|Photos courtesy of James Kirby at Open Adventure|
Still, pulling out our bright yellow race numbers with "Series Leader" written on them in place of a number...well, that was just too cool. I suspect a few competitors might follow us around today in hopes of good nav choices...but I'm sure we'll get good and lost just to put that assumption to rest!
It was raining on us already as we started the run, and with clogged noses, hacking coughs, soaked gloves, and soaked feet (already), we immediately wrote off the day as a probable loss.
|The elusive control #28|
I had managed to get my permanent marker to write the run points on the map, but the rain then soaked the map and my pen stopped working. Should've had a grease pencil or something, so we pretty much had to memorize the bike controls' values to get our route planned. We attempted to do this while finishing the run, and I think both our speed and our route planning suffered a bit.
To throw another loop in our route planning, the quarry controls weren't plotted on the map in an effort to get us to ride the whole loop rather than shortcut straight to the points. The control descriptions of "signpost" and "stone structure" didn't help much either as I could remember several stone buildings in Cragg Quarry, and Lee was just a maze of trails. Added to that, the transition area was changed from the map location, which we recognized right away, but heard later that many racers got quite confused trying to figure out where they were.
We started the mountain bike with Lee Quarry and found one hidden control, then left the singletrack to make a big loop on bike route 92 to Whitworth. It was fast riding with several points captured quickly, although we did ride up the wrong trail to a reservoir following another pair who had been on the right road, got confused, turned around, and then led everyone around them up the wrong way. Why do we keep following other people who often are quite simply as clueless as we are? Hmmm.
At the bottom of the loop, getting off our bikes on the bridge control was the first time where I felt slow and sluggish...my hands and feet were getting numb and I wondered if it was safe to be outside soaking wet in these conditions. Uh, duh. Obviously not! Joining the Mary Townley Loop/Pennine Bridleway, our next few miles were uphill, so we warmed up a little and walked our bikes a ways to get some feeling back in our feet. Sarah's hands went completely numb and frozen part way up, and she was starting to sound rather incoherent, so I cajoled her into switching to dry gloves and walking for a while, plus eating and drinking. It was difficult to do any of it as my drink tube was almost frozen, and my hands were muddy (crunchy jelly babies, anyone?). Sarah revived quite quickly and we slowly rode up the bumpy bridleway.
Finally getting back to the car and finding warm dry clothes was the best part of the day. My feet were so numb that it took a good hour before I felt warm again, even sitting in the finish hall drinking hot chocolate. Others around us looked much worse for wear, with space blankets pulled up tight to speed the warming process. Scores for the event turned out to be all over the board, and we were amazed to finish a distant 3rd in our category after all our mistakes.
I normally wait a few days before writing about an event, as it helps me gain perspective on the race, and find a good story angle. However I was so wired after the crazy day that I couldn't even get to sleep, and so the whole race (and our mistakes) kept replaying in my mind. Perhaps that is due to having a sub-optimal race, or just the fact that once again I had survived some extreme conditions! Judging by the repeated stories of late finishes, navigation troubles, and freezing extremities, there may have been lots of sleepless people last night! Hoping all competitors made it back safe and sound, and I was grateful to see there were race vehicles high on the moors in case of an emergency.
Definitely have to compare this race to the awful high winds and flooding we had in the Yorkshire Dales during the Open 5 in February 2011 . This one comes a close second on the torture scale, due to the colder temps (hello, it was snowing on us!) and tough terrain.
|Sarah slides down the slope...then wonders why her tights are wet?!!?|
|Attempting to keep maps dry to mark the controls...a futile effort|
|Wading in that water (Control #28) does not look fun|
|Pennine Bridleway/Mary Townley Loop|