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.

 

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glen Ogle start

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

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

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glen Ogle trail.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glen Ogle 1

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

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

Glen Ogle t-shirt.jpg

Glen Ogle elevation

On to the next one.

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.

Everyday I’m Shufflin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a No from me

Confession time.

This weekend I am meant to be running my second Ultra Trail Marathon.

I am not.

I received an email from the events medical doctor asking for a letter from Mr Cardio stating I was ok to run the 53 mile route.

I’m pretty sure he spat his coffee out when I asked for it.

Instead he insisted on seeing me to ‘talk about things’. Last time I heard those words I was dumped so I took this as a good sign! If he was ‘dumping’ me then that meant I didn’t have a problem and I could run.

Naive to the very end Ella.

I will be honest. There were many tears over the phone begging for this letter but even his assistant couldn’t be convinced. I was politely but firmly told I shouldn’t be participating in such endurance events.

This happened before Manchester. Before what was meant to be my GFA race. So now you know why I wasn’t having a class 1 tantrum at not getting that time and picking up the issue with my hamstrings. I already knew it was highly unlikely to happen at that race and I was lucky not to be pulled from it. I actually think the hamstring issue was my bodies way of forcing me to take it easy.

My appointment with him was after I ran Manchester (and I use the word ‘ran’ very loosely). He seemed to understand just how big a part of my life running is but he wasn’t budging. I didn’t really know what to say when he told me he was dreading me coming in. I knew what he meant though. He couldn’t give me any answers other than ‘your heart isn’t normal’. I have an MRI coming up but even if that shows up nothing it doesn’t mean anything. And now he thinks when my heart is beating it beats too fast.

The medical world is confusing.

When I spoke to the race medic he was very nice. He didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. If something did happen and the medical team were attending to me then that prevents them getting to someone else. I am classed as high risk – even though nothings ever happened. His words were ‘people like you give me kittens’. Good thing I don’t take things too personally! First Mr Cardio not looking forward to seeing me and then the race medic saying I was giving him kittens! That’s enough to give anyone a complex!

I completely understand though. It isn’t fair on the volunteers or the race in the unlikely event I did have a problem.

But what does this mean for Race To The Stones?

I’ve had to agree to do it over two days and not one as planned. It’s a compromise. I still get to run but just not quite the race I had hoped for. But I’m still running it. Let’s just take this one step at a time. No need to over react.

So this weekend when my fellow PRR’s take to the West Highland Way I will be running a very slow handful of miles at the most. I’ve still got races to look forward to and The Highland Fling have guaranteed I can get a place next year (provided I get signed off obviously).

2018 – you’re certainly testing me!