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.

Collecting a run control

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 :-).

Lots of snow, lots of spills

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 😀

Full results here and photos here.

Posted on 06/02/2012, in Adventure Racing, Race Reports and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. big respect for heading up into the snow on your bike, i’d have given you an extra 35points for that 🙂

  2. Wow – great report Rosemary – well done! Donnie’s decided to give me some orienteering lessons – so – maybe – one day!!! Can’t begin to imagine how awful it must have felt cycling uphill into more and more snow, racing against the clock and having to keep a clear head! That’s it! You’ve just inspired me to cycle to the top of cow hill in the pouring rain!

    • It was one of those very sinking feeling moments where mind control is an essential skill. It’s happened before and this wasn’t the worst, though it was pretty bad!

      I’ll get you out for another lesson sometime 🙂

      Hope cow hill was good (have I been up there?).

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