Star Light Star Bright

Star Light Star Bright

4:10am.  Ski Centre.  Cairn Gorm.

‘I’m really not sure I can do this.  It is absolutely freezing, I don’t think I am going to cope with the cold. I really don’t think I can complete this.  I have never seen dark like this.  This is a bad idea.’

Just a few minutes later I am off.

Those were my genuine thoughts as I stood in the early hours of the morning waiting to do the run section of the Starman Triathlon.  Jo from tri club had entered a relay team and her husband (Bill) was originally doing both the cycle and the run but he hadn’t done a lot of hill training so they asked if I would run.  This wasn’t any old half marathon.  This was a run up to the top of a Munro (mountain over 3000ft) in the middle of the night and where you will get to see the sun rise.

Of course I am in!!

Didn’t quite think it all through.  At least, not until those last few minutes before I was to start.  I was too blinded by the thought of seeing the sun rise on the top of a Munro.  Bucket List item no 33 – check.

Jo had arranged everything.  She had booked a hostel right across from T1 we could use as basecamp and we were heading up the day before.  Oh did I mention?  For me to start running at 4am Jo would be starting her swim at midnight.  Yes that’s right.  Midnight.

What the actual f……

Honestly though, how can that NOT excite you?   Even just a little bit!  Naturally nerves were high.  This was Jo’s first race of that distance, first OW race I believe and first swim in the middle of the night.  You can almost understand why she went to put her wet suit on at 9pm with nerves like that.  To calm herself down she decided to post on facebook a photo of all the snacks we had ALL brought and claim they were just mine for the run.  I’m still astounded that everyone in the club believed her!

There was talk of closing one or possibly even both if the summits on the run due to the high winds.  Did I forget that bit as well?  Oh yeah.  You didn’t just start the run with a climb up a Munro.  You finished it with a climb up a Corbett.

Someone with a very unique imagination had designed this course.

I prayed to the run gods I would get to run up them both.  There were cut offs for both ascents and I had been over and over them.  I would be deeply disappointed if I didn’t get to do both of them.  It wouldn’t feel like I had completed the run.  (This was obviously before reality hit me of what this run was really asking.)

 

At the beach for the race brief and there are just under 80 people in wetsuits, donning glowsticks from their heads like antennas, awaiting the start of the swim.  It’s a very relaxed event and they advertise it as ‘not a race, an experience’.  This meant that not every swimmer had to complete the 4 laps of the swim.  If they wanted to get out after 2 or 3, they could.  A strange concept when you are used to ‘this is the finish line, this is the distance’ but a relaxing one.  I think it helped with some peoples nerves.

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Then it was time for Jo to get in.  As soon as she was off, she was gone.  It was impossible to figure out what one she was.  She also had ear plugs in and couldn’t hear a thing.  Naturally I still shouted, encouraged her on, just on the off chance she heard me.  She was in the last group to go in and by then you couldn’t tell what group was what.  One woman came out not long after going in, it wasn’t for her.  There were a few who came out after 3 laps.  Jo’s personal goal was to complete it.  As the swimmers came out and the numbers remaining dwindled I did start to get a little concerned.  I was sure I hadn’t missed her.

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To be on the safe side I took a run up to T2 and saw Bill chatting away to another cyclist.  Nope.  Not missed her.  I ran back down and paced the waters edge.

2 swimmers stood up and walked towards the beach.  I saw the green of her wet suit and ran over to help guide her up to transition.  She was wobbly and disorientated but she had done it.  Passing the dibber on to Bill he set off on his cycle.

It was a short walk back to the hostel and Jo told me all about the swim.  Choppier than she expected, not ‘too’ cold, but challenging.  She had started chatting to another swimmer and they had thought they were not going to make the cut off so nearly came out after 3 laps.  I wouldn’t have let her.  And she knows it.  She came to do 4 laps, that was her goal.  And she did it!  And she did it within time.  Great result!

Straight in to the trickly shower at the hostel and she was soon warmed up – ish.  Then it was time to track Bill.  I figured I had a solid 3hrs/3.5hrs so briefly tried to doze on a chair.  My legs were feeling heavy and giving me signs to say ‘we should be resting, go to bed woman’.  It was impossible to sleep but I tried.  Jo kept a vigilant eye on the tracker.

About 3am and she said he was doing really well, flying past people.  Now.  If I’m honest.  I kind of took this as a bit of ‘proud wifey’ talk.  I had no idea what he was like on a bike other than what she had said and naturally she had said he was really good.  Good to me meant under 3 hours on a 56 mile cycle.  And this route had a horrendous climb at the end.  It was also pitch black, very few street lights anywhere (we were in the Highlands) and windy.  So I just gave the polite nod and ‘uh huh’ and closed my eyes again.

About 3:20am and I checked the tracker myself.  I zoomed out so I could see where he was in comparison to T2.

I’ve never moved so fast to go and grab my gear.  He was just down the road from where we were in the hostel and we had a 20 min drive to the change over.  ‘He still has the climb’ I told myself.  ‘That will slow him down’.

The wind was howling and I mean howling outside now.  Do I really want to run in that?  It will be fine.  It will be fine.  I bundle my stuff in to a bag and after 2 trips back to the room because I can’t decide what top I should go with we head up to transition.  I’m convinced we are going to pass him on the road up and I think we do but it is really hard to tell in the dark.

We get out the car and I have 3 tops a jumper and a jacket on.  I don’t do cold.  And I most certainly don’t do cold before a race.  I don’t like this. My friend messages me having set her alarm to – let’s be honest – laugh at me for what I’m about to do.  ‘I don’t think I can do this’ I can tell her.  ‘I’m genuinely panicking’.

‘Shut up and get it done’ is the polite version of her reply.  I can’t see where I am meant to be running.  I try to watch a runner go off but he disappears within seconds.  I’m petrified I’m going to get lost.  I’m going to be referred to as ‘that idiot that didn’t know what she was doing’.  Pretty sure one or two have already looked at me and thought ‘yup, she’s going to die’.

I head inside for yet another toilet trip and turn back to tell Jo where I am running away to and almost walk straight in to Bill.

‘How the f@ck are you here already????????’

I don’t have any time to think.  He passes me the dibber and I’m walking over to the start.  Jo shouts for a photo and I turn round, the look of absolute fear in my eyes, and quickly turn back before I can change my mind.

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50 metres in.  50 metres.  And….

I’m loving it!!!  THIS is what I came for!  Yes it’s cold, windy, raining, but oh my god I am heading up a munro in the middle of the night!  This is awesome!

I no longer fear getting lost.  I’ve walked up over 20 Munros by myself and not died.  I know how to navigate this.  If it were following roads, well, that’s a different story.  Oddly enough.  I’m only overtaken by one guy in the first section (and I go past him later on).  This makes me feel very good.  I set my sights on the lights where I know the marshalls will be.  This will be the part they tell me if I can or can’t go to the summit.  I head up to them almost too nervous to ask.  ‘Can I head to the summit?’

‘Yup, up you go’.

Result!  I wouldn’t say I exactly skip up there but I’m certainly grinning away.  Another runner falls in step beside me and asks if it gets any easier.  ‘Em, not really’ I laugh back at him.  He keeps up with me for a little then stops to take a break.  I’m almost at the summit before I see someone coming back down.

2 marshalls at the summit and I have to admit I feel very sorry but very grateful for them at the top.  They must be frozen!  They ask if I am warm enough and I apologise for not bringing them a cup of tea.  Then it’s back down.

Back to the intersection and the light is beginning to come up.  I stop for a photo.  It’s gorgeous.  This is well worth it.  My quads soon come to life though and remind me what it means to run hills like this – in their lovely, painful way.

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I’m now back at the ski-centre where I see Neil again.  He was my husband Joe’s coach for IM 70.3 South Africa and he’s a volunteer at this event.  His wife – the lovely Beth – is also doing this but she is a solo entry.  I go past him screaming ‘that was awesome, I loved it!’ and carry on down the hill.

When I get near the bottom it’s on to road.  Tarmac.  This section in trail shoes is not the best.  I miss my roadies.  The guy I had chatted to before goes past and I try to keep with him but his legs are the length of my entire body and I have no hope.  He tells he’s been told the next summit is even worse to which I laugh again.  I would rather be going up there than running on this road.

I have a few haribos and drink my juice to keep me going.  Remembering my nutrition is all to pot with the different start time.  I’m a lot warmer now as well and there is nothing I hate more than running in tights when I could be in shorts.  I decide to stop and de-layer my top.  In one sense this is a good decision as I am way too hot.  But in another, it just cause me no end of grief.  I am now uncomfortable in the top I am wearing with my hydration bag and running belt.  I’m constantly pulling my top down, my trousers up, my face in to all sorts of frustrated emotions.  Time to research some gear that will get me through running in both cold and hot weather in the one race.

Eventually I am at the start of the second summit and the winds have died down enough to keep it open.  This one has many, many stone steps and boy do they kill your legs.  Still, I’m not overtaken on the hill and I’m taking that as a victory.  The views are spectacular.  Just what you expect in Scotland.  The wind is challenging but not death defying.  It’s hard and unrelenting but eventually I am at the top, big smiles for the marshalls, and heading back down.  I don’t charge forward as I’m not great on these sections and I have a big race in a few weeks so I go somewhat cautiously.  Further down and my phone starts ringing.  It’s Joe face timing me.  ‘Are you still in bed?’ I ask him quite surprised and completely forgetting it’s 6:30am.  He tells me later it was me that face timed him and on checking my phone I find array of weird and wonderful text messages I have sent him along with a song.  I don’t even know how to send a song!  Turns out I had been bumping my phone in my bag on the way down.

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Last section.  Almost done.  It’s a quiet trail back to the Loch where it all started.  Coming through the trees it’s spectacular as you head out on to the beach.

I have to say, finishing a run on the beach, in the sand, that’s just cruel!  Especially a run like that!  But I’m done.  And Jo and her husband Bill are there waiting.  We’ve done it.

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4th relay team we were.  4th!  A result I think we are all proud of.  There was a huge contingency from Glenrothes Tri club which had a really good team feel to it.  They all did fantastic.  It’s had us thinking we should convince our own club to take it on next year.  A little away trip near the end of season.

Would I recommend Starman?  Absolutely.  It’s a challenge and a half.  There aren’t many races you can say you get to swim in the witching hour, cycle in the dark and see the sunrise on a Munro.  So awesome.

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The Heart Will Go On

The Heart Will Go On

You’ve no idea how appropriate this title is!

After Manchester a couple of weeks ago I’ve struggled to run what I would call decent. My hamstrings are killing me, my bum has never been this sore in my life and I grew up with the slipper across my backside if I was bad! I’ve also been back to Mr Cardio who has now told me I need to be keeping my heart rate under a certain level.

Eh?? Thought the problem was that it didn’t beat fast enough? Now you’re saying it’s too fast at times?!? Somehow it’s now spiking and that’s not a good thing for me – apparently. Neither is disagreeing with Mr Cardio. He did not like my suggestion of ‘just stop doing ECG’s and there won’t be a problem’. (Although I am now becoming an expert on reading them. Silver linings and all that.)

So what’s my point here? Oh yeah. Basically my body is giving me a hard time. It’s being an actual pain in the arse. (Genuinely, never had this much uncomfortable pain before, and I’ve had 3 kids!). There’s also been other family stuff going on so I decided a trip to Northern Ireland to go and see something that’s been on my bucket list for 20 years was the way to go. Move over Kate Winslett, Ella Webley trusts Jack.

The original plan was me treating my mum to a little city break. This grew arms and legs – or rather full entire bodies – and ended up with my dad and my youngest coming too.

The running gear was the first thing to get packed.

After a short flight and a little confusion at the car rental place (no pal, I will not be leaving a £1000 deposit for a car that’s not even worth that!) we got to the apartment and then quickly headed out to the museum that was right next door.

I won’t bore you with details of the visit but we were there a good few hours and exhausted by the time we got back to the apartment. But I had a run to do. A run I very much wanted to do. My first attempt to get back out the door failed miserably as my youngest clung to my legs and well, I kind of need them minus a four year old to be able to run. Thankfully, I managed to settle him down and I was able to head out.

I got as far as the door.

Where do I go? I’m in a strange city, I have no idea where anything is, if there are any parts I should be avoiding – where do I go?

It doesn’t matter…….just…run.

So I did. I turned left along the River Lagan and just went.

And it was awesome. I absolutely loved it. It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t speedy, there were multiple stops for photographs, but it was great. I ran back and forth across the same bridge 3 times – mainly because I wasn’t paying attention but also because I was trying to get a decent photograph of a statue – but I didn’t care. I may have slightly got lost but it didn’t matter, I found my way. And I saw so many things I would have missed had I not gone out.

Turning back I knew exactly where I was going. I knew what I needed to see, what I wanted to run past.

Yes that may sound really sad to so many people but I absolutely LOVE running past certain things. I can’t describe it! It just makes me so happy.

My names Ella and I am a bit of saddo.

(But I don’t care so there ha ha)

All lit up in purple against a dark sky there it was. The Titanic museum. Yes I had been there during the day and for quite a few hours but this was different. There was hardly anyone around, it wasn’t windy, the river was calm, it was so quiet.

I quickly checked around me to make sure a predator wasn’t creeping up on me. Just to be safe.

I really got caught up in the whole thing. I had been infatuated by the Titanic for over 20 years. The entire story and history enthralled me. I ran round the back and over the display that mapped out its sheer size on the floor. If you haven’t been you should go.

I headed back to the apartment and glanced at my watch. 4.3miles. I did a few circles round the outside of the building to make it up to 4.5, receiving a few funny looks as I did. Inside I was met with a content little boy who had had a bath and was ready for bed. I had a quick shower and we snuggled down together.

My legs hurt but my heart rate had stayed just below what Mr Cardio had ordered. Probably unsurprising given the number of stops I had made. It was still working though. My heart was still going on.

(See what I did there).

Unfortunately day 2’s run was not quite so successful.

After a very ‘eventful’ trip to Belfast castle that proved neither of my parents are any help what so ever when it comes to navigating I needed out. (yes I did advise my dad if he didn’t shut up I would make him and I meant every word! And I told my mum how unhelpful just ‘pointing’ at the sat nav was). Said trip also involved Oliver losing his trainer in a mud swamp and then absolutely screaming his lungs out because of it (thank god I had plastic gloves in my bag, that’s all I’m saying! Not to smother him in, don’t get me wrong, but to cover his feet in so I could get his socks back on him and then back to the car).

So yeah, I needed a run.

I headed out the same way as the night before as I just wanted to clear my mood.

I got lost.

Just a little, but I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up far away from the River. Using the old faithful google I managed to find my way back to the River and just as I was cursing myself for not sticking to going back and forth over the bridge I did something I’ve never done. Something caught my foot and I fell. I stuck my arm out just in time to stop my head smashing onto the hard concrete beneath me. It wasn’t nice. Standing up I automatically reached to my watch to pause it and could feel I had badly scratched it. Damn it! I picked up my phone to find the screen smashed. Bloody brilliant. Oh and talking of blood, I had scraped my arm too and had nice trickles all the way down it.

I headed back to the apartment completing a measly 3.3miles. I wasn’t rounding that one up.

And just to add insult to injury my heart rate had spiked before I had fallen. Great.

Back at the apartment I thoroughly checked my watch. A little bit of rubbing and the edges were back to being smooth. Luckily it was just the screen protector I had broken on my phone and the actual screen only had a small crack on it. My ankles were bruising up and my shoulder was sore but it was nothing really. Could have been a lot worse. Could have fallen in the River!! We all know how much water has it in for me! In fact, wouldn’t even surprise me if it was the River that somehow tripped me up!

End of the day I was still very happy. I really enjoyed going for a run somewhere new. Not looking for a good pace or a certain mileage just running. And I got to see something on my bucket list too. I also managed a very cheeky little run at the Giants Causeway but it’s not on Strava so it ‘doesn’t count’. (Yes it does!)

I need to sort my hamstrings out though so that’s my focus. And the whole heart thing. I don’t understand why I’m suddenly getting sharp spikes and I really don’t want Mr Cardio to say no more running so I’m going to slow it right down. Give it a few weeks and then plan for GFA.

I’m away again in a few weeks. This time for our wedding anniversary. But I know what the first thing getting packed will be.

Why would I NOT want to?

I’ve set myself a bit of a challenge.  I didn’t do it intentionally, it kind of just happened.  The city I live in has a Half Marathon race which I couldn’t do last year as it was just after an operation so it was on my list for this year.  I also came across a race early this year that has you running across the Forth Road Bridge so I jumped at that.  The views and the feeling of running over it will be worth more than the medal! So I signed up to both.

The Forth Road Bridge
The Forth Road Bridge
It wasn’t until about a month ago I realised these races were a day after each other.  Saturday is the half and Sunday is the bridge.  It’s not that big a deal but it’s definitely going to be tiring.  And each run brings its own difficulties.  There is a bit of a trail part on the half which last year had some big complaints about.  And of course if you’re running over a bridge in Scotland you’re guaranteed wind – the question is how strong? 

So I’ve tried to be sensible this week. Helped by the husband encouraging/pushing/forcing me to go swimming (triathlon next weekend you see).  However looking back, maybe there’s one or two things I should have/shouldn’t have done.

I got a PB at Parkrun on Saturday which I’m pleased at.  Not my fastest ever 5km but fastest at Parkrun.  Sunday was 12miles and my left calf was in quite a bit of pain in the last few miles so I jumped straight in an ice cold bath which helped. Took me straight back to Arctic Enema at Tough Mudder and genuinely thought I was going to turn in to an ice sculpture right there and then.  Mouth wide open, arms outstretched, half naked in the tub.  Nice!  I spent 6hours after it wrapped in a duvet ha ha.

Monday was the gym and Tuesday and Wednesdays were lunch runs. 

Then.  Thursday.  Yesterday.

At work I got the usual message – ‘Runching it today?’.  ‘Yup’.  The bridges route was suggested which is downhill to start and a slow climb back.  In my head it was going to be just a little over 5km, straight down to the bridge isn’t far.  I had Roadrunners at night and it was hill repeats so figured that route would be fine.  My left leg had really loosened off so all was good.

10km later…….

Yes, you read that right, 10km! How I got that wrong I still don’t know.  Why I insisted on a lap of the car park to ensure it ended on the 10km is something else in itself.  

And yes, I still went to Roadrunners.

My face says it all ha ha
7 laps of the middle loop later and I was burst.  So much so that to ensure I didn’t get up today and ‘try’ to go for a run I threw all my running gear in the washing machine! 


So today has been spent doing the usual housework, watching the olympics and having a good think about the next 2 days.  Tomorrow I am going to have to be careful on where I put my feet.  It might be muddy, it’s going to be a little busy, but ultimately, I can do it.  Sunday is a ‘feel good’ run.  Gozia from one of my running sites will be marshalling so a guaranteed smile and high 5 and I’m going to have to focus on NOT stopping to take a photo.  I was also reminded this morning that it’s a bridge so obviously there is elevation.  Hadn’t thought of that…..

This Is Why I Love Parkrun

One of my personal goals this year was to finally drag my now slightly smaller behind to Parkrun.  I had always found the concept of Parkrun a bit daunting – it may be fewer people than the usual type of event I go to but the chances of seeing someone I know are increased phenomenally and that in turn increases my anxiety.  The very first time I went I was actually sick behind a park bench. 

It’s ok no one saw.  I don’t think.

However, ridiculous issues aside, I do enjoy it and I do try to go when I can.  (I no longer throw up by the way).  So this past Saturday when I discovered my other half was not working I decided I should go.  I rock up just in time for the little de-brief.  It’s raining but the course is ok just now, round of applause for the fabulous marshalls who will kindly be standing in the rain and a shout out to those doing mile stone runs.  

It’s not my best pace.  My left hamstring is slightly niggly – I’m definitely feeling the ‘running on tired legs’ I’ve been told I need to practise.  I try to keep up with a girl who’s usually about my normal pace but quickly decide not to risk pushing it and instead let my mind wander as I go along the river.  It’s very therapeutic running in the rain along the trail, I do enjoy it.  It’s an out and back route with a bit of an uneven section and my mind wanders to the trail race I’m doing next weekend.  Now that’s a tough route! 

Back on to the concrete path and as I near the last 500metres an older gentleman comes up beside me and says ‘thank you for being in front of me, an inspiration to keep going’.  

I can’t help but smile and laugh a little.  I ask him if this is where he takes off and does a sprint finish.  He replies ‘oh I don’t think I have that in me’ but he does slowly pull in front.  He reminds me of Rob on the TV show Stella.  He’s wearing one of the Parkrun 50 T-shirts, red with the big ’50’ on the back.  As I watch him near the finish I realise that,  just a few months ago, I wouldn’t have been there, At best I would have had my earphones in refusing to make eye contact with anyone and staring at the ground, literally running off as soon as I had finished.  

Yet, I was here.  

And here was this gentleman too.  Politely speaking to me – a stranger – for more than his fiftieth time at a Parkrun.  He may have said I had helped inspire him to get round that day but truth be told he inspired me to keep going with my goals.  To continue to push myself out of my comfort zone and to continue doing what I have found I love – running.  

After I get my barcode scanned (very important, don’t ever forget your barcode!) I see him stretching his legs out before slowly wandering away, saying hi to several people with a friendly smile and I find I’m smiling too.  I feel comfortable.

This is why I love Parkrun.