In 2003, my friend Jeremy and I ran the LAMM together and really enjoyed it, since then we’ve been injured or having families so this year we were really up for a long weekend runnning around the hills.
We picked the OMM (always the weekend the clocks change); when you register you get something vague about the event location like “North of England”. Then, with a couple of months to go they narrow down the race area. Although Jeremy was a little nervous of his ankle in April/May, it all came good. We sat down and decided we’d “just have a weekend wandering around the Howgills”.
We entered the short score event, 5 hours on Day 1 and 4 hours on Day 2. There are a number of controls with different scores, and those with the highest score wins. A 2 point penalty for every minute you are overdue makes getting route planning pretty important. There are mandatory kit items and as you’re self supported, tents, sleeping bag, food and cooking gear all provide gear weenies a really good chance to save weight. As it is a two person team, some kit can be shared and there is some kit that you have to carry individually.
Both Jeremy and I had driven up and down the M6 enough to know we would enjoy the terrain, but it’s only when you start looking at a map that the contours show you that course setters are going to have a field day with it. Steep sided valleys with water running through it.
We drove up on the Friday, popped into Kendal market ot see our friends from Carvetii Coffee and have some grub. Then we headed over to Sedbergh to envent HQ, after registering, organised all our kit in the back of the van.
After getting everything sorted into a reasonable pack weight and squared away, we headed into Sedbergh to eat some food and have a beer. In the pub, it was couples night, either that or the OMM was in town! We got talking to the team next to us and after talking about what they were eating, we decided to adjust our overnight menu a bit.
Heading home from the pub, it started to snow, not loads, but given we were going high on the hills we knew it was going to be a bit chilly!
As the 3000 odd competitors come into town there is a real air of excitement, and the locals despite thinking we’re all nuts were really friendly.
The next day we had a 0904 start, so we got up, ate at Wilf’s Cafe who attend most of the mountain marathon circuit beofre heading the 2.5 km out to the start. Being a bit early, and the fact it was seriously cold, we waited around at the start, swapping between the barn, and also around the start area in the sun.
At 0901 we were called forward to the start lanes, at 0902 we’re move on about 5m from the start line, at 0903 you move to the start line where you receive your Day 1 map. 60 second later an air horn goes you’re away.
There was a mandatory control about 750m away, other than the finish the only one on day 1. We walked, talked looked at points and decided on a rough route. Through the first gate Jeremy picked up a really wet, muddy foot, before “dibbing in” at the control, then we’re free to pick up points. We quickly covered a few controls before climbing up onto the still frozen top of The Calf-a hill at 676m.
From here, we chose to shoot across and pick up high scoring AR (40) (all controls have a two letter description and a score). It was fast moving terrain and we started running to make up a bit of time we had lost in ascent. We were looking for a steep sided gulley at around 550m and between slipping around on sheet ice and trying to maintain a good pace we over shot by 150m. We gave ourselves a telling off, tried to work out whether it was worth losing the time to regain it but with the time heading to 1100 we had to move on to cover new ground- a mistake we would be annoyed at later.
The next controls went really well, covering ground quickly and accurately. We even found Jeremy a weather station (he like these alot) before we decided to pick of one last control high on Wild Boar Fell before legging it down to the finish.
A bit annoyingly we misjudged the time (or took too many photos) and came in 27 seconds late earning us a 2 minute penalty. Them’s the breaks I guess.
We set up camp in a quiet field, close to water and toilets so that when it got busy later on we wouldn’t be too far from conveniences. 1400+ tents takes up space and services so we were pleased to be in early.
The next important job is to start replacing calories. This is normally guzzling done reconstitued dehydrated meals. This is done whilst trying not to cramp either, legs, hips or toes, which left our tent sounding like that scene in “When Harry Met Sally”… although without the pleasure.
It has to be said, whilst Expedition Food
is pretty palatable, our friends from the pub had inspired us to have a pudding of cheese, crackers, chocolate and Whisky. A fine shout that left us feeling pretty content in our tiny tent and plenty of space in our packs for Day 2!
As the sun went down the results came in, and we’d ended up in 50th place at the end of day 1. If only we’d picked up those 40 points we would have been in with a good shout of the top 20. Not bad for a wander round the hills!
We had an amble round the campsite, by moonlight, and I had a quick play with long shutter times to capture the now humming campsite.
We had a reasonable nights sleep, with the normal snoring, grunts, coughs and bodily sounds that come from a campsite full of people shattered with exertion. The clocks went back and at 0600 everyone was woken. at 0655 the chasing start horn sounded and then every minute there after teams got away.
The day was grey and rainy so today was going to need accurate compass work. It was pretty tough terrain and Jeremy was quiet with a painful blister on his heal. The first part of the day was on featureless, boggy terrain, but this made for great downhill running and some fun Navigation.
We decided to miss a precarious control in a steep escarpment, instead choosing to climb a hillside that gained 300m in slightly less horizontal distance. This would give us access to the high ground and we hoped to pick off some controls at speed on the way down to the finish. Pictures can’t do this climb justice but we were dealing with this quietly, and methodically. Jeremy mentioned he wasn’t singing happy songs at this point.
Onto, the tops which were now very windy with stinging rain on bare skin we moved quickly across to pick up two high controls before losing height across to another pair of controls about a kilometre apart. From here we needed to go collect a mandatory control to get back to the finish. This terrain was great, Il managed to lengthen my stride, get the Navigation spot on and we both ran together to the finish. Hugs, soup and a 2km walk back to event HQ passed quickly. The “dibber” I had worn for the last 48 hours was downloaded and showed we had finished Day 2 in a very respectable 14th place. This put us 33rd overall. Jeremy and I were really happy with this. We really did just go out to have fun. I’m annoyed to have missed “that” control on Day 1 as that would have placed us in the top 20. But we’ll be back for next years event in Wales.
Apart from having a terrific weekend running in new hills with a really great friend, we both were really impressed with the standard of organisation. Super slick. As with many hill events, volunteers give up their time in really difficult conditions to allow other to have a great time.
The last words go to the organisers and volunteers of the event-Thank You!