Our first Mountain Marathon – the 2011 Rab MM

After months of not very serious training, but very serious complaints due to aches and pains, the weekend of the Rab MM finally dawned. It was wet! But the forecast was set to improve, so we planned for a later start to try and avoid the worst of the rain.

After getting to the school in Bethesda we signed in, collected our dibbers, and met up with Rachel and Richard.

Laetitia greeted by hardened mountain marathoners Richard and Rachel at Dyffryn Ogwen School in Bethesda
The start of the race, a 15 minute walk from Bethesda

We had no idea what to expect, so our levels of trepidation were high! We had never used a dibber; didn’t know what a control looked like; how far we might be able to travel in the allowed 6 hours on day 1 and 5 hours on day 2; how tricky the navigation might be; or how our bodies would cope with two days of fell running back-to-back.

When we dibbed-in at the start that was first time we’d ever used the SPORTident dibbers and I think the guy administering the machine was a little surprised when I asked him what to do. We were off! ๐Ÿ˜ฏ After 20, or maybe 30 minutes, studying the map we’d decided upon our route – just five and half hours to go… A little later, at our first mark, we learnt what controls looked like (approx. 30cm square white and orange flags) and dibbed for our first score – a lowly 5 points.

Later we, along with another 40 or so people, wasted 20 minutes searching for control 121. Clearly all of our combined navigation skills couldn’t be that bad, it simply wasn’t there. We reported that at the over night camp and luckily we, along with the other teams, were credited with 20 points. Phew! Those 20 minutes hadn’t been wasted.

Nearing our penultimate day 1 control on Foel Dduarth
We had amazing views out toward Anglesey, the Menai Straits, and back up the Afon Anafon (this picture) from this spectacular little summit near Abergwyngregyn

We managed to cover 24km on day 1 and scored 190 points.

We learnt two things, we needed to focus more on higher scoring controls rather than the number of controls found. And that 24km was just about as far as our bodies could go on this terrain – despite having 20 minutes to spare from the allowed 6 hours, our knees were trashed! The killer was the descending – we reckon we made approx. 2000m of ascent during the day and all that had to be lost too.

The overnight camp was in a lovely setting and the weather had turned from wet and windy in the morning to calm and sunny (almost like summer), we laid recovering with cheese, biscuits, and several cups of tea in the sunshine. ๐Ÿ˜›

A special campsite near Abergwyngregyn blessed with amazing evening sunlight - we ended up sun bathing while drinking tea for at least an hour before we got around to making our dinner!

Eventually we managed to find Rachel and Richard, it wasn’t easy with over 300 tents spread out around the camp area, and shared stories of our respective day’s adventure. Just before bed I brought out the 150ml bottle of Drambuie I had carried to the camp to relax our tired muscles before bedtime. Unfortunately the bottle is a reused shampoo bottle, and although it has been in use as our camping salt-shaker for many years it still gave the Drambuie an interesting flavour – essence d’shampoo! ๐Ÿ˜†

Enjoying a few sips of Drambuie (with a hint of shampoo) before bedtime

Straight out of camp at 8.30am we headed up the “infinite-hill”, over 400m of ascent in just under a 1km – steep! However, the real destroyer was the first descent… My right knee immediately reminded me of yesterday afternoon’s punishment and hurt like hell!!! Things were not looking good for our planned route which included going right over Carnedd Llywelln (1064m) and picking up the high scoring (40 point) control on Yr Elen. But Laetitia encouraged us on and I kept hobbling along – in fact sometimes literally hoping on my good left leg on the down hill sections. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

The control at Bwlch Cyfryw-drum

On day 2 we covered 20km and scored 160 points. A better score considering we had an hour less and had very tired legs – we’d learnt the lesson of going for higher scoring controls.

Here’s a link to the Rab 2011 Mountain Marathon results

Clearly everyone had been suffering from fatigue on day 2 as we managed to advance 38 places in the score table. I reckon just the single day of experience gained on Saturday helped us improve our strategy for Sunday and, despite the ruined knees, pull out a slightly improved result.

Altogether a brilliant event (did I say/write that?) …

Barbondale Round

The Barbondale Round is a Long Distance Walkers Association event. The route went from Barbon, passed Bull Pot Farm, up Casterton Fell to Crag Hill and then onto Great Coum. It then skirted around the edge of Towns Fell, round the east and north of Middleton Fell and then up the 4.5 mile hill (distance, not height) to Calf Top, then onto Castle Knott and finally onto Eskholme Pike, before heading back down to Barbon. A nice 22 mile bimble. I took my time running around and even got chance to look at the view.

View over Leck Fell
View near Lenacre
View over Calf Top

As you can see, there wasn’t a lot of competition…

There was no cake, but there was pie!


Highlander Mountain Marathon 2009

After a week in Scotland walking and enjoying the mountains, saturday was the first Mountain Marathon of the year, the Highlander, in Cannich, west of Inverness. We missed the Highlander last year when it was run in heavy snow, but did the D class the year before in clear but very cold conditions. This year we were lucky with the weather again, with cloud on the tops on the first morning, but otherwise gorgeous weather all weekend, and thankfully not as cold as 2007.

This year we’d chosen the B course, and disappointingly we were the only mixed team on the course (in fact, Rachel was the only woman in either the A or the B). Saturday started with a bus ride to the power station at the start of Glen Strathfarrar and then a steep climb through the heather onto the shoulder of Beinn a’ Bhathaich Ard (however that’s pronounced). We then got a lovely run along the ridge north from the summit, through the cloud, and occasionally over snow still lying on the ground, almost to the shores of Orrin Reservoir before turning back and returning to Glen Strathfarrar.

Apart from a couple of little wobbles, we had a pretty good day navigationally on saturday, and came home in second place, 20 minutes behind the leading pair.

Waterfall. No prizes for identifying where.
Waterfall. No prizes for identifying where.

The mid-camp was in a lovely spot between Loch a Mhuilidh and Loch Beannacharan, with a gorgeous view of the munro at the end of the glen, as well as of a couple of hills in the middle of the glen, one with a single large tree jutting from the summit. Unfortunately, it also seemed to contain every tick in the glen, and we spent quite a bit of time keeping them off us, out of our tent, and off our gear.

One of the highlights of the Highlander is the Ceilidh at the halfway camp, and this year was no exception, with a fine band and plenty of dancing. As usual however, we (and most others) were crawling into our tents by 9:30.

Sunday dawned bright and clear, and we were off at 7:20. On the way to the first control we (alright, I) chose a route straight across the river, which was about waist deep and bitterly cold—the perfect start to the day! We were fast to the first control but then made a mistake at the second, and chose a slower route to the third, and were overtaken by the team behind us. The day seemed to alternate nice long runnable legs with horrible climbs, and featured a visit to a beautiful forested lochan that would make a lovely wild camping spot.

Coming in to the finish we were pretty pleased with our effort, despite being passed. Unfortunately, despite both the teams ahead of us making mistakes on the last two controls, we couldn’t catch them and finished about 6 minutes behind the leaders. Once again we were the second fastest team on the day, but ended up third overall, but still first (only) mixed team!

Highlander MM prizegiving
Highlander MM prizegiving. So easy, we did it with our eyes closed!

The prizes were great, thanks to the Highlander’s sposors, Dare2b, and once again we can’t recommend the event enough—the scenery is gorgeous, the organisation great, the people are really friendly, and the ceilidh in a marquee tent in the middle of nowhere, with a muddy dancefloor and people dancing in lycra and plastic bags on their feet is simply unforgettable. Anyone thinking about doing a mountain marathon should seriously think about this one!

On a serious note, the Highlander is looking for sponsorship to ensure it continues in future years. If you’re looking for an event to sponsor, get in touch with the organisers:

Sorry, no pictures this time as our small camera ran out of batteries. We may be able to add some later, but in the mean time, here are a couple from earlier in the holiday.

Puffin at Farne Island
Puffin at Farne Island

A Trio of Running

A busy weekend!

Friday night was cake night – or a date and walnut loaf and seven types of flapjack (yes Colin there are only 5 types in the picture as we ate two of the varieties)…. chocolate, coconut, maple syrup, fruit and nut, apricot, mincemeat (sweet variety) and all the above mixed together (which was delicious)

Saturday …an orienteering event on the Wyche Ridge in the Malverns at lunchtime, followed by meeting up with a university friend at the lovely ‘The Kettle Sings’ (although I didn’t hear it) cafe. Followed by a second orienteering event – a night event again on the Wyche Ridge (yes it was an advantage to have been to all the controls before! Richard won both events and is very pleased with himself ๐Ÿ™‚

Sunday, the day of rest, was spent doing a 15 mile fell race which visited 6 trig points/or noteworthy features of Cannock Chase! A wonderful run, I think I finished in 2hr20, Richard was probably around 2 hours. We both ache and are walking like John Wayne ๐Ÿ™‚