ar :: Manchester Rat Race


Saab Salomons' Manchester Rat Race Experience:

After the disappointment of Edinburgh, we were fired up ready to restore the balance, and put the other races behind us.

Manchester was to be a tactically different race, with 2 smaller stages, both over a set course with a possibility of people just trying to hang on and follow each other. We knew we wouldn’t be the fastest on the running stage, but thought we had a good chance in the afternoon to ride hard and open up a lead.

The morning came with courses being given out during registration, giving all teams enough time to mark up the map, a mini A-Z of the city centre. A mass start began the race, and about 200 people dashed out of a relatively empty Piccadilly Gardens at 9am. A sprint then began to the first control, we didn’t want to be in the lead, but knew we needed to be near the front to minimise any queuing we had to do.

The pace was fast a furious, and the lead team got away when the first bottleneck was reached, a checkpoint inside a Landover, going in through the driver’s window, and out the passenger’s window!!

We lost about 2-3 minutes here, but we kept on going, with Tom navigating very well through his old University town. After about 25 minutes we were back at Piccadilly Gardens, and set off on our 2nd lap, this again went well, and we went round very smoothly, coming into the start/finish area in 3rd place, about a minute behind Sleepmonsters, who were in 2nd place. The Final lap was slightly longer, and with some good navigation we managed to get passed Sleepmonsters, but after playing Wonderwall on a guitar (Oasis would be jealous if they heard us!!), we got confused at the next checkpoint.
The description was of a lifting bridge in Castle Quay, we found what had to be it, but no marshal/control was present! What to do, after getting a 30minute penalty in Edinburgh, we didn’t want to miss the control, so after some frantic searching and asking of locals, we decided to go on, the control wasn’t there, and we were in the right place.

We finished the course in a time of 79 minutes, about 6 minutes down on the lead team in 2nd place, a good result, slowed by the missing checkpoint. It was indeed missing and the 3 lead teams times were changed accordingly.

So we had about a 5-minute deficit to make up, and a lead of another 3 minutes over Sleepmonsters behind us.

After a bit of relaxation from the fast morning pace, we got handed the afternoon course. Much confusion followed as mistakes were found in the route book, annoying not just our team, but also many of the top teams struggling to mark up the course before the 1pm start time.
Suddenly it was 1pm, and we needed to be on the start line, so in a mad dash we grabbed our kit and got to the line, to then be held for about 10mins while everyone else arrived.
We set off out of the gardens, 200 people plus bikes ‘jogging’ to the start punch, in front of a large crowd, approximately 10000 people at one stage!! The route took us down to the canal, then we all tried to get through a music festival, which was having non of our route, and bikes, and sent us packing! We found another way to the first control, and managed to get a bit of a lead here, which we just built on through the day.
The course was good, some good cycle path riding with some tricky navigation in places, but with Tom on the map, and myself with the route book we flowed smoothly through the entire course.

There were some good challenges along the way, the first Kayak stage involved 2 people paddling across a lake, portaging to the river, and crossing that to wait for the runner who had done 2 checkpoints in the meantime. One paddler swapped with the runner and re ran the orienteering stage, and the others paddled back along the river. The next challenge was a climbing traverse, along a railway-cutting wall, this was very tricky, and caused some nasty pain to the hands, but with a 10minute penalty for not completing, it had to be done.

Onwards through housing estates and across railways to an aerial photo orienteering stage, we had 2 courses to compete, using nothing but a compass and aerial photo of the park we were in. This was tricky, but a steady pace and careful compass work got us round quickly with out any misses, even telling the planner that one control flag had been stolen!!

We knew then that we had a 15-minute lead at least, no other team had turned up before we left. The course then took us back into the centre of town, through the university campus, and past Piccadilly train station to the central Sorting Office, where we completed a dark lap of the car park, and then an abseil from the top of the building, with views out to the Peak District.

From here it was about 1km to the finish, with a nasty hill to race up on the bike, a wee bridge to cross and then a short road to the finish.

We crossed the line with a time of 3hrs 49minutes, pretty tired but very happy in the way that we raced, no mistakes and fun all the way.

We had to get back to Piccadilly Gardens then to run through the finish funnel for the spectators, but our time had already stopped, so this was just for the crowds and TV. After submitting our time, getting told we had all the controls (phew!!) and changing we waited for the next team, who didn’t arrive for almost an hour!! But we passed the time by watching the Aerial Assault, an urban climbing race that was going alongside our race, with the country’s top climbers scaling many different buildings all over the city, including a 325ft climb up a building right next to the Gardens, an incredible sight, I think the highest anyone got to was 310ft, a magnificent effort and spectacle to boot.

A top days racing was polished off with a good party, and prizes of outdoor vouchers and 2 way radios.

The Rat Race series has been fun this year, lots of interesting tasks and special stages, lots of fun with the marshals and fellow competitors. Well done Jim and Gary and team for an excellent series. Lets see what next year has install for us.

by the duncan (SAAB SALOMON)

Adventure Class

1. Saab Salomon – 4.49.02
2. SleepMonsters – 5.28.49
3. Team Ole Gunnar – 6.06.35
4. The North Face – 7.08.21
32. SALTy Girls – 14.14.02 (First all female team)

Rookie Class

1. The Fantastic Three – 1.32.11
2. The Lions Roar – 1.48.17
3. Pi Rat – 1.50.09
4. Cat Nap – 2.02.40 (First all female team)

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