Haglöfs Open 5 Lake District
This was the 6th race in the series and my favourite so far (not counting the first one, which I planned, so of course it was great! 😉 ).
I had treated myself to a stay in a ‘camping pod’ because it’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages. I’ve seen a few around the country, but every time I’ve had the opportunity, they’ve been fully booked! I almost wished it would rain so I could feel smug and dry in my wooden hut, but it stayed sunny all weekend. 🙂
On race day things seemed a little more rushed than usual. Lucy was having last minute gear issues (thanks to Jon for helping with that!), whilst I was squinting at a map trying to work out a bike route through the forests.
We set off confidently on the run; Lucy was navigating as usual, though I think she was making up our route as she went along! It turns out that it was very effective, as our contour profile was quite efficient. The promise of summiting Grisedale Pike was tempting. Well, to Lucy … but I was pulling faces because it ‘looked a long way up’! We decided against that control and a cairn on the same ridge and turned for home.
We knew this would get us back a bit short on the run (we normally aim for 2 hours, and got in after 1h40). But we also knew that the bike leg was committing. Although we planned to go round it anti-clockwise and give ourselves escape options at the end, those escapes would mean dropping high value controls in the forests. It turned out it was the right decision to leave the two 10 and 15 pointers which had tried to lure us and save the time for later.
Out on the bike and it was my turn to map-read. Control number 2 had been discounted before we even set off on the run – it was so far out of the way we hadn’t even noticed it when planning and took ages to find it when we were marking the control values! We quickly decided the other control to miss was number 10. It was only worth 10 points and involved losing height early on. Both were good decisions.
So, we were sailing along nicely, making good progress. The first 5 controls were quite close together, but soon we started climbing. And climbing. And climbing. 10km uphill in total! The next 3 controls took 1h10m to collect. We knew there was some fun to come though. We dropped into the top of Whinlatter forest, after some slightly tricky navigation where the compass even made an appearance.
At this point we joined the singletrack of the Altura trail north loop. Lucy shot off like an antelope, whilst I messed up a hairpin bend, got off, fell over on ice, wished my tyres were softer and generally lost it a bit. As we zoomed past the visitor centre, along a stretch of very fast blue route and onto another fire road, Lucy was still pulling away on the hill. Now, it wasn’t technical any more and I wondered what was going on. The first suspects for me on occasions like this when my mojo seems to have vanished are: 1) food and 2) water. I ate, drank and miraculously recovered!
The singletrack on the south loop consequently went much better. I remember racing up here in my first ever Open Adventure race 4 years ago! The red trail makes long switchbacks up a steep hill. Alex Pilkington (who finished 2nd) had overtaken us and seemed not far away on the fire road we were aiming for – but we still had some distance to ride! Soon enough we got there and were rapidly descending. We did a very fun section of the blue ‘Quercus’ route and then back onto fire roads and a bridleway to the finish.
I came round the final bend a little too fast, saw a rut, panicked, braked too hard and crashed into an unyielding fence. Owww! My first reaction was to check I hadn’t made a hole in my new favourite jersey to match the mysterious one which has appeared on the other side – but all was still intact so I was relieved ;-). We were less than 2 minutes from the finish and blasted in 6.5 minutes early.
I was on a bit of a high, as it was one of those days where we got to the end and I didn’t think we’d do anything very different if we went round again.
It felt like we had done a lot of climbing. Reviewing our route, it turned out we had! 45% more climb on the run and 36% more on the bike, compared to our average over the rest of this series. In a way though, I enjoyed this as it was a proper tough challenge and it felt like we’d really earned our result. Tactically we also made the right choices, and it was worth the couple of minutes we spent debating out on the run.
The results were read out and we had a really good win. We were chuffed! Especially as this was also the first time we have made it into the overall top 10 as a pair (we were 9th, beaten by a mixed pair, a male pair and six male solos). As a pair, we just keep getting better together at the moment.
Since I made my plan for the year, I’ve stuck to it, done eight races and been in the top 3 every time. For next weekend I have snuck in an extra race – the Tour of the Meldons time trial. This will be on a road bike and sadly I expect my podium streak to end. I’ve never managed better than 4th in this local race. This year it is also a Scottish Championship, so the competition will be even greater! It’s all part of my training though, getting my mind and body ready for the Slateman triathlon in May.