241 Adventure Racing

Last weekend, Flying Officer Harvey and CI Steven Hawes travelled to Mid-Wales to complete in an adventure Race. The race was organised by http://www.aceraces.com. The following is a report of the Race and something that you may want to be involved in the future. Beware it is not for the faint-hearted. Before the report here is an brief outline of the weekend.

Left for Hafren forest (excellent Silver D of E area) on Friday night after picking up the harvester from RAF Brize Norton. The drive was only around 4hrs from Brize that consisted of winding roads around the Welsh Countryside. We got there about 10pm and put up our hotel of a tent. We registered and received these really cool chip keys that were attached to our wrists. http://www.sportident.co.uk/ SPORTident equipment is used worldwide to identify, time and score competitors in many different types of event. The competitor carries a small electronic SI-Card. This is dipped into electronic stations, which are located at each checkpoint. At task based events the SI-Card may be used to record successful completion of a task. The SI-Card stores a list of the locations and the times they were visited. At the end of a set of activities, the contents of the SI-Card are downloaded into a computer. Each competitor is immediately given a printout that provides a summary of their performance. Full results may be displayed at the event and uploaded onto a website. The number of applications for SPORTident are limited only by the imagination. It has been used at events with more than 15,000 competitors!
We then woke up at 0630hrs to prepare for a briefing at 0730hrs of the days festivities and given our Sheets for GR marking. 6hrs Mountain biking, 2hrs Trail running, 1 hours Mountain Biking back to the start. The Night Nav started at 2130hrs-2200hrs and lasted for 2hrs. This section was the most enjoyable of the day. But starting this late at night after a long day is challenging.
Next day up at 0700hrs for briefing at 0730hrs. We could not be bothered to wake up earlier. We were explained the course of the day and given our Sheets for GR marking. This day for us consisted of the 23km Road cycle with 700m of ascend. 5km to the start of the kayaking, 7km of kayaking (very hard work and wet) and the final 5km back to start to finish.
Overall the weekend was very tough physically and mentally (for me at least) and pushes your threshold more than you can imagine. Funny enough I can’t wait till next year for the next 2 day event.

[b:10ytt4lb]Hard Times at Hafren[/b:10ytt4lb]

There were no half measures at Hafren on the last 2 day ACE Race course planned by Phil Humphreys. He made full use of the forest and steep hills of the area, starting with an 8 and a half hour combined run and ride stage on Saturday, which fully tested team’s navigation, endurance and route planning.

As they rode out of the large camping field (the same one as used two years ago) the competitors headed south into the forest to begin the Mtb stage and had to plan to stop at another transition in the centre of the forest for the running stage between 11am and 4pm. Some went to the south of the forest for the first part of their ride, others to the north, and in no time at all the field was so spread out it seemed they were all taking different route choices.

With dozens of tracks and fire roads, not all of them marked on the map, navigation required careful concentration and considerable skill at riding and route plotting. Any lapse in concentration could easily mean an unnecessary descent, a missed CP or at worst getting completely lost. Once you were out of position it was very hard to relocate. There were teams stopped at junctions all over the forest, studying their map boards and arguing about exactly where they were!

There was no doubt the highlight was two long sections of steep single track which ran up onto the Plynlimon hills from the transition, one following the Severn Way and the second another tributary. They were paths competitors would also use on the run … but that wasn’t as much fun – especially climbing up them!

[b:10ytt4lb]Run to the Hills[/b:10ytt4lb]

Soon after 11am the transition was busy with the first arrivals who wanted to spend more of their time running. The race medic was also busy when Finnish racer Pasi Ikonen (Buff Endure) came in with a badly gashed forearm, having tried to ride through a nearby ford and come off worse. It was a very deep, clean cut and the medic said, "you could see right to the bone!" Pasi had to go off to hospital for stitches and after 10 years of racing all over the world on the international circuit it was the first time he’d had to pull out of a race!

There were a few running checkpoints in the forest, but most were set on the hills around Plynlimon and the deeply inset Cwm Gwerin. The instructions were to leave the forest via CP’s 44 and 45, visiting them on the way in and out … and those who didn’t do so lost all points they’d gained on the hill run! It always pays to read the instructions!

On a clear day the views from this area, which is the source of both the Wye and the Severn, are exceptional, and when competitors stopped at CP45 after the climb up out of the forest they had a chance to take in the superb panorama. There were 9 checkpoints out on the hills, with considerable ascent and descent, and only the fittest competitors attempted to clear them all.

As the closing time of 4pm approached back at transition several pairs and solos, and team SleepMonsters were racing down the Severn Way, having found the run took longer than expected. They all made it back just in time, but solo’s Gill Watson and James Hogan were very late back and suffered heavy penalties.

Not everyone had enough energy to stay out the full 8.5 hours and the finish back at ACE Base was busy early as weary competitors returned, knowing they had a 2 hour night navigation stage to come only a few hours later. Top score on the run/ride was an impressive 962 from Steve Fisher, and no one came close to clearing the combined course. Fisher was well ahead in the male solos, and as usual it was the male pairs and team categories which were most closely fought.

[b:10ytt4lb]Night Manoeuvres [/b:10ytt4lb]

At the briefing it was clear the night navigation was going to be as tough as the first two stages … starting with a give out that was up on the hills and would take some teams 30 minutes to get to! With a first start at 9.30pm there was no late daylight to help early starters and the leading teams set off last of all, passing many others on the long climb uphill. SleepMonsters had Shona Robertson on a double tow as she had been ill with severe diarrhoea since finishing the first stage and the team were hoping she would be strong enough to get a few points on the night navigation and might still recover sufficiently overnight to continue on Sunday.

Navigation in the dark on the open hills and in the forest was a tough challenge, and the most difficult CP to reach was no. 53, described by Phil Humphreys’ as ‘Tussock Hell’. It also had a bees nest by it, which he’d disturbed when putting out the checkpoint marker and a stream which the marshals discovered was over chest deep! At one point they were almost overwhelmed with teams arriving and described dozens of competitor’s lights bearing down on them from the hillside above!

For solo racer Pete Norman the navigation was too challenging and he came back to the give out saying, "Once the paths disappear it’s just moor and I can’t find my way, it’s too tricky using a compass at night." But then at age 69 he was the oldest Ace Race competitor ever and he was still planning to get some forest checkpoints on the way back to base. "Its amazing how they run across those moors at night," he said, "but I can get some checkpoints on the way back and then I’ll hammer them on the canoeing tomorrow!" He was with his daughter Kim, and Phil Humphreys pointed them in the direction of CP62 saying, "I’m not sure who is looking after who!"

As the clock ticked past midnight the late returners were still coming back to base, including SleepMonsters, who had managed to stay out the whole 2 hours and get 272 points to keep themselves in the competition. "Shona was a hero," said Eddie Winthorpe, "as we really thought this afternoon that she couldn’t run at all." One of the last pairs in was Andy Nicholls and Lucy Cowley – very late and with 235 penalties after scoring 264 points! "Just too greedy!" was Lucy’s comment as she crossed the line.
The Final Countdown[/b:10ytt4lb]

On Sunday 3 stages were running at the same time, with everyone kayaking on Llyn Clywedog then choosing between the cycle endurance stage or the trail run. As usual there were short and long course options on the run and paddle, and points were scored depending on performance relative to the fastest on the stage.

The paddle was made more difficult by strong winds, making for some choppy sections on the water and the cycle ride included some steep ascents on a complete circuit of the reservoir, but the reward for making them was some incredibly fast downhill’s! Those who took the trail run were on the hills to the north of Staylittle and followed Glyndwrs Way for some of the time.

With so many options, points scored relative to how others performed, and the likelihood competing teams or pairs could choose different activities, the results were eagerly awaited … as no one had any idea how well they might have done!

When they were announced Steve Fisher was well ahead in the male solos and Sue Fisher won the female solos, moving up from 3rd overnight to make it a husband/wife win. Kev Honeysett and Keith Read of Acclerate won the male pairs after a strong second day pushing Russ Ladkin and Paul Dickens into second, and Judith and Clive Hughes were comfortable winners in the mixed pairs.

Acclerate High 5 held off a challenge from CompassPoint to win the team category and SleepMonsters held on to third, keeping up their run of top 3 finishes and improving their chances of a series win in the final race in September.