So Quest Wales has been one of my most anticipated events of the year. One because It’s pretty different to my normal races and 2, because it sounded pretty awesome when I first got approached to take part! A race where I get to trail run, cycle and kayak; who wouldn’t want to try that out? Never one to turn down a challenge, I laced up my running shoes, pumped my tires and…errr not to sure how to get a kayak ready…luckily they did that for me.
What challenge do you want?
Given the choice of 3 distances was always going to leave me with a dilemma. Challenge was 25km, Sport was 40km and Expert was 50+km. All composing of varying distances of all three components and difficulty. Interesting fact about me: I learnt how to ride a bike really late in life so I really don’t like riding them, especially on roads with actual moving cars. Usually that would push me to make the intelligent choice and opt into the Challenge distance right? Nope! Sign me up for the Expert course please (I would later see why I am by no means an expert).
Game day: Quest Wales
Already moving on very little sleep (my companion and I managed to arrive at 1:30 am, gotta love a few hours sleep) we headed for the starting point! We somehow managed not to have breakfast so we weren’t off to the best start. I needed to collect my bike from a separate hire company to rack for the first transition point and of all things to happen, my bike wasn’t there!! Things were about to end before they could even start. A third party company were responsible for rented bikes, so the quest guys weren’t to blame, just someone who forgot to turn his bike sheet over and see 2 names (mine included) for the total amount of bikes needed.
Luckily, Betws-y-coyd is known for its mountain biking and cycling routes so there was an amazing company called Beics Betws, who loaned us some mountain bikes (which definitely worked out a lot better!). Thanks guys!
Right, with the bike racked and ready for section 2, it was go time. The first section was an 8km trail run. Perfect! Exactly what I’m used to and what I do most weekends. This first trail was pretty tough terrain. Uneven rocks and slippery slate, combined with steep hills didn’t make this a smooth run. My main focus was making sure my comrade made it through this first run as up until this point his longest run had been around 5k! Apart from that it was smooth sailing round the course back towards the bikes for the first transition.
The one thing I knew about Wales from when I was last there (doing the 3 peaks challenge) is that it is hilly! Running hills is fine, but cycling them is a whole different story! Being on a bike is something I’ve never been too comfortable with but having a ‘screw it, let’s do it’ attitude definitely helped out. Plus the great fact that with the majority of this 11km stretch it was mostly downhill. Time for some speed (apart from me being very conservative on the speed and very heavy handed on the brakes) we went through the very picturesque town of Llanrwst towards my favourite section of the course, the kayaks!
DON’T TIP OVER!
Two people in a kayak and one of them can’t swim…sounds like the start of a joke right? Nope! I think the life jackets definitely helped my friend get over his fears of sinking like a rock and he jumped in the drivers seat of the double kayak. Unfortunately because of the non stop rain and horrendous weather I think the kayak section was shortened, but even the small section was brilliant. Trying to coordinate our rowing was a task; ‘Left! Right! Left! Right!’ Ha it was great fun! Tip for the next time your in a kayak, definitely get in the front unless you want to get ALL of the backlash from the water!
So this is where the event started to take a slight turn for me. From here it was onto a 9km trail run over at least 3 types of different terrain. The views were amazing over Snowdonia National Park, and the hills were ever so slightly decreasing in incline, but I could feel myself drained of energy. The gels and quick hits of sugar didn’t seem to want to work. My legs were starting to feel pretty heavy and I became slower. My pace from the last running section dropped considerably. While I was tired, my friend was attacked with cramp which further slowed us down. I think he was shocked when he realised you could get cramp in both legs at the same time! After he stretched out, we jogged through the mostly downhill straights anticipating the final bike section.
The final part of the event was upon us with a 14km bike ride on mostly downhill and flat sections. It felt good to be off of our feet as we cycled on roads that had become a lot busier then they were in the morning. Me still being uncomfortable on the bike, I focused on getting this section finished. My confidence overtook me (as per usual) and I attempted to overtake my partner. The last thing I heard him shout as I peddled on was ‘Your going to want to slow down Mike!’. I felt fine, I felt strong, I felt…wow my legs felt like they were about to completely seize up! I pulled up on the curb and slumped to the floor in anguish as my short burst of energy and fast peddling led to the worst cramp I have ever had to date! As my friend filmed me in anguish (great friend right?) I literally just had to sit it out for 5 minutes.
After I recovered from the horrific feeling of my legs being cramped up (I’m really egging this on now) we hopped back on the bike for the final stretch. A 7km trail run to end the event and a nice sprint finish to get over the line and collect our bling was all that was left to do!
Will I be there next year?
Quest Wales was an amazing event and I am very happy that I was given the chance to take part! Don’t get me wrong, I thought the 50k was tough! But that’s coming from someone who never cycles anywhere, is ever so slightly fearful of road cycling and furthermore, didn’t train to the level I should have. Has that put me off going again? Not one bit! The variety is great, the trails and views are amazing (even when it’s raining non stop) and it feels like a proper adventure when you’re out there. I think that if you are new to the adventure racing scene, definitely be smarter and opt for one of the easier distances. If however you are ready for a great challenge or are just a bit of a nutter like myself, then this is one you need to add to your list. I would like to thank the guys at Quest Wales for the great opportunity to take part and hopefully I can do it all over again next year!
Did you take part in Quest Wales? Have you ever taken part in any of the Quest Adventure series events? What were your thoughts? Would you take part again? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading.