Race to the Stones.. an adventure in going long!
Up at 4.45 on a Saturday is always a sign that something odd is going on. Add in that I'm in a strange bed at my brothers house in Maidenhead and after about 3 milliseconds my brain says.. "Starting at 7.50!"
I have breakfast of rice cakes, peanut butter and chia seeds and a coffee and Mike then drives me the 40 minutes to the start where a huge farm area is set up for registration and pre-start information. We have another coffee on site and I spend some time getting ready, going to the loo, check my kit.. loo again.. check my kit, loo again.. you get the idea.
I'm in start wave D and it feels no time at all I'm in the group at the start doing the synchronised warm up and trying to take in the race information from the course director
A 10 second countdown and we're off. I wave to Mike as I trundle past and hope to see him in about 6.5hrs time..
First 10k – I realise pretty quickly as I start moving that I'm not feeling 100% and today could be quite tough. I had a really hectic week and despite following the taper plan my legs feel tight, my ankles and shins feel tight and overall I feel a bit crampy. Today is going to be a bit of a clunky day.
10-20k - Everyone has a point in a race where they are struggling. Mine was really quite early on.. I wanted to go home.. I hated this section, quite a lot of single track through trees, no consistency of pace, footing, pacing. Right shin is still tight and sore and both legs are aching.. Needing to wee a lot despite knowing I'm not over-hydrated.. just one of those days! The sun is out and it is for me a bit too hot!
20-40k - I’ll just get to the end of day 1 and see how I feel. Legs are starting to feel sore, I’m sure this is due to the ground conditions and the terrain and probably not helped by my physical state on the day. I still feeling like my drink is going straight through, I haven’t had a day like this during the last 3 months. I'm being sensible and sipping drink regularly and then at pit stops taking food and drink on board, but by the time I get to about 40km my stomach is feeling a bit groggy.
40-50k – My legs are now starting to really hurt, but I actually feel quite strong and I decide to run/jog a steady pace as much as I can. Feeling really hot and with a bit of a washing machine stomach, by the time I get to the day 1 finish I’m tired and really sore..
I got to Basecamp mid afternoon and I so was able to get my sleeping mat and bag and then shower pretty quickly after arriving. The hot shower was Fantastic!!
My brother Mike met me as I came through the finish and brought me water, a chair and the top up bits and pieces for day 2. I was tired and not feeling great to be honest, so was glad for the moral support.
We sat and chatted for about an hour and then as Mike left I organised a massage for later, had some food and also just sat foam rolling for a while.
The meal was hot, tasty and pretty good and was washed down with a coffee. The massage was as painful as you’d imagine, but certainly helped loosen a couple of tight spots and is such a great idea and free for all participants.
I retired to my tent about 9pm and then had a pretty rubbish night of sleep – but considering you are in a tent in a field on a tiny thin mat I’m not complaining.
Up at 4.45 – my plan for day 2 was changed to "walk hard!" If I warmed up and my legs stopped hurting I would then go back to run walk like Day 1.
The weather was cooler and breezy and a dull grey sky.. far better for me!
50-60km – walking hard, feeling quite strong, just a hot spot on my foot starting to make itself felt
60-70km – walking hard, feeling quite strong, the hot spot is more noticeable. Legs are still sore.. so keep the fast pace walk. I stopped at Pit Stop 7 and had my foot looked at and a pad and strapping were put on the hotspot on the ball of my foot.. not noticeably blistering but visibly sore.. and the good news is the padding immediately took the edge off.
70-80km – walking hard, feeling good, a few little downhill trots. Going point to point from Pit Stop to Pit Stop, eating and drinking consistently as I went.
80-90km – still walking hard, feeling good until about 10 miles from the end I have a little twist of the ankle. I stop to wiggle, prod and poke it and it isn’t anything serious, but
90-100km – still walking hard, but my pace slightly slowed and the niggly and increasingly sore ankle make the last 10km a little frustrating. At this stage the grey skies clear and the sun comes out so I was able to enjoy the sunshine (a little).
The last mile or so was possibly the worst as you go past the finish turn off to detour around the Avebury stones. And by this point I was tired, hot and wanting to stop as my ankle was irritatingly sore.
The finish line wasn’t an emotional moment.. I guess I knew I’d finish (unless something seriously fell apart) as I dialled back my pace, but at the same time I was really pleased to have got over the line.
I finished feeling pretty strong in the legs, but the muscles, the ball of my foot and my ankle were all telling me just how hard I’d worked and how far I’d come.
Event Summary.. Would I recommend RTTS? or one of the Threshold Trail Series...?
A really easy answer - Yes.
From the pre-race information to the Facebook group, you know you're joining a special community.
The race itself is on a clearly waymarked route, and has pitstops every 10km or so which are filled with all the food, drink, snacks you could wish for. In addition, medical support is provided and you are taking part among and within a hugely supportive environment from spectators, volunteers, fellow participants.
Superbly organised this was in my view a great introductory race for me (or anyone) to take on for their first single or multi day ultra.
My final blog in the series will be my thoughts on my performance, fitness and what may be next...