The Challenge was set in the stunning rural setting of the Cumbrian mountains in North Wales and base camp for the next 4 days would be Aberystwyth university. It was evident from the very beginning that there was going to be a whole lot of UP to contend with (except in the canoes perhaps!) The set up of the Challenge organised by Intelligent Sport is designed not only push you to your physical limits but also your mental limits too. It wasn't simply a case of going out for a short run or mountain bike ride and dishing out the prizes based on time.... oh no that would be far to easy. Instead the organisers devised extremely complicated yet well thought out stages of which there were eight spread across the 4 days. These would require teams to strategise, plan and think fast before diving off into the forests or lakes in the search of numerous check points dotted around the Welsh hills to earn your team bonus time.
The basis of every event was similar in that you had to cover as much ground (or water) as possible within the stage time limit by treking out to checkpoints on foot, bike or canoe. Each checkpoint was worth a certain amount of bonus minutes which would be deducted from your final stage time. In variably those check points furthest away were worth more!! The winning team of each event is those with the lowest stage time after any bonus minutes collected had been deducted from their finish time. However there was also plenty of opportunity to pick up penalty time out on stage if your concentration slipped just for a second. And for those teams returning after the stage time limit had expired you were hit with big time penalties.
So the stage was set. We had arrived in a torrential down pour with sheets of rain battering our white van, however this soon presided and left the skies clear and the stars shining bright as they would do for the next 4 days of glorious sunshine in Wales!!STAGE 1 - Wednesday night - Midnight > 2am. Mountain Biking (2hr stage limit)
Team Selection: Me, Charlotte, Richard, Ali.
(ONE HUNDRED AND) 24)
Yes that's right on the day we arrived we were straight into it with the first stage starting at midnight, complete with swarms of midges too! Based on tv series 24, teams had to locate and rescue as many of the five Missing In Action (M.I.A.) government agents from the course as possible. Time was earned for each agent rescued in this fastest-to-finish stage. To rescue an agent, we set off in two pairs (4 per team) in search off the missing agents. We also had to use our pre-made code-breaker to crack lengths of code on display at the relevant intelligence source. Something we had cleverly pre-empted and cracked in seconds which a clever crib sheet (all within the rules i might add!) Cracking the code correctly, gave us a 6-figure grid reference for the M.I.A. agent, which you has to accurately plot on the stage map. However that was not all as there were also dummy agents out on course very near to the real agent checkpoints that could easily be mistaken in the dark when you are knackered and racing against time to save the world (I don't know how Jack Bauer keeps his cool!!). The terrain on this stage was very hilly (despite the contour lines on the map saying otherwise!!) but the dark meant that hills were the least of your worries as you concentrated on map reading and navigation.
Blasting around in the woods at this hour was very surreal and nothing like I'd done before, leaving a very big grin on my face throughout. Team BRE managed to rescue 3 of the 5 agents as well as a lost child (for extra bonus points!!!) This was despite the team thinking we had blown it by dibbing (the phrase used to described when you reach a checkpoint) for one of the dummy agent checkpoints instead! However it was the right one and our first stage was considered a complete success as the strategy worked a treat.
Our stage time was 1:57:23 (just within the 2hr stage limit!!!) and we picked up 50mins of bonus time thus giving us a very respectable 33rd position after stage 1. In short WE NAILED IT! :-)
STAGE 2 - Thursday morning - 10am - 12:30pm. Running (2.5hr stage limit)
Team Selection: Me, Mark, Richard, Chris, Charlotte (substituted for Richard)
With less than 3hrs sleep (but a full english breakfast AND porridge!!) the team was up and gunning for the next challenge. The morning stage would see us again go off in pairs on foot this time to earn our LGV (Large Goods Vehicle) licences for various LGV’s by passing our driving theory test. The questions were real and based on the Highway Code. We had to visit 12 different question points where the theory questions were displayed then take our exam paper with our answers to be marked at the Test Centre. We got 11 of the 12 right gives us some good bonus points. With the questions we got right we could buy HGV licences to use in the afternoon mountain bike stage (more on that later).
Trucking hell continued with more running where we had run to different 'Lesson Points' around the course (again very hilly - this is Wales!!) to clock up driving skills. This was more challenging than it sounded as the bonus points awarded depended on the time frame in which they were obtained. Each team had to decipher a tachograph to find out time zones in which they would need to visit certain check points for maximum bonuses, then formulate a strategy to obtain the optimum result!! Again our team nailed this with a well thought through strategy which had the two pairs in the team including me pegging it from point to point with the time windows picking up bonus minutes.
To make things even more interesting certain check points had to be visited by all 4 members of the team thus the two pairs had to meet up at the right time in the right place!! This stage finished with myself and Mark decided to go for an extremely risky yet calculated strategy of going out to one of the furthest checkpoints on the stage (worth 10 bonus minutes) but which opened with only 15 minutes left in the stage, thus it required a sprint up the mountain to get back to the finish line within the 2.5hr stage time limit.
It took Mark and I 15 minutes to run down the hillside to the checkpoint so this was always going to be a tough one! Mark knew it and I knew it but we gave it a lung bursting, leg screaming all out effort. This included using Team BRE's secret weapon - the bungee cord!! To be used for extreme situations such as this where the lead team member was attached to the other to give them a much needed boost as well as keep the pair together no matter what!! This was one of the toughest runs of my life that only covered a matter of 1.5miles, but after running for 2hrs already the legs have a habit of telling you in no uncertain terms that you our pushing your luck on this one!!
This wasn't about luck though, and instead with sheer bloody mindedness, grit and determination Mark and I blasted up that hill (passing many) and crossed the finish line in a time of 2:29:36 (just 24 seconds inside the stage time limit). Team BRE was absolutely ecstatic jumping up and down for joy, and for me this was a memorable moment of the whole challenge. The team also picked up 1:15:00 of bonus minutes giving us a final stage time of 1:15:00, which unbelievably gave Team BRE a stage position of 6th (out of 100!!). WE NAILED IT!!!
STAGE 3 - Thursday afternoon - 1pm - 3pm. Mountain Biking (2hr stage limit)
Team Selection: Me, Ali, Richard, Chris
Keep on Trucking
After a mere 15 minutes to congratulate ourselves, regroup and have lunch the team was back at it. The afternoon stage was on bikes and required teams to use the licences they had earned in the morning run stag to deliver goods to various cities using the correct type of LGV (collected from a Depot) and picking up the exact amount of the correct goods required from a Warehouse. What this meant in reality is that you had to ride like the lightening from point to point dibbing as you went, but crucially dibbing in the right dibber at the check point, depending on many factors to complicated to explain here. Deliver drivers aka those zooming round on their bikes also had to ensure they took appropriate rest along with fuel breaks en route to their delivery locations. Bonus minutes were earned for each correct delivery they made in this Fastest-to-Finish stage. A minimum of 4 deliveries had to be completed of there were major penalties to pay.
Richard (team leader and the main strategist in the team) put together a strategy which sent out two pairs (Richard & Chris) and myself and Ali to get two deliveries each, with a third optional delivery depending on the remaining stage time left. I was definitely feeling the strain by this point with the previous nights mountain biking stage, and full running onslaught in the morning. I was suppose to duck out of this stage, however Mark had picked up an slight ankle strain putting him out of contention.
The scenery in this part of the Welsh countryside - Nant yr Arian was stunning which often made it hard to keep your mind 100% on the task at hand. However camera's were a prohibited item out on stages so photos of this stunning landscape are few are far between. Team BRE put in another solid performance in this stage. Richard and Chris correctly making 3 deliveries whilst Ali and I made just the 2.
We finished with a stage time of 1:47:26 and picked up 20 mins bonus time giving a final stage time of 1:27:26 and stage position of 26. Combined with the morning stage this put Team BRE in 18th position overall for the Challenge after 3 stages. A job well done!! All we had to do now was maintain our position.
STAGE 4 - Thursday evening - 7pm-9pm. Puzzle Solving (2hr stage limit)
Team Selection: Charlotte, Ali, Chris, Mark
This was the first stage that I wasn't part of the 4.... I needed the rest more physically and mentally! This stage may not have been a physical one but it required nerve, skill and a lot of luck! The last of which deserted us a little. Pentago is a game similar to noughts&crosses in which the first team to make a row of 5 on the board wins. Players had to take turns in placing marbles on the board and rotating one of the 4 sub-sections of the board. Teams had 6 minutes each to make their moves during a game (as timed with a chess clock) and earned 14 bonus minutes for each game they won in this Set Time stage. 14 bonus minutes per game was in my opinion far two much when you compare it to what was available out on the hillsides of Nant yr Arian, but all teams had an equal opportunity to make the most of this lucrative time bonus. Team BRE lost their first 2 games, but fought back to win the third. This was only after the opposition actually rotated the board to complete the BRE 5 in a row!! We needed this luck and the 14 minutes! However we lost a further 2 games with 1 more win making it 2 wins and 4 losses. Not what we wanted, but the whole team was I think just glad it was over. With a stage 4 position of 57th we fell back to 25th overall. This was by no means a disaster and the team knew what we had to do the next day to get back into winning form!
STAGE 5 - Friday - 10:30-15:30. Biking/canoeing (5hr stage limit)
Team Selection: Whole team!!
I May Be Some Time...
This was the grandaddy of all stages. A massive 5 hour stages set at the source of the River Severn – Hafran forest beside lake Clywedog. This multi discipline stage saw teams running and biking across diverse terrain in the magnificent forest Hafran and canoeing on the serene waters of Clywedog. Teams had to visit four Geographical Points; the Prime Meridian, Equator, Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, within the stage limit to avoid time penalties. One of these GP's was accessible by 4 person canoes; the other 3 by bike deep in the forest with some very steep and long climbs to boot.
The stage also incorporated many more twists and turns including four differently themed expeditions that could earn teams big rewards. This all required some very clear strategic thinking... enter team leader Richard!! The main question was whether to go out in the canoe first or the bikes. There were benefits to both approaches. The majority of teams chose the bikes, but Team BRE always like to be bold and opted for the canoe! The thinking being that the stage start was set right beside the lake and we could get out there and collect the GP, whilst also coming back for a quick pit stop before going back out on the waters to tackling the biggest expedition of the four with a potential 70 bonus point haul for visiting all 9 checkpoints in a certain order within the 60 minute expedition time limit. This was a massive ask, with Richard and I only able to watch on from the shores as our 4 intrepid explorers Ali, Chris, Charlotte and Mark set off to do what many teams thought impossible!
With just 10 minutes of the expedition time remaining there was still no sign of Team BRE whom still had 2 more checkpoints to visit and get back to shore. It was over the 70 bonus minutes were gone and we would of lost an hour of the stage time. But Wait!! On the horizon there they were! Team BRE wasn't about to give up and with Ali shouting the instructions the canoe loomed larger and larger into focus across the still waters of lake Clywedog. They could still do it!! the decision would now be...could they make the final checkpoint to pick up the full 70 bonus minutes, or would they have to head straight back to shore to be certain. At this point myself and Richard were jumping around waving arms frantically trying to get the team back to shore with out further delay but Ali and team took this instruction to be a full frontal attack for the last checkpoint!! It was going to be very close!! Making matters worst we didn't know exactly when the 60 minute stage time had started (nor it turned out did those in the canoe!!). But those guys gave it their all and cruised up onto the shore and dibbed in with less than 2 minutes to spare!! 70 minutes in the bag!!
The timing was perfect and we could take the mandatory 1/2hr lunch break which you could take at any time after midday. It was 12:03! Those sandwiches tasted even better with the sweet taste of success! However the stage was only 2 hrs in with still 3 hrs to go, and the huge expanse of the Hafran forest to explore in the afternoon.
Another element of this stage was to visit eight Latitude/Longitude Points (LPs) the grid references to which were retrieved at the four GPs visited. Thus we already had 2 LP's plotted on our stage map which were picked up on the canoe GP, which could be visited on bike whilst biking across to the 3 other GP's. The strategy adopted meant that we estimated it would take approx 2 hours to get the other GP's leaving an hour of the stage time remaining to visit more LP's and/or undertake another of the expeditions, one of which involved orienteering on foot with 42 potential bonus minutes available. This especially appealed to Mark who is an experienced orienteer.
The team made two substitutes before we went off biking with myself and Richard replacing Chris and Ali who had put in an absolutely amazing effort in the canoe. The terrain in the forest was up, up and up! So again the secret Team BRE weapon was used to full effect with the bungee cord used to attach Richard and Charlotte together. The morning's rest gave me a new pair of legs and I loved this stage blasting up the hills and blasted even harder and faster down them! A puncture to my front wheel held up proceedings temporarily before Team BRE was off again at full tilt. The GP's were dibbed, and many LP's also visited on the way around too. But then a lapse of concentration at one of the GP's from myself potentially put the whole stage in jeopardy.
There are very strict rules on each stage about the number and order of team members that dib at each checkpoint. Sometimes its just 1 member, or 2 or the whole team in some cases. For the GP's which had to be visited by all 4 team members only one member should dib whilst at the LP's which could be visited by pairs or the whole team two members should dib. At this GP's Richard dibbed and without thinking I also dibbed before Richard could shout NOOOOOO... I was immediately resigned to the fact that this potentially zeroed the team score for the stage!! However we were far from certain of the consequence of this as there was nothing in the rules about it. The Marshall on the GP checkpoint also put the team at some ease reckoning that this would not effect our score. The lesson was learned however (well so we thought!) and we moved on.
With all the GP's collected and 4 LP's out in the forest that were nearby also retrieved it was decision time. With an hour left on the stage (as predicted) do we head out to one of the special expedition areas in the forest and complete these for bonus points or go back to base camp and bring Ali and Chris back into the fray. 2 of the LP points plotted on the stage map were on the lake accessible by canoe, whilst 2 more were further south in the forest. This was where I did my first major bit of strategy of the Challenge (perhaps the only time!). And the team agreed too! We would ignore the expeditions and instead get back to base camp and send two back out in the canoe to pick up a potential 35 bonus minutes whilst Richard and I would set off for a last big loop in the southern area of the forest to the 2 LP's for another 35 bonus minutes!!
With the strategy decided we executed it almost to perfection! However the dreaded dibbing rules struck again. The guys in the canoe (their names omitted to protect the innocent) sent out to the 2 LP's were both required to dib to pick up the bonus minutes however at the first only one dibbed costing a valuable 25 bonus minutes. However this was only a minor blip on an amazing stage which had everything. The overall strategy was spot on and team BRE accumulated a massive 2h55m bonus minutes giving us a final stage time of 2h05m. This gave us a stage position of 22nd place, and overall position of 21st! (Up 4 places from the previous stage). The memories of Pentago were well and truly banished!
STAGE 6- Friday - 10:30-15:30. Running (1:45hr stage limit)
Team Selection: Me, Mark, Ali, Chris, Guy
Intelligent Sport Frustration
It was time for the senior executives to take centre stage!! 100 Senior executives desend on the Challenge each year to join their team on the final night stage and last day. Enter our man - Guy!! He was definitely the man for the job and turned up at base camp with flap jacks and freshly brewed tea!! I could get use to this.
However there was no time to reflect or celebrate the success of the earlier stage as the team had to now turn their attention to stage 6 which would be a night running stage. Team BRE would be 4 members plus Guy for this one, and with the success achieved thus far it was fair to say that we were all starting to feel the pressure, especially Guy who in his 'didn't want to cock it up'.
This was a fastest-to-finish stage and a game of Frustration. Guy had to visit up to five checkpoints on stage to solve maths puzzles to earn counters for team BRE, which could be used to move around the game board. To move the counters around the board the team had to run off in the dark to visit Dice Points in pairs, to enable Guy to move the counters around the board. To make things even more interesting the stage map was back to front making navigating in the dark in high humidity with midges swarming all over you testing to say the least.
But we all kept our cool and despite the pressure that I was certainly feeling the stuck to the task and executed our strategy which was to simply get the minimum 2 counters around the board and head for home! Guy was brilliant and nailed the strategy on the board to ensure that the two pairs collected the correct dice points in the correct order. One slip up here would of meant major penalty points.
The trickest part of this stage were the counter questions which had to be answered. As we were only going for 2 counters we only needed 2 of the 5 questions answered correctly, however this proved tougher than we had anticipated. Afterwards we all agreed we would go back to school for basic long hand maths lessons before next years challenge!
Team BRE got 2 counters to the home squares on the board, and finally managed to correctly answers the 2 questions before making our way down through the forest to the finish area. We crossed the finish line in 1:12:10 attaining a stage position of 29th, and improving our overall position another 3 places to 18th!!! Good it get any better than this!?
STAGE 7 - Saturday morning - 9:00-10:45. Building(1:45hr stage limit)
Team Selection: Richard, Guy, Chris, Ali, Mark
Anoga One Bites The Dust
This was it!!! The final day of the competition was upon us and what we all feared was here - yes the dreaded building stage!! BRE being the Building Research Establishment should mean that this would be our best yet, a certainty, perhaps even a top 5 spot!... However in last years competition this is where the team royally screwed it up, and we could not afford a repeat of this performance. The pressure was really on, so the strategy was to play it safe and avoid any penalities.
Anoga is apparently Welsh for '2 eggs' which was a clue to the stage, however we didn't spot this one. In this fastest-to-finish problem-solving stage, the team incluing the Senior Executives had to retrieve two eggs from golf tees. But yes you've guessed it you couldn't touch the eggs!
1 egg was located behind a wooden barrier, and the other had a circular obstacle surrounding it. The set up of the build area meant that not all team members could see the egg at any one time, with different team members standing in different zones, with out of bounds zones separating them. It was up to each team at the start of the stage to decide what zones teams would position the 5 members in as well as the equipment and materials to build the contraption capable of picking up an egg off a golf tee. Once the decision was made there was no turning back!
And in true Team BRE fashion we went for a build strategy that looked decidedly different from everyone elses, spacing our team out in across all 3 zones in a 2 - 1 - 2 position, whereas everyone else adopted a 2 - 3 or 3 - 2 position across just 2 zones. Would it work...only time would tell but I was looking on from the side lines on this one, and it has to be said the Team BRE was causing quite a lot of amusement for spectators. Not least because they left it with less than 10 seconds to go before all members got into position in their allocated zones with all the equipment and materials they required! I can only guess it was obviously merticuously planned that way!
All teams quickly started to build very similar looking contraptions which consised of 2 wooden tripod structures with a pulley system cleverly setup inbetween to retrieve the eggs. However looks can be deceiving and whilst some teams quickly got to grips with this blueprint, others definitely struggled. At this point team BRE looked somewhere inbetween the two.
However it all started to quickly come together, and before you knew it team BRE had successfully picked up an egg in what can only be described as a witches hat! All they had to do now was carefully get it back to the outstretched hand of Richard, whilst Ali nervously tugged at a bit of string as it came ever closer! They had done it, and in under 1/2 hour! Definitely in the top 10 of teams at that point in the stage. The tough decision now was whether to go for the second egg to earn big bonus points, but potentially waste time if they can't manage it, or to call it a day and take the whooping time bonus by finishing the stage early.
They went for it! The contraption picked up the first egg with ease so surely it would be the same for the 2nd! On the 2nd attempt at the 2nd egg they had it in the witches hat, however it dropped out. This was as close as they got to retriving the 2nd egg as it frustratingly just wouldn't go for them. Team BRE decided to call it a day within the hour, which only meant a short sprint finish around the course to the finish line. Surely there would be no drama here. But wait the team was heading off in the wrong direction and missed a left turn where they had to deposit the egg. No one quite knew what was happening least of all me. The team did it seems dib in the wrong order but luck was on our side, and team BRE was awarded a stage finish time of 1:02:28 and position of 34. Not bad and we avoided any penalties, so the nightmare of last year was forever forgotten.
STAGE 8 - Saturday afternoon - 13:30-15:00. Biking/Running (2.5hr stage limit)
Team Selection: Me, Richard, Mark, Charlotte
Intelligent Sport Grand Prix
Blimey writing this race report has been an endurance event in itself!!! But I've finally made it to the last stage of the Microsoft Challenge hooray!! And what a last stage it was. Following the success in the morning the team made a strategic decision to leave the location of the morning stage way before lunchtime and make our way straight to the final stage start/finish area which was set in an amazing location on the top of a dam.
The Grand Prix is a straight race between the 93 teams that remained in the competition on this final day. 7 teams had fallen between Day 1 and Day 4 including the Army apparently!! The Stage consisted on a 2 km sprint to kick things off which one member of each team runs. I led the way for Team BRE in this. Then there was a 13km bike ride, followed by 8km run. The terrain for this stage was like the previous 7 - Hilly!!
The klaxon went off and I was off sprinting over the dam with pride pumping through my veins. It was soon apparent that the early pace set by a few enhausiastic soles at the front was ambitious to say the least! I was soon in my rythum though and passing people at half way and continued to as the course twisted its way back up to the start/finish area. The tranisition area was very chaotic and not very well designed with our bikes at the very back, and somewhat bottlenecked in. However after a bit of a slow transition as a result, team BRE were on their bikes back across the dam and off for the 13km ride.
However this was not a simple point to point stage (nothing ever is!). On the course there were 4 'braincells' which required teams to reengage the brain at these checkpoint and answer a question correctly. Get it wrong and the team had to go into the cell for a time penalty. The penalty ranged from 6 minutes for the 1stcell to 9 minutes for the 4th cell. Team BRE soon came to BrainCell 1, and fluffed a fairly straight forward question to work out the percentage of coloured blocks that made up an image of a car. So a 6 minute penalty awaited. Whilst we kicked ourselves for getting it wrong (the answer was infact 62.5% not 60% as we had put down), it did allow us to take a quick breather.
Back on the bikes and using the not so secret weapon - the bungee cord, we pressed on. I was attached to Charlotte which kept the team compact and flying up the ascents. We kicked ass on BrainCell 2, correctly working out the area of a carpet to be 201.625m2! The reward for this was an amazing downhill decent which must have been 2-3 miles in length. Simply stunning, but my bike was taking a pounding, and the front wheel looking decidedly dodgy!However we soon arrived at BrainCell3. This required the team to count the number of green discs in the green undergrowth testing our observation skills. We all took one look at the task, and at each other, and decided not to waste time with the task and getting it wrong but to take the penalty straight away. However this time it wasn't a nice breather, but a steep ascent and descent on foot. I relished the challenge and we got stuck in completing the course in approx 6 minutes. Back on bikes we knew we only had around 3km left to the final transition zone, which was all downhill so we gave it our all (yet had I known then what I know now about the state of the bearings in my front forks I may may rode with more caution). However caution is not what we needed.
So off the bikes and continuing on foot for the final 8km. The stage map indicated 2 summit points on route to the finish. The first was childs play as we scooted up with some ease, again the bungee cord greatly assisting the ascent. The 2nd summit point however was a monster as we saw ahead of us team barely clinging on to the rough surface. Team BRE really pulled together here and we me barking the orders we gave it everything and got to the top. Despite all that we had only covered 3km and still had 5km to go!! It was at this point on the stage that team BRE's action got a special mention in the awards cermomy later than evening as we came across a team with one of their members clearly struggling with an ankle injury. They didn't have a first aid kit despite being a mandatory item however we stopped and helped out.
Onwards and downwards we reached BrainCell4. This one was going to be a piece of cake... spot the capital cities in the wordsearch grid. Easy. We counted methododically up, down, left, right, and the diagonals, and spotted 9! Gave our answers, and got a 'nope wrong'! What!!! In our haste there were 9 cities but not all were CAPITAL cities!! damn it...out concentration had slipped and cost us another 9 minutes. By this time Charlotte wasn't feeling so good either. One of Mark's dodgy energy gels was the culprit! We took our 9min penalty and still attached to Charlotte on the bungee we headed out for the last stint. It was a flat run in from here, but after 4 days of non-stop biking and running, as well as the mental exhaustion it was still going to hurt (a bit).
I was literally dragging Charlotte along and shouting the best encourging words I could... not because she is slow... far from it Charlotte is a great runner and kept up every step of the way but because I wanted this so bad, and wanted every team member to give 150%...something I shouted on more than one occasion I think. Charlotte was fantastic, and dug deep as I continued to push and push. We flew along in the last 1km passing a team on the way to the finish area where we were reunited with the other 3 members of Team BRE, before the last charge of 500m across the dam and over the finish line!! We had done it!! It was over!! The team high fived, cracked open the champagne and celebrated what was an amazing effort not only on that stage but over all 8 stages of the last 4 days.
We crossed the finish line in a stage time of 2:17:14 and stage position of 23rd!! Another supurb team peformance and one which together with the morning stage meant that we finished in 17th position overall, with a total time of 11:56:13. Agonisingly Team BRE was only 15 minutes short of making a Top 15th spot which would of gained us a European qualifying spot in the Intelligent Sport World Series. This fact alone though shows just how well we did, and there is always next year to better it!!
I would sincerely like to thank the members of team BRE; Richard, Mark, Ali, Charlotte, Chris and Guy all of whom made this such a tremendous experience. You guys rocked and I look forward to sharing many more moments like those experienced over the past 4 days again. cheers
And so that concludes this blog!!!! Huge syths on relief all round I expect. Sorry it has been so long... I may go back and edit some bits to shorten a little, but I hope that it has captured the magnitude of what the Microsoft Challenge is all about.