Monday, 29 October 2007

The Pay-off

Its monday morning and I'm sat in front of the computer in the office, ready for a day of mapping the distribution of ethnic groups in the US for a GIS course I'm doing. Its crisp and cold outside with mix of clear blue and ominous grey in the sky and there is fresh snow down to about 800m on the Ben, CMD and Aenoch Mor. Also, I hurt quite a lot. No one area hurts the most, its just a general ache. From the blister on my left heel, up through my leaden calves to my dodgy knee and tight thighs, past the mole on my back that gets really sore by the rubbing of my rucksack to the tender bits on my shoulders where the sack rubbs up and down.

Winter?: Snow on the hills.

Thats right. It was the OMM this weekend and it was a good one. Saturday was a race-planners dream, starting clear and fast and turning into a trudge through 50 mph winds, thick hill-fog and endless miles of tussocky hillside. Duncan and I started our first A-class campaign well at 08.41 and were going strongly for the first five controls. Perhaps too strongly though, because as soon as we turned from control 5 to 6 we were headed into the wind for the rest of the day and we faded fast. The winds increased, the cloud thickened and no matter how many cereal bars, jelly babies and monkey-cum energy gels I loaded I felt drained. To make it worse my left knee started to play up and running on the tussocks was a no-go. Duncans feet started to get shafted too and it all felt very bleak. Mind you, we kept moving at a fast walk, concentrating on our navigation and making sure we made no mistakes and the controls were steadily ticked off. Walking/falling/sliding/hobbling down the last hill to the over-night camp was a knee twisting love affair, knowing that soon it would be over. I worried that it would all be for nothing though if I couldn't walk tomorrow.

The over-night camp at a mountain marathon is always an amusing place to find your self, especially when the weather is utterly vile. Everyone has their own strategies for comfort, nutrition and hydration, but the one thing that binds us all (besides the mutual misery and suffering) is 'plastic bag chic'. You are no-one without two plastic bags to keep your changed socks warm and dry inside your very wet running shoes while hobbling to and fro. Without them you are nothing.

Dunc and I were rather surprised to discover that we were lying in 14th over-night, especially since we had walked from half-way. The terrible conditions must have slowed everyone down, and our good navigation must have earned us brownie points. It made me even more worried though, because with a good position we should try to work hard on the Sunday to keep it, but my knee wasn't well. I just chewed my scrounged ibuprofen and put it out of my mind. Food, sleep and trying to keep things dry was enough to occupy us for the next 12 hours. Buddies from Edinburgh, Konnie and Kiwi Steve (both recently mentioned on these pages for Alpine endeavours), were 2nd in our class by just 30 seconds. Game on for them.

Sunday morning started as usual with the 6.00 bagpiper reminding you of the farce you are in the midst of. We readied for our 08.36 start and hoped for the best. The weather had cleared up and it was looking promising. Clear and blue, clouds scudding on the morning breeze. Maybe it was possible to push through with some dignity. Navigation shouldn't be too much of a problem, just the usual issues of route-choice and finding fast ground.

Some where on the first wake-up-call ascent my knee stopped hurting, and bouyed with the sun on my face I started to feel good. Duncan was moving fast too, and the game faces were back on. We could do this. As usual, Dunc was there with good route-finding all the way, and by making sure we were always thinking one control ahead the checkpoints began to fall. That way as soon as you reach a control you already know which way to head off to the next. A longish leg between controls 7 and 8 meant it never felt like it was nearly over until we were legging it down the track to the last control, number 10. Duncan's power-shouts to keep back the tears bemused the teams we were flying past, but we didn't care. We were both digging very deep to keep moving fast over those last kilometres. Then it was over. Crossing the line and back into the real world. All the stresses of finding little controls in re-entrants and at stream bends just faded away.

We knew we had done well because we had been overtaking teams that were placed above us over-night, but it wasn't until we had got in, had a change of clothes and some food that we realised we were up to 8th. Nice one Duncs. The Power Bar Carbo-drink never tasted so sweet!

Konnie and Steve ended up as winners in A class. Hell yeah. Go team. Although their high altitude training must be cheating, surely! Seriously though, a really good effort by those two. Just think how good they'd be if they navigated well!

Jones and Will got round well in C class, gaining about 20 places on day two, so top banana to them and to all the other yummicks who braved the utter ming of the OMM 2007.

It seems that my training: sweating up, down and round Cow Hill, the Ring of Steall, the Five Sisters of Kintail and riding home from work up the hill to Upper Achintore every night seems to have worked out alright. Just let these aches go away and bring on the winter climbing season.

1 comment:

Stevious said...

Your sack rubs against your shoulders? That's some freaky physiology there my friend.