Swift Blog from Averne Outdoor
The adidas Terrex Swift
Thurday 2:30pm: The Arverne Team will be meeting at Vichy in order to pack the van with all the equipment listed. Direction - England. Why this destination? To take part in the adidas Terrex swift adventure race.
The team - Since January, with Phil, we have wanted to find ourselves a little project - something a little bit bonkers - an adventure race, but not five days like the Raid in France, something a little bit less. Therefore, we called the "big boss" who knows absolutely everything about all the races on the planet, and he told us about the Swift! Goal! Now, we must find a team.
We need an elder - someone with long experience - Fredo.
We need a woman - this was a long search, the usual suspects in the Averne squad were not free. Ginally, Aude decided to throw herself into this adventure with us.
The journey - We were jumping on the shuttle at 1:30am which would get us to the registration by the start of the afternoon.
The place - The race was taking place in the Yorkshire Dales National Park - this park is in the North of England.
The climate - English. We risk getting soaked and frozen many times!
The course - It is a non-stop course of approximately 50 hours. As the days pass, the distances get greater - but the definitive course is 310km with over 8800m of climbing. Knowing that the finish line is at approximately 700m, we will have a lot of hills to cover! Everything is well prepared in our training, with a few workshops on rope techniques and a bit of caving.
Our journey to England - welcome to the 4th dimension!
2:30pm We met at Fredo's house to finish packing the van. Everybody was there on time, and we set off around 4pm. The journey went well, despite busy traffic around Paris. It was long, which gave us time to introduce Aude to the team spirit of Averne.
Midnight We arrived in Calais at the Shuttle to depart. We all got out our pieces of identity - that is to say for Phil and me (Cris) our driving licenses. Fredo looked at us - hyper serious et said that it was not acceptable ID in the UK. We thought he was joking, but no. Nobody had ever told us - we though it worked all across Europe. Happily, I had my identity card, which had expired nine months ago!
We arrived at the English customs, and gave our ID, they asked if Phil had another piece of ID. He hadn't. They escorted us from the border and told us that the French police were going to come and take us back because Phil could not enter the UK. For me, they had not noticed the identity card was out of date. The sky fell on our heads, and we thought we were living in a nightmare. We tried to find a solution with the French customs, but they explained to us that there wasn't one because the English are cu*** (it's not me who said that).
We were absolutely distraught. Six months of prep, money, time.
I stopped talking, and I didn't start again until the morning of the following day (I promise you this is possible!) My season, and the season before were playing back in my had, and I said that it was good to stop now because this race was too much.
Phil was mad. He was ready to travel back to Auvergne. Fredo, always the wise one, took things in hand. We found a campsite near Calais to sleep for a few hours and find a solution.
2:30am - we went to bed.
6:00 am - We got up and decided that it wasn't over yet. Our brains were on overdrive, and the smartphones were a blur of activity. We rang someone near Clermont who was going to bring Phil's passport to the train station at Riom, to give to a passenger or a staff member who would then be met by Phil at the Gare de Bercy in Paris. This would mean that Phil must to the round trip to Paris in the van - but this was too long. So we went to the train station in Calais. No news of the passport, the time came and went - and suddenly the telephone rang. The passport was on the train and will arrive at midday.
But the high-speed train to Paris would arrive too late. New problem - we needed to find someone in Paris who could help - but that was a dead end. Aude had a great idea - we should book a courier who would go to Gare de Bercy to pick up the passport and take it to Phil at Gare do Nord.
We left Phil to take his train to Paris, and we went to try and take the shuttle. The wait at the customs was excruciating because my identity card had not suddenly become valid overnight, and we knew that if they realised - it was over.
It happened... the customs official could not scan my card. He tried five or six times, and finally - it passed. I was a wreck!
We took the shuttle at 11am - just the three of us to England.
13:15 - text from Phil - he had got his passport! He was now heading towards Charles de Gaulle airport to take a flight to Manchester - our completely insane plan might just work!
For us, it was a journey of hell. It was the Jubilee celebrations, and the English were celebrating by having a five day weekend! They were all on the road heading for holidays - there were traffic jams everywhere!
15:45 : phil's flight took off
17:45 : we met Phil at Manchester airport. It was good.... we were ready for the race!
19:30 : We arrived at Settle after a journey of 27hours and 30mins!
Now, we needed to get our maps - because the organisers had sent them to us - but I had not recieved them in time... the other teams had their maps since Wednesday night.
20:30 - we prepared our bags, bike boxes, and all the food.
21:00 - Briefing in English with a Scottish accent (???) Even with the help of a translator, we didn't understand everything.
00:00 we stopped preparing our kit to go to sleep, with our alarms set for 6am the following morning.
We were going to start this race - but with a total of 8 hours sleep in the last two days, we doubt that we would even have the energy to hallucinate!
Adidas Terrex Swift en live
It's tomorrow morning that they go - Aude, Cris, Fredo and Phil for their English adventure in the Yorkshire dales. By then, they must be arriving at the registration area. The first day will be dedicated to the administration and organisation, and of course - dismantling the bikes to put them into the ARWS sized bike-box (knowing their mechanical abilities, I think we could have a giggle - particularly Fredo with his 29er). The briefing will be challenging as the only French team - they are a bit worried and want the right to a translator (Cris was going to send a photo to try and negotiate for a female translator).
The will be facing a veritable whos-who of adventure racing with the official Adidas Terrex team (with at least 3 world champions in the team) and also Accelerate who were in the RIF in 2011.
The description of the Arverne team is completely unedited, and their only point in common is that they are all fast on a mountain bike.
Aude - has never run with the Averne team, and will need to limit the "caustic" humour of the three lads. Her reputation as a trail runner will mean that she won't suffer too much on the foot sections, et she might even still be on speaking terms with them by the second day!
Cris - has taken all the weight of the world onto his little shoulders for the last two years, and possesses an extremely strong mental attitude. He just needs to start rolling out his little catch phrases.... "...Oh la la - have you seen, there is a section of 110km on mountain bike" which should be interpreted as "Oh yeah - we have a f***er of a 100km section on mountain bike - we are going to shred it!" It's better like that. He hasn't competed since the Gevau in 2011, he had a few injuries to recover from - but he has compensated for this with some big training sessions.
Fredo - the wise one, the guiding light of the team, the king of kit preparation. He will bring his experience of long races (Raid in France, Paragonia) His skill in map-reading will help the team. He has no weak points... ha, yes - food. He absolutely must have his mint tea at the precise time, his mushroom soup must be served at 37 degrees, not one degree less. And also his little padded chamois leather to protect his delicate derriere.
Phil - he will laugh his way through the mountain bike sections, and wait impatiently for the team to catch up on the single-track. The 65km will not phase him a little bit... however, for the running - the 5km and the 16km he is less happy about. The big unknown for him is the long trek - and whether he can handle that.
Once upon a time in America.... err, no... England.
We will not revisit the adventures which brought us to this place - let us talk about the race. Finally!
After a little team photo, we departed by bus at half past seven in the morning from Settle for a half an hour journey. We were dropped off at a rugby pitch in a small town, a few people were running around to warm themselves up, and we headed off to the centre of town where the race would start at 9am.
The race started with a run of 12km which allowed us to avoid a section of river which didn't have enough water in to canoe (for information, we had to disinfect our shoes - which were therefore wet this morning). Assembling ourselves on the start line - we were happy to be there! We're off - at 15 kph, for the top teams, I had suggested that we should be careful not to start too fast - but we were drawn along by the pack. Phil (the reasonable one) was a little bit more restrained, we ran with a few teams (several already seemed to be very focussed).
After a little over an hour, we saw the transition where we picked up our boats. We had to carry them at least 500m to launch them, and was our first contact with our trolley... the next contact would be a bit more complicated.
The first part of the river was fun, Phil (the master of currents) did not paddle, and with Aude we had to work hard to follow him. We were overtaking teams, and our morale was high (overtaking teams in boats is an event that will go down in the history of the team) a class one rapid, and I suggested a little dip for Aude to refresh her.
In the canoe section, we had a portage of 2km - which was the time for the trolley to enter for the second act. We humped the boats up onto the support (they weighed at least 50kg!) - and strapped them onto the trolley - and we're off... or nearly! Our trolley had a flat tyre, Chris & Phil snapped a strap after about 300m, and we started to get the feeling that this would be a long job! We bodged, we pulled, we pushed, we yanked... and during this time many other teams passed us pushing their boats with one finger, jogging alongside - oh yes, they had better trolleys. We most have lost at least 20 minutes (and a lot of energy) on that 2km.
Finally, we got back onto the water to cross through Lancaster, and descend the estuary - with more current we did not have the impression that we were moving on quickly - but we overtook a few teams that had overtaken us during the portage. Happily, the tide was dropping and we didn't have to struggle against the current.
The transition was in the harbour outside Lancaster, we arrived there after 35km of paddling, into 90km of biking.
A change of clothes, a bite to eat, and it was off for 20km of cycle route along the river Lune. We recrossed Lancaster until the first checkpoint which I missed - big thighs... little brain. We discovered on this occasion that the checkpoints don't have any flags on them.
The climb started, nothing too technical, but on paved routes, or gravel tracks, however - no corners. They climbed straight up - with percentage gradients which hurt the head as much as they hurt the legs.
Phil and Chris (especially Phil) were towing - and I navigated - it wasn't hard - the big roads along the ridges - occasionally seeing a farm in the middle of nowhere. We would catch a team, and leave them slowly behind us. We were heading towards a forest for a MTBO section of 16km. The cut off time was 8:30, and we arrived there at 7:30 - we believed we were the first ones to head out. The team moral was high - and we were well within the timing without too many problems. Phil navigated on the MTB tracks - woops, berms, jumps, it was all very fun - and not too technically difficult - we had a great time. With helped Aude a bit. Phil was very fluid with his navigation, and in two hours we were done. We headed back to the checkpoint - it was practically all road, night started to fall and Aude was showing signs of fatigue. After a lot of work, we arrived at the transition two hours later.
We headed off for a micro-nav stage on 1:25000 maps (in the night, of course) - I could no long swallow anything, and I was dreaming of mushroom soup (the connoisseurs would appreciate it) for Chris it was only slightly better.
We decided to leave the check point which was at the top of the map. Chris took us for a bit of bush-whacking for the first check point - we needed to get used to footpaths that were not signposted and along the edges of walls and then set off again at 3:30.
Two checkpoints near some very impressive cliffs and above all, the fatigue and lack of sleep were beginning to show. Aude slept on every fence post she found - and we were not too far from copying her.
We returned to the transition with hammering rain and wind. We had decided not to sleep the first night, but Aude was at the end of her tether, we were in a barn and there was hay. The rules forbid stopping and sleeping in transition, but there was already several teams sleeping, and others who were getting themselves comfortable. We took advantage of the opportunity for sleep for Aude, Chris and me. Phil was firing on all cylinders! I woke up again quickly, and with Phil we studied the next MTB stage - considering the state of our team mates we decided to take the short course. The ridges, with this wind and rain meant that this was the right decision - and we were please to get this fair without mistakes.
Everybody woke up, absolutely shattered (especially Phil, for me it was over until the following lunchtime). We tore ourselves away from transition, and we were off. It was raining stair-rods, and there was a strong cold wind. Phil navigate, and with Chris towed us - we were rolling along quite well. Aude was in much better health, and the kilometres unrolled quite quickly. One hour from the last check point, the rain finally stopped. We started to dry ourselves out, a few little cat naps - and we arrived at the last transition after 8 hours of mountain biking.
The wind was cutting though us as we put up the (two-person) tent, to protect us as we changed (and a little sleep for Chris). Then, we were off for the final trek of 40km. Again, we took the decision to do the short course. Aude was going a lot better, but she didn't really feel like the long course which was over 20km longer. We thought that we would be home and dry by 9pm... the following would prove otherwise.
The first checkpoint was after about two hours of walking, and the following was another two and a half hours - at this checkpoint was the caving. We were the first in, and the caves had just been fitted with the safety ropes. In we went, although not without grumbling. We had to abseil down a waterfall, so we weren't looking forward to getting wet again.
A little abseil, and a nice progression along a dried stream bed, one large flap - and an hour later we exited the cave. The next checkpoint was on the summit of one of the three peaks of Yorkshire (at 630m) - that was going to take some time. We discovered a lot of tussocks and heathland (memories, memories!) and the climb started with beautiful views. The footpath was not particularly obvious, and we thought about the teams who would pass over this during the night.
A technical descent, we had handrailed and crossed many many walls, we met many many sheep, the evening began to fall - and the first hallucinations began. The tufts of grass transformed themselves into cows & sheep, the fence posts became human, and the stones became boats! We had almost made it back as night fell... we struggled with the final checkpoint. In the briefing they had talked about a tunnel - but we hadn't understood everything. Finally, we found it - and it was the final return towards the finish line. The 4km along the river seemed to never end, but each one of us knew that the end was in sight. The lights of Settle appeared, and we were the first team to cross the line at 23:30.
Tired, but not destroyed - we didn't know what our final position would be, but thanks to the super live tracking system of the organisation we could see where the other teams were. Chris made a few assumptions that I must say were quite accurate.
The team functioned marvellously, as the English say "a team is born", after all that we had gone through together, there wasn't a single point of friction, always good humour, and only good times. A big "bravo" for Aude - for a real baptism of fire!
After a night of sleep, good for some us, not so good for others - we had to experience the local cuisine. A "full English" breakfast, and Fish & Chips at lunchtime, washed down with a well-earned beer.
We cleared away the kit, went to the final presentations of results in the village square - and headed home... with no problems crossing the border this time!
From - arverne-outdoor.sport24.com, "Thanks to Dan Graham for the translation, & to the Averne outdoor team for allowing us to post this translation"