The Rivette QUESTars Adventure Race Series

The Chilterns Adventure Race

 

Race Report

Up to six hours of running, cycling and kayaking lay ahead of participants as they lined up under the inflatable arch to start. Some started whenever they were ready whilst others waited until a precise time, hoping that they had calculated their timings correctly. Having punched the start control and picked up a copy of the checkpoint descriptions and values, teams crossed the dummy checkpoints off their maps before setting off on whatever discipline they chose to do first. The majority of those kayaking early on began with the mountain biking, visiting a few of the bike checkpoints on their way to the kayak transition. Conversely those kayaking towards the later end of the day largely chose to begin on foot with the trail run.

As many adventure racers will know, the first checkpoint of the day can be the hardest to find as the brain warms up and gets into gear. And this was particularly true for those that went to the run checkpoint situated on the corner of a playground first. You’d have thought a playground would be easy to find, but it was relatively new and therefore not on the map. And getting there through the neighbouring modern housing development – a maze of cul-de-sacs, alleyways and informal paths – was not that easy. All this proved an early test for some! It was no easier for those that did the trail run the other way around and visited this checkpoint last. For they had to find their way back through the residential area to the event base, just as some were no doubt beginning to relax and think they were home and dry.

Participants had the option of splitting the trail run into two parts and visiting a few of the run checkpoints from the remote kayak transition if they wanted to. However, the most efficient approach was to do the trail run all in one go from the event base and this was what the top teams did. Six people covered a minimum of 24.5 km with 460 m of ascent to visit every one of the trail run checkpoints (360 pts), with the eventual race winner doing so in just 2 hrs 12 mins.

The terrain was wonderfully varied with a mixture of woodland and open areas, firm gravel tracks and soft grassy trails, flat sections along the towpath and undulating parts up on the Chiltern hills. Highlights along the way included the early 17th century Pitstone Windmill, thought to be the oldest of its kind in Britain, and Ivinghoe Beacon; a popular, prominent hill which marks one end of the Ridgeway long-distance path.

The kayak checkpoints were spread out over a 3.3 km stretch of the Grand Union canal. Anyone visiting them all would therefore have to paddle a round trip of 6.6 km, which was not that easy given participants only had up to 65 minutes for the kayaking. However, the paddling was about as benign as it gets with the flat narrow channel of water largely protected from any wind by trees and embankments on either side. Eight teams scored the maximum 180 pts for the kayaking, with the Human Spiders (George Podd, Simon Walker & Jack Newton) doing so in 58 mins 59 secs to set the fastest kayak time of the day.

Almost everyone chose to cycle (rather than run) to and from the kayak transition, visiting bike checkpoints both on the way there and on the way back. However, there was no obvious loop or order to which the bike checkpoints should be visited and so with numerous different permutations, it was down to each team to decide on what they thought was the best route between them. Six teams cleared the mountain biking and scored the maximum 460 pts for visiting all the bike checkpoints. Campbell Walsh was one of these covering 55 km with over 700 m of ascent on his bike in 2 hrs 55 mins.

Campbell also cleared the run and visited all but one of the kayak checkpoints to add another race win to his name, finishing in 5 hrs 55 mins with an amazing score of 980 pts. Second place was secured by the ever-consistent Roy Sievers (top Veteran) who amassed 915 pts whilst Rob Smart did not have a second to spare; he recorded a time of 6:00:00 to take third place with 850 pts. Helen chapman scored an impressive 840 pts to finish fourth overall and well clear of her nearest rivals in the ladies class, while the Find-a-Race pairing of James Bennett & Scott Heys won the Men’s Teams class for the third race in succession with a score of 795 pts. Meanwhile 695 pts was just enough to see Andrew Woodhouse & Sarah Burgess take top spot in the mixed class. In the Duo class (run-bike only) Sid Hardy arrived back late and so ended up finishing second to Kim Travis who also cut it fine, coming home with 660 points and less than a minute to spare.

The winning score for the five-hour Novice race was 605 pts set by the men’s team made up of Jim West, Spencer Nash, John Stacey & Mike Nisbet. Andrew Murie was the highest solo participant with a score of 570 pts whilst Geoff Tompkins & Diane Kendall scored 560 pts to take the top spot in the Novice mixed class. The Novice ladies class was won by Karen Baker who also timed it to perfection and stopped the clock dead on 5:00:00 with a score of 540 pts.

Congratulations to the winners of each class who took home prizes thanks to the kind support from our event partners Likeys, Clif Bar, Amphibia, MuchBetterAdventures, Stique & MapDec. And well done to everyone who took part and completed their own personal challenge; see the race results.

The next race in the 2017 Questars Adventure Race Series takes place on Saturday 2 September in the Brecon Beacons. Like all Questars adventure races, it is suitable for all abilities and open to teams of 1, 2, 3 or 4 people. Places are filling up fast so enter online now before it’s too late!

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