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A Moroccan Babymoon and entering the 3rd Trimester!

Today I am officially into the 3rd trimester (28 weeks)! Wish the next 12ish weeks would hurry up…!

How many weeks pregnant: 28

My guess on gender: A boy, until I went shopping with my sissy on Monday and she was talking about taking it out for cocktails on its 18th birthday…now I can imagine either!?

Kyle’s guess on gender: A boy, but only cause he keeps calling it a “he” by accident, and has now convinced himself!

Food aversions: I have gone off my porridge again!! Which sucks because it means I don’t fill myself up in the mornings, and I’ve hit the starving-all-the-time stage!!

Food cravings: Most things edible – I’m really into grapes just now, but I think that’s because they are really juicy and I am finding myself getting pretty dehydrated pretty easily at the moment.

Sleep: I am sleeping about 8-9 hours a night. I would prefer more but I get round to hitting the hay around 9.30pm, asleep about 10pm and then up at 6am. I don’t have the biggest stomach yet, so it is not uncomfortable for me to sleep on my back, or right side. I’m just going with the flow..!

When I feel my best: After a swim (I still don’t feel great in comparison to before during, just because I’m slower and less comfortable tumble turning – but still managing! – but after I feel like I got a total body stretch!), but if during, then it’s on the turbo, but sitting up because my tummy gets in the way. I should really move up my handlebars!

When I feel my worst: Walking – I have a pinched nerve in my back, as well as pelvic girdle pain AND an irritated glute mead, so running is impossible and I’m walking very uncomfortably. When pregnant, tendons around your pelvic area get loosened in preparation for childbirth and mine have just gone cray cray. I’m so just thankful I can do other forms of exercise to make me feel human, or I would go insane! I also feel pretty uncomfortable after a big meal – because my stomach is being taken up by a developing human, I get full pretty quickly, so little and often seems to be the key!

Biggest area of growth: My stomach is growing and growing. So weird!

Times I go to the bathroom during the night: Probably still the same as before – 3 or 4 times per night. But I’m going more just before bed eg 9.30pm-10pm. Maybe 3 times in that half an hour!

Belly button in or out? My belly button is neither an innie or outie. It’s more in than out but it’s so freaky I don’t like to look at it!

Wedding rings still fit? Yep! No swelling…yet!

Best moment of being pregnant so far: Feeling baby go mental with the kicks and punches!

Worst moment of being pregnant so far: Not too many complaints or issues from last update! I have more energy again but don’t like being starving more often, with no snacks around! I think the pain in my back/glute is worst just because it is constantly zapping and can be so sore! Worth it though 🙂

On my to-do list: People at work, and a couple of friends who have had babies (I don’t have very many, so am very grateful to you guys for helping!) have made me a spreadsheet with a shopping list of things I actually need, rather than what the shops tell you to buy, as well as a list I have combined with everyone’s advice and tips eg keeping the baby’s room at 18C, and bringing flip flops to the hospital! So I have worked my way through and all that is left to buy is car seat and nursery furniture (we have already bought an adorable cot bed, but the other stuff I’m still shopping around for). I am LOVING shopping for this baby, especially when Mum and Emma get involved…they are hilarious!

Training: If I hit 10 hours a week I’m happy. I wouldn’t call it training at all, but just exercise! When I feel good, I might shove on Zwift or a GCN video if tight for time on the bike, and likewise in the pool I’ll still join Chris for his sprint sets to make swimming exciting (whenever I’m by myself I just plod up and down with a lack of motivation to do any reps). When I’m feeling particularly sluggish, I have this 20minute pre-natal pilates routine memorised, so I can go and get a good stretch, particularly  in my hip and pelvic area, which makes me feel so much better afterwards! As much as I’d love to have some goals set for post-baby, I just have no idea how my body is going to react to childbirth, nor do I know if these injuries are going to magically disappear, so I don’t want to plan anything until I feel better (which sucks because I like goals!). BUT I also want the baby to come first so if training/racing takes a back seat for a while, who cares?!

If anyone has any advice or guidance, please let me know! Thanks for reading about my journey and I hope it can help with yours if you are going through the same 🙂

Right, on to our baby moon in Morocco, which happened the day after Kyle’s 100km smashfest! Apart from the 2 days at the beginning where his body was like WTF have you just done to me you A**HOLE, and he spent those days alone in the hotel with V&D (while I sunbathed managed to run to a pharmacy to spend £18(!!!) on anti-sickness meds), we explored Essaouria, the Atlas Mountains and finished off in Marrakech. A beautiful place (with a corrupt police force) and I loved every second…Kyle maybe only after he recovered 😉

A couple of spa days, lots of mint tea, runs for me (I was able to a couple weeks ago..), shopping, culture tours, tagines, and even a wee trip to their “theme park” (a cuter version of Codonas to be real). Spot the bump 😉

 

 

❤ ❤ ❤

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Anglo Celtic Plate 100km – British Champs 3rd place

My preparation for British 100k Championships was great to begin with – I was selected as a GB reserve for the upcoming World Trail Running Champs (read my account as 1st Brit at the 2017 championships 2 years ago) so being selected to represent Scotland at this might be my own chance this year to represent my country. However, life sort of got in the way; work was mental, Deb was hospitalised, I got a piriformis niggle, and basically lost my mojo for a while.

 After seeing a couple of different physios, and being given different exercises to help, I was a little nervous and disheartened, but my sessions were still proving I had speed, albeit if I lacked some endurance from missed runs.

In the week leading up to the race in Perth, I upped my hydration, increased the frequency of doing these exercises, ate (a little) better, and felt as prepared as I could be when we arrived in Perth the day before (which we also tied in with car shopping!).

Ok so pre-race dinner was an edible lasagne, followed by half decent apple pie and ice cream, and banter from fellow teammates and ultra GB legends James Stewart and Rob Turner at our table. Heated discussions over whether Ironmans are tougher than 24 hour runs had Debbie baffled (1 activity for a full day sounded way harder to the Greigs, but those skinny runners hate swimming…) meant I forgot all about my traditional pre-race beer! A pack of Jaffa Cakes as 2nd dessert did the trick instead.

After an interrupted (there was a wedding on in the hotel, and we were in the centre of town on a Saturday with thin walls) solid 7 hours of sleep, I got up about 4.30am. Debbie made my porridge with pb, banana and chia seeds, and coffee, then went off on her own wee run since she knows she doesn’t get any love/banter out of me a) at that time of day, and b) race morning.

When she got back, I was doing my stretches and she loaded up the car. We headed to the race just after 6.30am. It was raining and cold, and I decided I had 100km to warm up; I didn’t need to add any more to that, so saw no need to arrive any earlier! When we got to the Scotland tent, each athlete got their own part of the table for their support crew to sort out fuelling for the 7 hours of racing, so Debbie set up while I got my kit ready. In true K-Babe fashion, my bib was on the wrong way, so team manager Debbie (also an angel that day, so not to be mistaken for my Debbie) looked after me right as the organiser announced there was 1 minute to go to the start..!

 A quick team photo, a few good luck handshakes, shouting at my Debbie to get me a buff for the next lap (there were 42 in total – spoiler: it was less disgusting than anticipated) as I was stupidly underdressed for the rain and bitter wind, and the gun went off.

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Immediately, Rob and I took the lead. This was a little worrying considering I have gone out fast in the past and paid the consequences (I’m looking at you, Highland Fling). But I felt good, there was no pain in my butt (Debbie was away getting me a buff) and my glute was pain free, too 😉

We passed all the tents again after about 9 minutes, and were all waves and smiles. Fast forward that another 10 laps or so, the smiles turned to grimaces, then fast forward another 20 laps, and they were faces of pain and anger..!

I borrowed gloves from James (again, disorganised K-Babe strikes again), but never usually race in gloves, so discarded them after a few laps, but the buff stayed on for about a third of the race. I was ticking off about 6.25/mile pace (consistent sub 20min 5kms) and pulled away from Rob, but he stayed within 3-8 seconds that entire time. Unbeknown to me, I thought he was 3-8 minutes. D’oh!

I then hit a wee wobble, that I think might have been caused by stopping to pee at a tree, then surging to get back to the lead (that mile was still under 6.30, which was a rookie error). I also spent quite a while on a nutrition plan, for it to be neglected from lap 1. Because it was so cold, I didn’t feel I needed water until about lap 4, which meant everything got pushed, Debbie didn’t know what to feed me for the following lap, and rather than tell her what I would want in ~10mins time at the next lap, I got frustrated that she wasn’t a fortune teller thus didn’t provide me with the thing I wanted at that time.

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This was actually my first time trying out Maurten. I know what you’re thinking; why the hell didn’t you try it out in training, you imbecile? My answer – have you SEEN how much they charge for gels and drinks?! I was perfectly fine taking the risk, so as not to have to remortgage my house and sell my unborn child. What I didn’t know about it, was that not only is it very sweet, the actual drink is like cement mix, and has to constantly be shaken. I clearly wasn’t aware, so sipping it around the lap felt like water and then BOOM the cement mix hit, which was a struggle and also very sickly to digest. Instead of remembering this tip for the next bottle I was given, I would choose instead to get angry at Debbie for making my fuel too weak..!

Another lesson learned from the race: never shout at a pregnant person.

She was actually awesome – when she saw me fatiguing, she would shout key words of encouragement as I passed. One lap she told me to do it for Don Ritchie (1st Scot would receive a trophy in his honour), then on another lap she told me to do it for our baby, which literally made me well up and push harder.

 Don’t get me wrong – she also f***ed up when I was deep in a hole, after I’d fallen from 1st to 3rd place. She told me 4th was right behind me. I thought I’d blown it. 4th again. But no, I had actually lapped 4th and yes he was right behind me, but a lap behind.  

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Big Charles Harpur from Essex stormed through the field about 2/3 into the race and was nothing but encouraging. His performance was paced to perfection. Rob also smashed it, letting me go for a few laps, and just staying consistent while I wobbled around. When in 3rd, I genuinely felt like the Wolds Way disaster was going to hit me again, and I’d walk a 9 hour final marathon. I was so worried that I even threw off my Suunto watch, because I was too scared to know my pace.

It’s the most emotional ultra I have done to date. For the others, even if going in injured, I have relaxed the entire way and enjoyed the hard work in training paying off. Today was not that day. I just really wanted to win, and fought for the entire 6 hours and 54 minutes of that 100km. 3rd in the British Champs, 2nd in the Scottish Champs, and 1st Scottish Senior because Rob is an old man. That time also puts us top 3 lads on the GB all time list. I am 18th fastest 100ker in Great Britain, ever, according to the Run Britain rankings. 

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If you thought I was ugly during the race, you should have seen me at the finish! Charlie and Rob looked like they had just strutted down the catwalk by comparison. They had to hold me up for the pictures, with my parents in the background in case I fell backwards. Running hard on tarmac for that long really affected me!

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(A huge well done to the entire Scotland team – in particular my new buddies in Rob and James aswell as Al Higgins and Dave Ward – to the team managers Debbie Martin Consani and Val Macaulay for looking after us so well, and to the organisers and volunteers of the event who gave a ridiculous amount of time to make the event possible.)

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After losing all dignity when my Dad had to shower me, and a greasy McDonalds later, it was time for presentation, saying goodbye to Mum and Dad, and a 90min drive to Glasgow, it was holiday time! We were off to Morocco the following day for our Baby Moon and much needed downtime! Once again, a huge thank you for all your support and encouragement. It really keeps me going. And if you want to hear more, please subscribe to Tartan Running Shorts, the best running podcast in the world 😉

 

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Past Half Way…!

Yep, for those of you who don’t know, we are having a BABY!!!

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(yes Kyle thought the pic of the orangutan made us look like great parents for the announcement..!)

I am 21 weeks along and I am finding that every day is different..! I am tired a LOT more (goodbye 20+ hour training weeks, hello 10 hour sleeps) and the whole thing is an emotional rollercoaster, but we are so SUPER ECSTATIC are very grateful that it happened so quickly (I came off of the pill after feeling accomplished in Amsterdam!) and that the baby is healthy (I am classed as high risk because of my lung issues).

I am stealing this from another blog, because I have found reading and listening to people’s journeys so fascinating, and for any preggers gals or future mums, you can refer to my feelings, tips and goals and know you are not alone..!

How many weeks pregnant: 21(+2!)

My guess on gender: I can’t picture Kyle saying “I’m taking my son to football”, and he is pretty camp(!), so I’m going to go with a girl! But the more I think about how active it is, I have a suspicion it could be a boy….uh I have no idea!

Kyle’s guess on gender: He has no idea, either. He’ll just be thrilled if it comes out human…

Food aversions: Initially coffee and salad! Which SUCKED because I was seriously addicted to coffee (having become a coffee snob after our trip to NZ), and I do love a salad followed by dessert! Another favourite snack of mine was apples and pb, but I can only have pb in my porridge now (which was also avoided for 3 months).

More recently, I can stomach coffee but not until about 10am, I never “fancy” a salad, but I can have them now, but the worst one so far has been when I forced Kyle to eat on another couch, then brush his teeth twice, then wash his dressing gown, then just shower because I had given up hope, after having buffalo chicken wing ridge crisps with dip! I smelled it on him that entire night and kept waking up…!

Oh, and I also used to have a Pepsi Max almost daily after my lunch, but I haven’t had one all year! I have swapped to 7Up, or sparkling water mixed with diluting juice (because I really haven’t been wanting water, and I know that’s dangerous!).

Food cravings: Initially, it was anything with white carbs! Pizza, fresh white bread (especially if it was made into a tuna sandwich – which I later found out you are meant to reduce your intake of during pregnancy due to the mercury levels…ugh!). BUT, the main one was hot cross buns! There was one evening in January that I met Kyle after he was a guest speaker at some event, that on the drive home I demanded we stopped at the 24 hour Tesco to get them. Well, despite them being in the Westhill Tesco, they weren’t even baking them in what must be one of the biggest Tescos in the country, so I then demanded we drive to Westhill to get some. I then ate all six during the 20 minute journey back home…

I don’t crave sweets and chocolate like I used to; at the moment it is more salty, savoury snacks, but I never say no to chocolate!

Sleep: This is a weird one! I was relatively normal to about 14 weeks, when suddenly I physically couldn’t get out of bed at my usual 5.30am wake up, there was no way I could exercise in the morning, but then after a full day at work, I got home far too tired to do anything that I would just go to bed (with my hot cross buns), watching the Kardashians and feeling sorry for myself. For probably a full month, I would be lucky if I managed a lunchtime 40min swim and that was it! Which was mentally so frustrating because I was told you get your energy back in the 2nd trimester! I am still really tired by 7pm these days, but I am able to get up and at least spin the legs knowing I will be a zombie after work!

Another annoying thing about sleep is a now wake up bang on 10.30pm, 1.30am and 4am to pee! Before, I would need to go a couple times at night from all the water I drank, but now it seems regimented!

When I feel my best: Either after a swim (I feel that really stretches me out) although tumble turning is beginning to become uncomfortable, or a good cycle with intervals! I don’t go by power anymore, but maybe 3 minute efforts during a 40min turbo session makes me feel alive during the workout!

When I feel my worst: I feel my worst at the end of the day! I feel heavy, sluggish, cranky and exhausted! Again, if we’re talking about during a sport, I have to say running! My pelvis hurts quite a bit just now, so I have been told to stick to grass or treadmills every 2nd day, and I just feel really heavy and gasping for breath! If I hit a sub 8 minute mile I’m thrilled! I reckon I’m going about a minute a mile slower, and “sessions” hurt my pelvis too much! Which sucks because I crave fresh air, and Kyle won’t let me cycle outside without a marshal present, so I have started going for little walks…!

Biggest area of growth: My stomach! I have completely lost my waist, so now instead of an hourglass, I have wide swim shoulders, a big stomach, and cyclist legs #fail ! Although you can definitely tell in a swimsuit now, people at work are not convinced I’m past half way, so I’m hoping that’s a sign that I’ll be “all bump” – although my hot cross bun addiction isn’t assisting with this…! I did put on a significant amount of weight the first 3 months, because of the not so nice side effects, hardly any training at all, and eating all the carbs, but I haven’t gained too much since (but PLEASE tell me if I am turning into a whale!)

Belly button in or out? My belly button is a MASSIVE innie so I reckon it will take a while to pop out.

Wedding rings still fit? Yep! No swelling…yet! I swell a lot after long haul flights etc so I am positive I will get puffy towards the end!

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(Kyle’s Valentine’s day presents to me also included googles, a bike, and some running shoes for the baby! I may have cried a little..!)

Best moment of being pregnant so far: Telling Kyle! It was a Friday night and I cycled home from work, getting in a couple hours before him (typical he worked late on a day I really couldn’t wait to see him!). I told him I hadn’t waited for him, and that his dinner was in the oven. When he opened it he asked me why there was a bun in the oven…well after waiting what felt like an ETERNITY for that lightbulb moment (it is Kyle after all!), he just burst with excitement and tears of joy!! There were a lot of happy tears that evening!

Also the scans are just unbelievable. Mother nature is just incredible! Watching the baby cycle, plank, tumble turn inside me; seeing its brain and spine and heart beating…it’s just a miracle. And watching Kyle watch the screen and how excited he also gets just makes me melt!

Worst moment of being pregnant so far: When I ended up in hospital for 3 days in February with another PE scare. I had gone to the doctor for a couple of vaccines and the nurse asked how I was feeling. I had a tight chest that day (but I have had good days and bad days since the accident so I usually shrug them off), and she told the GP who called the hospital and they asked me to go in urgently for tests. These tests weren’t urgent and it was basically 24 hours of waiting, terrified, then tests, then a 2nd night and day of worrying why they needed a second opinion. Thankfully, they said there wasn’t anything new in my lungs, but the wait had me in bed the following 3 days hysterically crying after all the anxiety! I even broke down at work the first day I went back. It was such a horrific experience, because it wasn’t just me I was worried about this time. I also think I was overly positive in 2015 (that I HAD to survive and recover quickly) that I didn’t really get sad, so this time everything came flooding out!

Also, on a daily basis, I have to stab myself with Dalteparin – a blood thinner in syringe form – and, maybe 5 out of 7 days, it has me on the floor in agony. This is also due to my history with blood clots. So that’s not nice either.

On my to-do list: Not much! Obviously, this is my first baby, and also the first one in our families, so we have to buy everything and get advice from friends and family. It can get overwhelming but I prefer to think of it as exciting. One big must is a running buggy, but after covering John Lewis, Mothercare AND Mamas and Papas, there are none to try out in the Aberdeen area. If anyone has any recommendations PLEASE let us know!

Other than that, I have entered nothing and would prefer to play it by ear after the baby is born. I would love love LOVE to race at the end of 2019, just as a goal and not to chase PBs or places, but we have no crystal ball to tell us how much recovery time I’m going to need! But we know the first family holiday will be to watch Daddy smash the elite field at UTMB!!

Training: I’m only beginning to get some energy back, but my motivation is still pretty low (I never realised I need goals to train; at uni I only went to the gym to to fit into my LBD, but becoming an “athlete” again must have changed me!). Coach Lewis suggested I do a parkrun every month just for a fun workout, so you might see me at one now and again, but because it has been more painful that I had thought, running might have to take a back seat for a few months unfortunately.

Fortunately, cycling makes me feel good! I haven’t gone over 2 hours since finding out, because a) Kyle has shunned me to the garage unless I find a friend (although I have been cancelling on Espie due to being scared of the weather recently…sorry, James!), and b) I don’t want to, so I’m not gonna. I have nothing to prove and these next few months are time to calm down and just chill! I AM enjoying sessions less than an hour, where I throw in some intervals or sprints and get a good sweat on! They make me feel like my usual self more than anything else!

I am enjoying my lunch swims, because Chris is my lift there and he forces me to go! If it were just me going, I would choose not to, but because I know he’s going, I feel guilty if I miss it! Plus I have done a 180 with my sessions which has made it fun! Rather than my typical 30x100s on a 1.30 turnaround at lunchtime, I am joining Chris’ swim sets (he is a sprinter through and through) eg 16×25 on a 40 turnaround MAX, or 12×50 on a 50 turnaround MAX. Because I am only going fast for between 15 and 40 seconds each time (depending on stroke and distance), it has made it exciting and new! Although I tend to do these backstroke now because that’s the stroke that feels most comfortable, and I am noticing my lower half sinking a lot more in general, which has really slowed me down. Tumble turning is also getting slower because I have a wee bump in the way. As soon as I get pain from pushing off, I’ll start touch turning, but I am enjoying swimming as more of a stretch and therapy (with some fun sprints thrown in) and feel really good afterwards!

Another thing I am being urged to do by my physio is Pilates, because my hips are tight usually, so are even worse now! I don’t treat it as a workout, but it is quite nice to force myself to do in the evenings, when I am tight and groggy! It does make me feel better, so I’m going to try and force Kyle to join me, because we are both bad at neglecting the extra stuff!

Thanks for reading about my journey so far! For all you parents out there, please please PLEASE give us as much advice as possible! We are fascinated by some of the stuff we have heard so far, and are so excited to be parents! And any tips for getting through months 5-9+ are more than welcome! Pregnancy can be tough! Luckily, we have booked another babymoon (we have already been to Venice in January for a long weekend!) to keep me sane 😉 Morocco here we come..!

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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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