Yet I didn’t move forward.

Big mistake.  Huge.

The whistle went and we found we were walking to the start line.  And then walking past the start line.  And then still walking.  Nope, nope, no.  This won’t do.  You’re meant to be running!  I veered left and tried to cut my way up through the pack.  I managed to get some room and then we went off the forest track and into the woods.

The path shrunk. We were no longer on a wide forest road but we were on a single track.

The mud didn’t bother me, it’s a trail run, you’re not going to stay clean, and the pre-race email made it very clear wearing brand new trainers probably wasn’t wise if you wanted them to stay looking new.  However, it appeared some people were determined to do all they could to stay pristine.

‘Come on man it’s only mud! Get in there!’

A fellow runner took the words out of my mouth.  I enjoyed this race last year but this part was frustrating like hell.  Who stops in the middle of a race? You just go for it!

We eventually came to a little fork and the path on the right slowed way down again so I went left.  Good move Ella, I thought to myself.  You’ll get round the ones not moving and be able to keep running.  Pushing forward I was still in my smug state when I glanced over at the fork on the right only to discover that the people I could now see where actually behind me before I had taken that turn.  No.  I was not so smug now.

We joined up with the original path and again I went to the left to try and weave my way through, crashing through the bushes and going knee high in the mud.  There was no way I was beating last years time now but I could still push for a good finish.  Back on the forest track and we had more space – finally.  Now it was up hill and I could spot Nigel from the tri club in front of me.  Slowly I creeped up.  Not in a stalker ‘I’m going to kill you’ kind of way, but more of a ‘this is a steep hill and walking would be faster but I’m stubborn’ kind of way.  As soon as I was within ear shot of him I took a deep breath and shouted out ‘Nigel, I’m coming for you.  Very slowly but I’m coming!’.  He didn’t turn round.  Oh my god is that not Nigel? Mortified I didn’t know what to do. The runner on my right turned to look at me, clearly wondering who I was taking to. Oh my god could this get any worse?

Ok do I slow down and let them go then hope I don’t catch up with them? No, they will get to the finish line first and therefore see me when I finish and no doubt point me out as the weirdo who thought she knew someone but didn’t and then was too slow to keep up.

Oh the pressure!

Ok. You’ll need to speed up and get past them. Then you’ll need to stay past them. Oh god I can’t run that fast for that long!

I put my head down and slowly, very slowly, get alongside ‘not Nigel’.

It IS Nigel! Oh thank god! He says hi as I go past and I oh so very briefly get the lightest of reliefs that it is him and I’m not quite that weird.

Then realise how stressed out I got about the situation – which lasted all of 10 seconds by the way – and have to admit defeat. I’m a bit weird.

Thankfully there are no further issues and I even manage to keep my hands to myself and not have the same intimate connection with the bush at the infamous plank as I did last year! The 10km sign is still in the wrong place but I’m ready for that. I do giggle as I remember the older guy from last year and his comment of ’10km my @rse!’.

Approaching the finish and I manage a little sprint to get it over and done with and I can hear some lovely people shouting my name as I do. I’m not going to lie. I love that.

Gillian is just seconds behind me and Nigel is just behind her. Poor Gillian fell over in the mud and as she shows me her completely covered right hand side she points out my leg is bleeding. Oh yeah, I picked up some more war wounds! My right leg is scratched like a cats post. Seasoned runner right here ha ha.

I head to the showers with my bag so I can get changed before the cold sets in. I pull out my clean clothes and my towel and……

It’s not a towel.

It’s a tiny piece of material you use for the turbo or spin bike when you’re really sweaty! I may be small but I’m not that small. Trying to get a wash and shower with that was not fun.

So no. I didn’t beat last year’s time. But I did feel I ran a better race. Excluding my little detour of and starting too far back. The beer is still in the fridge and I have great plans to drink it this weekend after my long run. There is every chance that one beer will have me drunk but hey, it’s worth it.

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Headspace

Marathon – and Ultra – training requires long runs. I know right? Mind. Blown! Bet you’re glad you’re reading this.

After the last few weeks I knew I needed a long run to myself, to sort the fuzz out of my head get the fresh air circulating around in there. (Because let’s face it, there’s either too much or too little going on inside my noggin).

I politely ignored the offers of company for Saturday morning. I had to do this by myself. I also had to do it Saturday and not Sunday as it was the clubs presentation night (proof there is occasionally something going on in my head). My plan was to head out at about 7am to get a relaxed 10 or 11 miles in before Parkrun. At 6:30am my alarm went off and at 7am I eventually got up. At about quarter to 8am I was good to go. Podcast on and laced up.

I headed up to my brothers. My parents have rather inconveniently moved into his in the last few months so I’ve found myself avoiding going past their old house. I knew from the previous week it was 2.8 miles from his front door to the Parkrun start line and I also knew it was about 2 miles from my own front door to the same place so that should make at least 5 if not 6 miles near enough.

There’s that ‘Ella maths’ again.

I won’t tell you what podcast it was I was listening to but I did feel the need to turn it down when ever I passed anyone. Put it this way, my dad definitely didn’t write it!

It felt good, my pace felt good. I had a bit of a pain in my right heel but all was ok. I trundled along then started the delightful climb up to my brothers. Why did he have to live up this hill? I told myself just to deal with it and felt pleased that I was obviously over 5 miles in and still feeling good. I get to his house and I of course stop to take a photo to send to him.

‘Guess where I am’.

The reply – rather surprisingly – comes instantly back.

‘You better not have a key!’ Sheer panic. My job here is done.

I check my watch.

4.1 miles?!? Aw come on! Where am I going to go now?

I head back down the hill switching from laughing at my brother to cursing at my miscalculation. Realising I am now running my well trodden lunch time route I switch it up and take a turn towards the swimming pool. I quite enjoy not really knowing where I am going (pretty much the story of my life anyway) and just take the odd turn here and there.

I impress myself by calculating the 10 miles down to Parkrun before the start. As I come back on to our park I spot Lorner and her son who are well into their volunteering spree – must be over 20 times now I think. I stop to say hi and she quickly updates me on their own running (4 miles the day before). Have to admit I’m a little jealous her son willingly runs with her. I’m pretty sure my eldest isn’t alive between Monday’s and Thursdays and then lives in the nightclubs at the weekends – spot the 18year old. My daughter flatly refuses to run and even a bribe of a poster of her favourite boy band doesn’t work – stroppy 13 year old. Then there’s the youngest. He’s 4. Let’s just say I’m working on that one (mwah hah hah).

Off to the start line and I notice I didn’t stop my watch when I was talking to Lorner, drat. Well no biggie. I also use Strava and that has auto stop. I spot a few road runners and go and say hi. I get a few comments on my hydration vest (have you been for a few miles already?) and should probably take it off at this point but truth is I just can’t be bothered. Im well aware I look like a twat running 5k with a back pack full of supplies (my Wonder Woman keyring, plasters, spare headphones oh and water) but I’m getting cold standing around waiting to start again. Turns out I hadn’t timed it too well after all.

We all shuffle together as we are about to start and I feel these hands on my shoulders. Then I’m moving. Slightly upwards, and then to the side. A very tall man then steps in front of me.

‘Did he just move you?’ Gillian asks.

I’m a bit dumbfounded by it and just nod my head.

‘I think he did!’ I reply.

I make a joke about it being ‘game on’ (yeah ok, because the 10 miles you just ran will put you in a great position to challenge someone to a race!) the whistle goes and we are off.

It’s carnage. Utter carnage. The route has been changed to 2 laps round the Inch and it feels like everyone around us are running like headless chickens. Mr Mover is still in front of me and I see him diving here there and everywhere. But no. He doesn’t trip up.

Eventually I get a little space and just settle in for the 3 miles. I speak to quite a few others as we head round and I just stay comfortable, the pain in my heel threatening to burst out in song any minute. I wave my usual ‘morning’ to Lorner and her son as I pass by both times and to the other volunteers and cross the line in an acceptable time for what I’m doing.

I head back home and I now feel like I’ve run a bit of a distance but I feel ok. Nowhere near as depressed and sluggish as the last couple of runs so that’s good. My head is cleared! I may even thank Mr Mover slightly for his unnecessary lifting and shifting. (I won’t though, it was slightly offensive, I’m not that small, could have just asked).

15miles. I will take that. For the first time ever my Garmin recorded it faster than Strava. Looks like my auto pause wasn’t working. This surprisingly doesn’t bother me too much though. I enjoyed the run and that was my aim. I’ve still a very, very long way to go to hit my target but I’m beginning to see the first small steps of improvement.

I’ve got 8 weeks. I can do this.

It’s All Lies

It’s All Lies

Who ever claimed ‘couples who workout together stay together’ clearly was not part of a couple!

We’ve tried, a few times, to do our training together. Not once has it been successful. It generally goes something like this – ‘slow down, you’re going too slow, you need to tell me before the turn, you should try it this way’.

It’s that last one. That ‘I know best’ attitude I find the hardest. Just NO!

We both ran round Loch Leven a couple of weekends ago. It wasn’t a great pace I admit. I’m finding speed really difficult at the moment and it’s getting me down. I told him the 13 miles was going to be about a 2 hour run at the start. It started off ok. He was ‘glowing’ in an aura of ‘I’m so much faster than you.’ I would liken it to running with a dog who goes here there and everywhere. Yes, that’s right, I just compared my husband to a dog. Deal with it.

I ignored it. Focused on my own running. My legs were really sore and tired so it was an easy distraction. I even managed to bite my tongue through his comments of ‘you’re rolling your left foot in’ and ‘you slow down so much on a hill, you should really try to go faster’. The last one almost gained him a swift kick but, like I said, my legs were sore.

Today we did the same route again but in reverse. His choice. Again it started ok. There’s heavy snow on the ground and conditions are difficult so it was single file at the start. I was actually in front. Shock. Horror. Obviously this didn’t last. He went in front and took off. After about a mile of having at least 100 meters between us he eventually waited for me to catch up. He then said ‘Are you not feeling well? You’re quite a bit slower than usual’.

The rage hit about an 8. I festered on this for the next few minutes. I was still trying to stop the steam coming out of my ears when he said ‘there’s a runner coming up behind us.’

What the bloody hell did he think WE were???? Freaking joggers??!! Are you ACTUALLY kidding me?!?

That was it. It was all guns blazing then. I’m talking tantrum central! It started with running related issues – you know the usual of you’re meant to be running with me not a couple of hundred metres down the trail etc – and carried on through every tiny little niggle possible. Including leaving his socks on the floor. (Although he probably didn’t hear that one as I’m pretty sure only dogs could hear my squealing by that point). He definitely heard the one about him using all of the cliff shots he bought ME for my birthday!

Of course, because I was letting off more steam than the Flying Scotsman, my pace slowed even more. He started arguing back but very quickly realised the only way out of this was to try desperately not to laugh and make the situation worse. And naturally when we came across other people on the trail I quickly switched from psychotic, screaming wife to happy runner woman who politely said hello with a smile on my face.

Couples are NOT made to work out together. Fact! They just aren’t compatible for that kind of pressure. Show me a couple who claim they never argue and never hate each other ever and I will introduce you to the current President of America.

By the time we finished our 12 miles of World War 3 the snow started up again – but I did feel better! Ironically so did he. Not that I cared about that at the time.

Will we go running together again? Well….. certainly not any time soon. Next Sunday I’m joining the club for their run and he can do what ever he damn well pleases.

Less chance of us wanting to kill each other that way.

3 Weeks Already

For anyone who doesn’t own a calendar (or a mobile or a watch with the date on it) it’s now 3 weeks in to 2018.

That means less than 3 months until Manchester Marathon. My first big task of the year. The one race I need speed for. Not the drug! Let me be clear. I mean pace.

Up until recently it’s not been there. I was panicking. Every run was ‘slow’ – not where I needed to be. It should be 8m20 pace but I was coming in at more 8m45. That’s way off! Yes I did Marcothon in December, yes it’s snowing and there’s ice on the ground but I should still be faster.

Theres been a few spanner’s in the works, a few adjustments needing made. I’ve had a things come up at work that have thrown off my routine – and my god do I hate it when my routine is messed with. I can feel the words ‘f@cked off’ burning on my forehead. But luckily, I do have people around me that understand. I started noticing more and more of the ‘head tilt’ (think Monica and Richard in Friends) and hearing more ‘You’ve not been for a run have you’. It’s ok I didn’t kill anyone. But I have started moving a lot more quickly to solution mode when this happens. Lunch runs have moved to late afternoon and occasionally straight after work.

Then there was the work trip to London for the day which meant a 5am start and a 10:30pm finish. It turned out to be a 2:30am start as my youngest was up ill in the night. This distracted me all day but I ‘coped’. His dad took the day off so I knew he was fine. I only hid in the bathroom twice when I started to panic – quite an improvement. And I was distracted by the many funny looks when ever I chose the stairs instead of the escalators. Apparently no one in London uses stairs!

And then, The Plague hit my house. Everyone- and I mean everyone – got it. First it was the youngest, then it was Joe, then Lucie. My oldest was told to stay at a friends (he’s 18, spends most his time out or in bed anyway). I sent him a lovely text. ‘Don’t come home, you’ll get sick, stay at a friends’. Best mum ever award right there.

The dogs being sick was the final straw for me. That almost broke me. I can handle most things. Holding Lucies hair back whilst fetching Oliver water and getting pain killers for Joe is fine. Cleaning up what comes out of a dog? Not so much.

Take your vitamins people!

When I eventually returned to work I was met with a meeting booked during my lunch run time. I then discovered my work had been allocated 3 London Marathon places and they had just been handed to certain people. No opportunity for selection. None of the ‘clear and transparent’ behaviour they like to drill in to us. You can imagine the rage. So when I eventually got a break I hit the treadmill. Hard. 5k in 23mins 16secs. Bye bye 8m 45 pace.

Then last night it was hills with the road runners. Now I’m most certainly not saying it was easy but it was slightly easier than last time. After checking good old Strava I noticed that my running in January 2017 was the same. It was slower. I found the month hard. The penny dropped.

Clearly, like many others, I just find January a hard month to get moving. But that’s ok. Get over it. Do your hills, do your track and it will come together.

Plus I got quite a lot of new running gear so it would be a shame for that to go to waste ha ha.

Annual Reflections

I love a ‘reflection’ post. The ‘ah I remember that’ happy smile and the ‘I swear I could have drowned!’ moments. Come to think of it there were many close calls…..

I sank on the 1st January when I went straight down instead of straight forward swimming in the New Years Day Tri. That taught me to think properly when something changes. It also taught me I’m not a fish.

There was the close encounter with the ice cream van that then impaled me on the solid iron sewar cover leaving a lovely hole in my cheek. (Wasn’t an ice cream van but it was that close to my face I could have licked it). This was quickly followed by the UFO that was the first aid kit, launched across the road and landing on said hole in cheek. Im no doctor but I don’t think that’s how you use the red bag.

There was the death defying descents on the Hill Series. The many chants of ‘you’re ok Ella, you’re not going to die, I AM GOING TO DIE!!’. Barry assures me this will be good practise for the Highland Fling next year. I’ve hired a Sherpa, just in case.

And of course the heart thing. It threw a spanner in the works for getting my GFA, made me pull out of a number of races and taught me the importance of an extremely good sports bra. But it’s still beating and I’m still running. No pace maker this year.

I couldn’t not mention ‘that’ swim that was Edinburgh Half Ironman. Now that was genuinely half an hour of fighting for survival! Had I actually looked at the sea before getting in I’m really not sure I would have. And had I heard the true horror stories of what was happening I would have turned around and legged it. But I did it, and I did it faster than Joe. (Sticks tongue out in laughter all too aware he would whip my ass now).

But yes! Half Ironman! An actual Half Ironman! We did it! Joe actually did 3 in the end but I’m happy with my one – for now.

And an Ultra! Ah yes the Ochils Ultra. What a learning experience that was. First being to actually look at the name. OcHILS. Hills. Meaning not flat. So 6 days after a marathon not exactly the best idea. And seriously, who would have thought there was a real danger of drowning when out running?!? I’m still not over that. But the counselling is going well….

A very happy memory of 2017 is our youngest’s first ever Parkrun. Just days after turning 4. That was immense. Unfortunately it may have been just a little too far for him and I don’t want to be a pushy parent so we are taking it slowly. I refuse to be one of those parents dragging their kids around the course telling them off for being too slow and not trying.

And last but by no means least – my sub 4hour marathon. Looking back I honestly don’t know how I pulled that one out the bag. 3hrs 55mins 26secs. But I’m going to run that fast again, even faster. And I’m going to get my GFA!

So a few knocks and a few drownings amongst the 35 races I completed. A couple of scars, definitely too many toilet related stories and more missed targets than I am happy with but my god I’ve had some absolutely incredible finish lines, met some fantastic people and made some very happy memories.

Definitely. Can’t. Complain.

(Even though I did. I’m talking Oscar worthy whinging!)

Next year it’s Parkrun!

When the other half suggests we both do a race my trainers are on before he’s finished speaking.

Well. Let me tell you. What a sorry lesson I’ve learned from that!

One of his customers had told him about a hill race near where he lived. 2 days before Christmas. Im still doing Marcothon so thought I could do that as part of it.

Stupidly thought. Very stupidly thought.

It was a Saturday morning so the choice was between that and Parkrun. I chose to mix it up and go for the hill race. Why not?

It was less than half an hour away and when I looked it up on the morning of the race it was your typical small field of runners. All the feedback on it was positive so how bad could it be. There was a bag check at registration and it was a short walk to the start.

At the start I bumped into Chris who I’ve met at a couple of other races. He pointed out a bit to save energy for (Scotland’s famous for ‘fake tops) and said he ran it last year in about 55mins.

It’s 4 miles. Oh right. I know it’s a hill race but what goes up comes down doesn’t it? And usually much faster?

Joe saw a few people he knew as well including an older woman from his tri club and the guy who had suggested the race.

Off we went and I stuck close to the back. The Hill Series with Perth Road Runners taught me enough to know I’m a finisher and nothing more. Usually in the last 10 as well. God loves a trier though.

Flat but bumpy under foot to begin with then a bit of mud then BAM.

Vertical.

And it didn’t stop.

Ever!!!

‘It’s ok’ I told myself. ‘There’s always a flat bit somewhere’. Nope! Not at this race.

This was my 23rd day of running at least 3 miles a day on the trot. This was beginning to hurt.

Just a few steps later – yup, this really hurts.

I was beginning to wonder if I should stop. Turn round and finish my miles near the car where it was flat whilst waiting for Joe to finish. I looked at my watch.

0.6 miles!! Are you kidding me?? That’s all?!? Oh Ella maybe you really should stop. This isn’t a healthy kind of pain.

It must end soon though surely? There’s always a little flat but to recover on.

Not in this race.

The first mile eventually clicked by. 20 minutes after starting. Just don’t say anything. You don’t need to.

After 7 days and nights on the side of this hill I reached the Marshall at the top pointing me to the right. I tried to run but my legs had gone back to the car so it was more of a bambi walk than anything. At 1.45 miles the lead runner came past me. I hadn’t even made it half way yet. Joe wasn’t too far behind the lead pack and I could tell he was thinking the same as me. What the actual f@ck were we playing at?

Down the treacherous path of rocks and mud and I slipped and slide my way past Chris and a few others (all heading back of course). I got down to the ‘big rock’ and went round it, moaning as usual to the marshalls – ‘oh my god why am I doing this!’.

Now I was heading back up and I could see there were only a handful of people behind me. The thought crossed my mind I could be finishing last. I didn’t like this. Last race of the year and there was a high probability I was going to be last.

Back across the top and it was down the vertical drop we had come up. Ah, now I can make some time back and hopefully scrape back a few places.

I slipped.

Nope!! Not doing that. I will take my time thank you very much! What a stupid bloody thing to do when you’ve an Ultra to train for you stupid woman!! This is just a ‘fun’ race for you! Take your time idiot!

I went over my ankle at 3 miles and did that whole ‘oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, keep running, keep going, does it hurt? I don’t know! Ok just keep running. Nope, it’s ok. Phew’.

Every runners done that. Be honest.

I eventually came off the side of the mountain (yes it was a mountain) and hit the flat section. Finally. But my legs were jelly. Actual jelly. I could have been a cowboy. After a few strides they settled down and I pushed on knowing the finish was close. I could see someone in front of me but I didn’t have time to catch him.

I crossed the line and promptly told the other half we were doing Parkrun next year and not this race. Nope. No sir. Not me. No hills thank you. 1hr 7 it took me. To do 4 miles!

To say I’m in pain today does not cut it. I’ve been in better shape after running a marathon than I am today. In fact, I was better after the ultra! Leg days in the gym ain’t got nothing on a hill race! And I had to run today!! Marcothon is going to be the death of me.

When all is said and very sore it’s a greatly run race. Very friendly, fantastic spread, great marshalls. The only problem is the elevation ha ha. Almost 1000 feet in the first mile. I mean seriously, who enjoys that? (Not me, definitely not me).

All Right Our Kid?

The problem with ‘putting yourself out there’ is that, well, not everyone wants you.

Take London for example. Not just one, but two rejections this year. London – you upped your game – well played.

Then there’s Berlin. Odds are higher, should be easier to get in.

Nope.

‘You are not one of the lucky winners’.

Talk about kicking someone when they’re down. Ballots – you are not my friend.

So what races am I going to run next year?

I have a few up my sleeve. They may not be London or the ‘exotic’ Berlin (clearly I haven’t been), but they are still going to be big races in my books.

First, a marathon. After a bit of discussion on the best PB marathon course that will fit in with my other plans I have chosen Manchester.

It’s the same day as London so I will be completely distracted from the one that got away. Instead of moping about, glued to the tracker and wishing I was there I will be entirely focused on the Manchester finishing line. And most importantly, reaching that line in under 3hrs 45minutes.

It will be all ‘pace, pace, pace’ instead of ‘woe is me, pass me a tissue’.

Unless of course, it measures short again….

(Oh yeah, I went there. I’m sure they won’t make the same mistake twice though. Could you imagine!).

So here we go again. Another round of marathon training. But THIS time, it’s not about the distance. It’s about that clock.

Tick tock tick tock.