Haglöfs Open 5 North Downs
The one we got away with.
The North Downs are a long way from where I live, but close to where my aunt and uncle live. I went down for the weekend with my mum and spent a happy couple of hours on Saturday riding around the trails near Epsom. This is a spot with many horses and many bridleways. I was hardly on a road for any of the route, though I got a taste of the conditions I might face a bit further west during the race.
Andy did his first ever trail race in the dark the night before and loved it. You can read his report here. I was teased for not doing both races, and though I was tempted, common sense won for once!
Lucy had put in a fantastic effort at the Marmot Dark Mountains event the week before this race. 68km non stop in the dark in the Peak District in 12.5 hours – respect! It was a last minute decision for her to come down. We want to win the female pairs category in the series, and for complicated reasons it turned out we’d have to do this one. Unfortunately, Lucy was racing tired and with a sore knee.
We had a plan. To bike a lot and run a little. So we planned an insanely ambitious bike route. After a last minute mechanical panic we were the last to start and headed off into the sunshine for a bike ride. I have to admit we might have been enjoying it just a little bit too much. There was the ‘path’ which resembled a small stream, the mud baths, the hills, the huge puddles so deep my bottom bracket needed attention when I got home … and it even seemed quite warm. No Buffs necessary! We managed to keep up a good conversation and all was going well.
That is until we made a bad navigation error and didn’t realise until one muddy, hard going kilometre later. A road? There should be no road down here … after some circling in the forest on tracks marked and unmarked, we followed Lucy’s trusty nose and came out at a bunker. We were back on track but had lost a whopping 20 minutes of time.
Just after this, we got a bit crazy. We debated bike controls vs. run controls and just how well Lucy would actually be able to run. We decided on the madness of just a bit more biking, then overshot the turning twice. What a comedy of errors! On a road back to transition we time trialled it into transition with Ant Emmet, who was telling us he had over-cooked the bike. So had we, but sort of on purpose!
For the first time, we were arriving at transition as everyone else was heading back to the event centre. We had to be careful to dib the right box (‘transition in’ not ‘finish’) and had just half an hour left for the run. For optimal scoring in an Open 5, the consensus is usually to do roughly 3h of biking and 2h of running. But the race is also strategic and we had to have a strategy that would work for us on the day.
Unfortunately, we still managed to stretch ourselves too far on the run, collecting 3 controls but clocking in just over 10 minutes late. We got 25 penalty points, which was not great. I was more concerned though that we weren’t making Lucy’s knee worse as we picked up pace back to the finish.
Our score was very low and we sat anxiously at prize giving. Would it have been enough? It turned out most scores were lower than usual; the course had been a tough one. However, we only came 29th overall, when we would be aiming for the top 10 on our best days. Still, we just about got away with it, and won our class, giving us 3 wins to defend the series with two races to go.
Many thanks to my mum for doing a lot of driving and to my aunt and uncle for their hospitality. It is amazing how you can fit three people and a mountain bike with big wheels into a small Ford Ka. As we set off after the race I nipped into the nearest shop for some food – a bag of Flamin’ Hot Monster Munches, a can of Dr Pepper and a yoghurt; salt, sugar and protein – all essential post-race nutritional groups covered!
Despite the lack of racing ‘class’, I still had a fabulous day and we both agreed what a fun bike ride we’d had 😀
And finally, I was presented with my ‘10,000 points’ award. This means I have done enough Open 5s in my lifetime to amass this many points and join the club with 4 other women (for now). Hurrah!