Monday, 26 October 2015

OMM 2015 Tweedsmuir

What a bloody brilliant weekend!!!

OMM October 2015 Tweedsmuir

When Stu asked me a while back if I'd like to do the OMM short score with him I had a look at the website, thought 'Great!! 5 hours Saturday, 4 hours Sunday, maps, find as many controls as possible - what a fantastic way to get into mountain racing and with an experienced navigator / fell runner, no chance of getting lost, I've run in the Lakes plenty, all I ultimately have to do is keep up with him". Ha! Rookie error #1. Luckily (for me) he was competing with a bad back, otherwise he'd have gotten at least twice what we got done. Thanks for your patience Stu!

Control points marked on map

Arrived up in Moffat Friday evening, checked into our B&B, then went out for the most lush chips n gravy I've ever had. Went up to the event centre to register - where a dibber was attached to my wrist, not to be removed until the end of the event on Sunday - Stu and various others gave a talk, I'd some beers with the lads, then back to the B&B for more beer and an earlyish night.
Saturday morning we were up and out by 7.30, a half hour drive to the start and the buzz began. We dibbed, got our maps and off we went. It'd been raining through the night and everything was soaked. Within the first hour I knew this was going to be the toughest race I'd ever taken part in. Those Scottish hills took the Lakes hills and raised them a dozen. Two hours in and my lungs were burning, my calves were burning, I'd given up looking at time or anything else apart from just keeping in motion. I had intended to do my fair share of nav, I'd revised and swotted up on my nav manual and been out in the Peak District getting some practice in, but when Stu flew off over a crest and I realised that as he was flying he was taking a bearing, running on the bearing, checking the bearing and all without even breaking pace I thought “fucking hell, fucking fucking hell, just watch and learn and keep the fuck up as best you can".
Most of Day One is a blur now, it was so fucking hard. The terrain took whatever I've run on before and laughed at it and spat it right back out at me. Really wet technical steep bracken/bog/hummocky stuff, very very hard to get any running rhythm going for long at all. Highlights were the views on one of the many tops (it was mostly long climbs up then long steep descents, I got to the point where a gentler uphill became a 'flat bit'). I saw a winter hare, that was awesome. And the mountain views were amazing J Lost count of how many shin/knee deep streams we crossed. The feet were wet from the start, deal with it!
We got 130 points on Day One, quite a respectable score when checked with the others we spoke to that afternoon, got back to camp around 2 and started to get the tent up. My first ever night camping J

Stu and our tent
I think in all there were around 3000 competitors across the various classes, all camped in this massive field. It was very cool to be sat outside our tent chatting with Kim Collison and having a cup of tea J Then a bit later it pissed it down so we went up to the barn shelter where I was quite starstruck to be stood there chatting with Jim Mann, Kim and Adam Perry about the race. Hardcore guys, I'd freeze to death if I carried the lightweight gear they carried.  Helene Diamantides and Wendy Dodds were also there but I missed them.

Overnight camp starting to get busy
I was bloody hungry yesterday, I had thought "ah, 5 hours running, that won't take too much to fuel". Rookie error #2 I was bloody starving by about 2.5 hours in. But the uphills were so steep that I couldn't breathe plus eat on them, then the downhills needed so much concentration to stay upright with the backpack on that I didn't eat then either. Got to a point where I was swaying around and after I'd fallen about 5 times in 10 minutes I stopped to eat. One of those times I went knee deep into a rabbit hole or summat on a descent at speed, which just couldn't be helped, but the others were partly my fault. You just can't imagine the effort that you'll be expending when you haven't done one of these things before. I was easily as tired at the end of Day One as after a 40 mile trail run. Possibly more actually. I brought packets of dried cup a pasta or something, which was great as you could just chuck it in a cup and boil water on the stove but to be honest I'd have eaten at least 6 packets afterwards if I'd had them. And I got through almost 2 bars of Kendal mintcake over the 2 days racing. Unheard of. I'd usually get through half a bar in a weekend of Lakes running.
Stu'd tipped me off to bring plastic bags for my feet to use at camp, as my shoes would be too wet to wear comfortably. We had to carry all of our kit with us and be totally self-sufficient, this meant carrying clothes, food, tent, stove, sleeping bags and all the overnight camp stuff with us whilst racing. Unfortunately, after swapping out for my one pair of spare dry socks, I discovered that my plastic bags were fucking leaking. Cue wet feet for 2 days J Next time I'll bring proper posh M&S ones!

Overnight camp
There was a brilliant atmosphere at the camp, a massive field full of muddy excited knackered runners - what could be better! Beer would've been nice but we'd have had to carry it all day. Feck that!
Runners coming down the hill
Properly dark now, though probably only 8pm, it was an early night! 
How many layers? - longsleeved race top, Icebreaker base layer, Tog24 layer, Montane Prism jacket, Montane Minimus; Skins, race tights and waterproof trousers - all just to wear in camp to keep warm! 
I slept in a brilliant sleeping bag and bivvy bag but still needed 2 pairs of leggings, my longsleeved running top, a base layer and a fleece and a woolly hat to keep warm. It's flipping cold outdoors up there at night! Had a fairly decent sleep on and off, then a bagpipe player woke us up on Day Two at 5.45. Bastid. We were starting at 8 today so we got the stove going, had a brew and some food, then packed the tent etc away and got ready to race.
The first hill really nearly fucking killed me. So so steep. I couldn't look to the side or behind me because I was getting dizzy from the height of it. And it went on forever. "Breathe and not fall backwards" was all I could do. The controls on Day Two were quite spread out and there was a large out of bounds area due to some deer hunt and men with guns. We got to the first control then had a look at the options. I knew I was too tired from Saturday to climb down to what was option 1 and all the way back up again so we bypassed that and planned a different route. Thank Christ!
This was much more like running in the Lakes, lots of rocky tracks and runnable knee deep bracken. My ITB kicked off about 2 hours in, I could only be thankful that it at least waited until the 'easier' day to be a bollocks! I was still fucking wrecked by the end though and so so happy to see that finish line. I just had nothing more in me! 100 points today, which again turned out to be quite good as a lot of people we spoke to settled for a 70 due to the restricted area and strung out points.
I didn't take any photos while racing, the phone stayed in a dry bag, but no doubt there'll be loads on FB / the OMM website.
Brilliant race, atmosphere, people, setup, event etc etc - I'll definitely be back for more next year, and now that I know how fucking tough it is I can prepare properly!! Thanks a million Stu for having me along, it was great fun (though at the time some of it definitely wasn't!!) and it's something I'll certainly be doing more of J

Very happy to be finished, but already looking forward to the next one

The Serious Stuff
The effort expended on the uphills on Day One meant that I just wore a cap, longsleeved top, tights and shorts, with gloves from time to time. It didn’t rain heavily enough while we were out to need waterproofs on.  Very reassuring though to know that I had all of the right kit with me in my pack in the event of worsening weather or emergency.
Day Two was much windier and colder and I wore the above plus my Minimus and gloves for all but the last few kilometres.
A rookie error and leaking plastic bags meant that out of 3 pairs of socks 2 were soaked through and 1 were damp. Not a biggie for Day Two as my feet were wet as soon as we got going anyway but dry socks in bed would have been nice. *Bring strong plastic bags and guard dry socks preciously!
As mentioned previously I had no idea of how tough this was going to be, and really could have done with eating more, and doing so more frequently. This is a common problem of mine in races, but on something like this it’s definitely important to get used to eating regardless of whether you’re going up or down hill as, unlike in a trail ultra, there is no time to stop to eat.
I also could have done with more food for the overnight camp, in future I’ll soldier the extra weight in order to have a full belly! My emergency rations consisted of half a large bar of Fruit and Nut chocolate – about 500 calories worth.  There probably are lighter options but I’ll find that out for next time.
As this was my first mountain event Stu loaned me a sleeping bag and bivvy bag, and we shared his tent and stove. Very useful to put this into practice in a race situation and how to pack/unpack efficiently and quickly.  And also to find out where to source decent kit without spending megabucks.  Running with this kind of pack over rough terrain is very different to running with, say, an S-lab with mandatory trail ultra kitlist. Another thing to practice J

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