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|Dynamic Adventure Racing Plus, May 2005|
Sat 21 May 2005
8 hours navigating, running and mountain biking.
Sean and I headed to the Quantocks with some trepidation. 8 hours is a long time to keep going and we certainly hadn't done anything near that duration recently. The main aim was to put in a reasonable performance and get fitter in the process.
We arrived at the event centre in the village hall in Crowcombe soon after 9am and got our map and control descriptions. Marking the 36 control points takes a while but we were pleasantly surprised at how close together the running points were. They suggested an obvious route with a few options around Holford and it looked like we might be able to complete them all in little more than the 3 hours we had budgeted for the run. The mountain bike controls looked much more scattered with unavoidable ups and downs between most points. We stuck to our plan to run first and then do what we could on the biking.
Our start was at 11.06 and we set off up the inevitable initial climb at a steady pace. We dithered a bit, trying to avoid a track marked "private" before following it to the first control at an impressive stone arched footbridge over the stream. The control description read "NW side of footbridge" and we hunted around in the trees there, still not knowing what we were looking for. Another team arrived and joined the search. "The bastards have put it on the wrong side", one of them shouted so we all ran over to the NE side, punched and set off up the track.
The other team were faster and gradually pulled away. As we approached the edge of the wood we left the track and headed directly towards the next control. The wood was fast but we then had 300 metres of knee-high gorse to wade through. Not much fun, but the direct route got us to the control at the same time as the faster team.
The next leg was a dogleg around the head of a combe. We spotted a low, contouring path while the others took a higher line along the main track. This meant we were well past the control when we met them coming down. They passed some comments about the quality of our navigation - we were building a reputation.
The next control should have been easy but it wasn't quite where described so we all hunted together, before taking slightly different routes to arrive at the fifth control together. From there we had a choice between 1 km down into a combe and out again or 2 km flat around the top. There wasn't much in it so we waited to see what the others did. They set off into the coombe, but we remembered the gorse from earlier and opted for the path around the top. I wasn't convinced this was the best route, but it was an easy jog and as we punched the control they were still struggling up through the gorse.
We set off quickly to try to maintain the gap as we headed for a group of controls where the order wasn't obvious, but 6 km later they had caught us again. We all spent some time looking for another misplaced checkpoint and then the heavens opened. Thunder and lightning were close by and hailstones were pelting down and stinging our legs. We needed to head into the wind, along the top so we just put heads down and pushed on.
The next 6 km were miserable. Cold, wet, windy and the only section of road running. We began to warm up as we collected the last 3 controls and dropped back down into the valley to return to Crowcombe village hall for the transition to the mountain bike stage. We had completed all the running controls in 3:23 but I was pretty tired.
We didn't rush the transition, taking the opportunity to eat, drink and sit down. Despite our leisurely approach we still managed to leave without the control descriptions and had to nip back to the car.
I was glad to be on my bike, but I think Sean was more reticent. This was his first race in the saddle and he was borrowing my old bike that is really more suited to city commuting than to racing up and down Quantock combes.
After a short road section we came to our first climb - a push up Paradise Combe. Usually it is a nice change to get off and push but my legs were still knackered from the run and it was really hard work. Once we reached the top it was great to fly along the main ridge before a fast descent to the third checkpoint.
The rain came down again as we skirted around the north end of the hills along an undulating track towards Holford and we were soon soaked to the skin again. On the long climb south to Dowsborough Sean suffered from a lack of low enough gears and had to do a lot of pushing. Still, we kept just ahead of another team.
The next three controls were mostly downhill and included some road work which was easier for Sean. With 1:20 left on the clock we looked at what we could do. There were 3 controls we could pick up with a single up-and-over of the main ridge. That looked do-able but anything else would mean more climbing and we'd have to go full speed to even get close. We went for the safe option and had a steady climb back up through the woods. As we started the descent it became clear that Sean's brake blocks had worn so much that they were hardly slowing him at all. He made it down with a combination of steering off the path and skidding along on his feet.
A gentle incline up through the village took us to the finish with 10 minutes to spare. We had survived and done OK.
In the carpark we met the team we had been bumping into on the run. They were very keen to hear how we had done on the bike stage and sounded relieved when it turned out they had visited 14 controls to our 11. Then they saw Sean's bike and weren't surprised. We got changed and went inside for food and the results. Winners of the male pair category? SleepMonsters - the team we had been vying with. Nice that we gave them a little scare!
We finished 5th out of 41!
Running Diary 2005 - Runs of the year.
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