6am alarm on a Sunday after entertaining dinner party guests until late. Urgh.
-2C on the car thermometer. Brrrr.Scraping ice from the outside and inside of the windscreen. Meh.
Even Bernard doesn't want to start this morning, coughing once before his diesel engine grumbles into life. Don't blame you mate.
Who decided this was a good idea? I did? Oh... OK then.
After doing two races in the Open 5 series last year I was keen to do more. This weekends event was in North Wales, not too far from Mold near Chester. This passed the crucial test of time spent travelling should be less than the time spent racing. However for these events I'd make an exception because they are invariably well run and great fun.
HQ was at an outdoor events centre where I was pleased to see my ex colleague, ace orienteer and general top chap Dave W manning the desk. Having called in to see him only a month back we didn't have much to catch up on this time. I filled in my form, paid my entry fee and went to get the bike ready. The start was a short 2 mile cycle away but with solo runners supposed to start before 0930 I needed to get a shuffle on to get there at a reasonable time.
Open 5 Top Tip: Write your start time on one corner of the map. It makes working out your remaining time easier.
Open 5 Top Tip: If you pack your map board, remember to pack some elastic bands or bulldog clips to hold your map on. You idiot.I hadn't had much time to study the map before setting off so, after hastily scribbling the scores for each control on the map, had a brief think about route. I could see a nice loop taking in both sides of Moel Famau but wanted to pick the easiest way up. Track or unknown surface? Track it is!
I started off with a decent value few roadside controls before starting the climb up a muddy bridleway and onto the track up the side of the hill. The riding was varied, sometimes rocky, sometimes very steep, but predominantly muddy! There were several times where I was riding along at a jaunty angle because my rear wheel had stepped out of line in the gloopy goo. The descent from Moel Dywyll to Fron-Haul was fast, interesting and brilliant with some really cool banked corners leaving me with a big grin.
Shaka = ride loose bro 8-)
I should have gone back up the same way as the steep grassy hill (with accompanying headwind) that I ended up pushing up possibly wasn't the best route choice. Winding my way through the network of tracks I enchained the last few controls (once I figured out which stream crossing and which tree) and back to the finish in a shade over 3 hours - so far so good. Both of my derailleurs were covered in clag and not working very well and my feet were freeeeeeeeezing!
Chop chop!Er... where am I going? Oooh I know, look at map!
Eat salted caramel chocolate shortbread (nice).
Point out to other competitor that he's still got his helmet on and he's going about to start running.
Realise I'm still wearing my helmet and about to start running.
Take off helmet.Swap jacket for one that isn't saturated with drizzle and sweat.
My legs were feeling it from the bike most of the way up the first hill. I found a bagel in my bag (cheese and marmite!) and also found my stride. The gradient was such that I could walk faster than I could run. There was a tempting control halfway down the hill which meant losing height then having to gain it back. It didn't take that long but I did overcook it on the climb back up to the path so had to pace myself for a bit. Onwards to the misty summit of Moel Famau and the control inside the foggy Jubilee Tower.
Jubilee Tower - damp, cold, windy
Even the trig points needed wrapping up to keep warm
This is where I cocked up, possibly a bit down on sugar and a bit out of puff from the ascent. Not paying enough attention I took off down the wrong path from the summit. It was only when the countours stopped fitting the map. By that point I'd descended about 50m from the summit so had to countour round to pick up the right path. Stupid mistake and carrying on for the control compounded the error when I should have just abandoned it and headed back. This cost me later as we shall see.
The ridge line appears through the clouds
I descended the ridge, making up for my earlier mistake by picking a spot on line to the next control, dropping in almost right on top of it. I realised at this point that it was going to be tight to get back in time so I put the hammer down. This is difficult to do when you've got no hammer left in your legs but I tried my best. There were two more 20 point controls on the way back in that I beeped but by this time the bounce had gone from my bungee.
The thousand yard stare as I finish the run, totally depleted. I must be able to see my chocolate.
I knew I was late but I thought I'd squeaked in under 10 minutes. Pulled on my super warm Buffalo top and my cold wet shoes :-( and gently pedalled the two miles back to the event centre, muddy shoes swinging from my rucksack strap.
I downloaded by results from my dibber and was both pleased and annoyed. Pleased that I'd scored my best score so far on an Open 5 (410 points) but annoyed that I'd lost 35 points for being late. 445 points would have been a really good score.
I consoled myself with an excellent veggie chilli jacket potato and lots of stuff from the salad bar, the catering staff at the outdoor centre having done a cracking job of feeding everyone up. The usual faces were on the podium, nice to see Rosemary and Lucy winning the female pairs again.
And as usual I didn't win anything in the raffle!
I checked the scores the next day and was super chuffed to find I was in 12th of 31 place in the Male Solo category and 26/73 overall. I managed to hit my target of a top 15 finish in this series in the solos in the first race. What's slightly galling is that had I not bothered with the control I got mildly lost on then I would have had a top 10 finish, that would have been some achievement! I guess all the mountain biking I've done this year has helped.
Apart from that nav mistake and coming back slightly late I was hapy with my performance. I thought I made good route choices for the most part and my fitness is definitely better. Cut out the silly nav mistakes and more consistent fuelling next time!
Kudos to the offical event photographer who got some great shots of the day. Check them out on the Open Adventure Facebook page.
Also kudos to Open Adventure for organising another great event.