Tri-Adventure Mickleham Adventure Race

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Something for Everyone at the Tri-Adventure Mickleham Adventure Race

Rob Howard / 10.01.2023See All Event Posts Follow Event
Racing Tri-Adventure in the Surrey Hills
Racing Tri-Adventure in the Surrey Hills / © Rob Howard

Tri-Adventure returned to Mickleham for the first time since 2019 on Sunday 8th January, and their trademark mix of trail running, mountain bike orienteering and adventure racing courses once again proved popular.

Many of those who arrived at the Mickleham village hall, set in the heart of the Surrey hills, were regular Tri-adventurers, glad of the chance to burn off some of the Xmas excess, but there were first time racers too, looking for an new challenge in the New Year.

After some heavy overnight rain, and a wet start to the year, the trails were going to be wet and muddy, and the courses at Mickleham are always tough, as the village is surrounded by hills on all sides.  Race Director Adam Marcinowicz said, “A lot of people are late back when racing here because they underestimate how hilly it is, and this is the first race in the New Year too, so some will be getting back into racing after the holidays.”

When the hall opened for early arrivals at 7.30am it was just before dawn and, as more racers arrived, a weak winter sun came up with the promise of some fair weather, at least for those who started early.  The Tri-Adventure food table was groaning under the weight of pastries and cakes for those who needed breakfast and a coffee, but most would wisely leave the cakes until after the race!

Tri-Adventure races offer a variety of courses, suitable as an introduction to adventure racing, but still offering a good challenge to the more experienced racers.  For those who want a shorter run or ride out there is a 2 hour MTBO course, and 1 or 2 hour trail run courses, where runners navigate to as many checkpoints as they can, or want to do.

For the adventure racers wanting to run and ride there are 2 and 4 hour courses, where racers can choose how much of either discipline they want to do and transition back at the race HQ.  The race used to have a mass start, but one post-Covid change is that there is now an open start window from 08.30 to 10.00am.

This flexible approach allows competitors to fit in a race with other weekend commitments and family activities, or in the case of the Jamie Oliver and Natasha Trasi to make the race part of the family activity.

Jamie and Natasha have been Tri-Adventurers for many years, and arrived with children Finn and Maya, both now 5 years old.  Natasha ran the mini trail (1 hour race), while Jamie sat with the children, then they swapped and Jamie ran the Short (2 hour) adventure race.  Both received hugs and new drawings from the children when they got back, which is a great way to finish a race!  (The children also went to collect their first checkpoint while Dad was getting his.  Start them young!)

Other early arrivals were Rob Burridge and his daughter, Sarah, who were racing the 2 hour trail run.  Rob said, “We’d normally run and ride, but this weekend it’s my father-in-laws 94 birthday party and we are under strict instructions not to be late!  So we’ll set off early and skip the biking this time!”

Nick Geis and James Dunlop were starting early too, and the race was a new challenge for them.  They got instructions on using the Sportident dibber and settled down to look at the map.  Nick said, “We run with a group of school dads every Saturday, and thought we’d give it a go. Now I guess we’ll find out if we can navigate!”

After being given a few pointers about contours, how trails, footpaths and bridleways are marked, and how to orient the map, they set off on the 2 hour trail course do some ‘thinking running’ and explore the Surrey Hills.  Their plan was to allow some options at the end of the run to avoid being late back.  Of the 15 available checkpoints they reached 8, but were still almost 19 minutes over time and had 38 penalty points.

They were not the latest, not by a long way.  The prize for the racers who ‘were enjoying themselves so much they didn’t want to come back in’ went to Michelle Caines and Grace Albury, who ran the 2 hour trail course and were nearly an hour late back, scoring an impressive 118 penalty points and getting the best value for money on the day!

For most of the morning the weak sunshine and warm winter temperatures held out as racers visited checkpoints north, south, east and west.  Most were to the south in Box Hill Country Park and on Ranmore Common, with others around Norbury Park and Hadley Heath. 

There were some good views from the hill tops in the morning and the trails were as wet, muddy and slippery as expected.  Returning riders were mud splattered and in some cases mud coated down one side after coming off.  A few said the tracks on Ranmore Common were really badly cut up by forestry vehicles, so going up there wasn’t a great choice on the day.  There were flooded roads in a couple of places as well.

The conditions all added to the challenge as racers searched for checkpoints on their pre-marked maps, guided by the location descriptions.  There was some searching, head scratching and relocating going on, and some came back without finding the all the CP’s they were looking for. The description of ‘trough’ at CP3 caused some confusion as there were two troughs near to each other! 

One competitor who avoided any such problem was Mark Humphrey who forgot his control descriptions altogether, but still managed to score 180 points on the MTBO course. 

He is a competitive racer, and has won some of the biggest and toughest adventure races in the world, such as the Patagonian Expedition Race.  One of the great things about Tri-Adventure is that he was racing alongside complete newcomers to the sport, and all were challenged to the limits of their ability on the day.

His score was enough for second when Nuno Cerqueira top scored with 185 points.  He visited 23 of the 31 checkpoints available, 4 more than anyone else.  Five of these were after his 2 hours was up, but he was only 18 minutes late back and said he’d ridden past one checkpoint and forgotten to stop!  A Portuguese national he races in the national MTBO league and said he’d never seen such wet conditions.

Rachel Clay was the top scoring female MTBO rider, with 167 points and 5th place overall.  The mini Trail winner was Jessica Jones, who finished early with 80 points, ahead of Natasha Trasi who scored 79, after finishing seventeen seconds over time with one penalty point!

James Tuner won the 2 hour trail run with 123 points, ahead of Rosemary Hurford on 110 points.  Rosemary said, “I didn’t overestimate how much to do today and found all the checkpoints, so it was a clean run.”  Then she added, “Maybe clean isn’t the right description for today!”

It certainly wasn’t for the later finishers who had to contend with some torrential rain.  After midday the skies darkened and by one o’clock it was so dark they almost needed lights and struggled to see through the sheets of water falling from the sky.

The Short Adventure Racers managed to finish before the worst of the weather arrived, and the winners were Richard Bennett and Oscar Sly who scored 80 points.  Jamie Oliver scored 90, but was late back and 17 penalty points pushed him into second, while mixed pair Adam Nightingale and Christine Lowson were third.

It was the Long course (4 hour) Adventure Racers who suffered most from the change in weather.  This class was decided on penalties as well.  Regular competitor Graeme Blair came back with 28 penalty points to score 212, and it looked for a long time that his score would be enough to win, until Tim Beale finished 10 minutes early with 220 points to take 1st place.

Blair said, “I was on top of Box Hill and convinced myself I could get 3 checkpoints on the way back, then I was 13 minutes late so it wasn’t really worth it!  Some of the decisions you make when you are tired at the end of a race are not always sensible, though they seem so at the time!”

Beale was racing the 4 hour category for the first time, having raced 2 hours in the past and said he was surprised to win. He is an orienteer and said, “I know the area well so that helped, as I always knew where I was.”

With the staggered start and finish times there was no prize giving, so the winners had to check their place online once they got home.  The finish was still a very sociable affair however, as everyone sat around and compared routes and race stories and enjoyed the cakes and hot soup from the food table.

Adam Marcionwicz and the Tri-adventure team had put on another great race for everyone, and will be back at another venue later in the year.  Details will be posted to the website and you can find a link to the race results and photos there.

(Tri-Adventure also organise the Open5 Adventure Race, which will be held on Sunday March 5th in Coniston in the Lake District.  Details are on the website.)

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