The Battle of Antrim Adventure Race
Round 1 of the 2011/12 Causeway Coast Adventure race series was named the Battle of Antrim. This race was planned by the Legends Tango and Cash. These pair knows a thing or two about racing so this was going to be a brilliant race.
Race HQ was in the athletics grounds behind Antrim forum. We got there around 9 with most teams already registered and doing there last minute checks and warm ups. We strolled in just before 9 the last ones to register. I had forgotten my helmet and had to Borrow Davey’s. Not a great start to the day. This was the biggest adventure race to be held in Northern Ireland with 96 teams lined out for the race briefing. It was great to see so many new comers both young and old and also all the old faces returning for another series of great racing. After the briefing we took our bikes and pedalled the short road section to the lough shore car park for the start.
The race forecast was wet and windy with possible gale force winds. The weather gods didn’t disappoint with Lough Neagh resembling the sea the swell was so big. Ivan got everyone ready at the start with last minute race instructions and told us the Mayor of Antrim would get the race underway. We had our route instructions but no maps at this stage. We would follow the river path until we met the marshals who had the Maps. 96 teams roared of the start line heading out on the first foot section of the race.
We met the marshals handing out the maps and followed the edge of the football pitches to pick up the first checkpoint. Because there were so many competitors the first checkpoint had a bit of a bottleneck. This was welcomed by some competitors as they got a chance to stop. They got caught up in the fast pace at the start and I heard a few saying they were never going to finish this. It was early days and when they realised it isn’t all about pace I think they relaxed a bit further into the race. With me and Andy taking it relatively easy we tried to shout encouragement and help others that doubted themselves early on. With the layout of the race we sometimes passed the slower teams again keeping them right were we could and hopefully not letting them follow us when we took the odd very small detour ;-)
We had only really started and were already at our first task on the running track.
Three leg race.
The three leg race was one complete lap of the running track. We got the band around our leg got our arms around each other for balance and of we went. We seemed to be going well passing a few teams and apart from a bit of a pull on our knees and ankles completed the circuit without issue.
After the running track we followed the path along the river bank picking up two more checkpoints before arriving at the towns old courthouse. We were issued with a map with locations and a photo clue for each location. The teams had to use the map to find the location then use the photo to find a number.
Photo checkpoint hunt
We made a great start and headed Clockwise around town. Some other teams went anti clockwise and some zigzagged through the town. With teams going in every direction the town was a buzz of activity. People doing there shopping cheering us on others asking what was happening. Trying to keep racing but also be polite and let them know we were adventure racing. Smiles on faces and shop keepers coming out to have a look really made this in town race a buzz. We didn’t think we had any issues picking up our numbers. We again shouted words of encouragement to other newcomers and abuse at our old friends. Reaching the courthouse we totalled up the numbers give the Marshal our answer 6335 and it was wrong. To get the right answer we had a word search and after completing the word search the remaining letters would make up the number. The word search complete we pieced together the letters to spell out 6333. Two away on our total and it wasn’t until after the race we realised we had picked the wrong number in a series in the subway. I think we weren’t the only ones with two out judging by the amount of teams on the ground trying to complete the word search.
We left the courthouse and backtracked along the river heading back to the main transition picking up a checkpoint on the way and receiving another Map. When we arrived at the transition we got our helmets on and lifted a kayak for the river section. Lifejackets on we started paddling up stream towards the town again. The kayak section was definitely not the longest but it wasn’t the easiest either. On the outward journey we paddled against the flow and at the halfway point we had to shout our team number to the marshal and turn around and paddle back to the start. Although it was downstream we were paddling into the wind and the waves from the lough made it a bit harder.
Exiting the kayaks we jumped onto the bikes following the path along the lough shore in the direction of Greenmount collage. Picking up a couple of checkpoints along the way we arrived into the grounds of the collage. Rick was waiting to great us with our orienteering maps for the collage. We dropped of the bikes and headed of on foot. The good thing about this race and the number of competitors everyone always seemed to be together. Not always going the same way but passing each other along different sections. It really kept the craic alive with banter throughout each stage.
Maps in hand we took off in the opposite direction to most. Picking up the controls and having a good bit of banter with fellow competitors along the way. The terrain here was easy going and with most of it on paths or close to paths navigating this was a breeze. Again no issues and cleared the course pretty quickly. We ran back through the main grounds and picked up the bikes.
Leaving the grounds of the collage we followed the maps back towards the town centre. Picking up a checkpoint on the way our next location was Mauds Ice cream shop. The special task here was to eat an ice cream each. It was really refreshing having been drinking energy drinks and nothing else all the way round. Mine was gone in a flash and I use the cone to stop from getting ice cream head. Checkpoint complete we again backtracked across the river and collected the same checkpoints as previously heading back to transition area. At the transition we done a loop of the car park and then were instructed to time out and wait for a river crossing.
Now that we were off the clock I think it was the only time I have ever been able to take my time and eat during a race. With sandwiches eaten the rain started and it got very cold. We got a chance to chat to others before it was our turn to cross. As other teams started their kayak section we tried to cheer them on and encourage the new comers and less experienced. When I saw one girl sitting too far forward I shouted move back a bit in the seat. As she didn’t understand me Andy thought he would explain. “Move into the Bumhole” he shouted not realising what he had said and to the amusement of the other teams listening. It worked and she eased back ever so slowly into “The Bumhole” That laugh got us all warmed up again ready for our turn to cross.
This section had a couple of Canadian canoes tied together to form a raft. We had to load the bikes into the Canadian canoes and use a rope to pull ourselves across to the other side. On reaching the other side we took our time to get the life jackets off and bikes ready before timing on again. As we reached the other check point one team got into bother with cramps. I stopped and give guy a sachet of Dioralyte to try and help and then quickly jumped back on the bike and headed for the next checkpoint. Following the map we headed into the grounds of shane’s castle. Pedalling hard along the lough shore we had a couple of checkpoints to collect before reaching the castle itself. At the castle we had another task. From the map of the castle we had to find the trailbadgers and at each had a number attached. At one of the locations there was a code reference sheet were we could work out letters for the numbers. We got a couple of numbers and quickly worked out the name kicking ourselves not to get it straight away. Always read the instructions clearly!! We were back on the bikes still heading away from Antrim in the estate grounds. Crossing gates and picking up checkpoints we followed the Motorway underpass to the next checkpoint and secret task.
This task we both had a paint ball gun and target to hit. We had 5 shots each and both of us had to hit the target on our first attempt. I missed my first and Andy missed his quickly we went for our second shot as Andy hit his second I was sure I hit mine also. I was told I hadn’t so I carried on hitting it on my 4th attempt. As we both hit one we didn’t have to do the Sin Bin run. This would have been an extra run as a penalty for missing.
Back tracking under the Motorway underpass we pushed hard for the next checkpoint. Andy took a bit of cramp and stopped to stretch as I hopped the gate for the next checkpoint. After he got rid of the cramp we pedalled back towards the castle picking up another couple of checkpoints. Then it was back along the lough shore to the river crossing. As we waited we had to do a puzzle. Something taken from the 11+ I suspect but still got us thinking. We had to decipher the names of each of the canoeists using questions and colours in the pictures but also use this to answer the final question. With this done it was time to cross the river again. This time we had marshals paddling so we got to relax for all of two seconds until they had us back on the other bank. Bikes out of the kayaks we pedalled around the car park for two checkpoints then back to the running track. As we reached the running track we had the option of the 30km bonus loop. Andy’s Legs were shot and he said no, I didn’t put up any fight and we were then instructed to complete the race it was another three leg race but this time under the steeple chase hurdles. We followed the track crawling under all the hurdles before the final water hurdle. At least this washed the shoes as we hopped in up to our knees. We cruised the last straight to the finish dibbing on the finish line to complete race one.
Tango and Cash have done a great job in organising a fun filled race with something different around every corner. Thanks Lads and I hope to see you for the other rounds. The race seemed to run like clockwork despite the large numbers and the tightly packed field. This could only be achieved by the help of all the marshals on the day. They might not think they do a lot individually but without each of their combined efforts the race would not have worked. Therefore a massive thanks goes to everyone that helped out. Thanks as always goes to the main CCAR crew who once again have shown their commitment to developing the sport and getting more people involved at all levels and abilities. Great work from you all and a job well done.
Cheers to Joanne McCallum, Spark, Tango and Cash and who ever elses photos I have nicked for the Blog ;-)
It was great to see so many people out there giving it ago. The battle of Antrim was fought hard for the front runners and enjoyed immensely by the newcomers. This is exactly what the sport is all about and makes being part of it a great experience. It shows you don’t have to be super fit or in fact fit at all to take part. You only have to look at the smiling faces crossing the line to see just how enjoyable these races can be.
Roll on Round 2 for more of the same!