Last weekend I popped up to Keswick for the first of this year’s Open5 Series. For those of you who haven’t heard of Open5, these are a series of adventure races in which you have to navigate to as many checkpoints as you can within a five hour period, both on mountain bike and foot.
Given the drive, Tom and I decided to make a weekend of it and arrived in the Lakes on Saturday – I was hoping that it would still be snowy. However, most seemed to have disappeared. The plan was to hike, scrambling up Sharp Edge to the top of Blencathra. Although not extremely technical this was a lot of fun and the views from the top were worth the effort!
After a bit of pub grub, it was time to get an early night before the race. Cocooned in my sleeping bag at 8:30 pm after one pint with dinner, I couldn’t help but think how utterly rock and roll I have become!
Waking up the next morning it was bloody freezing..! Looking beside me I could see my water bottle was completely frozen – the thought of getting out of my sleeping bag was not appealing! Steeling myself I braved it, quickly putting on as many clothes as I could with the sole focus of making coffee.
After a somewhat chilly alfresco breakfast, it was time to register. Now, if there is a top tip for looking like a pro at these sorts of events – rocking up on a bike that sounds like it might fall apart dressed like a sleepy version of the Michelin man is possibly not it… I will admit I was not feeling particularly perky – everything just needed to defrost a bit!
Luckily by the time Tom and I were on the start line the sun had come out and it had actually turned into a stunning day. In these events, you can choose whether you run or bike first – originally the plan had been to run then bike. However, given the temperamental nature of our bikes,I thought it might be better to cycle first. That way if we had any mechanicals we could always extend the run. I was excited – looking at our chosen route and checkpoint locations I had a feeling we were in for a treat.
I was right! As I made my way up towards Skiddaw, I couldn’t help but stop and admire the view. This was also an ideal excuse to catch my breath! It turned out despite having been doing a fair bit of running, I am slightly lacking fitness on the bike – the hills were kicking my ass! On the plus side, my move to clip-in pedals was proving beneficial; I just kept forgetting to unclip when I stopped so kept falling over sideways!
At the start, our plan had been to split the race into 3 hours of biking and 2 hours of running. However midway through the cycle, I realised I had made the common mistake of overestimating how far I could get on the bike in our chosen time period… It was looking like it was going to be a four-hour bike and one hour run – oops!
Arriving at the transition I knew we had to be speedy to make the most of the time we had left, so I quickly changed kit and got going. I struggle to switch from cycling to running but quickly adopted the fastest pace I could until my legs had woken up… This looked similar to the fast walk/awkward shuffle you do when you are trying to cross the road quickly not to hold up a car or get through a door someone is holding open for you! However after the first kilometre of running the legs seemed to be getting better – this is much quicker that usual for me. Delighted with this, Tom and I picked up the pace and decided to commit to the biggest loop of points we could get with the allocated time.
To my utter surprise, we made it back to the finish in time and even had 7 minutes to spare – I was pooped! After a quick change, we cycled back to the event’s base to downloaded our scores and looked at placings. We were 8th out of the mixed pairs – given my lack of fitness on the bike I was pretty pleased with this but would like to try and move a little higher up the table next time.
I know I have said it after all Open5 events before – but I simply can’t recommend them enough. They are so welcoming and provide a great challenge for both people new to these type of races and the super fit. Fingers crossed the next one will be just stunning with perfect weather – I’m already looking forward to it!
A big thank you to all who worked so hard to put this event on and to James Kirby for letting me use his stunning photos. You can find out more about James and his photography here: