Haglöfs Open 5 Church Stretton
An amazing end to a successful series!
There was an Open 5 race in Church Stretton in November 2011. I enjoyed that race, did well and was looking forward to repeating the experience this month. Lucy has had issues with a chest infection and her asthma. Earlier in the week it was looking doubtful whether she would be able to race at all. When she decided she could, I was so pleased! We caused some confusion though, as we appeared on the start list as solos – I didn’t check in at 11pm on Thursday night to combine our entries online :-).
We did our usual planning, with a bit of squabbling (James K – how dare you say we were like an old married couple?!). I came up with an inspired bike route option at the last minute. It turned out to be useless though, as the control values meant it was sub-optimal – it was back to plan A when we started! The values also threw out our expected run course, so Lucy did a hasty re-plan before we set off up onto the Long Mynd.
As Lucy was still recovering, our speed on the flat wasn’t as rapid as usual. However, we kept a nice even pace and covered about the same amount of ground. We didn’t see James the photographer when we were out on the course. Now I know why, as he was taking pictures of people on footpaths, whilst I was being whisked around on the ‘direct’ routes straight up and down! This was all very well, except for my inability to go downhill at anything like Lucy’s speed. I felt guilty as I saw her standing around waiting at the bottom more than once, but marvelled at the accuracy at which we arrived at controls.
I vetoed a detour to a 5 pointer even though it wasn’t that far away. But I couldn’t get away with the one final trip up and down a short steep hill near the finish for a final 10 points. We finished the run in 2 hours and had only missed out 10 points altogether. A good start!
We set off on the bike and immediately got caught up in bank holiday traffic jams. We pondered what James T would say if we asked for time credits … “well, we got stuck behind all these cars for like, ages…”
Even though we were soon pedalling up an insanely steep hill on a road, I still felt this sense of mental and physical relief that I had finished the run without mishap and could get on with cycling :D. It wasn’t long before we were up on the ridge of the Long Mynd, enjoying a fast grassy out-and-back, then zooming along the ‘motorway’ of the ridge, dodging everyone else enjoying the bank holiday at a more leisurely pace!
After we came down the other side we had a decision to make about how many of the controls dotted around the lanes to go for. We chose ‘most of them’ on the assumption of a brisk pace. It was a bit optimistic, especially when we added in an extra couple of km for another control! But I also came up with a cunning plan to save us some time on the way back. It meant missing out the fun singletrack descent, but would be shorter and faster.
We had to push our bikes back onto the top of the ridge and it was a struggle. It was hot, steep and my calves were screaming. Our rear wheels clicked in unison as we ascended in silence. But it only took us 15 minutes rather than an estimated 30, so we regained some time.
We flew down a fire road (apart from my hesitation at the wrong forest edge) and popped out onto the road. At the next junction we had a decision point.
I had estimated it was 6km back to the finish (actually 6.2km; not bad). It was on roads, but they were lumpy and Lucy had warned me she didn’t have a sprint finish in her legs. So I thought 3 mins / km = 18mins. Let’s say 20. We had the option of an out and back to a 25 point control. On the way there I said “We need another 10 minutes for that”. Lucy looked at the map and said “you must be joking. That’s 3km! It will take longer than that” (actually, 3.1km – see, we’re good at this map lark!). I thought maybe she was right.
We got to the junction with 24 minutes left but an estimate of 30+ minutes to go. I was trying to be sensible and told myself I’m always too optimistic. I was getting resigned to a cruise back to the finish, when Lucy turned left.
What?! This is crazy, how come Lucy is taking more risks than me?! Later she said it just wasn’t worth dithering and she didn’t want to finish the series coming in slowly. She was right. We took off, got the control and back again in 11 minutes. Now we just had to get home along the road, not forgetting the final control we passed on the way. It was my turn to make up for being slow on the run descents, so I gave Lucy a power-assisted finish and 14.5 minutes later, we blasted in, dibbed and collapsed! Only 2.5 minutes late (6 penalty points). Brilliant!
Like the end of the race, it was fantastic to end the whole series on a high. We have got better and better at working together and the results show it. This time we were 8th overall (one up from last month) and well clear of all the other female teams and solos. A win in our category and a win for the series! Hurrah!