Four days after the OMM, I finally feel recovered enough from the ordeal to actually blog about it! Myself and team mate Ben Evans competed in the B class at this year’s event based in Perthshire.
After what felt like a fairly epic journey to a POW camp involving 3 trains, tube, a bus and a mini bus (plus a bike ride for Ben!) the weather on the Friday night seemed suprisingly calm. Obviously it was dark (we had been travelling for 11 hours!), but only light drizzle and almost zero wind raised our spirits somewhat. A quick dinner of two bacon and egg sandwiches and a decent night’s sleep was ample final preparation for the two days ahead.
With a relatively late start time of 9:43 we had plenty of time in the morning to get ourselves sorted out and ready for the coach pick up at about 8:45. The actual start of the OMM was about 6 miles from the camp and then a further mile or so from the coach drop of point. This meant the start was quite a bit higher than other mountain marathons I have done and this meant that for the first part of day 1, we didn’t seem to have what I’ve always thought of as the traditional early steep climb you normally see to get you going! I’d like to say that this meant Ben had a nice sedate start to his first Mountain Marathon, but the decidedly dodgey weather including terrible visibility (certainly over about 400m) 50mph winds and constant drizzly rain.
Some pretty tough and long controls ensued, particularly between control’s 4 and 5, involving contouring down into one valley, scrambling over two mountains and luckily dropping onto the stream junction where the 5th control was based. 2hrs 11mins between these controls demonstrates the toughness of this one, particularly bearing in mind we navigated there from what appeared to be a fairly solid route choice. I think I speak for both of us when I say we felt a surge of pleasure and a huge motivational bounce. Dropping out of the misty cloud line on the way to control 6 gave even more confidence. A gut instinct choice on the right stream took us to what turned out to be a control in the middle of a ranging torrent (well it felt like one at the time anyway!), and a smooth last fell controls in.
So, a total of 6 hr 52mins for the first day putting us in 41st position. We were pretty happy with this, but our primary attention soon turned to trying to get warm and fed before the weather became any worse.
A tough old night lay in store for us with pretty damp kit and a lesson learnt that two season sleeping bags are never going to keep you warm in Scotland! Despite not getting a huge amount of sleep, both myself and Ben felt fairly well rested when woken by the 6am bagpipes the following morning. Far improved weather greeted us on the second day, with temperatures a couple of degrees higher, no rain and lighter winds. Again we had a fairly late start, but this gave us quite a bit of motivation early on as we appeared to be overtaking quite a few pairs over the first two or three controls.
By far the highlight for me over the second day though was short dog leg between controls 3 and 4. Staying low we managed to contour around a valley, pop out at the end and land right on the control, again located at a stream junction. Not only was I very pleased with the navigation – many pairs appeared to stay high on the valley top and struggled to land into the right stream loosing a few minutes on us – we saw a couple of mountain hares and a beautiful stag. I get the impression this part of Scotland is slightly ignored by walkers and the like because of other attractive areas nearby, but some of the unspoilt valleys and tops were stunning. If the cloud had broken for more than 5 minutes over the whole weekend, I’m sure the views would have been fantastic! As I often find with Mountain Marathons, a period of positive and occasionally ‘quick’ progress is usually followed by a long arduous and lonely trudge. And so it was to control 5. Following a seemingly endless fence line through bog, murk and wind with a serious climb to finish certainly brought us back down from our euphoric moments!
A couple of poor navigational errors right near the end of the day cost us about 25 minutes or there abouts, which was all the more disappointing as we had navigated pretty solidly for the rest of weekend. Tiredness and not eating enough near the end of the day are my pretty lame excuses for these errors….The last 700m of the event which was taped down to the finish was absolutely fantastic and led us nicely to the welcome soup and tea a the bottom of the hill.
We held our position over the second day meaning we finished 41st. Our Sunday time was 6hr 57min, almost a carbon copy of the day before. The bus back was followed by a very welcome change of clothes and nice veggie lasagne back at the POW camp. Unfortunately it quickly dawned on us that the Sunday bus service from Comrie was going to connect with any trains that would get us back to Glasgow in time for the overnight coach. So we decided on a wallet lightening but nonetheless entertaining taxi ride back to Perth, which also gave us enough time for a cheeky celebratory beer.
I certainly enjoyed my first OMM and felt that we performed pretty well as a team. I’m going to words into Ben’s mouth, but I think know that it’s over he very much enjoyed the experience. We all know that the pain you feel halfway through the event fades in the memory and I’m sure some of those tougher moments will be looked back with fondness A massive ordeal, but already feeling pretty well recovered and looking forward to the Gosport Half marathon in a couple of weeks time!
Note : the images in this blog are not mine and have been taken from the OMM website.