Our featured racer of the month is Dan Thorby. Dan is an excellent racer; he is our current Open Summer Series Champion and has been on the podium for all of our winter races. Here Dan shares his tips for adventure racing success!
When did you participate in your first Questars adventure race?
The first Questars race that I took part in was the last race of the 2021 series down in the New Forest. I remember it being unseasonably warm and making such a navigational error that I ended up off the map!
Roughly how many Questars adventure races have you participated in?
I’ve taken part in 8 Questars events so far – 1 in 2021, 3 in 2022, and 6 in 2023.
What do you like most about Questars adventure races?
This might be a cheesy answer but my favourite things about the Questars adventure races are the people. As a relative newbie to the sport, everyone has been incredibly friendly, welcoming, and shared lots of their top tips with me (even if some of them are regretting it now!). Having dabbled in lots of sports, it’s rare to find such an inclusive community.
What do you like most about adventure racing?
I love the variety that comes with adventure racing and that fact that every event I have taken part in so far has been unique. I enjoy the challenge this brings and that taking part in an adventure races forces you to explore a new area in a way that you otherwise wouldn’t.
Why did you first get into adventure racing?
I started working for Accenture in January 2021. Due to COVID restrictions, and most people working from home, I hadn’t had an opportunity to meet anyone in person until I heard about the UK Challenge event. Without knowing much about the event (apart from the opportunity to have three days away from my desk running and cycling around the Lake District), I submitted an application and was selected to take part. I competed on a team of very experienced racers and loved every minute, eventually winning the overall event. I was hooked on the adventure racing format and entered my first Questars race soon after getting home.
What advice would you give to someone just getting started in adventure racing?
Don’t overthink it, enter an event and have a go! You need very little kit to get started apart from what you likely already have at home (I hired a bike at my first Questars). It’s so difficult to replicate the style of the events at home so I would recommend finding your local race and having a go. Then once you’re there, chat to as many people as you can – you’ll soon work out if it is the sport for you!
What is the best piece of advice that you were given when you started adventure racing?
The two best pieces of advice that I was given were “just keep moving” and “don’t run faster than you can navigate”. I think if you stick to these i.e. keep moving for as much of the race time as possible and don’t get lost, you’ll have a good day out!
What is your strongest and weakest race discipline? How do you combat your weakest discipline?
My strongest discipline fluctuates between running and cycling depending on what I am training for, last summer I was also training for my first marathon so had good running legs. My weakest is kayaking and I have done very little to combat that so far apart from relying on Joe not setting a kayak course over 6km long. I know that I am much more efficient running and cycling so have often cut the kayak short to do more of what I enjoy.
What does your training plan for an adventure race look like?
Every week is different based on commitments with work, the weather, what my friends are doing, and what I feel like on the day. A “good” week would probably add up to 10-12hrs of training split across running, cycling and tiny bit of swimming. I think the key sessions of the week when training for a Questars race are the long runs and long MTB rides – preferably muddy and hilly ones.
How do you fuel yourself for a Questars adventure race?
Water to drink, High5 Aqua Gels on the run, and lots of sweets on the bike (ideally Jelly Snakes or Skittles). I often carry a bar or some ‘proper food’ but I usually stick to the sugar!
What type of bike do you normally use for a Questars adventure race?
I hired a bike for my first event and have done every event since on my Trek Procaliber hardtail mountain bike – it has been a great all-rounder for me. Nothing has changed on the bike since I bought it expect for replacing the tires after a major puncture.
What’s the one piece of non-mandatory kit in your bag that you could not do without?
I recently invested in a wrist compass – it has been by far the best item that I have bought for improving my overall race performance. I used to get lost in every event and now I am much better at making sure I’m running in the right direction.
What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made during an adventure race?
In my first ever Questars race, I was rushing to get back in time and I ended up taking a wrong turn on a road that took me totally off the course map – it turned into a physically tough day out!
What’s the weirdest/ funniest/ strangest thing that has happened to you during an adventure race?
This one was funny for the people watching… I was in a hurry to get kayaking and managed to fall in the river whilst putting the kayak in the water. I lost my balance on the bank of the canal and went headfirst into the water. It was a slightly cold paddle after that!
What is the most difficult part of adventure racing?
Standing up and running after kayaking – this gets my legs every time.
What are your top five tips for adventure racing success?
- Try to spend as much time moving as possible – be decisive and know where you are going before you get to the next decision point, don’t wait until you get to a checkpoint or turning before looking at the map.
- Don’t run, bike and kayak faster than you can navigate – make sure that you know where you are on the map at all times.
- Train hard and race easy – be as fit as possible so that you can race at an intensity which allows you to think clearly.
- Review what you did well after each event and learn from the top racers.
- Keep your head up and enjoy the scenery that you’re racing in!
Thank you, Dan! A great write-up and some brilliant 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 Winter Series Championship
The Questars Winter Series Championship spans the four winter races starting in the South Downs in November and culminating in the Cotswolds in February. This series of races is not just about testing your physical limits but also about strategy and embracing the unexpected challenges that adventure racing throws your way. Full details can be found on our Series Championship page with the key details below:
- Your top three results count towards your series score so consistency and performance across multiple races matter.
- No registration is required to take part in the series – series scores are automatically calculated for every finisher of every race, irrespective of the number of races they’ve done.
- Series scores are calculated for every unique team member’s name so make sure your name is spelt the same for every race that you enter.
- Changing teams / team names throughout the series won’t affect your series score.
- Series prizes will be awarded to those at the top of the series leaderboard, i.e. those with the highest series scores, after the final race of the series. The competition is fierce, and the rewards are worth the effort!
- In the event of a tie at the top, head-to-head race results will be used to determine the series winner (i.e. who beat who in the races in which all the tied participants took part). If this is also tied then the combined times (only for these head-to-head races) will be used, with the person with the fastest cumulative time being crowned the series champion.
We look forward to seeing you soon for an adventure!