A New Plan

A New Plan

Goals have been set, races selected and work has began.  I am currently 3 days in to a new and more structured training plan so what better time to write about it?

I’m exhausted!  And it’s only been 3 days!! Talk about a wake up call!  Ultra training was tiring don’t get me wrong but going long and slow clearly worked for me because 1, I could keep my eyes open past 6pm at night and 2, I could still walk after a session.  Now some might say I clearly wasn’t going hard enough – and possibly the number of photo’s I would take during a race may be evidence towards that – but I enjoyed them.  I never felt like I was about to collapse and die or, even worse, throw up all over myself.

Current long term goals though involve slightly more than heading out the door with a hydration vest filled with flap jacks and returning a few hours later (usually a good 30 – 45 minutes longer than planned after getting lost but that really was part of the fun).

Day 1.  Swim.  Correction.  Longest swim I have ever done!  I remember the day I went to the pool and the swim club’s set was still written on the board.  ‘400m warm up’.  Warm up.  400m was my entire session that day.  It was pointed out to me that one day that would be my warm up.  Well.  Day 1 was that day!  Or to be more accurate, 500m was the warm up.  20 x 25m.  Never done that before.  First few were a bit strange but I got into it.  Then I forgot to start my watch for the main set so it looked like I had an extra long rest when in actual fact I was swimming 100m.  Rookie mistake there Ella come on.  I was meant to use paddles but pool rules state everyone in the lane has to agree to me using them.  They did not agree.  But they did kindly ‘keep out my way’ meaning I didn’t get caught behind them often so I appreciate that.

‘Keep out of my way’.  I mean seriously!  You would think I’m under the impression I own that lane!  But what other way can I say it? (however sometimes I do feel that it is MY lane I’m in there that often ha ha.  Just a shame my swimming doesn’t justify it).

After many, many checks of the watch to see what lap I am on it’s on to the cool down and I am eventually done.  I am not swimming one single length more.  Nah ah.  David in the health suite is my absolute saviour when I discover he has a tub of Heroes and I shove 2 in my mouth – almost with the wrapper still on I am that hungry!

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Day 2 and it’s a turbo.  I’m getting used to my turbo so I’m not dreading it.  I’ve also found a new series on Netflix to binge watch so that’s always a bonus.  I even manage to connect the cadence sensor to my watch ALL by myself.  Definitely a victory moment there for Ella.  It takes a while to adjust the gears enough to hit the numbers I am looking for but about half way through the session I get there.  I still don’t understand ‘big gear’ – why not just say ‘harder gear’ or easier gear’???  What’s big about it???  My legs don’t grow any by using it! Possibly my arse from all this sitting down but definitely not my legs (and that’s iI’m using it which I’m probably not – I did feel at one point my bike doesn’t have enough gears to do what I was meant to but I don’t know if you can add gears?  I know you can’t add them to a car.  Is it possible for a bike not to have enough gears?  God I’m really not a cyclist.)  Anyway.  Turbo done – but no chocolates devoured that night.

Day 3 and I decide today is the day I am going to run in the early morning again.  The hardest thing about running before the sun comes up is deciding what to wear.  Not in a ‘gok wan going out out’ style but more in a temperature way.  I opt for shorts because rule of thumb for me is that unless there is a full on blizzard with 10 inches of snow on the ground then shorts is the way to go.  T-shirt and long sleeve top is also selected (topless running isn’t a thing – and even if it was I wouldn’t be doing it).  The long sleeve top is quickly discarded.  I’ve got 6 x 2 min hard efforts.  Let me say it again.  ULTRA RUNNER.  Hard effort is basically not stopping to take a photo of the leaves falling from the trees or the funny sign at the side of the road.  It is NOT running until you throw up.  And trust me, it doesn’t take 2 minutes before I want to throw up!  I’ve dragged my friend along in an effort to try and make me do this.  She officially hates me and calls me all the names under the sun.  Clearly not doing a hard effort if you can still speak love!

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Somehow we get through the 6 of them and slowly run home.  My stomach reminds me I haven’t been doing the same efforts or even mileage recently I am used to and there are a few very close moments.  I have to stand outside her flat as still as a statue at one point in a bid not to prevent anything escaping from my body.  I turn to cross the road and abruptly stop for a minute.  Think the scene in Bridesmaids when they are trying on dresses after that dodgy meal.  Yup.  That’s what flashed through my head.  Just minus the big white dress to hide under!

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Everyone is still asleep when I get home.

Off to work after and by 3pm I’m dipping.  An afternoon nap would have been amazing!  I’m so jealous of those that get to nap.  Why can’t I be an 80 year old women who can nap at any point she wants?  I think that should be my goal! Pretty sure I currently look like one I am that tired.

I’m just adjusting though.  I’m loving having a structure and I know that I can do it.  I also know what motivates me – and no it’s not a box of Heroes but I wouldn’t turn them down (although probably should).  Life may be like a box chocolates but in this case I do know what I am going to get….

Tired.  Very tired.  Ha ha.

 

And It’s Back To Tri-ing

East Fife Sprint Triathlon.  The day I returned to my Oscar winning performance of ‘look like you’ve just seen someone murdered but you can’t tell anyone or you’ll die too’.  Although being murdered – however gruesomely – was an option I would have been willing to take at some points of today.

750m pool swim.  The distance wasn’t an issue but I know my already questionable technique flounders even more as the time goes on.  I also knew I was slower than the girl who was behind me in the lane so that tap to the foot was a guarantee.  Had it been allowed I would have said she can just go in front from the start.

24km cycle on roads which were not closed.  I’ve been on the roads twice this year.  New Years Day Tri and about a month ago.  I may have done a few spin sessions with the club but it’s not the same.  Goal for the cycle?  Don’t fall or crash.

5km run.  3 miles.  Usually this would be no issue but my IT band had suddenly woken up and that’s not pain I’m used to running with.  In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I would manage the cycle based on the spasms I was getting the 2 days before but what could I do?  Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must – but you’re crossing that finish line.

Joe came along with the kids which was a good distraction.  There were 26 registered from Perth Tri Club and all I kept hearing around me was ‘Joe’s here, Joe Webley, have you seen him?’.   He’s still in the process of adjusting to his meds so he hasn’t been out and about.  I was hoping being there in the atmosphere of a race would keep his head in the game.   A bit of a gamble I know as it could have completely put him off however lets be honest, who doesn’t love their ego being stroked a little – and he loved poking fun at my nerves.

The first 2 heats were the fastest guys then it was slowest to fastest.  I was in heat 5.  Quite a wait to begin which does absolutely nothing to help the butterflies and the nausea feeling – great.  There was some light relief provided in the form of a participants daughter though.  ‘How many people do they have counting your lengths?’  Answer: 2.  ‘But there’s 6 in a lane – how can they count 6 people!’.  ‘She just hit a swimmer with a float!’.  The mother kept apologising saying she had never seen a triathlon before.  It was a welcomed tension breaker.

The physio I had seen at the New Years Day Tri was in heat 3 so I had time to cheer her on before I had to go get ready for my heat.  Once changed I sat at pool side in my usual ‘I want to die’ stance.  ‘You look pretty nervous’ – it was a regular from the pool whom I had no idea would be here.  I thought it best not to say what a crap swimmer I am given I lifeguard when he is there.

In the pool now and I decide against the offer of a 50m warm up.  I just want to get this started.  There is 5 seconds between each swimmer but the person in front of me hasn’t turned up so there is now a 10 second gap between me and the guy in front.  I know it won’t be long before the girl behind me needs past either.  Surprisingly I don’t go out too fast.  I want to catch the guy in front but I’m not going to go hell for leather in the first 50m.  I’m on his toes before long and I feel a tap behind me so I wait at the end to be passed and then go in front.  Thus then begins a swim of him drafting me, touching my toes and then falling back so I’m waiting ages at the wall for him to pass and then because he has no one to draft he’s slower and I have to pass him.  Frustrating does not quite cut it.  Especially not when he didn’t always stop and let me past.  I’m frustrated even further when I realise I haven’t started my watch.  Are you kidding me!  I have no idea how far I have swum, what pace I am doing, nothing!  Anger kicks in and when the guy in front doesn’t stop at the wall the next time he gets a big old slap on the ankle.  Yes he does!

Last 2 laps and he isn’t getting past me.  I’m not in the mood.

I climb out the pool and head to the bike.  I’m fine on the tiles but as soon as I hit the gravelly car park I turn in to a fairy and start prancing around on my tip toes – it was sore!  It’s also cold so I fight with my straight jacket trying to put it on whilst repeating over and over ‘don’t touch the bike, helmet on, don’t touch the bike’.  Not the best chant to be honest as there is a high likely hood that I would actually leave transition 1 without my bike.  Best change that for future.  I cross the mount line and decide to zip up my top before getting on.  I can put my gloves on whilst cycling but I’m not convinced I’m pro-cyclist enough to zip a jacket.  There would be definite wobble going on.  And I’m not talking thighs or bottom lip (maybe double chin though).

So I’m on the bike and I know this is not only going to hurt but I’m going to suck at this part.  I’m just not a cyclist.  Probably (read that as factually) because I don’t ever ride my bike.  Could have something to do with it, who knows.  This will change though as my working hours are changing so I have no excuse not to cycle to work.  (Kind of hoping no one is going to read that).  I’m over taken by a few and I notice that they are all pedalling faster than me on the incline.  I remember talking to John when we were waiting to start.  He’s a mountain biker/cyclo cross rider and he had mentioned he was going to spin his legs on this ride.  Well.  He bloody knows better than me so I drop a few gears and push on.  This strategy does me well.  At least as well as someone who should still have stabilisers on can do.  Jo from the club goes past me and I manage a shout out to her.  She’s invited me out a few times for a cycle but due to work etc I haven’t managed.  Also, I’m not completely confident I could keep up with her.

Well now’s the time to try!  I put some effort in and go for it.  She’s bloody fast.  We come to a sharp left and typically I all but slow to a halt and she briefly goes out of my sight.  Damn it.  I eventually get her back in my sights but as soon as she turns to go up the climb that’s it.  Game over.  My full concentration is now on the fact I am trying to get my legs to keep pedalling up this hill whilst fully aware I am clipped in and highly likely to perform an extremely slow fall to the side whilst the guy behind me shouts ‘TIMBER!’.  Thankfully this doesn’t happen.  I get up out of my seat and try to force my legs round before sitting back down again.

It is at this point I remember I am still in my tri-suit which I wore for the swim.  There is ever so slight padding in my tri-suit for a certain area.  Padding which appears to retain water for a little time.  Nothing quite like a cold squelchy feeling when cycling up a hill in to the wind and cold.  No one told me about that!

The cycle was 2 loops so I knew I had to go round again (this time I didn’t stand up, one squelch was enough thank you).  As I came to the end there were 2 signs – Sprint to the left and Duathlon straight on.  The marshall again directed me left.  Hmmmm.  I’ve done this twice now and can’t see where the turn would be to transition.  I am NOT doing that hill again.  I keep going but I’m slowing down as this doesn’t feel right.  Another cyclist goes past and out of nowhere I say to him ‘I think I’m going the wrong way’.  He asks if I have done my loops and then tells me yup, I am wrong.  Should have gone straight on.

I turn back around and head back.

As I come back in for the run Scott and Kathleen (also tri club members) are standing cheering.  I shout out to them I went the wrong way.  I can kind of see the funny side.  I’m not a top cyclist so it’s not going to affect anything.

Into transition and I also tell Joe.  Oliver rather ‘helpfully’ tells me what way to run out of transition.  There are a couple of people who come in at the same time and I head out trying to make sure I am not overtaken.  I grab some water at the station and naturally choke a little on it.  For me it is virtually impossible to drink and keep running.  Absolute nightmare.  And do you know how much it hurts your throat when you choke on water?!

Anyway.  Back to the run.  It’s only a 5km so there’s not much to say.  I get onto the playing fields and Scott and Kathleen are there.  Kathleen’s cheering and Scott’s shouting obscenities/encouragement like ‘at least put SOME effort into it’.  I’m not going to lie.  Being shouted at to run and move faster pushes me on more than being told I’m doing great.  Probably because it’s been a while since I have done great a race ha ha.  Definitely a coaching mentality ha ha.

Nigel’s up ahead and I decide to try and catch him.  I’ve left it too late but I’m pleased I still had a little something in the tank for the finish.  I check my finishing times and overall I am quite happy.  It has given me starting times to work on.  Joan checks I didn’t fall off my bike and I very happily tell her no, I did not.

I go and get changed and grab my bike as Joe is keen to get home.  I can’t find him when I come out of the bike area so I walk to the car with Deborah.  She was as nervous as me and we had a little competition for last place.  Neither of us won.  She has parked right next to us bit Joe isn’t here and the car is locked so I turn to head back.  As I do so I some how tangle my feet up on the bike and before I know it – yup, you guessed it – I am face planting my bike frame and then lying on the ground with my right ankle twisted under the pedal.  I wasn’t even ON the thing!!  I was pushing it!!

Deborah is just stood there looking at me as if I am a 2 year old child at the end of an almighty tantrum and asks in a plain voice ‘Are you ok’.  She’s probably just as mortified as me.  I scuttle back to find Joe so we can get home.

Next up is Stirling Marathon.  This means no bikes to fall over and no wet crotches.  I’m not going for a PB but I would like a respectable time.  Then it’s a couple of ultra’s and more work on swimming and cycling.  I have to admit I really enjoyed doing a triathlon again.  I’m definitely not done with that.

 

2019 – it starts again

Edinburgh’s New Years Day Tri was my first ever triathlon back in 2016.  I did it again in 2017 along with Joe but last year I decided to give it a miss.  Now.  Call me ridiculous, over-analytical or just down right weird but part of me kind of thinks that may have been the start of the downfall that was 2018.  Not over dramatic at all.  Not even slightly.  Believing I may have ruined my year on the very 1st day?  Slight exaggeration?  Some may say possibly.  But moving on…

So, obviously, I signed back up for 2019.  400 metre swim, 12 mile cycle, 3 miles ish (lies!) run.  Less than a basic training day right?

Oh how wrong can you be!  Even after all this time I am still making absolute rookie mistakes.  You have to wonder how I manage to get dressed in a morning some times.  (Although I did forget my shorts last month at work – long story, not a pretty picture.  It’s ok though, I at least had pants on.)

You see it may have been a basic training day, an easy swim distance, nothing I can’t do on a bike, and I am still running – but I forgot a fundamental part.  Putting it all together.  And maybe, just maybe, I didn’t really cycle that much.  Or, like, ever.  Until the night before.  (Scariest cycle ever!!  I go blind in the dark!  And before you even say it there aren’t enough carrots in the world that can cure that).

Yup.  I got cocky.  Well not really.  I always knew it wasn’t going to be an all world athlete performance.  But I probably should have made a little more effort to put it all together.

What I wasn’t expecting was the nerves.  My lord I hadn’t felt like that since the first time I was there.  I couldn’t look Joe in the eye for fear of crying, couldn’t really speak either (although pretty sure he loved that part).  It was bad.  Waiting in the queue to get my race number and timing chip there was nervous chatter all around me.  ‘I just hope no one dies like they did at Kyle’s race.’

Well that’s not bloody helpful is it!!  I moved away from them quick smart – which was probably the fastest I moved all day.  In the changing room I bumped into the fantastic physio who had got me through Race To The Stones.  Turned out it was her first ever triathlon.  She was giving it a try.  We chatted about tips and stuff and how it was just a better way to spend New Years than with a pounding headache and memory loss.  Then I headed out to poolside for the race brief – ever the stickler for the race brief.  Much to my mortification the man with the microphone decided to tell us to turn to the person next to us and wish them a happy new year.  My eyes went wide, my face went white, I visibly started shaking, nooooo!  Human contact with strangers!!  Please don’t, please don’t, please don’t.  The woman next to me eyed me up.  I knew what was coming.  It was like slow motion.  She looked, she saw the fear, she oh so briefly paused, then she decided nah, I’m going to do it.  ‘I know you don’t want to and this is probably the worst thing to happen to you but Happy New Year’.  I smiled back at her and laughed a little as I wished her the same back.  I had been too nervous to stop my reaction appearing on my face.  I had basically asked for it.

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I watched the first swimmers take off, truly in awe of their courage.  Many were breast stroking, there were not many swim caps and there were a few even without goggles.  But they were all going for it.  They may not have been the fastest but they were the most impressive.  I headed down and spotted a woman from the tri club sitting at the side.  She was doing a relay with another from the tri club and a woman I know from the running club.  She had estimated her swim time much better than me and was starting earlier than me.  I was very concerned about my estimate as we swim at pretty much the same speed.  It’s not a great feeling being over taken in the lane by a stream of people.  We chatted a little (very hard with swim caps on your ears) and she helped calm my nerves without even knowing it I don’t think.

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She headed to the queue and I lingered at the edge.  I knew the physio lady would be swimming down the lane soon.  Sure enough I spotted her and shouted out.  She paused and looked back.  Oh hell did I just put her off? Damn it.  I always get carried away cheering.  She was doing really good as well, looked comfortable.

Then it was my turn.  I remembered from last time not to jump in and head to the bottom of the pool instead of forward.  I didn’t get a push off the wall but it was ok.  All in all the whole swim felt ok.  I didn’t panic, my breathing was smooth, I may have hit my head on every single lane rope (I’m clearly way too attached to these things) but it generally felt ok.  I only counted about 4 people who over took me although I rarely saw anyone in the lane behind me which I found odd.  Climbing out I stopped my watch.  9 minutes something.  Appears my pace was not ‘ok’ then but more on the slow side.  Or did that say 8 minutes something?  Could be.  I would be happy with that.

In to transition and could I get my jumper on?  Absolutely not.  Had I swallowed half the pool and now I was carrying water weight?  This is a high possibility.  After much pulling and under the breath bad words I finally got it on and pushed my bike out with a quick wave to Joe and Oliver.  Could I remember what to do next though?  When am I allowed to get on the bike?  Is it straight out of the gate? Am I missing something?  I keep pushing it hoping someone goes by me to give me a clue.  I’m on the outside road now and convinced I should be riding the thing.  Am I going to push it all the way round the course??  I’m going to be mega embarrassed if someone shouts at me ‘do you not know what that things for love!’.  Finally I see a line on the floor and a marshall and it comes back to me.  This is whats called a mount line Ella.  Mount the bike.  Doh.

The cycle is uneventful.  The incline is hard and the downhill is fun.  I thank my lucky stars I went to the static bike sessions with the tri club as although there may only have been a few, it helped.  I consider my swim time and wonder again if it was possibly 8 minutes something and not 9 minutes.  I would find out soon.  The entire time round I am doing 2 things.  Praying I don’t get a puncture and wondering how on earth I managed to do a half ironman! Seriously?  You need to get your butt in gear lassie.  Get over your fear of the bike, do proper swim training and well, just keep running.

In to transition again and it’s out for the run.  I inevitably get jelly legs – did I do any brick training?  Can I walk out of a sports shop without buying a new running top?  – but I force myself up the hill and then back down again.  Not lightening fast but there’s the line and now my year has started right.

Caroline, the runner in the relay team, is just ahead of me at the water table.  She’s loved it.  I’m not surprised.  It’s been a great day.  I bump in to the physio lady in the changing room again and she’s hooked.  She’s definitely going to be at another one soon.  I grab some hot ginger from the Active Root stall and hold it very close to my heart – it’s the tastiest thing ever.  I may have even whispered ‘I love you’ in to the cup.  It was cold.  It heated me up.  Don’t judge.

So that’s that.  My year started the way it should be and a nudge in the right direction.  I’ve got some running races booked this year but I’m going to be doing more triathlon too.  Time to get back at it.

Oh and my swim time was most definitely not 8 minutes something ha ha.  Ah well.

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Road Runners Do Tri

It’s been quite a week.

First the Perth Half last Saturday – let’s not say anything more about that. But I have picked my next half where I will get my club standards time or die trying! Speaking of ‘Tri’, the day after Perth Half was the Relay Wild Triathlon. I did this last year  but this year I was in the Road Runners team. Tuesday after that was a race at Knockhill (Tuesday, not the Wednesday that I thought) and finally last night was the clubs duathlon. So yeah, pretty busy.

Relay Wild Triathlon

This year in the team was myself, Scott and Debbie (2 road runners) and my other half. It’s a fun event rather than a serious one but that doesn’t make it easy. The distances are short which means you don’t get in to your stride before you move on to the next discipline. Each member of the team completes all 3 before passing the timing chip to the next member.

The weather was very sporadic throughout the day which was unfortunate as last year it was great and we could sit out on the grass. A few from the club came out to support as well which is always great to see. Shows how friendly a club it is. Debbie has done a few triathlons before but this was to be Scott’s first and he had joked he was going to wear his speedos as he didn’t have a Tri suit.

We were joking about before hand – Stuart had his sons (fake) swords and daggers so we were debating about taking out some of the very serious looking competition with them. At least 50% of the field was half my age and there were a lot of club Tri suits. I didn’t care, I had my HUUB suit, and it has pink on it!

Debbie went first and we waved her off and made sure we were there to shout her on. She looked like she was loving it! Before long she was out and back in on the bike then off for her run. She passed the chip to Scott. Turns out, he wasn’t joking about the speedos! There’s not many almost 50 year old guys that can pull that look off. Hats off to him though, he raised a few eyebrows. Just a shame most of the females there were young enough to be his teenage daughter ha ha. (Just kidding Scott).

It wasn’t long before he was back and I was off. True to form no matter how ‘relaxed’ the race is meant to be I stood waiting for the chip saying to myself ‘why am I doing this’. I’m fine once I get going but every time before the start I get that exasperated feeling of ‘what are you doing?!?’. Also true enough I messed up my swim. I had a pre-pubescent boy continuously stroke me up the very first length. You only need to tap me once to let me know you’re there! Good thing I didn’t have Stuart’s sons dagger that’s all I’m saying. On to the bike and I felt ok. I’m still embarrassed by my bike time at Edinburgh Half Ironman so haven’t been on it since then. I wasn’t expecting much here and that’s what I did – ‘ok’.

On to the run and I remembered how bad I felt running at last years event. I’m surprised I even got round the course then! This year was different though. It was still hard and I was still breathing heavily but I was keeping pace not too bad. Stuart had come down to the run route to ‘encourage’ me on (or shout abuse, pretty sure it’s the same thing). That did stop me from slowing down though.

I passed the timing chip to Joe and as he’s now part of the Tri club and another member was in another team it was clear from the get go they were racing! Joes just a ‘little’ competitive shall we say.

His challenger finished the swim first. He wasn’t happy. I on the other hand took great delight in telling him his friend was in front of him. Until I remembered Joe was actually on my team and we needed him to win.

Whilst waiting for Joe to come back from his cycle I went and got a print out of my times. I knew my swim had been bad and wanted to see just how bad.

”7 minutes 55?!? I don’t bloody think so!! What the hell!!’.

There was no way my time was as long as that! I had it down to 4m 5 in the pool. Absolutely no way! It did not take me almost 4 minutes to walk from the pool to the door!! (You weren’t allowed to run for safety reasons).

‘Can you get it checked?’ Asked Steph. ‘I’m bloody going to!’ I’m pretty sure I replied before she had even finished. I was raging. Livid! Who do I speak to!! How dare they! Steam was actually coming out of my ears! I can’t put this in my scrap book!

Then it was pointed out to me I had asked for the wrong number on the print out. I had someone else’s times.

Tail firmly between my legs I went back to the van and with my head hanging in shame asked for the correct number.

When Joe came back from the cycle he was still behind his friend so I ran down to the run route to coax him on. I was at the side shouting and taking photos when another runner on the route apologised to me for ruining my photos. ‘Don’t be daft no you’re not love’ I shouted to her. Then she said I could help her by running with her.

How do you say no to that?

Why would I say no to that?!

So I did. I found out she had started running but hadn’t really enjoyed it so was mixing it up by doing triathlon. Her first one had been in April. I told her to keep going and that the biggest cheer is always at the end and always worth it. I ran with her until we reached her husband who got her to the end.

Lovely Woman
Lovely Woman

I went back to the others and to see how Joe had done. He had overtaken his challenger on the run and beaten him overall (he too had been quick to the van to check, although with the right number the first time…) so he was happy. Looking at the teams overall time we had done really well so looked like we were in a good position to place in the top 3 – wa hey!

We stuck about for the food and the presentation – after all, you can’t go home without picking up your prizes, that’s just rude. Debbie kept us entertained with her Yoda impression too.

The rain started again so we went in to the hall as they read out the results. The all males and all females teams were read out first. The prizes were mostly beer and yes, we did have a joke about whether they were old enough to drink it (some non alcoholic prizes were handed out, I’m sure they didn’t give underage kids alcohol!). Then came the team prize. Ok, we are up for this! I was thinking second. Hopefully first but it was quite competitive so may have just missed it. The results were read out in reverse order along with times.

We didn’t win.

I’m putting my money on the winning team being a mum, dad and their two kids! Thought this was supposed to be a fun event? Yes I’ve done a half ironman but you would never have guessed it with my performance ha ha. Joe pointed out that would quite likely be us – especially when our youngest is old enough. Fair point.

There was a prize for fastest swimmer and whilst I was under no illusion it would be me I was hopeful it may be Joe. There were two people with the exact same time. They read out the first name and there was a loud cheer. The guy went up. ‘If its you I’m cheering way louder than them’ I said to Joe.

It was Joe.

He didn’t hear it though because I was screaming. Yes, that’s me, the overexcitable supportive wife. I do like a good cheer! Just wait until your next race!

‘Slightly’ disgruntled at no team prize we still had a great day. All jokes aside it is a fun day and I would do it again. Hopefully we will get another team from the road runners next year, possibly even two. Its fantastic that some people from the club come out and support too – definitely tells me I chose the right club.

Next Up

What to do, what to do, what to do.

I just don’t know.

A week on from the biggest challenge I’ve taken on so far and I feel…..well….. confused.  Something’s missing.  I almost feel empty.  I’ve genuinely been round the houses time and time again trying to figure out how I ‘feel’.

The only thing I can put it down to is this – I know I can do more.  

Yes it was damn hard.  Yes the swim was one of the most petrifying things I’ve ever forced myself to do.  No I am not the biggest fan of cycling truth be told (and clearly my split on the bike backs that up).  Yes I was happy with my result.  I crossed that line and met every cut off.  I absolutely loved the run.

But…

I could have done better.  In ALL sections.  I wanted to enjoy it, that was my main aim, so I did allow myself to take a moment when I needed it.  And at the time I was happy to do so.  I race to enjoy – not to break myself.  But I’m left feeling ‘unfulfilled’.  Not quite complete.  

I did come to the conclusion that another Half Ironman at a substantially faster pace may fill the void.  And Weymouth is the ideal candidate for that.  However I’m not the only one who gets anxious about leaving the kids and us both racing hundreds of miles away without them there is too much right now.  Weymouth is the one he said he would be giving it his all at so it’s only fair I don’t affect that.  I absolutely love supporting as well so it’s not as if I will have a miserable day.  I will be on that start line next year though.  And there are of course other options, other races.

But I am still undecided.  Nothing confirmed.  Not a thing set in stone.

Hmm stone.  There is an ultra run called Race To The Stones…. that’s another option.

All I know for sure is that I have never felt like this after a race.  I’ve read all about the ‘down’ you can feel after a big race but this isn’t that.  I’m not depressed about it, I’m not gutted it’s all over, I don’t have a big space where my training used to be.  I’m doing a 10k followed by a 5k race tomorrow and I’ve got my GFA to earn.  I’ve got plans.

I just don’t seem to have that plan.  It may very well be that all important GFA but right now it doesn’t feel like it is.

The only thing I can guarantee is one thing – I’m not done.  I have not peaked.  I most definitely have not pushed my limits as far as they can go.

There is more to come from Ella.  Much more. 

Anything IS Possible

3:15am and our alarm goes off.  

This. Is. It.

The day I have been training for 6 months for.  6 solid months.  

It’s a quick shower, a quiet one.  No music this morning.  Just focus. Upstairs it sounds like my oldest has only just gone to sleep.  Ah to be 17 again. (Actually no thanks!).

Joes made a huge mound of porridge and I try to get as much down me as I can but I don’t manage a lot.  Eating at that time of the morning is near impossible.  Aware it’s not enough I try to top it up with half a bagel.  

Into the van and we are on our way to pick up Joes dad.  First panic of the day.  Do I have my timing chip! I ‘ask’ Joe to pull over even though we are only 2 minutes away from his dads so I can get my bag from the back of the van and precede to empty it’s contents eventually finding it in the ‘safe’ pocket I had put it in the night before.

No comment needed.

His dads there bright and breezy with his coffee and we are soon on the road to Edinburgh.  Unsurprisingly it’s clear and it’s straight through.  We park up and the minute the door is opened I can feel the wind.  It’s the sea front though.  It’s expected.  I take a quick look at the water and can quite clearly see the course marked out is not 1900 meters.  We will find out soon though.

Walking in we see Heledd straight away – she’s volunteering as Kevin is racing too.  The poor soul is already freezing but she tells us she is about to be moved position so she can warm up.  I wish I had taken photo with her at the start.  At 6am we hear the announcement that they have shortened the swim – for the pros as well.  What? That’s unusual.  They normally have to do full length regardless.

Into transition for the last checks on the bikes and we see some from Perth Tri Club. I join the queue for the toilets and remain there until very close to start time.  Luckily, it was worth it and I had ‘movement’. I get into my wetsuit and we head over to the start.  


We are at the back of the line but can’t see any signs telling us where to be for what predicted time so we can’t place ourselves very well.  Turns out the signs were on the inside of the fences.  Not very useful.  It’s impossible to move forward so we stay where we are.  There’s a few comments about the swim (‘may as well just chuck a bucket of water over us’ raised a fair few eyebrows around). I don’t look at the sea, I don’t even try.  I wanted to see the pro athletes but I’m tiny and can’t see over people.  I’m thankful for it though because I really didn’t want to look at what I was about to attempt.  Over the tannoy we are told it’s tough conditions and to give sharp hard kicks at the first buoy and that should get us round.

Should?!? 

We get to the front and a Marshall is there shouting ‘does anyone need goggles?’.  Nice touch have to say.  He follows it up with ‘or a choc ice or ice cream’.  Made me smile. I’m at the gate now.  I’m through the gate – my god that was fast! Joes through at the same time but he’s off and in the water.  The first wave hits me and I’m pushed back.  Holy hell.  Ok.  Just get in.  I dive in and I’m hit with other athletes trying to move forward but being pulled back.  I can still see Joe at the side of me, he’s having just as hard a time.  

I’ve only just started and I see a couple of kayaks just laden with people and pulling more swimmers out.  There’s lots of shouting but I can’t make any of it out above the noise of the waves.  I have a very fleeting thought of grabbing the kayak but I throw that out my head instantly before it festers.  I get to the first buoy and I can no longer see Joe, he’s probably already on to the second.  I’m now chocking on the sea water, badly.  I switch to breast stroke to try and calm down.  Works only marginally.  I’m swallowing so much water how can there be any left to swim in?!? 

Right, come on.  I see another kayak – swamped by more people.  I start thinking of all the people who know I am doing this, those who have donated, my kids – and I start thinking how embarrassing it would be for me personally not to do this.  The pros were out the water in less than 15 minutes.  15 god damn minutes.  Move your bloody arse Ella and get to the end.  Over a thousand people are doing this – it is NOT impossible.  Stop being a bloody wimp.  

I find some sort of rhythm and begin to go with the waves.  Front crawl works for a little while but you can’t sight and have to switch to breast stroke to make sure you’re still on course.  I take a few hits but nothing major.  Then an arm smacks me on the face not once but twice.  Goggles!! Oh my god my goggles!! I can’t get them back on if they come off!! Not in this!! They’re still on though, squint, but still on.  I feel something on the top of my neck and just before I freak out it’s a jellyfish I realise it’s my nose plugs.  I’m close to the next buoy and the waves are as high as the top it.  I consider jumping on it to get out the water and just bobbing around on it for a moment. 

It’s a nice thought.

I’m making the turn now so I tell myself I’m over half way, I may as well swim back.  There’s a new challenge now though – the sun.  I can barely see a thing.  I’m still surrounded by people so I must be on course.  The last and final buoy comes in to sight.  I turn and I’m on the final straight.  It feels like forever but eventually I can stand up. 

Well.  Wobble up.  Like bambi I make my way up to transition, occasionally trying to run.  I gave a great impression of a baby giraffe – award winning performance I would say.  I click my watch and it says 33minutes.  That’s embarrassing! I must be one of the very last out the water.  I’m trying to get my wet suit zipper down and another athlete does it for me.  I was incredibly thankful.

Just outside the tent I see Heledd shouting.  What a perfect time to see a friendly face! Gave me that moment to calm down and take a breath.  Of course I’m pretty sure my face just read ‘oh my god I almost died, why did I do that’ – but I appreciated seeing her. 

I need water.  Oh the irony!! Swallowed so much sea water I now needed plain water to help bring it back up.  I knew my transition time was going to be bad so I try to speed up at the same time as calming myself down.  I head out to my bike (still in shock) and as I take it from the rack I hear something very strange on the tannoy’

‘Joe Webley’

What? Is he just coming out of the water? I pause for a minute and fight the instinct to go back and check he was ok.  Something’s clearly happened. It’s not what you are meant to do though and he would shout at me if I did so I carry on to the bike.  

As soon as I’m in the saddle I can feel my front wheel wobbling.  Like really wobbling.  This isn’t good! What’s happening? It’s that bad I stop and check it several times.  Doesn’t feel lose when I’m stopped but doesn’t feel safe when I’m cycling.  I don’t know what to do.  I can’t find the problem but I’m not confident.  

So yeah, I carry on.  As you do.

I know I have to start re-fuelling as soon as possible on the bike but I can’t face an energy bar or a gel so I opt for the jelly babies I had bought last minute. Aware this was a very risky thing as I hadn’t trained with them I still put one in my mouth.

Best. Decision. Ever.

Those jelly babies were a life saver.

Nigel came past me with a cheery hello – I love that.  Then at seven miles I hear what I really, really needed to hear.

‘There she is.  Alright wife.’

‘YEAH!!!!!’ He’s caught up with me.  He’s fine.  What ever happened in the water hasn’t stopped him and he’s not in the medical tent.  He’s all smiles and laughing.  ‘What about that swim eh?’ He asks.  ‘I am never doing that again’ is my reply.  I tell him Nigel’s just ahead and I will ‘just stay back here’. It was a good boost and feeling of relief.

I know the Gifford loop is coming and at about 26 miles the course gets incredibly hard.  I’m honestly scared of one of the downhills that turns sharply in to a steep up hill so I’m preparing myself for a quick unclip – possibly even a fall.  First few climbs are hard but I do it.  My cornering is shocking but I’m still wobbling a little on the front wheel.  Still convinced it’s coming off.  I pass a few with punctures at the side but I don’t see any crashes.  Down through the first bad corner and I’m still up right.  Back up another hill.  I pass one or two and it gives me a little boost.  Further up I see a couple walking up and I use them as a ‘target’ to keep going.  Next comes the dreaded hairpin.  But – it’s not as bad as I had dreamed it was.  I slow right down but I still keep going. 

I’m still waiting on the dreaded downhill-sharp left-steep incline section when I get back in the village.  Huh? Where did it go? It was definitely before here.  I must have already done it!! Whoo hoo! Cycled the part that had given me nightmares and didn’t even realise it! 

Just a few miles on and I’m getting sore.  That love QL muscle is nagging away.  I don’t know how my youngest is as I wasn’t going to phone my mum at 6 in the morning.  My throats seriously hurts from all the gagging in the swim.  My swim was bad and I’m not convinced I made the cut off.  What if I don’t make the bike cut off? I’m well aware I’m not hitting my target time. 

So, I start singing.  

‘I love you baby, and if it’s quite alright I miss you baby, hold you tight’.

This carries on for a few miles.  

As does the wind.  At times it feels like I’m going backwards it’s that strong.  The crosswinds catch me a few times as well and I sway across the road. I don’t like cycling in the wind.  I don’t like it at all.

I count down the last 10 miles.  The cobbles were ‘interesting’.  My under carriage didn’t appreciate them.  Neither did the guy next to me.  ‘What the bloody hell is this!! This isn’t a road! And are we going up there?!?’

I got the sense he hadn’t enjoyed his cycle so far.

I knew what the last climb was and I knew where it levelled out so I went for it.  ‘Up, up, up you go Ella’ – got me a few funny looks.  I also knew the last downhill section was steep.  Taking no chances this late in the stage I kept hold of the brakes.  Maybe one day I will be confident on the bike but today wasn’t the day for risks. 

Up to the line and I dismounted. The woman next to me didn’t dismount until after the line then looked at the Marshall as if she didn’t know what he was saying.  I heard them arguing as I ran off.

Bike racked and I changed into my trainers. Ah my trainers.  My lovely, lovely trainers that meant I could now run!!! The part I love!! I know I can run 13.1 miles! My stomach wasn’t too good – still had salt water in it – so it was a quick stop in the porta loos. 

I’m out on the run and my legs feel surprisingly good.  I know it’s a flat before it starts to climb and I can already see people walking.  I pass a fair few but it’s impossible to say what lap of the three anyone is on.  I’m only half a mile in and I have a light bulb moment.  My front wheel wasn’t lose.  I was Sea sick from the swim! I laugh out loud at myself, not sure it’s something I should admit to but know I will later on.  

Top of that hill and I see a 6 foot tall ginger lad on a bike.  My arms are up and I’m waving like mad.  ‘Frazer!! I didn’t die!!’.  ‘Yeah!’ He shouts back.  What a boost to see my original running buddy at that point! He tells me Joes just ahead and I can catch him which I laugh at as this is quite clearly a lie and meant as encouragement – it’s appreciated.  

Along the first straight that goes over the tunnel and I see him.  My arms are up again.  I am so happy to be running and to see that Joe is in good form.  A high five as we pass and it’s smiles all round.  Now it’s into the tunnel which is nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be.  In fact, I quite liked it! I was getting a comfortable pace through it.  Back out and the sharp incline took its toll on my legs and I resorted to a short recovery walk for 10 seconds.  

Not long after was the feed station, typically  going up a ‘hill’ also.  Although happy to be running I had had enough of hills at this point.  A Marshall came right in to my face ‘go Ella’.  A bit taken aback I almost stopped.  Then I realised it was Gosia, another running friend.  What a cheery sight! ‘This is hard’ I tell her.  ‘What did you expect, it’s ironman’ she laughs at me.  


I push on to my second lap and instantly get confused on when I need to turn in to the finish.  Counting is not my strong point when running! I see Frazer again and give him a big smile.  I saw him earlier cycling along the side of Joe which was great to see.  He was working later so I knew he wouldn’t be there at the finish.  I saw a few more I recognised and cheered them all on.  I was actually enjoying the laps (once I got in my head when I had to turn in) and it broke it up fantastically.  I passed Kevin going the other way in the tunnel – Heledds partner – he was on his last lap.  I sang a little in the tunnel too, hard not to when the tunes were blaring at the turn.

Coming down near the last section of my second lap I see Kevin at the side stretching his leg.  ‘Are you ok?’  He’s got cramping in his leg.  He starts running with me and tells me he arrived late to the start so started at the back of the pack.  He didn’t find the swim easy either.  I really enjoyed running that short section with him and as he turned up the finish I shouted after him ‘Take it home Kevin’.  (If you’ve ever listened to Lonely Island you’ll know why I’m laughing, Michael Bolton can actually be funny).  


Last lap, last lap, last lap.  I’m doing this, I’m doing this I Am Doing This.  I wanted to enjoy every last moment of this race.  There was definitely no sprints for me! Last time past Gosia and her station and what a cheer I got from them.  Put the biggest smile on my face! Through the last feed station manned by West Lothian Tri Club and lots of encouragement again.  

Final section.

I can see Joe at the side, cheering me on.

I turn up to the finish.  No one is in front of me, no one is behind me.  I fight back the emotions threatening to make me cry.  I have THE biggest grin on my face ever.  I push right to the end.


Holy shit I just did it!!!! I just completed my first Half Ironman!! How did I do that??

Finisher photo taken and I make a bee line for the food.  I don’t move from the watermelon for a good five minutes. I can’t eat anything apart from that and the orange segments.  But I don’t care.  I am officially a Half Ironman. 

Meeting Joe and his dad outside the finishers tent he tells me to quickly put more layers on before the cold hits me.  It’s been raining on and off and the wind was bringing a chill.  He also gives me an update on our youngest who had had a bad night but was ok, not to worry. 

Of course I hit the expo tent.  Card in hand. Proud memoribelia purchased.  

On the road home and I check my phone.  I  had absolutely loads of support from the road runners and friends.  How I didn’t cry when I was reading it all I will never know. It was fantastic.  

Joe and I talked non stop on the way home recalling the achievement we had just accomplished.  He had struggled with the waves and had grabbed a kayak at one point.  He knew the swim was going to be his hardest part and seeing an overturned safety boat didn’t help. He had done it though and pushed himself through.  And it hadn’t put him off.  Just made it all the more important to get more sea swim practise in.

One of the pro athletes dubbed the course the hardest she has ever done – and it makes Staffordshire a walk in the park in comparison.  That settles it in my mind for me.  It was right to cut the swim.  It was not an ‘easy’ option.  Around 50 people got pulled from the water.  Many chose not to even start and the latest figures I read quoted a 29% DNF rate overall.  The swim conditions got worse the later you went in.  

I did it though.  I did every part of it.  I may not have been the fastest, I may not have ranked high in the results but I did it! I crossed that finish line.  

So yes.  I believe that Anything IS Possible.  I’m having a couple of days rest to let my body recover and I’m going to wear my finishers t-shirt for a week! I’m in no rush to scrub off my number tattoo and my new Ironman bag will be going everywhere with me. 

I bloody did it!! 

Ironman Weekend – Friday/Saturday

The weekend did not start out great.  Our youngest started coming down with something on the Thursday night and by Friday evening it was clear we couldn’t possibly have him with us for the event.  Nothing quite sets you back as much as not having your kids there and not having your parents there.  Yup, it was Nanny Netty to the rescue again (and my dad) They kindly had them and stayed at home whilst Joe and I ran around all weekend.
On the Friday we went to register and attend the novice briefing.  We may have done a few triathlons but we haven’t done this distance and I didn’t want anything going wrong.  I knew they had strict rules on things and I didn’t want to be DQ’d over something I could have learnt at the briefing.  I picked up some good tips.  Best place to put your things, what to do if you panicked in the swim, a reminder of the drafting rules and a joke or two about the ‘flat’ course. (I think the comment was who ever designed the course has a wicked sense of humour).  


We bought a t-shirt each from the expo – the one that has everyone’s name on it – but I didn’t want to tempt fate and buy the actual Edinburgh Finisher tshirt.  I did however plan exactly in my head what I would be buying when I crossed that finish line.  (So many more things than that tshirt ha ha).


Once the briefing was done we did a recce of the run route as it was close by.  ‘It’s not too bad, you get a flat start then it just climbs slowly’ I said as we walked up the first section.

Then we kept walking up, and up, and up.

‘You were saying?!’ Joe said as he turned to me with raised eyebrows.  Hmm, this wasn’t going to be as easy a run as I had pictured.  We went to find the now infamous underground tunnel everyone had been raving about.  It was dark.  It was wet. It was creepy.


I insisted on walking all the way through it to ensure there was no where someone could jump out and try to kill me.  I refused to read the graffiti on the walls as I was convinced it would say ‘R.I.P – what made you think you would get out alive?’

The only way out the tunnel was up another steep hill.  It was short though.  Think positive Ella.

We had to head back through on the Saturday to rack our bags and bike and go to the practise swim.  Tensions were high! Let’s just say we spent a large portion of the day ‘discussing’ things and these ‘discussions’ only got hotter and hotter.  Much like the temperature that day.  There were many clenched fists in the mouth moments.  (Our own clenched fists in our own mouths I hasten to add!) Could have been avoided though, had someone stuck to the plan. Or even made a plan like he was supposed to but no.  Someone knew better.  Because someone  knows everything.

Just saying.

Joe.

Anyway.  A few back and forths, a few u-turns and fast accelerations (I won’t mention the parked car incident) and we headed to the practise swim.

Ah the practise swim.  

It was not smooth.  It was not calm.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to get my wetsuit soaking and not dried before the actual swim so when I saw how rough it was, I said ‘no thanks’.  Yes ok I chickened out.  But I wasn’t alone.  There were a lot of people there and not many who actually got in the water.  No I didn’t expect it to be very calm but I also didn’t want to get a fright or a panic the night before so I passed.  A few from Perth Tri Club went in and they all came out saying it wasn’t as bad as it looked.  A few also came out with cuts and grazes.  I pushed this to the back of my head.  There was already chat about the likely hood of the swim being cut due to the conditions.  I had mixed feelings about this.  I really wanted to do the full distance.  I had trained to do the full distance.  But I had never swam in choppy water like that before.  

As soon as we were home the email came in.  ‘Potential shortened swim’.  

And just as fast – the keyboard warriors were out.

‘That’s ridiculous if they cut the swim, it’s not even cold!’ ‘If you can’t handle a sea swim you shouldn’t enter a 70.3!’ ‘Wales 2015 was much worse and they didn’t cut that’.

Oh my god get over it!! 2015 was 2 years ago!!

The decision would be made at 6am.  And that decision was final.  It would be what it was.  

A quick trip to the supermarket to get a couple of back up gels and I picked up some jelly babies as well to try and eat on the bike.

We packed our bags with the last of our stuff and went to bed early.  Nerves were ridiculously high.  My daughter kept sending me snapchats of her and our youngest which were really cute and helped remind me of one of the reasons I was doing this.  I watched a ridiculous amount of motivational videos on YouTube that I have become addicted to.  I visualised myself at the finish line over and over again.  That was where I was going to be just after lunch time. On. That. Finish. Line.