Sunday, 29 January 2017

Race to The Stones - a race of two halves

So, I had a brilliant idea - as a Stag weekend I would do a 2 day ultra (50kms each day) along the Ridgeway - Race to the Stones.  What could go wrong?!

Most of my friends know I'm mad enough to avoid my innovation to races, however, I managed to talk Matt, Mark, Phil, Crazy Sam and Jill into joining me! 

The race is either run over one day or two along 100 kms of the Ridgeway, we opted for the two day race and planned to meet at the start in Lewknor, Oxfordshire.  I traveled with Matt to the finish in Avebury and took the coach to the start.  The traffic was chaotic near the start and we arrived with little time to get to the start line on time.

We finally gathered, checked our kit and headed for the start line, about 10 mins after the official start.  Starting late enabled us to get a team photo crossing the start, one bonus.

Starting out from Lewknor

The first 10 kms took us south, at one point up a steep hill to queue at a kissing gate, across a field to another kissing gate. The queuing took added around 45 minutes to the day's race time.

waiting for the kissing gate
During the first day stayed together most of the time and spent up to 30 mins at CP's resting and replenishing, but the time was mounting.

The race then headed west towards the Thames at Wallingford where we turned south, along the only flat section of the route, and followed the river until we arrived in Streatley at around 30 kms.  

following the Thames.

We headed west out of Streatley and started slowly climbing.  Initially the road is tarmac but after a few miles this gives way to hardened clay and stones.  It keeps climbing for 15 kms, under the A34, to around 45 kms and a CP near West Ilsley.  We set out again for the last 5 kms to the camp at half way.  Stopping short we gathered and crossed the camp entrance as a team.

Entering the camp at 50kms

We got into the camp and were allocated tents together.  Unpacked, we ambled our way to the showers, these were pretty amazing after 30 miles in the sun.  We booked a free massage and went to eat.  The pasta meal was edible, the desserts were very edible - needed a few to confirm this.

After the briefest of massages Crazy Sam's husband, Tim, joined us as the sun set and we sat with a pint and contemplated the day.  All slightly nervous that we had to do it all again early the next day.

I slept fitfully but awoke ready for the task in hand.  We sat at breakfast, nervous jokes all cracked meaning it was time to get back out on the track.

Sunrise over the camp

The race strategy changed for the Sunday, we decided to find our own pace and go.  For the first few hours we stayed fairly close, slowly spreading out over the miles.  Matt had started the second day at a walk due to uncountable chafing.

At around 65 kms the route starts heading south west at Uffington Castle.  By this time Phil and myself were pulling away from the others, but around 70 kms Matt appeared at my shoulder! He'd got the chafing sorted and decided to make up for the lost time.

Me and Mark - somewhere along the route

Matt and Me

The Sunday was overcast, making it ideal for running distance.  At 75kms we crossed the M4 near junction 15 and started another climb, leveling out before a short sharp drop to cross the A346 and the climbing up again for another 5kms.  At 90kms I stopped at Barbury Castle, the last CP, ate a little, topped up my bottles and set out south on the final stage of 10kms.

The last 10kms are mostly downhill but the trail into Avebury becomes very uneven and rutted.  Eventually the route swing west and down towards the stones.  I arrived at the stones and took out a foil blanket to wait for the others, the finish was still another kilometer away.  

"Pose" they said

Phil arrived about 20 minutes later and he joined me, after another 20 or so minutes Matt turned up.  We started to cool down so decided to call the others, who it turned out were over 30 minutes behind us, and so decided to finish and get warm.  We left the stones and headed around the last loop.

Phil, Me and Matt about to complete the last kilometer

The home straight is about 3/400 miters and a few runners passed as we had cooled down too much.  However Matt still had it in him to race all those in the final straight to the line, and best them. 

Approaching the line with Phil
The rest of the team steadily appeared, Crazy Sam next then Jill and Mark together.  The race had been tiring but an awesome adventure - two ultra distance races over two consecutive days.  We went our separate ways, most of them vowing never to be talked into a race by me again.

Mick, Phil, Jill, Mark, Matt & Crazy Sam

where we went on our holidays

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