After the snot-fest that was Aviemore, I’ve been feeling pretty bad.  The cold has finally subsided, but ever since the run my right hip has been swollen, painful, and generally angry at me.  I suspect that Aviemore alone was not the cause of this, because I distinctly remember my hip being in some discomfort during Loch Ness.  After sports massage and physio, today is the first day where I have woken up without a hot throbbing in my groin (I know).  While by no means perfect, it’s an improvement.

I have been told not to do anything too strenuous by my physio until she gives me the all clear, which I’m hoping will be when I see her on Thursday, because if everything is behaving I’ll get to run the Culloden 17.46k on Sunday.  It’s meant to be a tough course, but it’ll mark the start of my long run cycle for the Texas marathon (noticeably shorter than my other training cycles thanks to Loch Ness), and also the casual start of my Ultra base training.

Anyway, my main focus from now until April is staying healthy, so that’s probably why I’m not going too crazy without my normal exercise regime.  It’s a week or so out of action, but having an end goal let’s me see the bigger picture.

Still, old habits die hard, and I have already spent hours lamenting the end of my running career after going on WedMD and looking at all possible causes of hip pain, just in case bruising and inflammation wasn’t what was wrong with me.  Never do this.  Because ‘cancer’ and ‘arthritis’ are not things you want to have floating around in your head when you’re stuck at home feeling sorry for yourself.

Finally, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has donated to Macmillan after reading my Loch Ness post, especially the people I’ve never met.  You guys are racking up the good karma, and I’m pretty sure your donation will cancel out a misdemeanour or two.  So pat yourself on the back, and go key the car of somebody who has parked like this, because it’s totally allowed*:

What an ass hat.

What an ass hat.


*Do this when they are not watching you.


Oh no! The race is almost full!

Despite walking about like a cripple for a week after my idiotic Loch Ness adventure, and running Aviemore feeling horrendous, I must have felt like I hadn’t quite made enough dumb decisions to fill my annual quota.  Hopelessly drawn in Inspired by these guys, I’ve bitten the metaphorical bullet and signed myself up for an ultra.  I have also been shamelessly hounded into thinking it’s a sane-person thing to do by several local (ish) runners of unsound mind (you know who you are).

So what’s on the menu for 2014?  Apart from kicking off the year with the Texas marathon on New Year’s Day, I have entered the Milano City marathon in April, followed by the Highland Fling, a 53 mile trail race through the Scottish Highlands, made all the more appealing by reading about friends’ adventures there earlier this year.  Yes, once again I was suckered into a race by watching the available places dwindle on an online entry site.  So yeah, kill me*.

2014 is also peppered with a few other (shorter, mercifully) races, and I anticipate a mild breakdown/relapse into heavy drinking and McDonald’s binges around the beginning of May.  Yee-to-the-motherfucking-haw!

Basically the universal reaction I am getting from people I know when I tell them my plans.  This is not limited to the ultramarathon.

Basically the universal reaction I get from people I know when I tell them my plans. This is not limited to running.

*Don’t literally kill me, I actually really enjoy being alive.

Aviemore half marathon 2013

Time: 2:02:57 [RESULTS HERE]

Medal: Yes (though I’m told it’s the same as last year’s)


Not every race can be a good one.

I spent all of last week feeling disgusting, and full of a nasty cold.  Kids were dropping like flies at work, and all I wanted to do was have some alone time with my bed, but I can’t help but worry that people will think I’m just being lazy by phoning in sick during the last week of term, right before a 2 week break, so I went to work, and felt like crying.

I had considered DNSing this race.  Despite laying off the gym/running during the week, and resting when I could, I was nowhere near 100% when I woke up on Saturday, but had blind faith that the marginal improvement I felt after the first good night’s sleep in days was a sign that I’d be feeling fabulous on Sunday (I did not actually believe this, but I hoped).  Also, I had told nearly ten people who were also staying in the youth hostel that I would cook for them, so I kind of felt obligated to go.  So I did.

Saturday morning, Ronnie picked up myself and Suzy, who was running the 10k, and off we went to Aviemore, arriving mid-afternoon.  When we arrived at the hostel there was no record of my booking, but the guy on reception gave me a key and said we’d work it out.  Eventually, Ronnie found his booking confirmation e-mail (he had booked for me), and everything was fine.  Apart from the fact that I was in the male wing of the hostel (since that was the only place where there were free rooms), and my room was situated right next to the men’s bathroom.  Nice.  The silver lining here is that I had the entire dorm (4 beds) to myself.

Before heading to registration, I whipped up some banana bread dough (I had 3 beyond-eating bananas at home, so brought them with me), and dumped it in the oven with a note saying I’d be back to take it out in an hour or so.  Ronnie, Suzy, Shona +1, and I walked the 5 minutes down the road to the hotel where registration was.   We got our numbers (I was 5, obviously very keen to enter), and then queued for the shirts, which were £6 each.  It was pretty busy, and they had a few things to keep people busy (a quiz, a couple of charity stalls, whiskey tasting, a pop-up sale, free pasta), but before we knew it, our hour was up, and we went back to the hostel for the banana bread.

By this point, more of our informal group had arrived in Aviemore, so we decided to get dinner started.  There were a lot of other runners staying in the hostel, so the kitchen was a hive of activity, but we managed pasta with a choice of sauces, and a massive pot of chicken, broccoli, mushroom, and white wine risotto.  Suzy, Susan and I decided we’d share the leftover white wine, which amounted to approximately 20ml each.  Cheers:

Wild times.

Wild times.

I believe Ronnie was relaxing in the common room while we were slaving away in the kitchen because, as he put it, “I drive, you cook.”  Several people did offer to help, but after prep, there wasn’t too much to do until we served up. Either everyone is very good at lying, or I am a passable cook, because all the food was eaten apart from the extra bread/garlic bread, which was graciously accepted from some of the other runners dining at the same time.  Warm banana loaf and Suzy’s home made rocky road made up the desert, and everyone was pretty satiated. Slowly, people filtered off to their dorms, but Suzy and Susan swung by mine and we ended up sitting and having very rude conversations until about midnight, when we decided it would probably be wise to get some sleep.  And sleep would have been nice, but was interrupted by men using the toilet, and then at about 3 in the morning, by a troupe of drunk gentlemen falling about the hall. Somehow, I managed to haul myself out of bed in the morning, and get myself dressed.  I felt no worse than the day before, but no better.  I met everyone for breakfast, then we made our way to the buses, which took us a short walk away from the start. It.  Was.  Freezing.  We bounced on the spot and huddled with familiar faces since we had a bit of a wait until the start.  I look positively thrilled (and compos mentis) to be there: 1379784_551254847110_944063357_n Thankfully I managed to pull my face together (kind of) for a photo with Danielle, who was running her first half marathon: IMG_20131013_135948 Thankfully there was a bag drop, and the organizers seemed pretty casual about keeping it open up to the last minute, so we huddled around in our extra layers as long as we could before the half marathoners had to begin arranging ourselves by our time predictions. The pre-crossing-the-start-line shuffle commenced, and then we were running.  The course starts out on trails that weave through the forest, so it was very pretty, but we were focusing on putting our feet places where big rocks were not.  I didn’t feel great, and my heart rate was quite high for the speed I was running, but it didn’t take a genius to work out that any hopes I had of getting an impressive (for me) time were pretty much obliterated.  Especially when we reached the first hill where I saw my heart rate creep up to 185.  So less than two miles into the race, I was done.  I bid farewell to Ronnie and Susan, and tucked in behind the walkers.

Going solo.

Going solo.

The first half of the race is a blur of gorgeous scenery (especially when the mist started lifting), and moderate discomfort.  At the halfway point there was an ambulance, and I actually slowed down and considered pulling out, but I remembered Ronnie saying the night before that from 7 miles, it’s all downhill, so chose to chance it. I was overtaken more times than I care to remember, but apart from that initial walk break on the hill, I managed to keep running (I use this term loosely) until the end, bar the water stops for a few seconds, because who can actually drink out of cups when they’re running?!

About a mile from the end.

About a mile from the end.  No idea why it looks like I’m having a wonderful time.

Special thanks goes out to the song ‘House of the Rising Sun’, which I pretty much played on repeat because I wanted a soundtrack to my despair, and I crossed the finish line without a smile on my face, but relieved.  Mostly that I had managed to avoid a heart attack. Not everyone’s race was a disaster.  Suzy got a PB on her 10k.  Susan PB’ed during the half, as did her mum, June, and Shona, and Danielle came in under her time target for her first half.  Though I caught him with 2 miles to go, Ronnie ran the half comfortably, which is one of the first times since his ankle injury nearly a year ago, and though he beats himself up about not getting the times he used to, I’m confident that he’s getting closer.

So basically, this race only sucked ass for me.  Purely for comparison, let’s just take a look at Shona’s post race, and then my own:

Shona: smiling, elated, loving life.

Shona: smiling, elated, loving life.

Me: hating myself.

Me: hating myself.

After the run, we went back to the hostel, because the nice man on reception had told us we could use the showers there when we were done (I may have been a bit forceful with my asking).  Apparently the towels are £2 to hire (I am an idiot and forgot to bring my towel), but the guy must have taken pity on me, because he told me there was no charge.  Suzy and I got to know each other pretty well in the double shower cubicle, and that warm blast of water was bliss.  Then we all waited for everyone else to clean up in the seating area, finishing off the banana bread in the process.

I really loved the course today, but my body let me down.  Originally this was going to be a PB attempt (and after running the course, I wish it had been!), but that was before I decided to run Loch Ness with a sled, and before some child infected me with their gross disease at school (I don’t even care if they’re blameless (they’re not)).  I would love to return next year to do the course justice, but right now I would love for my cajun chicken to finish cooking so I can eat my dinner, and go to bed – where I clearly belong.