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June's Adventure Racer of the month - Gary Davies

Our featured adventure racer of the month is serial adventure racer and our current series leader, Gary Davies.

Gary is an incredibly experienced adventure racer having raced extensively in the UK and overseas and is a very well-known face on the UK adventure racing scene. Gary brings with him a wealth of experience and is always open with useful advice for fellow racers.

Here, Gary shares his top tips to make your next Questars event a success. So, let’s dive into the wonderful world of Questars Adventure Races.

When did you participate in your first Questars adventure race?

I suspect it was around 2007 or 2008.

Roughly how many Questars adventure races have you participated in?

Difficult for me to put a figure on this one but probably somewhere between 25 and 35.

What do you like most about Questars adventure races?

Good maps, good CP placement and it places strategy as an integral part of the participant’s decision-making process. I’m not a big fan of clearable courses as they play into the hands of those that are very fast.

What do you like most about adventure racing?

It takes me to places that I wouldn’t normally go to see, adventure racers generally have a positive outlook and are very friendly and it keeps me motivated to stay fit(ish).

Why did you first get into adventure racing?

I love a challenge. I played rugby at school, university and in my early twenties, but then suffered a knee injury. My physio said to start running and biking. I discovered a fell running club called MDC and one of the members there was Tom Gibbs who invited my friend and me to an 8-hour adventure race located in the Wye Valley in c.2006 and we loved it! The rest, as they say, is history.

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

Enjoy it. Don’t be demotivated by your low score (compared to those on the podium) when you start out. I’ve been there too as have many others when they started out. Talk to those that have done it for years and ask them questions. Another tip – a significant amount of time can be lost by looking at the map when standing still.  It’s better to go slower and look at the map. This is easy to do on foot and on the bike when the going is smooth and wide.

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

I’ve had loads of advice over the years because I’m not shy of asking how others approach their races and/or do “stuff”. “Join an orienteering club” and “join a kayaking club” are probably the best pieces of advice I’ve had i.e. work on my weaknesses.

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

My strongest varies between running or cycling – it basically depends which one I’ve been doing the most in the prior months. So far this year, I’d say my biking is better than my running. Kayaking is my weakest of the three disciplines.

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

I participate in other events which complement adventure racing e.g. mountain bike orienteering (MBO), fell running, orienteering etc. I also try and do something almost every day – commutes to/from work count!

What is your favourite pre-, during- and post-race food for a Questars adventure race?

Porridge with cinnamon before I leave the house and some pasta when I arrive at the event venue before I start. I also drink a product which includes carbs and electrolytes before the event. During the event, I will eat Jelly Babies and sometimes istotoic gels supplemented with the carbs/electrolyte drink. Post event – protein shake, pasta and lots of fluid. And, of course, whatever the Questars kitchen is selling!

What do you usually wear for a Questars adventure race?

Tri-shorts and a short sleeve tech t-shirt – normally with arm warmers which I can roll up/down depending on conditions. I’m also a big fan of a windproof gilet if a little cool.

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

1 x 12 Carbon Hard Tail with fast rolling tyres. I used to change my tyres dependent on the ground conditions but I don’t bother anymore. Tubeless of course.

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

Not in my bag but the rubber bands that I use to secure the CP descriptions to my arm. I hate it when I forget to bring them!

What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made during an adventure race?

Ha! Too many to mention. Standout one for me was descending 750m vertically down the wrong gully after summiting a mountain peak in GodZone (New Zealand) in 2016. That really affected our race.

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

The standout one for me is when I raced in ITERA Scotland 2019 and the team had to cross a river. The humour in the team was amazing and the main concern amongst one male member of the team was how small his genitalia may be after the cold river crossing! Another standout was in Expedition Africa 2015 when a herd of zebra ran directly in front of us!

What have been some of your greatest adventure racing achievements?

ITERA Scotland 2019 – third

ITERA Scotland 2022 – fourth

Expedition Africa Lesotho 2022 – fifth (joint)

What is the most difficult part of adventure racing?

Getting to the destination and the start line with all your team mates and kit!

What’s the most helpful advice for racing in a team?

Make sure that everybody in the team has the same/similar expectations of the race in advance of the race. Look after each other and support each other. Discuss roles prior to the event too. Who’s in charge of navigation (same throughout or rotate?). Do some people want to know what’s ahead at regular intervals? We’re all different and it’s good to explore this before the event if possible.

What is your favourite overseas race that you have participated in? Why?

The ones where the team are properly in the wilderness are the ones that stand out. And for that reason I think it would be Costa Rica ARWC 2013. It was pretty hard. Many parts of the country are normally off limits to the public as they are tribal lands. However, the King of Costa Rica had got the elders’ permissions for the race to go through their lands. It was truly stunning (but very hard!).

What are your top five tips for adventure racing success?

i)        Keep learning – I still am after doing it for ~17 years

ii)       Estimate what your average speed was for each of the legs in your last race. Use this to plan your next event and think about how this can be improved.

iii)     Review what you did well and not so well at the previous race and take it into the next one. We all make mistakes – learn from them and don’t dwell on them.

iv)     Identify your weaknesses and work on them

v)       Are you eating and drinking the right things and enough of them during the event?

Thank you Gary! Some excellent tips there, I particularly like the one about using elastic bands to secure the checkpoint descriptions to the arm.

Do you fancy giving Adventure Racing a go? Follow the link below to sign up for one of our races.

The 2023 Questars Series


Our next race is in the Cotswolds which is the final race 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.

Don’t worry, that is not us done for the year though! We are currently finalising plans for a winter series and expect to release information and dates in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

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