Thursday, 11 October 2012

Dark and White and Heathery

This is the second year I've entered this event with  fell running friend Ant Bethell. We'd entered the mixed pairs category and were excited about improving on last years experiences. This is a fun race and will test endurance as well as navigation skills. Ahem.... Obviously not an event that plays to my strengths then.

It's a two day mountain marathon. In the Standard Class we had a time limit of 6 hours day one and 5 hours day two. You choose the course you want to take, you choose the check points you want to visit, you choose the routes to the checkpoint. Once you figured all that out (and are prepared to make any changes along the way) then it's about getting to those checkpoints as fast as you can.

Day 1 was hard going initially, the Cheviot hills are heathery, very heathery, and little legs don't like heather, so the event for me, became more about how to dodge heather. Nonetheless, there were some fabulous climbs and some runable trail. Descending was challenging as the hills are knobbly,  knolly and rocky and if that's not enough, then add in fern and heather and lots of it. So, given that there's not much sense in my world of sticking to path when there is an obvious direct route down a big hill or mountain side, some of the descents were slower than we'd have liked because direct descending in the heather and fern requires a lorra  risk taking. Consequentially, concentration and some sense (what..haha) were necessary if there were to be two ankles left at the bottom. So, a great day one, we had a good route choice and great navigation. Thanks Ant. So we were sitting a comfortable 4th place overall at the end of day 1. First mixed team. We were fired for day two.






Team pal Ant Bethell.. looks in pain

Base camp
The weather was gorgeous the whole weekend. It made base camp pleasurable, and so with the pocket rocket and a metal cup, I had coffee. The two day event you have to be completely self sufficient carrying all of your equipment and food etc with you, so the food i'd taken was primarily chosen for light carrying weight in mind coupled with lots of calories and carbs as opposed to taste and healthiness. So, I used gels on the hoof and had taken, dehydrated pasta, meat sticks (peperami), 3 small squares of flapjack, a few squares of chocolate and  a pkt of mini cheddars! My 'tin' coffee cup was also my dinner plate. I ate with a tiny plastic spoon that i'd broken the handle off to save on weight. You'd be amazed at the lengths I went to in order to keep my rucksack as light as possible.

The night was cold, the temperature dropped to at least freezing. We were in a ultra-lightweight tent and if you know these things, they are very er... cosy. Good job i'm a tot, because team mate Ant is not. So with nose to canvas, well not canvas... tissue paper tent walls, I settled for a very unsettled night. Lets cut to the chase here, it's the last time I use a balloon bed, and I need to layer more when the temperature drops. On the positive I was using the OMM Raid sleeping bag which is an amazing weight at just 460g and was a 'god send' in terms of contributing to the overall light weight of my rucksack as these things get heavy over two days. I'd layered with a silk and was wearing all of my kit, including my jacket, however i'd only a thin pair of running tights and this was just not enough to keep my legs warm. My feet were frozen too, does anyone know of thermal socks you can run in? Anyhow, oats for breakfast along with a couple of 'cliff bars' courtesy of the event organisers, and off for the hills.



Day 2 was hard going all day. Ant and I were tired and this was evident pretty early on. The pace was slower and we weren't as sharp with decision making and navigation. It's difficult to remain focused and fired up when the little errors become more frequent and we were losing time dithering and pondering rather than running hard. So a difficult day and hopefully many a lesson learnt, however we picked it up in the last half an hour and managed to put a last big effort into a climb to a checkpoint which gave us an extra 20 points, and jeez...we needed them.



So a disappointing day two, however managed to finish the whole event 9th overall (Standard class) and 1st Mixed team. 

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