Sticks and Stones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See if I drown doing this run!!

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

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

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

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

But soon. I will have.

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Everyday I’m Shufflin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P.M.A – Focus

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

Desperately focusing on.

Just about clinging on to….

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

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

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

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

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

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

She kept going.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Didn’t Feel Good

How much crap can one person honestly have thrown at them?

Bucket loads! Truck loads even!

And I fear there’s more to come…

I just got turned down for an interview for a receptionist! An interview. I didn’t even get an interview!! For a receptionist!

Wasn’t even a prestigious place. I’m reliably told the wine there is crap and it’s not somewhere many would recommend. Truth be told I had completely forgotten I had even applied. But that’s not the point. No I don’t think I’m ‘too good for the job’ but I could do the job. Guess they’ll never know.

What an insight into the job seeking world. What an eye opener I’ve been getting. I’m still traumatised by the job centre. And I’m still applying for minimum wage paid jobs because they are just the teensiest bit related to what I really want to do.

I had an ‘interesting’ conversation with the woman who is taking my first course at the end of the month. I phoned to pay the balance (education is expensive people, stay in school!) and I could not help myself blurting out ’em, everyone’s not half my age on the course are they? I mean I’m not going to be like the granny at the side?’

She found this hilarious. And on reflection thank god as that could have gone drastically wrong! She said without checking dates of birth she couldn’t say but generally there’s a bit of a mix. Mostly young people but you do get older folk.

End goal Ella. Focus on the end goal.

And as for my running? Here comes the truck.

5 full days of no running. I was climbing the walls. I was icing, swimming, yoga-ing my ass off. The morning of day 6 I pulled on my shorts and t-shirt, laced up my trainers and headed out. The plan was to test it for the first mile and if all was good carry on for 3.

Not even 100 metres and it was sore. Nothing had changed. 5 days and nothing.

Obviously I complained on my instagram instantly.

A couple of people suggested that, given where the pain was, it could be hamstring Tendinopathy. I googled it. I cried. A lot! 3-6 months recovery.

At the chiropractor and I was instantly on it. ‘I ran this morning and it still hurt. It’s been suggested it’s this hamstring thing. Could it be that? The pain seems to be right where that is.’

‘Hi Ella how are you? What happened to not running until Monday?’

Oh yeah, may have missed that. I just wanted to test it on Friday though. And as for my manners…..

‘Sorry, sorry, it’s just getting to me a bit. Hi,how are you?’

She then showed me why it wasn’t the hamstring thing by pushing on exactly where the pain was. Too high for it to be that. Adjustments followed – she shot me in the neck with her adjuster! – and gave me some stretches. I’m back Monday. No running.

It wasn’t until I was walking out that I realised she had, in the most politest of ways possible, told me to stop googling. How did she do that?

So lots of ‘not so feel good’ moments this week but if life was easy it would be boring. To keep me focused I have written out my marathon training plan on a huge piece of paper that will be pinned to the wall ready for when I can get back to it. I’ve taken the plan straight from the book of a well known marathon runner. I will tell you about my library visit later. (Mortification honestly).

And of course next week is our wedding anniversary so hopefully we will get out for a nice meal and then we have a little trip away. Life could be worse. Let’s be honest.

Hello May

2018 – it’s time for me take my year back!

I’ve had enough of your nonsense, your set backs, your spanner’s – YOU are now the spanner!

(I know that doesn’t really work but you get my point)

I’m only looking forward now. May is a good month for me. It’s the month I met and married my husband (not in the same year, calm down). It’s before half way in the year meaning any change gives me more than half the year to celebrate it and own it. I’m taking control!

She says, as she sits here on her foam roller, not running.

That’s right. NOT running. Because I need to get rid of this QL and hamstring issue before running again. So I’m doing a Ross and Rachel. It’s ‘on a break’ time.

Today is day 3 of the break. I think it feels better. I’m praying it doesn’t hurt when I lace up my trainers again. I’ve also booked in for a back and leg transplant if this doesn’t work.

Joking.

I’ve also taken steps with the work side of my life. I’ve signed up to 2 different courses which is going to take me in a completely different direction. Insurance IS boring and I don’t want to do it again. I might end up having to take on an office job or part time job to fund my studies but I don’t care. I’m focused on the end goal. I will be starting at the bottom and I’m just about over the shock of how little minimum wage is but like I say, end goal.

So for the next few days it’s swimming and hopefully some cycling. I will NOT put my trainers on before Thursday – that will be 4 full days no running. If it doesn’t feel good Thursday I will take them off again.

Yup. That’s my plan.

I can do it.

I can.

Surely.

Yup.

God I hope so.

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!

The Heart Will Go On

The Heart Will Go On

You’ve no idea how appropriate this title is!

After Manchester a couple of weeks ago I’ve struggled to run what I would call decent. My hamstrings are killing me, my bum has never been this sore in my life and I grew up with the slipper across my backside if I was bad! I’ve also been back to Mr Cardio who has now told me I need to be keeping my heart rate under a certain level.

Eh?? Thought the problem was that it didn’t beat fast enough? Now you’re saying it’s too fast at times?!? Somehow it’s now spiking and that’s not a good thing for me – apparently. Neither is disagreeing with Mr Cardio. He did not like my suggestion of ‘just stop doing ECG’s and there won’t be a problem’. (Although I am now becoming an expert on reading them. Silver linings and all that.)

So what’s my point here? Oh yeah. Basically my body is giving me a hard time. It’s being an actual pain in the arse. (Genuinely, never had this much uncomfortable pain before, and I’ve had 3 kids!). There’s also been other family stuff going on so I decided a trip to Northern Ireland to go and see something that’s been on my bucket list for 20 years was the way to go. Move over Kate Winslett, Ella Webley trusts Jack.

The original plan was me treating my mum to a little city break. This grew arms and legs – or rather full entire bodies – and ended up with my dad and my youngest coming too.

The running gear was the first thing to get packed.

After a short flight and a little confusion at the car rental place (no pal, I will not be leaving a £1000 deposit for a car that’s not even worth that!) we got to the apartment and then quickly headed out to the museum that was right next door.

I won’t bore you with details of the visit but we were there a good few hours and exhausted by the time we got back to the apartment. But I had a run to do. A run I very much wanted to do. My first attempt to get back out the door failed miserably as my youngest clung to my legs and well, I kind of need them minus a four year old to be able to run. Thankfully, I managed to settle him down and I was able to head out.

I got as far as the door.

Where do I go? I’m in a strange city, I have no idea where anything is, if there are any parts I should be avoiding – where do I go?

It doesn’t matter…….just…run.

So I did. I turned left along the River Lagan and just went.

And it was awesome. I absolutely loved it. It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t speedy, there were multiple stops for photographs, but it was great. I ran back and forth across the same bridge 3 times – mainly because I wasn’t paying attention but also because I was trying to get a decent photograph of a statue – but I didn’t care. I may have slightly got lost but it didn’t matter, I found my way. And I saw so many things I would have missed had I not gone out.

Turning back I knew exactly where I was going. I knew what I needed to see, what I wanted to run past.

Yes that may sound really sad to so many people but I absolutely LOVE running past certain things. I can’t describe it! It just makes me so happy.

My names Ella and I am a bit of saddo.

(But I don’t care so there ha ha)

All lit up in purple against a dark sky there it was. The Titanic museum. Yes I had been there during the day and for quite a few hours but this was different. There was hardly anyone around, it wasn’t windy, the river was calm, it was so quiet.

I quickly checked around me to make sure a predator wasn’t creeping up on me. Just to be safe.

I really got caught up in the whole thing. I had been infatuated by the Titanic for over 20 years. The entire story and history enthralled me. I ran round the back and over the display that mapped out its sheer size on the floor. If you haven’t been you should go.

I headed back to the apartment and glanced at my watch. 4.3miles. I did a few circles round the outside of the building to make it up to 4.5, receiving a few funny looks as I did. Inside I was met with a content little boy who had had a bath and was ready for bed. I had a quick shower and we snuggled down together.

My legs hurt but my heart rate had stayed just below what Mr Cardio had ordered. Probably unsurprising given the number of stops I had made. It was still working though. My heart was still going on.

(See what I did there).

Unfortunately day 2’s run was not quite so successful.

After a very ‘eventful’ trip to Belfast castle that proved neither of my parents are any help what so ever when it comes to navigating I needed out. (yes I did advise my dad if he didn’t shut up I would make him and I meant every word! And I told my mum how unhelpful just ‘pointing’ at the sat nav was). Said trip also involved Oliver losing his trainer in a mud swamp and then absolutely screaming his lungs out because of it (thank god I had plastic gloves in my bag, that’s all I’m saying! Not to smother him in, don’t get me wrong, but to cover his feet in so I could get his socks back on him and then back to the car).

So yeah, I needed a run.

I headed out the same way as the night before as I just wanted to clear my mood.

I got lost.

Just a little, but I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up far away from the River. Using the old faithful google I managed to find my way back to the River and just as I was cursing myself for not sticking to going back and forth over the bridge I did something I’ve never done. Something caught my foot and I fell. I stuck my arm out just in time to stop my head smashing onto the hard concrete beneath me. It wasn’t nice. Standing up I automatically reached to my watch to pause it and could feel I had badly scratched it. Damn it! I picked up my phone to find the screen smashed. Bloody brilliant. Oh and talking of blood, I had scraped my arm too and had nice trickles all the way down it.

I headed back to the apartment completing a measly 3.3miles. I wasn’t rounding that one up.

And just to add insult to injury my heart rate had spiked before I had fallen. Great.

Back at the apartment I thoroughly checked my watch. A little bit of rubbing and the edges were back to being smooth. Luckily it was just the screen protector I had broken on my phone and the actual screen only had a small crack on it. My ankles were bruising up and my shoulder was sore but it was nothing really. Could have been a lot worse. Could have fallen in the River!! We all know how much water has it in for me! In fact, wouldn’t even surprise me if it was the River that somehow tripped me up!

End of the day I was still very happy. I really enjoyed going for a run somewhere new. Not looking for a good pace or a certain mileage just running. And I got to see something on my bucket list too. I also managed a very cheeky little run at the Giants Causeway but it’s not on Strava so it ‘doesn’t count’. (Yes it does!)

I need to sort my hamstrings out though so that’s my focus. And the whole heart thing. I don’t understand why I’m suddenly getting sharp spikes and I really don’t want Mr Cardio to say no more running so I’m going to slow it right down. Give it a few weeks and then plan for GFA.

I’m away again in a few weeks. This time for our wedding anniversary. But I know what the first thing getting packed will be.