Jamie Buckle, Team RAF100 and GodZone Adventure Race 2018

In a second interview with members of Team RAF 100 entering GodZone Adventure Race in New Zealand in March 2018, we talked to Jamie Buckle, the team leader and one of the two navigators.

GodZone 2018 will be held in the Fiordland region of the South Island and will be 7-10 days long, and run over over one of the longest ever adventure race courses, around 600 kilometres. It will also see one of the largest fields ever gathered for a major adventure race, as it has recently been increased to 100 teams. On hearing this, and with the 100th anniversary celebrations of the RAF coming up in 2018, the RAF team members asked if they would be able to claim Team 100, which they were duly offered.

Team RAF 100 has less than four month to prepare now, and as with every event like this, there is plenty to organise and plenty of training to do. A Life of Adventure will continue to follow Team RAF 100 in their preparations for the event. 

Members of Team RAF 100 at Expedition Africa

Members of Team RAF 100 at Expedition Africa

First a bit of Form
Jamie Buckle: I got into adventure racing through triathlon, which I did for a few years. Eventually though, after I had done plenty of regular length and a few ironman triathlons, I thought ‘OK, I’ve done that... What next?’ I came across adventure racing literally by searching the net to see what other long race there were out there.

I found the Adventure Race World Series, which I dismissed initially, but Expedition Africa in South Africa just kept coming back up. It looked like something totally ifferent, and the location was really appealing. We entered a couple of shorter races here, but as it turned out, our first real adventure race was expedition length (Expedition Africa is 4-5 days long).

In 2014 we competed as four guys so we were an unranked team, and we were not expecting to finish but we managed to. It turned out to be a fantastic experience, although one guy said ‘never again’. The rest of us have been back twice now.  

Why GodZone? Why now?
It’s the bucket list event in the AR calendar and we think we’re ready as a team now. There are a few of us within the RAF who have experience of adventure racing and we feel we should be able to do the race justice. It probably would have been naïve to have done it any earlier.

It looks like this race will really take us into the wilderness, more than previous GodZones even, so we may not see any people or civilisation right up to the finish line. It’s a great element of this race. Part of the appeal of adventure racing is the great destinations it takes you to and in New Zealand we're expecting pristine wilderness with beautiful but brutal mountains. Being part of such a large field of competitors will also be a great experience as it is unusual to have such a big field.

How important is the physical side?
There’s no doubt it’s good to have the strength. Our new team member, Penny Grayson, is a very strong GB triathlete, and she has done some shorter events, so it will be interesting to see how she gets on. If anything we might have to keep her from going off too fast.

However, there’s also no doubt that the mental aspect is much the most important. I’ve always felt that slow people get faster as the race goes on, and the faster and stronger people tend to drop off in their speed and performance.

Canyoning, Expedition Africa

Canyoning, Expedition Africa

What is the most challenging aspect of the training?
The training is pretty challenging at this time of the winter, particularly anything that's water-based, the pack-rafting and the like. From the newsletters we’re getting there will be a lot of water activity and I’m pretty jealous of the local teams who are training through their summer.

Our last planned team weekend was derailed by work duty commitments. However we have been able to get together in pairs for runningtrg and practicing some elements of transitions. We now have our packrafts so the Christmas break will be spent mastering those before a packed January including Pen Y Fan race and a dedicated training weekend in North Wales with sea paddling, biking and rafting. Then the following weekend we will be racing as pairs (boys v girls) at the Marmot Night Marathon at the Forest of Bowland.  By that stage there will be only one month to go.

In another way, for us, with all our work commitments in the RAF, the biggest worry is managing to get all four team-members to the start line. We are all on operational readiness and it’s quite possible that someone might be called away. We do have a couple of reserve team members, but they can’t be expected to have trained up to the same level. Anyway, we’ll be relieved when we get to the airport as a complete team.

Does your Air Force background help with adventure racing?
I think it does. Our day job prepares us for all sorts of aspects of racing, right down to the logistics. Within the team, the four of us know what training the others have been through and their capabilities. And we know the discomfort too. Three of us have gone through escape and evasion training and interrogation, so we can be happy that we can cope with everything that’s thrown at us. It’s a useful background to have.

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In some ways the hierarchical structure works well, because everyone understands how a team works, but we’re a small enough team that we know that when the leader is no longer capable of making a sensible decision, the next person will step up and we can trust them to do it.

Also it’s good to be able to contribute to the RAF 100 celebrations next year. And lastly the sport is growing. There is a group of people with experience of adventure racing within the RAF now and it would be good to get it recognised by the Sports Board as an official sport.

What are your general expectations?
The four of us discussed what we hope to achieve and decided we would like to manage a full-course finish. It depends on the course organisation, how the race is structured, and some other factors like the weather, but it would be great not to be short-coursed.

From a personal point of view, as the lead organiser, I would like to know that I have led the team to their limits, including my own, so that we get the maximum of ourselves. 

What does adventure racing mean to you?
The thing I have grown to love about adventure racing is the unknown. Getting the map and instructions only just before you start means you don’t know what the course holds until the very last minute. And when you’re out there, you might not even know what lies an hour ahead of you. So you have to cope with whatever you get. It’s all about self-sufficiency making good decisions and getting through whatever the circumstances.

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Team RAF 100 is competing in honour of RAF 100, the centenary celebrations of the Royal Air Force to be held in 2018. They were granted team No. 100 by the organisers of the event when the field was increased to 100 teams in total. You can also follow Team RAF100 on their facebook page. Also, read an interview with Laura Frowen, another member of Team RAF 100.

And link to the GodZone 2018 website here.