The Full Monty 2007

An epic non-stop 170km adventure race across Shropshire: 60km kayak, 60km bike and 50km run. Sounds like a laugh!

Below, Col and Ally bring you the story of the weekend that was, and then Bob and Gem tell it like it really was... There's also a video with dramatic footage of the mid-race safari.

31st March 2007


The Full Monty – Race Report

Pre Race

The Full Monty adventure began last year at the Southern Scotland ACE Race, when we spoke to another pair who had taken part. Nothing was mentioned, but Ally and I were secretly taken by the idea of racing for more than 24 hours on foot, by bike and by kayak. Little did we know what we were in for!

Fast forward to Thursday 29th of March 2007 and Bob and I were in Gem’s car with all the gear, heading south to Bristol. We had to overcome a few obstacles even before the race began, like modifying Gem’s roof bars to take bikes [finally putting five years of engineering to use!] and ensuring we had absolutely everything we could possibly need, including about 200 bananas, teacakes and Tunnocks propaganda - I think we had enough kit to support three teams!

After a nice meal on Thursday evening and a good sleep on Friday night, Gem headed to work and Bob and I began to get the transition bags ready. We also had to fix my bike which didn’t have a good bearing left in it! Shopping was purchased [again for about ten people!] and a huge meal was cooked. Ally flew in about 11pm and there was plenty of race banter, but we were very aware we’d need to rise at 5am so it was an early bed all round.

Saturday 0500hrs

Everyone piles out of bed, into car along with all kit and travel to Shrewsbury. Journey was uneventful apart from motor biker with a death wish! We arrived with plenty time and began to get sorted for the race start. The briefing at 9am set out the format for the weekend – which was basically; paddle 30k, bike 60k, run 50k, paddle 30k. Easy!

1000 – Race start

We started amongst a flurry of white water and clashing paddles under a bridge in the centre of Shrewsbury. This continued till the weir where we had to get out, pull the canoe out and then re-enter the river and carry on our merry way. The kayak was fairly uneventful if a little tedious though the pull out was a mission. It involved dragging the boat, all kit and ourselves up a ten foot muddy bank, through a field and then across a road. Once into the transition we relaxed for about fifteen minutes, took on some bananas, honey, sandwiches, soup, wafers, crisps etc! Quick toilet stop, into bike kit and away.

1350 – Start of bike section

In the first ten minutes of riding we overtook about five teams. This worried me a bit; did they know something we didn’t?! Were we going too fast? We carried on racing our own race and got to the first checkpoint fairly rapidly. There was some nice singletrack on the ride which we hadn’t really expected from the maps– and to be honest I really enjoyed it. We passed the Irish team and had some chat about the merits of our DIY map board. The sun stayed out and we had some excellent weather to accompany the amazing downhill sections towards the end of the ride. Transition was unfortunately uphill from this so we had a bit of a slog to get to the end but we finished at 18:07 with a total ride time of 4h 22mins; we were pretty pleased!

Our early arrival in transition meant we were ahead of schedule for the run – which we were not allowed to start until 10pm so we now had time to have a good meal and actually get some sleep. We had about 90mins kip and got up at 9pm, got dressed, packed bags and prepared for what was going to be the hardest part – potentially 12hours of running and walking 30 miles over hills and through fields!

2200 – Trek start

We started at 10pm on the button with quite a few others teams – some of the other teams seemed to be letting us have a head start for some reason? Presumably they were grabbing some rest having completed the optional bike. We ran for the first 30mins or so, unless the hills became significant. Then broke into a very rapid walk! So rapid that most teams who were jogging by this point couldn’t keep up – such was the stride of this lanky pair!

We made friends with one team who’d put a speaker on their iPod and were playing some tunes to break the monotony. To keep myself sane I began to count stiles. We crossed a lot of stiles. I think it ended up being about 146 but I’d give that plus or minus 5 to taking into account my mental state at points!

The night dragged on but we kept marching and ended up with Team North Face for a while – until they upped their pace and pushed on into the darkness! We met up with Gem and Bob twice during the night. This was invaluable and we’d have struggled to go like we did without that. After the last time we met them [around 4 or 5am] we had a bit of a navigational epic and ended up trudging round fields trying to find an old railway line.

In the end we escaped to a road and managed to find our way to the top of the hill. At this point we were both very tired and so concentrating on nav. and, in my case, staying awake was proving difficult! I felt my eyes close three or four times and woke up walking against a hedge or in a ditch. I also had a few weird hallucinations. Twice I saw logs that weren’t there, I also stepped over a cat and saw an imaginary duck flying. Very weird?!

As we got to the top of the last hill, we had an excellent view of the sunrise. Unfortunately we couldn’t hang around and were running back down the hill shortly after. We could see the next [and final] transition by this point. After some rummaging around in woods and fields, we found our way onto the road and began the final march to the transition. We met Bob and Gem on the way and topped up on tea or soup – it can’t actually remember, it was warm though!

Coming into the kayak transition, we were joined by another pair of racers. They walked with us to the transition and as we got nearer, a sprint ensued! TeamTeacake arrived by not much more than a midge’s dick ahead of the other pair! In transition, we rested for about half an hour. Had a bite of food, got dressed and got into the kayaks for the last time!

0835 – Final kayak

We started the final leg quite gently, with the sun warming us nicely and our legs aching like hell! The kayak was [again] fairly boring except for a few incidents. We almost rolled the boat when we hit a submerged rock sideways! Ally got attacked by a very angry swan – it went for his head and we were scared. I kept falling asleep and Ally had to wake me up, the biggest problem with this was that I nearly fell out of the boat every time I snoozed off. We were overtaken by the old boys in the Canadian canoe who had tremendous beards and were amazing paddlers; respect!

I planned a sprint finish in the kayak and in typical Colin style completely misjudged it and ended up sprinting from about 2 kilometres out. Ouch! I was digging deep and hitting Ally with the shovel.

We finished almost bang on 1pm on Sunday – 27 hours after we launched from the same point – what an epic! The results are now out; we finished 2nd of the 11 teams who did the same route as us. Well done to everyone who attempted it, never mind finished it!

Big big thank you to Ally for being an awesome navigator and team mate and to Gem and Bob for being very organised, helpful and motivating – it would have been quite a different story without you guys!

The Full Monty - Race Support Report

Acting as race support for Team Teacake, Bob and Gem had an equally sleep deprived weekend. With little to do between transitions but drive around Shropshire and eat, we set about matching the racers bite for bite. They burned about 10,000 calories we reckon... we burnt 3. Here's the view from the other side.

1000:  Watch Team Teacake survive the start without sinking. Pleased. Crazy lady shouting “Take ‘em out!”… decide it’s time to leave.

1015:  Navigating Shrewsbury town centre by 1:50,000. Get trapped in never-ending one-way-system of doom. Escape more by chance than design; miraculously end up going in right direction. Arrive at weir to witness TT portage around… exchange frantic waves. Excitement over, we head to checkpoint 1.

1045:  Arrive at CP1 with lots of time to spare. Go in search of tea and cake: difficult. Shropshire ruled out as future Tearoom Challenge location. Tearoom eventually located at large manor house. Experience best safari of our lives (also only safari of our lives) driving through estate grounds… see many cows. Decide they could do with a good feed but are conserving the peanut butter and jam sandwiches for TT, and so pass by. Tea and cake costs around 21p but entry to grounds is £48.50+VAT and so leave disappointed. Recommended to head to caravan for good (cheap) tearoom. After 30mins searching we can confirm there is no bloody caravan site. Disillusioned and cakeless, we head back to CP1.

1130:  Feel very much like Mum and Dad waiting for the kids to race past. Take longer than hoped, so we resolve to have a word with the coach as to why the obviously talented little Col and Ally aren’t receiving the same quality of coaching as the other children.

1325:  Ally’s lights, mapboard and saddlebag fitted to bike according with meticulously pre-prepared Ikea-style instructions. Col’s bike assembled with string and tape (lots of). Head chef Gem prepares 4 course set menu (cream of tomato soup, duck à l'orange, crème brûlée, selection of regional cheeses).

1420:  TT foolishly opt for just the soup. Speedily remove kayak gear and lycra-up for the bike. Gone in a flash amid assurances that the wetsuits were not peed-in, contrary to pre-race chat.

1500:  ‘Yak kit dried on roof of wendy house. Bribe race officials with teacakes. Sunbathe for a bit. Awesome.

1615:  Arrive at CP to be told that TT passed through 40mins ago. Cool. Bribe marshal with further chocolate coated mallow and biscuit confectionery, and aim further ahead.

1625:  Pass ramblers on road. Their attention is drawn to the sticker on the bonnet (“Glucose!! Chocolate!! Sugar!! Too! Tunnock’s milk chocolate Teacakes are good for you!”) and declare an interest in consuming such a delicacy. Teacakes duly distributed: happy ramblers.

1645:  Park at top of long hill to enjoy watching competitors slog up. Refuel TT and take dinner orders; spirits high. Admire giant pig heads cut into hedge… eh? Take opportunity to put 45mins in the sleep bank.

1850:  Our 3 star Michelin chef has prepared tortellini con spinachi e ricotta. TT consume leisurely (with a glass or two of ’86 Château “Go”) as the run doesn’t start until 10pm and the very fast bike has gained us time.

1845:  As TT catch an hour’s shuteye, Bob battles Vodafone to enable multimedia messaging… success and the blogging begins! Meanwhile Gem attempts to offload bananas (organic, no less) to competitors (through a fortuitous link to a farmer with a tenuous link to a banana importer we have several hundred); uptake is limited.

2205:  Sleep for a bit.

0005:  Alarm goes off; we do not want to get up. Gem especially, as it takes 5mins of shaking, head-tapping and hair-pulling to wake her. Do a good job of waking up the sleeping marshals by tripping over stuff.

0040:  As we arrive at the first checkpoint we get a call from Ally; they’re ahead of schedule by an incredible 8km. We speed off to the revised meeting point. Except we actually speed off in the opposite direction… bugger. Gem impersonates Sebastien Loeb back to where we started, then get back on track and arrive in the nick of time. TT consume hot chocolate (and a hefty slug of honey) before heading off into the darkness. We delay the next few competitors with bananas and water, heh heh.

0330:  We get lost in the World’s Smallest Industrial Estate, but recover to park up on the race route and settle in to wait. Chat is varied and of high quality, ranging from Rat Race strategies to marketing and the finer points of sensory branding. After a rather tired TT pass though we place bananas and water in front of the Race Support Vehicle (RSV) and fall asleep. We awake an hour later very cold and with confused recollections of footsteps, headtorches and grateful voices. Encouragingly, half the bananas have gone. As we leave we pass an extremely cold looking pair of heavily bearded gentlemen who bravely turn down our offer of clothing… well ‘ard.

0530:  As light begins to fill the sky a shape looms out of the darkness; the final hill. A bloody pyramid 400m tall… we hope the guys have got to its foot before they can see the bugger.

0630:  We make an arse of navigating the maze of wee yellow roads in the twilight but get to the meeting point nonetheless. We whip up a quick tomate consommé but I don’t think they know what they’re eating by this point. Delirious, they skip off into the sunrise (literally).

0740:  Witness a bizarre sprint to the final transition. I guess they think they’re coordinated but there are arms and legs everywhere. Nevertheless, TT record victory.

0750:  The marshals are clearly tiring of our efforts to rid ourselves of bananas. We butter them up with further confectionery, including Caramel Wafers. These are factory rejects (quality failure: imperfect chocolate coating), which amuses them greatly.

0820:  The good ship Teacake is launched for the final time in most inelegant fashion; Col slides 5ft on his backside in the mud. We observe from a safe distance. Team Teacake jerseys over buoyancy aids give the appearance of heavily pregnant, large-breasted bodybuilders. We stifle laughter in the interests of team unity.

1020:  With a few hours to spare, we go in search of ice cream. Delightful sunny walk along the waters edge with cone and ’99 ensues.

1259:  Gem nips off to toilet.

1300:  TT finish! Again, some sort of sprint is going on but this time there’s no competitor. Still much flailing of arms with spray everywhere.

1301:  Gem returns from toilet. Much congratulation, much excitement. We de-sticker the car, pack up and head home. The in-car chat lasts approx. 5mins before Col and Ally resemble those wee dogs you stick in the rear window of the car… heads dangling, fast asleep.