12th October 2012 -26th October 2012
Heels back and feet up
A couple of weeks with gentle ticking over in the run up to the Original Mountain Marathon (OMM).   I've completed more road miles than usually during this period. I'd forgotten how much it trashes your legs doing longer miles on tarmac, however,  surprisingly I thoroughly enjoyed it. Taking it easy, no fast sessions, or pyramids, or fartleks, no running on Vo2 max here or  Intervals there, just.... just running..... comfortably, effortlessness, what a treat. 

The OMM has been unfinished business as last year was a real eye opener as to the enormity of what competitors have to put themselves through. These events (as I've alluded to previously) test your orienteering skills, fitness levels, psychological strength and team playing capacity. They are not for a novice and to enter you have to be slightly unhinged! Well at least to enter it a second time it helps. So....This event is completed in pairs, so Ant Bethell and I had entered as a mixed team in the A Class. You can follow the link here in order to peruse the event and category explanations.

Saturday 27th October 2012
The weather was cold, freezing in fact. Even some of the strongest and capable runners I know had donned their leggings having reluctantly climbed out of their shorts. It's a staggered start and our time allocated out of the blocks was 7.50 am. The next 6hrs 23 mins turned out to be an amazing day of hard running in the Howgills. To attempt to put some things into words is futile as rarely what you are attempting to describe is given justice through the inadequacy of speech, and... well... unnecessary too. So an overview:

Wild Boar Feel and Baugh Fell region: 
2200m Ascent 

The navigation was spot on, a few minor dithery moments, however good route choices, played to our strengths and turned out to have been wise decisions. The Wild Boar fells and West Baugh Fell are not easy or fast runnable parts of the land. The ground remained frozen for most of the day, and lower in the valleys, it was marshy and boggy. The grass was knee length (for some of us) and I became Bambi most of the day, slipping sliding and bouncing up out of the grass only to disappear into it again across the fell. It was like a scene out of the 'Sound of music'.. only not as pretty... or tame. So at the end of day one, there was plenty of energy left in the tank, I felt fired up for day two and looked forward to my cup of noodles (and anything else that I could eat). We'd finished 9th overall, 2nd in category of mixed pairs and the leaders were 3 mins in front. We'd ran the last hour with them, very strong on navigation and whilst clearly strong runners and were certainly going to give Ant and I a tough competition tomorrow  it was my view that one of the team was tired and that factor would be their Achilles heel on day two.

Overnight Camp: was great, it stayed dry albeit cold until late evening. I caught up with a few friends, whom we'd spend the evening before dining and game planning with, Dale Colclough, Jon Whilock, Simon Summerville, Rich Piggot, Bryan Carr, all amazing fell runners, raw talent, old school, unassuming wise men. Unlike Fairy, overtly eager, egoic, competitive and opinionated.... ahem. So, the chaps were all pleased with their performances and rightly so it was smiles all around. I bumped into Jen Gaskill, and we exchanged Montane kit stories and complemented each other on our glamorous Montane cat walk look  (which turned out to be a life saver for me, Ok Fairy also exaggerates but more on that later). Iain Ridgeway a good friend was about and he'd finished incredibly well in the 'Elite' at the end of day one with his team mate Sam Smith. However 'needle in a haystack' he'd said it was after attempting to find my tent.. I'm too lazy, I didn't attempt to look. The thing is, everyone seems to wear black, have two plastic bags on their feet and lives in a green tent. It's all a bit... well, clone like. So, I was more than happy to climb into my sleeping bag at about 6.30 -7pm and had a night of waking every hour to sleep again five mins later. You know how it is! I layered better in my sleeping bag after the RAB's. It was all very ad hoc though, I'd taken thermal socks as my luxury item. So layering on feet and legs: 

Lycra Tights: x2
Socks: x2 pairs (Injinji's and thermal)
Montane Atomic Water proof bottoms x1
OMM Raid sleeping bag x1
Plastic rucksack liner x1
Montane Ultra Tour 22L Rucksack x1

This was my layering system to keep my feet warm... like I say... Unhinged.... laugh you may, feet..toasty. You work out in what order they all covered my feet. 

Sunday 28th October 2012
We had a chasing start and were out of the blocks early doors. I was feeling strong, running out of the start  area and up the hill to the road. The fire was there, I had my competitive head on and was excited to race. Day two covered more runnable sections of the Howgills for A class, and whilst there was a lot more climbing and descending, it was all very runnable comparably. 27.9km and 2300m Ascent for the whole course day 2. The rain had settled in for the day which made the conditions really tough as the howling wind made it incredibly cold too. Nonetheless, in spite of the poor visibility through the clagg, causing some navigational errors, we managed to hold on to a realistic view that we could still fair well in this event. Checkpoint 6-7 was a long section and we'd taken a risk by taking the path towards Randygill Top, dropping into the valley, following the stream, then climbing out to pick up the path which takes you to Bleaks Head and then Fell Head (which is where we needed to be). Anyhow, it was a longer route yet less climbing up and down to get to Fell Head than the more direct line. 

The nightmare started when we dropped down from Fell Head to find the re entrant where the checkpoint  (CP) was. The CP was not there, and after 10-15 mins of looking for it, we climbed back up as it was obvious that we were at Bleaks Head and had dropped too soon (recall the clagg was down and visibility was zero, we were on a compass). So we carried on, I could feel the race slipping away, what a strange feeling.. we got to Fell Head and dropped down to find the re entrant, again, it was not there. another 10 mins, and whilst Ant ran around the fell side, I stood, realising we were lost, understanding that it was not going to be a day of doing well in races. I tousled with myself for about 10 mins with this and made the decision to retire. Ant came back up from the spur looking bedraggled, wet and distraught, and I put the retirement to him. He seemed relieved. So, that was that. I packed in, not through illness or tiredness or suffering physically, but because I was not going to do well in this race. In my view too much time had now been lost to make up in the last 3rd of the race. It sounds egoic, it is egoic, and yet.. it's the truth. 

The standing around had been a poor decision under these conditions. The cold had taken me and I started to shake and shiver, I could not run. I've been caught by the cold before (Manchester marathon) and it's amazing how it brings you to a stop. I don't fair well in the cold. The rain was fierce, the cold was bitter, and I could do nothing but shuffle. Amazing, I was a gazelle 20 mins earlier. There was no warming up, and then Ant suggested I put my waterproofs on, (my own reasoning had gone), all I could think about was to get down off the mountain. So I donned my Montane pants, and the feeling came back into my legs, thank you Montane, I picked up speed and as we dropped into Sedbergh I started to feel human again. 

Long faces and lessons learnt, the experience has been invaluable. Thanks Ant for being an great team mate, an amazing fell runner and a far better navigator than I am......

Has the experience knocked me off my feet, has it bollo.......traala la la la... (unhinged remember folks, unhinged)