Roar Like A Tiger

Roar Like A Tiger

For all those that hate the whole ‘journey’ thing may I start off with an apology.

Actually no scrap that, this is my blog, I can call it what I want.

Before I started My Journey (which was basically me trying to run from lamppost to lamppost – no map and compass needed, thank god) I signed up to an obstacle course. Not just any obstacle course. I signed up to Tough Mudder.

Truth be told I got a ticket free through work as part of an incentive to bring the office together. What ever the intention, I’m afraid the old cliche is right in this case, and my life took on a completely different direction after that.

I spent a year doing every obstacle course and mud run I possibly could before deciding running was where it was for me. I loved the obstacles but I hated having to walk in between them as part of a team. There was always someone who hadn’t done any cardio and that frustrated me truth be told.

Fast forward to last weekend and I found myself at the start of another obstacle course after a bit of a break from them. The Tiger Escapade.

7 of us from the Road Runners had signed up for a bit of fun, something different. Although we are a competitive bunch we were there to have fun so no pressure. We could all run too so there wasn’t going to be the walking periods I hadn’t enjoyed before.

I was secretly hoping for some really hard obstacles and even though the thought of a skip filled with water was quite clearly going to be a drowning experience yet again, I was up for it!

The location was where I have done my open water swimming (because a Loch is the same as the sea – duh – maybe I subconsciously want to drown?) so I knew the area and it wasn’t far.

At the start line and we couldn’t hear a word the emcee was saying. Not a thing. We picked up a few hand gestures but I genuinely think he may have been speaking a different language. Those around us were unable to translate either so we turned our attention to the inevitable – what team were we going to beat!

The red tshirts were going down.

Off we went in search of the first obstacle. Even though it was less than a week ago, I can’t remember what it was – oops. I do remember the usual tyre ones, the cargo net I caught my watch in and nearly ripped my arm off on and the standard bales of hay. I also remember the long run at the start. Didn’t bother me so much but had me wondering where the obstacles were.

Then we came to the skip. Ok then, a proper obstacle! Let’s do this!

The water barely covered my ankle.

No, I didn’t drown.

(And before any one says it, I am not quite that small!)

To be fair I don’t think everyone in the team was hoping for some death defying obstacles as much as I was.

Time for the hill. You would think being runners that we would nail this, sweep past every other person on the course. Nope! I huffed and puffed and wheezed my way up there.

I will say it again. I am NOT a hill runner.

After that we had a few good obstacles that left us with cow pat in our hair and fish in our pants. A standard weekend for Perth Road Runners ha ha. We did enjoy the one where we went in the Loch. Freezing and wet (hi, my names Sherlock Holmes) makes for a good water fight.

The long running sections gave us a chance to chat and we discussed what races we all had coming up. We also wondered how others were getting on in Chicago, Bournemouth and other exotic places we tend to find ourselves.

Approaching the finish line and we crossed together as a team – in front of the red tshirts, just saying.

It was a low key event but Natalie, who had had to pull out due to injury, had come to cheer us on along with Scott’s wife (who ended up laden with our coats, thank you) and my other half and youngest. He loved the mud in his wellies – Joe, not so much.

The obstacle course was a great morning out. A bit of fun and bonding for a change. It just shows me I really did make the right choice in joining the road runners last year. And afterwards we had another water fight in the Loch when we were getting washed down. Why wouldn’t you?

Next on the calendar for me is a rest period. I have had to pull out of the Dramathon but that’s another story. Probably to be written when I’m grumpy and feeling sorry for myself. Bet you’re looking forward to that one!

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Ochil Ultra – And The Fear Was Back

Ochil Ultra – And The Fear Was Back

I’ve noticed a trend in my thinking.

I came across a new race that would start in Glen Devon and end in Perth. I live in Perth. So where did my head go? Why would I not do it?

It’s an Ultra. You have the choice of 50 miles or 30 miles. After briefly contemplating the 50 I very wisely chose the 30. There’s pushing yourself and there’s outright stupidity (and let’s be honest, I do enough stupid things without needing to add to them).

It’s 6 days after Loch Ness Marathon.

Stupid.

I signed up.

It was sold out but luckily I was able to get a place from another road runner who had decided not to do it as he had a lot on. One of the many benefits of being in a club is finding places for races! Although I did have to chase him down to give him the money for the place but I just used that as training ha ha.

Turned out that quite a number of road runners were doing it. 4 others were running the 30 miles and there were 2 teams of 5 doing the relay over 50 miles. That’s a lot of Green Machine! The club also had people marshalling the course.

If I’m honest, I didn’t really think about it a lot until after Loch Ness. That was the race that started out as my intended London GFA – my golden goal, London. Until I had to take that step back so as not to ruin my love of running. London will come though! My YES magazine is out next week!! (Positivity is key).

So The Ochils was my ‘let’s see if you can’ race. Run. Not a race, a run. I tried to work out the route but it was a new one and over trails so couldn’t really. Hmm. This could be difficult.

‘Could be’. Oh how I laugh now!

I took advice where I could get it. What was a drop bag? Why would I need one? 30 miles is only 4 more than a marathon why on earth would I need to stop twice to eat?!

Oh how naive you are Ella.

I messaged another club member who I knew had done a few ultras to try and work it all out. Then, list at the ready, headed to the shops.

My biggest worry was getting lost. (No not to the shops! On the course!). I’m notorious for taking the long way round when I’m driving or walking somewhere. I didn’t want to be doing that on the run. I must have begged at least 5 people to follow me on the tracker and promise to phone me if I went the wrong way. It was honestly worrying me. Over a 30 mile course I knew there would be times I would be completely by myself which I’m ok with but has greater risk of getting lost.

The night before the run I picked up my route book – along with my tracker – and poured over it, pretending I knew what I was looking at. Seeing the section that read ‘no clear path’ didn’t fill me with joy.

The bus was at 6am – not that I was going to sleep much anyway the night before. I realised I hadn’t felt like this before a run in a while. In a strange way I missed this. The not knowing if everything will be ok. I took it as a good sign (my names Ella and I appear to be a weirdo). We were dropped outside a small Inn which unfortunately didn’t want to let us in, much to the very loud annoyance of a fellow road runner ha ha. Some of his many comments being ‘I should have got the cheaper dentures because all this teeth chattering is going to break them’ (I liked that one), and ‘what’s wrong are my hints not loud enough’. Turns out they were as the RD came along quite furious the Inn hadn’t let us through the door. Teething problems I don’t doubt will be fixed for next year.

We headed off to the start line which was nothing more than a field and a flag. This wasn’t a big fan fare type of run with the music blaring and motivational quotes over the tannoy – and I liked that. Didn’t know what direction I was going but I liked it. We were off.

Within 20 metres we had to stop to walk over a cattle grid. Yup, this most definitely was not what I was used to.

500 metres later and my feet were soaking and already caked in mud. Welcome to trail running. The first few miles were up hill but I felt good, better than ok. People were friendly, there was some chatter, and I ticked off each arrow I saw with a thumbs up and a ‘well done Ella’. It’s the small things.

6.8 miles in and I climbed a very steep hill. I’m talking crawl and pull yourself up. At this point I was thankful I had done the Hill Series in the club. The runner beside me commented ‘They don’t call it the Ochil Hills for nothing’. I was instantly thrown back to the Knockhill Race a few months ago. For crying out loud Ella you would think you would learn!

And by the way, I know it was 6.8 miles in because I took a video to record it. I recorded all my moments of pain that day.

First check point was just shy of the 10 miles. I didn’t feel I needed to stop but everyone else did so I took some flap jack from my drop bag (homemade by my other half – I love it!). I was reminded to get my chip scanned and then I was off again.

The terrain got a lot more tricky after this and there were a lot of bumps and divets on the ground. At 11 miles the worst happened – I went over my right ankle and heard a crack. My other half had strapped it up again for me the night before for reassurance but it wasn’t going to stop me going over in this. I did what every runner does in this situation and immediately carried on. If I pretend it didn’t happen then it didn’t right? I was able to put weight on it so it couldn’t have been bad. The crack I heard couldn’t possibly have been what you first think of. I distracted myself with thinking about air which causes your knuckles and back to crack and wondering how air got in to my ankle. I then had more flap jack in case I was beginning to get delirious.

I was having a lot of pain at the ‘v’ at the top of my legs. (I’m not a doctor, I don’t know what the area is called!). This was causing me a lot of issues trying to push on. Unexpectedly I came across Daile from the club who was marshalling and that was a great little pick me up. She was in one of the relay teams and had done the first leg. Have to admit, I was slightly jealous she was already finished. After seeing her I tried to break my run down in to sections and originally started with the next one being 15 miles however that had to drop quickly to half marathon distance. At about 12 miles I had to climb a wall with a ladder and jump down in to what can only be described as a bottomless river! To say I wasn’t happy about this is an understatement as my Instagram showed. Raging. I was raging! Then I had to run through a nettle field with nettles taller than me!

Who comes up with these routes?!? Why the hell would you think it’s a great idea to have people running through sh!t like this! I could have drowned! I honestly could have drowned! What then? Another runner comes along and discovers my blue and bloated body just floating in the river? That will make for a great race photo – cheers! And if the river doesn’t finish you off the giant nettles will!

No. I wasn’t happy. This wasn’t easy. All made harder by the pain.

Once at a farm I decided to strip off to my shorts. Again something I would never do on a marathon – stop and change. But I thought if I put my shorts on I would feel better. Could probably have picked somewhere more remote than a working farm but I’m not so sure I was thinking straight at this point. A lovely older woman got a right eyeful of my rear end as she went by me but hopefully she’s seen worse. Either that or I gave her a memorable moment of the race ha ha.

Through the wind farms and I found I was by self. No one in sight. But I was fine with this. The noise of the turbines was company enough. Reminded me of my brother who works on them (I use the word ‘work’ very lightly) and who’s house I would be running past if I made it that far.

Down a very muddy path and I have to walk for fear of falling. I wasn’t going to make up any time on the downhills on this run. I passed someone walking up who gave me a cheery ‘well done’ and I couldn’t help but think why would you walk up here?! Then realised she must have been a Marshall. Time for more flap jack and maybe a piece of chocolate too.

Just before 19 miles I get a text from my lunch time running buddy asking how I’m getting on. I tell him where I am and that I’m in a lot of pain. I get a reply of ‘you’re over half way, stay focused, baby steps’. I tell him it is baby steps it’s that bad and ask how his birthday is going. He’s not feeling well so I tell him to stop whinging – great coming from me right now! Good thing I wasn’t expecting sympathy! I also start getting messages from my mum but she’s using WhatsApp and they aren’t coming through great. I consider texting her and trying to tell her to use text but it’s my mum, best not complicate things for her ha ha. My friend is trying to track me but she’s struggling to use it. She does however successfully send me a picture of a bottle of prossecco she has bought me to celebrate at the finish – love her!

My focus is now the second check point. I’m not sure where it is but it can’t be far. I see some people in the road and my Sherlock Holmes detective skills tell me they must be waiting for someone. As I very, very slowly get closer I hear my name. It’s the Reid’s from the club! So happy I am to see people – and people I know – I almost miss the check point! Steph had ran the first leg of the relay and was already washed and changed and out supporting everyone else. Stewart came over and asked if there was anything he could do to help me. ‘Run the last bit for me’ I jokingly said, although was I joking? That check point definitely gave me the pick me up I needed though. Encouragement, smiles and a reminder that no wonder I was finding it hard, I had done a marathon just 6 days before. After Stewart opened my chocolate bar for me (it seemed my fingers weren’t working any better than my legs) I was off again, with a very slight spring in my step.

I was down to my last 10 miles. The last leg. Closer to home. I can do this! I am over the bad bit!

Nope! No you are not!

You know Moncrieffe Hill Ella. It’s. Hard.

Walk it. I’m going to walk it. Run until it gets really steep then walk. That’s the reality of it. So I run through the village we have now reached and along the road to the dreaded last hill. I think I know the turning but there’s no Marshall and no sign so I keep going and continually look behind me to see if anyone is there or if anyone turns up that way. I can’t really see anyone. There would have been a sign I tell myself. There have been many, many signs up to now you wouldn’t have missed it.

Aw god what if I did miss it? And on the last section? How embarrassing! Please don’t say I’ve missed it. Keep going just a bit further and if you don’t see a sign stop and check the map. Please don’t say I’ve gone wrong!

Then in the distance I see someone dancing in the middle of the road. That must be a Marshall surely! Who else would be out here? And by themselves? Sure enough it’s not only a Marshall but it’s Barry from the road runners. ‘You’re doing good’ he says.

I love how folk lie when you’re running.

Re-assured I’m on the right track I keep going. As I climb further up the hill I get more and more messages from my friends. I’m less than 10 miles away now. I know I can run 10 miles. I’m not going to give up now. I start counting them down – albeit very slowly. The climb is hard so I stick to running the flat and walking the up hills. I’ve nothing to prove, my goal is to see if I can do this.

Further in to the hill there’s another surprise Marshall in the form of Brian from the club. He’s set himself up with a campsite! It’s amazing! ‘Do you need anything? Do you want some water?’ He asks me. ‘I’m good thanks’ I reply as I trundle by. I wish I had taken a photo of his station, it was amazing.

The advantage of knowing the hill is knowing where the actual last climb is. So when that was done I could ‘relax’. Then I realised I had just run 2 marathons in 6 days as my watch went past 26.2 miles.

Happy Ella!

Well almost. Once off the hill I follow the road out and I know it’s a rolling road. I don’t let this bother me though as this is where my brother lives. I almost let myself think he will be there to wave at me as I go by but it’s Saturday afternoon – he will still be in bed. The only running he does is to the bar when they shout ‘last orders’ ha ha.

Ok, last few miles, and I’m going slower than a turtle through treacle but I’m going! I’m joined by a woman out for a leisurely run. She asks me if there is a race on and I explain it’s an Ultra. She then asks if I have far to go and I tell her I’m on my last couple of miles. She says she is thinking of doing a marathon then asks me how many km a marathon is and is it 20.

I stop running with her.

At this point I see Gair – also from the road runners, we are everywhere! – sitting in his van. Oh how much do I need to sit down and get off these blistered feet! I give him a cheery wave and a smile as I trundle on. Happy that I’m almost finished.

Just round the corner I spot my mum. It’s roasting now and she has a long thick cardigan on. It takes her a good few minutes to spot me so I wave to make sure she knows it’s me. She tells me Joes at the finish line and she’s going to phone him to tell him I’m coming. ‘I’m not going to be there any time soon’ I joke with her. She then starts running with me and it’s awesome! My dad shouts after her ‘Netty, you’re going kill yourself’. ‘Not at this pace’ I shout back at him.

Through the Inch and I have to cross the road at the other side. There’s a Marshall there who pushes the lights for me and a car stops right in front of me. Oh please don’t make me stop I’m begging you! I won’t get started again! My face must have been a picture of despair as he then tells me to go behind the car, clearly unable to solve this problem alone.

On to the finishing straight, I got this! Where’s the finish? Where is the finish? I can’t see anything indicating the finish! Surely there is more to the finish line than a couple of people standing at the side? I’m just about to ask them when I catch a glimpse of the all too familiar inflatable arch way. It’s right there! I just need to go round the corner and back again! I hit the corner and force myself in to a sprint. I can sit down as soon as I cross that line!

Move, move, move!

Ok stop, stop, stop!

The man holding the medals is braced for impact. This about to go badly wrong! Luckily I grind to a halt just in time.

‘Oh god!’ I say as I finally manage to breath. ‘I’ve had quite a few people call me that today’ the Race Director replies quite pleased with himself. ‘I’ve a few names for you, not sure God is one of them!’ I laugh back at him.

That’s it though. That’s it done. I just ran an ULTRA!!

I need a seat!

Joe was there with Ollie and Lucie and Lorner was there too who promptly presented me with my prossecco – love you! My mum and dad then appeared and I managed to get a photo of everyone.

I may have had the odd moan and groan but I loved this run. I loved the fear, the change in terrain, the people, the marshalls, the different things it has opened my eyes to – I loved it! Would I do it again? Definitely! I can see my running taking a new direction after this!

Scott from the club came in first place and Marlena was first female. Amazing achievements and great for the club! We had so many people running it, out supporting or marshalling – it was amazing!

Whoa Nessie

You would think by now I would know the basics of running. The do’s and (most importantly) the do nots. Well I don’t. Plain and simple – I do not.

After running Loch Ness last year and thoroughly enjoying it despite the pain in my feet from changing my trainers last minute and what turned out to be a weak core (still insulted by this) I was determined to do it again but better. The original plan was to get my GFA time for London (Good For Age ridiculously fast time to get a guaranteed entry). However reality crept in and I soon realised that, for this moment in time, it wasn’t to be. It is still the goal – and I will get in to London – it’s just going to be a longer journey than I first thought.

Leaving for Inverness with my mum I purposefully only took one pair of trainers with me so as not to make the same mistake twice. I have been working on my core so I was quietly confident I shouldn’t get the same issues there again (dare I say there’s even a very slight glimmer of abs there. Well, under all the scones and jam I seem to have taken a liken to recently).

We arrived at the expo early afternoon and I went to register. Mum loved how everyone asked her if she was running as well! I will get her doing the couch to 5k if I have to lend her trainers myself! (That’s a lie, I won’t, no one touches my trainers, I will buy her her own pair.). We then headed over so I could buy a new top to replace the one I’ve worn almost every day since last year.

‘We sold out at about 11am’.

What?!?!? You sold out before mid day the day before the marathon??!! Are you kidding me?? That top is one of the main reasons I’m doing this marathon again!

A very short tantrum later and many, many dirty looks thrown at the man who had shrugged this most unacceptable sentence to me and we went to the pasta party – still fuming. I had had to settle for a new bra. Don’t even ask. Had I been able to phone their head office and spoken to the Director of the company believe me I would have! (Might actually still do that!).

Anyway, the pasta party. Very tasty, very filling, lovely cup cake and great Scottish music from what I presume was a local band. I loved it. Miraculously it managed to take the insult that was the ‘Top drama’ down a notch.

We then drove to the hotel which was as near to the start line as you could get at Loch Ness and settled in for the night. Mum tried out my foam roller whilst I poured over the route trying to memorise where all the trouble areas could be.

It was only a 10 min drive to the bus pick up so we weren’t up too early. As soon as I was on the bus though another woman came on declaring loudly how she gets travel sick and hadn’t taken her tablet that morning. What is it about that bus and eccentric characters? Last year it was a guy speaking loud enough for the supporters at the finish line 26.2 miles away to hear him recall every marathon he had done!

Off the bus and I didn’t even consider waiting in the queue for a hot cup of tea – it was only an hour until the start and that line was clearly double that. The toilet queue wasn’t any better so yup, it was the bush for me! Hey, when nature calls do what nature does!

I waited until last minute to load my bag on the baggage bus and brave the elements. Miraculously I found 3 other road runners on the way to the start line and we got a fab team photo (although we did miss Kenny unfortunately). My scrap book has come out of hiding again!

Hugh and Caroline were there to enjoy it, Duncan wanted to try for a time and it’s one of his favourites and me? Well I had decided if I felt good I would go for a PB but ultimately I didn’t want to ruin my day chasing a time. I really didn’t have the confidence a 3:45 was in me right at that moment.

The bag pipes started and off we went – bang on time. My feet felt good and I was comfortable. Ok, good start. First mile clicked in at 7:02. Time for the maths. This gave me 1min 28 in the bank. That’s if I was to go for the GFA. Up to mile 5 and I was still under 8min miles. Hmmm, should probably slow down. There’s a hill at mile 5 anyway.

I run along (note how I don’t say plodding here) thinking what a great first marathon for someone this would be. It breaks you in gently with an easy start which gives you a confidence booster. Yes, I think, definitely a good one. I don’t know why they don’t recommend it to first timers!

Up the hill and I get a good luck text from my brother. ‘Cheers bro, I’m 6 miles in’. He replies with a photo of himself still in bed. Sheets covering his beer belly. Nice.

I miss my split at 7 miles and I go into panic mode. How am I going to know my time now?!? How do I know how much time I have to play with when the killer hill comes? Why is my leg hurting?

Cramp. I get cramp in my left leg.

Oh that’s quite sore. Bugger. Should I stop and rub it? Walk it off?

You’re not a masseuse, you don’t know what muscle to rub and you’re meant to run a marathon Ella.

You’re right. Ignore it.

‘Still feeling fresh?’ Steve asks me as he goes past. ‘Yup’ I reply through gritted teeth. If you don’t say it out loud it’s not true right?

By mile 10 with the cramp still there and clearly not going I slow down a little. Isn’t cramp caused by lack of water or something? Your muscles are dehydrated so they contract? Believing this to be true I down a full bottle of water and have a couple of jelly babies. Once that kicks in I will be fine I say to myself.

Pushing on to half way the cramps still there, my ankles niggling like a bitch causing my knee to now pound with pain and my bladders full – no I don’t mean the one on my back. This is not going well. I need to stop to pee and rub my leg. So what do I do? I take a selfie.

I then remember that the headache you get from a hangover is caused by your brain being dehydrated and contracting. No relation what so ever to do with cramps. Great. So glad I drank all that water now! Not! Would have been better off with vodka! (Well, maybe not, but could have made for a very entertaining run).

I get a message from my lunch time running buddy telling me my pace is looking good. I tell him I can’t keep it up though and I’m goosed. He replies just drop it a tiny bit until the last mile or 2. Does he know how far away that is?!? I do!! 11 bloody miles!! 11 long miles that include a ruddy big hill!! I’ve already ran 13!! Sake.

Trudging on I text my other half to say I’m halfway but I can’t keep it up. His reply? ‘Get the finger out.’ I tell him my knees gone and he asks where? For a run?

He doesn’t get a reply.

I count down to mile 17 where the hill starts. I’ve written this on my hand along with !London! In the hope it spurs me on. Well that ain’t happening today love. But I had already known that if I’m honest. For some reason my mind just wasn’t focused enough. The past couple of weeks have me thinking and to achieve that GFA it needs to be my one and only goal.

Mile 17. The Hill. It’s not the steepest hill I’ve climbed (hey there Birnam) but it’s just so long. Never ends. Ever. At all. So out comes the phone and I record myself walking. Yes. Walking.

My names Ella Webley and I walked when I did the Loch Ness Marathon in 2017.

After 3 hours I reach the top and pick up the pace again. I now no longer care for time and I’m just counting down the miles listening to my music. I then remember I had needed to pee earlier but don’t anymore. After a frightening few seconds of wondering if I had peed myself (I hadn’t, I assure you) I relax back in to my plodding.

Soon I come across a roundabout. And with it comes civilisation! People! There are people here! Oh my god I had forgotten what they were like! Yes there were one or two scattered along the route but this was actual people. That cheered me up. My leg still hurt but I was smiling. I even recognised the loud supporter who had been in the exact same place last year and exchanged a joke with him.

Down to the final couple of miles now and I spot a familiar back pack. ‘Are you Melanie?’ I ask her. She turns and smiles and says yes (thank god, could have been awkward). ‘I’m Ella’. We have been following each other on Instagram for a while now and had both been at another race but missed each other.

We spent the next couple of miles chatting about how tough the run had been and how close we were to finishing. She gave me some tips for my ultra next weekend too. It was just what was needed at that point – you can’t beat seeing a friendly face when you’re hurting. She was aiming for under 4hrs and was comfortably under that. She said she always aimed for under 4 as that meant she didn’t have to do it again – I like her thinking!

I spot my mum and stop to give her my hydration pack as it had been rubbing a bit. I carry on and chase down Melanie in the hope I can come in under 4hrs. My pace picks up as I get closer to the end and as I see the finish I give the last of my energy and go for it.

Turns out that last push was a bit much and I genuinely feel like I’m going to throw up. I apologise to the woman who goes to hang my medal round my neck for being all sweaty and to my surprise she insists on giving me a huge hug! What a lovely woman!! She then gets me a bottle of water as she thinks I’m about to pass out insisting again that that was what she was here for. If I had had any energy I would have cried!

Walking round the finisher chute a guy behind me taps me on the shoulder. ‘I don’t like you’ he says. I laugh ‘oh why’ presuming he had tried to use me as a pacer. ‘I had just managed to get past those 4 guys at the end and you came flying out of nowhere past me.’ ‘Oh sorry’ I apologise and explain I was trying to get under the 4hrs. 43 seconds over I was – ah well. He said he had been trying to but had come in at 4hrs 7. He blamed his wife because he had stopped to give her a hug. He made me laugh.

After cuddles with my mum and my other half who had brought our youngest up for the day I headed straight to the massage tent.

Best. Thing. Ever.

She was amazing! It really helped my legs! I could have stayed there all afternoon no word of a lie.

It was straight home after that and I stupidly didn’t eat anything. Combining that with having felt sick during the run and sitting in the back of the car and I eventually did throw up. Not pretty.

So lessons learnt – again. I need discipline. 7 minute miles at the start of a 26 mile run are not good if you’re not in that league. Water doesn’t cure cramp. If it did you wouldn’t get cramp when swimming – doh. The hydration pack was good but it needs adjusted. Loch Ness Marathon is NOT an easy marathon – this is fact – and not just confirmed by me. Although apparently I said this last year too? I do like it though. Very much. I have more wonderful memories of this one from my mum trying to use the foam roller to seeing other road runners at the start to the wonderful woman at the end who insisted on hugging me, and that massage!

Today my legs hurt – a lot. On Saturday I am running my first ever ultra. This week is most definitely a rest week!

Island Running

Island Running

Run round an Island you say? Yeah I’m up for that!

Around Cumbrae is a 10 mile road race on, yup you guessed it, Cumbrae. Cumbrae is an island off the west of Scotland so a bit of a journey to get there but all part of the adventure!

In hindsight my planning maybe wasn’t the best. Running a fast Parkrun the day before and then hurting my ankle doesn’t make for good preparation. It happened though so I ‘ignored’ the Parkrun and taped up my ankle. Job done.

Sexy isn’t it.

I begged my other half to come knowing I would regret it after but everyone seemed to be organised for the car share and I thought the kids would love it – go on a ferry, be on an actual island – what’s not to love? Everything apparently. Turns out it was just me that was excited by this. Maybe I need to get out more.

On the Saturday the weather was gorgeous. Sunny, no wind, no rain, just bliss. On the Sunday, the day of the race, well, no. It was not. Let’s just say I didn’t need the sun cream.

A full on wet suit and survival guide would have been more appropriate but I had to make do with my long sleeved top and shorts. Hair was plastered back. Very attractive.

The good thing about the other half coming was that we could test out the new car. Oh yes. No longer do I have the Zafira bus that hadn’t locked for over a year, windows had a life of their own going up and down and would make weird and wonderful noises for absolutely no reason at all. In comes the BMW whose stereo I can’t work (only the most important part of a car!), has more buttons than a space ship and I’ve been told I can’t get it dirty. ITS A CAR!!

But anyway, the race.

We arrived 2 hours before the start – something of a complete wonderment to me! I’m more of a pre 5 mins girl so with 2 hours to kill and wind that could capsize the titanic things got boring very quickly. I soon became the most hated person in the car as I was the reason we were here. ‘I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I need a pee, I need a poo’. 2 hours I had to endure of this, and iPads were not a cure for the situation.

After firmly sealing my place in the worst mum hall of fame yet again I gingerly made my way to the hall where everyone was gathering for the pre-race photo. Only to find out I had already missed it yet again. I was just beginning to think someone was trying to tell me something here when the heavens literally opened and we were engulfed with torrential rain. I sheltered under a tree but that wind was determined to get me and get me it did! This race was not turning out to be the fun filled experience I had thought it would be…..

It wasn’t clear where the start line was but one of the many benefits of not being the fastest means you can safely just queue up behind other people. Job done.

Thanks to the torrential downpour the roads were very slightly flooded. Don’t think I earned myself any brownie points splashing through them but my god I had fun doing it!! There’s something oddly satisfying about splashing in a puddle! Until you Splash your bum and you have to seriously consider if you’ve possibly just pee’d yourself. Nope, that’s cold water. Maybe no more splashing though Ella.

First couple of miles were probably a little too fast given I’m meant to be doing marathon pace. I didn’t have to worry though because just before the mile 4 marker the wind started to hit. It wasn’t the worst I’ve ran in but it was enough to push me back. That coupled with meant to be going slow just completely messed with me and that was it. As much as I enjoyed the views and running right beside the sea my body wasn’t having it. I just couldn’t push myself on. So I settled on slower. I even stopped for a bathroom break (just to check ha ha). This had dire consequences on my under garments however and I ran the last 2 miles with my pants only being held up by my shorts! At least that made me go a little faster!

I crossed the line to discover Joe had taken the kids for a late lunch to pass the time. We headed straight to the ferry after a quick chat with a couple of other road runners and collecting my medal. That’s right, it may have been a small island race but there was still a medal! Wa hey!

Of course I had to apologise for the ‘boring’ day in the car on the way home and I will no doubt be held to ransom over this in the near future (Can I have £20 mum? No! Remember when you made us come to one of your races that was a 200 mile round trip and it was pouring with rain with nothing to do? Here’s £30, on you go).

This race has made me realise I need to take a step back and slow down though. I need to do some slower runs to get ‘that feel’ for my pace to be able to do 26.2 miles. Am I still going for my London time? Well, I want to, but I have also realised it just may not happen at Loch Ness. That’s not to say it won’t ever happen. I absolutely will be running London next year! It’s more that I need to still enjoy running for running and not always be aiming on a time.

You Did Not Defeat Me

Some may say I’m stubborn – some may say I’m determined. Whatever word is used to describe me, the fact remains, I did it!

Hill Series – you are complete!

Wednesday saw the last run in the series and that’s what kept me going. It was the last one. None of the series has been easy. I’ve had to walk in all of them, faced near death in many and required a change of underwear more times than I wish to admit to. So I was expecting another ‘kill me now’ 4 miles in this last hurrah.

It didn’t start off grand. I thought it was about a 20 minute journey but then I saw a Facebook post about a car share leaving an hour and a half before the race! A quick google told me there were two places called gateside – one 25 mins away and one over an hour. Oh hell.

A few panic stricken moments later I realised it was in fact the 25min away place I had originally thought it was but I had no hope of making the car share. The other half said he was coming with the kids and another road runner kindly offered to pick up my number for me so worst case scenario would be I would get dropped at the start line whilst he found somewhere to park. (Luckily though, we found a space).

The usual chatter at the start line and a few runners started talking about the route. ‘It’s undulating’ – great, my ‘favourite’ word……. ‘you get rest breaks’ – oh I fully intend to be taking rest breaks trust me. I only need to finish this race. This is the last one. Then they pointed up the hill. ‘We head up to that tree line, go through it and back down.’

What that tree line way over there?!? That’s going to be more than 4 miles! I must be looking at the wrong one. Nope. There is only one cluster of trees up there.

Great.

There was a handful of road runners there which is always great to see and I was able to ask someone about their trail shoes – an item I really should have purchased before now. I’ve been wearing New Balance road shoes which suit me but they don’t suit this type of running – as I’ve found out several times, much to my peril.

We were off and just 100metres in we were running past what I presume to be a local lad playing the bagpipes. Have to say I really did like that. Great touch. Took my mind off the fact this was a hill race (well, for a split second, as we very quickly started going up).

The first part on tarmac was a steady climb. One of those where you’re thinking it’s fine I can do this, but I would really like it to be the top right about now, oh come on how much further? Can’t stop now or I will look pathetic.

To my surprise my first mile came in about 8mins 40 – unusual for me on a hill race. It’s normally well over 10 minutes and my vocabulary has turned from someone who doesn’t like swearing to someone who could give the drunk vicar on Father Ted a run for his money. However I was still smiling. This was a positive.

Or did this mean death was actually just round the next corner in the shape of mud, rocks and vertical ascents?

Wasn’t that bad to be honest. I glanced at my watch and it said 1.76. And I wasn’t dying? I refused to be drawn in to a false security. This was a hill race after all, you will probably have to walk the next bit Ella. You’re not a hill runner. (And no, the Aviva Hill doesn’t count).

But I didn’t walk. I forced myself to the top of the track I was now on and begged my legs not to stop just yet. Imagine if I ran for the whole of the first half of this race! I would be very pleased with that. Rounding the corner it was tough but then, as advised, it evened out so I could get a rest.

Still no walking.

Through the heather, over rocks and mud, careful not to go over my ankle – but still running.

And then those magic, magic words.

‘Along to the fence then it’s down hill.’

Oh I love you Marshall!!

Staying steady but trying to catch the guy in front I stretched my legs out and started striding down. Gets a little tricky at parts but it’s not as bad as Ben Sheann. I genuinely feared for my life on that ‘run’ (I use that word very, very loosely). I’m soon back on the tarmac and retracing my steps from the start of the run. I like this. I like this a lot. This I can handle. Down, down, down we go.

Then we hit the bottom.

And it’s back up from here.

Well that was nasty. Still running though! I know I must be close to the finish – can’t stop now, must keep going, you might actually finish this race running all of it! Turn to the left and on to the cricket pitch. I hear my kids and spot the other half.

‘I’ve ran the whole way!!’ I say to him as I trundle past. I hear him laughing as I continue.

I don’t have a clue where the finish is. Can’t see it at all. So I just follow those in front of me deciding to stop when they stop. We go round the pitch and I only know I’m finished when a young lad offers me a bottle of water. So no sprint finish but….

ITS DONE!!!

No more hill races, no more death defying descents or heart attack climbs up to the sky. I am done! The nightmare of that first race has now been put to rest and justified now that I have completed the series. It was ‘almost’ worth it.

Will I do it again next year? Not a chance! Not now I know what a real hill race is. That’s a whole new level of crazy right there. I will stick to my sea level road races thank you very much. A challenge it most certainly was and I may have moaned and groaned my way through it but I did it.

Those hills did not defeat me!

Knockhill – The Clues In The Name

Run round an actual vehicle race course?  Yeah I’m up for that!  The Carnegie Harriers do an annul event which is roughly a 3.9 mile run round the Knockhill Racing Circuit – sounds awesome, so I signed up.  Plus last year the medal was an actual toy car, what’s not to love?

Still feeling broken from the Perth Half it wasn’t exactly great timing plus I am fighting the need to go and get my hip seen to but I was running this one way or another.  I resolved myself to the fact it would be more a fun run then a push, and with a marathon coming up I thought that would be fine.

There are a couple of people at work who are keen racing car people (I don’t know what you call them?  Racer fans?  Fast car fanatics?) so I asked them what the course was like presuming it would naturally look like the ones on the telly which are all perfect tarmac, flat as a pancake and round.  No Ella, no.  It isn’t Brands Hatch or Silverstone, this is Perth.  It is a race track but it’s not round.  Ah well, should still be fine.  Tarmac and flat with some corners, no worries.

Joe and 2 out of 3 kids came along – purely because I would have gotten lost otherwise.  There was no way I was finding this place by myself lets be honest here.  As soon as someone even tries to tell me a place is well sign posted I smell b@llsh!t.  There isn’t a place in the world that is!  Besides, it was pretty cool for the kids to come along to this one anyway.  (Did I mention it was a race track?).

Standing in the queue for the toilets and the usual chit chat occurs.  Have you done this race before?  Me – No but it looks pretty cool, what’s not to like.  Other – 3 laps with that hill is a killer though.

Excuse me?

‘I know, I felt a bit stupid when my friend pointed out it’s called Knock HILL, as in it’s built on a hill.  At least it’s less than 4 miles’.

I genuinely felt the light bulb turn on in my own head at this point.

Knock….HILL.

Why did I not click?!?  Why did I think it was flat?  But more importantly – who builds a race track that isn’t flat?!?

I spent the next 20 minutes amazed at my own stupidity – but also freezing.  It was windy, and cold.  Not the best combination.  Not on a non flat route.

Pre-race photo done and it was off to the start line.  There were quite a few of us Road Runners so there were green vests a plenty.  Knowing my hip wasn’t really up for this I didn’t do my usual ‘pick someone and try to beat them’.  I just settled in to the run.  It was a very slight uphill at first and then we went down, before climbing up.

Genuine question though – how do you race a car round that?  You would have to change gears so many times!  My trusty family people carrier would struggle to go down the hill never mind back up it.  I can truly picture having to get everyone out to push it.  Ten Ton Bessie would not enjoy being driven round that course let me tell you that.  She would dig her heels in and grind to a halt (although that’s pretty much what she does right now anyway, she’s a moody cow, wonder if it’s the menopause.  Hmm, my car has the caropause?).

Anyway, back to the race.  Now I’m ‘mentioning’ (*cough complaining!) about this non flat route but Stewart – another road runner – was pushing a buggy round this!  It may be a specifically designed running buggy but it is still a buggy with a 4 year old child in it!  She was having a whale of a time with the wind in her hair

though and her mum was running too.  

Oh and yes – he beat me.  Man who runs with buggy beat me.  Ah well.

Now, during this run, my hip was, as predicted, annoying me.  At the moment it feels like I am dragging my entire left side as I run.   I should go and get it seen to but I am going through the ‘ignore it and see if it goes away’ phase.  Plus we have a stupendous amount of things going on in September that I am trying to save money where I can.  However.  I also know what will happen if I don’t go and get tortured up and if that happens and I can barely lift my leg off the ground, well, I won’t be able to run.  So yeah, I guess I better go.

So in my head I am running round this track, left side being dragged along from top to bottom, wondering if there is a way I can crack my own back without breaking it and re-aligning my spine etc when I go past my kids at the side shouting and waving.

‘Mum, keep going you’ll win’.

Cutest. Thing. Ever.

I had no chance – or desire – to win, but it was very cute.  The rest of the race was spent wondering what trainers to buy him for just 2 weeks time when he can go to Junior Parkrun!  And also, how long before he is beating me in a race….

The spread afterwards was phenomenal and I got a much needed cup of tea.  Joe went back to the car with the youngest but my daughter pinched a cake or two.  Her justification?  She ran with me a little bit at the end of the first lap (a bit too windy after that she said ha ha).  Unfortunately there was no car medal this year, I imagine down to cost as they couldn’t have been that cheap to purchase.  A great race though and one I am glad to have ticked off.

And even though it’s not really the same as the ones on the telly, it is to me – so yes, I can now say I have ran round a racing circuit.

 

Not Up To Standard

If it was easy everyone would be doing it and it would be boring. Right now I think 'infuriating', 'annoying' and 'aarrgghhh' are more accurate in describing how it is and feels.

No I didn't get my club standards time. Not even close.

The day started well. It's an 11am start so no rush in the morning. I even made my own breakfast of porridge and banana (I never cook. I hate it, detest it, will go to bed hungry before I cook. Just one of those things) but because someone wouldn't wash up the saucepan HE had used I ended up making it. So I was quite impressed with myself. Not so much with the 'top guy'.

Frazer aka original running buddy came round as he was running in the Half and Lorner was too. Lorner had her cat at the vet so was running a little late and we ended up getting a lift to the start instead of the bus – where unfortunately my parents had gone to surprise us and wish us all luck…. (sorry mum and dad).

This was Frazers first half marathon and he had a rough time in mind but ultimately just wanted to finish. Lorner has run one before but has had some injury issue in the last couple of months so she also just wanted to finish.

I wanted under 1 hr 48.

Club photo done and it was off to the start. Frazer and Lorner headed a little further back and continued their chat of alcohol , how many gels they were going to take and whether or not you could get alcoholic gels. They were also trying to calculate how much iron is in a pint of Guinness!

I placed myself quite near the front before the start line. It was gun time and not chip time so every second counts. Beside me another road runner was pacing his friend who had previously run 1hr 47 so I thought to keep her in sight. Another road runner was possibly looking at 1hr 45 depends how she felt. Definitely too fast for me so I was thinking more dot in the distance on that one.

Off we went and it's straight on to a trail path of loose rocks and gravel. I knew I had to concentrate on foot placing until I got to the road so it was head down most the way. I was joined by a guy who went to the first running group I went to and we chatted away for a couple of miles until I realised I was going too fast and needed to focus more so I dropped back a little. I had my goal and I was getting it.

It's a very mixed terrain course so you are jumping between the small rocks and gravel through fields and farms then on to road then in to woods. You get a bit of everything. No real elevation though apart from 2 very short sections. At the first water station I saw a woman from work who had volunteered and shouted out a hello and a wave as I went by.

On to a section of road and we were told to keep in as it wasn't closed roads. Rules state no earphones now for safety reasons but there was a guy in front close to the middle of the road. Cars were going closely by him but he wasn't moving in. Yup, he had earphones in. I couldn't help but think what a twat. He could have been hit by a car he couldn't have heard coming if he had tripped or swerved out and it could have shut down the event. Further on and I was throwing myself down a hill (still on route, not randomly) when another runner, this time female, ear phones again, moved out in front of me and I had to think fast. Now, she would have heard me coming there's no doubt about that. Pretty sure my mum and dad heard me at the finish line at this point and I was still 7 miles away! I spent the next couple of miles writing a strongly worded letter of complaint in my head to the organiser regarding people using their earphones and the dangers they cause.

I spent a good chunk of the second half on the heels of another road runner I know is faster than me. I didn't know what time she was going for (she may very well have just been running it with no time in mind) but I knew she was a good paced runner so tried to stay there.

I kept checking my watch a lot during the race and I felt I was doing good time. It was going to be touch and go but I remained focused. I absolutely detest running fast (I may have mentioned this before like, oh I don't know, 50 billion times!) so I really didn't want to have to do this again. On to the main road and I was feeling it but I was still on the heels of the other runner. If I could just get to the Inch (big park in Perth) and hopefully get pushed on I could make this.

Over the bridge, turn to the right and I see my mum. I start laughing as I know what's about to happen. She sees me and frantically waves to my dad on the other side to say I'm coming. She then looks at her phone…..and looks at her phone….. and looks at her phone…..I go past and she's still trying to turn the camera on on her phone. Every time.

I hit the Inch and that's when I begin to lose it. I'm no longer on her heels, she's 20 metres in front. Scott goes past and I try to use him to push on but he is flying! It's almost a sprint finish on the last 3 miles for him! I desperately need water but haven't seen a water station for miles, there has to be one on the Inch! Then I remember from last year they didn't have one and I genuinely start looking around wondering if I know anyone I can ask if they have water! I need it that badly! I swear at myself for looking and pausing at my water bottle earlier that morning and deciding not to take it. Twat.

Creeping up to the last mile and I tell myself I need to push it along the last, long stretch. It's straight, it's flat, you can do this. Last section then you don't have to run fast again for a while (lies I know but still, you'll tell yourself anything at this point).

On to the very, very long straight and I'm going. I've got good rhythm, my arms are going, I'm not sprinting but I'm going steady. I can make this 1:48! I'm over taking the odd person but there's not many other runners. Where is the finish?? I can't see the finish!! I can't see where I'm aiming for. There are NO other runners here!! I feel like an idiot. F@ck!!

Sod it. Had enough. Can't do this. I HATE THIS.

My watch hits 1:48.

I run to the end but shake my head as I read 1:49:07 on the clock. I didn't do it. I lost it. It wasn't even a PB. I didn't even come close. Over a minute too slow. I'm miserably disappointed.

I take my water and bag – of which I don't even look in – and head over to my mum and dad. A few minutes later my daughter comes bounding over. She and my other half have just got here. I tell him I didn't make it and await the 'told you so' from him but instead says he had spoken to another runner who had said it's not really a PB course. I don't say anything. Because of the loop on the Inch Lucie – our daughter – knew where Lorner and Frazer were and knowing how awful that last stretch was I head back down to try and encourage them on. They both found it hot and hard but they both finished and that was their aim.

Frazer was working in a couple of hours so we headed back. It was then I saw the water station hidden at the start of the Inch. I had gone right past it and not seen it. Turns out many people missed it too.

I could give a number of excuses as to why I didn't hit my goal. It was hot, I didn't have enough water, I went out too fast, it wasn't a PB course (yet someone in the club got a PB and by quite a chunk! Well done him!), it wasn't completely on road like I'm used to etc etc.

Truth of the matter is though I just didn't run fast enough. There's no other reason than that. And there's nothing more disappointing than that. I'm now going to have to find another Half so I can get my time. This, I am not happy with. But it's got to be done.

That, or I could strongly contest why the club standards time is so ridiculously difficult to get. Demand to see stats of the club of how many have actually achieved it, how many are capable and how many realistically can not (like me, right now). Oh yes, when I was running I was writing this letter too! 'Dear Chairperson, I would like to know who decides what time …..'.

Maybe I will just keep my mouth shut though and (try to) run faster! Isn't that the point?

Still disappointed though.