Standing on the start line of the final stage of 5, on equal points with Team Mountain Hardware, knowing that whoever is first back is the winner. Kind of puts the pressure on a little!
This past weekend Nick, Nicola, Matt Martindale and myself were over in Coniston to take part in the 2 day race. A hark back to the old ACE races as put on by the legendary Phil Humphreys a number of years ago. It is a great format, 5 stages over the 2 days, a 2hr navigational hill run, a 4 ½hr navigation mountain bike stage, a 90minute night navigation run, then the next day a 90minute kayak and then a trail run to finish the race off, along with the competitors!
Saturday dawned bright, but cool. After a briefing, weather forecast, and map give out, we headed up the road to Elterwater, where we would start the 2hr running navigation stage and then the 4 ½hr mountain bike stage.
The run went really well, 15 controls to be visited in any order, with 3 of them dummies, so you couldn’t plan too much before the start. We chose what we felt was a good route, the plan was to get all controls, but with options to drop a few if we were running late, penalties would apply getting harsher and harsher the later you were.
Running well and navigating smoothly we got around one half of the map in good time, then set off around the second loop, it was looking like we could do it, but it was going to be tight. Coming off the hill I was shouting out the minutes, luckily it was all downhill, and we were going to make it. With 1 minute to spare we were finished, banking 500points plus a bonus point for finishing early. A great start to the weekend.
The mountain bike stage looked good, some great riding to be had, but also a good distance to cover. Matt had a good look at the route, and we all agreed with the plan, thinking that it was going to be close to clearable.
We set off well, but soon found that the first few controls were taking a long time, we discussed dropping a few 10 point controls, but decided to go for them. This ultimately cost us dear. As we headed south we were slow along the roads, and then lost time on some of the many technical downhills. Once we hit the south, we were committed to a set route, this again took longer than planned, and left us with a 10+km ride along the road back to Coniston. It was going to be tough with 20minutes to go! We pushed hard, but lost time, getting back 8 minutes late, costing us 25points, but more crucially we had had to miss a lot of high value controls, costing us dearly.
We found out that after the first 2 stages For Goodness Shakes (FGS), Mountain Hardware (MHW) and ourselves were very close in points, the night nav was going to be crucial. It was turning into a great battle.
We set off well on the night nav stage, but I messed up our second control, and was lucky to relocate close to its location. We pushed on hard, skipping a 30point control in favour of a 40point, but sadly we failed to find this, and with time running tight we had to bail out and push for the finish. Again we were slightly late back, but managed to get the top score of the night amongst the teams, meaning that overnight we lay in 2nd place, only 1 point behind FGS and 3 points ahead of MHW!!
A good nights sleep was had, and with an early start in the kayaks we got prepped before the briefing. The weather had also taken a turn for the worse. The wind had picked up and the kayak section on Coniston Water was going to be very interesting.
The teams set off at 30second intervals, MHW taking the lead, and luckily for us they led us into every control, helping us shave vital seconds off our time. FGS were sat in behind us for a while, but as the wind and waves took their toll on already tired bodies they dropped back a few minutes. Racing hard to the line we punched, knowing it was very close to the wire, finding out later that we were less than 30seconds late, -2points to us. For MHW though it was a different story, they just finished inside the time, gaining a bonus point, levelling us on points.
It was all to play for on the trail run, a tough run up over the Old Man of Coniston, Swirl How and back to the finish.
We again set off just behind the Mountain Hardware team, a target for us to aim for as we headed up to the summit of the Old Man of Coniston. Slowly we reeled them in, but they must have taken some super sweeties at the top as they took off so fast we could hardly see them.
The head wind along the top was amazing, blowing me clean off my feet at one point, Nicola was suffering in the wind, and it was hard work to shield her and stay upright.
We pressed on to the top of Swirl How, sheltering off the ridge from the ferocious wind, popping out on the top to see Mountain Hardware disappear off down the Band, starting the long decent back to Coniston.
The ridge was rocky, and with MHW all being pretty decent fell runners, we watched them fly off down the hill side. As we ran down behind them, we could all see them gaining more and more time on us, and any thought of us beating them went out of the window right there. Our race wasn’t over though, we still had FGS somewhere behind us, so we couldn’t ease off till the finish line.
We crossed the line about 7 minutes behind Mtn Hardware, they had taken a well-deserved win by about 30 points, it had been close all weekend, and the 30 points could have been found anywhere, one control on the night nav that we ditched in preference to a 40pointer we didn’t find, or any number of different routes on the mountain bike, or being back in time on the stages.
All in all it was a great weekend, good to dust of the team racing shoes again, to have a brilliant social weekend with lots of great mates, and to have a brilliant head to head competition all weekend with Mountain Hardware and For Goodness Shakes. Its always hard to come 2nd, but we have lots to go away and think about. Mtn Hardware have been doing a lot of team training, and it showed, so hats off to them for working so hard, and seeing it pay off.
Thanks to Open Adventure, Tom Gibbs, Paul Noble and countless others for putting on a brilliant weekend too.
Our sponsors were also great this weekend, providing top class clothing to keep us warm and protected in the Lake District weather, keeping us fuelled and hydrated, and able to compete for the win.
Next up is the adidasTERREX Swift Race in June.
(photos courtesy of James Kirby)
Tags: adidas, adidas Terrex, adidasTERREX, Adventure Racing, Bruce Duncan, Coniston, Exposure Lights, For Goodness Shakes, high 5, high five zero, Kayaking, Mountain Hardware, Nick Gracie, Nicola Macleod, Night navigation, Nikwax, OMM, open 2 day, Open Adventure, Running, Tom Gibbs