John Muir Way Ultra

John Muir Way Ultra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maths.  Running is all about maths.  Fact.

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

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

Should I eat the flap jack on the table?

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

I take a tiny bit and set off again.

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

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

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

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

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

And straight back out.  Too much.

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

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Ever Changing

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

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

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

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

‘You need to do hills’ came the text.

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

‘Get it done’.

‘It’s dark!’

‘Stop being a @*#${% and get it done’

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

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

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

He. Has. Played. Me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But. Nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glen Ogle start

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

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

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glen Ogle trail.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glen Ogle 1

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

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

Glen Ogle t-shirt.jpg

Glen Ogle elevation

On to the next one.

Everything’s Changed

Work, life, goals, expectations and now even the weather. Everything’s changed. I’ve started a new job. Routines need put in place. School starts soon. And of course there’s the World Championships.

Life is different.

And with Race To The Stones now well and truly behind me it’s time to look for new race goals. Naturally, I’ve spotted a few.

So with that in mind I decided to embark upon a new exercise regime and build up my legs to help carry me over miles and miles of running. (Oh yeah, I’m not done with the ultras).

I’m now working shifts so I have to be ridiculously organised if I want to do anything at all. So yesterday I booked Oliver in to the creche so I could get a gym and swim session in before work. I did a few of my usual routines in the gym including weighted squats and lunges.

Big mistake. Huge!

Second set of the squats and the wobble appeared. I laughed to myself, realising I had picked up heavier weights than normal. Hadn’t thought much of it. Third set and it was a bit more than a wobble. Oh man.

On to the treadmill and as I raised my hand to increase the speed I paused. An image of me falling down and being torpedoed across the room flashed across my eyes. ‘Think I will just walk this off for a bit.’

2 and a half measly miles is all I managed once I got going. However the swim after did help a bit but by the end of my shift at work I had clocked up 28,000 steps and crawling in to bed after midnight I knew today was going to be a rest day.

The problem with getting injured is the ridiculously slow recovery you have to go through. Obviously I didn’t help by adding extra weight to the squats and lunges than when I’m 100% good! But hey, we all make mistakes.

So today I took the youngest to soft play. (Because rest days aren’t torture enough). I’m walking about the same John Wayne style as just a few weeks ago which is amusing. Still no t-shirt to justify it to the raised eyebrows I got however. And sitting there reading a book entitled ‘Why Mummy Drinks’ whilst clearly not able to play with my child probably didn’t score me any more points with the brood of perfect mothers with perfect children either. (They don’t run though, they ‘hot yoga’).

Step count for today? 5000.

I’m not bothered though. I’m actually beginning to feel happier again. And I’m looking forward to taking on another ultra. Especially now I know what to expect. I know what will bother me and I know not to let it. That’s the key.

I also need to find a marathon before the end of the year I can still enter. Oh yes, London is still very much on my mind.

And a little update on the heart situation. MRI showed an enlarged heart, which isn’t a big thing (no pun intended ha ha) and not anything to worry about. Mr Cardio wants to refer me on to his friend who does genetic testing.

Genetic testing?

Oh my god I’m going to be the next Spider-Man!! I am actually going to be Wonder Woman! Well ok maybe not Wonder Woman but at the very least I could be her little sister!! Little Wonder Woman. My new name! I could actually be a super hero!

No, I have no idea what genetic testing is. But Mr Cardio sounded very excited about it and he said his friend is very interested in my test results. As long as it doesn’t involve anything like a MRI machine I don’t really care. I just heard genetics and instantly pictured Peter Parker being bit by a spider.

Hey this might finally get me my GFA! Ha ha.

But just in case I have my training plan as a back up. I’m willing to put in the work and as a family we have a few exciting things left this year so finally I can say ‘all is good.’

Happy days

P.M.A – Focus

Positive Mental Attitude. That’s what I’m focusing on.

Desperately focusing on.

Just about clinging on to….

On the grand scale of things, really, the weeks been, well, not awful. If you take the whole week.

Monday I had the chiropractor and I also went to see Steve who is a PT. he had offered to see if there was anything he could do to help me get running again. A few ‘Steve style’ exercises later and it felt better when I was running round the car park. Result! This left me feeling really, really positive and there may just be light at the end of the tunnel.

So I went for a run on Tuesday with Lorner. And had to stop. Twice. I even had to walk up a slight bump. (It wasn’t a hill, I won’t insult it). The 10 mile race I’m meant to be doing is totally out the window. As is the Summer Series the club does. I’m going to miss one of the races of the series due to one of Joes races so it wasn’t worth pushing it for Wednesdays race.

Wednesday I was back at the chiropractor, back in my depressed mood. No running for a week she said. She suggested swimming to keep my fitness up and to keep my mental health where it needs to be. I like her. She understands.

Thursday was our wedding anniversary so I was getting my eyebrows threaded and my nails done. Yup. That one time a year I remember I really should make an effort to look more like a wife and not a Lycra clad 8 year old boy. I’ve always gone to the same place to get my eyebrows done but it was a different person there on Thursday. A little taken aback that the same person who did them last year wasn’t there this year I paid my money and sat in the chair, awaiting the pulling to start. She gets the thread out and starts.

Oh my days!! What are you doing woman!! I just want a tidy up. I don’t want to be bald! She was skinning me alive I swear. That wasn’t hair being pulled off with that tiny thread but half my face! Of course she couldn’t tell how astonished I was at this because I had no more eyebrow to raise!

She kept going.

Make it stop, make it stop, please – I begged. I’m happy telling myself I’m beautiful on the inside, stuff being beautiful on the outside if this is what it takes! He’s already married me. Contracts signed. Deals done.

Once she was finished she handed me a paper tissue. Pretty sure she kept my skin tissue as some sort of trophy.

Next up was my nails. I sat down and apologised for looking like an extra from the Walking Dead with my half eaten face. She just laughed. Although did point out it looked like there maybe bruising. She wasn’t wrong there. I was tempted to go back round the butchers and give her some bruising. Hmmf.

Thankfully I had a good laugh at the nail place. She told me how she had re-trained a few years ago to do something she actually liked and she had the same sense of humour as me (ladies day at the local races can look an awful lot like My Gypsy Wedding vs The Royal Wedding) so I had a much better afternoon. And that night we went out for dinner to the place we got married. I still love that view from the restaurant each and every time, no matter the weather, and the owners always welcome us with huge hugs.

Which takes me to Friday. We were meant to be away but we had to postpone it to the following week as my appointment for my MRI came through quicker than expected. I’m in two minds about describing my experience of this as I really don’t want to put anyone off who has to have this very common, very routine scan done. So I’ve written it up separately and may or may not post it at a later date. (I might just keep it for my book).

What I will say just now is that the nurses/technicians were absolutely fantastic! Unbelievable at managing me and getting the job done. I was pathetic to say the least. So much so in fact that I did very little the rest of the day. But it has left me with a stronger will. (Apologies if that sounds cryptic, it’s really not meant to be). If I can force myself through that then things aren’t that bad.

Saturday there was no parkrun – no running for a week. Instead I went along to cheer on Lorner at her half marathon. Go Lorner!! Took the kids and my youngest loved getting high fives. It was awesome.

Then it was packing for a trip away with Joe. Just the 2 of us.

Next week I’m doing something new, and I’m absolutely bricking it. I have a pre-course test tomorrow and there’s no reason I shouldn’t pass it unless I freak and panic. There’s a possibility!

No! No I wont do that. It will be fine. I can do this.