It's June, time of long days, warm temperatures (hopefully), midges and most importantly the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon. Two years ago I'd competed with Jon Ascroft in the A Class and we won. Last year I was teamed with Jacqui Higgingbottom again in the A Class and we won the Mixed Category. This year Jon and I decided to try something new - either the Elite or Score Class. The Elite is much the same as the A Class, except longer - you're given a series of points on a linear route and you have to navigate to them as quickly as possible. The Score Class is very different - you're given around 4 times as many points as the Elite, then you have to decide on a route. But there's a catch, each of the points has a score value and the winner is the team that gets the most points in a defined time. So it was either speed, stamina and navigation, or speed, stamina and navigation combined with strategy, time estimation and pace analysis. We opted for the latter, it seemed more challenging !
The location of the event is kept as a secret until a day or so prior to the event. It was announced on the Thursday - Inverlael, south-east of Ullapool. A fairly remote area and pretty navigationally testing. I’ve been in so many times before - Seana Bhraig is one of my favourite Munros - therefore I was hoping that my knowledge of the area combined with Jon's strength and logical analysis would work to our advantage.
Day 1 and the organisers had arranged some superb weather for our start, so even if we didn’t do particularly well competitively, there was a photo competition in which to enter. We had 7 hours to reach the overnight camp, bagging as many points on the way. At Loch Glascarnoch a quarter of an hour was spent marking the map and selecting a route. We’d built in several options for the latter part of the route should we begin to tire. We were also intending to bag a couple of Munros on the way - Beinn Dearg and Seana Bhraigh. Our plan went well and we stuck to our intended route which worked out at 40km with 2350m of ascent. We managed the route in 6:53hr, which included a several minute stop on Seana Bhraig to take in the view and shoot a few photos. At the end of Day 1 we were surprised at our leading position and slightly shocked at the size of the gap between us and second place. The pressure was now well and truly on!
On a Mountain Marathon you're carrying all you need for a 2-day run across hills, including tent, sleeping bag, food and cooking equipment. You have to have a little luxury or two, mine were dry socks, a clean t-shirt and wet-wipes. You may well scoff, but these little luxuries make all the difference to being comfortable or miserable, albeit at a weight cost. So after food, an analysis of our pacing and route choice on the day and pondering the next day's possibilities on our map, a good nights sleep was in order.
The next morning we awoke to clear skies and midge-free air - this is as good as it gets ! We were given our target-points, plotted them on our map and headed off. Today we had 6 hours in which to bag a decent score over more rough terrain. Our route included two Munros (Cona Mheall and Beinn Dearg again) and worked out at 31km and 1950m of ascent. We timed it to perfection - well almost, we were 53 seconds over our 6 hour deadline, for which we got a 2 point penalty (mainly down to me flagging towards the end of the day). Upon reaching the finish line we found out we were leading, but the trouble with the Score Class, you don't know the placings until everyone is in. We found out that last night's second place were already in, so were pretty confident...and ecstatic. We'd worked hard, planned our route well, navigated spot on, monitored our pacing and kept an eye on each other's performance - all paying off. It turned out that we'd also ran the route that the Route Planner (Andy Spenceley) had in mind for the maximum score. Our score was 558 (320 day 1 and 238 day 2) and we were the only team to get over 500 points. The icing on the cake was still to come, we'd also won the trophy for the Outdoor Industry Championship. Chuffed !
Several of our Carnethy Club mates had also done well. Joanne Anderson and Helen Bonsor won the Ladies B Class, Jacqui Higgingbottom with Fabiene Thomson won the Ladies A, Matt Davies and Lewis Grundy were 4th in the Score with Craig Mattock and Adrian Davies just behind and Konrad Rawlik with Ondrej Mandula came 4th in the Elite.
Some photos are posted on Flickr here and results and more are on the LAMM site here.