Sunday April 24th was the 36th running of the London Marathon.
I knew this race was on the cards for about a year since I had a Good For Age (GFA) place from achieving 3h01m07s in Hamburg a couple of years ago. The preparation for this event had not been solid since my priorities had been with my businesses. Still I had been on a number of social runs with my running club, Clapham Chasers (Chasers). The first aim was to achieve another GFA time, then to beat 3h01m07s to get a PB, and if all goes well to get under 3 hours for the first time.
Race day and I felt good. I really wasn’t sure how the day would go, but I knew I had to go for the target of running under 3 hours, 6m52s per mile. This was my 20th Marathon and I had been close to going under 3 hours a couple of times. I saw a couple of my club mates at the start but chose to run on my own as I focused on starting at a steady pace and not going to fast at the start.
I had my GPS watch on which I started on the line, I also ensured I went over the line on 30s past the start to help keep track on my progress through the course clocks.
The first half went well and just before Tower Bridge I caught a Club Mate Alex and we ran to a great reception over Tower Bridge, through Half way in 1h27m and on to fourteen and a half miles where we would see our Chasers support crew near Westferry. This is a great spot that offers supporters 3 points of contact on the course.
Things were going well and I felt fine. The crowds reduce a little through Docklands but I was able to keep a good pace through to the next Chaser contact point at twenty-one miles. It is great to hear all the support again and to be on the last ‘home straight’.
I had not looked at my watch after half way since the GPS was throwing all my timings out with the poor signal. I felt fine and knew I just had to hold position and run well.
I knew from my recce of the course I needed to be at 23 miles before 2h38m to be on a 3 hour pace. Iwent through in 2h 37m on their clock so I knew it was still going well. Soon after this I was caught by the 3 hour pace group. I didn’t allow this to phase me.
Again the support was amazing all the way to the end. I spotted Jasmine, an former colleague who was managing the Lucazade Station. Not far now. I made it to 800m to go which is where the 26 mile marker is. the clock said 2h57m. I knew it was going to be close and required a push to the finish. I turned into The Mall and heard the last 3 hour pacer cross the line on 2h59m59s. I knew I had 30 seconds to sprint to the line. When it cam in to view the clock was reading 3h00m10s. I had 20s to make it, and it took me 22s, giving me a time of 3h00m02s. I was not aware of my actual time at this point, but was pleased, I had managed a PB and had enjoyed the run. Also the GFA time will allow me automatic entry again next year.
I saw my former boss at the finish who manages the directing of us finishers. I have also worked this section before and it is a great place to work with so many happy people.
It wasn’t until I caught up with Liz that I was told that i was only 2 seconds over the 3 hours! oops, so close, yet so confident that I can run faster next time.
Great event and lots of Chaser Support. Thanks!
The following week was used to restock with calories. Starting off with a free burger, or 2, at GBK for my efforts.
I knew I could have pushed it a little harder on race day. The whole run went really well.
I was keen to test my legs the following week by entering the Richmond Half which I successfully achieved in 1h24m28s.
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Thursday 24th March, 36 hours before the start I was at home watching TV when a message was put out on social media by a friend of mine in Afghanistan saying that a sick paddler had let a mate down ahead of the 68th Devizes to Westminster (DW) kayak event starting some 36 hours later. A replacement was eagerly being hunted for. With no major plans over the Easter Break, it didn’t take me long to put my honest bid in, saying that I was a bit rusty but was keen to step in. It had been quite a while since I had last sat in a sea kayak, actually over 4 years, and I would have to borrow a paddle. With plenty of previous Adventure Race experience, I was not afraid to take on this classic endurance race of 125 miles and 77 portages for teams in double kayaks or canoes. I had heard of the event before but had no knowledge of the route or timings other than a bench mark achievement is to complete it under 24 hours.
I soon found out that I was on! I managed a brief chat on the phone at 10pm with Boris, my race partner to be, agreeing to meet at Richmond Canoe Club the following morning for a quick compatibility test paddle to see if we could actually paddle together.
Friday 23rd March, 21 hours before the start
11am I met Boris for the first time at the Richmond Canoe Club, a tall well built guy in excess of 100kg. Boris had developed his physique through years of rowing and swimming. Boris had rowed for Oxford in three Oxford/Cambridge boat races which included a victory. He had also swum the Channel on 4 separate occasions and had completed the DW last year in a little over 26 hours. I sure knew I had my work cut out to meet any expectations. We were also joined by RCC Coach Peter, who sorted us a nice tippy K2 kayak, something I had never been in before, a paddle, spray deck and buoyancy aid to use for the event. Boris had only ever sat in the back before, with the steering in the front and, given Boris’s previous experience of the route, we switched this round and hit the water for a 20 minute paddle. To be honest, after an initial nervous shaky start we were soon flying along the Thames. Before it could all fall apart we got out and fixed the boat on the roof of the car ready for the journey to Devizes. I had just enough time to go and buy some neoprene booties to wear, a hydration backpack and a ton of food that would take my fancy and fuel me during the event, which Peter and Boris judged would be about 26 hours.
Friday 23rd March, 12 hours before the start With the sick paddler dropping out, Boris had also lost half of his support crew for the event. The support is very important in a successful event as they are responsible for restocking us with food and water along the way as well as for communicating our progress. Fortunately, Boris’s wife Vanessa was persuaded to step in at last minute and team up with the original support Mark. Due to the earlier paddler shout out, Toby was also up for the crack and came along to support. So, 12 hours before the start we were at our overnight stop, Mark’s house, a 30 minute drive from the Start which is in Devizes. After lashings of home made lasagne, it was a quick chat through the logistics before getting some kip.
Saturday 24th March, The Start This race attracted 136 double kayaks or canoes and, once we’d passed the mandatory kit check, organisers allow teams to start when they like from 06:00am. A start time is calculated by the crews backwards to coincide with the tidal lock at Teddington some 108 miles away. Organisers will only let you through this point after high tide so the flow is in the direction of travel for the last 12 miles from 04:20am. With our 26 hour plan, we wanted to be conservative and make sure we had the best chance to complete this challenge due to the rapid nature of our prep. So, we opted for a 07:49am start. We were off in the Tangerine Dream! Amazing, we had made it this far. The forecast for this early Easter was for 40mph winds from the SW and a cool 10 degrees with 2 weather fronts blowing over us during the day.
The start in Devizes
We soon found our rhythm on the first long unbroken stretch of flat canal and settled in to a nice pace. We arranged to see our crew after the first hour for a quick thumbs up that everything was ok, which it was and we were on a similar time to Boris’s previous year’s Race time of 26h03m. During this first part of the paddle, Boris was able to give me the heads up on what to expect over the next 24 hours as I was paddling this event blind. What makes this paddle race unique are the 77 portages en route. This is where the canal hits a lock system and the teams have to stop, get out and carry their Kayak or canoe over to the other end to continue their journey. This was something we had not practiced and each portage is unique. Some were quite high to get out of and required standing in the boats. The first few did cost us a bit of time but we soon found an effective way to tackle each one. After some time into the event, these portages offered a welcome break from the paddling and allowed us a quick stretch of the legs and a drink of water. Another skill Boris had to master was the removal of the dragging weed collected on the bow after paddling over unavoidable patches.
Saturday 24th March, 3 hours in We were going well and fast approaching the eagerly anticipated and much hyped up 400m tunnel. Boris had warned me about this tunnel; it was pitch black with the only reference point being the tiny white light at the end, the water was choppy from bounce back off both side walls, so balance was going to be tricky! We had arranged to have our head torches on for this section and I am pleased we did. I though before what was going to be the problem? Well, sitting in the back all I could see was Boris’s back and this conveniently blocked me from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for reference! I didn’t know which way was up. The head torch helped me fix a reference to the wall next to us and allowed us to make good progress through the tunnel. For the next 9 hours, we would paddle along the Kennet and Avon Canal negotiating 57 portages, receiving support and supplies from our crew before arriving at our 54 mile point in Reading just as it was getting dark. Getting dark! I remember Boris telling me that, if we hit Reading by 22:00 we would be doing well and the time was about 18:30. Wowzers, we had been flying and found ourselves 4 hours up on our 26 hours. Just after Reading is a mandatory 10 minute stop where teams attach lights to their boats and a kit check ensures we are ready for the tidal stretch. We took this time to eat some pasta and enjoy some hot chocolate. Spirits were high and we discovered we were the first team to arrive there, so we had overtaken everyone who had started before us. The super speedy kayakers start much later in the afternoon and chase the field down, timing their paddle to perfection to hit a fast flowing Thames from Teddington Lock. We, on the other hand, found ourselves is a different situation. After some calculations in my head, I figured that at the pace we were going and now heading on the flowing Thames, with fewer portages to negotiate we would be hitting Teddington about 2 hours before it opened! We had been paddling at under 21 hour pace and we were still going strong.
Saturday 24th March, 12 hours in We were going well and now had the tough mundane canal section to Reading (54 miles) behind us in ten and a half hours. The race changes after Reading as it gets dark, very dark, and we are on the flowing and wide and meandering River Thames. Our ground speed picks up and there is a level of navigation needed as the river twists and turns and splits in places. We chose to paddle in complete darkness and use our adapted night vision to track the banks either side of us. The locations of the portages are less obvious and only confirmed by some dimly lit glow sticks. We took our foot off the gas since we were so far ahead of time, and made sure we looked after ourselves and didn’t make any silly mistakes during this challenging part of the event. We were caught by another boat from behind who had also mis-calculated their potential as we would both be held at Teddington (108 miles). They were a bit all over the place and despite having the whole width of the Thames they managed to bump into us! Boris really came in to his own, navigating and steering the kayak impeccably through the 20 remaining lock portages. Portages by this time are tough. Everything is quite sore and the repetitive arm strains are exaggerated by lifting the kayak with one arm and running through. It was during two of these portages that I hit a low point in the race as my left arm was giving me so much pain in the shoulder joint. I put it down to the lack of practice, the nature of this enduring event and the fact that we had eased off the pace a bit. I was struggling to power on my left side. Luckily, the pressure was off and Boris just asked me to keep with his timing. It was thanks to Boris at one Portage that I got him to pummel my shoulder to free up what felt like a trapped nerve or strained tendon. This helped the range of movement tremendously and we kept ourselves going towards Teddington lock. This part of the journey took us through Henley, Marlow, and Windsor, where we saw the castle all lit up with the Queen’s standard flying.
Sunday 24th March, 03:40am 20 hours in We made it to Teddington Lock 40 minutes before it opened and were greeted by our support team. Easing up the pace during the night section was a wise move as a stop any longer than 40 mins at Teddington would have been more damaging. It also came at a good time for us as Boris hit an energy low so we were able to comfortably stock him back up for the remaining two and a half hours and he also took a new set of warm clothes before having a sit in the warm car. I sat in the front with a couple of pain killers and a nice cup of warm blackcurrant. Mark massaged the pain out of my shoulder as we both waited for the lock to open. It was a good feeling knowing that this last paddle on the tidal Thames would still see us comfortably get under the 24 hour mark and that all of our previous efforts were not lost. We would be joining the Thames as it turned from its high tide at 04:20. Hitting the Thames here 3 hours later, teams would experience a much faster flow over the remaining 17 miles.
Sunday 24th March, The last two and a half hours We were back on our way, refuelled and pain free. It was still dark, but we had quite a bit of urban lighting along the banks to keep us on track. The Thames got wider and wider as we approached the city and the buildings got higher and higher. As I mentioned, Boris was an Oxford Blue back in 1992 and he really knew this stretch of the river well. This was also the day for the 162nd Oxford/Cambridge boat race which would take place on this same stretch on the following tide in the afternoon. The high winds against the flow made for choppy waters. It was tough going for us and we really didn’t want any silly mistakes this far into the event. We stopped one last time at Putney Boat club before the final push to finish under Westminster Bridge. My GPS watch had stopped hours ago, and all I could remember is that we started at about 07:50 the previous morning. As we approached The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge came into view, I could see the towering clock tower of Big Ben with his big hand on 48 minutes. I knew it was going to be close to the 23 hours and we put in a final push to the cheering crowds and our support team who lined the bridge. We had made it across the line, it was such an amazing achievement and journey we had made. We had actually done it! Soon after we were greeted by a crew who helped us get out of the kayak, and we clambered up the Westminster steps to meet our crew. We were tired and exhausted but you could have seen in us the satisfying sense of achievement. I said it was going to be close, with our finishing time credited as 23h00m01s! Were we disappointed, hell no! We had completely exceeded all expectations and had a blast doing so. Our result put us 34th out of the 136 who started. Boris was keen to get home and catch the Boat Race and a nap before going to the the dinner that evening. I was kindly dropped off at home and completely flopped out. What a crazy 58 hours it had been.
Approaching the Finish
The end of a great journey
In conclusion This is a great race with so much history. Medal earners include James Cracknell, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Paddy Ashdown, and Rebecca Stephen (British Everest Summiteer). I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to have completed it with such a top guy as Boris, and non of this could have been completed without the super support of Vanessa, Mark and Toby who got it right all the way through. My Thanks go out to them for giving up their Easter for us. I’m not sure I will be in a rush to return, my arms still hurt and my fingers still tingle, and this event took a lot out of me. Luckily, no one can take this achievement away from us. If I was to put a mark down, I think I could be part of a team to achieve 20h 50m. That would require circumstances coming good on the day again.
Thanks for reading,
Yours in Adventuring,
Below is a video from the Canoe Show capturing the winning teams performance in the 2015 event.
The Strava track for the first 54 miles of our Kayak to Reading
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With this final event of the winter series, myself & my tri adventure partner – Nige were ready to tackle the muddy & windy conditions which the beautiful surrey hills were throwing at us.
The winter series had started off in Peaslake, where we had a terrible event, navigation was shocking, we bypassed a checkpoint on at least 3 occasions (partly due to looking for a fence post as it was written down, when it was actually on a tree!!) on the run leg & the bike leg proved to be even worse! On a positive we had a blast on the bikes, getting caked in mud & exploring the woodland surroundings & with cake & tea on offer at the finish what’s not to love?
The second event started in Effingham & proved to be a huge turning point in regards to both navigation & our placing on the leader board. Having been at the bottom of the first event, we went onto winning this event, steering us to a good place and hopefully in with a chance of winning the winter series.
The winter series has been a cold & wet one so far, however the final event was on a beautifully mild & sunny February morning taking place in Shere.
With our bikes ready in the transition area, it was time to study the maps, work out which hills/checkpoints were doable, plot the best route & drink tea. With the run first, it was decided to spend the extra time on those checkpoints & only go for a couple on the bike.
As 10am approached, Adam (tri-adventure race director) gave us the event briefing & we all walked up the muddy bridleway to the start flags. With the clackson sounding it was the off. Being at the bottom of the surrey hills meant the only way was up and up and up! The bridleway was chalky, wet & slippery, with a steep drop on one side.
Having found & dibbed in at our first checkpoint it was another steep climb up to our next one. However, this didn’t go according plan, taking one wrong track turned out to be a costly error both in terms of time & checkpoints aimed for. With time flying by, the course planned was changed & it was back down the hills to look for a different checkpoint before heading into transition. With the new checkpoint being through the village of Shere, we set off greeting people out & about as we went. With a turning off the beaten track & over the ford, our last checkpoint of the run leg for us proved to be elusive and with time ticking by we had to drop this one and return to transition, today was not going to be our day.
Back through the village, saying hello the same people & back up to transition to peel off layers (the weather was too mild for long sleeves), grab a drink, gulp down a gel, grab bikes & it was time to hit the road before heading back to the mud & going back up more hills for the checkpoints of the bike leg. This leg of the event proved to be more successful & the plotted checkpoints were gathered & with the wind at times pushing us backwards we made our way back to the village & into the transition area where we dibbed in for the final time of the event & the winter series.
With all the trail & sprint participants back, the results were in & Adam took over the mic to announce today’s event winners & the overall series winners.
Missing out that checkpoint on the bridge & getting the navigation wrong proved to be our downfall & we missed out on being the sprint pairs winners by just 1 point!
Still, this has put fire in our bellies & fingers crossed we can come back stronger & tackle the autumn series with pure grit & determination.
Thank you to Adam & his team at Tri-Adventure for allowing me to use his photos.
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We are both new runners who (foolishly) signed up to do the Great North Run in September, but quickly decided we prefer woods and trails to pounding the pavements. I can usually be found on a road bike and Laura is often found on horseback, however we’ve been enjoying getting into running and exploring, going off the beaten track. We like the idea of more “adventurous” trail running events and both thought an adventure race sounded like a fun (i.e. less boring) way of training for the half marathon. However, I had no idea how to use a compass and we were both pretty rusty on map reading… We decided to get some training before our lack of navigation skills turned a short trail run into an accidental ultra marathon.
Early (for us) on Saturday 27th June, we headed out from SW London to the Chiltern Hills, near Princes Risborough where we had arranged to meet Adam of Tri-Adventure to take one of his new navigation training courses. We found him sitting in the morning sunshine outside a lovely little tea room, and after grabbing some coffee our weekend of adventure racing began!
I had a compass but I could not remember how to use it or much about reading maps. Laura was better at all of this but the pace of the course was such that I was able to keep up and interrupt with extra questions. We learnt the theory behind everything we might need the next day to compete in the trail race without getting too lost. This included: how a compass works, different types of maps, taking grid references and locating places on the map, taking and applying bearings, understanding and reading contours, reading the map, rights of way and different types of paths and geography.
After an intense morning session, we had a sandwich and cake break. Straight after we headed out into the woods to put try out our new navigation skills. Mine were still pretty shaky and as soon as I looked away from the map and looked back I was completely lost. I’d like to blame Google Maps and GPS devices that most of us have become reliant on but I suppose I was just not used to reading and following maps. As throughout the morning, Laura was getting the hang of it much more quickly than me. After a number of “err, sorry guys, can you just show me where we are, again” moments it started to become clearer and the ideas of “thumbing the map” and orientating it were beginning to make sense and more importantly, working.
We stopped a few times to take some bearings, learn about pacing to measure distances and trying to locate ourselves based on the lay of the land and any landmarks. We then tried a map thumbing, orientation and pacing exercise. This seemed to be a bit too abstract for my brain but I muddled through and eventually managed to get from point to point in the correct order.
Following this we put our skills to the test by attempting to find a few of the checkpoints that were already laid out on the course (not the ones we’d need to find the next day!). This went surprisingly well, with Laura confidently leading and I following us on the map.
Successfully finding a checkpoint with a view!
After navigating successfully back to the car, we had reached the end of the navigation course and we were hopefully prepared for the navigation aspect of the race the next day. We were both mentally exhausted, and physically quite tired from hiking around the hills but it was a great day out and we, I especially, learnt a lot and felt much more comfortable out walking and navigating.
After a night at a nearby pub and hearty breakfast, we returned early the next morning to take part in the trail “taster” event. Initial nerves were soon eased when we arrived to meet the friendly Tri-Adventure team and competitors at the event HQ, and we were thrilled that the Adventure Racing community seemed to be encouraging to “newbies”. We studied the map as we drank some coffee. It was already drizzling but nothing could dampen our spirits at this point. There were 10 checkpoints, and we had an hour to find as many as possible. Thinking back to what Adam had told us about contours and “running your own race”, we planned a route of about 9 KM, taking in 5 checkpoints. We contemplated trying to squeeze in a few more, but after working out timings as Adam had taught us, we decided they were just too far and to play it safe in order to try and make it back somewhere close to the time limit.
A touch of nerves at the route planning stage?
Adam briefed all of the competitors before we headed to line up on the start line. Everyone started the event on foot, regardless of race category, and at 10am sharp (just as the heavens opened!) we were off. There were clearly some experienced racers and runners amongst the group and everyone went off at quite a pace. Despite Adam’s warnings not to get carried away by the more experienced competitors, the mass start was fairly infectious and I suspect we set a PB for the first KM before we settled down into our own rhythm and route. It’s a fairly strange sensation to start a race only for everyone to scatter in different directions, and a little unnerving, but we stuck to the route we had chosen and ploughed on.
We had no problem following the course we had set, a testament to Adam’s great training the day previously, and had great fun running through fields, along roads, up hills and scavenging around woods looking for the checkpoints. Our distances and timings worked out perfectly and we were thrilled to realise we were on the home straight somewhere close to the time limit.
Actually the HQ was tauntingly further than it appeared (no running across the golf course sadly!) so we returned just over an hour after we started (4.5 mins late), tired and soaked through, but total exhilarated. We were greeted by smiles, cake and tea and we realised that no one else had returned from our race. Perhaps our route planning had been a success? We both scored 41 points, achieving 50 points for reaching the 5 checkpoints and sadly losing 9 points for our late arrival, but not bad for a first attempt. In the end we did win our respective categories as the other racers had gone for a more substantial and ambitious run. I’d like to say it’s the taking part that counts, which is what I had planned to tell myself, but I must admit to being rather proud of both of us.
Since then, we have already entered the next Trail event, in Peaslake this Sunday, to try 2hrs of navigation and I’m longing to add a mountain bike to my bike collection so I can give the Sprint category a go. All in all, we had a great time and couldn’t recommend it enough. If we – relatively fit but certainly not fast runners, with no experience of adventure racing or proper navigation – could do it, anyone can!
All smiles at the end of the race.
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April 3rd-13th saw the 30th edition of the Marathon Des Sables (MDS). Setup to be the toughest to date, the Race Director Patrick Bauer threw in an epic 91km stage on day 4. MDS is a Staged 250k self sufficient run across the Sahara Desert in Temperatures as high as 51 degree centigrade. The event is becoming ever popular with 1360 starters this year.
After months of preparation and planning I headed off to the Maroccan Sahara. We are not told the route until we are issued with our Route Book on the coach journey to the first camp. On arrival we form ourselves into tent groups, 8 person teams that we would share the restful evenings with and share stories of the days action. I was lucky enough to share a tent with ‘Walking with the wounded’ fundraisers.
This years event saw a stage structure of:
Stage 1, 36.2k
Stage 2, 31.1k
Stage 3, 36.7k
Stage 4, 91.7k
Stage 5, 42.2k
Stage 6, 11.5k
Ranaulf Feinnes embarked on this years challenge as well as 50 countries being represented on the Start line
The conditions were tough going once the heat of the day came round. The Strategy was to run as fast as I could to get to the end of each stage. The first 3 stages were taking me about 4 hours which saw me finishing just as it was getting ridiculously hot.
Stage 4 was different, my placing was in the top 50 which meant that I was to start in the Elite Chasing Start some 3 hours after the masses. This meant an 11am start to the 91k stage, straight into the hottest part of the day. I struggled in the heat, mainly not being able to eat to get the all important calories in.
It was a welcome sight to see the finish line each day. It meant time to relax and recover from the day. This involved eating and drinking to restock salt levels, raise the feet to reduce the swelling and keep out of the sun.
Some of the kit required for this event is Venom pump in case of snake bites, Sand-gaiters, used to stop sand getting into our trainers and food, we were required to carry at least 2000 calories of food per day, 14,000 calories in total. This was a truly amazing event, one that has been in the back of my mind for a while and can’t believe that I am standing here having done it.
It was a pleasure to see Sir Ranulf Fiennes, one of the oldest to complete the course at 71. I was really pleased to have finished 82nd overall in what is called ‘the toughest footrace in the world’. I learnt a lot from my experience in the desert and would like to think one day that I can have another crack at this challenge.
The British Contingent did a great job at getting booked in to a lovely hotel at the end to rest and recouporate and take full advantage of the Eat all you can buffet.
Tri-Adventure is very proud to be working with WhiteleyVillage to create awareness and raise money for their beautiful village in Walton on Thames, Surrey.
Plans have been announced for two competitive events to be held in June and October 2014. The first event, the Whiteley Village Run Day will be held on Sunday 8th June 2014, comprising of a 2km child’s/family run, a 5km and 10Km trail run all within the 200 acre grounds of Whiteley Village.
The 2Km event will start at 10.00am and the more experienced runners will depart at 10.30am. The cost for the event will be £8.00 for the 5Km race and £16.00 for the £10Km – both races are ideal for weekend or club runners. There will be prizes for the winners of each event as well as a memento for each competitor. There is something for everyone, come and support this fantastic community event.
A second event is to be run on Sunday 5 October 2014, entitled The Alms Race; this will be an obstacle race through the woods and grounds of WhiteleyVillage. Entry can be solo or in teams of 4, it is hoped competitors will actively seek sponsorship in support of their efforts. Teams can be formed from friends, workplace, colleagues, community groups, schools and sports clubs. There will be prizes for the winners as well as the best fancy dress, most sponsorship raised etc. Entry for The Alms Race will open in mid June.
Enter the run events online today – www.triadventure.co.uk/whiteley
Top prizes up for grabs, a great community and plenty of team spirit!
Last weekend I headed off up the M3 to Princes Risborough Golf Club in Buckinghamshire for the last Tri-Adventure race of 2013: for me, the 4-hour Experience race, and I brought along a friend completely new to the sport who did the 1-hour Trail version. I’ve done 2-hour Tri-Adventure Sprints before and always really enjoyed the atmosphere, and I’ve done longer races with other organisers, but this was my first race of this length with Tri-Adventure.
Before the race started, registration was in a big room with plenty of seats and tables to have a look at the maps. The friendly course planner was wandering around helping out beginners and answering questions, which was very handy. And free tea, coffee and biscuits, which as a studenty-type is always going to go down very well with me.
The weather was overcast and misty with a tiny bit of very fine drizzle here and there, chilly but not cold, pretty good conditions overall. Plenty of mud and big puddles on the ground to test out the grip (and lacing…) on your running shoes!
The 15 run checkpoints were spread out to the northeast of the Start/Transition/Finish and routes between them included lots of generally well-signposted footpaths and bridleways including part of the Chiltern Way with the odd tarmac section (unavoidable in this part of the world). Unhappily, my run was cut short by a twisted ankle after only about 40 minutes from the start, but I managed to hobble back to the transition collecting a couple of new checkpoints en route. There were a couple of other competitors who stopped for a few minutes to make sure I was okay for which I am very thankful, really shows the brilliant spirit and community sense of adventure racers. After this I didn’t make it to any of the northern half of the course unfortunately, which looked like it had the more challenging navigation in the woods and hillier terrain.
Back at the transition I had a bit of an unpleasant incident. I pulled my muddy run shoes off, which got my hands dirty, so I wiped my hands off a bit, then wiped my face with my hands. Then, I noticed a manure-y smell following me around. Turns out it wasn’t only mud on my shoes, and I hadn’t wiped my hands off as well as I should have before touching my face…
Next, the mountain bike section. I got back to transition at about 90 minutes into the race. My ankle seemed happy enough on the bike so I went out with the aim of clearing the bike course, which was all off to the south and east of the transition. There were plenty of muddy trails and plenty of short sharp hills to test the whole body and quite a bit of good riding on the Bledlow Circular Ride bridleway. Someone had nicked one of the checkpoints in Chinnor so a frustrating 10 minutes was spent there checking I had the right junction, but the race organisers had no problems giving out the points to those who went there. A few too many out-and-back checkpoints for my liking but this was partly due to my route choices. Also I cleared the 15-checkpoint course fairly comfortably in dead-on 2 hours so wasn’t able to make up for my shortened run with extra time on the bike. With this, and the race winner collecting all-but-one checkpoints (run and bike) and finishing with 20 minutes to spare, I feel that perhaps the bike could have done with a bit of a bigger range. But in fairness, judging how fast people are going to complete the course is more of an art than a science from the course planner’s perspective, so I won’t hold this against the race. There’s some great countryside in this area and it was showcased very well.
My friend doing the 1-hour Trail run version had a great time and is keen to come back for more. She unfortunately got on the wrong end of some penalty points for a late return, but managed the unlikely achievement of scoring in the end precisely 1 point, in a race where each checkpoint is worth 10 and there’s a 1 point per 30 seconds penalty for being late… what are the odds!?
I tried out a few new bits of kit in this race which I will go into more detail about in the future in their own posts. But, they were: (1) a Montane Minimus waterproof smock, which I wore for the entire race over a long-sleeve technical top [quick verdict: crazy lightweight, quiet, well-fitting, comfortable, cool = very happy customer]; (2) Diadora X-Country 2 MTB shoes [qv: a little better in every way than what I was using before, but that’s not saying much]; (3) MTB tyre combo of rear Smart Sam – front Racing Ralph (both Schwalbe) [qv: nice fast rolling on the road/tarmac sections, no issues with grip on the steepest, muddiest hills and descents].
All in all, a very good race (if a little short on the bike), excellent organisation as always from Tri-Adventure, and one new adventure racer. Can’t wait for the next one in January – details on the Tri-Adventure website!
Fancy a new experience, something challenging, exhilarating and fun?
Well, Tri-Adventure has just the answer!
For 2014, we’re mixing things up for the 4 hr Experience adventure race! Now running alongside the Sprint for 2014 the Experience race is perfect for seasoned adventure racers and those who’ve been taking part in our 2hr Sprint and are ready for the next step up!
We’re going to make things interesting for the Experience. The key elements of our adventure races (trail running, mountain biking and navigation) will remain core but strategic elements will be introduced into each event, you can expect to see weighted checkpoints, staggered starts, compulsory check points, maybe some single track mountain biking or micro navigation and a different location for each event around the South of England.
4hr Experience – £40.00 online
Sunday 19th January, 9th March & 11th May
Test your stamina with this off road adventure. Navigate trails and hills on foot and bike
collecting as many check points as you can in 4 hours. You can enter as a solo or a pair!
Time: Registration opens at 08:30am, start anytime from 9:30 – 10am
Enter online today – www.triadventure.co.uk/next-race
Top prizes up for grabs, a great community and plenty of team spirit!