Haglöfs Open 5 Innerleithen
My return to racing after a ‘rest’ period!
Before the Open 5 … Where have I been for a month?!
Well, after the Snowman race, I was due a break and really needed it. I was a bit tired of racing and spent the week at my dad’s relaxing. OK, so I included a couple of long bike rides and a ‘romp’ up and down a mountain in that time, but I also had nothing else to do except cook, eat, sleep and laze around!
That was fun. The next couple of weeks I rode my bike to work and did the minimum of running to keep things ticking over. That included a couple of 5km Parkruns – still chasing that elusive 20 minute barrier though!
On Thursday 31st October, I marked the end of recovering by heading out for a local Halloween special. A cyclocross race in the dark in fancy dress! It was a whole lot of fun and I had an excellent battle with my friend Elizabeth – though she got the better of me in the end and accused me of cornering like a roadie … oops. She came an excellent 2nd. I was a bit frustrated to come 4th. I was beaten by 3rd place by less time (18 secs) than I gave away at the start (74 secs) by not being assertive and waiting near the front of the mass of riders. Hey hum, it wasn’t a serious race and it got my legs working at a speed I’m not used to! It also forced me to abandon my fear of slidy mud riding, at least temporarily.
Haglöfs Open 5 Innerleithen
I missed the first race in the Open 5 series because of the Snowman. I wasn’t going to do the same for the next, especially as it was almost on my doorstep. At least, it was at my local trail centre, 45km away. I raced with Lucy all of last year, but she couldn’t make it for this one. Not to worry, Caroline lives just a few hundred metres from the event centre and agreed to race with me. I was excited, as we have been trying to get together for a few times now, and this was the first time it had worked out. The fact that after she had agreed to it, she asked ‘oh, is there running in it too?’ didn’t faze me – she was in now, no going back 😀
I wanted to ride over the day before, but the weather was rubbish. I settled for an afternoon and evening catching up with jobs before heading out for a lift from the bypass the next morning. Halfway through town, a car with bikes on the back came past, pulled over and offered me a lift. Many thanks to Anna and Chris!
Because I had been at home the night before, I didn’t really feel in race mode. But once I arrived and got the map, I was soon right back into it! We struggled to decide what we might do for the bike, though I knew from experience that it was a good idea to study the contours in the forest very carefully.
At the start we got the control values and set off confidently straight up the hill on the run. We had a nice circuit ready for this. At one point we considered crossing a pathless felled area. I pondered that ‘Lucy would make us go that way’, but we decided not to. That is, until a few hundred metres later an easier opening appeared and we took off! Caroline was good at finding a route through the tricky bits and confidently led us back down hill next to a stream. At a sheepfold we debated whether to go up again before we went back … going back was the right decision as we arrived in transition after almost exactly 2h. The last couple of km had been tough for me – nothing new there then!
Onto the bikes and we were straight back up the same hill we had started on the run. We nearly made it before we spun out and then were soon on a singletrack leading to the top of Minch Moor. I love that hill! Steady gradient, rocky and a fabulous power climb with huge panoramic views at the top. We didn’t stop long to admire them though, as we headed for a muddy out and back on the Southern Upland Way. Apparently at the control we bumped into my friend Andy, but I totally ignored him … I mean … failed to notice him! On the other hand, we unwittingly gave him a ‘good tip’ as we confidently stated out loud that it was definitely not worth going out further to the next control along. Tales back at race HQ confirmed it!
The ride had plenty of technical challenge. As well as the rocky climb, we now had a muddy ascent, where you had to search for firmer ground, feeling whether your wheels would grip and constantly adjusting position and scanning ahead. Next we were screeching downhill again on the man-made trail, and I was working hard to keep up as Caroline demonstrated her superior descending prowess!
The points allocation for the bike leg made it hard to come up with an ‘elegant’ route. We had to do a few out and backs. Later, back at home, I spotted a potentially better route, but I am not sure we would have had time to execute it anyway. As the race drew to a close we did one last long out and back. I wanted to collect at least two, maybe three controls out there, but the clock was ticking and we were slowing. I faced one of those difficult decisions as we stood at the track / road junction and Caroline said ‘you decide’. I was feeling good, but I could see she was not, and we had 9km into a headwind to go.
I decided to just turn back and faced the final technical challenge! We didn’t have a tow line, but the headwind was strong. We decided Caroline would draft me, so I had to find the right pace and then use my internal power meter to keep a consistent effort back to the finish. 😀 Another good decision for the day, we got in with 3 minutes to spare. How unlike me!
At prizegiving we found out we had won our category and come 7th overall. So despite the pain, we had achieved a respectable score and it was safe to ask Caroline if she had enjoyed the experience :-). She said she did, and we certainly appreciated the lovely Haglofs gilet we both got as a prize. I don’t know if I will persuade Caroline out again now that she really knows what she’s letting herself in for, but in any case we had a great time out in the autumn sunshine!
Many thanks to Open Adventure for putting on the race and to James Kirby for the Open 5 photos.