Delirious – Without The Sandstorm

Now that I am ‘back’ up and running (comedian is most definitely not on the list of career change options) I’m cracking on with my training plan.  I have my eye’s fully set on 2 specific races next year and I intend to do better than I have before.

It’s just a shame I can’t keep those eye’s open.

A change to any routine is going to make you tired.  Fitting in an actual plan – as in a proper, scheduled, do this not just what you fancy plan – along with being a mother, a wife, holding down a full time job and studying for new qualifications will, very unsurprisingly, leave you a little bit tired.

IMG_5517

I walked out to my car the other night in the pouring rain with nothing on my feet wearing my pyjamas.  And I don’t wear nice, fancy, grown up pyjamas.  Oh no.  I wear an oversized Super Mario T-shirt that’s about 6 years old and tartan trousers that are also about 4 sizes too big and covered in god only knows what but I am not that keen to find out!  My only saving grace was that it wasn’t a white t-shirt that would end up see through when wet.  Ain’t nobody want to see that!

And just a few days later I had an appointment at the vets.  Well not me but one of the dogs.  Although no doubt there are some people who would think I could do with one and there have been some moments when I’ve been slightly hangry that may or may not justify their thoughts.  Anywhoo…… I had a turbo session scheduled so I planned to drop the youngest at breakfast club then jump straight on which would give me time for a shower before wrestling the dogs apart and getting just one in to the car for her visit.

By the time I got to breakfast club it was twenty to nine.  That’s not the worst part though.  Oliver (said youngest) asked me the name of the man at the club and when I said I didn’t know he gave an Oscar winning performance of a neglected child who’s mother was happy to drop off to a stranger.  If ever there WAS an award I was going to win it’s definitely Worst Mother.  So obviously I asked the man his name when I got there.  Late.  He looked at me as if to say ‘really?  you’re asking me my name?’  then politely said Brian.  As soon as he did it clicked.  Brian.  As in a friend from tri club’s husband Brian.  Whom I should know.  Now I’m up for Worst Mother and Worst Person.  Pretty sure the husband will throw in Worst Wife to help round it up.

Anyway on with the pity party.  Being late to breakfast club meant being late to get on the bike.  This left me with 15 minutes to shower, dry and get the dog in the car.  Obviously I accepted that challenge.  Shower breaks at work are 15 minutes, I can do this.  Deciding to shave my legs within that time however was not one of my best decisions.  It did cross my mind as I was hacking away at my tree trunks that the vet probably didn’t give a damn whether or not I had hairy legs under my oh so attractive black leggings and should have spent the time drying my hair to prevent the drowned rat look.  (Do vets ‘vet’ rats?).

That’s a pretty accurate reflection of how life is going.  On the plus side though I have discovered the benefits of the little things that help.  For example, I am doing loads on the bike at the moment.  At least more than I am used to.  To aid these hours on the turbo I have become a swift hand at moving my bike in front of the big telly in the living room (when no one else is in obviously).  I’ve also discovered the benefits of chamois cream, and whilst my under carriage may look like a setting from a Christmas movie set in the middle of a snow storm, it’s making the time less painful.

The swimming and the running are still very much a work in progress.  Going from relatively speedy short distances, to long and slow ultra’s then trying to get speed back isn’t the easiest of things.  It’s really frustrating.  6am runs are not the best time of day to try and improve this but it’s the time available to me.  However running round the local park singing along to Christmas tunes was definitely a good session.  As for the swimming – well, I’m never going to be a fish or a mermaid.  But if I could move up from jellyfish and swim in a straight line then I will take that as success.

IMG_5304

I’m getting there though.  It may be in a clumsy, fall over, don’t know my arse from my elbow kind of way but I am.  I actually climbed in to bed the other day fully clothed WITH trainers on to get a 12 minute nap.  It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  I can also say yes to a cinnamon swirl any damn time I want to.  I may not often have the time to go and buy one but I’m safe in the knowledge that on the rare occasion I do – I can eat one and not care!

IMG_5464

As tired as I am I do enjoy it though and I miss activity when it is taken away from me.  Don’t get me wrong, the thought of being able to just ‘sit and chill’ sounds utterly amazing, but I know I would be bored within minutes.  And if I didn’t do this I would be expected to cook.  And that’s just something of nightmares in my eyes ha ha.

Backing It Up

Well life’s just sat up and given me a big old slap in the face with a soggy fish taken straight from the murky under grounds of death lake.

I’ve hurt my back.

Correction. A plastic mannequin filled with water has completely totalled my back and put me out of action for god only knows how long.

So what happened? Last night during one of my classes a young lad was doing amazing. He was swimming absolutely beautifully and nailed both his breast stroke and back crawl. As a reward we put the mannequin in as he just loves to dive down for it. All I did was pull it out the water on to the side. As I lifted it up I felt this explosion in my back and intense pain. I lent against the diving boards and found I was struggling to move. Luckily I had our modern apprentice with me and she went to get another teacher so I could try and sneak out the back door and on to the power plates in hope of releasing my back straight away.

This didn’t work so I limped my way to the chiropractor a mere 2 hours after it happened to be told I had rotated L3 L4 had an acute tear and a golf ball sized lump in my QL.

In English I had f@cked my back.

An absolute HUGE thank you to Duigan Chiropractors and their massage therapist Amanda for seeing me so quickly!!

Where does this leave me? Well this morning it left me stuck on the bed for 5 minutes because I had one leg in my trousers but couldn’t lift the other up to put that one in. I also couldn’t roll to the side enough to move so there I was balanced half off the bed in a contorted position with a pair of trousers dangling off my right foot. Yup, I certainly know how to spice things up in the bedroom!

img_5114

 

Basically, after a mere 3 days of following a training plan, I’m on rest. I can’t bend side to side, I can’t bend forward – the bathrooms a freaking fun place to visit right now – and I can’t sit in one position for more than a couple of minutes with out a shooting pain going down my leg.

img_5113

 

BUT. Tomorrow is another day. Let’s see if it releases any today. I am religiously icing it and rolling on that spiky ball. I am regularly getting up and moving but no, not going for a run. Once it registered last night that I will not be doing my turbo session, run or be fit for work today I had no choice but to think about how I can make it better, fast.

I’m not in the whole ‘woe is me’ place. I’m just frustrated because I was really excited about starting something new.

I’m meant to be at a cocktail night tomorrow. And I’m not ruling it out yet!! I rarely go out and have been looking forward to this one. I’m thinking the alcohol will numb the pain – isn’t that the saying? Ha ha. It’s not over till the fat lady sings and this fat lady can’t sing so it will never be over! Ha ha. If – and it’s a big if – I make it, there won’t be any dancing, but I’m sure the rest of the ladies will make up for that.

Right. Time to get another ice pack. I will go to the (cocktail) ball tomorrow!

A New Plan

A New Plan

Goals have been set, races selected and work has began.  I am currently 3 days in to a new and more structured training plan so what better time to write about it?

I’m exhausted!  And it’s only been 3 days!! Talk about a wake up call!  Ultra training was tiring don’t get me wrong but going long and slow clearly worked for me because 1, I could keep my eyes open past 6pm at night and 2, I could still walk after a session.  Now some might say I clearly wasn’t going hard enough – and possibly the number of photo’s I would take during a race may be evidence towards that – but I enjoyed them.  I never felt like I was about to collapse and die or, even worse, throw up all over myself.

Current long term goals though involve slightly more than heading out the door with a hydration vest filled with flap jacks and returning a few hours later (usually a good 30 – 45 minutes longer than planned after getting lost but that really was part of the fun).

Day 1.  Swim.  Correction.  Longest swim I have ever done!  I remember the day I went to the pool and the swim club’s set was still written on the board.  ‘400m warm up’.  Warm up.  400m was my entire session that day.  It was pointed out to me that one day that would be my warm up.  Well.  Day 1 was that day!  Or to be more accurate, 500m was the warm up.  20 x 25m.  Never done that before.  First few were a bit strange but I got into it.  Then I forgot to start my watch for the main set so it looked like I had an extra long rest when in actual fact I was swimming 100m.  Rookie mistake there Ella come on.  I was meant to use paddles but pool rules state everyone in the lane has to agree to me using them.  They did not agree.  But they did kindly ‘keep out my way’ meaning I didn’t get caught behind them often so I appreciate that.

‘Keep out of my way’.  I mean seriously!  You would think I’m under the impression I own that lane!  But what other way can I say it? (however sometimes I do feel that it is MY lane I’m in there that often ha ha.  Just a shame my swimming doesn’t justify it).

After many, many checks of the watch to see what lap I am on it’s on to the cool down and I am eventually done.  I am not swimming one single length more.  Nah ah.  David in the health suite is my absolute saviour when I discover he has a tub of Heroes and I shove 2 in my mouth – almost with the wrapper still on I am that hungry!

BB82BBAC-1D4E-4C4C-A275-958C93472972

Day 2 and it’s a turbo.  I’m getting used to my turbo so I’m not dreading it.  I’ve also found a new series on Netflix to binge watch so that’s always a bonus.  I even manage to connect the cadence sensor to my watch ALL by myself.  Definitely a victory moment there for Ella.  It takes a while to adjust the gears enough to hit the numbers I am looking for but about half way through the session I get there.  I still don’t understand ‘big gear’ – why not just say ‘harder gear’ or easier gear’???  What’s big about it???  My legs don’t grow any by using it! Possibly my arse from all this sitting down but definitely not my legs (and that’s iI’m using it which I’m probably not – I did feel at one point my bike doesn’t have enough gears to do what I was meant to but I don’t know if you can add gears?  I know you can’t add them to a car.  Is it possible for a bike not to have enough gears?  God I’m really not a cyclist.)  Anyway.  Turbo done – but no chocolates devoured that night.

Day 3 and I decide today is the day I am going to run in the early morning again.  The hardest thing about running before the sun comes up is deciding what to wear.  Not in a ‘gok wan going out out’ style but more in a temperature way.  I opt for shorts because rule of thumb for me is that unless there is a full on blizzard with 10 inches of snow on the ground then shorts is the way to go.  T-shirt and long sleeve top is also selected (topless running isn’t a thing – and even if it was I wouldn’t be doing it).  The long sleeve top is quickly discarded.  I’ve got 6 x 2 min hard efforts.  Let me say it again.  ULTRA RUNNER.  Hard effort is basically not stopping to take a photo of the leaves falling from the trees or the funny sign at the side of the road.  It is NOT running until you throw up.  And trust me, it doesn’t take 2 minutes before I want to throw up!  I’ve dragged my friend along in an effort to try and make me do this.  She officially hates me and calls me all the names under the sun.  Clearly not doing a hard effort if you can still speak love!

5CDC46F7-2489-4629-80C1-F04AE6493D0D

Somehow we get through the 6 of them and slowly run home.  My stomach reminds me I haven’t been doing the same efforts or even mileage recently I am used to and there are a few very close moments.  I have to stand outside her flat as still as a statue at one point in a bid not to prevent anything escaping from my body.  I turn to cross the road and abruptly stop for a minute.  Think the scene in Bridesmaids when they are trying on dresses after that dodgy meal.  Yup.  That’s what flashed through my head.  Just minus the big white dress to hide under!

IMG_5110

Everyone is still asleep when I get home.

Off to work after and by 3pm I’m dipping.  An afternoon nap would have been amazing!  I’m so jealous of those that get to nap.  Why can’t I be an 80 year old women who can nap at any point she wants?  I think that should be my goal! Pretty sure I currently look like one I am that tired.

I’m just adjusting though.  I’m loving having a structure and I know that I can do it.  I also know what motivates me – and no it’s not a box of Heroes but I wouldn’t turn them down (although probably should).  Life may be like a box chocolates but in this case I do know what I am going to get….

Tired.  Very tired.  Ha ha.

 

Where Have You Been?

Has it really been 2 months since I last wrote? Crickey!

Well it hasn’t been that quiet a 2 months. I haven’t been back in ‘that’ loch again but I have been swimming at a loch closer to home. It’s smaller, a lot calmer, and, most importantly, it does not contain any extras from a Chris Pratt movie. (It does however have lots of a lot braver women than me who swim with no wet suit!)

I’ve been doing more cycling too. I’ve been out on a couple of group cycles with other members of the tri club. I may or may not have refused to ride down the completely vertical freshly gravelled path and gotten off my bike savagely repeating ‘nope,nope,nope,nope’ (I was not the only one who did this. The other guy didn’t want to scratch his hugely expensive frame. I didn’t want to scratch my well worn in human body. Same priorities – just slightly different details.)

It helped a lot going out in a group though. Finding new routes, chatting away, picking up tips. I’ve also been on what was called a Cornering Course at a bike track. That was fantastic! Absolutely bucketing with rain, couldn’t see a thing at times, shivering to death, but man how smooth the track was! I can’t wait to go back and try and whiz round it. Great cup of tea after too.

And then there was Australia. AUSTRALIA! 2 weeks on the other side of the world seeing my brother and his family and basically falling in love with that way of life. We took our bikes over and discovered the roads were so much more friendlier than here. We went running and discovered places we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I ticked off a couple of places on my bucket list – Natural Bridge in Springbrook and Mount Warning – there are genuinely no words at how awesome that was.

And now I’m 2 nights away from my next race. A half marathon up and down a Munro.

Because, you know, a flat road one would be boring.

I’m so excited. Ridiculously excited in fact. I get to run up a Munro! In an actual race! Oh and did I mention it will be as the sun rises?

I KNOW!!!

I’m going to need people to phone me and text me reminding me I’m meant to be running and not just taking in the views. I honestly can’t wait.

Not so keen on the huge compulsory kit list I need to carry but rules are rules.

The run is part of the Starman Triathlon. Jo from the club is doing the midnight swim (midnight swim!) and her husband is doing the cycle. I’m definitely getting the better section. Sunrise on the mountain! Hello bucket list!

It’s 2 miles up hill to start then down again with a run up a Corbett after. It finishes through the woods and on to the beach.

Can you think of a better run? Nope. Me neither.

Of course there are cut off times and I am slightly cautious about them. I need to work out where I need to be by when to know I’m on track. Unfortunately my other half won’t exactly be awake at 4am to text me and tell me to get a move on either. Hmm, could be an issue here.

I’m sure it will be fine. Either way it will be a great ‘night’ out with lots of laughter and pictures. The best thing about it is it advertises itself as ‘not a race’. It’s an experience. One I’m looking forward to.

I should however, be experienced to know that I should have checked my kit by now. I’ve spent most of the night scrambling round for a compass, spare batteries (not for the compass) and the ever faithful flapjack I like to have when running. I really should be better organised than this.

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)

 

img_3123

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’.

 

img_3134

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.

 

img_3138

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.

 

aa7bfaa5-f724-459c-9f79-5592bb5bb5d2

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.

 

img_3149

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.

 

 

img_3151

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.

 

img_3159

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!!

 

img_3217

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.

 

The Middle Of The Middle Of Nowhere – Glen Lyon Ultra

The Middle Of The Middle Of Nowhere – Glen Lyon Ultra

I have to admit, after the marathon last week I was feeling just a bit sore. I very much resembled a waddling penguin when attempting stairs for at least a day. Goes to show you don’t need to run a PB for it to hurt.

So it did cross my mind not to run my next race – Glen Lyon Ultra – which was 6 days later. However come midweek I had read a couple of race reports from it, looked through dozens of photos of the area and was now really excited to get out there. After all, there was a dam to run over!

Luckily for me a couple from the running club were also doing it and had offered a lift up. This helped me no end as it meant Joe and Oliver weren’t dragged out their beds at 6am and then left for hours in the inevitable cold, wet and windy countryside to entertain themselves.

Morning of the run and I was up and ready. I hadn’t slept very well the night before because I was, well, excited! This type of running I really enjoy. Middle of nowhere, clean fresh air, seeing things you don’t see on a daily basis (oh my goodness so many newborn lambs!) and a huge dam to run over. What’s not to love? Joe got up at 6am to make me breakfast – bless his cotton socks ha ha – and thoroughly enjoyed going back to bed. I meanwhile jumped in to Kev and Gillian’s car with what felt like enough gear for a weekend away. The race organisers had said to pack for all weather and had stressed several hundred times the importance of getting warm clothes on as soon as you finished. There was one place for a drop bag which was halfway and a couple of checkpoints with water. My drop bag? An actual rucksack. I kid you not. There were river crossings and it had been said you could change your trainers at the halfway point (if you didn’t mind being called a Jessie ha ha) so I thought may as well take them.

It was about a 2 hour drive to get to the start and the chat was good. Gillian is how I found out about Ultras. Shortly after joining the running club we were at a hill session and even though we had finished she was still running back and forth. Someone mentioned she was training for an ultra and proceeded to explain what that was to my blank expression. How far?? Not a chance am I doing that!

How things change.

Now she’s about to take on the West Highland Way along with her partner Kev so as you can imagine there was lots of running chat. Along with chat about the scenery and the animals outside – lambs, hares, no deer though.

Once we arrived I was quite shocked to see they had managed to get portaloos along that road but man was I grateful. It was straight to them. Probably the first and only race I will be at that has no queue for the loo. There were 193 signed up but you always get a percentage who don’t run on the day so it was a small field.

The race is more like a run of two halves. The first section is round the Loch and roughly 17 miles. My aim was to complete this in 3 hours. A number I plucked out the air if I’m honest. It’s undulating with some tricky paths underfoot and those infamous river crossings. I would be happy with 3 hours. On this basis I gave myself 3 hours for the second half. Two horrendous climbs but they came with the downhill so in my head, with Ella logic, 3 hours seemed a good goal.

I genuinely hate to think what my school teachers would think of my maths skills and logic.

Anyway. We were strictly warned to keep away from one section at the start as there was a lamb there that had been born the night before. And when I say strictly I mean they shouted at you over the microphone if you went anywhere near it. (Not me, I’m not that stupid). The race directors were taking no chances with their agreement from the landowners to hold this race and quite right. It was in spectacular surroundings.

At the start line and we were advised the river crossings were only ankle deep and we would have one gate that was locked so we would have to climb over it. Be careful of using stepping stones and don’t stray from the path. I did briefly wonder if I had entered an obstacle race and not an ultra but hey ho.

Once we were off it felt good to begin at a slow steady pace. Up the first hill and we were soon being rewarded with the gorgeous view of the dam from above. Many runners stopped to take a photo so for once I wasn’t the only one!

The track was what I would describe as quite ‘knobbly’ – you had to pay attention so as not to twist over your ankle. In reality, a proper trail track. It was very undulating but nothing too steep either up or down. I had started off in my water proof jacket, sleeved top and T-shirt underneath. After just 2 miles I was removing a layer. Having learnt from Glen Ogle 33 I had chosen to wear a middle layer I could strip easy. Yes I did give myself a small pat on the back for this ha ha.

Very soon after I stopped to remove my water proof jacket also. It was heating up quite nice in the sun. Another excuse for a quick photo.

The first river crossing was as they had said – ankle deep. If that. I managed to skip across the stones, just like I used to do as a child. Probably still looked like a child too. Just a bit more stiff jointed and bent over ha ha.

I had fallen in pace just behind a guy and a woman. They were chatting away but I don’t think they had come to the race together. Suddenly the woman tripped and fell on both knees. She sat up and went straight in to shock. We were only about 8 miles in and she feared her race was over. My job has many benefits, one of which being I’m trained in first aid so thankfully I was able to calm her down and get her back on her feet again. She seemed ok but I stuck with her for a little bit to make sure she really was. She kept apologising for falling and getting shocked and kept telling me to carry on and that she was fine. I think she just needed a moment or two to herself after that to regain her thoughts so I went ahead a little.

Shortly after this was a deeper crossing. I say deeper but in reality you could again use the stones or if you really insisted you could just plod through and possibly splash a little water on your ankles. I most certainly wouldn’t be needing my arm bands. (Yes I did have them in my bag, I was taking no chances with the element that is water that is quite clearly out to get me in races).

There was an aid station not long after that and I mentioned to the Marshall a woman behind me had fallen but had carried on so keep an eye out. Turns out she was hot on my heels and had recovered well. Good stuff.

By now the wind was quite seriously getting to me. I couldn’t hear what the woman beside me was saying, my nose was running faster than Bolt with no stop cock in sight and I had more than once been blown backwards when trying to move forwards. For f@ck sake!!!!! My jacket was back on and working well against it but seriously wind – BACK OFF!!!

Then all of a sudden it would stop. And the sun would blare down. So I had to remove my jacket. And just as I was thinking I probably should have worn my shorts, out would come gale and her wind of force. And on the jacket would go again. I lost count of the number of times this happened. More costume changes than Beyoncé. I did become quite skilful at doing this whilst on the move though.

Ok. Here it comes. The dam. The actual dam that I am going to run across. I’m excited!!

I’m also knee height to a grasshopper which naturally means I’m too small to see over the frigging wall!! Is this the water trying to get at me? It couldn’t drown me at the river crossings so it’s going to hide from me on this dam? Well ‘dam’ you water!

I try and take a video as I run across the bloody thing but no one needs to try and count how many chins are in my phone book so it was quickly deleted. I got one photo. And my face looks like Will Smith in Hitch when he takes an allergic reaction and it swells up. (Or maybe I do just have a really fat face – probably).

Tantrum over with it’s down the little hill to the ‘half way’ check point and I’m pleased to see I’ve reached it in under the 3 hours. However my watch is reading 15.6 miles and we were told it’s about 17 so this then sets me thinking the race is going to be short. No complaints from me about that though!

I go straight in to my rucksack and grab my bread and butter. Yes ladies and gentleman. My fuel of choice for this race was pure water and bread and butter (with a handful of emergency jelly babies). Some may say I was Moses – although I didn’t part any seas. But technically you could argue I walked on water as I used the stepping stones the majority of the time.

This little scenario of tales is what kept me going over the next 15+ miles by the way.

I was very conscious not to stay too long at the checkpoint and I didn’t feel I needed to change my socks or trainers so I filled up my water and carried on. I knew the first of the big climbs was coming and I would inevitably be walking up some of it so I could munch my ‘council sandwich’ then. As predicted, I did.

The thing with this first climb is that it was the replica of climbing a mountain. Every time you think you’re at the top, you go round the corner and you just keep going up and up again. It never seemed to stop. Obviously my legs were hurting by this point but not as much as they were at Stirling so I pushed on. Then came the down hill. Oh my word the down hill. That’s when the pain came and the realisation that there was a high possibility I wouldn’t be walking after this. I kept in my head that it was only going to reach 30 miles though as it was short at the halfway so get to 20 and you’ve only got 10 to do. 10 miles is a good number. You can do 10 miles easy. That’s a basic training run. Over in a jiffy.

Still going down hill and I see something you never want to see in a race. The lead runner coming towards you. But not just coming towards you on this vertical drop of a decent. He was running.

RUNNING?!?!?

UP this bloody hill?? Are you kidding me?? I can barely run down the dam thing! I’ve even passed people walking down it it’s that steep!

There’s another one behind him. Another one running up this thing.

It’s about this time I wonder to myself if this is the moment I should give Uber a call.

But then I remember you don’t get any phone signal when you are in the middle of the middle of nowhere.

This is worse than being taken out by an Arianna Grande song snipering your play list. Thankfully my music is not on for that to happen.

I then come across a turning to the right. Ok. Happy with that as it means no more front runners coming past me. But then I see it. Something no one wants to see when they are 19 miles in to a race.

‘8 mile loop’

I start dialling every taxi number known to man.

I’m now crying in to my emergency stash of jelly babies wondering at what point in my life I genuinely thought running 31.5 miles in the Scottish Highlands would ever be a good idea. Sure, I’ve made mistakes in the past. Worn a short white dress to a grungy pub when it was snowing outside, dyed half my hair an aluminous green colour looking like I had the worlds biggest bogey on my head, drank milk that was 3 days out of date when hungover (soooo much sickness after that one). But running? This far? Here? Why?

It’s at this point the woman I had helped earlier comes past me. I think she quite clearly spotted I was flagging (read that as having a mental breakdown) and said….

‘We head down just at that shed then it’s pretty much flat along the river.’

Words. Of. An. Angel.

However….

‘Have you ran this before?’ I ask her. Genuinely thinking what an absolutely ridiculous question. Who in their right mind would do this more than once.

‘Yeah. Hoping to get under 6 and a half hours this time.’

She’s nuts. She’s absolutely bloody nuts.

But she has a point.

The shed doesn’t look that far away. And it does look nice down by the river. She has somehow managed to encourage me on without saying those awful words ‘almost there’.

FYI – you are NEVER almost there until you are one step in front of that finish line.

It is as if a miracle is bestowed upon me as I manage to pick up the pace and get moving. It’s probably only by about 5 or 10 seconds a mile but I feel like I’m moving much better and faster than before. I’m still having the on again off again argument with the jacket but I don’t care.

And soon I’m hitting that hill.

Not a hairy chance am I even attempting to run up that monstrosity of a torture task. A brisk walk will be done.

Ok a walk then. Turns out I’m not that grand at walking fast up a hill. The woman who had the fall however is and she’s off up the hill on a mission!

It feels never ending. Mainly because it is. That’s a fact right there. That hill does not end. I’m actually still trying to reach the top.

Joking.

Obviously it ends. And it flattens out a little , just a little. I’m overtaken by 2 guys and a lady who – in true ultra runner fashion – check politely I’m still doing good and heading for the finish. That’s the best thing about ultras. Everyone speaks! Everyone says hello. Exchanges the silent ‘are you ok’ and encourages you on. That doesn’t happen in the road marathons.

Downhill now and it’s painful but more uncomfortable than ‘ouchie’. I’m telling myself the course is short so I’ve only got to get to 30 miles. I’m fine. I’ve got this.

30 miles passes by and I can’t even see the finish. This course is not going to be short. Dam it!

I plod on. Finish. Finish. Finish. Finish. Joe should be down there by now and he won’t be overly happy about having waited hours for me to eventually finish. Get moving, get moving.

Finally it’s over the small bridge and up to the finish line. There’s a handful of people on the hill. ‘Think happy thoughts’ they say. ‘I’m not going to tell you what I’m thinking’ I laugh back at them.

I spot Oliver just before the line and manage a smile. It’s done.

Kev comes over and I’m not surprised to hear he managed it in under 5 hours. He found the last hill a killer too so that makes me feel better I wasn’t being a wuss. I grab my bag Gillian comes over the line shortly after. Both her and Kev are running the 15mile trail race the next day. Not a chance!

I head to the massage tent to get my legs seen to whilst Joe takes Oliver up to see the dam. She tells me she can’t feel any unusual tightness in my hamstrings. Given the issues I’ve been having with them I’m very happy with this. I almost jump off the table Tom Cruise style but I’ve just ran 31.5 miles. I’m not jumping anywhere.

So. In conclusion. Did I like this race? I bloody loved it ha ha. How could you not? The scenery is spectacular. The people are so friendly. The organisation is spot on. Even the t-shirt fits!

Would I do it again? Em… it’s tough. Really tough. I didn’t actually cry (that may have been a spot of poetic licence). But it was in no way easy. There’s a chance I would do it again. Maybe. If I can ever forget about that hill.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely!! It has reminded me what I enjoy about running. Not the constant eye on the watch run as fast as you can and throw up at the end. But the fresh air, the scenery, the friendliness of other runners enjoying it.

You can’t beat it.

Stirling Take 2

Stirling Take 2

When I signed up for Stirling it was with the intention – yet again – of a London qualifying time.  However.  Less than a month after signing up it was beyond crystal clear that wasn’t going to happen.  And it wasn’t due to the fact I am looking at longer distances and on trail not road.  It was due to the fact that I hate sprints and fartlek and track SO much that I just don’t do them.  In black and white – I am a lazy runner.  I run to enjoy it and even though I may look at my time and think ‘ah, I wish I was faster’, I’m just not prepared to do anything about that.

I will go out for another ‘Easy 10 miles’ before you see me anywhere close to throwing up after 3 sets of 800m with a 30 second recovery followed by 5 sets of 100m at flat out pace.

So rocking up to the start line of the Stirling Marathon today I had a more realistic expectation of about 4:30.  I wouldn’t be overly happy with that but it was to be expected.

Joe had finally caved/gotten sick of my moaning about needing new trainers and bought me a pair yesterday.  I am fully aware of how ridiculous it would be to wear brand spanking new trainers on race day but I would be lying if I said I hadn’t considered it.  More than once.  And almost put them in the car just in case.  I didn’t wear them though so I was in the usual ones with my shorts and vest – it was going to be a warm day.  I couldn’t find my PRR club vest and I haven’t bought one yet for the tri-club so it was my lovely pink one.  It matched my hair band and my shorts.  Couldn’t have been more girly.  (Well, I could, if I didn’t have the body shape of an 8 year old boy ha ha.  Thank goodness I’m already married.)

It was a ridiculously early start for the family but as usual they didn’t really complain.  Lucie was sold on the offer of going for breakfast once they had dropped me off and Oliver was happy with being able to sleep in the car and play his Switch.  Bribery in it’s finest form.

Dropped at the start I saw a couple from the road runners and went over to say hi.  We were off just minutes later.  The marathon was set off at the same time as the half marathon and I lost count of how many times I repeated in my head ‘keep left, keep left, keep left’.  I even paused at the fork in the road to just make sure I was in fact, turning left.  It wasn’t a huge field so I didn’t feel crowded or have to jostle for space so that was a nice change from other marathons.

The first few miles done and a women from the club came past me.  I didn’t think I had overtaken her and she regaled her emergency stop at the portaloos.  All I’m going to say is I’m glad I am not the only one this happens to!  I resounded there and then that if I was to need during this race, I was going to pick a tree or a big bush.  She was aiming for a certain time goal and unsurprisingly I didn’t see her again.

A little further up and Joe texts me to tell me my parents might be at a village we pass through called Doune.  True enough they are exactly where I thought they would be.  I spotted my mum on the left and started waving.  This gave her enough time to get her phone ready.  Or…at least it should have.  As I went past she gave her usual ‘Well done Ella, keep going’, then I swear I heard her fumbling with her phone and saying ‘Oh I missed her’.  I love seeing her at races, she always makes me laugh.  My dad was on the other side so I crossed over and low and behold he’s there with none other than his Ipad!  He has the thing held right up so there’s no way I am in the picture (I’m knee height to a grass hopper, the sky never appears in my photos) and it looks like he is actually taking a selfie.  Parents ladies and gentleman, you got to love them.

I’m now at about 10/11 miles and my left calf is so tight it could give Scrooge a run for his money.  It’s that bad I stop now and then to try and massage it out but it’s not working.  It’s painful.  And I’m not feeling any cushioning from trainers.  I bloomin knew I should have put my new ones on.  At this point it was a risk I was willing to take.   I spend the next couple of miles in a complete grump that I hadn’t bought trainers earlier and wore them in to wear today.  And naturally, I blame Joe for this.  Because obviously I’m not going to buy myself trainers without him knowing.  (The 4 boxes hidden under the bed don’t count because I have only just re-discovered these ok).

I then spend the following miles after that swearing off marathons completely.  At mile 17 I am enjoying the route but I am still on tarmac – funny that, being a road marathon – and have absolutely had enough of running and am now deciding that I am not going to run the Glen Lyon Ultra which is in just 6 days.  Forget it.  My legs hurt.  The pain has migrated to my quads now, cheers for that body, and I’m now resembling an old woman hobbling down the road with her stick missing swaying side to side.

That’s it.  Time for the music to be cranked up.  Little Mix comes on.

My life could not be any worse right now.

I’m now in the stages of awaiting some ‘K-pop’ coming on – not that I know what that is – so I can just end it right here and now.  But the song turns in to a re-mix and dare I say it, but I quite like it.  So much so in fact that I have it on repeat several times and I am able to pick up the pace for a few miles.

That ends come mile 20 though.  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I’m still swearing off marathons when I get a message through with a picture of my instagram moan/post and the caption ‘Other than London’.  You make a good point Ginnie ha ha.  But London will be different.  London will be several HUNDRED photos and videos taken and many, many tears no doubt.  It will happen.

501E4EF5-61BB-409A-B1DA-D03A0DD01115

22 miles and the fast 4 miles Joe wanted for the finish are now as likely as a Donald Trump having a personality transplant.  I do try and my legs feel a little better when I lift them more and take a longer stride but I can’t sustain that.  There’s a lovely marshall at the top of the hill at the University who tries to get me moving faster but I can’t do anything but laugh with him.  This old woman needs her zimmer frame I’m afraid.  The nursing home is calling.

57814193912__5F11AD77-74F4-42E5-AAD8-3B913EC7FED7
Wallace Monument behind me – 100000 miles still to go

The only bonus is that I am in no fit state to add on any extra running miles on the way home so Joe’s not going to kick me out the car.  I am however going to have to endure a lecture at some point from him – most likely about my lack of speed training but I don’t doubt he will add something else in there.  My nutrition plan hasn’t worked for me today.  The Clif chewing things mixed with Active Root in my water has not sat well in my stomach and I have had to switch to plain water and nothing else.  I’m going to have to find something to replace the Clif things.  I’ve also ran out of water several times so my flasks aren’t big enough.  Training note there.

I get a text from Joe telling me is right behind the photographer in front of the finishing line and soon enough I spot my youngest waving wildly about with my dad at the side.  He runs along beside me – much faster than me I might add – until I reach the finishing chute and it’s this that makes my day.  It was brilliant.

D1BFD671-B738-496D-BACC-1AB3058CAB35

I collect my goodie bag, which contains bath salts for recovery – best goodie bag ever!! – and head out.  Stupidly I make the mistake of sitting down and then proceed to spend the next 5 days trying to stand up.  Yup.  Quads don’t like me very much right now.  I bump in to Steve and another from the club and as we regale our stories of sweat, hills and confusion over left and right Joe and the rest of my family find me.

 

So a 4:13.  If I’m honest I fully expected a 4:30.  My trainers are in the bin though and my new ones are ready to go.  Obviously my legs are not and I have no intention of any miles tonight or maybe even tomorrow.  Luckily, being a swim teacher, some of my day tomorrow will be spent in the water so that will be good for the legs.

a5bd2345-f6db-48fa-9a72-e02daf7dba72
My lovely new nightie

The one (ha ha ‘one’) downside of today was missing watching and tracking the London marathon.  I positively love to do that.  I thought running today would be a good distraction of not being there yet again but it was actually worse.  So I wouldn’t book another race on that day.

Am I running the ultra next Saturday?  Well, I’m still in pain so I’m still undecided.  It will be completely different given it’s a trail run.  It has actual river crossings which I find both terrifying and amusing – I’m considering wearing my swimming costume underneath.  It also has the next badge in the collection for me to collect.  It’s a possibility.  But I’m not interested in road marathons anymore.  Not unless these new trainers are something out of this world.

*Disclaimer – I adore my parents and love their support.  It’s just sometimes it can be comical.