OMM 2009 Elan Valley, Wales
A Class Report (Sam and Andy)I thought mountains were supposed to big pointy things and marathons involved lots of running but I must have been wrong, or just hopelessly misguided. The Original Tussock Bog Slog was held in the Elan Valley in Wales this year. Andy Fallas and I had hatched the plan to run together after the Arrocher Alps race earlier this year. Andy's speed and navigation and my liking of all things windswept and rainsoaked saw us battle through the two days to a pretty decent result.
Having driven down on Friday evening Andy, Matt Davis (who I hooked up with Steve), Steve Fortune (who I hooked up with Matt) and I made it in time for evening registration before hunkering down in tent and car. On Saturday morning competitors were bussed to the start, around 30mins from the Welsh National Showground, and we set off on the A course. Confusion reigned at the start with neither of us being terribly sure if the race had actually started! Once we realised and were off the first half or so of the race went remarkably smoothly. An impromptu crash into Jon Morgan (Dark Peak) who was running with Al Powell was followed by Jethro (who was just seconds behind) having a go at pulling my lycra tights down (cheeky weegie)! A bizarre encounter but the Elite 1st and 2nd soon went off in a different direction to Andy and I and we ploughed on.
Not long after it hit - a bog. Not a normal bog but a tussock (Juncus effusus apparently) ridden nightmare. It didn't end there - the hill tops were all covered in tussocks too. I was beginning to have my doubts as to whether the OMM was actually worth it, especially considering that the LAMM and BAMM and Highlander are actually run over proper mountains and not just some gently rounded sheep farm. In all seriousness the Pentlands are way hillier than this place.
Dejection eventually gave way to some better running and we arrived at overnight camp 4th in our class and happy. Chats with both Jon and Jethro revealed both sides of the battle for Elite and the evening was spent getting banter with the Edinburgh crew and brewing anything not nailed down.
Day 2 and the chasing start. Although we knew that catching the first pair was not really on the cards we charged through the morning in a bid to make up a place or two. Andy was on form with the nav and kept me on track as I forged ahead looking for paths through the unrelenting tussocky madness.
The morning passed quickly and in a blur, particularly the descent to the finish where we were practically charging through slower runners (and walkers), and probably got an more than a few folks nerves. Just after crossing the finish we learned we were third and were chuffed to bits. We were escorted to do an interview, at which I took issue and stropped to Andy "come on, we are not hanging around here to be interviewed, lets just get the kit check over with and go talk to folk we (read I) actually want to speak to".
Steve and Matt successfully missed their chasing start in Long Score (doh) and were set off towards the end of the queue. Having been 5th overnight we had expected to hear their result read out during the prize giving but they were so late in that their finishing time hadn't been downloaded in time! They were pretty sure they had finished 4th overall - an awesome result.
The post match analysis was, as always, the highlight of the weekend. We spent the afternoon milling and socialising chatting to a constant stream of friends. An all you can eat Thai and obligatory irn-bru on the way home kept the energy levels up but by the time we hit the M74 driving had reached the computer game stage.
It was a great event, made so by the people and not the place. To be brutally honest the venue really was not up to scratch. Lets hope for some big climbs next year - something us hill racers revel in.
After almost 6 hours and about 40km of running/walking/falling through man-eating tussocks and bog in deepest darkest mid-wales on saturday, I had completely forgotten it was my birthday. Sam Hesling and I were doing the A-class of the OMM and after a good start to the day on Saturday we found it tough going over the tussocks and bog which cover much of the featureless high ground of the Elan Valley area. We made it through day 1 to find we were in 4th place and 43 minutes behind the leaders of A-class.
On the Sunday we got off to a good start and navigated well between most of the checkpoints, covering over 25km in just over 4hours. We finished 3rd on day 2 and 3rd overall. This was by far my best result in a mountain marathon. Sam made a brilliant effort with driving to and from Builth Wells and in leading the way over much of the tussocks during the event as I struggled with shorter legs. On the journey back, we stopped at a Thai restaurant somewhere in Cheshire for an ‘all you can eat’ meal. The staff were somewhat bewildered at the amount of food we ate (several starters and a couple of main courses each).
We were accompanied by Matt Davis and Steven Fortune who did very well in the long-score class to come fourth, despite losing points by arriving half an hour outside the 7hr time limit on the saturday. Unfortunately, they were unaware of the chasing start and resulting change to their starting time on the Sunday which meant they arrived back at the event centre to download the result from their chip after the prize giving.
B Class Report (Cameron and Gregor)
Report: In the past few weeks leading up to the OMM the various discussion forums seemed to be full of posts describing how wet the Elan Valley area was, so it is hardly surprising that Gregor Heron and I have just had one of the squelchiest (is that a real word?) weekends ever as we tackled the B course. Day 1 started wet although it was warm enough to run in shorts and by midday the weather started to clear, only to close in again later on at mid camp. 26km with 750m climbing (more like 1100m on my altimeter) saw us take in 7 controls on the North half of the map, which included a 90 minute run through some really bad bog between contols 5 and 6 (well over knee deep in many places). At midcamp we were sitting in 97th place with 5:54:06. Wet, chaffed and muddy but happy with our run. Day 2 was a bit brighter although still windy as we set off South to take in 12 controls over 25km with 900m climbing (or 1250m in real life). There was a bit more route choice today and it was firmer underfoot which contributed to our feeling that this was a much better day than the previous one. The overnight intake of pasta and beanfeasts kicked in and we had a relatively stronger run, finishing 91st with 5:36:35 which was enough to move us up to 95th over both days. Overall we were quite pleased with this result on our first OMM. There were only a couple of minor navigational hiccups and we were still running at the end of both days. The organisation was great with a dry and safe event centre at Builth Wells Showground and Portaloos at the overnight camp (the trenches might actually have been better!). There will have been some great performances over the weekend, none more so than our £30 down sleeping bags from Tesco, what a find!
Medium Score Report
I started my 16th OMM (formerly KIMM) this year with my 4th partner, Claire Steward, a crack supervet road and cross country runner from Dulwich, who I've known for more than 30 years. She's way faster than me on any decent surface. We'd completed day 1 of the abandoned event last year and she was keen to get the full experience. The weekend didn't start well with my flight from Rome delayed so we didn't leave Heathrow till after 8 and arrived in Builth Wells at midnight. But we had a late start so time to relax early on Saturday. Enough has been said about the interminable, uncharted bogs and tussocks under mist and rain so I won't dwell more, save to say we had to modify our (Medium Score) course to get in with too few points but only a 20 point time penalty. Judicious packing using dry bags meant dry kit and a warm and pleasant night. Weather on Sunday was nice, windy but clear, and we managed to plot a route with few tussocks or bog, but too few points really. Overall my worst placing by far I'll be back next year, I'm sure. And at least over tussocky bog I can hold my own with Claire!
Link to OMM website for results and race information here.
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