Race to the Tower: One week to go!
This summer Sim is racing the Threshold Trail Series: three ultramarathons in just five weeks. The…
Race to the King is the second race in the Threshold Sports Trail Series; two weeks after the Heineken Race to the Tower and three weeks before the Dixons Carphone Race to the Stones. Read Sim’s update with two races done and one to go.
Writing this three weeks after Race to the Tower I can look back and see what I did wrong and why I found the race so hard. It’s brilliant to be able to spin such a positive learning experience from a bad race, and happily I’m now really looking forward to the Stones.
I was more nervous at the start of Race to the King than I was at the start of Race to the Tower; was I recovered from the race two weeks ago and would the changes I’d decided to make to my gear and nutrition work? I knew that if this one went badly then Race to the Stones in three weeks time was going to be really hard.
I tried to start steadily but got caught up in the initial excitement, running up the first couple of miles of uphill. I wanted to stay slow but It’s hard when you’re in a long line of people, running along a single-track path. I didn’t want to get wet feet from walking alongside the path and I didn’t want to hold people up, so I ran. Thankfully it wasn’t too fast and the track soon widened out so I could walk. Quite a lot of people overtook me in the first 10 miles, but I reassured myself that I wasn’t really racing them, especially this early in the race, and some of them where only going to the half-way camp anyway.
After feeling sick for most of the second half of the Tower I’d re-thought my hydration and nutrition; I wasn’t going to touch caffeine until near the end and I’d brought more of my own food. Happily, my new approach worked really well: I ate a quarter of a sandwich every half hour for the first two hours and then moved onto small veggie scotch eggs, then another sandwich lasted me until almost the end of the race. I ate small sweet treats at most of the aid stations and stopped for soup, bread, milky tea and an amazing nectarine at the base camp. Two weeks ago at the Tower I collapsed into most of the aid stations and was helped by the chap I was running with and the awesome staff; this time I didn’t sit down at any of them, the staff where still brilliant and helpful but I was less in need. I carried two 500ml soft flasks and used the High Five electrolyte tablets provided for the second half of the race.
The running on the South Downs Way was easier than the Cotswold Way, the hills are more rolling and the path less technical. I still walked most of the uphill but I was able to run with less concentration on the flat and downhill which saved a lot of energy. I’d planned to move at about 10min/mile pace when I could run, but I often found that I was running faster than this because the terrain invited it; I hoped that the faster running wasn’t going to come back to get me towards the end of the race.
Happily at mile 40 I still felt good – I actually started thinking about racing people. My pacing had been good, so having spent the first 20 miles being overtaken I was able to overtake for most of the second half. I finished in 10 hours 13 mins, about an hour and a half faster than Race to the Tower which is a similar distance. I’m incredibly happy with this but interestingly placed 72nd overall compared to 49th which shows that it is a faster course.
I made a few kit changes this time, all of which worked very well. I wore Howies shorts which are lighter than my Salewa ones and also have a comfortable liner short, and a Vaude tee with a zip for extra ventilation and a higher collar to protect my neck from the sun. The weather forecast was warmer so I carried a superlight Vaude windproof instead of my awesome Ultimate Direction waterproof. I carried my extra food in the bigger Ultimate Direction AK vest which I love. I wore exactly the same Inov-8 Trail Talon 275 shoes with 1000 Mile Breeze socks with no blisters.
I’m quite competitive so I’d like to go faster per mile and place higher at Race to the Stones, but truthfully I’ve never been so happy with my race day performance. Everything worked well from the bus transfer in the morning to the excellent signage, runnable terrain, enthusiastic marshalls, friendly competitors and my own race plan. I can’t wait for Race to the Stones; it will be interesting to go into the race confident in my ability to have recovered from the last one and happy with my kit and nutrition. I averaged 13:30 min/mile at the Tower, 11:28 min/mile at the King… can I beat that for an extra 10 miles at Race to the Stones?