From Viaduct to Nelson Mandela

I’m currently sat with a chesty cough that I quickly learned you can’t run with by the way (pace was really slow yet heart rate through the roof – an interesting feeling for me ha ha).   So I’ve been doing a little ‘thinking’.  And yes, my head now hurts, but that’s just something else to add to the collection.

I’ve been thinking about adventure.  And as bad as I could claim this year to be – injured from March, bum still hurts, hamstrings still bad, didn’t achieve GFA, didn’t get London, a few DNS – there has also been a few adventurous experiences in there.

Manchester. Ok so it didn’t turn out to be the London qualifier I was hoping for but it was a marathon ‘technically’ in another country. It involved travelling and education as I learned that no I wasn’t running through an area where no one wanted to live and was selling up but an area simply called ‘Sale’. Still find that weird though.

Ireland. No official race but does it have to be? I got to run for fun past one of my Bucket List places to go – The Titanic museum. And thanks to that I discovered the back of the museum which had the layout of the magnificent ship. I also had my first proper fall there when running and returned to the apartment bleeding and with a broken phone. Good memories.

Race To The Stones. The initial plan was to run the entire 100km straight through. Then I was hit even worse with the injuries and couldn’t run a step without pain. Mr Cardio was not so secretly pleased. I tried every single profession possible to find a solution – including a podiatrist (lovely man, Alistair Dall). I reluctantly changed my entry to complete it over 2 days. Clutching at straws but I was definitely in the ‘go hard or die trying’ camp by then. Even my physio had that look of ‘it’s not happening’ but she gave me lots of advice and understood my need. When I reached base camp half way through the race I changed my mind and pushed through. My challenge was to do it in one day, not two. It was pointed out to me a couple of months later how insane it was to just decide to start another 50km running at 5’o’clock at night. I learned so so much from completing my goal that day.

South Africa. I ran the Nelson Mandela Fun Run. Never will there be a cooler name of a race. Enough said.

50th parkrun. 2018 was the year I hit 50, and I’m not talking looks. I teamed up with my friend Lorner for a few and I completely removed the stress of going for a PB. I don’t care if it affects my average or any of that, that’s not my focus. I’ve kind of fallen out of love with my local parkrun though so I’m going to try some tourism.

Aberfeldy Middle Distance Relay. Ginnie was the swimmer (4th relay team out the water I believe) Joe was on the bike (sub 3hrs!) and I ran the half marathon at the end. It took me 2 hours and was no performance to be shouting of – we dropped places once I started running – but we all had fun. Would definitely do a relay again. Wouldn’t attempt to make porridge in a flask again though. Nope. Can still hear the gloopy sludge of the spoon being sucked in.

Glen Ogle 33. Loved, loved, LOVED everything about this race! From speeding up to register the night before and discovering Lorner gets travel sick, the pack lunch she brought me, seeing a friendly face at the start line, another at the bottom of what felt like a waterfall I had just ran down to the surprise of Joe and the kids finding me on the trail with just 3 miles to go. My second ultra of the year. And I got to run over a viaduct! A viaduct!  Well worth it.

Did I get any PB’s last year? No. Did I get slower? Definitely. Did I die though? No.

I didn’t manage to complete any of the road runners series and I’ve not won any awards. (I did get a nomination for club personality which genuinely put a grin on my face) but no medals or trophies this year. I’m also not doing Marcothon because I can remember how miserable that made me feel. A Christmas Day run is on the calendar though.

Next year starts with a return to my first ever triathlon – the New Years Day Tri. That’s just for fun. It also has more ‘adventurous’ running. It would be very easy to feel depressed about what I didn’t do this year but what’s the point, it won’t change it. I will get London one day. I will continue to run past places on my bucket list. And I will continue to try and not drown and not fall off my bike.

xx

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Oh hasn’t it been a while.  Over a month in fact.  Well.  Since I am sitting recovering from my last run I thought I would update this.

I joined the waiting list for the Glen Ogle 33 not really expecting to get a space.  It’s a popular event that I’m pretty sure sells out every year.  For someone like me I wouldn’t call it a race.  More of a ’33 miles of trail running just trying to survive and not die’.  And the reason I signed up?  You get to run over a viaduct!  These structures were probably made ‘famous’ by Harry Potter (not that I have watched any of the movies) but I really fancied running over one!  So that was it.  I signed up when the email came through.

Night before I drove up with my friend Lorner to go and register.  It’s just over an hour away and it would give our youngest and Joe a little extra time in bed the day of the race.  Leaving straight from work at 6pm I picked her up and she produced what can only be described as a bag full of heavenly goodness.  She had only gone and bought me a packed lunch box and filled it with loads of food – including red bull!     A-mazing!  Joe had also been to the shop to pick me up a new running jacket following the weather warning that had been issued for the race.  This would later prove to be essential!

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Finding out your friend is travel sick whilst driving through the winding, twisting country roads of the Scottish Highlands isn’t great.  I’m pretty sure she was eyeing up my new lunch bag wondering if she could get away with throwing up in it.  Unicorns poop rainbows Lorner – not puke.

Registration took all of 20 seconds.  My many questions probably took about 20 minutes.  No, I’m joking.  I only had a couple.  I had a quick look at the clothes on sale but since Joe had bought me a new jacket I knew I was good.  I had forgotten my drop bag though and I did consider trying to muster something up from the local supermarket  but the plan was to be at the start line in time to drop it off so we headed back (after she had a bottle of water and fresh air.  And yes, I took it easy on the way back).

It was drizzly and cold in the morning and we arrived just 10 minutes before race start so Joe dropped me off and stayed in the car with our youngest until I started then drove home.  It’s an unsupported race and a lot of waiting around  for a 5 year old so a dvd in the car is much more appealing.  I managed to locate Scott from the road runners about 20 seconds before we started so my nerves were put to rest after seeing a friendly face.  He had sore hips and was taking it easy but I knew he would still finish well before me.  I had a very unrealistic hope of finishing in 5 and a half hours so had said to Joe I might be back just after 1.30pm.  (Alright, alright, no need to laugh quite so hard!).

Glen Ogle start

I tried to keep my feet dry for as long as possible and I think I may have even made it 500 meters before they were soaking!  That’s impressive given the small river that was flowing down the up wards trail we were instantly on.  It was gorgeous though!  Autumn colours in all their glory as we trenched up and up and up.  All I could hear around me was ‘squelch, squelch, squelch’.  The real sound of a trail run ha ha.  One of the differences I have noticed between ultra and marathon running is that in a marathon runners are most likely to dodge puddles.  In ultras they are more likely to dive straight in to the bottomless pit of a loch!  I’m still haunted by that experience at the  Ochil Ultra

Up and up and up we went, and then we had quite a steep down.  At the bottom of the hill I was met with a very friendly face.  Robin from the road runners was marshalling.  Stood out in the cold, wet and windy weather that is Scotland this lovely man was all smiles and encouragement as we all went past.  I love it when I know a volunteer or marshall but when it’s someone like Robin it’s even better.

Robin

Just a couple of miles on and I came across the viaduct.  The bit I was waiting on!  Naturally I took a video.  ‘I’m running across a viaduct!  Whoo hoo!’.  The excitement was short lived when 1.  I realised what a horrendous double chin I have and 2.  My hamstrings and glutes decided to play up.  I don’t remember them gradually working up the pain scale, I just remember them refusing to play ball.  They hurt that much I didn’t even realise how windy it was at points or how hard the rain was coming down.

I got to 8 miles and text Joe.  ‘My legs hurt, I’m struggling’.

I was in the Scottish Highlands though.  You don’t get signal.  I kept checking and trying to re-send.  The pain got more and more.  This is going to be it.  This is going to be my first ever DNF.  Well that’s rather fitting for the year I’ve had.  When have I ever not finished a race?  I can’t do another 25 miles on this though.  That’s practically a marathon.  I will keep trying to text him and hopefully he will come pick me up.

I trundled on, sometimes distracted by the gorgeous views, sometimes chatting to those around me.  The zig zag path downward was a potential ankle breaker.  Under different circumstances I would have loved that part.  Thank god I wasn’t going up it though.  Still no signal.  I saw a girl at the side of the road and checked she was ok.  Her water bladder had started leaking and I had a spare food bag so checked to see if she needed it.  Handy tip for next time!  She asked how I was doing and without thinking I replied I was struggling already.  Not the best thing to say to someone who was doing her first ultra.  But she was going strong and looked like she was going to finish well which I don’t doubt she did.

I started to focus on getting to the checkpoint as it was quite clear I wasn’t going to get a signal anytime soon.  I became obsessed with my watch and looking at the miles that were ticking by slower than the Brexit deal.  Eventually I heard noise and knew it was close.  I could hear a cow bell and shouting.  Yes!  I’ve finally made it!  I should get a signal now and can speak to Joe.  But…… no……..  NO…….  It was supporters at the side of the road, outside their house.  I couldn’t do anything but laugh a little inside and smile on the outside.  These people were standing in the cold and rain and encouraging us on.  They could have been inside with a warm cup of tea, sitting at a blaring hot stove, singing songs to each other all rosy cheeked.

Ok, I might be getting a bit carried away here.

Then I came across a bridge.  A bridge that moved.  A lot!  Hold on a minute!  I’ve been on this bridge before!  I don’t like it!  Code red, code red!  I almost dropped to my knees to get across it.  Clearly this was the infamous shoogly bridge.  I didn’t like it.  Nope.  I even stopped dead in the middle of it.  Never again.

The checkpoint was just at the other side and I desperately looked for shelter and somewhere to sit down.  There was neither options.  So I took out my spare food bag (the other lass hadn’t used it as it was the pipe that had come loose) and promptly sat on it.  Still no signal though.  What to do.  I very quickly began getting cold.  My legs were soaking and although the jacket was very good I was still cold up top.  Gloves were sodden and feet drenched.  I decided to change in to dry socks and put blister plasters on.  Oh yes, I had blisters.  I didn’t have anything to dry my feet though so the plasters didn’t stick.  My fingers were freezing so tying my laces was interesting.  I got my spare gloves out.  Definitely going to need them.  Then I remembered there was an Active Root station with their ginger juice.  My flasks were almost empty of my berry hydration.  If I was going to make it to somewhere with a signal I would need more.  I went over to them and cheekily asked if I could fill one of my flasks.  ‘Of course you can – do you want me to wash it out first?’.  ‘No, that’s ok thank you, I need it that much I don’t think I will notice.’  ‘Well you look really well prepared’ he said gesturing to my pack that had everything in bags to protect from the rain.  ‘and you’ve done the hardest part, it’s not bad from here’.

This made me think.   was just over half way.  Who gets to half way and doesn’t finish?  I’ve got dry socks on now and dry gloves.  I’ve got hand warmers I can technically stick anywhere if needed.  My hydration is re-filled and the short seat has helped my legs.  Can you really quit when Joe has given up his whole day for this – bit selfish to do that isn’t it?

So I got moving.  After the kind marshall put my flask back in my bag as my hands just weren’t letting me do it.

And naturally, it was straight up.  Up, up, up, up.  My legs hurt again within seconds.  It was probably this point I began wondering why I enjoyed running.  Eventually it evened out a little and I started the usual slog of cat and mouse with a group of 3 women.  They would slow down a little, I would go past, I would slow down, they would go past – your standard game on a long run, keeps it slightly interesting.  I was still absolutely loving the scenery despite the wind and rain so the phone was coming out for several photos.  And now that the field had really spread out it was quite easy to get ones without anyone seeing you and thinking ‘if she did a little more running she might be finished before christmas!’.  (I don’t think anyone is quite that negative on an ultra run, I’m just joking).

Glen Ogle trail.jpg

I hit another hill (seriously HOW is there sooooo many??!! I will be on the moon soon!! Going to need Wonder Woman’s invincible jet to get back).  My phone pinged.  SIGNAL!!!!

‘Push through!!!  How far you?’  – text from Joe.  ’24 – I sent that at 8.’  ‘Well keep it up, we are on our way’.  ‘Don’t rush’ was my reply.

I phoned my friend Lorner.  ‘This hurts so much’  I wailed down the phone.  To which she replied with some nonsense about being tired after a few miles she had run earlier and was now cosied up at home slurping on a cup of tea.  Dry.  And not being battered by the wind.  No.  I wasn’t jealous.  Much.

Munching on some of Joes homemade flapjack I made my way up the vertical ascent.  Joe’s flapjack is the best.  It’s so tasty and yummy.  In fact, it’s probably the only reason I run.  It’s so full of unhealthiness you kind of have to run to work it off.  I could eat it all day every day.  But then if I did I wouldn’t be able to run.  And collect miles and medals.  Which I love.  Yup.  I’m getting this medal.  Third Ultra medal.  It’s mine.  I want it – I’m getting it.  Time to move.

And so the slow shuffle along the very long straight started.  Through several gates (where a cheeky wee ‘rest’ was taken for a few seconds.  I did not rush through them) and onward’s I went.  When I hit the viaduct again I did not give one flying monkey about running across it.  No photos this time, no filming.  Just some very rude words.

A short while later and it was the last check point.  This was one you just run through and they check numbers then you cross the road.  Just after crossing I heard a car beeping.  Didn’t think much of it but then I saw someone waving.  It was Joe and the kids.  He pulled up just in front and got out – kids stayed in the dry ha ha.  I was very tempted to ask if he had more flapjack but thought better of it.  He was heading on to the finish but I warned him I wouldn’t be there anytime soon.

With just a few miles to go I went past Robin again.  He was still out in this weather.  Absolutely incredible!  He told me it was only about 3.5 miles and there was only a few bumps to go, nothing like what I had already done.  A quick photo and I was on to the last section.

Glen Ogle 1

Just as Robin had said the last few miles were ‘easy’ compared to the previous 30.  Coming down in to the village of Killin we were back on the road and it’s an old village so the pavement wasn’t designed for more than one person at times but everyone gave way and let you past with no hassle.  Dodging the wheelie bins was interesting, you don’t react very fast after being on your feet so long.  On to the park where the finish was and I heard my youngest shouting and saw my daughter at the side.  A very slow bimble round the park and the finish line was there.  Scott who had finished well over an hour before me had waited about to see me finish with his wife Kathleen.  I thought that was really lovely.

So job done.  Glen Ogle 33 completed and the year has NOT ended in my first ever DNF – thank the running gods!  I’ve been wearing my finisher t-shirt which fits me perfectly every day since then and I have a lovely new running jacket that is most definitely waterproof.  Tried and tested.

Glen Ogle t-shirt.jpg

Glen Ogle elevation

On to the next one.

Everything’s Changed

Work, life, goals, expectations and now even the weather. Everything’s changed. I’ve started a new job. Routines need put in place. School starts soon. And of course there’s the World Championships.

Life is different.

And with Race To The Stones now well and truly behind me it’s time to look for new race goals. Naturally, I’ve spotted a few.

So with that in mind I decided to embark upon a new exercise regime and build up my legs to help carry me over miles and miles of running. (Oh yeah, I’m not done with the ultras).

I’m now working shifts so I have to be ridiculously organised if I want to do anything at all. So yesterday I booked Oliver in to the creche so I could get a gym and swim session in before work. I did a few of my usual routines in the gym including weighted squats and lunges.

Big mistake. Huge!

Second set of the squats and the wobble appeared. I laughed to myself, realising I had picked up heavier weights than normal. Hadn’t thought much of it. Third set and it was a bit more than a wobble. Oh man.

On to the treadmill and as I raised my hand to increase the speed I paused. An image of me falling down and being torpedoed across the room flashed across my eyes. ‘Think I will just walk this off for a bit.’

2 and a half measly miles is all I managed once I got going. However the swim after did help a bit but by the end of my shift at work I had clocked up 28,000 steps and crawling in to bed after midnight I knew today was going to be a rest day.

The problem with getting injured is the ridiculously slow recovery you have to go through. Obviously I didn’t help by adding extra weight to the squats and lunges than when I’m 100% good! But hey, we all make mistakes.

So today I took the youngest to soft play. (Because rest days aren’t torture enough). I’m walking about the same John Wayne style as just a few weeks ago which is amusing. Still no t-shirt to justify it to the raised eyebrows I got however. And sitting there reading a book entitled ‘Why Mummy Drinks’ whilst clearly not able to play with my child probably didn’t score me any more points with the brood of perfect mothers with perfect children either. (They don’t run though, they ‘hot yoga’).

Step count for today? 5000.

I’m not bothered though. I’m actually beginning to feel happier again. And I’m looking forward to taking on another ultra. Especially now I know what to expect. I know what will bother me and I know not to let it. That’s the key.

I also need to find a marathon before the end of the year I can still enter. Oh yes, London is still very much on my mind.

And a little update on the heart situation. MRI showed an enlarged heart, which isn’t a big thing (no pun intended ha ha) and not anything to worry about. Mr Cardio wants to refer me on to his friend who does genetic testing.

Genetic testing?

Oh my god I’m going to be the next Spider-Man!! I am actually going to be Wonder Woman! Well ok maybe not Wonder Woman but at the very least I could be her little sister!! Little Wonder Woman. My new name! I could actually be a super hero!

No, I have no idea what genetic testing is. But Mr Cardio sounded very excited about it and he said his friend is very interested in my test results. As long as it doesn’t involve anything like a MRI machine I don’t really care. I just heard genetics and instantly pictured Peter Parker being bit by a spider.

Hey this might finally get me my GFA! Ha ha.

But just in case I have my training plan as a back up. I’m willing to put in the work and as a family we have a few exciting things left this year so finally I can say ‘all is good.’

Happy days

Sticks and Stones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See if I drown doing this run!!

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

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

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

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

But soon. I will have.

Baywatch – not quite

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

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

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

Ok. Let’s start with signing up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you smell the cheese?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyday I’m Shufflin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P.M.A – Focus

Positive Mental Attitude. That’s what I’m focusing on.

Desperately focusing on.

Just about clinging on to….

On the grand scale of things, really, the weeks been, well, not awful. If you take the whole week.

Monday I had the chiropractor and I also went to see Steve who is a PT. he had offered to see if there was anything he could do to help me get running again. A few ‘Steve style’ exercises later and it felt better when I was running round the car park. Result! This left me feeling really, really positive and there may just be light at the end of the tunnel.

So I went for a run on Tuesday with Lorner. And had to stop. Twice. I even had to walk up a slight bump. (It wasn’t a hill, I won’t insult it). The 10 mile race I’m meant to be doing is totally out the window. As is the Summer Series the club does. I’m going to miss one of the races of the series due to one of Joes races so it wasn’t worth pushing it for Wednesdays race.

Wednesday I was back at the chiropractor, back in my depressed mood. No running for a week she said. She suggested swimming to keep my fitness up and to keep my mental health where it needs to be. I like her. She understands.

Thursday was our wedding anniversary so I was getting my eyebrows threaded and my nails done. Yup. That one time a year I remember I really should make an effort to look more like a wife and not a Lycra clad 8 year old boy. I’ve always gone to the same place to get my eyebrows done but it was a different person there on Thursday. A little taken aback that the same person who did them last year wasn’t there this year I paid my money and sat in the chair, awaiting the pulling to start. She gets the thread out and starts.

Oh my days!! What are you doing woman!! I just want a tidy up. I don’t want to be bald! She was skinning me alive I swear. That wasn’t hair being pulled off with that tiny thread but half my face! Of course she couldn’t tell how astonished I was at this because I had no more eyebrow to raise!

She kept going.

Make it stop, make it stop, please – I begged. I’m happy telling myself I’m beautiful on the inside, stuff being beautiful on the outside if this is what it takes! He’s already married me. Contracts signed. Deals done.

Once she was finished she handed me a paper tissue. Pretty sure she kept my skin tissue as some sort of trophy.

Next up was my nails. I sat down and apologised for looking like an extra from the Walking Dead with my half eaten face. She just laughed. Although did point out it looked like there maybe bruising. She wasn’t wrong there. I was tempted to go back round the butchers and give her some bruising. Hmmf.

Thankfully I had a good laugh at the nail place. She told me how she had re-trained a few years ago to do something she actually liked and she had the same sense of humour as me (ladies day at the local races can look an awful lot like My Gypsy Wedding vs The Royal Wedding) so I had a much better afternoon. And that night we went out for dinner to the place we got married. I still love that view from the restaurant each and every time, no matter the weather, and the owners always welcome us with huge hugs.

Which takes me to Friday. We were meant to be away but we had to postpone it to the following week as my appointment for my MRI came through quicker than expected. I’m in two minds about describing my experience of this as I really don’t want to put anyone off who has to have this very common, very routine scan done. So I’ve written it up separately and may or may not post it at a later date. (I might just keep it for my book).

What I will say just now is that the nurses/technicians were absolutely fantastic! Unbelievable at managing me and getting the job done. I was pathetic to say the least. So much so in fact that I did very little the rest of the day. But it has left me with a stronger will. (Apologies if that sounds cryptic, it’s really not meant to be). If I can force myself through that then things aren’t that bad.

Saturday there was no parkrun – no running for a week. Instead I went along to cheer on Lorner at her half marathon. Go Lorner!! Took the kids and my youngest loved getting high fives. It was awesome.

Then it was packing for a trip away with Joe. Just the 2 of us.

Next week I’m doing something new, and I’m absolutely bricking it. I have a pre-course test tomorrow and there’s no reason I shouldn’t pass it unless I freak and panic. There’s a possibility!

No! No I wont do that. It will be fine. I can do this.