Backing It Up

Well life’s just sat up and given me a big old slap in the face with a soggy fish taken straight from the murky under grounds of death lake.

I’ve hurt my back.

Correction. A plastic mannequin filled with water has completely totalled my back and put me out of action for god only knows how long.

So what happened? Last night during one of my classes a young lad was doing amazing. He was swimming absolutely beautifully and nailed both his breast stroke and back crawl. As a reward we put the mannequin in as he just loves to dive down for it. All I did was pull it out the water on to the side. As I lifted it up I felt this explosion in my back and intense pain. I lent against the diving boards and found I was struggling to move. Luckily I had our modern apprentice with me and she went to get another teacher so I could try and sneak out the back door and on to the power plates in hope of releasing my back straight away.

This didn’t work so I limped my way to the chiropractor a mere 2 hours after it happened to be told I had rotated L3 L4 had an acute tear and a golf ball sized lump in my QL.

In English I had f@cked my back.

An absolute HUGE thank you to Duigan Chiropractors and their massage therapist Amanda for seeing me so quickly!!

Where does this leave me? Well this morning it left me stuck on the bed for 5 minutes because I had one leg in my trousers but couldn’t lift the other up to put that one in. I also couldn’t roll to the side enough to move so there I was balanced half off the bed in a contorted position with a pair of trousers dangling off my right foot. Yup, I certainly know how to spice things up in the bedroom!

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Basically, after a mere 3 days of following a training plan, I’m on rest. I can’t bend side to side, I can’t bend forward – the bathrooms a freaking fun place to visit right now – and I can’t sit in one position for more than a couple of minutes with out a shooting pain going down my leg.

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BUT. Tomorrow is another day. Let’s see if it releases any today. I am religiously icing it and rolling on that spiky ball. I am regularly getting up and moving but no, not going for a run. Once it registered last night that I will not be doing my turbo session, run or be fit for work today I had no choice but to think about how I can make it better, fast.

I’m not in the whole ‘woe is me’ place. I’m just frustrated because I was really excited about starting something new.

I’m meant to be at a cocktail night tomorrow. And I’m not ruling it out yet!! I rarely go out and have been looking forward to this one. I’m thinking the alcohol will numb the pain – isn’t that the saying? Ha ha. It’s not over till the fat lady sings and this fat lady can’t sing so it will never be over! Ha ha. If – and it’s a big if – I make it, there won’t be any dancing, but I’m sure the rest of the ladies will make up for that.

Right. Time to get another ice pack. I will go to the (cocktail) ball tomorrow!

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.

 

Star Light Star Bright

Star Light Star Bright

4:10am.  Ski Centre.  Cairn Gorm.

‘I’m really not sure I can do this.  It is absolutely freezing, I don’t think I am going to cope with the cold. I really don’t think I can complete this.  I have never seen dark like this.  This is a bad idea.’

Just a few minutes later I am off.

Those were my genuine thoughts as I stood in the early hours of the morning waiting to do the run section of the Starman Triathlon.  Jo from tri club had entered a relay team and her husband (Bill) was originally doing both the cycle and the run but he hadn’t done a lot of hill training so they asked if I would run.  This wasn’t any old half marathon.  This was a run up to the top of a Munro (mountain over 3000ft) in the middle of the night and where you will get to see the sun rise.

Of course I am in!!

Didn’t quite think it all through.  At least, not until those last few minutes before I was to start.  I was too blinded by the thought of seeing the sun rise on the top of a Munro.  Bucket List item no 33 – check.

Jo had arranged everything.  She had booked a hostel right across from T1 we could use as basecamp and we were heading up the day before.  Oh did I mention?  For me to start running at 4am Jo would be starting her swim at midnight.  Yes that’s right.  Midnight.

What the actual f……

Honestly though, how can that NOT excite you?   Even just a little bit!  Naturally nerves were high.  This was Jo’s first race of that distance, first OW race I believe and first swim in the middle of the night.  You can almost understand why she went to put her wet suit on at 9pm with nerves like that.  To calm herself down she decided to post on facebook a photo of all the snacks we had ALL brought and claim they were just mine for the run.  I’m still astounded that everyone in the club believed her!

There was talk of closing one or possibly even both if the summits on the run due to the high winds.  Did I forget that bit as well?  Oh yeah.  You didn’t just start the run with a climb up a Munro.  You finished it with a climb up a Corbett.

Someone with a very unique imagination had designed this course.

I prayed to the run gods I would get to run up them both.  There were cut offs for both ascents and I had been over and over them.  I would be deeply disappointed if I didn’t get to do both of them.  It wouldn’t feel like I had completed the run.  (This was obviously before reality hit me of what this run was really asking.)

 

At the beach for the race brief and there are just under 80 people in wetsuits, donning glowsticks from their heads like antennas, awaiting the start of the swim.  It’s a very relaxed event and they advertise it as ‘not a race, an experience’.  This meant that not every swimmer had to complete the 4 laps of the swim.  If they wanted to get out after 2 or 3, they could.  A strange concept when you are used to ‘this is the finish line, this is the distance’ but a relaxing one.  I think it helped with some peoples nerves.

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Then it was time for Jo to get in.  As soon as she was off, she was gone.  It was impossible to figure out what one she was.  She also had ear plugs in and couldn’t hear a thing.  Naturally I still shouted, encouraged her on, just on the off chance she heard me.  She was in the last group to go in and by then you couldn’t tell what group was what.  One woman came out not long after going in, it wasn’t for her.  There were a few who came out after 3 laps.  Jo’s personal goal was to complete it.  As the swimmers came out and the numbers remaining dwindled I did start to get a little concerned.  I was sure I hadn’t missed her.

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To be on the safe side I took a run up to T2 and saw Bill chatting away to another cyclist.  Nope.  Not missed her.  I ran back down and paced the waters edge.

2 swimmers stood up and walked towards the beach.  I saw the green of her wet suit and ran over to help guide her up to transition.  She was wobbly and disorientated but she had done it.  Passing the dibber on to Bill he set off on his cycle.

It was a short walk back to the hostel and Jo told me all about the swim.  Choppier than she expected, not ‘too’ cold, but challenging.  She had started chatting to another swimmer and they had thought they were not going to make the cut off so nearly came out after 3 laps.  I wouldn’t have let her.  And she knows it.  She came to do 4 laps, that was her goal.  And she did it!  And she did it within time.  Great result!

Straight in to the trickly shower at the hostel and she was soon warmed up – ish.  Then it was time to track Bill.  I figured I had a solid 3hrs/3.5hrs so briefly tried to doze on a chair.  My legs were feeling heavy and giving me signs to say ‘we should be resting, go to bed woman’.  It was impossible to sleep but I tried.  Jo kept a vigilant eye on the tracker.

About 3am and she said he was doing really well, flying past people.  Now.  If I’m honest.  I kind of took this as a bit of ‘proud wifey’ talk.  I had no idea what he was like on a bike other than what she had said and naturally she had said he was really good.  Good to me meant under 3 hours on a 56 mile cycle.  And this route had a horrendous climb at the end.  It was also pitch black, very few street lights anywhere (we were in the Highlands) and windy.  So I just gave the polite nod and ‘uh huh’ and closed my eyes again.

About 3:20am and I checked the tracker myself.  I zoomed out so I could see where he was in comparison to T2.

I’ve never moved so fast to go and grab my gear.  He was just down the road from where we were in the hostel and we had a 20 min drive to the change over.  ‘He still has the climb’ I told myself.  ‘That will slow him down’.

The wind was howling and I mean howling outside now.  Do I really want to run in that?  It will be fine.  It will be fine.  I bundle my stuff in to a bag and after 2 trips back to the room because I can’t decide what top I should go with we head up to transition.  I’m convinced we are going to pass him on the road up and I think we do but it is really hard to tell in the dark.

We get out the car and I have 3 tops a jumper and a jacket on.  I don’t do cold.  And I most certainly don’t do cold before a race.  I don’t like this. My friend messages me having set her alarm to – let’s be honest – laugh at me for what I’m about to do.  ‘I don’t think I can do this’ I can tell her.  ‘I’m genuinely panicking’.

‘Shut up and get it done’ is the polite version of her reply.  I can’t see where I am meant to be running.  I try to watch a runner go off but he disappears within seconds.  I’m petrified I’m going to get lost.  I’m going to be referred to as ‘that idiot that didn’t know what she was doing’.  Pretty sure one or two have already looked at me and thought ‘yup, she’s going to die’.

I head inside for yet another toilet trip and turn back to tell Jo where I am running away to and almost walk straight in to Bill.

‘How the f@ck are you here already????????’

I don’t have any time to think.  He passes me the dibber and I’m walking over to the start.  Jo shouts for a photo and I turn round, the look of absolute fear in my eyes, and quickly turn back before I can change my mind.

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50 metres in.  50 metres.  And….

I’m loving it!!!  THIS is what I came for!  Yes it’s cold, windy, raining, but oh my god I am heading up a munro in the middle of the night!  This is awesome!

I no longer fear getting lost.  I’ve walked up over 20 Munros by myself and not died.  I know how to navigate this.  If it were following roads, well, that’s a different story.  Oddly enough.  I’m only overtaken by one guy in the first section (and I go past him later on).  This makes me feel very good.  I set my sights on the lights where I know the marshalls will be.  This will be the part they tell me if I can or can’t go to the summit.  I head up to them almost too nervous to ask.  ‘Can I head to the summit?’

‘Yup, up you go’.

Result!  I wouldn’t say I exactly skip up there but I’m certainly grinning away.  Another runner falls in step beside me and asks if it gets any easier.  ‘Em, not really’ I laugh back at him.  He keeps up with me for a little then stops to take a break.  I’m almost at the summit before I see someone coming back down.

2 marshalls at the summit and I have to admit I feel very sorry but very grateful for them at the top.  They must be frozen!  They ask if I am warm enough and I apologise for not bringing them a cup of tea.  Then it’s back down.

Back to the intersection and the light is beginning to come up.  I stop for a photo.  It’s gorgeous.  This is well worth it.  My quads soon come to life though and remind me what it means to run hills like this – in their lovely, painful way.

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I’m now back at the ski-centre where I see Neil again.  He was my husband Joe’s coach for IM 70.3 South Africa and he’s a volunteer at this event.  His wife – the lovely Beth – is also doing this but she is a solo entry.  I go past him screaming ‘that was awesome, I loved it!’ and carry on down the hill.

When I get near the bottom it’s on to road.  Tarmac.  This section in trail shoes is not the best.  I miss my roadies.  The guy I had chatted to before goes past and I try to keep with him but his legs are the length of my entire body and I have no hope.  He tells he’s been told the next summit is even worse to which I laugh again.  I would rather be going up there than running on this road.

I have a few haribos and drink my juice to keep me going.  Remembering my nutrition is all to pot with the different start time.  I’m a lot warmer now as well and there is nothing I hate more than running in tights when I could be in shorts.  I decide to stop and de-layer my top.  In one sense this is a good decision as I am way too hot.  But in another, it just cause me no end of grief.  I am now uncomfortable in the top I am wearing with my hydration bag and running belt.  I’m constantly pulling my top down, my trousers up, my face in to all sorts of frustrated emotions.  Time to research some gear that will get me through running in both cold and hot weather in the one race.

Eventually I am at the start of the second summit and the winds have died down enough to keep it open.  This one has many, many stone steps and boy do they kill your legs.  Still, I’m not overtaken on the hill and I’m taking that as a victory.  The views are spectacular.  Just what you expect in Scotland.  The wind is challenging but not death defying.  It’s hard and unrelenting but eventually I am at the top, big smiles for the marshalls, and heading back down.  I don’t charge forward as I’m not great on these sections and I have a big race in a few weeks so I go somewhat cautiously.  Further down and my phone starts ringing.  It’s Joe face timing me.  ‘Are you still in bed?’ I ask him quite surprised and completely forgetting it’s 6:30am.  He tells me later it was me that face timed him and on checking my phone I find array of weird and wonderful text messages I have sent him along with a song.  I don’t even know how to send a song!  Turns out I had been bumping my phone in my bag on the way down.

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Last section.  Almost done.  It’s a quiet trail back to the Loch where it all started.  Coming through the trees it’s spectacular as you head out on to the beach.

I have to say, finishing a run on the beach, in the sand, that’s just cruel!  Especially a run like that!  But I’m done.  And Jo and her husband Bill are there waiting.  We’ve done it.

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4th relay team we were.  4th!  A result I think we are all proud of.  There was a huge contingency from Glenrothes Tri club which had a really good team feel to it.  They all did fantastic.  It’s had us thinking we should convince our own club to take it on next year.  A little away trip near the end of season.

Would I recommend Starman?  Absolutely.  It’s a challenge and a half.  There aren’t many races you can say you get to swim in the witching hour, cycle in the dark and see the sunrise on a Munro.  So awesome.

Where Have You Been?

Has it really been 2 months since I last wrote? Crickey!

Well it hasn’t been that quiet a 2 months. I haven’t been back in ‘that’ loch again but I have been swimming at a loch closer to home. It’s smaller, a lot calmer, and, most importantly, it does not contain any extras from a Chris Pratt movie. (It does however have lots of a lot braver women than me who swim with no wet suit!)

I’ve been doing more cycling too. I’ve been out on a couple of group cycles with other members of the tri club. I may or may not have refused to ride down the completely vertical freshly gravelled path and gotten off my bike savagely repeating ‘nope,nope,nope,nope’ (I was not the only one who did this. The other guy didn’t want to scratch his hugely expensive frame. I didn’t want to scratch my well worn in human body. Same priorities – just slightly different details.)

It helped a lot going out in a group though. Finding new routes, chatting away, picking up tips. I’ve also been on what was called a Cornering Course at a bike track. That was fantastic! Absolutely bucketing with rain, couldn’t see a thing at times, shivering to death, but man how smooth the track was! I can’t wait to go back and try and whiz round it. Great cup of tea after too.

And then there was Australia. AUSTRALIA! 2 weeks on the other side of the world seeing my brother and his family and basically falling in love with that way of life. We took our bikes over and discovered the roads were so much more friendlier than here. We went running and discovered places we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I ticked off a couple of places on my bucket list – Natural Bridge in Springbrook and Mount Warning – there are genuinely no words at how awesome that was.

And now I’m 2 nights away from my next race. A half marathon up and down a Munro.

Because, you know, a flat road one would be boring.

I’m so excited. Ridiculously excited in fact. I get to run up a Munro! In an actual race! Oh and did I mention it will be as the sun rises?

I KNOW!!!

I’m going to need people to phone me and text me reminding me I’m meant to be running and not just taking in the views. I honestly can’t wait.

Not so keen on the huge compulsory kit list I need to carry but rules are rules.

The run is part of the Starman Triathlon. Jo from the club is doing the midnight swim (midnight swim!) and her husband is doing the cycle. I’m definitely getting the better section. Sunrise on the mountain! Hello bucket list!

It’s 2 miles up hill to start then down again with a run up a Corbett after. It finishes through the woods and on to the beach.

Can you think of a better run? Nope. Me neither.

Of course there are cut off times and I am slightly cautious about them. I need to work out where I need to be by when to know I’m on track. Unfortunately my other half won’t exactly be awake at 4am to text me and tell me to get a move on either. Hmm, could be an issue here.

I’m sure it will be fine. Either way it will be a great ‘night’ out with lots of laughter and pictures. The best thing about it is it advertises itself as ‘not a race’. It’s an experience. One I’m looking forward to.

I should however, be experienced to know that I should have checked my kit by now. I’ve spent most of the night scrambling round for a compass, spare batteries (not for the compass) and the ever faithful flapjack I like to have when running. I really should be better organised than this.

Race To The King 2019

Race To The King 2019

What a weekend I’ve had!

Saturday was Race To The King – this years ‘A’ race for me. I had to do better than Race To The Stones last year. That race was my wake up call. A true learning into the world of long distance running.

The original plan was to start the 500 mile journey at about 4am on Friday. This meant I could pack Thursday after work and take my time. Then Joe threw a spanner in the works and suggested/decided we were leaving as soon as I finished on Thursday. Now. I may have had a list but I hadn’t checked it so this made me a little stressed (and naturally I spent all day moaning about it because that helps).

We rented the campervan we had used in Skye giving us ample room so I launched everything I could think of in it. Dropped the kids at my parents and started down the road.

Usually the kids would come with us but I was in such a state after The Stones Lucie was a little unnerved so we decided against it.

We drove a few hundred miles then kipped in the camper before setting off again. I had picked out a camp site for the night but hadn’t had a reply from them so I spent much of the journey on the phone talking to their answer machine. I knew they had to answer at some point though so I wasn’t worried.

Joe hadn’t looked at anything about the race before now but noticed on the gps we were heading close to where his side of the family were. A couple of messages later and we took a slight detour to go and have lunch with them. Nothing quite beats seeing the youngest member of the tribe, a cousin on her birthday or a grandad who was on top form with his jokes. My face hurt from laughing so much.

It really was a flying visit though so after stocking up on chocolate biscuits (thanks aunty) we headed onwards to refuel the camper. At this point I eventually got through to the campsite. ‘Ah sorry we are full, there’s an event on’ they tell me. Oh no. ‘I can give you a number for another one though, it’s only 5 minutes up the road’. Phew. He gives me the number and the post code, a very helpful guy. I look at the post code. Hmm. I check the area code. Cambridge. I’m pretty sure Cambridge isn’t that close to Arundel. I google it. Shit. I’ve been phoning the wrong god damn campsite all day!! I quickly find the right one and beg for their last pitch. They agree to let it to us as long as it’s one night only. On to the campsite. The right one this time.

As we pulled in to our spot it was abundantly clear by the numerous tanned-to-an-inch-of-their (not very long left now) life’s other campers that not many younger folk stay there. Not that that bothered us – we weren’t exactly there for an all-night rave. Would have liked less staring though. God how they stared!

Early night before an early start though so it was roof up and curtains closed after our pasta and non-alcoholic apple and mango wine. (Not buckfast as someone thought ha ha)

 

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In the morning I had what turned out to be the most luxurious shower of the weekend (I actually had to shower at a service station!) It was already warm so I chose vest and shorts and got the rest of my gear together. I had as much of the porridge and banana as I could stomach and then we were off on the short drive to the start. Once there I made a bee line for the info tent. Last year I didn’t know about the temporary tattoos so this time around I was making sure I got them. I slapped the elevation one on my forearm whilst Joe kept slapping me with sun cream despite my protests of ‘its only 7:30am! I don’t need it yet’.

 

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Then it was over to the start line. The pen was already that full it was overflowing. I had no intention of trying to squeeze in so I ended up being one of the very last from my wave to go over the official start line. Unfortunately that made for a very slow first few miles. However. What’s missing from my story so far?

Tears.

There were no tears. Yes I was nervous but I hadn’t given myself enough time to get really worked up at the start. We had parked, walked in, tattoo’s and sun creamed up then I was off. No messing, no waiting.

Joe hadn’t looked at anything about the race so he didn’t know where he was going to see me or where he could get to me. I had given him all the postcodes but with my lack of geographic anything I could have given him a postcode from the highlands! (I did spot the mistake with the camp site though!). The only thing I knew was he that he was going to see me at check point 2. The rest he was playing by ear.

The chat around me from the start was fantastic. I fell in step just behind 3 guys who were chatting away about anything and everything. One of them mentioned he had started cycling to work. Nice, me too. He had worked out it was saving him £8 in petrol but he was eating more than £8 in food because of it. This had me laughing out loud. But he made a fair point.

 

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Check point 1 and I had to put a blister plaster on. I could feel that burning starting already. And definitely not in a good way. What I haven’t mentioned is that my big toe nail fell off a few days before the race. Not what you need before a double marathon! So I knew I was going to have issues. I gave Joe a quick phone to see how he was getting on. He told me to get plastered up and eat something. ‘I’m eating my trail mix, I’m good.’ I told him. He proceeded to tell me I needed more calories than that and to eat something better. I proceeded out of the checkpoint and didn’t listen.

A mile later and I was getting light headed. Should have eaten something better than trail mix. Damn it.

Mile 10 and the hill was vertical. Why are all hills so steep? You never get a nice tumbling hill. It’s always a vertical climb. And this was only 10 miles in. Sake. Up to the top and it kind of evened out a little. That’s to say it was more smaller hills than vertical climbs. The terrain was really difficult and I lost count of how many people I saw trip and fall and roll their ankles. This was not a speedy run.

My calves were feeling tight already so I made a mental note to put the compression sleeves on at the next check point. Joe text to say he was already there. As I came down the hill towards it all I could see was the ruddy great hill behind it I would need to go up. Fantastic. Then ‘crack’. Suddenly my heart skipped a beat and I was falling to the side. Too busy looking at the hill in front of me I had misplaced my footing and rolled my ankle.

‘It’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine, doesn’t hurt, doesn’t hurt, does not hurt’.

I’m pretty sure that’s every runners mantra when they fall or hurt them selves. Tell yourself it didn’t happen! Thankfully, that seemed to work, and I was able to carry on running. I did then have a huge debate with myself about whether I had ‘heard’ a crack or ‘felt’ a crack and if I had felt it does that mean you subconsciously hear it too?

This ladies and gentleman, is what now goes through my brain on long runs. Crazy maths has now been replaced with just plain crazy thoughts.

When I got in to the check point I sat down to put my sleeves on and Joe started slapping me with the sun cream again. I protested at first but then he put it on my ears and since they were already burnt it hurt! Thing number 2 he was right about. Unusually for me I grabbed a caramel wafer bar. This was risky. Very risky! They have chocolate on them and Ella and chocolate do not go! No sir-ee. And out on a 54 mile run is most definitely not somewhere I want to be when I have a serious case of the runs! (Let’s not sugar coat this, facts are facts). Still. It’s what I seemed to be craving so I rolled the dice and took the chance. Hell my ankle had rolled and I was fine so maybe this will be 2 out of 2.

As soon as I got the sleeves on I was up and off again. Putting tight compression on elephant legs that are already sweating is not an easy job let me tell you! Mental note – buy the next size up – or, better still – put them on at the start.

Up the hill I went, all the time waiting for that ‘uh oh’ moment from the chocolate. It was bound to happen at some point so I kept scanning for bushes or rocks. Quite a good distraction as I was at the top sooner than I thought I would be. The last section I walked with a guy who was struggling with a stitch. He had been running with another bloke but was worried he was holding him back. He was in good humour though and gave very convincing cries of ‘go on without me. I will be ok. Think of me at the finish line. Name your first born after me’. By this time his friend was well out of ear shot but he was certainly entertaining me.

 

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Naturally, when we got to the top, we then had to run down. It was now my turn to provide the entertainment as I involuntarily started humming and singing my way down. I’ve come to realise when I’m nervous as hell, this is what I do to calm down. I don’t go full belt karaoke style – that’s saved for car journeys – but I sing a little tune to keep me steady. It’s usually met with some very weird looks and raised eyebrows. Plus the occasional ‘are you ok?’ Ha ha.

 

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And then back up we went. A steep mother of a hill at mile 20 is most definitely not what you want but this wasn’t even half way. Man up Ella you’ve not even ran a marathon yet! When I got the top I saw what you usually see at the top of corbetts and Munro’s. Have I just ran/walked up a bloody Corbett? Are you joking me?! Do you get corbetts in England? Or are they a scottish thing? Am I in England or Scotland? Or is this Wales? Definitely need to do the 3 peak challenge soon.

I’m telling you. Crazy thoughts.

 

 

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Once the hill had been sumitted (yes, sumitted, it was huge, it had a sumit) it was on to base camp. The plan was to be out of there by 1pm and I was well on track. Base camp wasn’t half way so I was very conscious not to treat it as if it were. I filled up my water, grabbed another chocolate bar (what are you doing???) and phoned Joe.

He wasn’t there yet. Hadn’t expected me to get there quite so soon. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling a little smug. He said he was just about to park up and get changed as he had planned to run a little with me. I took a few photos and waited around a little.

And waited.

10 minutes later I phoned him again. I wanted to get going. I knew the major mistake I had made at the Stones was the amount of time spent at the pit stops. I wasn’t going to let that happen again. He was just at the camper so he told me to carry on and he would catch up with me.

 

I was out of basecamp on track.

 

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Within seconds he caught up with me. Handed me a few things and seemed genuinely impressed I was doing ok. He didn’t run too far with me as he had to double back to get the camper but it was nice nonetheless.

Pit stop 4 was just after – you guessed it – another great big ruddy hill. This one was weirdly entertaining. I had fallen in step with a guy who was also running solo but was quite a character. He said that once we were up this hill it was pretty much flat or down hill the rest of the way. I looked at him. Then I looked at the tattoo on my arm. Then I looked at him again. And pointed to my arm. ‘Erm, I don’t think it is’ I said to him.

‘Yeah it is’. He said. Followed by ‘do you know where we are? I think we are on Butser Hill but I’m not sure?’. He then asked a couple of people walking down the hill. They laughed. Rather worryingly. ‘Oh no sir, it’s not downhill to Winchester. Or at all.’

‘Lie to me’ he begged them – genuinely begged them. It was hilarious. His comedy honestly got me up that hill.

At the pit stop I refilled with water and carried on. And no. It did not feel downhill after that.

At pit stop 5 Joe met me again. It was time for more blister plasters. Now I apologise if you’re squeamish but truth of the matter is my feet were in pretty bad shape before the run so 37 miles in they weren’t going to be a bed of roses! I had blisters escaping out of the plasters that were already there and many, many more making an appearance. I pretty much looked like I had 10 toes on each foot. I decided the best course of action was to DNF right there and then. You can’t run with feet like that. That’s just stupid.

Ha, yeah right! I slapped on more plasters, wedged my feet back in to my trainers and carried on. Ignorance is bliss. Albeit a little painful.

I also had another chocolate bar. I mean what more could happen right?

More hills. More heat. Another very, very, very close encounter with the ground and the fastest I had moved the entire run (don’t you just love that scary quick movement forward when you trip?) and I get to checkpoint 6. It’s at this point I’m thinking my goal of finishing in the daylight might actually be achieved. I need to keep going though. Usually by now I’ve developed an old woman’s hobble that gets worse with every walk break. Thankfully that hasn’t appeared.

Joe tells me he won’t see me at the next checkpoint as he’s going straight to the finish to park then going to double back and run the last bit with me.

 

 

Pit stop 7 and the only thing I do is stop to take a photo and carry on. I’m getting to that finish before the sun sets. I make a comment about the sound of the crickets to other runners around me. ‘They’re bloody loud aren’t they?’ I say. ‘Eh, that’s not crickets love, that’s an electric fence. Don’t you go touching it now.’

I’m honestly just there to provide entertainment at these things.

 

It’s not easy but I’m running so much more than I expected I would be. I’m wearing my garmin but I’ve not been obsessed with it and I think that’s helping. I’ve also been trying to track Kev and Gillian – the couple who gave me a lift to Glen Lyon. They are doing the West Highland Way which is 95-98 miles! Only in the world of ultras can you be ‘one upped’ on a 53.5 miler ha ha.

Joe is surprised at how quickly I get through the last pit stop. He thought the race would take me between 13 and 14 hours, maybe longer. I have slowed quite a bit but I’m still on a for a good time – at least for someone like me. I see him soon after and he falls in step with me quite easily. I had been worried that I would be really irritable by this point and get annoyed with him but it’s going great. He chats away to everyone around including the supporters at the side who had run past to come and meet me. In the last couple of miles I keep asking him ‘how far now? How far now?’.

Eventually I see the 1 mile to go sign – utter relief. He speeds off at the last little bit so he can catch me crossing the line.

A guy goes past me. I don’t care. Then we turn the corner and the finish is right there. Stuff it.

Sorry mister but I’ve somehow got a little left in these legs so I’m speeding up to the finish! I go past him and whisper ‘sorry’. It’s not exactly a sprint finish but it’s not a walk! Not a stumble!

Oh but it might be! What the hell are these?? Bloody STEPS right before the finish – what the actual hell!! I’m pulling a face before I can remind myself there’s a photographer there. Oh yeah. He got a right good one! I expect to see that on a wall of fame.

I’m done! It’s daylight! It’s still bloody daylight! 12hrs and 23 minutes. Yes sir I most definitely WILL take that! 8pm finish! Get in!!

 

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A quick bite to eat and we then hobble over to the King Alfred statue. I can’t not get a photo of that. I will show it to Albert on the Inch back home on my next run ha ha.

I upload my data and start to get messages through. I get a really nice one from Sarah who I ran with at the stones last year which is just absolutely lovely. What a difference from then though! No hallucinations, no freezing cold, no 25 minute miles because I can barely walk. Amazing.

This weekend was a blast from start to finish. Getting that extra boost from seeing family the day before, Joe being an absolute star supporting me through out, chocolate not giving me any ‘issues’ but giving me calories when I needed it and the fabulous people I met en route through out. I can’t wait to complete the trilogy next year at the tower.

 

Ever Changing

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

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

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

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

‘You need to do hills’ came the text.

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

‘Get it done’.

‘It’s dark!’

‘Stop being a @*#${% and get it done’

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

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

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

He. Has. Played. Me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But. Nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THAT ladies and gentleman – is marriage!

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

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

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

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

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

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