Our featured racer of the month is Campbell Walsh. Campbell is a superb racer; he is an Olympic Silver Medalist as well as being a multi-time Questars Summer Series Champion and was recently crowned our inaugural Winter Series Champion. Here Campbell shares his tips for adventure racing success!

When did you participate in your first Questars adventure race?

I think it was October 2011. A two-day event in Thetford Forest, which I did as a pair. It was probably a few years until I did my next event.

Roughly how many Questars adventure races have you participated in?

Maybe about 15.

What do you like most about Questars adventure races?

I enjoy trail running, mountain biking, and orienteering/navigating, so combining them is ideal. My favourite thing about Questars races is the challenge to come up with a strategy to maximise points scored in the time available. Every little bit of time saved soon adds up, which enables you to get another control or two. My brain is always busy so the 5 or 6 hours fly by!

Why did you first get into adventure racing?

In 2008 I applied to go to the Landrover Challenge UK selection weekend. Totally out of the blue, as I had no experience of anything adventure racing related other than kayaking. I had some free time so thought it would be a cool thing to try to do. I did a couple of local orienteering events to prepare, which got me into orienteering. Then at the Landrover event, I met loads of cool people who loved doing outdoors stuff, and they talked passionately about the various navigation-based running, biking and multi-sport adventure races that were out there. I had no idea they existed before that. I loved the selection weekend, and it got me keen to do more similar things.

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

– Go “steady” to the first few controls, especially the very first one. As that is where navigation mistakes often happen from trying to go too fast. I keep neglecting this advice myself J
– Eat and drink a lot! More than you think you need. 5 or 6 hours of exercise can be daunting, but you will be surprised how long you can sustain a reasonable speed/intensity if well fuelled.
– Going slowly in the correct direction is better than fast in the wrong direction! Regularly check your compass to make sure you are travelling in the direction you should be!
– After the event, study your route choice…what would you do different? Why did you get lost in that forest? And study the route choice of the highest finishers. That’s the best way to learn and improve at the strategy and route choice for next time.

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

I think I just had to figure it out myself from trial and error! (Plenty of error!)

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

I’m probably pretty evenly capable across all the disciplines – which is by luck rather than deliberate effort. Questars format conveniently suits my strengths, rather than me having trained to be good at Questars!

In a competitive sense, I know I can make the most difference in the running legs, typically gaining more points per minute than I can biking. So I usually try to maximise this by doing all the run controls first, then seeing how many I can do on the bike in the time remaining.

What was your sporting background before getting into adventure racing?

I used to be a full-time athlete in the sport of canoe slalom (weaving around poles on whitewater rapids, the kayaking equivalent of slalom skiing). For more than 10 years in my 20s and early 30s I was part of the UK Sport Lottery funded program, which enabled me the opportunity to pursue training for the sport at the highest level without having to fit it round a regular job. I was pretty successful, having been European Champion, World Cup Series Champion, World Championship and Olympic medallist!

Those that know this think the kayaking parts of Questars events must be my favourite. Quite the opposite! Slalom paddling is delivery of high skill on whitewater, with a flash of style, and races are typically 90 seconds long. So paddling for 1 hour or more in a straight line on flatwater is not what slalom paddlers love! However, I do appreciate it does help me out from a competitive perspective J

After retiring from slalom racing myself, I transitioned to coaching, initially for the New Zealand national team. I now work back home for the Great Britain team, where I coach the current men’s World Champion… watch out for Joe Clarke at the Paris Olympics this summer!

What does your training plan for an adventure race look like?

I definitely don’t have a training plan. I do run or bike most days, but that’s simply because I enjoy them. I would be doing exactly the same even if I never entered any events. I just decide on the day, depending on the weather, the time available, where I am, who’s up for joining me, and how I feel. Occasionally, I deliberately do a few longer runs or rides if I know I have a Questars coming up.

How do you fuel yourself for a Questars adventure race?

I run with a Salomon vest pack with 1 – 1.5 litre of energy drink. And another camelback for the bike, with 1.5 – 2 litre of energy drink. I also take a bottle on my bike with some RedBull for a sugar/caffeine pick up. 

On top of that, I carry enough bars and gels to consume something every 30minutes. The bars are nothing fancy…. Kellogg’s Cereal bars or Mars/Snickers straight from the supermarket shelf rather than expensive sports bars. I rarely consume everything, but I’d rather carry a little extra than be caught low on energy!

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

Mountain bike. Kudos to anyone who chooses to ride a cyclocross or gravel bike! I prefer riding my short-travel full suspension bike over my hardtail, as it’s more comfortable. I put fast, lightweight xc race tyres on, regardless of weather conditions, as I find that makes the biggest difference to speed.

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

Can I have more than one…Thumb compass for running, wrist compass for bike or kayak. Rotating map board for the bike. And a custom control description holder specifically for Questars events!

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

I once forgot to take my helmet off at transition, so had to do an entire two-hour running stage with my helmet on! I must have looked silly!

What is the most difficult part of adventure racing?

Always going in the correct direction J

Thank you, Campbell! A great write-up and some excellent tips for anyone looking to improve their adventure racing.

Do you fancy giving adventure racing a go? Follow the link below to sign up to our next events:

The Questars Series Championship


Each year we run the following competitions:

  1. Our National Championship
  2. Our Summer Series Championship
  3. Our Winter Series Championship

Full details can be found on our Series Championship page.

We look forward to seeing you soon for an adventure!

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