Month: October 2017

The road to the final 26.2 miles of training

The road to the final 26.2 miles of training

So here it is… the round up of another marathon training phase.

Finishing Derry as deflated as I did, I was still able to look at it and say well I did xyz wrong and was only 7 minutes behind where I was in Dublin (and I’d just basically walked 13 mile) so knew I had so much more to give.

I set my sights firmly on DCM17 and knew what I had to do. The thing is come the end of June I was unwillingly forced to assess my position as a member within MAC. A club that I had devoted my last year to, spent hours weekly happily putting together race reports, travelling to support races quite literally climbing mountains to cheer; I was proud to be a part of the club.

I took the decision to remove myself from the social aspect of the club and just be a paid member on the books. Life is too short to have individuals try to cloud your life and I took to the roads to remember why I ran in the first place. And it was there I found me again. Much to the joy of some family and friends who had seen how things had taken it’s toll on me.

I didn’t think twice the next week about signing up to tackling Knockagh Ultra. I felt I had to push myself to the brink of blowing up. And with the miles still in the legs from Derry I’d a point to prove to myself.

I arrived at Ards with the girls in the Little Miss vests that Caitriona had bought us all as a present for completing Derry. I put a strong performance in and got to see Brenda over the line for her to gain a half PB. Somehow now I’m known by the vest at races. Wonder why đŸ€”đŸ€”đŸ€”

10k pb followed for myself at the Mini Marathon. Taking 3 minutes of my time on the same course the previous year. 

A mad weekend in Dublin for Rock n Roll with the girl’s gave me a severe hangover but also a half PB… improvement was already visable.

I took on Knockagh with Tony and we had a blast. I flirted with death at mile 28 but we got there and gained Ultra Status – at the point in marathon training when I should have just been pushing past 13 mile.

So there was no question that I could manage 26.2 mile now. 

Whilst discussing Knockagh with Dermot one day, I had asked if he could take a look at my plan for DCM. I had the thoughts of Derry consuming me, I had the fact I could run an ultra sitting there so it was time for me to pick up pace and focus for what I wanted. And really there was no one else I knew who would be able to point me in the right direction.

With 9 weeks to get my act in gear Dermot offered to coach me. I won’t lie.  I was filled with dread. I see the man daily on Strava and the sessions he puts in. I’ve flirted with death in his interval sessions and although it was a take or leave option. Something inside me wanted the challenge. I had to be accountable to someone for what I did and to do it right. So with fear in my eyes I accepted the offer and training began full steam ahead the week after Knockagh.

Every Friday my phone would bing with the next week’s schedule. Each day I’d to report back on my session and I had to leave not only the lake behind but the girls. I’d to spend a few weeks finding my pace and the head space. It was tough going those first few weeks. I’ve never clocked so many miles. But each session reflected on different aspects of my running and my confidence grew week on week, as well as my need to nap everyday.

As the miles got longer I was allowed to bring back in support on the weekly long runs even if it was just for a handful of miles. Laura Jane joined the 7am Saturday morning long runs and over the weeks built herself up to half distance from 10k. Jennifer also made some early morning starts to help her training for the back2back at Monaghan. 

I was clocking 40+ miles a week and I could feel my fitness improve in all runs. I have to admit my favourite run every week was my mid week endurance run. 8 mile at race pace. I was joined by Theresa and Sarah for a few of these and that allowed me to up the pace alongside stronger runners. It was a run that always went well. Regardless if the previous runs that week went to pot. Thursday always set me up with drive for Saturday’s run.

Annaghmore 18miler was the perfect oppertunity to give pace and race day a bash. I loved every minute of the day but training had begun to take a it toll on me and had to take a few days off afterwards to recover. 

The last month has been up and down. Though I’ve had to rein it in towards the end. I know I am capable of doing what I want, if everything falls into place on the day. Though I have experience of things going pear shaped and I won’t be toeing the start line in the shape I want to be.

But a marathon is what it is. Marathon training is a bitch and in the words of Dermot -I’ve to just suck it up. I’ve made peace with myself and all I can do is go out and run. Right, left, right, left. 

My emotions are all in tact and nerves are no where to be seen. But I’ll tell you this?after an ultra and 3 marathons in a year. I’m taking a break after this carry on. I am only human and what I’ve achieved this year is beyond my wildest imagination. I never saw the past year panning out like it has.

Thank you to everyone along the way who has supported me, near and far, cheered me on, held my hand and offered hugs. Those who daily dealt with my post run selfies and pre run procrastination. Those who put in the miles with me in training and in races.  Those who watch on over the computer and like a post. 

And of course good luck to everyone in the running community who will rock up on Sunday in Dublin and knock out the last 26.2 miles on the training schedule.

  Let’s do this -these 2 are looking new medals for the collection

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Home straight now

Home straight now

So we are now able to look at this marathon in real time ( I sound like the Keifer Sutherland voiceover in 24). 2 weeks from now it’ll be all done and dusted and I’ll be resting up wondering what’s next on the hit list. I’ve planned a relatively quiet November running wise. Recover from DCM and I’ve Run in the Dark 10k mid November and nothing booked until the EAMS back2back Half Marathons to round the year off in amongst the best running friends.
So a higglity pigglity week for me as I had to play with the schedule to fit other plans and the fact I kick started the week with a migraine from hell.

Day 1: Return to Monday Groups with The Running Coaches

I had spent all day in bed with a migraine that decided to take hold in the middle of the night. Having reached out for the hard core solution to making the pain go away I was left with a massive migraine hangover where my whole body was drained. However it was week 1 of groups again and I was looking forward to getting stuck back into the sessions this time with a few friends joining to regain their running legs.

Had an absolute blast of a session and definitely by far my favourite first session ever. I followed it up with an easy 5k with Caitriona round Newcastle and rounded off the night with the cool down with the then ruined progressives after a tough interval session. 

One thing that I did notice about Monday night was the increase in traffic using the promenade. Which is expected at this time of year as the nights draw in, it’s the safest place to run locally. Yet I was more taken by the blatant rudeness and ignorance of some runners pushing past not only me but other out walking and running. This isn’t running ettiqute and for once I found the traffic on the streets surrounding Newcastle more couteous. I hope this was a once of as I’d hate that runners would get a bad name all because of a handful of ill mannered people. Remember people a little bit of manners goes  a long way.

Day 2: Tempo Day wasn’t meant to be

Yeah really shouldn’t have run the night before with a body hanging together.  As by mile 2 I knew a tempo run wasn’t going to happen so was planning to do just the 6 mile. Yeah that wasn’t going to happen either. I got to just over 3.5 mile and ended up in the public toilets throwing my guts up. 

No sympathy was required, I’d brought it on myself so called it a day.

Day 3: Wednesday with the girls

I’d hoped to tackle a tempo run after a failed attempt the previous day. However I knew that just keeping pace with them would give me a strong and solid run. I needed it something shocking as I had had a few things playing on my mind all week and I needed to run it out. Seems like we were all on the same boat and it was a well enjoyed trot round Newcastle 

Day 4 : I rested as long run was brought forward a day to Friday so wanted my legs to be fresh enough for the occasion as it seemed I had company of the not understanding kind. The last long distance run Michael and I done together was my 20 miler for DCM16 when he stuck with me for 12 mile before cutting his run short. We barely spoke the whole time and he spent most of it running 20m in front of me. So I wasn’t sure how this was going to pan out.

Day 5 : Long Run Day

We set out just before 10 with 16 on our minds. I’ve always said that when you run those 2/3 minutes/mile faster than someone it is hard work to run the slower pace over longer miles. Which I was sure would take its toll on Michael at some point. 

It was again a quiet run. Strangely I was just focusing on keeping pace steady as I know I can easily get carried away when running with others. Also it was SO warm. 

The impending hurricane has brought with it unreasonable temperatures and the sweat was lashing off me. We even rerouted to include extra water stops. At 12 mile Michael called it a day on running with me and headed off into the distance at his own pace and was hoping to pit a few mile more in. As for me, I kept on at my slow and steady pace making good time on my half and final 3 mile. 

As I finished off the last 0.1 of the run and was walking back to the car I spotted Michael. A lot sooner than I had planned. After increasing the speed after running so long with me and that sucking all the energy out him he had made it to 15 mile and didn’t have much left. Managing to even grab himself a lift back to the car. 

Pace was where I want it to be and my leg is holding up well. Its definitely a problem in my hip but plenty of stretching is easing it so as long as I keep moving for the next 2 weeks. I’ll be ok.
Day 6 : Rested the legs as they were a bit delicate but promised myself I would run Sunday. I did take the kids up to parkrun to cheer everyone on. Though they had more fun digging the already ruined track up.

Day 7 : The kids has been granny napped and away off to mass so we took the opportunity to get at least an hour in roubd the lake.

Michael had learnt his lesson from Friday and after 300m ran on down the avenue. We had agreed to go opposite ways round the lake knowing I could match 3 laps by him with 2 of mine so this was a handy way to keep track of eachother.

In fairness everyone was lovely on the lake on Sunday, smiling and saying hello…except him! When I met him on the hill at the back of the lake he couldn’t even manage a hello and he was on the downhill and I was going up! 

By the time I was half mile from the end of the lake he had come back round and knew that his 3rd lap wasn’t going to happen. So at exactly 2.5mile for me I was happy to turn back on myself and run with him. I hit 5 mile on the hour and was happy with that.

So now the shit is getting really real. I’ve been strangely gathered over the whole maranoia thing. I know in myself that I have trained hard. I’ve trained well enough to get what I want but I haven’t left myself much room for error. 

We all know race day can go either way. I might surprise myself, I might also blow up like I did at Derry. Yet my main aim is always to arrive alive at the finish line with a smile. Blowing my time from last year out of the water… bonus! 

Cotton wool time lads.

Is that something that resembles a taper?

Is that something that resembles a taper?

Holy crap…taper… can’t be time for that yet?

Well many do think that training eases off around taper and you can relax…can you f**k! Still loads of work to be done and a small decrease on the endurance run of a whole 4 mile! I’m grateful for small mercies, even if it is a whole miserable 4 mile across the whole week.

This week the fact I am human hit me like a tonne of bricks. I have been running relying on sensible management of pain in my right leg but it was grinding on me and after Mondays 4 miler I was swiftly put on the rest bench by Dermot for 2 solid days rest. 

Rest? What the hell is that? On asking what am I meant to do he actually expected me to rest and do nothing. So 2 days of ice, rest and stretching was a foot. 

I did wonder had I over done it at Annaghmore. But on reflection I didn’t push myself too much, yes it was a tough course but what I gained from it in confidence outweighed the effect it had on my body. I honestly just think my right leg which hasn’t been right since before Knockagh in August was reminding me that I need to give it a break. 

Thankfully I’d to work Wednesday and took the girls for intervals on Wednesday evening so wasn’t going totally mad. 

Thursday I returned to the roads. My usual 8 mile mid week endurance run was cut to 4-6 mile to see how I faired. I had my eyes set firmly on Saturdays long run and this was just for me to gauge how I was holding up. So painkiller less and leaving the deep heat and magnesium spray at home I laced up the shoes and off I went up the Dundrum Road-again. 

I purposely went slower than normal and against directions of not to over think- I spent the whole first 3 mile analysing every tweak in every muscle and tore my form apart. It wasn’t a great run for my head but by the turn at mile 3 I had caught myself on and shouted at myself. Funny enough after that everything relaxed and the final 3 mile was grand.

I went to see Grainne again afterwards and although the right leg was in better shape than last week there was still work to be done including some dry needling on my hamstring which as always is like a magical cure and after I didn’t throw up all over the place my hamstring was good to go.

Friday was rest day and I did rest. Focusing on hydrating and what I was eating. 20-22 was on the schedule and it was already playing on my mind. I wasn’t going to be alone. I’d Jennifer coming along to test her legs after a phenomenal weekend of running at the Monaghan Back2Back marathons the previous weekend. And my new running conscience, Laura Jane, joining me for a good portion of the miles.
An early night had me up at 6am for the usual eggs in a cup and off to the 12 arches. It was really dark! Glad I’d told the girls to take the headtorches as even the birds weren’t up.

And bang on time we hit the road at 7am, head torches on and many miles to be covered. 

It was good after last week’s run at Annaghmore where I spent 17 of the 18 mile on my own to have company. We got to hear all about the 2 marathons in Monaghan, Laura Janes first tackle at 13.1 in a few years as she owned over 5 laps of the lake and the highlights and lowlights of my race last week. 

With 6 mile done, Jennifer called it a day. To be honest she isn’t wise… who gets up at ridiculous o clock to come run with me? Most normal people would still be in bed at that stage and she’d a run done and all. 

So a quick refuel and off Laura Jane and I went for what we hoped to be another 8. As always after 6 mile I settled into the run knowing Id started  and i would finish. Got an unexpected hug from Joe out getting another long run into the legs for DCM. 

As per normal the wind had begun to pick up and I pulled on the golden line to heaven to make my last 6 mile wind free. Laura Jane kept me grounded and had been over all I had to think about in the last 6 mile on my own. Had checked a million times how my leg was and reminded me to refuel and to just get to 17 and it’s all easy enough back. 

I have to admit I have been blown away by how well She has come on and embraced running, particularly over the past 2 months. Bet she wishes she never met me that evening at the lake when I said…come on do intervals with me next week. Joining in with the progressives has seen her confidence grow alongside the mileage she clocks up weekly. 

Invaluable support on my long runs and pushing herself to new distances which not only helps her but makes such a difference to my run. With her first half marathon booked for the day before DCM we can taper together.

So at 14 mile I was on my own to see through the last 6 miles. I’ll admit. I was already defeated before I was on my own. These 6 mile where going to be the death of me. After such a challenging week with being on the bench and mentally struggling. It wasn’t going to be pretty but I was going to make it to 20.

Mile 16 is when the head staggers got me. I was so over running as my watch just wouldn’t seem to show me going as fast as I wanted to be. No matter how much I chanted to myself or drove forward I just wasn’t getting anywhere. On reflection the pace wasn’t woeful actually it was dead on but the battle in my head had convinced me otherwise.

By 18 mile I was back on and on the home straight home. Finishing a few minutes on front of where I had hoped to be. 

I now know that on a bad day I have to find my last 10k (After 32k previous to that) in 1hr20 to make aim. No pressure. I’m 30mins ahead of where I was this time last year for my DCM16 long run and that’s a HUGE improvement. 

With 3 weeks to go I know that my mid week runs are to become invaluable yet I need to let go of my obsession with my pace. I’ve to get to DCM17 in 1 piece and fit. I’ve never trained for a time before and that unnerves me a bit. 

So the long awaited taper… less than 3 weeks to go.

4 weeks to go

4 weeks to go

Hard to believe this time next month it’ll all be over. 

The miles continue to be clocked and training is going so much better than I could even imagine. 

Lets face it I’m more shocked that I’ve stuck to plan really well and this week was the first time I was able to literally road test what I’ve been working towards at Annaghmore 18 mile on Saturday.

Day 1: 

Joined Caitriona a few mile into her random Monday long run. It was her training run so her route, pace and plan. It was a fresh morning and happily tooted along for 8 mile. There is one thing about running with Caitriona… it’s like therapy. Though I sometimes think she purposely says things to wind me up so that I go off on a rant for her amusement. I guess after the miles we’ve put in together it’s not hard to send me off on one. 

Day 2: 

No speed work this week as race day Saturday so 6 steady mile to find. Strangely I had no set route in mind and I was just going to keep on running. 

I passed the time estimating how long each road was and then when I turned where else I could go to make up the miles. So with a very thorough tour of Newcastle I finished 6 mile with keeping pace nicely below the 12min/Miles. For once a nice Tuesday run.

Day 3:

But Wednesday was a no go. I got 1 mile into the run and I just didn’t feel right knowing I didn’t have the push to go on mentally either. I stopped the watch abandoning the run and headed for the hills to walk it out.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t. I’m at the stage where marathon training is physically and mentally exhausting and I recalled a few weeks back when I didn’t run and how the walk through the forest lifted me and my spirits. So my 4 mile became active recovery and I loved being back on one of my old routes up and down the hills. I even thought to myself…gosh I miss hills. Yeah that didn’t last long once I turned up at Annaghmore on Saturday.

Day 4:

Always my favourite run of the week. Mid week endurance of 8 mile. Had Theresa come back to join me again this week and the added bonus of another of the progressives runners, Sarah. I set off early and got 2 mile in before meeting them. We put in 6 miles together along the Dundrum road on what was a lovely morning.

The craic and banter was flowing which made the miles fly in and pace was strong. 

I’ll not lie I have been having a few issues with my right leg and I took myself back to the pain table aka Grainnes. When you have 3 completely different points hurting it does get concerning and you’re filled with the standard….can I run.

Jaysus labour was easier! No joke! A full scale elbow job as Grainne quickly pin pointed that pain was orginatiating from my hip area. I was kneaded out like dough as Grainne took no prisoners. I think guilt consumed her as on Friday she checked in to see how I was holding up. 🙈

Day 5: Rest Day 

So how does a runner deal with any niggle…ice.

I literally froze my ass off. I was sitting on an ice pack and then had another one on my thigh. Frozen solid.

Though as per plan HYDRATE was top of the agenda and a dry run of pre race prep was underway.

Day 6: Annaghmore 18 mile

Read all about it here

Day 7:

She rested. I have committed myself to sober October so after managing to get out on the Saturday night for a final few drinks I was totally wiped on Sunday. So a chilled day with the kids and an early trip to bed was well needed as I look into the next week which is rounded off with a big ass long run in the 20s. 

This week has definitely gave me hope. Annaghmore went so well. For it being such a brutal course and to come in 5 minutes a head of plan and finishing comfortably knowing I’ve loads more left in the tank. 

I also am glad that I could run my own race. I didn’t get carried away with chasing those in front and just put faith in the training. 

4 weeks to go…

18 miles of ‘Rolling Hills’ around Annaghmore

18 miles of ‘Rolling Hills’ around Annaghmore

The last time I toed the line for a race was 6 weeks ago for my biggest running accolade yet… the Knockagh Ultra.

In the time since I took myself and Tony around 50k, I have taken my training pretty seriously (about time) and have put everything I can into my prep for Dublin. 

I had toyed with doing the Irish 3/4 marathon however the hefty price tag put me off. I spotted the Annaghmore Running Festival which seemed to know that there would be a few critters like myself looking something beyond a half to fit into their DCM training plan. This was perfect – 18 mile, ‘ rolling hills’ and didn’t break the bank whilst all fitting in with the long run plans. This appealed to all bodies in the Grant household.

Cant beat a race where organiser don’t take the piss on price plus funds where donated to the Southern Area Hospice a charity close to my heart.

A perfect opportunity to trial race day, pace, fitness, outfit, fuelling etc. I’ve always had my sights set on Annaghmore as a true indication of how well the 40+ miles a week was influencing my running. So when I had a week where my 18 miler was a tad off desired pace, a dodgy hip encounter but cracker mid week endurance runs I was feeling optimistic about the run ahead.

With everything ready to rock n roll we set of for County Armagh from Castlewellan. The weather was perfect, although there was an autumn chill in the air, the sky was blue, the sort of morning that does your heart good. 

Arrived in Annaghmore after taking the scenic route there and picked up our packs. Caitriona had seemingly signed up for the race in her head and not actually done it. But the guys where great at sorting her out with a number and didn’t openingly judge her 🙈 me on the other hand… I found it absolutely hilarious! Nearly as funny as watching the fella pin the race bib to a girls boobs. 🙈

The crowds rolled in and within them a surprised addition of Alan Johnson who had only 2 weeks previously told me he had planned to wash his hair that morning when I suggested doing Annaghmore. He had obviously delayed that to run 18mile around the beautiful Armagh countryside.

It was great to see familiar faces, Hugh had popped along for the half, Eamon was out to do the 5k, Caroline had on a whim signed up mid week to do the 18 miler and MicĂ©al donned his NCR vest for a long run also with fellow NCR team mates Patricia and Cathal there too. Also I had to admire that Michael had pulled on the trainers yet again for another marathon crash training course including the 18miler. He knew worse case scenario would be falling back to run with me. But I knew that wasn’t going to happen. At worse I’d have to drive home.

Setting off to the start line

We set off and within 0.3 of a mile there was the first of many, many hills we were going to encounter. Seeing that the half and the 18 miler set off together, I was optimistic that there might be a some people in around my pace to keep as markers or company even. But from about a mile in, I was alone. However I’ve ran many a race where I’ve been on my own for a long time and I’ve enough confidence in my pace and ability to finish longer races and to keep focused, running my own race and not try to keep with the crowd. 

I settled in quite quickly with the game plan of simply keeping under 12.30s to come in at 3.45. I’d hoped to hit 5 mile on the hour, 10 mile just beyond the 2hr mark and a 1.45 8 mile to finish. 

Aye the biggest understatement of the day

As we set off in to fantastic country roads lined with orchards and endless green fields everything was going great. Plenty of marshals in place and markers which where bang on distance wise and arrows to help. 

The first water stop at 5 mile was welcomed and I noticed that we were to come back that road. We turned into a trail section which was like something out of a fairy tale and there was the front runners coming my way. I didn’t know whether they where half runners or 18 milers but they where flying. 

Hats off to the leading man who was full of encouragement and even high fived. I was to meet him again later on towards the end of his race where he was just as humble and supportive. 

 For the record Caroline took this picture of the Orchard

 wasn’t surprised to see Alan cruising along, with him at around his 11 mile and me at just short of 6. Was quietly all biz that for once I was over half of where Alan was meaning I wasn’t as per normal practice twice as slow… I was getting faster 🙌🙌🙌

The middle section of miles flew in. I’d hit 5mile at 1hr on the nose and 10 mile I was delighted to have come in under the 2 hours. I was bang on target and the race was going to plan. I was feeling fresh and in control. Passing Alan again, as he made running look easy, I was delighted that he had decided to not wash his hair as he was taking a comfortable 2nd place. 

As I entered into mile 12 I knew I was making good time. I clocked a 2nd fastest half marathon and as I passed this point a drive by marshal checked in on me to offer water/sweets and check I was ok. 

I reassured them I was fine and would make 18 mile so not to worry. I knew from the 12 mile water stop that I was self sufficient for the rest of the race. Afterall there are many races where the backrunners are left without marshal support and/or fuel stops have been packed up so I’m always prepared just in case. However I can not praise the organisers highly enough as 3 times throughout my last 5 mile I had drive by Marshals as well as marshals still in place in many spots. A true testament to the conscientious planning and execution of the event.

Highlight of the race… Mile 15

Watched beeped for mile 15 and had just finished a gradual incline at 14. A tight hill faced me and I made it but after the plethora of hills earlier on I didn’t recover from that hill as quick as I had wanted. At 15.5 there was another hill. I spoke to myself and said wise up Siobhan you’ve yet to be beaten by a hill today and haven’t stopped so motor on. So I did and got to the top and enjoyed a wee downhill. However… 15.75 there was another hill and it was a lot bigger than the previous 2. Out loud, I cursed the hill and declared that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to run it and I walked it. First time the whole race that I actually walked. 

I just knew it wasn’t worth fighting my way up it as I knew there where a few more hills ahead that I had already ran down. Once I got to the top it was back on it and headed for home. I was again delighted to be greeted by marshals still at their posts and the support from runners and locals in the last mile was much appreciated as going against everything else the race had thrown at me….it finished on a cracker downhill.

As I turned into the club grounds I was greeted by applause from everyone on site and there was Michael, Caroline and MicĂ©al waiting on me to finish. 

Yay for a run that we all were happy with

I glanced down at my watch and couldn’t believe it – 3.40. I may have been one of the last to finish, 2nd last to be exact but I felt like I had won. I’m never going to be a podium finisher but when a race plan comes together flawlessly and I crossed the line knowing that my DCM dream was very much alive and on track. That’s what I strive for from a race.

I got congratulations from the organisers and they knew I’d Pb’d as I was buzzing as I crossed the line. I was even more delighted that Michael had come in, in good time and so did Caroline giving her the reassurance for DCM too.

I was offered freshly cooked burgers and an array of sandwiches. All was plentiful and even had a bottle of Coors Light. Now I know there was no medal for this run. But let’s face it, I have a t-shirt, burger and beer. That is a perfect substitute for any bling. For what we paid to be apart of the event, this was beyond expectations. 

Finding out also that it was an inaugural event was even more impressive as to me, it ran flawlessly.

Caitriona finished proceedings for the day as she came in well ahead of her estimated time also getting her back on track for Dublin. 

So will I be back… definitely. Even though I know the hills will still be there, it was a solid training run with many challenges including making heartbreak hill in Dublin look like a speed bump. There was a huge crowd for the multi race event considering it was competing against Bangor 10k AND Monaghan Pheonix Marathon. A great foundation for next year. 

So resting up now before a very tough week of training ahead. This time 4 weeks it’ll all be over. 🙈