Haglöfs Open5 Series – Peak District
The series finale!
To sum this race up: sun, hills, friendly locals, roads, prizes and my best ever supporter!
The race was in the area known as the ‘white peak’, starting at a little village called Alstonefield. This is in between Ashbourne and Bakewell and less than an hour’s drive from my mum’s house.
Having taken a long weekend off work, we went out for a recce on Friday. Whilst my mum pottered up and down the Manifold Way on her Brompton, read a book, ate ice cream and found where the river had disappeared to, I hauled myself up and down a 53km figure-of-eight loop with 1135m of climbing. It was handy to stop back at the car in the middle to have lunch with her in the sunshine! I did my best to seek out every little bit of bridleway and byway and pack it all into one ride :-).
By the end of the day, I thought I might have guessed the map area the wrong way round – portrait instead of landscape. As it turned out that was the case, but I’d had a rather fun ride anyway! Some further map study at home on Saturday made up for it. For me, this kind of ride is all about getting a feel for the topography and the terrain of the area, plus putting my head into ‘mountain biking mode’.
This race was going to be the decider for the series, and I didn’t even know if Lucy was doing it! I was a bag of nerves. This showed when we nearly left the house without my bike wheels! Thank goodness I went back in for just one last trip to the toilet and saw them sitting in the hallway!
I kept an open mind on whether to run or bike first. After looking at the map I decided to get a good strong bike in first again. It was a different course to usual. Lots and lots of road riding. To the east there were a few low scoring controls – but after going out to collect a little clutch worth 40 there didn’t seem much point missing the others out, so I blasted along and collected the lot – a first for me! Looking at my heart rate graph afterwards I noticed a general dip in the middle. Maybe I unconsciously dropped my effort a little, something to watch out for. I haven’t got any more scientific than that though!
I forgot to pack any Nuun (a sports electrolyte-only drink i.e. no sugars) and couldn’t find any in the buzzing metropolis of Lichfield. So at 9pm the night before the race, I had decided to resort to the internet to find a ‘home-brew’ recipe. I would make this the race when I tried out a return to a carbohydrate-containing sports drink! Andy says this will be essential for the Celtman. I’m a scientist, so after reading several suggestions, I went with the modal average. Sort of. It tasted OK!
1 litre water
250ml orange and mango juice*
2 tbsps lemon juice
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
* Because there was no plain orange in the house
It was a hot day though, and by the time I got to transition after 63km I was already a bit dehydrated. I gulped down some water and set off on the run. I‘d already planned a likely loop when I was cycling up the last hill. It felt hard going and slow. After three controls, I got into a total dither about which of two options to take. I kept thinking “Don’t take any silly risks!” In the end, I decided it was an acceptable risk and set off in a determined fashion, collected a 15-pointer and nipped across the river Dove, just by a spot where I swam once :-).
At this point total confusion set in. I crossed a wall, but thought it was the one 500m further up. Which meant the control I thought was 100m away was actually 600m away – I was having a panic! It was all totally clear looking at the map in retrospect, but I think the dehydration was messing with my normal thought processes. Why didn’t I drink more of the water I was lugging round with me?!
On the plus side, the locals here were the friendliest I’ve ever encountered in a race. Some were cheering and clapping, people were telling me the control was on a tree ‘just up there’ and others were commenting on my ‘series leader’ label. Earlier on, one group of cyclists told me to ‘just follow them’! Shame they weren’t going my way ;-).
I finally got to the control, but was seriously short of time and had to miss out two nearby 10-pointers. My legs were really hurting and I didn’t feel like running anywhere. I also remembered that we had started the race on top of a hill, which could only mean one thing …
However, it was 4.5km to go. I told myself that in the Celtman, I would feel much, much worse at the end – so I had better get on with this as it would be good practice! After that, I felt better; I ran at a consistent pace and was smoother with the navigating. Still, it didn’t stop me getting back over 6 minutes late – 14 penalty points! Gargh!
I got 506 points – my third score over 500 this series. I didn’t know if it was enough though, especially when I saw Lucy at the finish! I was left on tenterhooks as the female solo category was last in the prize giving. When it was finally announced I was so happy – I won the race and won the series :D.
Lucy did well, got a good score despite a dodgy hip and moved up to second in the series, with this event’s course planner, Karen McDonald getting series third.
I also proved I can do a half-decent race even when the weather is nice!
Finally, I got my bottle of champagne for getting 5000 points ever in Open 5 races, and a special Haglöfs gift for doing all 7 races this series. It’s not easy staying fit enough to race every month through the middle of winter. I started with a twisted ankle and no run training, progressed to a muscle strain in my leg, flu, and some mysterious virus that left me wheezing for a month.
But I don’t care, because in amongst all that I also got in some great riding and running, learnt from a few mistakes, experienced loads of new places, made some great friends, and achieved something that eluded me last year!
Now, what’s next?!