5 Words

Is it possible to write – or even think – about anything other than that virus right now?

From day 1 both Joe and I had our heads turned by what we were hearing. Now, I’m not about to go down the ‘I told you so’ track as I’ve never really paid much attention to the latest big topic and it could have been something over nothing.

But it wasn’t. It’s here. Our lives are affected.

At first I was a bit disappointed when my races started to get cancelled but I wasn’t surprised. My coping strategy with everything is (in true scout behaviour) be prepared. Through preparation I pass through acceptance, usually quite smoothly as I’m distracted. And this works for me.

Knowing the effect this virus could have on Joe and not fully believing that kids aren’t likely to catch it I wasn’t one for taking chances. I pulled our daughter out of school when a bus load of kids and teachers returned from a ski trip to northern Italy and were at the school the day after. My decision as her parent. Had something similar happened at our sons school or at my work I would have taken the same action.

Joe has been told by his doctor if he catches this virus he will go straight to intensive care as he has nothing in his body that can fight it.

So yes – if I mention social distancing to you I AM FUCKING SERIOUS!!

I have been mocked and ridiculed by those who haven’t taken the situation seriously. I’ve seen the eye rolls, I’ve heard the back handed comments. I’ve chosen to respect your opinion on the matter and not ram my opinion down your throat but, eventually, it all got too much.

I thought I was coping with it. I actually thought it wasn’t something big enough to have to be coping with. But I was wrong. I ended up phoning Joe from work – I could only get 5 words out – ‘can you come get me’ – he knew instantly – ‘be there in 5’.

I spent 4 days in tears with a crushing elephant on my chest, not wanting to go back to work, not wanting to see anyone or speak to anyone, worried what I was going to do about child care, feeling useless because I should be at home with my family. I did every errand, afraid if Joe goes out he might catch it. And let me tell you – doing the food shopping when you have NO idea about food does nothing to calm you down. Every two minutes I was on the phone because I either didn’t know what something was (still don’t know) or where it is. But it has to be done, by me, alone.

I went paddle boarding with a friend down the river. I was in two minds but I checked with the centre who reassured me everything was sanitised and they were following strict distancing rules. It turned out to be the best therapy. I paddled off to the side whilst she chatted up the instructor. An hour and a half of peace and fresh air.

Back on dry land and the elephant resumed its position on my chest. All good things come to an end as they say.

The next day I tried a run. Running is my go to companion. Feeling down? Go for a run. Need to think something through? Go for a run. Make the tea? Order take out and go for a run. But I couldn’t breath. It was a constant stop start and it genuinely freaked me out. I didn’t want to walk as I wanted to get home. I couldn’t phone Joe because I didn’t want him leaving the house. A herd had now descended on my chest.

Then came the news. Lockdown. No non-essential travel. No work. Pubs, clubs, leisure centres, gyms all to close. You are allowed to leave the house once a day for exercise. You can go food shopping and you can get medicine. That’s it. This. Is. Real.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned my goals for this year. How the virus has put me back in training etc etc. That’s because it’s not the most important thing. (Did I really just say that?) Yes I’ve gone from 10 hours training a week to countless rest days and a pathetic attempt at a push up challenge but I don’t care. Not right now. I care about my family.

Of course that may change after 3 weeks of being locked up with them – we lasted less than 10mins in the living room all together yesterday morning.

Times are hard. They’re hard for everyone right now. But as I keep saying to our daughter, we are all in the same position. This is hard for everyone in different ways and we all need to respect that. For now, I will enjoy the time with my family. I will listen to the government and follow what they say. I will run when I can, turbo till the cows come home and maybe try the push up challenge again. Maybe.

On The Hunt

On The Hunt

My my it’s been a while hasn’t it! Life’s been hectic – a bit too over whelming at times – but things are easing up so hopefully dust settles. Things got too much at Christmas but we won’t let that happen again.

I did the New Years Day Tri. My nemesis of a race. And I’m pleased to report that my swim finally improved so that’s that put to bed! Highly likely I do it again next year though ha ha.

Joe and I also ran as a team for a leg of a relay race. I did do 2 recces but it turns out I’m not quite as good at map reading as I had thought. All was well on the day though and it was (almost) fun running with my other half. It definitely reminded me how much I love running on the trails and in the hills though. I miss it.

And now I’m on the hunt for a pool to do some actual swimming in. Lanes aren’t available for a decent length of time OR very often at the one I work at. There are times the pool even sits empty in between sessions and I think an awful lot could be done to improve availability but hey, not my decision. So that leaves me needing to find another pool to train in.

Last week my good old dad drove me to the next city to try one out there. My car was in for its MOT and I would have gotten completely lost on a bus. The experience of being in a car with my dad is somewhat similar to being a test dummy on the first try of the worlds most jittery roller coaster. In plain – my nerves were shot to sh!t and anxiety levels through the roof. But he was doing me a favour. I had to keep my mouth shut.

Unlike him of course who took great pleasure in telling me how brilliant and fast everyone else looked in the lane next to his dwarf of a daughter who was snaking through the water. Naturally, my dad claims he used to be able to swim like a fish. He’s more fish supper now however. With the mushy peas.

The pool was good. Not too busy. Friendly enough people. Very nice lifeguards. But could I heck find out how to get in the lane of my choice. And we won’t mention how I got out – oh god. Pulled myself right up on the wall with the diving boards and avoided ALL eye contact with every single person in the pool who saw me and had the clear expression of ‘what did she just do?’. (FYI – I think I was meant to swim across the other lanes to the steps. Whoops). Only issue with the pool is I wasn’t allowed paddles.

Today I tried a more local pool. So local in fact it’s actually closer to me than the pool I work at. It always has a lane for swimming though and I know someone else who trains there and she gets on fine with it. So I paid my £15 day fair (how much?!) and wandered in. Unfortunately I had picked the time when aqua aerobics was in so the lane was busy. I have never heard of this lane being busy – ever. Clearly I have a skill for identifying worst times to train! (Maybe I should put that on my cv). Anyway. Being the newbie I really didn’t want to annoy anyone so I waited and watched the other swimmers to determine a gap I could slip in to.

Now let’s be clear. I may be a swim teacher. I may be a coach. I may even have completed several triathlons. A ‘fast’ swimmer however, I am not. And never will be. I can swim until I’m wrinklier than an Egyptian mummy but fast just isn’t me.

So when I was still standing there a full 2 minutes later – baring in mind this is a 20m pool, not 25 – I genuinely had to ask myself if one of the blokes was just floating rather than swimming.

This was not going to be good.

Off I went though. Trying desperately not to splash the blue rinse brigade right beside me getting their groove on to a Tom Jones number. First hundred done and it all seemed ok. Second hundred however and it all went Pete Tong. And I’m not just talking about the music. One lady was lovely. Stopped at the end to let me past every time with a smile. Even the floating man was jovial and loved a bit of chat on my rest breaks. The third woman however, was having none of me. She was swimming (breast stroke arms and I think it was meant to be front crawl kick) and she wasn’t for letting anyone by. If you got close she went to the middle of the lane. She never swam right up to the wall she did a sort of semi circle turn thing. And she had a look of utter disgust whenever I was close. To be fair she was probably wondering what on earth I was doing. (It’s called swimming love!! Properly!) It really didn’t help when I pushed off the wall on a turn and practically ended up on top of her. I genuinely thought she was further up the lane. The final crunch however came when someone got in the lane and started walking! Walking! Up and down the lane. I had to admit defeat and give up on my set and just do what I could.

I got chatting to an elderly woman and she said she usually avoids when the aqua fit is on because you can’t swim. Any other time is fine. You also can’t get a space in the changing rooms or to put your stuff up and you can forget the cafe after. All points duly noted. Trust me.

After the longest 3km swim in the history of time I get out to get dressed. The showers amazing. It’s one of those powerful ones that I could stay in for hours. I’m not a fan of the gentle, trickle ones. Give me power any day!

The changing rooms are busy but it’s fine. It’s a bit weird when a woman walks in wheeling an actual suitcase with her swimmie in it but each to their own……

Also. There are a LOT of people who sit and put on full face make up in those changing rooms. Honestly thought they were all about to be going on tv or something. Me? I brushed my hair. Job done.

So where does that leave me? A 1 hour round trip to the next city to use a good pool but not always be able to use paddles. A pool on my doorstep that has good opening times, very clean changing rooms but only 1 lane and it’s 20m. (It’s also quite expensive). Nag my husband to either build us a pool – because obviously we have the space for it – or buy one of those nonstop pool thingies. Yes that’s it’s ACTUAL name, nonstop pool thingy.

I think the search will have to continue.

Next up on the race calendar is a sprint next month and I’m hoping to improve on last years time. I’m also hoping not to accidentally do 4 laps on the bike instead of the required 3. Wish me luck!

Backing It Up

Well life’s just sat up and given me a big old slap in the face with a soggy fish taken straight from the murky under grounds of death lake.

I’ve hurt my back.

Correction. A plastic mannequin filled with water has completely totalled my back and put me out of action for god only knows how long.

So what happened? Last night during one of my classes a young lad was doing amazing. He was swimming absolutely beautifully and nailed both his breast stroke and back crawl. As a reward we put the mannequin in as he just loves to dive down for it. All I did was pull it out the water on to the side. As I lifted it up I felt this explosion in my back and intense pain. I lent against the diving boards and found I was struggling to move. Luckily I had our modern apprentice with me and she went to get another teacher so I could try and sneak out the back door and on to the power plates in hope of releasing my back straight away.

This didn’t work so I limped my way to the chiropractor a mere 2 hours after it happened to be told I had rotated L3 L4 had an acute tear and a golf ball sized lump in my QL.

In English I had f@cked my back.

An absolute HUGE thank you to Duigan Chiropractors and their massage therapist Amanda for seeing me so quickly!!

Where does this leave me? Well this morning it left me stuck on the bed for 5 minutes because I had one leg in my trousers but couldn’t lift the other up to put that one in. I also couldn’t roll to the side enough to move so there I was balanced half off the bed in a contorted position with a pair of trousers dangling off my right foot. Yup, I certainly know how to spice things up in the bedroom!

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Basically, after a mere 3 days of following a training plan, I’m on rest. I can’t bend side to side, I can’t bend forward – the bathrooms a freaking fun place to visit right now – and I can’t sit in one position for more than a couple of minutes with out a shooting pain going down my leg.

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BUT. Tomorrow is another day. Let’s see if it releases any today. I am religiously icing it and rolling on that spiky ball. I am regularly getting up and moving but no, not going for a run. Once it registered last night that I will not be doing my turbo session, run or be fit for work today I had no choice but to think about how I can make it better, fast.

I’m not in the whole ‘woe is me’ place. I’m just frustrated because I was really excited about starting something new.

I’m meant to be at a cocktail night tomorrow. And I’m not ruling it out yet!! I rarely go out and have been looking forward to this one. I’m thinking the alcohol will numb the pain – isn’t that the saying? Ha ha. It’s not over till the fat lady sings and this fat lady can’t sing so it will never be over! Ha ha. If – and it’s a big if – I make it, there won’t be any dancing, but I’m sure the rest of the ladies will make up for that.

Right. Time to get another ice pack. I will go to the (cocktail) ball tomorrow!

Team Webley On Tour – the Weymouth edition

Team Webley On Tour – the Weymouth edition

What can be said about Weymouth? Well. The words ‘easy, flat, smooth’ do not enter my thoughts put it that way!

Just one week before, my entire race was put in jeopardy after being struck by an episode. I’ve had nothing in almost 2 years and then out of nowhere I hit the ground 7 days before race day. Luckily Joe was with me but I didn’t escape a trip to A &E later that night. I did convince them I didn’t need to stay in for observation though. There was no need.

So it was touch and go whether I would be starting, and if I got to start whether I would finish. The only way to deal with it was to break it down step by step.

We get down there and, well, it’s Weymouth. It’s windy! The sea was horrendous. We tried a practise swim but no. It was like being thrown back to Edinburgh 70.3 that first year. It did tell me I needed nose plugs though and after much running around trying to 1) get people to understand my accent and 2) find someone who knew what nose plugs were I eventually found a swimming pool that had a pair. And like the hero he is Joe took off to get them as the place shut in 20 minutes.

I also didn’t have a bike pump so had to buy one of them. I could only find a huge, heavy lump of metal which Joe didn’t think I could get on to my bike but you’ll be amazed what a girl with a bunch of hair bobbles can do!

The night before the race was spent practising removing my wet suit. After taking a Stanley blade to the sleeves (not during a timed removal, let’s not be too dramatic) the arms were ok but there was no getting my fat legs out the bottom. I did consider taking the blade to my legs but it would take a chain saw to get through these tree trunks.

Race morning and my heart and chest are ok. I’m going to join the race start and see what happens. Joe on the other hand is not. As much as it was touch and go for me, it was the same for him. He is constantly in pain. The only thing that changes is the level. When he sent me to my start area an hour before go time I was convinced he was pulling out. With crohns it’s very much a case of yes, you can make plans but you might have to cancel them last minute. He did start though and he did have a good race.

The sea had calmed down a lot but the decision had been made to shorten the course. My first panic was whether or not I would make cut off. I think I will always worry about that though. In the end I had a good swim for me. I was only elbowed and hit a few times and I kept to a very straight line.

I would love to ‘gloss’ over T1 but in the time it took me to remove my wetsuit you could not only have had a cup of tea and a biscuit, but you could have had the entire weeks worth of tea and biscuits! Bit disappointed no one offered to help if I’m honest. If I’d seen someone struggle like that I would have helped rip the thing off.

The bike was good. Apart from the punctures. Both of them! How do you get 2 punctures?? I may have spent Saturday night practising wet suit removal but maybe some of it should have been spent practising punctures. There must have been well over a hundred on course. I had 2, another PTC had 2, I read online someone had 4. The mechanics ran out of everything and the punctures cost quite a few their race. I lost an awful lot of time and I would be disappointed but that’s part of racing. It’s why you can’t compare races. Weather plays a huge part as well and we may have had calmer seas but the wind was definitely present on the cycle! And it brought its friend the rain with it too.

At least my second transition was marginally better – but by this time my head had given up and I was solidly in ‘ultra’ mode. There was no rush. My bike split had been ruined in my eyes at that time so I wasn’t wasting effort.

I had no hunger to get a good time on the run and with the heat rising I was acutely aware of my heart so held back. I could have pushed, I probably should have pushed, but I chose to be cautious/lazy. I knew I would have regrets after but I also knew I needed to have trained more with my run. Yes I can run 50 miles plus but running 13.1 after a swim and a bike isn’t the same. It’s not the place for long pacing techniques.

Having family out on the run though was fantastic. 2 years ago I secretly planned for them to show up for Joe doing Weymouth and it meant a lot to him. Having them there again this time with what he’s dealing with with his crohns had the same effect. And they are not quiet cheerleaders! I could hear them way after I had shuffled by. It was awesome.

Being back of the pack means one absolutely fantastic thing – you get that red carpet to yourself! All the way up! And did I cross the line holding the stop button on my garmin? Did I heck, what was the point! I actually forgot all about it until I was in the finishers hall. I raised both arms, grin on my face as I reminded myself I very nearly wasn’t able to start this race, never mind finish it! Albeit a very, very long time after I had started ha ha.

Afterwards I had to get my tracking fixed as my ankle tracker had not worked and the results had DQ’d me. Now I know my race time was bad but I still finished ha ha. It was a relatively easy fix though thanks to my garmin.

So lots of areas to improve on. Didn’t think I would be saying this but the run needs work. I’m not ready to admit Joe was right and doing ultras at the same time as triathlon isn’t working but ‘I’m just saying’. Bike and swim too have some way to go.

And as for that wet suit……..

Where Have You Been?

Has it really been 2 months since I last wrote? Crickey!

Well it hasn’t been that quiet a 2 months. I haven’t been back in ‘that’ loch again but I have been swimming at a loch closer to home. It’s smaller, a lot calmer, and, most importantly, it does not contain any extras from a Chris Pratt movie. (It does however have lots of a lot braver women than me who swim with no wet suit!)

I’ve been doing more cycling too. I’ve been out on a couple of group cycles with other members of the tri club. I may or may not have refused to ride down the completely vertical freshly gravelled path and gotten off my bike savagely repeating ‘nope,nope,nope,nope’ (I was not the only one who did this. The other guy didn’t want to scratch his hugely expensive frame. I didn’t want to scratch my well worn in human body. Same priorities – just slightly different details.)

It helped a lot going out in a group though. Finding new routes, chatting away, picking up tips. I’ve also been on what was called a Cornering Course at a bike track. That was fantastic! Absolutely bucketing with rain, couldn’t see a thing at times, shivering to death, but man how smooth the track was! I can’t wait to go back and try and whiz round it. Great cup of tea after too.

And then there was Australia. AUSTRALIA! 2 weeks on the other side of the world seeing my brother and his family and basically falling in love with that way of life. We took our bikes over and discovered the roads were so much more friendlier than here. We went running and discovered places we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I ticked off a couple of places on my bucket list – Natural Bridge in Springbrook and Mount Warning – there are genuinely no words at how awesome that was.

And now I’m 2 nights away from my next race. A half marathon up and down a Munro.

Because, you know, a flat road one would be boring.

I’m so excited. Ridiculously excited in fact. I get to run up a Munro! In an actual race! Oh and did I mention it will be as the sun rises?

I KNOW!!!

I’m going to need people to phone me and text me reminding me I’m meant to be running and not just taking in the views. I honestly can’t wait.

Not so keen on the huge compulsory kit list I need to carry but rules are rules.

The run is part of the Starman Triathlon. Jo from the club is doing the midnight swim (midnight swim!) and her husband is doing the cycle. I’m definitely getting the better section. Sunrise on the mountain! Hello bucket list!

It’s 2 miles up hill to start then down again with a run up a Corbett after. It finishes through the woods and on to the beach.

Can you think of a better run? Nope. Me neither.

Of course there are cut off times and I am slightly cautious about them. I need to work out where I need to be by when to know I’m on track. Unfortunately my other half won’t exactly be awake at 4am to text me and tell me to get a move on either. Hmm, could be an issue here.

I’m sure it will be fine. Either way it will be a great ‘night’ out with lots of laughter and pictures. The best thing about it is it advertises itself as ‘not a race’. It’s an experience. One I’m looking forward to.

I should however, be experienced to know that I should have checked my kit by now. I’ve spent most of the night scrambling round for a compass, spare batteries (not for the compass) and the ever faithful flapjack I like to have when running. I really should be better organised than this.

Race To The King 2019

Race To The King 2019

What a weekend I’ve had!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Tears.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

I’m telling you. Crazy thoughts.

 

 

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

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

And waited.

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

 

I was out of basecamp on track.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Jurassic Park

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

Why?

Well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But let’s get back to the loch.

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

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

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

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

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

Then I saw a white thing.

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

I swam a little more.

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

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

The panic starts.

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

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

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

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

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

I have to stop to wretch a couple of times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fish.

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

Back on dry land after the ‘white hand’ situation

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

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

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

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

Teeth!!!

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

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

Teeth!

Absolutely not. I’m sticking to running.