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 ┬ábut 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.

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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.

Face Plant

‘I’ve signed you up for a charity cycle’ – text received from Joe.

Cool, sounds fun, I’m up for that.

Keyline was the company that had organised it to raise money for Prostate Cancer and Joe was a regular customer in there.  They knew he liked cycling so asked if he wanted to join them.  He asked if I could come along and signed us up for day 3 of their 4 days.  Loch Lomond to Fort William – roughly 80 miles.

We met up with the group at 8:30am.  There was only one other female (Hayley) but that didn’t really bother me.  Everyone introduced themselves and after seeing the extent of the sun burn on a couple of them I gladly accepted the offer of the sun cream!  The brief was simple (even for me) – we were cycling on the A82 heading to Fort William. Straight road.  Easy.


We set off and man it was difficult trying to figure out what position to put myself in.  Do I push? Do I do a comfortable speed? Do I hang back with Hayley and keep her company? Oh my word the pressure!  

But…. oh my word… instantly the views were gorgeous.  We were going along Loch Lomond and I couldn’t resist a photo or 2.



The road was bumpy in places and about 3 miles in one of the guys hit a kerb.  A small bump but a bump none the less.  On to the road and it was a lot smoother but quite busy.  At 15 miles it was decided the next part was too dangerous for a big group of cyclists as it was full of twists and turns with very few passing places for the impatience cars and vans.  The bikes were loaded in to one of the support vehicles and the riders went in the mini bus behind.



A few miles down the road and we all got out and got our bikes.  Cue fall number 1.  I stupidly tried to clip in whilst pushing up a gravel path and promptly fell over – slow motion of course.  No biggie though.  It happens.

I decided to stick back with Hayley for a wee while and started chatting.  She was doing all 4 days and had the attitude of ‘I will get there when I get there’.  4 days for someone who only really cycled to and from work was a bit of a difference! 

Glancing down I noticed my handle bar was bent.  Oh you’re kidding.  How could a simple fall like that have bent my handle bars?  I was going to have to see if I could get this fixed.  I shouted to Hayley I was going to try and catch up with Joe and see if he could sort it.  ‘See you soon’ she said.  I put my foot down and pedalled harder.  

It was busy but it was ok.  I see another from the group just in front of me.  As I began to catch up with him I see a large sunken drain in the road.  I turn to my right to make sure I have space to go round and I’m met with a van so close to my face I could have stuck my tongue out and licked it.  I swing my head back round but the gust from the van pushes me straight in to the hole.  As I bump out of it I throw myself to the left and away from the road.  The force of the bump has me flying over the handle bars.  I see a solid iron man hole cover and thank the lord I’m wearing a helmet as I hit it face first, my left hip stopping my motion on the side of it.

I roll over and instantly throw my right hand on to my face, knowing I’ve hit it quite bad.  It’s wet.  Ok I’m not moving my hand.  I lie there for a few seconds a bit shocked.  Did that really just happen? I move my legs still expecting them to be attached to my bike (I’ve never crashed before! I’m amazed they unclipped!).  Legs are fine – I can still run.  I try to move my left hand which is sticking awkwardly out.  Nope! That isn’t happening without considerable pain! Oh… shit.  Ok, leave it there.  You know Hayley’s not far behind you.  

The rider that was in front of me is now at my side.  I suspect I let out some hell of a yell or made a very loud noise as I face planted a solid object.  Soon enough he says ‘Here’s Hayley now, it’s ok, she’s a nurse’.  There’s a few people round me now.  I feel a bit of an idiot.  This wasn’t even 20 miles in! She asks me to move my hand and I garble some rubbish about there being blood – like she can’t see it!  The support vehicle pulls up and she shouts for a first aid kit.  

I’m lying on the ground focusing on my breathing trying desperately not to cry or think about what the hell my face looks like when there’s a thump on my cheek.  For a second I remember back to Mags hitting her face at Tough Mudder, sneezing and her whole face blowing up.  Please, no.

‘Fraser!’ ‘Jesus Christ!’.

Turns out Fraser had thrown the first aid kit across the road and hit me square in the face with it.   No, I don’t blame you for laughing out loud at that.  Comedy gold to be fair.

Hayley patches my face up with some steri strips and a bandage.  She tells me I’ve punctured it and will need to get it looked at.  As she’s doing it I ask if my bikes ok.  I’m convinced I’ve buckled my wheel and I’m worried about Ironman in just 4 weeks time.  Luckily it was just the other handle that was bent and a couple of the guys managed to push bits back in place.  I sit up and try to move my shoulder, which I can do but bloody hell its sore.  I can’t really move my left hand either but it’s not really grazed or anything.

I decide to carry on.  I know that if I don’t get back on that bike right now Ironman will be over for me.  I won’t make the start line.  Everything still works on the bike and the support vehicle is right there.  I start off with Hayley and agree to take it slow but as soon as I’m confident the bikes ok I speed up.  I think the adrenaline just kicks in and I refuse to let ‘that fear’ creep in to my mind.  My hip is screaming at me and I can’t move my left hand but I am doing this cycle.

I stop at the round about.  Naturally both exits say A82.  I wait for a minute or two to see if the rest of them catch up but all I can think about is getting to the next stop (The Green Welly Boot) where I can get red bull and pain killers.  So I carry on.  The van goes past me and I give it a wave to say I’m fine.  Not so sure my face said that though.  I was extremely aware of how close some of the cars and vans were coming and after my fall I was what can only be described as a small ball of utter fury.  

I’m about a mile and a half out from the stop when this blue crappy fiat 500 literally skims past me.  I blow my top shouting and screaming at it and try to chase it down – fully intent on banging on the window and letting all my rage out.  It’s a car though.  It has an engine.  I don’t catch it.  

When I finally arrive at the stop Joes standing waiting there.  ‘You alright?’ He asks.  ‘I need red bull and pain killers’.  We walk round to the van to get his wallet and I scan the car park for the Fiat, just in case.

I am genuinely fine.  The bleeding doesn’t feel like it’s stopped yet and the pain is ‘a bit much’ but overall it’s not stopping me from cycling.  I can’t really eat anything as I can’t move my cheek but I can drink my red bull.  What more do I need? Ha ha.


Back on the road and the wonderful sites continue.  I draft Joe along one section and enjoy taking it that bit easier.  Every time we stop and I put my left foot down I get a shooting pain right through my hip so I don’t stop for many photos.  The faster guys in the group go on ahead and stop for selfies.  This gives me a bit of a chuckle as I go past grown men in Lycra cheesing at their phones.  Only for them to go past again and it all to repeat.  


The views are what keep me going.  Gliding down through the hills past Glen Etive – it’s astounding.  Despite the pain I was enjoying it.  


We were booked on the last train back to the start so it was a race against time to get there after my fall.  At times I wasn’t sure we would make it and we would have to bail.  With 15 miles to go I have to admit I was cracking.  There was another hairy moment when another hole in the road appeared and it was a close call.  There were tears shortly after that.  As I counted down the miles I just wanted to get there.  

The final stretch to Fort William was bad with cars and vans.  They seemed to be in a competition to see who could get closest to us.  Joes temper was going at this point so when we finally saw the group it was a great relief.  I wanted to punch the air but my I couldn’t raise my left arm and I couldn’t hold on to the bike to raise my right.  Lots of hand shaking and well dones all round – and a few ‘you’ve got bigger balls than me lass’.  
Unfortunately we couldn’t wait for Hayley and Fraser to come in as we had to get the train.  I went to shop there to get more painkillers.  ‘Oooh that looks sore’ the woman said.  ‘It is, can I have you’re strongest pain killers please’ I asked.  She didn’t take card but she insisted I take them with me as I hobbled back to Joe to try and scrape some change.  

Waiting for the train and I spot the drink and food trolley.  ‘Are you going on this train?’ I ask her.  ‘Yes I am love’.  ‘Oh thank god, do you take card?’  – ‘yes, signals not great, what is it you’re after?’ She asks.

‘A cup of tea, a sandwich, biscuits – actually, everything.  I will take everything’.

I’m hungry now – so is Joe.

3 hours on the train back to the start and surprisingly I can move when it stops.  Pain killers were doing their job.  A quick call to my mum to say I was having to nip to the hospital to get my face seen to (no jokes please) and we were back on the road heading to Perth. 

For a late Friday night the emergency room was really quiet.  I was seen very quickly and thoroughly checked over.  An X-ray showed a tiny fracture in my hand which I thought was just bumped hard.  They were a bit concerned on my hip.  Said it should be ok but if it didn’t get better to go back.  And I got away with glue in my cheek as the puncture didn’t penetrate all the way through.  

I’ve spent the day after resting and frustrated.  I missed park run, I’m tired because it was a long day and an uncomfortable sleep.  I have a half marathon race tomorrow.  It’s a championship race.  I really don’t know if I’m going to manage it.  If I do get round it’s not going to be in a spectacular time, so for me, it won’t be a race.  But I do want to see if I can do it. The positive is that I cycled 75 miles yesterday and my legs are fine.  

It was a spectacular day, there’s no denying that.  Some great people and laughs (including the bag to the face!) and the scenery.  I’m very grateful for having the opportunity to do it and I admire Keyline for encouraging its employees to do it also.  It’s got me thinking what I could do at my work!

Not My Strong Point

Last night saw the second race in the Hills Are Alive series I for some reason thought would be a good idea for me to take on.

It’s not.

My day started great.  My original running buddy and the guy who did the cycle to John O Groats – just the other week! – with Joe (husband) invited me through for a cycle.  30 miles on windy, country roads through beautiful landscape isn’t to be refused.  


I also wore my new Wonder Woman leggings which are ridiculously comfortable!


Back home and I was unusually organised managing to get the youngest out on his bike and then bags packed for the hill race later on.  Joe had decided to run it too after I had told him how bad the first one was.

Off we went (slightly late but that was his fault) and we bumped in to Heledd (from the club, always beats me, got me right at the end at Path Of Condie, still not over that one) at registration when we finally found it i.e. It was the picnic table outside the pub! It’s a small race to be fair.  

Only about 55 of us were lined up at the start.  7 Road Runners but only 4 of us had done the first race.  Stewart tried to joke that the game was on between Heledd and me but my only goal was genuinely to finish.  I find these Hill races incredibly hard.  Give me 26.2 miles any day over the 4 miles of steep up and downs.  But! I’ve started.  So my god am I going to finish them!


Off we went under the promise that there was lots of red tape to guide us.  Same as Birnam Hill and before long I was deeply out of breath and very slowly climbing up hill.  ‘Come on you need to run’ a guy who was sat at the side said.

I didn’t like him.  Twat.

I had looked at the elevation many, many times beforehand if for no other reason than to assure myself it wasn’t going to be as bad as the last one.  I knew it had the biggest climb to start, down then back up then down again. I could handle that.

My stomach had other ideas though and started cramping.  Luckily, the fact I’m not used to running trails with big branches over them was a good distraction.  About 2 miles in and I was overtaken by Mike and Fiona.  They like the hill runs and enjoy these races.  I, do not.  I tried to keep them in my sights and was quite successful in doing so but lost them not long after the turn.  Had I not seen Fiona at the turn I’m not sure I would have known to clip my bib number! 

At one section I had to stop and look for this large amount of red tape we had been promised that would guide us.  I can only assume the woodland creatures had eaten it or the fairies had taken it away as I barely saw any!! 

At a steep, wet, muddy and rocky section the lead runners started coming down past me.  I was so out of breath I couldn’t muster the usual ‘well done’ so ended up clapping as they went by.  I will be honest though – I only started running at this point up the hill (yes, I had stopped to walk, bite me!) because I knew Joe would be coming past very shortly and I didn’t want him to see me walking.

Obviously as soon as he passed I walked again.

On to the final run down and I started thinking about the elevation chart I had looked at and how this hadn’t felt anything like that.  It appears to be a trend with race organisers to lie about this.  I wonder if they all get together, sit around a table and think ‘hmm, what would annoy the Runners the most? I know, let’s tell them this is relatively flat so they spend the whole time wondering if they have gotten lost – Runners love that!’.

Twats.

Final stretch and Steph is there with the camera – poor soul had kindly walked down a bit to get some photos.  She had no doubt had to wait a good 20 minutes for me and all she got in return was a very pained expression of ‘I am not enjoying this’. 

Across the line and I was very kindly handed a cup of water from the other half.  Kind of wished it had been vodka though.  We didn’t stick around long as he was wanting to get to Tri Club for a swim session and I had somehow cut my legs and had blood all over them.  I hadn’t even felt anything but when I stripped off at the van both legs were covered and I had small tears in my leggings.  Luckily I hadn’t wore my Wonder Woman ones! 

There are 3 more of these hills to go.  I am not enjoying them.  I do not like them.  I am awful at them!  Last road runner again, not that that gets to me too much but being in roughly the last 10 to finish all together is quite difficult.

And if you’re about to say it’s character building you will join the list of twats that is currently growing! 

No, I’m sure they are ‘good’ for me.  Well.  Maybe.  But, as I said, I started them, so I’m going to finish them.

Next is 4 days before Stirling Marathon.  It’s a safe bet that I will actually be last at that one.  No amount of ‘character building’ is worth risking the marathon over! It is up a hill I have ran a handful of times though so maybe that will give me a little boost.

As you can see from Strava – the race lied!

As Easy As Riding A Bike

What a stupid saying!  I fell off twice on my last cycle!

I’m going to be honest.  The cycling part of this Half Ironman is beginning to scare me.  Reality is slowly hitting me across the face as it dawns on me that there are 2 different types of cyclist – those who are out for a leisurely cycle, and those who race.

Naturally, I fall in to the ‘leisurely cycle’ category.

Not ideal when you are racing.

I’ve looked at average times for my age completing a race like this and it has it down as 3hrs 30mins for the cycle.  That breaks down to roughly 15mph average.  I can manage almost 19mph on a 30 mile turbo ride but a recent trip to Pitlochry and back (also 30 miles there, 30 back) was more 13mph.  That’s quite a bit to make up.  

And it’s also only about half the distance I need to do…….

With no half hour stop for lunch either.

Pit stop in Pitlochry – was a good cycle with Joe

Pitlochry was Saturday and on my lunch run today (Monday) I could feel it in my legs – just above the knee on both legs.  My other half had challenged me to run sub 8min miles today, even set my watch to keep my pace so it would go off if I was too slow.

I knew I wouldn’t do it and turned off the pacer before even starting.

First 2 miles were under 8 mins to be fair.   I just knew I wouldn’t be able to climb the hill at that speed though, and I don’t like running less than 5 miles.  Maybe that’s what I should concentrate on though – faster but shorter distances just for a little while.  

I’m seeing some good progress with my swimming though.  It’s all been pool based so far as it’s too cold for open water but that’s going to be coming really soon. I’m choosing to believe open water will be easier and I will enjoy it more (I’m a huge fan of positive mind set).  I can not let it scare me.  I will allow myself one – and only one – freak out, then it’s head down, get on with business! 

On the upmost positive point though – I am dealing very well with panics when swimming.  No longer do I choke and gag in the most unsightly manner when I don’t have my breathing right and proceed to give an Oscar worthy performance of my dying moments.  Ok, slight lie, I do still choke from time to time but I can successfully recover from this and THAT is huge.  Because let’s face it, that is most definitely going to happen on the day.  I’m going to get kicked, elbowed, pushed around, water is constantly going to be where I need to breathe so if I can  calm myself down – I’ve already won.

So.  Running is still there.  It’s taken a knock but I have a few races coming up that will keep me at it.  Swimming is good.  No room to slack and time to get in the ‘real pool’ but it’s good.  And cycling? Well…… just got to keep at it.  Ignore the average time as, at the end of the day, I’m not ‘average’.  I’m a first timer at this.  I will do what I do on the day.

I am my only competition.