26th Jun 2013
The Thames Trot Ultra is normally a 50 mile race along the Thames Towpath from Oxford to Henley organised by Go Beyond Ultra events. Because of all the rain we'd had, parts of the course were flooded, so the route had to be altered significantly or it wouldn't have been able to go ahead at all. All the runners were full of praise for all the extra work the guys at Go Beyond had had to put in to make it happen. This years event was on 2nd February, only 3 weeks after I'd completed the Country to Capital Ultra, so I wasn't sure how my poor old body would take it!
A field of nearly 300 runners set off from the Prince of Wales pub in Iffley. The weather was slightly milder than for the Country to Capital (C2C) and the sun was shining. As we were expecting to do a fair bit of the new course on roads I decided to go for my Saucony Kinvaras, currently my favourite shoe. One of the reasons I was looking forward to the Thames Trot was that there would be few opportunities to get lost. The change of course was supposed to shorten it to about 44 miles but unfortunately the changes led us up quite a few hills to get away from the floods as well as giving us more opportunities to get lost. Let's just say that I did my best to make up for the shortfall in miles!
If I thought it was going to be dry underfoot I was mistaken. Within the first mile we went through a flooded field which got our feet very cold and wet but after a short stretch on the towpath we were out on the road and got into a reasonable rhythm. It was still a cold enough day for me to wear the same kit I had at the C2C (again most people wore thermals, with extra kit in a rucksack). The first checkpoint at Culham Lock seemed to come surprisingly quickly. As at C2C we were spoilt for choice at the checkpoints with stocks of Gu gels, drinks, cake and savouries. We managed to find a few muddy bits and a couple of minor navigational errors as we headed over through Shillingford to CP2 near Benson Lock. We could see plenty of flooding and the reason why we were having to stick to the roads here. I was slowing a little but generally in good spirits as we headed down the old Wallingford Road to Goring and CP3. We were able to re-join part of the original route on the way over to Pangbourne and I nearly managed to go the wrong way in Purley before coming to CP4 for some well-earned refreshments and the pleasure of re-joining the original route all the way over to CP5. The towpath was flooded in a number of areas so we were wading rather than running through some parts as we eventually made it to CP5 at Sonning Lock. We had to return to the road after Sonning which was busy with cars and had little space for runners but the traffic quietened down as we climbed up towards Dunsden. As we went through Binfield Green I made my major navigational error of the day. I can blame it on tiredness and not looking at my route description but I thought I was following another runner but wasn't! I ended up taking a very long way round before I eventually got back on the main road into Henley and to my great relief spotted some fellow runners. Trying not to think of how much time I'd wasted, I headed down towards the finish. Unfortunately, having decided I was almost home, I managed to miss the right turning and went too far into Henley before cutting back to the river! While re-gaining my bearings, a kind lady, who was obviously going to the finish area to meet a loved one, pointed me in the right direction and asked if I wanted a lift! Having made it this far I definitely wasn't going to take her up on her kind offer and carried on into the finish area.
Apart from the frustration of time wasted by getting lost, I'd really enjoyed the day. The support crew were great and I definitely want to do the event next year, hopefully on the proper course (where I've less chance of getting lost). Like C2C, the event earns a point towards UTMB qualification.