Race To The King 2019

Race To The King 2019

What a weekend I’ve had!

Saturday was Race To The King – this years ‘A’ race for me. I had to do better than Race To The Stones last year. That race was my wake up call. A true learning into the world of long distance running.

The original plan was to start the 500 mile journey at about 4am on Friday. This meant I could pack Thursday after work and take my time. Then Joe threw a spanner in the works and suggested/decided we were leaving as soon as I finished on Thursday. Now. I may have had a list but I hadn’t checked it so this made me a little stressed (and naturally I spent all day moaning about it because that helps).

We rented the campervan we had used in Skye giving us ample room so I launched everything I could think of in it. Dropped the kids at my parents and started down the road.

Usually the kids would come with us but I was in such a state after The Stones Lucie was a little unnerved so we decided against it.

We drove a few hundred miles then kipped in the camper before setting off again. I had picked out a camp site for the night but hadn’t had a reply from them so I spent much of the journey on the phone talking to their answer machine. I knew they had to answer at some point though so I wasn’t worried.

Joe hadn’t looked at anything about the race before now but noticed on the gps we were heading close to where his side of the family were. A couple of messages later and we took a slight detour to go and have lunch with them. Nothing quite beats seeing the youngest member of the tribe, a cousin on her birthday or a grandad who was on top form with his jokes. My face hurt from laughing so much.

It really was a flying visit though so after stocking up on chocolate biscuits (thanks aunty) we headed onwards to refuel the camper. At this point I eventually got through to the campsite. ‘Ah sorry we are full, there’s an event on’ they tell me. Oh no. ‘I can give you a number for another one though, it’s only 5 minutes up the road’. Phew. He gives me the number and the post code, a very helpful guy. I look at the post code. Hmm. I check the area code. Cambridge. I’m pretty sure Cambridge isn’t that close to Arundel. I google it. Shit. I’ve been phoning the wrong god damn campsite all day!! I quickly find the right one and beg for their last pitch. They agree to let it to us as long as it’s one night only. On to the campsite. The right one this time.

As we pulled in to our spot it was abundantly clear by the numerous tanned-to-an-inch-of-their (not very long left now) life’s other campers that not many younger folk stay there. Not that that bothered us – we weren’t exactly there for an all-night rave. Would have liked less staring though. God how they stared!

Early night before an early start though so it was roof up and curtains closed after our pasta and non-alcoholic apple and mango wine. (Not buckfast as someone thought ha ha)

 

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In the morning I had what turned out to be the most luxurious shower of the weekend (I actually had to shower at a service station!) It was already warm so I chose vest and shorts and got the rest of my gear together. I had as much of the porridge and banana as I could stomach and then we were off on the short drive to the start. Once there I made a bee line for the info tent. Last year I didn’t know about the temporary tattoos so this time around I was making sure I got them. I slapped the elevation one on my forearm whilst Joe kept slapping me with sun cream despite my protests of ‘its only 7:30am! I don’t need it yet’.

 

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Then it was over to the start line. The pen was already that full it was overflowing. I had no intention of trying to squeeze in so I ended up being one of the very last from my wave to go over the official start line. Unfortunately that made for a very slow first few miles. However. What’s missing from my story so far?

Tears.

There were no tears. Yes I was nervous but I hadn’t given myself enough time to get really worked up at the start. We had parked, walked in, tattoo’s and sun creamed up then I was off. No messing, no waiting.

Joe hadn’t looked at anything about the race so he didn’t know where he was going to see me or where he could get to me. I had given him all the postcodes but with my lack of geographic anything I could have given him a postcode from the highlands! (I did spot the mistake with the camp site though!). The only thing I knew was he that he was going to see me at check point 2. The rest he was playing by ear.

The chat around me from the start was fantastic. I fell in step just behind 3 guys who were chatting away about anything and everything. One of them mentioned he had started cycling to work. Nice, me too. He had worked out it was saving him £8 in petrol but he was eating more than £8 in food because of it. This had me laughing out loud. But he made a fair point.

 

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Check point 1 and I had to put a blister plaster on. I could feel that burning starting already. And definitely not in a good way. What I haven’t mentioned is that my big toe nail fell off a few days before the race. Not what you need before a double marathon! So I knew I was going to have issues. I gave Joe a quick phone to see how he was getting on. He told me to get plastered up and eat something. ‘I’m eating my trail mix, I’m good.’ I told him. He proceeded to tell me I needed more calories than that and to eat something better. I proceeded out of the checkpoint and didn’t listen.

A mile later and I was getting light headed. Should have eaten something better than trail mix. Damn it.

Mile 10 and the hill was vertical. Why are all hills so steep? You never get a nice tumbling hill. It’s always a vertical climb. And this was only 10 miles in. Sake. Up to the top and it kind of evened out a little. That’s to say it was more smaller hills than vertical climbs. The terrain was really difficult and I lost count of how many people I saw trip and fall and roll their ankles. This was not a speedy run.

My calves were feeling tight already so I made a mental note to put the compression sleeves on at the next check point. Joe text to say he was already there. As I came down the hill towards it all I could see was the ruddy great hill behind it I would need to go up. Fantastic. Then ‘crack’. Suddenly my heart skipped a beat and I was falling to the side. Too busy looking at the hill in front of me I had misplaced my footing and rolled my ankle.

‘It’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine, doesn’t hurt, doesn’t hurt, does not hurt’.

I’m pretty sure that’s every runners mantra when they fall or hurt them selves. Tell yourself it didn’t happen! Thankfully, that seemed to work, and I was able to carry on running. I did then have a huge debate with myself about whether I had ‘heard’ a crack or ‘felt’ a crack and if I had felt it does that mean you subconsciously hear it too?

This ladies and gentleman, is what now goes through my brain on long runs. Crazy maths has now been replaced with just plain crazy thoughts.

When I got in to the check point I sat down to put my sleeves on and Joe started slapping me with the sun cream again. I protested at first but then he put it on my ears and since they were already burnt it hurt! Thing number 2 he was right about. Unusually for me I grabbed a caramel wafer bar. This was risky. Very risky! They have chocolate on them and Ella and chocolate do not go! No sir-ee. And out on a 54 mile run is most definitely not somewhere I want to be when I have a serious case of the runs! (Let’s not sugar coat this, facts are facts). Still. It’s what I seemed to be craving so I rolled the dice and took the chance. Hell my ankle had rolled and I was fine so maybe this will be 2 out of 2.

As soon as I got the sleeves on I was up and off again. Putting tight compression on elephant legs that are already sweating is not an easy job let me tell you! Mental note – buy the next size up – or, better still – put them on at the start.

Up the hill I went, all the time waiting for that ‘uh oh’ moment from the chocolate. It was bound to happen at some point so I kept scanning for bushes or rocks. Quite a good distraction as I was at the top sooner than I thought I would be. The last section I walked with a guy who was struggling with a stitch. He had been running with another bloke but was worried he was holding him back. He was in good humour though and gave very convincing cries of ‘go on without me. I will be ok. Think of me at the finish line. Name your first born after me’. By this time his friend was well out of ear shot but he was certainly entertaining me.

 

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Naturally, when we got to the top, we then had to run down. It was now my turn to provide the entertainment as I involuntarily started humming and singing my way down. I’ve come to realise when I’m nervous as hell, this is what I do to calm down. I don’t go full belt karaoke style – that’s saved for car journeys – but I sing a little tune to keep me steady. It’s usually met with some very weird looks and raised eyebrows. Plus the occasional ‘are you ok?’ Ha ha.

 

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And then back up we went. A steep mother of a hill at mile 20 is most definitely not what you want but this wasn’t even half way. Man up Ella you’ve not even ran a marathon yet! When I got the top I saw what you usually see at the top of corbetts and Munro’s. Have I just ran/walked up a bloody Corbett? Are you joking me?! Do you get corbetts in England? Or are they a scottish thing? Am I in England or Scotland? Or is this Wales? Definitely need to do the 3 peak challenge soon.

I’m telling you. Crazy thoughts.

 

 

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Once the hill had been sumitted (yes, sumitted, it was huge, it had a sumit) it was on to base camp. The plan was to be out of there by 1pm and I was well on track. Base camp wasn’t half way so I was very conscious not to treat it as if it were. I filled up my water, grabbed another chocolate bar (what are you doing???) and phoned Joe.

He wasn’t there yet. Hadn’t expected me to get there quite so soon. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling a little smug. He said he was just about to park up and get changed as he had planned to run a little with me. I took a few photos and waited around a little.

And waited.

10 minutes later I phoned him again. I wanted to get going. I knew the major mistake I had made at the Stones was the amount of time spent at the pit stops. I wasn’t going to let that happen again. He was just at the camper so he told me to carry on and he would catch up with me.

 

I was out of basecamp on track.

 

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Within seconds he caught up with me. Handed me a few things and seemed genuinely impressed I was doing ok. He didn’t run too far with me as he had to double back to get the camper but it was nice nonetheless.

Pit stop 4 was just after – you guessed it – another great big ruddy hill. This one was weirdly entertaining. I had fallen in step with a guy who was also running solo but was quite a character. He said that once we were up this hill it was pretty much flat or down hill the rest of the way. I looked at him. Then I looked at the tattoo on my arm. Then I looked at him again. And pointed to my arm. ‘Erm, I don’t think it is’ I said to him.

‘Yeah it is’. He said. Followed by ‘do you know where we are? I think we are on Butser Hill but I’m not sure?’. He then asked a couple of people walking down the hill. They laughed. Rather worryingly. ‘Oh no sir, it’s not downhill to Winchester. Or at all.’

‘Lie to me’ he begged them – genuinely begged them. It was hilarious. His comedy honestly got me up that hill.

At the pit stop I refilled with water and carried on. And no. It did not feel downhill after that.

At pit stop 5 Joe met me again. It was time for more blister plasters. Now I apologise if you’re squeamish but truth of the matter is my feet were in pretty bad shape before the run so 37 miles in they weren’t going to be a bed of roses! I had blisters escaping out of the plasters that were already there and many, many more making an appearance. I pretty much looked like I had 10 toes on each foot. I decided the best course of action was to DNF right there and then. You can’t run with feet like that. That’s just stupid.

Ha, yeah right! I slapped on more plasters, wedged my feet back in to my trainers and carried on. Ignorance is bliss. Albeit a little painful.

I also had another chocolate bar. I mean what more could happen right?

More hills. More heat. Another very, very, very close encounter with the ground and the fastest I had moved the entire run (don’t you just love that scary quick movement forward when you trip?) and I get to checkpoint 6. It’s at this point I’m thinking my goal of finishing in the daylight might actually be achieved. I need to keep going though. Usually by now I’ve developed an old woman’s hobble that gets worse with every walk break. Thankfully that hasn’t appeared.

Joe tells me he won’t see me at the next checkpoint as he’s going straight to the finish to park then going to double back and run the last bit with me.

 

 

Pit stop 7 and the only thing I do is stop to take a photo and carry on. I’m getting to that finish before the sun sets. I make a comment about the sound of the crickets to other runners around me. ‘They’re bloody loud aren’t they?’ I say. ‘Eh, that’s not crickets love, that’s an electric fence. Don’t you go touching it now.’

I’m honestly just there to provide entertainment at these things.

 

It’s not easy but I’m running so much more than I expected I would be. I’m wearing my garmin but I’ve not been obsessed with it and I think that’s helping. I’ve also been trying to track Kev and Gillian – the couple who gave me a lift to Glen Lyon. They are doing the West Highland Way which is 95-98 miles! Only in the world of ultras can you be ‘one upped’ on a 53.5 miler ha ha.

Joe is surprised at how quickly I get through the last pit stop. He thought the race would take me between 13 and 14 hours, maybe longer. I have slowed quite a bit but I’m still on a for a good time – at least for someone like me. I see him soon after and he falls in step with me quite easily. I had been worried that I would be really irritable by this point and get annoyed with him but it’s going great. He chats away to everyone around including the supporters at the side who had run past to come and meet me. In the last couple of miles I keep asking him ‘how far now? How far now?’.

Eventually I see the 1 mile to go sign – utter relief. He speeds off at the last little bit so he can catch me crossing the line.

A guy goes past me. I don’t care. Then we turn the corner and the finish is right there. Stuff it.

Sorry mister but I’ve somehow got a little left in these legs so I’m speeding up to the finish! I go past him and whisper ‘sorry’. It’s not exactly a sprint finish but it’s not a walk! Not a stumble!

Oh but it might be! What the hell are these?? Bloody STEPS right before the finish – what the actual hell!! I’m pulling a face before I can remind myself there’s a photographer there. Oh yeah. He got a right good one! I expect to see that on a wall of fame.

I’m done! It’s daylight! It’s still bloody daylight! 12hrs and 23 minutes. Yes sir I most definitely WILL take that! 8pm finish! Get in!!

 

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A quick bite to eat and we then hobble over to the King Alfred statue. I can’t not get a photo of that. I will show it to Albert on the Inch back home on my next run ha ha.

I upload my data and start to get messages through. I get a really nice one from Sarah who I ran with at the stones last year which is just absolutely lovely. What a difference from then though! No hallucinations, no freezing cold, no 25 minute miles because I can barely walk. Amazing.

This weekend was a blast from start to finish. Getting that extra boost from seeing family the day before, Joe being an absolute star supporting me through out, chocolate not giving me any ‘issues’ but giving me calories when I needed it and the fabulous people I met en route through out. I can’t wait to complete the trilogy next year at the tower.

 

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The Middle Of The Middle Of Nowhere – Glen Lyon Ultra

The Middle Of The Middle Of Nowhere – Glen Lyon Ultra

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

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

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

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

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

How things change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUNNING?!?!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘8 mile loop’

I start dialling every taxi number known to man.

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

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

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

Words. Of. An. Angel.

However….

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

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

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

But she has a point.

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

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

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

And soon I’m hitting that hill.

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

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

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

Joking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can’t beat it.

John Muir Way Ultra

John Muir Way Ultra

‘Your mum looks like she’s about to cry’ he says to Oliver.  This is met with a sharp look and the sternest of cold replies ‘Don’t!’.  He grins.  I leave the room.

I don’t know what it is but at certain races – typically the bigger ones that mean something to me – I have to fight back the tears.  And it’s been 4 years!!  I didn’t cry though.  Not this time.  But it did make me realise how much I wanted this.

I had decided to stay overnight near the race even though it was only 2 hours down the road if that.  Being 5 years old Oliver sees this as a little holiday so it makes it more fun for him.  Being only 10 minutes from registration made for more time in bed too.

Registration was pretty straight forward.  Are you running the half?  ‘No, full’.  This is your envelope.  Inside it is your bib and your chip.  Here’s your map.  Bus is over there.  I got on the bus, pulled my hat as far over my eyes as I could and concentrated on not letting the nerves get the better of me.  The chat on the bus was casual and not running related which was weirdly relaxing.  And I received a few good luck messages on my phone which made me smile.  A small gesture that goes a long way in times like that.

All the runners were bussed to the start which is on the promenade (because where else do you want to be in shorts and t-shirt other than a beach front in the cold wind?!?)  Luckily there was a bag drop so I kept my hoodie on until the very last minute.  Waiting in the queue for the bathroom I got chatting to 2 other ladies running.  They looked at me and asked if I was running the half.  Again I said no to this question.  ‘Oh’ was the reply.  ‘Have you ran this distance before?’.   ‘Just a couple of times’ I said.  Conversation was then cut short as the bathroom became free.

At the start line and we were told to get in to our waves.  How did we know what wave we were in?  ‘Competitive runners at the front, leisurely competitive in the middle and those out for a good day at the back.’  Leisurely competitive – I love it!!  Best comment of the day!  Squashed in to the crowd and the conversation around me turned to expected time.  Most were aiming for about 9 to 10 minute miles and a good day.  I relaxed some more, thankful it wasn’t a case of sub 7 min milers.  Then an older man turned to me and asked ‘are you running the half?’

What is going on??  Do I not look like a runner?? (What ever a runner looks like).  Why am I being asked this question so much?  I picture my reflection in the mirror from that morning – trainers check, shorts and t-shirt check, hydration vest check, proper running jacket check, running cap check, fear of god expression on face as if I’m about to die – oh wait, that might be it.

Very quickly we are off and I start slow.  Within just a few hundred metres I’m already warm enough and strip off my jacket and put it in my bag.  Whilst still running might I add.  Quite proud of this.  Ha ha.  And yes, I have been practising.  I’m wearing road trainers mainly because I have been training in them but also because someone from the club had said road were fine if it hadn’t been raining too much.  We start on tarmac but are soon on the trail and then on the beach.  When I first see the beach I naturally have Chariots of Fire playing in my head and I almost begin a slow motion run.  However once I have taken a few steps on the beach I am no longer in ‘let’s have fun’ mode and quickly move to ‘how the f@ck do you run on sand?!’.  Answer?  You don’t really.  You find the most solid looking bit and then miserably make your way to the end.  Thankfully it wasn’t a long patch and we were back on trail once again.

Then we were on gravel.  Then we were on tarmac.  Then back to trail.  I’ve never noticed the cushioning on my trainers other than on day 1 of a new pair but this route was giving me an education in foot wear let me tell you.  You want to learn the difference between trail shoes and road shoes?  Run the John Muir Way Ultra.  (Probably a bit extreme to run 50km to learn that but you get my point).

By now I’m at 8 miles and I am cheekily grinning to myself as I am only just feeling a slight twinge in my hamstring.  This is good for me.  I am happy with this.  I fully expected it to kick in at about 3 miles and be torture from the get go.  It has however started to rain but I know the aid station is at 10 miles so decide to stop and put my jacket on there.  I may be able to take it off whilst running but putting it on is a different challenge altogether.  As I reach there I see Joe and Oliver so I get a nice cuddle before sending them back to the car as they are cold.

My goal at this point is to get the half way point before cut off which is 3 and half hours from the start.  A goal which is, in reality, not really a goal as my pace has never indicated that it could be an issue but in my head, it was.  So when I saw Joe and Oliver again only 500 metres before the halfway point I couldn’t bring myself to stop.  Not even when he asked if I wanted the jelly babies I had asked him to get for me.  Karma got me straight away though as I had to run on the beach again straight after that to get to the life boat station.

Having learnt my lesson from The Stones I knew not to waste too much time there.  I waited for a little bit to see if Joe would make it there but I wasn’t surprised when the text came through to say he couldn’t get parked so he would see me further up.   My legs were hurting now and it wasn’t getting any warmer so I had some banana and headed back out, wishing I had remembered a spare pair of socks as there was a definite ‘feeling’ going on down there on the soles.

As soon as I left the life boat station I was back on the beach.  Good old karma just making sure I felt bad for not stopping to speak to Joe and Ollie.  I pulled my hat right down so I could barely see a foot in front of me and grumped and groaned for every step.  Every step that is, until I stepped in something I really didn’t want to see.

What do you get at a beach?  The sea.  What is the sea made of?  Water!  Instead of being focused on where I was going I was focused on being a moaner and so had gone off track and ended up in the sea!  What the actual hell! Good thing I hadn’t changed socks as that would have been pointless.  Needless to say the grumping and the groaning just hiked it’s way up another level after that until I reached tarmac again.  Bloody water.

Unfortunately though, as soon as I was back on the road, it was a hike up a little hill.  I say ‘little’ but it was bloody steep.  And not welcomed after what had been quite a gloriously flat run so far.  Still.  Shouldn’t complain.  (But of course I did ha ha).  By now I was breaking it down to 5 mile blocks.  10 miles was my first quick stop.  15 miles was ‘halfway’.  Just another 5 to 20 miles then it’s only 10 miles to the finish from there and I do 10 mile runs all the time.  It’s only 10 miles to my mum and dads and I run that quite a bit.  I am of course ignoring the fact its actually a 31 mile run but the last mile doesn’t really count does it.

Maths.  Running is all about maths.  Fact.

At 20 miles I am going round a loch and I have entered the hurt locker.  The infamous hobble has appeared (or should that be hobbit given my size?) and I am zig zagging my way up every mount everest/mole hill thrown at me.  In truth, I look like I’ve pooped myself.  But I’ve still got 10 miles to go and I am not giving up.  (I do occasionally wonder if I have indeed done the deed but rest assured, I had not).  By about 23 miles I am running just behind a man with a Leven Las Vegas t-shirt.  This running club’s name makes me laugh as I think it’s a pretty cool play on words.  I go past a couple of girls I have seen a few times and they shout ‘love your tattoo by the way’.  I’m grinding my teeth at this point because of the pain so this couldn’t have come at a better time.  It’s amazing how the little things get you through.

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Rounding the corner and it’s back on road.  I see Oliver at the bottom of the hill and he runs up towards me with a much needed cuddle.  He runs down the hill with me and asks why I’m going so slow, pointing out he can run faster.  Ah kids.  Don’t you just love them?  Joe tells me the aid station is just at the bottom of the hill so keep going until I get there.  Which I do.  Gravity has a way of pulling even those who hobble towards the bottom of a hill.  At the aid station the lady behind the food asks me twice if I am ok.  At this point I am just staring at her.  You see, I was trying to make a very, very difficult decision.

Should I eat the flap jack on the table?

This could have some quite serious consequences.  I already look like I have pooped myself.  I had no intention of actually doing that.  But then, it could also help.  Give me a bit of a push.  It’s a very hard call.

I take a tiny bit and set off again.

I’ve only taken about 5 steps and I decide to turn back round and grab some more.  ‘That’s right, get a sugar fix love.  Do you good.’  She understands.  I wasn’t being rude.  I’m just not all there at this moment.

Back on the track and I see Leven Las Vegas man again.  He steps to the side to let me past and offers some encouraging words and I say some back.  And thus begins the final stretch and a beautiful running friendship game of cat and mouse.  He would run past me and then stop to walk a little further up, then I would run past him before stopping to walk and so on and so on.  Always exchanging comments of ‘I will be seeing you soon’ and ‘well done, just you keep going’.  We walked together at one point and I found out he had run this route as a relay last year and this was his first ultra.  I told him the ones I had done before.  ‘You like the hills then?’ he asked.  ‘God no, hate them’ I laughed.  He thought I had sprained my ankle from the way I was hobbling but I explained the pain was further up.

Then we were down to the last 2 miles.  I was determined not to lose him.  I used him to keep me pushing and eventually I reached the marshall who said those blissful , magical words ‘It’s only 1.5km from here’.  He was a fantastic marshall.  He was either a triplet or he had been moving places around the route, helping out and always, always cheery and happy.  But not your usual ‘not far now’ kind of encouragement’.  More ‘I don’t know what to say.  Well done guys you are awesome’.   He deserves a medal.

I see the 400 metres to go sign.  Relief waving over me.  I’m back of the field but there’s still a cheer for me as I cross the line.  I make sure I high five the kids at the side too.  At the finish I turn round and wait for Leven Las Vegas man to come across.  He had kept me going in those last few miles and I was very thankful.  What a lovely man.

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The finish is at a lake – strange given the name of it is Fox Lake…..  Joe was playing with Oliver at the play park whilst I was gathering my things and I saw 2 people wade in.  I love an ice bath.  It was amazing at Manchester.  So I limped over and peeled off my socks and trainers.  It was slippy.  Not ideal.  It was also freezing.  Absolutely blood freezing.  Nope, nope, nope I’m getting out.  Possibly the fastest I had moved all day not a word of a lie.  My ankles have never been in so much pain.  But oh man it felt so good.  Ok.  Deep breaths.  Huff, puff, huff, puff – back in I go.

And straight back out.  Too much.

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I would definitely recommend this race.  From the marshalls to the aid stations to the route itself.  I really liked it.  I’m very tempted to go back next year if I ever get rid of this pain in my legs, just to see how well I could do it injury free.

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Ever Changing

Last week it was snow and ice. This week it was sun and more sun. Does anyone still not believe in climate change?

Last week was brutal at work – the dreaded middle shift. Everyone hates it. I had a minor pro-lapse when I forgot I had swapped a day for a late to cover SLA but many apologies later to Joe and it was sorted. I also banked a few more hours teaching. I seem to always get the kids who talk about death. ‘What happens if you don’t turn your head to breath’ I ask them. ‘You die’ comes the rapid reply. I’m still unsure how to answer that when it instigates flash backs for me. But on that cheery note…..

Monday didn’t go as planned as the latest infusion has knocked Joe about. So Lucie did the cooking and I did the rest of the adulting. (We don’t need food poisoning on top of everything so best letting someone who knows what they’re doing handle the food). He had a bit more energy Tuesday and used that to shove me out the door with an order of ‘an easy 6 to 8’. Weather was amazing – just the right level of cool – and I loved that run.

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Wednesday. Third day of a middle shift. The plan was to run home from work. Joe was meant to have a quieter day at work (meant to, but I don’t think it’s been happening) so he had the car. He gave me instructions of when to eat – not that I need an excuse to shove a biscuit in my face – and he would see me at home. However, when finishing time came it was clear I wouldn’t be able to run with ALL my stuff so the plan changed to a short run then a walk home.

‘You need to do hills’ came the text.

I’ve just done 25,000 steps, I’m not running up and down no hill.

‘Get it done’.

‘It’s dark!’

‘Stop being a @*#${% and get it done’

The thing with this new found interest that Joe has taken is that I feel guilty that I can still exercise and train. He can’t. And it’s killing him. Obviously he has no interest in what I do – he’s more go hard or go home and I’m more oh let’s take a photo, finish line will still be there in an hour – but it’s not easy.

So off I go. In a complete mood don’t get me wrong, but I’m doing what he says. I get to the dreaded hill and I have to walk to the start point. Great bloody start. I have to remind myself everything’s changed in the last year and it affects my body greatly.

Off I go. Grumbling away under my breath. Just get it done. Come on. A couple of cars crawl past me and I mean crawl. Oh yeah, they’re having a really good look at the crazy lady running up and down a hill. Joe said do 3 repeats. I’m not coming all this way to just do 3. I’m doing 6. As I force the last one out, telling myself if I walk it doesn’t count, I realise what’s just happened.

He. Has. Played. Me.

How did he get 6 hill repeats out of me when I was only going to do 3 easy, flat miles??

I run back to work and text him. I’m not walking home. He can pick me up.

Which he does. With a grin slapped on his face.

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Thursday and Friday involved more ‘normal life’ and it was then big run Saturday. I say big run but it wasn’t really. ‘You need at least 12’ he says to me. Well that’s alright as I’m aiming for 14.

The plan was for Joe to cycle with the kids and chase me down then keep me company until their moans of child abuse got far too close to becoming a reality and he would head home. I set off, fully expecting to be caught within the first mile but put my music in to try and up my pace.

Mile 1 clicks by and they don’t so I aim to get to 2 before I’m caught. Still nothing. Ok. Let’s go for this. I know exactly where 3 miles is (having previously had to stop and vomit there before) so I set my sights on an impossible task. Every second rocking by I’m expecting to see my daughter sail by.

But. Nothing.

There’s absolutely no way I’ve out run them and realise there must have been some tantrum going on. Could have been from any of them – could have been all 3. By the time I get to 7 miles I’ve seen my first bumble bee (entirely relevant to my story) and I get a text saying ‘we will just see you at home’ with a laughing face. Can’t be too bad then.

My stomachs starting to go now so I make my way to Rodney to use the bathroom. I’m having to ‘pause’ every now and then and I’m beginning to think a walk might be in order. Then I check the time. Is 2:57pm. Rodney shuts at 3pm.

Thus commences the ultimate runners battle. Have you ANY idea how hard it is to run fast whilst also stopping dead for a wave to pass? Honestly – it’s like 3 steps forward one mighty lunge backwards in to the bushes.

The musics up full blast in an attempt to distract me from the potential volcano and I all but burst – as in person, not bodily fluids – in to the reception and beg to use the toilets, far too loudly thanks to my headphones. They are locking up but this is a case of life or death and thankfully they understand. Although I may pay for it next time I’m on shift there ha ha.

I manage a good few miles more but the hamstring and glutes start their ever reliable screaming so I call it quits at 16 miles.

16. I’m happy with that. I’m also happy with the pace. (Yes I did pause my garmin for the toilet saga). And I find out the reason they didn’t catch me was all down to a flat tyre. It was nice to think I had out run them for a little bit ha ha.

I’m not expecting miracles this weekend. I will be happy with a better time than Glen Ogle given – as far as I’m aware – this route is a lot flatter. However, this route requires more navigation. Could be a very interesting run!

A True Near Death Experience

After my disastrous unicorn run/walk/stumble last time I took to instagram to vent and it was mentioned that I may need more iron. My physio also explained because I had had such a long gap of not running it could have just been ‘runners stomach’. Either way, I went straight back on the iron tablets and headed out the following day for 8 miles.

As you do.

It actually went not too bad. The stomach subsided and the legs did hurt a little but not as bad as before. So the next day I decided to increase it to 10 miles.

I was sensible. I set off at a slow pace I intended to keep to. To help this I stuck to a pod cast and swerved the music. I again went along the river as Joe had been out just before me for a little tester run himself so I was following his route and adding some. I put on my hydration vest so I had water with me and a jacket as it looked like rain was imminent. And I do love a run in the rain!

Ambling along, listening to the owner of twitter talking about algorithms and how it actually works I was enjoying myself. Ok I’m no Mo Farah but I was moving and I was finally beginning to understand and ‘get’ Twitter (for someone who enjoys social media I’ve never bloody understood that platform). I stopped to take the usual arty/farty photos and carried on, telling myself this is good practice on trails for the ultra I’m doing.

Soon I see a familiar face too and yes it’s another stop but it would be rude not to and I’m not exactly going flat out. She tells me the route is 14km out and back from her house so I calculate I may have to find some extra to get my 10 miles. She also tells me not to run right down at the river as it’s not great for running and one slip will mean your in the water. Given that I am indeed that person guaranteed to fall in or be dragged in by the water I choose to heed her advice. I’ve still not forgotten the number of times water has tried to kill me! The bottomless puddle, the smash to the face of the water bottle – I’m lucky to still be alive honestly.

I see the fork in the trail and take the one away from the river. Oh yes. Today I have my sensible hat on thank you. Silently congratulating myself on acting responsibly I confidently follow the now tarmac path. Hmm. Didn’t expect to be going past houses. Thought it would still be trail. Ok never mind. I follow it round. And round. And round. And then stop.

I’m back at the fork. I’ve just done a circle. Bugger. Oh well, that’ll be some extra mileage then!

I finally find some more trail and decide to be a bit more adventurous so constantly pick the harder to follow route. Although with my sense of direction it’s not exactly my best plan. I pick my own way through thick, sharp branches and bushes and come ridiculously close to ending up the river but somehow I make it through! I head ‘back inland’ to get the extra mileage to make 5 before heading back along the same route to make my 10 miles.

Oh yes. I have a plan. And it’s bomb proof!

Not wanting to get lost I choose to run round the local park I have now found myself upon. I head round the edge and towards the play park where a couple are walking their dog.

As I get closer it spots me and starts running towards me. It looks friendly enough – ie it’s not frothing at the mouth – so I continue at my leisurely pace towards the park. The owners don’t react so I doubt it’s a ‘vicious killer’.

It gets faster towards me. It’s now bounding heavily, panting as it gets closer. I can feel the ground shudder with every thud of paw. Then all of a sudden it rears up on its back legs. It’s almost the same height as me now and this thing is big! It’s huge! The sun is blocked behind it’s gigantic figure. This dog is a tank! It’s front paws land on my leg and I’m stopped dead in my tracks. I try to stay upright because if I fall and this thing gets on top of me I’m going to be pinned. Think wizard of oz with the house landing on the winding witch. (Although not so sure why I am comparing myself to a wicked witch with a green face?)

I check my leg hasn’t snapped in two under the weight of the most solid dog I’ve seen. Still in one piece. Phew. I decide the best thing to do is to just carry on and get out of there – just in case it jumps up on my shoulders and tries the whole wrestle mania smack down on me.

What are the owners doing I hear you ask?

Laughing.

Not horribly or maliciously. But like the parent of a child would laugh at little John who just punched Sophie in the face. ‘What a scamp’ I can imaginary hear them say.

I decide it’s best just to keep running on, praying I can put run their little beast. When I get back to the river my glutes are hurting so I pause for a minute and glance down at my leg, praying I don’t see the bone.

There are 3 very bright claw marks across my leg. I immediately take a photo and text Joe.

‘You know that guy that killed a mountain lion when out running? Well I’ve just been attacked by a pug! No one died though.’

Yes ladies and gentlemen. It was a pug. One of the smallest and possibly cutest dogs in the world and I was ‘attacked’ by one. What followed in the next few days was torturous.

‘You mean to say you can’t out run a pug? How slow are you?’

‘How did that small and fat a dog manage to get you that far up your leg?! My word you’re small!’

‘I don’t understand. It’s a pug!’

It’s unclear just now if I will ever live this down but I’m trying to remain positive. I managed to continue my run after such a vicious attack from one of the worlds deadliest animals. I was able to get away without having to resort to taking its life. And I have lived to tell the tale. Even if it is a tremendously embarrassing one.

Who said running was boring?

Oh hasn’t it been a while.  Over a month in fact.  Well.  Since I am sitting recovering from my last run I thought I would update this.

I joined the waiting list for the Glen Ogle 33 not really expecting to get a space.  It’s a popular event that I’m pretty sure sells out every year.  For someone like me I wouldn’t call it a race.  More of a ’33 miles of trail running just trying to survive and not die’.  And the reason I signed up?  You get to run over a viaduct!  These structures were probably made ‘famous’ by Harry Potter (not that I have watched any of the movies) but I really fancied running over one!  So that was it.  I signed up when the email came through.

Night before I drove up with my friend Lorner to go and register.  It’s just over an hour away and it would give our youngest and Joe a little extra time in bed the day of the race.  Leaving straight from work at 6pm I picked her up and she produced what can only be described as a bag full of heavenly goodness.  She had only gone and bought me a packed lunch box and filled it with loads of food – including red bull!     A-mazing!  Joe had also been to the shop to pick me up a new running jacket following the weather warning that had been issued for the race.  This would later prove to be essential!

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Finding out your friend is travel sick whilst driving through the winding, twisting country roads of the Scottish Highlands isn’t great.  I’m pretty sure she was eyeing up my new lunch bag wondering if she could get away with throwing up in it.  Unicorns poop rainbows Lorner – not puke.

Registration took all of 20 seconds.  My many questions probably took about 20 minutes.  No, I’m joking.  I only had a couple.  I had a quick look at the clothes on sale but since Joe had bought me a new jacket I knew I was good.  I had forgotten my drop bag though and I did consider trying to muster something up from the local supermarket  but the plan was to be at the start line in time to drop it off so we headed back (after she had a bottle of water and fresh air.  And yes, I took it easy on the way back).

It was drizzly and cold in the morning and we arrived just 10 minutes before race start so Joe dropped me off and stayed in the car with our youngest until I started then drove home.  It’s an unsupported race and a lot of waiting around  for a 5 year old so a dvd in the car is much more appealing.  I managed to locate Scott from the road runners about 20 seconds before we started so my nerves were put to rest after seeing a friendly face.  He had sore hips and was taking it easy but I knew he would still finish well before me.  I had a very unrealistic hope of finishing in 5 and a half hours so had said to Joe I might be back just after 1.30pm.  (Alright, alright, no need to laugh quite so hard!).

Glen Ogle start

I tried to keep my feet dry for as long as possible and I think I may have even made it 500 meters before they were soaking!  That’s impressive given the small river that was flowing down the up wards trail we were instantly on.  It was gorgeous though!  Autumn colours in all their glory as we trenched up and up and up.  All I could hear around me was ‘squelch, squelch, squelch’.  The real sound of a trail run ha ha.  One of the differences I have noticed between ultra and marathon running is that in a marathon runners are most likely to dodge puddles.  In ultras they are more likely to dive straight in to the bottomless pit of a loch!  I’m still haunted by that experience at the  Ochil Ultra

Up and up and up we went, and then we had quite a steep down.  At the bottom of the hill I was met with a very friendly face.  Robin from the road runners was marshalling.  Stood out in the cold, wet and windy weather that is Scotland this lovely man was all smiles and encouragement as we all went past.  I love it when I know a volunteer or marshall but when it’s someone like Robin it’s even better.

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Just a couple of miles on and I came across the viaduct.  The bit I was waiting on!  Naturally I took a video.  ‘I’m running across a viaduct!  Whoo hoo!’.  The excitement was short lived when 1.  I realised what a horrendous double chin I have and 2.  My hamstrings and glutes decided to play up.  I don’t remember them gradually working up the pain scale, I just remember them refusing to play ball.  They hurt that much I didn’t even realise how windy it was at points or how hard the rain was coming down.

I got to 8 miles and text Joe.  ‘My legs hurt, I’m struggling’.

I was in the Scottish Highlands though.  You don’t get signal.  I kept checking and trying to re-send.  The pain got more and more.  This is going to be it.  This is going to be my first ever DNF.  Well that’s rather fitting for the year I’ve had.  When have I ever not finished a race?  I can’t do another 25 miles on this though.  That’s practically a marathon.  I will keep trying to text him and hopefully he will come pick me up.

I trundled on, sometimes distracted by the gorgeous views, sometimes chatting to those around me.  The zig zag path downward was a potential ankle breaker.  Under different circumstances I would have loved that part.  Thank god I wasn’t going up it though.  Still no signal.  I saw a girl at the side of the road and checked she was ok.  Her water bladder had started leaking and I had a spare food bag so checked to see if she needed it.  Handy tip for next time!  She asked how I was doing and without thinking I replied I was struggling already.  Not the best thing to say to someone who was doing her first ultra.  But she was going strong and looked like she was going to finish well which I don’t doubt she did.

I started to focus on getting to the checkpoint as it was quite clear I wasn’t going to get a signal anytime soon.  I became obsessed with my watch and looking at the miles that were ticking by slower than the Brexit deal.  Eventually I heard noise and knew it was close.  I could hear a cow bell and shouting.  Yes!  I’ve finally made it!  I should get a signal now and can speak to Joe.  But…… no……..  NO…….  It was supporters at the side of the road, outside their house.  I couldn’t do anything but laugh a little inside and smile on the outside.  These people were standing in the cold and rain and encouraging us on.  They could have been inside with a warm cup of tea, sitting at a blaring hot stove, singing songs to each other all rosy cheeked.

Ok, I might be getting a bit carried away here.

Then I came across a bridge.  A bridge that moved.  A lot!  Hold on a minute!  I’ve been on this bridge before!  I don’t like it!  Code red, code red!  I almost dropped to my knees to get across it.  Clearly this was the infamous shoogly bridge.  I didn’t like it.  Nope.  I even stopped dead in the middle of it.  Never again.

The checkpoint was just at the other side and I desperately looked for shelter and somewhere to sit down.  There was neither options.  So I took out my spare food bag (the other lass hadn’t used it as it was the pipe that had come loose) and promptly sat on it.  Still no signal though.  What to do.  I very quickly began getting cold.  My legs were soaking and although the jacket was very good I was still cold up top.  Gloves were sodden and feet drenched.  I decided to change in to dry socks and put blister plasters on.  Oh yes, I had blisters.  I didn’t have anything to dry my feet though so the plasters didn’t stick.  My fingers were freezing so tying my laces was interesting.  I got my spare gloves out.  Definitely going to need them.  Then I remembered there was an Active Root station with their ginger juice.  My flasks were almost empty of my berry hydration.  If I was going to make it to somewhere with a signal I would need more.  I went over to them and cheekily asked if I could fill one of my flasks.  ‘Of course you can – do you want me to wash it out first?’.  ‘No, that’s ok thank you, I need it that much I don’t think I will notice.’  ‘Well you look really well prepared’ he said gesturing to my pack that had everything in bags to protect from the rain.  ‘and you’ve done the hardest part, it’s not bad from here’.

This made me think.   was just over half way.  Who gets to half way and doesn’t finish?  I’ve got dry socks on now and dry gloves.  I’ve got hand warmers I can technically stick anywhere if needed.  My hydration is re-filled and the short seat has helped my legs.  Can you really quit when Joe has given up his whole day for this – bit selfish to do that isn’t it?

So I got moving.  After the kind marshall put my flask back in my bag as my hands just weren’t letting me do it.

And naturally, it was straight up.  Up, up, up, up.  My legs hurt again within seconds.  It was probably this point I began wondering why I enjoyed running.  Eventually it evened out a little and I started the usual slog of cat and mouse with a group of 3 women.  They would slow down a little, I would go past, I would slow down, they would go past – your standard game on a long run, keeps it slightly interesting.  I was still absolutely loving the scenery despite the wind and rain so the phone was coming out for several photos.  And now that the field had really spread out it was quite easy to get ones without anyone seeing you and thinking ‘if she did a little more running she might be finished before christmas!’.  (I don’t think anyone is quite that negative on an ultra run, I’m just joking).

Glen Ogle trail.jpg

I hit another hill (seriously HOW is there sooooo many??!! I will be on the moon soon!! Going to need Wonder Woman’s invincible jet to get back).  My phone pinged.  SIGNAL!!!!

‘Push through!!!  How far you?’  – text from Joe.  ’24 – I sent that at 8.’  ‘Well keep it up, we are on our way’.  ‘Don’t rush’ was my reply.

I phoned my friend Lorner.  ‘This hurts so much’  I wailed down the phone.  To which she replied with some nonsense about being tired after a few miles she had run earlier and was now cosied up at home slurping on a cup of tea.  Dry.  And not being battered by the wind.  No.  I wasn’t jealous.  Much.

Munching on some of Joes homemade flapjack I made my way up the vertical ascent.  Joe’s flapjack is the best.  It’s so tasty and yummy.  In fact, it’s probably the only reason I run.  It’s so full of unhealthiness you kind of have to run to work it off.  I could eat it all day every day.  But then if I did I wouldn’t be able to run.  And collect miles and medals.  Which I love.  Yup.  I’m getting this medal.  Third Ultra medal.  It’s mine.  I want it – I’m getting it.  Time to move.

And so the slow shuffle along the very long straight started.  Through several gates (where a cheeky wee ‘rest’ was taken for a few seconds.  I did not rush through them) and onward’s I went.  When I hit the viaduct again I did not give one flying monkey about running across it.  No photos this time, no filming.  Just some very rude words.

A short while later and it was the last check point.  This was one you just run through and they check numbers then you cross the road.  Just after crossing I heard a car beeping.  Didn’t think much of it but then I saw someone waving.  It was Joe and the kids.  He pulled up just in front and got out – kids stayed in the dry ha ha.  I was very tempted to ask if he had more flapjack but thought better of it.  He was heading on to the finish but I warned him I wouldn’t be there anytime soon.

With just a few miles to go I went past Robin again.  He was still out in this weather.  Absolutely incredible!  He told me it was only about 3.5 miles and there was only a few bumps to go, nothing like what I had already done.  A quick photo and I was on to the last section.

Glen Ogle 1

Just as Robin had said the last few miles were ‘easy’ compared to the previous 30.  Coming down in to the village of Killin we were back on the road and it’s an old village so the pavement wasn’t designed for more than one person at times but everyone gave way and let you past with no hassle.  Dodging the wheelie bins was interesting, you don’t react very fast after being on your feet so long.  On to the park where the finish was and I heard my youngest shouting and saw my daughter at the side.  A very slow bimble round the park and the finish line was there.  Scott who had finished well over an hour before me had waited about to see me finish with his wife Kathleen.  I thought that was really lovely.

So job done.  Glen Ogle 33 completed and the year has NOT ended in my first ever DNF – thank the running gods!  I’ve been wearing my finisher t-shirt which fits me perfectly every day since then and I have a lovely new running jacket that is most definitely waterproof.  Tried and tested.

Glen Ogle t-shirt.jpg

Glen Ogle elevation

On to the next one.

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