Lockdown Life – ‘On Yer Bike’

Lockdown Life – ‘On Yer Bike’

When we first went into lockdown I have to admit, the fact I wouldn’t be able to get outside on my bike didn’t really bother me that much. I’m ashamed to say I am 100% a fair weather cyclist.

I’m also a ‘any excuse NOT to’ cyclist. It’s too busy, it’s too windy, it’s too late, it’s getting dark, I can’t find a water bottle, I’ve got a paper cut – all fantastic reasons that have resulted in me jumping on the turbo instead.

And to be honest, when we first got the stay at home message, for me personally, it would have been the most irresponsible move on my part to hit the roads. Guaranteed I would be the one to end up crashing and need an ambulance thus putting unnecessary pressure on the NHS and being front page news of every paper no doubt along with a photo of my sausage legs in Lycra just for good measure.

However. Weathers been inexcusable/great. Daylight never seems to end. And I’ve finished reading my umpteenth book so I’ve been all out of excuses. Out on the roads it’s been.

I started with my usual out and back route. It has no turns other than at the very start but yes, I still go a different way/get it wrong every single time. A road bike on gravel is up there with swimming with sharks I would say. How I manage to still end up on that road is beyond me. Every. Single. Time. But to get used to being outside again I thought best to stick with what I know. I could squeeze 30 miles out of it but I was stuck if I wanted to go further.

I mentioned this to Joe and also about how tough the first half was as it seemed you were always against the wind. ‘And it’s uphill all the way’ he said.

What the?

How had I not noticed that?? I would even say to myself how much faster it seemed on the way back and check my splits and plainly see a difference!

That’s it. Time for a new route.

I got a recommendation from someone in the club on a quiet route, most of which I know, near where I grew up. It was about 30 miles again but had options to add to it for when I had my porridge and felt brave.

So off I went (after my usual hour of faffing). It wasn’t long before my first panic set in. In fact, it was bang on 2 miles.

The bridge.

The bridge is (somewhat obviously) on a hill. If I didn’t get straight through I would need to do a hill start on a push bike. Fucccckkkk. Last time I tried that I fell over and bent my handle bars.

I was sweating bucket loads! How am I going to do that?? Think, think, think. I took the cowards way out. I stopped on the flat before it then waited for the light to go green before setting off.

The only thing I’m missing on my bike rides is the basket of flowers on my ha dale bars it appears.

Feeling a little smug I got onto the bridge and cycled over. Mission accomplished. Just 2 miles in.

The route was good. Very quiet for most of it, gorgeous countryside and views. One road I didn’t like so the next couple of times I tried to avoid it. Very unsuccessfully the first time – I just did a loop and ended up back in the exact same spot – but quite well on the fourth time.

My plan was to cycle to a village called Abernyte and head back that way. It was only 4 miles from the turning I had been using so a nice little add on. And you never know, maybe slightly flatter.

I could not have been more wrong. The hill started just a couple of miles in. Slowly at first, just a gentle incline, easing you in. ‘Come this way, it’s gorgeous, oh don’t worry about going up, it’s just a wee bit.’

I was soon changing rings. Yes you read that right. She who has no idea about gears actually changed rings for this one. There was no choice. I had a flashback to a hill in Aberfeldy and my hand was moving before my brain could register what was about to happen. Twisting and turning and in true hill style you were NEVER at the top. Just round this corner? My arse it is. Up you go!

By now it was game on. I wasn’t quitting. If I had got this far (which was probably only about 200m let’s be honest) I was going to the top. Surely it can’t go on that long? I even had images in my head if I did one of those slow motion falls to the side I would have to somehow get back up whilst still on the bike and continue.

I received a lot of sympathetic lols from the cars that passed me – on their way down. They knew what was coming. They knew my fate. I wasn’t anywhere close to the top.

I’m sure I saw a snail go past me at one point.

Just as I was nearing the top another cyclist went past me free wheeling down the hill. Another sympathetic look to add to the bag. The temptation to turn around and join him was high but I resisted. I had the fear that what had taken me half the day to cycle up would only take seconds to cycle down and I would realise it was actually just a bump and not a hill. (It was a hill!)

Back home and my parents had popped round for a garden chat. Restrictions have been lifted and you are allowed members of one household in your garden only. My dads not a fan of cyclists. He couldn’t understand why I didn’t just drive up it.

Life Can Still Be Great

Life Can Still Be Great

This week has been quite a good week. Not that there’s been bad weeks but there’s certainly been ‘not so good’ days.

This unique (I refuse to use the most over used word of 2020) situation has had me thinking about everything I used to do and whether or not I really want to go back to that. For example, it’s been 2 years since I changed jobs and just a swim teacher was never the end goal – so what am I going to do about that?

I have a huge list of things I want to see and experience – am I truly working towards that or am I just writing them down in one of my many notebooks (girl always loved her stationery) and pinning them to folders on Pinterest?

So I started with looking through what courses are available online to do at this moment. There’s thousands! Absolute thousands! Anything you want to learn about, well now is the time to do it! I’ve now done quite a few of the short courses and thoroughly enjoyed them. I had also just started my Level 2 Coaching when all this kicked off so I kept my eye out for anything to help me with that. I received a few online meeting invites too and booked in to them.

I picked up some fab ideas of what could be done to help adjust and overcome. I didn’t recognise some of the names of the attendees but a quick google search (the new term for stalking, let’s be honest) had me realising I had just been talking to the coach of Olympic athletes and an Ironman Uk winner! Best of all though, we had completely agreed on our way of thinking of how you deal with this situation and that was before I knew who he was!

That’s not the only great thing to have happened recently though. I would like to add to that list that I successfully managed to change the battery in my speed sensor for my bike, I ‘almost’ changed the strap on my watch by myself (screws were too tight for me to move), I managed to get the right jar of chilli sauce that Joe requested from the shopping and I haven’t crashed or bumped the car in a fair few weeks now – that’s definitely a record for me.

I’m also still out running. Not as often as I would like but enough to keep me ticking over. I’m still bored of the same dreary route although further along the trail on the river is definitely better. However when my sister-in-law posted a picture of some malteaser cake she had made and said she would leave some out for me I thought ‘what the heck why not.’ I have to skirt round the town to get to theirs and I’ve been avoiding that as it can be really busy even before this happened but I thought I would see. True enough there were more people than I have seen in a long time but it was ok. And the malteaser cake and chat was worth it.

Mmmmm cake

And lastly, a little Strava art. The Tri Club has been putting together little challenges each week to keep people connected and motivated. The latest one was to draw a picture using your Strava tracker. Sound easy? Not so much. First problem is trying to think of something to ‘draw’. I went with a picture of a swimmer, cyclist then runner – not appreciating just how difficult that would be. I enlisted the ‘help’ (a term I use very loosely in this case) of my kids. Oliver decided to pretend to be a pirate and swoosh his sword he had insisted on bringing up and down the field whilst Lucie alternates between recording Tik Tok videos and sitting in a teenage strop.

It was quality family time….

Despite the satellites not always playing ball it came out not too bad. Eventually.

So yeah, life can be great right now. I’ve picked up advice from an elite coach, changed a battery, had success in the supermarket and drawn a picture.

Next weeks got a lot to live up to.

Looking for – and losing – a loch

Looking for – and losing – a loch

I am just SO sick of running the same route over and over again. It’s boring. And it has too much tarmac.

So. Armed with the knowledge that there was a loch nearby with a trail round it I decided to go ‘adventuring’. It did involve a mile or 2 of the same old route but knowing I was turning off of it made it just slightly better. Spotting a rainbow painted rock also made me smile. (Obsessed with rainbows right now, can’t get enough of them.)

Up the hill and past the school I went. I had been told the Loch was sign posted so I kept my head up looking for it. Past a few houses and a nice looking farm. Down the hill and…wait a minute… I know where this is. I’m just metres away from that boring route I’ve been doing for weeks! I turned round and looked back up the hill.

Nope. Not going back up there. It’s too hot. I will go down the river instead on the other side and hopefully find some trail.

Best decision ever. It was a fab run. Slow, as the path is extremely narrow, but really enjoyed it. And so quiet.

After a thorough google of where the turning should be (and several Strava stalks later) I headed back out for attempt no 2 a couple days later.

Ok I’m at the school. It’s somewhere between here and the bottom of that hill. I know I’ve to keep left. Stay left, stay left, stay left. Ooh a path!

Up the path I trundle reciting my mantra/guide ‘stay left, stay left, stay left.’ I almost enter a field before I realise it is just that – a field – and not a path. Not that far left Ella. Be careful.

Another quite steep hill bit but this time it’s in the shade. Seeing as it’s really quite hot now I decide to slow right down and take advantage of the cooler air. The forest is lovely, so peaceful.

Top of the hill and I’ve found it! I’ve found the loch! Whoo hoo. Mission accomplished. I have a short chat with a couple who are walking back (well, more of a raised voice conversation given the social distancing). They’ve just discovered the loch as well.

It’s really small so I decide to run round it before heading back home. I head anti clockwise, still with my mantra of ‘stay left’.

There’s a short bit of path and then you have to find your own way. Not a problem. I’m enjoying this! I’ve gotten so sick of tarmac recently. My mind starts wandering back to a couple of the ultras I have done and how much I have loved them. I miss running that distance. I have my goal for next year but I’m pretty sure I could fit in a decent ultra or two.

I’m still telling myself I could convince Joe it’s something I could do when I suddenly realise I haven’t seen the loch in a while. I’ve ran round enough bodies of water to know you’re not always on the waters edge but I try to have a look around. I can just about see it through all the trees. Sweet.

I continue on the path I find and it’s quite tricky underfoot so I’m being careful not to fall. Now is not the time to be needing to be saved. My thoughts turn to the most recent phone call from his doctor gently reminding him of how serious this current situation is. It’s a hard thing to hear.

This head space time is exactly what I need though and the fact I haven’t seen anyone since finally finding the loch makes it even better. It’s getting steeper and hotter and although I’m thoroughly enjoying the run, I certainly don’t have any power in me. I eventually make it to the top of a hilly bit and see nothing but open fields.

Hmm. When I googled this place on the map it wasn’t that close to a field I should be seeing. I should at this point be on the waters edge. I stop and try to spot my location on my phone using Find Friends.

I’m nowhere bloody near the loch! How has that happened? It was there. It was right there! I sit on a stump for a minute or two and try to figure out where I went so wrong. I can’t be wrong though. I kept left. Just as I saw on someone else’s. My phone must be wrong. There’s no way I’m that far from the loch. I’ve barely been moving for a start.

None the less I head back down the way I came. The lochs got to be down here somewhere. Carefully watching where I put my feet I retrace my steps. Or at least I think I do. When I look up I don’t recognise anything around me. None of it looks familiar.

Have I entered Narnia? Did I fall out the back of a wardrobe and not notice?

All of a sudden I’m at a gate to a field and being stared at by horses. Well I’m not going in there! How has this happened? Where the hell am I?

By now I’ve almost had enough and stomp my way back up the hill. I know Joes going to be on the phone soon asking how much longer I’m going to be. His doctor had advised limiting the time everyone in the house was outside as well and by now I was getting close to the hour mark.

I had only gone a short way when I saw it. The bloody loch was right there. But yet again I had stuck to my mantra of ‘stay left’ and had gone too far left. Not only was I back with the loch but I was also back where I started.

It took the full 2 miles home before it clicked that although I had studied google and had it set in my head how to follow the path. And I had indeed stayed left when I began to go round it, I had to go RIGHT to actually GET round it…….

I’m now researching navigation courses because quite clearly this is not a strong point for me!

Lockdown Life – The Race Is On

Lockdown Life – The Race Is On

I’ve always believed that sport brings with it attributes that cross over in to your daily life. Triathlon is certainly no exception to that rule and I know I put it on my CV when I updated it.

At times like these though, I am even more grateful for having discovered the sport – and discipline – as it helps me to survive.

Racing (or just scraping the finish line to be more accurate in my case) is a true reflection of life in our current situation. Let me explain.

The Supermarket. Whether it’s a 70.3 or a super sprint race I am and always will be absolutely terrified before the gun goes off. White as a sheet, feeling sick, nerves shot to hell and on the brink of an almighty panic attack. I have now found I am experiencing these exact emotions when going shopping.

It starts when I’m getting ready. Do I have everything? Bags, keys, mobile, hand sanitiser, gloves, detailed list of what to get. Then it’s in the car. Can I remember how to drive? It’s been a while. Next is parking. How far away from everyone else can I park. But I’m guaranteed someone parks right next to me.

Then there’s the queue. Thankfully both supermarkets in my area now have lines marked out. But for some, they find it hard to stay behind a line. A lot like certain drivers at traffic lights. Or people on bikes trying to draft you in non-draft legal races. Ie every triathlon I’ve ever done. The nerves hit when you’re in the queue though. You start to get sweaty. You don’t know when you’re going in. You continually spray your hands. Your worried people are staring at you – questioning you. Instead of ‘she’s going to die’ because of the swim, it’s now ‘is she infected?’.

Then the security guard calls you forward. ‘Ten people, move!’

Ok it’s probably not as harsh as that (and by probably I mean not at all) but it’s intense. And it feels just like those beeps on the gate at a 70.3 when you’re called forward and told to go. So it’s one last breath and in you go…..

Game on! Mission – get in, get out, fast as you can, don’t get hit by anyone, don’t get dunked, do what you need to do and get out!

Precisely like the infamous swim of a race.

List in hand and I’m off! Pace yourself Ella, you can do this. If you need to stop and create space you can do that. Just breath. You’ve swim this distance, sorry, been to the supermarket loads of times before. You. Can. Do. This.

Gammon. Where the hell do I find gammon? I don’t eat gammon. I don’t even know what meat that is! (But I do know it’s meat therefore I’m not eating it). Ok, phone Joe. He’s not answering his phone!!!! Blood pressure is steadily rising, heavy breathing has started. Oh god, oh god. Ok. Calm down. Deep breaths. Reset. Just ask someone.

Not a single soul looks approachable. They are the competition! Can’t blame them, don’t think anyone wants to be here right now. It’s getting crowded. That guy is getting a bit close. Too close! Time to move, stuff the gammon.

That’s pretty much the same as when you stop to adjust your goggles that have been whacked off your head and you see a pack coming towards you in the sea. You leave what you’re doing and you get the hell out of there.

Transition is next. Coming out of the water and trying to find your bike. Or in this case trying to find flour so I can make the salt dough that every family is making so if you don’t you will be the worst mother in the world. No pressure.

Finding your bike in transition is phenomenally difficult for someone like me. At my height all I can see is wheels. I’m not tall enough to see over anything so leaving a brightly covered towel on the handlebars doesn’t work and it’s pointless on the floor because there’s crap everywhere. However. I’m slowly beginning to get used to this. I’ve devised a system that seems to work ‘most’ the time.

Being knee height to a grasshopper today however, is my ninja skill. I spot a packet at the back on the lower shelves – no bending over required for me Mr I Can Reach The Top Shelf. (There’s no flour up there either pal). Elbows ready to defend my space.

Back to the bike – sorry, shop. It’s a one way system. There are arrows on the floor everywhere. Now, being one who is highly likely to get lost I’m very accustomed to following arrows. (Thank you Race To Stones for your thousands of arrows). So I’m well prepared for this. I’ve trained for this! Need to go down an up aisle? No problem. Down the next and a u-turn to come up that one. Simple. Even I can do it and not get lost. Oh look, gammon!

Unfortunately, it appears at least 50% of the population can not. I’ve even purposefully started staring at the arrows then at the person coming the wrong way, locking eye contact with a stealthy glare. But then I had a nightmare that these people changed in to zombies and chased me down and infected me with corona (not the beer) so I’ve stopped that and went back to minding my own business. It was a very bad dream.

Back in to transition and it’s time to find a checkout. I’m very selective about my checkouts. Just like my running shoes. I want to make sure I’m comfortable with my trainers just like I want to be comfortable the checkout person isn’t going to throw my flour at me. Luckily, through racing, and being able to determine who is likely to push me out their way and who is not, I’m quite good at reading people.

Final stretch. Pack, pay and go. Food is packed. I get out my card and go to pay. Disaster hits. The cards not working! I’m not leaving here without my shopping! It’s like completing a race and not getting a medal! Panic very quickly sets in. What do I do?? Joe phones. (Now he’s on his phone!). I’m trying to use an old card I reported lost. Somehow it had miraculously reappeared. Use the other one. And did you get the gammon?

Out to the car and it’s like being on the red carpet to the finish line. Sailing past all the other people waiting in the queue. I’ve done it! I’m finished! I got the shopping!

I get home and it’s straight to the sink to wash hands. Obviously. I take a well deserved seat to try and calm down on the couch. Joe puts the shopping away.

‘Why did you buy tuna, I said gammon!’

Lockdown Life – The Running Issues Continue

Lockdown Life – The Running Issues Continue

As predicted running outside isn’t getting any easier. But I’m still outside and I’m still running so really, I shouldn’t complain.

But I’m gonna!

Yesterday I came across someone who I don’t doubt we have all had the delightful joy of experiencing. Usually it’s the middle of the aisle in the supermarket or in a park or just walking down the street. They are, of course, the ones who ‘owneth the path’.

I was on my last 2 miles home and had already encountered several of the dangerous species known as the escaped families on bikes (noted in my last blog, they’re like rabbits right now, breeding daily). I had also had an elderly couple jump – no exaggeration – in to a bush when I was coming towards them. Although I do wonder how long they stayed there and what they ended up doing as I didn’t see them on the path when I looked back. Then there was the blonde lassie who got really confused over what to do when I was coming up behind her and a man was walking towards her. Talk about a deer in the headlights. The man went left and I went on to the grassy embankment, we exchanged a chuckle over that one.

But back to the one who was stomping her way along with a big black cloud above her head.

It was a fairly long straight stretch so I could see past people quite far in front of me and saw her as she was approaching. Now, there’s no law or rule as to who moves what way but common decency states everyone makes an effort to move away – create distance.

Not her though. Oh no. Not Queen Stomps-A-Lot with her hands clasped behind her back and a forward stoop that could give a certain person from Notredame a run for his money. She was NOT moving. This was her path and people, pay attention, she was walking here!

There was a couple in front of me heading towards her. They had clearly taken a leaf from the elderly couple in the bush from earlier and were, lets say, very into each other. At that moment anyway. For all we know they could have had a massive lockdown argument earlier that morning and were now declaring their undying love for each other having gotten over it. Basically they only had eyes for each other and didn’t see The Force that was steam rolling towards them.

As she approached, glaring at them, they remained locked in each other’s gaze. (Makes you sick, doesn’t it?). ‘Is she honestly going to walk right in to them?’ I thought, ‘surely not!’. Fair enough there’s an argument to say they should be aware of their surroundings but come on.

Barely a step in front of them and she ground to a halt. And screamed at them. ‘Get out of my way!’.

Holy cow, did that just happen?? The couple visibly jumped then moved quickly to the side. Looked at her, looked at each other, then laughed and carried on down the path.

Grumpy Git carried on her way towards me.

Now. I had options here. I had on my hat and my sunglasses so technically I could keep my head down, turn my music right up and bang right in to her.

Or I could just move to the side before I was anywhere near her and carry on with my run.

Which is of course what I did.

I didn’t know this women’s story. If something absolutely dreadful had happened to her and this was her first time out in fresh air for god only knows how long. If she was living alone right now because of the lockdown and struggling. If she had just discovered that Carole Baskin had indeed, killed her husband.

And of course she could just be an absolute bitch.

Either way, I had seen her, I had time and space to move, so I did. On a more positive note I’m loving the painted rocks I’ve been finding along this route. Certainly brings a smile to my face. (Have to remember to smile with my mouth closed though as the hotter weather is bringing the midges out).

Lockdown life continues.

Lockdown Life – Running Outside

When we went in to lockdown we were told we could still exercise once a day outside the house. My stress levels instantly went down and I shrugged off the rest of it. I had already accepted swimming was out for a while so as long as I could still get a run in fantastic.

So day 1 on lockdown and instead of having to squeeze in a trip round the streets on two legs I had the luxury of being able to head out just after lunch.

I chose my regular weekend/late afternoon route as it’s usually quiet and has very little road so no cars. The first kilometre out my door was eerily quiet. The image of an army tank rolling by flashed through my mind but I quickly shook my head and told myself to stop being so stupid.

On to the track and instantly I could see it was busier than normal. Didn’t think much of it. Then I met my first family of 4 out on bikes. Kids zooming along zig zagging across the path with dad who had clearly had a beer or two with lunch and mum who didn’t look like she had been on a bike since she had taken the stabilisers off 30 years ago.

But, you know, exercise is for everyone, it should be encouraged….

Dodging them whilst trying to keep at least 6 feet between us was difficult but it’s a big path and I have no objection to running up the side on the grass and mud as there’s a trail part later on anyway.

A little further up is when I first began to notice it though. And at first I thought I was imagining it. I’ve been doing this running malarkey for a few years now and whilst I admit I probably don’t blend in to the country side or the trails or anything after the 1990’s in my exceptional get up, I am still a regular sight.

So when I first thought someone gave me a dirty look I thought surely not, I must be mistaken. Then it happened again, and again. And very quickly they looked more like looks of ‘oh my god she’s going to kill me’.

I’m knee height to a grass hopper wearing neon pink full length socks and a t-shirt to match. The only thing I’m killing is the song I’m trying to sing a long to right now.

Then my thoughts turned to the reason we are in lockdown – the virus.

All of a sudden it wasn’t just looks of death being shot left, right and centre but people were jumping into bushes to avoid me. Not just jumping, falling!

Yup. In my head, I had now turned in to a zombie and I was chasing down humans to eat. The scene from The Beach when Leonardo takes those drugs and it turns in to a computer game was now, me, right now.

This was great entertainment for a couple of miles I’m not going to lie. I was even winning at this game in my head. That was, until, I suddenly remembered that one of them could give me the virus if we weren’t keeping far enough apart.

All of a sudden this was no laughing matter. The mums out with their kids on bikes for the first time ever just so they could post about it on Facebook (look at us doing family activities!) were no longer amusing but down right annoying. Get out of the bloody way!!!! HOW do you not know how far 6 feet is??? Move!!!! Do you even bloody live in Perth?!?!?! Oh wait, there’s your car you drove here in!!

What started as a peaceful run had turned in to the most stressful run of all time. And this, unfortunately, is the way it’s going to be from now on. I totally get that kids locked up in houses need to get out and get fresh air and exercise. I have kids. I know. But unfortunately it has only increased the first world problem that is ‘path etiquette’. Ie EVERYONE should move to the side – not just me running but the person (or family) I’m passing. Create the space people!

Back at home and I felt like a true survivor (cue Destiny’s Child – Obviously the tune of choice to be belted out in the shower that day.)Is this going to change? Probably not in the near future. It’s actually getting busier and busier as the weather gets nicer and nicer. So my original plan of running every second day is being re-considered and I’m going to go for my run when I think it’s quieter. Having to run by myself doesn’t bother me either as I’m more used to that.

I’ve managed to put a new playlist together too – it matches my 1990’s fashion.

I would call that ‘winning at life’ right now.

On The Hunt

On The Hunt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was not going to be good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think the search will have to continue.

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

This Is Ladies Night

Have you ever been stuck in doors, alone, with the same 4 walls, and the inability to move without pain?

My drama skills are on the up rise in case you haven’t noticed. I’m thinking of yet another career change.  The stage is clearly calling.

Friday was spent barely moving from the couch which obviously resulted in a solid full stone gain in weight (the only food I could stumble my to the kitchen to find was of no nutritional value and the pain in my back was making me feel nauseous). However the rest did work and my back eased up enough for me tackle the stairs and begin to peel the tin man costume off my body.

Saturday morning and despite a night of constant up and down with the dogs and the impossible act of getting comfy I was better than the Friday. The other half had left for a boys weekend Friday afternoon so my mum and dad came round to take the eldest to the airport for his holiday. I decided I was going to try and make my cocktail night because 1. It would cheer me up and 2. If I’m honest, walking round bars would be a lot easier than running after dogs and dealing with the constant cries of ‘mum I’m hungry’ from the youngest.

I almost changed my mind in the taxi on the way down, nearly asking him to turn round and take me back home. But I didn’t. I sucked it up.

There were 8 of us from the tri club, most of whom I have been doing quite a bit of training with.  Although not this kind of training ha ha.  Let me tell you though.  The organisational skills of these women – good lord! If ever I enter an event that requires a crew then these people are my team! Everything was arranged.  I only had to worry about getting dressed (admittedly a task in itself when I couldn’t lift my left leg) and hobble between bars.  But it seemed that even the distance between bars had been thought out as it always felt enough to get me moving but not too far it was over doing it.

However.  The comments on taking a trolley or a stretcher for me definitely warrant some questions on our friendship.  And an Asda trolley? At least make it a Marks and Spencer’s one ladies!

At the first stop we had, in true ladies style, the Pornstar Margarita.  A sugared glass with tequila and lime and I think a shot of Prosecco.  I’m unsure as the woman at the table next to us took one look at me and proceeded to divulge, in great detail, how she had had a bad back and ended up getting her spine shaved.  Thanks for that love.

The sugared glass became quite entertaining though.  You start by discreetly trying to lick tiny bits off then someone catches your eye and you watch them full on lick clean their glass ALL the way round the rim to the extent you’re now worried they may start to attack the windows!

Amazing what a drop of alcohol can do.

We head to the next one on the list but find it doesn’t open until 5pm so go next door.  I see some of the same women from the last place but thankfully not the nip and tuck women.  Naturally it’s selfie time and I make my first mistake of the night when I try to bend down to get in the picture and have to be helped back up by Shona.  This is one drink down ladies and gentleman.  One drink.

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It’s getting busier now and it’s not so easy to find a seat in the next bar but standing and discreetly stretching my back is fine with me.  At least I think it’s discreetly.  I’ve now had more alcohol in the last couple of hours than I’ve had in the last couple of years so for all I know I’m doing full on acrobatic yoga moves on the bar and not just slightly tilting my pelvis every now and then.  No one says anything though so I’m either getting away with it or they are just as drunk.

We head to the next one and it’s downstairs.  This is not good for me.  This is when I begin to wonder how far the train station is as it might be time to make an exit.  We haven’t even entered the place when a group comes out and tells us the bar is disgusting.  ‘Worst one yet’ they say.  So it’s back up the stairs.

In to Tigerlily and we sit outside after an array of photos at their flower wall.  I’ve just sat down when the rain starts but you’re buggered if you think I’m moving! I’m happy to have Monica Geller frizzy hair if it means I can have a seat for a minute to ease off my back.  The cocktail helps too ha ha.

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Stomachs are grumbling by this point so it’s a food stop.  Now, I know nothing about food.  It’s not a subject I find interesting.  I’m genuinely astonished by how some people can rattle off descriptions of a meal laden with ‘dripping in’ this and ‘coated in’ that.  THATS DISGUSTING.  The mere thought of anything I’m going to eat being ‘dripped’ in something is pure and simple gross! If it drips, I’m not eating it! This obviously leaves me with a problem when we go to the Tapas bar.  Joe and I don’t eat out that often.  Sure we take the kids out for breakfast at the weekends but we stick to what they like and know.  (And usually if it’s breakfast, I can get beans on toast, job done).  I don’t know what tapas is.  When someone says you have 2 maybe 3 portions I’m thinking ‘I’m not a fatty love, I’m just hungry’.

I play it safe and order the peppers, olives and a potato thing I’m sharing with Carol.

Out comes the food.  It’s just peppers.  As in, just peppers.  I was expecting something to put the peppers in.  Like a tortilla wrap or something.  Nope.  Just peppers.  Ok, olives then.  They look whole.  As in solid.  As in not deseeded or pipped or what ever it’s bloody called – hollowed out! I can’t eat them.

I order some fries.

I know Joe doesn’t read what I write so I’m pretty safe putting this here but it’s quite clear when it comes to food I’m pretty stuck without him.  He usually orders for me.  But I was kind of grumpy with him as he’s not the most sympathetic over my back pain (called it inconvenient!) so I didn’t do what I usually do and text him asking him what I should order.

Kind of shot myself in the foot over that one.

On to the next bar!

The man bar that stinks of, well, men, actually gets my vote for best cocktail.  It may have been the lack of food affecting my taste buds but I liked it.

By this time my back is most definitely giving up.  I’m actually impressed with how long I’ve lasted given I was going to get the taxi to take me straight back home.

We end the night in Harvey Nichols with tattoos that just won’t go on.  Jo had provided bus snacks in the form of old school candy sticks that came with super hero tattoos.  I begged for the Wonder Woman one.

It was a great night and I’m glad I went.  I can’t do this whole ‘sit and do nothing’ even though I know I need to.  I’ve still got to keep my sanity.  And whilst the ladies from tri club may not be completely sane, they are a good laugh.

The night out did leave me with one huge problem though.  Removing skinny jeans when you can’t lift your leg or bend forwards has by far been my biggest challenge yet!

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.

Where Have You Been?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I KNOW!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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