Rob and I had caught a ride over with Andy and son Harry, so the drive passed quickly as we caught up on news. Once registered, the place filled up with old friends, and it was hard to get to talk to everyone. Sarah had brought a visiting teammate from the states, Adrian had decided to give another Open 5 a go (his last one was the unfortunately flooded Yorkshire Dales race a year ago when we raced as a team), and a crowd of familiar faces trickled in from around the country.
Rob's goal for the day was to see the ocean, so he took off walking toward Scarborough. (Evidentally we were further away from the town than it seemed, because he had a rather long walk to and from the event center). He eventually did find the water, and even made it back again as the race was winding down.
The start line was about 1 mile from the registration, to get us closer to the good scenery and farther away from busy roads. I precariously balanced my bag on my handlebars and coasted downhill to the field. It was chilly enough that I was happy to get away and start racing. Right away on the run, I had to make a choice about going out of my way for a control...was it worth it, or not? I went for this one knowing it might cut into my biking time later. (It didn't).
I bumped into Adrian a few controls down the road, and we yo-yo'd around the course for a while, not together but getting lost in tiny increments enough to end up at the same controls again and again. The forest tracks were confusing and muddy and fun, and after and an hour I was pleased to come out on the other side without losing myself. It was there I made my first and only mistake of the day, which was skipping a 10 pointer that was just beyond the distance that made it worth getting,
For the meantime, though I felt pretty good about my progress, and kept at a steady run for the other half of the run, getting back to transition just when I wanted. The bike started off with a big hill...big in these parts meaning a couple hundred meters high...definitely not a mountain or anything. Controls started getting ticked off the list pretty quickly, and then I was back in another forest. I snuck in a shortcut on a random forest trail, and found myself, as I usually do in these races, all alone, peacefully enjoying the scenery.
And then came the mud. A singeltrack trail down a hill that just kept getting deeper. All I could think was that I was happy to be riding down the hill rather than slogging up. At the bottom, I was coated in mud and then saw a sign for a "ford". It turns out the road was the ford...for at least a quarter of a mile, the river/stream/water was diverted onto the tarmac, and racers zipped here and there through the water. A control route led off from the flood, up a flooded narrow trail. I left my bike at the bottom, narrowly within the rules, and soaked my feet walking upstream to the control. Plenty of wet bikers around, but at least our bikes were getting cleaned in the stream!
It was then that the remaining controls started looking a little thin, and my time left started looking a little long. I usually don't have this problem. I had one longer option left, and I debated it for several turns. Remember last month I tried to do to much and lost due to late return penalties. This time I opted to skip the long detour and get back safely early. Much too early. I pedaled easily, soaked up the scenery, enjoyed just being in the moment, and looked around me at the countryside. After all, I wouldn't be seeing this too much longer. Even after slowing down, I got back to the finish 20 minutes early. I had "the perfect race" finally, except for the early return, but I knew in my heart that it wouldn't be enough for the win.
Sure enough, I scored higher than I ever had before, but everything is relative. Three of my competitors scored even higher and sent me back to a distant 4th place. Oddly enough, my score was enough to put me in 1st place for the series....at least for now. I won't be around to finish the series, so it's a temporary ascendence, but enjoyable anyway!
Everyone seemed to have a good day, what with the nice weather and fast biking. Given the state of mud on the trails, I rather suspect that the controls had been placed to keep us off the worst of the flooded stuff, which might account for the fast racing...or it might not. All I know is that when I come back with mud splattered on my face and a big grin, it's been a fun day.
|Adrian at the finish!|
|Andy and Harry looking excited at the start|
|...and much muddier at the finish|