On the 24th and 25th of October I did the Elite OMM with Jean Brown. We were the only ladies team entered and after last's year's scrapping of Ladies prizes this year the organisors had very generously offered three ladies prizes! I think it might be a while before 3 ladies teams are competing but good of them to listen to feedback and change their policies.
The area was Tweedsmuir; just north of Moffat in the Scottish Borders. The area looked like rolling hills up to 700m or so. The weather forecast was not great - heavy rain all Saturday giving way eventually to a dry night with then either showers or dry and windy on Sunday. With this in mind I ran in my thermal tights and Rab Ultra top and also packed warmer clothes( Inov-8 Race Elite 250 and Race Elite 220 ) and heavier waterproofs ( OMM Kamleika jacket and pants ). With the weather being wet I assumed the ground was going to be soaking and so wore my trusty Inov-8 Mudclaws to help keep me on my feet! Along with the stove, gas, headtorch (Alpkit Muon) and overnight food my pack weighed 6kg. Jean took the tent and we planned to share out more weight on Sunday after eating all the food!
We started at 8am in the pouring rain so made a quick dash for the cover of the woods to study the map. I had a quick look at the first few controls and off we went. We were wearing our waterproof bottoms but it wasn't cold so we soon ditched them. Most of the other teams passed us but we ran with Jon Whilock and Bryan for a while. There is usually one very long leg to do but it looked like we had a few! They are daunting at first but I just have to break them down and work at it bit by bit. CP 1 to CP2 was our first but we choose a good route and the terrain was short grass and heather so it went well. CP3 to 4 was more of a contouring two hills route but the terrain changed to being tussocky grass which was slower. Again tussocky grass to CP5 then a long leg to CP6. The rain was relentless and on the tops it was claggy and windy too but we were warm on the move. We decided to follow a fence halfway to CP6 and while running along it Jean said we're at Lochcraig Head and so need to go along this wall. Although I was surprised we had got there so quickly I followed her. Things then didn't seem to add up - I kept taking back bearings on the river valley and the fence we were following and the wall behind which I could see going off in the distance. Then the bearing seemed right and we were running down a ridge which was right. But then we came across a fence junction and that wasn't right. Jean spotted a road in front which also wasn't right. While trying to make sense of it Jean said "Well where could we be if we're totally wrong?" and pointed to the map. Yes we had gone off too early and run down a ridge parallel to the one we needed. Oh well - it was very disappointing and I was hugely mad at myself for not being stronger in my convictions. But Jean suggested running back onto course via a road which seemed a good option and was actually pleasant after all the roughness. It was also sunny when we got down there. We got to the head of a reservoir and decided to run round the reservoir on the bank then climb direct. This was a pleasant option of rocks and shale in the sunshine and gave us a good direct line to CP6. It was a relief to get this dibbed and move on especially as we still had 5 checkpoints to go. We were now in with the Elite runners but much further back than we had been before our error. We paid close attention to CP7 as there were lots of runners all over the hillside but found it perfectly which was very nice indeed. We then finished the rest of the course just in daylight and slithering down to the finish glad to be done at last.
I wandered around the field using my farmer senses to find my way to a sheltered spot, squeezing in between two tents near the wall. Jean and I then spent a lovely few hours eating our Mountain House and Expedition Food meals, finishing off all our day 1 food and sharing out the treats we had both brought; salted nuts and fruit cake followed by hot chocolate. Then a quick wander to the Results barn before back to eat our puddings and then a nip of whisky with a piece of Dairy Milk Fruit & Nut chocolate before bed. I think we slept a similar amount of time but it was sufficient and at least comfortable and relatively warm with my Inov-8 tops doing the job nicely.
We woke to Jon Whilock's bagpipes which made me smile as I wondered how he had "warmed them up" on a freezing cold Scottish morning. We had breakfast and packed away hoping to get to the start and be allowed off early. No such luck though; we had to wait until our allotted time of 7.30am. Although we were first in the queue instead of 1 minute time slots about 5 teams got set off together which was a bit random but nice to have company. The weather was also much better; dry and with sunshine visible through the clouds.
A quick look at the map showed it was going to be another long day! Off we went determined not to make any navigation errors at all. We were a little high on the first couple of CP's so then also concentrated on using our altimeters to gauge the height of each CP as well as the compass. This worked spot on and throughout the day we hit everything accurately. A couple of times we chose high fence running routes rather than heather bashing as although I didn't mind it Jean struggled through it. We were worried about the cut offs but as the first four were 11am it was hard to gauge our pace. We just kept going and it was quite enjoyable. Jon and Bryan were working to keep in front of us; they took a different line through the forest and we didn't see them again. Across to CP8 though we had 40 minutes to make the cutoff at 2pm so both of us were pushing hard and eventually I took off across the heather to dib just before 2pm. Ok an hour to get to the next one; CP9 which is manned so we have to make it. We were going flat out and I took Jean's rucksack on the steep climbs, then a long long contour and then I could see it - with marshalls on it. Shouting Jean I took her rucksack again and we puffed our way up the hillside to get there with 5 minutes to spare. "Well done" said the Marshall "but I don't know how you're going to get to the next one by 3pm as well". I was speechless as I couldn't believe they could have two cutoffs the same. "But I have radioed through as only 14 pairs have been through" he said. Oh well we thought we might as well keep going.
So again running hard we straight lined it to the CP 10 - again a very steep climb up with me carrying Jean's rucksack and her route finding. There was a marshall stood on route and he said "Well done" I was waiting for the bad news but he said "How many behind you as I'm going to wait for that next pair but don't know after that?" We had seen about 3 pairs behind us a while ago and were so happy that he had waited for us (it was now 3.26pm). We carried on finding CP 11, 12 and 13 all still there. Maybe there is a chance we will be allowed to finish. It was now 4.30pm and the course was supposed to close at 4pm. Running down to the Finish we could see everything still there except the photographer who was packing up (I don't think there is one photo of us all weekend!). All the Marshalls clapped and congratulated us which was lovely of them. What a relief; we walked down to download and was given an official Finish Slip which I'm very proud of after my mis punching/disqualification of 2014. Yippeeee. It said Sunday 9.07 hours so with our Saturday time of 10.25 hours we were 14th overall, 1st Ladies and 3rd Vets. Then we went and had loads of lovely food and sat with Kirsty Hewitson, Digby Harris (2nd Mixed) and all the other late finishing Elite runners - Jon and Bryan included; they did 9.02 and were 1st Vets.
Many thanks to Jean Brown for agreeing to do the Elite OMM with me and although we had our moments it was a pleasure to run and spend the night with her. Many thanks also to the OMM organization team and marshalls; especially the kind hearted ones on the hill who allowed us and other teams to finish.
Here are the results and I will add photos if I ever find any! - OMM 2015 Full Results
So last year I had three things that went wrong; 1) 3 Shires; I took the wrong line off Blisco, 2) Ultra Tour of Mont Blanc; I blew up with 30 miles to go (which was probably down to over racing) and 3) the OMM when I punched the wrong control and so we were disqualified as we had "missed point". I set out this year to redeem myself on all three accounts and now with this slip in my possession am very happy to have done so.