Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

October 4, 2011

Open 5 Lake District, 2 Oct 2011

For my third Open 5 adventure race, I teamed up with Sarah Keast, as we figured that women's pairs gave us the best chance of being competitive, and even (dare I say it) winning something.   Sarah and I run and bike at about the same pace, and since we managed to share a small tent together on the Rab Mountain Marathon last weekend without any troubles, I guess we work together pretty well!   There are 7 races in this year's winter Haglofs Open 5 series, so we are hoping to get in as many as we can, schedules and weather permitting, of course.  We are calling ourselves "Team 29er" as we have matching mountain bikes with big wheels, hopefully an advantage on the biking sections!

Well, after a week of the nicest weather I've seen yet in the UK, normal conditions returned on race day, so we woke up to drizzle and clouds.  The race started in Staveley just on the edge of the Lakes district.  I could have sworn I had never been there before, until we got the maps at registration and I overheard mention of the night biking section of the Open24 back in July.  Suddenly memories of a horrible rough trail ridden at 3 in the morning came rushing back to me, and I pointed out that particular trail to Sarah so we could make sure and not ride it!   But the location immediately made much more sense to me and a few checkpoints were even similar to what we had found on the Open 24, so that helped us decide our route choices for the mountain bike section. 

No, we're not lost.  I just look lost.
 We decided to run first, and after dibbing out, quickly plotted all the controls for the bike and the run.  This helped us decide how long and how far we would run, to give us time to get back for lots of biking, as there were more points available on the bike section.  It was calm and muggy (can that word even apply in the UK?), and we were quickly sweating even in a t-shirt.  Sarah had forgotten her watch, so I was calling out time splits as the sweat dripped off our noses.  The run route was easily broken up into two loops (unfortunately we had to run right back past transition halfway through).  We made good time and only had to knock a couple of controls off of our planned, if somewhat ambitious, route. The second loop was a boggy hill with several lumpy tops, which made for an interesting search of one control with just a description of "rock on knoll" or something like that!  We found it quickly enough after splattering mud up to our knees, and we were back in transition just outside of the 2 hours we had allocated ourselves. 

With three hours left on the bike, right out of the gate it was a steep uphill to a control wirth a lot of points.  Sarah was threatening to throw up after eating a gel and pushing hard up the hill, but luckily she didn't and we carried on.  I must say that there were a lot of hills involved in the route we had picked, but we managed to avoid any really rough, unridable sections by working the roads as much as we could.  Even so, the minutes passed quickly and we wondered if we would have to sacrifice a few controls to get back in time.

Fortunately, the next off-road section was very rideable, and I even caught puny air on a few rocks, finally feeling comfortable on my new bike. We did run a bit low on water as it was a warm day, and refilled from a questionable source just to wet our throats a bit.  There were a lot of gates to open and close, which must have slowed us up quite a bit, but we reached the road back to Stavely with 45 minutes to go.  This gave us time to backtrack on the road and pick up some large points at controls which were easy to reach.  I kept a close eye on the clock, calculating that we could pick up everything we had planned on and still make it back on time.  Sarah was cursing behind me when I turned up a gravel road to the last detour, but she gamely held onto my wheel.  With 15 minutes to go, we were turning the pedals for all we were worth for the mostly downhill run back into town.   Luckily we didn't let up even after it seemed we would make it, as we came back into the finish chute with less than 15 seconds left on our 5 hour deadline!

Sarah collapses at the finish....
 We felt we had done pretty well, and I anticipated that a few penalty points might have been enough to drop us out of contention.  It was a nail-biting long wait for the awards ceremony, helped along by some yummy veggie pasta and baked potato provided by Wilf's Cafe.  When third place in women's pairs was announced (and the score was lower than ours), we started bouncing up and down in excitement.  Well, turns out we tied for first (in points) but came second as the winning pair came in 7 minutes ahead of us.  

Tied for first sounds so much better, though, doesn't it?  :)

And then is smiling again a few minutes later!
It was a great day out on the hills, as always, a perfect start to the series, and we'll see you all next month for the Open5 in Shropshire!
2nd in Women's Pairs


  1. You write well, Dawn. And that race sounds much more exciting and complicated than the normal kind!

  2. Dawn, I'm again impressed by your ability to grab your max possible points before racing back to cross the finishing line in the nick of time without penalty. Well done to you and Sarah. You make a good team.

  3. Quentin- Complicated races are much more fun...you never really know what will happen. And of course sometimes good decision making helps make up for my lack of speed...!

    Nick, it is fun to compete as a team, two heads are definitely better than one. We have been cutting it a bit fine on time though...penalties are nipping at our heels!