Monday, 25 November 2019

Kong Mini MM before the Runfurther AGM and Prize Giuving.

Kong mini mm and then the Runfurther AGM and Prize Giving.
As last year we decided using a mini mm or score event was a good way to make it worthwhile for runners to travel. It also has the advantage of reducing the time faster runners have to wait around and it is good fun and nav practice too.  Injury and illness meant some could not run this year but those that did seemed to enjoy it.
I don’t think I have ever run from Greenfield before although I have been on some of the NE corner of the map before apparently. We left home early and travelled fast on deserted motorways. Parking was easy and I was able to relax. I always wonder why I don’t do more of these mini mountain marathons as I love the format and adventure. Today the weather was on our side too- dry except for a tiny spot of drizzle, not too boggy and good visibility. It would have been very different in the clag. I had no great plan but decided any hard hills should be tackled straight away and the road and big tracks left for the end when I was tired. There seemed to be others going up Alphin to the trig point but once I had dibbed there people vanished. The path towards Hoarstone Edge and my next control was fairly easy running and I guess the fires from last year helped. Once I left that CP it was clear that Mark and I would be running a similar route. I did see the Sunter family as we dropped off Wimberry Moss but then Mark and I were alone for about two and a half hours. In some ways I like this as there are no distractions and it’s very peaceful but there is always that nagging doubt of ‘oh hell, why is nobody else going this way? Have I made a really stupid route choice?’ I hoped not but was being tempted by a line of 40 pointers and then two 50s

After 4 controls the terrain became considerably less runnable but not truly awful and the clear vis let me pick out the huge rock on the skyline which was next.  It was a bit disconcerting to find most fences were not mapped and my route to my 7th CP seemed to take forever. I had hoped for a speedy descent to Pennine Way path but the terrain was not easy even if the next control on another huge boulder was.  The climb up to a 50 pointer was faster than I expected and I found a nice trod above the steep slope but below Bargeholme Moss all the way to the control on The Castle. Crossing Crowden Brook was interesting and I am sure the mountain bikers watching were disappointed when I stayed upright on the greasy slabs.

Better running along the PW suddenly meant loads of people, even if they were mostly coming the other way. Heading back from there I saw I had about an hour. Tired legs now but time to get closer to the finish.  Leaving Blackchew Head I was slow even though it was sort of downhill. 

Perhaps I should have eaten something.  After Chew Reservoir I made the decision to bank the points I had and play it safe. I ran down the road, ignoring a 30 pointer way up a rocky slope. 

Very tired legs saw me stumble after banking another 20 points and ‘windmill’ for about 20m- I stayed upright to my amazement and got a round of applause from nearby walkers.  With just one more 20 and easy running I knew I could be safely back in 4 hours and could slow down. Mark was nowhere to be seen (he had gone for the 30) but he reappeared as I stood chatting at the finish car. 

 The remote finish meant a leisurely jog back to the village where I met Bob coming up the hill for a walk. Back at download it was confirmed that my route choice had been fine. I was third at this stage with stacks of points.  Even by the end I stayed ahead of all the other females and was happy with some of the scalps I had taken.  Fast runners and great orienteers like Neil Talbot scored super amounts of points but I stayed in the top 20 and was happy.
Very odd as I ran for 3 hours 48- must be all the standing around?

Wonderful homemade soup made me even happier as did the big cup of tea and the cake.  I had totally destroyed my fell shoes though and need a pair for a race soon. Luckily Kong had some in my size, with grip and a wide toe box.  I will be washing my Altras and taking photos to send to the company. The soles are still fine but the uppers are shot.
Once changed it was great to have time to wander around chatting to people I only see at such events. Then it was time to move up the hill and search out the home of Chris and Carol Davies who were kindly hosting the AGM.  Once the Runfurther flag was up in the garden we were still early so we stood drinking tea and coffee in the kitchen as we put the world to rights.  Their lounge on the upper floor in what was a weaver’s house easily accommodated us all and proved to be a really convivial location. Big thanks to the Davies for the use of their home.
Rory - overall men's winner
With the official business out of the way we stopped to eat, drink and chat before moving on to the prize giving. Sadly some runners were absent for a variety of reasons- trekking and racing in Nepal, injured and unable to drive, busy with family...
Nick collecting team Krypton winnings
As always there were masses of prizes and Si Berry arrived with even more. Injinji socks for everyone! The reward this year was a mug and these went down well. Thanks to all those who made the effort to be there- especially Rory with his arm in a sling meaning his wife and young daughter had to come too and also David Chetta who raced near his home in the morning but then drove to Greenfield.  
3rd female and 1st FV50 and most points overall
I now have a box of certificates, prizes and rewards for those that didn’t make it. If you email me when you think we might both be at a race I will try to hand them all over. (more photos on facebook) Minutes will be published but not until Dick has finished his work with the election. There was nothing controversial, the committee stays the same. 2020 races were announced and postcards handed out. Don’t forget to email me if you want an invite to the Pendle Way in a Day event. Karen

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Comparing two OMMs

Not many will be able to say they did two OMMs with only a fortnight but several thousand miles separating the events. Largs and the B course with Rowena saw us do pretty well and we came home with several prize vouchers. Now it was off to Japan with Richard and a decision to be made re the course; should we do the Elite or A?

It was to be his 50th birthday treat and after asking many questions of the race organiser we opted for the A. It seemed better to enjoy and complete than risk being timed out or just suffering the last two hours on day 1 in the dark on totally unknown terrain. We had been assured that only a few top teams would finish the elite course in daylight. Did we bottle it? Who knows, but we were here to have fun after all.

The Japanese OMM is in it's 6th year and so quite young compared to the 52 years in the UK. It is the country's only MM and so the runners get little opportunity for practice and have fewer people with knowledge to call on. The planner though is the Asian O champ and they are trying to make the event as close to the UK version as they can in terms of courses etc.
Finding info before we left the UK was not all that easy. The UK OMM website has a page for the Japan OMM but it never got updated and I was getting increasingly worried. Then I discovered the facebook page and a link to a totally different OMM Japan website. This page had much more helpful info re the event centre and also some maps from previous years (whereas the UK one just had links to UK sample maps).

One difference was evident from the start- we needed Bear Bells! I couldn't quite decide whether I hoped we would see one or if I preferred that the bells scared them away. The next difference would be a 1:25,000 map which is used for the SLMM sometimes but not at all MMs. In the end despite this detail it was still a challenge picking out all the contour detail and several smaller spurs etc seemed to elude us. More helpful to us would have been some undergrowth screening! My legs still bore the scratches from the Largs heather and now my arms have scars from barbed undergrowth and bushes. The baby bamboo was a joy by comparison.

Lack of precise info meant we had opted to camp on Friday night as we usually do in the UK (unless I manage to take the van that is). The event centre itself was in a huge ski centre building which was super cosy and full of retailers and a DJ/music system as well as registration. There was also plenty food and beer on offer. My first pre OMM food eaten with chop sticks, but it was tasty. I am not sure the event centre is always so cosy but it was a good space to while away the evening and to pack our bags ready for the race. We also studied the map in comfort and tried to work out where was OoB and what would make good route choices.

 When we found the base was a ski resort and we saw pics of the ski area we assumed our running would be in the open. Ha ha. No, most of the event would be in forest which would be quite unusual for a UK OMM. Oh heck, full on orienteering needed then.

We eventually tore ourselves away from the cosy room at at about 10pm went out to find the camping area which turned out to be a gravel car park where the ground was pretty frozen.

The ski resort was at about 1650m and hoping to open for skiing within the month. I was glad to have my neo air. Sleep wasn't easy as cars kept arriving until late and then at about 4am others started to get up. It seemed crazy early as the first starts were not until 8am.

By 6ish we gave up and got up, packed away a frosty tent and went back to the cosy room for breakfast and to find lockers for our bigger travel bags. We also had to repack our OMM sacks as we each only had the one sleeping bag etc.

It was interesting to see that many competitors had relatively large packs- so much so that OMM have designed a 40l sack specifically for Japan that is not even available in the UK. The top runners did have small packs though. I was trying to figure out how mine still weighed about 6kg despite sharing the gear equally with Richard. I guess taking my warmest sleeping bag was part of the answer. Many of the locals had down trousers for the mid camp and a fair number were orienteering in their O kit (Trimtex and NoName).

By the time we were walking up to the start it was frosty but sunny. After an uphill walk of 20mins or so we were sufficiently warm to take off over trousers, primaoloft and gloves.

Getting permissions in Japan is not easy. they had been refused permission to run on the open grasslands of the ski area- not sure why.

This meant the first few km were restricted to paths and even the  mountain road. One path was a wooden board walk where we were not allowed to run, only to walk. Given the thickness of frost on the wood this was probably wise!

The views from the road were amazing and then we were off on another path across the open and into the forest to find CP2.

We opted to stay on a path but failed to have a good attack point. It was a steep learning curve getting into the map, making sense of the terrain and the contours.

An enormous deer charged off in front of us but then got spooked by some other runners. As we stood trying to work things out Richard suddenly shouted and I heard panic in his voice. A huge deer was charging straight for us. In reality I think it was just charging down the hillside because once it was within 5m of us it veered off. We should have made more noise and movement earlier. So no bears yet but a scary deer. Day 1 had two long legs for us and we decided we could go fairly straight and contour. We now understand this was not the best option. Big spurs and valleys that seemed more numerous on the ground than on the map combined with very variable undergrowth meant we wasted more time than we wanted to. The contouring didn't really happen either with more ups and downs than we had intended; the ridge tops were generally better running. The best forest was lovely with little or now undergrowth or perhaps a low covering of baby bamboo.

The worst forest was on very steep slopes, covered in brashings or worse thorny vines and bushes. We did better on the shorter legs and were soon on our way to the mid camping the day light. The camp wasn't empty but we were clearly ahead of many runners.

 Only two other teams on the A had finished at this point and there was a great choice of pitches for our tent. The site was a summer camp area with nice flat bits between areas of ditches and bamboo.

 It was nice to arrive in the sunshine and to be able to dry out sweaty gear as we had a brew by the tent. Relatively rare for me at a UK OMM given the weather and fact that it is often soon dark.

Within the next two hours the camp filled and filled to the point where walking to the results became the usual dodge the guy lines. In many ways the mid camp was what you would expect but there were some significant differences.

 Many of the locals had single skin tents. As the weather was dry, windless but very frosty there was no problem but they would have suffered terribly in the wind and rain that had originally been forecast.

The food being cooked was obviously different and more seemed to be eating in groups of 4-6 friends.

 There were also many groups sat outside in the dark for hours chatting and in an almost party atmosphere.

These were silent after about 9pm though. As it was a campsite we had tap water and apparently some inside toilets which I had not spotted. The portaloos where squat variety- not so good, and had white walls which was good as they let in much more light.

Day 2 saw the early start again as from about 4am we heard others getting up and ready. The first starts were not until 6am and it was still dark. We wondered why start so early? Were they just copying the UK but without realising we change the clocks that weekend? The previous evening they had eventually put up some start times for Sunday. It wasn't a real chasing start as we were about 1 hour behind the leaders but we were starting at 1 min intervals. In the end we got to the start just before 6am and nobody seemed to be checking times etc so we were pushed through and off just as it was getting light. Luckily the first km or so was on the same good track that we had finished on the day before and so the lack of light was not critical.

We did also get a lovely early morning view of Mnt Fuji.

Today we felt better prepared for the terrain and thought we knew what would make good route choices. From 1-2 we opted for paths and tracks which worked really well (apart from the boy racers who almost mowed us down). The hillsides were still mega steep but we were making good progress and orienteering better as a team. Richard's longer legs and perhaps better fitness meant he was stronger on the climbs but we did stop to check our planned route was wise today. The CPs were ticked off in fairly rapid succession and we soon realised that we were on our way back to the open tops of the ski area.

 Our 7th CP was up near a peak with a radar dome but from there onwards to CP8 and the finish it was downhill.

I never consider myself a great decsender but we flew and apparently are quite likely to have the fastest splits of everyone on those legs. (no splits have been published so we cannot verify this but Jeff the Canadian who coordinates the event after living in Japan for almost 20 years thought our speed was crazy).

The finish was as a UK OMM- flags, banners and gantry and then the inevitable kit check for winners/ top teams. It was unusually pleasant for an OMM being stood in the warm sunshine.

We went to lie on the grass where we put up the tent to dry it out and aired our slightly damp sleeping bags and gear. I even had a short snooze.

We retrieved our bags from the lockers and dried out the Friday night tent and got changed. After a celebratory beer we wandered back up the hillside a short way to admire the view.

The A proved to be much easier than a UK A, especially on Day 2 so perhaps we should have done the Elite.

We were 3rd overall on day 1 and 2nd mixed but on day 2 we won overall and made up almost all the time on the leaders. In the end we were 2nd overall, losing out to the two young guys by under 2 minutes. It was great to be the first Brits to podium at the Japanese OMM. (more vouchers to spend).

There are some things I think they could improve on. The pre event info should all be in one place and with clear links from the UK OMM site. It would be good for them to have Vet categories- at the moment they have none.

There are no split results and no route gadget. Oh- and a very small cup of soup as the post race meal was no where near what we are used to.

 Despite this I would say it was a great weekend and a wonderful experience. Japan is a beautiful country and the people are so friendly, polite and helpful. Jeff from nomads who is the main driving force behind the event in Japan was super friendly and helpful. I am so pleased Richard invited me to be his partner and I hope he agrees that we made quite a good team. I would recommend the event to others wanting an adventure and a chance to explore another country.

Also many thanks to the Danes who also made the podium on a score class and gave us a lift down the mountain in their hire car.