our days after arriving back from the Mourne Mountain Marathon in Northern Ireland I was once again heading down the motorway; destination the Lake District for the RAB Mountain Marathon 2010. The good news was that it was only a 45 minute drive from Scott’s flat to the event centre in Bampton, south-east Lake District so we would not need to camp and could get a decent nights sleep and breakfast. The following morning, at 7am we where heading down the A66 with blue skies and sunshine above. The check-in time was flexible and we mulled around the shop for a while before heading up to the start. We where told to allow plenty of time to get to the beginning of the race and the organisers where not wrong, it was 2.5km and a height gain of 166 metres before we even set off! This provided a good warm-up however and 30 minutes later we had dibbed in at the start and was planning our route for the day. On the last score event we entered, we rushed the planning and missed out on some decent scoring checkpoints so we took a good ten minutes to plan things out this time.
Saturday – Position: 39/270, Points: 200, Time: 05:44:52
Our plan was to tick off some quick checkpoints near the start then head through Fordingdale Bottom, up onto High Raise and then drop down to Hayeswater and up to Lingy Crag located near Angle Tarn. From here, we would make a decision depending on the time. We headed off to the first checkpoint, a simple 10 pointer located south-east of the start. With this in the bag we headed west to the next checkpoint, another 10 pointer on the top of Four Stones Hill. With decent weather, navigation was easy and we headed off the top and picked up the path that ran down towards Fordingsdale Bottom. We stayed a little bit high to avoid any marshy ground and as the clock hit an hour we dibbed in at our third checkpoint.
The next checkpoint was a stream-bend located about 2km upstream at a height of 690 metres. This was our first significant climb of the day, 330 metres, although this caused little problem for Scott who had been training significantly harder than myself. Whilst Scott powered up the hill, I used a combination of running the less steep parts and walking the rest. We took a good line however, and managed to gain some time on the people ahead. The checkpoint was located with little difficulty and our next checkpoint was a 30 pointer located at the side of Hayeswater. We headed up onto the top and headed over High Raise and Rampsgill Head before dropping steeply down a scree path to the lake side. Once again, Scott steamed ahead but 47 minutes later we had both dibbed in. We picked up the path that drops down Hayeswater Gill and at the Filter House we crossed the stream and skirted above Hartsop and up to Lingy Crag. This next checkpoint had the potential to be a little tricky but we hit it pretty much head on and with a time 3 hours 10 minutes we had hit six checkpoints and scored 125 points.
We pondered for a while on what to do next. There was a high scoring 50 point checkpoint located about 5km north near Silver Point on the shore of Ullswater. We could hit that and then continue and take in a 25 pointer and then head back south to the finish. This would include quite a lot of running but it was on decent tracks and a road so progress would be good. The other option was to head up onto the fells and hit some checkpoints located nearer the finish. The distance would be less but there would be more ascent. Over running the clock and suffering time penalties was not an option and the concern with taking in the 50 pointer was the time it would take to cover the distance.
After much deliberation we decided to go for the 50 pointer and we headed down Angletarn Beck and picked up the path that heads towards Pattedale. The going was good and we kept a steady pace all the way to the checkpoint. We dibbed and checked the time, 4 hours 16 minutes down. We had made good progress along the path and I felt confident that there would be no time issues. We pushed on and the path undulated up and down the side of Ullswater before turning east near Scalehow Wood. Here we headed up 50 metres to the next checkpoint, a 25 pointer.
We still had over an hour remaining on the clock but with the nearest checkpoint probably a little bit to far, we decided to take a leisurely effort to the finish. There was a 5 pointer located near the finish and if we had of pushed it hard, we could of nailed this and although only worth a small number of points, this would of moved us up the table potentially eight places. We arrived at mid camp and set up our tent. After a huge meal consisting of pasta, followed by a huge chunk of cake and custard we settled down in the tent and waited the results, we had finished a decent 39th out of 270 finishers. Pretty good considering the fact I had not trained as hard as I would of liked to leading up to the event.
Sunday – Position: 111/268, Points: 120, Time: 04:49:36
We dropped back onto the road and headed towards Howtown and our next checkpoint at Raven Crag. This was to be our second mistake of the day. Instead of heading up the hillside and coming out above the crag we decided to run to ascend directly at the side of the beck. The terrain was gruesome and we were scrambling over boulders and traversing through dense bracken. Fortunately, we hit the checkpoint straight on but once again we had lost valuable time. Over two hours down and we had only scored 50 points.
Sat in our tent with plenty of time on our hands we discussed the route for the following day. The map was pre-marked so we knew the locations of the checkpoints, but not the points value. Why not plan our route now so we the following morning we could just set off and save some time? This seemed a great idea at the time but we did not know the points value of any the checkpoints and we did not even consider the possibility that some of the checkpoints that where available on day one would also be used on day two. Not taking these two major points into consideration, we planned the route anyway and at 7am the following morning we were leaving the mid way camp and heading back up the road at Howe Grain. The first checkpoint was located on Howstead Brow and we managed to find this without any difficulty. The next checkpoint was located at about 380 metres up the side of Sleet Fell and disappointingly was only worth 10 points. We did not think the effort was worth the reward so we decided to leave this checkpoint and head to the next checkpoint on Hallin Hill. As we dropped down to the road and then headed up onto the hill I began to question the strategy of planning the route the previous evening. This was compounded by not being able to find the checkpoint once we hit the top. Rather than doing the sensible thing which would be to head to the obelisk, take a bearing and pace to the location on the map, we wandered up and down the hillside. Eventually, we located the checkpoint, but we had wasted a good twenty minutes.
We had planned to take in a checkpoint two kilometres to the east but this was too ambitious and with a reduced time of 5 hours on the Sunday we skipped this and headed over the top of Bonscale to the next checkpoint, a 20 pointer. With thick tussocks, the ground was tough going and we could of probably of ran more, but morale was down and we did not progress as fast as we could of. We hit the checkpoint and headed around the side of Loadpot Hill and the next checkpoint at a stream bend at Atkinson’s Grain. To be fair, our navigation was pretty good and we hit the stream just below the checkpoint.
With one more checkpoint to get, a 10 pointer at the Round Table and plenty of time remaining, we headed up towards the path that runs past the top of Bampton Common. There was no rush and feeling the pace of the two days we took our time and walked. The path runs close to Four Stones Hill (our second checkpoint on day one) and as we passed close by I noticed someone running up to the top. We looked with disbelief, why is someone dibbing in at a checkpoint that was for day one? As we discussed this, another competitor who was nearby informed that some of the checkpoints that had been open on day on where also open on day two. We had not even considered this when we had planned our route the previous evening. Nightmare!
We dropped quickly down and ran up to the top of Four Stones Hill and dibbed in. Retracing our steps we headed back onto the path and skirted around to the Round Table and the checkpoint at Ulgill Gutter. From here we headed back across Pinnacle Howe to the checkpoint we had started at on day one and then back up to the last and compulsory checkpoint. It was damage limitation really and the two additional checkpoints only gave us an additional 20 points. We ran down the towards the finish and clocked in with 12 minutes to spare.
Finish – Position: 61/268, Points: 320, Time: 10:55:41
I knew we had performed badly and this was reflected in our day two position of 111th, a massive 72 places lower than the previous day. We had made major errors on day two but we finished a reasonable 61st overall and considering the lack of training, this was not to bad.