Quite a bit has been happening over the last few weeks, and I’m not just talking the apparent change of seasons every day.  Let’s start with something uber exciting.

Couple of weekends ago it was the Scottish Cycling and Running Outdoor Pursuits Show (seriously, what a mouthful, couldn’t just call it a fitness show no?).  The weather was depressingly wet so spending the day wandering around stalls of trainers, bikes and gear was an attractive choice for a rest day.  We went with good old Frazer who had tagged along previously and can always be relied upon to come out on the bike with me.  After I whipped his ass on the travelator (I fell and I still beat him!) we were looking for somewhere to eat when we wandered past a small stall that only had one stand in the middle of it with some nutrition bars.  Now perhaps unsurprisingly I leave all the nutrition up to Joe as lets be honest, I don’t have a clue on that front.  As I go to walk past my eye catches something though.  Is that a Marathon Des Sables top up there?  Nice.  I look to the right and my jaw hits the ground.  I do a double take.  On the other side of the wall is none other than a Barkleys Marathon booklet, ripped out pages that clearly have been collected en route and a t-shirt.

‘Have you spotted the Barkleys t-shirt?’ a voice says to me.  I instantly turn in to a babbling teenager and ask stupid questions like have you actually been? Oh my god!

It’s clear I won’t be moving from this stall for a while so Joe and Frazer leave me in my awestruck trance and wander off.  The owner is selling a nutrition bar that he and his wife have devised and I learn that they are made not very far away from where we live at all.  I chat to the wife for a while and discover that she has taken up running as well and is down for a big race this year which is on my to do list.  I could have talked to her all day she was lovely.  I talk to James when he is free and he tells me lots of things about his adventures at the Barkelys.  Truly amazing.

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Joe comes past again and he tries the bars.  Unfortunately there are none to buy at the stall as they are just starting out so we go online to MACEBAR and order some.  Needless to say Joes already been diving in to them!

Now.  I don’t know if it was meeting someone who has actually done something as amazing as MDS and Barkleys, but I’ve managed to re-focus my attention to running.    I’ve been struggling with accepting that I am running slower right now and that I am still in bloody pain.  I’m signed up to an ultra at the end of the month which I want to complete as well as I can and enjoy.  Joe has also turned round and said he wants me to do well in it so together we have been planning my sessions.  He wasn’t keen on me doing the half marathon I had signed up for and I wasn’t really feeling it so when an opportunity at work came up it was a no brainer really and I didn’t go.  (It’s not like my new career plan ends with being a lifeguard and doing gym inductions so that was obviously going to come first)

So instead of running races I’ve been picking up extra shifts at work and we have been going for a nice family walk up a mountain and then Joe has been kicking me out of the car on the way back and telling me to run the 10/12 miles home.  No word of a lie.   Do you know how hard it is to run after walking up a Munro? (A Munro being a really big bloody mountain in Scotland).  Very hard!  This new style has been working though.  He has been telling me what to do and naturally I have done the opposite.  In a true happy marriage style.

Only joking.  It has been pushing me on.  And I have found that my mileage is back up and I am not caring about anything else.   We have even been out for a run together.  It was a very slow 5 miles before his hospital appointment but it was something.  And I didn’t even take a photo!  (Did it even happen then? It’s on Strava and Garmin – don’t worry, it did).   But it was only 5 miles and he claims I procrastinated too much so what did he do?  He sent me out on the ONE day we had snow and ice pelting down insisting I run for 2 hours!

THAT ladies and gentleman – is marriage!

Sod was sat at home in front of our lovely wood burning stove in the warmth with a green tea and gluten free bacon sandwich whilst I was being drenched by bloody boy racers recreating Frozen by spraying me with the slush puddles!  There were no Disney PG 13 glistening white snow phrases coming out of my mouth when they did that let me tell you.  I definitely let it ALL go!  This was then followed by a change from my pod cast to some solid angry girl music and my pace picked up.  Pink will forever be my go to ‘I hate the world’ soundtrack.

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11.5 miles I managed in that.  Less than Gestapos instructions of 2 hours but it was a good effort and I value my fingers and toes too much to take the frost bite risk.  Must remember 2 pairs of gloves next time – or at least some form of tissue, eugh.

So now I am 2 weeks away from my first proper ‘training’ race.  A 50km laid back trail run – just how I like them.  I have no intentions (read that as ability) to try and whack out a good time.  My goal is my mindset.  I want to run this race with a positive attitude and the occasional push saying ‘little bit further, just a little bit further’.   Maybe one or two less picture stops too – there is no viaduct to run over this time.

I do though know exactly what’s going to happen after it.  Joe is going to scrutinise every detail of my ‘performance’, including every sip of water and bite of flap jack, and then come up with a training plan for The One this year.   He’s already insisted on a 30 mile run by the end of April.

I like this though.  It’s motivating me.  Telling me I can’t do something does nothing for me.  I’m not one of those that turns round and says ‘watch me’.  I bloody hate being watched.  Hence why I hide behind a keyboard and my water logged antics aren’t on YouTube.  But someone telling me to do something – that I will do.  Obviously I’m not talking ‘jump off a bridge’ – although ironically my brother told me to do that and I did last year ha ha.  Single most STUPID thing I have ever done.  Only time I have seriously thought ‘this is a very bad idea with your heart Ella’.  Didn’t die though so, you know, all good.  Sorry Mr Cardio.

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Let’s see what the next two weeks brings and what happens on this training run.  Taking bets now to see how the element that is water will try and take me out.  We all know it’s going to happen.  Must remember to pack my arm bands.

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A True Near Death Experience

After my disastrous unicorn run/walk/stumble last time I took to instagram to vent and it was mentioned that I may need more iron. My physio also explained because I had had such a long gap of not running it could have just been ‘runners stomach’. Either way, I went straight back on the iron tablets and headed out the following day for 8 miles.

As you do.

It actually went not too bad. The stomach subsided and the legs did hurt a little but not as bad as before. So the next day I decided to increase it to 10 miles.

I was sensible. I set off at a slow pace I intended to keep to. To help this I stuck to a pod cast and swerved the music. I again went along the river as Joe had been out just before me for a little tester run himself so I was following his route and adding some. I put on my hydration vest so I had water with me and a jacket as it looked like rain was imminent. And I do love a run in the rain!

Ambling along, listening to the owner of twitter talking about algorithms and how it actually works I was enjoying myself. Ok I’m no Mo Farah but I was moving and I was finally beginning to understand and ‘get’ Twitter (for someone who enjoys social media I’ve never bloody understood that platform). I stopped to take the usual arty/farty photos and carried on, telling myself this is good practice on trails for the ultra I’m doing.

Soon I see a familiar face too and yes it’s another stop but it would be rude not to and I’m not exactly going flat out. She tells me the route is 14km out and back from her house so I calculate I may have to find some extra to get my 10 miles. She also tells me not to run right down at the river as it’s not great for running and one slip will mean your in the water. Given that I am indeed that person guaranteed to fall in or be dragged in by the water I choose to heed her advice. I’ve still not forgotten the number of times water has tried to kill me! The bottomless puddle, the smash to the face of the water bottle – I’m lucky to still be alive honestly.

I see the fork in the trail and take the one away from the river. Oh yes. Today I have my sensible hat on thank you. Silently congratulating myself on acting responsibly I confidently follow the now tarmac path. Hmm. Didn’t expect to be going past houses. Thought it would still be trail. Ok never mind. I follow it round. And round. And round. And then stop.

I’m back at the fork. I’ve just done a circle. Bugger. Oh well, that’ll be some extra mileage then!

I finally find some more trail and decide to be a bit more adventurous so constantly pick the harder to follow route. Although with my sense of direction it’s not exactly my best plan. I pick my own way through thick, sharp branches and bushes and come ridiculously close to ending up the river but somehow I make it through! I head ‘back inland’ to get the extra mileage to make 5 before heading back along the same route to make my 10 miles.

Oh yes. I have a plan. And it’s bomb proof!

Not wanting to get lost I choose to run round the local park I have now found myself upon. I head round the edge and towards the play park where a couple are walking their dog.

As I get closer it spots me and starts running towards me. It looks friendly enough – ie it’s not frothing at the mouth – so I continue at my leisurely pace towards the park. The owners don’t react so I doubt it’s a ‘vicious killer’.

It gets faster towards me. It’s now bounding heavily, panting as it gets closer. I can feel the ground shudder with every thud of paw. Then all of a sudden it rears up on its back legs. It’s almost the same height as me now and this thing is big! It’s huge! The sun is blocked behind it’s gigantic figure. This dog is a tank! It’s front paws land on my leg and I’m stopped dead in my tracks. I try to stay upright because if I fall and this thing gets on top of me I’m going to be pinned. Think wizard of oz with the house landing on the winding witch. (Although not so sure why I am comparing myself to a wicked witch with a green face?)

I check my leg hasn’t snapped in two under the weight of the most solid dog I’ve seen. Still in one piece. Phew. I decide the best thing to do is to just carry on and get out of there – just in case it jumps up on my shoulders and tries the whole wrestle mania smack down on me.

What are the owners doing I hear you ask?

Laughing.

Not horribly or maliciously. But like the parent of a child would laugh at little John who just punched Sophie in the face. ‘What a scamp’ I can imaginary hear them say.

I decide it’s best just to keep running on, praying I can put run their little beast. When I get back to the river my glutes are hurting so I pause for a minute and glance down at my leg, praying I don’t see the bone.

There are 3 very bright claw marks across my leg. I immediately take a photo and text Joe.

‘You know that guy that killed a mountain lion when out running? Well I’ve just been attacked by a pug! No one died though.’

Yes ladies and gentlemen. It was a pug. One of the smallest and possibly cutest dogs in the world and I was ‘attacked’ by one. What followed in the next few days was torturous.

‘You mean to say you can’t out run a pug? How slow are you?’

‘How did that small and fat a dog manage to get you that far up your leg?! My word you’re small!’

‘I don’t understand. It’s a pug!’

It’s unclear just now if I will ever live this down but I’m trying to remain positive. I managed to continue my run after such a vicious attack from one of the worlds deadliest animals. I was able to get away without having to resort to taking its life. And I have lived to tell the tale. Even if it is a tremendously embarrassing one.

Who said running was boring?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glen Ogle start

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

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

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Glen Ogle elevation

On to the next one.

I’m 50!!

Whoo Hoo!!!  I am officially 50!

Parkrun 50

I have finally ran my 50th Parkrun.  I am ecstatic about this!  50 times I have now run 5km and had my bar code scanned.  49 of them in Perth and 1 very special one in Weymouth.  Should probably do a spot more parkrun tourism actually.

It means something to me because it was a goal I had set.  Get to 50.  Yes, I sadly wanted that magic emblem next to my name on the results.  Did I do it for the free t-shirt?  No.  I’m not daft.  I know they are in short supply.  I genuinely did it because when I had ran 10 I thought I would get one then.  Turns out that’s just for the kids!  (Even though I am the height of an 8 year old but the Run Director was having none of it).  So 50 it had to be.

 

I chose to run my elusive number 50 with Lorner.  She has now volunteered 25 times with her son Matthew at parkrun.

Yes. I know.  That is much more impressive than me running it a few times.   Kudos to the both of them.  Especially for that one Saturday she managed to drag herself out of bed and in to the cold and pouring rain when I was still dying in bed from the prossecco she had forced me to drink the night before.

I didn’t race round, I wanted just a gentle run.  I had The Tay Ten the next day which I wanted to keep something back for.  Instead I chose to ‘encourage’ Lorner round the course by filming her and taking photos whilst we ran.  She may have said she hated it but I know she loved it.  And she didn’t really want to shove my phone ‘there’.

At least I hope not.

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Now that I have hit my goal it means I no longer ‘own’ Saturday mornings.  This could be an issue.  When you have a husband and wife who are both training for events and add three children to the mix, time becomes very precious.

Lets just be honest.  It can be a war zone in my house.  And the fact I used ‘but this is my 50th – that’s my goal’ in the most whiniest of voices to ensure I could run last Saturday only puts me in a worse situation to continue to have Saturday mornings.  Compromise is going to have to be made.

On his side obviously, not mine.

Joking!

This weekend it is Manchester Marathon though so neither of us are doing anything Saturday morning other than sitting in the car for hours.  Probably with me annoying him with my singing if past road trips are anything to go by.

How many times can you listen to The Greatest Showman on a 5 hour journey?

I will let you know next week.

 

Next year it’s Parkrun!

When the other half suggests we both do a race my trainers are on before he’s finished speaking.

Well. Let me tell you. What a sorry lesson I’ve learned from that!

One of his customers had told him about a hill race near where he lived. 2 days before Christmas. Im still doing Marcothon so thought I could do that as part of it.

Stupidly thought. Very stupidly thought.

It was a Saturday morning so the choice was between that and Parkrun. I chose to mix it up and go for the hill race. Why not?

It was less than half an hour away and when I looked it up on the morning of the race it was your typical small field of runners. All the feedback on it was positive so how bad could it be. There was a bag check at registration and it was a short walk to the start.

At the start I bumped into Chris who I’ve met at a couple of other races. He pointed out a bit to save energy for (Scotland’s famous for ‘fake tops) and said he ran it last year in about 55mins.

It’s 4 miles. Oh right. I know it’s a hill race but what goes up comes down doesn’t it? And usually much faster?

Joe saw a few people he knew as well including an older woman from his tri club and the guy who had suggested the race.

Off we went and I stuck close to the back. The Hill Series with Perth Road Runners taught me enough to know I’m a finisher and nothing more. Usually in the last 10 as well. God loves a trier though.

Flat but bumpy under foot to begin with then a bit of mud then BAM.

Vertical.

And it didn’t stop.

Ever!!!

‘It’s ok’ I told myself. ‘There’s always a flat bit somewhere’. Nope! Not at this race.

This was my 23rd day of running at least 3 miles a day on the trot. This was beginning to hurt.

Just a few steps later – yup, this really hurts.

I was beginning to wonder if I should stop. Turn round and finish my miles near the car where it was flat whilst waiting for Joe to finish. I looked at my watch.

0.6 miles!! Are you kidding me?? That’s all?!? Oh Ella maybe you really should stop. This isn’t a healthy kind of pain.

It must end soon though surely? There’s always a little flat but to recover on.

Not in this race.

The first mile eventually clicked by. 20 minutes after starting. Just don’t say anything. You don’t need to.

After 7 days and nights on the side of this hill I reached the Marshall at the top pointing me to the right. I tried to run but my legs had gone back to the car so it was more of a bambi walk than anything. At 1.45 miles the lead runner came past me. I hadn’t even made it half way yet. Joe wasn’t too far behind the lead pack and I could tell he was thinking the same as me. What the actual f@ck were we playing at?

Down the treacherous path of rocks and mud and I slipped and slide my way past Chris and a few others (all heading back of course). I got down to the ‘big rock’ and went round it, moaning as usual to the marshalls – ‘oh my god why am I doing this!’.

Now I was heading back up and I could see there were only a handful of people behind me. The thought crossed my mind I could be finishing last. I didn’t like this. Last race of the year and there was a high probability I was going to be last.

Back across the top and it was down the vertical drop we had come up. Ah, now I can make some time back and hopefully scrape back a few places.

I slipped.

Nope!! Not doing that. I will take my time thank you very much! What a stupid bloody thing to do when you’ve an Ultra to train for you stupid woman!! This is just a ‘fun’ race for you! Take your time idiot!

I went over my ankle at 3 miles and did that whole ‘oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, keep running, keep going, does it hurt? I don’t know! Ok just keep running. Nope, it’s ok. Phew’.

Every runners done that. Be honest.

I eventually came off the side of the mountain (yes it was a mountain) and hit the flat section. Finally. But my legs were jelly. Actual jelly. I could have been a cowboy. After a few strides they settled down and I pushed on knowing the finish was close. I could see someone in front of me but I didn’t have time to catch him.

I crossed the line and promptly told the other half we were doing Parkrun next year and not this race. Nope. No sir. Not me. No hills thank you. 1hr 7 it took me. To do 4 miles!

To say I’m in pain today does not cut it. I’ve been in better shape after running a marathon than I am today. In fact, I was better after the ultra! Leg days in the gym ain’t got nothing on a hill race! And I had to run today!! Marcothon is going to be the death of me.

When all is said and very sore it’s a greatly run race. Very friendly, fantastic spread, great marshalls. The only problem is the elevation ha ha. Almost 1000 feet in the first mile. I mean seriously, who enjoys that? (Not me, definitely not me).

Now. I'm a road runner. I run on roads. I occasionally do trails but not very often. I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do hills and track isn't much better. So initially, when the Splash N Dash race was announced, I didn't think twice about giving it the body swerve.

Run along a beach – that's sand, not tarmac – then into the sea – again water, not tarmac – then do it again for a second loop.

Not on your nelly.

But then a few people were talking about it and we had had a couple of good days weather wise (which for Scotland means the wind was gusty not hurricane, and the rain was showers not monsoon). So I signed both of us up. Yup, Mr W was going to do it too.

Let's be clear here though. The only reason I asked him to was because we now have this agreement we have to consult the other before signing up to a race and he only said yes because he had just bought a TT bike!

Marriage at its best.

Naturally, day of the race, it was pouring. It was windy, it was cold, it was wet. And that was before we were running. I hadn't even checked the distance either so I couldn't estimate how long I would be out there. I had opted for my 3 quarter lengths instead of shorts given the weather and a buff round my neck which I very quickly fanned out and put round my head to try and keep 'some' warmth in. If someone had asked me if I was in remission I couldn't have blamed them. However I was that cold I didn't care what I looked like.

Joe had decided not to run. Gave some utter cock and bull story about not wanting to ask my mum to babysit – personally I think he felt it was too cold. (He's not a runner, let's be honest). So he sat in the warm van the entire time.

As I stood in line to get my bib there was a lot of chat about the waves. One runner who had done it last year kindly demonstrated how deep we would be going.

She pointed at the tops of her legs. The TOP of her legs!!

I'm going to need arm bands!! What the hell?!?

Then someone said they had decided to move the race from September to July in the hope of getting better weather.

Someone was most definitely taking the mickey.

There were quite a few road runners there and we huddled together to try and keep warm. Didn't work. I was grumpy. I was miserable. I just wanted it over and done with. All this way for what I found out to be 4 lousy miles on terrain I detested. There was a reason I didn't do races like these.

The organisers didn't want to keep us so started us of quickly. What I hadn't thought about was the spray from the person in front – literally like someone throwing sand in my eyes. Great! I tried to shelter behind people but the choice was the wind and rain or sand in your eyes. That's not always an easy decision.

I didn't check my watch at all as I didn't care an ounce what speed I was running. I knew it had to be about 2 miles ish out to the pirate flag and then we turned back. You couldn't see the flag for the mist but as soon as I was close the fast runners were going by in the opposite direction. 'It's a lot easier going this way' shouted Stewart. And sure enough, as soon as I turned, the wind lifted me up and pushed me forward. Thank god I wasn't wearing a skirt! Not long after we were in to the water just a little bit and that was fine. 'I can handle this' I thought. Along the beach we went and yes, I confess, at one point, I pretended I was a lifeguard on baywatch and The Rock and Zac Efron were at the finish line.

I ran my fastest split at that point.

Further in to the water we went now and it was that deep you couldn't run. I braced myself for the 'freeze' but it never came. Instead I found myself laughing and trying to do some kind of gallop through the sea.

Was I actually enjoying this race? Hell yeah! Weather was awful, couldn't really see but it was fun. Hadn't expected that!

Back round for the second lap and I found I was lapping a handful of runners. There were some who weren't as fast as others but my god their determination was strong! They were finishing no matter what!

A couple of the marshalls had water guns but to be honest, because of the rain, it didn't make any difference. It was still funny though to be squirted at as you ran by. They must have been freezing but the weather wasn't dampening their spirits.

Across the finish line and I made a speedy exit to the van with heated seats. I had been wise and brought a full change of clothes. Plus a towel to try to cover my modesty but the wind was having none of that either.

As usual, the lovely Gordon Donnachie was there to take beautiful pictures of us. I think I should get mine blown up and framed, what do you think?

I thought I was going to hate this race but I really found it fun! My legs felt so good after being in the water it was amazing. I would definitely recommend it – in rain or sun ha ha.

So….. yesterday.  Yesterday was the next instalment in the hill series that I’m just ‘loving’ (if loving actually means hating with all your might and would rather be watching paint dry that is).  

The difference with this one though is that I’ve ran it before – twice! And whilst it’s got its steep as hell climbs, it’s also got flat sections you can recover on (well, as much as you can during a race).  It is however longer than all the other races, and it definitely makes you work for that medal.  Bonus on this run though is that my other half was actually sponsoring it, he had designed the finisher t-shirt and was volunteering. 

There were quite a few Perth Road Runners volunteering also and many were marshalls round the course so there was lots of encouragement.


It was meant to be a long run day so I decided to run to the event and run back.  The youngest had other ideas though.  He gets a bit of separation anxiety from time to time so when I tried to drop him off he wasn’t all for it.  I know he’s fine within minutes of me leaving but when you don’t really need to leave straight away (because I could drive there) I find it more difficult to go.  In the end I managed to run 3 miles before my dad came along, picked me up and dropped me at the start.  3 miles was better than nothing and as expected my mum had text me before I had even hit a mile to say Ollie (my son) was playing happily.

Frazer – my original running buddy – was also running this race and his girlfriend Kirsty and daughter Jessica had come along too, as well as their dog Ruby.  

We were called to the start line about 10 minutes before the scheduled start.  Although I knew I would be passed I still went near the front as it was an instant climb and I didn’t want stuck behind someone or forced out the way.  This wasn’t a race I would be happy to just finish.  I wanted to improve last years time.  

I looked around and Sonjia, Stewart, Mark, Dave and Ronnie were in front of me.  Hmmm.  No Heledd.  Where was Heledd? I tapped Stewart on the shoulder.  ‘Have you seen Heledd?’ ‘No’ he replied.  Then a glint in his eye.  ‘Does this mean?’ 

I grinned.

‘I don’t know, I was sure she was coming though’.

Then Sonjia turned round.  ‘Heledd’s not here’.

She had the same grin as me.

‘Check you girls out all competitive!’

‘Not at all! Just friendly banter! But if she’s not here, more points for me’ I laughed.

Facts are facts, both Heledd and Sonjia are faster than me so yes, the only way I could ‘win’ was if Heledd wasn’t running.  Then I would be the only female that did all 6 Hill Races and the nightmare that was Birnam Hill (the first hill race) will most definitely have been worth it.  Sort of. Maybe.

‘Oh hi Heledd’.

Aw no, she was at the registration tent. Game over.  

She snuck to the back a little embarrassed that it looked like we were waiting for her but it wasn’t 11’o’clock so she wasn’t technically late.  ‘You’ve still got a good few metres on her’ Stewart said.  ‘I’m going to need it, and much more!’ was my reply.

Off we went and up the zig zag hill that is right at the start.  Not even a few metres to turn the legs over, you’re going straight up. I saw Kirsty at the top corner and a few steps passed her I heard ‘oh no, Ella’s already gone past’.  I think she was taking my mums place in the ‘missing the moment’ gallery ha ha. I gave her a wave to say I had heard her though.

First mile down and I chose not to look at my watch, there’s no point in Hill races.  I knew Heledd must be right on my heels and right enough, at 1.35 miles in I heard the ‘Hi Ella’.  ‘Hey’ I managed to gasp back.  She looked a bit white, not her usual self.  I wanted to ask if she was ok but I couldn’t gasp that out.  I passed her just a few minutes on which surprised me as I don’t think I’ve ever done that so tried to take advantage and not slow down until she had passed me again.

Around 2 miles and there was a woman at the side with a hurt ankle.  I asked if she was ok and told her friend I would let the next Marshall know.  He ran on but kept looking back wondering if he should have stayed with her.  

3 miles in and past the water station.  I didn’t take any as Heledd still hadn’t passed me and I knew the second I stopped or slowed down she would fly right by.  I also knew the worst Hill was coming and I would have to walk/stumble up it.  One of the Road Runners was the Marshall at the bottom of it and I had to ask her why she wasn’t running it.  She just looked at the hill and we both we knew she had made the smarter decision, not me! All the way up I was just waiting for Heledd to go past.  I’ve spent enough time behind her at these races to know she could most likely run this bit! When she didn’t pass me here I knew she wasn’t 100%.  Hoping it was more a case of she was ill and not a case she was hurt I kept on.  

Back up yet another hill and this one was one we had come down.  The Marshall – Sylvia I think it was – tried to be encouraging by saying something like it was the last hill, or it wasn’t far.  It’s quite hard to remember as I was so close to death through lack of oxygen.  I did manage a reply of ‘if I had the energy I would kill you for lying’ – she knows the route, she knows the truth ha ha.

As soon as I hit the ‘top’ and knew it was more down hill then up I kept at it.  Mile 5 and I did something I never do during races – I started to look behind me.  Yes I was trying to see if she was on my heels.  It kept pushing me forward though as every time I turned round I expected her to be right at my shoulder.  I knew where the final uphill was and pushed myself up it.  Then down it went.  Past Eleanor another road runner at a Marshall point with her daughter, cheering away, still pushing on.


She’s going to get me, she’s going to get me. This is going to be like the hills on Thursday when Mark lapped me right at the finish line! Don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop.

I hit the zig zags and saw Kirsty again.  She started to run with me down them.  I found this hilarious and tried to shout ‘are you challenging me?’ but all my energy was going in to not being overtaken at the end. I had also calculated that if there was a team prize I may have been third female PRR as Marlena was between Sonjia and myself! (There wasn’t a team prize but still, it was a nice thought!). 


I turned the last corner and I heard footsteps. NO!!!! I was NOT giving this one up!! Unable to breath I somehow moved my legs faster.  Who ever this was was not getting past me!! 

It’s ok, they didn’t!


Across the line and a few very deep breaths later I went and collected my medal.  I saw Stewart and yes, I admit, my first words were ‘I beat Heledd!’ however this was very quickly followed by ‘but I don’t think she’s feeling very well, she’s not having a great race’.  I saw Kevin her partner and went over to speak to him.  He confirmed it, she wasn’t very well.  I felt really bad.  She came in just a couple of minutes behind me.  It’s all friendly competitiveness but I did feel bad for her.  She obviously wasn’t on top form or she would have wiped the floor with me.

Frazer came across the line in just a little over an hour which was phenomenal for his first time doing that run.  He was quite rightly pleased.

I love this picture of Frazer ha ha

And so on to my run home.  Well that didn’t go to plan. It was roasting hot, I didn’t have my sunglasses or a hat and my legs decided the 10k trail race was enough.  I had to make a call to my mum at 3 and a half miles in to get picked up before my hamstring went ‘ping’. 

All in all a good day.  I knocked 3 minutes off my time from last year which was the main aim.  But best of all there’s only one more hill race!!

Yes!!! 

Photos courtesy of Ethan Lee and Gordon Donnachie – they are at most races in Scotland kindly taking photos on their own time.  Much appreciated! (Except the one you get of me every time where you age me at least 30 years! Ha ha)


 The Alexis Rose Trail Race is a local families legacy race for their daughter who passed away from meningitis when she was only 19 months old.