I started doing something I had never really done before: counted calories. I was aware roughly how much I had with me, not exactly though. And I had never really broken them down to ensure I was getting a constant balance throughout the day. This is one of the areas I failed at on the previous day. I totaled up what I was going to eat for breakfast and took stock of the energy bars and gels I had allowed for the second day. I took on about 750 to 800 calories for breakfast and I couldn’t force down anymore. I was aware of it before but I cannot run on gels/liquids only, I need solids. Richard on the other hand runs on a liquid diet with a very high efficiency.
Once my belly was full it was time to get back in the race gear, the damp race gear I had peeled off and stored in a dry bag. The previous night I was not sure if it was going to go back on. Now though my head was back in the game, my legs were close behind. Richard and I agreed this was a day for just getting through it. Steady away! I knew this wasn’t the pace he would normally go and I appreciated greatly.
Image courtesy of The OMM
I went to get rid of our breakfast rubbish in the skip so I shuffled down there to test the legs. I felt good enough for tackling this, any doubt of starting had faded with the darkness as the changing of the clocks brought light to the start line. The weather is good compared to yesterday, even then yesterday could have been way worse.
Image courtesy of The OMM
We step up to the line at 07:10, we then step forward to the next line and receive our map. I fold away the top half as there are no controls on it and quickly scan the route. The horn blows again and we move in to the final line of departure. A quick discussion of the initial route which is a pleasant shuffle along the southern bank of Loch Trool. On finding this control we then had to decide if we would drop back to the path we made the short climb up to or push up to the tree line that held another path to the next objective. I was keen to go up, I think Richard may have wanted to save my legs but I was keen not to loose height gained and I now I had a more dialed in approach to the way my body burned fuel. I was conscious of my quads and calf's tensing and cramping but I was okay. Lets go up the mountaineer in me called.
Image courtesy of The OMM
Richard found the path and we followed it to the foot of stream, the steep route of its descent was the exact ascent we needed to travel. So we short stepped up the sharp incline, it was slow going. We were half way up and I looked behind me, it felt like it was a queue of people making there way up the same route. I had no idea what routes they were on but my initial reaction was to pick the pace up and defend our position on this challenge. I very quickly dial it back and realise the only challenge here was my own, Richard was leading me through it. What I had to do was sustain this until the finish line.
We picked up the next few controls relatively quickly as they were close together and although the ground conditions were no better than yesterday I had a certain amount of acclimatisation to the terrain. I still wasn’t quick but I had a greater understanding now.
There were many other competitors around, today the pitch was slightly smaller and the routes were littered with OMMers of all levels. We had finished our selected 4 mid controls, control 7 and 8 then we had the option of 2 different routes to 9. The long way around the track or down through the tree line hand railing a stream. We went for the stream route. Initially there was a felled area where the track was strewn with tree debris and this deterred some teams but we were committed to it.
The debris area didn’t last long and there was a well trodden path along the edge of the stream and again the track was full. I allowed faster competitors by as there wasn’t a lot of room to play with so being pushed could have been problematic for me and others. There was a couple of points where the muddy track got close to the stream edge and there was quite a drop, keeping my footing was important. At one point I heard a splash, behind me and a lady I had passed slipped from the track and was now waist deep in the burn. I was too far past to help and there was plenty of people assisting when I turned around so I pressed on.
The hazards on the course were varied and all of it has thought through carefully. From route selection, to weight carried, to calories consumed, clothing layers and many other things in between.
Once 9 was beeped in to, 10 had a similar dilemma. Stream or track then tree line. As the stream was such a good option before we went for it again. Wow, the gradient was not as steep and the stream was sometimes indistinguishable from the bog we were pulling our feet from. It continued to amaze me how Richard was able to cover this ground and I was either being thrown around like a weeble or sinking into the landscape. We didn’t see many people on this one until closer to the control as the other route options converged on the knoll top.
Out on to the track and the long shuffle to the end starts. I didn’t manage to shuffle the whole way but I kept moving. My snacks and gels were at their end, I had made what I had work for me. There was a cumbersome snack in my pack but it was for sitting down and chilling. Now I needed to keep moving. With only control 11 to go we were going to get this done.
We crossed the finish line, a photographer took our picture and I poured a cup of water and a cup of warm squash down my throat. I asked one of the OMM staff to take a picture of myself and my mentor and inspiration for the weekend.
My team mate had allowed me to finish this event/challenge/epic endeavor. I say epic endeavor but the guys that perform at the top end of the OMM are machines, well practiced and maintained machines but I have the utmost respect for them and every other participant of the OMM, whether they finished or not. I could quite easily of been one of the ‘not’.
Next stop was to head to the finishers tent, download our key and return it. Our time was not important at this stage, it had been done. I got a strange response from the guy who wanted to cut my band off when I stopped him to take a picture of it before I returned key 294.
We had tea, which was hotter then the sun, whilst we filed in to the main tent for some hot food. As I was doing this my legs tensed and when I sat down with my food both quads felt like they needed to snap before they would let me sit. The tent was full of competitors and a mixture of spectators. In the background I could hear they were issuing podium positions.
My interest now was to eat and find away to get my legs to take me back to Richard’s car.
It was nice to get back in to clean clothes and on the return to my own car Richard and I reflect on the Original Mountain Marathon. My main reflection is a thanks to him for allowing me the benefit of his experience and guiding me through the last two days. As is common, he will have none of it but my gratitude remains.
My Raidlight pack, which there will be a review of next week, was a good weight for the event. It might have been a little big. Not by much though. The La Sportiva Mutants were outstanding and have been since I got them. The rest of the kit performed well. The X Bionic Trick combined with the Rab Boreas windshirt worked like a dream.
My Bridgedale socks won’t make another appearance, the Galloway bogs finished them off, but they did my feet proud. No issues with my feet worth talking about.
I learned a lot of lessons that I will take back to mountaineering which will help me in the future. I think I will be able to thin down my kit and make me a lighter climber. My nutrition will improve which, I think will make me quicker overall. I have been reminded of the difference in ground conditions, I have spoiled myself with well trodden paths. Navigation, speaks for itself. There is so much to take from the OMM. I’m sure there are those who do this regularly and all this is instilled already but it was good to move out my comfort zone.
Have I hung up my trail shoes? On the Sunday evening, yes! As I type this, I will look to include cross country orienteering events like this in my overall training. It won’t be a core discipline but it will be an addition.