Haglöfs Open5 Series – Bacup
We’re now onto the 3rd event in this winter series of 5 hour races. I had managed to persuade someone else to race with me and was entered into the female pairs with Marie Meldrum. We met during the Big Ben Nevis triathlon in September and I knew we must be fairly evenly matched for pace because we finished only 2 minutes apart in a (nearly) 10 hour race.
Marie picked me up for an early start on Saturday and we drove down south nattering the whole way. A handy stop at Tebay services for dark chocolate waffles from Wales and the world’s tastiest oatcakes from Fife. They came in handy post-race on Sunday! By lunchtime we had made it to Bacup, a funny bit of Lancashire with wild hills and moors sandwiched in amongst industrial towns like Bury, Bolton, Blackburn, Burnley and Bradford. They must have a thing about the letter “B”! Bacup is also the location of the mountain bike trails at Lee and Cragg Quarries.
We managed to faff around quite a lot whilst putting off going out into the wind and heavy showers for a little pre-race ride. Eventually we set off to get a taster for the area and found it to be exceedingly rocky and windy! I was feeling rubbish, Marie was looking great. Andy says I always say I feel ‘off colour’ before a race, which I disputed until I thought about it…
The B&B experience was like something from Fawlty Towers. “John Cleese” answered the door to two wet, muddy and in my case, exceedingly cold, girls. Marie was jabbering about how we were the “ones with the bikes” (he looked blank) and how we were told to “arrive early to avoid getting in the way of a family dinner” (he looked alarmed). The bikes were put in the garage but we felt the need to check he would shut the door on them for us. In the morning Marie asked if he had a rear bike light we could borrow. They were compulsory for this event but the one I lent her had disintegrated on the previous day’s ride. He said “I don’t know what one of them is”. Marie said “you know, the red lights on the back of bikes, they sometimes flash?” and then elaborated “we had one but we totally destroyed it yesterday, the tracks were so rough”. I think any chances of us getting one then were dashed, and we were still laughing about it so much we nearly drove in the opposite direction to registration 😀 (in the end we made do with a little one).
It was like a comedy act getting ready for the race. Marie was so excited / nervous she made about a hundred trips to the toilet. Whilst she was doing goodness-knows-what in the boot, I was trying to route plan and having blank head syndrome. I was shaking badly, half from nerves and half from cold. The friendly squeeze from Dave as I checked some things about allowable routes on the map was really appreciated! We also seemed incapable of deciding what to wear and hid in the car when it rained :-).
By about 10.15 we really couldn’t put it off any longer and headed up to the start/finish area. The weather for this race was quite epic (though still didn’t top the infamous Kirkby Stephen day). Marie did a fantastic job on the run of keeping the pace up, letting me shelter behind her and generally being helpful. I was chuckling at her enthusiasm as I was getting control descriptions read out way before we needed them and questions like “is it that post / stile?” when we were nowhere near the location!
Things went slightly haywire when we set off cross-country on a non-existent path. It turned out OK when we miraculously ended up exactly where we needed to be: “3m high walled gap”. We whooped, yelled, laughed, got a funny look from another competitor then shushed and tried to creep off, not to give it away to anyone else! The next control was a mistake as we stumbled through large, scratchy tussocks surrounded by pools of icy cold knee deep water. About this time it started snowing, and when we heard a thunder clap we both screamed! I think it was a mixture of fright and delight :-o. After the next control we went back pretty much the same way, which was silly. We’d have been much quicker skirting round on a real path, as opposed to the fantasy one on the map. Yes, we had been warned … My feet had turned into blocks of ice, which was great first aid for my slightly twisted ankle, and I had forgotten all about my dodgy leg. It was fortunate that Marie forced me to eat as I was putting it off due to cold hands. She was right though, as I needed it to keep warm. It felt late when we finally scrambled down a sheep track (avoiding the lovely firm, graded bike track we couldn’t run on) and got our final run control at the bottom of the quarry.
We’d both been looking forward to the bike leg. I rode like a different person from the day before. Unfortunately, so did Marie! After a slow start, some motivational chit chat and a load of food perked her up again in time for a high speed cobbled descent, before another slump at the end. I could tell it was bad as she started talking to herself, and I did my best to give her a push whenever I could. I think a recent cold was having more of an effect than she’d like to admit. A chain jammed into the front shifter gave us a fright 15 minutes from the end but was soon fixed. On the upside, we only made one small strategic error of an unnecessary short loop in Cragg Quarry. We also both executed a couple of fine manuals off little drop offs which made us happy :D. Marie sung from Winnie the Pooh …
The more it snows (Tiddely pom)
The more it goes (Tiddely pom)
And nobody knows (Tiddely pom)
How cold my toes (Tiddely pom)
… admired the scenery and made helpful suggestions such as “there’s a nice looking path – we could go down that one!” (me: “yes, but later!”)
We must have been almost last back, as transition was nearly deserted when we got there just under 4 minutes late. I’ve never got changed so quickly after a race, desperate to get warm dry socks on my feet! Before the race we knew there were at least 4 other female pairs who could be up at the top and challenging us for a podium finish. Prize giving came quickly and we found we had made it into 2nd place, just pipped by 5 points by Fiona and Fi, who we’d been jostling with on the bike leg (they had a much better run than we did). Overall, we came 9th out of 175 starters, which can’t be bad going, especially considering this was Marie’s first ever adventure race! She was even still smiling at the end and said it was fun, so hopefully we’ll be back another time :-).