With the Original Mountain Marathon or OMM as it is better known, only days away I’ve started to get that excited, nervous feeling I get before any big event. The evenings have been spent arranging and rearranging my kit, trying to decide upon the perfect balance of minimalistic but still vaguely comfortable. That being said it’s worth pointing out that my goal is to finish – I’m not particularly fast, and my kit is not particularly light! I’m out there to have fun and push myself.
As a final preparation for this challenge, last weekend I headed out into the Peak with all my kit on a two-day ‘mini practice’ with fellow OMM first-timers Tom, Laura & Dave. From night nav across bogs and wild camping to copious amounts of homemade flapjack and heather bashing in the rain, I think, all in all, the weekend was a success!
The rest of this post comprises of a few more memorable moments from the weekend alongside the odd pointer I’ve picked up along the way. For those of you looking for more detailed advice, I’m afraid you are going to have to wait until after this weekend and the big event – until I’ve put my strategy to the test in the Scottish hills I don’t want to be recommending it. So here it is:
Wet feet – I think they are a permanent feature of winter fell running!
Gore-tex shoes, seal skin socks, plastic bags… They’re all good and well but if you step in a stream or puddle higher than the shoe/bag itself, you will get wet feet. Initially I tried to skirt cautiously round puddles and jump bank to bank across streams – however, I have come to the conclusion there is very little point. Asides from looking a little bit like a confused drunk sheep, I also still ended up in the water. My new tactic is to embrace the bog and just crack on! This in mind I also learnt another valuable lesson…
When you arrive at mid-camp, take off wet kit…
When we arrived at our chosen spot for the night I still felt pretty toasty from running, so pitched the tent and started cooking. Distracted by my tasty freeze-dried meal (still finding these trial and error) I quickly forgot about my soggy socks and leggings as we sat around chatting and enjoying a quick nip of whisky (a highly recommended addition to the rucksack!). However, about an hour or so later when I got up to go to bed I realised I had made a bit of an error – my feet were numb, and I was cold. As sleeping bags rely on keeping existing heat in, not generating it, it then took a lot longer than I would’ve liked to get warm. I think the moral of the story here is to get out of your wet kit and keep an eye on how cold you are. You can always put on your dry pair of socks then use two plastic bags inside your shoes to make sure these stay dry for the next day.
Staying with the theme of being cold and wet I will certainly be taking a spare pair of gloves.
I had debated packing both my waterproof and lightweight pair of gloves however I made the last minute call only to take the lighter pair. This was a mistake – they got wet quickly and didn’t dry all weekend. I have Raynaud’s and find my hands get cold very easily, so before I know it without the right gloves, I may as well have two flippers attached to my arms!
The only other kit change I will be making is acquiring a new pair of leggings…
It was day two of our mini adventure, and the rain had stopped, so fuelled by malt loaf I decided to tackle the steep bank in front of me with full force. Storming past Tom, Laura and Dave, I was off, hands on knees and the sun on my back – I felt quite good. Instead of whoops of admiration from my wonderful friends, gentle sniggers meet my ears as it transpired my favourite (and much worn) leggings were, in fact, a little see-through! Although not horrendous I think it’s safe to say I will retire these to night running only and invest in a new pair asap.
FYI – if you have ever lost a balloon the chances are it’s somewhere in the north of the Peak District
From birthday banners to happy meal specials I was flabbergasted at how may balloons we came across – literally in the middle of nowhere. Where have they come from? Has anyone else come across this? Who knew the northern section of the Peak District is a balloon graveyard!
With all the exciting things going on remember to pay attention when navigating…
Enjoying the view, picking the ideal route through the heather and eating – they are all things that I find can easily distract me from the task at hand – navigation! Although I don’t tend to move fast enough to cover huge amounts of ground it’s easy to miss a key feature or lose perspective of distance when you’re busy chatting. I find the best way to avoid becoming ‘temporarily misplaced’ is to set yourself a specific point to get to, then when you are at this point take a moment to concentrate and pick your next target. Thumbing the map is also a good habit and allows you to recover from a momentary lapse of concentration quicker.
Pack your food carefully… and ideally take squashable food!
Our practice involved a lot of food experiments – some were brilliant, others less so. An example of one that worked were the homemade apricot flapjacks Laura and I made. As I can’t stomach porridge for breakfast, these were a quick and easy morning meal that also required minimal effort. Something that worked less well was our ‘chocolate protein balls’… Deciding not to follow any recipe but instead just mashing a number of things into a sticky ball was going okay until Tom suggested the addition of raspberry protein powder. Things rapidly went downhill from here and despite our best efforts, not only did these taste terrible, but after being squashed in the bag, they also turned into an entirely unappealing sticky brown mess. Lesson learnt!
On the topic of bags – get strategic with the packing:
I’ve honed a new running technique called the grandma shuffle. This is most commonly brought on from incorrectly packing my bag. The first time I ran with it was an utter disaster; all the heavy stuff was at the top, and it just sloshed around in an annoyingly jaunty fashion. You want to pack your bag wisely – weighty items at the bottom easy access to everything you might need over the course of the day, like snacks, waterproof, etc.
Finally, the most important thing I learnt is, if in doubt, a strong navigation pose solves everything! Confidence is key.
So with a few lessons learnt (I am sure there will more) all that remains is to pack my bags, make another batch of flapjacks and head up to Scotland – wish me luck!