Thursday, 24 December 2009

Military Challenge 2009

The Military Challenge MTBO and Long Foot-O events have long been part of the annual British MTBO calendar. I have competed for the last 4 events which are always held just before or just after Christmas and the New Year. Each year the format changes slightly, with variations between score and line courses, around Aldershot or a.n.other town in the area.

This year was no different, except for the several inches of snow which covered the SE of England and subsequently Camberley, the event location. It certainly made a change from the recent years rain, mist and extreme cold! Having been focussing a great deal of my time and efforts into my dissertation, my training frequency has declined in the autumn, taking the peak end of my fitness with it. It was a strategic move to ride the B course, 25km, which on a good day would take in the region of 90 minutes, if not a little longer. 

With the snowfall overnight, conditions were slippery, with many of the minor roads coated in ice and the puddles and tank holes in the area completely iced over and treacherous to any rider.

Game Plan: to take this race at 75% of race pace, try not to die in the snow, and get more confident at riding through snow and ice!

With 6 maps to navigate across (or around) multiple map changes were needed which was seemingly at every control, where cold fingers and stuck together maps didn’t really aid matters. 

I was having a ‘good’ race and with 15% of the course left, I was tiring both mentally and physically. After successfully finding what was argueably the most technical control on the course, my brain power was at a low. Even crossing a main road was a challenge in itself, and with the snowy leaves underfoot, the hill beyond was an equal struggle resulting in a bit of a push. Unfortunately I missed the control on the pylon here and realised a couple of minutes on. The other problem which reared its ugly head at about this time, was that every time I put my feet in the snow, the soles got caked in snow and therefore ice, which made riding difficult due to my inability to ‘clip-in’ to the pedals.

I finished 3rd after 2 hours and 15 minutes, which isn’t too bad! Looking on the bright side it is my best result to date at the Military Challenge. My placing was enough to see me win the 2009 B course in the MTBO league. Race Analysis with Dad proved interesting when we found there were 7 seconds separating us at the 14th control, where his 20 minute mistake saw him drop a lot of time.

Sitting at the outside cafe after was pleasant and bought back many memories of skiing a few years ago. What a stunning view when covered in snow!

Open 5 Adventure Race

After a friend mentioned she had entered the Open5 adventure race at Hope, I investigated what it involved. On finding it consisted of Mountain Biking and Running, and having to collect as many checkpoints as possible in 5 hours, I was keen to give it a go. With the event on my home terrain in the Dark Peak, it made sense for this to be my first and to get the hang of how to plan my time, and how to divided the 5 hours between biking and running.

I decided to mountain bike first, where the controls were north of Hope, up Mam Tor, in the Edale Valley, Snake Pass and Ladybower Reservoirs. I managed to collect all controls except 3, and in hindsight made a mistake by going up Whinstone Lee Tor to pick up 25 points, as in doing this, it took 50 minutes to get up and down. Had I stayed low and missed out the climb, I would have saved about 35 minutes. 

On to the run. After what felt like a quick transition, I was off running in some clean trousers and indoor trainers. I quickly realised my mistake in not owning a pair of XC running trainers when I hit the mud on the footpaths and struggled to stay upright, travelling in all directions bar the one I wanted! 

Given my legs were quite happy doing 3.5 hours on the bike, they weren’t so happy to do 90 minutes of running, and mud aside, I really wasn’t going anywhere quickly. Jelly legs and muscles that didn’t work saw me take a long time. Say no more.

Despite the running, I ended up finishing 3rd, and for a change, won a few prizes :-) Results can be found here 

Race Analysis followed where I think had I missed out the afore-mentioned ‘top-of-the-hill’ control and perhaps control 4, I would have had an additional 45 minutes to collect 50 points on the run, thereby gaining an extra 10 points overall. Either that, or I just need to run faster. 

For the future, I have decided to run first for 2 hours, as it is probably easier for my legs to run and then bike, as well as being able to travel further!!

Many thanks to Craft for the much needed warm winter kit and to Natural Balance Foods for the excessive amounts of yummy protein and energy bars I consumed throughout the race. Also thanks to Ultrasport for the electrolyte drink, which certainly prevented my mind from switching off as I got tired. results and route analysis.