Haglöfs Open5 Series – Warcop
Warcop is in the North Pennines, somewhere not too far from Penrith. Despite the snow afflicting other parts of the country, I cruised in on the train on Saturday afternoon and made use of the shiny new bike path from Kirkby Stephen train station down into the village. I was booked into the youth hostel there and was pleased to find plenty of fellow racers setting up residence. It was positively arctic in the main room. It’s a converted chapel, and what church has ever been warm?! So we soon decamped to the pub, where I stuffed myself silly. I was having no repeat of last month on the food front! Perhaps we were lucky to get served after one of our number told the waitress their menu was boring …
Sunday morning and we set off for the race. Tom kindly offered me a lift. I think with the ice on the road it was a good choice as his car soon left the others trailing. When we got there to register we found transition was quite some way away. I was glad I left in plenty of time as it turned out to be mostly uphill and rather icy in patches! We knew in advance about the special water filled tunnel under the A road. I had solved the problem of how to carry welly boots down by just wearing them all weekend, and I’m glad I had them with me.
This event was on a military training area, which is only open to the public one weekend a month. I was alarmed by all the guns firing on my ride up to the start/finish, but am pleased to report I saw none of this during the actual race!
I think my run was pretty sensible; I did a nice efficient loop and started late enough to follow the snowy footprints of other racers in the off-piste parts. I was also very excited to meet James Kirby, the photographer, en route – a rare occurrence.
A quick transition (12th!) and I was off on the bike. I started slow and a bit muddled … again. This seems to be becoming a bit of a habit and I’m not sure why. But after fumbling around for the second and third controls I got into a much better rhythm. When I had finished doing a loop to the west I was left with a decision. To stay low, go back past transition and do another circuit on what I knew from the run were mostly tarmaced, clear roads to the east. Or to do the long climb up onto the fells and cut back down. Checking my time, I went for the high loop.
Big mistake! Even though I expected the last push up to the top, I had not anticipated the amount of snow that was lying everywhere. Even once up, I was having a lot of trouble riding. I was determined to give it a go though, as the race would be a total write off otherwise. I gave myself a pep talk, and started a tally of the number of times I flew into the snow. Snow is pretty soft and doesn’t hurt, though I have since discovered some random scrapes and bruises :-).
I quickly lost count of the falls, but eventually managed to escape with a fast blast down the hill. Sadly, this plan was only going to work if I had enough time to get all the really high pointers down at the bottom. I hadn’t. A last second decision to take a time penalty hit and backtrack to get an extra 25 didn’t work out either! It would have been a good move if I’d thought of it 4 minutes earlier, but still wouldn’t have been enough to get me the win.
That honour went again to Lucy Harris, who is now in a very strong series position. In retrospect, if I had done the low figure of eight on the bike I’d have probably avoided penalties and got a couple of extra controls. Sometimes a race just comes down to one of these key decisions. Lucy also went up high, but biked first and was smart to avoid making a similar mistake on the run.
On the upside, I felt very much better in this race than I had in January. The bike worked as it should, my body worked as it should, I ate as I should and my brain almost worked as it should! 3 out of 4. The weather was also sunny and dry, and despite my little panic up on the fell, I did have a chance to take in the fantastic scenery and feel the sense of adventure. Something I wouldn’t have got if I had been sensible and pootered around at the bottom!
I topped the day off by getting a lift all the way back to Edinburgh – big thank you! I was home by 8, in front of the TV, watching Dancing on Ice, eating pasta and drinking Dr Pepper. What luxury 😀