Race to the Stones

Well, it’s done so just to find an appropriate place to start the story. I guess that would be at the beginning.

For those who don’t already know, I lost my mum in June just at my peak training weekend, so the last few training weeks didn’t really happen. It was her funeral the week of the race so emotionally I was all over the place.

Attempted to get an early night on Thursday as I had a 4.15am alarm call. Managed to get up and get some food down me and feed the cats then I got a lift to the airport. Other than having to take my bag to the oversized luggage kiosk. Got through security fine and then we were soon on board.

London was very warm and I soon got to my destination (Marleybone) with a little help from the staff as I have to admit I was a bit clueless. I had quite some time to kill and realised I was very close to Regent’s Park so I went for a wander and to have a wee look around.

I then took the train to Princes Risborough. I had no clue how to get to my hotel when I got there, but thankfully there was a taxi firm on site, so I got safely to my hotel. All checked in and booked in for the first dinner sitting. Spent my time chilling out and watching the Tour de France. I have to admit to almost screaming when Mark Cavendish won the stage, equalling the all time stage win record set by Eddy Merckx. I was right up to the TV, jumping up and down though!

At 6pm I went down for dinner and there was another solo diner a table away. We looked at each other and quickly found out we were both there for the same reason. I wasn’t sure how I would be able to get to the start shuttle as although it wasn’t far from the hotel, it wasn’t really walkable due to the location. My new friend Liz offered me a lift as we were in the same start wave so I quickly e-mailed the event team to let them know I wouldn’t be needing the shuttle.

After dinner and a good catch up with Liz and others in the dining room who were doing the event I retired for an early night. Can’t say that I slept that well and I woke before my alarm. I ended up just getting ready and packing up. I’d also booked the earliest breakfast time, so met Liz for breakfast. Had trouble getting food down me, but at least I was able to eat. Then went and got all my kit together and checked out.

My stomach wasn’t happy though, which was not a good sign. Got to the start and Liz had friends there, so I thanked her once again and we parted company. After having my temperature taken and my declaration checked I was free to start as there were no queues. After the obligatory trip to the portaloo and realising my stomach still wasn’t happy I decided that I might as well get on with it.

I was able to do a run walk to the first Pit Stop, but my stomach was still not very happy so decided it would be wiser to power walk for less shoogling. There had been some hills and there was quite a large downhill then uphill before the first Pit Stop, at which I met Totty, who is a Moderator on the Race to the Stones Ultra chat & support Facebook group, so I just had to get a selfie with him and Groot.

After another trip to the portaloo, the marching started. Saw the most beautiful old church and later on what I called the Field of Dreams and some beautiful wildflowers. There was even a random trig point with OS marker. Didn’t seem very high at that point but must have been the highest point in the area. I also found a crochet heart which had been placed in a tree as a random act of kindness which became my lucky charm.

I passed through some beautiful countryside and some idyllic villages and towns with beautiful gardens. Unfortunately did not think to take more pictures, but these are what I have.

There were Badger holes to avoid en route and I got talking to lots of people, most notably another Liz, Susan and Zoe, whom I ended up walking with for most of the event.

I was generally chirpy but but knew there was a blister forming on my toe, but figured that if it didn’t get any worse, I would sort it at the end of Day 1. As time went on I was less enthusiastic about the scenery as I just wanted the day to be over. Zoe had blisters too and we kept each other going as much as possible. Did see some wild orchids (I hope that’s what they are), which cheered me up as I’ve never seen one before. Also saw a Red Kite circling a crop field looking for some dinner.

I was struggling to get food in and getting quite grumpy, so was delighted when Zoe and I were caught up by someone who’d done the route before and we were not too far from the end. Finally base camp was in sight, which was such a relief to see.

Zoe’s friends were there to meet her and her friend Sarah was a brilliant help to me as I couldn’t think, never mind do anything. She took me to where the tents were allocated and gave me her number to contact the group once I was sorted, as Zoe’s phone had gone flat.

I got my tent allocated then went off to find my bags and again my lack of mental ability meant that one of the event staff went to get my bag for me and then showed me to the tent area, where I was met with yet another member of staff, who took my bag and showed me to my tent. I had not realised how mentally draining it would be. I didn’t have a clue what to do first. Ended up unpacking my bag and then heading for a well deserved shower. After that got the compeed out to sort my blister and then got my tent bed ready and went off to get some food. Called Sarah and found out where they were, so joined them. Could not eat that much at all, just didn’t feel hungry, but managed to get food down. My stomach had behaved okay for the rest of the day and I was well hydrated as the weather had periods of being hot, but this was mixed with cooler and overcast, which suited me more.

Arranged to meet in the morning and continue with Zoe and then it was time for an early night.

Managed to get some sleep, although not nearly enough and was up bright and early for day 2. To be absolutely honest, I was not at all sure I was capable of doing another 50k. Although my stomach had settled my feet and legs were not happy, so there was no way I’d be able to do any running.

I got my kit on and packed up my tent before heading for breakfast where I met Fetchie MarkyMarkMark (3M) so we had a chat, whilst I ate my porridge. Spoke to Zoe and we had a plan, so after breakfast I got sorted and dropped my bag then met Zoe and the rest of her friends for the start of day 2.

We were off before 6.30am and I’d decided to wear road shoes as I needed that bit more cushioning and support. They felt good too for the first few miles. Unfortunately this didn’t last long and only after reflection I realise now that my feet has swollen, so the sides of my little toes were sore. By the time we reached the first Pit Stop of the day I knew I’d have to resort to pain killers, but rationed myself to 1 paracetamol, which did help. Here we had some colourful portaloos.

Colourful Loos

At some point around one of the Pit Stops we were both struggling, but Zoe asked me to go on if I was able as she thought she would be slowing down. I can’t quite remember where this was but we did split for a while. I was already starting to get a bit down as there was such a long way to go still. This sign didn’t help, but I thought I’d take a picture anyway.

Oh F*** Off

I was managing to keep going and took a paracetamol at each subsequent Pit Stop. There was some more lovely scenery and places of interest that there was no time to go and see, but hopefully one day I will be able to wander round these at my leisure.

Couldn’t resist taking a photo of the rude kilometre sign either.

At some point I’d met up with Zoe again and we were just trudging along as best we could. I was not particularly enjoying the experience, but thankfully the company was good. I’m still not sure what I would have done without her. Here is some more scenery.

Was so pleased to get to 80km and my head just could not work out how far it was to the finish in miles. It’s so funny how your brain turns to mush and can’t do the simplest calculation!

As we reached the final Pit Stop before the finish the heavens opened so the rain jackets went on. The toilets were being dismantled and we were told that if we didn’t leave within 5 to 10 minutes then it would be the broom wagon for us. This last Pit Stop was around 88k, so there was no way in hell that I was giving up at this late stage.

Zoe and her friend Becky who had met up with us earlier to keep us company for a bit stopped to help another participant, but I knew I just needed to go on. Kept a look out for them behind me for a little while, but they were soon gone from my sight.

I stomped on. The weather was grim and the path had turned into a mud bath and I was not a happy bunny. There were lots of tears and lots of tantrums here.

I was ticking off the kilometres one by one and pretty much crying and swearing at each one. I am still surprised that I managed to stay upright and I was totally stomping along cursing as I went.

Finally the main reason I wanted to do this race came into sight. Avebury Stone Circle. Unfortunately you don’t see much of it and I was so knackered and fed up that I couldn’t really appreciate it fully.

This is a horrible out and back section too which was so muddy. The road was flooded, so the grass verge was the only option and that was so muddy is was a giant slide.

Finally there were signs I was very glad to see.

I’d had my phone in my hand taking the last picture but there was still a few hundred meters to the finish. To my surprise my music app opened and started playing a Nightwish song called “Wish I had an Angel”. That was me in floods of tears and I mustered what energy I could to run over the finish line and immediately cried buckets over the poor folks at the finish line.

Got my medal and someone got my bag for me then I took some time to stretch out and cry (again, multiple times).

Another one of Zoe’s friends Cat had been crewing and she popped up all over the place. She was absolutely fabulous and I told her that I’d had to leave Zoe and at the finish she assured me that Zoe was doing well.

After I’d composed myself at the finish I met Susan again. Was great to know she had finished okay and again Sarah had to help my poor brain as I was booked on the shuttle to Swindon and couldn’t figure out what was going on!

Didn’t have time to eat or shower before the shuttle so just took off my shoes and socks and put my sandals on before I was helped on to the shuttle bus.

Once checked in at my hotel in Swindon, first thing I did was take a shower. Check the state of legs!

What a rollercoaster of an experience. I’m still going through periods of crying and can’t quite believe I did it, although my body most certainly knows I did. I also think I’ve reached the limit of my ability as this was without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Thanks again to Cat, Sarah and Zoe for getting me through and to all my friends and family who’d sent me the most amazing messages of support through Instagram and Facebook xx

In memory of my mum Leda Luisa Pelham 21/04/1934 – 21/06/2021, Riposa In Pace Mamma.

Funds raised for Alzheimer Scotland. If you wish to donate before my page closes, you can do so here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/carol-wilson36

Confessions of a Slow Ultra Runner – Part 3 (the finale)

Apologies for the infrequency of these blogs. I really enjoy writing them, but there has been a lot going on recently. Firstly it’s full steam ahead for Race to the Stones on 10th and 11th July. Can’t believe it’s not that far away now. I must admit that I’m starting to get just a little nervous. I have learned quite a lot though through my training, which leads me to a few confessions:

  1. I have never put in as much training for any previous ultra, or probably even marathon!
  2. I have discovered the pee cloth, which has been a game changer.
  3. I have finally got my head round the rest is just as important as training.
  4. Ultra training is really hard.
  5. I think this will be my last ultra (yeah, I know I’ve said stuff like this before, but I really have found the training tough on both my body and my mind).

I do still love running but I have spent a lot of time doing the Jeff Galloway walk/run method as it’s much better for my body and will get me through the 2 days that I find it hard to run for any length of time any more. I’ve just got out the habit. I also still want to set myself other challenges. Before lockdown last year, I’d completed a couple of local duathlons, which were pure hell and I was last, but I’m keen to give them another go. Not sure whether I’m just a glutton for punishment or just insane. I guess the two may be interchangeable.

I’m also hoping to use my newly acquired Personal Trainer and Exercise Referral Qualifications to help others lead more healthy and active lifestyles. Being active completely changed my life and although I still have some work to do on myself, I have a strong desire to help others too.

So really at the moment though it’s all about that 100k of Race to the Stones. Originally I’d not set out to raise money for charity, but recent family circumstances made the decision for me so I decided to raise funds for Alzheimer Scotland. My Mum used to go to their day centre before she became more debilitated by her dementia and more recently my Dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As I’m miles away from them, my Sister has borne the brunt of everything and Alzheimer Scotland have been fantastic support, so it’s the least I can do by way of payback.

If you would like to donate, I have a just giving page which you can find at:

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/Carol-Wilson36

In the meantime, I’d like to thank all my friends for their support.

Here are some lovely photos from recent runs.

Confessions of a Slow Ultra Runner – Part 2

Well, would you believe it, there has been some running. Actually there has even been running according to a plan going on. Dear readers I am as shocked as you are. I thought I’d have to sort out that nonsense and bring you part 2 of my confessions.

My Saturday Views

Not satisfied with those, I was out today too for a run and then a walk somewhere new to me.

So back to the confessions:

  1. I think I’m actually starting to like hills (ssshhh, don’t tell). I am placing the blame firmly on friends Jeni and Jenny who I shared Saturday miles with. Special thanks to Jeni for the marvellous route.
  2. I’m paranoid that during Race to the Stones I’ll have an urgency to go for a wee and have nowhere to go, so I bought myself a shewee. Yes I have already tried using it. I think it will come in useful.
  3. Friends are sneaky and some can’t be trusted 🙂 Went for what I thought was a walk after my Bennachie miles on Saturday to find out it was a run! I was not dressed for the occasion but gave it a go anyway.
  4. I’m starting to really enjoy cycling! Wondering what shenanigans that will lead to.
  5. Training is really hard! I knew it would not be easy, but yup I’m feeling the miles in the legs.
  6. I’ve started wearing Injinji toe socks. They make me look like I have Hobbit feet though.

Think that’s probably enough to be going on with for today. Will there be a part 3. Most probably as training progresses. It could all go a bit wrong, as the next thing I’ll be experimenting with is how I intend to fuel the race. I have also learned that Jelly Babies contain Beef Gelatin which I’m pretty upset about. Hoping to find some that don’t.

Until next time, stay safe out there and run well 🙂

Confessions of a slow Ultra Runner – Part 1

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. To be honest I’ve just not felt like it. There has been a lot going on behind the scenes but that’s for another blog.

On 10th July this year (hopefully) I’ll be on the start line of Race to the Stones 100k. This race has been on my bucket list for several years and I finally decided to sign up, well for last year that is, so of course, it was deferred.

Whilst I’m now in training, I thought I should make note of some of my thoughts, so here goes:

  1. Weather – I don’t like weather! It’s either too hot, too cold, too windy or too wet. Can we just not have a nice temperate climate with no wind or rain please?
  2. Running – Sometimes I don’t actually like running. Those days when it’s really difficult and you feel rubbish, yup that’s when I really don’t like running.
  3. Hills – I really hate these. I have little short legs, those darn hills are really tough for me to get up. Mountain goat I will never be.
  4. Training – Trying hard to stick to a training plan, but the runs often get moved around dependant on what else is going on.
  5. People – I really miss running with people. So looking forward to that.

As this is just part 1 I shall leave it there for now. I am into my 3rd proper week of training and things are going okay. I know I’ll not be running the whole way and I’m doing the distance over the weekend, but that’s still over a marathon each day. I will be walking up hills and I expect there will be some swearing too. I just hope it goes ahead and I can get there. Travel arrangements have not yet been made.

Will do my best to update at least weekly, but there will be more confessions coming up 🙂

Virtual Race to the Stones – Days 6 & 7

Didn’t get around to writing yesterday. Was a bit miffed at the end of Friday as the app was showing that I had completed more than I had.

Had no plan really for Saturday other than cover as much ground as possible. Ended up wandering round with Al as he was doing a town round. Then got some treats at The Kilted Frog then walked home. When I totalled up the distance it left me with 5.77 miles to go.

This morning I got out just after 8am. It was a glorious morning. I did thus time have an idea about where I wanted to go and my route took me into a more rural setting. I was serenaded with birdsong and the the beautiful smell of honeysuckle. It was just the perfect walk to end on.

I had planned to finish at a Stone circle close to me, but decided on finishing at a Pictish symbol stone in the town instead. Stopped to collect Al on the way and he accompanied me to the finish.

100k done 🙂
Almost there …
Smashed it 🙂
Woo hoo

Am so glad I signed up for this. Although I did the majority walking it was no easy task. By this time next year I will have done it for real. I would have never been fit enough to do it this year so perhaps a blessing in disguise.

My main issue now will be keeping up the momentum I have built up. I do have plan but I have form for being full of good intentions, then not following through. I guess you’ll have to wait and see …

Virtual Race to the Stones – Day 5

After an early alarm and the associated grumpiness I have had a great day today. Each time I was out I was grinning like a complete idiot. Definitely feeling the mental health benefits. Hoping I can keep it up to some extent afterwards.

Was great seeing the miles tick by and I laughed when I met a friend out walking with her daughter. We all paused our respective devises when we stopped for a chat.

Have had to double check my mileage and I have a half marathon to go. Had started to develop hot spots on my right foot but a change of trainers soon sorted that out.

Nearly there.

Going to take it a bit easier over the weekend, as I feel like I am in the home straight. Not sure how much I will do tomorrow so watch this space.

Virtual Race to the Stones – Day 4

Just a quick blog tonight as I am pretty tired. An early start and a lovely morning walk.

River view

Weather took a turn for the worse before lunch time but was pretty lucky to stay dry and even managed to fit in a cuddle stop (it’s Al’s day off) and a coffee stop.

Dark skies

Got out again after work and before dinner and was grinning like an idiot. Think I am actually enjoying this. Am now 67% complete.

Today’s mileage

Early alarm planned for the morning.

Virtual Race to the Stones – Day 3

No early alarms this morning, so up at my usual time but out the door shortly after 7am. It was sunny and warm. Had to take my jumper off for the most of the walk.

It got to lunch time and the weather had turned into cold and threatening to rain. Once I had warmed up there were only a few spots of rain so that was fine. Came home with a bizarre craving for peanut butter and banana on toast, so that’s what I had.

This evening was the best though. A socially distanced run with Annie (AbzAnnie1903). She went with the flow and after initially starting on a run/walk ratio of 90 seconds/30 seconds I was doing far to much yapping to concentrate, so just ran some and walked some. Noticed a sculpture I have never seen before which I really liked.

“Granny”

We had a little go on the swings and then carried on with only one more stop at the river to watch all the ducks for a bit. Very chuffed with just over 5 miles in total.

Distanced Selfie

Here’s how things looked for the day. Now 49% complete 🙂

Not surprised I am tired

Hoping I may be able to finish early but glad to be half way.

Virtual Race to the Stones – Day 2

I so did not want to get up this morning when the alarm went off. I *may* have sworn. Can’t say for certain as I wasn’t very awake.

After some major wrangling with my inner voices, I listened to the one that told me to get out of bed and get on with it. Was out the door by 5.30am and it was a lovely morning. Ended up doing a total of 4 miles which was a great start.

By lunch time my enthusiasm was waning a little but I took advantage of a break in the rain showers and got out again for just under 3 miles.

Weather break.

I was starting to feel quite sore. I must admit I have been pretty lazy lately, so this is a bit of a shock to the system. By the time I was ready to go out for my final walk of the day I was tired and sore. My legs are not best pleased with me, so this time it was a less purposeful walk and more of an amble which was just fine.

Day 2 done and dusted.

That’s now 32% of the distance complete. There will be some ‘running’ tomorrow and a rare treat in that I will be running with a friend. Can’t wait, so here’s hoping I am able to get out of my bed in the morning! 😂