On the 10th July 2021 I took part in Race To The Stones. This was the second time I have taken on the original 100k event with Threshold Trail Series, after completing #RTTS in 2017. Take a look at how 2017 went HERE. I finished in 14:12 in 2017, and this year I felt fitter and stronger. Just a few weeks ago I complete Race To The King for the first time, and I finished that double marathon in 10:24. Take a look at my #RTTK review HERE.
Race To The Stones 2021 is my second time at Stones, and 4th event with Threshold Trail Series (not including the virtual events). It is my 7th ultra marathon and my 86th qualifying event for the 100 marathon club. A qualifying event is basically any official event which includes a marathon distance or more. I am hoping that I will be able to join the 100 marathon club early next year.
As always I prepared my kit in advance of race day. I find a #flatlay a great way to ease unnecessary stresses, by making sure I’m organised and have everything I need. I had originally planned to come away for Race To The Stones alone as my family didn’t seem to want to come. I was planning on getting to the start the night before and possibly getting a train home straight after. With some ups and downs at work at the moment my wife wanted to come away with me, and I am so glad she did. My family had a great time exploring Cotswold wildlife park and gardens whilst I ran 100k.
We travelled on Friday after Kirsty finished work, and stayed over night at a services hotel in Oxford. We then had a travelodge in Swindon for the finish. I ran, my family drove and had fun along the way.
I got a taxi to the start nice and early as I didn’t want to risk being late, so I arrived at 05:45 for a 6:30 start. It was nice to see a few people at the start. Nice and easy to drop off my bag, and no queue for toilet. I had already filled up my water bottles, but I grabbed a high 5 tab to pop into one of my bottles. I like to have my large bladder on the back filled with water for emergencies, then one 500ml bottle of water and one 500ml bottle with electrolytes. Mostly I can get between pit stops using both bottles, and fill both these up at every pit stop.
With covid restrictions the start process is a little different to normal. For anyone worried about covid, there is a lot of confidence with events like this. You have to sign a disclaimer before you go confirming you don’t have symptoms or aren’t supposed to be isolating. You then get a temperature check before you get into the event village. At the start you always go off in waves, but rather than a mass start we set off individually (or small group if with friends) and are released a few seconds apart. It actually helped make the event more enjoyable as I did not hit any congestion at all and with narrow trails usually you would.
To be honest, I don’t know what I was expecting in terms of time. I thought my last attempt was around 13 hours, so I wanted to finish as close to 12 as possible. I had not realised until afterwards that my RTTS PB was 14:12. I took it nice and steady, running mostly between 9 to 10 min miles for much of the first half, always walking the hills. I have a lot going on personally at the moment, so my head was a bit of a mess. Running for hours on end with only your thoughts is not always a good thing, but I am determined, so just kept putting one foot in front of another.
I picked up some friends along the way, and spent a lot of time with Hester and Guy along the route. Guy actually saved me with a trainer issue. My insole kept gathering causing discomfort and real blister concerns. I assume it is because of some of the steep declines, but once it happened, it kept happening. On 3 occasions I stopped to take off my trainer and flatten my insole. At one of the pit stops Guy gave me some tape and I taped down my insole. It wasn’t perfect but it did the job and that was the last time I had to take off my trainer.
The pit stops are fantastic. First of all they are full of such friendly volunteers and crew. They have great motivational messages at each checkpoint with information about distance until next pit stop and to finish. Then each pit stop has the same predictable snacks. I always got some sweets, crisps, topped up water and electrolytes and had a cup of coke. There was also fruit, hot drinks, bars and a selection of spreads for sandwiches. There were also some extras at different stations. I got to pit stop 2 at around 08:30, it had sandwiches and salads, but too early for me, good option for those who got there a bit later.
I had a couple of pit stop emergencies and was very grateful for the toilets. The pit stops came roughly every 10 to 15k, so frequently enough for me to just use the 1 litre of fluid carried on my front. I used a little of my reserve bladder at times, but didn’t need to take off and fill up. I took my time at aid stations, probably spending about 5 minutes at each, making sure I was fully recharged. I made it to Basecamp at around 5 hours 24. It is set up well for finishers, campers and those wanting a break. From experience I knew I would be there too early for a proper meal, and didn’t really fancy it. Ironically for me the Basecamp is the worst Pit Stop as so spread out. I made my way to the toilets and carried on straight through.
It was so lovely to see my family shortly after Basecamp. They came to see me before making their way to the Cotswold wildlife park and gardens. Not long after this my phone died, so couldn’t take pictures of the cute piglets at pit stop 5, or some of the fantastic scenery. Race To The Stones is not massively hilly to be honest. Don’t get me wrong there are a few hills, but from experiencing some others, this really isn’t too bad. Later on the terrain gets a little tough, and the paths are very narrow.
I found myself slowing down after about 50 miles. I got to 53 miles in 10:18, so 6 minutes quicker than Race To The King. But after this I was mostly averaging 12 min miles or slower. The flatter sections are on grass and uneven surface so I was mindful not to do anything to injure myself.
It gets flatter with better surface towards the end, and from about 95k you can see the finish in the distance. The race is named Race To The Stones, but you don’t finish at the Stones. At just after 97k there is a turn towards the finish with a 99k marker. Before we turn to the finish you run past this turning to the bottom of the road, it is tough as everyone wonders when it will end. When you get to the end of the road you run around the Stones and then head back to the turn.
I decided to pick up the pace for the last few km and my pace got progressively faster. Running towards the finish I heard my name being called on the mic as I crossed the line.
It was lovely to.see my family again for a great big cuddle. And I had done it. I finished Race To The Stones in 12:20:00 which I now know is a 1 hour 52 minute PB for this course.
Absolutely love this event and cannot recommend it enough… so what’s next… hopefully training for Ironman California. I just hope I can get there. What’s next for you?
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