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!

A New Plan

A New Plan

Goals have been set, races selected and work has began.  I am currently 3 days in to a new and more structured training plan so what better time to write about it?

I’m exhausted!  And it’s only been 3 days!! Talk about a wake up call!  Ultra training was tiring don’t get me wrong but going long and slow clearly worked for me because 1, I could keep my eyes open past 6pm at night and 2, I could still walk after a session.  Now some might say I clearly wasn’t going hard enough – and possibly the number of photo’s I would take during a race may be evidence towards that – but I enjoyed them.  I never felt like I was about to collapse and die or, even worse, throw up all over myself.

Current long term goals though involve slightly more than heading out the door with a hydration vest filled with flap jacks and returning a few hours later (usually a good 30 – 45 minutes longer than planned after getting lost but that really was part of the fun).

Day 1.  Swim.  Correction.  Longest swim I have ever done!  I remember the day I went to the pool and the swim club’s set was still written on the board.  ‘400m warm up’.  Warm up.  400m was my entire session that day.  It was pointed out to me that one day that would be my warm up.  Well.  Day 1 was that day!  Or to be more accurate, 500m was the warm up.  20 x 25m.  Never done that before.  First few were a bit strange but I got into it.  Then I forgot to start my watch for the main set so it looked like I had an extra long rest when in actual fact I was swimming 100m.  Rookie mistake there Ella come on.  I was meant to use paddles but pool rules state everyone in the lane has to agree to me using them.  They did not agree.  But they did kindly ‘keep out my way’ meaning I didn’t get caught behind them often so I appreciate that.

‘Keep out of my way’.  I mean seriously!  You would think I’m under the impression I own that lane!  But what other way can I say it? (however sometimes I do feel that it is MY lane I’m in there that often ha ha.  Just a shame my swimming doesn’t justify it).

After many, many checks of the watch to see what lap I am on it’s on to the cool down and I am eventually done.  I am not swimming one single length more.  Nah ah.  David in the health suite is my absolute saviour when I discover he has a tub of Heroes and I shove 2 in my mouth – almost with the wrapper still on I am that hungry!

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Day 2 and it’s a turbo.  I’m getting used to my turbo so I’m not dreading it.  I’ve also found a new series on Netflix to binge watch so that’s always a bonus.  I even manage to connect the cadence sensor to my watch ALL by myself.  Definitely a victory moment there for Ella.  It takes a while to adjust the gears enough to hit the numbers I am looking for but about half way through the session I get there.  I still don’t understand ‘big gear’ – why not just say ‘harder gear’ or easier gear’???  What’s big about it???  My legs don’t grow any by using it! Possibly my arse from all this sitting down but definitely not my legs (and that’s iI’m using it which I’m probably not – I did feel at one point my bike doesn’t have enough gears to do what I was meant to but I don’t know if you can add gears?  I know you can’t add them to a car.  Is it possible for a bike not to have enough gears?  God I’m really not a cyclist.)  Anyway.  Turbo done – but no chocolates devoured that night.

Day 3 and I decide today is the day I am going to run in the early morning again.  The hardest thing about running before the sun comes up is deciding what to wear.  Not in a ‘gok wan going out out’ style but more in a temperature way.  I opt for shorts because rule of thumb for me is that unless there is a full on blizzard with 10 inches of snow on the ground then shorts is the way to go.  T-shirt and long sleeve top is also selected (topless running isn’t a thing – and even if it was I wouldn’t be doing it).  The long sleeve top is quickly discarded.  I’ve got 6 x 2 min hard efforts.  Let me say it again.  ULTRA RUNNER.  Hard effort is basically not stopping to take a photo of the leaves falling from the trees or the funny sign at the side of the road.  It is NOT running until you throw up.  And trust me, it doesn’t take 2 minutes before I want to throw up!  I’ve dragged my friend along in an effort to try and make me do this.  She officially hates me and calls me all the names under the sun.  Clearly not doing a hard effort if you can still speak love!

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Somehow we get through the 6 of them and slowly run home.  My stomach reminds me I haven’t been doing the same efforts or even mileage recently I am used to and there are a few very close moments.  I have to stand outside her flat as still as a statue at one point in a bid not to prevent anything escaping from my body.  I turn to cross the road and abruptly stop for a minute.  Think the scene in Bridesmaids when they are trying on dresses after that dodgy meal.  Yup.  That’s what flashed through my head.  Just minus the big white dress to hide under!

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Everyone is still asleep when I get home.

Off to work after and by 3pm I’m dipping.  An afternoon nap would have been amazing!  I’m so jealous of those that get to nap.  Why can’t I be an 80 year old women who can nap at any point she wants?  I think that should be my goal! Pretty sure I currently look like one I am that tired.

I’m just adjusting though.  I’m loving having a structure and I know that I can do it.  I also know what motivates me – and no it’s not a box of Heroes but I wouldn’t turn them down (although probably should).  Life may be like a box chocolates but in this case I do know what I am going to get….

Tired.  Very tired.  Ha ha.

 

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.

Jurassic Park

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

Why?

Well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But let’s get back to the loch.

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

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

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

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

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

Then I saw a white thing.

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

I swam a little more.

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

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

The panic starts.

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

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

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

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

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

I have to stop to wretch a couple of times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fish.

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

Back on dry land after the ‘white hand’ situation

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

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

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

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

Teeth!!!

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

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

Teeth!

Absolutely not. I’m sticking to running.

A Punch To The Gut

Joe hasn’t been training as late due to not being well but now that we have a diagnosis for him and treatment has started things have been looking up for him.  So with that in mind I suggested we both go to the tri clubs swimming session last week.  To my surprise he agreed so I sorted child care (faithful Nanny to the rescue again) and searched for my swimming costume.  I couldn’t find the usual one I wear so had to grab my spare.  This would mean that instead of looking like an 8 year old little boy I was going to be paranoid over yet another camel toe situation.   The question remains – how can someone as small as myself have an ongoing issue with camel toes?

I don’t actually get a camel toe from said costume.  It’s just that, to me, it’s extremely high cut and therefore makes me feel very, very self conscious.  I reasoned with myself that once I was in the water it would be fine as no one would be able (or even want to) be looking in that area anyway.  I would just be the first in the water and the last out.  Job done.

On Wednesday’s the faster group swims first and the slower/not so fast/people like me who clearly have lane issues swim second.  So I sat at the side with another from my group – also called Jo but no ‘e’ – watching the first group and their coached session.

They swam a few lengths for warm up then headed down the deep end.  This is intriguing I thought as I babbled away to Jo about my stroking of another person on Monday, near death experience from ‘attack of the pug’ and the issues us women have of swimming costumes.  We chatted away occasionally glancing up at the deep end (we were monitoring but some of these swimmers are full Ironmen – not your typical parent I see at the pool holding their kids heads under the water to teach them a lesson (true story – you wouldn’t believe what I see at work!).

I’m talking away to Jo and as I look to the deep end to try and figure out what their session is I suddenly see the strangest thing.   Did I…..are they….no, I’m not seeing this right….really?

Yup.  I am indeed seeing this right.  They are practising floating.  I teach this to kids?  Really?  Well, ok, I can see some benefit to ensuring you are comfortable in the water and you get the feeling of being in control etc.  I find it quite tranquil actually so I begin to look forward to doing it in my session.

I get changed and jump in when it’s time to switch over and warm up.  The plan going well that no one can see my costume.  When I’m done I glance at the board.  It has been scrubbed and the tranquil session I thought I was about to have has been replaced with arm drills.  Hmmf.  Still.  Could be worse.  At least it isn’t leg drills.  We set off and complete the drills – hard at first until I get used to the feeling of swimming really slow but concentrating on my arms.  Drills done we congregate at the pool end again and the coach explains what we are about to do.

Get in to pairs and split the lane.  First person in the pair sprints 50m whilst the other climbs out and planks at the side until they finish.  She wants us to work on our core.  I hesitate, bearing in mind I’m wearing a costume I’m pretty sure would give a Kardashian a run for their money on inappropriateness.  This is uncomfortable.  I try not to draw attention to it and decide the best plan of action is to immediately get down in the plank position.  This however comes with it’s own set of issues.  A swimming costume does not hold ANYTHING in.  I try to ‘suck in my stomach’ but gravity clearly has the upper hand and starts messing with my head.  So now I am not only trying to prevent any wardrobe mishaps and end up looking like a desert animal who holds probably about the same amount of water as I am at this moment but I’m also trying to prevent my stomach from dangling down in a very slime like action.

How come the other group got FLOATING?!?!?  Bloody floating!!  Fat floats – I can float!!

Joes at the side in hysterics.  This is the last time I try and encourage him to get back in to working out.  Stuff it.  Let him get fat.  Then I won’t look like an oozing puddle of fatness at the side of the pool.

The planks turn in to squats and then press ups.  I turn in to a heap on the floor.  At one point I pretty much gave up and just had a nap whilst Jo pushed herself through what was now feeling like an impossible 50m sprint swim because all of our arms were dead.

They got floating!!

Session over and I now no longer care about any animal or Kardashian and just feel sorry for myself.  I thought my core was not bad but this just proved it’s not good.  The following couple of days confirmed this.  I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.  Although weirdly enough just on one side.  A colleague offered to even that up for me the next day.  I declined and stopped moaning about it so much ha ha.

So there you go.  Try and do a good thing by encouraging your partner to get back in the swing of things and you end up getting put through the pain mill.

I will of course be trying that session again.  Naturally.  I’m not letting basic exercises like that get the better of me.  I will however NOT be wearing the spare costume but will instead be covered neck to knee with the strongest spandex swim suit I can find.  Trust me, no one needs to see that ha ha.

 

 

From Viaduct to Nelson Mandela

I’m currently sat with a chesty cough that I quickly learned you can’t run with by the way (pace was really slow yet heart rate through the roof – an interesting feeling for me ha ha).   So I’ve been doing a little ‘thinking’.  And yes, my head now hurts, but that’s just something else to add to the collection.

I’ve been thinking about adventure.  And as bad as I could claim this year to be – injured from March, bum still hurts, hamstrings still bad, didn’t achieve GFA, didn’t get London, a few DNS – there has also been a few adventurous experiences in there.

Manchester. Ok so it didn’t turn out to be the London qualifier I was hoping for but it was a marathon ‘technically’ in another country. It involved travelling and education as I learned that no I wasn’t running through an area where no one wanted to live and was selling up but an area simply called ‘Sale’. Still find that weird though.

Ireland. No official race but does it have to be? I got to run for fun past one of my Bucket List places to go – The Titanic museum. And thanks to that I discovered the back of the museum which had the layout of the magnificent ship. I also had my first proper fall there when running and returned to the apartment bleeding and with a broken phone. Good memories.

Race To The Stones. The initial plan was to run the entire 100km straight through. Then I was hit even worse with the injuries and couldn’t run a step without pain. Mr Cardio was not so secretly pleased. I tried every single profession possible to find a solution – including a podiatrist (lovely man, Alistair Dall). I reluctantly changed my entry to complete it over 2 days. Clutching at straws but I was definitely in the ‘go hard or die trying’ camp by then. Even my physio had that look of ‘it’s not happening’ but she gave me lots of advice and understood my need. When I reached base camp half way through the race I changed my mind and pushed through. My challenge was to do it in one day, not two. It was pointed out to me a couple of months later how insane it was to just decide to start another 50km running at 5’o’clock at night. I learned so so much from completing my goal that day.

South Africa. I ran the Nelson Mandela Fun Run. Never will there be a cooler name of a race. Enough said.

50th parkrun. 2018 was the year I hit 50, and I’m not talking looks. I teamed up with my friend Lorner for a few and I completely removed the stress of going for a PB. I don’t care if it affects my average or any of that, that’s not my focus. I’ve kind of fallen out of love with my local parkrun though so I’m going to try some tourism.

Aberfeldy Middle Distance Relay. Ginnie was the swimmer (4th relay team out the water I believe) Joe was on the bike (sub 3hrs!) and I ran the half marathon at the end. It took me 2 hours and was no performance to be shouting of – we dropped places once I started running – but we all had fun. Would definitely do a relay again. Wouldn’t attempt to make porridge in a flask again though. Nope. Can still hear the gloopy sludge of the spoon being sucked in.

Glen Ogle 33. Loved, loved, LOVED everything about this race! From speeding up to register the night before and discovering Lorner gets travel sick, the pack lunch she brought me, seeing a friendly face at the start line, another at the bottom of what felt like a waterfall I had just ran down to the surprise of Joe and the kids finding me on the trail with just 3 miles to go. My second ultra of the year. And I got to run over a viaduct! A viaduct!  Well worth it.

Did I get any PB’s last year? No. Did I get slower? Definitely. Did I die though? No.

I didn’t manage to complete any of the road runners series and I’ve not won any awards. (I did get a nomination for club personality which genuinely put a grin on my face) but no medals or trophies this year. I’m also not doing Marcothon because I can remember how miserable that made me feel. A Christmas Day run is on the calendar though.

Next year starts with a return to my first ever triathlon – the New Years Day Tri. That’s just for fun. It also has more ‘adventurous’ running. It would be very easy to feel depressed about what I didn’t do this year but what’s the point, it won’t change it. I will get London one day. I will continue to run past places on my bucket list. And I will continue to try and not drown and not fall off my bike.

xx

Everything’s Changed

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

Life is different.

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

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

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

Big mistake. Huge!

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

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

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

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

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

Step count for today? 5000.

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

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

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

Genetic testing?

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

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

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

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

Happy days

Baywatch – not quite

A few weeks ago I signed up to do something never in my life had I ever considered doing before – a Lifeguard course.

Yup. She who swims like a dead fly thought being a lifeguard was achievable.

I will give you a minute to stop laughing and wipe the tears from your eyes…..

Ok. Let’s start with signing up.

There weren’t any courses in my city within the next few weeks of me deciding this but there was one in the next city. This had its benefits. It would be unlikely I would know any one there so I could keep it secret, and, with the extremely high chance of me failing, this would mean fewer people finding this out. Why should that be a concern? It shouldn’t. But it is. I find it very difficult when people talk about me.  But I’m working on ignoring it.

So I signed up to do it in Dundee.  What a call that was.  Oh my.  I may have previously worked in a call centre but I wasn’t on the phones.  This turns out to be a good thing as I am useless on the telephone.  There is no delete button and I blurt things out without thinking.  ‘Am I the oldest on the course?  I mean I don’t really care as I am doing it anyway but a heads up if I am going to be the granny in the corner would be good.’  The woman on the other end of the phone found this hilarious – don’t know why.  She basically said without checking dates of birth she couldn’t tell me but they do get a range of ages however most are quite young.  Cue panic number one.  Founded on embarrassment and confirmation that I will indeed be the wrinkly in the white bobble swim cap.  Great.

The course was 30 miles away presenting Fear Number 2. Finding the bloody place. For someone who gets lost in a packet of crisps this is the stuff night terrors are made of. Just during the day. Awake. And living through it.  I had to leave before I could drop the kids off and wouldn’t be back until late so it was old faithful Nanny to the rescue again.  What would we do without my mum?

Needless to say the night before I got very little sleep.  The clock said 4:30am the last time I looked at it and the alarm went off at 6am.  So many fears going through my head.  Could I really do this?  I’ve never considered myself a good swimmer.  Should I be doing this?  I’m 36 and have 3 kids, I have responsibilities.  The easy and obvious choice would be an office job surely.   What if I couldn’t do it?  Didn’t pass?  Could I take yet another blow this year?

3 wrong turns and a near collision because I was in the wrong lane and I was sat in the car park at the college.  Deep breaths Ella, deep breaths.  I had forced down a banana for breakfast knowing that I would need energy and had sipped on a red bull to try and get me awake.  The instructor was called Marco and he was from Italy.  His accent was strong and he had been doing this for a long time.  ‘You’re not actually the oldest here’ he said to me.

Mortified.  I was mortified.  Quite clearly my little slip on the telephone had done the rounds.

We started with learning how to use the torpedo and how to pull someone.  I repeatedly caught my feet in the strap and kept getting burns.  But I had to be able to pull someone holding on to it for 20 metres – fast.  And that someone was guaranteed to be bigger than me.  Then, as if that wasn’t going to be hard enough, I had to dive 3 metres and retrieve a heavy manikin.

Excuse me how deep?? That’s literally twice my height!  No word of a lie!  What number of Fear am I up to now?

After a morning in the pool we had a break and were able to catch our breath and talk to each other.  It was a class of 12 and we ranged from just turning 16 the week before to over 40.  There was even a fellow mum there.  The rest of the day was spent in the classroom before returning to the pool to learn more holds.

Unsurprisingly I was exhausted when I got home.  And I had a book the size of War and Peace to read through.

The next day was much the same.  Although this time I managed to cut it down to just 2 wrong turns on the way there.  I passed the swim test and I retrieved the manikin.  I almost kept a straight face when Marco referred to 2 guys on the course as ‘sinkers’ – his translations weren’t always the most accurate shall we say.  Luckily the guys he was referring to took it in good spirits (although one of them looked like he had zero body fat and was skin and bones – sinker was an interesting word for that one).  I wasn’t fast in the pool at all but I wasn’t the slowest.  I had to work really hard but I could do it.  Just.  This scared me.  I didn’t want to just scrape through.  The threat of failing was always there.  Marco stayed and chatted to 3 of us after the pool on Tuesday and we practised a bit more.  I went home feeling slightly better, but definitely not confident.  I was also covered in bruises – from swimming? – getting in and out of a pool is hazardous for your health!

Wednesday came and it all went wrong.  It will forever be known as Woeful Wednesday.  It started with the journey there.  I added a speeding ticket to my 2 wrong turns, 1 wrong lane and now bump on the kerb.  I almost got lost in the campus trying to get to the pool – yes the same pool I had spent the last 2 days in.  Worst of all, I failed my swim test.  I had to get under 45 seconds and I was 46.  When I was towing the casualty back with my arm we just didn’t move through the water.  The problems kept on coming.  I dropped the manikin in the deep water rescue and almost didn’t surface with it first time.  In the final exam you get one chance and one chance only.  Then my hand slipped pulling myself out the water and I landed on my shoulder with a thud.  Something else to add to my embarrassment and multitude of bruises.  In the classroom I felt I wasn’t picking anything at all up and when ever I asked a question Marco didn’t seem to understand me.

That night I sent a frantic essay of a message to a guy in the road runners who was a lifeguard.  He gave me a call.  ‘Ok, first thing, take a breath, stop panicking.  Why are you doing it in a 3 metre pool though?  Perth pools are only 1.8’.  He talked me through what the assessment would be, the key things I would need to know for the exam and for being in the job.   As it turns out he is an assessor too.  I spent the entire time kicking myself for not waiting until he was running a course.  Why was I putting myself through this when the pool in Perth isn’t as deep as 3 metres?   What was I thinking?  Just because I was a wimp and was scared someone might recognise me – what do you think is going to happen if you end up working at your local pool?  That no one at all you know from your 36 years of living in the same place is going to come in?  They are all going to stop going?  Put your big girl pants on for god sake!  Honestly!

Thanks to that call I did manage some sleep that night but not much.  I kept dreaming I was going to slip and bang my head, fall in the water, blood pouring everywhere, Marco annoyed at the mess I was making, everyone looking at me and shaking their heads – not saving me because I should be able to save myself, and then of course there were ‘things’ in the water.  Something else to add to the long list of failures of 2018.  It’s no wonder I didn’t really sleep.

In the car on Thursday morning and I was white as a sheet feeling sick as a dog.  I had dropped to only 30% convinced I could do this.  The chat I had the night before was great and it had helped calm me down so I tried to just think about what he had said and that he was honest admitting it is a tough course.  Driving along and Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger came on.  I started tapping the wheel.  Kind of out of nervousness but also out of a bit of ‘come on, push yourself a little’.  I started singing along.  I got louder and louder.  The tears started.  First just a few drops but very quickly that was it.  Floods of tears, eyes streaming, voice screaming along to the radio.  ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you STRONGER, stand a little TALLER’.  Oh what a sight!!

But it worked.  I needed to get it out.  I felt slightly better.  Slightly stronger.

Can you smell the cheese?

Standing at the pool waiting for the swim test and I was back to shaking.  Well that burst in the car didn’t last long.  I asked my swim partner if I could go first.  She could tell I was nervous as hell – THAT I am 100% confident of!  ‘Of course you can, don’t worry, we will practise as much as you need’.  She had failed it the day before as well and was also nervous but she had a strong resolve of just trying again.  I had a plan though.  On the first test I had 15 seconds to spare.  If I held back on that one I could give more on the second. I had to get under 45 seconds on it. I couldn’t take failing on it.  It would kill me.

First swim done and it went as planned.  Then it was straight on to the second.  Nerves were just horrendous.

‘3 whistles lifeguard going in’ – I was off.  I reached my casualty and I was on the way back.  My legs have never kicked so hard in my life.  I was trying to pull exactly as I had been told.  I crossed the line and looked desperately up at Marco.  ’38 seconds’.

‘Fuck yes! Oh god sorry for my language!’  The relief was immediate.  I needed that.  My partner nailed her swim test too.  As for the manikin – not easy but done.

Friday was much the same.  Pool in the morning with the swim test and holds, classroom before and after lunch then back to the pool.  We were put in to 2 groups of six and our group worked well together.  We took tips from the younger ones who were club swimmers and we shared advice with them on how to study for the questions.  Turns out we all had our strengths and that in itself helped to boost confidence.

Saturday was exam day.  It was an early start of 8.30am and through what can only be described as a miracle I found myself sitting in the car park at 7.30am.  No wrong turns.  But maybe a wrong lane.  It’s hard to tell.  Sitting outside in the sun everyone started to arrive and we discussed holds, CPR and nerves.  I was unsure I was going to pass this and even though you get a few weeks to re-sit I really didn’t want to be in that position.  No it wouldn’t make any difference in reality but in my head, it would.

Standing at the side of the pool and there was only 11 of us.  One of the younger lads hadn’t turned up.  The assessor asked someone to call him.  No answer.  An important part of being a lifeguard is being on time as a pool can never be left unattended.  We had our first fail.

Swim test was first.  I wanted to get mine out the way but it was assessors choice so I ended up in the second group.  Deep breaths.  In and out.  Slowly.  First test done.  Straight on the second.  A quick look at the clock and I can see I have done it.  Oh thank god!  We worked our way through the rest of the pool test.  It was intense.  There were tears from a few.  I heard the assessor from the other group say he had never seen anyone do a hold like that before and don’t ever do it again.  This was intense.

We re-grouped in the showers before the classroom test.  The other group had been told they had all passed the water test but they couldn’t get a single thing wrong in the classroom.  Our assessor hadn’t told us if we had passed or not.

I was confident with the questions so tried to focus on that.  I’m a bookworm, I can study, and if it is something I’m interested in I will research the sh!t out of it.  Yup.  You found my geek spot.  Unfortunately we were in a gym hall next to another gym hall that was holding a HIIT class.  So questions went like this ‘give a sign and symptom of go deeper 2,3,4‘.  Nightmare.

We moved on to the CPR to find the other group had finished.  Out of the 5 of them that had turned up 2 had failed.  We were up to 3 fails.

CPR done and it was an anxious wait.  I tried so hard to tell myself I could re-sit in a couple of weeks and I would be more relaxed with it.  I expected the fail.

So when he said I had passed, well, to say I was happy is an understatement!  I had done it!

This was different from anything I have ever done before.  When I have signed up to something there has always been a time I could see myself crossing the finish line.  With this, for some reason I just couldn’t picture that conversation of ‘you’ve passed’.  And I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s because this is more serious.  If I’m the lifeguard on and get something wrong someone could actually die.  No one loses their life if I don’t finish my race or don’t run it within a time I had set myself.  We had 4 fails in the end out of 12 who had started the course.  We had someone injure their knee in the pool, someone who was sick after a swim test because they were pushing themselves so hard – and we all had the shakes from nerves.

I have no idea why I failed my swim test that once but that’s all it takes to remove that last sliver of confidence you have.  My mid-week freak out was only calmed down by being able to speak to someone who understood and I trusted.   Instead of shutting down I was honest and asked for help.  When I told my friend about my speeding ticket and he replied ‘shame you don’t swim that fast’ it didn’t help in the same way no, but it made me laugh.  (and he better hope I never have to save him as I bet he could reach the bottom of the 3 metre people he’s that big, ha ha)

So my first steps in changing career are done.  I’m on the first rung of a ladder that goes 40 storeys high and no doubt 300 metres wide.  Let’s see where this takes me.

P.M.A – Focus

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

Desperately focusing on.

Just about clinging on to….

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

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

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

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

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

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

She kept going.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worms, Spots and Life

I am bored.

Actually I’m more than bored – I’m beyond bored.

What do people DO all day??

I get to about 9:30am and I’m hanging upside down off the couch contemplating what life even means.

Not dramatic at all, nope.

What’s making it worse is I’m now on taper.

Taper. Who came up with that word? Where did it come from? ‘Oh, I know, runners need to reduce their running before a big race so let’s annoy them even more by calling it a stupid name!’ Pah.

Taper.

That’s a worm!

‘Are you not running Ella?’

‘No, I’m tapering’.

‘Oh, You’ve got worms?!’

And so it goes on.

I did do a trail race at the weekend though. 4 miles, 2 loops of some difficult hills. Came 4th female!! Lost third on the last hill, gutted. First in my age category though.

Of course there was only just over 50 runners……. minor detail.

So back to the taper.

It’s very difficult when you have a lot of time on your hands. I usually end up going for a little run or heading to the gym.

Shall we talk about my new gym?

Yes. Let’s.

So naturally I’m looking for my new ‘spot’. Surprisingly for me I’m comfortable in the middle section. Usually I like to find the quietest corner and sneak in and out unnoticed. I’ve been drifting to the same locker each time too in the middle so looks like it could be ‘the one’.

However…

(Oh come on you knew it wasn’t going to be that easy).

It has become apparent that the times I like to go to the gym are the same times your older type woman does. And they like to spread their shit EVERYWHERE! The bench in the changing room is huge. I mean you could stick a mattress on it and sleep comfortably.

So why then, do these women insist on taking up the whole thing?

I’m small. My stuff is small. I have ONE bag. One. Unlike you. You have your designer handbag. Your family sized hold-all that could contain the rest of the bedroom furniture and that you empty on to the bench because, you know, why would you not need two hairbrushes, your makeup bag, your small make up bag, your hairspray, your clean clothes for after, last weeks newspaper, this weeks lottery numbers, next year’s calendar right in front of you right now?!?!

I’m not a bolshy kind of girl so I won’t even politely ask someone if they could possibly give me an inch of the bench a la Oliver Twist style. I will struggle in the tiniest of spots in front of my locker, try to get dried and changed and not drop all my stuff. Because I don’t want to be rude.

At least, that’s what I used to be like. Before I had my precious spot wrenched from under me in the most vile way. Not just a number? ‘Ok then’.

She was small. She had a huge bag. She also had two smaller bags?? She had a coat. She had a Club La Santa water bottle so in my opinion, she should have been clued up on ‘space in the changers’. She was wearing a bikini when I waddled in from the pool so she obviously wasn’t going for a proper swim. She had no goggles either. The kitchen sink yes but no goggles. Sherlock Holmes deduced she was going to the sauna. There was no room for me to even place my goggles on the bench. She somehow even managed to take up the area beside the bench as well with her locker door wide open so I was left to drip at the side blocking the walkway. After the third ‘excuse me’ of people wanting past I snapped.

This was ridiculous.

I stormed all of the two steps over to my locker, opened the door and left it wide open and put my wet goggles and water bottle on the tiniest of squares on the bench – knocking some of her stuff off. (That was an accident – but I didn’t pick it up).

She. Tutted.

So I proceeded to strip out of my swimming costume not carefully so yes, she may have gotten splashed, it’s certainly no bikini. You could probably cover a small country in the amount of material but I’m there to swim. Not prance around or pretend to workout. And I’ve found when in the changing rooms many others get very uncomfortable with nudity. I used to be one of them. Getting changed under a towel or covering myself up whilst taking one piece off and trying desperately to put another on. Now I don’t care. The faster I get changed the faster I can get to the gym or the pool and get things done. And quite frankly, if you don’t like what you see, don’t look. There are plenty of mirrors for you to stare at your own beautiful body.

She didn’t like this either. She moved some of her stuff away from me. Presumably because she thought my nakedness would infect her Louis Vuitton bag with I don’t know what but hey, it worked. I quickly dumped my Ironman bag on to what was now ‘my spot’.

Along with my Asda carrier bag. Balance and all that.

Mission accomplished. I did feel slightly triumphant but I’m also aware that by this stage I was also slightly hangry so that wouldn’t have helped. It’s done now though. And she still had at least 3 quarters of the bench.

So overall I would say tapering is going well ha ha. Sorry, my worms are going well. I’ve got my fiftieth Parkrun on Saturday which I’m running with Lorner and the clubs ten mile race on Sunday. My appointment with Mr Cardio is booked for after Manchester which means I can concentrate on GFA. I’m under strict instructions to take it easy until our chat and I’m not stupid. I know if I push it he could pull the plug on some of my events so I will heed his advice and if any symptoms start then the goal will just be the finish line.

It is what it is.