It's taken me a bit to put this together, was feeling very worse for wear last week after the OMM. Important lesson learnt, to check water carefully from streams, especially during heavy rain causing surface run off. Or carry some puritabs or similar. I spent most of last week doing sprint sessions to the loo after managing to pick up gastroenteritis, 3 out of the 4 of us who travelled together were affected. ON a positive note though I did manage to lose 10 lbs, the best crash diet I've tried !!!
Ben and Sam joined us and we compared sacks, mine was, by far the smallest with an 18l sack John, Ben and Sam were all using the Terra Nova Laser 20l pack, We had all managed to get everything inside our sacks and were all carrying <5kg !
After chucking all the gear in the car we hit the road, as usual the M6 was rubbish, one giant, slowly moving snake of traffic. It seemed to take an age to get to Hilton Park services, where we stocked up at M&S on munchies for lunch and for breakfast, bananas & scotch eggs, the food of champions! We eventually reached the M5 and after a final toilet stop at Exeter services we headed off to the OMM HQ at Okehampton Camp. John took us on a merry excursion through the narrow country lanes to an alleged short cut, that turned out to be a muddy track, but we made it in the end after climbing a very steep hill up to the camp (I didn't think there were any hills down here ?).
After pitching our tents we set out in search of the Up & Running shop and some food. The shop was packed, but I did manage to pick up a bargain pair of Saucony leggings for £10 (RRP £45). I decided these would be perfect for the weekend as they are tight fitting round the ankles so would not go baggy like other leggings, and hopefully keep my legs pretty warm. Dinner was Carbonara, bit of a shame that Wilfs (or Scotts) were not on site as their fare is ideal and tasty. We went and registered and picked up the dibber (I was the dibber boy), then after a couple of pints in the bar we hit the sack, alarm set for 6:00 ready for our 8:03 start.
Saturday - After getting up and having some breakfast in the car, we changed into our gear, had a final kit check, then dropped the tent, wished Ben & Sam all the best and headed off for a cup of tea before heading to the start. I was feeling slightly nervous, it was a while since I had done any serious distance carrying kit, but I hoped that my light bag and experience would prevail, I didn't expect to finish highly but I expected to finish.
I don't know how but we missed our start by two minutes ! We rushed up as they were just calling the 8:05 starters forward, we were pushed through, dibbed and handed the map, the straight line distance was quoted as 44.7km, I chose to ignore this and just concentrate on the first control location. We picked this off relatively quickly and then you know the script "Try and pick the best line across bloody awful terrain, dibbing the controls as you go". I was surprised at how undulating the ground was, the tussocks everywhere made it hard going, occasionally you would pick up a trod where you could get up a bit of momentum but these inevitably turned the wrong way and it was back to tussock bashing.
There were times when we could see plenty of other teams, snaking their way to controls, which took a bit of skill out of the navigation. It was a clear bright day with a head wind most of the day, we were moving okay but not quickly, I think the terrain was getting to us both, John put his ipod on at one point to try and find the "Zone" but I don't think it was happening for him.
Just before the penultimate control, Ben and Sam caught us up, it was good to see them and it gave us a bit of a lift, we ran all the way into camp with them, it did mean they had made up quite a bit of time on us though. Our route taken for day 1 can be seen on Route Gadget ('A' Class - John Roberts & Karl Taylor) It was a long hard day and we were all tired, we pitched the tents, grabbed some water in the sandwich bag and then dived in the tent to sort ourselves out. The results had us 62nd out of 89 starters, several teams appeared to have dropped out during the day and there were 79 teams going into the second day.
The tent was cosy indeed, it is definitely not possible for you both to do something, like getting changed, at the same time, so we took it in turns to sort gear, change clothes etc. Once we were sorted and dry/warm we got the stove going, dinner was a doddle to cook as planned, I had also slipped a small hip flask of brandy in my bag so we had brandy custard and ginger sponge, gourmet!! John had brought a chocolate protein shake to share so we warmed that up to help with the overnight recovery.
The fun then started when it came time to start blowing up the balloons for the balloon beds, with the limited room, cramp and general knackered ness this was entertaining. It took us about an hour to get both beds done, all we could hear from Ben and Sam's tent was popping balloons!! but eventually we had managed it. It was probably about 19:00 when we went to bed, so, with the clocks going back an hour it made it 18:00, 12hrs sleep ahead! We topped and tailed and managed to find a comfortable, not too contorted, position to sleep, I was boiling and had to take my hat off and unzip my tops to feel comfortable, the balloon bed was like luxury, so comfortable. John was okay till he turned on his side, his bag only has down on the top, when he felt a bit of cold. Sleep was okay, intermittent with the noise of the wind and rain lashing against the tent, but I felt pretty refreshed in the morning.
Sunday - We were woken by the 6:00 wake up call for the chasing starts, It was a bit of a struggle to sit up, but taking it in turns gain we sorted our stuff out and got some breakfast on the go. I could feel my calves were stiff when I walked across to the toilet, day 2 was going to be tough, the weather was looking like it was going to test us.
We managed to make the start early this time, we dibbed and grabbed our map, the straight line distance was 31.6km, a shorter, but no less difficult day. I spotted river crossings and some contours very close together between two of the later check points, something to look forward to !
The first couple of controls were okay, a bit of climbing but not bad ground, the 3rd control though was "miles!" I expect this was a low point for all teams but the ground was tussocky, boggy and just energy draining, the Tor where the control was just seemed to get further away, everywhere you looked in each direction there were teams stretched out all heading in the same general direction. Eventually we reached the control, after here we had two river crossings before the next control, something that doesn't really phase me but there was a lot of water about, did I mention it was chucking it down!
The stretch after this control was tough going again, I think by this point neither of us wanted to see a tussock again. Ben and Sam caught us just before the control, we all had a quick stop to put on an extra layer, the rain and wind were having an effect, and the photographer caught a couple of great shots especially the 'thumbs up' one of Ben.
The next control was across was the steep section I had spotted earlier in the day, I had promised myself mentally that I would treat myself to a rice crispie square at the bottom of here, mind games, after dropping down to the river we linked up to cross the river as a foursome, it was pretty wide and strong but we got across OK. We could see other teams heading up stream as we started climbing, it was a steep climb but not that long, the bar worked and I felt pretty good as we dibbed the next control. Ben was limping now and struggling to run, we could maybe have made back the time deficit at this point but it wasn't the honourable thing to do, we stuck with them as we dibbed the last few controls together.
Our route taken for day 2 can be seen on Route Gadget ('A' Class - John Roberts & Karl Taylor)
We all had a bit of a John Wayne swagger coming down the road to the last control and the finish line but did manage a bit of a burst for the finishing photo. Final positions we came 60th, Sam & Ben 50th, 72 teams finished. Results
Summary - To summarise on what was a tough weekend, Dartmoor is pretty hard terrain, quite picturesque with all the Tors, but a bugger under foot. More training would have benefited us both and perhaps provided a higher finish but, I don't think we did too bad to finish the two days. The kit was about right, I had just enough day food, plenty to eat at night and a really comfortable nights sleep. The cooking equipment could maybe be lightened by using foil trays but I do like how the mess tin can accommodate the food, protecting it. I was warm enough during the day and night and did find my windproof useful on day 1. Water sources should be checked thoroughly and peaty run off water should be avoided! I have got a full 12 months to train for the next one now, think I'm a bit off the pace for winning but definitely feel we could challenge the higher places with some decent training behind us.
I didn't take my camera but Sam has got some pictures which hopefully he'll forward to me and I can supplement this post with something nice to look at.