Thursday, 7 August 2014

ITERA - Further Faster

All packed and Ready for ITERA

They say getting to the start line is the hardest part, and I'm very proud to have two strong and competent NAV4 Adventure teams lining up for yet another Expedition Adventure race.

It's been a busy day, indeed a busy few weeks and months, as we have all been preparing for a full week's adventure 'racing' down the length of Wales. You will be able to follow the race via live tracking here - watch out for our two teams - 'NAV4 Adventure One' and 'NAV4 Adventure Two'.

I guess I was the first to see this!

Just writing that last sentence throws up two key names; Sharon MacDonald and John Allen, our respective team Captains. Both of these people are excellent athletes in their own right, and deserve my thanks for being team leaders.  John (Gentleman John) Allen has come to the fore since he inherited Team Two secretarial duties when Hannah Munchkin eloped to serve the British Army.  John has done a great job of blending Dave Johnson, Ben Shannon and Louise 'Wilko' Wilkinson into a well oiled, and well-gelled team.  John is a natural leader and skillful adventure racer, especially in Expedition length races.

The other key name in this operation is Sharon MacDonald.  Ironically, Sharon came into our Terrex 2012 team at just three weeks notice, and first met team mate Dave (Atkinson) on the drive up to Stirling although to be fair Dave had been in Corsica topping up his fake tan for three four weeks.  Sharon immediately fitted into our TERREX 2012 Sting team and it does feel like I've known her a lot longer having raced well together in the LAMM, two Elite Dark Mountains plus lots of other great days out on bike and foot.  As we all know, it's all about team work, not one individual, we all have diffferent strengths and 'allowable weaknesses', if you are familair with Belbin.  
John and Sharon allow me to simply enjoy a role 'just' as team member, lead navigator and contribute to the team effort.  I suppose I do retain a little bit of a 'Directeur Sportive' overview of both teams, and I have been known to say that I'm on the verge of EXPED AR retirement and look forward to seeing a younger, fresher, strong and faster NAV4 Adventure team go forward in future years. Incidentally, if you want to get involved with NAV4 Adventure know what to do, don't you?

Last Team outing / kit sort

Team Dynamics

There has been many a time that I have questioned that I should be racing in the same team as John and Wilko as well have a strong track record in previous races, but  I believe there is no clear divide or distinction as to which team is stronger and faster (although I have my own hopes!). I was mightly pleased to receive an email a few weeks ago from 'Young Ben' when he apologised in advance for when NAV4 Adventure Two beat NAV4 Adventure One, as at least it proves we all have a sense of humour.  Of course, if this happens, I'll be genuinely very pleased as long as we have both teams have raced to our maximum.

Setbacks, Profit and Loss

All teams suffer set backs and losses and we have been no less afflicted. First we lost Hannah, then Gareth, but gained Ben and then Dave. And then ... just when we thought we were set and after a huge amount of good training Andy Moucey suffered a stress fracture in his foot, which was so sad and a disappointment for us all.  Fortunately, we found Eddie Winthorpe waiting in the wings 'fresh' from the Marathon de Sables (which will be ideal training for biking down Wales in the rain.) Andy contributed greatly to our team and I hope to see him racing with us again soon.

Me in a hole, them on a lump.

Seriously, Eddie is strong, fit and skilled and has fitted into the team excellently with two Team Traing Days already completed in the past few weeks.  His all round bike skills, especially mechanics skills, compliment the team.

My other team member is Jill.  I've riden with anyone who just looks so comfortable on a bike. Sometimes I think her primary role is to make me laugh, but she has just gets on with everything, especially if Sharon gives her 'the look'.  Jill has done an excellent job on the nutritional side of our build up and I'm looking forward to eating my way down Wales. We had a fascinating session with Sarah Garton a nutritionalist and have welcomed the support Wholesome Bee in Settle. I've introduced the team to 9bars and now need therapy due to addiction.

So we have two teams; are with good experience, skills and comitment. And so just for completeness, these are our final team line-ups:

Sharon MacDonald, Jill Eccleston, Eddie Winthorpe, Joe Faulkner
John Allen, Louise Wilkinson, Ben Shannon, Dave Johnson

It's about the Expedition rather 'racing'.  To finish first ... first you have to finish' and I've seen many teams implode or break themselves or something by not lasting the pace.

Pacing is important.  One of my fears and worries are what I call 'Race Gates'; key points that we must get beyond, usually by a certain time and sometimes quite literally such as before the tide turns or the weather craps out on the mountains.  However, we are strong and equipped, bad weather doesn't frighen us and we have the mountain skills and gear to cope with many things.

We've learnt alot of the past few years;  WARC 2006, ARWC 2007, TERREX 2010, Swift and Sting 2012, not to mention the Open5s and Open24s we've all done.

We prepared wisely;  We are indebted to Distant Horizons for on-going support with our paddling activities. Being based on the shores of Ullswater they have an ideal for water and mountain activities and they don't mind us truning up at all tiems of day during our training sessions, trying out differnet boats and rigs and trims.

It's not about the Bike - nor the drugs you take.
All the Gear and No Idea?  No - we are selective in what we use  - LESS Is MORE. . We have chosen our gear wisely. For example, we have chosen Petzl Meteor III+ multi-sport helmets which saves time as they serve us on the water, bikes and mountains and in caves, too, maybe! 

Petzl Meteor III+ Multi-sport
Ortleib Rack-pack duffle bags are simple strong and waterproof, and without any zips to break or jam up. I'll be using a Petzl Nao and my trusty Myo RXP throughout the race, supplemented by Hope R4 for MTB sections. I went on an excellent tour of the Hope factory in Bar'lick and it's amazing to see such quality items being produced right here in the North West.

Not taking the entire shed!
Our bikes are well serviced and fit for purpose; all on 3x9 speed 26 inch wheels in order to remain compatible (well, with the exception of the young dude who has more bike knowledge than all of us put together)  We have paddle bags and team bags sorted, Drybags and not so Drybags, all borne form experience.

I made my own lightweight group shelter many years ago, and now  Paul Vousden - Mapdec - has made some brilliant 'LESS' group shelters (and I have one or two spare so will bring them down to Cardiff!)

I've worked predominately in Montane gear for many years and the both teams have a passion for Montane, especially due to our links with the North East.  However, our team will each wear what they choose, they know what works for them, and we won't try anything new or radical. 

Ultimately, I've packed the Sporks, and my BIG mug obviously, along with the Jetboil and wholesome food.

We are prepared...And Finally:

I'd like to thank my wife Linz, and all of our partners and friends as without their support this would not happen.


Thursday 11.59pm