So I am regularly receiving e-mails from potential Mini Burner who are not quite sure of how the day is run. I fully understand that the concept of an Adventure Race is a little complex and certainly nothing like a 5k fun run!
So this is what your day will probably look like;
You will arrive at Margam Country Park car park with a car full of everything. Hopefully, you’ve remembered the kids! You park up and after quite a bit of faffing, you will finally have everyone out of the car with their bikes and a race bag each containing the kit and food/drink you need. Don’t worry there is a cafe at Margam Park where you can buy food also and a bike shop for any last-minute emergencies.
You will then begin a short walk, uphill I’m afraid, waving to the gate staff as you go who will let you in for free because you are a Mini Burn competitor.
Once at the top of the hill you see the Castle (which in fact is a gothic house and not actually a castle!) to your left and if you look across the grass to your right you will see our event centre. We’ll be super excited to see you when you arrive!
This year we will, of course, be employing some social distancing measures but this doesn’t change much as we already have access to a huge area for our event centre.
When you arrive you are directed by some super friendly volunteers into the transition area where you will be able to find a space for your family. Of course this year everything will be 2 metres apart. You put your bike down (the best way to place your bike is upside down on the handlebar and saddle) and drop your bags down. Only competitors will have access to this area.
Once you’ve left your bike and kit you step into the well-ventilated registration tent, clearly signed, and gaze at the entries board to find your race number. On the table next to it, you find a pack containing your number, race chip and instructions for the day. Who’s going to get to it first and most importantly who will end up wearing the timing chip? It’s up to you who wears the timing chip but the kids do love it!
Don’t worry we will have antibacterial wipes so you can wipe down everything before you touch it, although we would have already done so for you.
Back in the transition area, you are almost ready to go and you sit and wait to hear the announcement of your wave. There will be an open-air briefing marquee that you go to 5 minutes before your start time. There will be 4/5 families at a time listening to the briefing and any last-minute questions can be answered then.
The time has come for your family to join me on the start line. Before you set of , you’ll have the chance to leave the world a message on our Mini Burn Stage of Fame, talk to your fans, tell us a joke or maybe what you’re looking forward to the most and when all had been said, at the sound of the horn you race off into the distance on foot….following the ORANGE signs.
It’s a good flat run of 3km and after seeing only one or two other families on the course, you soon find yourself back at the event centre with a volunteer marshal shouting ‘dib your timing chip’ at you whilst pointing to the control box. You fumble around but manage to get the dibber into the control box to hear the welcoming sound of a beep and a flash so you know you’ve now got an officially registerd run time.
Everyone is still smiling but the sweat is beginning to run so it’s a relief to now have a little sit down as you head over to the lake, 100 metres from the event centre, for your kayak.
Neil, our kayak manager, is super helpful and will do everything he needs to do to help you get into the boats. Your buoyancy Aids and paddles will be lying on the floor ready for you to pick up and put on. We will wipe them down after each competitor.
Now the kayak is where the fun begins. There is virtually no fear of falling out of the kayaks but a lot of fun trying to get them to go in a straight line. Remember both paddlers should paddle on the same side at the same time and if you’ve got a very little one in the boat with you then maybe just having them sit upfront with no paddle is best!
Two loops of the lake and you’re back shore side. The lake at Margam Park is very small so you’ve never really been out of reach.
A few wet bottoms but mainly laughter and you dib your timing chip in the control box at the entrance to the bike transition area.
Now is when the hard work begins. You make sure everyone has their helmet on and you’re all stocked up with drinks and snacks for the ride. As you head out the last thing you hear is a volunteer marshal shouting is ‘remember to follow the YELLOW signs’.
All begins well and the riding is relatively easy. You cross some grass but mainly well-maintained tracks with a small section of private road, all within the perimeter of Margam Park. After 4km you turn right onto a slightly more gravelly track and a climb begins. You walk some of it but manage to ride most of it. Once onto the top track of the lower Margam Park estate you spot in the distance your destiny. Straight on for short course or right for long course.
Now it’s decision time. We really hope most of you will choose the long course because even though tough, the reward when you’re at home that evening having achieved the completion of the long course will be immense!
The climb gets steep and steeper still. Most of you are off your bikes, some might even be carrying bikes. It’s hard work and cracks begin to show. Some of your team want to give up but then you spot a sign telling you to push through the pain. It’s simple but it helps and before you know it you’ve managed to get to the very top of Margam Park with views, on a clear day, out to the open ocean. You can see for miles in almost every direction. You stop for a brief moment before finding the midway checkpoint, clearly marked, where you dib your timing chip, so we at the event centre know you’ve made the long course.
From now on, after a lefthand turn, it’s all downhill. You keep a close eye on your breaks the whole way but enjoy the mixture of open moorland and single trail. Maybe it’s the first time you’re little ones have ever done anything like this so maybe a few photo opportunities is worth a brief stop. Our photographer might just pop up when you’re least expecting it too.
Back on to the lower part of the Park you round the castle/gothic house, which is where you meet the short course competitors, and loop around the back of the Go Ape course before returning to the event centre tired, hungry and probably rather muddy, if the weather has not been too kind.
Now it’s time to see who really has what it takes when you return your bike to the event centre, dibbing your timing chip on your way, hearing the beep and flash and knowing you’ve got an officially registered bike time. You are handed a strange-looking orienteering map.
All that stands between your family and the finish line now are 5 checkpoints that you need to navigate to. If you’re not really racing then hand the map to your kids and see what happens but if you need to give them some guidance or in fact, you need some guidance yourself then just give us a shout before you leave and we’ll point out a few things for you to get you on your way. All checkpoints can be reached in just 2km on foot with good navigation.
Exhausted, excited, maybe a little overwhelmed and you all run hand in hand over the Mini Burn finish line where your arrival will be announced and a medal will be placed around your neck.
You’ve Done It! You’ve Done it!…now it’s time to rest and revel in the experience.