Saturday, 23 July 2011
Friday, 22 July 2011
Thursday, 21 July 2011
The weather forecast for Saturday had been pretty grim all week. Everyone secretly hoped that the forecasters had got it wrong again. But for once they were right and a deep low pressure system brought wind and rain together with unseasonably cool temperatures for the time of year. We shouldn’t have been surprised; it was British summertime after all!
On arrival teams deposited their bikes in the transition area before taking shelter in the large sports hall that was the event base. Inside, hot drinks and breakfast baps were available for those who needed warming up or just fancied some pre-race sustenance. Bergmonch brought along their new product (an integrated system of rucksack and scooter for hiking uphill and wheeling downhill) for people to try out. And MuleBar kindly provided energy bars and gels for during the race.
Teams collected their race packs half an hour before the race briefing and immediately began to study the waterproof map which was pre marked with the location of all the checkpoints. The trail run and mountain biking checkpoints had been carefully positioned so teams could create loops to suit their ability. Maps were scrutinised as teams came up with a strategy, planned their routes and determined the best way to go round these loops. A few checkpoints were dummies and these were revealed at the start which resulted in some routes having to be modified.
The start was in the centre of the Vale of Pewsey; an area of low lying ground separating the chalk hills of the Marlborough Downs to the north from Salisbury Plain to the south. The course area extended northwards over the chalks downs taking in Milk Hill one of the highest points in Wiltshire at 295m above sea level.
It was great to see everyone smiling as they set off from under the big yellow start arch, despite the persistent rain and gusty wind. Some teams kayaked first while the others chose either to run or bike first.
The trail run checkpoints were spread over a large area so visiting them all was always going to be tough. Only five teams managed this feat with Matt Zalewski from Hillingdon Athletics Club doing so in a faster time than anyone else. Some teams ran out along the canal towpath to the most distant checkpoints first before heading up onto the hills and making their way back along the ridge line. Other teams preferred to get the hills out the way first and save the flat run by the canal for the latter part of the trail run.
The mountain biking was over the chalk hills on north side of the Vale of Pewsey and beyond. Some of the bridleways had turned from being firm to soft overnight because of the heavy rain. This made the going heavy at times, especially along one bridleway which was aptly called Mud Lane. It certainly lived up to its name and did not disappoint! Elsewhere the rain was absorbed by the underlying chalk and progress along the grassy tracks was much swifter.
In a slight twist from the usual Questars format, there was one checkpoint which teams had to visit at the end of their mountain bike stage. This was for safety to ensure teams returned to the event base without having to cross a busy road. A dozen teams visited all fifteen mountain bike checkpoints and in doing so collected the maximum amount of points available for this stage.
The kayaking took place on a lovely sheltered stretch of the Kennet & Avon canal. Teams had 55 minutes to visit as many kayak checkpoints as possible. To have any chance of reaching all six kayak checkpoints teams not only needed to paddle quickly, they also needed to be at the kayak transition at the start of their kayak slot time (to ensure they had the maximum amount of time on the water). A good few teams achieved this within the time limit, though for a few it was a bit too close for comfort.
The rain eased after midday and the showers though still heavy at times, gradually became fewer and farther between. By mid-afternoon the strong winds began to break up the cloud, revealing pockets of blue sky and brief spells of sunshine as teams came in to finish. Judging by the smiles on people’s faces as they crossed the finish line, many revelled in the challenging conditions which only added to the sense of achievement.
Some people headed straight to the changing rooms for a warm shower. While others preferred to replenish their energy levels first by getting some hot food that had been freshly cooked on site. Likeys prize vouchers were awarded to the winners in each of the eleven classes. The battle for overall top honours was closely fought with Tom Davies beating 2nd placed George Neville-Jones by just ten points, to win with an impressive 835 points for Team Tri-Adventure.
The next Questars adventure race has spectacular panoramic views across the Midlands Plain to the Malvern Hills and the Black Mountains, and the kayaking is on a delightful stretch of the scenic River Avon. So do join us in the Cotswolds Hills on Saturday 3 September for this.Then on the 1 & 2 October the final race in the 2011 Questars Adventure Race Series takes place in Thetford Forest, which is conveniently located and easily accessible from London. This two day event is designed to appeal to all comers from complete novices to the most experienced adventure racers. For more details and to enter online see www.questars.co.uk