I teamed up with Rosemary Byde for this years Open5+ that was held near Holyhead on Anglesey. Somewhat oddly this was going to be my first Open5+. The Open5+ is a similar format to the standard Open5 races with addition of some of James "Trouser Filler" special activities. As normal the website was a bit sparse on exactly what the special activities were, just that we need a climbing harness and had to carry some spare clothes. The details were also suggesting that the biking was mainly on the road and suggested road tyres, so like quite a few other teams and after a bit of a discussion we took a gamble and went for road bikes hoping that the extra speed would pay off.
We arrived at registration slightly later than planned (it seems neither of us is particularly keen on early starts) got our maps and set about trying to work out to do. The first good thing was that road bikes was definitely going to be a good choice - yay. We worked out a route that had us cycling to the run, doing all of the run, heading off to the kayak and the finishing with whatever other bike checkpoints we could get. This all changed at the briefing when James told us the mixed and female pairs had to kayak before doing any running (it was the other way around for male pairs who would now be paddling later in the race when the weather was meant to be worst!!!), due to the bad weather the kayak was also going to be much shorter. We had a quick re-think and decided that we should aim to clear the course and would head straight to the kayak from the start
The kayak was now all in a sheltered(ish) bay so was quite quick, the only hard bit was actually grabbing hold of the checkpoints in the swell (apparantly come the male pairs there was also a couple of capsizes).
We then had a pretty un-eventful cycle to collect the cycling checkpoints to the south (including a déjà vu moment when we arrived at the beach where the Open24 started last year) and then up to Holyhead where we had a slight bit of confusion with big red buoys at the maritime museum until we found the right one. We then had a small disaster when my chain decided to explode (we were on the road at the time and weren't been nasty to our nice road bikes), apparently we had it all fixed in 7 minutes however, despite the sarcastic comments from the team on mountain bikes about flimsy road bikes! Our next checkpoint was out along the 2km breakwater, this was a particularly windy point of our ride, it was reassuring that there was a wall on the downwind side of the breakwater so at least we would hit that if there was a big guest and not fall into the sea, some more good drafting saw us back onto the tarmac and into transition for the run.
The run was on a Ordanance Survey 1:10k Landplan map which was actually really good to use, hopefully they will make appearances in future Open Adventure Races. In hindsight we probably got our route choice slightly wrong on this stage but apart from me trying to skip out the very first control it went pretty well.
The abseil near North Stack was free hanging after the first few meters and landed in the sea, although thanks to some very nice people in drysuits at the bottom who pulled you towards the shore it was only about knee deep. There was going to be a bonus checkpoint to swim to from the bottom of the abseil but due to the sea conditions that was cancelled (I thin k Rosemary was actually looking forward to this...) so we just had a short swim through a cave and then some scrambling around the cliffs and then back up to the start of the abseil. The wind was really picking up now and I think as we headed down to South Stack, if we tried jumping down some of the steps we would have been blown back up them instead. We made our way back to transition collecting all of the run checkpoints, but realising that we may have been too ambitious and weren't going to make it back to the finish without time penalties, and sure enough our bikes were then only ones left in transition. We had about 10 minutes to cover the 8km back to the finish which in the end took us about 20 minutes and left us just the right side of starting to loose lots of points but we had to cycle straight past the two last easy to get checkpoints.
Overall the event was a wee bit different but still very good fun. We were 5th mixed pair (but would have been 4th male pair which was interesting) and I think Rosemary and I got on pretty well in our first race together (although you can see what she thought at http://www.edinburghrc.co.uk/forums/index.php?topic=13335.0).