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.
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