2014 Rab Mountain Marathon

This year’s Rab Mountain Marathon was in the East of the Lake District, in the bit between Kendal and Shap that’s not that often visited. That bit of the Lakes seems to like to borrow placenames from more famous bits, so the event centre was in Borrowdale, there’s a Lord’s Seat and Wasdale made up one boundary of the map. As has been the case (I think) for every Rab I’ve done, the weather was pretty good, with glimpses of sunshine, but cloud down on the tops at times.

This year I was running in the Long Score as a solo again, determined to improve on last year. That gave me seven hours on day one, and six on day two. Unfortunately, it also meant there was nobody to take pictures!

The first day start was in Crookdale, and I planned out a longish but hopefully high-scoring route. I headed up the valley at first and onto high ground to the North of the start. There the controls were in the cloud and I had a couple of small misses with visibility less than 10m. Eventually, after a brief view of the Day 1 finish, I dropped down into Long Sleddale for a 4km road run down the valley before climbing back onto the fells above Staveley, almost in sight of Sterling Central, where I’d spent the night before (thanks!). Then back North, through Kentmere and over the hill into Troutbeck and up the old Roman Road that leads from Ambleside to Penrith over High Street. This easy going didn’t last long and was followed by a very steep climb up Ill Bell, by which time I was feeling pretty tired. From there, things looked familiar as I traced the Kentmere Horseshoe path and managed to get running again, before dropping down to a 40 point control above Small Water. From there I had a little under an hour to climb over Gatesgarth Pass and down to the camp site in Long Sleddale. Unfortunately, a cramp attack on the climb, and a complete lack of energy meant that I couldn’t make it to the finish on time, and I ended up with 7 points deducted for being late. Not too bad, except that I’d also had to abandon a 15 point control that was not far from the path on the descent.

Happily, despite the points I’d dropped, I was in third place overnight, just behind Adam and Andrew, who I’ve raced against many times, and Stewart, my partner from the LAMM a few years before, who had a ten point lead at the front, and it looked like had chosen a route with a lot less distance, but perhaps more big climbs. The campsite was one we’ve used before, at the top end of Long Sleddale in a beautiful spot.

The campsite
The campsite (although this picture is actually from the 2010 Saunders MM).

Day 2 involved more clusters of controls, and it was pretty clear that the route was to travel South down the West side of Long Sleddale before crossing the valley and collecting a few points on the East side and around the finish in Borrowdale. The only question was whether to do a biggish climb at the start to get a couple of controls in the North East, or whether to do a bigger loop around the top of Borrowdale at the end. I elected to do the latter, but most of the top runners seemed to opt for the former, so again that may have been a mistake. The advantage of my route was the opportunity to pick up extra points near the finish if time was available, but in the end I couldn’t do the route fast enough, and got in with just a minute to spare and a ten point control close to the end that I couldn’t get to.

I lost one place on Day 2, to end up 4th overall, but 3rd solo runner. I’m pretty happy with that – I don’t think I could have done any more (I was totally exhausted at the end of both days), and given the limited opportunities this year for long days in the mountains, I’m pretty pleased to still be competitive with the top runners. As for the event, this year’s courses were excellent – I still don’t know what the best route was on day 1, and the contrast between the big climbs and long legs on Day 1, and the shorter more technical stuff on Day 2 was good. The event centre and camp site were well organised, and I particularly like the new policy of giving seperate prizes for solo and team runners.

My route on day 1 (in blue) and day 2 (in red).
My route on day 1 (in blue) and day 2 (in red).

Rab Mountain Marathon 2013

This has been a chaotic year for us, and with one thing and another I hadn’t got to do a single mountain marathon all year. Since we usually do at least four, that’s quite a change! I got a last minute entry to the Rab Mountain Marathon (thanks Adrian), and since Rachel wasn’t so keen, opted for a solo entry.

This year the Rab had a great event centre at Newlands Adventure Centre, and the start was at the foot of Catbells. I opted for the long course, so had seven hours the first day, and six the second to collect as many points as possible. Watching a slow-moving line of “runners” heading straight up Catbells, I instead opted to start with a fast path run around the edge of the hill past Little Town, then over a ridge into Little Dale, and on to Hindscarth Edge. This part of the route was clearly unpopular – I didn’t see another runner for about an hour. After that I rejoined the crowds for a couple of controls above Honister Pass before dropping down to the pass and up to Grey Knotts and a group of five controls around Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks.

I’ve never been along the ridge on the South of Buttermere (featuring the famous Innominate Tarn) before, so it was nice to run along there, especially given the gorgeous sunshine and clear views. Unfortunately, the steep and rocky descent to Scarth Gap, followed by the two very steep climbs up High Crag really did me in, so I wasn’t very fast along the ridge. From there, my chosen route dropped down towards Buttermere for a few more controls, and then up Rannerdale Knotts before a fast descent down Rannerdale to the finish. I ended 17 seconds late, so lost one point!

Looking down to the head of Buttermere (and the field we were supposed to camp in during the cancelled OMM of 2008) from Scarth Gap.
Looking down to the head of Buttermere (and the field we were supposed to camp in during the cancelled OMM of 2008) from Scarth Gap.

Day Two was just as sunny as Day One, although windier on the tops. The controls were mostly North of Newlands Pass this day, and I started with a poorly judged steep climb through waist-deep heather to the summit of Grasmoor, followed by Hopegill Head and a steep descent into Hope Beck. From there I headed East to a control below Grisedale Pike and then over the ridge into Coledale. All of this was quite slow because of the tall vegetation – much harder than the good running on Day One, so I was far behind my planned schedule and had to change my plans for the second half of the day, collecting a bunch of controls near the finish rather than heading back to the Southern half of the course. I ended up finishing 40 minutes early having run out of points to collect.

I was 10th on Day One, and 11th on Day Two, but somehow that worked out to Eighth overall – not too bad considering I haven’t done a mountain marathon since October, and haven’t managed nearly as many long runs as in previous summers. However, there’s clearly room for improvement – I could barely stand up at the finish, and struggled to walk the morning after!

Struggling to walk on the way back from the finish.
Struggling to walk on the way back from the finish.
Yes, the flag is holding me up!
Yes, the flag is holding me up!

Rab Mountain Marathon 2012

This year the Rab Mountain Marathon started from Wooler in Northumberland. This event is ‘score’ format, meaning that you have 6 hours on day 1 and 5 hours on day 2 to locate as many controls as possible. The controls are worth varying numbers of points, and the largest point count wins, so tactics and planning are important.

Saturday dawned bright and clear and in no time we were at the start waiting to go.

Day 1. The start

An hour into the event, things were not going as planned. Poor mapping in one particular area, meant we had to take a longer route than expected, which resulted in us losing around 10 minutes, and then I got trapped in a (not very vicious) animal trap, which was fairly amusing. The next two hours were a bit of a slog; I was pretty knackered and just couldn’t get moving. After about 3 hours, I started to warm-up and moving across the terrain became a bit easier, but by this time we were choosing which of our planned controls to miss out, which was a bit frustrating.

Following Richard… mostly what I did for the whole weekend ๐Ÿ™‚

We made it to the mid-camp 10 minutes early and with 245 points. We were in 30th place and 6th mixed team overall (including the vets) and 3rd mixed team (taking into account just the youngsters). Not the greatest day out.

Building balloon beds at the mid-camp
Cous cous… yum!

The camp was lovely, despite the rather dubious drinking water source and we had a nice evening… that was until we went to sleep…. it was rather cold and we slept fitfully. I’d forgotten that the Rab MM was two weeks later than usual this year and our lightweight sleeping bags were not quite warm enough. In the morning we woke to frost and frozen socks that were stiff as cardboard!

We got going quickly if only to get warm!

After the first hill, we warmed up, and felt good and we flew around the first 4 controls in about 1hr 10. We then headed back through the same valley that we camped in and started our journey to the finish, meandering across the hills to collect as many points as possible. Compared to day 1, we ran lots more and passed lots of people, which was satisfying. We also had to add on more controls to our planned route as we were going faster than expected :-).

Day 2: Following Richard still
The last control!

We arrived at the finish about 15 minutes early, where Richard collapsed for a short time before we walked back to the event centre.

Richard ‘resting’ at the finish

We scored a total of 255 points on day 2, which boosted our placings somewhat! We haven’t seen the final results yet, but whilst we were beaten by a couple of mixed vet teams, we came first out of the mixed teams! ๐Ÿ™‚ Even better, we won some fantastic prizes, so thanks Rab!

Prize giving. The first 3 mixed teams.

The GPS track suggests we ran over 60 k, so not a bad weekend’s exercise… it’s a good job it’s cake day tomorrow at work!

Rab MM 2011

There were times when I thought we wouldn’t end up running the Rab Mountain Marathon in 2011 after Richard broke his arm in August and I sprained my ankle fairly badly three weeks before the event. But thankfully, we both managed to mend to an extent that allowed us to participate. The only problem was the distinct lack of preparation. On the positive side, the welsh scenery was fantastic and it reminded me of the three good years I spent in Bangor. The views, which I know so well, spurred me throughout the event.

It was also great fun having Pete and Tish compete; Anna and Ian, you’ll be next!

As Pete and Tish reported, the first day started in rather damp weather. In fact, I think we only got a couple of decent views throughout the whole day. We took pictures of both of them:

Climbing up to a 40 pointer early on day 1

A rare glimpse of scenery through the cloud

On the first day we had 6 hours to visit as many controls, and collect as many points, as possible. Richard had chosen a fairly risky route that collected both a 40 and 50 point control, which would have stood us a good chance of doing well. Running back to the camp on day 1, we had collected 320 points. Unfortunately, our risk didn’t pay off and our tired legs didn’t run the 2.5 km back to the campsite fast enough, which made us 20 minutes late … meaning that we lost 100 points! Ouch!

GPS track - Day 1

In total we travelled 28 km and ascended over 2400 m. My legs were useless when we arrived at the finish. I even had to sit down whilst we waited to download. Thankfully by this time, the sun was shining and it was blissful lying at the campsite completely still.

Blissful rest at the camp - and look at the blue sky!

I had hoped that a swig of Pete and Tish’s shampoo-tainted whisky would have helped my aching legs, but the first climb of day 2 proved really quite strenuous. It was long and fairly slow. Thankfully I did recover later in the day and we sped up to some extent.

Emerging from the first mammoth climb of the day
GPS track day 2

Despite our efforts on day 2 to collect more points (we got 185), we were not going to be in a position to be anywhere near the top of the field this year. Still, we had a fun weekend and we didn’t break/sprain any limbs.

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?) …

Rab MM 2010

The Rab mountain marathon this year began from Bampton in the eastern Lakes. Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling particularly on form and hence both days were a bit of a trial (for me and for Richard, given my moans). Nevertheless, we kept going, partly so that we could try out the new 850 g tent. Unfortunately we managed to pitch it on the coldest, most uncomfortable piece of field imaginable, so the night was long and tiresome. Anyway, we got around and came a respectable second. Although, because we had previously won the prize that was being offered for second place, we swopped prizes with the third place team and hence came away with very lovely sets of hats and gloves.

Prize giving
Drying out the new tent!

On a different note, for those with iphones, download the free British Geological Survey app “igeology” to see what is beneath your feet.

Rab Mountain Marathon – Year 2

Last year we won this event, so we had to go back and defend our title…

Unfortunately, jet lag for me coming home from Toronto and jet lag for Richard, coming back from Sydney, was a bit too much.

Our sleeping patterns were rather eratic and so on Friday night we decided to sleep early and get up at 4 am to drive to the Lakes. This we did and started the mountain marathon at 9.30 after toast at Tebay. This event was of the score format – find as many controls as possible, but get back in 6 hours on the first day and 5 hours on the second day.

The mountain marathon was based over the hills north of Skiddaw. I’d never been to a lot of this area before, but it turned out to be a real gem. The countryside was wild and hilly, the paths were empty (except for mountain marathoners) and the views were stunning … not that I saw them as I was looking at the ground trying to move as fast as possible.

Unfortunately the terrain got tricky at just the wrong time and our timing went astray causing us to race back to the finish. We were both tired and seriously thought about retiring as once 30 minutes is up (after the 6 hours), all your previously collected points are taken away! We worked out that we would have to do 9 minute kilometres to make it home – that is a tall order over terrain. Nevertheless we ran as fast as possible and were 15 minutes late. We lost 40 points. ๐Ÿ™

We were both knackered, so after two meals of cous cous we headed to bed (at 8.00 am). On Sunday, there was no more talk of retiring and we set off. As always we ran better on the second day and powered home over the next 5 hours. It wasn’t enough however to keep our winning spree and we came 5th overall. Nevertheless we had a great time and have discovered an area to revisit in the future. Anyone fancy a trip up sharp edge?