If you’re a “long time listener, first time caller”, a lot of my adventures are in France as I quite like the place, the races are a bit different and I have a few friends who live there so I can combine a visit with some race or other!
This was no exception, cheap promotional Eurostar fares, some friends in Paris who we like to see and some silly race I’d shaken hands on attending whilst I was in Chamonix in the summer. He’d explained it as a bit of a run around, nice people and a decent feed after – SOLD!
After a weekend of fondu, building ikea furniture, a very meaty spag bol and all washed down with a variety of alcohols we sat down to read the instructions and get our newly purchased compass out of the packaging! We tried to imagine what the race was going to be like and we were wrong on every level. Having thought about the best way to describe the race I thought I would go with a chronological view of it. An idiots guide, with 3 ummm idiots!
Woke up at 7, quick shower and a lovely breakfast made by our hostess with the mostess, Andy
Quick drive to Bures sur Yvette (translated as Bures on Yvette.. poor Yvette), wander into the gymnasium where we attempted to blend in and not stand out too much. We (Gemma) were instantly interviewed on camera (she spoke very BBC), about why we were here, did we know what to expect and how were we going to read the instructions in French!
Starting to panic a little we tried to ask the organisers about the race and got laughed off as if we knew…
9:20 – line up for a group photo (approx 50 teams of 3 or 4)
9:25 – captains are made to line up in number order and books placed in front of them (about 20 meters away).
9:30 – whistle goes and people rush over to get their book (I gave it the confident stride to it, with a look of knowing).
9:32 – open book with Andy and Gemma and the first use of swear word combined with a blank look was used. We then did what all good people do, looked around to see what everyone else was doing. Other teams were pulling out different colour pens (we asked to borrow one), were drawing on maps, having heated debates about routes etc. We stared at the book…
9:35 – I ask one of the organisers what we’re supposed to do. He explains that we have to run around using the clues in the book for grid references, find the markers and poke your finger in (no smut here!).
9:37 – after that advice a lady, (who was sorting out the post match food), walked over and said “if I was you, get out there and follow people”. With that advice we left the gym confidently, with the chap on the microphone saying “et voila l’equipe ‘vive les anglais’ qui parte”.
9:39 – get to a roundabout following 3 teams. 3 exits on the roundabout and each team took a different one. More swearing and intent studying of the map by Andy!
Eventually we worked out roughly where to go, found some nice people to follow and went on our merry way. I had my peter pointer ready to insert at a moments notice! (It’s how all the pro’s had theirs set up!)
To give you a flavour of the book of instructions, this is what we had to work with:
It was good fun, in basic terms our team operated as follows (like the SAS but better), Andy gave the map a good coat of looking at (turning it at regular intervals) and staring at it like it had stolen his beer or was thinking about it. Gemma was like a dog on a lead constantly wanting to run somewhere, anywhere (imagine a human version of the muskahounds)!!! I just kept laughing a lot but poised like a ninja warrior with my finger of power, ready to insert into a gadget at any moment! (they looked like this but hidden in trees etc).
In all seriousness, each sign you found gave you clues to the next ones and so on and so on. The instructions at the start gave you 4 checkpoints you had to hit or be disqualified and all the intervening stops carried different time penalties if you missed them from 10-15-20 minutes. The route doing the 4 main ones (and following the route to the individual signs) was about 28k in a 6 hour time limit.
The above we hadn’t really realised until after we stopped and instead were going from one to the next and so on. It transpired that in the hall at the start, teams were working out their routes to hit the 4 compulsory and then either going back round to get as many others as they could or hitting those with the highest time penalties etc. .
Anyway after about 10k we made a plan, so cunning, that Mr Cunning of Cunning town didn’t think of it. This plan was… to cut across a field to one of the compulsory checkpoints! Andy was all over the map, Gemma was worried about the farmer shooting us (especially with Brexit) and we went left at the end of the field instead of right and our race was run. Spoke with the organisers who were very jovial and said we were best to make our way home (about 6km) and hit the free beer as we couldn’t make the final compulsory checkpoint before the time limit. We were all pretty much OK with that as we’d had a good time running around various parts of the outskirts of Paris and it was really good fun trying to find the checkpoints, getting clues and working out where the next one was etc. Hopefully these pics show it a little:
So after a rather pleasant 18k ambling amongst the countryside we were at the finish, again being interviewed and then told to head in for some food.
Post race food, french style:
To be fair the pasta wasn’t all that (Andy was quite grumpy about it), but the rest was rather pleasant. The cup was 1Eu, was yours to keep and you could fill it as much as you wanted with beer!
I think next year, now we know what to expect, we might have another crack at it (and bring some pens with us) and I can’t recommend it highly enough as a bit of a giggle, a bit different and you get a free buff!