Sticks and Stones

In just a few days I will be a broken woman.  (Nothing new there then for 2018!)

No, jokes aside, in 3 days I am going to be running in the only goal race that I have managed to hold on to this year.  But one is better than zero.  And it’s a biggie!

100km.  62 miles.  And it doesn’t finish at Stonehenge. You’ve no idea how disappointed I was when I figured that one out (much to Joe and my fathers amusement).

Q. Why call it Race To The ‘Stones’ then? Hmmf

The injuries lifting and I’m running again. I’ve lost so much speed and it’s really dis-heartening but at least for this challenge speed isn’t what I need. It’s discipline. The dreaded discipline of running sensibly, efficiently, listening to your body.

It’s been a long time since I did something that has had me this anxious and worried. But if it doesn’t scare you it’s not worth it? Well I’ve been needing a constant change of underwear every time I’ve thought about this so consider me well and truly scared.

I don’t know what it is that has me like this though. It doesn’t make sense. I’m back running. It’s an ultra so it’s got nothing to do with time, just the finish line. There’s no clock watching on this run. I’ve read many, many comments and the mantra is always ‘run the flats and walk the hills – conserve energy’.

Is it the fact I’m by myself for 100km? All my training runs are done alone. And I will admit, recently I’ve been feeling very lonely. I don’t have a ‘group’ or a ‘squad’ helping me along when it’s hard. And sometimes it’s been really hard. But most my running has been like that. I occasionally go out with Lorner (after which we congratulate ourselves with copious amounts of wine ha ha) but not that often. We have different running plans. I used to have my lunch time running buddy but then life changed. I like running alone, it’s my head space time, but maybe too much head space is bad for you?

As for the idea of camping at base camp over night by myself with hundreds of strangers, not knowing a soul? Well I would definitely say that’s a contributing factor. But it’s not it entirely.

It’s maybe the thought of failure. The very real possibility of hundreds of reasons why I could not make it.

  1. It’s bloody far
  2. My training has been to pot thanks to being bloody injured
  3. I failed at Manchester
  4. I had issues at Loch Katrine
  5. I have no speed in my legs at all
  6. I got pulled from the Highland Fling so what makes me think I can do this?
  7. It’s hot. So damn hot. Like the sun has forgotten that Scotland is a no fly zone, restricted area, do not pass Gretna Green, do not collect £200! Go back to England! (Oh wait, that’s where I am)
  8. I don’t know the area – bloody Stonehenge my arse

That’s just 8. There’s many more. And no doubt some that include water issues!

See if I drown doing this run!!

Truth be told I’m quite glad I have found something that scares me this much and is keeping me awake the last couple of weeks. It’s that weird thrill you get. That ‘oh my god am I actually doing this? I cry every time I think of it!’ But then a song comes on your playlist, or on the radio, or in a shop (it’s happened, don’t judge) and you just break out in a ‘hell yeah I can DO this!!’.

And that’s usually followed by being asked to leave the shop as your fist pumps and dancing is scaring the other customers.

However. The Greatest Showman is back on my playlist. As is my go to song (The Script – Hall Of Fame, chest pumps every damn time). And I’m picturing myself at the finish line. Not that I know what it looks like anymore.

Will I make it? Who knows at this point. I bloody want it though! How long is it going to take me? Absolutely no idea – have you ever ran 100km? Me neither.

But soon. I will have.

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Baywatch – not quite

A few weeks ago I signed up to do something never in my life had I ever considered doing before – a Lifeguard course.

Yup. She who swims like a dead fly thought being a lifeguard was achievable.

I will give you a minute to stop laughing and wipe the tears from your eyes…..

Ok. Let’s start with signing up.

There weren’t any courses in my city within the next few weeks of me deciding this but there was one in the next city. This had its benefits. It would be unlikely I would know any one there so I could keep it secret, and, with the extremely high chance of me failing, this would mean fewer people finding this out. Why should that be a concern? It shouldn’t. But it is. I find it very difficult when people talk about me.  But I’m working on ignoring it.

So I signed up to do it in Dundee.  What a call that was.  Oh my.  I may have previously worked in a call centre but I wasn’t on the phones.  This turns out to be a good thing as I am useless on the telephone.  There is no delete button and I blurt things out without thinking.  ‘Am I the oldest on the course?  I mean I don’t really care as I am doing it anyway but a heads up if I am going to be the granny in the corner would be good.’  The woman on the other end of the phone found this hilarious – don’t know why.  She basically said without checking dates of birth she couldn’t tell me but they do get a range of ages however most are quite young.  Cue panic number one.  Founded on embarrassment and confirmation that I will indeed be the wrinkly in the white bobble swim cap.  Great.

The course was 30 miles away presenting Fear Number 2. Finding the bloody place. For someone who gets lost in a packet of crisps this is the stuff night terrors are made of. Just during the day. Awake. And living through it.  I had to leave before I could drop the kids off and wouldn’t be back until late so it was old faithful Nanny to the rescue again.  What would we do without my mum?

Needless to say the night before I got very little sleep.  The clock said 4:30am the last time I looked at it and the alarm went off at 6am.  So many fears going through my head.  Could I really do this?  I’ve never considered myself a good swimmer.  Should I be doing this?  I’m 36 and have 3 kids, I have responsibilities.  The easy and obvious choice would be an office job surely.   What if I couldn’t do it?  Didn’t pass?  Could I take yet another blow this year?

3 wrong turns and a near collision because I was in the wrong lane and I was sat in the car park at the college.  Deep breaths Ella, deep breaths.  I had forced down a banana for breakfast knowing that I would need energy and had sipped on a red bull to try and get me awake.  The instructor was called Marco and he was from Italy.  His accent was strong and he had been doing this for a long time.  ‘You’re not actually the oldest here’ he said to me.

Mortified.  I was mortified.  Quite clearly my little slip on the telephone had done the rounds.

We started with learning how to use the torpedo and how to pull someone.  I repeatedly caught my feet in the strap and kept getting burns.  But I had to be able to pull someone holding on to it for 20 metres – fast.  And that someone was guaranteed to be bigger than me.  Then, as if that wasn’t going to be hard enough, I had to dive 3 metres and retrieve a heavy manikin.

Excuse me how deep?? That’s literally twice my height!  No word of a lie!  What number of Fear am I up to now?

After a morning in the pool we had a break and were able to catch our breath and talk to each other.  It was a class of 12 and we ranged from just turning 16 the week before to over 40.  There was even a fellow mum there.  The rest of the day was spent in the classroom before returning to the pool to learn more holds.

Unsurprisingly I was exhausted when I got home.  And I had a book the size of War and Peace to read through.

The next day was much the same.  Although this time I managed to cut it down to just 2 wrong turns on the way there.  I passed the swim test and I retrieved the manikin.  I almost kept a straight face when Marco referred to 2 guys on the course as ‘sinkers’ – his translations weren’t always the most accurate shall we say.  Luckily the guys he was referring to took it in good spirits (although one of them looked like he had zero body fat and was skin and bones – sinker was an interesting word for that one).  I wasn’t fast in the pool at all but I wasn’t the slowest.  I had to work really hard but I could do it.  Just.  This scared me.  I didn’t want to just scrape through.  The threat of failing was always there.  Marco stayed and chatted to 3 of us after the pool on Tuesday and we practised a bit more.  I went home feeling slightly better, but definitely not confident.  I was also covered in bruises – from swimming? – getting in and out of a pool is hazardous for your health!

Wednesday came and it all went wrong.  It will forever be known as Woeful Wednesday.  It started with the journey there.  I added a speeding ticket to my 2 wrong turns, 1 wrong lane and now bump on the kerb.  I almost got lost in the campus trying to get to the pool – yes the same pool I had spent the last 2 days in.  Worst of all, I failed my swim test.  I had to get under 45 seconds and I was 46.  When I was towing the casualty back with my arm we just didn’t move through the water.  The problems kept on coming.  I dropped the manikin in the deep water rescue and almost didn’t surface with it first time.  In the final exam you get one chance and one chance only.  Then my hand slipped pulling myself out the water and I landed on my shoulder with a thud.  Something else to add to my embarrassment and multitude of bruises.  In the classroom I felt I wasn’t picking anything at all up and when ever I asked a question Marco didn’t seem to understand me.

That night I sent a frantic essay of a message to a guy in the road runners who was a lifeguard.  He gave me a call.  ‘Ok, first thing, take a breath, stop panicking.  Why are you doing it in a 3 metre pool though?  Perth pools are only 1.8’.  He talked me through what the assessment would be, the key things I would need to know for the exam and for being in the job.   As it turns out he is an assessor too.  I spent the entire time kicking myself for not waiting until he was running a course.  Why was I putting myself through this when the pool in Perth isn’t as deep as 3 metres?   What was I thinking?  Just because I was a wimp and was scared someone might recognise me – what do you think is going to happen if you end up working at your local pool?  That no one at all you know from your 36 years of living in the same place is going to come in?  They are all going to stop going?  Put your big girl pants on for god sake!  Honestly!

Thanks to that call I did manage some sleep that night but not much.  I kept dreaming I was going to slip and bang my head, fall in the water, blood pouring everywhere, Marco annoyed at the mess I was making, everyone looking at me and shaking their heads – not saving me because I should be able to save myself, and then of course there were ‘things’ in the water.  Something else to add to the long list of failures of 2018.  It’s no wonder I didn’t really sleep.

In the car on Thursday morning and I was white as a sheet feeling sick as a dog.  I had dropped to only 30% convinced I could do this.  The chat I had the night before was great and it had helped calm me down so I tried to just think about what he had said and that he was honest admitting it is a tough course.  Driving along and Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger came on.  I started tapping the wheel.  Kind of out of nervousness but also out of a bit of ‘come on, push yourself a little’.  I started singing along.  I got louder and louder.  The tears started.  First just a few drops but very quickly that was it.  Floods of tears, eyes streaming, voice screaming along to the radio.  ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you STRONGER, stand a little TALLER’.  Oh what a sight!!

But it worked.  I needed to get it out.  I felt slightly better.  Slightly stronger.

Can you smell the cheese?

Standing at the pool waiting for the swim test and I was back to shaking.  Well that burst in the car didn’t last long.  I asked my swim partner if I could go first.  She could tell I was nervous as hell – THAT I am 100% confident of!  ‘Of course you can, don’t worry, we will practise as much as you need’.  She had failed it the day before as well and was also nervous but she had a strong resolve of just trying again.  I had a plan though.  On the first test I had 15 seconds to spare.  If I held back on that one I could give more on the second. I had to get under 45 seconds on it. I couldn’t take failing on it.  It would kill me.

First swim done and it went as planned.  Then it was straight on to the second.  Nerves were just horrendous.

‘3 whistles lifeguard going in’ – I was off.  I reached my casualty and I was on the way back.  My legs have never kicked so hard in my life.  I was trying to pull exactly as I had been told.  I crossed the line and looked desperately up at Marco.  ’38 seconds’.

‘Fuck yes! Oh god sorry for my language!’  The relief was immediate.  I needed that.  My partner nailed her swim test too.  As for the manikin – not easy but done.

Friday was much the same.  Pool in the morning with the swim test and holds, classroom before and after lunch then back to the pool.  We were put in to 2 groups of six and our group worked well together.  We took tips from the younger ones who were club swimmers and we shared advice with them on how to study for the questions.  Turns out we all had our strengths and that in itself helped to boost confidence.

Saturday was exam day.  It was an early start of 8.30am and through what can only be described as a miracle I found myself sitting in the car park at 7.30am.  No wrong turns.  But maybe a wrong lane.  It’s hard to tell.  Sitting outside in the sun everyone started to arrive and we discussed holds, CPR and nerves.  I was unsure I was going to pass this and even though you get a few weeks to re-sit I really didn’t want to be in that position.  No it wouldn’t make any difference in reality but in my head, it would.

Standing at the side of the pool and there was only 11 of us.  One of the younger lads hadn’t turned up.  The assessor asked someone to call him.  No answer.  An important part of being a lifeguard is being on time as a pool can never be left unattended.  We had our first fail.

Swim test was first.  I wanted to get mine out the way but it was assessors choice so I ended up in the second group.  Deep breaths.  In and out.  Slowly.  First test done.  Straight on the second.  A quick look at the clock and I can see I have done it.  Oh thank god!  We worked our way through the rest of the pool test.  It was intense.  There were tears from a few.  I heard the assessor from the other group say he had never seen anyone do a hold like that before and don’t ever do it again.  This was intense.

We re-grouped in the showers before the classroom test.  The other group had been told they had all passed the water test but they couldn’t get a single thing wrong in the classroom.  Our assessor hadn’t told us if we had passed or not.

I was confident with the questions so tried to focus on that.  I’m a bookworm, I can study, and if it is something I’m interested in I will research the sh!t out of it.  Yup.  You found my geek spot.  Unfortunately we were in a gym hall next to another gym hall that was holding a HIIT class.  So questions went like this ‘give a sign and symptom of go deeper 2,3,4‘.  Nightmare.

We moved on to the CPR to find the other group had finished.  Out of the 5 of them that had turned up 2 had failed.  We were up to 3 fails.

CPR done and it was an anxious wait.  I tried so hard to tell myself I could re-sit in a couple of weeks and I would be more relaxed with it.  I expected the fail.

So when he said I had passed, well, to say I was happy is an understatement!  I had done it!

This was different from anything I have ever done before.  When I have signed up to something there has always been a time I could see myself crossing the finish line.  With this, for some reason I just couldn’t picture that conversation of ‘you’ve passed’.  And I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s because this is more serious.  If I’m the lifeguard on and get something wrong someone could actually die.  No one loses their life if I don’t finish my race or don’t run it within a time I had set myself.  We had 4 fails in the end out of 12 who had started the course.  We had someone injure their knee in the pool, someone who was sick after a swim test because they were pushing themselves so hard – and we all had the shakes from nerves.

I have no idea why I failed my swim test that once but that’s all it takes to remove that last sliver of confidence you have.  My mid-week freak out was only calmed down by being able to speak to someone who understood and I trusted.   Instead of shutting down I was honest and asked for help.  When I told my friend about my speeding ticket and he replied ‘shame you don’t swim that fast’ it didn’t help in the same way no, but it made me laugh.  (and he better hope I never have to save him as I bet he could reach the bottom of the 3 metre people he’s that big, ha ha)

So my first steps in changing career are done.  I’m on the first rung of a ladder that goes 40 storeys high and no doubt 300 metres wide.  Let’s see where this takes me.

Everyday I’m Shufflin

The third race of the Championship and after having practically every single goalripped from under me so far this year, there was nothing stopping me from getting to that start line.

The finish line was going to be a whole different story.

The race didn’t start until 1pm (which I found very strange) so the morning was spent doing every glute and hamstring exercise and stretch possible in the hope I would at least get 5 steps before the pain kicked in. I even had porridge and banana. Oh yes. I was treating this as an all or nothing race.

Being a championship race there were a fair few green vests. The team photo wasn’t exactly a close up…..

The temperature was soaring and I considered wearing my hydration bag. I wasn’t joking when I said all or nothing! However the Marshall outside registration said the first water station was at 4.5km and the second at 8km so I left it with Joe.

The start was up a hill and knowing my goal was the finish line and not a speedy time I kept close to the back. We were given a timing chip anyway so I wouldn’t really lose anything (more on that later).

Off we went and straight up the hill. As we rounded the corner I saw a car and thought to myself ‘oh that’s quite nice, a bit like ours’. Yup, you guessed it. It was ours! The heat was getting to me already. I wasn’t interested in what my watch was saying for a change so I didn’t check my mile splits as I went. This meant no crazy maths problems to work out so I put my music on. I’ve gotten used to running without it in a race but I knew I was going to hurt in this one so I had pre-loaded lots of motivational tunes. Of course the down side to this is that I tend to sing along as if I’m auditioning for X-Factor and before I know it in my head I’m no longer running but performing the latest number one to a sell-out crowd at Wembley.

This does not help you run. This indeed prevents you running as you can’t sing and run at the same time. Fact. So all those music videos with the perfect body women running in glittery bra and pants with no wobbly bits or muffin rolls singing about feminism and how they don’t need a man? It’s all bull shit. Fact 2.

Any hoooo ….. I get to the fourth kilometre (yes, kilometre, it’s a 12km race so the signs are in km. How I managed to find such self control to not do crazy maths is amazing.) It’s hot and I’m thinking the water station is going to be there any second now. The legs are surprisingly holding up well and I’m only ‘uncomfortable’ as opposed to screaming in pain much akin to giving birth.

I’ve had 3 children. I have earned the right to say that!

The water stations not there though and it feels like I’m running a further 5 km before reaching it. I stop to take on the water very cautiously ensuring I am looking after myself. My legs start hurting that bit more when I start running again but Christina Aguilera does a good job of distracting me by belting out that I am indeed, a fighter.

Kristen from the club is beside me now and so is Steph. Usually I would use this to try and push harder with the pace but not today. Today is just sticking to the simple goal of the finish line.

And trying to ignore my backside which I swear is now acting like I’ve sat on a bed of spiky nails followed by a sun bed for 6 hours followed by being used as a punch bag by every boxer in the U.K. Yeah. Bit more than ‘uncomfortable’ now.

Last section and I know it ends going back up that bastard hill. Kirsten’s long gone and Steph goes past trying to encourage me on. ‘Come on last push’. I try for one step and very quickly regret it. I’m shuffling just fine here love. Stick around long enough and you may even see me crawl up this hill but by god I will get that finish line! Thanks for the encouragement though. 🙂

I see Joe and he knows. He saw this ‘ elite athletic form’ at the end of Manchester. Ah well.

Ok. Job done. There’s no need to elaborate anymore on this one.

We make a ‘quick’ visit to the toy shop for Oliver – who obviously has to look and play with every single toy in there before deciding on a bubble producing gun. Which in truth is absolutely awesome.

So I’m still on track for a championship medal at least. I won’t get top 3 but at least I will complete the challenge. My heart rate was ridiculously high so I’m expecting a lecture and stern talk from Mr Cardio when we discuss my MRI results.

And the exercises for my glutes and hamstrings are finally working now – that’s the furthest I’ve ran in a very, very, very long time. So that’s a positive as well. Just got to take it slowly. And maybe stop when the pain hits child birth proportions ha ha.

Hello May

2018 – it’s time for me take my year back!

I’ve had enough of your nonsense, your set backs, your spanner’s – YOU are now the spanner!

(I know that doesn’t really work but you get my point)

I’m only looking forward now. May is a good month for me. It’s the month I met and married my husband (not in the same year, calm down). It’s before half way in the year meaning any change gives me more than half the year to celebrate it and own it. I’m taking control!

She says, as she sits here on her foam roller, not running.

That’s right. NOT running. Because I need to get rid of this QL and hamstring issue before running again. So I’m doing a Ross and Rachel. It’s ‘on a break’ time.

Today is day 3 of the break. I think it feels better. I’m praying it doesn’t hurt when I lace up my trainers again. I’ve also booked in for a back and leg transplant if this doesn’t work.

Joking.

I’ve also taken steps with the work side of my life. I’ve signed up to 2 different courses which is going to take me in a completely different direction. Insurance IS boring and I don’t want to do it again. I might end up having to take on an office job or part time job to fund my studies but I don’t care. I’m focused on the end goal. I will be starting at the bottom and I’m just about over the shock of how little minimum wage is but like I say, end goal.

So for the next few days it’s swimming and hopefully some cycling. I will NOT put my trainers on before Thursday – that will be 4 full days no running. If it doesn’t feel good Thursday I will take them off again.

Yup. That’s my plan.

I can do it.

I can.

Surely.

Yup.

God I hope so.

Manchester and the failed GFA

Manchester and the failed GFA

Ok. Let’s get this over with.

Manchester’s done. And no. I did not get my GFA.

This time.

So here’s how it went…..

We travelled down on the Saturday and surprisingly for me I didn’t make a big fuss about not going to Parkrun. We didn’t leave until 11am so I would have had plenty of time but Joe and I have had lots of ‘discussions’ on how much I’m running and I didn’t want another one. He didn’t want me running a marathon right now anyway and Mr Cardio wasn’t exactly in agreement so I didn’t push it. I could get a few miles in at the hotel at a more sensible pace.

It was a relaxed journey down. Probably a bit too relaxed at some points as I had been forcing the intake of water for the whole week and my bladder was now having a fit every 30 minutes. This meant many, many stops for what was meant to be a five hour car journey! The youngest however was in heaven with his new DVD player. Best money we’ve ever spent!

We pulled up at the hotel and instantly the regret was clear that I had stupidly been allowed to choose it. The couple in front had a solid 10 minute argument with the receptionist over her refusal to let them use the ‘spa’ (a word I use in the loosest of terms for that place!) until she finally agreed to get them a manager.

We gave our name and took our key. The receptionist asked if we would be having breakfast (it’s food – is that a real question?) . I asked what time it was at and she said it started at 8am. Hmm, that might be too late to get to the marathon so I asked if she knew how far away the start was.

‘Marathon? What Marathon?’

It was then our turn to be stood at the desk for 10 minutes. Not arguing. Just dumbfounded. I still don’t know what to say.

I put my things in the room and headed to the gym for a gentle few miles. After much googling and phoning of NASA I eventually figured out how to use their lockers. The ‘spa’ receptionist clearly having went through the same customer service training as the hotel one. In to the gym and the smell hit me like a tidal wave. Excuse the pun but it was clearly ‘run down’. The treadmill must have been older than god himself, I’ve never seen such a thing. I made a mental note to let the receptionist know that air conditioning has in fact been invented.

A quick dip in the pool after with Joe and Oliver, a quick tea and it was an early night.

We parked at the metro/train/moving vehicle station and it was an easy ride to the start. No traditional porridge for breakfast for me as we had had to leave at 7:30am but I was lucky to find a burger van selling bananas. If I wasn’t already married I would be now! Life saver!

In true Webley style we were late getting to the start so I couldn’t get close to my pen. This didn’t bother me too much as the same happened in Stirling. I would just have to chase down the 3:45 pacer and then stick to them like glue. A steady shuffle to the line and I was off. Within just a few hundred yards I spotted a fellow PRR and instantly felt better. I ran up to Caroline and turned round to wave manically as I went by before quickly realising running backwards in a crowd of people is not a good idea.

The first couple of miles is a loop and I was pleased to see Joe and Ollie so soon after starting. I thought they had headed to a cafe to get food so wasn’t expecting it. Big smiles all round.

Now. I don’t know what it is, but, when it comes to marathons, I always seem to have a ‘wardrobe’ issue for the first few miles. This race was no different. I wear 2 layered Adidas Climates. I love them. They are perfect. I have many of the exact same pair I love them that much. However, on this day, the outer layer had decided to pull right up. And I mean right up. Many a mile was spent pulling it right back down! Then my vest decided to pull up – exposing my belly. Oh the horror!! Seriously!! Parents were shielding their innocent child’s eyes as I went past – and I couldn’t blame them! Thankfully I was eventually able to sort the problem but to anyone that saw this, please accept my most humble apology.

Photo 5

Finally finding my stride I was just beginning to settle into the torture of what was 26.2 miles when my old demon came back to haunt me. If you’ve ever read any of my race recaps you will know that the element that is water has it in for me. Hands down it’s truly trying to kill me. Now, being Manchester is a road marathon with no rivers, lakes, swamps or such in sight I thought I would be safe. It wasn’t even raining!! But alas, no. It got me. Out of nowhere as well. Hit me smack in the face. How?

Water station.

A man on my right decided to reach ACROSS MY FACE for a bottle of water. The poor volunteer didn’t know what to do and so bang – literally all over me. Up my nose, in my eyes, down my legs. You sir, are a twat! That was it. His race bib was marked.

Moving on.

Not long after the water incident I felt it. I knew it was there. I knew it wasn’t going to go away. When it was still there after my sports massage a few days before I knew I was in trouble. But I hadn’t wanted to say it out loud because it would be that that would make it true. Now there was no getting away from it. I had no choice but to admit it. My hamstrings were tight. And this was already painful.

This was also only the fifth mile.

Stay positive. You never know what can happen.

I saw Joe and Oliver again. Clearly he was going for a race record of how many cheer spots he could make! I was impressed. Another smile and high five. Nice.

Trying to ignore the hamstrings I battered on. There’s a section where you turn back on yourself and you can see who’s behind you so I concentrated on spotting Caroline. I couldn’t see her and just as I looked down at my feet, debating if I had 26 miles in me I heard her screaming my name. It couldn’t have been at a better time!

On to the section where the front runners are now running towards you I start looking for Garry, also from PRR. There’s a women on my left screaming every single name as they go by. It’s nice at first. For the first 2 to 3 minutes. Not for 5 minutes solid. I am now desperate to see Garry just so I can shout louder and longer than her! Game on love!

‘Jesus Christ, someone tell her to shut the f@ck up!’.

No that didn’t come from my mouth. But I did whole heartedly agree with him. As did many, many others. And unfortunately, I didn’t see Garry.

On I trundled and couldn’t help but notice the number of properties up for sale. It didn’t seem that run down a place, how odd. The signs were odd as well. Not like your usual For Sale signs. Must be an English thing.

Joes at mile 17 and as I see him I cross over to go say hi. I go to stop and very quickly realise if I do I may not continue on so I very, very slowly go past and tell him my hamstrings have gone. He knows this already of course. He just didn’t want to say it.

I round the corner and there’s a man with a microphone. I can’t hear what he says at first but then I hear him loud and clear.

‘Think about why you’re doing this. Think of the many, many people who want to do what you’re doing but can’t. Do it for them!’

At this point I well up. He has a very accurate point. I should be grateful I am here running at all. I was very close to being pulled from doing this. Just be thankful Ella.

Mile 18 and although I’m still in pain I’m feeling in good spirits after that blast of reality. Ok so I wasn’t getting my 3:45 but I had had time before coming down to accept it, even if I didn’t actually admit it. I could still get under 4hrs. That’s the new goal. I glance at my watch and do a quick calculation.

Hold on. 8 miles left to go. I’ve been running for 2hrs 45. I can do 8 miles in an hour.

I can do this!!

I try to push on harder whilst floating on this cloud that has now appeared under me. I might actually get my GFA – Oh My God!!

Somehow in my head the number 8 was being replaced with the number 6. I blame the water incident. It knocked the numbers around.

And don’t worry. It wasn’t long before I realised my maths was indeed wrong again.

Time to put the music in. (I skipped The Greatest Showman. This wasn’t his moment.)

Mile 25 and it just took forever. I swear it must have been at least 3 miles long! I reckon Manchester stretched it out ‘just to be sure’. Bastards.

Coming up to mile 26 and I start vibrating. Who the hell is phoning me? I look at my phone.

‘I’m a bit busy dad what is it?’.

‘The feeds not working – are you not finished yet?’.

‘No dad. I’m not finished yet. I’m at mile 26.’

If nothing else it gave the runners around me a laugh.

Jesus Christ where is that god damn finish line?!? I’ve been staring at the blue archway for 6 years! It’s NOT getting any closer!!

I hear my name being shouted at the side just as I’m debating whether or not to do a sit down protest about how long this final straight is. Just smile and keep going. Keep going.

4:14:08.

Yes ladies and gentleman. That is a SOLID 30 minutes behind target time. I give you, the failed GFA Run. *takes a bow

To add insult to injury I am forced to hobble a further 10 miles to collect my medal and finally a bottle of water.

Who’s doesn’t have water AT the finish line?!?

I waddle past a stand with a loud speaker, protein shakes and an ice bath.

Ooooh. Ice bath.

Should I?

No. You’re by yourself. You’ll look like a twat.

But….

I hobble back and join the very short queue.

I keep my socks on. The public has already seen my belly today, they definitely don’t need to see my feet on top of that! There are 2 separate baths so you go in 2 at a time. It’s only for 45 seconds but it’s ice. I gingerly step forward after watching all the grown men jumping about. I step in. Another guy steps in the other one.

We sit down and they start the clock. He starts shivering straight away and looks like he’s having a fit. I wait for it to hit me. I take a quick video before it gets too much.

But what is this? This is awesome! It feels sooooo good!!

The other guy jumps out.

’15 seconds’ is shouted out. ‘Can I take his spot’ laughs someone else.

I’m just sitting there. Relaxed. Loving it. This is almost better than…..

’45 seconds love, you’re done.’

I don’t really want to get out.

I walk over to my trainers and that’s when I crumple. ‘Oh my god it’s so bad when you get out!!’.

I grab my beer, get my photo taken at the wall, refuse to fist pump as let’s face it that was a miserable time, and find Joe and Oliver. Manchester done.

Eyes Open

So no. It was not meant to be. I didn’t do it. I failed. Woe is me and all of the other sad things that can be said. Reality is though that anything can happen and Manchester just wasn’t ‘my time’ (oh that’s cold!). I’ve learnt from it though and that’s what makes it NOT a failure. I also had no issues with my heart and that’s a huge bonus!! The words of the man with the mic rang clear as day – I’m lucky I can run. I’ve ran 5 marathons. No I didn’t hit my goal but that just makes my journey longer. Unsurprisingly I already have a plan to get there. And this time it’s not just me. I have enlisted some help. And I have no choice but to listen to it. I will get to London Marathon.

Oh, and just to clarify, there weren’t actually a huge number of properties for sale – the area was called Sale.

My bad.

Championship Has Begun

Championship Has Begun

Well aren’t we all just sick fed up of this weather? It’s an absolute nightmare. Lots of disruption for everyone in all walks of life. Someone seriously needs to apologise to Elsa!

Race after race has been cancelled and if I’m honest, I thought the first Championship race would be too. Loch Katrine half marathon was one I was looking forward to but if it wasn’t to be there was nothing I could do. I checked Facebook every few minutes and Joe checked the road cameras too. We decided to make an attempt to get there but if the roads were bad we would turn back. We dropped the youngest at his grampaws with a box of toys and central heating and off we went. Porridge and banana keeping my tummy warm at least.

The roads turned out to be ok. We’ve driven in worse. The race route seemed icy and slippy though so there was a lot of debate whether it was going ahead. It was an out and back route and you had the choice of 3 distances – full marathon, half marathon or 10k. A lot of runners had not turned up so it was quite a small crowd for each one. Joe debated several times whether or not to run but I don’t think he liked the idea of waiting about for 2 hours for me so got changed.

I had had a slight panic in the car as I didn’t have a buff with me but luckily Joe found one in the bottom of his bag. Needless to say it was stinking. Eugh – did I really want to put this on? I decided if it got too much I could put it in my bag. I was taking my hydration vest because this was a ‘bring your own cup’ race and I’m practising where I can with it.

Team photo done and we were soon off. I had been well warned it was an undulating course and some more honest runners had used the words ‘killer hills’ , ‘vertical climbs’ and ‘Mount Everest’. I was under no illusion for this race. Focus on the turn around and then you’re heading home.

I should have been a rocket scientist honestly.

It wasn’t long before I heated up and the wind was keeping to a minimum. I may even have seen the sun at one point but I may also have been delusional and wearing rose tinted glasses. A lot can be said for positive thinking though. The route was gorgeous. It reminded me a lot of Loch Ness marathon – the give away probably being the fact I was running next to a Loch. In Scotland.

Rocket scientist. I’m telling you.

4 miles in and I was feeling quite chirpy. I had taken my clif shot blok and was playing the game of trying to get it out my teeth (so attractive). A little further on and the first runner Duncan was coming towards me. How does anyone run that fast? It astounds me. But I’m too lazy to push for that kind of speed and I know that. I was just pleased to get to 5.45 miles before he went by. This was the only time I checked my watched during the whole race.

By now the hill I was on was steep. I’m talking the kind you need to be wearing a nappy if you’re cycling down it! With the ultra being next month I decided to walk. After all, I’m going to have to walk the hills in that one so may as well get practising. Naturally as soon as I did another road runner went by, chasing down Duncan. Did I care he saw me walking? Not really. Well, maybe a little bit. But it was a bloomin steep hill!

Realising Joe would be along soon I picked the pace up. Club members seeing me walk is one thing but the husband seeing me walk? Not a chance! He went past soon enough and shouted the headwind when you turned was picking up. Great.

On to the turn and I gave a cheery ‘thank you’ to the marshal. The wind had picked up (just as Joe had said) and it was getting difficult trying to climb the hills. Strange, I don’t remember much of a downhill on the first half! My breathing was getting unusually heavily so I tried another clif block and took a short walk break to try and calm it down.

As soon as I started running again I was wheezing. This wasn’t like me. My chest was now hurting and that never happens when I’m running. It wasn’t the implant, I knew what that pain was, this was a tightening. As soon as another hill came I walked. Gillian went past with her trade mark bright smile and sun glasses. She was on fire!

I got to 10 miles and I knew this hadn’t been the race for me. I was weaving all across the road, I couldn’t get a breath deep enough in to my chest and it was hurting bad. I began to wonder if I should text Joe but then figured I was on my way back anyway so what was the point. I pulled the buff up over my mouth hoping if I could warm the air I was breathing it might have a better chance of getting deep enough. It worked very slightly but my god, what the hell was that smell on it?!

This is it. You’re poisoning yourself Ella. Never mind your chest pain or the fact you’re struggling to breath. It’s neither of them that’s going to kill you, it’s this buff that’s going to do it! I can see the headlines now ‘Woman dies from poisoning herself trying to breathe through a buff soaked in her husbands sweat.’

Oh god…..

I was dry heaving now at the thought of this. Is his sweat on this? Is that what that is? I had to stop. I paused. I nearly threw up.

To be fair the distraction got me to mile 12.

Ok just a mile to go. Then you might need to get it looked at. Just a mile.

The lead runner from the marathon went by me.

Ok he is quite clearly non human! THIS weather on THIS course and he’s running THAT fast?!

He turned his head and said something to me but I couldn’t hear him. The negative in me heard ‘for crying out loud lassie it’s not that bad, if you can’t run you shouldn’t be here.’

Obviously that’s not what he said. I’ve never heard any runner say anything along those lines before. But I was in a very painful place by then and quite frankly embarrassed by my performance. It’s more likely he said something like ‘cup of tea waiting for you at the end love, you can do it.’

Last corner and I can see the finish. I. Am. A. Mess. I’m pretty sure I walk across the line. By now I’m giving an Oscar performance of Darth Vadar and I’m horrendously close to hyper ventilating so after sitting for a minute (and giving the poor race director a fright) I slide away to the car to try and calm it down.

I don’t know what happened. It is worrying me for my chances at Manchester but as I’ve always said ‘what will be will be’. Maybe it was just too cold for me, maybe the stress and anxiety of my redundancy is affecting it and maybe I should have taken it easier. Or maybe I just had a really crap day running. Who knows. The doctor did the usual tests and my ECG now has dips in a second chamber so it’s back to Mr Cardio (and thankfully this time I didn’t answer the phone thinking he was selling me something! I’m still mortified about that!).

With that in mind I rested completely the following day and had a more relaxed week. With Manchester only 2 weeks away now I should be reducing the miles anyway, and I can only stay positive about the other things going on (Easier said than done though – I am beyond bored!).

Loch Katrine was gorgeous and I really enjoyed the challenging route. Just because it wasn’t my day for running doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great race and I have every intention of taking the kids up there for a night. Just probably in the summer. When it’s a lot warmer.

Just Like That

At work, on a Tuesday, just a normal Tuesday, my manager came over.

‘Got a minute?’ She asked me.

Half an hour later I was redundant.

I know people this has happened to in the past. I’ve always felt sorry for them, such turmoil to go through, and briefly wondered ‘what would I do if that was me?’ But that’s as far as it went. A brief thought, a ponder.

My first reaction was feeling sorry for the others it was happening to as well. I wasn’t alone. There were quite a few. And then I was feeling sorry for my manager, having to tell us. Then I was thinking about all the work I had to get done before I left. Next up in my chain of thought was ‘I need to find a job’. All these different thoughts whizzed through my mind over and over again.

I needed a run. To think. Clear my mind. It was freezing outside and I only had shorts and vest with me (I was planning a gym session) so treadmill it was. My Garmin was playing up and recorded the 5 miles as 6.6. I didn’t care enough to change it. I had enough to worry about.

14 years in the same job in the same company. So much of my life and now it was no more.

I didn’t love everything about my job this is true, but I did like it. I liked the people, my team, the friends I had made, the routine that I loved, the problems and queries I continuously had to resolve.

And now without any warning at all…..

For the first few days my head was, as we say in Scotland, mince. I didn’t know what to think. The weather was reflecting the situation as well (as it often does) and we were hit with ‘the beast from the east.’ The worst snow storm to hit the UK in I don’t know how long. It felt like Mother Nature was reacting to what was happening. It shut everything down. I was very conscious not to allow the same thing to happen to me and let depression get hold of me again. I knew I was about to go through the journey of emotions – shock, upset, depressed, angry, confused etc etc. And I knew I was lucky to have people rallying around me. I received a lot of supportive messages from co-workers saying they wished it hadn’t been me, it didn’t make sense, they were in shock too. Family and friends offered to ask around for jobs available, their determination ringing loud and clear. ‘We will get you a job within the week, don’t you worry!’ I was told time and time again.

But I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Did I want to stay in Insurance? It was the obvious choice but I wasn’t enthralled about it. Did I want to do a complete 180 and re-train? The thought of going back to school when I have an 18 year old at college really didn’t inspire me either. Until now I would have been the first person to start spewing about how you can do anything at any age and you should just go for it but when it was me being hit with that reality? Not so easy.

Lorner’s suggestion of going to work as a receptionist at her doctors so she could get an appointment when ever she needed was quickly vetoed. The offer of a prossecco night was not. For someone who doesn’t drink I can certainly put it away at times! And my living room dancing skills are second to none. Lorner continued with her suggestions of jobs as the alcohol flowed although ‘dwarf’ almost earned her a slap. (It’s not even a job!).

When the hangover lifted the cold light of day was upon me. What do I do now? I knew I needed a plan, I just didn’t know what of.

Then I got the worst possible message ever. A friend of mine had taken seriously ill and was in ICU. Her husband told to prepare for the worst. I won’t go in to the details here, it’s not appropriate, but if anything is going to put life into perspective, it’s most certainly that.

I needed another run.

A few miles later and I was no longer in the ‘woe is me’ state of mind I had been. Reality was setting in. My friend had improved slightly but was by no means out of danger. This was good news. I had even had a little bit of a joke with her husband to say this was typical of her always going one better than me which he fully agreed with. She was nothing if not stubborn! I had also realised that I was in the fortunate position where I didn’t have to get another job straight away. I didn’t even have to get a job that paid the same. The first thing Joe had said when I phoned him was ‘think of all the training you’re going to get done’ (after the initial ‘where the hell did that come from?!). I had to be grateful for that.

Amazing how running can help you sort your thoughts out.

I chose to go back in to work to collect my official letter and my things. I wanted to get them myself. I also wanted to make sure my team were ok and knew who to go to for anything they needed. I dreaded it. Absolutely dreaded it. I didn’t want to do it but I had to do it. Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as I imagined. I didn’t do the ’rounds of goodbyes’ – oh god no. I was most definitely not up for that. But I did have a quiet moment where I said goodbye to my spot. (Ah my spot. We’ve had many, many moments at lunch time. I had to stop myself carving my name in to the bench.)

Once that was done I did what was needed.

I went for a run.

And whilst I was running I received lots more lovely messages from my now ex-colleagues. I couldn’t have appreciated that more. And when I got the message to say my friend was now out of ICU and into HDU, well that lifted everything. Absolute miracle that woman!

By the end of my run I knew what I needed to do. I knew what my plan needed to contain. I had been comfortable in my job. I liked it, I liked the routine, but, it wasn’t really exciting.

I need an adventure. Something that was going to push me. Test me. Almost downright break me.

A plan was already forming in my head. Yes. This is what I needed. Let’s get started.

To be continued…….