Sunday, 2 November 2014

Haglofs Open 5 - Low Wray, Lake District (2014)

21 miles of mountain biking and 8 miles of running in 5 hours whilst orienteering? Sounds fun!


My friend Emma (an experienced adventure racer) had told me about adventure racing back in the winter of 2012/3 and since I'd only just started fell running at that point it all sounded a bit crazy. Cut to 2014, I'm much fitter, I've just bought a mountain bike, and I had a good time doing a sprint triathlon in October and wanted to keep the multisport theme going. So adventure racing it is then and I entered the Haglofs Open 5 Lake District race.

Getting Started

There was a big queue of traffic coming into the National Trust Low Wray campsite which wasn't moving as they were struggling to find parking spaces for all the competitors. So we pulled in by the farm and I fished Herman out of the boot and cycled in so Louise could escape to the shops.

Registered, got my numbers and map and fiddled about putting the homemade map board on the bike (old house for sale sign which worked rather well) before heading for transition. I was wondering how the couple on the MTB tandem were going to do and thinking how Louise would feel about doing a bit of racing. Time moves quickly whilst getting everything ready and before I knew it I was punching the start control and being handed my control description card.

First thing was to cross out the missing controls (5 each on the MTB and run respectively in this case) and then I wrote the points value of each control on the map (waterproof map, Sharpie marker). This makes the route choice more obvious as you can decide which controls are worth going for and how to link them all together. Scratching together a route using highlighter (doesn't work too well on the map) it was time to go!

"Breasty Haw" - 8-)


Taking care to head off in the right direction (getting out of the car park is always the bit I get wrong) I set off on my first adventure race. I was uneasy and nervous at this point but as soon as I saw other racers heading in the same direction as me and checked the first control the nerves settled.

Along some slightly sloppy bridleway and fording a stream to the first control then (mostly pushing) up a steep wet leafy track to the road into Hawkshead. Bridleway to the next control on a forestry road and then some rocky singletrack and boardwalk downhill to the next control.

35 points for the control on the singletrack, well worth the effort!

I was feeling very slow at this point with wobbly arms and the slightly technical nature of the track knocked my confidence a bit. However I remembered the lessons from my MTB Improvers course with Iain from MTB Cycle Yorkshire started to kick in and, improving my attack position and looking well ahead on the trails I suprised myself by getting through sections I would have normally pushed. Well worth going on the course!

I ignored some of the controls above Grizedale and just bombed straight down the road to Satterthwaite instead reasoning that time was more important than 25 points worth of controls for maybe an additional 20/30 minutes of cycling. I'm guessing that this is what makes the difference in this type of adventure racing; the trade off between points and time.

The rest of the controls were ticked off with some speedy forestry track (fun!) and slippery rocky singletrack descents (more fun!) and I became more and more confident on Herman as the day went on. Nice finish up the coast of Windemere and back to transition.

Strava log of the ride


After marking off the controls on the run map (old hand at this by now) and bagging the nice high value control nearest the start point I shuffled down the coast of Windemere towards Latterbarrow hill keeping up with a lad and dad pair to the summit and to be rewarded with a view of the Lakes in its autumnal glory. The combination of brown bracken, slate grey rocks, green trees and silvery threads of streams is totally bewitching when combined with the epic majesty of the fells. It's a marvellous playground.

A tussle trying to find CP33 (wrong location, it was 50m too far down the wall) lost a couple of minutes and then my alarm went off telling me I had half an hour left to get back before the 5 hour time limit was up - fook!

Thankfully I made good time after a gel and some fig rolls to perk me up and had time to check a control out on a bit of a spur. The campsite was in touching distance but there was no access across the fields turning a 1/4 mile crow flies line into a 1 mile race to the finish. Shame to see a male pair ignoring this rule and heading straight across the field back to the campsite - bad form chaps, it's not as if it wasn't clear on the map!

Strava link for the run.


I made it back 10 minutes under the 5 hour limit so no points docked for me!

Collapse in heap. Put on Buffalo. Drink chocolate milk. Eventually realise that I'm not going to get warm lying in a field so go to download results and get a brew and order a wood fired pizza - yum.

I spotted Rosemary of Planet Byde fame at the end of the race. I'd been reading her excellent blog to try and get some tips on the Open 5 series and some of them stood me in good stead today. It was nice to chat to her and say thanks for the advice.


I scored 400 points which I was reasonably happy with, not knowing if this was a good score or not. When the prizes were being given I realised that I was going to be top half of the table in the Male Solo category. I was very suprised to find I finished 25th out of 70 in my class, my best ever race result and not bad for a rookie! Emma finished 5th in the female pairs and her friend Ben (who I'd seen several times around the course) collected his 10,000 points award for the Open 5 series.

What was most impressive, as Emma pointed out, was that 1st and 3rd overall was the Mixed Pairs and female solo respectively showing that the women are just as fast as the guys - go girls.

Thanks to all the organisers, volunteers and marshals for making the day great fun for this first timer. It's a great community feel.

Lessons Learned

  1. Write down your start time in the corner of the map. This way you know exactly how much time you've got left.
  2. The control might not be exactly where the map/description says. Keep your eyes open.
  3. Evaluate all routes between controls e.g. the road might be longer but faster overall
  4. Better to stop for 30 sec and check your nav instead of running off in the wrong direction (thankfully I didn't do this... this time)
  5. Time moves quickly at the start, in the middle and especially at the end. Minimise faffing at each control and in transition.
  6. Practice navigating with a 1:50k and 1:25k map - I never use 1:50k normally so it took a bit of getting used to the distances/pacing on the MTB stage.
  7. There is a really good community spirit amongst all the organisers competitors which makes for a great event.
  8. Homemade map boards are suprisingly effective :)
  9. Take a camera next time, the views are often spectacular!
  10. You can get mud in places you didn't think it was possible...

In Conclusion

Thanks for talking me into it Emma!
Would I do it again? Definitely.