Run 158 – Rok The Stones Trail Marathon

Date:  Saturday 24th January 2015 8:30am

Distance: 45.34 km

Ascent: 680m

Time: 5:51:50

Pace: 7:46 min/km

Pre-Race: “We will, we will Rok you” is what was going through my head at 7am this morning. On the bus, heading to town to meet my lift to Stanton Drew and the stone circles.   Having packed the night before, and getting the rather extensive kit list together, waking up 20mins late wasn’t catastrophic. Luckily, at the bus stop, the Tesco’s was open, so I managed a Breakfast sandwich to make up for my missed breakfast at home. I hadn’t really done a great job of carbing up, hydrating or sleeping in the days leading up, but never mind. Hopefully Thursdays trail run won’t have done too much damage either.

The lift was pleasant company with Liam and Laura, and we arrived only a car after SRC turned up. We had enough time to register, and get ready. Thankfully they were much more relaxed about the kit, likely due to the brilliant weather forecast! The marshals and organisers were so friendly. They also had course descriptions printed, which I took to aid the maps just in case. I had the full kit list, but took the bum bag with some water, warm layer, first aid kit and gel, as well as showerproof jacket around the waist. Liam took some stuff in my CamelBak rucksack.

Southvillers at the start. Left to right: Jerry, Col, Tom, Mike, Matt. (Photo by Jerry Furber)

The Race: The start was cold, but stunning as we ran around the stone circle with the sun just rising above the hill in the distance. The start of something epic. The pace to begin with was fairly brisk and the runners’ field seemed to split into two, with Liam and me at the front of the second group. Having not recced Loop 1, I wanted to keep pace, or at least keep them in sight and not rely on the map. It worked pretty well. We overtook the faster SRC group as they sorted out their kit, and then they overtook us as Liam sorted out his shoe. It was only a matter of time as they regained position.

But at about that point we ended up running with Mike, the chap who got me round the last half of Greenman. And it was a pleasant run for the now three of us through Pensford (the viaduct looked amazing) and up and beyond to the Loop 1 halfway point. Navigation is a big part of this “race” and the first difference of opinion came when the chap in front went right, and I was sure we go left. A group of three girls then caught us up and also went right. So we went right, the path would loop back round anyway. A few hundred metres further, and we ended up looping round and getting back on the route.

Now there were six in our group. Turns out she was 4th lady (that’s f**cking fast!) at the Riverbank Rollick a couple of weekends ago while I was struggling like a retard on the Skyline, and will be doing the Aztec West Fast 5k on Tuesday! This is her first marathon and will apparently be doing “Slaughterford” tomorrow. Whatever that is, it sounds horriffic! So yeah, massive respect! The group is chatting so much that we miss the subtle right turn off the road, and instead head to the junction, and end up arriving at the village hall from the wrong direction, but having covered greater distance, 18km so far in total.

We have to go in to the hall to record our loop time. But I have to say that the setup is fantastic. It’s like the whole village has baked their own cakes, there’s so much variety. Juice, tea, hot chocolate, you name it! I stuff some coffee and walnut cake down me and chase it with sugary hot chocolate. Bliss! While I’m outside, I notice blood has seeped through my man-leggings and I’m worried that it’ll stain. The medic comes across and says saline works! Turns out it’s the same medic from the Skyline races. Small world eh?!

Five minute later the group of six is off again, this time towards Dundry! Going uphill, the girls make headway over us. But we end up catching Jerry on his 101st marathon! So we have four. Well before halfway, my legs certainly feel fresh no more! I find the run along the top of Dundry tougher than I want, but the views are still amazing! The WHOLE of Bristol on my left, Chew Valley and the Mendips to my right. And I can still let go on the down hills. Not thinking about Loop 3, just trying to get to more cake and hot chocolate!

As we arrive at the cake and hot chocolate, the girls are already leaving. Three and a half hours down, our legs are tired but our spirits are high. My mind is telling me this next loop is gonna be tough, and it is. This is the bit that makes it a marathon and not a 30k country jolly.

Then it gets worse…cows! I really don’t want that field on the right, full of cows, to be the route. Surely we keep left of the fence? We search for the gate, but eventually realise that this really isn’t the field. So it’s back round to the right for Man vs Cow. Luckily, cow doesn’t give a shit as we jog on by. Even so, I’m first one out of that field! The view as we get up to “Cold” Hill is amazing, and we pause for a group photo. The hills and tired legs are making progress slow. The occasional yet regular overtakes by fresher relay racers doesn’t bolster motivation.

Fantastic four on “cold” hill. Left to right: Jerry, Liam, Matt, Mike. (Photo by Jerry Furber)

Can we make 5h30? We’re making steady progress. At the last drinks station I’m not so confident. The station is much needed though, I scoff down two slices of orange, a cup of flat coke and some jelly beans, and some more juice. Last bit now. Only one more hill to go!

Once we get round that, I get a second wind. I want 5h45 dammit!   I’m shouting at my legs like a madman to “stop being slow”! Yes I’m angry, I want that time dammit! I’m pleased that I’m finishing on a high, which I’ve still got some fire within physically and mentally. Anger gets a bad press, but in small focused bursts, it’s a valuable tool for me. Whether it’s trying to finish off a marathon, or secure a second over a sprint finish.

I’m jogging up the last little hill, if I walk this I won’t make 5h45. As a result we’re pulling away from Mike and Jerry. I feel guilty as we’ve stuck together as a group this far. Mike stuck with me through the toughest part of Greenman. It takes Liam to say that we need to hang fire a bit, for me to concede that we won’t make 5h45. We’re easy under six hours. I can live with that. Mikes not too far behind and it’s a group of three again until the last 150m where we pick up the pace to the amazing cheers of the modest but loud Southville contingent at the end! In we go, they take our numbers, and we take our coasters! Official time of 5:51:50.

The race was fantastic. I’d certainly do it next year, the community spirit, it’s like the whole area has come out today to support, be it bringing cakes, marshalling or shouting and clapping encouragement. Psychologically it feels great to come back home to the village hall after each loop before stepping back out into the wilderness. “I may be some time.”

For a much more eloquent write up of his experience, have a read through Liam’s blog entry here:

Post-Race: So now that I’ve completed my hilly marathon, I tell people I’m hoping to get my first sub20 5k on Tuesday, and in return they give me a certain look.  A look that says “best of luck chap, but you’re a fool for trying”. And in my mind it’s a red flag in front of a bull. Yes it’s bonkers, but once I’m set on an idea, I don’t let go. I love bonkers ideas. It’s how I find out what I can and can’t do at that point in time. I just need to recover from these 26+miles, and fast!

So when I find out they are doing sports massages for a fiver, I’m all over that. After getting changed, and renegotiating a lift back, I’m on that bed getting my first ever sports massage. (Talking about myself and “sports” still don’t seem to belong together in a sentence, even after two years.) And thanks to a firm hand, I’m discovering that my feet are a bag of nails, and oh that right calf BLOODY HURTS when you poke it like that! But apart from those, it wasn’t as torturous as I thought they were meant to be. Not sure how much benefit this will really be, except it is worth the fiver just to be able to lie down after a marathon. Not that I’m falling asleep, honest. After another Southville group photo, it’s time to get up and go.

It’s in the car that I start to notice how relatively normal my legs feel. Right now they’d be solid as the standing stones, but they’re not. On the bus, I’ve got my legs out in front while I’m listening to Daft Punk, and feeling…fresh…pumped up for my impending sub20…feeling superhuman…or bionic like my tights (they’re man-leggings!)

After the marathon, I’ve also been asking about recovery techniques. Another thing that has been mentioned, and that I’ve seen people use, are ice baths. The sceptic in me is thinking that this is a conspiracy. But on the bus back I’m reading up on it. 5-15mins in a cold bath. Or alternate between cold and hot. Apparently, the way it works is to constrict the blood vessels, and then when it heats up it helps flush out the lactic acid, or something like that. However, I did read (somewhere) that it’s supposed to help reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), which occurs 24-48 hours after exercise. Ahhh…so that’s the “day after tomorrow” car crash feeling! Nice to know it has a scientific name. And behold the Running Lore textbook (by Tim Noakes) explains on page 816, that it often occurs after eccentric muscle contraction. That’s one where the muscle is lengthening while the fibres are in tension and contract, as often happens when running downhill. (Ah, so that would apply to today then!) Incidentally, a concentric muscle contraction is where the muscle shortens during the contraction.

So, the “ice-bath”. Obviously a cold bath is more practical, and I’d figured 10mins would be a good introduction. Now, I HATE the cold. So I put on a couple of HH base layers and a hat and made myself a hot chocolate. However, no amount of creature comforts will change the fact that getting into that water is agony. I HATED it. Surely anything this painful can’t be a good thing? But I figured I’d get used to it. After a minute or so, my breathing and mind have calmed down. I have to cross my arms and go in to an almost meditative state to take my mind away from the bitter cold. After several minutes my legs are shaking involuntarily. Around 6-7minutes my whole body is shaking. The ten minute alarm goes off, and although it’s not as intense as it first was, I’m getting out!

Not fun!

There’s probably something to be said about getting out and letting the legs warm naturally. However reading about the “alternating” from cold to hot justified getting a hot bath right after. Maybe that undid all the good work, if any. Who knows! Not convinced it was worth it. But we shall see what effect it has and how desperate I am for a fast recovery in future.


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