Lockdown Blues

I have been working from home since 16th March. Boss and colleagues gently coaxed me there due to my long term health conditions. I have been to a supermarket once since then mostly getting provisions from the local Co-0p at the top of my road. What I can’t get there, my obliging boyfriend has dropped round (at a safe distance of course).

Most days have been okay and I’ve managed to get out for some form of daily exercise, but in the past week or so, any routines I had have gone to pot. As more races have been cancelled and others, even later in the year looking unlikely my training plan, albeit a bit on the vague side has gone out the window.

I’ve struggled to get out of bed in the morning, I’ve been eating too much junk food and I’ve been drinking more.

I was so excited to get a surprise package through the post but even my enthusiasm for this has waned.

Study Material

I’d taken to trying anything to cheer myself up, which included documenting my bed head hair on particularly bad mornings. It did give myself and others a bit of a laugh.

Not quite sure what I do during my sleep to deserve waking up to some of these!

I think that the hardest part for me has been the lack of contact. I know that whenever I’m feeling down a hug would make things all better. As my boyfriend Al is a postie, he quite rightly, doesn’t want to potentially put my health at risk. That’s so hard for me as I’m most certainly a hugger. Living on my own has driven me to the depths of despair this weekend in particular. It just feels like it’s getting harder and harder.

Thankfully I have amazing friends and Al has been brilliant as I’m sure it’s just as difficult for him, especially when I burst into tears when he brings me Almond Milk!

Last night I had the realisation that the lack of structure to my days was probably what was slowly turning me into a hermit. So I set about Google Calendar with some colour co-ordinated categories and scheduled in outdoor exercise time, study time, Zoom calls and Running Club activities. Just seeing something written down helped enormously. I went to bed feeling like I’d accomplished something, finally.

Today I’ve got a day off work (long weekend actually), and I am looking forward to cutting myself a little slack, but also getting on with those scheduled activities. I have found it hard to switch between work life and home life, given the two have now merged in my home, but have hopefully found a way forward.

It’s going to be a long road back to anything that looks remotely like the normal we used to know, but at least now things are looking a little brighter, so to end with here’s a picture of one of my cats (Poppy) demonstrating that she’s broken!

How can that be comfortable?

Sending virtual hugs to all my friends and family, until I can hug you again in person.

Stay safe xx

Race to the Stones

Well folks, just yesterday received the official confirmation that Race to the Stones will not be happening in 2020. I do however have a place in 2021. It was looking increasingly likely that this would be the case but having the actual notification takes the pressure right off.

I am still running but have scaled the training right back with the aim of enjoying my runs and using them as my daily outdoor exercise to keep me sane. I have entered Glenmore 12 hour so I still need to keep moving but time is on my side now.

During the day I am working from home and I have turned to online classes as well as my trusty Cher fitness DVDs. I have even bought a barbell so I can keep my strength training up and my bike is set up on the turbo trainer.

Challenging times for sure but we can and will adapt. Will let you know more of what I am doing however in the meantime here are some happy running photos.

Me on my way to smashing my PB at the Greater Manchester Marathon in 2016
Me finishing the Women Can Marathon in Devon in 2017

Race to the Stones Training – Week 2

Well, it’s been a strange week. Been trying to just get the head down and get on with the training, so the week looked pretty much like this:

Monday – gym for Spin and double a Pump. Yup I am a glutton for punishment and in between the first 2 classes a few of us did some work with heavier weights. By the end of the last class I was done in.

Tuesday – club run was a head torch run and I got home too late from work to make it. I was supposed to go for a run anyway, however I ended up buying a workbench and a power saw instead. Procrastinating, me? Maybe just a little, I had my reasons.

The assembled workbench!

Wednesday – gym night again but this time Pump followed by double Spin. Was waitlisted so decided since I had been a lazy so and so I would get my run done instead, which I did. Typically 5 minutes before the class I got a notification but was already out running so I got my 3 miles in the bag.

Thursday – my turn to inflict on others. Circuits with a 10 minute abs blast in the middle. I did join in.

Friday – I should really have run in the morning but couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm, so it turned into a rest day.

Saturday – Needed 6 miles, so that’s what I did. Weather was a bit grim but I was amused to fine a cat scratching post seemingly abandoned in the middle of nowhere.

See, I did run.

Sunday – lazy day but did pop along to the local sports centre to have a go on some unusual bikes. Was a lot of fun. They had a scooter which took me back a number of years and I was scouting around the hall with the biggest grin slapped on my face. Just brilliant.

Next week is a 14 miler and this time I will need to get my act together to get all my runs in. Am keeping an eye on things as lots of events are getting postponed or cancelled.

Happy trails everyone 😁

So it begins ….

This week marked the first week of my training for Race to the Stones. Or rather according to the plan it’s the 3rd week, oopps. Well never mind, I’ve got some decent base fitness so should be fine to start from here.

On Monday I was feeling particularly blue so I decided against the gym. I opted for comfort food and was provided with a can of pink G&T and lots of hugs by my lovely boyfriend, Al 🙂 A hug can make everything alright.

Tuesday was a much better way and I headed out for the Garioch Road Runners social run round the town. I’m still not going anywhere very fast but I was lucky enough to have R with me, who’s RunningRonnie’s wife. She’s just getting back to running herself and she did a sterling job putting up with my complaining and cursing. The plan said 5 miles and overall, including my run to and from the meet point, I’d done around 5.25 which I was very pleased with.

Wednesday I went to the gym and did a triple set of classes with Ms Boom herself, Arlene. Pump was first and I’m sure my arms still ache from that and then a double spin class. I’m a glutton for punishment so I love it. Really hard work and by the second class my legs were complaining a bit. You don’t sit down on the spin bike much in Arlene’s classes!

Thursday was my turn to dish it out. I’m now taking a circuits based class on a Thursday night and loving it. Just now it’s a small class but that is nice while I find my feet and get some practice in.

Friday, rest and chill out day, although I do admit to doing some weights in the morning. It’s something that’s quick and easy to do, but I’m limited by the equipment I own, so I think come pay day I might well be indulging in some retail therapy!

Saturday, well today was long run day. There were 7 miles on the plan. My original idea had been to do 4 locally, then head into Hazlehead to join my club mates at the parkrun there. The reality was somewhat different. An early alarm to take Al to work then a visit to the petrol station to sort out my tyre pressures meant that by the time I got back I really wasn’t feeling the love.

Truth is I bailed. I left it way too late to do a run before but I could have got into Hazlehead in time, but I just wasn’t in the mood. So a new plan had to be formulated. I love running at Bennachie, so that’s where I decided to go. I had a route in mind that should have easily got me my 7 miles and perhaps then some, however I’d not bargined on there still being snow there. There wasn’t masses of it, but I’m pretty nervous on anything that might be slippy!

Running Ninja (or something!) Just before heading out the door.

I had decided not to put any pressure on myself and just enjoy it. That meant stopping for pictures though, mainly to prove to my friends (yes Marie, I’m looking at you!) that I’d actually dragged myself out my bed and got moving.

Blurry photo of me and Mither Tap 🙂

Was tootling on fine but much to my despair I came across snow! A lot has melted but that just means it’s a bit on the slippy side in some places, and I didn’t feel like I wanted to be auditioning for Bambi on ice, so I stayed clear wherever I could and ran in the snow.

See, I told you there was snow!

I have a Fetchie friend (www.fetcheveryone.com) who lives in Iceland, so she will probably laugh at this! However this brought about the first reminder of the day. Running in snow is flipping hard! Wasn’t able to take advantage of the downhill and it felt like I was running through treacle (well what I imagine that would be like anyway). The only thing I did like was the crunching noise the snow made beneath my feet. Quite satisfying.

I got to the narrow part of the path and before long the second lesson of the day was noted. Visit the toilets before you set out people! As you can see from my attire, I wasn’t exactly blending into the background which is pretty much what you want if you do happen to get caught short. It was also still rather chilly. Just as well I still have some padding on me!

I picked my way through the path and this led to the third lesson. When snow falls, it flattens stuff. I was struggling to get past the broom covering the path and spent some time cursing a little but thankful there was no gorse. Well, I spoke a little too soon. Along the path a bit further there was gorse. There was more swearing as that darn stuff is prickly and there was still some ice/slush about so I had to take it a bit easier and pick my way through.

Finally I was back in the open and heading back the way I’d come. I knew the path I was originally intending still had some snow on it so was happy with my diversion. Run was nearly done and my mood had very much lifted and I felt pretty strong. Then I noticed that I wasn’t far from the end of the run and I was going to be just under a mile short.

I did what any rational runner would do. I swore a bit and chastised myself for poor routed setting, then preceded to run round the entire car park, twice! Thankfully I’d guessed that correctly and finished up at my car with 7.01 miles on the Garmin. Result.

Final lesson of the day is, when you have the option of a fairly easy run – take it. That was much harder work than I had anticipated and I was very much glad of the bath when I got home.

Knackered and glad to be done.

As I started the plan late, next week is actually a cutback week, so only 9 miles required. I’m kind of looking forward to that. Hoping to get into the gym for classes on Monday and Wednesday though just for ‘fun’ 🙂

Adventures and a new Venture

Hello folks. Not quite sure where to start as there has been a lot going on but not really had the chance to blog.

Firstly, as I mentioned in my last blog if we go back in time a little, or actually quite a lot, around 5 years ago an event popped up on my Facebook feed. I really liked the sound of it so decided one day I would get round to entering it. That was the Race to the Stones and as you know I did enter and the first set of race information and training plans have come through.

I am totally bricking it and excited in equal measure. Just about to start training for it so watch this space.

The other thing I have fancied for a while is a duathlon as I mentioned last time too. Again late last year I put my money where my mouth is and entered 2 out of our local duathlon series. On a chilly Sunday last month I lined up with a load of other folks and my friend Caroline whilst absolutely bricking it.

Here’s us before
All the gear and no idea!

The distances were 4k run, 16k bike and 4k run. Found out that I am rubbish at transition and faff way too much and that trying to run after the cycling leg is virtually impossible. My legs refused which was actually quite funny.

It was flipping hard work, there was lots of swearing and I came in last, but I finished. Could not get the grin off my face as I found it quite brutal, partly because I’d done no training.

Pleased with ourselves.

I am now more than mildly concerned that the other one I have entered is next Sunday and again I have not done any training. This is mostly due to the fact that I was on holiday and struggled to do much more than walk while I was away. Did manage one parkrun though which was really nice.

Just finishing Launceston parkrun in Tasmania.

Now back to last year again. In November last year I was given the opportunity to do the Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instruction – Gym Based Exercise. The course was brilliant and so much fun. Loved all the practical exercises. The studying was a little harder as it’s been a long time since I have had to hit the books and I found some of the subject matter quite complicated as there is a lot of anatomy and learning about how the body works and moves and the terminology that goes along with it.

The assessments took place in December and before the festive season I found out I had passed. On Thursday I received my certificate.

Woo Hoo

I am delighted to say that I will be getting let loose with this new qualification and will be taking a class on Thursday evenings. Just love being able to encourage and motivate people. It is such an amazing experience and feeling.

Have shadowed the class and will be shadowing again this week and then I get the chance to go for it. Am totally excited at the prospect and just chuffed to bits that I have been given this opportunity (thanks Gill 😁).

Onwards and upwards.

Hopes and Dreams

Well what does one do after an Ultra? To let you into a little secret, before Glenmore 24 I’d signed up to a race I’ve been wanting to do for years, Race to the Stones. You can find out more about it here . It popped up on Facebook many years ago and I thought, wow, I’d love to be able to do that, so I thought it was about time I did. I’ve elected to do it over two days, mainly because I want to take in all the scenery and enjoy every moment of it. Apparently there is also a bar at base camp after day one, so that’s always a plus 🙂

I’m also waiting for my yearly London Marathon Ballot rejection. To be honest I don’t really want to do it next year. It will be far too much expense, so if on the off chance I do happen to get in I will be deferring if I can. Otherwise I have decided after 10 years of trying, that I’m too good for London. I’ll go and do something more interesting instead.

I have also started doing some cycling with a vague view that I’d quite like to have a go at duathlons and ultimately triathlons. I figure, why be rubbish at one discipline, when I can be rubbish at two or even three. It’s just as well I have a good sense of humour.

For once I’ve not suffered from the post event blues. That’s mainly because when I’ve been for a run, this is where I’m running:

It’s so magical and it’s on my doorstep. Am so lucky. Just a wander around here makes me feel so much better when I’m down.

I have not signed up for anything else at all. I’ve decided that I should just concentrate on building up my fitness again, as I hate to say it, but I have let myself go a bit this last year or so. The weight has slowly crept on, so I really need to get my act in gear and do something about that. My intention is to build up a good level of base fitness going into the winter. I’ve even joined a new gym, so I’ll be able to train no matter what the weather. I’m almost starting to regret saying that already, but there really can be no excuses. I’ve set myself a big goal and I really want to do well and enjoy every single moment of it.

Also aiming to get a bit more experience on my bike. I’m not a confident cyclist, but I must say I’ve really been enjoying watching the pros doing their stuff. I have a bit of a reputation for being a menace on my bike (going so slow up hill I fall over, getting stuck in cleats, almost riding into someone and going up the verge instead) see what I mean? So if you ever ask to go cycling with me, beware! Thing is I do enjoy it even though I’m not that good at it, but I guess that’s what counts, right?

At some point in the future, I’ve got a few cycling plans, but until I get more confident and less of a menace on the roads, I’ll keep them to myself as I don’t want to scare anyone out there!

What I also want to do is try and keep up more with the blogging. I really do enjoy writing, so I indent to continue to bore you all to tears with my exploits, some of which you may get a bit of a laugh from. I’m suddenly reminded of when I went to bootcamp several weeks ago. By the time the 1 hour session finished I was walking funny and could barely move for the subsequent 3 days. Ouch!

That’s all for now, so I’ll leave you with a picture I took when coming home from my club intervals session last week.

Sunset, with Bennachie in the background.

Glenmore 24 – Demons to Slay

I’d run both the 12 hour and 24 hour versions of this race previously and got a good result (for me) in the 12 hour back in 2016, but then in 2017 I didn’t achieve what I wanted to and was pretty disappointed.  Last year I was there, but crewing for a friend and I was determined to give it another shot this year and was hoping that I would be able to put my disappointment behind me.

Preparation had been less than ideal.  I’d kind of fallen out of love with running and just could not get into any sort of routine, so I knew it was going to be difficult and that most of the miles I would be covering I would be walking.  I had in advance decided to just go with the flow, so I was quite relaxed about the whole thing.

Time seemed to fly by and before I knew it I was packing up the car and heading off.  I had thankfully spoken very nicely to my chum Annie who had agreed to let me share her tent.  She headed round to me and we formed our usual convoy through to the Hayfield.  We even did our usual Dufftown stop so I could browse the Collector’s Cabin, which is a lovely shop selling crystals and all manner of other collectables.

After our pit stop we headed off.  Few hairy moments on the way, one when a van decided that it would get past everyone despite the overtaking lane coming to an end right in front of me, then in Nethy Bridge when a lady decided to pull out directly in front of me, even though she looked directly at me.  Despite not going fast (we were in a 30 mph zone) I had to do an emergency stop.  I did take note that her car was quite damaged, so I’m assuming this is not the first time she’d done that!  She only drove about 200m down the road then turned in!

Thankfully the rest of the journey was trouble free and we were soon in the Hayfield. We parked up and began putting up the Gazebo and the Tent. There was some decorating!

Even my car was decorated with bunting!

It had been a bit on the damp side, but we weren’t too bothered. Once we were set up we headed into town to get some food, then back for the Fancy Dress party and a few drinks. It’s always a really fun weekend. You tend to get the same people turning up every year, so it’s lovely to catch up with people you don’t or rarely see between events.

We were both tired, so didn’t stay up too late or even drink that much then it was off to bed.

Woke fairly early and Annie went off as she’d signed up at Tail Walker at Aviemore parkrun. I lounged and just generally caught up with friends whilst waiting for her other half to arrive as he was crewing for her. She was picking up my crew member Fi off her train, so soon everyone was there and it was time to get ready for the off.

View back down to the Hayfield from the top of the hill.

It had been drizzle so the grass in the Hayfield was quite wet. I rummaged through my kit for my waterproof socks and failed to find them. As it later turned out, I’d not packed them. Thankfully one of the kind marshals gave me some plastic bags I could use to keep my feet dry if I needed them.

We got changed and went to the race briefing and almost immediately the sun came out, so a quick change into a t-shirt before we were set off at 12 noon. It was apparent from the off that I wasn’t going to have an easy time of it. I’ve not run much this year and my longest run has been 10 miles and that was a struggle. I’d resigned myself anyway as I said earlier that I would take it easy. I had 3 targets in mind and within a couple of laps I knew I had a blister developing, so I changed shoes and socks at that point. This was a very welcome relief.

The laps came and went, and I spent pretty much all of the first 5 laps, so 20 miles running/walking with Wendy. I think we must have discussed almost everything! She’d decided to get food after that, but I knew if I stopped I would struggle to get going to I continued on.

Below are some of the amazing views we were treated to each lap.

As it got dark, so did my mood. I started to really doubt that I could do any better than last time. Each lap was such an effort. I wanted the whole thing to be over but just tried to focus on one lap at a time. My friend John was on shift at the water station between 10pm and midnight. Last time he did this there was a wee dram waiting there, so he’d asked me what type of Whisky I preferred earlier in the day, so I knew that at least one lap would be bearable. That was my best lap of the night and was fueled by coffee, chocolate and whisky.

I’m afraid things get a bit out of order here as I can’t clearly remember what happened when during the night. I do know I was not in a very good place at times. Even met The Grim Reaper by the water station at one point. He was lurking there menacingly. Thankfully I knew who was under the mask and to be honest at that point I was not having a very good time, so I gave him a hug and then continued on. There were lots of tears. Whenever anyone asked how I was doing, all I wanted to do was cry. I pretty much know I cried on some shoulders and very much appreciated the support of those who witnessed it. A Metro Aberdeen Running Club chum, Phil got me through to the end of a lap and I think it was here I wasn’t sure if I would continue. I felt so low and I could see my original target vanishing before my eyes. I wondered what the hell I thought I was doing here. There was no way I could accomplish so much on so little training and I’d been so stupid to think I could. That internal battle left me again in tears. I sat down with thoughts of calling it a night.

Fi and Peter (Annie’s crew) spoke to me but let me make the call. Was I going to stop or not? This is what happened last time and I talked myself out of continuing on that occasion. Well this time was different. I decided I would do one more lap and then have a rest. That was a tough lap. I was shattered. All I wanted to do was sleep. It had become very cold. Apparently temperatures got down to -5 degrees. I messaged Fi and told her that I was coming in for a sleep after that lap. When I finished I took my trainers off and got into bed with the rest of my clothes, including hat, cycling gloves and ski jacket still on.

I didn’t sleep well, but I did get a few hours of rest and woke up when I heard Annie up and about as she’d also come in for a rest just before me. I decided that I felt better, so I might as well, get up and get out. So that’s exactly what I did. Off I set again. I’d done 9 laps before I stopped and only needed 2 more to go further than I’d got last time. Was a very crisp morning due to the cold, but again I got to watch the dawn and the sunrise.

I kept stomping round the lap. Lap 10 done and I only had one more to get past my previous mileage from 2017. Lap 11 completed and I got a hug from Ruth who was doing the timing. I was all the time trying to do mental arithmetic to see if I could get in another lap before the short laps opened. I kept getting conflicting answers, but I think that my brain was so fried by that time, I kind of gave up. When I came into camp I checked my Garmin and yes, I did have time for another lap. That lap would also set me up for my ‘B’ target which I’d had in mind from the stat. I’d already achieved my ‘C’ target, so with the sunlight, everything was looking so much better and I was feeling so much better.

Out I went for lap 12. I really was sore now, and had to keep stopping to stretch. Was still trying to figure out what time I would get back into camp, but it turned our, it really is hard to work things out when you are tired! Finally I messaged Fi to tell her I wasn’t far away and I’d be coming in to get changed before the small laps. Her Mum and Dad who I have known for years had arrived to add to the cheering squad.

Finished lap 12 and got another massive hug from Ruth. I know I cried at this point for the umpteenth time it seemed, but at leas this time, these were tears of joy, not despair.

I quickly went for a comfort break and got changed then headed out on the little laps. I needed over 8 of these little laps to reach my target and I just kept plodding round. The last hour of both the 12 and the 24 hour race are amazing. The Hayfield is fully of music, cowbell and cheering. The wall of sound really spurs you on. I tried counting the laps. I knew I’d got what I needed and a little more by the time the hooter signified the end of the race.

Annie had caught up with me on the little laps along with Wendy who I covered my first 20 miles and many other friends, which was lovely. I’d planted my number peg in the ground and then headed to get my dibber chip taken off and my lap results given to me.

Finish selfie – photo courtesy of Annie

We then headed back to our tent and started gathering everything together and packing up our kit and taking down the gazebo and tent. We were all packed up by the time the call went out for the prize giving.

This is one of the best prize givings ever. They do the usual top 3 women and men and then those who got over 100 miles also get a special momento, but every single person is called out by name to receive their medal no matter how far they got. The sense of pride I felt when my name was called was something else. I had the biggest grin on my face as I had smashed my ‘B’ target. I was looking for 50 miles and the final results have me covering 50.46 miles. Annie who’s training also had been a bit of a wash out absolutely smashed it out the park with 58.47 miles.

There were some phenomenal achievements that really make me think that some of my ultra friends are in fact super human!

Thankfully I’d made the decision to stay in Aviemore overnight to recover, so we went for a late lunch with Fi and her Mum and Dad, then on to our Motel. Managed to stay awake long enough for the usual all you can eat buffet at La Taverna, but declined to move on to the pub afterwards. I would have only fallen asleep in my drink anyway!

The whole experience has taught me some lessons about myself. I have been suffering with depression and anxiety in the last year or so and really struggling, however I know that if I just can sit quietly for a little while, I can still my mind from those internal battles and I can push myself to my limits. I also got a reminder that I’m stronger than I think.

All I needed to do better and lay those demons from 2017 to rest was 11 laps. What I did was 12 and some more for good measure. So I think I can safely say that those demons were most certainly laid to rest.

Thank you Glenmore 24 2019, you were fantastic.

All it remains to do is thank Team BAM (Bill, Mike and Catriona), Fiona for Crewing. Annie and Peter for the tent use and company and everyone involved in this race for their support and camaraderie. Runners, other crews and kids all supported and looked out for each other. I feel honoured to be part of this community and if I cried at you or on you, sorry about that!

Will see you all again next year (although I don’t intend running)!

Not Feeling the Love

It’s been ages since I have been even remotely tempted to put pen to paper so to speak. To be really honest I really fell out of love with running and struggled to motivate myself to do anything.

A lot has happened in my personal life and I have found that since moving to my current home I have felt more and more cut off from those I considered to be friends and running buddies.

Work pressures have not helped and I have also been struggling with my mental health. I know that exercise can help improve my situation, but it’s just getting out the door I have found so hard.

I have found it worse if I try to run on my own as this can feel like an impossible feat. Every time I go out the door to run by myself the negative thoughts start almost before I have locked the front door.

With my state of mind not often at its best I struggle to maintain relationships with my old friends and often feel like an outcast and that I no longer belong with these people. Those feelings then push me away further and all I want to do is hide away from the world. The trouble is, I can’t. My physical health has also suffered and I gave gained weight. Back on medication which makes me want to kick myself as I had come so far.

Thing is, I have turned things around before and I know I can again. I need to believe in myself and most of all I need the support of my friends to encourage me onwards and help keep me in a good frame of mind.

Have had some lovely runs with friends lately and hopefully looking forward to some more.

I have also started cycling to mix things up a bit and get out with others, do if you fancy a bit of a plod, whether it be on foot or on two wheels, give me a shout. 👍❤

Running – where have you been?

It has been ages since I’ve blogged.  The main reason for this is that I’d pretty much fallen out of love with running.  However, you may want to make yourself a cuppa and take a seat as this is not going to be a short blog!

Before my wonderful running had fallen out with me (or had I fallen out with it?) I’d committed to going back to Devon and having another crack at the Women Can marathon.  Roll forward a few months and training has been sporadic at best with a longest run of 16 miles with Annie (Abz1903) who had to deal with me having a full blown diva tantrum and tears before we’d even got 10k.  I followed this up by an altogether better 5 mile trail run the following day with clubmates from Garioch Roadrunners, which gave me some hope.  By the time I was properly tapering I knew I would get round but it wasn’t going to be pretty.

After another setback of an infected insect bite which cause me to head to GMeds at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary A&E, I was as ready as I was going to be.

For some reason, I’ve found it really difficult to find fuel this year.  Everything that used to work for me now doesn’t and I can’t seem to find things that do, so I was kind of making it up as I go along.  Yup, I should know better and that would have been a contributing factor to race day issues.

It was an early start on Saturday morning.  I have never wanted to snooze an alarm so much in my life with it went off at 4am.  Thankfully I’d got myself all ready the night before, so things were fairly straightforward and although it was misty I had an uneventful set of flights, although the Manchester to Exeter leg was slightly delayed, this just gave me a bit of a breather.

Collected a hire car in Exeter and then spent a bit of time exploring a bit.  Headed into Sidmouth for food and then to the Donkey Sanctuary as I didn’t get around to that last year.

20180526_125453
They are so cute 🙂

After I’d had a good walk around and stretched my legs from the flight, I decided to head to Tipton Saint John to pick up my number and was chuffed to find that we got our t-shirts and goody bags in advance (must have made things much easier on the day).  I was medal chasing though, but more about this later.

Decided it was probably time to head to our hotel.  Most of the 261 Fearless runners were booked into the Premier Inn close to the M5.  As I pulled into a space I’d parked almost beside Juliet and Jo who was to be my room mate for the weekend.  Turns out the roads where horrendous (bank holiday weekend) and I’d probably got there quicker than those driving.

This year we had a bit of an international team of ladies, so it was so lovely to make new friends.  We all met up once everyone (well almost everyone) had arrived and headed off into Exeter to pizza express for our meal.

20180526_175044
Exeter Cathedral before the Thunder Storms

After a lovely meal we headed back to the hotel and to bed.  I didn’t sleep particularly well but then again I never do the night before a bit race.  So up, shower and breakfast got ourselves sorted and met in the foyer.  I was intending to take the hire car, but as luck would have it we didn’t need another car so I got to be a passenger (this came in handy later 😉 ).

We drove through rain on the way to Tipton and I was happy.  It was still warm enough for vest weather.  There was the usual faff and trips to the toilet followed by team photos and then not too much hanging around and we were off.  The rain had stopped though and the sun came out.  It was going to be hot 😦  Thankfully I had put on factor 50 sunblock, which turned out to be a very wise decision.

I knew I was on a run walk strategy and ended up with Debs from New Jersey who was nursing a hip injury, so she was taking it easy.  We ended up spending the first few miles taking quite a few photos.

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Cute cows and a massive bull!

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Tracy from New York – who was one of our International Runners doing the relay 🙂

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Countryside 🙂

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Riverside Path

We saw butterflies, frogs, mice and lots of birds.  If you run too fast, you would miss all this.  It was so beautiful that I’d forgotten some of what lay ahead!

I was feeling pretty good and not really sticking to my run walk schedule.  Ended up just going to feel, but after the first relay change point we headed out on to the coastal path and this is where things started going a bit wrong.  I started to get cramp (around mile 8), a common thing for me, but I haven’t had issues with it for ages.  This left me walking uphill, powerwalking/jogging the flat and running the down as that was the only time the calf didn’t seem to cramp up.

 

We finally got some down into Ladram Bay through a field of interested cows who looked like they may try to follow us, but thankfully after my stern looks and telling them ‘No, stay’ we were able to carry on.  I should mention here that it was wonderful to have someone to chat to en route.  Debs and I shared many stories throughout the course of the day.

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Coastline

Anyway, when you head out of Ladram Bay (around 10.5 miles), there is a bit of a hill.  This is where things started to go wrong further.  By the time I got to the top of the hill I felt so nauseous I was sick.  My heart felt like it was trying to escape out my chest and I’d gone from feeling fine (other than the calf being a pest) to feeling rotten.  Over the next couple of miles I hit my lowest point.

All belief I had that I could still get round despite the cramp disappeared.  I’d arranged to meet a Fetchie Friend (LaisyDaisy) at the halfway point at Sidmouth Rugby Club and at this point I was determined that my race would end there.  Up another hill before the descent into Sidmouth and again I felt sick and I had a little cry, then complained to Debs that I couldn’t even do that right because it wasn’t much of a proper bawling cry.  She knows the score, we’ve all hit low points before, so I kept going and pretty much told her I’d just have to get over myself because I didn’t want this race to beat me.  I’ve never DNF’d a marathon and I really wanted that medal.

As we came into Sidmouth we got some encouragement then a bloke said “just as well it doesn’t get dark till late” obviously referring to us having taken a bit of time to get there.  Debs was carrying walking poles to ease the pressure on her hip when needed at at that point the gentleman (if I can call him that) was very lucky not to find them inserted about his person.  Seriously folks, it’s not clever.  A runner could be in a bad place mentally, just encourage, it will do the trick.

We eventually got to the half way point and they had sponges, so I got to wash the salt off my face which felt wonderful and LazyDaisy met us.  I gave her a hug and almost started to have another little cry, but now I knew that other than the cramp my legs were more than capable of taking me round the rest of the route, so I just needed to convince my head of that.

From the rugby club you go through Sidmouth a little down the prom and through the Byes to Sidford.  LazyDaisy accompanied us for a couple of miles till around mile 15 and by this time my head was well back in the game.  Debs got stung by nettles here, but plenty of dock leaves about, so on we went.

By mile 17 Debs was looking and feeling really strong.  Her hip was fine, so I told her to go on.  She was a bit reluctant at first, but we both knew by this point, I would make it.  It wasn’t going to be brilliant and the route seemed hillier than last year (probably due to my poor preparation) I knew that the scenery would get me through.

Not long after Debs had gone on ahead, my stomach started to play up.  Well I’ve never had that happen before!  I erm had to just do what I needed to do, thankfully there were suitable leaves to assist (sorry TMI I know) but I still managed to brush into a nettle when picking a leaf, so the dock leaves were also deployed to sort my sting.

I decided that my tummy didn’t like any of the food I’d had even tried and tested foods, so I gave up and stuck to my tailwind and had water at each stop.  No more tummy issues during the race, thankfully.

There was still quite a bit of climbing which I’d completely forgotten about, but I’d taken to pretty much stomping as fast as my legs would carry me and trying a jog when I could.

Then came the forest path and the mud!  As I previously mentioned there had been storms the night before which meant that the ground was quite boggy and lets face it nearly 200 other women had ran this way before me, so I was laughing like an idiot running, walking, slipping and sliding through the mud.  The sun was back out now too and I was glad to be in the shade of the woodlands.  The downs were really hard though as these were gravel/stony type paths which the water deluge the previous day had carved its way through.  I made sure I was careful going down these as I didn’t want to risk a fall.

I did get a bit stroppy here as every turn you seemed to be going back up and I was kind of sick of heading up at this point.  In saying that there were some lovely viewpoints.

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View from the forest

Finally between miles 21 and 22 you come down and out of the forest.  It was at the water stop here I learned that there was a nordic walker not that far ahead of me, so that made me even more determined to get moving as quickly as I could as I wanted to catch up with whoever it was 🙂

The miles were ticking past and I was soon coming into Ottery St Mary and I knew I wasn’t that far from the finish.  I heard from the marshals there that the nordic walker was just ahead, but they also told me that an American lady had been bitten by a dog.  I knew this had to be Debs, so I pushed on again, catching up with and passing the nordic walker, who had been a sweeper last year, so I apologised for not returning the favour this year, but I had to get to the finish as I was worried about Debs.  She’d been quite shaken.

You go through the village and then back to the river path.  Some of the terrain was not easy to walk on anyway, but around mile 25 I saw this sign:

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Yes it did seem like a good idea – what was I thinking?

I had another little cry here, but these were the tears of knowing you are nearly there.  They soon stopped when I remembered that I can’t run and cry at the same time.  As I got closer I could hear music and then was rewarded with approaching this sign:

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Possibly the best sign you can ever see in a marathon, other than the finish sign.

Before I knew it I was in the field heading for the finish line.  I saw all the 261 ladies and yelled out to them and high fived everyone before crossing the line.

Got my medal, my Otter half pint glass and some gorgeous vegan cakes.  Then I made my way out for hugs and pictures and prosecco 🙂

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Worth it in the end.

I beat last years time big style and probably was able to run more despite the cramp.  The Otter glass was a lovely surprise, but I really had to get that medal.  It’s specially designed in the shape of a ballot box marking 100 years since women in the UK got to vote.  How much things have changed in those last 100 years but there is still such a long way to go.

After some much needed food and drink (G&T) and a lovely seat on the grass, we headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up before meeting for drinks and then turning in for the night.

I would say that was the hardest race I’ve ever done.  I’m just thankful for the support of each and every one of the women there, especially the 261 Fearless Team and to the organisers Jo, Pauline and Peg.

Special mention has to go to Debs, who put up with my chat for 17 whole miles, although we did get a chance to swap some stories and I’m glad to say she was fine after her dog attack, although she does have a rather impressive bruise developing.

I’d also like to thank Jo for being my roomie and Juliet and Nicky for organising everything.

In the morning we all went our separate ways but what a weekend of friendship and fun.  I spent most of the day in Sidmouth and met LaisyDaisy, her husband and the famous Flossie the labrador and we had a wonderful walk along the beach.

I have no idea what is going to be next.  I will blog more again because I really do enjoy it.

Maybe I should ask you folks what you think I should do next, other than take some time to properly rest and recover that is 🙂

Until next time #befearless

Women Can Marathon and Why I Did

Okay this one should be mostly pictures, but I wanted to put a bit of preamble in first as to what the circumstances were behind me completing marathon number 7 (if you include my ultra) or 6 (if you don’t).

Those regular readers will know that in January I went to Manchester to become a 261 Fearless Coach.  Personal circumstances following completion of the course have meant that I haven’t managed to put this training to use by forming the first club in Scotland, but that will happen and hopefully soon once I’ve gathered some thoughts and ideas together.

There are still so many barriers encountered by women (sorry guys), which actually make me quite sad.  Society and social media have placed so much emphasis on how they think women ‘should’ look and when women try to better themselves, get fitter and healthier, the same society and social media are quick to shoot them down in flames.  We are so very lucky to live in a country where activity and exercise is actively encouraged.  There are still many women in countries who would love to participate but are unable to do so.

I know the difference being active and running has made to my physical and mental health.  It helps me keep fit, it is my escape when I need some time to think, it is fun when I can get out of with friends, it is a challenge when I do a difficult event.  Running gives me so much and is so much a part of my life.  It makes me a better person.

The Women Can Marathon is the first 261 Fearless Partner Event in the UK, so really how could I refuse 🙂  The charity partner for the event was Free to Run whose mission is to use running and outdoor adventure to empower and educate women and girls who have been affected by conflict.  You can find out more about them at their website:  http://www.freetorun.org/

This would not be the first time I’d gone away for a running weekend with folks I didn’t know that well, so I duly signed up and then fretted about how close to Manchester it was and where I would be staying.  There were 8 of us altogether in the end.  The ladies came from 261 Fearless Club Greenwich in London and from 261 Fearless Club Wray in Lancashire.  Then there was me 🙂

Juliet, one of the coaches from Greenwich had sorted out accommodation and together with their team had brought food.  We were staying about 30 minutes away from Tipton Saint John (which was actually only about 11 or so miles away, but roads there are narrow and twisty) in a beautiful Airbnb cottage.

I flew down from Aberdeen and picked up a hire car in Exeter and went to explore before heading to Tipton Saint John to pick up my number and have a look around.  There I met some of the race organisers and eventually Dr Juliet (who was one of the trainers when I did my 261 Fearless Coach course) and Nicky who is Juliet’s fellow coach in Wray.

Dr Juliet had the honour of running under number 261, which was awesome 🙂

I followed them to our accommodation and met the rest of the ladies, who comprised Juliet (yes there were two of them), Lorrae, Liz, Amy and Valentina.  We quickly sorted out who was sleeping where and settled into plans for race day and then got ourselves fed and watered (there may have been some alcohol consumed) :).  Valentina had made some fantastic Lasagne which we all tucked in to.

It was a lovely and relaxed evening, but we had our fill of food and drink it was off to bed.  I’m not going to write that much about the race itself.  I would like the Devon countryside to speak for  itself 🙂

261 Fearless Start

This is us at the start taken from the Women Can Facebook page.  L-R Liz, Amy, Juliet, me, Nicky, Valentina, Lorrae, Dr Juliet.  It was to be the first marathon for Valentina and Liz.

After a fun warm up and a few moving words from Jo, the race organiser, we were off.  Settled into a slow pace at the back and ended up running alongside Amy, which is where I stayed for the duration of the race.  She put up with my chat, singing and bad jokes.  What a trouper 🙂

Now, here is the scenery 🙂

The photos don’t really do the route justice.  It was absolutely stunning and the terrain with varied with riverside tracks, cliff paths, woodland, fields and gravel tracks.  It was also pretty tough and hilly.

My hydration and fueling was pretty good until the last few miles when I had a bit of a wobble.  I was very grateful for the company provided by Juliet (a completely different one) and Gillian who were the sweepers as I got grumpy and weepy and was thankfully that Amy didn’t see that either!

It was a long day out, but Dr Juliet and Peg (one of the organisers) came to meet us as we neared the finish.  As soon as she saw the finish line, Amy bolted towards it, leaving me in her wake.  I managed a bit of a run, but my feet were sore as we had been out there for a long time.  My provisional finish time was 09:32:53.  A personal worst by a long way, but it was completely different to anything I’ve ever done before.

We were given our medals and got a hug from Jo (organiser).  I think I may have complained to her about the hills!  Then the best bit, a cream tea.

Cream Tea
Me and Amy enjoying our Cream Tea 🙂

Fearless at the Finish
All of us with Jo, the organiser. L-R Dr Juliet, Juliet, Valentina, Jo (kneeling), Amy, Liz, me Lorrae and Nicky.

We headed back to our accommodation for some celebratory bubbles and to refuel.  We were all a bit stiff and sore, but thankfully Dr Juliet had brought some instruments of torture (foam roller and the like), which got passed around and did make things better in the long run.

After a good nights sleep and breakfasted, we tidied up and left our accommodation.  I headed into Sidmouth with the Greenwich girls who did this:

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Lorrae, Liz, Juliet and Valentina having a dip. It was cold!

Amy and I stayed on the beach!  We all headed to a cafe for second breakfast and headed off our separate ways.

Over the weekend I spent time with 7 ladies I didn’t know.  I would consider them all friends now.

Thank you to all those lovely 261 Fearless ladies.  You showed that Women Can and you did.

There is already talk that this may not be a one off event.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely.  I’m keeping my eye on the webpage already 🙂

http://www.womencan.co.uk/women-can.html

https://www.facebook.com/womencanmarathon/

http://www.261fearless.org/

https://www.facebook.com/261FearlessKVSwitzer/