Tuesday, 27 October 2009

OMM 2009 - Class B - Day 1

I'll say one thing for the OMM/KIMM. You get to see places you wouldn't normally visit. It's just that now and again there's a reason you wouldn't normally go there. Take the 2001 KIMM for example up in Clydes MuirSheil Regional Park, Scotland. A trackless wasteland of bogs and tussocks. Being so close to Glasgow et al you'd expect a few paths but no. Who'd want to trudge through that when there's the Highlands within reach. Expectations for this weekend were pretty much based on that experience and to a certain degree I was pleasantly surprised that some (around half) of the course was fairly pleasant runnable terrain with the odd non-OMM created track here and there. However, the other half of the course however made up for that in shedloads. Miles and miles of gloopy shoe sucking wobbly featureless plateau. The anticipated tussocks were no match for Muirsheil's ministry of silly walks monsters but they were just as lethal in their own ankle snapping way. Taking your eye off the path immediately ahead resulted in a twisted ankle or a dip in a particularly deep trough of black sticky goo.

One of those weird coincidences happened at the event centre. While waiting in the queue for the gents I saw Rick Ansell from Tring (where I live). He's unmistakable in the fell running circuit as he has a large ginger afro hairdo. I asked him how many Tring runners were taking part then he asked me which club I was in. I explained that I lived in Tring but had actually recently joined the Goyt Valley Striders as I'm working up there (160 miles from Tring). Blow me if he didn't then introduce his partner Mark Richards who's in the Goyt Valley Striders. How weird is that?

So, back to the event where a fun time was had by all (except those who had their tents knicked from the Friday night campsite). Thanks to last year's media bollocks, this year saw a few changes. The event centre was in the Welsh national showground with proper buildings and everything instead of in a barn. This resulted in us having to be bussed to the start. A half hour trip to the Elan Valley. Everyone assumed that we'd be taken to the Elan Village but instead we were unceremoniously dumped in a layby and had to walk half a mile or so up a hill to the start gates.

Dave and I had very late start time of 11:23 (or 11:33 as Dave thought). As luck would have it we checked our time at exactly the time we were due through the gates. We seem to make a habit of that.

One advantage of a late start was the clearing up of the low cloud that hindered the early starters. Visibility was good for the whole weekend. Dave did all the navigation this time apart from a couple of incidents when his spatial awareness wires got crossed. I didn't even get my compass out the whole weekend. To be honest being so late the routes were well trodden leaving navigation choices, with one or two exceptions, simply a matter of choosing which OMM-path to take when we came to a split.

Equipmentwise, I was back to my old KIMM SAC after snapping the waist belt on my Salomon rucksac during last year's OMM. I wore my GORE shorts and a HH top and, for the first and last bits, my green Salomon goretex jacket. On my feet I wore my Hilly mono socks on day 1 with my Inov-8 Mudclaw 3-something or others. For the overnight camp we had my good old North Face Westwind tent and I was carrying my new PHD Minim 300 sleeping bag and Minimus down jacket. As I've mentioned before in this blog the shoes have a grip to die for but they don't really suit my feet. By tying the lace really tight I can eliminate the heel lift but they don't give my heels the support they need. My over pronation caused the left side of the left shoe to dig into my foot just below the ankle bone. Fortunately I'd brought some long lengths of plaster that protected that. Our bags came in at 21 lbs this year. Far too heavy but it's difficult to know what to cut down on without making the long overnight camp a miserable experience.

So, the course went from the start up and along a ridge before dropping across a shallow valley and over the other side to control 1 conveniently placed on a bridle track.

Then it was along the track, over a road, more track then off the edge down to the side of one of the reservoirs to control 2. Another easy find.

The direct line to control three was straight across the reservoir but unlike a ladies team in a previous LAMM who swam across a lake rather than run round it we opted for the dry (well drier) route. North along the side of the reservoir, over a road bridge, up the road for half a mile then onto yet another track.

We followed this to the top then dropped off to the right into a re-entrant and control 3. Down the side of a valley heading north, past an out of bounds farm and up over the other side of the valley to control 4. As usual Dave was the stronger ascender and he left me on this climb and had found the control before I found him again. A slight bending of the 'must stick together' rule there. More track, getting a bit boggier (is that a word?), took us along a ridge to control 5. Apart from a few of the steeper uphill sections we had managed to run a large part of the course and felt we were making good time. Next was the monster leg, 9k of relentless undulating soggy plateau. Moving across this terrain is drudgery of the highest order. Relying almost entirely on my aerobic ability for my running this slow sapping strength work is not my cup of tea. Especially as my largely dormant bad knee was making its presence felt. I couldn't apply much pressure on it and ended up up developing a sort of peg leg running style where I'd simply pivot on my left leg rather than push with it.

Run a bit, walk through the swamps, run a bit, up the side of a valley head, run a bit, more swamp, more swamp, run a bit and so on. On this section we passed Adrian (see 3 Peaks) and his partner Martin doing the C class course. Looking at their results it seems that they packed at around that point as they missed all of the remaining controls.

Eventually it was round a knoll and control 6 was dibbed. I bonked at this point and had to have a gel, a fruit bar and some malt loaf to bring me round again. Finally it was over the last ridge then down into the valley for the last control of the day (before the finish one)and onto the campsite.

Our fears of finishing in the dark (for which I'd forked out a vast amount of dosh on a decent headtorch) were unfounded as we finished with an hour's daylight left, as were our fears of not finding a (relatively) decent spot for our tent. The campfield was enormous with loads of room. The ground was a bit waterlogged but by previous standards it was pretty good (apart from the fact that my trusty Westwind seems to have a weepy groundsheet). We were trying out some new freeze dried foods this year from Expedition Foods. These just need boiling water to be added and don't require boiling for ages. We ended up with loads of spare gas and the foods were pretty good. We'll be using them again I reckon.

Checking the results board on Saturday night we found we were 38th in the B class (out of some 400 teams I think). Not a bad days work. Slept like a log for 10 hours apart from waking up to turn over and having a horrible pain in my left knee. It felt as if it had seized up and I had images of telling Dave that we had to retire in the morning.

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