Why did I enter Richard and I for the A course at the OMM? It was a really long way and almost resulted in a failure of our sense of humour on numerous occasions!
The weekend started well. I took Friday off work, so we had a leisurely day and managed to arrive in Sedbergh well-fed and relaxed. We got to registration well before it closed and had a sociable evening before heading to the campsite for an early night.
We woke up on Saturday morning to dark, clear skies. The wind was blustering around the valley and the temperature was sub-zero. Just before heading off, I realised how cold it was and decided to put on another long-sleeved top; this was very much the right decision.
Queuing up in the A course lane I was still fairly relaxed, then we got the maps. I saw the route, then I checked the map scale and realised… this was going to be a long day.
We set off over Arant Haw. The conditions were beautifully clear and the early morning light was fantastic.
It was also very very cold. I was having difficulty slurping water through my platypus tube and then I realised that I was slurping water through a tortuous mosaic of needle-shaped ice crystals. Still, the scenery was pretty and the wildish ponies were lovely :-).
As the day progressed, I took less pictures, mainly because it was too much effort to get the camera out. The course halfway point was approximately coincident with us crossing the road from Ravenstonedale to Sedbergh. After this point, there was certainly no point in taking pictures because I don’t particularly want to be reminded of the endless slog across the moorland over Wild Boar Fell, Holmes Moss Hill and Baugh Fell. The terrain was exhausting to run over and just went on forever. It was also mentally exhausting because the crossing was only 2 km from our mid-camp, but we were taking a 17 km diversion to get there!
We finished day 1 in 6hrs 53 and arrived at the midcamp to windy, but dry conditions. We ate and warmed up in our sleeping bags and even managed to be a little sociable before the cloud came in and the misery of the midcamp in a one man tent commenced. The OMM camp is miserable. It’s usually wet, in fact everything is usually wet, it’s dark, it’s cold, you can’t find your friends amongst the thousands of competitors and to add to the misery, the end of British Summer Time means that is prolonged for an extra hour! Our only source of comfort was watching the lights of A course competitors still coming in over the fells late into the night; I was very grateful to be at the campsite, rather than still out there on the fell.
Sunday dawned. I was hoping for a nice 6 hr run along ridges to the finish. Guess what? It didn’t happen. We started the day with a short loop on the nasty terrain to the east of the Ravenstonedale to Sedbergh road, then we headed west of the road and climbed a 200 m hill to reach a control, after which, we descended losing all the height gained. This set the scene for the rest of the day. There were at least 6 very steep climbs all with around 130-150 m height gain and all with really steep descents. We were basically traversing the side of a huge hill and each of these ups and downs were spurs coming off the hill. Looking to the north, the ground was flat and a number of times I looked over and thought, “We could just hitch a lift back from over there”. It turns out that Richard was also wondering if there was a bus. At one point I declared that my morale had reached about 2/10 and Richard responded with a similar comment. We were feeling particularly miserable at this point because the course did a loop on itself, so we knew that we were going to visit this exact location sometime later. To matters worse, that section took forever with a few steep climbs and a tricky control in a re-entrant.
Once out of the loop, and after another 3 km of slog, we reached a control and Richard declared that there was only 6 km left and one hill. It was quite an elongated hill, but nevertheless the end was in sight. And the last 4 km went really quickly as we ran down the final hill looking forward to soup at the finish. Whilst I was hoping for a shorter day 2, we were actually out on the hills for exactly the same length of time as day 1; 6 hrs 53.
The download from our GPS tracker showed us running 38 km (23.6 miles) on day 1 and 32.2 km (20 miles) on day 2. We don’t know what the height gain was, but the estimate on the courses was 2200 m on day 1 and 2300 m on day 2.
And onto the results. This is the A course; we were competing against some of the best. There were nine mixed teams and we came 5th! We were 17th overall out of 29 that finished… 11 teams retired and 12 teams were disqualified.
It’s too soon to reflect on the weekend yet. I’m really glad we finished, but it was a really long way.