First Ultra…Race To The Stones

Never in my life would I have ever thought about doing an ultra, let alone sitting here writing about my first one! I’m still in a slight shock of what happened yesterday, but absolutely buzzing from the whole experience!

I first came across this race, when a couple of friends posted about it last year. I then came to realize there were two more of these 100km races dotted around the country and decided to do a bit more research. Spread over two days, or all in one if you are that daring, you can walk, run or jog your way through the beautiful countryside trails and endure everything it has to offer. In our case the heat and unshaded route….! Regardless of how you take it on, you are guaranteed to have THE best time!

My alarm went off at 6am and I nervously shoveled a bowl of overnight oats into me, along with water and a cup of green tea. My dad kindly dropped me off at the start, only a short car ride from my house. At 7am, the temperature was already 20oC, and I was getting nervous. I met Charlie and Martha, along with her husband Daryl and the legend that is, Andy! If you don’t follow him (you can here) and I suggest you do. This guy is the most inspiring, genuine and kindest person I’ve ever met. Gutted to have no gotten a photo with him, but so glad I got to meet him!

Charlie kindly braided our hair, we quickly ran to use the bathroom and then climbed into the start pen! We’d opted for the wave after our originally planned one, because we weren’t quite ready, but it didn’t matter. We were all super excited, feeling good and relaxed!
Once the gun had gone, we were off…oh my god this was ACTUALLY happening! 50km’s and the totally unknown, was ahead of us!

The first leg of the race, and to the first pit stop, was 10km. The sky was crystal clear and the views were absolutely stunning. We did a mixture of running and some walking, but with a pretty flat course, we thought we’d get ahead of the game a bit and we all felt good. Being in the Oxfordshire countryside, you are bound to meet many hills and we were greeted by our first one before reaching the first stop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we were able to grab some snacks, fill up our hydration and water bottles, use the bathrooms and medical tent! I learnt a new trick here, from Martha, with regards to my hydration pack…if you fill it up with liquid, turn it upside down, and suck all the air out, it stops it from swashing/making so much noise when you run – legend!!!! After we’d sorted ourselves, we started off again and at only 9am, the temperature was rising fast.

The next leg was pretty long. Just over 8 miles to our second pit stop, up many steep hills, through the Field of Dreams and our favorite part, the woods! Only because it was shady and cool! Haha! We slowed down a little here, as it was getting very hot, but that was okay. We had no time limit, we took each km as it came and supported each other continuously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We reached pit stop number 2, where we refilled our water, grabbed more food and I caked myself in suncream after another runner pulled me aside and said my shoulders looked extremely red and were burning! I definitely underestimated the sun and the route, thinking there would be more shade then there was. As we left pit stop 2 we soon bumped into Mel, Andy’s girlfriend and saviour, as she had a huge box of watermelon in the back of her car! Adrienne will understand my joy, as well as the other three, because I was craving it so bad during the second leg! Refueled, rehydrated and ready to go, we headed off on our third leg. Another 10km to pit stop number three!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off into the field, through someones gorgeous garden and out onto the path that ran along the river. People were swimming, on their boats and dipping their feet in the water, something we all wished we could do! We passed the 25km mark, half way, YAY! I remember doing quite a bit of running along this part of the route, which unfortunately was unshaded, but bearable and the breeze coming off the water was heavenly! We came away from the river and into the village of Goring and Streatley. Familiar ground and one of my favorite places to come for a walk and coffee/lunch! I was very happy here, we’d also reached the 30km mark and I was feeling really good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we headed over the bridge, and into Streatley from Goring, we met Mel again! I caught sight of and sprinted to her, and before I knew it, she had the box of watermelon out waiting! A total lifesaver in my eyes! At this point we were only a mile or so away from pit stop number 3, and boy that watermelon was much needed! There was a long hill, that dragged on for ages, before the next stop.

Pit stop number threeee!!! I was quite glad to get here, only because I’d run out of water and needed to cool myself down. I was getting slightly worried as I’d had a headache for the past few miles and not used the bathroom since the first pit stop…so I loaded my pack with water and hydration tablets and grabbed more watermelon. I also had to pop to the medical tent to get my shoulder taped, as I knew some chaffing was happening and I could feel I was getting really tense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With more suncream applied, we carried on up a monster hill! This lead us out onto chalk/rocky covered ground, which was open and made us all feel like we were in a foreign country. It was boiling, we could feel the heat coming up from the floor and we’d all resorted to walking. It enabled us to take in the stunning views, rest a little, chat and make sure we were all okay. This part of the route felt very long, especially before we got to the last pit stop. We could see it, but it didn’t feel like it was getting any closer. We managed to entertain ourselves by finding “easier” ways to pass the km’s by skipping…which was a laugh, but yet it still seemed so far away!

Finally, after a sprint entrance, we’d reached the final pit stop! We quickly grabbed more water, loads of chocolate, Charlie had to visit the medical tent to strap her blister up and then we were ready to go. FINAL 6.9km’s to go, we had this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off we set, running as much as we could when the sun went behind the clouds but again the trail felt long and was windy, with absolutely no shade. At this point I still felt great but was slowly starting to fade and my bum was so sore and had gone slightly numb! Charlie and I had gone ahead of Martha and Daryl at this point, which was totally fine, because they ended up being extremely close behind us at the finish, which I was very happy about!
I can’t thank Charlie enough for staying with me and pushing me to the end. We reached the 50km mark, and again we could see and hear basecamp, yet it felt like a million miles away. We climbed up the hill and through the carpark, where I saw my mum waiting for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could feel myself getting emotional and pushed every ounce of power into my legs, that I had, to get me to that finish line. As we finished, I cried, got handed my medal and gave Charlie the biggest hug. I’d done it. I was an ultra marathoner…!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I absolutely cannot thank these three amazing people enough for one of THE best days! I’m beyond proud of myself, them and everyone who raced this weekend. The conditions were brutal, dare I say it, worse than during London, but we smashed it. The Ridgeway will forever be a special place. A place I made memories, new friends, laughed, cried and enjoyed the most stunning views. Thank you again, to everyone, who wished me luck, cheered me on and congratulated me. I am beyond overwhelmed and extremely lucky to have and to know you all!

I hope everyone who raced is recovering well and not feeling too sore! Massive well done!

Emma xx

 

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