Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

November 8, 2011

Open 5 Adventure Race, Shropshire Hills, 6 Nov 2011

The second race of the Haglöfs 2011/2012 Open5 Series was held in Church Stretton in Shropshire. Sarah and I had a very early start to make the long trek down from up north, which we were dreading.  But even the drive was beautiful, as a brilliant sunrise gave us views of fog-covered valleys with the tops of trees breaking through.  It promised to be a perfect day, with light winds and a cloud-LESS sky.  How often does that happen!?!

My only previous visit to this area was on the LDWA Housman 100, which featured the Long Mynd ridge from about mile 73-80.  You may recall that during this part I was bawling my eyes out this was a pretty tough section of the 100 miler for me, and I didn't have good memories of the ridge at all.  I was hoping to change that today.
From a little research on the ‘net, I had discovered that the Long Mynd area was well-known for its great mountain biking trails (and also hopefully discovered which trails were better avoided!)   At registration I was gratified to see that the MTB map covered the exact area that I had predicted, and felt as prepared as I could be without having recce’d the area ahead of time.  We messed around studying the map until we almost ran out of time in the start window, and began to hurry it up.  The sun was out, but it still felt quite chilly, so a reluctance to strip down to our race clothing might have held us up a bit!
For our second Open5 together, Sarah and I had made some adjustments to our kit to match our speed to each other.   Turns out this meant I was carrying the pack on the run, while Sarah was floating free as a bird with no luggage bouncing on her back!   We had also reluctantly agreed to leave the camera at home, which I’m sure saved us 20 minutes at least 30 seconds.  Although it really was a shame, with the brilliant sunshine we sure could have taken some blurry wonderful photos while running down the singletrack!   The plan worked out perfectly, though, we ran at the same speed through a run course that had it all…lovely trails, great views, and a bit of heather-bashing. 
Several run-ins with our biggest competition, Fi and Fiona (were they following us?) gave us motivation to keep the pace high and nab all the points we could.    We discovered afterwards that we had run/ridden almost identical routes as they had, which gave a very positive spin to our navigational choices.
Our run route went a bit long and we were back into transition in 2 hours 10 minutes.   A quick change of shoes and some map faffing (Sarah had left her map board at home, but who knew that zip ties work just as well?) and we were headed out again.   Within a mile I realized that my back tyre was really low, and Sarah came to the rescue by actually knowing how to use the CO2 pump that I had always carried with me and never needed to use.   (Note to self…try out gear at home).  Within minutes we were back on the road.
From that point it was a long slog up a grassy trail all the way to the top of the Mynd.  Far from having a nice ride along the ridge, the controls then took us down/up, down/up, down/up, and up some more.    To keep stay close together on the hills, we pulled out the tow rope and tried it out for the first time.  Just a length of cord tied to my backpack, with Sarah holding the other end at her handlebars, it worked quite well.  Although I never felt much pull on it, so I think just having it there gave a physiological boost and helped match our speeds.
Time started running out on us while we were still high on the ridge, and reluctantly we had to sacrifice last control on our list, which included the best downhill singletrack in the area.  Bummer.  We took a shorter route instead, but still found ourselves dibbing the last control high on the ridge with only 15 minutes to go.  I started to worry.  The descent was a long, steep, never-ending grassy pasture track, and as I rattled down with my brakes clenched, I made a mental note to check my brake pads after the race.  Finally we bottomed out and hit (I mean, we opened) our first (and last) gate of the whole race. 
Back on the road, we had 3k or so to go with just 5 minutes left on the clock.   You guessed it, that wasn’t enough time.   My watch gave me the bad-news splits, and although we pedaled our little hearts out, we finished over 6 minutes late.   Dibbing in, we were still thrilled to see a score of 491, meaning that we had left less than 100 points out on the course.  It was another perfect race, as our final control still gave us more points than we lost in late penalties. 
We were still stuffing our starving bodies with jacket potatoes and sticky toffee pudding (kudos to the caterers!) when the awards ceremony started.  Event planner Jims’ face made a big “O” as he looked at the scores for the women’s pairs, and he commented that it was very close.   Having tied for first the last event, we were getting used to this (!), and waited for the 3rd place score to be read out.  490 points for Jill and Sharon (3rd again).  YES…that meant we were 2nd (again).   Fiona and Fi took first, but were only 3 points ahead of us.  Turns out they had taken a wrong turn near the finish and came in late as well.  We had expected them to be way ahead of us, so 3 points felt like nothing. 

Two close seconds put us in the lead for the series, although in our category I predict it's going to take 3 perfect 100s to actually win.  We're sitting at 199.39 after 2 so we'll see if our other races go as well (fingers crossed!)

We hid from the camerawomen this race and hence there are no photos of us, but I've stolen borrowed a few others from the Open Adventure photographers.  Mostly they just showcase the absolutely brilliant sunshine and wonderful views we had while racing!  Results and photos here.


  1. Wow, I love the view. Fantastic isn't it ! Great race too.

  2. well done to you both, another great result.....you'll get 'em next time ;) looks like it was a great weekend for racing.

  3. What a result! fantastic. You'll have to let me know what it's like to be on a podium sometime, the flags are usually packed away by the time I get round :-) See ya soon.

  4. Great race and a very inspiring text.

  5. Great report Dawn, keep spreading the word. Peter Rostron at Haglofs

  6. great pictures, great write up, im taking part in my first ever event of this type at Bacup so avidly reading all the reports i can from the experts.

  7. Adventure Racing, I looked at your Spartan Race website, wow do they look tough!

    Kate, I think we are pushing a little harder just because we are in the running, but mostly it's just FUN to race, win or lose!

    Mike, Same here...luckily in a 5 hour race, we all get done near the same time, slow or fast, it's what I enjoy about the Open5 series!

    Peter, thanks for sponsoring the series, we're all having a blast!

    Qurtan, thanks and hope you can get over here to participate someday!

    Dave, Good luck in Bacup, if you have a chance to recce the area beforehand you might want to try to get up to Lee Quarry, I hear it's great riding!