30 October 2006

Victory in B class at the Original Mountain Marathon

Yesterday Harold and I won the B class at the KIMM/OMM. It was a first mountain marathon for both of us, and despite what people had said beforehand, I enjoyed almost every minute.
This year the OMM was in Galloway Forest Park, famed for the KIMMs on '76, '86 an '96 (some sort of pattern there...). We heard a lot of stories about Galloway before the weekend, toughest MM venue in UK, no paths or tracks, just marsh, hill and tussock in every direction, but on the weekend it was actually ok.

The weather was quite mild, and although there was a fair bit of wind and rain , conditions were fine. Visibility was pretty poor though, and at some points it was down to maybe 100 metres. We travelled up and registered Friday night, and found a nice B and B to stay in, so Saturday morning we woke at 6am, had a substantial cooked breakfast and some cereal, and drove to the event centre. We had to get on a bus at 8.40 to take us to the start on the other side of the park, and so when we got off it was time to start. The first couple of kms were on a forest track, all uphill, and then it was into the fell. Of our 25km course on day 1, maybe 3 or 4 was on tracks or paths, the rest was through fairly heavy going moorland. It has been very wet this month, so the marshes were damp, and the rivers were swollen. Bizarrely our course only had 4 controls, and even more strangely that with an average leg lenth of 5km, there was very little route choice.
We ran quite well, being slightly conservative as neither of us are that experienced in that terrain or over that distance (especially with a rucsac too). We didn't make any mistakes, but may not have always picked the optimal lines. The toughest parts were fording the streams (I had a couple of swims), and actually some of the descents through the rocky ground. The ascents weren't so bad, even though I was often pulling Harold as well (with our home made tow rope). We were pretty conservative with nutrition as well, maybe eating too much during the race. What we didn't do though was drink enough water and we were both a bit dehydrated by the end of day 1. Our biggest issue coming towards the end was Harold's toenail, which decided it didn't really want to be part of Harold anymore. This slowed him down considerably, especially on the downhill. The worst I felt was a bit of cramp in my legs and stomach in the last km. We arrived at the overnight camp in just over 5 hours, with a lead of about 11mins. Then it was time to put some warm clothes on, pitch the tent, have some food and get some rest.
We were both travelling as light as possible, with a 1 1/2 man tent between us, a very small stove, a few spare clothes and plenty of food. We drank out of streams as we ran. We also both bought balloon beds, the lightest weight beds you can get at 100g. They are also almost impossible to put up when you are cold and wet and the balloons are wet. They also escape during the night, and several times I woke up and had to chase it round the tent. Anyway, after our meals of cous cous and tuna, we went to bed around 6.30pm in order to get as much sleep as possible.

Well I won't say it was the best night I have ever had, the tent was constantly being blown all over the place, my sleeping bag was touching the sides, my balloon bed was trying to be anywhere but under me, and the constant rain, whilst almost therapeutic at times, didn't help. The extra hour due to clocks going back was nice, but we woke around 5.30 anyway. The traditional bagpipes sounded just before six as a reminder to crawl out of our nice warm sleeping bags. Despite the fact that we had a whole hour to eat a couple of cereal bars and put the tent away, we still managed to miss the call up for our 7am start, and ran straight through the start boxes and picked our map up on the run. The leaders on each class start at 7am on the second day, so we had the pleasure of running out with messers Crane and Northrop from the A, and messers Powell from the elite. Once again, there was a fairly long run out along a forest road which gave us time to plan our day. One thing I haven't mentioned yet, but should have really as it was a big part if the weekend, is this - chafing. Ouch.
Anyway, back to the race. Knowing that the second pair were only 11 minutes behind was quite good motivation. Just at about 7.15, the sun rose to our left, the sky was beautifully clear in every direction, from the top of our hill we could see for maybe 10km over lakes and forest and mountains, and it was the best sunrise I have ever seen. Shame we couldn't hang around to enjoy it. With the clearer conditions came the possibility of seeing the teams behind or them seeing us.
We hit the first control perfectly, and then on the way to the second we found a beautiful little sheep path through the rough terrain which allowed us to stretch our legs. Then minor disaster hit. We were so busy following our little path I didn't realise we had climbed way too much and I made a parallel error off a really big crag, so we were actually 50m higher than we should have been, and we could see our control way down below us. This mistake maybe cost us 5-10 minutes and had me looking over my shoulder.
The next leg, number 3, (see section of the 1:40,000 map above - 15m contours) looked to me to be the decisive leg. Really long and tough, with a massive ascent whichever way you approached it, and two obvious routes. From the bridge, either straight line it up through 3km of moorland, or run 3km uphill along a track and then 1 - 1 1/2km uphill through forest and moorland. We went for the straighter shorter option, and at first it looked like a really bad plan as the tussocks were waist deep in places and the terrain was the worst we had found yet. But we stuck too it and it got better to the stage that we found little paths from competitors the day before and we motored up the hill. It was still a really tough approach to the control though, with the 'flatter' section before the control really sapping marshy heather. Looking at the splits we seem to have made the right choice, but it was touch and go at the time. Then the 4th control was seemingly the most technical of the weekend, but in actual fact in the perfect visibility, it was easy to make out the features from a way off. It was on the way to the 4th control that I thought I caught a glimpse of people behind us, and that was a really good spur for the last few km. Control 5 we picked a really good line and pushed quite hard. At 5 we felt it was in the bag and perhaps I let my mind wander a bit so that we picked a really bad route choice to 6. We went almost all the way down to the forest corner and had to gain all the height to the control. What we should have done was gone a lot further east and conserved the height and approached from the north. It was on the climb to 6 that both of us hit our lowest ebb. With the end in sight, neither of us had eaten or drunk enough and I was certainly running out of energy. Both of us ate a GO bar and had a long drink and pulled ourselves together for the last push. From number 6 there was no-one in sight and it was all downhill for the last km, so we could at last relax a bit and enjoy it. We were actually the second team to finish the day, just behind the C course winners, and although 1 team beat us on the 2nd day on our course, we weren't too worried about that. We extended our lead by a couple of minutes to win by about 13 mins over the 2 days in a total time of 8hours 34mins.

I was definitely the stronger partner over the weekend, which was as we expected. This meant that comparatively I felt fairly good after the race. Harold, however, had a few problems after the race, including chafing, blisters, muscle soreness and general fatigue, all of which combined meant he preferred not to waddle around too much, preferably just sitting down somewhere quiet. I had a little bit of cramp again on the second day in my hamstrings, and again chafing really badly.
After a kit check at the finish (there is a mandatory amount of kit that it is compulsary to take for safety) and download, it was time to enjoy our first decent meal for 30 hours. Time to chat to friends and competitors about routes, kit and chafing. Time to follow the results in the other categories, and finally for the prize giving.
On the way up, Harold and I shared the driving, but he was in no state to drive, so I drove 300 miles home on my own, managing to stay awake with the help of Ed (Kelleher - 7th on short score with Schnitzy). Arrived home at about 11pm, just in time for shower and bed.

Next year
Well I am definitely doing it again. Now I have won the B class, it is probably time to do the A class. I'll give elite a miss for a few years yet though I think....

The OMM website

Sleepmonsters race reports

OMM results

24 October 2006

Selected for Great Britain Perfomance Group

The new British Squad was announced today, with a new structure. This year there is a large pool of athletes who make up the squad, and a smaller group of athletes who form the Performance Group.

Lizzie Adams (SOC/SHUOC)
Aislinn Austin (CLOK)
*Helen Bridle (WIM)
Becky Carlyle (AIRE)
Rachael Elder (CLOK)
Jenny Johnson (SYO)
*Mhairi Mackenzie (WCOC/EUOC)
Alison O’Neil (NOC/JOK)
Helen Palmer (CLYDE)
*Sarah Rollins (BAOC)
Jo Stevenson (SYO)
Claire Ward (INT)
*Pippa Whitehouse (CLOK)
*Helen Winskill (SYO)

Rob Baker (SYO)
Nick Barrable (FVO/JOK)
*David Brickhill-Jones (INT)
Oleg Chepelin (GRAMP/EUOC)
*Matt Crane (WCH/SHUOC)
*Jon Duncan (GRAMP)
Scott Fraser (INT/EUOC)
*Graham Gristwood (OD)
Oli Johnson (SYO)
Dan Marston (INT/DRONGO)
Ewan McCarthy (MAROC)
Mark Nixon (EUOC)
Neil Northrop (SYO)
Matthew Speake (EBOR)
*Jamie Stevenson (SYO)
Murray Strain (INT)

* Member of the Performance Group

Getting nervous before the OMM now

16 October 2006

The winning team

OD retain CompassSport Cup

Yesterday my club, Octavian Droobers, won the CompassSport Cup for the second year in a row. This is the most prestigious club competition in Britain, with a clubs qualifying for the final through regional rounds, and 25 runners to count in the final from a variety of age classes.

The picture above is club captain Alan Halliday collecting the trophy from Mr CompassSport, Nick Barrable. With him are course winners Jessica Halliday and Iain Embrey. Photo from Peter Guillaume.

The event was held at Greenham Common, an old RAF base, which was on the whole flat open grassland with pockets of contour detail and some areas of slightly more undulating woodland. There were several long legs which were just running across former airstrips. This meant that for the elite, the times were well under 5 minutes per kilometer. Craney won the elite, 10.2km in 47.15. I was 2nd in 48.42 - my race was a little scrappy and my legs felt tired after my long run on Saturday, but Craney beat me on almost every leg.

Results are available here

14 October 2006

University Challenge - orienteer style

Today I went to see the filming of 2 shows of University Challenge as my housemate Harold is on the Warwick University team. The show was filmed in Manchester and will be broadcast later in October - will put up show times when I know

Mountain marathon preparation

My next goal for this year is the B class at the OMM - the Original Mountain Marathon. This is a two day event at the end of October, basically a really long orienteering competition where you carry your camping and cooking kit. I am running it with my housemate Harold, and in preparation for the 5+ hours running each day, today we went up into the Peak District for a long run with our rucksacks. We wanted to test out the weight of our bags and kit, and get an idea about hydration and nutrition. We tested out a few energy bars and gels to see what we might want.

The competition in 28/29th October and is in Galloway in Southern Scotland. We are planning to take a camera to chronicle our weekend.

09 October 2006

World Cup Final maps

Part of classic map

Middle map

Sprint map

Middle qualifier map

First World Cup Podium

My first ever senior podium position, 6th place in the World Cup Final Relay thanks to some mispunching by Theirry and David Andersson.
I ran first leg and had a really good race coming back in 3rd, only 45 seconds down and just behind 2nd place. I made a couple of small mistakes, at controls 1, 5 and 6, and I was ultra safe at number 12.
BJ had a pretty good run, with one mistake early on but held on to 3rd place, and JD also ran ok to claim 6th place for GB. My first time in the 1st team and my first bunch of senior flowers (and a big knife).
Here is my map

Results here

06 October 2006

15th place at World Cup Final

A good day in the office. 15th place in the middle race at the world cup final (my best ever non-sprint result). Finished 27th overall in the World Cup 2006 with 101 points. Up to 47th in the world rankings (my highest ever).

This has been a good week in France. My goals were to get top 20s in the sprint and middle (which I achieved) and top 30 in the classic (which I was very close to). I also wanted to finish the week in the top 50 in the world, which I did after todays race.

My race today was ok. It was by no means perfect, but it was fairly steady and I made no significant mistakes. We haven't had the maps back as the relay tomorrow is on the same area, so it is difficult to analyse now.

Full results here and splits here.

05 October 2006

World Cup Final Classic Race

For almost two hours I ran into trees, fell over rocks, fell onto rocks, headbutted rocks, got bits of tree in my eye, fell onto more rocks, attempted to find a few controls and generally really enjoyed myself. Very tough technically and while not overly physical, the sheer rocky-ness made the running very tough (although I probably didn't help myself by running through lots of rocky bits that I should have run around).
I was fairly happy with my race apart from maybe four places. I made a stupid error at control 3, both coming in and leaving in the wrong direction. On the epic long leg across the map, I chose a good route, and then proceeded to ignore the nice white forest and attempted to run through a thick green boulder field. Then at controls 22 and 23, just when the finish was in sight and everything seemed to be under control, I made two big mistakes. The first I lost contact on the leg and failed to relocate, and then the next one I had big problems in the circle. I lost maybe 7-8 mins in total on those controls.
I am content with my 31st place. My goal before the race was top 30, so I am not really happy. At least I beat BJ (only just though....)

Results here, map sometime when I get home

04 October 2006

Sprint at Chateau de Theix

Today we had a really enjoyable world cup sprint race around Chateau de Theix. With no qualication, it was a straight final with a really strong field. Most of the race was in some steep woodland with intricate rock detail, and the rest was in scrappy parkland with mixed vegetation and quite a few paths.
I had a fairly good race, and I am content with my placing (20th), but I was amazed by how far down I was on the leaders (almost 2 minutes). There were a couple of route choices that I was unsure about, and some of the mapping of the rock detail was either hard to read or a bit dubious. I lost some time on one control running through an area of large rocks mapped as rocky ground when the rocks were just as large as the one with the control on it. I also lost time on the hill running sections of the course, entirely down to my inability to run up hills. One 300m leg had 45 metres of climb on it and I really felt every centimetre.

Results up here, map to follow

03 October 2006

Kenilworth, Ukraine and World Cup Final Middle race

In the time since my last post, I have been living in my new house in Kenilworth (which is very nice). I have had a bad cold after my long summer trip, I have had a training camp in the Ukraine with the GB squad (maps and photos to follow), I went to the Post Finance Sprint in Switzerland (where I did very badly) and I am now in France at the World Cup Finals.

These are being held in the Auvergne region, close to Clermont-Ferrand. The event website is here. Most of the team arrived on saturday, but the Post Finance Sprinters drove over from Bern on Sunday morning. We all took the opportunity to go to the model events to get a feel for the very special terrain (see extract below). We were blown away by the technical element of the orienteering here - it truly is a case of lose contact with the map, and lose the race. Mistakes here can be measured in tens of minutes.

Middle Qualifier

I had a solid race, no big mistakes. I stuck to my plan which was to keep constant contact, make good judgements about where to run fast and where to really concentrate, and if in doubt, make absolutely sure. I made a small mistake early on, and really hesitated at one control where I stood still for over 30seconds making absolutely sure that I was where I thought I was. At the end, I was running at a really good pace with a small pack and I qualified comfortably. I feel that I was a little unlucky in terms of heats, as my time would have placed me much higher in the other 2. I felt 12th was worse than the run deserved. Results here. The map of my race is here.

Middle Final

Memorable. Before the race we knew it was going to be trickier than the qualifier, with less paths, more details and more climb. What we didn't know was that the weather would conspire against everybody and force the race to be cancelled. Winds over 100km/hour knocked out power to the whole region and caused many trees to be knocked over. The event itself lost power and runners were stopped in the forest. Only a handful of athletes finished the race, and many weren't even allowed to start. I started, but only made it as far as half way to the sixth control before I was stopped. My run was ok, I had made a 2 minute mistake, but apart from that I was fairly happy, even catching Audun Weltzien by 8 minutes (at the 2nd control).

Tomorrow is the sprint race, I have a fairly late start. Then thursday is the classic, friday the rescheduled middle and saturday the relay.