Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Raid 24 Hour Adventure Race

The Raid 24 Hour Adventure Race
The Sperrin Mountains

Kayak Toome to Portglenone 13km
The race started with the usual race briefing and kit checks. We got our maps and then were bussed to Toome for the first stage. The teams all had 4 persons and most had a female member in each team. The teams got their Kayaks paired up and took to the water in the river Bann. The start would be a mass start in the water heading down stream.

The river was fairly calm but the open lough beg section was fairly rough. Thankfully the wind was on our backs and we were able to surf some of the waves from time to time. We stopped briefly at Newferry water-ski club to dib at the first check point. A long pull to the next check point at Portglenone forest. At this check point we got the boats out of the water as we would be doing a foot orienteering section through the forest.
Foot Orinteering - Portglenone forest 3km
We got an orienteering map of the forest with a number of checkpoints to collect. All of these would be done in order. The forest floor was quite open so straight lining was the best option between checkpoints. We were picking these up very easily and when we crossed the road for two checkpoints on the other side we passed a few teams who were struggling to find them. We crossed back into the main forest and picked up the last couple of checkpoints. After a drink and a snack we got back into the kayak for the second paddle section.

Kayak Portglenone to Kilrea. 11.5km
The last section seemed to go a lot quicker than the first. I think this was due to the first section having the lough crossing. We paddled down to Portna Lockgates. The weeks before the race had seen a lot of rain and the river was well flooded. Having been warned about the flow of water and the dangers of the flood gates at portna all teams hugged the river banks coming into this section. We had to turn left into the canal avoiding continuing forward in the fast flow. The river was very fast at this section as the flood gates were open to let the flood water down. Missing the turn off and going over the edge into the stopper would have probably resulted in Death. Something we heard twice in the race briefing. It makes you pay attention when you hear death in a race briefing. Despite the flood water it was still a long tough paddle in the sit on top kayaks. A welcome site was the steps at Portna.

Run to Woodhall Activity centre. High ropes Task 1.5km

After we changed out of our wet gear we ran the short road section from Portna to Woodhall activity centre. At this point we would be off the clock. We took the time to get some food and a change of clothes where it was needed. When we were ready we went to the high ropes section.

There were two separate tasks one the Jacobs ladder and the other the Leap of Faith. The Jacobs ladder was a large ladder made from wooden beams suspended by metal wire. The gaps between the poles got bigger as the ladder got higher. The objective was for three team members to climb the ladder. The climbers could not use the wires or the safety belay rope to climb or balance. It was a test of team work using each other as a means of balance.

The Leap of faith was a test of nerve and agility. First there was a climb up a ladder to a platform on the pole about 15-20ft up.
In front of the platform there was a ball suspended in the air. The jumper had to decide how far from the platform he wanted the challenge to be. The further away the greater points but also more difficult.
The jumper had a harness and a safety rope with a marshal ready to tighten the rope as you start to fall. The jump reminded me of a bungee jump. Knowing you were on a rope but still having that doubt as to it catching you. With this section cleared with a top score it was back to the kit boxes and pick up our bikes.

Cycle kilrea to Tirkane mountain. 19.5km
It was starting to get dark at this point and the cycle from Kilrea to the mountain was on a number of small back roads. We picked up a couple of check points along the road. With head torches and bike lights both solid and flashing we looked like a Christmas tree. It was a really nice pedal on roads at night.

Foot orienteering over the mountains 17.5km
When we reached the carpark on Tirkane Mountain it was proper dark. We dropped the bikes off and headed into the mountains. The first section was pretty straight forward following a track to the summit. The clouds had cleared and the starry sky above made the climb up really special. On the summit the navigation really started. We took a bearing from the pole at the summit to the next checkpoint. This was a tough open mountain section on long heather and very uneven rough terrain. Our first mistake was on reaching some tougher sections we tried to find an easier way around it. This didn’t save us time and we missed the next check point. When we reached the track on the map we turned right but unfortunately we were to the right of the checkpoint. When we got to the fork in the track we realised our mistake. At this point we decided to miss the next two checkpoints and take the time penalty. The next checkpoint we found easy as we had a fence close by to follow. When we crossed the fence and headed for the next track we went a little too far to the right walking to the side of the track we were looking for. We eventually found it and headed down the mountain towards the next checkpoint. The mountain section was very slow and even with the shortcuts we were still the last team back.

Hike a bike over the mountains 21km
After we picked up the bikes we would retrace our path back up the mountain. The first section we rode with no difficulty. The next section was very washed out and rough so we pushed the bikes up to the top. When we reached the end of the track it was back into the open mountain. Having went slightly of course on some of the other sections we decided to keep by the compass as best we could with more regular checks. This worked and we got right to the gate we were looking for. Looking back on this section I think we learned a valuable lesson about navigation at night. Trust your instinct, never doubt your judgement and ALWAYS follow the compass.
Cycle Glenshane to Hall 10.5km
The track we followed took us on a fast decent towards the Glenshane pass. The glenshane forest had a couple of checkpoints and a track to the stop of point. We got a puncture just after the track section so after changing it took the road direct to the event hall and a welcome break. Kit boxes with food dry clothes and spare batteries for bike lights and head torches.
On leaving the hall competitors took the back roads that run down the valley in the direction of Dungiven. There was a further two checkpoints on the road section. After dungiven there was another rope section.

Ropes task and Foot orienteering 3km
Teams had to walk a rope section with a river crossing and zip line. At the end of the ropes there was a short orienteering section on foot before returning to the bikes.

Bikes from dungiven to Banagher Dam 8.5km
The next section was a long road bike ride with some very steep climbs. Checkpoints on the way took the race into Banagher glen. Climbing on the road to the back of Banagher dam and the Reservoir.

Kayak the reservoir 4km
The Kayak section was up the reservoir and back down. With most teams doing the paddle at night. The valley makes this section fairly calm and a smooth water paddle. At the end of the kayak section teams got back on the bikes.
Cycle from banagher dam to the mountain Foot Orinteering 15.5km
Leaving the kayaks teams followed the forest tracks through Banagher forest and across the mountain. A steep climb up one side on rough forest tracks and a fast descent down the other side. The forest track crossed the river at a ford and then exited the forest onto the Glenedra road. There was two check points in the forest across the road or missing these took competitors across the mountain roads in the direction of Draperstown.

Foot orienteering across two mountains 12km
At McDaids Pit teams parked the bikes for a very tough orienteering section on foot. The teams descended one valley crossing the Moydamlaght Road and climbing the very steep rocky mountain section to the left of Moydamlaght forest. Crossing the mountain into the forest and then returning across the road and climbing back up to the bikes.

Final cycle – Trail quest through to the finish. 36km
The next section was a series of checkpoints stretching almost to Maghera and back through Moneyneany to the sixtowns community centre for the welcome sight of the finish line. After teams had a hot shower we all went to the Shepards Rest for a sit down meal and prize giving.

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