The final race of this seasons Open 5 series was a great way to wave goodbye to the winter. The sun was out, the trails were dry and we were looking forward to the first race to count towards the 2012 UK Adventure Racing team championships.
This time, Renee and I entered the mixed pairs, and Andy and Stu entered the male pairs. We decided to race as two separate teams this time, so that we would be classed as competitive and our scores would count towards the championships. (Last race we were a non-compettive 4, so we could get used to racing as a team, as we will need to do in the longer races later in the year)
As usual, we elected to run first. Generally I prefer to do this, as long as the bike does not commit us to a big loop with no escape should time run short. As I hadn’t run for 8 weeks (due to a lacrosse injury), the sensible thing to do would have been to plan a shorter run route. However, my only attempt of making the route short was to take the ‘direct’ route between CP 34 and 39. This involved a river crossing and climb straight up the steepest hill to be found in the area, with a good sprinkling of brambles and cliffs thrown in for good measure. After about an hour we found ourselves right at the bottom of the map with a long run back home. Still, the scenery in along the Dovedale Valley was well worth it.
Renee and I were in after 2 hours 7 minutes, having dropped just two 10 pointers (CP 36 and 31). Andy and Stu completed the run 7 minutes quicker, but at the expense of 15 points so really we were neck and neck. We would have to push hard to make sure we picked up all the large pointers on the bike.
The bike started well, taking the obvious loop anticlockwise from transition to CP4. Renee was leading the charge, and demonstrating why she kicks ass at cyclocross. Speaking of which, I think everyone racing that day wished they had a cyclocross bike. The event was about 90% on road, and this was certainly not a time to be trying out my new thick tyres. As it turns out, they (Racing Ralphs) are not too bad on road compared to my old thick (2.2″) tyres and I don’t feel like I’m hanging on for dear life every time I venture down some single track, like I do with my thinner, faster (1.9″) semi-slicks.
The route choice was quite straight forward until we ventured to the NE of the map and time started to slip away. It was clear that we were not going to be clearing the bike section in 3 hours, so dropping the 2 furthest 10 pointers was an easy decision (6 & 1). The main decision was if we were going to have time to pick up the final 20 points (CP3) on the way in. I decided to leave this to the very end, so we could assess based on how much time we had left. I asked Renee if she could hang on for a final 15 minute push (neglecting to tell her that I was doubting if I could), and we committed.
Cut to the finish line, and Andy and Stu were there to greet us. A quick debrief and it turned out that we had matched them for points on the bike, but had gained those extra 15 points on the run. However they were on time, we were late back. The question was how late. Along the run, I’d managed to stop my watch for a few minutes when taking a layer off. So as a result, I didn’t really know how late we were. If we were under 7 minutes late we would have beaten our team mates.
The printer spat out the results; 5 hours…… 8 minutes and 5 seconds, so close! We collected 560 points, but lost 18 points leaving 542. The guys had a solid 545. It came down to 65 seconds after 5 hours of racing. As a team we were very pleased to see how well matched we all are as a unit.
Now for the full event results, had we or the guys done enough to finish on the podium? The male pairs had a very strong field, and Andy and Stu placed 5th. Mixed pairs wasn’t too slack either, with all the previous winners from earlier races competing. Renee and I came 2nd, 13 points (or 7 minutes) behind Ant Emmet and Sally Ozanne from Team Mountain Hardwear.
It was great to find both teams placing so well, it really makes each decision out in the race all the more important, and every second not moving in the right direction critical. After a bit of Excel geekiness, it looks like if we would have taken a different route in picking up the last few CPs on the bike (15, 3, 8, 5, finish) and not (15, 8, 5, 3, finish) we would have saved about 10 minutes. But then I guess that is why Adventure Racing is so addictive, there is always the ‘what if’.
Results and maps here
Thanks to James Kirby and Open Adventure for the pics