This post is becoming some what of a millstone! I have been drafting it for months but never get it finished. So to get it out there, I’m going to shorten it considerably. I don’t feel like I can post about other stuff with this sitting in the drafts waiting for me to get back to it.
So here goes:
On 31 December 2013 I wrote a post on my previous blog that concluded with:
Eventually I’ll run a half marathon or two, then a marathon or two before getting to a bucket list goal of finishing an ultra marathon before I’m 41… but that’s for my aspiration list on 31 December 2016.
I have since run a half or two and a marathon or two and now I have finished two 50k ultra marathons in two days.
I first heard about Race to the Stones on Instagram, when some of those I was following completed the event over two days in 2017. I had planned to take 2018 off marathon distance running but not achieving the sub four hour marathon I’d wanted at Chester drew me to another marathon and as I was already committed to run Windermere Marathon, I thought I might as well have a crack at RTTS.
Injury in the lead up to Windermere meant that my planned training was curtailed greatly prior to RTTS.
I was at the event with Laurie (predominately a road runner and like me a first time ultra competitor) and Nick (predominately a trail runner and ultra marathon veteran).
This being my first experience of ultra running, I was on a steep learning curve. Run the flat and the downhill and walk the uphill was my first lesson. I do like running uphill so this was, at first, a challenge but once the miles ticked on and on, it was a relief not to have the pressure of “I must keep going” that is prevalent in road running.
The weather was very warm that weekend and at times the sun was scorching. Thankfully RTTS is a fully supported event and there are pit stops at every 10k or so. At these there were tables filled with all sorts of carb bars, fruit, crisps, nuts and much more. Water bowsers for refilling bottles. There were toilets too! Marvellous.
The weather affected me on the first day to the point where I thought I wouldn’t make it to halfway and basecamp. I was wearing an ultra vest with two 500ml bottles. I was drinking those in between each pit stop. However I wasn’t taking on enough liquid and that took its toll at around 20 miles in.
I thought I was doing fine, I had to use the portaloos at each stop and even had a few stops at the side of the path (we gents are so very fortunate that we can do this!). Getting to 20 miles in the early afternoon heat was where I noticed that I was getting in trouble. Laurie was having issues with blisters and was finding it easier to keep running rather than walking. Nick and I caught Laurie up as she attended to her blisters and I remember saying “I think I’m in trouble here. I’ve stopped sweating and I don’t feel like I need to pee”. I was also pretty much out of water and the next pit stop was at least a few miles away. The heat of the afternoon coupled with the elevation and terrain had caught me out.
Nick said later that I had gone quite pale. As Laurie made efforts to continue running, Nick stuck with me and his experience of these events came through. He gave me some of his water and the salty and sugary snacks that he had collected from the pit stops. With his assistance we three crossed the halfway finish line together and at a canter!
Tackling the event over two days, afforded us a stay in a tent, time to shower, get blisters popped, and eat as much as we wanted. I slept pretty well and was hydrating right from the moment I woke up in an effort to repeat the issues of day one.
My lack of running prior to the event started to tell early on day two. I was fine when jogging along the flat with Laurie and Nick but the moment we got to an incline I got left behind! Many a time the two of them would reach the top and I’d jog from about halfway to catch them up.
Laurie was finding it easier to jog along rather than walk due to the pain from her blisters. Mine had reduced to a minimal sting which was manageable. I remember loosing sight of the pair and thinking that they had finally got the message to go ahead without me but then I saw Nick waiting patiently at the side of the track/road. We had a chat and I said for him to leave me and go ahead, I was happy on my own and didn’t want to curtail his race any further, and with that I wouldn’t see either of them until I crossed the finish line.
There were always people around so I wasn’t fully on my own. I did make sure to catch up with some runners at one point as we made our way to a gate surrounded by cows. I’ve been chased by cows previously so I’m wary!
The rest of my day went really well, I was able to keep a steady jog going and reached the final pit stop in good order. I was tired but thankful there were only 8 miles left. They were 8 very long miles though. The terrain was challenging when tired and it certainly tested the blisters.
I sang to myself quite a bit on the last 4 or 5 miles. Not a complete song but the refrain from Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO.
Everyday I’m shufflin’
That’s what I had been reduced to and it kept me going and in good spirits.
With about 5k to go, the farm where the finish is located is visible from the track, I could also hear the announcer. The bad thing is that to get to the finish, you have to go passed the lane to the farm and into the village to run around the Stones we have been racing towards.
Once that is done then you revisit the section of road you’ve run along before getting onto the lane, a left turn and the finish is a short run away.
By now I just wanted this to be all over! The legs concurred and after turning left my pace increased and ignoring the pain in my feet I managed to sprint the last few hundred meters to cross the line.
It was all done. 16 hours 27 minutes. Laurie and Nick had finished well over 30 minutes ahead of me.
Once reunited with Sarah, I uttered my usual “I’m never doing that again!”…. well I will be.
I have signed up to tackle the same event but this time all in one go. 100km, no halfway tent to sleep in and I’ve estimated that the final 15 miles will be in the dark. I’m yet to work out at what time I’ll reach the field with the cows but I can assure you I’ll know by race day!!