The Heb is certainly a race on the edge. Caroline and I travelled from the central belt leaving on Friday morning and went to bed that night on Benbecula at 10pm. We could have travelled half way across the world in that time!
On the ferry we were given our race maps and numbers and we quickly sat down in a corner trying to plan our route choice for the next day’s activities. The Heb is an adventure race on the Outer Hebrides that mixes running (more like yomping), navigating (more like following others), biking (on and off road) and a bit of kayaking (sit-on-top). Over 2 days you travel just shy of 200km across Benbecula and South Uist choosing to pick up as many or as few check points as you wish. Having conquered the Glentress 7 as a winning pair it was time for Caroline and I to race together again as Team FINDRA. This time neither of us felt as prepared: we hadn’t managed to get together to practice any navigation, I’d never kayaked and neither really knew if we could stand each others company for two days straight…
- We raced off the front like it was a sprint race and on finishing the first bike stage and starting to run we were forced to admit that with around 8 hours of racing still to go that we had better calm down.
- Caroline proved to be a mountain goat, floating over the heather and the bogs. I proved to be a liability, falling down with such regularity than other people chose to mark where not to put their feet as I was so adept at highlighting the trip hazards.
- Some amazing navigation from Caroline propelled us to the head of the pairs field whilst everyone else was taking the long way round in the heather!
- My first foray into kayaking seemed to be OK – Caroline didn’t yell at me too much.
- It got wet and cold and windy for the last bike section, which also included a mammoth off-road “toys out of pram” section along the Hebridian Way where we wished that we were on mountain bikes and not cross bikes. We did a lot of walking. Caroline had a sense of humour failure and ate a snickers in a state of exhaustion at the side of the road.
- We wondered how we would do it all again the next day.
- We raced off the front again conveniently forgetting the lessons from the day before. We were in pole position and had standards to keep up.
- The “running” section was a 4-hour yomp through a combination of midge infested bog and mountain peaks. Apparently the views were amazing. We don’t know as it was misty the entire time. On the upside, the midges seemed to like Caroline more than me. Typically, the mist cleared in time for us to see the peaks as we cycled away from them.
- The main bike section included 12km along the white sands of South Uist. It was absolutely stunning and spoilt only by the fact that we had to get off the bikes to run up a hill to get a checkpoint. By this time our legs were nearing non responsive!
- The sun came out for the final kayak and hill grovel.
- We celebrated our win by running into the sea and getting a good bath.
In all seriousness, we had a great time challenging our bodies and minds. Racing where you have to choose routes and make decisions on what checkpoints to chase is a lot of fun. It was a super relaxed, well organised and suitable for everyone from novices to the more experienced adventurer. I am sure that we will return as Team FINDRA next year.
Find out more about the race here: http://www.theheb.org/