Dublin Rocked

Come to Dublin – climb a chimney! (What else are you going to do?)

 

My first ever visit to Dublin combined a challenge Karen and I had decided to complete, set by ourselves and agreed between us. Dublin did not fail to impress, either on the race front (Rock n Roll Half Marathon), on the sights or in fact in the scenery/ views, we had an absolute ball.

But really the best bit was being away and taking it all in with Karen, my best mate.

Challenge

A few years ago, we decided we would take on a challenge in each of the British countries together:

Spartan Beast -London – 2013

Rat Race Coast to Coast – Scotland  – 2014

Rat Race Man vs Mountain – Wales – Sept 2015

Rock n Roll 5km and Half Marathon – Republic of Ireland – 2017

??? – Northern Ireland – open to nominations and suggestions: they can be OCRs/ running/ multi-activity events?

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Karen with family

Rock n Roll 5km

We had both registered early enough which meant that our numbers and all info required for the event had been posted out, this saved any hassle and was suggested by Karen as she had already taken on the equivalent race in Liverpool. We were staying with Karen’s cousin Colin and family, this made life so much easier while we were visiting, just having that inside information on what we were looking for and travel arrangements etc.

Colin dropped us into Phoenix Park, the largest inner city park in Europe I hear, and we headed in for bag drop.  We had plenty time which is what I like before an event to get everything done but still warm-up, account for extra toilet trips and queuing. I had had my first trial run since hurting my ankle at Deadwater, it wasn’t quite the pain-free experience I had hoped but quickly settled and I didn’t feel it for the rest of the event.IMG_2949IMG_2952

The 5km to myself, seemed reasonably quiet, everyone was gathering around the pens waiting to be called in, the music was playing in the background – some Bon Jovi and all sorts of other great rock to get us all in the mood. Runners were smiling, chilled out on the grass, shaking off the legs, jogging around, adjusting kit, chatting and looking around, taking in the environment (I’m sure you can imagine it). I was keen to get into my area, Karen and I were in different zones so we wished each other luck and parted.

My turn to jog on the spot, shake the legs, grimace at the tight spots, you know the nervousness that settles in as the clock counts down, even though I was taking it easy this weekend, definitely Lynne and Sally – my physios! Gonnnna be in soooo much trouble 😳

When I go to new events I thoroughly enjoy taking in the atmosphere and really being present with all the runners, chatting and taking in what’s around.  It really helps me to enjoy everything and take the pressure off myself. I am quite good at piling it on myself. The sun was shining, I know finally right?!

Well now I was too hot, I went off a bit quick so slowed down, I took pictures, took in the gorgeous surroundings that were Phoenix Park, it was like you were on trail but it was a completely tarmac run. The marshalls were full off energy and making noise as you passed, encouraging you and cheering.

At approximately half way, there was a band which we would pass again on the way back toward the finish line but in a looped manner.  IMG_2960We had a slight downhill, normally I’m in my element for these but I was too worried about my ankle. I was also hit by waves of lightheadedness which were really knocking me, but I kept going and just monitored things, slowed down long enough to moan about how hot I was feeling on my camera and then promptly told myself to shut up!

Everyone was loving Captain Coo – one guy passed shouting ‘ love the cattle’ haha, creating bants.

The finish line was great, it was like people had created a funnel of finishers as you were running to the end, encouraging you in. You were given your amazing 5km medal, a bottle of water, a number of, snacks were handed out as you moved through the runners area to the stage area where all the tents were set up.

I quickly moved round as I wanted to catch Karen but first it was essential that I lie down and raise my legs! Like really important! Some ladies from CaliforniaIMG_2970 started chatting to me and so did a lovely lady from Ireland with her 2 kids.  They were all loving Captain Coo.  I discovered I was too short to actually see Karen cross the line, the wee guy Luke was giving me a detailed insight into the workings of Thomas the Tank engine, this was serious business.IMG_2972

 
Rock n Roll Half Marathon

This event the 2nd for us of the weekend, took place on the Sunday, it was an early rise – that can only mean race day on a Sunday! We had to get a taxi to the start line as the buses didn’t start early enough, but we soon spotted runners all heading in the same direction so headed in following them.  The start area was down at the docklands, not an area we had managed to get to on our sightseeing.

We arrived in good time for bag drop/ toilets and getting a general idea of where everything is and of course the obligatory photos. The trucks were set up by the first 3 letters of surnames grouped together, you just had to use the bag and tag provided in your sign-up info. There were also plenty of toilets provided for everyone, it didn’t take long for these to go downhill, ya know!!!

We just hung about in this area until we needed to check out the zones we were both in, Karen set a personal goal of running at least 6 miles non-stop, we were both in the same boat, training hadn’t managed to come together for one reason or another. I just had to be careful with my ankle, I was taped up and feeling okay, Captain Coo was getting lots of admiring glances.20945219_10210633485781435_759997982_o

I was in Corral 7 and Karen was a bit further back ( these were based on your predicted finish time, to be honest, I have no idea what I put and naturally that would have been pre-ankle injury but I chose to stick with it). Again, we wished each other luck and parted to get in the right sections, well, Karen was actually heading for the loos again, I think she was in the queues when the race started haha.

I haven’t really done many of these big races, so found the whole process interesting, simply the length of time it actually takes you to get to the start line and start running is amazing and probably forgotten about in all the considerations. With the countdown ringing in our ears alongside the rock music we were off . . . . .

I found the route interesting, the key thing here being that it was pretty much all new with the exception of areas we had walked around the previous 2 days.  I dont normally do city runs, I’m not a massive fan but I thoroughly enjoyed myself on this day and during this run.  The shlap (yes that’s what I meant to write) of trainers in the tarmac, belts and bags bouncing round, items jangling, coughing, clearing the throat, shouts here and there for friends and fellow runners, the odd sorry as someone cuts you up. The sheer number of people in front and behind you always astounds me on these races BUT I spent the majority of it, once again, with space and on my own. There were huge numbers, as I’ve said taking part in this, yet in Deadwater (check out my last blog for the lowdown) there were only 18 of us on the start line and I only once felt I was on my own – how amazing I that?!

I took pics, posed with marshalls, the young man in the hospital grounds giving out Jaffa cakes was on for a gold medal from me I’ve gotta say, 20952116_10210633480621306_1684431481_othey were amazing, I took photos of the surroundings, the bands where I could, Captain Coo of course and so much more along the way.  I have to say this felt like one of the quietest races I have every taken part in, literally no-one was talking, it was so so strange.

Unfortunately, my ankle started to niggle away from about mile 6, I could still run, just a little slower and I used the

20930738_10210633479021266_1056660747_osurroundings to help distract me. The bands were on every mile, sometimes this actually meant a band but other times it was a DJ and individuals with guitars playing for us. The mile markers, by my watch anyway, were bang on for accuracy, the water stations were great, they were handing out the smaller water bottles which is an ideal size for carrying. At a couple of the later stations I know they were also handing out Powerade and gels if you needed them.

 

We managed to bring the sun out again for a warm, hot run, the novelty was wearing off.  The finish was located in Phoenix Park again, it really helped having been there the day before and knowing the set-up.

I managed to finish in a reasonable time of 2hrs 00:32 got to say I am incredibly happy with that given the ankle, I only walked 0.15 of a mile to loosen things of, the photo opportunities (these were taken literally on the run haha).

For our efforts we  were given our half marathon medals, we queued for our guitar medal which is for doing 2 runs in the weekend but Karen received a ‘World Rocker’ medal which is incredibly cool for having completed runs in the series in 2 different countries.20945219_10210633472941114_1057944889_o You also receive a t-shirt, which was different to the Liverpool one, lots of snacks at the finish line and of course a band playing in the spectators area for a period of time.

The weather really makes something like this, it was sunny, in fact hot and people were sticking around to enjoy the post-run glow – well done everyone!

6 years in the Making

Photo credit: Lucja Leonard

It is quite surreal sitting here being able to write this blog.  I wasn’t sure I would ever get here (that may be a wee lie, I’ve learnt never to doubt my conviction and determination – maybe the question was when?):

How did I get here?  

Six years ago I injured my leg playing rugby, a completely random injury – a tackle directly to the nerve in my lower leg.   I was in a lot of pain (approximately on scale of 7-8 out of 10 daily) this impacted on my ability to be active.  For a period I questioned whether I would be able to continue being active.  Think of it like:  shooting pains down my leg, pins and needle sensations repeatedly, electric shocks, numbness – these would repeat every hour, multiple times within the hour.

This was a devastating consideration when activity and exercise are  my work and my stress management tool.  I eliminated lots of sports, the list was getting very short, unfortunately running became my sport hahaha.  I say unfortunately, it has been a lifesaver. Irnoically my first blog was named – ‘I hate running . . . ‘.

To help me stick with running, I knew I would need a BIG goal.  Well, I heard about the West Highland Way Race and immediately knew this was it – my goal –

Complete the West Highland Way in 23 hours ie finish on the same day I start.

West Highland Way Effort 2017

Fast forward 6 years and here we are, two weeks on . . .

The day after, I was ecstatic that I could get off the toilet without having to hold on and pull myself up while making noises (you know so no faces!!!)

There were so many considerations leading up to the 1am start, it throws the newbie that

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Photo credit: Karen Brown

this is not a normal time to start a race, but then there is nothing normal about this epic race.  I was pretty nervous heading to registration, it’s always the same with new events, it seems like everyone knows everyone but I spotted some familiar faces (Sharon, Jeni and crew).  Registration itself was very smooth and easy to follow, blown away with the jacket in my goodie bag . . . karen threatening to steal it while Im out on the course (it had to be purple hahaha).  We headed to the car for some last minute relaxation and just closing my eyes for quiet time. But not before Captain Coo also received his band, weigh-in prepped for his race also.

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Photo credit: Karen Brown

(Just in case you’re wondering, Captain Coo is Munro Primary Schools newest recruit #schoolmascot )

The nerves ramped up at the race briefing and the guys left me to get a good spot to try to see me run through.  Before you knew it we were running through the tunnel, it was pretty awesome, the cheers, cowbells, support along the high street.  Then it was all about settling in, I thought it would take ages for us all to thin out but it happened within 1 – 1.5 miles.  This first section to Drymen was great just being able to check off the points I remembered from my recce. It felt like each memory was being ticked off quicker than I had anticipated but I wasn’t going any quicker than I should have been.  I felt good, it was great seeing people spotted throughout the course encouraging us on, I hadn’t expected this, the time of night and because of the surrounding built up areas.

I stuck to my nutrition plan, eating every hour, even though the temptation was to just push on because I was feeling so fresh.  I met my crew for the first time at Drymen in the field, big G spotted me, giving me a wee shout.  They told me they would be wearing flashing bunny ears (G) and the other would be a walking rave (Karen), I was. Little disappointed that there was only fluorescent flashing lights. We took the time to top up my water, exchange snacks for the next stage that I might need and ate some more food as well.  We had agreed in advance that I would be given an update on my timing and where we were relative to my where I needed to be to hit my target of 23 hours.  I’d also leave with the next sections distance to help me stay focused on the here and now, I had learnt from previous big races that I find it overwhelming to keep the full distance in my head at all times.

Despite the moody weather, the big black clouds hovering as the light came in, the scenery was stunning!  As I rounded the corner behind Conic Hill, looking out on Loch Lomond, I was again, despite the poor light, blown away by its beauty.  The small islands look like the humps of what could be the Loch Ness Monster  . . .  and no I wasnt hallucinating haha.

Just before Conic Hill I was able to take off my headtorch, it certainly was not as bad as the first time I took on the hill in a recce.  It passed quickly due to the memories I had from that day:

‘I remember pushing up the hill on a stunner of a day, glorius sunshine, not a cloud in the sky.  There were lots of folks out that day, I caught up with some young-ish kids who were out with their mums.  They were playing rock-paper-scissors, I was amused by this and it distracted me from my sore quads.  The young lad just kept playing the same hand everytime, this went on for ages.  I asked what the score was – it was a draw 😉  I think it remained a draw no matter what.  I got speaking to them, the wee man wanted to chuck himself off the hill into the water, you know, the hill was THAT bad, they had been walking for aaaaages!! Hahaha he was very dramatic but clearly having a good time and being distracted by his sister.  With words of encouragement, I pushed on that day exchanging jokes with the mums as I passed’.

I tempered my pace coming down the other side of Conic Hill, I didn’t want to burn out my quads this early in the race.  I was happy to meet G as I was coming down the last wee section, we came down to the car park and I was shocked to see everyone standing at the checkpoint.  I must have looked so ungrateful for the cheering/ support.  I dibbed in, I couldn’t get my head around, in that moment, why people were cheering for me as I came in.  Of course, I would do the same for anyone on a race, so I dont know why I was suprised, I think the early hour was still throwing my expectations for this race.

G guided me to the car which was really helpful, I grabbed a seat, changed my tops, on went my RAW Dryrobe, this let me dry of my sweaty jacket.  Karen drilled me with multiple questions about what I needed and then supplied in quick order.  G became a french chef, and apparently had also developed a spanish accent – who knew! Scrambled eggs became the order of the morning – they tasted awesome. It was funny looking around, seeing what everyone else was doing, some were in and out in minutes, these types of things make me question my own strategy even though I should know better than to compare myself to others. I was obviously sleepy, trying to drink my cuppa through my midgie net, this was the only section I was aware of midgie but know the crew had it worse with more standing around.

Balmaha to Rowerdennan

This was my awful section, I left the Oak Tree Inn car park feeling great, Karen ran me down to the road, she was chief photographer as well. #everyoneneedsakaren #multipleroles

I was hit with waves of tiredness, not in the sense that my body felt tired but purely from a ‘I should be sleeping’ feeling.  They just kept coming, I didnt know how to deal with these – definitely something to work on for the future.  I started having stomach issues, from feeling nausea to cramps, sometimes I could run through it but most of the time I couldn’t. Then the waves of tiredness would kick in again.  I think part of this was the low light due to the clouds and dull day, which made it harder to feel like it was daytime.

I’ve never been so grateful for seeing my support crew, it was here that they made the first of their massive impacts on my race.  G’s constant check-ins so that he could update Karen and then asking ‘how can we fix this’ really helped to focus on the solutions rather than the problem.  A real cup of tea, a ton of jaffa cakes, maybe a few other things I cant remember.  This little blip also didnt stop them from getting the right information to me. Because of my stomach I hadnt managed to eat much on this section, so they sorted my water (this was at least going well) and drilled me about my food.

I left with ‘get a couple of good sections in and EAT!’  It wasnt ideal that I wouldnt be seeing these guys for 3.5 hours.

Rowardennan to Beinglas Farm

Rowardennan to Inversnaid along the lower section next to the Loch was great.  I accepted that you wouldn’t maintain the same pace as on the trails but this brought me alive.  This section had a bit of everything in it, each time I came out of a technical section where I had to concentrate, onto the trail I would be hit with the waves of tiredness.  I got into Inversnaid, the marshalls were once again fab.  Always cheery, always with a wee joke and checking that you are alright on the other hand (clearly a lover of the hula hoop variety).

Did the essentials: emptied stones out of shoes, tied alittle tighter, Packed the food from my drop bag into my pockets, topped up the water, deep breaths and of I went.  I was looking forward to this section, the only part I had not recce’d.

This section did not let me down. I absolutely loved this part, which appears contrary to most other reports.  Again, this brings me alive, I love pushing on on these sections. Very stony section, some clambering involved, I think I was more careful than normal as I wanted to save my ankle for the rest of the race and not do myself some damage. I still had a wee hop, skip and a jump in my step on this section.  It felt good to be actually moving, to feel like I was moving.  I caught up with a young man and we stayed together for a bit.  I can’t believe I never caught anyones name during this event – tut tut, but he was telling of his fantastic progress from knee injury to the race.

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Photo credit: Karen Brown

This was a great confidence boost section for me, it was a nice feeling to come out at the end of the loch. Beinglas Farm checkpoint was a good one, I was feeling tired still but definitely more awake.  G once again, told me the script with where I needed to go to dib in and then where they were based.  At this point Karen and G tried to get some more solid food and energy into me . . good ole swig of coke aparently brought colour to my cheeks.  This is where I had started to feel my IT band in and around my hip.

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Photo credit: Karen Brown

Thankfully I brought my trusty spiky ball with me, Karen sorted out my comfort and a good bit of easing this off helped.  Great banter going on between the crews which distracted me.

Beinglas through Auchtertyre to Bridge of Orchy

With a change of shoes, full top half change, I set off on my way to the ‘half way point’.  I like this next section it is beautiful, lots of waterfalls and just flowing rivers, its beautiful.  Again I felt like I was checking off the memories I’d created on my recce, it seemed to pass all too quickly.  It is a lovely downhill through the forest toward Auchtertyre, again I enjoy this section, this was affected by my increasing problem with my IT band which had now shift into my knee.

G met me again and ran me in, guiding me to where I needed to be.  First up was my weigh-in, where I was told I had dropped to my allowance already.  I couldnt believe it

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Photo credit: Karen Brown

because I didnt feel I could have done anything else to improve this situation.  Well G took away the ‘feed me’ with gusto haha.  Some TLC for my IT band, heard about a mishap with the gas cooker the crew had had, this was enough to distract me.

G and I were soon off for the next phase, what a massive difference it makes having someone run with you. I was super glad to have company, I definitely ran further than I would have on my own with my sore knee becoming an increasing problem.

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Photo credit: Lucja Leonard

We met Lucja at Tyndrum with salty chips, hell yeah, they were immense and it was real nice to see her before we properly got underway.  This section was one of changeable weather, rain, increasingly stronger winds and sunshine.  G did a great job of keeping me going, I took over the lead on the downhill section because I tend to be faster and only had to slow up when the pain in my knee just took over. We kept crossing places with a couple of lads but had to let them go on as I was in agony and struggling to walk never mind anything else.  G came to the rescue with his massage skills, right on that spot! I’d highly recommend his skills.

Many will recognise the pain of It band problems, it was frustrating as I was sure this is what it was.  The pain you feel just doesn’t seem to represent the seriousness of the injury/ problem in the relativity scale which is frustrating in and of itself.  The pain laterally piercing me knee repeatedly brought me to a halt, I would stumble through as much as possible, G was working real hard to keep me going, no way I was stopping if I could make the next point.

We broke the route up into sections that I would run – walk, G took the hit on the wind where he could but the closer we got to Bridge of Orchy the more the wind began swirling.  Absolute superstar, always positive, pushing me just enough to get the most from me in achievable bursts.

Bridge of Orchy (BoO) to Glencoe Ski Resort

At BoO I dibbed in again to the cheery words of the marshalls. I didn’t do much at BoO, it was quite an exposed checkpoint with the weather coming in but also with the car being parked away from where we met.  G did a handover with Lucja in terms of where I was at, Karen sorted me out in terms of food and fluids and checked if there was anything I needed.

We didn’t stop long, Lucja took me off up the hill with the promise of Jelly Baby hill, now as a first-timer, it’s all a bit confusing.  What on earth?!

We marched, Lucja may disagree with this word haha, up the hill, moving at a pace I could sustain.  I was pretty much feeling pain in my knee uphill and downhill but with adjustments in pace I could keep going.  Lucja was great at speaking away keeping me distracted, I had known I wouldn’t be running out of BoO when I did my recce, I kept trying to push my pace so as not to feel I was too slow, I have to confess to many a time worrying I was going to slow and letting my support crew down.  Do others feel this way? Or do you just accept that they are there for you?

I met Murdo (I really hope I quoted the right name???)  on Jelly Baby hill, now I knew. What a glorious sight at the top of the hill, jelly babies, smiles, flags and naturally he checked I was being looked after.  We ploughed on, into the wind, I was feeling a little hesitant for the downhill coming, the complete opposite of my normal downhill reaction (normally I’d be doing a wee dance). We started downhill, I think you would call my run more of a hobble, a skip and step over and around the stones/ corners. We made it to the bottom, I’d earned a walk period again. I’d hoped being on the tarmac would be a bit of a relief, we broke it up with walk- runs and caught up on runs, future runs and of course Gobi.

We arrived at the entrance to Rannoch Moor, with the trail on the left to Loch Etive.  This’ll give you a chuckle and I think I laugh myself every time I arrive at this point:

‘During my recce, which I was doing back to front ie Glencoe Ski Resort to BoO, the signage is a shocker going in the opposite direction for a ‘well-marked’ path.  Anyway, obviously my fault but I ended up waaaaaay too far down that track, but with beautiful scenery and wildlife.’

‘The second time I recce’d this section, in the correct direction I might add, at this point on the left in the forest there was a young deer munching away, completely oblivious to the fact we were all awestruck with his beauty.’

This is the straw that  .  .  .  .  . almost broke the camels back ie my leg. How so much can change in such a short time!

I knew my leg was becoming more and more of a problem, I hated the ground underfoot in this section, I was never comfortable on it and I also found it difficult to gauge how far along we were after a while but that could be tiredness more than anything.  We kept trying the walk – run method but that quickly became impossible with the pain it was causing.  It was affecting my ability to bend my knee to lift my foot high enough over the embedded stones, I kept trying to find the smoothest section to walk on but often these were so narrower I’d be tripping over the edges and that in itself affected my movement and knee.  I couldn’t win.

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Photo credit: Lucja Leonard

The weather was in, rain, wind, yes there was even moments of sunshine.  Sideways rain, battering our left hand side, I swear my right hand side was pretty dry until closer to Glencoe. Putting one foot in front of the other – I could do that! Finally we spotted G waiting for us, he took us to dib in, they kindly asked how we were doing. Actually, at the very point, I felt not too bad. But that very quickly changed. Karen, Lucja and I headed for the toilets to get changed were told about the drying room – OMG what an invention! This was fantastic, Karen pretty much stripped me and dressed me while Lucja dried herself under the hand dryer. But I started to feel sick and actually thought I was going to be sick, we hurried over to the toilets but I wasn’t actually sick.

We went to find G who had started to worry about where we had gotten lost, apparently it took 40mins for all of the above to take place and he was feeling like a weirdo holding seats for people who never seemed to appear hahaha.

The guys were buying me food, encouraging me to eat, I managed to get down most of my soup in the cafe but struggled with anything else.  I was feeling ridiculously nauseous and sick, it just wouldn’t settle. I know they were worried – I could tell by the looks on their faces. We knew my time goal was out, I was a bit of a mess and now know I probably can’t really grasp how I looked or the impact this was having on them.  We went through a list if possible ways to move forwards, this included going for a 30 minute kip, with my time goal out, I had time to do this without having to pull out completely.  It also meant even if I didn’t feel better I could pull out at that stage having tried the options.

I slept, I ached to start with, felt sick and couldn’t switch off to sleep at first despite being knackered. Then I was out, then I was awake the next second – or so it seemed. G woke me up  and we headed back to the cafe, it was very busy, full of walkers and runners. My RAW dryrobe was amazing during this period keeping me warm.  I was informed by hawk eye G that I must eat a decent meal to carry on, then I was told I needed to layer up more.  The guys were still worried and I’m super sorry to have put them through that worry. I dutifully did as I was told and to be honest I felt much better, my knee was sore but it felt slightly better since my sleep.

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Photo credit: Graeme Maxwell

They agreed I could go on, we had decided pre-race that I needed to let my crew make some decisions for me when or if I I was deemed not able. This was one of those scenarios.  I trusted them wholeheartedly to make the right decision based on the information in front of them. It was my constant worry that I was placing too much pressure on them and asking too much of my crew.

Glencoe Ski Resort to Kinlochleven

We decided I could go on with multiple layers, I believe everyone was being told to put waterproofs on anyway.  So I left Glencoe with a vest, running t-shirt, running long-sleeved top, my new running jacket, my normal running jacket and G’s amazing tent waterproof haha, plus hat, buff, gloves and multiple hoods.  We were good to go, we had also accepted I probably couldn’t run much, if at all with all the pain in my knee.  It had developed into pain on two areas at the back of my knee and laterally on the knee. But walking down the entrance drive to the ski resort and I felt my knee wasn’t as bad as when I had stopped.

I told G we could try running a bit along the tarmaced sections to Kingshouse hotel – it worked! Get IN!! I was pleased as I knew when we went off road again it was likely I wouldn’t be able to. At the back of the hotel G pointed out a deer crossing the river, pretty amazing to see, then another deer popped out behind the bridge, simply stunning to see these guys in the area.  We also spotted a small herd over by some trees, I love this, it make being in nature, the trails worth all the runs.  We overtook some folks as we headed along the bottom to the Devils Staircase, we were walking at a decent pace.  Head down, one foot in front of the other, this was again a confidence boost, small as that may be but I’ll take that as a small win along the way. Karen and Lucja met us at the bottom of the staircase just to do a last check to make sure I was okay.   Thumbs up!

We headed up the staircase, I felt bad for G, this wasn’t how we had recce’d this section. G was a master on the hills, he had tenacity and just plots on, exactly why I knew he was the best guy for me on this section. We were walking, G leading so that all I had to do was follow.  Apparently, I didn’t do that very well either, oops!

500 m from the top there was a sign for a cafe at the top, surely a joke right? Apparently not, we had a laugh at this, over the top I ate, G regularly checked I was drinking and eating. I think we had a wee jog down the other side, it was hard. We had slipped into our usual patter when running/ walking together, calling out any obstacles, points to note, this is how we roll and we generally extend this same courtesy to anyone beside us as well.  It work S for us, good communication helps each of us to take the best path to our goal.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t take advantage of the great downhill into Kinlochleven, I was also feeling that I could literally fall asleep on my feet, insert the ‘alphabet game’, great distraction. We had agreed I needed to be open and upfront when I wasn’t feeling great so that the guys could help me rather than trying to bang on quietly.  It was fantastic to reach Kinlochleven with an indoor checkpoint, weigh-in – my weight was back up – superb!

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Photo credit: Karen Brown

I sat down and caught up with Karen, G did a hand over again, I got 10 mins nap while the others had a laugh at my expense. I woken with some amazing noodles!

Kinlochleven to Lundavra

Lucja was up next, it was a long climb out of Kinlochleven, we climbed and climbed, got a little lost but managed to get quickly on track again.  It was over to the Larig Mor, I thought we had seen the worst of the weather but no, at points we were literally stopped dead in our tracks by the wind, most the tracks had turned into mini streams with the rainfall. Thankfully I had worked out if the weather was bad that this section would be a wet one – trail shoes were a good bet. We had given up talking because it was impossible to hear each other. So it was heids down and just keep going. It just seemed to go on and on for ever, we were over the weather and that section.

19727067_10210233917832486_1644814496_oLundavra to Lochaber Sports Centre (Finish)

Karen had the final shift, she was very positive and full of energy despite having also been up for hours within only small amounts of sleep.  As we walked along every so often I’d catch my foot and she would turn to ensure I was still standing.  When I look back, it feels like we got through the last section well but I know it didnt feel like that at the time.  When we arrived at the final downhill section in Fort William I was keen to try a little run – walking – what a waste not to run downhill.

I couldn’t do it, it was simply too painful, with the pain now coming in at the back of my knee. So, to the finish line it was to be a hobble – to experience crossing the finish line, I was happy with that.

Not how I wantedt but theres time for that . . .

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Photo credit: taken by finish line photographer on mobile.

Run Rabbit Run

Once again, I am excited to introduce you all to a good friend of mine, Jeni, I am always blown away by her running exploits.  They put me to shame, I love hearing about her upcoming goals and dreams.  We first met a few years ago through a mutual friend and from there I have followed Jeni’s journey through trail running.

Get a wee squiz on Jeni’s fab achievements and learning her why . . . 19619751_10155397983105775_2051904924_o

1. When did you first get involved in sport/ exercise/ physical activity?

In 2005 I found myself in front of a mirror and saw myself for the first time in a very long time, I didn’t like what I saw.  Many struggles of life had occurred before that point but the truth was I was unfit, lumpy, grey, dull and needing to lose some weight.  I changed my lifesty19650506_10155397982840775_64886262_oe for the better and along with some gym stuff I found running was most convenient for my life.  So I ran a few 10k races, they were tough.  I completed a half marathon in Glasgow and I was destroyed, it wasn’t good, I ran other in Aviemore a few weeks later and had to walk half the way due to pain.  I gave up running that day.  In 2011 I found myself in-front of a mirror again, I was 14 stone, I had a 6 month old baby and a 2 yr old.  My youngest had a bad start in this world and we struggled through 6 months of hospital visits and zero rest.  I was tired, fed up, depressed, and lacking in energy.  A couple of pals (Donna; who introduced me to the inspiration behind these questions; Louise) encouraged me to hit the gym and join JogScotland.  So I did…. In 8 months I had lost 5 stone and had completed my jog leader qualification and was back to work, happy, and running….

2. I know you through your fantastic and inspirational running exploits, can you tell us more about your journey through running?  

I have a passion for mountains and big days out, I wanted to have the strength to run further to make hill days count for more, fell running was my goal and I knew ultra-distance would be good for me.  In 2014 I ran my first Ultra (D33).  I ran 2 ultra-marathons that year and to be honest I found it tough and mentally awful.  The following year I ran a few more; I visited some beautiful places through events such as the Highland Fling race,19692191_10155397983125775_47539126_n Speyside way, Jedburgh 3 peaks and Glenmore 24; many many lessons were learned that year as I found I loved running further, I absolutely loved the ultra-family who adopted me with little bribery.  I loved the events but I felt I could be using my running for a greater cause.  Then 2016 happened.  It was never the plan to run as much as I did and I properly do not condone it as it nearly broke me, but in a mission to complete a charity challenge I had the goal of running 70 miles a week.  On paper, ultra races would help to cover those miles, I absolutely would not race, I would have company (I was already feeling isolated in my village), it would be fun, there would be bling and I get to check out awesome places…. so it was a no brainer at the time; enter loads of events throughout the year till my 5000km year was filled; BOOM.  I finished my challenge and ran the distance as well as raising £7000 for MNDScotland, I am still so grateful to all those that helped me and although I was mentally and physically broken I felt at peace.  Oh and I won the Scottish UltraMarathon Series for the lassies…

I now focus my charity work towards mental health charities as I have struggled myself over the years and running has helped me to work through some of my issues.  Makes sense to support others.

3. Do you have anymore running goals in the coming months and years?

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My goals this year are to heal my mind and soul, I need a year to get a normal life back and let my body recover properly.  I have started to prepare for mountain marathons and completed the L

one Alpine Mountain Marathon a few weeks ago.  We tackled the top head on and entered the A class, probably a bad idea for your first one but I loved it.  I am also having a shot at the Salomon skyraces in the Lake district which again could be a complete disaster but I know I will enjoy the adventure whatever happens!  It is after all only running.  Next year my goals are to complete a 100 mile race and have a bash at actually racing it.  Then its all about the mountain rounds for me, starting with the Ramsey round, then Bob Graham and if I survive then its the Paddy Buckley!

4. What would you say to women/ anyone wanting to get started in running but is thinking ‘I’d never be able to do that’ or they fear being last?

I have started and stopped a few times now, every-time I gave up was due to being under trained and lacking knowledge of what I was taking on.  Since training properly and taking as much advice as possible I find I can run distances more comfortably.  So don’t give up, you can do it but you need to put the work in.  Every runner starts the same, we all start struggling that first mile and some days its as hard to run that first mile as it was all those years ago.  As for being last, I’ve been last plenty, and you know what its not that bad.  I read a great article once and will never forget the lesson.  It was about putting more value on a PW (personal worst) than a PB (personal best) performance.  When your oranges are down (an orange represents a reason not to run, if you have 3 or more reasons not to venture out then don’t… could be tiredness, an over run meeting, a cold… anything) and your race/run is terrible and you achieve a PW then actually you have gained more, so be proud that you did it.  You got out and battled against all odds.  Always remember those who actually can’t run, do it for them!  Do it for your heart; mentally and physically.

5.  What does running give you?

Mentally running is very very important to me, any exercise in fact has been a blessing.  It helps me process my day, mostly I’m quite happy and I like to think through my endless ‘to do’ lists and plan my next adventures while running.  Some days I don’t cope with being on planet Earth very well and if I go for a run in the woods or up a hill its all sorted and I find I’m able to give myself a good talking to.  Life is always better after a reality check in the hills.

Physically I’m now fitter than I have ever been, I turned 40 this year and I’m delight19686267_10155397982950775_294395409_oed to feel that I’m improving my running and I hope that by the time I’m 60 I’m still gunning for big adventures and gaining personal bests.

Socially, I am grateful to running, I currently partake in long distance events that are as off road as possible.  Through this I have made some amazing lifelong friends.  Adventures and shared experience give us a connection that is very special and I do whole heartily admire, respect and love those who take time to get to know me and hang out while on the trails.  I’ve been lucky to have fallen in with a crazy bunch who enjoy meeting up regularly and am lucky to have many chums across the country.  I must add in that marshaling at these events also helps my socialization on the planet and I encourage anyone wishing to run far to try marshaling first to gain insight to our ultra world; this is my only regret and wish I’d helped sooner.

Thank you to Jeni for bring my ‘Women In Sport Week’ blog series to a close (ahem, albeit Im late on this).

The primary aim was always to celebrate the successes and amazing feats of those who are around us every day.  I think sometimes we can forget just how much inspiration can be taken from our friends, our families or our colleagues.

Thank you everyone, I hope you enjoyed this little series as much as I did.

Getting Outdoors

In the second blog of my ‘Women In Sport’ series, we have one of my clients – Jane W.  I believe some of her challenges are more than worth reading about, more to come on these later in the week but to wet your appetite, if I was to say she will be canoeing 89km supporting Poitr, moving down the River Tay from Killin to Meikleour.  Wow!

So to start you off check out where this fantastic journey in sport began:-

‘Last November, 2016, I heard about a talk being given by Louise Johnstone (Louise’s PT4U) on behalf of Grow Biz East Perthshire.  A local enterprise support group for small businesses in rural Perthshire.  It sounded fascinating, Louise was going to give a motivational talk about the Marathon de Sables which she had completed earlier that year.  Following the talk I was clear that I would like to approach Louise for health and fitness training sessions.

At that point I was dealing with some back and joint problems which were having an impact on my work. And with the fact that my daughter Derryth, had left home to move to Glasgow. She was my main buddy and partner in crime. In her mid teens she became interested in a number of outdoor activities. These included mountain biking, canoeing, ski-ing, rock climbing and road biking. We gave them all a good shot. I was determined not to be just a taxi driver. I wanted to join in.  So I tried everything and found I had a passion in particular for the biking. But I love the canoeing and climbing too. We were lucky enough to have friends who could teach us the skills required to take part in these new interests.  We would buy second hand kit and to go ski-ing we would work our lunches in the ski cafes in order to get a free ski pass.  We would take ourselves off on some fairly mad adventures. We cycled the Caledonian Etape together when Derry was…almost 18.  We paddled up Loch Morar, camped out overnight and then paddled off down Loch Nevis one time. We’ve cycled the Burma Road in the Cairngorms on our mountain bikes. And for Mother’s Day this year she took me rock climbing at the crags on the edge of Kirriemuir.  I took up these outdoor sports in my early 40s as Derry entered her teens. And have had an absolute blast doing them.  I would not say that I am a naturally gifted person at learning these new skills. Unlike Derry who would get it first time. I would have to really apply myself and practice a lot. Derry took to things like a duck to water and had to exercise a lot of patience whilst waiting for Mum to get with the programme.   She would also teach me what she had learnt and picked up quickIy.  So I would have lots of opportunities for re-learning everything.

I have always been pretty active tending to work outdoors part time in conservation and rural management work.  And also in running my own business, where I make baskets, willow fences and coracles. When I was younger I played team sports such as netball and lacrosse at my High School. But I hadn’t done any sporting activities in over 20 years until I started mountain biking and canoeing with Derry.

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Why did I chose the activities I engage in?

I could have gone down the team sport route if Derry had gone down that route. But she chose the fields that I am now participating in. So to begin with I followed Derry. I let her lead rather than the other way round. Which seemed to suit both of us.    But they have continued to suit me particularly well. I have always had a love of the great outdoors, of forests, mountains and rivers. My dad used to take me fishing when I was in my teens and bird watching. And I went hill walking in the Lake District with a group of girls from my Secondary School..

 

All these were formative experiences.

And I am at my happiest when I am out of the house in a wild place.  And to be able to navigate through that landscape under my own steam with the aid of a boat, bike or a rock climbing rope has and still does give me immense satisfaction.  When I am on my bike I get two amazing sets of feelings. I feel wild, ferrel, completely free and full of physical power (even more so following the training sessions with Louise!).  The stronger I become physically, the more those sensations are magnified.  But if I am feeling stressed, rung ouDSCI0011t or under pressure the bike is always the solution. If my heart is racing due to menopausal hormones; daily stresses; or caring for my parents the bike has an incredibly calming and steadying effect.  When I have had the opportunity to cycle for extended periods I seem to find a natural rhythm or cadence. A certain number of pedal strokes per minute am not sure what it actually is. But just that I know it when I have hit that pace it is a lovely feeling and makes me feel like I could keep going indefinitely. That rhythm is like a meditation, and really grounds me both mentally and physically. ‘

Jane is embarking on a remarkable challenge on Wednesday 21st june 2017, there will be an update later in the week  to let you know more . . . .

 

(PS:  You may be able to follow their progress at Outdoor Explore on social media)

 

Flying High – Pole Fit

When I discovered  this week (19th June – 25th June  2017) was Women in Sport Week, I knew I wanted to do something to highlight this.  There are many inspiring and motivating women in our lives every single day.  There is not a day goes by that I am not reminded of this fact.

I work alongside Nicole, she moves with such grace and athleticism when teaching and and expressing herself in her pole work.  Please do enjoy Nicole’s blog below:

‘When Louise asked me to write a blog post for ‘Women in Sport’ week, I was delighted that she considers what I do a sport. In my mind it is a sport because I train hard throughout the week, I have goals I work towards, I compete and it takes full physical and mental energy to perform.

My discipline is PoIMG_6758le Dancing (or Pole Fitness), which comes up against some prejudice occasionally and may not be considered a sport by some. There is no denying it is a discipline that originated in strip clubs and it would be a shame to deny the women who created its foundations that credit. Since then the discipline has grown various different annexes including sport, art and exotic styles. The sport as a whole has been rapidly growing, with studios, competitions and governing bodies being created every year all over the world. I have even spent time in Egypt instructing pole fitness after being invited over by the first dedicated pole studio there. The fact that a country like Egypt can embrace pole, with all its restrictions and issues, just proves the sports determination to grow.

I came across pole during my final year as a student of contemporary dance, the classes started off as an escape from the stresses of my final year. It quickly became a discipline that gave me confidence in my body and ability, both of which had been occasionally criticised in the dance environment. Being slightly taller than my peers and always feeling a little larger or more muscular, I found myself being told to ‘slim down my legs’ or ‘be careful of getting too muscley’ throughout my time as a dance student. As I became more engrossed with pole fitness I found that being strong or having larger thigh

4059_3S9A8165s were features which became advantageous to my progress. Of course this made me feel great about my body and spurred on my passion. As my pole practice progressed I felt my body become more defined, my legs actually slimed down after years of dancing and I found my body was devouring the new challenges which presented themselves.

As soon as I discovered there was a platform for pole to be competitive, I needed to be a part of it. This is when pole truly became a sport for me. Performing on stage gave me the opportunity to bring my strength and creativity together, whilst writing the routines focused my training and helped push me to the next level each time I performed. After winning my first few amateur competitions I went on to compete at professional level placing in the top 4 at every competition so far. My goal this year is to perform at bigger competitions in the UK and raise the stakes a little, I know for these competitions I will need to learn harder tricks which means I need to train to become stronger, more flexible and confident in my own abilities.

Pretty soon after starting pole I decided I wanted to share this discipline with other people. A few years down the line I created Get Fit and Fly. It became an outlet to share how good pole made me feel, share my own techniques and movement and bring my own background of contemporary dance in to the mix. After outgrowing the use of community halls, we have recently opened our own studio space to give our students more chances to train in a specifically designed studio. It allows us to put on more classes and welcome even more people to come and discover pole.

I know my students a13330968_1093343354038312_2148843897541752459_nnd others find pole fitness as equally empowering as I do. Each find their own benefits and challenges within class, for some it is a chance to love their body, for others it is a form of expression, it is a chance to develop strength or challenge their current ability. I love teaching pole for its ability to shift students focus from what they look like towards their bodies functionality. They start to think more about what they want their body to do rather than what they want it to look like, despite the connections of pole with sexual objectification. It is a welcome relief  to many, in a world where women are under constant pressure and scrutiny over their image. ‘

www.getfitandfly.com

facebook.com/getfitandfly

instagram @getfitandfly

 

Ending on a Fail?

It kinda feels like an omen for 2017 doesnt it?!

It is always my hope that what I have been doing helps someone, one person is enough to make a difference.  One person impacts the people around them, the knock-on or domino effect.  As for the Marathon des Sables, many ask why should people pay for me to go and have fun, to go and do events I wouldn’t normally afford.  This is about so much more than running in events, it is raising the profile, raising awareness of a charity/charities and some monies.  It is doing something that some see as impossible, a massive stretch to the human body.

Without the support of those who have donated, given their time, their conscious effort to make a difference and to help I would not have gotten as far as I did.  It is with great sadness and a feeling of letting others down, of failing my charities, that I say I did not manage to secure sufficient funds to attempt this challenge – #80degrees.  However, I am very grateful to the sponsors for trusting me to secure the funds to enter the event in January 2018 – I have a goal.

In addition to my friends, clients and those sponsors, a big mention must go to Vickie Saunders.  Vickie is behind The Sponsorship Consultants, they work with individuals such as myself and but also many top level athletes.  Vickie has been instrumental in shaping my perspective on sponsorship.  She has shown me and illustrated that all is not as it seems.    You do not have to be the winner of every race, you do not need to be or have to be a household name to secure sponsorship.  Vickie has taught me a huge amount about connecting with teh right people, that everyone has worth and connects with others, thank you!

#80degrees (My name for the challenge) was meant to be my next challenge to further raise awareness of the fantastic work carried out by DAMH (Dundee Association for Mental Health) and SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health).

These two events are run by David Scott through his company Sandbaggers – check them out if you are looking for something different. An 80 degree turnaround!

Running through the Namibian desert in +40 degrees with a second marathon at -40

degrees in Outer Mongolia.  The mental strength, capacity and determination to do these types of challenge mimics real life.  My experience in the Sahara is testament to this.  I have tried to ultilise and speak of my own experiences with mental health to demonstrate that those who face these challenges do not always fall into the stereotypical ideas that society has.

Mental health challenges and welbeing affects people from all walks of life.  We bounce back and sometimes we don’t so quickly (By the way this is not a reach out – Im all good).

I have much to keep me busy in the coming year, so this is a failure?

No, it is an opportunity to grow, refelct, evaluate and improve my approach to come back stronger and more knowledgeable.  If you would like to keep up to date, I will endeavour to be better at posting my blogs.  I am being published by Positively Scottish so keep an eye out on there also.

Whats coming up:

My Marathon des Sables experiences

My prep for #80degrees

Training for the West Highland Way (June 2017)

Deadwater (July – Aug 2017)

Finally but by no means least, a huge THANK YOU to my sponsors who have stayed on board to ensure we can continue to raise the profile of DAMH and SAMH.

Heal Physiotherapy                                                  Carol S & Kay L and many more fundraising

Bloc eyewear                                                               Murroes Primary School

Icebug UK/                                                                   Running Sisters Tayside

Clarks Bakery                                                             Henrys Coffee House

The Gas Technology Partnership Ltd.

 

 

 

 

Introducing my Sponsors: Stuart Aitken Fitness

I have been blown away by the generosity of Dundee’s small businesses in supporting me to reach the Marathon des Sables in order to raise money for local mental health charity , DAMH (Dundee Assocition for Mental Health).

As these become available to me, I will pop up small blogs where the businesses can highlight who they are and what they do, for example.  Please do pop over to thheir website and/ or facebook page.

First up is Stuart Aitken Fitness,  I have actually known Stuart for some time, we both attended Abertay University. I work alongside Stuart but also asked Stuart to help keep me honest with my own training a little while ago, yep even trainers need trainers, for my OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) so I am thrilled that Stuart has gotten involved in my new venture.

Stuarts take on the matter . . .

”When Louise asked me to be involved with her attempts to run the Marathon Des Sables (from now on this will be referred to as MDS), I could not have been happier. Louise is one of the most inspirational people I’ve encountered in the fitness industry. Through her consistent fundraising events, and community get-togethers she organises, she’s always been someone who I’ve enjoyed working alongside. This however, is a whole other ball game (which I know she knows!) so my reason for writing this is to let you in on some of the things I’ll be advising Louise with throughout her time in training for the MDS.

 

Training

Firstly we have to take into account her training. Now I won’t be involved with the running side, as this isn’t where I specialise or have enough knowledge to be of practical help, but I do have experience in helping athletes become stronger and faster from the weight room.

Louise is going to need a consistent weight-training plan, which may come as a surprise to some of you as she isn’t doing an event that requires lifting weights or being visually strong. This is a common myth with weight training, that it is only used to improve strength and muscle tone, it has so many more benefits to any individual who takes it up, especially endurance athletes who commonly miss it out for fear of getting to muscular.

The weight training Louise will be focussed upon doing will be mainly to ensure we give her current muscles a good reason to stick around. We know from plenty of research that a big muscle is a strong, more robust muscle. This means that doing weight training will help her stay injury free and keep her current muscle at a reasonable level, so she is still strong enough to endure what her body will go through during the MBS.

Although her primary focus will be upon getting the miles in and ensuring her body is ready from an endurance perspective, training in the gym will play a big role in providing her with the best platform to have an amazing race.

 

Nutrition

Nutrition is another thing that is quite often disregarded for endurance events, at least right up until the day before the event (carb-loading for example!).

This is going to be absolutely essential for Louise, as she will need to ensure her body recovers optimally every time she trains. Nutrition plays a huge role in this and ensuring she gets enough calories in to keep up the volume of training she’ll be doing, while also providing enough nutrients to keep her immune system in tact so she can keep on top of illnesses.

We’ll need to ensure she gets a good amount of calories into her body, which will have a large focus on getting plenty of protein (for muscle recovery and building) as well as carbohydrate (for fuel during her training bouts) and fat (so her hormonal profile stays at a high level).

 

Mindset

Lastly, and I think most importantly, we’ll need to ensure her mindset is excellent throughout the whole event, and leading up to it. I don’t think this will be something Louise will struggle with too much as she is already strong-willed, but the MDS is completely new animal, and one that will need preparation from her mind. We’ll need to ensure we’ve ran over possible problems that will arise, as well as getting her head into a position of belief and confidence with everything she does. It will also be important for her to visualise and put herself into positions she didn’t think her body could cope with as this will help through the toughest parts of the race.

Overall I really can’t wait to start seeing how Louise progresses through her training, and ultimately when she actually completes the MDS. I know she’ll set herself up right and raise an incredible amount of money for the Dundee Mental Health Association, and I can’t wait to be part of something as special as this.”

Thank you Stuart!  Here are the links to Stuart’s site:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/StuartAitkenFitness

If you would like to become a corporate sponsor please do get in touch, I am still aiming to raise the final amount by early January.  My contact email is louisept4u@yahoo.co.uk.

Stuart Aitken Fitness