Thursday, 11 December 2014

Haglofs Open 5 - Carlton-In-Cleveland, North York Moors (2014)


After last months adventure race (AR) in the lake district I was definitely looking forward to doing the next one in the series. I checked out the OS map of the area and was immediately struck by the interesting terrain - lots of contours, bridleways and criss-crossing paths was going to make for an interesting event. I contacted Emma to see if she wanted to share a lift up but she hadn't got a partner sorted out so we decided to enter together in the Mixed Pairs category.

The weather on Sunday morning wasn't great with a wet front passing over and more behind it. However the forecast for the area was promising with sunshine predicted along with a fresh, cold breeze on higher ground. Loading up the car in the cold, Sunday early morning rain wasn't the most inspiring activity I've ever done but we were soon on our way.

Emma and I chatted on the way up about everything from sexism and gender through to how we best worked when on these events. Having done plenty of these races before she has a good idea of what keeps her going and motivated when she's tired. Thankfully Emma is a good communicator so I knew exactly where we stood.

Being mostly a solo competitor in such events I had no idea how I'd get on in a team as I generally look after myself. I know from climbing that it takes a while to build up trust with a partner through shared experience so expecting teamwork miracles on our first event together was unrealistic. However we get on well so no personality clashes were expected!

The 7P's

We all know that Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. So the first thing to do is have a good old look at the map. This is where Emma's AR experience came through and it made me realise how poor my route planning was given a time limit. I think in the Lakes I had winged it a bit on the ride and run timings, doing it by feel and intuition rather than a calculated approach. By contrast, Emma was doing distance/speed calcs in her head and quickly coming up with suggested routes. I felt a bit stupid; this calls for a spreadsheet!

This data, along with some technical map measuring tools (I'm thinking about a bit of string here) should make planning the route on the next event much easier! As Emma observed, you have to be a bit of a geek to do AR...

We kitted up with waterproofs on from the start to combat the cold air, lining up at the start at 1004. Emma said she preferred to run first so, as I had no strong preference either way, that was the plan we went with. We aimed for a 2.5 hour run and 2.5 hour bike. Read on to see how that unfolded...


We elected to run clockwise so that the westerly wind would give us a push up the steep Carlton Bank to get access to the hills. We bagged the relocated CP22 (after the owner of the nearby farm smashed the original beeper with a hammer) and slogged up the hill to get onto the Cleveland Way. Emma was setting a good pace and I was probably running about 80~85% effort to keep up, not doing much nav at this point other than trying to stay on her heels and not die! ;)

Up the hill to 30, the narrow track with sun blasting straight into our eyes to 31, back onto the main track and down the slippery stone stairs to 34. Setting off towards 35 we took a wrong turn, ending up somewhere that looked and smelled like it had just been napalmed. I did look around for the crashed alien craft but nothing was in evidence. We retraced our steps once we realised the landscape no longer fitted where we thought we were on the map. This cost us 8 minutes.

Another uphill slog on a zig zag track from 35 to 37, then along the ridge with a breeze as epic as the views to bag the cunningly hidden control at 38. We then retraced our steps and headed for the road, getting caught in a 15 minute blizzard rolling straight towards us. Last uphill slog to the top of Carlton Bank along the Cleveland Way before the descent where our navigation became unstuck.

Instead of taking a bearing on the next CP and following the likely-but-unmarked-on-the-OS-map-of-LIES path straight down to 23 (yellow line above) we decided to follow the contouring path and then pick up the path below. This was OK but because the CP was positioned above the path we ran straight past it and then wandered round in circles for a bit before half figuring out and half spotting other competitors heading for the right spot. We probably lost around 20 minutes due to this error, putting us nearly half an hour behind where we wanted to be. On the plus side, Emma's original estimation of 2.5 hours would have been about spot on (she's good at that). I'm still kicking myself for not concentrating as much as I should have done on the map.

It was at this point that I realised that we hadn't come up with a pithy team name for our entry. I had come up with the phrase "disappointed by spinach" after a meal the week before (thought it would make a good song title for the next Half Man Half Biscuit album). After explaining this, we have been very unofficially christened Team Spinach.

Back onto the road, tag the control nearest to the finish and into transition with a total of 3 hours on the clock. 2 hours to make an impression on the bike...


Feeling good, energy levels good, legs reasonably fresh. Changed shoes, helmet on, quick look at the map, dibbed out of transition and off we went.

Our original plan was to make a loop south to 1, west to Chop Gate and then back along the road. After seeing the state of some of the low lying bridleways when we got to 3 Emma suggested, wisely, to stick to the road and make out-and-back excursions to pick up the controls.

The slog up Carlton Bank to 6 was bottom ring all the way; tough climb. Our original plan was to carry on the road, pick up 12, 13, 11 and 5 but time was not on our side. So we shot back down, past the start to the roads. The descent back down was grin inducing even if it gave me a terrible ice cream headache after neglecting to put my buff on! Road to bag 5 and 11, then back down and back up the (steep, again) road to 13. We eventually found the right picnic bench and headed back. Some guys that got to 11 were just arriving at the end of the bridal path as we were heading down the hill indicating that the road was indeed faster in this instance.

My bigger wheels and cycling conditioned legs put me on windbreaking duties with Emma trying to stay in my slipstream. We experimented with a tow off my rucksack strap but it wasn't long enough. Next time we'll fit a proper boingy tow for the bike stage should we end up racing together again.

We made it back 1 minute late resulting in a 2 point penalty, which wasn't too bad considering. Nav on the bike was fairly straightforward so no worries there. We downloaded our results from our dibbers and went in search of warm clothes and dry socks! 388 points overall.

Post Race

Tidy up gear, get changed, chocolate milk recovery drink (I wonder if I could be a Yazoo sponsored athlete? I'd have to get sponsorship by Ginsters whilst I was at it) and back into the centre for a jacket potato and a brew. Lovely. Time for a quick round of what Emma calls "Fantasy AR" (think "Look what you could have won... a speedboat!" in a Bullseye/Jim Bowen voice).

A quick look at other routes that we could have taken suggest that we scored quite well for the amount of time we spent out. Take away out nav error and we could have got extra controls on the MTB and pushed for the podium spot. Next time! Anyway we got announced in 6th place in the mixed pairs out of 24 which I was fairly happy with.

We set off home straight after the prize giving (I'm still hoping to win the raffle for the Haglofs jacket sometime) and had a steady run home chatting about work, politics and life in general. Thank you Emma for putting up with me all day :) Go Team Spinach.

Overall the event was well organised and run, thanks to the marshals, volunteers and course organisers for a fun event.

Went to bed with a sore stomach, probably eating jelly babies with mucky hands after changing my shoes in transition. It persisted for a day or two afterwards so I'll probably put some alcohol hand gel in my transition kit next time.

I hadn't sweated much during the race due to the temperature but I had only drunk 1/4 of a 2 litre camelback over 5 hours so I was a bit dehydrated. Not enough, drink more next time! Food was jam sandwiches, golden syrup cake and jelly babies, all of which worked just fine and I didn't bonk at any point which means I got the fuelling about right!

Equipment all worked well, my Haglofs Gram 15 rucksack is perfect for events like this as it doesn't bounce around all over the place on the run. Ronhill winter tights, Sealskins socks and a Rab MeCo baselayer kept me warm and a Montane Minimus kept the worst of the weather off but I could probably have managed with a good windshell for the small amount of snow that we had. I stuck my Montane Prism gilet in the bag in case I needed some more insulation but as with all fast and light outdoor events in winter its a compromise between weight and warmth. Got it right this time.

Amusing Names From The Day's Map

Race Analysis

Using Open Adventure's very handy race analysis tool you can see how you stack up against the competition. It seems that everyone who scored higher than us managed to bag more MTB controls. Maybe that means next time we need to focus more on the bike than the run? What is the magic balance between the disciplines? Perhaps 3h bike and 2h run is the most efficient?

It was fun racing in a team, especially with Emma's experience. For a first go as a team I think we did well. Goodness knows what Emma thinks!

Lessons Learned

  • Be an active participant with the navigation!
  • Take 5 seconds to confirm the next navigation leg at major junctions, saves time in the long run
  • Red chinagraph pencil works well on wet map. Blue less visible.
  • Mark checkpoint scores using thick end of a Sharpie marker for increased visibility.
  • Fit yellow lenses on the bike glasses to deal with low sun
  • Fit a bike tow next time, but practice with it first?
  • Drawing a line on your thumb makes for an excellent pointer when thumbing the map
  • A timing/pacing card and a measurer for route planning would be useful
  • Hand gel on hands between Stomach pains afterwards

Other Strava-ites

Chris Hope (he's the Daddy)

Rosemary Byde

1 comment:

  1. If you look at the points for run / bike and assume you get a roughly even number of points per minute throughout the race and in proportion to what is available for each leg ... then it would be 2 points per minute, 2h5m of running, 2h55m of biking. We usually start with a basic aim of 2h run / 3h bike. But of course this depends on your ability being about the same on both, the controls on the two maps being equally easy (or difficult!) to get and there not being some other factor which influences e.g. loops you have to do and can't get out of.

    By the way - Sexhow - we were very glad it wasn't 'in play' as we have a history of going way over time when place names such as these are involved! :D