At this time of year, as the changing of the clocks marks the final step…
Leaving the final checkpoint and trying to muster an actual run across the last three rolling hills of the Ridgeway I zoned out from the race; the last 12.9 km couldn’t stop me, I now knew I’d finish this race, the Series and the journey it’s taken me on…
The Dixons Carphone Race to the Stones was the final race of three in the Threshold Trail Series. I ran Race to the King three weeks ago and the Heineken Race to the Tower two weeks before that. Over the course of the three ultras I’ve met so many awesome people, enjoyed excellent trail running on long sections of three different National Trails and learned a lot about how to manage myself running for over 10 hours. Each race had its own distinct character, but they were all exceptionally well-organised, catered and staffed. I can honestly say that 100% of the Threshold staff and marshalls I met increased my enjoyment of the races.
The Heineken Race to the Tower takes on 53 miles of the Cotswold Way. The trail was the most technical of the three, with 7 big climbs and 1950m of ascent – I found this race really hard. I had an amazing time though, running the majority of the race with a new friend and learning a lot about how nutrition and hydration work for me. Although it was tough, the mistakes I made on this race meant that the next two went well. The highlight of the course for me was the last energy sapping climb up to Broadway Tower, going through the last of the 174 gates and crossing the finish of my first ever 50+ miler.
I absolutely loved Race to the King. I was more nervous at the start than I’d been at Race to the Tower, but as the miles ticked by and I realised that the changes I’d made had worked I was on a high. At a similar distance, but with only 1490m of ascent, this race follows the South Downs Way National Trail. The path is more open than the Cotswold Way and very runnable, with rolling hills but nothing too steep, so it’s easier to get a faster time. I managed to shave an hour and a half off my Race to the Tower time. The finish at Winchester Cathedral was spectacular, and having Jen and the kids waiting for me made it all the more special.
The Dixons Carphone Race to the Stones is 62 miles along Britians oldest path, the Ridgeway. It finishes at Avebury, the largest stone circle in Europe. Although nearly 10 miles longer than the other two races it is flatter with about 1250m of ascent and fewer steep hills. I found I was longing for some uphills where I could justify a walk and use some different muscles for a bit. Underfoot it’s probably the most runnable as well, with miles of wider trails. You do have to watch out for vehicle ruts and loose stones though. I loved the last section into Avebury: three rolling hills and then a brilliant fast descent to the stones.
Racing a series of ultra events in a fairly short time-frame has been interesting and enjoyable – and definitely a learning experience. I trained well before the races but hardly ran at all between them, needing to concentrate on recovery rather than training mileage. Over the three races I developed a nutrition plan which works well for me and should make my next races easier; basically I eat something small and savory every half an hour from the beginning, supplementing this with fruit or sweets from the aid stations and drink water to thirst. From about mile 20 I start using electrolytes in one of my two soft flasks, which has so far prevented any cramp.
I had a very positive experience running this series. The events are perfect as a first ultra, for anyone looking to increase their mileage or race a fast time. The organisation of everything from pre-event information, parking and shuttle bus options to course marking, frequent and well-stocked aid stations, great finish line atmosphere and brilliant marshalls means you can just turn up and run without having to worry about the logistics.
If you’re inspired to give it a go, it’s all happening again next year! The Race to the Tower will be on the 9th-10th June 2018, Race to the King will be on the 23rd -24th June 2018 and the Race to the Stones will be on the 14th-15th July 2018. Save the dates, entries open soon and we recommend them all!