On my first visit to the UK I was treated to one of the worst winters in years as it was raining and flooding all around, for a couple of weeks I acclimatized to the running in knee deep mud and riding my bike down streams that would be more suited to a kayak. I quickly realized that my summer outfit would not prevent frostbite and drowning. With a fresh wardrobe of Mountain Hardwear full waterproof outers, down jacket, base layers and gloves I felt brave enough to tackle the open 5 adventure race in Slaidburn, a tiny village (population 300) in the Lakes district, England.
I teamed up with Catriona Sutherland a top UK Multi-sport athlete that I met at the Joberg2c in South Africa. She was recovering from a tonsil surgery and I was still defrosting from a run we did about a week earlier so we decided to just take it easy and have fun on our first race together.
The drive there was already an adventure as the road was flooded at some point and others buried in snow. But we manage to find the start, a little later than planned but with enough time to get the maps and plan a route.
The Open 5 series is a 5-hour score event, competitors have 5 hours to visit as many check points as they can, each having a different point value and some can only be collected by mountain bike and others on foot.
With minutes to spare we arrived at the start line for the race, at this point we realized that we were taking it so easy Cat only had one running shoe with her. We promptly changed our route on the cycle leg to include a detour to our van to collect the other shoe and off we went.
About 20 mins into the cycle leg it dawned upon me that I left the backpack with the car keys at the start line. I will blame this on my frozen brain and al the celebrations over the festive period!
We decided to crack on with the cycle leg, unfortunately most of the cycling leg route had to be done on paved roads due to the severe flooding over the past weeks. However we were entertained by hail and snow from time to time. On 2 occasions we decided to be intrepid and venture of road into the fells, the first time we had to push up and down some serious muddy hills trying to find our way. And the second was a big hike-a-bike up and over Dunsop Fell, looking back it was marked as “boggy” on the map, should have given us a clue…. Non the less this was actually my favourite part of the race, it was the first time it felt like a true adventure were you had to battle with the terrain and mother nature all a the same time. On top of the fell I tried to ride my bike and every once in a while would have a dead stop almost wheel deep in a boggy spot and having to eject over the handlebars to avoid falling face first in the mud. On the way down I had a blast riding what once was a path but now a stream. From here we had one last muddy bit to contend with to get back to the transition/finishline. Unfortunately the time we spent in the bog made us arrive way later than we wanted and gave us just under an hour to get some points on the run, a blessing in disguise as Cat had to do the run in her cycle shoes. To be an official finisher you have to collect some points on the run and we set off for a little shuffle around the dam, sad we couldn’t do more of the run in this stunning location but also glad that we would get back soon with the promise of coffee and baked potato at the finish line!
Thanks to the organisers for a well run event. Have a look at www.openadventure.com for a list of fantastic events in the UK.