Haglöfs Open5 Series: North York Moors

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Yorkshire, it’s a homecoming, coming to Yorkshire. I was born and bred t’other side of those hills, just up past Whitby, which for those of you not familiar with the good county, is just up the coast from Scarborough. I grew up running and biking on the North York Moors, feeling the peaty soil under my feet, watching the heather turn purple in the spring, feeling the blast of the North wind as it howls of the sea. So today I feel at home as I climb out of the van in Scalby, near Scarborough, ready for the Haglöfs Open5 Series: North York Moors event.

The Haglöfs Open5 is a series of mini adventure races run by Open Adventure. You have 5 hours to collect as many points as you can by navigating between controls on foot and by bike. At registration you get presented with a map and as you leave the start you get the values of each control, some don’t exist, some are worth more than others, few are easy. If you are late back, you get hard won points deducted! Sounds like fun!

I had hoped to do the first event in this years series, which was in the Pentlands, but it fell the weekend after the Dusk ‘til Dawn, I had an ankle the shape of a ballon, and legs that insisted on rest not exercise. The next event was in the South Downs, and just to far this time around, but now we are in Yorkshire!

It was warm and cosy inside the registration hall, people sat around studying their maps, drinking hot coffee, plotting, working out the most efficient routes between points… I collect my maps, race numbers and instructions…

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Back out in the cold, I quickly sort my bike, pack my transition bag and munch through Cliff Bars, before riding the short distance between the car-park and remote transition/start/finish area. It’s good to slowly warm the legs, its cold this morning…

Transition is a glamourous open field of long, cold wet grass, not a place to hang around in… I quickly arrange my bike and riding gear so I can quickly change later and approaching 10am, I dib out (the race, like many others uses the SPORTident system, which is a little plastic/electronic card attached to your wrist, which you dib into control points on the course to record your time and position, it’s magic, but works) through the start, collect my Control descriptions and values sheet and set off down the road. With the clock ticking, I scan the sheet and cross off controls with no values on my map.

A long uphill waits as I turn up out of Newby, it’s hard all the way to the top, but feels good to be working the legs and the cold air makes it easier. Turning off the road, past a little pond I collect my first control, Number 39 and worth 30 points, I pause to take a photo, before continuing into uphill the forest. A web of paths, weave their way through the mud, I pass other competitors, running and biking, all looking for controls.

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Only one control remains allusive, lost in a tangle of minor paths. I search for number 28. I reach the end of one path and jump out of the muddy slop onto the road, doubling back along the road I quickly spot a footpath which must lead to this 10 pointer. It seems it’s not just me struggling to find this one as other runners are all looking for it, teams calling to each other as they search it out. I dib quickly and leave them to it, ducking back across the road, over a river and onto a board-walk which makes for fast running past Sunday morning dog walkers and following the river bank.

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The next control is ankle deep in thick mud, I feel it running down inside my shoes, before quickly moving off, thankfully through thick grass which cleans some of the mud away. I cross fields and then back onto the road, before cutting steeply uphill into another wood. I collect control 23, which is the furthest away from the transition and turn for home. The last leg along another river bank, gives two controls, but I’m forced to miss control 33 (25 points) as it requires a major dog-leg and I’ve been running longer than I had planned, eating in to biking time.

After 2 hours 27 minutes of running I’m back at transition. I quickly change into my bike shoes, throw on my helmet and set of back out of the gate, chewing a Cliff Bar as I go. Transitions saps me of 2mins 49 seconds, which all considering I don’t think is to bad. And now I’ve got the fun of the bike.

Control 19, is the first on the bike, just down the the hill from the start and worth 40 points, it’s an easy score. Before heading back up the same hill I did at the start of the run, this time I’m passing by runners, which speeds me on faster… But I’m soon pushing as I’m met with a vertical, muddy, rocky track like no other. Eventually I see the top, dib the control and get back in the saddle, dropping down a heavenly muddy roller coaster track,  like a bat out of hell. The grin on my face, is almost hidden by a solid caking of mud as I race through the trees looking for more controls. Some are easy, others are hard won, hidden at the top of grueling climbs.

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Next I follow the road to Highdales, the road is flat and it’s fast. That is until I meet a river which shouldn’t be there. I’m momentarily confused and because, I haven’t done so already today, I fall off my bike, landing not in a river, but on a road, covered by a river… It all becomes clear. I sit on the road, with my bike on top of me, water running over and laugh. Then head up a narrow little gully, with another torrent of water flowing down, for another control.

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Back at the bottom, I spend a few more minutes making waves riding along the flooded road, before climbing a bridleway, smothered with trickle like mud. I’m starting to think I’m going the wrong way around this section… my back wheel, normally so good in the mud, slips and slides every time I turn the cranks, eventually I’m forced to push. Finally in some kind of heap I reach control 7. I dib and check my watch, I’m shocked to see I’m rapidly running out of time, I have 18 minutes to get to the finish, before I start losing points. I look at the map and quickly re-access my route, I need to ditch three controls and all their points. I feel my legs dying on me, as I push for control 12. It’s located at a beauty view point, but I don’t have time to stop and admire, the clock is ticking, I have less than 9 minutes and I’m 7km from the finish.

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I turn my bike towards Scalby, and push hard on the pedals, I’m on the road, it’s fast, I’m thankful. I stop once more to pick up 30 easy points, just off the road and worth the time. It’s downhill now, fast as I tuck in, the wind streaming through my helmet as I grind those pedals frantically for home. A sharp left hander and then I see the marshals up ahead, I fly through the gate, and run for the last control of the day, I clock in at 5 hours 10 minutes and 7 seconds. I lose 25 points for my late arrival.

I collapse on my bag, before changing and slowly spinning back to the car-park. It’s been a brilliant day, I’m covered in mud, but grinning from ear to ear. I stash my bike in the van and head indoors for hot coffee, chilly and chips.

I finish the day on 505 points, which is enough to put me 25th in the Male Solo Category, not bad I don’t think for my first attempt at this style of racing and given I lost 25. I learnt tons, and have lots to think about before the next race in the series, which is in the Yorkshire Dales in early March. Checkout the Open Adventure website for more details.

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All Open5 photographs are © James Kirby (www.jameskirby.me.uk).

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