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.

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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?

The Belly’s Gonna Get You

Ok 10 days – 10 solid days.  24 hours in each of them and I didn’t run once.  Not once.  I even dramatically cut down my steps every day aided by the fact I was teaching and not on pool side for 3 of those days.  Surely that was going to be long enough to get rid of the issue in my butt.

The day was set.  Schools were off (are they ever on?!) and my mum was having Oliver so I could get out and get it done.  10 miles.  That’s my aim.  This is going to be BRILLIANT!  10 pain free miles, including hills, pushing on the down hill cause I love to scare myself and almost fall (not so great when a little pee comes out but hey, it happens).  The route was planned.  I would catch up on all the miles I had missed in those very long 10 days.

Then my mum said she was staying in town so running to her house didn’t really work.  Ok.  No problem.  Different route then.  Hmm.  Well, to be honest, 10 miles might be pushing it.  Probably not the best idea to push that out just in case it pushes me back and deem the rest completely pointless.  Ok.  Up the river then.  And it feels good I ‘could’ always add on the extra (and by could I obviously mean I’m 100% doing 10 miles but trying to fool myself that I am not).

Oliver happily waddles off with his Nanny having not seen her in a little while.  Lucie (my daughter) has only just got out of bed in that typical ‘I’m a teenager I need to sleep’ state.  Ok.  T-shirt and shorts.  Where’s my shorts?  WHERE’s my shorts! HOW do your clothes go missing so quickly when you don’t wear them?  For goodness sake!  Can’t find them and the other pair are currently swirling round the washing machine.  Sake.  Ok,  I will try out my new adidas leggings.  Oooohh these are nice!  Little bit camel toe but no one should be looking there! Really comfy though (not the camel toe part, I can’t feel that, just looks like that).

Garmin on and I opt for music instead of a pod cast because this WILL be a great run!  It’s going to be all flying through the air with grace and speed.  There may even be rainbows.  Off I go.  Yup.  It’s awesome!  I feel great.  Little tricky breathing but that will settle down.   Pants appear to be falling down though (thank goodness I don’t run in a skirt).  I discreetly try to pull them back up – and by discreetly I mean I ram my hand down and yank them up so I now have a thong to go along with my camel toe.  I’ve opted for along the river which is flat because I know I love it further up.  I get to one km (this used to be my original 5km route when I started running so I know where every kilometre is ha ha).  Hmm, stomach is a bit funny.  I did do my pre run visit though so all should be good.  Maybe it’s just the Trek bar I had last night, it had chocolate on the top.  I get to a mile and have to stop.  I have to stop!  Nope, this definitely isn’t just a bit of chocolate.  It’s one mile!  Come on!

Ok back off running.  That was just a blip, ignore it.  8mins 20 for your first mile is still better than what you have been doing.  Half a mile more and my stomach is cramping.  What the actual hell.  Nope nope nope I will run it off!  No no no you won’t Ella!  I’m stopped at mile 2 again.  Every single human in the world is now looking at me wondering if I even know how to run as I am spending more time resting than actually moving.  Even those at their desks working away can see me and are just staring.  Paranoid much.  Ok get moving.

Mile 3 and I have to sit down.  Head in my hands.  Curled up in a ball.  I check my phone to see if Joe is nearby.  Dunfermline.  He sends me a photo of the golden post box.  I choose not to tell him I am out running and in need of a lift home due to a sore stomach.  I consider phoning my mum but I know I could get home faster by myself.  Do I really want to walk though?  Am I honestly going to walk when I should be running?   Not a chance.  I stand up and realise I have of course sat in mud and now look like I have poo’d myself.   Just another thing to add to the list.  Fantastic.  What’s next?  My sports bra breaks?  Let’s not joke about these things.

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3.5 miles and it’s another stop as I’m convinced I’m about to throw up.  The smell from the abattoir is most certainly not helping.  Note to self, if you ever learn how to run again don’t come along the river anymore.  It is actual death.  Although if someone could kill me now I’m not sure I would object.

Onward’s I go in my camel toe, pants falling down, mud that looks like poo on my bum state of athleticism.   Aren’t I setting the perfect picture example to all around.  (Which thankfully is no one even if I do think I’m on the Truman Show – is that a camera on that tree?).  I’m stopping constantly but my goal is 4 miles and then I will walk home.  2 miles is too far not to run so I force myself to go to 5 miles switching tactics and putting a pod cast on.  It’s a guy that has walked across the Antarctic in 54 days unsupported.  Well don’t I feel bloody pathetic!  I’ve stumbled to 4 miles and am doing the whole ‘I can’t go on’.  Suck it up.  I plod along eventually making it to 5 miles, pace has gone out the window – obviously – and keep going to stop and walk but instead….just keep going.  Stubbornness.  Pure stubbornness.

I get home and lie down straight away.  Lucie asks if she should phone Nanny.  What a mess!  I tell her no it’s just a little sore stomach, nothing much.  ‘I thought it was your legs that hurt mum?’

My legs!  I haven’t felt my legs – or my butt – at all!  Well just a little in the hamstring but nothing really.  But then to be fair I wasn’t exactly running.  So it wasn’t really a good test.  Still, I’m taking that as a positive.

So that was that.  My first run after 10 days rest which should have been all rainbows and smooth flying but was instead cramping soreness with god only knows what going on with my bottom half – no leg or butt pain though!

Who said running was boring?

How is this happening?

Serious question. Needs to be asked in all caps.

HOW IS THIS STILL HAPPENING??

I’m still suffering from pain in my glutes and hamstring. That’s a year. An entire year! 52 weeks, 365 days – a bloody year!!

Yes I still managed to hobble round a 100km race and a 33 miler but they weren’t exactly stellar performances! Quite frankly they were borderline embarrassing. In fact, let’s not talk about them. Given a baby could crawl faster.

I had a few weeks of next to no running – just 2/3 days. Slight improvement. I mean, I can run a few miles before the pain hits. I no longer care about my pace as my focus is distance so if I’m doing 9 minute miles than so be it. Even if it is just a 5 mile run. But I would prefer it to be closer to 8 let’s be honest.

I’ve been back to physio who discovered I had no reaction what so ever to being hit by a hammer (very strange as I was immensely worried my leg would fly up and kick her in the face but nope, nothing). Are you doing any stretching or exercises to help your legs she asks me.

Ermmmm

This is the odd bit. You see I very much know exactly what I should be doing to help build up my incredible lack of muscle (sometimes I wonder how I’m able to walk my body appears to be that pathetically weak right now) but for some unknown reason I’m just not doing them. I have no discipline what so ever. It’s insulting. The drive and thirst has gone. I can run. It hurts like a mother f…. but I can run. Therefore the arrogance – or could it be laziness – in me has decided to go f@ck it. Run slow, run in pain, but don’t try to fix it.

I would love at this point to say ‘well enough is enough!’ Or something equally as self righteous and poignant but I know it would be a lie. So I’m not going to. I’m not going to declare some huge master plan of how I’m going to fix myself and get back to the goal of a 3:45 marathon. Nope. I’m just going to honestly say – bleurgh.

2 days ago I had planned a 10 mile run. I should be running further just now but 10 miles fitted in to the days schedule. I forced myself to 7 and phoned to get picked up. I was on my way to my parents and Joe was bringing the car anyway so it was more of a ‘don’t drive past me pick me up please’ request. It hurt. It hurt really bad. I carried on and just as the garmin said 9 miles our car pulled up in front of me.

The old me, the me a year ago, would have said ‘it’s only another mile, doesn’t matter, I will see you there’ and forced that last torture. Not now. Not that day. And I’m so glad I didn’t. It didn’t stop hurting until the next day. I couldn’t sit comfortably, couldn’t lie in bed easily, it just hurt all the time.

So after reality hit me on the head (or arse to be more accurate) I decided I have no choice but to stop running for a solid 5 days.

I’m on day 2 and it is KILLING me. I’ve been to the gym, I’ve been swimming, I’ve bought 2 more books to read and countless magazines but oh my god I’m bored!! And restless.

But every time I think ‘maybe just a few miles’ I remember stopping at mile 9 of my 10 mile run. I don’t do that. That isn’t me. So something was killing me.

I’ve booked an ultra for the end of March. I can’t really afford any time off training. But if I can’t really run it what’s the freaking point?

I also have another race in which there is someone who is going to try their damnedest to beat me. I am their target, I am their goal. If I’m honest, it’s that that has maybe finally made me get up off the couch and do my stretches. It’s pee’d me off I won’t lie. Yes I pick people to try and beat in a race but not people who are injured! That’s not a win! Have some respect.

Do I have a grand master plan? No. Are they going to beat me? There’s a high possibility. The ultra – at the moment – is my main focus, not that piddily wee race. So if I have to slow down to prevent further issues I will (I say that now but on the day…. who knows).

As you can probably tell I’m just a bit frustrated right now. Im fed up of my arse hurting and I just want to run. Pain free. I’ve found an entertaining pod cast that helps keep my sludge of a pace even so I’m ready for Saturday to lace up the trainers and get out there.

Will I last it out until Saturday? Who knows. Will I completely fall out of love with running if I don’t run until Saturday? That’s a fear, I won’t lie. What if I decide to just stop altogether? (I’m starting to have a panic attack now).

We will see.

Christmas Fun Run

Christmas Fun Run

Due to my shifts I’ve not managed any of the clubs festivities this year so I decided a Christmas fun run was in order with my friend Lorner. No pace set, no distance set, just Santa hats and lots of chat. What could go wrong?

I picked a trail route as the streets of Perth are getting a bit boring right now and trails are always so much more fun so we headed off straight after the school drop off. (The late school drop off but hey, at least I remembered he needed a Christmas jumper!).

On the drive to Dunkeld just up the road the car was filled with our exceptional voices belting out the Christmas tunes. It’s a good thing Mariah Carey’s retired as we would be knocking her off that no 1 spot with our dulcet tones. It is quite possible that only dogs could hear our high pitched screeches at some points but our spirit was just as high.

Parked up in a very empty car park we wrapped up and went on our merry way – all set for a great run and some exercise.

At exactly 0.3 miles in we stopped for the first photograph. Oh no. This was not going to be fast run at all. What we discovered after the 20th attempt at a jump shot was in fact that neither of us were any good at timing. By the 35th time we almost gave up but not ones to quit something we had started (didn’t you stop running at 0.3 miles Ella?) we kept going and it was lucky number 47 that got us our almost ‘perfect’ picture.

Yup. That’s me squatting and her pointing and saying ‘ok we go in 3’.

We trotted on for another little bit and after several ‘nope, not this way’ moments we found the place called Rumbling Bridge. Now this confused the life out of me as I thought Rumbling Bridge was near Pitlochry, not Dunkeld. Never mind. We continued up the hill – it was ALL up hill and chatted away about how it didn’t feel like Christmas and how fast it had come around and oh my god we really are old quick change the subject.

As the easy trail path gave way to a more thinner, muddy and snow covered thin line I discovered that Lorner hadn’t actually done a trail run before. She kept disappearing behind me as I chatted on, darting back and forth over the ground, always in a forward motion. She all but stopped and was tip toeing across sections. So I did what every runner would do when their friend was nervous and squeaking like an old wooden floor – I ran on, stopped, turned round, then laughed as she emerged ever so slowly through the forest like a fairy princess trying not to get her feet dirty. But swearing like a trooper! She has such a potty mouth!

Onwards and upwards we went until we passed a lovely little cottage and came across some spectacular views. The mist was half way up a nearby mountain but the peak of the mountain was still visible. It was gorgeous. Cue another 40 thousand photos, none of which were any good, so out came Wonder Woman and Santa.

We carried on for a fair few miles after that and stopped again when we spotted Christmas trees. Obviously time for another Santa photo shoot. We headed back down the hill and I felt something hit my foot – Santa had escaped from my pocket! As I put him safely back in I felt something no one wants to feel in the middle of the woods. A very large hole in my very new running jacket. Santa’s beard was no longer the whitest thing in the forest. ‘I’ve dropped the car key’ I said to Lorner. I won’t post her actual reply but it was along the lines of ‘oh my word, that’s terrible, what ever will we do’ – just a lot more vulgar. ‘Wonder woman’s missing too!’ I was now screaming. I can’t lose Wonder Woman!!

Ok deep breaths. Re-trace the steps. We started walking back but I had been looking forward to running back along this section and found I was useless at going that slow so started lightly running. Note to self, don’t volunteer on one of those police searches, you’ll be no help what so ever Ella.

I started praying to the DC Comics gods. If you let me find Wonder Woman I promise I will learn the names of the other ones and get to know what’s DC and what’s Marvel. I promise.

Maybes she’s flown away on her invincible jet?

As we slowly ran back I kept thinking about the huge muddy puddles we had run through. If either my key ring or the car key had fallen in to one of them we were never finding it. This could actually be a bit of a disaster. Bugger.

A full mile back and nothing. This was looking grim. By now I was rehearsing the dreaded phone call to Joe. ‘So, funny story, but I may just have lost my Wonder Woman keyring. The car key! I’ve lost the car key – obviously the car keys more important, yup. And I’m about half an hour out of town. Soz.’

Could this be grounds for divorce? Well to be fair they fell out the pocket of a jacket he bought and insisted I wear so technically this was his fault. True story.

‘Oh my god there she is!!!’ Almost 2 miles back and I had found her! I felt much better. No phone call needed! Oh, no wait. The car key. Bugger. Clutching her tightly in my hand we went further back and just a few hundred metres there was the car key. Not quite so exciting but probably more useful.

Back to the car!

So the very short 3 miles possibly 4 turned in to way more with the added bonus of fear and the sense of loss followed by relief and love. (Bit far? Or not far enough, hmm). Either way it’s a Christmas run we won’t forget in a hurry and the over enthusiastic belting out of Christmas songs on the way home was truly the cherry on the pudding.

From Viaduct to Nelson Mandela

I’m currently sat with a chesty cough that I quickly learned you can’t run with by the way (pace was really slow yet heart rate through the roof – an interesting feeling for me ha ha).   So I’ve been doing a little ‘thinking’.  And yes, my head now hurts, but that’s just something else to add to the collection.

I’ve been thinking about adventure.  And as bad as I could claim this year to be – injured from March, bum still hurts, hamstrings still bad, didn’t achieve GFA, didn’t get London, a few DNS – there has also been a few adventurous experiences in there.

Manchester. Ok so it didn’t turn out to be the London qualifier I was hoping for but it was a marathon ‘technically’ in another country. It involved travelling and education as I learned that no I wasn’t running through an area where no one wanted to live and was selling up but an area simply called ‘Sale’. Still find that weird though.

Ireland. No official race but does it have to be? I got to run for fun past one of my Bucket List places to go – The Titanic museum. And thanks to that I discovered the back of the museum which had the layout of the magnificent ship. I also had my first proper fall there when running and returned to the apartment bleeding and with a broken phone. Good memories.

Race To The Stones. The initial plan was to run the entire 100km straight through. Then I was hit even worse with the injuries and couldn’t run a step without pain. Mr Cardio was not so secretly pleased. I tried every single profession possible to find a solution – including a podiatrist (lovely man, Alistair Dall). I reluctantly changed my entry to complete it over 2 days. Clutching at straws but I was definitely in the ‘go hard or die trying’ camp by then. Even my physio had that look of ‘it’s not happening’ but she gave me lots of advice and understood my need. When I reached base camp half way through the race I changed my mind and pushed through. My challenge was to do it in one day, not two. It was pointed out to me a couple of months later how insane it was to just decide to start another 50km running at 5’o’clock at night. I learned so so much from completing my goal that day.

South Africa. I ran the Nelson Mandela Fun Run. Never will there be a cooler name of a race. Enough said.

50th parkrun. 2018 was the year I hit 50, and I’m not talking looks. I teamed up with my friend Lorner for a few and I completely removed the stress of going for a PB. I don’t care if it affects my average or any of that, that’s not my focus. I’ve kind of fallen out of love with my local parkrun though so I’m going to try some tourism.

Aberfeldy Middle Distance Relay. Ginnie was the swimmer (4th relay team out the water I believe) Joe was on the bike (sub 3hrs!) and I ran the half marathon at the end. It took me 2 hours and was no performance to be shouting of – we dropped places once I started running – but we all had fun. Would definitely do a relay again. Wouldn’t attempt to make porridge in a flask again though. Nope. Can still hear the gloopy sludge of the spoon being sucked in.

Glen Ogle 33. Loved, loved, LOVED everything about this race! From speeding up to register the night before and discovering Lorner gets travel sick, the pack lunch she brought me, seeing a friendly face at the start line, another at the bottom of what felt like a waterfall I had just ran down to the surprise of Joe and the kids finding me on the trail with just 3 miles to go. My second ultra of the year. And I got to run over a viaduct! A viaduct!  Well worth it.

Did I get any PB’s last year? No. Did I get slower? Definitely. Did I die though? No.

I didn’t manage to complete any of the road runners series and I’ve not won any awards. (I did get a nomination for club personality which genuinely put a grin on my face) but no medals or trophies this year. I’m also not doing Marcothon because I can remember how miserable that made me feel. A Christmas Day run is on the calendar though.

Next year starts with a return to my first ever triathlon – the New Years Day Tri. That’s just for fun. It also has more ‘adventurous’ running. It would be very easy to feel depressed about what I didn’t do this year but what’s the point, it won’t change it. I will get London one day. I will continue to run past places on my bucket list. And I will continue to try and not drown and not fall off my bike.

xx