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.

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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.

What a Weekend

I don’t even know where to start with this.

Last year I stepped up my running and had a really good year. I wanted to do more this year but for Joe to do what he wants to do it wouldn’t be possible so I took a step back as he cranked it up. (And then of course I got injured and just wanted to crawl under a stone for the first half of this year).

Ironman 70.3 Stafford was his first race and although he was fighting fit he had a mechanical on the bike and was sat for over an hour at the side of the road waiting for the support vehicle. He had a good swim though and he finished the race with a good attitude.

Edinburgh was the big one. It was the one he had been training for over the winter months. We had both done it last year but this year he wanted to really nail it. Plus there were championship slots available – it would be hard but not impossible. As soon as he had his plan he signed up and I put myself down for volunteering.

I didn’t see a lot of him in the week leading up to the race and I will be honest, some of that was my choice! I’ve never spent so much time in the kitchen. Not cooking, don’t be silly. More looking at the saucepans and wondering just how loud the noise would be if I actually did clunk him round the head with one.

We stayed over in Edinburgh the night before. I was marshalling at the swim and had to be there for 6am so it gave some extra hours sleep and time to relax. My favourite movie was on the telly and there was red bull in the vending machine so I was literally like a pig in sh!t. Joe got the best nights sleep he’s had before a race ever so it was a real win.

Down at the swim I kissed him goodbye and wished him luck. I was soon put to work stopping people entering the swim exit. Part of me wanted to be right down at the swim but to be honest, all areas were good to be at. I got to shout and whoop and encourage the athletes on as they were a bit more ‘with it’ by the time they reached me. I was marshalling a cross over point and the lovely girl I was working with was from China. She didn’t really know what Ironman was and had volunteered as she was doing Sport and Science at University.

I had a great position to see Joe coming into T1 and true enough I spotted him straight away. He was shoulder to shoulder with Barclay, another Perth Tri Club member. Unfortunately I missed Sarah who was Frazers relay team swimmer but I caught all the others from the club and also Steven Bonthrone. What I really loved about volunteering was the smiles on some of the athletes faces when they went past to my very loud cheers that just read ‘I did it! I did the first part!’ You could see it plain as day on their faces. I loved it.

I did not love the next part. Driving by myself in to Edinburgh city centre. Nope. Not for me. But I had to stay strong. Many many deep breathes and I turned the engine on. I clicked on the sat nav. I slowly pulled out of the car park. This part was ok. This road I kind of know as it’s the marathon route. The roads are also quiet – probably because it’s 9:30am on a Sunday morning. Ok. I’m approaching the centre now. This means more turns. I can do this.

‘Road closed’

What the f@ck!!!! Ok don’t panic don’t panic. I turn left, then left again, then left again. And yup, you guessed it, left again. Road still closed. Come on!! I then go up a ridiculously steep hill (what is that with Edinburgh?!?) and can’t see where I’m going. So naturally I pull out in front of at least 3 cars then brace myself for an almighty smash. Thankfully doesn’t happen but I apologise if that was you.

Eventually I just dump it down a side street, spend 20 minutes trying to figure out how to drop a god damn pin on my google maps to tell me where the hell I’m parked before realising that I’ve got about 15 minutes to get to T2 before Joe gets there. And I’m wearing flip flops.

I take off down the hill and almost fall off the kerb that in gods honest truth is at least a meter high, phone in hand with Mrs Google telling me to turn right (well it wasn’t going to be left again was it). I turn right and see Holyrood right in front of me. Result! And here wasn’t even any tears!

I’m desperate for a wee but there’s no way I’m missing Joe coming in. I check the tracker again and do a little calculation. I soon realise that I really should do a maths course as Joe is at least half an hour away. This allows me time to pee though so it’s not a bad thing. I pop over to the finish line (after I’ve been!) to see if there’s anything I can do to help and grab a bottle of water. Then I head to the Bike In. Tracker in hand. Sun cream on. I’m in a great position. So is Joe though. He’s in front of Barclay. I can only imagine the friendly rivalry going on between them right now.

I start getting really nervous. He’s having a great race and as far as I can see there’s no issues. Everyone around is cheering but it’s a dull cheer. I’m nervously looking between my watch, the tracker and the road.

Then I see him.

Had I not been jumping around so much I probably would have gotten a better video but I really can’t help myself. I run up to the fence and across to where he’s coming out on the run where I catch him again. He’s still strong but the sun is now so hot. This is going to be tough for him.

Barclay comes through just minutes later and I catch Andy too, who by the way, completed The Celtman just 3 weeks earlier!! If you don’t know what that is look it up!

The run is 3 laps and when Joe comes back down I know instantly he’s not feeling great. I shout to him he needs to take on water. I’m a bit concerned at how he’s looking so I head further up the route to try and surprise him at a difficult climb and give him a boost. Everyone’s struggling. The heat is relentless and it’s a hard run. I lose count of how many times someone comments on how hot it is. I see Andy coming back down the hill. ‘I spy a Celtman!!’ I yell out at him. ‘This is harder!’ He shouts back.

Steven’s wife messages to say she is at T2 and I head back down. I see her on the other side of the finish chute. Joes on his last lap and I’m not going to miss him on the red carpet. I’m gutted I haven’t seen Frazer at all but I couldn’t get him on the tracker. It’s the only problem I had with it. At the finish and I see Barclays wife and daughters. He comes in not long after all smiles. It’s an anxious wait for Joe. This is ‘A’ race this year. He wants a qualifier spot which we know is going to be ridiculously difficult but not completely out of reach.

I see him before the commentator does and I start banging like crazy on the boards. He’s had a much better race than last years and Stafford. And this is in more difficult conditions. As soon as he’s across the line I head to the finishers tent.

Where I wait patiently for over an hour for him to appear.

This is clearly a part of the day that needs more planning. That’s all I’m going to say.

He’s done a tremendous job. He really did have a good race. Unfortunately he’s not finished in the top 10 of his category but it’s a hugely competitive category. Still. I convince him to wait around for the slot allocation. If nothing else he will get to know what happens and what more he needs to do.

There’s a few hours to chill out before the slot allocation begins. Not a bad thing lying on the grass after thousands and thousands of steps. Then we head in to the marque. The awards are read out first and Alicjia from the tri club gets second in her category.

They then start with the World Championships South Africa slots. It’s a very confusing situation – at least it is for me, but it involves maths, so that probably explains that! Joe goes up. Did she say there are 34 or 36 slots? There are 34 people standing up there. Oh my god I’m so confused what’s happening?! Another guy goes up. That’s 35. No!! What does this mean?

Well basically this means HE’S ONLY GONE AND GOT A PLACE!!

This was the goal. It was THE goal and he’s done it! Holy cow!

I have a slight panic attack as I know we have to pay just now for it but they ask for credit card and we don’t do credit cards. I’m still a bit dazed when his coach comes over and says there’s a group going so it will be good and I won’t be on my own etc. Thankfully they take any card. Well, for that amount of money, why wouldn’t they?

So that’s it. Off to South Africa in 2 months time. I never doubted even for a second he could do it but I don’t think I realised just how soon it would happen. The next couple of months are going to be intense but I can’t get over just how awesome this is. He’s worked hard for it but what an opportunity.

Guess I need to stop joking at him now that it’s ‘still not a marathon or an ultra’ as you have to admit this is somewhat better ha ha.

Annual Reflections

I love a ‘reflection’ post. The ‘ah I remember that’ happy smile and the ‘I swear I could have drowned!’ moments. Come to think of it there were many close calls…..

I sank on the 1st January when I went straight down instead of straight forward swimming in the New Years Day Tri. That taught me to think properly when something changes. It also taught me I’m not a fish.

There was the close encounter with the ice cream van that then impaled me on the solid iron sewar cover leaving a lovely hole in my cheek. (Wasn’t an ice cream van but it was that close to my face I could have licked it). This was quickly followed by the UFO that was the first aid kit, launched across the road and landing on said hole in cheek. Im no doctor but I don’t think that’s how you use the red bag.

There was the death defying descents on the Hill Series. The many chants of ‘you’re ok Ella, you’re not going to die, I AM GOING TO DIE!!’. Barry assures me this will be good practise for the Highland Fling next year. I’ve hired a Sherpa, just in case.

And of course the heart thing. It threw a spanner in the works for getting my GFA, made me pull out of a number of races and taught me the importance of an extremely good sports bra. But it’s still beating and I’m still running. No pace maker this year.

I couldn’t not mention ‘that’ swim that was Edinburgh Half Ironman. Now that was genuinely half an hour of fighting for survival! Had I actually looked at the sea before getting in I’m really not sure I would have. And had I heard the true horror stories of what was happening I would have turned around and legged it. But I did it, and I did it faster than Joe. (Sticks tongue out in laughter all too aware he would whip my ass now).

But yes! Half Ironman! An actual Half Ironman! We did it! Joe actually did 3 in the end but I’m happy with my one – for now.

And an Ultra! Ah yes the Ochils Ultra. What a learning experience that was. First being to actually look at the name. OcHILS. Hills. Meaning not flat. So 6 days after a marathon not exactly the best idea. And seriously, who would have thought there was a real danger of drowning when out running?!? I’m still not over that. But the counselling is going well….

A very happy memory of 2017 is our youngest’s first ever Parkrun. Just days after turning 4. That was immense. Unfortunately it may have been just a little too far for him and I don’t want to be a pushy parent so we are taking it slowly. I refuse to be one of those parents dragging their kids around the course telling them off for being too slow and not trying.

And last but by no means least – my sub 4hour marathon. Looking back I honestly don’t know how I pulled that one out the bag. 3hrs 55mins 26secs. But I’m going to run that fast again, even faster. And I’m going to get my GFA!

So a few knocks and a few drownings amongst the 35 races I completed. A couple of scars, definitely too many toilet related stories and more missed targets than I am happy with but my god I’ve had some absolutely incredible finish lines, met some fantastic people and made some very happy memories.

Definitely. Can’t. Complain.

(Even though I did. I’m talking Oscar worthy whinging!)

Getting Wet In Weymouth

Getting Wet In Weymouth

When I was in college – just a ‘couple’ of years ago – one of my assignments was to promote Weymouth. Being the young, care free gal I was back in those days I had no real idea what activities were done in Weymouth so came up with the slogan ‘I Got Wet In Weymouth’ to sell t-shirts on the beach. Ironman was a comic book character at that time, not something I would ‘half’ be several (hundred) years later.

Weymouth 70.3 was Joe’s ‘A’ race for the year. The one he wanted. It fell just after our youngest’s birthday so we decided as we would be down that way to take a slight detour to CBeebies Land for him. The slight detour ended up being many additional hours as we hadn’t really taken into consideration just how often we would hear ‘I need a pee!’ in a frantic voice. And let’s not mention ‘I need poo’…..

It was worth it though and he had a great time. Lesson learnt though – it would have been better after the race. Less stressful.

I had really, really wanted to do Weymouth. A perfect one to sign up to after Edinburgh. But this was Joes race so I had to set that jealousy aside and I love going to his races and supporting anyway (even if I’m ‘not invited’). Weymouth is a about 30 miles from his side of the family so I also messaged the aunties and cousins to ask them along as a surprise for him.

4am and the alarm goes off.

We have rented an uber cool pod lodge where we shower and get ready. Half the site is filled with athletes so we aren’t the only ones up and don’t have to worry too much about being noisy. We put our son in the car and drive to the car park where I will sit for an hour before heading down – Joe heads straight to the swim start.

Now. I was going to try and sleep for another hour in the car but I was awake. And excited. I may not have been racing but I really do love chasing him round a course. I also love instagram. So I made a few videos. During these videos I was spotted by a couple of people going by and let’s just say I made them smile ha ha.

Whilst messing about in the car at 6am I found Joes timing chip. Uh oh. I phoned him to tell him before he frantically tried to search for it. I would have to get it down to him. The plan was a slow toddler paced walk down to the swim start but this had now turned into a frantic move-as-fast-as-you-can-whilst-carrying-a-4yearold-and-a-heavy-rucksack. Thank god I ‘occasionally’ do strength work! Jogging (yes, jogging) to the swim whilst politely telling people to move Joe suddenly appeared behind me.

‘Chip!!!’

‘Back pocket’

And he was gone again.

Who says romance is dead?

I headed up to the rocks in the hope this would cheer up my now unhappy toddler but he was having none of it. We weren’t close enough to spot Joe anyway so it wasn’t proving to be a good idea from any aspect. We moved round to the back of the start and as we slowly wandered down I saw Joe waving. Talk about luck!

I was able to calculate his swim start was roughly 7:13am so from there I could again roughly predict what time he would exit. Oh yeah – this isn’t my first time supporting – I’ve got skills in this area! CV worthy skills!

We went down on the beach so Oliver could throw stones in to the water and I was struck by just how many people 2600 are. The start queue for the swim was huge!! I think it may have taken up to half an hour maybe more to get everyone started.

Oliver got bored very quickly so the first chocolate snack/bribe was administered. Yes, shoot me, I gave my child chocolate at 7:30am. It cheered him up ok. He doesn’t usually have such bad things so early but this was a special event. We found a good spot on the swim exit and plonked ourselves down. I pulled out the sign Oliver had made and proudly placed it in front of us – yes, I am that person. He would hear us before he seen us and he would definitely see us.

However, Oliver had other plans. ‘I need a pee’. ‘Daddy will be out any minute now can you hold it?’. Cue wailing and crying to further cement me in to the bad motherhood society. That’ll be a no then! Off we went to the portaloos. One of the good things about this race was the number of toilets so no long queue.

I was quite sure we would have missed Joe coming out of the swim so decided to plonk ourselves about 70 metres down from the bike out. It was another great spot. I was ridiculously nervous Oliver would wander on to the road in front of a bike and get seriously hurt and knock a rider off. There was no reason for this train of thought – he had never done anything like that before, was aware of the fast moving cyclists and had clamped himself to my legs anyway. Still, it was nerve wrecking. Only to be made worse by witnessing a bike crash in to another and one rider go head over heels. It looked painful and I’m not sure the rider continued! And of course it was at this time Joe came passed. And he looked right pissed off! (Excuse my language). Looking at the time I took an educated guess he wasn’t happy with his swim. He was out though and on the bike, his favourite section.

I updated Facebook (life’s priority ha ha).

Looking for somewhere warm Oliver and I headed to the Sand Sculpture place hoping for entertainment for him and a cup of tea for me. ‘Do you have a warm cafe in there?’ I asked the women at the desk. ‘Yeah we do’.

Lies!!!!! Absolute lies!!! It was a TENT. And a leaking one at that! Bloody freezing! Colder inside it than out! Olivers lips actually started turning blue so it was back out and a walk up the promenade whilst wondering why we lived and raced in such a cold bloody country. Decision was made then and there to emigrate.

We found a proper cafe further up and warmed up whilst I amused myself listening to the waitress continually saying she didn’t understand where all the people had come from and that they were experiencing their busiest ever Sunday. Every customer in there had Ironman merchandise on – including Oliver and I – obviously. The road outside had been closed for the event. There were signs everywhere stating ‘Event’.

I just smiled at her and shrugged.

We met up with Aunt Jackie who phoned from right outside the shop I was in. Shortly after Aunty Maria and the cousins appeared and all of a sudden it wasn’t just Oliver and myself – we had a full on cheer squad! Amazing!! (Unfortunately Aunty Julie was full of the flu and being on a beach front isn’t the best place when you are ill but she was there in spirit).

They didn’t know how we would be able to tell when Joe was coming but I was all over that. I can pretty much pin point it to the minute. I’m telling you, skills of a ninja. His doppelgänger did throw me off though I have to admit. This guy was his absolute double just slightly taller – and not wearing a Perth Tri Club Tri suit but it was blue and he had the same visor, glasses, beard and compression socks.

As soon as I saw Joe that was it.

HERE HE COMES!!! I screamed at everyone. Cheer squad assembled and we roared waving our banners. The grin from his face was worth it – he clearly hadn’t expected it. The run route was 3.5 laps so he he came back the other way less than 10 minutes later. Cue more shouting, cheers and frantic waving. Oh yeah, we owned that promenade!

He seemed in good spirits and he didn’t look like he was hurting too much. By the next time round I could see the pain on his face though so we cheered louder (hard to believe but a group of 6 women, 1 teenager and 5 small children can always get louder! Ha ha).

After his last lap past us we headed towards the finish. I knew it would be difficult to see him but miraculously we got there just before he went up the red carpet, cheering him on the very finish.

After he was done and came out the finishers lounge we all headed for something to eat. It had been a long day for everyone but worth every second. You just can’t beat having support like that. He’s always said he doesn’t ‘need’ it but I think we’ve proved how great it can be. Especially when it’s unexpected. It was a good event and one I think we will be back at next year.

Next Up

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

I just don’t know.

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

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

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

But…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is more to come from Ella.  Much more. 

Anything IS Possible

3:15am and our alarm goes off.  

This. Is. It.

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

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

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

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

No comment needed.

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

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

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


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

Should?!? 

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

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

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

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

It’s a nice thought.

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

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

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

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

‘Joe Webley’

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

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

So yeah, I carry on.  As you do.

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

Best. Decision. Ever.

Those jelly babies were a life saver.

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

‘There she is.  Alright wife.’

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

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

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

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

So, I start singing.  

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

This carries on for a few miles.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Final section.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I bloody did it!!