It’s funny how things go. You anticipate and expect so much. You plan, you stress, you strain, you sweat and you train, and then, just like that, it’s over. Like a climbing project, you always inflate it in your head until it feels like a massive challenge, but when you actually do it, it doesn’t feel like such a big deal.
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been worried about competing in the OMM this year, but it seems like a healthy dose of fear was needed to kick my arse into gear. Somehow, and I’m still not really sure how, Duncan and I came 9th overall in the Elite Class. Given that we were initially thinking that simply completing the race would be worthy of celebration we’re pretty pleased.
So, what was it like? Well, let’s put it this way, I won’t be volunteering as an ambassador for the Elan Valley tourist board. The place is one big bog, covered in a thin veneer of bog, surrounded by a load of bog with bog in the bits between the bogs. Shoe-sucking, knee-deep, peat-black bog. Okay, I’m probably overdoing it. In fact, it’s not all bog, because there are the hundreds of square miles of tussocky grass, waiting for an unsuspecting ankle to snap or groin to strain too. To my botanical mind the grass is called Molinea caerulea, or Purple Moor-Grass, but I’ve also heard it called Bastard Grass, Babies Heads and Policeman’s Helmets, due to the way it forms distinct and large tussocks and is bloody hard work to get through. The worst part is when the gap between the tussocks is bog. However, besides all this, the rolling nature of the hills and their relatively minor stature means that much of the ground is fairly quick to get around and there are no huge crippling ascents.
As seems to be becoming our hallmark, Duncan and I never really flew between the controls but managed to keep a steady pace and to keep on top of our navigation and route choices (mostly). We’ve done enough races together now to know the score: what kit to use (borrow other peoples expensive and very light gear), what to eat (smash, cheese, peperrami, and our top secret ‘Power Breakfast’) and what to carry (I get all the heavy stuff). I definitely had a couple of ‘sugar lows’ when I started to feel empty, but managed to fuel my way out of the slumps with Jelly Babies and energy gels, following on behind Duncan who seemed pretty indomitable the whole time. Bastard.
Now, at last, I can relax and revel in the one short time of the year when I don’t feel the urge to be out getting things done. It’s generally too cold, dark or wet for rock climbing, but it’s not cold enough for winter climbing and there’s no longer any need to be out running; the OMM has been and gone. Instead, let’s light the fire, put on the kettle and settle in with a good book…..