Deep down I knew that attempting to run (well shuffle) 4 ultras in 7 weeks was probably unadvisable. Especially when I factored in that my back has been sore since before Ultra number 1. It’s one of those injuries which requires a rest from high impact activity- so I’ve been swimming, lots and lots of swimming and then every few weeks I make it worse again by doing another ultra. I haven’t actually run properly in training since the first week in June, which has been frustrating to say the least! However, I have survived the first 3 ultras… and fingers crossed I’ll make it to the start of number 4 in 8 days time!
So…the Race to the Stones: I went in with very high expectations after my great experience at the sister race, Race to the King (read my blog about it here). In many ways Stones did not disappoint. There was the same slick organisation from Threshold Events, brilliant checkpoints which were well stocked with a vast array of different foods and drinks at each and the routemarking was second to none. Where the race wasn’t quite as good was probably down to two things. Firstly there were more people doing it, which meant that there were quite a few bottlenecks early on and the first two CPs were absolutely manic. I prefer to get in and out of CPs as quickly as possible (as a slow runner I know I can make time up by not spending too long faffing about) and this was very difficult due to the volume of people. However, by CP 3 this had calmed down significantly and the experience was much more pleasant! I was also not a huge fan of the route. There was some stunning scenery along the way, especially when we’d climbed up onto the Ridgeway, but there were also some dull road sections and miles and miles of hard packed chalk with limited views. Compared to RTTK this was an ‘easier’ route as the overall elevation was less and the hard ground meant no mud to slide around in- but it was also less interesting as a result. I’d read lots of reports that road shoes would be fine and I cannot reiterate that enough. I actually wore my trail shoes, but they are Hokas and so have excellent cushioning- I can’t imagine how battered your feet would feel if you wore an aggressive off road shoe- Hokas or road shoes if you are doing this race in 2017, seriously!
The race itself went pretty well for the first 50 miles. My back, which had been really bad in the days before, was actually feeling pretty good and I made good progress. However, it was incredibly warm and the heat did start affecting me by about 11am. I’ve never been fond of warm weather, especially for running, and parts of the course were quite exposed, with no shade. I was going through a lot of water (filling my 2litre pack at 20km intervals) and, after my faint at the end of RTTK, I was very careful to make sure I used up my Tailwind sachets to ensure I was getting enough electrolytes at regular intervals. When I looked at the results lists I was surprised at the numbers of DNFs, I suspect a lot of these were weather related. My legs felt quite heavy throughout (3 ultras in 5 weeks will do that), but I was quite positive, and hoping for a finish time of around 16 hours. My previous best for 100km was over 18 hours, and I’d had a rather torrid end to that race and so I was hoping to exorcise some demons! Alas, with about 15 miles to go my knee decided that it didn’t want to cooperate any more! I had a sharp stabbing pain on the inside of my kneecap which slowed me entirely to a walk, rather than the usual run-walk which I adopt towards the end of a race. I have never had a knee problem before, so it was worrying me a lot and, for a time, I genuinely thought that i was going to be a DNF myself. However, I managed to hobble on and on and eventually we starting heading down from the Ridgeway. This section seemed to take forever: it was dark and misty and the track was all rutted, making finding your feet quite difficult.What was quite disheartening was the 2 mile round trip to the eponymous Stones to have a photo, to then have to double back up the hill you had just come down. The final section was a horrible uphill trudge across a field with lots of loose hay which impeded progress, but finally we made it! I even managed a slow and painful run for the last 600m or so!
At the end our bags were waiting for us, as was a stall serving free burgers, cakes and drinks to all runners. I finished in an official time of 17:23:50, which is a PB for 100km 🙂 This placed me 116/286 finishers in the female non-stop category and 524/956 finishers of the overall non-stop catetgory, which I’m pretty pleased with, given my various injuries! My hip and back are now sore again and my knee ballooned in the days after the race. This swelling has now subsided and it looks like the pain was actually coming from an issue in my quad. I’m now desperately treating everything and rehabbing in order to make it to the final challenge- the Lakeland 50! Just one more and then I can rest and recover properly!
Happy running folks 🙂