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.

School Holidays

Every year my daughter begs me to be on holiday for the entire time she is off school. Unfortunately this just isn't possible. My job doesn't allow for 6 week sabbaticals and my tendency to enter event after event – and her addiction to the most expensive trends going – kind of means I need my job. 2 weeks is the best I can do.

And naturally the very first day I am off I ask her what she wants to do and she tells me she's made plans with friends! Last thing on her mind is spending time with her mum! Hmmf.

2 weeks off work also means disruption to my routine. This I dislike very much. I love routine. I need routine. I can't tell you how many times I've had a hissy fit in the changing rooms at work because someone is in my spot. I am in there everyday at 12:02pm and I use the same locker next to the same spot on the same bench every bloody day. Completely puts me off when someone else gets there first!

Image result for my spot

However. I have to work with this. I have to change some things (not my spot in the changing rooms, it's mine). So gone are the lunch runs for 2 weeks and in come the early morning alarms so I can get it done before he is off to work. Gone are the lovely field runs with fresh air and wildlife and in come the loops round and round my house beside a road, dodging the kid on the scooter who is clearly aiming for me (so much self control it took not to push him over) all to get it done.

Gone also is my 'lunch'. As in actual food. It's 3pm before I realise I haven't eaten and by 4pm my Jekyll and Hyde impression is Oscar worthy. Half past 4 and I'm crashing out for a nap. Yup, got to love being off work….

And now lastly, it's beginning to feel like my speed is threatening to go. Yes ok I've never exactly been in the league of Laura Muir but I like to think I have at least a chance of getting my GFA time for London. What if that's all it is though? Something I like to think? And not something that is a reality?

'That' Saturdays long run threw me a little. Last Saturday was definitely better. Marginally longer but no 'bathroom' issues, just a bit of a hip issue. But now I've figured out I need to run 8min 30 splits. That's a bloody huge challenge. Kind of wish I hadn't looked that up. 26.2 miles at that pace? Hmmm.

It's what's driving me though. So when I was doing park run to finish my long run and I wanted to slow down…. I didn't. Pushed on by realising someone was using me as a pacer I kept at it. Took me a while to realise I knew her, spending the first 2 miles trying to figure out who's voice it was. Of course I could have just turned round and looked but it's more fun to play the guessing game! So when I started increasing my pace near the end and I felt her slow, I shouted at her to keep going. She was truly doing amazing and came so close to getting a PB. I'm sure she was only a few seconds off.

Same again last night at the club run. After a pitiful attempt at an excuse not to go from my friend (looks like thunder she said – barely a cloud in the sky, I'm picking you up) I agreed to run with her group. Near the end though and I was slightly a bit ahead with another roadrunner. 'Heading straight back or the long way round with strides?' He asked. 'Long way round, definitely.'

I hadn't heard him say 'strides'.

'Ok, bin to bin. GO!!'

I very quickly discovered I did not have that in me. But he kept going, kept pushing, and although it was quite a pitiful attempt on my part, I got it done. No way in hell I would have done it if there hadn't been someone shouting me on!

And so that just leaves this mornings run. Whilst my youngest was at nursery, my daughter who had begged me to be off work still lay in bed (I am NOT getting up mum!), and the myth that is my eldest was also in bed (obvs, duh), I took off for my run.

6 miles.

At a MUCH better pace!

Finally!

I got home and went straight in to a cold bath. I know some people say this does nothing for you but I certainly feel better for it and even if it's only mentally, I don't care. There's a lot to be said for placebos.

Saturday is my local half marathon. And shock horror I have another challenge (because obviously the marathon isn't quite challenging enough! *cough,cough). I want my club standards time. 1hour 48mins. I didn't get it at Loch Leven and I was disappointed, those 38 seconds still haunt me.  I want it this Saturday. The last 3 miles have you go past the finish for a loop out and back. Horrendous route. So I will make sure the other half – and hopefully my mum and dad – are placed to shout at me to keep moving. It's going to be needed.

Fingers crossed! (But not toes, because I wouldn't be able to run then).

Looks like thunder my arse!

Now. I'm a road runner. I run on roads. I occasionally do trails but not very often. I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do hills and track isn't much better. So initially, when the Splash N Dash race was announced, I didn't think twice about giving it the body swerve.

Run along a beach – that's sand, not tarmac – then into the sea – again water, not tarmac – then do it again for a second loop.

Not on your nelly.

But then a few people were talking about it and we had had a couple of good days weather wise (which for Scotland means the wind was gusty not hurricane, and the rain was showers not monsoon). So I signed both of us up. Yup, Mr W was going to do it too.

Let's be clear here though. The only reason I asked him to was because we now have this agreement we have to consult the other before signing up to a race and he only said yes because he had just bought a TT bike!

Marriage at its best.

Naturally, day of the race, it was pouring. It was windy, it was cold, it was wet. And that was before we were running. I hadn't even checked the distance either so I couldn't estimate how long I would be out there. I had opted for my 3 quarter lengths instead of shorts given the weather and a buff round my neck which I very quickly fanned out and put round my head to try and keep 'some' warmth in. If someone had asked me if I was in remission I couldn't have blamed them. However I was that cold I didn't care what I looked like.

Joe had decided not to run. Gave some utter cock and bull story about not wanting to ask my mum to babysit – personally I think he felt it was too cold. (He's not a runner, let's be honest). So he sat in the warm van the entire time.

As I stood in line to get my bib there was a lot of chat about the waves. One runner who had done it last year kindly demonstrated how deep we would be going.

She pointed at the tops of her legs. The TOP of her legs!!

I'm going to need arm bands!! What the hell?!?

Then someone said they had decided to move the race from September to July in the hope of getting better weather.

Someone was most definitely taking the mickey.

There were quite a few road runners there and we huddled together to try and keep warm. Didn't work. I was grumpy. I was miserable. I just wanted it over and done with. All this way for what I found out to be 4 lousy miles on terrain I detested. There was a reason I didn't do races like these.

The organisers didn't want to keep us so started us of quickly. What I hadn't thought about was the spray from the person in front – literally like someone throwing sand in my eyes. Great! I tried to shelter behind people but the choice was the wind and rain or sand in your eyes. That's not always an easy decision.

I didn't check my watch at all as I didn't care an ounce what speed I was running. I knew it had to be about 2 miles ish out to the pirate flag and then we turned back. You couldn't see the flag for the mist but as soon as I was close the fast runners were going by in the opposite direction. 'It's a lot easier going this way' shouted Stewart. And sure enough, as soon as I turned, the wind lifted me up and pushed me forward. Thank god I wasn't wearing a skirt! Not long after we were in to the water just a little bit and that was fine. 'I can handle this' I thought. Along the beach we went and yes, I confess, at one point, I pretended I was a lifeguard on baywatch and The Rock and Zac Efron were at the finish line.

I ran my fastest split at that point.

Further in to the water we went now and it was that deep you couldn't run. I braced myself for the 'freeze' but it never came. Instead I found myself laughing and trying to do some kind of gallop through the sea.

Was I actually enjoying this race? Hell yeah! Weather was awful, couldn't really see but it was fun. Hadn't expected that!

Back round for the second lap and I found I was lapping a handful of runners. There were some who weren't as fast as others but my god their determination was strong! They were finishing no matter what!

A couple of the marshalls had water guns but to be honest, because of the rain, it didn't make any difference. It was still funny though to be squirted at as you ran by. They must have been freezing but the weather wasn't dampening their spirits.

Across the finish line and I made a speedy exit to the van with heated seats. I had been wise and brought a full change of clothes. Plus a towel to try to cover my modesty but the wind was having none of that either.

As usual, the lovely Gordon Donnachie was there to take beautiful pictures of us. I think I should get mine blown up and framed, what do you think?

I thought I was going to hate this race but I really found it fun! My legs felt so good after being in the water it was amazing. I would definitely recommend it – in rain or sun ha ha.

So….. yesterday.  Yesterday was the next instalment in the hill series that I’m just ‘loving’ (if loving actually means hating with all your might and would rather be watching paint dry that is).  

The difference with this one though is that I’ve ran it before – twice! And whilst it’s got its steep as hell climbs, it’s also got flat sections you can recover on (well, as much as you can during a race).  It is however longer than all the other races, and it definitely makes you work for that medal.  Bonus on this run though is that my other half was actually sponsoring it, he had designed the finisher t-shirt and was volunteering. 

There were quite a few Perth Road Runners volunteering also and many were marshalls round the course so there was lots of encouragement.


It was meant to be a long run day so I decided to run to the event and run back.  The youngest had other ideas though.  He gets a bit of separation anxiety from time to time so when I tried to drop him off he wasn’t all for it.  I know he’s fine within minutes of me leaving but when you don’t really need to leave straight away (because I could drive there) I find it more difficult to go.  In the end I managed to run 3 miles before my dad came along, picked me up and dropped me at the start.  3 miles was better than nothing and as expected my mum had text me before I had even hit a mile to say Ollie (my son) was playing happily.

Frazer – my original running buddy – was also running this race and his girlfriend Kirsty and daughter Jessica had come along too, as well as their dog Ruby.  

We were called to the start line about 10 minutes before the scheduled start.  Although I knew I would be passed I still went near the front as it was an instant climb and I didn’t want stuck behind someone or forced out the way.  This wasn’t a race I would be happy to just finish.  I wanted to improve last years time.  

I looked around and Sonjia, Stewart, Mark, Dave and Ronnie were in front of me.  Hmmm.  No Heledd.  Where was Heledd? I tapped Stewart on the shoulder.  ‘Have you seen Heledd?’ ‘No’ he replied.  Then a glint in his eye.  ‘Does this mean?’ 

I grinned.

‘I don’t know, I was sure she was coming though’.

Then Sonjia turned round.  ‘Heledd’s not here’.

She had the same grin as me.

‘Check you girls out all competitive!’

‘Not at all! Just friendly banter! But if she’s not here, more points for me’ I laughed.

Facts are facts, both Heledd and Sonjia are faster than me so yes, the only way I could ‘win’ was if Heledd wasn’t running.  Then I would be the only female that did all 6 Hill Races and the nightmare that was Birnam Hill (the first hill race) will most definitely have been worth it.  Sort of. Maybe.

‘Oh hi Heledd’.

Aw no, she was at the registration tent. Game over.  

She snuck to the back a little embarrassed that it looked like we were waiting for her but it wasn’t 11’o’clock so she wasn’t technically late.  ‘You’ve still got a good few metres on her’ Stewart said.  ‘I’m going to need it, and much more!’ was my reply.

Off we went and up the zig zag hill that is right at the start.  Not even a few metres to turn the legs over, you’re going straight up. I saw Kirsty at the top corner and a few steps passed her I heard ‘oh no, Ella’s already gone past’.  I think she was taking my mums place in the ‘missing the moment’ gallery ha ha. I gave her a wave to say I had heard her though.

First mile down and I chose not to look at my watch, there’s no point in Hill races.  I knew Heledd must be right on my heels and right enough, at 1.35 miles in I heard the ‘Hi Ella’.  ‘Hey’ I managed to gasp back.  She looked a bit white, not her usual self.  I wanted to ask if she was ok but I couldn’t gasp that out.  I passed her just a few minutes on which surprised me as I don’t think I’ve ever done that so tried to take advantage and not slow down until she had passed me again.

Around 2 miles and there was a woman at the side with a hurt ankle.  I asked if she was ok and told her friend I would let the next Marshall know.  He ran on but kept looking back wondering if he should have stayed with her.  

3 miles in and past the water station.  I didn’t take any as Heledd still hadn’t passed me and I knew the second I stopped or slowed down she would fly right by.  I also knew the worst Hill was coming and I would have to walk/stumble up it.  One of the Road Runners was the Marshall at the bottom of it and I had to ask her why she wasn’t running it.  She just looked at the hill and we both we knew she had made the smarter decision, not me! All the way up I was just waiting for Heledd to go past.  I’ve spent enough time behind her at these races to know she could most likely run this bit! When she didn’t pass me here I knew she wasn’t 100%.  Hoping it was more a case of she was ill and not a case she was hurt I kept on.  

Back up yet another hill and this one was one we had come down.  The Marshall – Sylvia I think it was – tried to be encouraging by saying something like it was the last hill, or it wasn’t far.  It’s quite hard to remember as I was so close to death through lack of oxygen.  I did manage a reply of ‘if I had the energy I would kill you for lying’ – she knows the route, she knows the truth ha ha.

As soon as I hit the ‘top’ and knew it was more down hill then up I kept at it.  Mile 5 and I did something I never do during races – I started to look behind me.  Yes I was trying to see if she was on my heels.  It kept pushing me forward though as every time I turned round I expected her to be right at my shoulder.  I knew where the final uphill was and pushed myself up it.  Then down it went.  Past Eleanor another road runner at a Marshall point with her daughter, cheering away, still pushing on.


She’s going to get me, she’s going to get me. This is going to be like the hills on Thursday when Mark lapped me right at the finish line! Don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop.

I hit the zig zags and saw Kirsty again.  She started to run with me down them.  I found this hilarious and tried to shout ‘are you challenging me?’ but all my energy was going in to not being overtaken at the end. I had also calculated that if there was a team prize I may have been third female PRR as Marlena was between Sonjia and myself! (There wasn’t a team prize but still, it was a nice thought!). 


I turned the last corner and I heard footsteps. NO!!!! I was NOT giving this one up!! Unable to breath I somehow moved my legs faster.  Who ever this was was not getting past me!! 

It’s ok, they didn’t!


Across the line and a few very deep breaths later I went and collected my medal.  I saw Stewart and yes, I admit, my first words were ‘I beat Heledd!’ however this was very quickly followed by ‘but I don’t think she’s feeling very well, she’s not having a great race’.  I saw Kevin her partner and went over to speak to him.  He confirmed it, she wasn’t very well.  I felt really bad.  She came in just a couple of minutes behind me.  It’s all friendly competitiveness but I did feel bad for her.  She obviously wasn’t on top form or she would have wiped the floor with me.

Frazer came across the line in just a little over an hour which was phenomenal for his first time doing that run.  He was quite rightly pleased.

I love this picture of Frazer ha ha

And so on to my run home.  Well that didn’t go to plan. It was roasting hot, I didn’t have my sunglasses or a hat and my legs decided the 10k trail race was enough.  I had to make a call to my mum at 3 and a half miles in to get picked up before my hamstring went ‘ping’. 

All in all a good day.  I knocked 3 minutes off my time from last year which was the main aim.  But best of all there’s only one more hill race!!

Yes!!! 

Photos courtesy of Ethan Lee and Gordon Donnachie – they are at most races in Scotland kindly taking photos on their own time.  Much appreciated! (Except the one you get of me every time where you age me at least 30 years! Ha ha)


 The Alexis Rose Trail Race is a local families legacy race for their daughter who passed away from meningitis when she was only 19 months old.

Anything IS Possible

3:15am and our alarm goes off.  

This. Is. It.

The day I have been training for 6 months for.  6 solid months.  

It’s a quick shower, a quiet one.  No music this morning.  Just focus. Upstairs it sounds like my oldest has only just gone to sleep.  Ah to be 17 again. (Actually no thanks!).

Joes made a huge mound of porridge and I try to get as much down me as I can but I don’t manage a lot.  Eating at that time of the morning is near impossible.  Aware it’s not enough I try to top it up with half a bagel.  

Into the van and we are on our way to pick up Joes dad.  First panic of the day.  Do I have my timing chip! I ‘ask’ Joe to pull over even though we are only 2 minutes away from his dads so I can get my bag from the back of the van and precede to empty it’s contents eventually finding it in the ‘safe’ pocket I had put it in the night before.

No comment needed.

His dads there bright and breezy with his coffee and we are soon on the road to Edinburgh.  Unsurprisingly it’s clear and it’s straight through.  We park up and the minute the door is opened I can feel the wind.  It’s the sea front though.  It’s expected.  I take a quick look at the water and can quite clearly see the course marked out is not 1900 meters.  We will find out soon though.

Walking in we see Heledd straight away – she’s volunteering as Kevin is racing too.  The poor soul is already freezing but she tells us she is about to be moved position so she can warm up.  I wish I had taken photo with her at the start.  At 6am we hear the announcement that they have shortened the swim – for the pros as well.  What? That’s unusual.  They normally have to do full length regardless.

Into transition for the last checks on the bikes and we see some from Perth Tri Club. I join the queue for the toilets and remain there until very close to start time.  Luckily, it was worth it and I had ‘movement’. I get into my wetsuit and we head over to the start.  


We are at the back of the line but can’t see any signs telling us where to be for what predicted time so we can’t place ourselves very well.  Turns out the signs were on the inside of the fences.  Not very useful.  It’s impossible to move forward so we stay where we are.  There’s a few comments about the swim (‘may as well just chuck a bucket of water over us’ raised a fair few eyebrows around). I don’t look at the sea, I don’t even try.  I wanted to see the pro athletes but I’m tiny and can’t see over people.  I’m thankful for it though because I really didn’t want to look at what I was about to attempt.  Over the tannoy we are told it’s tough conditions and to give sharp hard kicks at the first buoy and that should get us round.

Should?!? 

We get to the front and a Marshall is there shouting ‘does anyone need goggles?’.  Nice touch have to say.  He follows it up with ‘or a choc ice or ice cream’.  Made me smile. I’m at the gate now.  I’m through the gate – my god that was fast! Joes through at the same time but he’s off and in the water.  The first wave hits me and I’m pushed back.  Holy hell.  Ok.  Just get in.  I dive in and I’m hit with other athletes trying to move forward but being pulled back.  I can still see Joe at the side of me, he’s having just as hard a time.  

I’ve only just started and I see a couple of kayaks just laden with people and pulling more swimmers out.  There’s lots of shouting but I can’t make any of it out above the noise of the waves.  I have a very fleeting thought of grabbing the kayak but I throw that out my head instantly before it festers.  I get to the first buoy and I can no longer see Joe, he’s probably already on to the second.  I’m now chocking on the sea water, badly.  I switch to breast stroke to try and calm down.  Works only marginally.  I’m swallowing so much water how can there be any left to swim in?!? 

Right, come on.  I see another kayak – swamped by more people.  I start thinking of all the people who know I am doing this, those who have donated, my kids – and I start thinking how embarrassing it would be for me personally not to do this.  The pros were out the water in less than 15 minutes.  15 god damn minutes.  Move your bloody arse Ella and get to the end.  Over a thousand people are doing this – it is NOT impossible.  Stop being a bloody wimp.  

I find some sort of rhythm and begin to go with the waves.  Front crawl works for a little while but you can’t sight and have to switch to breast stroke to make sure you’re still on course.  I take a few hits but nothing major.  Then an arm smacks me on the face not once but twice.  Goggles!! Oh my god my goggles!! I can’t get them back on if they come off!! Not in this!! They’re still on though, squint, but still on.  I feel something on the top of my neck and just before I freak out it’s a jellyfish I realise it’s my nose plugs.  I’m close to the next buoy and the waves are as high as the top it.  I consider jumping on it to get out the water and just bobbing around on it for a moment. 

It’s a nice thought.

I’m making the turn now so I tell myself I’m over half way, I may as well swim back.  There’s a new challenge now though – the sun.  I can barely see a thing.  I’m still surrounded by people so I must be on course.  The last and final buoy comes in to sight.  I turn and I’m on the final straight.  It feels like forever but eventually I can stand up. 

Well.  Wobble up.  Like bambi I make my way up to transition, occasionally trying to run.  I gave a great impression of a baby giraffe – award winning performance I would say.  I click my watch and it says 33minutes.  That’s embarrassing! I must be one of the very last out the water.  I’m trying to get my wet suit zipper down and another athlete does it for me.  I was incredibly thankful.

Just outside the tent I see Heledd shouting.  What a perfect time to see a friendly face! Gave me that moment to calm down and take a breath.  Of course I’m pretty sure my face just read ‘oh my god I almost died, why did I do that’ – but I appreciated seeing her. 

I need water.  Oh the irony!! Swallowed so much sea water I now needed plain water to help bring it back up.  I knew my transition time was going to be bad so I try to speed up at the same time as calming myself down.  I head out to my bike (still in shock) and as I take it from the rack I hear something very strange on the tannoy’

‘Joe Webley’

What? Is he just coming out of the water? I pause for a minute and fight the instinct to go back and check he was ok.  Something’s clearly happened. It’s not what you are meant to do though and he would shout at me if I did so I carry on to the bike.  

As soon as I’m in the saddle I can feel my front wheel wobbling.  Like really wobbling.  This isn’t good! What’s happening? It’s that bad I stop and check it several times.  Doesn’t feel lose when I’m stopped but doesn’t feel safe when I’m cycling.  I don’t know what to do.  I can’t find the problem but I’m not confident.  

So yeah, I carry on.  As you do.

I know I have to start re-fuelling as soon as possible on the bike but I can’t face an energy bar or a gel so I opt for the jelly babies I had bought last minute. Aware this was a very risky thing as I hadn’t trained with them I still put one in my mouth.

Best. Decision. Ever.

Those jelly babies were a life saver.

Nigel came past me with a cheery hello – I love that.  Then at seven miles I hear what I really, really needed to hear.

‘There she is.  Alright wife.’

‘YEAH!!!!!’ He’s caught up with me.  He’s fine.  What ever happened in the water hasn’t stopped him and he’s not in the medical tent.  He’s all smiles and laughing.  ‘What about that swim eh?’ He asks.  ‘I am never doing that again’ is my reply.  I tell him Nigel’s just ahead and I will ‘just stay back here’. It was a good boost and feeling of relief.

I know the Gifford loop is coming and at about 26 miles the course gets incredibly hard.  I’m honestly scared of one of the downhills that turns sharply in to a steep up hill so I’m preparing myself for a quick unclip – possibly even a fall.  First few climbs are hard but I do it.  My cornering is shocking but I’m still wobbling a little on the front wheel.  Still convinced it’s coming off.  I pass a few with punctures at the side but I don’t see any crashes.  Down through the first bad corner and I’m still up right.  Back up another hill.  I pass one or two and it gives me a little boost.  Further up I see a couple walking up and I use them as a ‘target’ to keep going.  Next comes the dreaded hairpin.  But – it’s not as bad as I had dreamed it was.  I slow right down but I still keep going. 

I’m still waiting on the dreaded downhill-sharp left-steep incline section when I get back in the village.  Huh? Where did it go? It was definitely before here.  I must have already done it!! Whoo hoo! Cycled the part that had given me nightmares and didn’t even realise it! 

Just a few miles on and I’m getting sore.  That love QL muscle is nagging away.  I don’t know how my youngest is as I wasn’t going to phone my mum at 6 in the morning.  My throats seriously hurts from all the gagging in the swim.  My swim was bad and I’m not convinced I made the cut off.  What if I don’t make the bike cut off? I’m well aware I’m not hitting my target time. 

So, I start singing.  

‘I love you baby, and if it’s quite alright I miss you baby, hold you tight’.

This carries on for a few miles.  

As does the wind.  At times it feels like I’m going backwards it’s that strong.  The crosswinds catch me a few times as well and I sway across the road. I don’t like cycling in the wind.  I don’t like it at all.

I count down the last 10 miles.  The cobbles were ‘interesting’.  My under carriage didn’t appreciate them.  Neither did the guy next to me.  ‘What the bloody hell is this!! This isn’t a road! And are we going up there?!?’

I got the sense he hadn’t enjoyed his cycle so far.

I knew what the last climb was and I knew where it levelled out so I went for it.  ‘Up, up, up you go Ella’ – got me a few funny looks.  I also knew the last downhill section was steep.  Taking no chances this late in the stage I kept hold of the brakes.  Maybe one day I will be confident on the bike but today wasn’t the day for risks. 

Up to the line and I dismounted. The woman next to me didn’t dismount until after the line then looked at the Marshall as if she didn’t know what he was saying.  I heard them arguing as I ran off.

Bike racked and I changed into my trainers. Ah my trainers.  My lovely, lovely trainers that meant I could now run!!! The part I love!! I know I can run 13.1 miles! My stomach wasn’t too good – still had salt water in it – so it was a quick stop in the porta loos. 

I’m out on the run and my legs feel surprisingly good.  I know it’s a flat before it starts to climb and I can already see people walking.  I pass a fair few but it’s impossible to say what lap of the three anyone is on.  I’m only half a mile in and I have a light bulb moment.  My front wheel wasn’t lose.  I was Sea sick from the swim! I laugh out loud at myself, not sure it’s something I should admit to but know I will later on.  

Top of that hill and I see a 6 foot tall ginger lad on a bike.  My arms are up and I’m waving like mad.  ‘Frazer!! I didn’t die!!’.  ‘Yeah!’ He shouts back.  What a boost to see my original running buddy at that point! He tells me Joes just ahead and I can catch him which I laugh at as this is quite clearly a lie and meant as encouragement – it’s appreciated.  

Along the first straight that goes over the tunnel and I see him.  My arms are up again.  I am so happy to be running and to see that Joe is in good form.  A high five as we pass and it’s smiles all round.  Now it’s into the tunnel which is nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be.  In fact, I quite liked it! I was getting a comfortable pace through it.  Back out and the sharp incline took its toll on my legs and I resorted to a short recovery walk for 10 seconds.  

Not long after was the feed station, typically  going up a ‘hill’ also.  Although happy to be running I had had enough of hills at this point.  A Marshall came right in to my face ‘go Ella’.  A bit taken aback I almost stopped.  Then I realised it was Gosia, another running friend.  What a cheery sight! ‘This is hard’ I tell her.  ‘What did you expect, it’s ironman’ she laughs at me.  


I push on to my second lap and instantly get confused on when I need to turn in to the finish.  Counting is not my strong point when running! I see Frazer again and give him a big smile.  I saw him earlier cycling along the side of Joe which was great to see.  He was working later so I knew he wouldn’t be there at the finish.  I saw a few more I recognised and cheered them all on.  I was actually enjoying the laps (once I got in my head when I had to turn in) and it broke it up fantastically.  I passed Kevin going the other way in the tunnel – Heledds partner – he was on his last lap.  I sang a little in the tunnel too, hard not to when the tunes were blaring at the turn.

Coming down near the last section of my second lap I see Kevin at the side stretching his leg.  ‘Are you ok?’  He’s got cramping in his leg.  He starts running with me and tells me he arrived late to the start so started at the back of the pack.  He didn’t find the swim easy either.  I really enjoyed running that short section with him and as he turned up the finish I shouted after him ‘Take it home Kevin’.  (If you’ve ever listened to Lonely Island you’ll know why I’m laughing, Michael Bolton can actually be funny).  


Last lap, last lap, last lap.  I’m doing this, I’m doing this I Am Doing This.  I wanted to enjoy every last moment of this race.  There was definitely no sprints for me! Last time past Gosia and her station and what a cheer I got from them.  Put the biggest smile on my face! Through the last feed station manned by West Lothian Tri Club and lots of encouragement again.  

Final section.

I can see Joe at the side, cheering me on.

I turn up to the finish.  No one is in front of me, no one is behind me.  I fight back the emotions threatening to make me cry.  I have THE biggest grin on my face ever.  I push right to the end.


Holy shit I just did it!!!! I just completed my first Half Ironman!! How did I do that??

Finisher photo taken and I make a bee line for the food.  I don’t move from the watermelon for a good five minutes. I can’t eat anything apart from that and the orange segments.  But I don’t care.  I am officially a Half Ironman. 

Meeting Joe and his dad outside the finishers tent he tells me to quickly put more layers on before the cold hits me.  It’s been raining on and off and the wind was bringing a chill.  He also gives me an update on our youngest who had had a bad night but was ok, not to worry. 

Of course I hit the expo tent.  Card in hand. Proud memoribelia purchased.  

On the road home and I check my phone.  I  had absolutely loads of support from the road runners and friends.  How I didn’t cry when I was reading it all I will never know. It was fantastic.  

Joe and I talked non stop on the way home recalling the achievement we had just accomplished.  He had struggled with the waves and had grabbed a kayak at one point.  He knew the swim was going to be his hardest part and seeing an overturned safety boat didn’t help. He had done it though and pushed himself through.  And it hadn’t put him off.  Just made it all the more important to get more sea swim practise in.

One of the pro athletes dubbed the course the hardest she has ever done – and it makes Staffordshire a walk in the park in comparison.  That settles it in my mind for me.  It was right to cut the swim.  It was not an ‘easy’ option.  Around 50 people got pulled from the water.  Many chose not to even start and the latest figures I read quoted a 29% DNF rate overall.  The swim conditions got worse the later you went in.  

I did it though.  I did every part of it.  I may not have been the fastest, I may not have ranked high in the results but I did it! I crossed that finish line.  

So yes.  I believe that Anything IS Possible.  I’m having a couple of days rest to let my body recover and I’m going to wear my finishers t-shirt for a week! I’m in no rush to scrub off my number tattoo and my new Ironman bag will be going everywhere with me. 

I bloody did it!! 

Ironman Weekend – Friday/Saturday

The weekend did not start out great.  Our youngest started coming down with something on the Thursday night and by Friday evening it was clear we couldn’t possibly have him with us for the event.  Nothing quite sets you back as much as not having your kids there and not having your parents there.  Yup, it was Nanny Netty to the rescue again (and my dad) They kindly had them and stayed at home whilst Joe and I ran around all weekend.
On the Friday we went to register and attend the novice briefing.  We may have done a few triathlons but we haven’t done this distance and I didn’t want anything going wrong.  I knew they had strict rules on things and I didn’t want to be DQ’d over something I could have learnt at the briefing.  I picked up some good tips.  Best place to put your things, what to do if you panicked in the swim, a reminder of the drafting rules and a joke or two about the ‘flat’ course. (I think the comment was who ever designed the course has a wicked sense of humour).  


We bought a t-shirt each from the expo – the one that has everyone’s name on it – but I didn’t want to tempt fate and buy the actual Edinburgh Finisher tshirt.  I did however plan exactly in my head what I would be buying when I crossed that finish line.  (So many more things than that tshirt ha ha).


Once the briefing was done we did a recce of the run route as it was close by.  ‘It’s not too bad, you get a flat start then it just climbs slowly’ I said as we walked up the first section.

Then we kept walking up, and up, and up.

‘You were saying?!’ Joe said as he turned to me with raised eyebrows.  Hmm, this wasn’t going to be as easy a run as I had pictured.  We went to find the now infamous underground tunnel everyone had been raving about.  It was dark.  It was wet. It was creepy.


I insisted on walking all the way through it to ensure there was no where someone could jump out and try to kill me.  I refused to read the graffiti on the walls as I was convinced it would say ‘R.I.P – what made you think you would get out alive?’

The only way out the tunnel was up another steep hill.  It was short though.  Think positive Ella.

We had to head back through on the Saturday to rack our bags and bike and go to the practise swim.  Tensions were high! Let’s just say we spent a large portion of the day ‘discussing’ things and these ‘discussions’ only got hotter and hotter.  Much like the temperature that day.  There were many clenched fists in the mouth moments.  (Our own clenched fists in our own mouths I hasten to add!) Could have been avoided though, had someone stuck to the plan. Or even made a plan like he was supposed to but no.  Someone knew better.  Because someone  knows everything.

Just saying.

Joe.

Anyway.  A few back and forths, a few u-turns and fast accelerations (I won’t mention the parked car incident) and we headed to the practise swim.

Ah the practise swim.  

It was not smooth.  It was not calm.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to get my wetsuit soaking and not dried before the actual swim so when I saw how rough it was, I said ‘no thanks’.  Yes ok I chickened out.  But I wasn’t alone.  There were a lot of people there and not many who actually got in the water.  No I didn’t expect it to be very calm but I also didn’t want to get a fright or a panic the night before so I passed.  A few from Perth Tri Club went in and they all came out saying it wasn’t as bad as it looked.  A few also came out with cuts and grazes.  I pushed this to the back of my head.  There was already chat about the likely hood of the swim being cut due to the conditions.  I had mixed feelings about this.  I really wanted to do the full distance.  I had trained to do the full distance.  But I had never swam in choppy water like that before.  

As soon as we were home the email came in.  ‘Potential shortened swim’.  

And just as fast – the keyboard warriors were out.

‘That’s ridiculous if they cut the swim, it’s not even cold!’ ‘If you can’t handle a sea swim you shouldn’t enter a 70.3!’ ‘Wales 2015 was much worse and they didn’t cut that’.

Oh my god get over it!! 2015 was 2 years ago!!

The decision would be made at 6am.  And that decision was final.  It would be what it was.  

A quick trip to the supermarket to get a couple of back up gels and I picked up some jelly babies as well to try and eat on the bike.

We packed our bags with the last of our stuff and went to bed early.  Nerves were ridiculously high.  My daughter kept sending me snapchats of her and our youngest which were really cute and helped remind me of one of the reasons I was doing this.  I watched a ridiculous amount of motivational videos on YouTube that I have become addicted to.  I visualised myself at the finish line over and over again.  That was where I was going to be just after lunch time. On. That. Finish. Line.

The Night Before Post

”Twas the night before Ironman70.3

And not a creature was stirring

Well, maybe just for a pee

Two wholesome triathletes 

A man and his wife

Were lying there ‘sleeping’

Contemplating life

Would they survive this ordeal

In the Scottish choppy sea

Or would they succumb to the elements

And walk away saying ‘not for me’

Would the jellyfish make an appearance

And sting them to death

Or would they own the waves and swim them

With every deep (or dying) breath

Would the wind be too strong

And knock them about

All through the course in Edinburgh

Oh there was no doubt

Would the climbs be too steep

And the descents be too much

For this pair of triathletes

Did they have the guts?

And if they made it to the run

And the tunnel of doom

Would they be able to climb that mountain

Or blow up like a balloon

In less than 24hrs

Time would tell

Nothing could be done now

There was no magic spell

They asked themselves ‘why am I doing this’

As they lay there pretending to sleep

Worries running over and over 

Going through their minds on repeat

I might actually die

Was initially the first thought

Not to mention the cost

Of all the gear they had bought 

But you can’t buy pride

Or being able to say ‘I CAN’

And at the very end of this

We will be able say ‘I’m an Ironman!’

Ok maybe just a ‘half’ ironman

In Edinburgh at least

But we might go Full one day

And become Team Iron Beast