Saturday 21st May saw the first of the Planet Feat Endurance Series take place on Anglesey, North Wales. Team Berghaus Adventure members Emma Van der Gucht and Jack Venner competed against many of the UK’s top adventure racers in what was to be one of the most highly competitive events of the UK race calendar in 2011.
Extreme weather conditions meant that plan A became plan B, followed quickly by Plan C and the race kicked off with a staggered shore line start at Porth Dafarch beach.
Mixed pairs and female pairs had to sea kayak first as the winds were forecast to pick up from their current 30-40kmph winds to gusts of up to 60kmph later in the day. Emma and Jack were second out of the gate and made a sprint start on bikes down to Trearddur Bay where three paddle check points awaited them. Slick tyres and kindly borrowed cycle cross bikes were the order of the day with the event having much more road and track than is usual in an open adventure event.
Handling the sit on tops with only a minor drenching from the waves, the pair leapt back onto the bikes and headed south, into the headwind to hoover up points south of Holy Island. After much deliberation, the team decided that it should be feasible to clear the race course, and with bonus points available if you finished early, they gambled and went for the outlying ten pointer.
An hour and a half later, and still feeling strong, the team turned once again into the south westerly head wind and set off along a 2.5km breakwater pier for what was to be their last biking CP.
Shortly after, they were strapping on their running shoes and heading out onto the rough gorse covered flanks of Holyhead Mountain. They had been warned, but all the same – those prickles were savage – penetrating shoes and tights alike to pierce the skin in a hundred places.
At this point, the team had a small but costly lapse in concentration and chose what can only be described as an ‘interesting’ route choice for the run section that zig zagged across the countryside. No doubt, Emma’s new thumb compass (that looked the biz but she hadn’t worked out how to use properly yet) didn’t help matters, but the team pushed on with their plan to clear the course. A brief descent to the spectacular South Stack on Holy Island gave them an opportunity to refuel on jelly beans before contouring north easterly around the headland to what was the race’s piece de resistance; a 50m abseil into the sea which required a swim out through a sea cave to exit.
Unfortunately, the team had taken slightly longer than anticipated on the run and had not foreseen a queue at the top of the abseil.
The marshals confirmed that the wait was likely to be 20 minutes, and it did not take Jack and Emma long to work out that if they stayed to abseil, they would not be able to clear the course as planned. The decision to stay and enjoy it was not a difficult one, with such a spectacular backdrop, it would have been a shame to miss such an opportunity, and so the pair huddled on the cliff tops waiting their turn. A spectacular rappel into the crashing waves below was followed by a short swim out through a sea cave and a scramble up the cliffs back to the rucksacks.
Time was running out and the five hour limit was approaching and so the team decided to cut their losses, drop the final checkpoints and make a bee line back to the finish. Although the extra distance would have been only 400m on foot and 3km on the bike, time penalties for lateness meant that it was not worth pushing it for the sake of the extra 50 points.
Arriving back at the finish line with a total score of 668, the team was pleased to have had such a fun day out, even if there were – as always – lessons to be learned before the next event – the open 12 in 5 weeks time.
The prize giving revealed that Jack and Emma came 6th in the mixed pairs – a respectable result behind two ex world champion race teams, winners of the Patagonian Expedition Race and the recently completed Epic Tri endurance champion.
The provisional results were as follows:
1st Team Adidas Terrex
2nd Team Berghaus/FGS
3rd For Goodness Shakes
1st Haglofs UK
2nd Leeds AR
3rd For Goodness Shakes
1st Lisa Wetter/Sue Woods
2nd Maria Dixon/Esther Hobson
3rd Clywdian Range Runners
For more details and photos got to www.openadventure.com