Our featured adventure racer of the month for April is Iain Porter. Iain is currently undefeated in his last three Questars races and was our race winner as we kicked off our 2023 race series in Wiltshire.
Iain is an experienced racer and shares his tips for adventure racing success. So, let’s dive in and explore the wonderful world of Questars adventure racing.
When did you participate in your first Questars adventure race?
Blimey – that was a long time ago. I think 2010. I was a fresh faced graduate and had just started a job with a company that had an adventure racing club. I think I raced as part of a two-man team over Cannock Chase. I’ve still got the map board I bought for that event. As I remember we finished a couple of minutes over time – this seems to have become a theme!
Roughly how many Questars adventure races have you participated in?
Quite a few! I’ve just counted 15 different Questars fridge magnets, but they only go back as far as 2013. Probably not quite 20
What do you like most about Questars adventure races?
It’s difficult to choose! I always have a great day out and usually wring myself out to the point that there’s nothing left when I cross the line – but I love that there’s such a range of competitors. Everyone can (and does) get involved and everyone seems to really enjoy it.
I also really like the 6 hour format and enjoy smashing around a course and collapsing into a heap at the end of it, so I keep coming back for more.
What do you like most about adventure racing?
Again it’s that sense that everyone’s having a great time and there’s a load of good stories to share at the end of the day (or week!).
Why did you first get into adventure racing?
To be honest, because I’d moved to a new town for a new job, and it looked like one of the better sports and social clubs at work. That was all about getting people to do the UK challenge, and we used to do Questars events as training. 13 years later I’ve done the UK challenge once, and Questars – well, see the above answer about the number of fridge magnets I have 🙂
What is your favourite area in the UK to race in?
I like mountains, but – for a 6 hour race actually a couple of fairly small hills can make for a cracking and brutal course. I think the Wiltshire downs races have been some of my favourites over the years (except when I cycled into a gate, see below…), even the year that I took a risk and drank from an irrigation tower in a field because it was 30 degrees and I hadn’t taken enough water. I got away with it!
What advice would you give to someone just getting started adventure racing?
- Plan ahead – if you spend a minute at each checkpoint working out where to go next you’ll waste half an hour in a race. Always know what you’re doing next.
- Go lightweight, both in terms of bike and bag – don’t waste energy carrying too much stuff
- Just go do it, smile, have fun, then do it again
What is the best piece of advice that you were given when you started adventure racing?
Actually it was the “plan ahead” bit – it’s stuck with me.
What is your strongest and weakest race discipline? How do you combat your weakest discipline?
I don’t know about weakest discipline but my hamstrings get really angry if I sit in a boat for too long. Luckily I can manage an hour. I seem to have a bit of an advantage on the running side of things – I think it’s because I’m mostly made of leg.
What does your training plan for an adventure race look like?
This sounds a bit pretentious but I don’t really have one. I just go out and do stuff because it’s fun. And hope it makes me fit enough. That said it’s a 40km ride to work – I don’t do it as often as Carl Silver does his commute but it’s still good training. I tend to run somewhere between 20 and 30 miles a week and tend to feel twitchy if I go more than a couple of days without running or biking.
What is your favourite pre-, during- and post-race food for a Questars adventure race?
Pre is a good breakfast – normally a big serving of Weetabix with bananas, and a cup of tea to last me the drive to wherever it’s being held. It’s almost always a super early start so a few travel bananas help as well.
During is a bit variable – a mix of Haribo, salty crisps, Cadbury’s fudge bars, and yet more bananas. I’ll usually have both water and an energy/hydro drink on the run and the bike as well.
Post-race – pie, cake, tea, curry, pizza, more cake. Whatever I can get my hands on really.
What do you usually wear for a Questars adventure race?
For Questars I think I’ve raced in the same top every race for the last 10 years. it’s just a normal short sleeve biking jersey with pockets in the back (the banana skins have to go somewhere!). Shorts unless it’s really cold – every time I’ve gone with long legs because it felt a bit cold in the car park I’ve regretted it while winching my way up a big hill on the bike. I carry a super lightweight waterproof stuffed into my bag for the occasions that the weather gets bad enough to cool me down too much. Fingerless gloves as I find I need the dexterity.
What type of bike do you normally use for a Questars adventure race?
A hardtail mountain bike. I’ve used my gravel bike a few times when I’ve been confident the terrain will be forgiving enough – that rather depends on your appetite for off-roading on drop bars, but if there’s a lot of flatter stuff it’s worthwhile.
What’s the one piece of non-mandatory kit in your bag that you could not do without?
Probably the bananas.
What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made during an adventure race?
I can think of two good ones:
Biking to a checkpoint that I’d built my whole route around only to find it wasn’t there, and I’d misread the score sheet. It did explain why no-one else was going the same way as me! Had to make myself stop, sit down and re-plan to salvage a decent score in the time remaining.
Riding full pelt into a five bar gate because I was looking at some lambs. Yes, really. I flew over it and landed on my back on the cattle grid on the far side. Sat up, felt weird, lay down again, sat up again a minute or two later and miraculously hadn’t broken anything. Luckily I only had 45 mins left and I managed to finish the ride. I still came second!
What’s the weirdest/funniest/strangest thing that has happened to you during an adventure race?
Discounting anything said during ITERA, because people say some weird things after 4 days of expedition racing… In the very first Questars race I did I got “I do hope your mum has a good washing machine young man” from an elderly lady we cycled past. It was a little bit muddy.
What have been some of your greatest adventure racing achievements?
My team came 4th in the UK challenge in 2011 , and another team I was on was first short course team at ITERA last year – we would have been a middling long course team, but we all agreed we like sleeping so went for the shorter option.
Actually my greatest AR achievement ever might be finishing a 55 minute kayak stage only 40 seconds slower than a GB Olympic kayaker – he did point out that sit on tops have a maximum speed though.
What is the most difficult part of adventure racing?
For Questars, it’s trying to stick to a sensible plan and not overcommitting. My sense of how much more distance I can reasonably fit into the last hour of the race is way off, though I’ve got better at controlling that recently. For multi-day races it’s the lack of sleep, every time. I just can’t do more than 24 hours without closing my eyes for 30 mins or so.
What’s the most helpful advice for racing in a team?
Being in a team really helps with navigation – you’ve almost always got a faster person who can devote a bit of energy to map reading so you can avoid faff at checkpoints. In terms of actual advice – make sure you get on, I guess! For longer races there will always be a point when someone’s feeling low and needs a bit of moral support from their team mates – looking out for that is super important.
What are your top five tips for adventure racing success?
- Make a plan, and have options to extend it if things are going well (or cut it short if they’re not)
- Eat and drink enough – before you think you need to. Once you’re in a hole energy wise it’s difficult to get out of it again!
- Check your bike beforehand and fix things that are broken or might break – and I mean like a week or two beforehand, not the day before, or when you get it out the car on the morning of the race
- Know where you are on the map all the time, or you’ll waste time trying to work it out, and possibly miss a checkpoint
- Enjoy it – the pain in your legs will go away eventually
Thank you, Iain! Some brilliant advice to help make your next Questars race a success.
Do you fancy giving Adventure Racing a go? Follow the link below to sign up for one of our races
The 2023 Questars Series
The Wiltshire race was the first of our four one-day races which make up our 2023 Series Championship. Anyone entering into any of our adventure races will be automatically entered into our Series Championship with each individual’s top three one-day results counting towards the final Championship position. Full details can be found on our Series Championship page.