Tuesday, 10 June 2014


We knew it would be a long way north and it was! Fortunately the Head let me out of work early and 4 of us shared a car and I wasn't driving. We were later leaving Lancaster where I left my car at Rowena's than I had hoped but Tony drove well (fast) and we made up time. A short break at Hamilton left us refreshed and we met some other competitors. Then there was just one more short wee stop. It was a glorious evening and the mountains got more magnificent as we drove north. We pointed out the Cairngorms to Albert and Tony enjoyed the far north in new territory. We arrived in plenty of time and in sunshine.

Bob was on car park duty and had been kicked out of the van for the night by Rowena and I. Tony and Albert went off to their hotel while Rowena and I settled to a huge meal of spag bol, not forgetting to take cups of tea to Bob and Dave J. We then registered and chatted to the many friends that volunteer at this event. I managed to resist the beer but did taste some of John's. After a quick mooch round the shop and a chat to Rick and Angie it was off to bed with the prayer that the band would stop at a reasonable hour (they did).

Sue, John, Frances and Eddie

We slept well and awoke to a cool dry day. We had masses of time for breakfast and last minute gear fusses and decisions about what to wear. Our start time involved the 9.10 bus. Studying the map and making the most of eaves dropping we worked out where the start might be very roughly and exactly where we thought the mid-camp would be. It wouldn't help much as we still had to run the terrain and make route choice decisions but it is always nice to be thinking.

Bus starts mean a little compression of the starters so we were not alone as we headed for the first easy control on a fence/gate. Even heading to CP2 there were other runners around us. Here we took some time to get into the map and realise what would be mapped and what would be ignored. It is not easy navigating in complex terrain on an enlarged 1:50,000 map. Almost all of us stopped far too early on some ribs of rock. Then looking ahead and using the major streams I worked out where we should be, helped by a couple of runners bending to dib at the control.

 It would have been a nightmare in the mist. The next 2 controls passed without mishap and we enjoyed some running over the plateau rocky areas. We made a slight error at 5 but soon corrected. things were going well, too well. The next long leg had several possibilities and we don't think we made the best of it. Rowena's original idea had been to stay high but we didn't due to a bit of early climb and the temptation of a big downhill run. We ended up trying to cross 3 major streams and the first two were in deep rocky ravines. It was so frustrating trying to find a relatively safe crossing point without cliffs to climb down and with a possible scramble up out the other side. We were convinced we had lost at least half an hour here although route gadget suggests it was less. Perhaps we just ran the downhill bit fast and then powered up some of the climb after the streams in our anger/ frustration.

The section to CP7 was very steep and we tried to keep others in our sights as we climbed to a high col and then dropped to a river.  The nav got easier and then there was just one control left. We hit a path and agreed speed on the path would be good. Frances had cycled up the path to the bridge and encouraged us that it was all downhill from there. Either she was winding us up or did not realise we had another CP yet and it was not downhill! The control was further round the hill than I had anticipated.

I ignored the huge deer antler - no hope of carrying that, although I did think about it. The last section was downhill and a big track.

 Once on the track it never occurred to us that we could cut the corner but it probably wouldn't have saved much. Bob appeared at the finish and took our photo- he is still in Scotland so that will have to wait.

It was a joy to finish in warm dry weather and with stacks of day light. We pitched the tent near Tony, Albert, John T and Julian. Having collected water we went downstream to wash. the river was not deep enough or steeply banked so we couldn't soak our limbs easily but the mud came off. The early evening was spent lazing by the tent with cups of tea and soaking in the view into Liathach/ Torridon.

A quick trip to the results board suggested we might be first ladies? What had happened to the others we wondered. Bob kept us updated and we were 27th overall and yes, first ladies. More food, more food and then the rain came.

We finished our meal in the tent and settled down for the night. The rain kept us trapped and we knew we must be dehydrated as there was no need for a toilet break for hours. Somewhere around 1am we were both awake and sensed the rain had eased. We agreed a quick wee was in order.

 Sadly I stripped to keep gear dry and had not anticipated the plague of midges! Earlier the breeze had kept them away but in the calm night they had massed ready for the attack. We brought loads back into the tent and took ages to get comfy again. Pre-warned we put on full waterproofs before emerging for breakfast.

 We were treated to a beautiful double rainbow but the midges were still out. It was relaxing not to be in the chasing start as it meant a flexible start time. We didn't hang about. having had tea and porridge we re-packed, used the trench toilet (and acquired more midge bites) and were off. Marking up the map and trying to concentrate in a midge storm was awful and it was a relief to be off along the lane and out onto the hill.

As we climbed we found a breeze and the midges disappeared. We overshot the first control and it did cost us 5 mins plus but then we were suddenly in a pack of chasing start runners. It was tempting to hang on to their coat tails and we did. Sadly we also gossipped and lost contact with the map. It wasn't long before we were struggling to decide exactly where we were so it was fortunate that there were some big features and no mist. Lesson learnt. The nav to the next CP was easier but the CP was on top of a Munro- Maol Chean dearg at 933m. There was nothing for it but to run as much as we could and then plod steadily upwards. Ironically the steep and very loose gully took my mind of my aching quads and the last bit went fairly fast. I felt great pity for those who had needed to descend that route the day before and was very grateful that our route off was much more of a path and less steep. So much so that I really enjoyed the next leg down to a little lochan. CP5 proved a bit of a slog as the terrain was quite rough and we both struggled to run and by the time we did get to grassy slopes we were knackered.

Just 2 controls to go and they were really just to pull us in towards the finish. The final section of track looked so easy and short but my foot cramped up on the stony track and made running so painful.

 We lost a few seconds and vet placing as a result. Overall we were still 27th, still first ladies and on the vets handicap 3rd, missing 2nd by 36 seconds. Not a bad weekend, although we both agreed it had been a tough one and our total time of 13.20 confirmed this.

No other B at the LAMM had taken us that long. Ultra running has not helped with big climbs, running over rough stuff or general speed! We were lucky to have the van, a hot kettle and a chance to strip and change in comfort. Then having tried to find and remove ticks for the survey it was time for Wilfs and a refuel.

We sat in the sun with Rowena's sister and brother in law for the prize-giving and 20th celebration cake and sparkly drink. After a hurried goodbye to Bob we piled into Tony's car for the long drive home. By 11 I was home showered and using tweezers to remove yet more ticks. The midge bites were desperate and stopped me sleeping once the first few hours of exhausted sleep wore off. Still, a great weekend with a wonderful MM partner. Thanks to Rowena for her partnership and to Tony for driving.

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