Our last multi-sport event this year was the Gower Triathlon, right? Well, as it turned out, not quite… Of course I did the Mini Burn with my daughter in Margam Park on the 3rd of October and it was such fun that me and Mr Tiger decided to sign up for the big event in Cardiff on the 25th of October. I figured it would be a birthday present from me to me since we entered as team and he’d have the pleasure of having to keep up with my much slower pace on the run ;-)…
The event’s base is in Llandaff Rowing Club, along the River Taff. If you’re coming from the North, as we did, it’s along the A4054 about 500 m after the Llandaff bridge. Of course we managed to miss it and to get lost for a good half hour, which didn’t bode well really for the bike orienteering phase!
The Cardiff Burn is a multisport adventure race, which includes three phases:
You can choose to complete the kayak before or after the bike phase. We decided to do it after cycling to avoid riding in wet shorts.
You can enter in pairs (male, female or mixed) or solo (male or female). We thought it’d be more fun to enter as a pair and we really didn’t regret it.
There are prizes for the winners of each category but bear in mind that you have to complete the course within 5 hours for your result to be taken into account in the prize giving.
Kayaks and buoyancy aids are provided in your entry fee but if you’re racing solo you can bring your own kayak and the rental fee will be waved.
At registration you get issued with race numbers (for you and the bike), a timing chip and the map you’ll use for orienteering.
The timing chip is fixed around your wrist and you will need it to check in at orienteering points as well as at the start of the race and end of each leg.
The map shows where the various checkpoints are located, with a short description of the spot where you will find the check point. For example, the descriptions we had were some very clear indications like “On gate post” or “On finger post West side of track” but someone must have had a bit of a giggle when devising “Look for the treasure”, mmm does that mean that we have to find a X, as in “X marks the spot” and then dig?… fortunately, it all became clear when we got there.
Once you’re in possession of your map, it’s up to you to decide:
The rule of the game is that you only have to visit one of the ten checkpoints but there is a time penalty for each checkpoint you don’t visit. The time penalty is not the same for all checkpoints so you might need to take strategic decisions if you decide to miss out points. To give you an idea, checkpoint 3 was the easiest to find (until some rude passer by stole it from its fence post) and you’d “only” lose 10 minutes by not visiting it but checkpoint 9 (up near Caerphilly) would cost you a good 25 minutes.
The map also lists telephone numbers on which the organisers can be reached in case of emergency, it also reminds you that red roads are (mostly) off limits during the event.
We’re not going to spoil the fun by giving detailed informations about the course, since a great part of the attraction is discovering it (or making it up) as you go… But here are a few things we feel appropriate and useful to share.
The run is flat and takes you along the river Taff towards Bute Park and back to the Llandaff Rowing club. It is on traffic-free paths, with maybe a third of it on unpaved track where you will find mud so make sure you wear the right shoes. The Burn team obviously made a lot of efforts to find a fun and interesting course and we really enjoyed discovering this lovely area of Cardiff.
The bike orienteering takes you through cycle paths, small roads, forests tracks and bridleways. There will be some steep hills and we had to push a couple of times in the forest. We had our usual mountain bikes but thought that a cyclocross would be perfectly suited to the kind of cycling we did that day. We found orienteering challenging but not undoable and had fun, it was great being together for this as not having the same outlook on things really worked in our favour. We did cycle a bit more than 30 km (around 40), which is normal considering that the idea is to find your own way around. We visibly like to take detours…
The bike course took us to Caerphilly via castle Coch, so we really got to see some countryside. Again, we didn’t know the area so what better way to discover it than through this event?
The kayak is a simple “there and back” paddle up and down the river. The kayaks are waiting for you on a small wooden quay, which is also where you land so there’s no risk of slipping down muddy river banks and getting totally wet. There are also some great volunteers to hand you the buoyancy aids and help you in and and out of the kayaks.
Parking is limited at Llandaff Rowing Club, we were lucky and could park there on the day but alternative arrangements might need to be taken in which case the race organisers will let you know where to go beforehand and there will be no bad surprise on race day.
The clubs toilets and showers were available to use. We really appreciated being able to take off the mud and sweat before going home!
Spectating would be limited to the run and kayak phase as being on the bike course would be unpractical for supporters. The area is surrounded by parks though so there are plenty of possibilities to keep busy and warm if you’re waiting for competitors.
There are no particular activities for kids but the parks offer a lot of possibilities: there are cycle and foot paths as well as some natural areas where kids can play.
There was a small stand selling hot food and drinks. The hot coffee we had after our shower was very much welcome.
There were 17 pair entries, of which 1 was a female pair, 7 male pairs and 9 mixed pairs. There were 9 solo entries, all of them male. The fastest overall was a solo who completed the whole event in 2:51:35, amazing! The longest time to complete the course was 5:52:19 by a mixed pair. The majority of took about 4 hours 50 minutes to finish.
This event provided us with a rare opportunity: we could race as a team for the first time. We really had a great day and it was a lot of fun doing it together. Of course we got slightly disoriented somewhere in the forest (don’t ask where) between two checkpoints and lost a lot of time. But we think the experience wouldn’t have been quite as good if it had all gone smoothly the first time round! Yes, we could have argued about whose responsibility it was but Mr Tiger was too far away in front and it’s not our style anyway.
Is it hard? I must admit that I got a bit slack with training before the Cardiff Burn and felt it. You definitely want to be reasonably fit to make the best of it. On the other hand Mr Tiger found it almost restful, or so he says. I note that he did manage to break his mountain bike’s stem so he must have sneakily strained himself at some point.
Do you need to be a top shot at orienteering? Absolutely not! If you can read a map to get around and if you’ve got a bit of common sense you should be fine. We only used the compass once (and it wasn’t even necessary), in a middle of that dark and humid valley where we wouldn’t have gone if we’d displayed a bit of common sense.
All in I’m happy that we cycled, run and kayaked more kilometres than there were candles on my birthday cake so we’ll definitely be back for more next year.