Texas Kingwood marathon 2016

Time: 6:31:33 (walking)

Medal: Yes

tx mara  medal

Don’t get too excited.  After a promising few runs, my plan was to run the initial lap of the Texas Kingwood marathon, and then walk the remaining 3.  Each lap is 6.55 miles, and after a successful 10k run in record breaking Texan Christmas day heat and sunshine, I was feeling positive about completing my first marathon in over a year in under 6 hours.

Things didn’t go to plan.

I crossed the start line of the New Year’s Day marathon in high spirits with 328 fellow runners/walkers.  I passed some of the familiar landmarks from the course that I remembered from 2 years ago, and got caught up in the fact that I was running.  IN AN ACTUAL RACE!  I kept my pace slow and steady, and beamed despite the threatening rain clouds above.  I also had the same race number I had for the 2014 event: 262.  As in 26.2…. Get it?  It was fate!  Today would mark the start of my running comeback!

Just act cool, Rachel.  Casual grin.

Just act cool, Rachel. Casual grin.

I passed the first mile marker.  Then the second.  And then?  The familiar tightness on the outside of my right knee, brought on only by running, sent a pain shooting through my knee that could only be matched by my heartache.  I slowed to a walk and glanced down at my Garmin to survey the damage.  I shit you not, I was 2.62 miles into the course.  Exactly 10%.  With no hope of making up any more time running.  So what did I do?  I kept walking.  For over 6 more cold, dreary, grumpy miles.  For a medal the size of my face, and so that I could say I had completed my 10th marathon.

The laps seemed endless, but at least there were always people around.  In fact, I played leapfrog with the marathon organizer, Steve Boone, for the majority of the race, and enjoyed his (nearly) infectious enthusiasm towards everyone there, and the tales he told to people he ran/walked with.  One snippet I remember is that this tree was recently hit by lightning, and that there is an old pet 6 ft snake on the loose in Kingwood.  I’m not sure how true either of those stories are, but the tree did look cool.

lightning tree

Over 2 hours slower than the last time I was on the course, I crossed the finish line while my mom snapped (probably) terrible photos of me, and my dad cheered.  It was like swim meets and soccer games all over again.  I grabbed a slice of complimentary pizza and then limped to the comfort of my dad’s car’s heated seats.

Of course, entering the marathon was an afterthought, prompted in part by my knowledge that it caters to the velocity-challenged (translation: open to walkers).  I also knew the gym classes would likely be off on New Year’s day and that without concrete motivation to get out of bed I would likely end up in some dive bar making questionable decisions on New Year’s Eve.  It seemed like a good idea to get start off the new year with a medal, and I was hoping that a more positive outcome would be a harbinger of further running progress.

Obviously my main reason for hitting up Houston was to visit my family and spend some time with my 13 month old niece.  And obviously to check out the bitching light displays in River Oaks (now a family tradition), where people have so much money that Christmas decorations have become penis extensions.

Texas christmas lights

Oh, and I got to take my niece to the zoo with my brother, where she seemed more interested in the Christmas lights and dry leaves on the ground than all of the exotic animals….


I arrived back in Scotland yesterday, and apart from going to the gym, I have done little apart from sleep.  Jet lag is always worse on the return leg, which bodes well for my first day back at work tomorrow…

Although things didn’t quite go to plan during my vacation, I’m trying to be positive.  I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas and here’s to a killer 2016!

Edit: For Dan –

texas medals

Eat, Sleep, Ride, Repeat

Without going into too much detail, running is not really progressing.  I can manage 2-3 5k runs a week, but any more and my knee starts locking out.  If you read my last post, I would say I teeter between ‘Anger’ and ‘Acceptance’ on any given day.  I’m choosing to ignore this for now.

So to quote 4 Non-blondes, “What’s going on?”

Well, apart from making myself one of the most unpopular people in Scotland during the Rugby World Cup (Go Wallabies!) I finished (and passed) my first assignment for my Sport & Exercise Psychology course, I submitted (and passed) my Body Pump instructor assessment video, and at work I have thus far survived the new Higher curriculum (and all of the onerous added internal assessments) without completely losing my mind.


I’ve also been joining a local cycling group for some winter social rides, and have attempted (with very limited success) to acclimatize to cycling in the Scottish winter.  The first few rides were cold, but enjoyable, but a hypothermic jaunt two weeks ago knelled the death toll on my enthusiasm.

A group of us (four, there were only four of us willing to face it), met up in Stonehaven, aiming to cycle an undulating 45 mile loop.  At 10:00, we were bundled up against the elements.  At 10:05, we set off.  At 10:07, the first raindrops began to obscure my vision.

The smiles are a lie.

The smiles are a lie.

Some may argue that we could have abandoned our plans after warnings of ‘Storm Clodagh’ dominated the news, but we were stubborn (translation: idiotic), and the forecast suggested we had a fair-weather window until about 1pm.  Well, the forecast in Scotland is about as reliable as Patrick Bateman is as a narrator, so there’ll be no prizes for guessing how our experience went.

All this before the 'waterproof' overshoes, and I still nearly lost half of my toes.

All this before the ‘waterproof’ overshoes, and I still nearly lost half of my toes.

At 10:23 the rain morphed from a steady mist into corpulent rain drops with no sign of easing off.  None of us wanted to be that person who says they want to turn back, so we kept our heads down and our wheels spinning.  After about 20 minutes of steady, heavy precipitation – and at just the moment I was marveling at how well my waterproofs were living up to their name – I felt an ominous wetness envelope my fingers.  The barriers had been breached.

The dampness spread quickly from there, and soon every item of clothing I had on was waterlogged and cold.  The rain changed to sleet, and less than an hour after we had set off, mammoth tufts of fluffy snow were soaring past us, scratching our faces, and settling on our thighs like patches of white felt.  We were all actively seeking out hills in an attempt to generate a bit of warmth.  At this point we realized that prolonging this experience was ridiculous, and we opted to cut a 15 miles loop off of our ride.  It would have made no difference if we turned back the way we came or continued with the amended route, so we decided to continue on the more ‘coastal’ route, figuring the sea air would be less accommodating for the now-lying snowfall.

Well, we were wrong.  It’s a miracle that only one of us came off our bike (not me for a change!) considering we were cycling with very limited control on ice/slush/snow (a bit farcical when attempting to climb even the most gentle of inclines).  Even on flat road, we were maxing out at around 11mph thanks to the drag of the snow.  We laughed because there was nothing else to do, and I think I can safely say that we were all thrilled to glimpse the coast and the war memorial atop Black Hill, signalling the final descent into Stonehaven.

fuckin' freezing

By the end our gears were pretty much frozen, so we were stuck in single-gear mode until chunks of ice fell with a thud from our frames.  Once back to the car park in the town square, we wasted no time packing everything into the cars, abandoning any ideas of a social hot drink and opting instead to get home – and into a hot shower – as quickly as possible.

In the car, Roz ramped up the heating and once I started thawing out I began shivering, which alarmingly kept up for the next couple of hours.  I got dropped off and hauled my bike into my vestibule before beginning the agonizingly slow process of peeling cold, wet layers of clothing off in the hallway to avoid leaving puddles all over my carpet.  I could wring a substantial amount of water out of both pairs of socks I had been wearing – so much for my overshoes being waterproof!

Leaving a sodden pile of cycle gear on the floor, I jumped into the shower and, ignoring all advice about slowly re-warming the body, whacked it onto the hottest setting I could bear and enjoyed about 30 seconds of pure bliss – before my feet began to burn.  It was a slow, rising burn – like eating a chili and thinking it wasn’t too bad before the real heat kicks in – and before long I was maneuvering myself (unsuccessfully) into any position that kept my feet out of the way of the water, before eventually giving up, opening the shower door, and sitting pathetically on the floor with my feet lying on the shower mat outside.

Minutes later I was curled up in bed, tucking the duvet in around me, and clutching my burning feet hatching a plan about how a repeat of this experience could be avoided next weekend.

I hear ya, snowman.

I hear ya, snowman.

After getting in touch with the manager at a gym I teach spin at, we decided to book out the studio on Sunday for a couple of hours and do an hour of heart rate training followed by an hour long spin class.  Interest from the group was high, as we had experienced sub-optimal cycling weather for the past 2 weekends, and in the end about 10 of us turned up ready to ride – indoors.  On a glorious, sunny, Sunday morning.  Typical.

The heart rate training was led by Kerry, the manager at the Warehouse, and we were encouraged by footage of lycra-clad professional cyclists illuminating the screen in front of us, as well as a box displaying everyone’s heart rate zones.  We all had to input our name, date of birth, weight, and e-mail address, and were sent a report of our workout once we had finished.  After that, about 8 of us stayed on and I led a 1 hour spin class, regretting every second of the second half as I had already taught a spin class and Body Pump earlier in the morning.  To everyone’s delight, the gym happened to have a charity bake sale on, so they did remarkably well by us, especially as they kindly waived the charge of the studio hire as a one-off.

I really enjoyed the HR training, and the hour actually went by pretty quickly.  It definitely isn’t the kind of interval training you get in a spin class, but it’s probably a lot more beneficial as an alternative to actually getting out on the road bike as it mimics the kind of effort you’d be putting in.  You also get a report emailed out to you after the class.  Kerry runs a HR class on a Friday night, and though I couldn’t make it this week (staff Christmas night out), I hope to go to the next one, and input my max HR at 198 where I would have put it had I not already taught 2 classes.

hr cycle

Despite having options just now as an alternative for outdoor cycling, I won’t really have any escape in 6 weeks time when, if all goes well, I’ll be recovering from 24 hours on a mountain bike just north of Inverness.  Yet another case of ‘it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-when-I-signed-up’.  You’d think I’d learn…

The Five Stages of Grief

It has been over a year since I managed to injure myself, and if I knew that I would still be in running limbo this far along when I first limped to the finish line of Crathes half marathon last year, I would have been inconsolable.  Now, I didn’t initially embrace the changes I have had to make to my training, but because I allowed myself to be hopeful, I could press on when I was feeling down, and throw myself into new experiences.  That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a difficult 12 months, and it doesn’t mean I haven’t grieved the loss of something I find important.


It’s nothing a few days of taking it easy at the gym won’t sort out, I told myself after my disastrous experience at Crathes in September, 2014.  After all, it has been over a week since Glenmore 12, and I had done a fairly decent week’s training at the gym with no ill-effects since, so why should I be worried about not completing Loch Ness marathon, or Amsterdam, or Pisa in a couple of months?  Crathes was an isolated incident.  Everything is going to be fine.  I just had an off day.

OK, so I’ll drop down to the 5k at Loch Ness, and if I have to I’ll speed walk Amsterdam.  No problem.

OK, so the 5k did not go to plan, and I had thoughts of kicking a small child en route (see the next stage), but maybe I just got overexcited and set off too quickly.  Amsterdam will be fine.  Everything is fine.

OK, so I’ll give Amsterdam a miss just to make sure I’m fully recovered by Pisa.  After all, Pisa is my goal race.  Everything. Is.  Fine.


Everything is not fine.

I don’t know how long each stage is meant to last, but I have a feeling that this was where I spent the majority of the first few months.  Throw a handful of jealousy in the mix and season with a dash of wishing-ill-upon-anyone-with-a-fully-functional-set-of-legs, and you’re getting a clearer idea of my state of mind.  Oh, you had a great race and took twenty minutes off your PB?  That’s terrific.  Fuck you.  Of course, that was merely a representation of my internal monologue.  Externally, I was more like this:

I can tell you with certainty that when you’re injured it is impossible to experience other peoples’ success without feeling a little bit of anger towards them.  There is also a 100% chance that every asshole and his dog decide to go for a run whenever the weather is nice.  Which, for some reason, is frequently.


In this particular scenario, ‘bargaining’ became more like, “please take my money and fix me.”  I had sports massage (which I would have normally, but I focused on the muscles around my knee), I had physio, I did all of the exercises, I foam rolled, I did yoga classes (not my forte, for sure), I allowed a woman to stab me in the leg and butt with long needles and run a freaking electric current through them.  I would have considered, should it have been made easily available to me, voodoo, witchcraft, and/or hypnosis.  Hell, I considered the restorative effects of aromatherapy.  That’s when I knew I’d hit rock bottom, and the fourth stage of grief.


I give up on life.  What’s the point in even trying?  Running is dead to me.  I want to become a hermit.  I don’t want to communicate with anyone.  I don’t want to enjoy myself.  Oh, some kid on the news has terminal cancer?  They don’t understand real misery.  Somebody please, just put me down.

This is pretty much the point where I threw myself a pity party.  Every day.  For weeks.  I was not a lot of fun to be around, but that was OK, because I didn’t really make much of an effort to socialize.  I basically lived in tracksuit bottoms and a hoody, and my diet consisted of beer and bread.


The last (running) race that I had already signed up to before my knee crapped out on me was Berlin marathon.  It was going to be my A race.  Every time I made any type of running progress over the past year, it has all been for Berlin.  But every time I faced another setback, I could sense that dream slowly slipping away.

Berlin came and went, and I stayed in Scotland.  With no scheduled runs for the foreseeable future, there is no added pressure on me to rush back into long distances.  Instead, I have accepted that progress will be restrained, and realized the importance of having other things in my life to keep me going.

Over the past 12 months I have accomplished several things I have always told myself I’d get around to “later” because it clashed with some running adventure or another.  With that obstacle out of the way, I could commit to completing my Exercise to Music, Gym Instructor, Spinning, and – most recently – Body Pump training.  I’ve started teaching fitness classes before school (which is disgustingly early, I should add), and I’m working on a Sport and Exercise Psychology course in my free time.  I’ve even completed my first (and second, and third) cycle sportive, and my first ultra-length open water swim.


I’ve also started running again – but only very short distances.  For the next couple of months I’m going to focus on 5k, and if everything goes well, I’ll work up to 10k by January/February.  After two rounds earlier this year of quickly working up to 9 miles before getting over-zealous and trying for too much, too soon, I’m being very strict with myself to ensure I have the best chance of making a gradual but steady return to running, and taking up my goodwill place at Berlin, 2016.

Here’s to relentless forward progress.

IronRide Sportive (Aluminium) 2015

Time: 3:50:40

Position: 2nd place!

Medal: Yes


I had been eyeing up the inaugural Tayside sportive for a few weeks, but I held off entering until the last minute for a few reasons:

  • I didn’t have a guaranteed ride (Ian wasn’t convinced that the course justified the entry fee, much of which went towards charity)
  • I wasn’t convinced my knee would hold up – after the Glasgow to Edinburgh ride, which was relatively flat, my knee locked out and was painful for a couple of days
  • The course was touted as a hilly one, and hills seem to aggravate my knee pain

With a decent forecast, and a few Fleet Feet triathletes signed up, however, I took the plunge, and despite my ill-advised beer and Prosecco mix the previous evening, was up bright and early on Sunday morning.

Ian eventually folded, and offered me a lift to Errol airfield, near Perth, where the event started.  When I arrived I quickly found Roz and Ny, and a couple of other Fleet Feeters, and we went about the business of registering, which was relatively quick.  The only minor complaint was that there were no more zip ties to attach our numbers to our bikes with, but as it was the first time the event was held, there are bound to be things to iron (ha ha) out for next year.

At the start - taking ourselves very seriously.

At the start – taking ourselves very seriously.

Although there were suggested start times depending on which of the 3 routes on offer you were cycling, the atmosphere was very relaxed, and we could essentially start when we wanted to, as we were being chip timed.  Once our group was assembled, the photographer snapped a few photos and then we set off at a fairly brisk pace along the relatively flat first few miles.

Quite quickly, the group split up, with the men going ahead, Roz, Ny and myself in the second cluster, and everyone else in the third group.  The three of us established a pace that worked for us, and soon the flat miles were over and we were glaring at the road sign declaring an elevation of 20% at the start of our first big climb of the day.

IronRide elevation profile (Aluminium)

IronRide elevation profile (Aluminium)

What goes up must come down, and we flew down off the first hill.  The descent was quite windy, and there was one butt-clenching moment when another rider braked abruptly in front of me and to avoid a crash I swerved and skidded downhill for a few seconds, but I managed to right myself, and I probably took the descents with a bit more caution for the rest of the day.  At the very bottom of the first descent, and with a neon-clad marshal directing us, we turned left to be face to face with hill number two: no rest for the wicked, I guess.

What followed were some more cracking descents and some undulating road before a long, slog of a hill began.  Roz, Ny, and I considered stopping to have a snack, as we were starting to feel energy levels slumping (we had been riding for an hour and a half or so), but we decided to crack on to the feed station which was meant to be around 29 miles in.

After the summit at around 25 miles, it was a fast, flat (downhill) dash to the feed station, which was a van and a couple of tables adorned with a smorgasbord of delights.  I had a tracker bar and some jelly babies, and necked a bottle of water as I realized I had barely touched the bottle on my bike.  We also ran into Colin here, and stopped for a snap before setting off again.

L-R: Ny, me, Roz, Colin

L-R: Ny, me, Roz, Colin

Roz and Colin mainly led the way, taking turns at the front while Ny was subjected to a view of my (colourful) butt for the next few miles.  We were going along at a decent speed, and then my turn for the front came – right at the start of the hill…  It was during the first short ascent that we lost Colin, who was struggling after running the Crathes half marathon the day before.  It was back to just the Dream Team for the final climb before a delightfully smooth road presented itself for our final, blissful descent!

Once off the hill, we all knew it was flat for the final stretch, and as we knew we didn’t have too far to go started picking up the pace, encouraged by the soundtrack of Ny crying out in pain every time she went over a rough section.  Roz pulled away, and Ny and I stuck together, struggling to go much quicker.  Eventually, familiar landmarks from the drive to the start began registering, and we got a real sense of exactly how far we had to go.  Whenever I get a sniff of the finish I seem to be able to find a last reserve of energy, and over the last mile I started to pull slightly ahead of Ny, ending up with a chip time a mere 6 seconds quicker.



We found Roz in the massage tent, and after grabbing our goody bags, t-shirt, and medal, headed back to the parking area and parted ways.  When the results were later posted, we realized that we had a Fleet Feet ladies podium sweep, taking first, second, and third place for the Aluminium length ride!  There are benefits to taking part in inaugural events, clearly!

Podium sweep!

Podium sweep!

More importantly, my knee held up, and I could actually get through a 45 minute spin class the following night with no real issues.  When I first tweaked my knee at the beginning of July (my good knee, as far as running goes, the other knee is still a wreck), I was limping the next day, and couldn’t cycle for more than 15 minutes without pain for a good few weeks.  At least one part of my broken body seems to be improving…

Overall, definitely a great event, and one that’s sure to grow in popularity.  I could even be tempted to try out the Steel route next year, but I have some work ahead of me if I’m to convince the Dream Team to reunite for that one.

Pedal for Scotland – Glasgow to Edinburgh 2015

Medal: No

You know, because there was no medal.

You know, because there was no medal.

Although I had aimed to keep this short and sweet because I am falling rather behind on my posts – I suppose being injured and being forced to pull out of all the races you had planned means that there isn’t much to talk about for a long spells, and I’ve become a bit slack – it would appear that I have a bit to say, despite finding the entire day rather underwhelming.

I took the train to Glasgow – very hung-over – on Saturday morning, and tried to steel my stomach against the nausea brought on by any kind of movement.  Upon arrival I met Ian, and we set off to my friend Grant’s flat.  Once nestled into an armchair – and joined by Grant’s brother Bruce, and his girlfriend Molly – we ordered an obscene amount of pizza to inhale before submitting ourselves to the least comfortable sofa bed in existence.

Ian, Bruce and I were up bright and early for breakfast and about an hour before our designated start time we set off on the gentle 4 mile cycle to the event start.  Cycling along the nearly-abandoned streets of Glasgow as the sun rose was quite a pleasant experience, especially as our group of 3 picked up fellow cyclists during the trek.

As we had received our race packs in the mail, there was no need to register, so we slowly made our way to the start pens.  A friend had decided last minute to sign up, so as he was battling queues at registration, we became increasingly frustrated, and eventually –upon discovering he was there with friends, and not alone – we opted to leave him behind.

At the start - L-R: Ian, me, Bruce

At the start – L-R: Ian, me, Bruce

The start was staggered, and there was pretty much nobody making sure you were entering during your allocated time, so we joined the crowd and waited for 4-5 clusters of cyclists to be set free before our time came.  The sun was shining, the air was calm, and we sailed along the closed city centre roads chatting with each other.  One thing that we did notice – apart from someone on a penny farthing! – was a staggering number of cyclists off to the side repairing punctures.  We later found out that the course had been sabotaged by someone who threw tacks across the road, which has happened by disgruntled locals during other closed-road cycle events in Scotland.  Luckily, none of us were affected, but it’s a pretty dick move by whoever was responsible.

As far as the course goes, I read it had changed slightly from the previous years, but it was generally flat for the entire 50 miles.  The 2-3 short inclines were hazardous not because of how steep they were, but because of the range of cycling abilities on the day, and the inability of riders to grasp the very simple idea that keeping to the left (or any side) would probably be super helpful for people trying to cycle up a hill without their options being limited to:

  1. ploughing through a group of people pushing their bikes whilst having casual conversations in the middle of the road, or
  2. falling off their bike.

Thankfully, we all managed to crest the few hills without coming off the bikes (and remaining clipped in!), but the bottlenecks were a giant pain in the ass.

Moving swiftly on to my next complaint – the feed station at Avonbridge.  We joined a queue snaking around a marquee, not fully understanding what we were queuing for, but agreeing it was probably something worthwhile.  Once we finally made it to the entrance, we were met with tables full of cakes, tray bakes, cookies, etc.  Standard feed station fare in Scotland.  I helped myself to a cube of ginger cake and a small cookie, and Ian and Bruce grabbed a few snacks as well.  At the end of the display, having already started eating, a little old lady looked expectedly at us, and then down at a money box.  It was only at this point we became acutely aware that we were expected to pay for our snacks.

Neither Ian nor Bruce had any cash, and luckily I had enough to cover the 3 of us.  Now, I know the whole event is to raise money for charity, but a little warning that snacks on a course that advertises food as being included in the entry price wouldn’t be an unreasonable request.  Especially when you’ve hit that point where food, no matter what it is, is appealing.

Once back on our bikes, and all a bit huffy, we continued on the course, ultimately ignoring the free lunch stop as by the time we passed it, we weren’t hungry. The final 15 miles or so went by in a bit of a blur, but from about mile 40 my knee was starting to play up.  We eventually started cycling on canal paths that have been used for various running events I’ve taken part in before, and the fact that I was beginning to recognize places meant the finish couldn’t be far off.

When Murrayfield stadium came into view, it was only a couple of minutes before we were crossing the finish line, unclipping, and begin handed our goody bags.  To my horror, and despite the fact that in all previous years they had given out medals, I found that all finishers received an A5 certificate as a token of their triumph.  Ian and Bruce sat on the grass in the sun, and I went to find my friend, Naomi, who was equally dissatisfied with the finishers’ token (especially after her longest ever cycle), but managing to drown her sorrows in an adult beverage.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

There wasn’t much to hang around for, so Ian and I mounted our bikes again, setting off through Edinburgh for his sister’s house, and Bruce rested up as he had decided he would cycle along the canal back to Glasgow (he made it back just before dark!).

Finally out of the saddle, I nursed my then-aching knee, and enjoyed a cold drink in the garden before cramming everything – with the skills of a Tetris master – back into Ian’s car for the drive home.

Overall, I can see this as being a good event for people who are new to cycling, or who want to build up confidence before a sportive, but the crowds and – I can’t lie – the lack of a medal at the end have put me off doing this event again in the future, especially with the number of events that are usually on during the same weekend.  I’m probably also highly critical because I am grumpy about the fact that Berlin marathon is this weekend, and it is the final race I had been signed up for that I will have to DNS.  Although I wish everyone I know (including Claudia, Dan, Rhona, and many others) the best of luck on Sunday, can somebody please give me the satisfaction of breaking their leg during the race?  I’m joking, obviously; I hope you all have a fantastic weekend.

Added bonus: For giggles, I’ve hidden bicycle brand names throughout this post.

Great Scottish Swim 5k 2015

Time: 1:45:33

Medal: Yes

IMG_20150903_162409After the Henley Bridge to Bridge, I took a lackadaisical approach to my ‘training’ for the Great Scottish Swim 5k. I figured I would treat it the same way I would treat a half marathon 3 weeks after an ultra: get in the pool once or twice to check the arms are OK, then reap the benefits of being accustomed to long distances. This was, I wholeheartedly admit, a bit of a mistake, but not the main reason my first open-water 5k turned into one of the biggest suffer-fests I’ve experienced. That, my friends, was all down to my arch-nemesis: the cold.

winterAlthough the actual event was prime nightmare material, the surrounding hours were actually quite pleasant. I was picked up by Roz at 10, and we swung by Aberdeen Sports Village to pick up Kevin, who was coaching at the track until 10:15. We enjoyed a myriad of classic tunes during the drive down (and back) courtesy of Kevin’s iphone and some freshly discovered 80’s and 90’s radio stations, and spirits were high as we neared Loch Lomond’s sunny shores.

Roz was swimming the 2 mile event, and we arrived dangerously close to her start time, so I was on hand as her personal changing assistant in the heated changing tent, dropping her off at her starting pen as the warm-up was ending. Kevin and I decided to head along the shore to get a decent view of the start, and about 20 minutes later failed spectacularly at spotting Roz amongst the thrashing arms, because everybody looks the same in a wetsuit and identical cap. Go figure.

After noticing how off-course some of the swimmers were veering thanks to the current, Kevin and I made a note to stick as close to the buoys as possible to avoid adding on any unnecessary distance to an already sizeable swim. As our wave was approaching, we heading to the changing tents and readied ourselves.

One thing I noticed when I was scanning the information booklet over breakfast was an ‘acclimatisation’ zone, which turned out to be the start, where all swimmers immersed themselves in the water to prepare themselves for the frosty conditions in the loch. Kevin did not hold back his laughter during my experience here, and I alternated between shivering and gasping for air as the cold water literally took my breath away. It was as though I had been transported back in time to the Arctic Enema from 2012’s Tough Mudder. It was fucking cold.

Back on dry land, I was so cold I didn’t even care how stupid I looked taking part in the warm-up, narrowly avoiding being taken out by someone wind-milling their arms in front of me. After the warm-up, a hush came over the wave as the male and female winner from the mile event earlier in the day wished us good luck, and counted us down, signalling for the shoal of swimmers to surge back towards the water.

To my surprise, it didn’t take too long to get over the shock from the cold – I guess acclimatization is effective – and I was soon able to get my head under the water and begin trying to dodge flailing arms and kicking legs (with limited success), quickly passing the Maid of the Loch. To my delight, visibility was much better than I was expecting! I could see swimmers up to about 6 feet away, which, in comparison to swimming in the Thames, is like being in a clean swimming pool. The water was a little choppy, but sticking to the buoys was easier than I was anticipating as well. Maybe this wasn’t going to be too bad after all.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

The 5k route consisted of three laps around the buoys farthest away, and the first lap felt like a walk in the park. The second lap started off well as I found someone who matched my speed, and drafting off them for the first half of the lap, but they soon slowed and I was forced to do all the work again.

By the time the third lap arrived, I couldn’t feel my hands. Upon closer inspection, I realized that my limited control meant that I couldn’t even squeeze my fingers together (kind of essential for an efficient stroke) no matter how hard I tried. I had swallowed quite a lot of loch water, and the water had become quite a bit choppier than it had been at the start. My guts started threatening to eject my lunch, my mind was starting to become a little fuzzy, and the buoys seemed to be taking a lot longer to reach. My internal monologue was far from PG.

Although it felt closer to hours, the final 30 minutes of the swim were revolting. I resorted to counting my strokes in sets of 100, alternating between counting in English, Spanish, and Italian to try and ‘keep it interesting’. I tried to ignore the debilitating cold and started overtaking quite a few people before – finally – the bright orange buoys directing swimmers to the finish were within reach. I swam under the floating gantry, and then veered left toward the shore, and the official finish line.

When the water was shallow enough, I staggered, drunk, towards land, watching a woman ahead of me assisted out of the water by one of the lifeguards. Where’s my goddamn assistance?! I thought to myself; however Roz later told me that I looked in good nick compared to some of the people she saw approach the end. I crossed the timing mats, threw my chip into a bucket, and was handed my goody bag before finding Roz, who helped me find my foil blanket and wrap it around myself.

“How unflattering would you like this photo?”

– Photographer.


“11/10!” – me.

great scottish swim 5k finishOnce we found Kevin, we compared results. Kevin smashed his sub 1:30 goal, I was disappointed with my 1:45 after a sub 1:40 pool 5k, and Roz’s timing chip is somewhere in Loch Lomond, so it was a mixed bag. We could all agree, however, that a Dundee McDonald’s stop on the way home was non-negotiable, and tucking into my quarter pounder with cheese tasted just as good as the last time I indulged in one – with Elaine after the Dundee marathon.

Although I’ll probably be back to try and pick up a faster result next year, I will happily go on record saying that I would prefer to swim 14k in one of the UK’s filthiest rivers than anywhere, no matter how clean, that requires the use of thermal gloves.

Henley Bridge to Bridge 14k 2015

Time: 4:31:37 [RESULTS]

Medal: Yes

IMG_20150810_192657Over the past few months I’ve had to face reality when it comes to my running – I am lucky if I can manage a 5k before my knee buckles, so with a heavy heart I have finally given up on the dream of running this year’s Berlin marathon.  It will be the last running event I’ll miss, as I sensibly stopped signing up for any more when, a few months in, this injury showed no signs of miraculously disappearing.  Perhaps less sensibly, I continued signing up for events.  If I can run a marathon, why not swim one?

I stumbled upon the Henley Bridge to Bridge swim several months ago, when the distance in time between myself and the event was substantial enough to not worry about the fact that a 14k swim is considered to be equivalent to an ultra in running.  Or that I had never done any open water swimming.  I had FOREVER to train for it.  It would all be fine.  I signed up, and promptly forgot about it.

2015 started with a 6k swim on January 1st.  I was going to dominate this event!

In April, I threw out my back, and swimming was agony.  I rested, and then rested some more.

In July, I realized I had logged basically no swim training worth mentioning for several months, and the Bridge to Bridge was a matter of weeks away.  I got back into the pool, and managed my quickest pool 5k to date: 1:34:43.  My goal when I first re-took up swimming last October was to clock a sub 1:40:00 5k, so I was pretty happy with that!

By the time I was packing for my flight to London, I had tried on my wetsuit once.  In my living room.  In February.  I was prepared.

I flew to London on Saturday morning, and met an old school friend, Lisa, for what turned into a bit of a boozy lunch.  I had on open single ticket to Henley, and we kept deciding I would take ‘the next train’.  I had enough to drink that Lisa said she recognized my ‘drunk smile’.  It was glorious, and I basically need to go back so we can go clubbing at an 80’s club and endure old person hangovers.

11825913_10153584534983383_2106415099134813047_nWith a cloudy mind and a full belly, I boarded the train to Henley, and arrived before 6 to check into my B&B.  Once I had made sure I had left nothing important behind, I wandered back into the centre of Henley for a filling Italian meal to soak up the beer and give me energy for the following morning.  I struggled to finish it, and then waddled back to my B&B, falling asleep pretty quickly.

The main event

I woke up at 5:45 on Sunday morning and had a banana, some lucozade, and a sandwich made by my lovely B&B landlady.  At 6:15 I headed on foot to the Leander Club, and arrived with plenty of time to register, collecting my swim cap and timing chip, and buying one of the event hoodies (even though I didn’t want to jynx my chances by buying one before completing the event, I was afraid they would run out of stock – which they did).  I chatted to a few of the other swimmers on the grass and enjoyed the morning sunshine for a while before heading to the female changing tent to put my wetsuit on.

Source @HenleySwim

Source @HenleySwim

At about 7:45, the green wave (the slowest wave) had their safety briefing.  We split into 3 pods depending on the average speed you planned to maintain.  I joined the quickest of the slow wave, figuring I could always drop down to the slower pod at the 4k stop if I was pushing too hard.  We were told the water temperature was 18.1 degrees Celcius, and that the water quality was the best they had ever recorded.

Source: awoladventure.com

There’s me in the middle! Source: awoladventure.com

After the introduction to our pod leaders, we were instructed to get into the water.  Despite the water temperature being relatively high, it was still cold enough to take my breath away for a couple of minutes as I adjusted.  I put on my goggles and awkwardly flapped towards our pod’s starting point. After a quick good luck, arms started windmilling, and we were off!

Source: awoladventure.com

Source: awoladventure.com

It was my first time swimming outside of a pool, and visibility in the murky water was about a metre.  It turns out that I can’t swim in a straight line when I can’t see where I’m going.  After being kicked a few times, and running into a few people, I found that my best strategy was to swim on the hip of someone about half a metre away (on my left, because I’m blind in one eye and it’s the side I can see easily).  That way I didn’t have to bother with sighting, and as long as I kept them in sight, I trusted I was going in the right direction.  This was to prove mildly disastrous later on, but we’ll get to that…

IMG_20150810_224041At 4k our pod reached Hambledon Lock.  Our target pace should have seen us reach this point at 1:20, but as I was taking in some banana and water from the feed station one of the guys wearing a watch let me know only 1:08 had passed since the start.  No wonder I was feeling like I was working!  I decided to stick with the same pod for the next section though, as it was only 3k, and after a few minutes rest we were being ushered back into the Thames.

The second leg seemed just as quick as the first, and I tried drafting off people’s feet, using the bubbles as a guide, but kept swimming off in the wrong direction, so went back to swimming at someone’s hip, keeping them in sight.  With very little to see apart from my arms and occasionally bits of leaves/plant life floating by, you were pretty much stuck with your own thoughts.  You didn’t even have the benefit of chatting/music like you do in running, just the muffled splash of your own limbs crashing through the water, and occasionally the hiss of a boat engine in the distance.  I sang a few songs in my head, and figured I should aim to sing 10 songs, all the way through, and I’d be at the halfway point.  I ended up with “Saturday Night” by Whigfield on a loop.  For half an hour.  It wasn’t great.

Source: henleyswim.com

Source: henleyswim.com

Finally, the giant orange buoy signaling the swimmers’ exit at Medmenham appeared in view, and I was glad for the rest and the clean water.  By this point I’d managed to take in a few mouthfuls of the Thames, to my dismay.  The rest was short-lived, however, as we were soon back in the water for the next 3k stretch.

After a few minutes I started to notice fatigue in my shoulders, and had a minor panic that I was only halfway and struggling.  I swam alongside one of my pod members, however my tactic of using them as a guide failed spectacularly when I failed to notice them come to an abrupt halt, and also failed to hear them shout out a warning as I continued on, straight into a tree.  In fairness, it was more of a stump with branches growing out of it, but it was definitely out of place in the middle of a river.  I’d managed to whack my right hip bone quick forcefully off a protruding branch, and the pain of that helped to distract me from the pain in my shoulders for the next ten minutes.  Just when I was really starting to struggle, I saw the orange buoy ahead (I’d started doing a bit more of my own sighting by this point!) and rejoiced.  The current must have picked up a bit in this section, because we had made it to Hurley Lock in very good time.

Thankfully the final two section are only about 2k each, so by this point we felt like we were on the home stretch.  The swim from Hurley Lock to Temple lock was much better, and I felt a lot stronger, swimming at the front of the pod for a change, instead of struggling to keep up.  I was in my comfort zone as we swam alongside moored boats, catching glimpses of family members and friends of swimmers walking along the river in support when I turned to breath.  I was actually sad to have to come out at Temple Lock as I had finally found my rhythm, but a drink and a handful of crisps was very welcome.

With renewed enthusiasm, the pod set off towards Marlow on our final stretch.  We kept a steady pace as a pod, but then more and more people drifted behind, so I just decided to continue on my own for the final kilometre at a comfortable pace with a couple of guys from the pod.  Soon, on the horizon, we could see a crowd along the river bank which could only mean that the second bridge was just around the bend.

A view of the finish from where some of the spectators were standing

A view of the finish from where some of the spectators were standing

Finally, I spotted the bridge, and smiled underwater, not even caring that I was exposing my teeth to swan poop, motor oil from boats, and whatever else the Thames had to throw at me.  I was nearly finished!  I probably sped up a bit near and for the first time could hear cheering from the crowds on the bridge.  I swam underneath it, climbed up the ladder on the bank, and crossed the timing mat.  My first open water swim, my first swim in my wetsuit, and I couldn’t have chosen a better event for it!

The aftermath

As soon as I handed back the timing chip, I headed for the hot drink section and grabbed a small hot chocolate (but ended up spilling about half of it over myself).  I chatted with some of my fellow pod members, and then picked up my bag and headed for the showers.  I’m glad I didn’t hang around, as the showers became pretty packed once I had finished.

Swimmers coming into the finish

Swimmers coming into the finish

Clean and in dry clothes, I gathered my stuff and headed across the bridge to collect my medal, grab an ice-cream, and spend 20 minutes spectating in the sunshine.  Once I’d had enough, I ambled towards the shuttle bus to Henley and grabbed a seat next to one of the guys I had been swimming with.  We chatted about running, swimming, and cycling for the journey, and he gave me a lift to the centre of Henley so I could grab a celebratory pint, but I didn’t catch his name.  I stumbled upon Henley’s oldest building, handily also a pub, and settled in for a cold one.

IMG_20150810_192727I used the free wifi to ensure everyone I had not drowned, and felt pretty content after one drink, so I headed back out into the sunshine for a leisurely walk back to the B&B, via a couple of local shops.

As soon as I was back in my room, I hung my wetsuit up to dry and assumed the familiar post-event position, spending the next two hours alternating between napping and finishing my holiday read:

IMG_20150809_151732Eventually my stomach was making threatening sounds, so I managed to haul myself back into Henley for a cheeseburger and a beer at around 6pm.  By about 7pm, I was experiencing some deja vu:

Book: complete.

Book: complete.

I bet you guys are dying to know what I did next.  I’ll give you three guesses…

IMG_20150809_195343Apart from the very vivid realization that my shoulder muscles had done a hard shift every time I lifted the remote, I felt surprisingly alright after my first swim ‘marathon’.  It was a fantastic event, and now that the memory of the 7-10k section is fading, I’m even considering entering it again next year.

I think it has also been adequate training for my 5k open water swim at the end of the month.

Stonehaven Midsummer Beer Happening Inaugural Sportive

Time: 6:33:56 [Results]

Medal: No, but all finishers received free entry to the beer festival, a commemorative glass, one beer token, a t-shirt, and a goody bag.

The sun even came out at the end!

The sun even came out at the end!

About a month ago, an event popped up on Facebook that piqued my interest, but I soon forgot about it because I didn’t want to enter another event that I wouldn’t make.  I have DNS’s every single race I was entered in for in 2015 so far, and apart from the colossal waste of money, it feels like you’re missing out on something even more if you’d actually planned to take part.  I’ve stopped scrolling through pages of event listings late at night because there’s just no point.  I’ve basically become normal.


Last week, somebody posted a link to the entry page, and a group of girls I know from Fleet Feet were talking about entering and riding as a group.  The event?  A 72 mile cycle sportive starting and ending in Stonehaven, taking in the ominous Cairn o’Mount – twice.

midsummer beer happening routeBefore anything had been confirmed, I thought I’d get the ball rolling and signed up.  Having never tackled Cairn o’Mount before, I thought what better way to do so than doing it twice in a row?  Unfortunately, it soon became clear that everyone who had been talking about it was busy, so I bullied coerced Claudia into signing up, as she’s training for Ride the North and I thought it would appeal to her.  Also, she’s one of the few people crazy enough to sign up to a 72 mile sportive on a whim.

Fast forward to Saturday morning, and it was clear from the deadpan greeting, the heavy sighs, and cold, hateful glares that Claudia was ecstatic that I had convinced her this was a good idea.  This and the heavy rain lashing down around us as we secured the bikes to the rack on the back of her car couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  I wasn’t going to DNS today!!

We arrived in Stonehaven just after 9, and registered amongst very professional looking male cyclists in club gear with tan lines that told of tough days out on the bikes.  And then we saw Phil Mann, armed with whiskey miniatures, and knew that all was right in the world again.  He asked us if we’d ridden over Cairn o’Mount many times before, and we both said ‘Never’.  He just laughed at us, because he understands our kind.  This is a man who ran Amsterdam marathon last year, stopping for a pint every 10k or so.  He finished drunk.

Just before 10, we met at the start point.  Phil had some whiskey.  Claudia accepted some whiskey.  I declined the whiskey because I do not share drinking receptacles, and whiskey tastes about as good as nail polish remover smells like it would taste. I was comforted when the marshal confirmed that the sweep vehicle was not of the ‘pull-slow-riders-off-the-course’ variety, but more the ‘we-are-here-if-things-go-badly-wrong’ type.

There was a low-key countdown before our wave set off.  And up.  I think now is a relatively good time to include the elevation profile:

midsummer beer sportive elevationClaudia and I got off to a steady start, but I was already in my lowest gear leaving Stonehaven, which did not bode well.  Curse you, compact chainset!  Cresting the top of the first hill was delightful, as was the subsequent downhill section.  The second hill was fine as well, as I’ve cycled it several times before and knew what to expect.  It’s a steady, but not steep, climb to the stone circle at the top, and then a smooth descent past Knockburn Loch.  After this, however, it was into the unknown.

The roads were undulating for a while here and soon we were upon the Glen Dye AA box, where Claudia and I decided we should have a quick stop to eat something.  I had half a chia charge bar, a swig of my water, and was set to go.  It was about this time some of the faster wave riders had started to overtake us, with sickening ease.  Before long, Claudia and I were paddling in their wake.

Shortly after reaching the snow gates, Claudia told me to go on ahead as she was having issues with her gears.  I told her I would meet her at the top.  And so it began – the long, arduous task of climbing Cairn o’Mount.  There were two or three fairly steep sections requiring some out-of-the-saddle action, but overall, it was just a steady slog uphill, and I reached the summit without having to push my bike.

As it was windy and cold, and I couldn’t see Claudia on the road below anywhere, I decided to press on to the aid station and wait for her there.  The downhill section was a mixture of excitement and butt-clenching terror, reaching a top speed of 42.9mph despite liberal brake application throughout.  At one point, I squeezed on the brakes to no apparent effect, but the slop was vertical at this point, so I’m not really surprised.  Despite my life being in grave danger at this point, all I could think was Holy shit, I’m going to have to cycle back up this thing soon.

Thankfully, I survived to the bottom, only to be met by a very sharp left hand turn, and a very steep (12% I think) short hill to wake the legs up after their brief vacation.  The road continued to undulate as I looked expectantly for the aid station.  After about 10 miles, a white tent came into view.  It was surrounded by lycra-clad men and road bikes lying in the grass.  I texted Claudia to ask how she was getting on and let her know where I was, then gave myself about ten minutes to have the other half of my chia charge bar and half a banana, as well as re-fill one of my water bottles and chuck in an electrolyte tab.  There was a restaurant with facilities to use, but with no sign from Claudia, I opted to just get on with it.  I had one last big stretch, and hopped onto the bike for round 2.

From the base of Cairn o’Mount we took a circular route via Auchenblae, and the section after the refreshment stop was much flatter in the approach to the base of the climb.  It was a gentle way to re-heat the legs in preparation for the task ahead.  And then it was upon me.

From the start you are met with some fairly steep inclines, and my butt was out of the seat from the word go.  I was struggling so much I had to dismount and start walking for the few seconds it took me to realize I wasn’t actually in my lowest gear.  Dumbass.  I saddled up, clipped in, and set off again, at a crushing speed of about 4mph.  This was definitely the steeper side and even the riders in club gear looked like they were cycling through molasses.

The only saving grace was the fact that you could see the parking section near the summit, so you had a visual idea of how much farther you had to go.  There was also someone paragliding, which provided approximately 3 seconds worth of distraction from the heavy legwork.


I’m not even ashamed to admit that just before I reached the Parking area near the top I was in danger of going so slowly I would topple over, so I dismounted again and pushed the final steep section.  Thankfully, I was not alone.  At the top, I decided to take a quick photo since there was no wind, and it was actually kind of warm.


The view!

The view!

I also noticed that Claudia had replied with: On my way to Stonehaven.  I interpreted this as: I have passed the refreshment area and am on the return leg.  I gave an enthusiastic reply, and said I’d see her at the finish.  And then I enjoyed the lovely, lovely downhill section of the not-so-steep side of Cairn o’Mount.  Bliss.

The section up until Knockburn Loch is a bit of a blur, and for a moment I thought I had zoned out and missed a turn-off as I hadn’t seen any riders in ages.  But then I saw a poppy that I had noticed on the outward journey, and knew I was on track.  I stopped for a photo, and a few riders went by, so I felt a bit better.

IMG_20150620_212646The penultimate hill felt tougher than it should have.  By this point I had cycled 50+ miles, and my shoulders were starting to ache (of all things).  The penultimate descent was bittersweet; I was grateful for a bit of a rest, but also fully aware that I had the Slug road left to conquer before I could really relax.

Sure enough, the Slug road was a lot tougher than when I’ve cycled it with relatively fresh legs, and at one point I pulled over to check the map on my phone to see just how much farther I had before I reached the finish (about 7 miles, apparently).  It was at this point I noticed a message from Claudia: I’m at Stonehaven.  This wasn’t a good sign.  I let her know I was about to hit the last downhill section on the Slug road, and that I’d see her soon.

FINALLY, I hit the top, and the view of the sea in the distance meant one thing: it was all downhill from here!  I was in my heaviest gear, desperate to get to Stonehaven and enjoy a cold adult beverage.  The war memorial came into view.  I’m not even lying, I shed a tear, I was so happy.  ‘Welcome to Stonehaven’ flashed by on the left, I was in town, there were houses around me, there was the festival, nearly at the finish!  Two left hand turns to go!  One!  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, done!

I stayed on my bike and cycled right to the entrance of the beer tent, floating by people queuing to get in.  I ditched my bike, handed in my number, got my glass, and – perhaps most importantly – my beer token, and headed straight for the bar.

There was a colossal range of beer on offer, and I know zero about craft beer other than I generally don’t like it.  It was busy, and one of the guys at the bar started chatting to me while we were waiting.  He asked how far I had cycled, how long it had taken me, and seemed genuinely impressed.  I told him I had just finished and was keen to spend my free beer token on a well earned, and much anticipated drink.  And then, when one of the bartenders came over to us, that son-of-a-bitch ordered himself a drink.  When a bartender finally got round to me, all I could respond with was, “I don’t care, something refreshing and cold,” when asked what I wanted.  Whatever she picked, it was a fabulous choice.  I think it was something fruity, it was definitely cold, and it was very crisp.

I found Claudia, limping, and found out that during a gear change, her chain came off and she had taken a tumble.  She was covered in bruises, swelling, and disappointment.  She told me how she had made it to the aid station, and then opted to bypass Cairn o’Mount a second time, and take a shorter, flatter route back to Stonehaven, eventually getting picked up by one of the marshals and taken to the finish with a couple of others.  She did say that there were a few people who opted to skip Cairn o’Mount for a second time by taking the more direct route back.  Having passed the sign saying ‘Stonehaven – 12′, I’ll admit I understand the temptation!

It’s now the morning after, and, to my surprise, my legs feel fine.  My shoulders and triceps are a bit stiff, and I’m working on some bitchin’ tan lines, but other than that, it looks like, despite no endurance running for months, I can still hack 6+ hours on the go without paying for it the next day, which is encouraging.

IMG_20150620_225753I might just casually peruse some event listings tonight…

Still no running, but dressing fabulously.

I can’t believe how much time has gone by since I last updated here.  I guess it feels kind of pointless to try and update a running blog regularly when you’re not running.  I’ve just accepted that whatever is wrong with my knee just needs time to heal, and there’s no point dwelling on all of the races I was desperate to run signed up for.  However, this is much easier said than done when places like Facebook are inundated with photos of friends proudly sharing their summer race photos.  I feel happy for them, but also kind of want them to break both legs.

Me. Basically every weekend.

The antidote to my venomous, jealousy-fueled rage continues to be keeping busy and throwing myself into new things.  I tried to style my hair differently for a week with varying degrees of success.  I considered getting another tattoo.  I thought about walking into a piercing studio and shouting out, “IMPALE ME!” just to see what I ended up with.  I bought red hair dye.  I looked at prices for flights to Thailand.  Basically, I’m going through a (very early) mid-life crisis.

In an attempt to hold off revisiting the rainbow hair and facial piercings of my teenage years I have continued on my fitness instructor journey and recently passed my Exercise to Music course.  I am now totally qualified to teach aerobics classes to music, and circuit classes using limited equipment.  The ETM course is also a pre-requisite for undertaking training for a variety of other classes (including all Les Mills classes) which is great, because despite what my face (and outfit) might indicate in this photo (taken today, during my assessment), aerobics is not really my thing:

11430280_842607895807792_1649805549_n(1)In order to maintain authenticity during my routine, I had created a fabulous workout mix featuring Eurythmics, Duran Duran, Vanilla Ice, and this precious gem of a human being:

Despite today’s success and celebration, it has also been a sobering day.  17 years ago, an old friend, Jennifer, fell to her death from the roof of her boarding school.  She was celebrating her 14th birthday.  If she were alive today, she would be celebrating her 31st birthday.  Every year I see her brother and some old friends share a photo or a little comment to remember her, and every year it reminds me to be grateful for what I have, and to value the friendships I have with others.

Despite becoming a bit of a hermit with my running friends, I’m trying to be a bit more social, and positive, because even though I’d rather be running with them, avoiding them isn’t going to make me any happier.



Numbers can be great motivators for runners. Tallying up weekly, monthly, and annual mileage is a great way to encourage people out of the front door. Looking at your average pace drop over the course of a training cycle helps push you through the hard workouts, knowing the effort will be worthwhile. But numbers can also be a burden. How many of you have gone for a run, only to end up back at your front door having covered something like 9.63 miles? And how many of you have then decided to jog around the block a couple of times, or up and down your street until your Garmin beeped for mile 10, even if it means passing the same person doing their gardening 12 times? We’ve all been there.

If I told you that I got to 6.12 miles on the treadmill 2 weeks ago and had to stop, that should give you an idea of just how quickly my knee pain can come on, and just how impossible it is to run through. And maybe also just how frustrated I am.

Not even THIS would help.

Not even THIS would help.

If I’m being honest with myself, I should have stopped at 5.5 miles. That’s when the creeping pain started to tighten its claws on my outer knee, and when I would have faced minor repercussions had I not been desperate to hit 10k. But I didn’t, and I was in a significant amount of pain for about a week afterward.  So what am I doing wrong?

1.) Pushing too hard, too soon.

Mentally, I’m used to running casual 20 mile runs. I am still somehow of the opinion that any run in single figures is like a side dish; a nice snack, but only satisfying when accompanied by something else (spin class, weights, hiking). I need to get out of that mind-set, and remember that I have spent 7 months doing practically no running. Although I did well to build up slowly from February to April, I should have stuck to a set distance for 2 or 3 weeks before impatiently trying to ramp it up. I should have also kept up with 1 or 2 shorter runs throughout the week, instead of viewing my ‘long run’ as the only one worthy of completing. My idea of ‘building up slowly’ is apparently not my knee’s idea of ‘building up slowly’. But hey, communication is frosty between us at the moment. We’re working on it.

2.) Doing my physio exercises less frequently once I could smell progress.

Which is probably exactly when my body was most in need of said physio exercises. I need to stop seeing these things as merely ‘curative’, but appreciate the importance of them being ‘preventative’. I have made a pact to myself to keep up my physio routine at least 3 times a week for the foreseeable future, and at least twice a week once (and if) I get back to running properly.

3.) Putting so much pressure on myself to GET BACK TO RUNNING NOW!

When you’re someone who plans vacations around running events, it is impossible to forward plan when you don’t know if there’s any point in even paying for flights to an event you might not be able to complete, let alone attempt. I’m not a ‘let’s sit on the beach all day’ kind of girl. And while I appreciate a bit of culture and history, I would be thrilled if all of my holidays could revolve around physical activity. The grim reality is, I might not have any running vacations this year. Or next. So how do I find a way of enjoying my down-time without wallowing in self-pity? The same way I dealt with quitting smoking. By replacing it with something else.

So what have I been filling my time with? Well, mainly trying to develop other areas of my life that long runs and races have forced me to sideline in the past. I’ve been a lot more structured (and varied) with my workouts, and have focused more on tweaking my diet so that it reflects the lack of calorie-busting runs during the weekends, but also works towards nourishing my body more, and aiding muscle recovery since stepping up my weights/kettlebells/spin sessions.

For some reason, cycling doesn’t aggravate my ITB, so there has been a lot of that. So much so, in fact, that I recently qualified as a spin instructor (and taught my first class last Friday!), and by mid-June should also be qualified to teach exercise classes to music.

Freshly qualified! ...And quite sweaty.

Freshly qualified! …And quite sweaty.

Despite the fact that a bit of extra money for covering classes would always be welcome, the main reason the fitness qualifications are starting to snowball is that they will all help me work towards my goal of eventually qualifying as a PE teacher. I’ve even volunteered to help for a couple of hours a week in the department at school, and so far – fingers crossed – the timetable looks like it’ll work out.

So instead of letting numbers make me feel like I am being held back by my injury, how about continuing to let them motivate me.

  • 135 days worth of teaching PE before I can officially register as a teacher in another subject.
  • Back up to squatting 25kg in Body Pump (after starting at 5kg after my injury)
  • 40 REPs (Register of Exercise Professional) points gained by then end of next month (if I pass all of my assessments)
  • Back to being able to hold a plank for 4 minutes
  • 7 weeks until the summer holidays, and (hopefully) a cycle tour of Northern Italy!