Team Webley On Tour – the Weymouth edition

Team Webley On Tour – the Weymouth edition

What can be said about Weymouth? Well. The words ‘easy, flat, smooth’ do not enter my thoughts put it that way!

Just one week before, my entire race was put in jeopardy after being struck by an episode. I’ve had nothing in almost 2 years and then out of nowhere I hit the ground 7 days before race day. Luckily Joe was with me but I didn’t escape a trip to A &E later that night. I did convince them I didn’t need to stay in for observation though. There was no need.

So it was touch and go whether I would be starting, and if I got to start whether I would finish. The only way to deal with it was to break it down step by step.

We get down there and, well, it’s Weymouth. It’s windy! The sea was horrendous. We tried a practise swim but no. It was like being thrown back to Edinburgh 70.3 that first year. It did tell me I needed nose plugs though and after much running around trying to 1) get people to understand my accent and 2) find someone who knew what nose plugs were I eventually found a swimming pool that had a pair. And like the hero he is Joe took off to get them as the place shut in 20 minutes.

I also didn’t have a bike pump so had to buy one of them. I could only find a huge, heavy lump of metal which Joe didn’t think I could get on to my bike but you’ll be amazed what a girl with a bunch of hair bobbles can do!

The night before the race was spent practising removing my wet suit. After taking a Stanley blade to the sleeves (not during a timed removal, let’s not be too dramatic) the arms were ok but there was no getting my fat legs out the bottom. I did consider taking the blade to my legs but it would take a chain saw to get through these tree trunks.

Race morning and my heart and chest are ok. I’m going to join the race start and see what happens. Joe on the other hand is not. As much as it was touch and go for me, it was the same for him. He is constantly in pain. The only thing that changes is the level. When he sent me to my start area an hour before go time I was convinced he was pulling out. With crohns it’s very much a case of yes, you can make plans but you might have to cancel them last minute. He did start though and he did have a good race.

The sea had calmed down a lot but the decision had been made to shorten the course. My first panic was whether or not I would make cut off. I think I will always worry about that though. In the end I had a good swim for me. I was only elbowed and hit a few times and I kept to a very straight line.

I would love to ‘gloss’ over T1 but in the time it took me to remove my wetsuit you could not only have had a cup of tea and a biscuit, but you could have had the entire weeks worth of tea and biscuits! Bit disappointed no one offered to help if I’m honest. If I’d seen someone struggle like that I would have helped rip the thing off.

The bike was good. Apart from the punctures. Both of them! How do you get 2 punctures?? I may have spent Saturday night practising wet suit removal but maybe some of it should have been spent practising punctures. There must have been well over a hundred on course. I had 2, another PTC had 2, I read online someone had 4. The mechanics ran out of everything and the punctures cost quite a few their race. I lost an awful lot of time and I would be disappointed but that’s part of racing. It’s why you can’t compare races. Weather plays a huge part as well and we may have had calmer seas but the wind was definitely present on the cycle! And it brought its friend the rain with it too.

At least my second transition was marginally better – but by this time my head had given up and I was solidly in ‘ultra’ mode. There was no rush. My bike split had been ruined in my eyes at that time so I wasn’t wasting effort.

I had no hunger to get a good time on the run and with the heat rising I was acutely aware of my heart so held back. I could have pushed, I probably should have pushed, but I chose to be cautious/lazy. I knew I would have regrets after but I also knew I needed to have trained more with my run. Yes I can run 50 miles plus but running 13.1 after a swim and a bike isn’t the same. It’s not the place for long pacing techniques.

Having family out on the run though was fantastic. 2 years ago I secretly planned for them to show up for Joe doing Weymouth and it meant a lot to him. Having them there again this time with what he’s dealing with with his crohns had the same effect. And they are not quiet cheerleaders! I could hear them way after I had shuffled by. It was awesome.

Being back of the pack means one absolutely fantastic thing – you get that red carpet to yourself! All the way up! And did I cross the line holding the stop button on my garmin? Did I heck, what was the point! I actually forgot all about it until I was in the finishers hall. I raised both arms, grin on my face as I reminded myself I very nearly wasn’t able to start this race, never mind finish it! Albeit a very, very long time after I had started ha ha.

Afterwards I had to get my tracking fixed as my ankle tracker had not worked and the results had DQ’d me. Now I know my race time was bad but I still finished ha ha. It was a relatively easy fix though thanks to my garmin.

So lots of areas to improve on. Didn’t think I would be saying this but the run needs work. I’m not ready to admit Joe was right and doing ultras at the same time as triathlon isn’t working but ‘I’m just saying’. Bike and swim too have some way to go.

And as for that wet suit……..

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.

Race To The King 2019

Race To The King 2019

What a weekend I’ve had!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Tears.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

I’m telling you. Crazy thoughts.

 

 

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

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

And waited.

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

 

I was out of basecamp on track.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

And It’s Back To Tri-ing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I turn back around and head back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

John Muir Way Ultra

John Muir Way Ultra

‘Your mum looks like she’s about to cry’ he says to Oliver.  This is met with a sharp look and the sternest of cold replies ‘Don’t!’.  He grins.  I leave the room.

I don’t know what it is but at certain races – typically the bigger ones that mean something to me – I have to fight back the tears.  And it’s been 4 years!!  I didn’t cry though.  Not this time.  But it did make me realise how much I wanted this.

I had decided to stay overnight near the race even though it was only 2 hours down the road if that.  Being 5 years old Oliver sees this as a little holiday so it makes it more fun for him.  Being only 10 minutes from registration made for more time in bed too.

Registration was pretty straight forward.  Are you running the half?  ‘No, full’.  This is your envelope.  Inside it is your bib and your chip.  Here’s your map.  Bus is over there.  I got on the bus, pulled my hat as far over my eyes as I could and concentrated on not letting the nerves get the better of me.  The chat on the bus was casual and not running related which was weirdly relaxing.  And I received a few good luck messages on my phone which made me smile.  A small gesture that goes a long way in times like that.

All the runners were bussed to the start which is on the promenade (because where else do you want to be in shorts and t-shirt other than a beach front in the cold wind?!?)  Luckily there was a bag drop so I kept my hoodie on until the very last minute.  Waiting in the queue for the bathroom I got chatting to 2 other ladies running.  They looked at me and asked if I was running the half.  Again I said no to this question.  ‘Oh’ was the reply.  ‘Have you ran this distance before?’.   ‘Just a couple of times’ I said.  Conversation was then cut short as the bathroom became free.

At the start line and we were told to get in to our waves.  How did we know what wave we were in?  ‘Competitive runners at the front, leisurely competitive in the middle and those out for a good day at the back.’  Leisurely competitive – I love it!!  Best comment of the day!  Squashed in to the crowd and the conversation around me turned to expected time.  Most were aiming for about 9 to 10 minute miles and a good day.  I relaxed some more, thankful it wasn’t a case of sub 7 min milers.  Then an older man turned to me and asked ‘are you running the half?’

What is going on??  Do I not look like a runner?? (What ever a runner looks like).  Why am I being asked this question so much?  I picture my reflection in the mirror from that morning – trainers check, shorts and t-shirt check, hydration vest check, proper running jacket check, running cap check, fear of god expression on face as if I’m about to die – oh wait, that might be it.

Very quickly we are off and I start slow.  Within just a few hundred metres I’m already warm enough and strip off my jacket and put it in my bag.  Whilst still running might I add.  Quite proud of this.  Ha ha.  And yes, I have been practising.  I’m wearing road trainers mainly because I have been training in them but also because someone from the club had said road were fine if it hadn’t been raining too much.  We start on tarmac but are soon on the trail and then on the beach.  When I first see the beach I naturally have Chariots of Fire playing in my head and I almost begin a slow motion run.  However once I have taken a few steps on the beach I am no longer in ‘let’s have fun’ mode and quickly move to ‘how the f@ck do you run on sand?!’.  Answer?  You don’t really.  You find the most solid looking bit and then miserably make your way to the end.  Thankfully it wasn’t a long patch and we were back on trail once again.

Then we were on gravel.  Then we were on tarmac.  Then back to trail.  I’ve never noticed the cushioning on my trainers other than on day 1 of a new pair but this route was giving me an education in foot wear let me tell you.  You want to learn the difference between trail shoes and road shoes?  Run the John Muir Way Ultra.  (Probably a bit extreme to run 50km to learn that but you get my point).

By now I’m at 8 miles and I am cheekily grinning to myself as I am only just feeling a slight twinge in my hamstring.  This is good for me.  I am happy with this.  I fully expected it to kick in at about 3 miles and be torture from the get go.  It has however started to rain but I know the aid station is at 10 miles so decide to stop and put my jacket on there.  I may be able to take it off whilst running but putting it on is a different challenge altogether.  As I reach there I see Joe and Oliver so I get a nice cuddle before sending them back to the car as they are cold.

My goal at this point is to get the half way point before cut off which is 3 and half hours from the start.  A goal which is, in reality, not really a goal as my pace has never indicated that it could be an issue but in my head, it was.  So when I saw Joe and Oliver again only 500 metres before the halfway point I couldn’t bring myself to stop.  Not even when he asked if I wanted the jelly babies I had asked him to get for me.  Karma got me straight away though as I had to run on the beach again straight after that to get to the life boat station.

Having learnt my lesson from The Stones I knew not to waste too much time there.  I waited for a little bit to see if Joe would make it there but I wasn’t surprised when the text came through to say he couldn’t get parked so he would see me further up.   My legs were hurting now and it wasn’t getting any warmer so I had some banana and headed back out, wishing I had remembered a spare pair of socks as there was a definite ‘feeling’ going on down there on the soles.

As soon as I left the life boat station I was back on the beach.  Good old karma just making sure I felt bad for not stopping to speak to Joe and Ollie.  I pulled my hat right down so I could barely see a foot in front of me and grumped and groaned for every step.  Every step that is, until I stepped in something I really didn’t want to see.

What do you get at a beach?  The sea.  What is the sea made of?  Water!  Instead of being focused on where I was going I was focused on being a moaner and so had gone off track and ended up in the sea!  What the actual hell! Good thing I hadn’t changed socks as that would have been pointless.  Needless to say the grumping and the groaning just hiked it’s way up another level after that until I reached tarmac again.  Bloody water.

Unfortunately though, as soon as I was back on the road, it was a hike up a little hill.  I say ‘little’ but it was bloody steep.  And not welcomed after what had been quite a gloriously flat run so far.  Still.  Shouldn’t complain.  (But of course I did ha ha).  By now I was breaking it down to 5 mile blocks.  10 miles was my first quick stop.  15 miles was ‘halfway’.  Just another 5 to 20 miles then it’s only 10 miles to the finish from there and I do 10 mile runs all the time.  It’s only 10 miles to my mum and dads and I run that quite a bit.  I am of course ignoring the fact its actually a 31 mile run but the last mile doesn’t really count does it.

Maths.  Running is all about maths.  Fact.

At 20 miles I am going round a loch and I have entered the hurt locker.  The infamous hobble has appeared (or should that be hobbit given my size?) and I am zig zagging my way up every mount everest/mole hill thrown at me.  In truth, I look like I’ve pooped myself.  But I’ve still got 10 miles to go and I am not giving up.  (I do occasionally wonder if I have indeed done the deed but rest assured, I had not).  By about 23 miles I am running just behind a man with a Leven Las Vegas t-shirt.  This running club’s name makes me laugh as I think it’s a pretty cool play on words.  I go past a couple of girls I have seen a few times and they shout ‘love your tattoo by the way’.  I’m grinding my teeth at this point because of the pain so this couldn’t have come at a better time.  It’s amazing how the little things get you through.

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Rounding the corner and it’s back on road.  I see Oliver at the bottom of the hill and he runs up towards me with a much needed cuddle.  He runs down the hill with me and asks why I’m going so slow, pointing out he can run faster.  Ah kids.  Don’t you just love them?  Joe tells me the aid station is just at the bottom of the hill so keep going until I get there.  Which I do.  Gravity has a way of pulling even those who hobble towards the bottom of a hill.  At the aid station the lady behind the food asks me twice if I am ok.  At this point I am just staring at her.  You see, I was trying to make a very, very difficult decision.

Should I eat the flap jack on the table?

This could have some quite serious consequences.  I already look like I have pooped myself.  I had no intention of actually doing that.  But then, it could also help.  Give me a bit of a push.  It’s a very hard call.

I take a tiny bit and set off again.

I’ve only taken about 5 steps and I decide to turn back round and grab some more.  ‘That’s right, get a sugar fix love.  Do you good.’  She understands.  I wasn’t being rude.  I’m just not all there at this moment.

Back on the track and I see Leven Las Vegas man again.  He steps to the side to let me past and offers some encouraging words and I say some back.  And thus begins the final stretch and a beautiful running friendship game of cat and mouse.  He would run past me and then stop to walk a little further up, then I would run past him before stopping to walk and so on and so on.  Always exchanging comments of ‘I will be seeing you soon’ and ‘well done, just you keep going’.  We walked together at one point and I found out he had run this route as a relay last year and this was his first ultra.  I told him the ones I had done before.  ‘You like the hills then?’ he asked.  ‘God no, hate them’ I laughed.  He thought I had sprained my ankle from the way I was hobbling but I explained the pain was further up.

Then we were down to the last 2 miles.  I was determined not to lose him.  I used him to keep me pushing and eventually I reached the marshall who said those blissful , magical words ‘It’s only 1.5km from here’.  He was a fantastic marshall.  He was either a triplet or he had been moving places around the route, helping out and always, always cheery and happy.  But not your usual ‘not far now’ kind of encouragement’.  More ‘I don’t know what to say.  Well done guys you are awesome’.   He deserves a medal.

I see the 400 metres to go sign.  Relief waving over me.  I’m back of the field but there’s still a cheer for me as I cross the line.  I make sure I high five the kids at the side too.  At the finish I turn round and wait for Leven Las Vegas man to come across.  He had kept me going in those last few miles and I was very thankful.  What a lovely man.

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The finish is at a lake – strange given the name of it is Fox Lake…..  Joe was playing with Oliver at the play park whilst I was gathering my things and I saw 2 people wade in.  I love an ice bath.  It was amazing at Manchester.  So I limped over and peeled off my socks and trainers.  It was slippy.  Not ideal.  It was also freezing.  Absolutely blood freezing.  Nope, nope, nope I’m getting out.  Possibly the fastest I had moved all day not a word of a lie.  My ankles have never been in so much pain.  But oh man it felt so good.  Ok.  Deep breaths.  Huff, puff, huff, puff – back in I go.

And straight back out.  Too much.

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I would definitely recommend this race.  From the marshalls to the aid stations to the route itself.  I really liked it.  I’m very tempted to go back next year if I ever get rid of this pain in my legs, just to see how well I could do it injury free.

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2019 – it starts again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

nyd 2

 

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.