A step in the right direction.

My birthday was the day before Valentine’s Day, and, embarrassingly, Ian sent me flowers at work. My colleagues bought me a chocolate rose and a fabulous feathery pen, and I also got some fancy cosmetics, so on top of the luxury box of chocolates I was stuffing into my mouth during the school day (that I bought for myself), it looked like I had a seriously dedicated admirer.

IMG_20150228_220615Tellingly, I got a lot of swimming related stuff for my birthday. From Ian, I got a wetsuit token, and I’ve already picked out the one I want. From my friend Claudia, who I regularly bully into swimming (along with her husband), I got a very colourful, but slightly skimpy, new swimsuit.   From myself (I treat myself often), I got a new swim cap. So yeah, swimming is going well, and I keep getting booted into the faster lane at triathlon club, which is a definite boost for my ego. I might even be starting to actually enjoy swimming, and even though that’s shameful for a runner, I don’t care.

IMG_20150213_193549You might think that all the swim love means bad news for my running recovery. Well, not entirely. I’ve been busy with a lot of stretching and specific exercises to strengthen the glutes/hamstrings for the past couple of months, as well as continuing with acupuncture treatments.  In the last post I mentioned that my physio wanted to do some acupuncture with an electrical current running through the needles.  Well, I managed to get through a few sessions with sweatier palms than a priest in a primary school, and while I don’t buy into the kind of hippy vibe of that kind of treatment, I’m willing to believe that aggravating the area can promote healing.  Also, I’m desperate.

Not shown: 4 inch needles in my butt cheek.

Not shown: 4 inch needles in my butt cheek.

I’ve also been doing one short run per week. My ‘recovery’ has involved only a treadmill, and has looked a little bit like this:

  • Week 1: Warm up, 10 min run, 5 min on the elliptical machine, 5 min run.
  • Week 2: WU, 20 min run, 5 min elliptical, 10 min run.
  • Week 3: WU, 30 min run, 5 min elliptical, 10 min run.
  • Week 4 (this week): WU, 40 min run, 10 min elliptical, 10 min run.

Basically, as per the physio’s instructions, I’ve been cutting the run into two sections to give me knee an easier ride. So far, I’ve managed without any real pain, but this week’s run left me with an ache in my knee for about an hour after I got home from the gym. I think I’ll stick with 40/10 for another couple of weeks to see if I can build up to a completely pain free experience. Slow and steady seems to be the sensible but boring, and at times frustrating, way to go. It’s also miles better than setting myself back to where I was a few months ago.

I think it’s probably a bit premature to call this a running comeback, but I’m a lot more positive about the fall season, primarily Berlin marathon. Although I haven’t booked flights or even looked at accommodation yet, I’m starting to consider the fact that I might have to get organized in a month or two if I keep making baby steps in the right direction.

One step at a time.

Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta…

Let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room, shall we?  I’m still not running.  Yes, I am annoyed about this, but after collecting all the toys I had hurled aggressively out of the pram, I have gained a little perspective.  A little.

No, I can’t run, but I should be able to at some point in the future.  I had an x-ray on my knee which came back as “satisfactory”, which I take is doctor speak for “don’t waste my time.”  I’ll admit to being more than mildly relieved, as during the wait for my x-ray results I had consulted Dr. Google and self-diagnosed myself with arthritis and a brain tumour.  I was told, however, that an x-ray would be unlikely to pick up smaller issues, which is why I have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon next week.  Hopefully he will refer me for an MRI, which WILL pick up anything that might be wrong.

Meanwhile, I have tried out a new physio (I think this is number 4).  For the first time in my life I agreed to have acupuncture, because at this point I’d throw money at a voodoo witch doctor if there was a chance it would help my knee heal faster.  For someone terrified of needles (last time I had to have blood drawn, I was physically restrained in the chair), it wasn’t too bad.  The needles are tiny, and apart from one trigger point that sent spasms down my leg and made my foot numb for a few minutes, it was pretty painless.  Next time (next Thursday) she wants to do the same thing, but attach electrodes to the needles.

I’ve been given a ton of stretches to focus on, told to apply heat liberally, and keep up with the massage/foam rolling.  Roger that.

I’ve also been keeping up with cross-training, which means aerobics classes, core fitness classes, and spin classes, with a side of weights.  When I do get back to running I’m hoping that at least my cardio fitness will still exist, because every spin class I do, no joke, I would suck a wet fart out of someone’s asshole if it meant I could get oxygen to my legs any quicker.  Nearing puke-point is pretty much a guarantee.

The other thing I’ve been getting a little serious about is swimming.  I even went along to a triathlete swim session last week, and was told I would be bumped into the fast lane the next week.  Well, ‘next week’ was tonight, and after the session I was told to come to the later session next time, which is the ‘fast people’ session.  Excuse me while I strut triumphantly to my locker.

I knew being on a swim team when I was a kid would pay off some day!

I’ve even signed up for a 5k open water swim, and then, because why not, I signed up for the Henley Bridge to Bridge 14k swim in August.  If I can’t run ultras, I’ll swim them.

Still, I miss that runner’s high.

New Year, Fresh Start?

So I guess one or two of you might be wondering how my 20 minute ‘test’ run went.  I’ll just leave this here, and maybe you can work it out for yourselves.

Don't let the cheerful colours fool you.

Don’t let the cheerful colours fool you.

This time last year I had already banked a marathon for my annual mileage.  New Year’s Day, 2015, I spent a solid 2 hours in the pool, hitting my maximum swim distance ever – 6km.  I swam for so long the bridge of my nose was bleeding from where my goggles rub, and I didn’t even notice until I discovered the crusted blood a couple of hours later.  I’m sure I looked totally normal buying ice in the store after the gym, bleeding from my face…

Back to the physio’s drawing board, I guess.  And binge-watching Benedict Cumberbatch (what a fun name to type) in ‘Sherlock’.

Happy New Year.

A slither of hope.

I guess it has been a while, huh?  Don’t worry, I haven’t been secretly running marathons or anything.  Especially not in Pisa.

I did, after convincing two friends to enter with me months ago, accompany my running pals to Italy.  Unfortunately, because of my work, our travel plans included a night at Gatwick Airport, where I experienced the luxury of a Yotel! pod for the second time.


After almost missing our flight the next morning (I guess it’s important not to confuse ‘Gate Opens’ and ‘Gate Closes’), we made it to our hotel in Pisa with plenty of time to register – or in my case drop out of – our respective races before a spot of sight-seeing, and an early dinner.  There was this tower that everyone was raving about, so I took a photo in front of it.

IMG_20141220_165957Ronnie dropped to the half after a few months of less-than-stellar training, but had a strong race, and Naomi cruised to the finish of her 10th marathon, with my company for the final 200 meters.  The official race photographers managed to capture our magical moment together:

Naomi and my elbow on her left.

Naomi and my elbow on her left.

During the marathon, I walked to the Piscina Comunale where I bashed out a 5k swim amongst be-Speedo’ed Italians.  It all went fairly smoothly until I accidentally walked into the male shower room after my swim.  The three showering men didn’t even flinch.  They just sort of casually looked up, stared at me for a moment, and then one of them motioned with his hand the directions to the female shower area.  Thanks, man.

After my swim, I decided to dump off my kit at the hotel and read some of my book (‘The Book Thief’, for those interested), hoping to avoid all of the marathon excitement.  How did that work out for me?  I’ll give you one guess.

The day after the  marathon, Ronnie, his girlfriend, Rebecca, and myself left Naomi to make her way back home solo, whilst we headed North by train, through Florence, to Venice.

Evidently, trains are fun.

Evidently, trains are fun.

In Venice, I bought a regional ticket for sometime after 3pm, and the three of us had lunch before I got on yet another train North to Udine, where I would be picked up and driven to San Daniele to visit my great aunt, Rina.  Rina knows what I like, and I arrived to chilled Moretti beer, pizza with San Daniele ham, and gelato.  Best meal in the world, hands down.

Rina e Raquelle

Rina e Raquelle

The following morning, after a 74-course lunch (hyperbole, perhaps), I caught a train back to Venice, where I spent a couple of hours blowing the rest of my holiday money on food, beer, and Murano glass before having dinner with Ronnie and Rebecca.  I tempted them to a Jazz bar near our restaurant for a few Aperol Spritz refreshments, but Ronnie wasn’t keen on them, so we left after about an hour, and eventually found our way back to our hotel.

Christmas Eve arrived, and I was sad to leave my miniature paradise, but keen to get all of my Italian meat (and cheese, and panettone, and booze- don’t judge) back home and into the fridge.

Goodbye Venetian bed.

Goodbye Venetian bed.

I made it back to my flat at around 8pm on Christmas Eve, and Ian had dutifully acquired all the food we would need for our Christmas fajitas.  It was nice to have a lie-in on Christmas day before doing some weights and waking up Ian to open our presents, which were nestled underneath the ‘tree’ I had created when I woke up.

IMG_20141225_202409In case anyone cares, my gifts included: a waterproof mp3 player for long distance swims, a vacuum cleaner (which I am in love with), a Glenmore 24 hoodie (which, fair enough, I bought for myself, but months ago, so it totally felt like a present), and a voucher for a massage.  The massage voucher is the only thing that is, thus far, unused.  I did also take part in a Secret Santa on a running forum, and received an intensive moisturizing hair masque, which does indeed leave my hair silky smooth.

IMG_20141225_122813(1)The fact that I got so many swimming related things is perhaps telling of my running situation.  Since the ill-fated 1.3 mile run mid-November, I vowed to take the rest of the year off to, hopefully, allow whatever is wrong with my knee to heal.  I had an x-ray a couple of weeks ago, but results aren’t back yet thanks to the festive period backlog.

Other than that, I had another appointment with the physio today, and I have been given the green light to try running again!  Strict instructions are to try a 20 minute run, twice a week, with a couple of days of no running in between attempts.  I intend to test drive the knee tomorrow.  Despite being the only time in my running history (apart from the year I had surgery) I haven’t hit 1,000 miles, here’s hoping 2014 can actually end on a running high!

And here’s a bonus shot of my mom, dad, brother, and niece.

IMG950341Here’s to an injury-free 2015 for everyone!

Swimming Woes

It has only been 9 weeks since my knee starting having its little hissy fit, but already I feel as though I could write a book about things that irritate me about swimming. Perhaps part of the rage is because I managed a paltry 1.3 mile run today before I had to throw in the towel. Instead of rattling off a million pool-related quibbles, however, I’ll settle for venting about only 3.

1. Wave goodbye to nice hair.

Appreciating the softness of natural hair is still kind of novel to me. From my early teens I would bleach, colour, re-bleach, re-colour, and generally abuse my hair to the point that it was entirely normal to expect it to break off sporadically in chunks. Then I settled for black, and rode the goth train for a good half decade, eventually reaching the point where I no longer wanted to be a fat, chain-smoking, heavy-drinking, sleep-deprived mess. One of the things I stopped doing is dying my hair, which entailed a year of horrendous regrowth; a stage during which not many photographs survived, thankfully, and those that still exist were taken in badly lit gay bars in London:

Half 'n' half hair, which you can maybe just make out.

Half ‘n’ half hair, which you can maybe just make out.

After a solid year of mainly tying my hair back and ignoring how terrible it looked (thanks, friends, for not telling me about colour-stripping products), I ended up with soft, golden tresses. Sometimes, still, I’ll play with my hair and marvel how little like straw it feels.

At least I did, until I started swimming.

It took me less than a week to realize I NEEDED to buy a cap, and I now wet my hair under the shower before putting in on and hitting the pool (I don’t know why, but I always did this when I was on a swim team, and do it without thinking – there might be a reason, there might not). I have even had to go back to using conditioner, which I haven’t bothered using since my hair grew out, because it made it too oily. And still – my hair smells chloriney (after double washing), all day, and feels course and brittle. Fabulous.

2. Some people obviously do not understand what ‘Fast Lane’ means.

Before I sound like a complete dick, I am not saying I belong in the fast lane in every pool.  I don’t.  But the pool I usually use?  The 20m pool that has retired men and women using underwater weights or walking lengths?  I belong in the fast lane of that pool.

What doesn’t belong in the fast lane of that pool?  Pretty much 90% of the people I see using it, which means the people that should be using it are pushed into the slower lane, or the ‘Gen-Pop’ section, where they inevitably become tangled in someone else’s legs/get squished to the wall/give up and relax in the steam room.

The other week there was a guy who got into the fast line and started crab walking from side to side.  Crab walking.  Allow me to illustrate via crappy Paint drawing:

PoolstorybroThis is simply not fast lane appropriate.  Neither is not using tumble turns if you’re swimming crawl.  Neither is adjusting your string bikini whilst chatting to your friend in the jacuzzi.

3. Lane etiquette is not always adhered to.

Thankfully, The pool is rarely filled to capacity, and there are usually only 2 people per lane, during which time there is an unspoken rule that you take half a lane each and stay out of each other’s way.  Perfect.  Apart from when some lady decides to indulge in the most bizarre interpretation of breaststroke I have ever witnessed.  I need to employ my bitchin’ Paint skills once more to fully illustrate the leg position.  What even is this??

crazy breaststroke ladyYou do not need to have had swimming lessons to know that this is not correct.  I was kicked several times during my session with the frog lady, and thankfully a space in the actual fast lane became available during my last kilometer, so I was able to avoid a minor concussion.

On the one occasion I have made it to the Aquatics Centre for a swim it was much busier.  Generally people stuck to an appropriate lane (slow, medium, or fast), and I jumped into a medium lane to crack out 45 minutes or so.  I could see the swimmers in the fast lane next to me would clearly be on my feet the whole time if I switched lanes, but I was still overtaking someone in my lane every 2 lengths or so, which was mildly frustrating, but alright since there was generally enough room.  Then, when I was about 2 seconds from the wall, a guy who had been resting at the wall for the past couple of minutes chose to push off right in front of me and break into a freaking breaststroke.  It’s a good thing people can’t hear my swearing underwater, because I was not impressed.  It was like a tractor pulling out in front of a normal car on a single lane road when they could have waited for one more moment and THEN taken off.

Swimming road rage is definitely a thing.

Injured runners forced to the pool – what is your beef with swimming?


If you’re expecting to read about a dramatic comeback with tales of my recent running adventures, prepare to be disappointed. But not as disappointed as I am.

My right knee shows few signs of progress despite my previous belief that throwing all of my money at professionals would solve all of my problems. Although it is still believed to be ITB syndrome, it’s taking its sweet time to get any better. So what have I been doing?

Swimming. Basically a whole lot of swimming. I have (so far) had to pull out of Loch Ness and Amsterdam marathon, as well as the Glen Ogle ultramarathon, and I can say with some conviction I will not be running in Pisa in a month’s time. In a lackluster attempt to make swimming less boring/give myself something to aim for, I signed up for the Aspire Channel Swim (I know, shameless, right?), with a goal of ‘swimming the channel’ – covering 22 miles in a swimming pool – by the end of November. Yes, you get a medal for completing the challenge, and yes that is 80% responsible for getting me to sign up. Having started late, I’m at 34 miles and counting. Fun fact: swimming lengths in a 20 meter pool is B-O-R-I-N-G.

I did manage to swim my first 5k this week, though, in 1:44:00, which ain’t too shabby, I guess, since I was just chugging along after work. If my knee ever sorts itself out and I can compete in the Ironman next July, my training for the 3.8k swim is well ahead of schedule.

What’s not ahead of schedule? Everything else in my life. Running has involved a pain-free 5k, an OK 2.5 mile jog in the rain, and then a 3.5 mile run with Ian that ended in my knee feeling like it was going to snap in two. This was over the course of 2 entire weeks, so clearly, no giant leaps and bounds. By setting off my knee again, cycling has taken a bit of a back seat as well, so spin class happens 1-2 times a week. Other than that, it’s rest, stretching, foam rolling, and physio exercises. The fact that I don’t drive and currently walk 3-5 miles a day probably isn’t providing adequate rest either, but what can you do? I am also still not into my flat, as it turns out things take a lot longer than I had anticipated.  Want to know how I feel about this?  Google ‘McKayla Maroney face’.  That pretty much sums it up.

I suppose the one running-related piece of information I am happy about (provided I can actually ever run again) is the fact that after half-heartedly entering the ballot for Berlin next year, I actually got in! Me! The person who has entered the London ballot a gajillion times and opened the door to a patronizing magazine 6 times (and counting)! So here’s hoping this knee bullshit is over by then, and my hair no longer stinks of chlorine every day.

And the one non-running-related piece of information that has brightened my week?  I became an Aunt!

“So what’re my chances at Pisa?”

Is basically what I wanted to know when I was told I was suffering from ITB syndrome, and would require a further 2-3 weeks off running (and cycling), lots of foam rolling, and a shit ton of stretching.  I got the response I was not wanting: the slow head nod, but non-committal “Let’s see how you get on in the next few weeks.”

My right quad is basically a knot right now, and despite previously being told otherwise, my ITB is extremely tight, which is the likely cause of my debilitating knee pain after about 2 miles of running jogging.  I will continue aggressively massaging/foam rolling for the next week and a half, and I will avoid running and (probably) cycling during that time as well to try and give everything a chance to calm down, but to stop myself from mutilating children being on edge, I have been swimming.  A lot.  Which is good, I suppose, for Ironman training, since I’ll be required to swim just shy of 4km (3.86 if you’re desperate to know).  Thankfully, after years of competitive swimming as a kid, my tumble turns and strokes don’t embarrass me.

My week of swimming has looked like this:

  • Sunday: 3km
  • Monday: 2km
  • Tuesday: 2.5km
  • Wednesday: 2.5km
  • Thursday: 3km

I have already become a pool snob who complains about people doing breaststroke in the fast line.  Move aside, bitches.  I even bought a cap, because it became apparent that chlorine + my hair = bad.  Although it doesn’t quite give me the same post-workout glow as anything at the gym or a run, it’s just enough to make me feel like I’ve done some exercise.

And for any of you desperate to see/know how the flat renovation is going, I will give a one-word answer that pretty much describes the pace at which everything is progressing.  “Glacial.”

Here is my kitchen.  I was supposed to have a washing machine installed today.  It arrived, but during the de-boxing phase it became apparent that the door was broken, so it was taken away.  I remain washing-machine-less.

20141021_124516Living the dream, guys.*


*Yes, I’m still grumpy.

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.

So….. running.

Running is something I haven’t really been able to do since my near-DNF at Crathes half marathon mid-September.  I pulled out of Loch Ness marathon and ‘ran’ the 5k fun run instead.  Well, jogged 1.2 miles, felt a crippling pain in my knee, and walked pretty much the rest.  At one point a little girl spectating with her mother asked, “Mummy, why are there some people walking?”  She’s lucky to have avoided a drop-kick to the face.  Still, my nails looked fabulous and the medal was cute.


I have to admit half-wishing to witness someone falling and breaking their leg as I cheered on the marathon runners in the afternoon.  Fine, full-on wishing.  I know, I’m a terrible person.

I have also pulled out of Amsterdam marathon, much to my dismay.  In fact, I’m pulling the plug on my whole Amsterdam holiday, as I would just end up being a Debbie Downer and hating everyone who expressed even an iota of excitement about running the marathon.  So basically every one of the 30 or so people I am travelling with.

How I feel.  All day.  Every day.

How I feel. All day. Every day.

The silver lining is that my dad is coming over from Texas on Wednesday and staying for two weeks to help me with new flat stuff – painting, sanding, cleaning, moving….  It’ll be nice to not miss half of his visit because I’m off gallivanting in Europe, and it also means I can keep up my bike/swim/weights routine that I have been reduced to without running.

Stripping - the less exciting kind.

Stripping – the less exciting kind.

I have also already pulled out of the Glen Ogle 33 race at the start of November, but I’m clinging to the hope that I’ll be able to complete the Pisa marathon in December, if I ever find out what’s up with my knee and it heals itself.

I have ALSO rediscovered retail therapy:

What's up, Tiffany lamp?

What’s up, Tiffany lamp?

Basically, I feel sick with envy every time I walk past someone out for a run.  Every time I hear a song I listen to when running.  Every time I get one of those ‘How are you doing?’ texts from a running friend who is just trying to be supportive.  I’m like a spoiled brat who has been told she can’t ride her ponies (yes, plural, because this chick is insufferable right now).

Injury.  It sucks balls.

Crathes half marathon 2014

Time: 2:48:11 (It felt like double that)

Medal: Yes

IMG_20140920_134239OK, so you can maybe guess from my time, but basically, this whole race kind of went to shit, and I had a feeling, much like Romeo before Capulet’s party, that something was going to go very, very wrong.  My reasons for this included:

1.) I was running under someone else’s number.  The only other time I have done this is when I paid for my entry to the Garioch half in 2013, and I was one of the few entries lost when they changed their system for taking entries.  The early bird does not always catch the worm, and I ran as ‘Jon Bell’.  Anyway, I forgot to enter Crathes, but one of Ronnie’s friends could no longer run, and she offered up her entry to me.  I felt shady as hell giving a false name at registration, and convinced myself the karma gods would strike me down with a heart attack.  I pushed this to the back of my mind.

2.) A stolen fork.  The weekend prior to Crathes, I ran Glenmore 12, but in the frenzy of preparation, I forgot to pack any utensils to cook with.  Because of this, when I dined out with Elaine and Rob on Friday night, I slipped the fork I had used into my bag with the intention of returning the fork on the way back to Aberdeen after the race.  Well, I had 4 beers for breakfast on Sunday before we left, so my brain was a little foggy, and I forgot.  That fork is still burning a hole in my conscience, and I plan on sending it back with an apology note.  I’m so badass.

I’m going to keep this brief, because I’m in the middle of moving right now, and because I don’t really want to dwell on this experience for any longer than I have to, but essentially I don’t think I allowed myself enough time to rest after Glenmore.  I started running with Suzy at a comfortable pace.  I got to mile 4 and my knee was hurting quite a lot.  I stopped several times to stretch it off, massage anything around my knee, curse my faulty body, whatever – to no avail.  By mile 7, I urged Suzy to go ahead, and began the long, slow, death march to the finish line.  It hurt.  I was cold.  At the sight of a familiar face along the course I burst into tears, like a little girl.  It sucked.

You guys, looks at my new windows.  I'd be jealous too.

You guys, looks at my new windows. I’d be jealous too.

By the time I crossed the finish line, most people had left, and I could barely bend my leg.

The course hasn’t changed since previous years (2012, 2013), but the medal continues to improve.  This year’s t-shirt was green.

The End.


The one positive I can take away from the day is that I ran into an old workmate, Iain, who is now a firefighter.  He and one of his colleagues were running in full uniform as a practice run for November, when they will be running New York marathon for charity.  They remained in high spirits, despite the added bonus of running in a portable sauna, and if you want to donate, you can do so HERE.  They passed me and Suzy a couple of miles in, and finished somewhere around the 2:18 mark.  They will definitely earn a few cold beers after New York, that’s for sure.

I had to steal this picture from Facebook because they had left by the time I finished.

I had to steal this picture from Facebook because they had left by the time I finished.


Glenmore 12 hour race, 2014

Distance: 52.97 miles

Medal: Yes

IMG_20140908_211634Glenmore 24 is a 12 or 24 hour trail race near Loch Morlich in September. The course consists of a 4 mile loop on forest trails, and runners aim to complete as many laps as possible. In the final hour of each race, a shorter loop around the campsite/field is opened, and runners complete as many of the shorter laps as possible, stopping when the horn sounds, and placing a tent peg with their number on it into the ground where they stop. I opted for the 12 hour race, because I don’t hate myself.


My third week back at school breezed by, and after a few frantic, last-minute purchases during my lunch break on Friday (of course I needed 36 glow sticks and an inflatable parrot), I was ready to go. Elaine and her fiancé Rob picked me up at school, and showed me the backseat of their car, where I was free to Tetris in as many of my belongings as I could manage. Thankfully, everything squeezed in, but one of the items mercilessly wedged into place was my body, so it made for a somewhat uncomfortable ride to the Hayfield, which we would soon come to view as a place of comfort, cheers, and, quite importantly, toilets.

Arriving just after 6:30pm, we started pitching our tents as the sun started to set, being eaten alive by midges as we soldiered on. Though I had enough food to feed a small army, I took Elaine and Rob up on their offer to join them for a meal in Aviemore, a few miles down the road where they would be staying in a luxurious hotel room that night. Despite every warning alarm going off in my head, I ordered the chilli, which was served with approximately a kilogram of jalapeño peppers as garnish. Continuing to ignore good sense, I inhaled the lot of them, along with a couple of beers, before I was dropped off back at the campsite to join in the pirate themed party.

By this point, Vicki and Iain Shanks had arrived, and I chatted to them, Mike Raffan – remarkably fresh after his UTMB debut the weekend before- and George Reid, race director of the D33, among others, before stopping sensibly at 2 beers and heading for my tent. Despite wearing about 3 layers of clothing and zipping into my winter sleeping bag, I was freezing, and had to peel my socks off and rub my feet vigorously to thaw them out enough to stop the pain from keeping me awake.

I awoke at about 7 am on the Saturday to the sound of heavy rain on my tent. I did a quick check to make sure there were no leaks, and then read my Kindle until it stopped. Iain and Vicki eventually stumbled by and offered me a lift to Aviemore for some breakfast, which sounded pretty good to me. We ended up at the Mountain café, and I had a fairly generous serving of French toast with fruit and bacon (it worked, trust me). After picking up a few more essentials in Tesco, we started back for the Hayfield, admiring the bright, clear skies and the views of the hills. It looked like a good day for running.

At around 11:30, everyone gathered near the start for the race briefing. One or two light drops of rain peppered the crowd. The briefing continued. The rain got heavier. People started to shuffle under marquees for shelter. The rain intensified. It looked like a crappy day for running.

After the briefing, I found Elaine, who had mentioned earlier that she had brought 2 running jackets. As I am in the middle of moving, my running jacket is in a box somewhere, and when I had looked at the forecast earlier in the week, I packed for sunshine and maybe a couple of light showers. Elaine lent me one of her jackets. Elaine is my hero.

Taking shelter and looking enthusiastic about running for 12 hours in rain.

Taking shelter and looking enthusiastic about running for 12 hours in rain.

As noon approached, runners made their way to the start line, where I caught up with Rhona, Graeme, and Iain for a quick photo before the horn. I casually hit start on the Garmin, and followed the soggy mass of runners around the grassy field of tents and up the hill before snaking along the trails on the heels of the person in front. This is the only time there was any kind of congestion. Spirits were high.

L-R: Iain, Rhona, Graeme, me (before the start)

L-R: Iain, Rhona, Graeme, me (before the start)

After about a mile or so, I caught up with Rhona and Graeme, and we chatted our way around the first lap, walking any significant inclines (mainly from just before the halfway aid station to the top of the hill), and running the rest. Before we knew it, we were coming down the steps, across the car park, and shouting our numbers at Ada as we crossed the start line again.

At the Stonehaven club tent, Vicki was offering to fetch out any snack we desired from out loot, and I opted for a tattie scone and a swig of Lucozade. Without wasting too much time, we set off for the second lap. It also passed without incident, and so did most of the third. About 11 miles in, however, the jalapeños from last night’s dinner made themselves known, and as we pulled in to complete lap 3, I left Rhona and Graeme to themselves as I headed for the sanctuary of a portaloo.

This is also roughly when we experienced the only 30-ish minutes of sunshine and almost-warmth during the whole race. And I spent 10 minutes of it inside a plastic cubicle. Typical.

I emerged feeling slightly less queasy, and set off on my first lap by myself. I was at half-marathon distance and feeling good. I was a little concerned that I was starting to overtake people as it was so early in the day, but I felt good, and told myself they were probably doing the 24 hour race and conserving energy. Without company, I had no distraction from the views, and kept on truckin’, enjoying the last of the sunshine, and even pulling the hood of Elaine’s jacket down for the first time.


At the end of lap 4, I saw Graeme at the Stonehaven tent sorting out something to eat. He was beginning to struggle, which is unsurprising as his longest run since March has been 15 miles (!!!!), and I joined him for the start of lap 5. Before the halfway station, however, I had pulled ahead, and it was back to my own thoughts (or, more realistically, ‘Reach for the Stars’ on a loop inside my head). I caught up with Fiona Rennie, and as we turned left for the downhill run we both commented on a rather ominous looking cloud looming on the horizon. Sure enough, within about 5 minutes I felt a heavy drop on my head, and put the hood back up. Then I saw something fall from the sky a few feet ahead of me – and bounce. You have got to be fucking kidding me. The final mile of lap 5 involved squinting through a hail storm and trying to ignore the fact that I (and everyone else) was being pelted with sleet and hailstones the size of my fingernails. When I finally got back to the marquee for shelter, Vicki told me that Iain had made it back just before the onslaught, and would be up for some company once it had eased off.

Just fabulous...

Just fabulous…

After about 10 minutes, we both set off on lap 6. Again, it was good to have company, but again, I pulled ahead before the aid station, stuck in a rhythm I felt comfortable with. It crossed my mind that I should maybe ease back, but this was the first time I had intentionally not worn my heart rate monitor, so I didn’t have my usual way of monitoring how much effort I was using. As the kids say – yolo.

By the time I had completed lap 6, the hail on the course had melted.  I was confident everyone was suffering from trench foot.

Photo:  Jenny Cochran

Photo: Jenny Cochran

Laps 7-9 were a bit of a blur, apart from running into Elaine at the halfway station at one point and running with her as she ran into ultra distance for the very first time! I also continued to feel good running the flats and downhills, but was starting to fatigue, and the cold was really getting to me. I took 20 minutes or so after this lap to go to my tent and change into dry clothes, a hoody, and my hiking jacket. I put my head torch in my pocket as it was starting to get darker, and chatted to a few people, before heading off on lap 10. I thought I was going to start walking by this point, but every time I hit a flat or downhill, I broke into a jog and felt fine.   This meant that I was perhaps a tad overdressed for running, but I’d much rather be too hot than too cold (and wet), so I wasn’t too bothered.

This is normal running attire, yes?

This is normal running attire, yes?

I managed to get away with finishing my 10th lap without putting on my head torch, but by the time I made it back to the Hayfield it was time to switch it on. At this point Geraldine, who had come to support, joined me for a lap in the dark, and I was glad for the company. I would have hated to be out there alone, with only thoughts of bears, werewolves, and other evil creatures lurking in the shadows. Although we walked a great deal, we did break into a jog on some sections, but with about half a mile to go before the campsite, the jalapeños struck again, and I was reduced to a walk. At the end of lap 11, I paid another lengthy visit to the portaloo, taking my phone in and switching it off flight mode so that I could send and receive updates from Ian and friends.

12 minutes later (yes, I timed myself), I was gearing up for what I had decided would be my final lap, which I power-walked most of. Thankfully I had some delightful company from Karen, and we were happy to take our time reaching 48 miles before the short laps opened. We made it ‘round with a little over 10 minutes to wait for the short lap to open, and took the time to have a snack and chat.

With a minute to go before the lap opened, George shouted on us to get a move on, as by the time we made it to the top of the hill, the lap would be open for us, so off we shuffled. I had intended to walk most of this, but since the lap goes around the campsite, the crowds were out in force shouting as us to “Run!” and “Don’t stop moving now!” That last hour saw me cover just over 4 miles on a quarter mile loop, and it felt just like a cross-country race. I felt strong, and the minutes kept on ticking by until finally, the sound of the horn saw all the 12 hour runners shuffle to a stop, before placing our tent pegs in the ground, and making our way to shelter.

Photo: Clark Hamilton

Photo: Clark Hamilton

Muddy, cold, sweaty, tired, but elated, I met up with everyone I knew running to give them a hug. The beers were opened (though I felt a bit funny, so ended up having my four for breakfast before prize-giving on Sunday), and Elaine and I used a cooking pan to pour hot water over each other’s’ heads after one of the most satisfying shampoos I’ve ever experienced. Elaine headed to her tent with Rob, and I gave myself a baby wipe ‘shower’, before changing into clean, dry clothes and heading to one of the event marquees to chat with some of the other finishers, and cheer on the 24 hour runners in yet more disgusting rain.

Photo: Rhona

Photo: Rhona


Me and Elaine – elated to be finished!

After a chilly sleeping experience I was up and dressed for my breakfast beers, and we all gathered under the marquee yet again to watch the last couple of hours of the 24 hour race. There were groggy but enthusiastic cheers every time a runner hit 100 miles and Ada tooted the horn for them, and even more cheers during the last hour, and the short laps, and then it was all over, save the BBQ and prize giving before Rhona and Graeme gave me a lift back to Aberdeen.

I call this look "tent hair"

I call this look “tent hair”

If I can still walk after next year’s Ironman, I’d love to come back for another bash, but I think, just in case the weather is anything like it was, I’ll stick to the 12.