extreme2015, race reports

Questars Adventure Challenge

The latest installment in our Extreme 2015 challenge was a two day adventure race run by Questars. This was held in Great Malvern and would test our skills in navigation, running, cycling and kayaking.

The weekend started with another unnecessary injury; in my eagerness to be ready to travel down on Friday I decided to pack most of the gear into the car on Thursday night. Clearly I am more than capable of putting a couple of bikes in on my own or so I thought. The next day I discovered i’d pulled a muscle in my back – not a great start to the weekend.

Friday night we headed down to Great Malvern with a car packed full of gear. I’m struggling with a dodgy back and wondering how the hell i’m going to survive the event when I can’t do my shoe laces up.

The journey down was quiet and made good time and got to our camp site before the night set in. After setting up our makeshift home we enjoyed a light lunch washed down with some beer.

The next day I vainly tried to get up. My back had decided to leave home without me and left me slumped on my sleeping mat. Alison got out the car jack and prised me out of the tent. She’d been wide awake since stupid o’clock which is lucky as she got everything ready while I staggered out into the fresh morning. After 10 minutes of watching me struggle she decided to slap me into place. I’m unclear what happened at that stage but sometime later I find myself at the race briefing where we find out how the weekend will be organised.

The plot for the weekend adventure involves navigating to a number of checkpoints in order to rack up the most points; we’ll be given a map with the locations and sent out to find them using various transport modes: running, cycling and kayaking. The catch is you don’t get the map until you get to the start line so planning isn’t possible. In my case this is a relief as map reading and planning are not two of my strong points.

We have up to five hours to travel the length and breadth of the local area and must take a mandatory 1 hour rest stop – i’m happy to do five hours rest but Alison gives me a look…

I then find out that after we won’t be done even after five hours. Later that night there is also a night run to participate in before we can consider going to sleep. The following day we’ll have a further run or cycle we can do.

All of these activities will bring in points based on the number of checkpoints you visit; with different checkpoints being rated higher depending upon the difficulty of locating or accessing them.

At this point I should mention there is a ridiculously huge hill in front of the campsite. I’m wondering how i’m going to get pass the start line as I am struggling to sit up.

Alison is looking keen to crack on though, especially as she wants to get her hands on the map and do some serious impromptu planning. This is right up her street. She loves maps, running and has energy to burn. The only saving grace I can see is that she doesn’t like off road cycling and therefore I should be able to keep up on this section (despite the spinal injuries it’ll cause).

We decide to start on the bike and as we only have 45 minutes until our kayak slot and we need to get there on our bike anyway. On the way we manage pick up a few checkpoints on the way. We jump in the kayak after faffing with the GoPro and then head out onto the river for some relaxing kayaking. The river is pretty slow and when close to the banks the wind isn’t much of a problem. We head up and down the river and pick up a few checkpoints. I’ve managed to bring along the GoPro and video most of the day. Somehow I manage to leave one piece behind which makes using it on the kayak awful. Luckily for me Alison is handling that bit of the recording.

The kayak section is pretty sedate the way we handle it but we manage to head up and down the river and pick up a few points.

Alison who is trying to paddle and direct the GoPro at the same time decides to stop paddling to allow her to record properly. I came afoul of her shoving the paddles backwards somewhere ‘safe’. She does this three times to make sure I understand the penalties of forgetting the essential GoPro bit.

Having had enough paddle injuries I direct us back to shore where we have to pull the kayak back up the slipway – an apt name as that is what I do. Before I manage to put my back through more injuries though I jump out of the kayak to push it onto land. The river is deeper then I think and I am up to my waist. I get to stand there while the landing crew decide its time for a quick pitstop.

Alison gives me that look again …

After slipping over at the top we manage to pull the kayak back up the slipway and run back (well trot back) to the bikes and head off again.

Back on the bike I pedal like a demon to warm up and dry out and along the way pick up a few more points. We are doing ok I guess since this is our first time at this. Unfortunately we take a very odd route and end up getting the wrong checkpoints and find ourselves near the start again. Rather then head out again we decide to finish with the bike section and use the extra time to focus on the running. However before we start the run we decide to take our mandatory rest.

Rest over (bacon sandwich eaten) we head out again. This time we are doing the run, which will take us up onto the hills. My back is killing me and I feel like and old man trying to move. Eventually my muscles start to warm up and I start picking up some pace. The time between feeling awful and feeling good is a very long period involving a lot of hills. The run is hard, probably the hardest toughest run i’ve done – i’m exhausted, ache all over and I’ve got no energy to face the ascent. There are some big hill here and we just run up them. I’m spent.

Hooray we are back I think. We cross the finish line. Cheered on by the lone marshal. I’m thinking that i’m happy to be back and settle down for some food and rest a little.

In the back of my mind I realise I’ve forgotten something. Alison hits me across the face with it like a wet fish. Yes we still have the night run to do. This will involve running up the same hill we have just done but in the dark.

I’ve failed to come up with a convincing reason to not go. I’m actually too tired to lie creatively.

So before I’m ready we head out again. The plan is to run for an hour because we’ll get up to another 60 points if we come back early. In the end we run for about an hour and half but pick up some good points on the hill. One of the checkpoints has a maths puzzle for Ali to crack for another 35 points – yay us!

At this stage a weird thing happens. My body decided its had enough and starts flooding my body with positive vibes and suddenly I feel great. My muscles have loosened up and I feel like a runner again as we make our way back. Alison who has the navigation thing sorted is cutting through the streets like a local and before long we are safely back.

We find out later that we came fifth overall in the first section but second in the night run.

Ali is happy; i’m happy and there is food. I eat everything I can get my hands on, drink a load of rum and hit the sack.

Morning arrives like a bad hangover. I wake up saturated; we’ve left the ground sheet exposed and the tent has flooded under my side. I manage to pull myself up and find my back is feeling a load better. Clearly sleeping in a wet tent is good for back injuries.

We have a choice of running or cycling. Cycling involves cycling up big bad hills and off road. Running is the same. We decide to run. Which will involve going up the same hills we’ve done twice already but further, faster and with a damn right attitude.

This time my body warms up a lot quicker and my muscles feel loose for the first time in three days. This is a blessed relief and i’m positively bouncing as I run. for once i’m not holding team ‘Stupid 15’ up.

The hills are awesome and apart from a slight ‘diva’ moment I have when my energy flags and I refuse to move until I’ve eaten and drunk something we have an awesome time on the tops.

Ali on the other hand has clearly used up her energy looking after me and struggles for the last couple of miles.

The hills are awesome; we have some fantastic views and I even start running up and down sections I don’t need to because they just look fun.

In total we clock up over 24 miles running, 1.5 hours on the bike and do about 5 meters in the kayak (maybe 10) – yes we are awesome kayakers.

Here are the scores on the door. We came 4th out of 8th in the mixed novice category.

Pos Stage 1 and 2 Stage 3 Stage 4 Total Time Total Score Category Pos Vets Posn
4 5:54:03 410pts 1:31:45 173 2:29:14 200 9:44:05 783 21 7

We had a great time and I think we could do reasonably well if we ever manage to both be fit.

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