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AR Clangers: What’s the worst that can happen (in an adventure race)?

10:14 12th July 2013 By Fi Spotswood
Heard the one about the adventure racer who paddled a canoe the wrong way round for three hours? Adventure racing is a technical sport, with the need for navigation, fast transitioning, time management, common sense, resourcefulness and technical skills as well as fitness and strength. With a spoonful of sleep deprivation, some naivety and a bit of bad luck, there is a huge margin for error in the sport. As they say, when it goes wrong, it can go really wrong. As a bit of a mid summer treat, we asked a selection of experienced adventure racers, even including a smattering of World Champions, what ‘AR Clangers’ they had experienced. Sadly, we also promised anonymity. Grab a cold drink and settle in for a good laugh…
Adventure racing: It doesn't always go smoothly (Thanks to www.openadventure.com for the photos)

Adventure racing: It doesn’t always go smoothly. (Thanks to www.openadventure.com for the photos)

Navigational nightmares

“In a Polaris (2 day mountain bike navigation race) once, my team mate and navigator timed a downhill sprint finish with precision, only to realise he’d misread the contours and it was actually an uphill slog to the finish. Ouch”.

“A common clanger is where people have folded over maps and didn’t realise there were more controls on the other side. It’s a problem when you have an A4 map and don’t have an A4 map board!”

“A few years ago you often had to mark your own controls on the map from a list of grid references. It is only when you spend ten minutes searching high and low for one out on the course that you double check and realise you’ve marked it in the wrong place. That happened a load of times”.

Now is that even the right map? (Thanks to www.openadventure.com for the photos.)

Now is that even the right map? (Thanks to www.openadventure.com for the photos.)

“I packed the wrong maps in the wrong transition box a long time ago. We headed out onto the stage secretly following another team. We couldn’t keep up, so had to wait for another team to come past. But fell asleep. We came last”.

“In the Southern Traverse I was paddling down in the shadow of the New Zealand Remarkables with Ran Fiennes. We were enjoying our sails, the lovely double kayaks, the tide and wind behind us. We saw a familiar journalist waving on a boat and waved back… He waved some more. We waved back… He waved some more. One hour later we looked at map. It was a 5 hour round trip against wind and tide (which turned against us on the way back) to get the checkpoint we missed. No one said a word”.

“In Patagonia 2011, we dropped the map in a white out while pretty much hypothermic (all 4 of us). Doing a further 4 hours we trudged mapless through forest, hills, snow and dark, sort of on a bearing and then guessing which way to go on the road at the end. It all worked out though!”

Navigation by committee? (Thanks to www.openadventure.com for the photos.)

Navigation by committee? (Thanks to www.openadventure.com for the photos.)

Naughty Nudies

“When I was marshalling at the Ingleton Falls Jump I saw what you might call a clanger… I’m not sure I can bring myself to say anymore… OK it involves nakedness and a buff. It was under his armpits when he finished. And to make it worse it was very midgy”.

Buff: how multifunctional exactly?

Buff: How multifunctional exactly?

“I heard about a certain racer who stripped RIGHT DOWN to put their wetsuit on just before a swim stage on Derwent Water during the 2009 Coast 2 Coast adventure race. After the deed was done they realised it was in front of the Nicol End cafe which was full of ramblers quaffing nice scones as they do”.

“In my first long race, I was desperate to impress the team. I didn’t know any of them. But to my horror, after about 2 hours on the water in the first kayak leg, I just absolutely HAD to have a pee. I was wearing a swimming wetsuit and it was very tight. We had to pull over and I had to struggle for what seemed like hours out of my wetsuit to have a pee UP the bank in the reeds. What I had failed to notice was that my bright pink hat was drawing rather a lot of attention to me by the passing kayakers. Then when we carried on we realised the transition was just around the corner, complete with nice loos!”

Are you sure that canoe's the right way round? (Thanks to www.openadventure.com for the photos.)

Are you sure that canoe’s the right way round? (Thanks to www.openadventure.com for the photos.)

“Another good one on the Wilderness ARC in 2007. I think we were on day 4 of 7. Mid way through 24 hours of mountain biking in the rain across Scotland we came to some water jumps in the middle of the night. I stripped off and went first to set a good example, then got out quick to help count my team mate in (this was just something which helped her.) I was so spaced out that I didn’t realise that I was starkers but with bike shoes on (a requirement for the jumps) and had a full 10 minute conversation with one of the medics who was at the jumps. He must have felt slightly uncomfortable at my general state of nakedness – am sure the shoes made me look great too”.

Time management

“A real clanger would be forgetting to put your watch back 1 hour for daylight saving at the OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) and thinking you’ve timed the finish to perfection only to realise you’re an hour early… OK that might have been me”.

“For an entire series of races, my partner and I failed to start our stop watches when we left the start. Every time it was a bit of a guess whether or not we were on time back after the five hours”.

“In the Portugal World champs in 2009 we fell asleep in a hay barn. We slept through our alarms and woke 2.5 hours after we were meant to. We raced very fast for the next 24 though… A lesson in the power of sleep!” (ed. The team won that World Champs – the power of sleep indeed.)

Kit check?

“I rushed to get to the start of the race because I’d been faffing at the van. We had to cycle there and then were out on foot for the first two hours. About ten minutes in I realised I was still wearing my multi-sport helmet. But it was cold so I didn’t mind so much”.

“Before an AR my team mate put his bike shoes on at the last minute and realised he had brought his road shoes instead of his mtb shoes….we ended up starting late as he had to change his pedals… and then after about 10 minutes I had a puncture!”

“In the middle of Patagonia we had to put our bikes back together for a bike stage. I took all the bits of mine out the box and realised I had lost a pedal. My heart sank! It was so remote! Thankfully one of the photographers had picked it up at the previous transition several days before”.

“A team mate once turned up to a race having forgotten his bike and kit back. He rang his wife and barked at her to bring him his stuff. What a muppet!”

Everyone got the right pedals? (Thanks to www.openadventure.com for the photos.)

Everyone got the right pedals? (Thanks to www.openadventure.com for the photos.)

Medical Muppetry

“At the AR World Champs in 2010 we had trekked into the mountains on a night stage and it was freezing so I wore some winter tights. Unfortunately, due to a navigational f&£** up, by dawn we were not where we needed to be and had hours to go. Soon the sun came up and it was blisteringly hot. In my thick tights I was beginning to experience the dreaded chaffing. There was no option but to remove my trousers (and wear them as a sun turban) and walk the remaining miles in my (large, grey merino wool) knickers. My German team mates were not remotely phased by this and took my embarrassment as a sign of my Britishness!”

“I forgot my map board at a ‘short’ sprint race down south somewhere so I had to navigate the bike leg with the map in my teeth. On one descent I was steering with one hand whilst holding the map in the other. I hit a small cobble – which normally wouldn’t have been a problem – but it spun the handlebars 180deg and I was superman for a few milliseconds. My helmet saved my head but I got a lot of gravel in a deep cut on my knee. It took a nurse about 2 hours to remove the gravel and stitch me up. Never forget the map board!”

“In a Swiss race in 2011, we hiked through the mountains at night in sub zero temps and came across a mountain top restaurant as they were shutting up. We begged them to let us in and they gave us hot food and drinks. I didn’t take off my layers and was therefore sweating in the warm indoors. We went back out with only a few hours to the finish – or so we thought. My baselayer had gotten wet and my core temperature dropped. I got delirious and hypothermic. The team kept me alive (I’ll spare the funny details) and I was winched up in a helicopter naked. The winchman was surprised, apparently! I woke up in hospital at mid-day with very little recollection of what happened”.

You can’t always blame sleep deprivation

“I think my best has to be paddling an Ocean Kayak the wrong way round for over 2 hours in a Lake District 2 day Ace Race – I think I actually went quite fast but quite a few people laughed at me when I finished and it was pointed out”.

“We had a total mind blank about how to drop the rudder in our 8 metre long kayak. At a mass start we just drifted across the whole field of kayakers while they shouted and cursed at us. There wasn’t anything we could do, and nowhere to hide!”

“For me, it has to be kayaking in my first ever adventure race. We borrowed a sea kayak at the last minute and had no chance to change the position of the foot pedals before the race. I realised they were WAY to short for me but didn’t bother adjusting them, I just thought I won’t use them. I was completely oblivious to the fact they actually controlled the rudder! We spent the next 2 hours turning right. I think I blamed the boat, blamed my girlfriend for a very uneven kayaking stroke, and just about everything else I could think of”.

Don't forget the map board! (Thanks to www.openadventure.com for the photos.)

Don’t forget the map board! (Thanks to www.openadventure.com for the photos.)

Feel free to add your own clangers in the comments box below. We might even take a vote!


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