SLMM 2005

This years event was based around Ennerdale with the event centre in Buttermere. Great location for such an event and I was really looking forward to it with it likely to be a mix of terrain that was new to me and terrain that I knew quite well.

Following the LAMM this year I’d finally got myself an altimeter and this was going to be the first race that I’d used on it in. The weather forecast was better than last year and like last year it seemed the weather was going to rather mirrow what we had at the LAMM. Last year that meant cold wet conditions in both events, this year it meant lovely thick cloud.

Saturday dawned with nice weather, but the rain arrived before the start and the cloud decended. The temperature was good for running and at least it was dry for marking up the map. Milly and I had a simple aim this year which was to complete the course.

We were one of the first pairs off which is great as you should get the hills to yourself for much of the day. I’d calibrated my altimeter and we headed off up and over High Stile to our first checkpoint on an ‘Eatern most Spur’. When we got to the top of High Stile I looked at the map to see how high it was ‘896m’ and recalibrated my altimeter. A couple of thoughts whizzed across my mind “Wow this alimeter is already way out, some 90m off’ and ‘Jeez, never realised High Stile was so high, this makes it one of the highest in the Lakes’ … other than that I never batted an eyelid and we headed off on a bearing, aiming off slightly to the west so when we hit 690m we would back track east and hit the checkpoint in this thick mist.

It wasn’t till we’d scrambled down below a large (approx 90m) cliff and were at 690m did I start having doubts, thinking how tough a spot this was for a checkpoint. Double checked the grid reference, double checked the height, double checked the description. All ok. Not sure what made me check the height of High Stile but when I did Millie probably heard some rather bad language. “F*** !” I’d misread the height of High Stile – on closer inspection it was 806m not 896m !! We were 90m too low – ie the checkpoint was at the top of the cliff not the bottom.

We scrambled back up. This cost us 30 minutes and worse it put us in amongst the crowds which meant we were slowed up hugely on the steep ascent to CP2. This was very frustrating as steep ascents are our strengths and we could not make as big an advantage of them.

CP4 looked like it would be tough in this thick mist. It was the NE End of a Marsh on a pretty featureless hill side. We navigated straight to our attack point and then headed off on a bearing, hit a stream which meant we should be within 100m or so of it. Could we hell find it. We spent the next hour wandering around in the mist, bumping into runners every so often ” u seen checkpoint 117 ? ” “No but I’ve seen 112″… ” u seen checkpoint 112?” “No but I’ve seen 117” – everyone seemed to have found the one they weren’t looking for. We’d not found either. Eventually by luck rather than judgement we found the damn thing. Soon after there was a brief clearing of the mist and looking across the mountain side was comical – loads of runners all over it running every which way. Looking at the top dozen on our course this had cost us 50 minutes.

We dropped out of the cloud and spent the rest of the day with views. It was tough going, tussocky under foot and another long leg and big climb before getting to the final few checkpoints. We navigated these perfectly and arrived at the overnight camp after 7.5 hours running, 20 miles, 2200m ascent and sitting in 55th place. Happy to have completed but disappointed with the position.

No need for situps at this midway camp. It was warm enough, though through the night we were hit by a couple of storms with gale force winds. My race tent is quite flimsy and there were a few occasions where I was woken because the pole by our heads had buckle and was virtually hitting me in the face.

Day 2 – decided that since we weren’t in the mix for places we would use it was a good opportunity for Millie to learn abit more about navigation. The initial climb was very steep but we soon came up onto our first CP. The cloud was high and we navigated round the course with only the odd small error. The running was much better with some good fast decents, runnably trackless sections and parts on descent tracks – all played to our strengths as road runners. We even got to descend the long and steep Dore Head Screes – great fun though running shorts are not ideal for such scree runs and I have the scars to prove it.  We hurtled into the finish ( the section from the last CP to the finish is normally very runnable so always push it not only to look good as you cross the finish line but also as it’s a good chance to get the fastest split on at least one leg – we missed that honour by a mere 11 seconds ;o() and found we’d made up 18 places on the day finishing 37th overall. We’d been out for 4.75 hours, covering 15 miles and about 1400m ascent.

For those of you thinking of doing Mountain Marathons (there are a couple of you) – this is the perfect event to pick as your first. It has lots of classes (ie numerous different length courses) and the terrain tends to be a little easier than the LAMM and the conditions / navigation less severe than the KIMM.

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