Questars Chilterns Adventure

Like many people, I watched World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji with Bear Grylls during lockdown and thought “that looks cool”. When I mentioned to Mark from Cycle Care Leeds, it turned out he was a serious adventure racer and recommended Questars as a good beginner-level event. So, I signed up.

It was down in the Chilterns so the three of us decided to make a weekend of it. Thanks to a rolling COVID start policy, my race did not begin until 11:31 so I had plenty of time on the morning of the race to get ready. One kit malfunction: one of the Salomon soft flasks leaked and so I could only carry around 450 ml of water in the remaining one. That said, once I arrived at the revenue and the clock was ticking, everything happened much faster.

I had a specific kayak slot towards the end of the five-hour time limit so I concluded I had to run first as the kayak transition was a 10-kilometre cycle away.

The video

Trail running

I didn’t get a chance to look at the map before I started and my experience of orienteering was a couple of YouTube videos and a long phone call with Steve Rhodes who offered me plenty of helpful advice. I decided to head off in the same direction as most people, reach a checkpoint to prove I could read and follow a map and then work it out from there.

Luckily, the first control was easy to find and from there I was able to see a clear loop that wound bring me around several checkpoints and back in time for the two hours I had allocated to running. I got lost once or twice but quickly managed to find my way again and hit the two-hour window perfectly. The biggest problem was working out what was a public footpath and what was someone’s garden.

Mountain biking

I had rented a mountain bike from Cycle Experience. It was a nice enough bike but could have really done with an ass saver for the muddy parts and a bottle cage so I could take a bidon with me. It took me a bit of time to get the saddle right and in general, my lack of skills on a mountain bike were evident.

Some bridleways were gravel and dirt tracks, or wide forest tracks. Others were winding overgrown footpaths covered in rocks, roots and branches. on the latter, I did not have the skill to navigate them. One particularly narrow track had deep mud, a barbed-wire fence to one side and a huge amount of nettles to the other. Any fall would have ended very badly, so I decided to get off and push at that point.

I got chatting to someone before the race who said he had brought his cross bike and was going to avoid the trickiest terrain and stick mostly to roads and hard surfaces. I probably would have scored more points if I had done the same but as it was I made it to three controls. Not a total disaster given I got lost far more on the bike and ended up late to my kayak slot.


Everyone says that you need to engage your core when paddling or you will tire your arms out. For me, it was my quads that were screaming. I am not sure whether it was how I was sitting, or whether I am simply the first person ever to be too inflexible to kayak. Trying to master the basics, I made it 1500 metres down the canal without seeing any controls.

Luckily, on the way back I spotted two, with may have been the only two given the distance I managed. I felt a little more in control on the way back and I did not fall in the water, so definitely something I would do again.

The finish

Arriving at the kayak point late meant I only had 30 minutes to make it back to the finish. I stuck to roads on the way back and navigated without any problems, with a little careful checking of most junctions. I put my bike back into transition and sprinted for the finish line, crossing it with 72 seconds to spare!

In reality, I had more time than that as the kayak transition is deducted from your time but I wasn’t sure how much buffer I had when I finished. My score of 395 was good enough for 30th out of 59. Not too shabby for a first-timer and ultimately, I had fun, which was the aim of the race.

Kit list

If you want to see how I packed for the race, check out this kit video:



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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 8th, 2021 at 8:16 pm and is filed under Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.