Monday, 28 October 2013

The OMM - finally reaching the finish line :-)

Since the C2C I've given my ankle a bit of recovery time, however October has been busy! 
Briefly - It started with the Hodgson Relays, mixed emotions of revisiting the Langton Centre, running up Hart Crag (but missing Daz's cairn in the mist),then racing over leg 2 in the mist and wind with Rachel. Good fun and good runs from the team but it just wasn't our day.... 
Next up - the FRA relays in Llanberis, racing the Nav leg with Holly, a good route over some rough terrain, really testing my ankle in prep for the OMM. A great weekends racing by the Pennine Ladies, finishing 4th in a strong field, improving on 5th of last year - bring on 2014!

Me and Rachel at the deceptively warm start to the Hodgson's - could have done with more than shorts and vest by the end!

Two things came out of these races 1) my ankle had improved considerably! From tottering downhill at the Hodgson's, I was now able to not only run downhill but also contour over rough ground  - two skills critical to mountain marathons. I'm pretty sure the consultant at the Northern General Hospital didn't envisage this when he said he'd expect me to be able to run in 3-4months... I learnt my ankle's strengths (contouring to the right) and weaknesses (contouring to the left or running downhill) over terrain and was happy to finally be confident that entering the OMM with Zoe Proctor was not going to be a big mistake!
2) My breathing was rubbish - dropping the strength of my asthma medication, as the doctor had done mid September, just isn't a good idea. After the Hodgson's I struggled to run at all and the Wednesday before the FRAs I was put back onto the higher dose after demonstrating my inept breathing to the doctor (peak flow 70% of it's max = not conducive to running up hills). 10 days on and things were looking up!

Smiles before the start of the OMM - definitely wearing more than shorts and vests for this!
So on Saturday I found myself on the start line of the OMM B class in the Brecon Beacons with Zoe.
I've got a bit of unfinished business with the OMM. Seven years ago, as soon as I was old enough to enter, I completed the long score at my first attempt (although we might have been last after my partner had a small energy level failure on day 1 and we ended up with minus 144 odd points...). Since then I have started the A, then the B.....and then the C...and failed to finish any of them due to A) hypothermia, B) Borrowdale (need I say more), C) freshers flu. So I really needed to get over this streak of failures!
 After a classic late night/early morning arrival and pitching the tent in a good rain storm, we'd slept well and were up, packed and ready to leave for the coach by 8am! As I picked up the first days map, I immediately noticed the deciding leg. Hard to miss, leg 3-4 spanned the entire width of the map - better get that one bang on then!

OMM Day 1 - spot the deciding leg...

We set off well, maybe a bit too well, reaching number 1 within 3.5 minutes of the eventual winners (Hoddy and Joe), who lead by over 30mins after day 1....I then undid this good work by losing us 5minutes on number two, being drawn too far right by the masses. Time to screw my head on!
We reached control 3 in the lead of the female race by around 6minutes, I'd had one eye on the 4th leg up until this point and here we took a minute or two to consider our options. We decided there were two options - north or south of the summits that stood between us and number 4. I was swayed primarily by my strengths or rather, lack of strength for contouring left and the fact that up until this point we'd mainly been doing just that. So we opted for the south option.

 Thus began our started well, the first bit of contouring followed by the descent past number 1 and the climb and descent that followed were speedy enough under foot, we took good lines and made good progress. All despite me starting to feel the pace a bit, a handful of jelly babies fixed this slightly.
At the descent, we noticed Hazel and Joe, who had caught us after our number 2 time wasting, had other tactics, but we stuck to our guns. Over the next climb and I had studied the map a little more. There was an option, we could carry on as planned or contour right to switch from the south to north route. This looked like a good idea but we decided that seeing as we'd got this far and the going was ok we'd not make the mistake of changing our minds mid way. Just as we came to this conclusion, Hoddy and partner whizzed by contouring right.....hmmm, hadn't somebody told me they were doing the B course?

A brief hesitation and we took the descent and climbed swiftly to the next fence crossing at the corner of a wood. We reached the corner of the wood, almost half way through this leg, about 1hr35 after leaving 3. One hour, 3km (that might be generous), a hell of a lot of tussocks and a low point for Zoe and we'd lost stacks of time! Oh, and I made another slight nav error, dropping us too low and adding an additional km or so of tussocks as I'd heard Zoe really enjoyed them....

Both of us were very relieved to escape this section and took on new tactics for the final two sections (we broke the leg down by fence crossings) - avoiding orange coloured areas (mainly tussocks) and sticking to green (nicer grassyness). This meant we adopted more of an up and over approach which seemed to pay off as we were apparently on our own in finding the last two sections to 4 relatively pleasant! By the final climb and descent of the day I was feeling great - an unusual feeling after more than 6hours of running so I pushed us on up the hill and down to the finish. Whilst the rest of my body was having a good time, my ankle was a bit sore by this stage and my descending wasn't quite what it should have been.

It had been a day of many stages, stage 1 - the fast first 2-2.5hours felt great, stage 2 - I suffered the pace from 2.5-3.5hours while Zoe still had pace in the legs, stage 3 - I got over that and felt ridiculously good from 3.5+hours, just as Zoe started to suffer. We crossed the finish line in 6hrs45, 20mins down on the leading female team with teams to chase 5 and 10mins ahead. On closer inspection, it turned out the North route included a road and a path we'd completely overlooked and the fastest females had found an entirely different option, a very South route, involving a lot of path.....never mind, we'd got there in the end!

To continue the theme of the weekend, the heavens opened just in time for us to pitch our tent but it was nice and cosy once it was up and we had the stove heating water/ acting as tent sauna. I had kind of wussed out of the minimalist MM plan and we were 'glamping' OMM style - while this doesn't mean I'd packed a pillow and full on air bed I had packed lots of luxuries. By the time I'd put on my dry buff, running tights, active Q base layer, Stem II Q fleece and Essens down gilet I was actually almost too warm - not sure I've ever felt that on a mountain marathon over night camp before!

Day 2 - Bad weather course = controls 1,2,4,8,9,10 and 11

After a night of high winds, rain and even a clap of thunder, the morning dawned dryish... We had a bit of a last minute dash but made our 7:22am chasing start time. The bad weather courses were adopted for day 2 and, although this made our chances of catching the 22minutes to first slim, I think this suited us both.
I set off and my chest was tight, but other than that I was feeling just as good as when I'd finished day 1 which was nice. I don't think Zoe's legs appreciated this as I lead the way up the hill to set the fastest female time to number 1. Taking it a bit steadier we made quick work of number 2 before taking a good line direct to 4 (3 was out). After that, controls 5,6 and 7 were out so it was another big climb up and over to 8 before the last few km through the forest and home. We took our own route up here, keeping further right of the stream bed than most and hitting the path leading to the lake on the other side of the ridge. We overtook Alice and Alex on the descent (10mins up at the start of the day) and had a good run down to 8. This was just about enough for my ankle, so after climbing to 9 I looked incredibly out of control and like I'd never seen a hill before on the descent to the forest. Here Zoe had a second wind and pushed the pace down the track which my lungs were rather unhapppy about (where had all the tussocks gone, I liked that bit!). Finishing in 3hrs 30, the two strong climbs payed off and we took the fastest day 2 time, finishing 3rd female team overall. A fun weekend of running around in the mountains, just what was needed after staring at stats for 3weeks, thanks Zoe! And I broke the curse of the OMM by getting to the finish :-) although I might have passed it on to Ingrid and Rachel who finished day 1 half a shoe down and had to abandon....sorry girls, it only lasts 7years....

Ingrid's shoe