More Is In You

More Is In You

So many thoughts.  So many memories.  So many kilometers.

Race To The Stones was upon me.

I had spent the day trying to stay relaxed.  We couldn’t get in to see Windsor Castle thanks to a certain Mr Trump so we took the kids to the cinema instead.  As soon as the film was finished the panic set in though and I set off on a mission to find SiS berry electrolyte tablets I had purposefully left behind because they don’t work for me when running but now all of a sudden I just HAD to have them.  The staff in Decathlon did not help the situation when they didn’t know what an electrolyte was (isn’t this a sports shop?!).  Anyway, tablets found – thanks Tesco – and it was a dinner of pasta and pizza before trying to get an early nights sleep.

I woke up and my stomach was in bits.  Put it this way, I had no issue with the pre-race ‘poo’.  My body definitely knew how far I was about to run!  I was in Wave E and usually I am a stickler for the race rules.  I’m afraid to say though I had no intention of waiting until 8:30am to get started.  I tried to jump in to Wave B but got caught.  Another bathroom break and as I came back I saw someone from my wave just stroll right in.  So I stuck my nose in the air and acted like I belonged there.  Result!  This was the only part of the day by the way I showed any confidence – and even that was false.

Start to Pit Stop 1 – 10.3km

I had been pre-warned of the shuffle at the start.  From what I can gather they have a mix of walkers/joggers/runners in all waves to try and even it out.  This helped with ensuring I didn’t start off too fast.  First time ever!  A couple of guys from my club have told me a few times I need to start off slower, I know it’s a bit of a nemesis of mine, and I also had ‘the look’ from my physio in my head.  Unusually for me I also knew it wasn’t flat.  I know right!  Shock, horror ha ha.  But I was surprised at just how steep the first couple of hills were.  Close to hands on legs jobs.  I had kinda been hoping they weren’t going to be anything I would notice.  Should really lay off those pharmaceuticals…

It didn’t take long for me to notice that everyone around me was running in pairs.  I tried not to let it get to me and enjoyed listening to their conversations.  It was very strange hearing people chatting so early on in a race – usually all I hear is huffing and puffing.  Definitely never heard ‘At pit stop 3 we will get a bit of lunch, I’ve packed the sandwiches’ before.  Ultra running is a whole new world!

Pit Stop 1 to Pit Stop 2 – 12.6km

I didn’t stop long at the first pit stop.  I grabbed some ready salted crisps and some orange juice and got going.  I felt good!  Yeah baby I can do this!  The infamous ‘Field Of Dreams’ was on this leg and I knew the heat wave we had been experiencing would mean the crop (or whatever is in the field, I don’t know, I’m not a farmer) meant it wouldn’t be looking as grand as it could.  Didn’t really matter to me though I have to admit.  I was just concentrating on smiling for the camera at the end of it and getting a photo where I didn’t look like half my skin was falling off my body and I wanted to die.  I slowed down so there was space for the photographer to get (oh yes, I had thought this out!),  there was no one too close behind me so I didn’t have to fake a stop and get some space (I wasn’t lying about my thinking), ok, my turn.  Chin up, tummy covered, bib on show, thumbs up, smile and facial expression of ‘loving this’ plastered on face….

‘Oh don’t put your hands there!  It looks wrong!’

Where the hell was the guy behind me putting his hands???

Funnily enough I ran faster after that….

Pit Stop 2 to Pit Stop 3 – 10.9km

I don’t know why but I found 1 to 2 hard.  My hamstrings and glutes had started hurting so I took extra time at Pit Stop 2 to stretch them out – which helped for all of 5 steps.

Underfoot was tricky.  It was trail with tree roots everywhere.  So many people were catching their feet.  I only had one instance of catching my foot bad enough my body propelled forward in that comical way.  Well, it’s only comical if you don’t fall, which thankfully I didn’t.  I was getting annoyed though.  How am I tripping up so much!  For god sake lift your feet!  I let out a loud ‘grrrr’ at one point.  The guy next to me cautiously asked if I was ok.  Probably scared I might try to tear him apart if he poked the bear, poor soul.

Going down a hill and my stomach was now killing me.  I was struggling to drink or eat anything as I felt sick but I knew how crucial it was so it was a constant battle.  I was just sipping on the water when the woman right in front of me took a very bad tumble, landing on her knees then hitting her face.  Blood everywhere and a look of shock on her face.  I stopped to help her up with her running buddy and an american runner stopped too.  We washed her face down and could see a very bad cut straight up her lip.  It needed medical attention.  I could tell by her expression she needed a minute alone to cry it out with her friend so I gave her more bacterial wipes and told her I would let the medics know what had happened.  A local resident appeared and asked if she wanted a lift to the hospital which she declined.

This gave me a fright.  It was exactly what I was scared of.  50km each day was a very long way and I would inevitably be alone at some point.  As great as it is that strangers will help you it’s not the same as having the comfort of someone you know.  I tried desperately not to let this get to me, negative thoughts could end this run for me quicker than any injury.  They manifest and grow until they suffocate you.  Focus on the finish!  It’s not the end of the world if you fall, it’s just a graze.  Keep your head up!  Ok.  Positive pants on.

Shortly after I saw Joe and the kids.  Fantastic!  Sweaty cuddles all round and a comment from another saying how nice that was.  Then Joe told me there was ‘a bit of a hill’ coming up.  Positive pants came off.

Only joking!  I just shrugged.  ‘It is what it is’ I told myself.

Pit Stop 3 to Pit Stop 4 – 10km

I was finding the Pit Stops quite lonely by now.  I tried to make eye contact with a few people but the heat was that exhausting that everyone was already looking shattered.  I picked up some ready salted crisps and sat down to look at what the next section was when I remembered I had a cooling towel with me so looked in my bag for it.  That’s when I came across my little saviour.  I’ve always had a little ‘thing’ I become attached to that I use for comfort.  When I was pregnant with my youngest it was a stone I had found whilst hill walking.  Then it was a measuring tape I would wrap round and round my fingers.  And now.  It was my wonder woman keyring.  Comes everywhere with me.  I was no longer alone!  (Sort of).  Yes ladies and gentlemen.  I am 36 and I still have a comfort blanket.  Bite me.

I saw the lady in the medic tent who had fallen and went over to see if she was ok.  She was still in shock and she said she had ended up taking the lift here and was about to go to the hospital as needed stitches.  I didn’t know what to say.  What do you say? So sorry it’s ended your run for you?  I told her I had seen many people falling and it had been a really tough day before heading off.

The heat was blazing now and in my joy in finding wonder woman I had forgotten about my cooling towel.   Thankfully Joe texted to say they were at the next Pit Stop so that kept me going.  He also said he had my beloved red bull with him but for once I didn’t want it.  Oh my god the heat must be getting to me!  I better keep drinking the water.

I found myself running at roughly the same pace as someone with their music playing.  At first I quite liked this and was nodding my head along.  I hadn’t put my music on yet as wanted to try to talk to people so the bonus of hearing someone else’s would save my battery.  I was running along, humming away to the songs when I saw something I had to look twice at.  A man running in sandals.

Ok I need a medic – I am now hallucinating.

Nope.  He is actually running in sandals.  How??  Why??  He looked comfortable enough though.  I’ve seen many Vegan runners in specialised socks but not anyone in sandals.  Different.

I also saw paddle boarders with the most well behaved dogs on the boards too, chilling away.  I was jealous!  I wanted to be on the board.  Actually no.  I wanted to be in the water.  The cool water having a relaxed swim in this heat.  Hold on. It’s water Ella. Water is out to get you, especially when running. I moved along quickly, just in case.

Naturally there was another climb on what was becoming a very tricky track to run on to get to Pit Stop 4.  I could see Joe and the kids there though so it made it easier.  My eldest came in for a hug and I quickly warned him I was both stinking and sweaty.  He gave me a tap on the back ha ha.

Pit Stop 4 to Basecamp – 6.9km

Joe made me drink electrolytes at Pit Stop 4 and it took all my strength not to throw them back up. I didn’t get much down me.  The orange juice had ran out as well and I didn’t think I would take well to the coke that every one raved about so didn’t chance it – not with my stomach the way it was.  We discussed what the plan was.  I had already mentioned I may try to go straight through, it just depended how I was feeling.  Truth be told I wasn’t sure if I could cope being at base camp by myself.  It’s the strangest thing to be surrounded by over a thousand people but feel so alone.  I think he knew more than me that unless my legs were broken I was going straight through.  I wasn’t convinced.  The conditions were seriously tough and a lot of people were dropping out.  Experienced people with no injury that had crept back in.  Oh yeah.  That pain in my arse was back and the hamstrings were crying.  Best get a move on.

I quite enjoyed this section.  Probably because I was thinking that was it over and I was going to stop.  It was also going to be the furthest I had ever ran.  My previous ultra had been just shy of 30 miles.  This was going to be 31.  Happy days.

Basecamp

It was a bit strange crossing the line at base camp. It’s all very chilled and calm. There’s no cheering and whooping and high fives. You just…stop. I wandered over to the food tent and sat down. Too hot so I got back up and sat in the shade. I texted Joe to say I had made it and that my phone was going to run out of battery. He said he was coming to base camp. There’s no tracker at Race To The Stones so I needed my phone. I managed to book in for a massage without a long wait and he was there as I walked out the tent. I got myself some pasta and a slice of cake (which I knew I couldn’t eat but Lucie and Joe would) and pondered the decision of what to do. The massage had worked wonders and I was able to eat the pasta no bother.

Could I do another 50k? It’s a long bloody way! But it is getting cooler. Kind of. And Joe and the kids are going to have to go soon. But you could also just lie in the tent for hours on end and rest. The next 50k won’t be so hard after a rest.

Stuff it I’m going.

And off I went.

Base camp to Pit Stop 6 – 7.9km

‘We want to see you running as soon as you leave here and up there’ my eldest said to me as I left. Cheeky sod.

Underfoot was not great but 5 to 6 was probably the best I felt all day. Once you leave base camp you can’t go back. Decisions made. So you have to own it. And I did. For a few kilometres anyway. I got chatting to a woman called Sarah when we were walking up a hill but lost her when I started running again. Things were looking good.

Pit Stop 6 to Pit Stop 7 – 8km

Aware I had spent so much time at base camp debating what to do I knew I couldn’t waste too much time at the pit stops. My water was getting really warm so I poured it out and re-filled then sat down. For too long. Clearly forgetting I had to get a move on!

I saw Sarah again as I left and said hello as I ran past. Shortly after it was another hill and she caught up. This time I decided not to run ahead. It was getting late and we had been told to get in to pairs and groups and not be out there alone. I knew slowing at this stage would hurt me later but weighing it up I decided having company was the better option. She was glad of it too.

Not too much further up the road I saw a little boy running across the track. I knew instantly who it was. Definitely not a hallucination! ‘I think that’s my kids up ahead’ I said to Sarah. Yup. It was them. Signs in hands and more cuddles. Loved it. I didn’t think I would see them again as they needed to get checked in to the hotel. It had been a long day for them.

Pit Stop 7 to Pit Stop 8 – 12.6km

‘Spritz and melon, Pit Stop 7’ – quote of the entire race!

My favourite Pit Stop. Lots of melon, a quick rest, a chat with a few people (Sarah could talk to anyone) and we got back out there in good spirits.

However. My back was now hurting from not enough running. And the temperature was dropping. And we were losing light. Also, 7 to 8 NEVER ENDED!!

My god I hated that stretch. This was when the ‘seriously where is the pit stop, what km are we on now?’ started. The pain was immense and it was now dark. Dark brought with it the cold.

Cold?!? COLD???!!! Are you kidding me!! It was over 30 degrees during the day! I’ve done nothing but hear about people dropping out from heat stroke and now it’s cold?? How is that even possible?!?

No I did not have appropriate cold weather clothing with me. I had a top and that was it. I had even tried to tell Joe I didn’t need it but he had insisted. Thank god!

So it was no surprise that when we got to Pit Stop 8 (full of hate) that we saw several people shivering in foil blankets and 2 on the ground in makeshift sleeping bags trying to heat up. I briefly spoke to a guy who was dry retching. He hadn’t been able to keep anything down all day and he was now done. ‘I think it’s finally about time I re-consider some of my life choices’ he said in the most sincerest of tones. I felt incredibly sorry for him.

5 people called it a day in the 10 minutes we were at that pit stop. And we heard about 2 more jus minutes after we left. To get 80km in and have no more left in you, I just don’t know how you deal with that.

Pit Stop Hate to Pit Stop 9 – 8.8km

There is a ridiculously steep and difficult shirt section after Pit Stop 8. Doing it in the dark makes it almost impossible not to break an ankle. How we managed not to trip is a wonder. It took out quite a few at that section.

We passed a young lad who was with an older woman. She could have been his mum but I got the feeling she was more his running buddy from a club. His head was down, shoulders slumped and he never looked up from the floor.

‘This is your hard part. This is you hitting that wall. You can do this though. We just keep on going. It doesn’t last.’ In the dead of the night you can hear what everyone says. Her tone was soothing, she wasn’t forcing him, she was encouraging. You knew that she knew what she was talking about.

Onwards we went. Following the glow sticks. For once in my life I hadn’t gotten lost. This was beyond amazing. I always have that moment of ‘have I gone wrong’ but not once in this race did I have that. Hallucinations yes, route detours no. Exhaustion was making me see all kinds of weird things. I was convinced I had my sun glasses on even though it was early hours of the morning. Then I was imaging an old school Mickey Mouse playing about in front of me (shadows from my imaginary sunglasses). Took a while to realise it was the way the head torch was sitting on my hat. And yes, I may or may not have taken Wonder Woman out my pocket and do a conversation with Mickey.

A while later the young lad who had been struggling sailed past me. And I mean sailed. He now had 2 women with him, both with the same tshirt which made me think running club. He was in high spirits now talking away to them. I wanted what he had had! Amazing!

Pit Stop 9 to Finish – 12.9km

If I’ve ever had a near death experience it was this race. That’s what it felt like. I couldn’t feel my hands at all. My back was in absolute agony. I kept losing Sarah as I had to keep stopping. I had had MORE than enough of the god awful conditions underfoot where the path was chalk – CHALK – and the ditches weren’t wide enough for your god damn feet. It never ended. Ever. Like ever ever. Ever!

I had been getting messages from a few friends and family encouraging me on which I really appreciated and helped me going. The cat memes and the ‘your almost there’ when I still had 15km to go, well, not so much, but still. My hands were so frozen I couldn’t work the phone to reply. It was awful. I needed the messages to keep me going but I hated being rude and not replying.

Pitch black, middle of a field alone and I could hear a noise. Or did I? God knows at this point. Nope, that was definitely a noise. What was that? Actually, does it matter? If it’s something that could kill me then this torture will be over because let’s face it, I have no energy to fight back. There it was again. Is it….?

Oh holy crap I know what that is! It’s me! I can’t see anyone in front me so I turn to make sure no ones behind me. Bloody typical! Been alone for so long and now there’s a group of head torches! What am I going to do??

Decision was very quickly taken out of my hands. I barely made it to the side of the track. I definitely was not sheltered in a bush.

And the problem with head torches? They light you up like a Christmas tree.

‘Are you ok?’

‘Em, yup, I’m fine thank you. Just eh, couldn’t wait any longer. Had to go’.

I refused to look up. I don’t need to know who saw more than one moon that night.

Having proved that now there definitely was not ‘More in me’ (stupid tag line for the race) I trundled on. Joe had planned to try and run up the track to meet me and help me do the last few km but he text to say the marshals weren’t letting him. I’m really gutted about this because I’ve since learned that quite a few people did do that and I really needed it.

I eventually came to the infamous loop. It is at this point I really let rip. Not with ‘stomach issues’ but with temper.

‘You’re doing absolutely fantastic it’s just up to the stones, back down to me, then to the finish’

‘Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME!!!’

It was out before I could catch it. That poor marshal.

‘I’m just going to …..’. I tried to apologise but all that was coming out was ‘What the actual fuck is this fucking nonsense, I’m absolutely fucking dying here. I’m sick of this shit. Absolutely fucking sick of this shit.’

It was barely a whisper due to lack of energy but I really hope he didn’t hear it.

Up the hill – obviously – to the ‘stones’, and another tirade.

‘I don’t give a fucking fuck about your lumps of stone, I’ve been walking and running on your shitty chalk paths and trails for god damn hours. I want to stop!’

My stones picture pretty much sums it up.

Back down the path and back to the marshal. He had to help me up the step to get in to the field. I couldn’t lift my leg high enough by this point. At least this was my opportunity to apologise. ‘Oh don’t worry, I’ve heard worse tonight.’

That field went on and on and on. And it was wet. Never have I been so close to a finish line and still not known if I was going to finish. So many times my legs had wobbled and I had thought if I go down I won’t be physically able to get back up. Even in the last 20 metres I still didn’t know if I was going to cross that line.

There was no sprint finish, no arms raised, no rush of relief. There was just a brief smile and a hobble.

The cold took over instantly and my entire body started shaking uncontrollably. I begged Joe to get me home. I didn’t want to end 100km in the medical tent. I just needed to get warm. Because of this I missed getting the race t-shirt.

Home

So that’s it. I actually did it. And I wrote war and peace part 2 to remember it! Ha ha. It couldn’t have been done without the support of Joe and the kids being there. I may have covered the distance but my god it was a long and hot day for them.

The lows were deep – lonely pit stops, large chunks with no one to talk to, the pain and seeing other people struggling. But there were highs too. The signs Joe and the kids made, the messages from friends and family, the massage at base camp and the eventual finish line.

Would I do it again? I lasted 24hours saying absolutely fucking not. (I’ve discovered that at certain times, I do indeed, swear like a trooper.). I would want to do it with a friend though. Doing it alone was too much. Yes you meet people but running through the cold night, you need a friend.

So it’s rest for a few days whilst I contemplate where my route goes next. And it’s unfortunately a very long wait for a t-shirt. Sunday didn’t quite feel right hobbling about with out the justification blazoned across me.

Wonder when I can get out for a run again though?

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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.

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!