The LAMM this year was in Strathcarron. Blessed with good weather and light winds, it was a cracker. A new partnership this year with Richard Talbot of mountain equipment. We hadn’t even been for so much as a run together but seemed to be well matched. He was probably faster but I had done more training so that should even out.
Arrived at the event centre around tea time and completed the formalities. ‘Start Time’ was 7.50 but that’s really the transport boarding time. A mini bus took us along the road, everyone in the bus was following on the map and guessing where the start point might be right up until we drove off the map! After a quick check with the driver it was clear we were going to be given another map. We were taken to the top of the Bealach na ba and set off from the roadside. The main event area was too compact to get the elite and A course distance in so we had 4 checkpoints on an extra bit of map to get us back into the main area.
In general the day 1 course was tough underfoot with plenty of heather and rock and very little path. The visibility was excellent with little wind and navigating was straightforward. A 1:50 OS map printed at 1:40 gave my head a little trouble when estimating distance but that’s all. Control 1 gave us the most problem and after that we found them all pretty much straight away. 25 ish miles on day one with allegedly 1900m of height gain but sure it was more. Rich and I were very even as a team with him faster down and me faster up. There were 2 very long legs on day 1, the second of which took 2 hours and I was pretty done in by mid camp. Discussion with the team just in front of us, who had taken a much more direct but steeper and rougher line revealed that their line had taken 1 min less. In fact where you consider that they were moving slightly faster than us in general, 1 min less over 2 hours probably means our route was marginally quicker.
Mid camp was a joy with enough breeze to blow the midges away. After a chilly wash in the river, it was much lying about the tent and eating my disappointingly small amount of food. It was expected to rain and about 8pm we were driven into the tent by the arrival of some pretty persistent rain and an eruption of midges. We were in 5th place after day 1, about 13 minutes adrift of 4th and 20mins ahead of 5th. Nowhere near the chasing start as Duncan Archer and Jim Mann had smashed us by 2 hours! By the morning there were just the last few showers, which we avoided by staying in bed for just a little longer. After that the weather was again glorious, sunny with light-ish winds. The only issues at camp were that I forgot my spoon, tea bag and burst my balloon bed pillow. I borrowed a spoon and traded 2 jelly babies for a tea bag and then hit on the best idea ever.
I took the spare balloon from my balloon bed, blew it up and curled it into the small drybag I carry, along with my windshirt. This made a really excellent pillow, just the right depth and very soft. That’s my system from now on.
Day 2 was about 18 miles, and although there was still very little path, it did seem a bit kinder underfoot. The controls were more evenly spaced than yesterday but with the addition of fatigue they all seemed a long way. Again no real problem with the nav and I think we all pretty much went the same way. We were caught late on by the team who had started in 3rd and we had our our little battle of minor route variations seeking the quicker line which kept us amused over the last few checkpoints. Fantastic views on day 2 and the final run in overlooking Loch Carron and Skye was really great. The rain was threatening right at the end but held off for another hour or so in the end.
The only changes to positions on day 2 were 3rd and 4th swapping round, not surprising since there was only 2 minutes between them at mid camp. We eased out another 10mins over the team in 6th to secure 5th place. Duncan and Jim were fastest by 20mins on day 2 and crucially 50mins quicker than the team in 2nd to win (for the 3rd time) by 90mins. Richard and I were made up with 5th in elite, the best result in a mountain marathon for either of us.