Haglöfs Open5 series – Staveley
The first event in this series seems to have come around so quickly – it doesn’t seem a year since I stood at the start of my first solo event in Slaidburn feeling a bundle of nerves. I was nervous this time too, but only in a healthy pre-race kind of way.
I’d arrived in Staveley on Saturday in time for a hearty lunch in the sunshine at Wilf’s (definitely recommended) before going for a spin in the afternoon. I was trying to get a feel for the lie of the land and the state of the trails without wearing myself out. What a shame the 3 hour ride turned into more like 5! However, I had taken advantage of the unseasonable sun, topped up my tan and got an extremely hearty meal at the Eagle and Child in the evening, so it felt like a good day.
Sunday was still warm, but damp. I registered and collected my map in good time. Before each of these races I have a look at the map, try and guess where the likely event area will be and then study it hard to fix it in my mind. Familiarity with what you’re looking at on race day is a great help! It doesn’t always work, but this time it did, as I had the bike area almost exactly right. In the comfort of my B&B I planned some routes with options depending on control values and then rolled back down the hill to start.
In the last of these events in April there was loads of great biking with lots of points – which I missed out on because I totally over-stretched myself on the run. I was determined not to do the same this time and set off rather conservatively. The first small loop was over rough ground up and down a hill. My knee was complaining slightly. I went over on my weak ankle. Again. My navigating wasn’t quite precise enough… I put all of this down to being totally out of practice – from both running (practically zero since Ben Nevis) and foot orienteering. Added to which, the new shoes didn’t even seem to be gripping on the tarmac!
I reminded myself I was in it for fun, adjusted my route and after a mere 10.6km in 1h39m I happily set off with loads of time for the biking.
I whizzed along the roads and tracks to the first few controls. My bike was munching up the kilometres and I had a big smile on my face! I had a slight nagging worry about the funny noises emanating from my bottom bracket and about another, which just turned out to be me breathing … I concentrated on whooping on the fun bits, riding faster than normal on the technical bits and keeping a nice rhythm on the climbing bits. All was going wonderfully. With about 1h40m left to go I had bags of time for an 11km loop back on the hills, so nipped along a road for a low scoring 10-point control. I even started fretting that I had cut the run too short and would be back early.
I had to push up the next short section – which I had anticipated, so it wasn’t a surprise. However, I suddenly I ran out of water, hit some sort of metaphorical wall and with over an hour still to go, my mood had taken a massive swing in the opposite direction. I couldn’t think straight, I started falling off, and I slooooowwwed down. I stopped more than once to debate an extra out and back (total 2km) that I blatantly did not have time for (luckily my fuddled brain did work this out eventually).
I finally started to see a few more people heading back my way and was inspired to find some new source of energy when Dan Halliday from Team Accelerate caught me up. I couldn’t quite keep him in sight, but it did give me a kick start that I needed. Sadly a little too late – I blasted down the last hill to the finish but came in just under 3 minutes late – 6 penalty points for me.
Good enough to get 2nd in the female solos, though it was very close between the top 4. It wasn’t my perfect tactical race, but neither did I make any glaring errors. What did let me down was the running. The race analysis showing your position between any two controls demonstrates the point nicely; out of all competitors, I was in the top 10 for every bike leg that I did, except one. On the run, I managed to clock in at 92nd on one of the legs – ouch! I did speed up as I went along, so maybe there’s hope yet. A trip to the physio on Friday and some determined actual running training and I’m sure I’ll be back on form in no time :D. Meanwhile, there’s always the promise of more night time trail riding later in the week to keep me happy!