Last weekend I took part in the Saunders, my first 2 day Mountain Marathon. The Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon is probably one of the best events to enter as a beginner. There are 7 linear courses in total ranging from the Bedafell with the shortest distance to the Scafell at the longest. It also has 1 solo class, the Klets, which is a pretty big outing. The Klets is a different format to the rest of the classes. You given a set of check points all of which must be visited but the order that you visit them is up to you making route choice very important.
We entered the Carrock Fell class, the course setters had measured this route as being 20.2km on the first day and 17km on the second day, or at least it is if you choose the correct route and marked your map up correctly! You’ll see below why I say this.
The course started from a farm below Black Comb and headed north onto Corney, Ulpha and Birkett fells. This is an area of the Lakes that I would not have thought to visit otherwise. We had an early start time on Saturday of 08.07am which was nice as we could make the most of the cooler morning temperatures. Our first CP was in the valley base below Black Comb, following this was a long slog up to the tarn on Black Comb for the 2nd CP. The views from here were great. 10 CPs all in all took us to the half way camp, which was positioned about a mile or two from the west coast.
Our aim was to get through day one relatively unscathed and not burn ourselves out too much so we could finish harder on day two. However our plan went to pot on the last CP of day one when we ran about 1km out of our way and then realized we had marked the map with the wrong grid reference. A reasonable sub 5 hour first day soon ended with an abysmal 5hrs 22mins.
We arrived at the half way camp with pretty high spirits, mainly because the sun was out the view of the east cost was awesome, we had some food and relaxed in the hope that we could make up any lost time on Sunday.
Day two has a chasing start for teams within 45mins of the leaders in your class then a mass start for everyone else. We were clearly in with the masses. The start was a little manic, everyone headed in the same direction towards one crossing point over the river. A little time was lost here, but everyone was in the same boat. We learnt a good lesson here to either go out first and get away from the crowds or hang fire till later on.
The mass start made the navigation quite easy at first, or at least it felt that way. Everyone seemed to be going in the same direction; this is where we lost our concentration and went to completely the wrong CP putting us way off course. Our heads dropped quite a bit when we realized how far off course we were. Just completing the course then became our aim. We had expected to make some mistakes and knew that we would learn some valuable lessons – the main one being to make sure you double check that you have marked your map up correctly.
The line of Day Two took you from the over night back up on to the open fells and then heading back to the start via White Comb and the final descent of White Hall Knott which was a fun battle through gorse and bracken. There was then the mad dash to the finish followed by Wilf’s Sausage and Mash lunch. We finished the weekend in 106th out of 130 which for our first event wasn’t too bad.