Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Open Adventure Coast to Coast Adventure Race

 The initial sea kayak stage from Whitehaven
In an unusually sensible decision for me I decided not to race the Open Adventure Coast to Coast race a few days before the CCC. I completed this four day adventure race in 2011 and was keen to compete again but thought I'd save the legs for the main event. However it did mean I was able to enjoy the atmosphere and buzz of the race as a supporter shuttling equipment, feeding my competitor, filming and generally drinking coffee in the sun.
The race began in a millpond like Whitehaven harbour with a sea kayak stage around to St Bees. As the flotilla swept around the headland they were met by choppy seas and things became a bit more exciting. A couple of competitors had to be rescued and ferried to the beach while the leading team capsized within sight of the finish and had an eventful swim and clamber through the rocks with their kayak to reach transition.
Day one is the most demanding for competitors and support crews alike. As the racers headed off on their bikes the boats were transported to Crummock Water. The next stage was a paddle in to a headwind along the length of the lake, an interesting and energy sapping unsupported portage and back into the boats to paddle to the far end of Buttermere. Finally the race took to the hills for a run over Robinson, Maiden Moor and Catbells. With the finish in Keswick in sight there's a final sting in the tail with a 600m swim across Derwent Water. After the days efforts the cold water triggered leg cramps in even the hardiest of competitors and the rescue kayaks were kept busy providing a floating stretching service. As the racers hobbled from the water they faced a short run in to the centre of Keswick and the finish outside the iconic Moot Hall.
Day 2 began in the half light of a misty morning with a short but sharp climb on the bikes up out of Keswick to Thirlmere Dam. The midges were out and hastened competitors through transition and into their kayaks for the paddle up Thirlmere. A muddy portage, change the shoes and away up the side of Helvellyn heading for the summit in the cloud. Navigation was certainly an issue for some of the competitors this year and there were a few variations on the normal descent via Swirral Edge and Hole in the Wall. The final paddling stage was from Patterdale to Pooley Bridge along the length of Ullswater.Conditions were improving fast but all the racers made it safely past the ice creams and on to the bikes for a mainly on road blast to Kirkby Stephen. Within a few miles of the finish an unsecured map restricted a competitors view at high speed and she found herself sliding along the road minus her bike. Missing several layers of skin but made of tough stuff she was able to finish the day and with a bit of good work by the medical team was able to complete the four days.
Low cloud gave a challenging start to day 3 with a boggy run over Nine Standards with even some of the most experienced competitors struggling with the navigation. Meanwhile the local farmer was doing a roaring trade in teas and coffees at transition as the support crews relaxed after an early start! The rest of the day would be spent on the bikes initially offroad on some great mountain biking over the moors to Castle Bolton and then following minor roads to Northallerton. Unfortunately another highspeed bike crash caused one of the leading teams to retire from the competition although the two remaining members did complete the course - in a particularly fast time.
The final day was spectacular as the early morning cloud inversion burned off to give a hot and dry day. The first racers were on their way at 4.30am making their way through the gloom on a short road bike to Swainton. The early start was worth it though as they climbed out of the cloud for a stunning sunrise as they ran over Carlton Bank on the Cleveland Way. A long biking stage then followed. Less technical than yesterday but mainly off road as far as Gainsley and then back on to the minor roads as far as Whitby. In a major route change from 2011 the final leg to the finish at Robin Hoods Bay was a run along the cliff top path dodging the bank holiday tourists. The staggered start times meant that the majority of the competitors finished within a short space of time of each other and there was a real party atmosphere on the terrace above the sea where the finish gantry was located. A top event with some very close racing. There were clear winners in each category but further down the field sometimes only seconds separated the racers after four days of racing. Race reports can be found at here and results here.
The field heads for St Bees and some rough conditions!

 Stunning early morning on the Cleveland Way
Fast mountain biking on the fourth and final day of racing

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