Fuzion adventure race team

This month we don’t have one featured adventure racer, but three. Mr Grumpy and Mr Strong, occasionally known as Graeme and Phil, are the core members of the Fuzion Adventure Racing Team. In the past year Graeme has started racing with his son, Aidan. We took the opportunity to talk to them about racing as a team.

How did you first get into adventure racing?

Phil – back in 2005, with two young children I found I was unable to commit to the training required to continue rowing at a competitive level. My company had entered a team for the UK Challenge, and the blend of physical and strategy sounded great, so I applied. I got a massive buzz from the event. A couple of years later we entered two teams and I was offered the chance to compete again.

Graeme – I was selected for the other team to Phil, and one of my teammates, Paul Evans, suggested Questars as a training event. Both Phil and I entered the 2007 Brecon Beacons as our first Questars. Ever since that first event I was hooked and these have been my favourite events ever since. Paul also still participates and has done even more Questars than we have!

Aidan – I’d been doing orienteering events with my Dad and he suggested entering the new three hour format for the Winter series as a taster. I really enjoyed those so we’re now doing the five-hour events in the summer series.

Roughly how many Questars adventure races have you participated in?

Phil – I’ve lost count. It must be about 40… and I’ve done them with at least a dozen different people.

Graeme – Not sure of the exact number, but whenever that question comes up on the entry form I assume it’s +25. Very proud to say it’s enough to have gotten me on to the left-hand side of the all-time leaderboard! 😊

Aidan – Five and counting.


Aidan Graeme Bike

What do you like most about Questars adventure races?

Graeme – The main thing that I always tell people is the fact that it’s not a straight-line race, like a triathlon or marathon. I will never be the fastest in a head-to-head race on any of the disciplines, but I’m a decent level in all of them and I like to think that I can be quite cunning in choosing a good route, and you can make up an awful lot of ground by being clever, over someone who is faster than you but isn’t as efficient. Also, because everyone is doing completely different strategies, you never know if the person coming in the opposite direction to you is doing better than you or not, and that in turn means that everyone tends to be much more friendly and willing to say hello and help if they see someone who is lost or having bike trouble. You’re basically racing against the course rather than racing against other people – if you do well at the end of it, then that’s a bonus.

Phil – Agree – It’s not just about being the fastest. There’s a certain smugness about being overtaken by someone several times during the day and still beating them! Other reasons are the stunning British countryside and the brilliant people I’ve had the privilege of racing with and against. At the last Questars I felt some pride in being beaten to the top of the Open Team podium by a pair that I introduced to Questars a couple of years earlier.

Aidan – The thing I enjoy the most is the fact you have to be adaptable. You might have a plan but part way through the event you might need to change your route due to things like moving slower than you had thought you would be or when you get the control descriptions at the start of the race a checkpoint you were planning on going to might turn out to be a dummy and cause you to need a new plan.

What advice would you give to someone just getting started in adventure racing?

Phil – Just go out and enjoy it!

Graeme – Don’t be afraid to ask questions. At the latest event we were waiting right until the end of our start window and another father and his son were doing their first event and weren’t too sure how things worked. We had loads of time, so I spent time with them explaining how things worked and what to do. Being able to read a map is obviously an essential. Do a couple of runs and bike rides ahead of your first event that have a mixture of road/footpaths/bridleways so you have an idea of your pacing for each discipline and then when you get a map you can estimate your time for a certain distance – don’t forgot to add a bit extra for map reading and possible errors though!

Aidan – If you’re racing with a team, tell your teammate/s if you’re getting tired as they can slow down to a pace you’re comfortable with or give you a push. There’s no point hurting yourself when you can avoid it. Also make sure you bring enough food, money to buy food or both for after the event to regain your energy.

What is the best piece of advice that you were given when you started adventure racing?

Phil – If you’re a stronger runner, run first. If you’re a stronger biker, run first. Obviously, this only works if your kayak slot permits this strategy.

Graeme – Find clothing and a good hydration pack that aren’t going to chaff you!!

Aidan – Don’t forget to take your inhaler before the start of a race!


Phil Graeme Kayaking

What is your strongest and weakest race discipline? How do you combat your weakest discipline?

Graeme – The strongest for us all is definitely the bike and the kayak. I’ve loved reading all the previous interviews with everyone saying the kayak is their weakest, as it’s a really good event for us – it’s the one bit of the course we try to clear every time whether I’m with Phil or Aidan and it’s the part that we try to score the fastest time on. Being able to kayak in a straight line definitely helps. I’ve always loved cycling so that’s a good discipline for me – the thing I love about cycling is that you might have to work hard while cycling up a hill, but once you get to the top on the way down you’re just sitting and you get time to recover. Which brings us on to running! You can run up a hill but once you are at the top you still have to run down again and sometimes that can be even harder! It’s probably fair to say that I probably wouldn’t do much running if it wasn’t for Questars, in fact before you introduced the winter series I wouldn’t run from September through to March! So I try to get out for a run once a week, probably increasing that to a couple of times a week as we get nearer to the next Questars event.

Phil – So our strategy is therefore bike more, run less! But don’t overdo it – it’s still about points per minute.

How do you fuel yourself for a Questars adventure race?

Graeme – The night before a Questars it is now a tradition in our house that I will make a big homemade pasta bake with plenty left over for the following day. It used to be porridge on the morning of a race, but that’s too much of a faff and can be quite noisy to prepare if everyone else in your house is still asleep on a Saturday morning when you are getting ready to head out for a Questars! So now it’s overnight oats with nuts, raisins and a good dollop of Nutella and then on the way to the race I’ll eat a flapjack and a banana and drink plenty. Then just before starting, more of the cold pasta bake from the night before and a handful of wine gums.

Phil – Coffee and bananas before, gels and electrolyte drink during, chilli nachos after!

Aidan – I just eat whatever Dad gives me before the race, but we’ve been working on making sure I stay fuelled during the race especially as we’re now doing 5hrs. After the race I’ll eat anything and everything I can get my hands on! It’s also become a bit of a tradition that me and Dad stop for a McDonalds on the way home!

What type of bike do you normally use for a Questars adventure race?

Graeme – Nothing fancy – my Boardman Team hardtail. I gave up on using a full susser years ago while trying to keep up with Phil going up a climb and realising I was losing energy through bouncing up and down rather than using that energy to go forward. I’ve never been brave enough to try a CX bike yet, but for the winter events and for the races so far this year I can definitely see the benefits of a bike with fat boy tyres.

Phil – Typical Mr Grumpy – always blaming the kit! Even on his hardtail he still doesn’t keep up with Mr Strong on a climb 😉. I think the debate is between MTB hardtail or CX. I’ve always used my MTB which I believe normally just sneaks it, but not always. For example, CX would definitely have been the better choice for the New Forest 2021 course!

Aidan – I’m currently using my Dad’s old full suspension mountain bike – I’m starting to question his motivation having read his response! When I’ve stopped growing I’m hoping to get my own mountain bike, but it sounds like I need to make sure it’s a hardtail!

What’s the one piece of non-mandatory kit in your bag that you could not do without?

Phil – I don’t normally take one if I’m racing with Graeme as we’re really well matched physically, but if you’re in a mixed ability team then a bungee cord is brilliant for sharing the load. I remember a UK Challenge stage where I was in a team with a sub-2:30 marathon runner. He towed me around the entire run. When we got to the bike transition we swapped and I towed him. Warning though – bike bungeeing takes practice!

Graeme – Vaseline – if you know, you know!!

Aidan – A Dad is an amazingly versatile and useful piece of kit! They can be used in a variety of ways from paying for your entry, cleaning and ensuring your bike is ready, preparing your pack the night before, driving you to the event and then when you get tired they are always willing to provide a bungee or a push to get you through to the end! I highly recommend them!


Phil Graeme kayak

What’s the weirdest/funniest/strangest thing that has happened to you during an adventure race?

Graeme – I was doing a race with a colleague from work as part of our UK Challenge training and we had spoken before the event about food and drink for the event. I had mentioned that I like to use Lucozade Sport as the drink in my Camelbak, but she had filled her pack with normal (fizzy) Lucozade! She didn’t tell me until after the event as she was a little embarrassed but apparently every time she went to take a drink she got a blasted by a high pressure jet of Lucozade!

Phil – We once dipped a checkpoint (B19 – still stuck in my mind) about a mile from where it should be, because it was in the rucksack of a marshal who had collected it in and was walking back to his car. He didn’t believe anyone would be stupid enough to be that far out with so little time left. It was our greatest ‘snatching defeat from the jaws of victory’ moment. We had had a great run (for us!) and kayak, but then got greedy trying to clear the bike course.

More embarrassingly… One particularly warm Questars day I arrived at run-bike transition and there was no-one else there. So rather than pull cycling shorts over the top of my running lycra as usual, I stripped off to save a layer. It was the following day looking at the Questars website when I discovered the time lapse video of transition!

What is the most difficult part of adventure racing?

Phil – Being dropped as a teammate by Graeme for a younger model!! Seriously I think it’s that last hour when you’re tired and trying to do the risk/reward calcs whether to sneak that extra checkpoint in. It’s also the most satisfying part when you get the decision right.

Graeme – Asking permission from my wife to be out for the day!

What are your top five tips for adventure racing success?

Graeme – A lot of the previous interviews have covered the obvious items like navigation, setting realistic target and knowing your run bike speeds, etc so here’s a few tips that might not be the top five but we have learnt the hard way through experience:

– Don’t experiment with new kit on the day of a race (Graeme)

– always try things like new shoes/shorts/hydration packs during your normal training before an event – Find out what foods and drinks work for you in advance. I found out during an event that SiS powders and gels really don’t agree with me! (Graeme)

– Talk to your partner and be honest if you are hurting or tiring as they can then help you (Graeme)

– Bring more clothing than you think you will need. It’s better to have it and not need it than the other way round. You never know when a freak hail storm is going to hit in the middle of an event that you didn’t bring enough layers to! (Aidan)

– Agree Aidan – there’s a reason a windproof top is mandatory kit! On several occasions I’ve been hit by unforecast storms. (Phil)

– Don’t use your face as a brake (Stacey)

– Don’t forget the Vaseline! (Graeme)

– Learn to count to five (Phil)


Phil Graeme Row

What are the pros and cons of taking part as a team?

Graeme – Pros are definitely that you have someone to talk to and share the experience with. Other pros are bungee ropes – if one of you is struggling they are a great way of helping that person out. Having someone double check your map reading is good too. Thinking about it, I’ve never competed solo, so I’ve no idea if there are any cons to racing in a team. I guess I’ve always been lucky enough to have great teammates!

Phil – Cons are definitely that you have someone incessantly talking to you about their experience. Other cons are bungee ropes – when Graeme is struggling you have to help him out. And they question your map reading too! Thinking about it, I’ve scored much better when I’ve competed solo… but then I tend to be up against those who are in a different league threatening to clear the course!

Graeme, in the past year you have started racing with your son. What tips would you give to any other parents out there looking to do an event with one of their children?

Graeme – The main thing I would say is just give it a go and enjoy yourself. These are really fun and friendly events and you can make it as hard or as easy as you want. Don’t be put off or intimidated looking around at the other people at the start, everyone had to start once, so enjoy the experience and then review what you did afterwards and try to make little improvements each time. But definitely make sure at least one person in your team can read a map.

You are known (at least by us) for striking poses every time you see a camera. What are the key ingredients to a good adventure racing pose?

Phil – Graeme’s in charge of the striking pose strategies. I’ll let him answer!

Graeme – You’ve got to give the camera something to work with! 😉 I think it’s great to show that you can do well in the race while also having a lot of fun, so we try to take the time to show that fun side of things and make sure we get on the photo reel for the event! The key ingredients though are to discuss before the event what pose you are going to pull and always being aware of when there is a camera pointing in your direction


Graeme Aidan Run

When you race together, what roles did you both play within the team?

Graeme – When I race with Phil he takes on more of the strategy side of things with a bit of input from me, and he is well known amongst our friends for being a control freak with the map, so I’m basically double checking his work as we go around. However, I make up for it by always being at the back of the kayak so I can be in control of the steering! I’m really enjoying doing more of the strategy side of things when racing with Aidan now. When racing with Phil it’s been interesting in the past when we’ve both had races where one of us has just completely run out of energy in the last part of the race so the other one has had to step up and get the bungee out and take charge.

Graeme – how is this different when you race with Aidan?

Graeme – I think the main difference is previously with Phil we are both a bit older and hence need some time when starting off to warm up and build some momentum. I like to think of it as being analogue and needing to ramp things up gradually. Whereas Aidan is a 14-year-old and is very much digital! He will go from nothing to full running speed in a flash and leave me for dust (if the conditions are ever dry enough again for there to be any dust!). However, over the course of the race stamina then starts to become more dominant and that’s when I catch up with Aidan as I’m definitely carrying more in reserves than him! The other great thing is that because I’m now racing with one of my kids, is that it no longer counts as me having a day out and burning brownie points with my wife – I’m now effectively on child care duties so it’s a lot easier to get permission to do these events!

Is there a significance to your team name Fuzion Adventure Race Team?

Graeme – It does have a connection to where we work, but the main reason is that myself and Phil have a childish sense of humour! I had a proud Dad moment during one race when Aidan asked me if the name was deliberate and did we realise what the acronym was!

Phil – I’m now a proud Old FART!


Thank you so much Graeme, Phil and Aidan! Some terrific advice for those looking to get into adventure racing, particularly those looking to race within a team.

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