2015/16 Open Five Series kicks off in Swaledale

Annie doing something

The first of the 2015/16 Open 5 series kicked off a couple of Sundays ago, normally there is quite a large showing from the Settle Harriers at these exciting events, but numbers were down on this one and it was just Annie, Mike and Alex taking up the challenge. For those that don’t know what it is all about, it is basically an orienteering event, split between running and mtb, with 5 hours to complete the task. You visit controls , by route planning and navigation and each control has a score, the person with the highest score wins. Sounds easy. In reality it is not. Before you start you get your map, but not the control descriptions and values, also 5 of the controls marked on the map are ‘dead’, this means you can’taccurately pre-plan your route.

After a bit of map-geeking you start at any time you wish within an hours window and you can choose to run or mtb first. I usually always run first, but for Swaledale the committing mtb section and the incoming bad weather helped me decide that it may be better to ride first – this paid off I think. So you ‘dib’ out and get your control descriptions, I made a schoolboy error here and forgot to check my start time, only realising that 2 miles down the road and then having to second guess it. The rain came sooner than forecast and I decided to ‘sheet-up’ in the valley before heading up on to the moors, which is where I would be for a good couple of hours. The riding progressed well, it was wet and windy and I had to keep up a high work-load to stay warm. James the organiser often likes to put helpful little safety messages on the map warning of hazards, so when I read, that going down the direct gully route required a deathwish, I just had to have a go and test it out – it was steep and scary, but mostly rideable in a fashion and most importantly much quicker than the sensible route. I survived and it was fun.

Alex crossing the river.

Time speeds by in these things and you have to constantly tweak the route, so that you do not overcook your time, for these events my rule of thumb is to allow 3hrs for the bike of which the controls total 350 and 2 hours for the run, with a total of 250 = 600 total. I decided to drop two low scorers on the mtb that would have been timely to get to, I got back to transition in roughly 3.10hr, a quick two minute footwear change and a glug of drink and I was off. The legs felt quite fast on the flat ground as I headed up the valley towards Keld on a random route hovering up the checkpoints. All was well until the first steep hill and I could feel the onset of cramp in my cycle quads, I staved it off a few times and then it really got me bad as I hopped a style, I had to join the ministry of silly walks for a bit until I could run it off again. The run was well planned and some of the controls nicely tucked away and needing some good mapwork to find quickly. All the way round you keep passing fellow racers, friends and the ‘peer’ competition, so it is always a very sociable event. Anyway my time was soon disappearing and my pre-planned route had to be shortened, but I was happy with what I had got and happy with the way it had all gone so far, all that remained was one control and the ‘river crossing’ – which sensibly I saved until the very end. Normally an ankle deep 20 yard splash, but not today it was up to my thighs even with my long legs it was a tough crossing, one slip and you would be swimming – which some did. After emerging nice and clean from the river it was a half mile dash to the finish, I went reasonably quickly, but no means a ‘balls-out’ sprint as I thought that I had 2-3 minutes in hand.

I met Annie and Mike at the car all wet and bedraggled, but quite warm still from running. We changed as quickly as we could as we were still in the rain and then wandered over to the village hall to ‘down-load’, not to all take a shit, but to get our dibbers off and get our little results ticket. It was not long before all the racers were back and in the warm, stuffy hall (lovely) swapping stories about routes and all the ‘what-ifs’. There are 5 different classes, M & F Solos, M & F & Pairs and Mixed Pairs, with some 250-300 racers in total usually competing. Swaledale was good to me, as I got round pretty efficiently and quickly, banging in 37 miles and 6000ft of mtb and run, I managed the high score of the day too! – 525 and better still I had just 16 seconds to spare on my five hour limit – perfect! Although Annie and Mike only visited a couple of run controls, they managed a strong ride and finished in the top half of the Mixed Pairs. Annie is super, super tough! – it was hellish windy out there and anyone who has ridden in high winds and rain knows how debilitating it can be..!

 Next month it is just over the border from Chester in sunny Wales. I will probably be going down, so happy to take a couple of others, I’m also happy to run through the O5 concept and help people with the map side of things as well – I think that all us ‘mountain types’ should be pretty proficient with a map and these events are brilliant practice. Also more importantly and the ‘one’ for your diaries is the ‘Bowland’ event on Sunday Jan 10th this is being planned by Chris Maudsley, he is planning the run stage and I’m doing the Mtb stage – so get yourselves down, it’ll be a cracker!