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Kyle’s 2018 :)

When I asked Debbie if I could be added to her blog, I never realised just how long it takes to think of my race recaps, collate photos, edit and publish a post. But reading some older posts I think it is really beneficial to document these things; if not for anyone else to read, but just to bring back memories and learning points! So that’s a new year’s resolution for me…

She pretty much summed up all the other stuff that happened in 2018. I think the only time we travelled separately was when I took my parents to Davos for the Swissalpine race, and a few trips I took for work (London and Italy). That being said, I will just recap on my races last year and not ramble like I do on the podcast (listen now on Soundcloud @tartanrunningshorts !)


In January, I was pretty much just training (in the dark, mostly) for my Tarawera race. One Saturday, I got up really early and drove to the start of the Cateran trail, ran 50 miles in the ice and mud, got a deep fried salmon from Ballater on the way home (only in Ballater!), and 2 weeks later, managed a faster paced 30 miler around Alford.

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In February, training-wise I felt ready for UTWT Tarawera but was a little anxious with adapting to a completely different time zone and racing within a couple of days of arriving in New Zealand. I changed my sleeping habits before we left and it worked out quite well, because I never felt jet lagged while there!

UTWT Tarawera was the most beautiful 63 miles I have ever run. It was a little intimidating not being even considered an elite, and being against some big names, and I had never run this distance, but the views and my training kept me going and I finished in 5th! I made a world class podium and it was a huge surprise because I thought I was in 6th the whole way!

Most of March was spent recovering from New Zealand, but I threw in the Garioch double, racing the 5km and half marathon within a few minutes of each other. I love supporting this local race and came away with decent times, so all speed was not lost!

(A snowy run while in London for a work trip, and leading the Garioch half)

In April, I did the Balmoral 15 but only managed a 2nd place behind Andy Douglas. It was a good training run for the Highland Fling the following weekend, where I managed to win by a pretty good margin and call myself the Scottish ultra champion! It was also a lot tougher technically than expected, and when I knew I wasn’t going to get the record, I got pretty angry (Debbie just laughed at my anger, so I was put back in my box pretty quickly). Again, running on the WHW really makes you proud to be Scottish…

In May, I was mainly training for Salzburg. I hit a few 30 mile runs, and all were quicker paces than in winter, so I was feeling pretty good!

In June, we headed for our wee European tour, and my UTWT Mozart 100 race was towards the end of our trip. I am not a full time athlete, so when I travel for a race, I do like to experience the culture and sights of the area, but this time I went a bit too far. Trying (for once) to be fashionable, my Achilles was in agony after what we found out was a 10 mile walk around Munich. I spent that evening sulking icing and praying I would be ok, but by the time we reached Austria, I forced Debbie to come on local transport with me to the elite dinner (Tarawera got me recognised as an elite, so at the next UTWT race I was invited to stay in the elite hotel and we got celebrated with a posh local cuisine dinner in an old brewery) about a 15min walk from the hotel. I demanded we pay 10Euro for the bus instead of walking.

Miraculously, the following day adrenaline took over and after hobbling from the hotel to the start line, I ran into 4th place in the 100km race. Again, absolutely beautiful but brutal at the same time! Deb had headed to her race in Germany by then, but at the finish line I actually was sick and then fainted and ended up in hospital. The next day, Debbie also ended up on a drip, so it was a strange weekend!

(At the elite dinner, where I wore compression socks for the first time ever, and no sign of plimsolls)

In July, after a little break, I won the Stonehaven half on the hottest day of the year and felt horrible afterwards. It is a really tough course if you want to push yourself, and the spread at the end is amazing!

And while we were in York for Debbie’s 70.3, I thought “let’s enter 2 half marathons in a row” on the Saturday and Sunday. I won both and got the weirdest prize I’ve ever received; a power washer.

Then, a couple of weeks later, I headed to Switzerland to do the Swissalpine T88. Unfortunately, I was a little too cocky going into this after thinking my race results and training was going well enough to win it, but forgot that I had done none of these races at altitude. I was in 2nd for a significant amount of the race, but the thin air got the best of me, and I finished in a disappointing 4th, just a couple of minutes off the money. It was my last ultra of the season (or so I thought…!), so at least I could recover for a few days then try and get some speed back for marathon season!

In August, I did just that! Back down to doing only (!) 20 milers and speed sessions, and it was beginning to show after maybe 4 weeks. I did participate in the Great Aberdeen Run, and came 2nd in a decent time for the effort I gave, so I thought I would be on for a 2.22 at least at the Chicago marathon the following month.

October came and went in a flash. Our holiday was just amazing and had a bit of everything; races, activities (the luge down a mountain in Canada was a highlight), food (oh, the food!), the beer, I suppose some shopping, and some spectacular lakes and forests meant it flew by. Chicago marathon was first and I was on for a PB until about 14 miles, when I just couldn’t eat the “gels” (shot blocks) on the course, and didn’t bring enough with me that I bonked. The very artificial Gatorade gave me a buzz towards the end, but it wasn’t enough and I was disappointed with a 2.27. Thankfully, we drowned our sorrows on a pub tour home and by 3pm I was asleep in the hotel bed!

The Niagara International marathon fell a week later, where I felt horrendous on the bus from Niagara Falls to the Buffalo start line. Crossing the border caused issues which meant we arrived with 3 minutes to de-robe, put our bags on another bus, and “warm up” to the start line. They never held the start, so we had to sprint to the front of the race. Weirdly, a couple miles in and I felt better than Chicago! It was hillier and a hell of a lot lonelier, but I finished only 1 minute slower and got a new course record.

My season was now over, or so I thought. I realised I needed 1 more ITRA point (that means just finishing a qualifying race) in order to qualify as an elite for the UTMB race next year; something I have had my eye on for a couple of years now. It is the pinnacle of ultra running and I was desperate to get in.

Looking through the race calendar, it looked like we would be heading to Scarborough for the Hardmoor 80 (81) miler. With zero training since Canada, I managed to run for 45 miles, then I walked/hobbled/crawled the remaining 36, with my final marathon time of 9 hours. It was very humbling and an experience I will never forget. I was mentally tough and finished to get that 1 point, which means next year I will be an elite at UTMB!

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Since then, I have found it hard to have any mojo for the 2019 season. I’ve done very little in terms of planning or training but, after meeting with Lewis on Saturday, that has changed and I am excited to hopefully do bigger and better things next this year!

 

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Debbie’s 2018 Review

2018 flew by! From April to September, I blinked and it was gone. Lots of training and racing at weekends meant that I have definitely enjoyed the off season a bit too much!

I wasn’t sure 2017 could be topped (granted I got married, but I had a pretty good racing season too, and a few fun holidays thrown in there!) but 2018 took me to beautiful parts of the world, I got to race as a professional, and against superstars I recognised from TV, I surpassed expectation in my first non-car crash (literally) iron distance, and I got a national record for cycling!

Month by month looked something like this…


January: 

This was my highest training month as I was base building over Christmas and preparing (mainly in my garage due to weather!) for Challenge Wanaka the following month. I had some of my best sessions to date, and felt like I was in great shape!

(winter training – Zwift, an amazing present from Kyle, and Kyle as a training buddy himself!)

I also had a fun girls’ trip to London to see Dream Girls in the West End, and drink copious amounts of prosecco and cocktails!

 

February:

In February, the majority of the month was spent galavanting around New Zealand! We started off travelling around Rotorua, where Kyle absolutely smashed the UTWT Tarawera, then we headed to Freyja and Aki’s wedding on Waiheke Island, and then we flew to the south island for me to race Challenge Wanaka and travel around Queenstown.

Unfortunately, the weather sucked! It was really warm but poured with rain 99% of our trip. Apart from the day of the wedding! My race was pretty heart wrenching for me. I was in the shape of my life, was out of the water in 4th (Aussies and Kiwis can swim), but then I suffered a technical as soon as I got on my bike, was at the side of the road for minutes, and started the bike in last place. I made up some time, but had picked up a virus in the days beforehand and had nothing to give on the run, and therefore had my first and only DNF of my triathlon career.

I also wasn’t going to the Commonwealth Games, so from a sporting perspective, for me it was pretty sucky but it made me realise sport isn’t everything. We saw some of the most beautiful parts of the world and made so many memories, along with drinking the best coffee and pies I will ever consume in my life. I miss you, NZ!

 (Rain didn’t ruin our trip! The middle pic is after I won the Rotorua parkrun…drenched!)

March: 

March was my 30th birthday month! Kyle treated me to a spa weekend on a loch, and we went on some stunning trail runs, cycled to a pub where we cooked our own steak and watched the rugby, and had some great treatments and me time! It even snowed when we woke up for Sunday long run, where I immediately slipped and badly hurt my back. It meant I missed about a week of training, but I managed to pull it together for the Scottish duathlon champs, where I took the title.

They were held in Stirling and I went down with Mum and Emma and we did some shopping and they were amazing cheerleaders! I wasn’t happy with my speed, but I was careful with my back, and just wanted to finish after my NZ drama.

We also had another trip to London for a family 40th! We acted like tourists for a change and did some speakeasy bars, Brixton, and shopping of course!

(being blindfolded to my secret getaway made it more fun….I recommend!)

April: 

In April, my own race was the Balmoral 15 miler at their famous running festival. I had continued to train well in the running discipline, but surprised myself by taking the win and being only a couple of seconds off of the record held by a hill running international. I trained through this race, but it would have been nice to do it rested, with some hill runs thrown in as training, to see what I could really do in it.

Also, Kyle won the Scottish ultra champs at the Highland Fling, which I loved supporting! Driving to some of Scotland’s best locations to cheer was so stressful and inspiring!

 

May: 

May was a training month. More cycling could be done outside, so I could see my fitness come out from the speed I was managing.  I also travelled to Bergen for a big negotiation, and had one of my favourite runs of the year (up Fløyen)!

June: 

June saw me entering my first TT race. I was SO intimidated, because I know how sole cyclists can do some serious hours and power on those bikes, and seem to know all about their bikes and aerodynamics. Not me! As we know, I have all the gear and no idea!

The day prior, we did a Highland Games race (I took it super easy!) and refuelled with ice cream from Portsoy. It relaxed me because I hate racing Sundays…you think about it all weekend!

Anyway, I had entered a pretty poor time for my 25mile TT as I had no idea how I would get on. I ended up going off in 3rd, and overtaking the 1st two pretty early on in the race. That meant I led the whole championship field for about 20 miles, with noone to aim for, nor know how anyone behind me was getting on. I was really proud of how I executed the race – I was focused the whole way and even managed to negative split, finishing as 2nd fastest female in Scotland in 58.04ish, comfortably breaking the hour barrier!

Roll on the following week, where we headed for a European adventure! Starting in Brussels for a couple of days to be a tourist, then me having a 70.3 in Geraardsbergen, then to Munich and Frankfurt for some recovery tourism, Salzburg for Kyle to do amazing in another UTWT race, then Heilbronn (German wine country) for my 2nd race in a week.

Geraardsbergen was beautiful and everyone was so friendly. I was up against big names, but I felt excited as opposed to terrified to race them. Exiting the water in 1st place (yay!), I led for about half an hour until I was overtaken, but had a good lead on 3rd. And then, after a decent climb and descent, I went right through a pothole and punctured. 25 minutes later (I didn’t take anything with me), I was back on the road, and gave my all on little PSI. I had a tired sub90 to run into 7th but I was hugely disappointed.

I didn’t feel too broken from the race, so in Frankfurt I wanted to go out and explore on the bike. Half way into the ride it started pouring, I went over a tram line, and off I skidded along a main road with, of course, a tram coming behind me. My back hurt again (from my March fall) and my breathing wasn’t great afterwards. I went to a few bike shops to try and fix it, but none specialised in TT bikes, nor spoke English, so I had to get it fixed the afternoon before my 2nd race, where I stayed for about 4 hours (not great prep, especially when ill).

That being said, Heilbronn also didn’t go well (funny that!). I exited the water 4th (disappointing), the bike seemed to take forever (turns out the brakes were rubbing), and I came off the bike in 7th. I felt too ill to run, so finished in another disappointing 7th place.

Again, the places we saw and memories we made were unforgettable, but it did deflate me, thinking I just blew my year. A couple of weeks later, I regained some fire in my belly, and decided to enter a full iron distance.

July:

Now I was also carrying a foot niggle. I wasn’t really able to push off the ground with my left foot, and had some soft and deep tissue damage. Running on grass and trails weren’t too bad, but sessions were a no no.

I stupidly still raced the Stonehaven half marathon. It was one of year’s hottest days with us, and I bonked big style! The race goes up for 7+ miles, then down pretty steep for the remaining 6. It’s a tough one! I thought, with some of it on trail, it would be ok on my foot and sheltered but, alas, I was limping by mile 10 and walked through the finish. I luckily still took the win, but puked in a bush afterwards (before cycling 50 miles home…I really am an idiot sometimes). Kyle took the win too so meant for a fun fish and chips evening!

I also won the Scottish sprint champs. The run there is all on grass, and is only a 5km, so I was hoping that I could get a lead on the bike (no drafting which I like!) and just hold on. The swim I was out in the front pack (I was happy because there were a few sub-60 100m swimmers in field!), took the lead on the bike straight away, and even gained a little bit on the run. It was SUCH a painful race (I had not trained at all for that sort of distance!) so it was nice to defend my title!

I had also entered another 70.3 (told you it was a busy summer!) to try and feel better after my European downer, so Castle Howard in York it was! I was pretty relaxed for this, although a couple athletes from the Leeds performance centre were doing it and surely if you train with the Brownlees you’ll be tough to beat.

The area had some pretty nasty roads (I lost a bottle in a pothole) and super steep climbs that thankfully don’t last long, but was a really beautiful setting! It hadn’t rained for weeks and was really hot, so the lake was so shallow and murky, but I just laughed my way out of the water (everyone started together) 1st female and 2nd overall (woop woop), had a pretty average bike, and a solid run on grass and trail to finish first and in the 2nd fastest time posted on the course!

Oh, and I was also invited to be on the Stirling Team as part of the Mixed Relay Cup held in London. It was a 20minute relay race with lots of tactics and really took me out of my comfort zone. I took a lot away from that race and learned a lot!

August:

August was a big training month. Challenge Almere was my A race the following month, so I wanted some good numbers this month. I entered the Scottish middle distance champs in Kenmore last minute as a good training day, but never realised accommodation would be sold out, so we tented it in the pouring rain, which not only meant zero sleep, but also zero facilities for caffeine the following morning and a VERY sleepy Debbie at the start line. It was an early start for a Scottish race, and the loch was so cold! I was first female out of the water, but my Reynauds and poor breathing gave me no power on the bike. I was overtaken and was miserable. It was really pretty but I was just so cold!

The last climb on the bike (Schiehallion) was a KOM and therefore there was an additional prize for fastest up. That was my one goal on the bike, and I gave it my all on that climb. I got off the bike and ran really hard to try and catch 1st, and managed at the end of lap 1. The next 2 laps I was just sticking to a tempo pace and not pushing it to get ill…I had another 8 mile run to do after I finished! I took the win, and the Schiehallion KOM, so I was glad it wasn’t a wasted day!

I was then on to the 100 mile TT champs. It was on my doorstep and coach agreed it was perfect timing for Almere prep. I entered with my 25mile TT time, and was going off in 4th. It was a pretty miserable day, and I can’t say I was looking forward to cycling on the A90 when visibility was low (I threw off my glasses after half an hour because it was too wet and dark!). Alas, when the starter told me to go, all fears were set aside and it was game on for the next 4 hours! With LOTS of lessons learned (aerodynamics being the biggest), I finished 1st female in a new national record of 4.17!! I strongly believe I could have gone a lot faster on a better day, and had no idea how to pace it, so with a specific training plan and aero work, I would love to get close to 4 hours..!

September:

I was hoping I was going in the right direction towards the end of the summer! I wasn’t ill, my injury was going away, and I was full of energy and mojo! This was the one I was aiming for since June; Challenge Almere. A full distance iron triathlon just by Amsterdam. I ran out of holidays at work, so Kyle flew out with the fam the day before and setup my bike (the 1st time I’ve ever really felt like a pro!) so all I had to do was show up!

I arrived Friday afternoon, went to the briefing, and chilled until the following race morning. No time to stress, which was amazing! I got quiet time at the airport, where I focused and relaxed, and woke up confident. I was first out of the water by 3 minutes, held off the Ironman Maastricht winner, along with former world record holder until 30km, then came off the bike in 3rd. The run felt easy until half way, and I was catching 2nd, but I was starting to lag. Realistically, I hadn’t run enough over the summer with my injury, but I had a pace and I was sticking to it. With 5 miles to go, I was overtaken, and walked all aid stations to finish in 9.20 and 4th place. I was over the moon! Initially, top 3 was so close, but at these big races the podium is top 10, so that shows the calibre of the athletes in the pro field!

AND, it being a Saturday race, I got to really enjoy the achievement. We went to the finish line party, had some cocktails, and on Sunday Kyle took me on an all you can drink canal cruise…It really was more than I could have hoped for in a race weekend!

 

October:

In October, we holidayed to Canada and USA! First up was Toronto, where I met up with a Canadian swimmer I went on a summer camp with, who I hadn’t seen since 2017! Then, we were headed to Buffalo and then Chicago for the Chicago marathon! We were both in the sub-elite field – which was awesome! – but I kinda forgot that this was a big race for Kyle and some fun [with effort] for me, so following him around and asking if he saw the free Gatorade wasn’t helping him! I went out far too excited as usual at 6.10 pace, died at 7 miles after realising I hadn’t trained since Almere, then brought it back in the last 10km to scrape under 3 hours in 2.59! I just loved the experience, and it did make me think what I could actually get if I’d trained.

I then took Kyle to all my favourite American haunts (he’d only ever been to Alaska, whereas the USA was our second home growing up), and he particularly enjoyed Hooters and Coldstone!

Back to Canada we went, where we did a lot of driving and drinking and finished in Niagara Falls, where we met Noodles for the first time since he moved away and raced another marathon a week after Chicago at the Niagara Falls International Marathon. I had to settle for 2nd in 3.03, but  Kyle won it and so we ended up getting lots of press! A great way to end our seasons!

November:

Needless to say, November was spent doing zilch! It was amazing! But then when I started back running again, I got a horrible pain in the same place my foot hurt in summer. Back to physio I went and it turns out it was a stress fracture. No running for 7+ weeks for me!

We travelled to Scarborough for Kyle’s 81 miler (a shopping trip for me!) where I got to really chill and not run a step!

For work, I was headed to Gdansk for the dry docking of a vessel, so I had to use my time wisely and visit the Christmas markets!

(when Kyle and I went to Budapest for the markets in 2014, we lived off these cinnamon chimneys!)

December: 

Once “race” I DID manage to “run” was the Santa run – a BIG family race in our household: Kyle and Emma are joint race organisers, and Mum, Keith and I ran it!

After a mental year, I kinda lost mojo for training, plus lots of friends were home for the festive season, so I took time to meet them for walks and coffee shops and quality time! I didn’t swim after one morning I went for a paddle and came out blind! My eyes had a horrible reaction to the chlorine, had swollen up and I couldn’t see! So that put me off. I did some good sessions on the bike in the garage, but more just to earn my Roses and Celebrations 😉


If you have read this far, well done! That felt like an Ironman! It has been a crazy year and I have loved every second! I am back running (slowly) now, but won’t decide on races until I am better! As usual, thanks to all readers for your support over the years and I love sharing my journey with you!

Here’s to a great 2019! xoxo

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Kyle’s Summer Season

My year has been up and down! I started off doing the Tarawera Ultra, which really kick started my love for ultra running, followed by winning the Highland Fling, which made me decide I wanted to continue with the UTWT (Ultra Trail World Tour) series, so off I went to the Mozart 100km race.

I did a lot of training for it, higher milage miles, 50km long runs and got in pretty good shape. We combined this race with a couple of Debbie’s 70.3s so turned it in to a 10 day European tour!

My race went ok I guess. The build-up wasn’t ideal; I didn’t think and ended up wearing plimsolls while touring Brussels, Geraardsbergen, Munich and Salzburg, very stupidly. I wasn’t able to run in the 3 days prior to the race, and was really down. Why go all this way and spend all this money getting here if I can’t even start the race? I was even getting public transport the 400m to the elite dinner, much to the disgust of the wife, considering each trip on the bus was about 5€ in Salzburg!

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On the morning of the race, I obviously showed up and after speaking with Lewis, we agreed to go 1 hour of the race and at that point my body will know whether I can complete it, or whether I should save myself for another one. I don’t know what happened but I ran the entire race pain free, finishing in 4th place. In that first hour, I had a few pee stops as was overhydrated, which I think kept me calm and relaxed so I could pick up the pace later in the race. Luckily for me, a couple leading runners took a slight wrong turn, meaning I was winning the race at half way. I got to the mountainous section at over half way and got overtaken by Damian Hall, who I spoke with for a while, then off he went. I lost a few places going through a bad patch but at the next flat patch, I ended up catching up with people and getting myself back into the top 5.

At the Stairway to Heaven (that song you are now thinking of is named after this stairway), I overtook a guy who was dead in the eyes. We had 2 miles to go and he had nothing left. I think he was heading to heaven the way he was looking. I passed him and was now in 4th in 10.30. That time would have given me a 2nd place last year, but between 1st and 5th there were only 7 minutes separating us, showing the standard of the race. I was disappointed I didn’t get a podium but hey ho, can’t win them all, and given my Achilles I was happy I was able to do it at all.

The drama didn’t stop there. Because it was 28C , I’d been out for that long and had 22 gels amongst other drinks and carbs, I was sick immediately after the race, fainting, and had to go in an ambulance to the hospital on a drip to get the salts I lost replenished. I was alone and didn’t speak Austrian, so a couple found me on my way back to the hotel after fainting, so I owe them a lot! We were taking separate trains to Heilbronn so Debbie could get registered for her race the following day. I definitely struggled on my train later that evening!

Fast forward to when we got home, and still being frustrated with missing out on the podium, I had a look at the calendar and saw there was a race in Switzerland a few weeks later. Chicago was always going to be the next A race, but the results from previous years didn’t look that great, and I would have all the hard work in my legs already. Lewis gave me the all clear and I headed there with my parents, far too overconfident. Between the two races, and with Chicago in mind, I upped the speed work and I continued to build on that. Unfortunately, the altitude hit 3000m at the race and I had no altitude training in me.

As usual, I took it easy for the first few miles of the race and then pushed myself through the field into 3rd place for a while. I saw 2nd place just ahead of me. It wasn’t until the last peak which was just under 3000m high, where I overtook 2nd and felt great. But then BOOM – I bonked big style. I had to sit down.

It wasn’t a lack of fuelling; it was a lack of altitude. When I got myself together, a long downhill section followed – where I would usually pull time back – but, alas I had to settle for 4th. It was a massive learning curve and I came home hugely disappointed in my cockiness.

After that, I was done with ultras for the year. It took a lot out of my body and trying to squeeze in heavy training with big travel while holding down my job was taking a toll both physically and mentally. I took a couple of days off just to get my mojo back, and into the Chicago block I went.

For Chicago, this time I had to work on decreasing the mileage and upping the speed, and dropping the elevation that I had been training for. Prior to London marathon, I was going from a 10km background and this time was from an ultra to a marathon, so training had to be different. Chicago was shorter and flat. Lewis had me doing lots of mile reps, hitting sub-5s, for example; a session I hadn’t worked on all year. Although I hit the times, they felt much harder than in the past and I don’t think I gave myself enough time to be consistent and get the speed back in my legs.

When taper time came, I had a feeling I could potentially have a great marathon. I like to do a half a couple weeks beforehand, so I chose Crathes, which I won in a time over one minute faster than last year and a new course record. When race day came, I felt great. I eased into it, then started to feel pretty heavy early on and didn’t feel like myself. I went through half way in 72.30 so I could have been on target for a PB, but I would have had to really push the 2nd half. Unfortunately, at mile 15, I had nothing left in the tank but then those Gatorade gels (we only got them at half way) made my eyes pop out of my head and gave me a 2nd wind. I hit my target times, but by that point I had left it too late. I finished in 2.27.28, just over 2mins slower than my PB. I wouldn’t have changed the prep, I just didn’t have it on the day.

As a side note, Chicago was amazing, and the sub elite area we had was amazing – there were 300 of us and we got our own tent with lots of tables and chairs, there were maybe 50 porta-potties just for us (so you never had to wait), our own track to warm up on, and food and Gatorade for some pre and post race fuel! Debbie kept following me around like an excitable stray dog, however, but that kept me positive and relaxed and remembering why I love racing. It was also great at the end as we could have a massage, then get changed in the tent and just meet her there when she finished.

Also, Americans are so positive – “you got this” – and everyone over-exaggerates the hype and support to fellow runners. Watching the comradery compared to here is amazing. What a great experience!

I was once again disappointed but we celebrated with Goose Island IPA and lots of food and sightseeing, so the mindset quickly changed!

After the race it was all about breweries, Buffalo wings, Canadian whiskey, sightseeing and being a tourist! The night of the race Debbie also introduced me to Hooters, which could have been a bigger highlight than the actual race…

We were both sore afterwards, so not much running was done, but we had entered the Niagara Falls International Marathon because it happened to be on while we were in the area. How could you not enter when your hotel room looked onto the finish line!?

Originally, it was meant to be romantic; taking pics, hand holding etc. But at the start line I changed my mind! There was a Kenyan running which did intimidate me, but it actually turned out he was running with Debbie for a while!

The race starts in Buffalo and finishes at Horseshoe falls, so at registration the Canadian border control were there to check passports (so we didn’t have to carry them on the day) and school buses were put on to transport us from Canada to the States.

Getting to Buffalo was a nightmare! We left at 7.15, and the race started at 9am, which we assumed was plenty time (and they have been hosting the race for many years so those times must have worked in the past). We didn’t get to the race until 8.53am and I hadn’t even changed or put my bib on! They didn’t push back the start time, so with literally one minute to go, I climbed the barrier and “3,2,1, GO” and I was still fixing my shorts…

I ran with Debbie for 400m then pushed on and I was in the lead with a guy called Matthew. We got to half way in 74mins and at this point, I felt good in my new Nikes (that I may or may not have purchased the day before and worn for the Chicago marathon), so I cracked on and surged. Luckily I dropped him and thought I could win this. I sped up with every mile – I think the legs were finally waking up – and I was hitting sub5.30s with ease. My body was able to override the pain and I could run with good form.

At mile 20 I joined the half marathon runners which was good fun, then at mile 24 I hit a little wall but we’d hit a downhill section so I was still maintaining the pace. I crossed the finish line in 2.28 and won the race!

After the race, Matthew told me he was shooting for sub2.30 which, if I knew this beforehand, I wouldn’t have bothered racing the race…it shows just how the mind works!

My next goals really are to focus on a spring marathon and shoot for a PB, but for the next few months I will be trying to get fast and powerful again. I’ll do some cross country to make the numbers up – I’m not promising any fantastic performances – but it will help me for next season.

In order to qualify for next year’s “A” race, which will hopefully be the prestigious UTMB, I need to do another ultra in less than 3 weeks’ time, to get my one more point (it works on a qualification system). I’ll just do this to complete it, but 81 miles will not be easy.

I also hope 2019 will bring another selection onto the GB Team for the World 50km Trail Champs!

One thing I will say is that it has been great to relax for the last couple weeks after the year we have had! I have put on weight, chilled out, and gained back the spark again to get me excited to go running. Watching my friends smash their races –  big shout out to Tom Brian for example!!  – has really inspired me to get back training again! I definitely recommend a few weeks’ downtime per year just to calm down, take everything in, and get excited for next season!

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Canada, eh!? And Chicago & Buffalo!

I know this is a sports blog, but race recaps (for BOTH MARATHONS) will come later. I want to document my trip, even if it’s only me who reads it for the memories…!


It felt like ages ago we were away in the autumnal dream that is Canada (and some of the States!). A fairly packed itinerary, we real made the most of our time there and – speaking for both of us – I don’t think we would have changed a thing!

Starting in Toronto, we landed late and went straight to a poutine place on Queer Queen Street (that’s what they call it!), which had so much going on for a school night at 11pm (4am for our body clocks)!

The following day. I was super excited to meet my friend Cat!! ELEVEN years ago, we were roommates at a training camp in Miami for a few months!!  She was French-Canadian and, although a great swimmer, struggled with English. Meet 2007 Cat (& I!):

 

…Now you wouldn’t know her mother tongue wasn’t English; it’s amazing! Born 4 days apart, we really made the most of being 19 year olds in Florida (we even got fake IDs – sorry Mum!). Anyway, she now lives near Toronto and took us out for the day. She showed us their version of Times Square (Yonge-Dundas), and we walked around the vibrant Kensington Market, Chinatown and Distillery District for some Pumpkin Spice beer. We had so much fun that she asked us to stay at her house about a week later, to which I immediately cancelled my hotel for that night and changed up the plan a bit!

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On the running front, we stayed near High Park, which I’m sure would have great views of Lake Ontario when clear however it was unfortunately overcast when we were there. We were also so close to the waterfront trail which was unbelievably beautiful at sunrise (you could see over to Hamilton in one direction, and the lit up CN tower in the other!).

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After Toronto, we hired a car and headed north to Tobermory. We had a cruise planned to Flowerpot Island and a couple of shipwrecks (which we would have loved to dive to, but it was too cold!), but the weather was so bad that they cancelled all boats! And understandably so, so we took shelter in where else but the local brewery! That place was pretty backwards with the times, but would be stunning with its cliffs, clear waters and cute lighthouses on a nice day.

We finished the road trip at Blue Mountain; a place we went to as a family when I was little for a ski holiday. I use the term ski holiday lightly. Although the ski resort was very grand and had so much going on (look it up!), the “mountain” was nothing! The area is so flat! We laughed a lot about this! We went on the Mountain Coaster which, although extortionate, was so quirky and fun!! You control the speed and the tracks take you to the top and then a wacky descent back down! They were toboggan-like, so I tried to chase Kyle on mine (turns out he was a wuss and braked on the corners), but I missed. We tobogganed down the Great Wall of China a few years ago which was probably more fun, but I would still recommend this as well as going to the area if you want a Cape Cod feel to your trip! On the running front, there is a 40 mile-ish (I think) flat trail that follows the coast line. We did the “Lewis Special” there. A 20minute steady run, followed by an up-paced 10minutes. I felt amazing but Kyle felt horrendous; it’s funny how tapers affect people differently every day!

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The next morning, we hit up the nearby outlets (the exchange rate and Canadian tax didn’t make anything that much cheaper unfortunately) and then headed over the border to Buffalo! Buffalo wings were created here, but there’s a lot more to the city and I’m really glad we went! Our hotel was built by the 1st female architect in America and had so much character. Everyone was SO friendly, the food was great and their Allentown was a lovely place to walk around (although at this point it was 3 days before the marathon and Kyle refused to walk much!). We ran down at the pier, which had a Naval and Military Park and more great views over to Canada this time, and in the evening we were off to the airport to CHICAGO BABY!!

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I found Chicago’s centre to be like a cleaner and friendlier version of Manhattan. We were staying right by “Magnificent Mile” (which apparently we ran on), and I dragged Kyle to all my favourite food haunts before and after the race (I think his favourite was Hooters for some reason…mine was Cold Stone!) and after the race we did all the touristy things (Navy Pier, Willis Tower, and the anti-climax of the Bean – we appreciated the architecture but didn’t get the big deal!?).

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Following Chicago – which decided to have a 2 day heatwave while we were there! – , we flew back to Buffalo and picked up another car, stopping in Hamilton for the evening. Hamilton claims to be the waterfall capital of the world and, although I doubt this is true, we stopped at 3 or 4 the next morning and they were lovely; made better by the fact there were no tourists! Waterfalls are special to us because we got engaged at Iceland’s largest waterfall, combining my love for water and Kyle’s love of trails!

We also visited Cheltenham Badlands which we would highly recommend – I read the explanation so many times and still didn’t understand the science behind the land! So cool…my trainers have never been so muddy from the clay though!

We headed to Ottawa via the Thousand Islands, stopping at a winery. A lovely area with coastline everywhere (and I’m not sure if it’s something to do with the native American land, or being so close to the border, but it was all duty free and cheap!). We stayed at a motel on the Gatineau side of Ottawa and ate REAL poutine at a diner that evening…my stomach loved my but my arteries hated me!

Kyle arranged for us to go to Gatineau park (which is HUGE) but Lac Albert and Lusk cave in particular! THIS is the Canada we were hoping for! Oranges and reds everywhere, calm lakes, trails everywhere and we had an adventure through an underground cave, where water went up to our chests and we had to avoid stalactites for about 100m. We loved it so much we went through it twice! Not only that, we were the ONLY people we saw for the entire 3 hour “hike”. It was the best morning, and in the afternoon we went to a famous diner and did a tour of some Ottawa breweries. Not really taking in the sites (although they were stunning on our bus ride home all lit up by the river!), it was such a fun day we didn’t mind too much.

 

The following day we left early (with only 1 of us hungover…guess which one) and headed to Cat’s house in a quaint little town called Milbrook. It’s what I wish Alford was! All the houses were decorated for Halloween and “fall” and her entire townhouse smelled like pumpkin spice…we were desperate to move in! Some bbq and pumpkin carving later, out came the tequila (and Canadian whiskey…stick to maple syrup guys, we do it best!) and a very late night with Cat and her other half, who we are in love with! Kyle now knows how to floss, and they now know how to Highland dance…

The next day was not so fresh, and was the day we were heading to Niagara. I may have been the rougher one this time, but the Milbrook café, the Pastry Peddler (got to love a cycling reference!), soon brought me back to life (think of a homebake you get here and quadruple it in size without changing the price…incredible cakes there!) and we made a stop off at more outlets and crossed the border once again.

Niagara is some place! I am glad we went at the start of the off season, because I couldn’t have coped with much more tourists than that! Granted it was the weekend, so locals would have made trip there given the nice weather, but lots of people on their phones makes for a lot of collisions!

When we arrived we did a mini jog and found a trail that led straight down to the Niagara Whirlpool. The sun was beginning to set, the water was turquoise, no one was around, apart from a fisherman about 400m away, and it was the one free thing to do there! It was definitely a highlight of the trip, made better when we were heading back up the steps and a herd of deer followed us!

We shelled out for a fancy hotel with a view of Horseshoe Falls and it did not disappoint! We were high up and the sound of the falls as well as the views, both in daylight and in the evening, made us not want to leave the room! The following day we did all the tourist things, getting an “Adventure Pass” and going behind the falls, a walk by the rapids, and a finding out the history (again, I went there on family holidays when I was really young, so I remembered some things, had forgotten some, and also saw how updated things were!).

That evening, we met NOODLES!!! Despite us being so far apart (he moved to the USA 4 years ago), we speak on the phone like 2 hours at a time and he is like an annoying older brother! He claims he moved to get away from me, but I know he misses me every day and sometimes cries himself to sleep, so meeting me in person again was a big deal.

We went to Margaritaville with him and his cousins (who he was staying with and were SO MUCH FUN!), and pretty much ordered every starter on the menu, and carbo loaded on nachos and everything fried for our marathon (yes, ANOTHER one!) the following day!

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This marathon was always a bit of fun to end the holiday with a long run that enabled us to run across the American border, but we probably still went to bed later than we should of, so when we woke up to make the 7am buses we weren’t feeling up for 26 miles funnily enough.

It was an incredible experience though and Kyle even managed to win in a course record! I settled for second, but more on our races in the next post!

We showered – and watched the finish line from our room – and Noodles and fam came to pick us up and take us on an adventure! We went to a few wineries, did multiple tastings (including a whiskey tasting at Wayne Gretzky’s where they loved that we were Scottish!) and tried to get free stuff by wearing our medals (classy). We parked up by Cliffton Hill and did all the tacky activities that you couldn’t really avoid while there, and was literally DRAGGED into the scariest haunted house in Niagara. Much like in Stockholm, when I made Kyle hold one hand and Phil hold the other, I grabbed Scott and Kyle and wouldn’t let go, had my sunglasses on and eyes closed the entire time. I hate scary stuff!

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I was rewarded with funnel cake and lobster for my final dinner on holiday! Sounds lavish but for $25 it was a steal!

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The next day, with marathon legs and overweight suitcases from all the shopping, we waddled back to Toronto – which included a rush stop at the mall at Bloor to panic buy Abercrombie and Bath & Body Works, and make our luggage even heavier – and off to the airport we went!

An action packed 15 days but I loved every second! I’m so lucky that I’ve made friends all over the world from sport, and made new friends on the trip too that will not get rid of us! If you have Canada on your list, PLEASE go and go in Autumn! It is so so so beautiful you won’t regret it!

 

 

 

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We Made It!! 1 YEAR!!

We officially got to our 1 year wedding anniversary!! Thanks to everyone who made our day so special on 30th September 2017…

Now we’re off to run the Chicago marathon and eat lots of poutine in Canada ❤

Coach Lewis – you lost the bet 😉 we made it!

If you want to follow us, Kyle’s bib number is 457 and Debbie’s is 549 (let’s hope that’s not our times!)…

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Momma’s Castle to Chateau Challenge Complete!

There was never any doubt that Mum would complete this Disney Challenge (she would never fail in the face of Mickey!) BUT 2 PBs over 2 consecutive days and after all the walking around Paris sights and shops the previous day!?!? 

She really is inspiring – I love how she has joined the running world. She knows now that it is not just about getting fit and looking amazing (she is glowing and has definitely toned up!) but you can see more when travelling, get that Runner’s High (which she still claims she has yet to get, but you can see where I get my drama queen genes from!) AND all you need to pack extra in your suitcase is a pair of trainers! 

Here is her recap of yet another Disney Challenge complete!


PART DEUX

I did it!

 

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Castle to Chateau Challenge tick_clip_art_9457

You know I only did it for the awesome Disney medals (one even glows in the dark) and T-shirts.

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Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone for their good luck wishes and all the well done’s. I really appreciate the support.

Secondly, if I can do this, then practically anyone can. Take that first step. Download the Couch to 5k app and do it!

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(proudly put up in our dining room!)

Now about our trip….

Everything went quite smoothly. We went to the Expo om Thursday to collect our bibs and Keith was mortified to find out we were both in Corral B. Normally the fastest runners are in the first corrals and us slowbies are at the back. But for some reason Run Disney France decided to mix everybody up. I was quite happy, as being the last to go is horrible and for the first time I wasn’t on my own waiting for my turn.

There wasn’t much at the Expo but we did manage to buy even more T-shirts.

We did over 30,000 steps in Paris on Friday which probably wasn’t the best race preparation but it had to be done. We took the train to La Defense and went up the Grand Arche – what a great view. We then took the metro to Arc de Triomphe, walked down Champs Elysees to the Grand Palais, then Place de la Concorde, through the gardens to the Louvre, had lunch near l’Opera, then to Notre Dame and ice cream at Berthillon. Then to Chatelet les Halles to get the train back to Val d’Europe. There we walked round the outlets before having dinner.

The 10k started at 07.00 so we got the train at 05.45 giving us plenty time to drop off our gear bags and get to the start line (depart). It was good to hear the familiar voice of Paula Radcliffe although she was speaking French too. It was a bit cold and the foil blankets came in handy again.

The 10k route was round the 2 Parks, which was great. The cast members were amazing, lots of Allez Allez being shouted and hands out for high fives. You couldn’t help but smile.

The volunteers were also amazing – directing us and handing out water etc.

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One of the best things about Disney races are the Park toilets! Portapotties (I hate them) are not necessary! There are plenty of them but you shouldn’t have to use them.

Running up Main Street is always special. That’s where the biggest crowd was. The route took us on the Studios’ Backstage Tour and Catastrophe Canyon which was cool also we ran through the Moteurs Action area. Then boom! There was the Finish Line! (arrive)

I did get a PB according to Strava. Quite happy with that!

The afternoon was spent in the Magic Kingdom. It was very busy and it did rain quite a bit. We did manage Space Mountain, Star Tours, Thunder Mountain and Small World before the Parade at 17.30. We then headed for an early dinner and some rest.

The Half Marathon on Sunday also started at 07.00. It was much warmer but drizzly and breezy. After running through the Parks like the 10k,  the route took us out into the real world, through a housing estate to a normal park where we had to run round a lake, then a long climb back to the main road towards Disney’s Santa Fe Hotel. This is where Emma and I stayed the first time we went to Paris 13 years ago so that gave me a boost. We’d walked along the “Rio Grande” many times and now I was running it!

The route then took us through Hotel Cheyenne (which looked quite cute!) and then to the Newport Resort round Disney Lake. While heading back up the hill I was on a walking break and spotted Keith. He’d finished ages ago and had come looking for me.

Running through the Disney Village was great but it gave me a false sense of it being almost over – still 2k to go! We went back through Hollywood Studios and eventually the Finish Line  was in sight!

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I was just so relieved it was over. I was happy with my time and that I’d run most of the way, walking at the uphill bits as usual! I am quite chuffed with myself, successfully completing my Disney challenges.

(edit Deb: isn’t she so cute?! So proud!)

I’ll never be a real runner as I simply don’t enjoy it. I would like to continue running as I’ve put so much effort into getting where I am. I don’t want to lose it. I’m sure all my coaches will find something for me!

[edit by Deb and Kyle: this won’t happen…once a runner always a runner – the more you do it the more you’ll love it!]

The CHAS/ASV Santa Run on 9th December is my next outing so get yourselves signed up! And yes the Entry Central link photo is Debbie and I in our costumes!

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Mum’s Turn Again – Castle to Chateau Challenge!

Hello all! While I’m still recovering/trying to rev my body up to do Chicago marathon in 3 weeks (why do I do this to myself?!) Mum has agreed to take over the blog again, since all I am doing is watching Netflix (Jane the Virgin is my new jam) and eating pie (oh emm gee we have been picking apples and cherries and I have been baking and even I am impressed with the result!) so don’t have much to write about. 

You may remember she was in Florida for New Year, participating in Disney’s Dopey Challenge?! I was so proud of her; she completed a 5km, 10km, half marathon followed by full marathon on 4 consecutive days!! 

Well, she is back to Disney again (remember she is Disney-obsessed…judge away 😉 !), but this time in Paris for a 10km and half marathon, on two consecutive days (this will be a breeeeze in comparison, Mum!).

In case you don’t know, Mum has never been an athlete. She did a couple of 30min cross trainer sessions a week at the gym, along with a couple of pilates classes to keep fit, but about a year ago she broke the news she was doing a couch to 5km plan, and now she is a full blown MARATHONER rock star. She is such an inspiration, showing that anyone can get out of their comfort zone and do it! Now she is slimmer, looks so healthy, and I’m sure she FEELS a lot better (although she would beg to differ and she still maintains her loathing for running!)

Here is her build up to Paris this weekend – wish her luck!!!


 

Now, I don’t want to steal Debbie’s thunder but I have the Disneyland Paris 10k and half marathon this weekend to complete my Castle to Chateau Challenge. To conquer this, you have to complete the Disneyland Paris half and a Disney half or full marathon in USA in the same calendar year. This is a real Challenge – never mind Almere!! (edit Deb: thanks a lot, Ma!)

Keith did the inaugural DLP Half marathon in 2016. Little did he know I’d be joining him 2 years later. I wouldn’t have believed it either, but here I am putting on my running shoes again for Mickey (well he will be 90 in November).

Training since my Dopey Challenge has not been great. I do blame the weather – too cold, too icy, too snowy, too wet, too windy and then too hot! There have been very few weeks when I have managed 3 runs with one excuse or another. But it’s only 10k and 21k right?

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(I did manage to sneak onto the bypass)

I have tried to run at least 10k most weekends and I did run the Challenge Almere course last week, one lap only of 7k obviously, why would you do 3 or 6 laps? And I can tell you it wasn’t flat! Just for the record, while Keith was doing the middle distance and Debbie the long distance run, I was standing rooted to the spot, being their cheerleader for 5.5 hours. (edit Deb: told you she is the best cheerleader ever!! Also, it was as flat as you’re going to get, so ignore her!)

In some ways being a competitor is far easier than being a supporter, much less stressful for sure.

So, Keith and I fly to Paris on Thursday, staying at Val D’Europe as DLP hotels are way too expensive. We are one train stop away which is around 5 minutes from DLP and then an easy walk to the start line and the Parks. The plan is to collect our bibs then do some shopping. Friday we’ll go into Paris – rain is forecast but it doesn’t matter. I love Paris!

Speaking of weather, it will be much warmer than our Dopey runs in Florida in January so that’s a bonus.

S’il vous plait, wish me “bonne chance” and fingers crossed, je peux aller la distance encore!

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(nervous face!)

A bientot

La mere de Debbie


Next blog will be how she gets on!

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