Thursday, 3 November 2016


I have had a rest from this event a couple of times in the last few years.  After the Borrowdale event and all the media hype and safety issues the organising team played very safe with bomb proof parking etc but this meant buses and some constraint on the competition areas. Elan and Dartmoor were OK but for me had lost some of the MM magic. I skipped Comrie but did Howgills in 2012 as it was so local and I love those hills. I then did Brecon A course with a different partner. The Cheviot in 2014 was the first event for the new team and they struggled in some ways- poor map, awful food, no tea at the end. no female prizes.... Last year we were in NZ so I missed the Tweedsmuir event.
This year ends in a 6 so it would be back to Galloway. Also in the absence of the LAMM and a social clash that meant we missed the last Highlander Rowena and I were keen to be a team again. In the RAB, SLMM and GL3D I had run solo.
I must be getting soft in my old age because I have got very used to sleeping in the van on the Friday night. Parking for camper vans was predicted to be tricky and we missed the deadline for booking on the commercial campsite. In the end Bob drove us up in the van and then he moved off to do other things.  He did first drop us at the event centre for us to register and put up our tent. Parked near by and let us eat and sit chatting in the van until dark  and then drove back to let us out with all our gear. The forecast was for very mild weather and it was warm on the Friday evening. The event marquee was roasting as they had all the heaters hired for 'normal OMM' weather. Sadly they also had a party with music which kept us awake until almost midnight (told you I was getting old; and grumpy). I was hoping the mild forecast would stay true all weekend as I had packed my very tiny sleeping bag.
We were up bright and early with a torch lit breakfast and then a quick toilet trip before the walk to the start. We had the earliest starts which suited us fine as we were less likely to finish in the dark or find there were no good spots left to camp. We ignored the glow lights and stuck to the quiet road as our torches were buried deep in our sacks and we did not fancy twisting an ankle in the woods. As we moved onto the open fell the daylight started to appear- very slowly.
Little vis at the start
We were worried we would need to loiter and go at the end of our start block just in order to be able to read the map!
Wet but smiling
The low cloud, mist and drizzle was delaying the light. We had time for a chat with Nicky and Jean off on the Elite and Wendy and Sarah on the A. Then Maureen and John Ashton ushered us towards the start pens. In our enthusiasm we overshot one small path and had to backtrack 300m and then the paths seemed odd. It soon became clear that wet quad bike tracks were not mapped, even if they were pretty large. By the time we got close to CP1 there were about 8 teams looking for the small crag.
Tough terrain and low vis
There was only one on the map but more rock on the ground. The next leg went OK but showed us how rough the ground was going to be for most of the day and then a nice broken wall guided us towards CP3.  It looked simple on the map but this was potentially the trickiest CP of the day; a small marshy re-entrant. We were lucky and Rowena's bearings were good all day.
Thanks Jim
A quick discussion on the best route for the next leg soon became irrelevant . We had not planned to go up and over Kirriereoch Hill but it was the best running we had all day on short clipped grass and no mud. We were soon at the top and dropping to rough ground and bog again. We picked up a trod from CP4 to Loch Enoch that gave us some respite.

Despite the mist it was wonderful scenery with rocky outcrops and white sandy beaches. No time to stop and sun bathe today but our next leg did lead us right round the loch and then to the crag called the Grey man of Merrick. We took our eye off the ball here and had a bit of a wobble when the terrain all locked the same and we couldn't see a loch. Luckily we spotted the small path and all became clear. I enjoyed the little trods and muddy paths that led past two more lochs and then to the Rig of Jarkness (what amazing names). The next two were straight forward before some big track running to Loch Trool.
Collecting acorns or Halloween?
We almost made a silly error as I had my head down stopping up hill eating a gel and missed the knoll off the path. A rapid descent and the climb again soon put it right.

A mini disaster when Rowena's knee stopped her descending  saw me taking both sacks as we ran the best we could on easy paths to the western end of the loch, over the bridge and round to the finish.

Our error and the injury perhaps lost us 20 minutes but at only 26.6km straight line distance the 7 hours 55 mins shows just how tough some of the terrain was.

The weather was mild but also dreich. We got the tent up and were happy as always to be able to get into dry clothes and make a brew.

 We did wander to see the results and use the loo but the damp meant we stayed in the tent most of the evening and so saw few people. The mild windless night also meant some of the worst condensation ever. Still, my neo-air made for a reasonable night and it was dry in the morning.
We guessed we would be heading south to the Minnigaff hills and it was so.
Easy path on day 2
The whole day was much more runnable and started with very easy running on the undulating path on the south side of Loch Trool.
Thanks Bob
Shame I had no camera as the reflections in the loch and the autumn colours were superb.
Bob again
The big boulders at Corse Knowe of Glenhead came and went before a fence led us up to CP2. Contouring but on fairly runnable grass ticked off CP3 and 4 before a climb over Curleywee let us drop to a crag. Rowena's bearing was superb on the next leg and we picked up another quad bike track over Bennan Hill.  From Cp1-CP5 there had been little route choice but now there certainly was. It took a few minutes but I think  it was worth it. We dropped to the forest and a big track rather than climbing and contouring on tussock ground. It did mean a big climb up Nick of the Brushy but again we found a wet track and then the fence led us to a perfect attack point. We were both surprised that it took much less time than we feared. By CP8 we were being funnelled together and meeting people from all the other courses. We had dire memories of the last section of forest in 2006 with a muddy ride in knee deep mud but today was much better.
Thanks Jim- nearly at the end
One small knoll in the pine forest and we were on the river path. Rowena's knee behaved perfectly today and we were able to run on the good path past our van in the visitor centre car park , over the road bridge and into the last short section of wood. It was getting muddy and would be worse for later runners but we were nearly back.

Some pleasant parkland and then a very wet elephant track led to the finish line. A much easier day of 20.6km straight line that took 5 hours 11 minutes.

Download showed we had moved up 3 places and we kept our position of first ladies showing age is no barrier.

A quick kit check and then we moved on through the marquee. Cups of water on the line, then tea from Bowlee Scouts and a nice hot meal. We sat chatting with Kevan, Sian, Shane, Duncan, Tony, Albert and then Chris V and his nephew. Warm dry and even sunny weather made it easy to change, take the tent down and wait for the prize giving.

That over Bob, who was only down the road, came and collected us ready for the drive home.
A great weekend with a fantastic partner. I do fancy a go at the A again though and even wonder if it is not too late just to try and complete an Elite course before I really am too old and slow. We will have to see.

No comments:

Post a Comment