Dunfermline Cycling Club member Alan Affleck took 3rd place at the iconic adventure race ‘The Heb’ and featured on the BBC Adventure Show earlier this month!
The Heb is a two-day race that takes competitors on a spectacular journey across the wild landscape of the Outer Hebrides. With 200 kilometres of running, biking and kayaking, The Heb is a challenge for both adventure enthusiasts and hardened endurance athletes, with fierce battles for the top spots.
The BBC Adventure Show filmed the ‘2018 Heb: Race on the Edge’ challenge and you can catch Alan proudly sporting his DCC club kit on the iPlayer by coping the link or read Alan’s Race Report below:
Race Report by Alan Affleck
‘The Heb’ originally started in the mid 2000’s as an Adventure Race that took place over 5 days and ran for several years as one of the most iconic races in Britain. In 2016 Durty Events resurrected the spirit of the event, reborn as a 2-day multi-sport adventure which starts at Mallaig on the Friday where you leave the car and grab the ferry to the Isles. The race takes place on Saturday & Sunday, with the event party on the Sunday night before getting the early ferry back on the Monday.
On the ferry over you are issued your race numbers, race book and maps. The organisers transport you to a campsite on Benbecula near the local high school where you camp and get ready for the event the next day. The event itself consists of a fixed route, with various checkpoints where you either run or kayak. You can opt to do none, some or all of them. If you miss a checkpoint you incur time penalties. If you want to be in with a chance of winning, you need to do them all, if you want to race tactically or for pure enjoyment, you can opt to do the ones you are comfortable with.
This would be my third trip to the Hebrides and with the event being filmed for BBC’s The Adventure Show it would add something different to the weekend. As with the previous events, this year was no exception and I quickly found myself with several new comrades after we boarded the ferry heading out to the Western Isles.
The day starts with a morning briefing prior to the Le Mans style run to the bikes along the coast. On the bike and it’s a road cycle to the first hill run to the summit of Eaval. The kicker with this is the terrain you must cross to get there, with dozens of lochans and inlets it’s easy to lose your way and end up at a dead end, resulting in you retracing your steps.
At this point I was within the top 10 and holding on as we left the kayak stage at Lochmaddy and headed to the tidal island of Vallay. The wind speed, as expected, started to increase. At the latter part of the run on the tidal island of Vallay I was starting to pull myself up the table as my fellow competitors began to tire.
The final section on Day 1 was a long cycle back down the island into the strong headwind towards the camp site. This was a case of pedal stroke after pedal stroke and just keep going! I passed a few people on the course, but you don’t know how many checkpoints they have completed.
I could see the wind turbine near the campsite from miles away, but it seemed to be sailing south as it didn’t seem to get closer as I ground out each pedal stroke into the headwind.
I was so pleased to get back to base, however I was really tired and knew that recovery and food would be needed to make sure I had the gas for the next day’s trials. Fortunately, the school dinner staff had laid on a mahoosive plate of lasagne which was quickly hoovered, as was the 2nd portion. However, I was craving something so cycled a few miles to the nearest co-op to buy some milk. Top tip: Listen to your body. It tells you what it needs. Feeling a lot better I cycled back to camp, got my gear sorted for Day 2 and tried to sleep.
Day 2 and I was awakened by the forecasted 50mph headwinds. Just before starting I was told by the film crew that I was in 4th place, which was a bit of a surprise. The day started with a bike down the island towards the first checkpoint, the hill run section. They had cut the planned 5 checkpoints to 3, avoiding the high peaks for safety reasons.
The terrain is still a massive factor here and once again I felt I was hanging on by my fingernails. You choose your own route round the course and I recall passing someone coming the opposite way and thinking, “wow, they’ve done the big hill already, they must have caught me up”, whilst when I spoke to them later, they said they had thought “wow, he’s done two checkpoints already, he must be way ahead”.
It’s a tough hill run section in very difficult running and navigation conditions, but we cleared the course and having started and finished the run with my racemates Graham & Martin, we set off together on the bike ride down the beach and into the strong head wind. Martin tired quickly as we hit the soft sands and seaweed banks on the beach, but Graham and I crawled along, taking turns on the front, max speed 11kph, yet still passing various other competitors on the way.
We caught up with Gerry in 2nd place who had stopped at the side of the beach, he realised the threat to his position and caught us up. Now all he had to do was sit with us to keep his position. When we arrived at the last checkpoint it was a quick change of shoes and off on the final hill run, Graham & Gerry were stronger runners than me, but I was only 30 seconds or so off the pace at the top of the hill before heading back towards the finish at the beach.
Dougie Vipond was there at the beach telling me that I had passed the guy in 3rd place on the bike section but would need to wait until he came in to see how I had finished. At the prize giving party, I was indeed announced as 3rd place overall.
I was pleased to see so many of my race friends who I’d spent a lot of time with over the last 3 days all finishing so well. The first person I had met on the Friday, Stewart, came 1st, Graham was 5th, the Peebles boys Bruce & Gerry were 2nd in the male pairs and the girls had come 1st & 2nd in the female solo’s.
It really topped off the weekend and we all toasted our success.
I felt bad for Graham as he had been stronger than me on the first day but had unfortunately missed a checkpoint on Day 1 – he passed it, just didn’t see it. That cost him an hour penalty. He was very sporting and pragmatic about it. The Heb is an event where you arrive as strangers and you leave with lifelong friendships, having shared the endurance and experiences that the Hebridean weather and landscape throws at you. It’s worth the trip.