Jurassic Park

I can’t sleep. It’s half past 1 in the morning and I’m wide awake. Wide. Awake.

Why?

Well.

Even though my ‘big race’ is less than a week away it’s nothing to do with that. In true Ella style I’m already thinking about my next race. It’s not booked yet, but I know what I want to do. Unfortunately though, it involves a few things I’m not very good at. Cycling, swimming and well, running.

So with that in mind I’ve been trying to increase my non-ability at these things. Trying to turn it into more of a ‘ah well, she’ll get to the finish line, eventually’.

An opportunity to get back open water swimming came up so I donned my rather unused wet suit and trundled down after work on a Friday.

And let me tell you, getting that thing on, after a year of non use isn’t easy!

After a lot of wriggling and jiggling and many, many, many jumps up/down -stretching-left-right-And-over I made my way to the loch (swearing to my self that I will get back to my yoga again). I climbed in rather gingerly and got myself used to the cold before setting off in possibly the worst example of breaststroke ever to be seen. Thank goodness no one from work was there.

I honestly think that one day I will be told that I only passed my swim teacher course because they needed to tick the OAP box on the equality form.

But let’s get back to the loch.

In all fairness it went not too bad for the first time in a year. I eventually managed to get my face in the water for short bursts and although it may have sounded like it, I didn’t die. I did develop a strange kind of ‘hum’ to myself which must have sounded utterly crazy but it calmed me down.

In the end I managed 4 laps which was about 750 metres. Mostly breaststroke, some weird singing/humming to myself, occasional dip of the face in to the water. I left happy I had done it. But also adamant I would need a new wet suit. The tightness on my chest was too much and I struggled to lift my arms high enough to get a decent stroke.

The next day I had no long run to do. With Race To The King in 1 week I wasn’t about to head out for 15 miles. Wanting to build on what I felt had been a good first session we headed out to a different Loch. Joe had swam there many times and I had been a few so I had no worries about it.

Walking down to the edge Joe spotted some fishing rods so told me we would swim straight out so as to avoid them. No problem. It was cold but I felt ok and my wet suit felt slightly less constrictive. I started with breaststroke so I could work up to properly swimming. It was too cold for Joe though and he just wasn’t in the mood so I suggested he head back to the car and warm up whilst I finished off. I was a little surprised when he agreed to this but put it down to him really not wanting to be there and maybe even possibly believing I could actually do this.

I set off back in the same loop we had done. I even put my face in the water. It was very murky so I closed my eyes when I put my face in and opened them again when I breathed. I went a little further out than we had swam but I was ok.

Then I saw a white thing.

Did I? Did I see something? Maybe it was just my hand, I wasn’t wearing gloves.

I swam a little more.

That was definitely a white thing but blink and you miss it.

I tell myself it was my hand again. But. I know my hand is at the end of my arm. My left arm is out stretched. My right arm is by my side. I saw the white thing, in front of me, to the right. My hand that is in front of me, is way over there. On the left.

The panic starts.

What the f@ck, what the f@ck, holy hell.

(I’m actually beginning to panic again just remembering it now).

I swiftly do a 180 and head back. Face is not in the water. I see it again.

Oh my god what if it IS a hand?!?!? It’s not MINE!! Who’s is it???? Oh my god dead bodies, dead bodies, DEAD BODIES!! What if it’s a zombified dead body?? What if I see an actual face, stare at me as it floats past under the water?!?

If I go into full blown panic attack right now then I’m going to be one of those dead bodies. I’m going to fill up with water, my body will be all blue and swollen and disgusting and squishy and oh my god I’m going to throw up.

I have to stop to wretch a couple of times.

Joes on the shore wrapped in his huge blanket – not paying attention to my life and death situation. He’s on his phone. He’s on his bloody phone. What’s he going to do? Film me dying???

Oh man could you imagine if I honestly have to be rescued from this loch? ‘Swim teacher rescued from loch after having a meltdown’. Loads of people swim here all the time, how am I the only one to come across something in here?

I make it back and stumble up to the edge. I decide against telling Joe about the white hand situation. He’s still on his bloody phone anyway. I look at my watch. I’m 100yards away from 1000.

Yup. I head back in. Reasoning it’s only 50 out and back and if I don’t go back in now I won’t have the guts to return another day. Although I’m not overly sure I even want to.

So I head safely past the fishing rods and about turn and come back again. Nope, I don’t like this. But. Job done.

Once I’m home and have had time to calm down I consider asking others if they have ever seen anything in the Loch. I can’t possibly be the only person, surely. I know for a fact it wasn’t my own hand I saw. I was just telling myself that so I didn’t drown. What the hell was it?

The light bulb eventually goes off in my head. It’s about 10pm now, a good solid 8hours later.

I had to swim past fishing rods at the edge. What do you tend to get near fishing rods?

Fish.

I did not know there were fish in that loch! Had I known that, I’m not sure I would have swam myself. No one has ever mentioned fish in there.

Back on dry land after the ‘white hand’ situation

So today I’m telling this story at work to someone I know has swam in the loch before. She immediately says there’s fish in there and she pretty much swims with her eyes closed because of the pikes.

I google images of pikes, not sure if it was this.

Pikes are huge!!!!! Holy mother of god!!! They are f@cking huge!! And they have teeth!!! What kind of a fish has teeth??? Is this a dinosaur fish???!! Are they in Jurassic f@cking park??? Those things EAT PEOPLE!! Like actually eat people!

I genuinely have a nervous breakdown and spend a solid 10 minutes in the bathroom breathing into a paper bag.

Teeth!!!

I’m not getting in that loch again. F@ck. That.

So. I’m no doctor. Or sleep specialist. But my guess is that I can’t sleep tonight, because I can’t breathe properly because I’m reliving the white hand/giant teeth gnarling monster scenario in my head over and over.

Teeth!

Absolutely not. I’m sticking to running.

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And It’s Back To Tri-ing

East Fife Sprint Triathlon.  The day I returned to my Oscar winning performance of ‘look like you’ve just seen someone murdered but you can’t tell anyone or you’ll die too’.  Although being murdered – however gruesomely – was an option I would have been willing to take at some points of today.

750m pool swim.  The distance wasn’t an issue but I know my already questionable technique flounders even more as the time goes on.  I also knew I was slower than the girl who was behind me in the lane so that tap to the foot was a guarantee.  Had it been allowed I would have said she can just go in front from the start.

24km cycle on roads which were not closed.  I’ve been on the roads twice this year.  New Years Day Tri and about a month ago.  I may have done a few spin sessions with the club but it’s not the same.  Goal for the cycle?  Don’t fall or crash.

5km run.  3 miles.  Usually this would be no issue but my IT band had suddenly woken up and that’s not pain I’m used to running with.  In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I would manage the cycle based on the spasms I was getting the 2 days before but what could I do?  Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must – but you’re crossing that finish line.

Joe came along with the kids which was a good distraction.  There were 26 registered from Perth Tri Club and all I kept hearing around me was ‘Joe’s here, Joe Webley, have you seen him?’.   He’s still in the process of adjusting to his meds so he hasn’t been out and about.  I was hoping being there in the atmosphere of a race would keep his head in the game.   A bit of a gamble I know as it could have completely put him off however lets be honest, who doesn’t love their ego being stroked a little – and he loved poking fun at my nerves.

The first 2 heats were the fastest guys then it was slowest to fastest.  I was in heat 5.  Quite a wait to begin which does absolutely nothing to help the butterflies and the nausea feeling – great.  There was some light relief provided in the form of a participants daughter though.  ‘How many people do they have counting your lengths?’  Answer: 2.  ‘But there’s 6 in a lane – how can they count 6 people!’.  ‘She just hit a swimmer with a float!’.  The mother kept apologising saying she had never seen a triathlon before.  It was a welcomed tension breaker.

The physio I had seen at the New Years Day Tri was in heat 3 so I had time to cheer her on before I had to go get ready for my heat.  Once changed I sat at pool side in my usual ‘I want to die’ stance.  ‘You look pretty nervous’ – it was a regular from the pool whom I had no idea would be here.  I thought it best not to say what a crap swimmer I am given I lifeguard when he is there.

In the pool now and I decide against the offer of a 50m warm up.  I just want to get this started.  There is 5 seconds between each swimmer but the person in front of me hasn’t turned up so there is now a 10 second gap between me and the guy in front.  I know it won’t be long before the girl behind me needs past either.  Surprisingly I don’t go out too fast.  I want to catch the guy in front but I’m not going to go hell for leather in the first 50m.  I’m on his toes before long and I feel a tap behind me so I wait at the end to be passed and then go in front.  Thus then begins a swim of him drafting me, touching my toes and then falling back so I’m waiting ages at the wall for him to pass and then because he has no one to draft he’s slower and I have to pass him.  Frustrating does not quite cut it.  Especially not when he didn’t always stop and let me past.  I’m frustrated even further when I realise I haven’t started my watch.  Are you kidding me!  I have no idea how far I have swum, what pace I am doing, nothing!  Anger kicks in and when the guy in front doesn’t stop at the wall the next time he gets a big old slap on the ankle.  Yes he does!

Last 2 laps and he isn’t getting past me.  I’m not in the mood.

I climb out the pool and head to the bike.  I’m fine on the tiles but as soon as I hit the gravelly car park I turn in to a fairy and start prancing around on my tip toes – it was sore!  It’s also cold so I fight with my straight jacket trying to put it on whilst repeating over and over ‘don’t touch the bike, helmet on, don’t touch the bike’.  Not the best chant to be honest as there is a high likely hood that I would actually leave transition 1 without my bike.  Best change that for future.  I cross the mount line and decide to zip up my top before getting on.  I can put my gloves on whilst cycling but I’m not convinced I’m pro-cyclist enough to zip a jacket.  There would be definite wobble going on.  And I’m not talking thighs or bottom lip (maybe double chin though).

So I’m on the bike and I know this is not only going to hurt but I’m going to suck at this part.  I’m just not a cyclist.  Probably (read that as factually) because I don’t ever ride my bike.  Could have something to do with it, who knows.  This will change though as my working hours are changing so I have no excuse not to cycle to work.  (Kind of hoping no one is going to read that).  I’m over taken by a few and I notice that they are all pedalling faster than me on the incline.  I remember talking to John when we were waiting to start.  He’s a mountain biker/cyclo cross rider and he had mentioned he was going to spin his legs on this ride.  Well.  He bloody knows better than me so I drop a few gears and push on.  This strategy does me well.  At least as well as someone who should still have stabilisers on can do.  Jo from the club goes past me and I manage a shout out to her.  She’s invited me out a few times for a cycle but due to work etc I haven’t managed.  Also, I’m not completely confident I could keep up with her.

Well now’s the time to try!  I put some effort in and go for it.  She’s bloody fast.  We come to a sharp left and typically I all but slow to a halt and she briefly goes out of my sight.  Damn it.  I eventually get her back in my sights but as soon as she turns to go up the climb that’s it.  Game over.  My full concentration is now on the fact I am trying to get my legs to keep pedalling up this hill whilst fully aware I am clipped in and highly likely to perform an extremely slow fall to the side whilst the guy behind me shouts ‘TIMBER!’.  Thankfully this doesn’t happen.  I get up out of my seat and try to force my legs round before sitting back down again.

It is at this point I remember I am still in my tri-suit which I wore for the swim.  There is ever so slight padding in my tri-suit for a certain area.  Padding which appears to retain water for a little time.  Nothing quite like a cold squelchy feeling when cycling up a hill in to the wind and cold.  No one told me about that!

The cycle was 2 loops so I knew I had to go round again (this time I didn’t stand up, one squelch was enough thank you).  As I came to the end there were 2 signs – Sprint to the left and Duathlon straight on.  The marshall again directed me left.  Hmmmm.  I’ve done this twice now and can’t see where the turn would be to transition.  I am NOT doing that hill again.  I keep going but I’m slowing down as this doesn’t feel right.  Another cyclist goes past and out of nowhere I say to him ‘I think I’m going the wrong way’.  He asks if I have done my loops and then tells me yup, I am wrong.  Should have gone straight on.

I turn back around and head back.

As I come back in for the run Scott and Kathleen (also tri club members) are standing cheering.  I shout out to them I went the wrong way.  I can kind of see the funny side.  I’m not a top cyclist so it’s not going to affect anything.

Into transition and I also tell Joe.  Oliver rather ‘helpfully’ tells me what way to run out of transition.  There are a couple of people who come in at the same time and I head out trying to make sure I am not overtaken.  I grab some water at the station and naturally choke a little on it.  For me it is virtually impossible to drink and keep running.  Absolute nightmare.  And do you know how much it hurts your throat when you choke on water?!

Anyway.  Back to the run.  It’s only a 5km so there’s not much to say.  I get onto the playing fields and Scott and Kathleen are there.  Kathleen’s cheering and Scott’s shouting obscenities/encouragement like ‘at least put SOME effort into it’.  I’m not going to lie.  Being shouted at to run and move faster pushes me on more than being told I’m doing great.  Probably because it’s been a while since I have done great a race ha ha.  Definitely a coaching mentality ha ha.

Nigel’s up ahead and I decide to try and catch him.  I’ve left it too late but I’m pleased I still had a little something in the tank for the finish.  I check my finishing times and overall I am quite happy.  It has given me starting times to work on.  Joan checks I didn’t fall off my bike and I very happily tell her no, I did not.

I go and get changed and grab my bike as Joe is keen to get home.  I can’t find him when I come out of the bike area so I walk to the car with Deborah.  She was as nervous as me and we had a little competition for last place.  Neither of us won.  She has parked right next to us bit Joe isn’t here and the car is locked so I turn to head back.  As I do so I some how tangle my feet up on the bike and before I know it – yup, you guessed it – I am face planting my bike frame and then lying on the ground with my right ankle twisted under the pedal.  I wasn’t even ON the thing!!  I was pushing it!!

Deborah is just stood there looking at me as if I am a 2 year old child at the end of an almighty tantrum and asks in a plain voice ‘Are you ok’.  She’s probably just as mortified as me.  I scuttle back to find Joe so we can get home.

Next up is Stirling Marathon.  This means no bikes to fall over and no wet crotches.  I’m not going for a PB but I would like a respectable time.  Then it’s a couple of ultra’s and more work on swimming and cycling.  I have to admit I really enjoyed doing a triathlon again.  I’m definitely not done with that.

 

A Punch To The Gut

Joe hasn’t been training as late due to not being well but now that we have a diagnosis for him and treatment has started things have been looking up for him.  So with that in mind I suggested we both go to the tri clubs swimming session last week.  To my surprise he agreed so I sorted child care (faithful Nanny to the rescue again) and searched for my swimming costume.  I couldn’t find the usual one I wear so had to grab my spare.  This would mean that instead of looking like an 8 year old little boy I was going to be paranoid over yet another camel toe situation.   The question remains – how can someone as small as myself have an ongoing issue with camel toes?

I don’t actually get a camel toe from said costume.  It’s just that, to me, it’s extremely high cut and therefore makes me feel very, very self conscious.  I reasoned with myself that once I was in the water it would be fine as no one would be able (or even want to) be looking in that area anyway.  I would just be the first in the water and the last out.  Job done.

On Wednesday’s the faster group swims first and the slower/not so fast/people like me who clearly have lane issues swim second.  So I sat at the side with another from my group – also called Jo but no ‘e’ – watching the first group and their coached session.

They swam a few lengths for warm up then headed down the deep end.  This is intriguing I thought as I babbled away to Jo about my stroking of another person on Monday, near death experience from ‘attack of the pug’ and the issues us women have of swimming costumes.  We chatted away occasionally glancing up at the deep end (we were monitoring but some of these swimmers are full Ironmen – not your typical parent I see at the pool holding their kids heads under the water to teach them a lesson (true story – you wouldn’t believe what I see at work!).

I’m talking away to Jo and as I look to the deep end to try and figure out what their session is I suddenly see the strangest thing.   Did I…..are they….no, I’m not seeing this right….really?

Yup.  I am indeed seeing this right.  They are practising floating.  I teach this to kids?  Really?  Well, ok, I can see some benefit to ensuring you are comfortable in the water and you get the feeling of being in control etc.  I find it quite tranquil actually so I begin to look forward to doing it in my session.

I get changed and jump in when it’s time to switch over and warm up.  The plan going well that no one can see my costume.  When I’m done I glance at the board.  It has been scrubbed and the tranquil session I thought I was about to have has been replaced with arm drills.  Hmmf.  Still.  Could be worse.  At least it isn’t leg drills.  We set off and complete the drills – hard at first until I get used to the feeling of swimming really slow but concentrating on my arms.  Drills done we congregate at the pool end again and the coach explains what we are about to do.

Get in to pairs and split the lane.  First person in the pair sprints 50m whilst the other climbs out and planks at the side until they finish.  She wants us to work on our core.  I hesitate, bearing in mind I’m wearing a costume I’m pretty sure would give a Kardashian a run for their money on inappropriateness.  This is uncomfortable.  I try not to draw attention to it and decide the best plan of action is to immediately get down in the plank position.  This however comes with it’s own set of issues.  A swimming costume does not hold ANYTHING in.  I try to ‘suck in my stomach’ but gravity clearly has the upper hand and starts messing with my head.  So now I am not only trying to prevent any wardrobe mishaps and end up looking like a desert animal who holds probably about the same amount of water as I am at this moment but I’m also trying to prevent my stomach from dangling down in a very slime like action.

How come the other group got FLOATING?!?!?  Bloody floating!!  Fat floats – I can float!!

Joes at the side in hysterics.  This is the last time I try and encourage him to get back in to working out.  Stuff it.  Let him get fat.  Then I won’t look like an oozing puddle of fatness at the side of the pool.

The planks turn in to squats and then press ups.  I turn in to a heap on the floor.  At one point I pretty much gave up and just had a nap whilst Jo pushed herself through what was now feeling like an impossible 50m sprint swim because all of our arms were dead.

They got floating!!

Session over and I now no longer care about any animal or Kardashian and just feel sorry for myself.  I thought my core was not bad but this just proved it’s not good.  The following couple of days confirmed this.  I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.  Although weirdly enough just on one side.  A colleague offered to even that up for me the next day.  I declined and stopped moaning about it so much ha ha.

So there you go.  Try and do a good thing by encouraging your partner to get back in the swing of things and you end up getting put through the pain mill.

I will of course be trying that session again.  Naturally.  I’m not letting basic exercises like that get the better of me.  I will however NOT be wearing the spare costume but will instead be covered neck to knee with the strongest spandex swim suit I can find.  Trust me, no one needs to see that ha ha.

 

 

2019 – it starts again

Edinburgh’s New Years Day Tri was my first ever triathlon back in 2016.  I did it again in 2017 along with Joe but last year I decided to give it a miss.  Now.  Call me ridiculous, over-analytical or just down right weird but part of me kind of thinks that may have been the start of the downfall that was 2018.  Not over dramatic at all.  Not even slightly.  Believing I may have ruined my year on the very 1st day?  Slight exaggeration?  Some may say possibly.  But moving on…

So, obviously, I signed back up for 2019.  400 metre swim, 12 mile cycle, 3 miles ish (lies!) run.  Less than a basic training day right?

Oh how wrong can you be!  Even after all this time I am still making absolute rookie mistakes.  You have to wonder how I manage to get dressed in a morning some times.  (Although I did forget my shorts last month at work – long story, not a pretty picture.  It’s ok though, I at least had pants on.)

You see it may have been a basic training day, an easy swim distance, nothing I can’t do on a bike, and I am still running – but I forgot a fundamental part.  Putting it all together.  And maybe, just maybe, I didn’t really cycle that much.  Or, like, ever.  Until the night before.  (Scariest cycle ever!!  I go blind in the dark!  And before you even say it there aren’t enough carrots in the world that can cure that).

Yup.  I got cocky.  Well not really.  I always knew it wasn’t going to be an all world athlete performance.  But I probably should have made a little more effort to put it all together.

What I wasn’t expecting was the nerves.  My lord I hadn’t felt like that since the first time I was there.  I couldn’t look Joe in the eye for fear of crying, couldn’t really speak either (although pretty sure he loved that part).  It was bad.  Waiting in the queue to get my race number and timing chip there was nervous chatter all around me.  ‘I just hope no one dies like they did at Kyle’s race.’

Well that’s not bloody helpful is it!!  I moved away from them quick smart – which was probably the fastest I moved all day.  In the changing room I bumped into the fantastic physio who had got me through Race To The Stones.  Turned out it was her first ever triathlon.  She was giving it a try.  We chatted about tips and stuff and how it was just a better way to spend New Years than with a pounding headache and memory loss.  Then I headed out to poolside for the race brief – ever the stickler for the race brief.  Much to my mortification the man with the microphone decided to tell us to turn to the person next to us and wish them a happy new year.  My eyes went wide, my face went white, I visibly started shaking, nooooo!  Human contact with strangers!!  Please don’t, please don’t, please don’t.  The woman next to me eyed me up.  I knew what was coming.  It was like slow motion.  She looked, she saw the fear, she oh so briefly paused, then she decided nah, I’m going to do it.  ‘I know you don’t want to and this is probably the worst thing to happen to you but Happy New Year’.  I smiled back at her and laughed a little as I wished her the same back.  I had been too nervous to stop my reaction appearing on my face.  I had basically asked for it.

nyd 3

I watched the first swimmers take off, truly in awe of their courage.  Many were breast stroking, there were not many swim caps and there were a few even without goggles.  But they were all going for it.  They may not have been the fastest but they were the most impressive.  I headed down and spotted a woman from the tri club sitting at the side.  She was doing a relay with another from the tri club and a woman I know from the running club.  She had estimated her swim time much better than me and was starting earlier than me.  I was very concerned about my estimate as we swim at pretty much the same speed.  It’s not a great feeling being over taken in the lane by a stream of people.  We chatted a little (very hard with swim caps on your ears) and she helped calm my nerves without even knowing it I don’t think.

nyd 1

She headed to the queue and I lingered at the edge.  I knew the physio lady would be swimming down the lane soon.  Sure enough I spotted her and shouted out.  She paused and looked back.  Oh hell did I just put her off? Damn it.  I always get carried away cheering.  She was doing really good as well, looked comfortable.

Then it was my turn.  I remembered from last time not to jump in and head to the bottom of the pool instead of forward.  I didn’t get a push off the wall but it was ok.  All in all the whole swim felt ok.  I didn’t panic, my breathing was smooth, I may have hit my head on every single lane rope (I’m clearly way too attached to these things) but it generally felt ok.  I only counted about 4 people who over took me although I rarely saw anyone in the lane behind me which I found odd.  Climbing out I stopped my watch.  9 minutes something.  Appears my pace was not ‘ok’ then but more on the slow side.  Or did that say 8 minutes something?  Could be.  I would be happy with that.

In to transition and could I get my jumper on?  Absolutely not.  Had I swallowed half the pool and now I was carrying water weight?  This is a high possibility.  After much pulling and under the breath bad words I finally got it on and pushed my bike out with a quick wave to Joe and Oliver.  Could I remember what to do next though?  When am I allowed to get on the bike?  Is it straight out of the gate? Am I missing something?  I keep pushing it hoping someone goes by me to give me a clue.  I’m on the outside road now and convinced I should be riding the thing.  Am I going to push it all the way round the course??  I’m going to be mega embarrassed if someone shouts at me ‘do you not know what that things for love!’.  Finally I see a line on the floor and a marshall and it comes back to me.  This is whats called a mount line Ella.  Mount the bike.  Doh.

The cycle is uneventful.  The incline is hard and the downhill is fun.  I thank my lucky stars I went to the static bike sessions with the tri club as although there may only have been a few, it helped.  I consider my swim time and wonder again if it was possibly 8 minutes something and not 9 minutes.  I would find out soon.  The entire time round I am doing 2 things.  Praying I don’t get a puncture and wondering how on earth I managed to do a half ironman! Seriously?  You need to get your butt in gear lassie.  Get over your fear of the bike, do proper swim training and well, just keep running.

In to transition again and it’s out for the run.  I inevitably get jelly legs – did I do any brick training?  Can I walk out of a sports shop without buying a new running top?  – but I force myself up the hill and then back down again.  Not lightening fast but there’s the line and now my year has started right.

Caroline, the runner in the relay team, is just ahead of me at the water table.  She’s loved it.  I’m not surprised.  It’s been a great day.  I bump in to the physio lady in the changing room again and she’s hooked.  She’s definitely going to be at another one soon.  I grab some hot ginger from the Active Root stall and hold it very close to my heart – it’s the tastiest thing ever.  I may have even whispered ‘I love you’ in to the cup.  It was cold.  It heated me up.  Don’t judge.

So that’s that.  My year started the way it should be and a nudge in the right direction.  I’ve got some running races booked this year but I’m going to be doing more triathlon too.  Time to get back at it.

Oh and my swim time was most definitely not 8 minutes something ha ha.  Ah well.

nyd 2

 

Everything’s Changed

Work, life, goals, expectations and now even the weather. Everything’s changed. I’ve started a new job. Routines need put in place. School starts soon. And of course there’s the World Championships.

Life is different.

And with Race To The Stones now well and truly behind me it’s time to look for new race goals. Naturally, I’ve spotted a few.

So with that in mind I decided to embark upon a new exercise regime and build up my legs to help carry me over miles and miles of running. (Oh yeah, I’m not done with the ultras).

I’m now working shifts so I have to be ridiculously organised if I want to do anything at all. So yesterday I booked Oliver in to the creche so I could get a gym and swim session in before work. I did a few of my usual routines in the gym including weighted squats and lunges.

Big mistake. Huge!

Second set of the squats and the wobble appeared. I laughed to myself, realising I had picked up heavier weights than normal. Hadn’t thought much of it. Third set and it was a bit more than a wobble. Oh man.

On to the treadmill and as I raised my hand to increase the speed I paused. An image of me falling down and being torpedoed across the room flashed across my eyes. ‘Think I will just walk this off for a bit.’

2 and a half measly miles is all I managed once I got going. However the swim after did help a bit but by the end of my shift at work I had clocked up 28,000 steps and crawling in to bed after midnight I knew today was going to be a rest day.

The problem with getting injured is the ridiculously slow recovery you have to go through. Obviously I didn’t help by adding extra weight to the squats and lunges than when I’m 100% good! But hey, we all make mistakes.

So today I took the youngest to soft play. (Because rest days aren’t torture enough). I’m walking about the same John Wayne style as just a few weeks ago which is amusing. Still no t-shirt to justify it to the raised eyebrows I got however. And sitting there reading a book entitled ‘Why Mummy Drinks’ whilst clearly not able to play with my child probably didn’t score me any more points with the brood of perfect mothers with perfect children either. (They don’t run though, they ‘hot yoga’).

Step count for today? 5000.

I’m not bothered though. I’m actually beginning to feel happier again. And I’m looking forward to taking on another ultra. Especially now I know what to expect. I know what will bother me and I know not to let it. That’s the key.

I also need to find a marathon before the end of the year I can still enter. Oh yes, London is still very much on my mind.

And a little update on the heart situation. MRI showed an enlarged heart, which isn’t a big thing (no pun intended ha ha) and not anything to worry about. Mr Cardio wants to refer me on to his friend who does genetic testing.

Genetic testing?

Oh my god I’m going to be the next Spider-Man!! I am actually going to be Wonder Woman! Well ok maybe not Wonder Woman but at the very least I could be her little sister!! Little Wonder Woman. My new name! I could actually be a super hero!

No, I have no idea what genetic testing is. But Mr Cardio sounded very excited about it and he said his friend is very interested in my test results. As long as it doesn’t involve anything like a MRI machine I don’t really care. I just heard genetics and instantly pictured Peter Parker being bit by a spider.

Hey this might finally get me my GFA! Ha ha.

But just in case I have my training plan as a back up. I’m willing to put in the work and as a family we have a few exciting things left this year so finally I can say ‘all is good.’

Happy days

Baywatch – not quite

A few weeks ago I signed up to do something never in my life had I ever considered doing before – a Lifeguard course.

Yup. She who swims like a dead fly thought being a lifeguard was achievable.

I will give you a minute to stop laughing and wipe the tears from your eyes…..

Ok. Let’s start with signing up.

There weren’t any courses in my city within the next few weeks of me deciding this but there was one in the next city. This had its benefits. It would be unlikely I would know any one there so I could keep it secret, and, with the extremely high chance of me failing, this would mean fewer people finding this out. Why should that be a concern? It shouldn’t. But it is. I find it very difficult when people talk about me.  But I’m working on ignoring it.

So I signed up to do it in Dundee.  What a call that was.  Oh my.  I may have previously worked in a call centre but I wasn’t on the phones.  This turns out to be a good thing as I am useless on the telephone.  There is no delete button and I blurt things out without thinking.  ‘Am I the oldest on the course?  I mean I don’t really care as I am doing it anyway but a heads up if I am going to be the granny in the corner would be good.’  The woman on the other end of the phone found this hilarious – don’t know why.  She basically said without checking dates of birth she couldn’t tell me but they do get a range of ages however most are quite young.  Cue panic number one.  Founded on embarrassment and confirmation that I will indeed be the wrinkly in the white bobble swim cap.  Great.

The course was 30 miles away presenting Fear Number 2. Finding the bloody place. For someone who gets lost in a packet of crisps this is the stuff night terrors are made of. Just during the day. Awake. And living through it.  I had to leave before I could drop the kids off and wouldn’t be back until late so it was old faithful Nanny to the rescue again.  What would we do without my mum?

Needless to say the night before I got very little sleep.  The clock said 4:30am the last time I looked at it and the alarm went off at 6am.  So many fears going through my head.  Could I really do this?  I’ve never considered myself a good swimmer.  Should I be doing this?  I’m 36 and have 3 kids, I have responsibilities.  The easy and obvious choice would be an office job surely.   What if I couldn’t do it?  Didn’t pass?  Could I take yet another blow this year?

3 wrong turns and a near collision because I was in the wrong lane and I was sat in the car park at the college.  Deep breaths Ella, deep breaths.  I had forced down a banana for breakfast knowing that I would need energy and had sipped on a red bull to try and get me awake.  The instructor was called Marco and he was from Italy.  His accent was strong and he had been doing this for a long time.  ‘You’re not actually the oldest here’ he said to me.

Mortified.  I was mortified.  Quite clearly my little slip on the telephone had done the rounds.

We started with learning how to use the torpedo and how to pull someone.  I repeatedly caught my feet in the strap and kept getting burns.  But I had to be able to pull someone holding on to it for 20 metres – fast.  And that someone was guaranteed to be bigger than me.  Then, as if that wasn’t going to be hard enough, I had to dive 3 metres and retrieve a heavy manikin.

Excuse me how deep?? That’s literally twice my height!  No word of a lie!  What number of Fear am I up to now?

After a morning in the pool we had a break and were able to catch our breath and talk to each other.  It was a class of 12 and we ranged from just turning 16 the week before to over 40.  There was even a fellow mum there.  The rest of the day was spent in the classroom before returning to the pool to learn more holds.

Unsurprisingly I was exhausted when I got home.  And I had a book the size of War and Peace to read through.

The next day was much the same.  Although this time I managed to cut it down to just 2 wrong turns on the way there.  I passed the swim test and I retrieved the manikin.  I almost kept a straight face when Marco referred to 2 guys on the course as ‘sinkers’ – his translations weren’t always the most accurate shall we say.  Luckily the guys he was referring to took it in good spirits (although one of them looked like he had zero body fat and was skin and bones – sinker was an interesting word for that one).  I wasn’t fast in the pool at all but I wasn’t the slowest.  I had to work really hard but I could do it.  Just.  This scared me.  I didn’t want to just scrape through.  The threat of failing was always there.  Marco stayed and chatted to 3 of us after the pool on Tuesday and we practised a bit more.  I went home feeling slightly better, but definitely not confident.  I was also covered in bruises – from swimming? – getting in and out of a pool is hazardous for your health!

Wednesday came and it all went wrong.  It will forever be known as Woeful Wednesday.  It started with the journey there.  I added a speeding ticket to my 2 wrong turns, 1 wrong lane and now bump on the kerb.  I almost got lost in the campus trying to get to the pool – yes the same pool I had spent the last 2 days in.  Worst of all, I failed my swim test.  I had to get under 45 seconds and I was 46.  When I was towing the casualty back with my arm we just didn’t move through the water.  The problems kept on coming.  I dropped the manikin in the deep water rescue and almost didn’t surface with it first time.  In the final exam you get one chance and one chance only.  Then my hand slipped pulling myself out the water and I landed on my shoulder with a thud.  Something else to add to my embarrassment and multitude of bruises.  In the classroom I felt I wasn’t picking anything at all up and when ever I asked a question Marco didn’t seem to understand me.

That night I sent a frantic essay of a message to a guy in the road runners who was a lifeguard.  He gave me a call.  ‘Ok, first thing, take a breath, stop panicking.  Why are you doing it in a 3 metre pool though?  Perth pools are only 1.8’.  He talked me through what the assessment would be, the key things I would need to know for the exam and for being in the job.   As it turns out he is an assessor too.  I spent the entire time kicking myself for not waiting until he was running a course.  Why was I putting myself through this when the pool in Perth isn’t as deep as 3 metres?   What was I thinking?  Just because I was a wimp and was scared someone might recognise me – what do you think is going to happen if you end up working at your local pool?  That no one at all you know from your 36 years of living in the same place is going to come in?  They are all going to stop going?  Put your big girl pants on for god sake!  Honestly!

Thanks to that call I did manage some sleep that night but not much.  I kept dreaming I was going to slip and bang my head, fall in the water, blood pouring everywhere, Marco annoyed at the mess I was making, everyone looking at me and shaking their heads – not saving me because I should be able to save myself, and then of course there were ‘things’ in the water.  Something else to add to the long list of failures of 2018.  It’s no wonder I didn’t really sleep.

In the car on Thursday morning and I was white as a sheet feeling sick as a dog.  I had dropped to only 30% convinced I could do this.  The chat I had the night before was great and it had helped calm me down so I tried to just think about what he had said and that he was honest admitting it is a tough course.  Driving along and Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger came on.  I started tapping the wheel.  Kind of out of nervousness but also out of a bit of ‘come on, push yourself a little’.  I started singing along.  I got louder and louder.  The tears started.  First just a few drops but very quickly that was it.  Floods of tears, eyes streaming, voice screaming along to the radio.  ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you STRONGER, stand a little TALLER’.  Oh what a sight!!

But it worked.  I needed to get it out.  I felt slightly better.  Slightly stronger.

Can you smell the cheese?

Standing at the pool waiting for the swim test and I was back to shaking.  Well that burst in the car didn’t last long.  I asked my swim partner if I could go first.  She could tell I was nervous as hell – THAT I am 100% confident of!  ‘Of course you can, don’t worry, we will practise as much as you need’.  She had failed it the day before as well and was also nervous but she had a strong resolve of just trying again.  I had a plan though.  On the first test I had 15 seconds to spare.  If I held back on that one I could give more on the second. I had to get under 45 seconds on it. I couldn’t take failing on it.  It would kill me.

First swim done and it went as planned.  Then it was straight on to the second.  Nerves were just horrendous.

‘3 whistles lifeguard going in’ – I was off.  I reached my casualty and I was on the way back.  My legs have never kicked so hard in my life.  I was trying to pull exactly as I had been told.  I crossed the line and looked desperately up at Marco.  ’38 seconds’.

‘Fuck yes! Oh god sorry for my language!’  The relief was immediate.  I needed that.  My partner nailed her swim test too.  As for the manikin – not easy but done.

Friday was much the same.  Pool in the morning with the swim test and holds, classroom before and after lunch then back to the pool.  We were put in to 2 groups of six and our group worked well together.  We took tips from the younger ones who were club swimmers and we shared advice with them on how to study for the questions.  Turns out we all had our strengths and that in itself helped to boost confidence.

Saturday was exam day.  It was an early start of 8.30am and through what can only be described as a miracle I found myself sitting in the car park at 7.30am.  No wrong turns.  But maybe a wrong lane.  It’s hard to tell.  Sitting outside in the sun everyone started to arrive and we discussed holds, CPR and nerves.  I was unsure I was going to pass this and even though you get a few weeks to re-sit I really didn’t want to be in that position.  No it wouldn’t make any difference in reality but in my head, it would.

Standing at the side of the pool and there was only 11 of us.  One of the younger lads hadn’t turned up.  The assessor asked someone to call him.  No answer.  An important part of being a lifeguard is being on time as a pool can never be left unattended.  We had our first fail.

Swim test was first.  I wanted to get mine out the way but it was assessors choice so I ended up in the second group.  Deep breaths.  In and out.  Slowly.  First test done.  Straight on the second.  A quick look at the clock and I can see I have done it.  Oh thank god!  We worked our way through the rest of the pool test.  It was intense.  There were tears from a few.  I heard the assessor from the other group say he had never seen anyone do a hold like that before and don’t ever do it again.  This was intense.

We re-grouped in the showers before the classroom test.  The other group had been told they had all passed the water test but they couldn’t get a single thing wrong in the classroom.  Our assessor hadn’t told us if we had passed or not.

I was confident with the questions so tried to focus on that.  I’m a bookworm, I can study, and if it is something I’m interested in I will research the sh!t out of it.  Yup.  You found my geek spot.  Unfortunately we were in a gym hall next to another gym hall that was holding a HIIT class.  So questions went like this ‘give a sign and symptom of go deeper 2,3,4‘.  Nightmare.

We moved on to the CPR to find the other group had finished.  Out of the 5 of them that had turned up 2 had failed.  We were up to 3 fails.

CPR done and it was an anxious wait.  I tried so hard to tell myself I could re-sit in a couple of weeks and I would be more relaxed with it.  I expected the fail.

So when he said I had passed, well, to say I was happy is an understatement!  I had done it!

This was different from anything I have ever done before.  When I have signed up to something there has always been a time I could see myself crossing the finish line.  With this, for some reason I just couldn’t picture that conversation of ‘you’ve passed’.  And I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s because this is more serious.  If I’m the lifeguard on and get something wrong someone could actually die.  No one loses their life if I don’t finish my race or don’t run it within a time I had set myself.  We had 4 fails in the end out of 12 who had started the course.  We had someone injure their knee in the pool, someone who was sick after a swim test because they were pushing themselves so hard – and we all had the shakes from nerves.

I have no idea why I failed my swim test that once but that’s all it takes to remove that last sliver of confidence you have.  My mid-week freak out was only calmed down by being able to speak to someone who understood and I trusted.   Instead of shutting down I was honest and asked for help.  When I told my friend about my speeding ticket and he replied ‘shame you don’t swim that fast’ it didn’t help in the same way no, but it made me laugh.  (and he better hope I never have to save him as I bet he could reach the bottom of the 3 metre people he’s that big, ha ha)

So my first steps in changing career are done.  I’m on the first rung of a ladder that goes 40 storeys high and no doubt 300 metres wide.  Let’s see where this takes me.

Worms, Spots and Life

I am bored.

Actually I’m more than bored – I’m beyond bored.

What do people DO all day??

I get to about 9:30am and I’m hanging upside down off the couch contemplating what life even means.

Not dramatic at all, nope.

What’s making it worse is I’m now on taper.

Taper. Who came up with that word? Where did it come from? ‘Oh, I know, runners need to reduce their running before a big race so let’s annoy them even more by calling it a stupid name!’ Pah.

Taper.

That’s a worm!

‘Are you not running Ella?’

‘No, I’m tapering’.

‘Oh, You’ve got worms?!’

And so it goes on.

I did do a trail race at the weekend though. 4 miles, 2 loops of some difficult hills. Came 4th female!! Lost third on the last hill, gutted. First in my age category though.

Of course there was only just over 50 runners……. minor detail.

So back to the taper.

It’s very difficult when you have a lot of time on your hands. I usually end up going for a little run or heading to the gym.

Shall we talk about my new gym?

Yes. Let’s.

So naturally I’m looking for my new ‘spot’. Surprisingly for me I’m comfortable in the middle section. Usually I like to find the quietest corner and sneak in and out unnoticed. I’ve been drifting to the same locker each time too in the middle so looks like it could be ‘the one’.

However…

(Oh come on you knew it wasn’t going to be that easy).

It has become apparent that the times I like to go to the gym are the same times your older type woman does. And they like to spread their shit EVERYWHERE! The bench in the changing room is huge. I mean you could stick a mattress on it and sleep comfortably.

So why then, do these women insist on taking up the whole thing?

I’m small. My stuff is small. I have ONE bag. One. Unlike you. You have your designer handbag. Your family sized hold-all that could contain the rest of the bedroom furniture and that you empty on to the bench because, you know, why would you not need two hairbrushes, your makeup bag, your small make up bag, your hairspray, your clean clothes for after, last weeks newspaper, this weeks lottery numbers, next year’s calendar right in front of you right now?!?!

I’m not a bolshy kind of girl so I won’t even politely ask someone if they could possibly give me an inch of the bench a la Oliver Twist style. I will struggle in the tiniest of spots in front of my locker, try to get dried and changed and not drop all my stuff. Because I don’t want to be rude.

At least, that’s what I used to be like. Before I had my precious spot wrenched from under me in the most vile way. Not just a number? ‘Ok then’.

She was small. She had a huge bag. She also had two smaller bags?? She had a coat. She had a Club La Santa water bottle so in my opinion, she should have been clued up on ‘space in the changers’. She was wearing a bikini when I waddled in from the pool so she obviously wasn’t going for a proper swim. She had no goggles either. The kitchen sink yes but no goggles. Sherlock Holmes deduced she was going to the sauna. There was no room for me to even place my goggles on the bench. She somehow even managed to take up the area beside the bench as well with her locker door wide open so I was left to drip at the side blocking the walkway. After the third ‘excuse me’ of people wanting past I snapped.

This was ridiculous.

I stormed all of the two steps over to my locker, opened the door and left it wide open and put my wet goggles and water bottle on the tiniest of squares on the bench – knocking some of her stuff off. (That was an accident – but I didn’t pick it up).

She. Tutted.

So I proceeded to strip out of my swimming costume not carefully so yes, she may have gotten splashed, it’s certainly no bikini. You could probably cover a small country in the amount of material but I’m there to swim. Not prance around or pretend to workout. And I’ve found when in the changing rooms many others get very uncomfortable with nudity. I used to be one of them. Getting changed under a towel or covering myself up whilst taking one piece off and trying desperately to put another on. Now I don’t care. The faster I get changed the faster I can get to the gym or the pool and get things done. And quite frankly, if you don’t like what you see, don’t look. There are plenty of mirrors for you to stare at your own beautiful body.

She didn’t like this either. She moved some of her stuff away from me. Presumably because she thought my nakedness would infect her Louis Vuitton bag with I don’t know what but hey, it worked. I quickly dumped my Ironman bag on to what was now ‘my spot’.

Along with my Asda carrier bag. Balance and all that.

Mission accomplished. I did feel slightly triumphant but I’m also aware that by this stage I was also slightly hangry so that wouldn’t have helped. It’s done now though. And she still had at least 3 quarters of the bench.

So overall I would say tapering is going well ha ha. Sorry, my worms are going well. I’ve got my fiftieth Parkrun on Saturday which I’m running with Lorner and the clubs ten mile race on Sunday. My appointment with Mr Cardio is booked for after Manchester which means I can concentrate on GFA. I’m under strict instructions to take it easy until our chat and I’m not stupid. I know if I push it he could pull the plug on some of my events so I will heed his advice and if any symptoms start then the goal will just be the finish line.

It is what it is.