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! 😯 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. 😛

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! 😆

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. 😮

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?) …

Martindale Letterboxes

The Rab MM is getting closer and we are getting more and more apprehensive – what fools we are to have ever taken up the gauntlet laid down by Rachel and Richard! 😉 Anyway, we train on in some hope that we can at least finnish the event…

Today we tackled a circuit based on some small portion of last year’s Rab MM. No controls to find of course, so -as is usual- we threw in a hunt for a few Lakeland Letterboxes. We managed to find two of the three we’d set our sights on. However, the third, on Place Fell, beat us. 🙁 In part because we were freezing! There was a brutal gale from the north west and as we searched for it the freezing wind-chill and the rapidly chilling sweat from our running made it feel like January. :freeze: After more than 30 minutes wasted searching for it Laetitia threw in the towel. Well, she’d already hunkered down behind a boulder to get out of the wind for at least 15 minutes while I pointlessly tried to locate the letterbox’s hiding spot. Next time…

Anyway, here are a few pictures from the day, the two stamps we did find, and another neat GPS trace of our route thanks to the amazing Nike+GPS application I found a few weeks ago. The GPS trace is even more interesting today (IMHO) as I’ve included the vertical profile of the route too.

Laetitia on the way between High Raise (802m) and Red Crag (711m)
The gale from the north west was astonishing, nearly taking us away!
The "Old Church of St Martin" at the mouth of Martindale
A great old road sign, but the signing to Patterdale is a little optimistic. OK, so it does say footpath only!
Sore feet! And only half way round...
A snack bar and water at Boredale Beck

Knott, WIld Camp 1
Hallin Fell

Helvellyn Letterboxes

The week has been wet, very wet, and Saturday morning dawned damp looking. Climbing was clearly off the agenda. So with the Rab Mountain Marathon getting scarily close and our lack of running fitness becoming a real worry we thought we’d try a fell-run with a bit more ground to cover, and a lot more elevation to tackle … Helvellyn. Personally, I find running on its own quite dull, so we thought we’d also spice the run up a little by finding a few more letterboxes on route. Doubly good value of course as it makes the run a little bit more in the style of a mountain marathon. In fact we like to think it’s harder as the controls are hidden, whereas they have handy white and red orienteering markers in a MM (that’s right isn’t it Rachel/Richard?).

The first section from Glenridding is so steep we couldn’t run – we simply walked as fast as we could until the gradient relented. Even so we burned all the walkers off with ease – so the sweat pouring from my brow was well earned. However, as we reached the section of fell before the ridge gathers itself together to form the brilliant Striding Edge we got slammed with the wind, drizzle, and low cloud. Suddenly this was turning in to a great adventure! 😛

Laetitia running towards Striding Edge and the low cloud!
Pete at the Dixon memorial on Striding Edge
A spooky Striding Edge. The wet rocks were slippy and travelling at speed required care!
Laetitia after Swirral Edge just before we continued on over Catstye Cam
We descended in to Keppelcove and visited the disused dam. Of course we ignored the signs. 😉
The Keppelcove dam was used to power machinery at Greenside lead mine lower down the valley. However, the dam gave way in 1927 and the surge of water caused extensive damage in the village of Glenridding.

Here’s today’s haul of Lakeland Letterboxes:

And one final item of interest – I’ve got this amazing Nike+GPS App on my phone that tracks route (with GPS), time, pace, calories burnt, etc. I’m finding it to be an awesome training aid, giving me a continuous feeling of progression (or lack of). It was only £1.49 and it retains all the data to look back at old runs etc. Plus, if you want you can have it automatically Tweet or post to Facebook. 😀 Cool. Here’s today’s route.