Travelled up to Shropshire on the friday to scope out a few miles for the long race I am doing next month. A few things came to light in that there are a lot of tough hills and navigation will be hard especially as I lost my way a couple of times in the daylight and I will be covering this ground at night. Still a good recce and hill miles in the legs.
14 miles 2hrs 45mins.
After this I headed south to the Black Mountains for the next round in the Might Contain Nuts 12 hour Adventure Race series.
The morning of the race arrived and the team gathered, Jake, Melissa and myself and made tactics. Not particularly looking at the big picture we decided to go for the big points on the first stage.
T1 Run 15 miles 1000m elevation 4 hrs
What an introduction to the Black Mountains, some serious hills taken in, stunning scenery and fun induced cross country which didn't suit all but I was loving the differcult decents. An annoying 20+mins looking for CP didn't help our cause. Although we got the points we had seriously underestimated the terrain and how long it would take us over the high ground as we crossed over a reservoir and 'sprinted' to the transition missing out on a point CP due to not having a spare 10minutes. The additional hour it took us to complete this stage meant we were now playing catch up for the rest of the race.
T2 Bike 25miles 1000m 3hrs
Chasing time for the kayak cutoff we decided on the best direct route available, more roads than desired and less points to go for, this still encompassed 25 brutal miles of hills. One a near 600m of ascent over a few miles. Gruellingly hard. But a justified reward with the best descent of the day over tough steep technical ground marred only by missing a cp and having to crawl back up 100ft to tag in.
Then Jake's bike caught a branch which broke his chain, luckily just on the link so was quickly fixable. Some luck at last. At the transition we agreed with RD Matt to bike the remaining 3miles to the kayak so that we were not late and so could enjoy the 3rd discipline (40miles 2000m 7hrs).
T3 Kayak 5.5miles 1hr
All 3 of us boarded a canadian canoe. Jake steering/relaxing whilst Melissa and me put all the dogwork in. A good paddle down a beautful stretch of the Wye. Jake even managing to pull a 360 in one of the mini rapids. Tranquility and rest was soon aborted when trying to get out the river where 20 other people were lingering with boats etc strewn everywhere. Soon out and painstakingly working the legs to a sombre run through Hay on Wye to the bike transition (45.5miles 8hrs (1mile run 20mins)).
Not over yet. With tiring bodies and sore backsides it was back on the bikes for a strength sapping 500m steep ascent the only saving grace was that it was on minor roads, although they went on and on and on.
(51.5miles 10hrs 2600m)
T5 Run 5miles 1.5hrs 200m
With light fading and bodies failing it was just an 'easy' jog home. Running below the stunning peak and superbly named Lord Herefords Knob. Jake was too enamelled with the glorious views of sunset and so missed another CP. This was one strike too many and so he was dismissed from map duties as I faultlessly took us home. The ground was tough in failing light and broken ground from the countless cattle that had somehow passed through these narrow tracks and left there mark. Once through the farmlands it was just a matter of 3km downhill road run back to camp and the excilleration of the finish line.
A tough race but as the Race Directors explained these aren't for the faint-hearted and looking back I'm glad it was hard, you get more from pushing yourself than from keeping things easy. There seems to be too many ARs now that are 'easy' in that the course is completable for the best and so route finding and decision making is redundant. The top athelte scored only 2/3rds of points available a monumental effort from my perspective but good in being an AR for both elites and for regular outdoor folk like myself who can both enjoy the course/area but take part in a race.
So a big thanks to Might Contain Nuts team. I hope these races pick up in popularity (only a little though) so that they remain on the calender. I wont say any more on the Black mountains as this should remain a secret.