Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Misadventure Racing - Open5 Burneside

(Pic: James Kirby)
Picture, if you will, the scene: It's a Monday morning in February. I'm at the day job, out at a Health Centre somewhere in the greater Leeds area looking, at the IT kit with a group of other people. We need to look at the server and network room, which is in the basement. I wince and make a few small 'erk' noises as I creak down and up the stairs. "You injured yourself?" someone asks, kindly. "No, just a bit sore from the weekend, I was racing." There's a short pause. "Oh yeah, what kind of race?". Oh dear...

...That's where it starts: Trying to explain that I was doing a 5 hour Adventure Race. Trying to explain what Adventure Racing is. Trying to explain that, in the grand scheme of Adventure Racing, 5 hours is a short race. Trying to explain that, no, it wasn't a special thing for charity, I do these things just for fun. If they haven't glazed over before this point, it's definitely imminent. I'm never sure whether "I was doing a 5 hour race" translates in the layman's mind to 'my god, this man's an endurance legend!' or 'jeez, that's a below-average marathon time!', though I'd suspect my physique points them more firmly towards the latter. Anyhow.

(Pic: Rob Howard / SleepMonsters.com)

Rewind 24+ hours and I'm up in the south Lakes, lining up to start this year's Open5 race. Yes, just the one. James and the lovely team at Open Adventure had opted to only put on a single Open5 this year, which is both terrible and wonderful: Terrible that there aren't more of them, of course, as they're great races and invariably a fun day out, though quite often that's been Type 2 fun; Wonderful that at least I don't have to try and come up with excuses for why I'm slow in several races this winter rather than just one. The one race was based out of Burneside near Kendal, relatively home territory for me, or at least ancestral territory. James had announced that the registration was at the Bryce Institute building, but the start was around 3 miles away, which immediately prompted searching in that radius for other likely start locations. I came up with two: either westwards over to Crook and towards Windermere and Whitbarrow, or northbound up to Staveley and into Kentmere and Sleddale. The latter seemed more likely, a better mix of laneways, bridleways and footpaths, and turned out to be the correct answer, which made me both happy and anxious. Happy because I know the area roughly, anxious because... well, I know the area roughly, and I know there's some hard riding - the Garburn Pass, for a start.

I'd had a nice chilled out day on the Saturday before the race: A leisurely brunch with the other half, a steady drive up to the Lakes, a quick stop at Wilfs for a cuppa, a dip into Wheelbase to pick up some last minute spares. Oh, and driving into Staveley spotting the yellow event arrows confirming where the transition area was. Sorry James, I wasn't deliberately peeking, honest. Then a quick trip down the road to Prizet to relatively luxury, a hotel for the night! The Travelodge made a lovely change from a Youth Hostel room, and afforded a rare opportunity for a catch-up with Rob, the bossman from SleepMonsters. A good chat, a pint and a pizza plus a good night's sleep and we were all good to go and in fact, would be in a rare position: with another SleepMonsters editor, Adam Rose, racing as well we'd have 3 SleepMonsters in the same location at the same time! That in itself is rare, the fact two of them were racing is even rarer.

3 SleepMonsters! Adam, Rob, Pyro (pic: Mick Kenyon)
Registered and browsing the maps I realised I was right to be both happy and anxious. There was lots of good riding up onto both sides of the valley and yes, there was a CP up on top of Garburn. There'd been some snow the week before the event which had melted in, coupled with a storm that blew through on the Friday and Saturday, so the ground was going to be wet under both foot and wheel - the upper reaches of the Kent looked like I should have brought my kayak. There were the usual ponderings about how long to commit to bike for/run for, which to go for first, whether to commit to the furthest CPs and loops. Bike-wise I'd decided I was fairly settled on a plan, run-wise there was a good cluster of half-a-dozen CPs relatively close to home that looked like a good start but extending off beyond them would take some commitment. I always like to play to my strengths so biked first to give myself the best chance I can with them.

MTB - 37.35km, 665m ascent, 2:51:00 - https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3372564638

On the go! Pic: Rob Howard/SleepMonsters.com
The early going was steep but steady, I climbed gradually up the road and dog-legged back for a high point CP that I'd bypassed before climbing gradually along the gravel track and bridleway to the east side of Kentmere, across Staveley Head and towards Green Quarter. A brief decision, to out-and-back to CP17 towards Skeggles Water (no) or just continue to 16 on the ruin and move on from there (yes). From 16 another decision - drop down to 19 near Sadgill to have to climb back over the pass, or descend round Rasp Howe into Kentmere and head up the valley road to pick up 13. The thought of descending only to have to push over the pass to Stile End wasn't inviting, and sticking to the decent tracks and roads won out, and I dropped down to Kentmere and climbed somewhat more pleasantly on tarmac. I'd long decided that I wasn't going for the Garburn CP - only being worth five points cemented it - and one other CP looked like it could be a boggy slog for not much bonus, so after picking up CP9 above Kentmere and pushing hard down the road I stuck to decent tracks and tarmac lanes to loop round to Ings. Turning right off the main road to climb past Mislet brought back memories of slogging that way, much more broken, on a Man of Porage race a few years ago while headed for Ambleside: today's loop would be nicer but shorter, up the gravel track past Dubbs reservoir, the looping back round above Limefitt Park, past the pair who'd snakebite punctured on a rain bar that I just managed to bunnyhop, then back onto the road to descend and push hard all the way back to Staveley and transition.

Transition was alright, speed-wise. 18th overall out of 135 solos and pairs in 3:58, though probably half of that was getting wet bike shoes off and dry running shoes on. Elastic speed laces are great, but tricky when your fingers are cold and you can't feel your toes. We got there eventually, and trotted out with a comfortable two hours available for the run.

Run - 11.58km, 181m ascent, 1:52:09 - https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3372060173

Still on a bike. Pic: Rob Howard
I've been doing more running recently, something I always say I need to work on in the midst of these events. My local orienteering club has had a Night Score League going on over the winter, and I've made three of the five events, all 1hr Score format events on a Wednesday evening. With steady pace and decent nav I've been managing a steady hour reasonably well, so I was hoping that would stand me in good stead and I'd be marginally happier. What I forget is that my Wednesday night one hour run doesn't come after three hours of pushing reasonably hard on a bike. I trotted out of transition, up the road, over the bridge, and started walking steadily up the hill with both calves and thighs giving me gyp. I'd had a fairly noble aim of pushing for more than just the five nearest CPs, but started to realise that that wasn't going to be much of an option, as the path through the woodland round Piked Howe was slippy, technical and not overly runnable, and the fields above were slippy and sodden as you climbed. Despite the decent grip of the X-Talons, I was still sliding a lot, so trotted steadily. Alternating jog and walk as I felt one knee twinging intermittently, and I dibbed the last CP in the loop, in a six-stemmed tree down near Scroggs Farm, ready to head back to base a little bit disappointed with myself. Looking at my watch, I realised I had over 40 minutes left on the clock, and the indecision started again. There was one more easily accessible CP, along the main road towards Ings again. Not huge points, but a relatively flat out-and-back of about 4km total. I upped the walking pace, watching the pace reading on my watch - sub 9mins/km. I jogged a wee bit and checked again - a touch over 7mins/km. Hmmm. Right, decision made: Even feeling crap, a good steady walking pace would see me out to that CP and back inside time. It wasn't pretty, at all. I probably looked positively geriatric, glutes and hamstrings twanging, calves cramping, tabbing along at a modest clip, but I got there and turned back for home with 25+ mins left. Again, jog-walk-jog-walk-jog-walk until I was back in Staveley and trying for something akin to a sprint finish. Stuart Smith passed me in his van, and I'd love to say I drafted him but I'd be lying. Across the line to stop the clock, slump to the ground, change back into soggy bike shoes and get ready to ride the extra 3 miles back to the car and a large portion of Nav4 Chilli from Joe. Oh, the joys.

So, I ended up finishing in 4:50:15, 405 points, putting me 29th out of 59 male solos - perfectly mid-pack, which I can cope with. I even had my name pulled out of a prize draw hat at the prizegiving to win myself a nice new Haglofs windshell jacket. In the battle of the SleepMonsters, Adam beat me by five points and four places. He'd had a longer run than me first, but a slightly shorter bike. Would I have done anything different? Probably not. I could have picked up CP17 or 19 on the bike if the ground had been drier, but then would likely have missed the last CP on the run, so not sure it would have made much difference. While I'm glad I pushed for that last run CP, I would like to have got a little more out of the run leg in general - there were one or two CPs I could have added on but thought I'd have been more pushed for time, maybe I should have continued shuffling and tried to get them in.

Next up is - well, not another Open5 for this season! I've bravely or foolishly entered for the Northern Night Orienteering Championship on Ilkley Moor this coming weekend, so that's what I have to try and get my legs back into some semblance of shape for this week. After that, the Nav4 Daffy Run in March, which I'll definitely need my legs to be in some kind of shape for. All good fun and games, at least.



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