Beacon Adventure Racing will be one of around 40 or so teams competing in Britain’s only expedition length adventure race, ITERA, which takes place in Scotland in mid-August. The team consists of Andy Wayland and Ross Phillips, who have raced together for many years, who are joined by Andy Woodhouse and Helen Chapman.
ITERA 2019, staged out of the city of Inverness, is a five-day, non-stop adventure race for mixed teams of four, with disciplines including mountain biking, kayaking and hiking with complex navigation. The full course, some 600 kilometres long, will have the magnificent mountains, rivers and coastlines of the Highlands of Scotland as its backdrop and will run Monday 12th- Friday 16thAugust, when the nights will still be quite short (dark between about 1030 and 0430). The fastest teams are expect to complete the course in around 60 hours.
First a bit of Form
Andy Wayland: Beacon Adventure Racing’s original inspiration came in 2012 from watching all the episodes of Eco-Challenge on Youtube. We were not very fit, and didn’t train at all at the time, but we decided we’d have a go. This year the team comprises of Andy Wayland, 53, a Chief Technology Officer and Ross Phillips, 57, a Commercial Managing Director for large Engineering Projects, both of whom are long-standing members of the team. Then there are Andrew Woodhouse, aka Mouse, 37, a Senior Tunnelling Engineer and Helen Chapman, 38, a Licensing Manager. Helen and Andrew are regular and successful competitors in Questars and tri-adventure events – a worrying factor for the older team members…
The original team’s first multi-day adventure race was in Slovenia. Since then we have taken part in races including the infamous Raid Bimbache in Spain in 2013 (infamous because a deputy race organiser ran off with the race fees just before the start and the race organiser saved the day by bailing it out himself), the Beast of Ballyhoura in Ireland in 2014, the Basque Expedition Race in 2016 and the Czech Adventure Race in 2015 and 2017.
The name Beacon comes from the fact that the original team, including Andy and Ross, met at the Beacon Church in Camberley. Andrew Woodhouse joined through a common involvement in Scouting (Andrew and Ross help lead Explorer Scouts, teens from 14 to 18, and get to do all the adventure stuff with them). Andrew introduced Helen from seeing her win at multiple Questars events.
Why ITERA, why now?
The main reason for entering is that it’s an excuse to get a new bike and then to have something to drop into casual conversation down the pub ! But also ITERA has a history of good races in epic locations, organised by racers. This year looks to be the best yet! We have wanted to enter another ARWS-class race for a number of years and ITERA 2019 fitted the bill. The previous ITERA races in Wales and Ireland were a great dot watching experience and clearly the organisers knew how to run an exciting and challenging event. We tend to pick one expedition race a year if we can. We are all busy career people so that’s the maximum we can do. The target helps focus the training.
What are your expectations of the organisation and logistics?
I think we can already see a certain secretiveness, sense of humour, and confidence from the race organisers that bodes well for some real challenges and intuition about what makes a great adventure race. Doubtless when we will roll over the line on Friday, making the cut-off by the skin of our teeth, it will feel like the race has wrung every ounce of energy, skill and team work from the competitors. I think during the race we will have several breath-taking moments when we realise we are being led through a place of exceptional beauty and significance that the race designers know we will empathise with.
Having the Munroes, lochs and glens of Scotland as our adventure playground for a week is an exciting prospect, although we have speculated that we might end up floating in the mist, in the middle of Loch Ness at 3am seeing sleep-monsters or worse! Deep fried Mars Bars, Haggis and single malt whisky will have to figure in race strategy somewhere, and we will need a midge-avoidance strategy too - although racing with Andy and Ross (both midge magnets of note), Andrew and Helen will probably be totally safe.
The length of the kayaking is going to be a major challenge compared with races we’ve done in the past. “Some” of us are looking forward to that! Bring on Loch Ness at midnight!
What specific training have you done?
Everyone has been doing their own thing to a large extent. We’ve managed a few joint outings but not as many as we would have liked. The lifestyles and business of today make it really difficult to align calendars. We haven’t had any overnight sessions this time, nor any all-weekend sessions, in fact - in the past we have found them counterproductive because they destroyed the next few weeks of normal training
However, between us, we have managed quite a bit of cycling… in the Dolomites, Sri Lanka, France following Tour de France, Ireland and Wales, plus the Isle of Wight Ultra and multiple Questars. Helen even cycled from her boyfriend’s home (in Devon) to her home (Berkshire) in a day. She wouldn't have minded but they were still in Devon 50 miles after starting.
Helping the new team members has really been about imparting the fact that at some stage in a long race everyone feels rubbish but you’ll get through it. If you feel like pulling out because you’re feeling bad, then sleep for a couple of hours and then re-evaluate the situation.
What Strategies do you have?
We can all navigate to a certain extent, although I think Helen and Andrew (Mouse) will be strong choices at the start. Ross tends to get stronger the longer into the race we go. Andy will be mother hen, nagging in transition, and on drinking and eating, and challenging on the most efficient strategy. Helen is our bet for team mule as she is probably the fittest among us! We have established food and logistics methods which break the race down into a series of tasks – with coded zip lock bags and labels. This takes a lot of the thinking out of the transitions when you’re tired.
In the past we have tried to avoid sleeping, or just to sleep for short bursts of 15 mins, but a better strategy ended up being to grab a couple of hours at the best time, where we come across a good place to sleep. Some of our favourites over the years have included a lavender field, a Slovenian church, a collapsed barn in a storm and a bank ATM entrance! Timing needs to fit in with the ebb and flow of the race, so we look to sleep after a particularly hard section or just before a technical piece. One thing we have learnt is sleeping in -4 degrees C up a mountain is not the best choice.
I had a good piece of advice from a friend leading up to the race when we all focussed and serious – to remember to have fun. Helen is good at making us all laugh. But most of all it’s a team sport. The team crosses the line together, so we need to get the best out of each other.
What will be the most challenging aspect of the race?
One hundred kilometres of kayaking with portages has some of us worried, especially because there’s a 600m climb thrown in!! And of course the midges.
Andy Wayland: Not knowing my daughter’s A level results and therefore whether she got into Medical School until the Friday of the race (results come out on the Thursday!)
We have learnt never to give up because, no matter how bad you feel now – in two hours you might feel totally differently. As different team members ebb in and out of strong and not so strong moments, you should keep communicating and being aware of each other. Keep talking, keep eating and most of all keep laughing. Share food and treats as well, as this bonds the team. And never refuse a tow!
Are there any things you are particularly looking forward to?
Being totally uncontactable by work!!!
What does achievement look like?
Crossing the line together knowing we got the most out of the team as a whole.a