Why London?

For anyone that doesn't know, one of my main goals in the last couple of years is to run London Marathon. Partly because it's so iconic, I watched it from time to time over the years (not really knowing anything about it) and because I love the idea of 'travelling' to a marathon. The main reason though, is a lot more personal than any of that.

When I had my third child I wasn't very well. It is something I will never understand as it didn't happen with the first two so how can it happen with the third? I asked every professional under the sun this question and no one could give me an answer. I became isolated from everyone, rarely went out and when I did it was just me and my baby. I would watch endless nonsense on the telly and pretend I was going to go somewhere more exciting than the 4 walls of my living room. London being one of those places. To cut a long story short running is what changed all that. But the want to go to London never changed.

And then, once I was in a better place, disaster struck. As I opened my 'Thanks, but no' magazine from VLM my baby, who had just turned 2 the month before, jumped off the couch and broke his leg. The magazine was thrown to the floor and the next 6 weeks were spent threatening to put me back to day 1 of 'being back there'. How can a 2 year old break his leg? And from jumping on the couch? That was it, I wasn't leaving him, I had to be with him 24/7. I had to know exactly where he was at all times or the panic would set in. I was back to being imprisoned by myself.

Of course he recovered well. He's the type of boy who rarely cries – if he bangs his head playing he simply shakes it off. Instead of my mind numbing shows we watched toy story over and over and over again. But the thought of London never left me. And now it had a greater meaning.

I have to put 'that episode' to bed, once and for all. Kick it back to the past with a mighty boot and leave it there. And to do that I need to do London. It is now the race that is associated with my baby breaking his leg. My baby is the reason I started running. I can't fully get past all of that until London is done. Some may not understand that – but it makes sense in my head. Of course I know I may still have bad days even after I run London but knowing I can do something to change it will be the key.

So. How do I get in to London?

There's the ballot, which I will of course apply to every year and cross every finger and toe in the hope I get in. I will be sat at my front door awaiting the postman in October – with my son in my lap until I have opened the magazine, just to be safe. I refuse to be negative about the statistics surrounding it. It is what it is. If I get in EVERYONE will hear me! I could apply for a charity place but the pressure of raising such a large amount of money would be too much for me.

So looks like I'm going to have to run really bloody fast! A Good For Age place for me is under 3hrs 45. My current time is 3hrs 55. That's 11 minutes I need to shave off. Less than 30 seconds a mile. Can it be done?

I'm going to find out at Loch Ness in 8 weeks! When I joined my local running club someone said to me 'yeah, you can do it. You just need proper training'. So that's what I've been doing. It's killing me, but I'm doing it. I was beyond ecstatic to get a sub 4hr marathon back at Stirling. But I know I can do faster. I have to.

So my next posts will be about my training. What's going well and what isn't. Then I can review them all, increase what works and change what doesn't. I'm getting that time. I have to.

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Anything IS Possible

3:15am and our alarm goes off.  

This. Is. It.

The day I have been training for 6 months for.  6 solid months.  

It’s a quick shower, a quiet one.  No music this morning.  Just focus. Upstairs it sounds like my oldest has only just gone to sleep.  Ah to be 17 again. (Actually no thanks!).

Joes made a huge mound of porridge and I try to get as much down me as I can but I don’t manage a lot.  Eating at that time of the morning is near impossible.  Aware it’s not enough I try to top it up with half a bagel.  

Into the van and we are on our way to pick up Joes dad.  First panic of the day.  Do I have my timing chip! I ‘ask’ Joe to pull over even though we are only 2 minutes away from his dads so I can get my bag from the back of the van and precede to empty it’s contents eventually finding it in the ‘safe’ pocket I had put it in the night before.

No comment needed.

His dads there bright and breezy with his coffee and we are soon on the road to Edinburgh.  Unsurprisingly it’s clear and it’s straight through.  We park up and the minute the door is opened I can feel the wind.  It’s the sea front though.  It’s expected.  I take a quick look at the water and can quite clearly see the course marked out is not 1900 meters.  We will find out soon though.

Walking in we see Heledd straight away – she’s volunteering as Kevin is racing too.  The poor soul is already freezing but she tells us she is about to be moved position so she can warm up.  I wish I had taken photo with her at the start.  At 6am we hear the announcement that they have shortened the swim – for the pros as well.  What? That’s unusual.  They normally have to do full length regardless.

Into transition for the last checks on the bikes and we see some from Perth Tri Club. I join the queue for the toilets and remain there until very close to start time.  Luckily, it was worth it and I had ‘movement’. I get into my wetsuit and we head over to the start.  


We are at the back of the line but can’t see any signs telling us where to be for what predicted time so we can’t place ourselves very well.  Turns out the signs were on the inside of the fences.  Not very useful.  It’s impossible to move forward so we stay where we are.  There’s a few comments about the swim (‘may as well just chuck a bucket of water over us’ raised a fair few eyebrows around). I don’t look at the sea, I don’t even try.  I wanted to see the pro athletes but I’m tiny and can’t see over people.  I’m thankful for it though because I really didn’t want to look at what I was about to attempt.  Over the tannoy we are told it’s tough conditions and to give sharp hard kicks at the first buoy and that should get us round.

Should?!? 

We get to the front and a Marshall is there shouting ‘does anyone need goggles?’.  Nice touch have to say.  He follows it up with ‘or a choc ice or ice cream’.  Made me smile. I’m at the gate now.  I’m through the gate – my god that was fast! Joes through at the same time but he’s off and in the water.  The first wave hits me and I’m pushed back.  Holy hell.  Ok.  Just get in.  I dive in and I’m hit with other athletes trying to move forward but being pulled back.  I can still see Joe at the side of me, he’s having just as hard a time.  

I’ve only just started and I see a couple of kayaks just laden with people and pulling more swimmers out.  There’s lots of shouting but I can’t make any of it out above the noise of the waves.  I have a very fleeting thought of grabbing the kayak but I throw that out my head instantly before it festers.  I get to the first buoy and I can no longer see Joe, he’s probably already on to the second.  I’m now chocking on the sea water, badly.  I switch to breast stroke to try and calm down.  Works only marginally.  I’m swallowing so much water how can there be any left to swim in?!? 

Right, come on.  I see another kayak – swamped by more people.  I start thinking of all the people who know I am doing this, those who have donated, my kids – and I start thinking how embarrassing it would be for me personally not to do this.  The pros were out the water in less than 15 minutes.  15 god damn minutes.  Move your bloody arse Ella and get to the end.  Over a thousand people are doing this – it is NOT impossible.  Stop being a bloody wimp.  

I find some sort of rhythm and begin to go with the waves.  Front crawl works for a little while but you can’t sight and have to switch to breast stroke to make sure you’re still on course.  I take a few hits but nothing major.  Then an arm smacks me on the face not once but twice.  Goggles!! Oh my god my goggles!! I can’t get them back on if they come off!! Not in this!! They’re still on though, squint, but still on.  I feel something on the top of my neck and just before I freak out it’s a jellyfish I realise it’s my nose plugs.  I’m close to the next buoy and the waves are as high as the top it.  I consider jumping on it to get out the water and just bobbing around on it for a moment. 

It’s a nice thought.

I’m making the turn now so I tell myself I’m over half way, I may as well swim back.  There’s a new challenge now though – the sun.  I can barely see a thing.  I’m still surrounded by people so I must be on course.  The last and final buoy comes in to sight.  I turn and I’m on the final straight.  It feels like forever but eventually I can stand up. 

Well.  Wobble up.  Like bambi I make my way up to transition, occasionally trying to run.  I gave a great impression of a baby giraffe – award winning performance I would say.  I click my watch and it says 33minutes.  That’s embarrassing! I must be one of the very last out the water.  I’m trying to get my wet suit zipper down and another athlete does it for me.  I was incredibly thankful.

Just outside the tent I see Heledd shouting.  What a perfect time to see a friendly face! Gave me that moment to calm down and take a breath.  Of course I’m pretty sure my face just read ‘oh my god I almost died, why did I do that’ – but I appreciated seeing her. 

I need water.  Oh the irony!! Swallowed so much sea water I now needed plain water to help bring it back up.  I knew my transition time was going to be bad so I try to speed up at the same time as calming myself down.  I head out to my bike (still in shock) and as I take it from the rack I hear something very strange on the tannoy’

‘Joe Webley’

What? Is he just coming out of the water? I pause for a minute and fight the instinct to go back and check he was ok.  Something’s clearly happened. It’s not what you are meant to do though and he would shout at me if I did so I carry on to the bike.  

As soon as I’m in the saddle I can feel my front wheel wobbling.  Like really wobbling.  This isn’t good! What’s happening? It’s that bad I stop and check it several times.  Doesn’t feel lose when I’m stopped but doesn’t feel safe when I’m cycling.  I don’t know what to do.  I can’t find the problem but I’m not confident.  

So yeah, I carry on.  As you do.

I know I have to start re-fuelling as soon as possible on the bike but I can’t face an energy bar or a gel so I opt for the jelly babies I had bought last minute. Aware this was a very risky thing as I hadn’t trained with them I still put one in my mouth.

Best. Decision. Ever.

Those jelly babies were a life saver.

Nigel came past me with a cheery hello – I love that.  Then at seven miles I hear what I really, really needed to hear.

‘There she is.  Alright wife.’

‘YEAH!!!!!’ He’s caught up with me.  He’s fine.  What ever happened in the water hasn’t stopped him and he’s not in the medical tent.  He’s all smiles and laughing.  ‘What about that swim eh?’ He asks.  ‘I am never doing that again’ is my reply.  I tell him Nigel’s just ahead and I will ‘just stay back here’. It was a good boost and feeling of relief.

I know the Gifford loop is coming and at about 26 miles the course gets incredibly hard.  I’m honestly scared of one of the downhills that turns sharply in to a steep up hill so I’m preparing myself for a quick unclip – possibly even a fall.  First few climbs are hard but I do it.  My cornering is shocking but I’m still wobbling a little on the front wheel.  Still convinced it’s coming off.  I pass a few with punctures at the side but I don’t see any crashes.  Down through the first bad corner and I’m still up right.  Back up another hill.  I pass one or two and it gives me a little boost.  Further up I see a couple walking up and I use them as a ‘target’ to keep going.  Next comes the dreaded hairpin.  But – it’s not as bad as I had dreamed it was.  I slow right down but I still keep going. 

I’m still waiting on the dreaded downhill-sharp left-steep incline section when I get back in the village.  Huh? Where did it go? It was definitely before here.  I must have already done it!! Whoo hoo! Cycled the part that had given me nightmares and didn’t even realise it! 

Just a few miles on and I’m getting sore.  That love QL muscle is nagging away.  I don’t know how my youngest is as I wasn’t going to phone my mum at 6 in the morning.  My throats seriously hurts from all the gagging in the swim.  My swim was bad and I’m not convinced I made the cut off.  What if I don’t make the bike cut off? I’m well aware I’m not hitting my target time. 

So, I start singing.  

‘I love you baby, and if it’s quite alright I miss you baby, hold you tight’.

This carries on for a few miles.  

As does the wind.  At times it feels like I’m going backwards it’s that strong.  The crosswinds catch me a few times as well and I sway across the road. I don’t like cycling in the wind.  I don’t like it at all.

I count down the last 10 miles.  The cobbles were ‘interesting’.  My under carriage didn’t appreciate them.  Neither did the guy next to me.  ‘What the bloody hell is this!! This isn’t a road! And are we going up there?!?’

I got the sense he hadn’t enjoyed his cycle so far.

I knew what the last climb was and I knew where it levelled out so I went for it.  ‘Up, up, up you go Ella’ – got me a few funny looks.  I also knew the last downhill section was steep.  Taking no chances this late in the stage I kept hold of the brakes.  Maybe one day I will be confident on the bike but today wasn’t the day for risks. 

Up to the line and I dismounted. The woman next to me didn’t dismount until after the line then looked at the Marshall as if she didn’t know what he was saying.  I heard them arguing as I ran off.

Bike racked and I changed into my trainers. Ah my trainers.  My lovely, lovely trainers that meant I could now run!!! The part I love!! I know I can run 13.1 miles! My stomach wasn’t too good – still had salt water in it – so it was a quick stop in the porta loos. 

I’m out on the run and my legs feel surprisingly good.  I know it’s a flat before it starts to climb and I can already see people walking.  I pass a fair few but it’s impossible to say what lap of the three anyone is on.  I’m only half a mile in and I have a light bulb moment.  My front wheel wasn’t lose.  I was Sea sick from the swim! I laugh out loud at myself, not sure it’s something I should admit to but know I will later on.  

Top of that hill and I see a 6 foot tall ginger lad on a bike.  My arms are up and I’m waving like mad.  ‘Frazer!! I didn’t die!!’.  ‘Yeah!’ He shouts back.  What a boost to see my original running buddy at that point! He tells me Joes just ahead and I can catch him which I laugh at as this is quite clearly a lie and meant as encouragement – it’s appreciated.  

Along the first straight that goes over the tunnel and I see him.  My arms are up again.  I am so happy to be running and to see that Joe is in good form.  A high five as we pass and it’s smiles all round.  Now it’s into the tunnel which is nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be.  In fact, I quite liked it! I was getting a comfortable pace through it.  Back out and the sharp incline took its toll on my legs and I resorted to a short recovery walk for 10 seconds.  

Not long after was the feed station, typically  going up a ‘hill’ also.  Although happy to be running I had had enough of hills at this point.  A Marshall came right in to my face ‘go Ella’.  A bit taken aback I almost stopped.  Then I realised it was Gosia, another running friend.  What a cheery sight! ‘This is hard’ I tell her.  ‘What did you expect, it’s ironman’ she laughs at me.  


I push on to my second lap and instantly get confused on when I need to turn in to the finish.  Counting is not my strong point when running! I see Frazer again and give him a big smile.  I saw him earlier cycling along the side of Joe which was great to see.  He was working later so I knew he wouldn’t be there at the finish.  I saw a few more I recognised and cheered them all on.  I was actually enjoying the laps (once I got in my head when I had to turn in) and it broke it up fantastically.  I passed Kevin going the other way in the tunnel – Heledds partner – he was on his last lap.  I sang a little in the tunnel too, hard not to when the tunes were blaring at the turn.

Coming down near the last section of my second lap I see Kevin at the side stretching his leg.  ‘Are you ok?’  He’s got cramping in his leg.  He starts running with me and tells me he arrived late to the start so started at the back of the pack.  He didn’t find the swim easy either.  I really enjoyed running that short section with him and as he turned up the finish I shouted after him ‘Take it home Kevin’.  (If you’ve ever listened to Lonely Island you’ll know why I’m laughing, Michael Bolton can actually be funny).  


Last lap, last lap, last lap.  I’m doing this, I’m doing this I Am Doing This.  I wanted to enjoy every last moment of this race.  There was definitely no sprints for me! Last time past Gosia and her station and what a cheer I got from them.  Put the biggest smile on my face! Through the last feed station manned by West Lothian Tri Club and lots of encouragement again.  

Final section.

I can see Joe at the side, cheering me on.

I turn up to the finish.  No one is in front of me, no one is behind me.  I fight back the emotions threatening to make me cry.  I have THE biggest grin on my face ever.  I push right to the end.


Holy shit I just did it!!!! I just completed my first Half Ironman!! How did I do that??

Finisher photo taken and I make a bee line for the food.  I don’t move from the watermelon for a good five minutes. I can’t eat anything apart from that and the orange segments.  But I don’t care.  I am officially a Half Ironman. 

Meeting Joe and his dad outside the finishers tent he tells me to quickly put more layers on before the cold hits me.  It’s been raining on and off and the wind was bringing a chill.  He also gives me an update on our youngest who had had a bad night but was ok, not to worry. 

Of course I hit the expo tent.  Card in hand. Proud memoribelia purchased.  

On the road home and I check my phone.  I  had absolutely loads of support from the road runners and friends.  How I didn’t cry when I was reading it all I will never know. It was fantastic.  

Joe and I talked non stop on the way home recalling the achievement we had just accomplished.  He had struggled with the waves and had grabbed a kayak at one point.  He knew the swim was going to be his hardest part and seeing an overturned safety boat didn’t help. He had done it though and pushed himself through.  And it hadn’t put him off.  Just made it all the more important to get more sea swim practise in.

One of the pro athletes dubbed the course the hardest she has ever done – and it makes Staffordshire a walk in the park in comparison.  That settles it in my mind for me.  It was right to cut the swim.  It was not an ‘easy’ option.  Around 50 people got pulled from the water.  Many chose not to even start and the latest figures I read quoted a 29% DNF rate overall.  The swim conditions got worse the later you went in.  

I did it though.  I did every part of it.  I may not have been the fastest, I may not have ranked high in the results but I did it! I crossed that finish line.  

So yes.  I believe that Anything IS Possible.  I’m having a couple of days rest to let my body recover and I’m going to wear my finishers t-shirt for a week! I’m in no rush to scrub off my number tattoo and my new Ironman bag will be going everywhere with me. 

I bloody did it!! 

Aviemore Half – the truth

Aviemore Half – the truth

Warning – if you have a weak stomach probably best not read this.

I started my blog as a way to track my progress, remember the good bits and learn from the bad. 

I learnt things in Aviemore.

My friend picked me up the day before as I was staying at her holiday lodge which was only a few minutes away from registration – fantastic.  It was about a 2 hour drive what with the road works on the A9 but the kids kept us entertained.  It was tea time when we got there so food needed ordered.  After a quick check of the takeaway menu (and a phone call to the other half to check to see if I liked cannelloni) it was off to the supermarket to pick up breakfast for the morning – something I had forgotten about.

When tea arrived I was starving and really looking forward to being able to eat quite a bit.  So when I opened it up and saw this…..


I was more than disappointed.  It may have been really tasty but new born babies eat more than that!  So I filled up on Asti – great choice ha ha.

Morning of the race and I put my big girl pants on and walked to registration all by myself! I collected my pack and put on my timing chip, sat for a minute whilst waiting on the buses – all by myself! No tears, no panic, nothing! Progress indeed.  I even sat chatting to a lovely girl on the bus.  She lived in Aviemore, had forgotten she had signed up to do the 10k so was expecting to walk quite a bit.  ‘God look at all these athletic types’ she said as we set off, (clearly I didn’t fall in to that category in her eyes).  We had a laugh about it being downhill anyway so we could just tuck and roll.  Turns out her sister lived in Perth not far from me as well.  Small world.

Off the bus and it’s a walk to the outdoor centre where the start is.  They had put up a big marque with hot drinks and a little music so I headed in there and got chatting to another woman.  She had only started running this year and had ran Loch Ness 10k.  She suffered sciatica quite badly in her leg and her aim was just to enjoy it today.  She found it funny there were people wearing plastic bags and I told her about my jumper I had had to leave at the start in Loch Ness (I’m still not over that).


I found the other road runners for the group photo before we started and headed for the last toilet break before the race got going.  I was aware I had not had my morning poo (disclaimer at the start of this post!) but it wasn’t happening.  I decided not to have my gel at the very start just in case it started movement so carried it with me.

I was only about 400metres in when my stomach started lurching.  I ignored it.  It screamed louder.  I focused on where I was putting my feet as it was loose ground.  My stomach was about to explode.  I briefly looked at the bushes but didn’t want to have to stop so early on so kept running.  I took a deep breath and tried to suck everything in, clenching with all my might and kept going.  

Around the 1 mile mark another woman took off in to the bushes and I was seriously tempted to follow suit.  There were no actual toilets along the route so it would have to be a bush.  But, I was wearing shorts and there was no toilet paper out here.  Also, the track was muddy and wet and I was aware I already had mud up my legs.  What if I came out of the bushes and people behind me saw the mud and thought it was something else? 

Yes, this is the kind of thing I worry about. 

So I didn’t go.  I sucked it in even more.

Aviemore is a race of two halfs really.  The first has a very steep but short hill and is on forest track and the second is on the road going slowly downhill.  I knew once I hit the road it wasn’t too far. I was finding it harder than expected but I’m putting that down to having ran a marathon just a few weeks before.  Another lesson I am learning through doing – or not doing – the importance of recovery.  

When I hit the road I took my gel I still had.  A big risk but I was just focusing on getting to the end (i.e. A toilet) as fast as I could.  Of course I couldn’t really pick up the pace as it would ‘move’ things but I could stay steady.

As I came in to the final stretch I could hear my friend shouting my name at the top of her lungs and it made me smile.  ‘You’re so loud!’ I shouted back at her laughing.  Through the finish line and I met my other half with our youngest on his shoulders.  It was lunch time so we decided to head back to the lodge for food and get heated up.  Joe had parked at the supermarket and I glanced longingly at the toilet but I knew it wasn’t going to be a quick in and out job so got in the car.

At the lodge I finally got to the toilet. But….. nothing.  Stomach still sore but nothing was moving.  Had I actually sucked it right back up so it wouldn’t come out? Can that happen? There’s no internet in Aviemore so I couldn’t google it (and no doubt find out I had caused myself a very slow, painful death).  I jumped in the shower and when I came out tried again but nothing.  All that time trying to keep it in and now when I wanted, no needed, it to come out it wasn’t moving.  Great!  I tried some toast hoping that might shift it and even had some chocolate which usually opens flood gates for me but still nothing.  Car journey home was going to be fun!


Now usually I’m one of those that tells their partner everything (yes, I know, very sad, but I’m sure he loves hearing about how I almost got a paper cut opening the post or how I only drank a third of my last cup of tea), but he has a thing about that, this is where he usually draws the line.  So the fact we got about 2 miles in to the journey home before I told him was somewhat of a miracle. 

‘I knew as soon as you sent that picture of your tea last night this would happen’.  Eh? He said I would like it? ‘You shouldn’t change what you eat the night before, you know this’.  

The penny dropped as soon as he said it as to why it had happened.

But just the penny! 

It was after 8pm before relief came.  And naturally I announced it to the entire household.

So yeah, nice race, nice weekend, more mistakes made, an insight in to my bowel movements (or lack of) but most importantly….

Progress on being in crowds! 

I see that as a good result.

The Truly Great North Run

The Truly Great North Run

Earlier this year when my other half and I were helping out with the The Alexis Rose Trail Race Alexis dad Alan asked us if we would be part of the team doing the Great North Run.  We had enjoyed helping out with the trail race and Joe was – to my surprise – quite agreeable to it so we signed up.  At 13.1 miles and having hundreds more in my legs I wasn’t worried about the distance.  I knew it was a ‘popular’ run so there was going to be quite a few people.  This might be a problem but we were going as a team so there were bound to be people in the same start pen as me – I would just have to try and stick with them and not freak out.  I didn’t even look at the route if I’m honest.  It’s in Newcastle, there’s a bridge, the Red Arrows do a fly over, that was about as far as I got in my research.

Then, the magazine came.  And the social media posts started.  ‘The Most Popular Race in the Series’.  I know Chris Moyles did it a number of years ago, made it quite popular at the time.  ‘Thousands of entries’ – yeah, expected that, I know.  ‘World’s Biggest Half Marathon’.

Em, what now?

Worlds biggest?  Ok that I didn’t know.  Yeah it’s on telly but so are baking shows and who watches them?

As the time grew nearer I took the adult approach of ignoring it all.  Seemed the best choice.

On the drive down to Newcastle I was ‘ok’.  It was certainly different leaving the kids with my parents and travelling so far for a race.  Joe had booked us in to a fantastic hotel and the minute we arrived we were very well looked after.  The receptionist recognized instantly we were there for the run and gave us all the information we could want.  The gym opening times, the pool opening times, where the metro was etc.  She even told us we could go back to the hotel after the run to use the facilities even though we would be checked out!  Needless to say we will be staying there again!

newcastle-1

We were meant to be meeting up to get our running vests as there had been a problem with them but unfortunately it was late in the day and it turned out we were not staying near anyone else (Newcastle is pretty big!).  Luckily I had packed my meningitis running vest from when I did the Scottish Half Marathon (also for Team Alexis) so I had that to run in.  It also had my name on it which would come in handy for the run.  Can’t beat a bit of encouragement from the sidelines.

We went for a swim then had something to eat before heading to our room and the comfiest bed I have slept in in a very long time – probably because it didn’t have any dogs on it!

newcastle-4

Morning of the race and we were up, bags packed and directions in hand to the metro.  Just a short walk and we were at the station and within 5 minutes we were on the metro.

 

I got to one stop and that all too familiar feeling hit me like a tidal wave.  I grabbed on to Joe as the tears started trickling down, closed my eyes and started counting down the stops.  It wasn’t even a long journey to where we were getting off – possibly 10 minutes – but it felt like half an hour.  I just wanted off and to get back up to Scotland and to the kids.

Out of the underground and we were up on the street following the crowds.  No idea of where to go just following the masses.  As we crossed the road my phone started ringing – it was my brother phoning all the way from Australia!  He could not have phoned at a better time!  Even though it was a bad connection it was just what I needed.  Calmed me right down.

We made our way to the baggage buses and dropped off our stuff amongst Scooby Doo, Breaking Bad, Vikings, Pirates, Marilyn Monroe, Storm Troopers – you name it someone was dressed up as it.

Joe was in one of the front pens and I was 4 behind him.  He had originally said he would just jump in my pen but to be fair he had a good starting position and wanted to go for a pb.  He wouldn’t be able to do that if he fell back in to my pen so I told I would be fine.  He walked me up to my start line and went back to his.  Head down I went straight to the front after taking a bottle of water.

newcastle-2
Starting Pen – Face of Fear

As the pen starting filling up I tried to ignore the elephant putting pressure on my chest and to be honest, there’s only so much of staring at your trainers you can take.  When the mass warm up started instead of standing still I decided what the hell just go for it.  Now don’t get me wrong I didn’t fling myself around like a creature possessed but I moved.  I stepped side to side, I swung my arms round in a circle, I squatted (thankfully I didn’t need the toilet!).

I can do this.

There was no big ‘bang’ for the start – or if there was I was that far back I didn’t hear it.  I did hear my phone go again.  This time it was my dad.  No I haven’t started yet.  Yes I know Mo Farah has.  That’s right dad he is faster than me.  Bye dad.  A couple of good luck messages came through from my friends – ‘I will be at my window with my chip butty’ – got to love them ha ha.  And before I knew it I was crossing the start line and turning my garmin on.

And then, I had to stop.

My blooming shoe lace came undone!  Who makes such a rookie mistake?!? I actually had to stop less than 500metres in to tie a freaking shoe lace!  I can only put it down to being in the pen for so long. Excuses, excuses.

As predicted it was extremely difficult trying to weave my way through 57000 people – yeah, that’s right, 57000!  I think my freak outs were justified.  It didn’t help that every single person wasn’t just taller than me, they towered over me.  I’m used t being the smallest, have been since I was born, but when everyone around you shares air space with the BFG it’s quite daunting.

I managed to get past the firefighters, the unicorns, batman, superman and wonder woman (awesome costume) but I wasn’t keeping as fast a pace as I had hoped.  I knew I would have to accept this though and as it heated up those around me started slowing more and more.  Getting across the bridge was very tricky as there was a camera there which clearly everyone knew about apart from me.

I had wanted to take a video when the Red Arrows flew over but to be honest I am very glad I didn’t.  Why?  Because I got a lump in my throat and that set me off.  Yes, I had a little cry, whilst running.  My name is Ella and I cry when I am running.  It was a very emotional day ok!  Stop judging!

From about half way I started seeing people at the side of the road with medics.  It was very hot and I had overheard an awful lot of people talking about how little they had trained for it.  Yes it has a reputation as a ‘fun run’ with thousands dressing up but it’s still 13.1 miles people.  I ran through every shower they had available and slowly past the spectators who were out with their hoses but I was still feeling the heat.  I poured water over my head at every station too but it was tough.

At an hour and a half in I reckoned Joe would be finished so I tried to pick up the pace a little knowing he would be waiting for me.  All the way along the route there were spectators cheering and shouting, it was great.  There were several different charities with cheer points set up and it really was fantastic hearing the encouragement coming from them.  There were local residents handing out jelly babies, wine gums, oranges, ice poles, loads of things!  There wasn’t one time you were running that route where you couldn’t see or hear a spectator.

As I hit the last mile I went past 3 girls at the side who shouted out ‘Go on Ella, well done Ella’ and then all I heard was them singing the famous Rihanna song ‘Ella, Ella, Ella, Oh, oh, oh, under my umbrella’.  I’ve never smiled so much when running, I can’t thank them enough for that.  They gave me the encouragement to push it on the final stretch and come in strong.

As I made my way through the finishers section my phone started ringing again.  It was my dad.  ‘You done yet?’  Yes dad, just finished now.  ‘Mo Farah did it in 1 hour 4’.  Very good dad, good for him, can’t really breathe right now, I will phone you in a bit.

Mo Farah isn’t a 34 year old mother of 3 with emotional issues when planes fly over head.  Just saying.

I find Joe quite quickly and we head to get the ‘I Did It’ photo taken.  We stand and watch the incredible air show put on by the Red Arrows (no tears this time, I promise) and afterwards make our way to the charity tent to see if anyone else is there before heading to the ferry (which made my day ha ha).

red-arrows
Air Display – very cool

Back at the hotel we pick up the car and after a quick cooling drink we head back up the road.  Both in finisher t-shirts of course.

Despite the panic on the metro and the anxiety of it all this is definitely an event I would do again.  It was run so smoothly and you really can’t believe the atmosphere until you experience it.  Everyone was so friendly and willing to help.  There was even water in abundance, everywhere you turned someone was handing you a bottle.  I’m glad we were able to be part of Team Alexis this one last time and at such a great event too.  If you are thinking of doing this stop thinking, just go and do it!

Lastly, I can’t thank everyone enough for their support.  From complete strangers to work colleagues, friends, family and of course my ever supportive mum (and dad – thanks for those calls!).  Getting messages at a time when I’m honestly going to throw up or pass out is something I just can’t measure – even though the thought of a chip butty might actually push my stomach over ha ha.  Next up is a more local 10km run which I know I will have to take easy as it’s marathon time just a week later!  It’s the encouragement and support of others that helps me achieve it though.

Join a club or go it alone?

I’ve been putting this post off but, I have to be honest, or this entire blog will just be false.  I’ve been debating about joining a club for a while now.  Swaying between the local road runners and the triathlon club.  I enjoy the running group I have been attending but I’m eager for more.  In the end I went with the triathlon club as I want to continue to push myself and triathlon is a huge challenge.  

A few emails back and forward and I went along to a swim session.  Said hello to the coaches (there were 2), got changed and jumped in.  I’ve never done drills before, I am entirely self taught with the swimming so it was hard!  I knew it would be though and I knew I would be nervous – didn’t know a soul there, had to drive there myself AND walk through the door myself, still shake at the thought of it.  One of the coaches asked how I had got on and I was honest, told him it was hard but I knew it would take time. “Yeah” he said, “A lot of time”.  Good thing I wasn’t building my hopes up!  Then he went on to say it would come, swimming was the hardest part, cycling you just need to learn the gears and running was easy, anyone can run.  Great, running was my strength! Never mind.

I went back for the next swim session.  It couldn’t have gone worse.

I put my goggles on upside down – as pointed out by a coach.

I swallowed half the pool – something I haven’t done since I started.

I was hit multiple times by others in the lane to the extent at one point I was completely paranoid I thought they were aiming for me.  (Of course they weren’t and I hit the barrier just as much as they hit me but still, it hurt).

I didn’t finish the 2000m set.  I ran out of time.

Afterwards I had intended to hang around as someone had mentioned a bike session and my mum had already agreed to babysit.  I didn’t though.  I practically ran to the car desperate to get there before the tears started.  Clearly out of my depth, pun intended.

Back home and the husband could see it was getting to me.  Usually he comes out with some helpful encouragement like ‘quit moaning and man up’ or ‘quit then’.  Thankfully this time he didn’t.  I felt like I was back at square one and beginning all over again.  And I was having serious doubts about doing another triathlon anytime soon!  Needless to say I missed the bike session – I didn’t have anyone’s name or number to ask for the details.

Monday night and I found myself sitting on my bed dreading another swim session.  I know I’m not the kind of person who will walk into a room and say hi and command everyone’s attention.  I’m more likely to sneak through the door and skirt about the edges.  I stress out and panic in groups, my insides start screaming and I will hide out in the bathroom for as long as I possibly can.  But, I had decided to do this, I had seen how great and welcoming the tri community can be (the support crew for West Lothian at the middle distance our friend did was utterly amazing!  I was in awe!).  So I went. My swimming wasn’t great, I was passed several times but I was only hit twice.  No one spoke though.  There was no chatting.  I actually did stay behind after and loiter about the reception but still nothing.  

I don’t know if it’s because I’m just not good enough at the swimming and everyone is wondering what I’m doing there.  The husband thinks that they maybe see a lot of people come and go and it will get better once I’ve been there a while, I just don’t know.  I joined because I know I need proper training, but also because of what I’ve seen of the support that’s out there.  Someone I have never met before offered me her bike for crying out loud! Such a shame I don’t live near her tri club.

Don’t get me wrong, no one has been rude, looked down their nose, made any comments – nothing like that.  They genuinely seem lovely people.  I’m shy, I know I’m shy, horrendously in fact.  It might be something else entirely that’s making me feel down – it’s possible. I will stick with it though.  For now.  My other half and I are doing our first triathlon together in just 3 weeks, I have to at least give it till then.  And it’s our wedding anniversary next week so we are going away to a place that holds great memories for us.  If that doesn’t lift my mood nothing will!

Scottish Half Marathon

September saw the coming of my very first official half marathon.  The Scottish Half is renowned for being fast and flat so I felt it was a good choice.  It hindsight I guess I didn’t really consider the fact that because it was classed as fast, there would be a lot of widely experienced runners.  I had a predicted time of just over 2hours and to be honest I was very surprised to be in the second last wave.  But I guess that shows my inexperience at this.

It was a late start – 11am – and both my husband and I prefer a lot earlier.  Still, given we are not well known for being early it gave us plenty time to get there.  Impressively, we did actually get to the car park relatively punctual!  We chose to park at the end and get the shuttle bus to the start as recommended.  It was slowly getting warmer but we both had our meningitis race vests which are really thin and cooling.  When we got to the start the queue for the toilets was huge so I joined straight away.  I have absolutely no idea what was taking everyone so long to pee but the queue just wasn’t going down.  I’ve read the same comments in several race reports too but no one seems to know the cause.  This seemed to delay the start by a good 10 minutes.  

We were both in the same wave as when I booked it the plan was my husband was going to stick with me and encourage me along.  By the time the race came about I could comfortably run 13 miles and didn’t want to hold him back so off he went.  What surprised me the most was the fact I wasn’t shaking, I wasn’t nervous, I genuinely felt fine.  I think it was because he was there running too, it was a nice change. 

1km in and my strava told me my split was 4m 59.  Hold on that’s not right.  My first split has always been around 4min.  I didn’t feel I was going slower but clearly I was, ok, better focus a bit more.  3km in and, well there’s no other way to say it but, my pants started to fall down! How does that happen?? I kept pulling them up but they kept coming down.  At one point they were as far down as they can go when wearing trousers so it must have looked like I had ‘pooped’ to everyone behind me!  This made me really giggle though – what else could I do?!? I did think I would have to stop and remove them but a really hard yank had the situation corrected by 5km.

At about 8km the route turns back on itself so I kept to the side desperate to see the hubby go past.  Thankfully he saw me and gave me a good wave – no point in shouting as we were both listening to music to keep us going.  

I hadn’t looked at the route properly as I thought we were going down the promenade and had selected a play list to suit this.  As it turned out my playlist was just awful.  Another lesson learnt.

It was exhaustingly hot from 8km on and I have to admit I did struggle from about 10km onwards.  I don’t know what it was but this race just didn’t feel right.  It might have been the heat, it might have been my rubbish play list, I maybe even approached it just a little too cocky if I’m being honest, I just don’t know.  What I do know is that my target of less than 2 hours was the hardest thing I’ve had to fight for in a long time.  I barely made it.  I even had to stop and seriously take a breath at the end.  I did get the usual panic when I finished as I couldn’t find the husband so unfortunately that was still there, but in a way that actually felt good.

The aim was to raise funds and awareness for meningitis and I’m really pleased to say we did that! It felt good having my name on my top and strangers cheering me on – they honestly helped give me the push I needed.   We had planned on doing the great Scottish run to see if I felt different on that one but I’m writing this from the side of my sons hospital bed.  He has broken his leg so obviously I’m not going to leave him in 2 days time to run for 2 hours.  He has, and always will, come first. 

Next year though, Scottish Half, I will do better!

   
   

Another ‘Night Before’

This time it’s Total Warrior.  And this time the hubby is doing the event with me! (Along with a friend).  Managed to convince him to sign up eventually – nothing at all to do with the fact his brother is doing it too and I just went ahead and bought his ticket a few weeks ago, nothing at all.  Had actually hoped to convince my brother as well but to no avail.

We are not packed, it’s us, we don’t do ‘organised’.  We are ready in the sense of physical fitness though.  All the training I’ve been doing I am hoping will carry me through not only this event but the next 2 – the Scottish Half Marathon and then the Beast Race.  I’m maybe being a little naive but now I’ve got 10 events under my belt I’m feeling more confident, and it certainly helps knowing he will be by my side the whole way this time.  My friend who is joining us is the same girl who did the Moonwalk with me.  Nope, not done any training together, she has a busier social life than the Kardashians put together! She has also hurt her leg quite bad so we know she’s going to have to skip some obstacles but not to worry, I’m sure she will finish. 

I should probably write a little check list of what I need.  Running gear, old trainers, clean underwear (it’s an obstacle course and you get submerged, I hopefully won’t need it for any other reason!!) towel, warm jumper for the inevitable shivers afterwards, gloves, red bull, flap jacks etc. oh Tickets!! 

I know a few people going tomorrow, none of whom know anything about my panic and anxiety and that somehow makes me feel relaxed!  I’m sure come start time I will get the usual wave of shakes and sweats but that is getting easier to cope with also.  Will it ever go away completely? Probably not.  Will I let it overcome me? Never.  It’s part of me, I need to accept that and move on.

Ok so next blog will hopefully be tomorrow night, include a few photos, a few funny stories and a shot of me enjoying a beer with my finishers medal in hand!