Sticks and Stones

In just a few days I will be a broken woman.  (Nothing new there then for 2018!)

No, jokes aside, in 3 days I am going to be running in the only goal race that I have managed to hold on to this year.  But one is better than zero.  And it’s a biggie!

100km.  62 miles.  And it doesn’t finish at Stonehenge. You’ve no idea how disappointed I was when I figured that one out (much to Joe and my fathers amusement).

Q. Why call it Race To The ‘Stones’ then? Hmmf

The injuries lifting and I’m running again. I’ve lost so much speed and it’s really dis-heartening but at least for this challenge speed isn’t what I need. It’s discipline. The dreaded discipline of running sensibly, efficiently, listening to your body.

It’s been a long time since I did something that has had me this anxious and worried. But if it doesn’t scare you it’s not worth it? Well I’ve been needing a constant change of underwear every time I’ve thought about this so consider me well and truly scared.

I don’t know what it is that has me like this though. It doesn’t make sense. I’m back running. It’s an ultra so it’s got nothing to do with time, just the finish line. There’s no clock watching on this run. I’ve read many, many comments and the mantra is always ‘run the flats and walk the hills – conserve energy’.

Is it the fact I’m by myself for 100km? All my training runs are done alone. And I will admit, recently I’ve been feeling very lonely. I don’t have a ‘group’ or a ‘squad’ helping me along when it’s hard. And sometimes it’s been really hard. But most my running has been like that. I occasionally go out with Lorner (after which we congratulate ourselves with copious amounts of wine ha ha) but not that often. We have different running plans. I used to have my lunch time running buddy but then life changed. I like running alone, it’s my head space time, but maybe too much head space is bad for you?

As for the idea of camping at base camp over night by myself with hundreds of strangers, not knowing a soul? Well I would definitely say that’s a contributing factor. But it’s not it entirely.

It’s maybe the thought of failure. The very real possibility of hundreds of reasons why I could not make it.

  1. It’s bloody far
  2. My training has been to pot thanks to being bloody injured
  3. I failed at Manchester
  4. I had issues at Loch Katrine
  5. I have no speed in my legs at all
  6. I got pulled from the Highland Fling so what makes me think I can do this?
  7. It’s hot. So damn hot. Like the sun has forgotten that Scotland is a no fly zone, restricted area, do not pass Gretna Green, do not collect £200! Go back to England! (Oh wait, that’s where I am)
  8. I don’t know the area – bloody Stonehenge my arse

That’s just 8. There’s many more. And no doubt some that include water issues!

See if I drown doing this run!!

Truth be told I’m quite glad I have found something that scares me this much and is keeping me awake the last couple of weeks. It’s that weird thrill you get. That ‘oh my god am I actually doing this? I cry every time I think of it!’ But then a song comes on your playlist, or on the radio, or in a shop (it’s happened, don’t judge) and you just break out in a ‘hell yeah I can DO this!!’.

And that’s usually followed by being asked to leave the shop as your fist pumps and dancing is scaring the other customers.

However. The Greatest Showman is back on my playlist. As is my go to song (The Script – Hall Of Fame, chest pumps every damn time). And I’m picturing myself at the finish line. Not that I know what it looks like anymore.

Will I make it? Who knows at this point. I bloody want it though! How long is it going to take me? Absolutely no idea – have you ever ran 100km? Me neither.

But soon. I will have.

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It’s All Lies

It’s All Lies

Who ever claimed ‘couples who workout together stay together’ clearly was not part of a couple!

We’ve tried, a few times, to do our training together. Not once has it been successful. It generally goes something like this – ‘slow down, you’re going too slow, you need to tell me before the turn, you should try it this way’.

It’s that last one. That ‘I know best’ attitude I find the hardest. Just NO!

We both ran round Loch Leven a couple of weekends ago. It wasn’t a great pace I admit. I’m finding speed really difficult at the moment and it’s getting me down. I told him the 13 miles was going to be about a 2 hour run at the start. It started off ok. He was ‘glowing’ in an aura of ‘I’m so much faster than you.’ I would liken it to running with a dog who goes here there and everywhere. Yes, that’s right, I just compared my husband to a dog. Deal with it.

I ignored it. Focused on my own running. My legs were really sore and tired so it was an easy distraction. I even managed to bite my tongue through his comments of ‘you’re rolling your left foot in’ and ‘you slow down so much on a hill, you should really try to go faster’. The last one almost gained him a swift kick but, like I said, my legs were sore.

Today we did the same route again but in reverse. His choice. Again it started ok. There’s heavy snow on the ground and conditions are difficult so it was single file at the start. I was actually in front. Shock. Horror. Obviously this didn’t last. He went in front and took off. After about a mile of having at least 100 meters between us he eventually waited for me to catch up. He then said ‘Are you not feeling well? You’re quite a bit slower than usual’.

The rage hit about an 8. I festered on this for the next few minutes. I was still trying to stop the steam coming out of my ears when he said ‘there’s a runner coming up behind us.’

What the bloody hell did he think WE were???? Freaking joggers??!! Are you ACTUALLY kidding me?!?

That was it. It was all guns blazing then. I’m talking tantrum central! It started with running related issues – you know the usual of you’re meant to be running with me not a couple of hundred metres down the trail etc – and carried on through every tiny little niggle possible. Including leaving his socks on the floor. (Although he probably didn’t hear that one as I’m pretty sure only dogs could hear my squealing by that point). He definitely heard the one about him using all of the cliff shots he bought ME for my birthday!

Of course, because I was letting off more steam than the Flying Scotsman, my pace slowed even more. He started arguing back but very quickly realised the only way out of this was to try desperately not to laugh and make the situation worse. And naturally when we came across other people on the trail I quickly switched from psychotic, screaming wife to happy runner woman who politely said hello with a smile on my face.

Couples are NOT made to work out together. Fact! They just aren’t compatible for that kind of pressure. Show me a couple who claim they never argue and never hate each other ever and I will introduce you to the current President of America.

By the time we finished our 12 miles of World War 3 the snow started up again – but I did feel better! Ironically so did he. Not that I cared about that at the time.

Will we go running together again? Well….. certainly not any time soon. Next Sunday I’m joining the club for their run and he can do what ever he damn well pleases.

Less chance of us wanting to kill each other that way.

3 Weeks Already

For anyone who doesn’t own a calendar (or a mobile or a watch with the date on it) it’s now 3 weeks in to 2018.

That means less than 3 months until Manchester Marathon. My first big task of the year. The one race I need speed for. Not the drug! Let me be clear. I mean pace.

Up until recently it’s not been there. I was panicking. Every run was ‘slow’ – not where I needed to be. It should be 8m20 pace but I was coming in at more 8m45. That’s way off! Yes I did Marcothon in December, yes it’s snowing and there’s ice on the ground but I should still be faster.

Theres been a few spanner’s in the works, a few adjustments needing made. I’ve had a things come up at work that have thrown off my routine – and my god do I hate it when my routine is messed with. I can feel the words ‘f@cked off’ burning on my forehead. But luckily, I do have people around me that understand. I started noticing more and more of the ‘head tilt’ (think Monica and Richard in Friends) and hearing more ‘You’ve not been for a run have you’. It’s ok I didn’t kill anyone. But I have started moving a lot more quickly to solution mode when this happens. Lunch runs have moved to late afternoon and occasionally straight after work.

Then there was the work trip to London for the day which meant a 5am start and a 10:30pm finish. It turned out to be a 2:30am start as my youngest was up ill in the night. This distracted me all day but I ‘coped’. His dad took the day off so I knew he was fine. I only hid in the bathroom twice when I started to panic – quite an improvement. And I was distracted by the many funny looks when ever I chose the stairs instead of the escalators. Apparently no one in London uses stairs!

And then, The Plague hit my house. Everyone- and I mean everyone – got it. First it was the youngest, then it was Joe, then Lucie. My oldest was told to stay at a friends (he’s 18, spends most his time out or in bed anyway). I sent him a lovely text. ‘Don’t come home, you’ll get sick, stay at a friends’. Best mum ever award right there.

The dogs being sick was the final straw for me. That almost broke me. I can handle most things. Holding Lucies hair back whilst fetching Oliver water and getting pain killers for Joe is fine. Cleaning up what comes out of a dog? Not so much.

Take your vitamins people!

When I eventually returned to work I was met with a meeting booked during my lunch run time. I then discovered my work had been allocated 3 London Marathon places and they had just been handed to certain people. No opportunity for selection. None of the ‘clear and transparent’ behaviour they like to drill in to us. You can imagine the rage. So when I eventually got a break I hit the treadmill. Hard. 5k in 23mins 16secs. Bye bye 8m 45 pace.

Then last night it was hills with the road runners. Now I’m most certainly not saying it was easy but it was slightly easier than last time. After checking good old Strava I noticed that my running in January 2017 was the same. It was slower. I found the month hard. The penny dropped.

Clearly, like many others, I just find January a hard month to get moving. But that’s ok. Get over it. Do your hills, do your track and it will come together.

Plus I got quite a lot of new running gear so it would be a shame for that to go to waste ha ha.

Walking Dead

This week I’ve been like a zombie. A barely walking zombie. And I don’t know why.

I’m not doing more than usual – in fact, I’m probably doing less! I don’t feel ill either I just feel exhausted. Thinking about it this is usually a sign somethings on my mind and as per the norm, it’s preventing me from sleeping.

So I’ve turned to the treadmill.

What?!?! The treadmill?? Why!!

Laziness if I’m honest. You can stop at any time on a treadmill and you don’t have to ‘walk back’ anywhere. There’s no ‘suck it up buttercup you’re still 2 miles from home!’. You’re at the gym. The cars outside. It’s easy.

5 miles on a treadmill is not easy though. Not for your mind. So I need to stop that and get back outside. I have had 2 runs in the fresh air this week – one with my running buddy and one on my own after I messed up at work and needed to get out. Today was the treadmill again though. I could barely keep my eyes open at my desk so I went for a run to try and insert some life in to my soul. I was convinced it would work but alas it did not and after nearly smacking my head on my desk in one of those free falling nano seconds of dropping off motions you get I decided it was time to go home.

On the plus side the tiredness in my legs seems to be easing slightly. I really don’t need that when I’m about to start ultra training.

I look shattered

56 miles – what ever obsessed you Ella?

I’m missing park run on Saturday as I’m working but the other half and I are doing the Mo Run on Sunday and we are going to dress up for it! Something fun to end the year on now all our serious races are done.

And Monday brings the clubs AGM. Where I hopefully find out if I am selected for a London ballot place. To say I’m nervous doesn’t even come close. Shaking with hysteria flitting between incredibly excited and depressed as sin isn’t far away from the truth. As they say though, what will be will be.

Then to end the year – the Santa Run! Who doesn’t want to run down your local high street dressed as the big bellied, white bearded grandad?!

So hopefully this tiredness does a Brexit and leaves. Preferably sooner rather than later.

I’m sure some Christmas Carols will help with that.

Ochil Ultra – And The Fear Was Back

Ochil Ultra – And The Fear Was Back

I’ve noticed a trend in my thinking.

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

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

It’s 6 days after Loch Ness Marathon.

Stupid.

I signed up.

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

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

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

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

‘Could be’. Oh how I laugh now!

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

Oh how naive you are Ella.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope! No you are not!

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

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

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

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

I love how folk lie when you’re running.

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

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

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

Happy Ella!

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

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

I stop running with her.

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

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

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

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

Move, move, move!

Ok stop, stop, stop!

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

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

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

I need a seat!

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

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

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