Friday, 23 October 2015

The OMM 2015 Tweedsmuir Hills: Preview

It's that time again. After a few weeks of lovely autumn sunshine and generally mild temperatures, the mercury has just started dropping, the wind has started to get up and it's suddenly getting difficult to train in the daylight. OMM-time!

This year The OMM roadshow heads to Tweedsmuir in the northern part of the Scottish Borders/Southern Uplands. The extensive backcountry both south and north of the A701 should provide plenty of scope for suitable navigational and physical challenges, as well as picking out some of the interesting names of the area: Dead for Cauld, Muckle Knees, Drowning Dubs, Porridge Cairn, Nickies Knowe, Worm Hill. Looking at the OS map of the area suggests similarities to the steepness and ridge systems of Howgills 2012.

A few changes this year will see a reversion to Harveys maps (YAY!) and tea after the event. However, the main changes are that you will need to carry a spare thermal and leg layer other than the kit you are running in, whereas previously 1 thermal and 1 warm leg layer sufficed. First Aid Kit is also now up to the runners' discretion.

 Anyway, on to a brief run-down of some names to watch out for on the Elite start-list. My apologies for this being poorly researched, lacking in pictures and not very in depth - bit of a rush job I'm afraid!


Duncan Archer & Shane Ohly.
The winners the last time The OMM ventured to Scotland (Perthshire 2011), Duncan and Shane are experienced mountain marathoners with excellent navigation and terrain-stunning skills. Shane organises big events such as the Dragon's Back, 2016's Cape Wrath Ultra, whilst Duncan has won numerous LAMMs and is well known on the Elite British Orienteering scene as thriving in the roughest of terrain.
Duncan and Shane win in 2011. Image

Andy Fallas & Iain Whiteside.
The Carnethy duo are frequently seen troubling the top of British Fell/Hill race results, both having top-10s in British Championship races this year (Andy at Y Moelwyn, Iain at the Seven Sevens). Andy finished 3rd (4th including an NC pair) in 2014, albeit a way behind 2nd place.

Jasmin Paris & Konrad Rawlik.
After 4th (and first mixed pair) last year, The Carnethy duo, Jasmin especially, have had a stellar year in the mountains of the UK and Europe. 2nd and 3rd respectively at The Dragon's Back was preceded with 3rd for Konrad and 4th for Jasmin at the Fellsman Hike in April, with Jasmin smashing the ladies record. August saw them tackle the GoreTex TransAlp, where they were 3rd mixed pair - not bad for a holiday!

Kim Collison & Adam Perry.
After his 2nd attempt at the Lakes 24h record earlier in the year, Adam has enjoyed getting back to racing over all distances. Early season form saw him win his 3rd Fellsman Hike in a row ahead of Jez Bragg. Of course, his 2nd Fellsman win in 2014 was shared - hand in hand - with Kim, who has hit some fantastic late-season form with 26th (in 26h) at UTMB followed by a big win and new course record at Lakes in A Day just 2 weeks ago.
Photo from

Oleg Chepelin & Sam Hesling.
Oleg set the 3rd fastest Nav leg at last weekend's FRA Relays and is another orienteer known for bulldozing whatever terrain is put infant of him. Sam is the winner of this year's Lairig Ghru race.

Jim Mann & Nic Barber.
After winning the Dragon's Back, leading from Day 1, Jim has kept his form throughout the year with a win at the Grossglockner Ultra Trail and 3rd at the Lakes Sky Ultra. So needless to say I'm a bit scared of partnering him this weekend! For what it's worth, my results pale into insignificance: 1st on A class last year and a win at the Edale Skyline way back in March. CAn't wait!

Charles Sproson & Chris Baynam-Huges.
After a 6th place finish in the Cheviots last year, Charles and Chris deserve a mention here, although in my brief research race results are hard to find!

Nicky Spinks & Jean Brown.
After setting a new record on the Bob Graham earlier this year, Nicky Spinks teams up with Jean Brown as the only all-female pair on the start list.

So, some predictions?

Well, I'm going to go for Adam & Kim to win, with Oleg & Sam and Shane & Duncan rounding out the podium, pushed hard by Jasmin & Konrad, Andy & Iain and Jim & myself (well I've got to back myself a bit, right?!)

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The OMM 2014 - Cheviot Hills

Fell Relays done, this can mean only one thing: It's OMM time again. Three Thousand or so hardy souls/certifiable nutters (depending on whether you ask them or their work colleagues) will this weekend be heading towards Alwinton/Clennell on the edge of the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland National Park.
If you're anything like me you'll have visited the supermarket 6 times already this week in (ill-organised) preparation, rustled up your best rocket-fuel flapjack - flapjack definitely counts as a savoury item on the OMM - and looking forward to spooning your lovely partner. You'll also be trying to shift every terrible song ever written from your head in fear it becomes your weekend ear-worm. A weekend of 'Genie in a Bottle' by Christina Aguilera anyone?

The parter of choice for many teams, this prefers more of a forking than a spooning.
I've spent very little time in the Cheviots, but am expecting a mix of rough grass, heather of varying depth, tussocks, bogs and rough forest. From a brief glance at the map, rolling hills around the 400-600m mark seem the order of the day, with the mass of The Cheviot ~9 miles north of the event centre poking its head up to 815m. Wind direction may well impact route choice alongside the more normal climb/distance calculations. The forests scattering the area north of Clennell could prove decisive - no-one likes forests mapped at 1:40000, and those present at the nearby British Orienteering Championships in April know what can go on in Northumberland forests - could the prizes at the end of the Day 2 courses be decided in Kidland Forest, just north of the event centre?
'Our tent's the green one'. Photo:
Anyway, onto the rumour, conjecture, insults and pure made-up bollocks as I pick out some contenders for the big prize on the Elite course, and have a brief glance at the other classes. Needless to say this is all highly subjective so if you think I've missed anyone out, oh well. (The 2012 results don't seem to be working so there's a bit of a hole regarding historical data)



There are 2 all-female teams this year. Nicky Spinks (2011 winner, Female record holder of the Bob Graham, Ramsey and Paddy Buckley rounds and the Lakeland 24h record) partners Mary Gillie, whilst Heather Dawe teams up with Andrea Priestly to defend their 2013 title.

In the Mixed, Carnethy's Jasmin Paris (new Tranter round female record holder) and Konrad Rawlick try for another title having won in 2011 and 2013 (and maybe 2012?). A very strong team. Tim Laney and Lizzie Wraith, Carla Denneny and David Alcock, Cat St Clair and Stuart Johnson are the only other mixed pairs on the start list.

Overall Challengers (in no particular order).

The Dark Peak Machine - Oli Johnson and Neil Northrop.

6th last year, OJ returns with Nails, not seen on an OMM since 2009. Both were part of Dark Peak's crushing British Fell Relay Championship winning team last weekend, each winning their respective legs (Oli leg 2 with Rhys FR; Neil leg 3 with Tom Saville). Both are former members of the British Orienteering Squad and have raced well on the fells this season, so navigation and terrain shouldn't prove to be an issue, and recent training/racing has gone well, the partnership getting close to the Kinder Dozen record despite carrying packs and stopping for photos, whilst Oli was 16th at the stacked Limone Skyrace a fortnight back.

The Estonians - Sander Vaher and Timo Sild.

Both members of the Estonian team at this year's World Orienteering Championships in Italy, last year's 3rd placed team returns. Sander lives in Swansea and both have been competing last weekend in the 'Race The Castles' World Ranking Orienteering events in Scotland, which saw world class fields ahead of next year's World Championships. Whether this pairing are tired after a pre-WOC
training camp remains to be seen, but as they showed last year they are definitely contenders and navigation again shouldn't be an issue..

The 'Is That it?' Team - Steve Birkenshaw and Adam Perry.

Adam Perry shows off his new necklace. Photo:
After covering 300 miles and 37,000ft of climb to summit every Wainwright in 6 days 13h back in June, an Elite OMM should feel like a warm up to Steve Birkenshaw. Time may be against Steve to add to his current 7 OMM/KIMM Elite titles to match Mark Seddon's 10, but the 2012 Dragon's back champion is the most experienced ultra-distance racer in the country. He's teaming up with 2-time Fellsman winner Adam Perry, who has also dipped his toe into making Lakeland fell fokelore, having a good crack at Mark Hartell's 17-year-old Lakes 24-hour peaks record, an attempt which was still 'on' until 20h in - further than many have got. Will Adam make Steve hold his hand as they cross the line? Full of endurance, the main question for this team is how well they have both recovered after their summer exploits.

The Locals - Duncan Archer and Jim Mann.

Jim tries his best 'smoulder' look. Photo:
OK, being from County Durham they're about as local as Elite contenders get. Winner in 2011,
Duncan teams up with Jim, his regular LAMM partner, the pair having won the last 3 editions of the Scottish July event. Jim set the winter Bob Graham record (18:18) last December, whilst Duncan was an excellent 4th in the  rough terrain of the British Long Distance Orienteering Championships back in April.

The Carnethy Team - Andy Fallas and Jon Ascroft.

Carnethy star Andy Fallas (stop sniggering at the back!) teams up with club-mate Jon Ascroft. Impressive results for Andy in 2014 include winning the Two Breweries race ahead of a strong field, joint 3rd at the Isle of Jura Fell Race and 5th at the British Championship race at Ennerdale. Jon has been well within the top-10 at the Arrochar Alps and Pentland Skyline races. 

As ever, there are a couple of pairs likely unknown to the British Fell Running and Orienteering communities. You never know if they might be contenders, so a bit of google detective work is required:

Jonas Munthe and Bjarke Refslund are both Danish orienteers, the former a member of the Danish Junior squad at JWOC 2007, the later a national-team Mountain Bike Orienteer, with Silver and Gold medals in the relay at the 2010 and 2011 world championships.
You get plenty of hits for Mariusz Kozlowski and Rafal Szymanski. Whether they have any previous in this kind of thing who knows!

The Non-Starters - Jonny Crickmore and Jonny Malley.

Last year's A-class winners were due to d├ębut on the Elite. However Crickmore jumped off a wall, badly bruised his heel and is currently aqua-jogging and spinning in the gym. Alcohol may or may not have been involved. Malley can't find anyone to share a tent with his thighs so this team drop out.

Other classes.

Picking potential contenders on the other classes can be a minefield, any pairing could turn out to be secret stars. I've picked out a few interesting names, but am going nowhere near the score as anything can happen there (although I will say Quentin and Zoe Harding will smash the short score).


Fell Legends Wendy Dodds and Sarah Rowell take up their usual position on the A-class. Hugh Aggleton (7th on elite last year) and Hannah Jarvis, both MDC, team up. Oh and myself and Andy Llewellyn.

The TV series based on Harold Wyber


Harold Wyber and Josh Jenner move up from the C. Jack Wright has run well on the fells for Ambleside this season, Jack Millar joining him in a ShUOC team, whilst Andrew & Alastair Brunton ring a bell from ex-EUOC orienteering circles. There is plenty of female pairs competition, with the SPOOK pairings of Anwen Darlington/Laura Daniel and Sarah O'Neill/Hazel Tant, as well as vet fell/ultra runners Rowena Brown and Karen Nash.


Horton and Williams
Olly Williams and Tom Horton. Another ShUOC team and the only names I picked out of the start list. British Junior O squad and Ambleside runner respectively, the firmest favourites of the weekend? They could do well on a higher class but they are Mountain Marathon virgins so C is a good starting point. Likely to provide hilarity/denseness at mid-camp, if a tent goes up in flames it'll likely be them.


The D-class is always a tough one to win as lots of people have a go and turn out to be pretty good. Manchester orienteering brothers Tom and Matthew Fellbaum are,again, the only names that leap out during a quick scan.

That's all there's time for, I'll hopefully cobble together a review of the weekend's shenanigans some time next week!

Friday, 25 October 2013

The OMM 2013 - A Preview

The weather’s closing in, the morning commute is getting darker and darker and it’s the last weekend in October. This can only mean one thing: It’s OMM time! 3000 or so hardy souls will be braving trying conditions. And once they’ve worked their way through the M6/M5/M4 and back-road traffic to get to Trecastle in the Brecon Beacon’s they’ll have a Mountain Marathon to deal with!
I’m feeling quite smug this year, as I’ll be in a nice warm bed on Saturday night. However, needless to say last night a part of me was wishing I was weighing out every last wine-gum, cutting strips off bubble wrap and preparing myself to spoon someone like Andy Blackett. As such, the closest I’ll get to this year’s OMM is my seemingly now annual, entirely educated stab-in-the-dark preview of what may, or may not, go down this weekend.
How big's your Fan Y? (from Bordersthinking)
I don’t know much about the Brecon Beacons. In fact all I really know is that there’s a hill there called Fan y Big. I think that’s all I need to know really. However, steep, exposed and runnable all pop to mind when you type ‘Brecon Beacons’ into google image search.

The Elite: Contenders.
This year there’s a fairly continental look to the Elite start list. Insomuch as there’s a smattering of names you may not recognise on there. In other words – foreign orienteers. And some bloody good ones at that. So, in no particular order, here’s my pick of the podium contenders from those on the start-list.
Tim Higginbotham/Chris Near
This North Wales pair from Team Haglofs-Silva (I think that's correct...) of adventure racing fell runners  are always there or thereabouts, having just lost out on the win in Perthshire 2011- you could say they were so Near and yet so far! Hoho... Once again with an early start time, they will be the expected clubhouse leaders.
Ben Abdelnoor/Oli Johnson
The Team Inov8 pairing have the fell running and orienteering pedigree to do well this weekend. With his previous OMM partner Rob Baker now wearing a corked hat in Australia, multiple British Orienteering champion Oli, fresh from smashing the Nav leg at last weekend’s FRA relays, teams up with Wasdale and Lakeland 50 winner 'The Noor'. Two strong mountain men, one of them an excellent navigator, all the ingredients are there. Now they just need the luck that has deserted Oli on his last few OMM attempts.

Sander Vaher/Timo Sild
I doubt this Estonian pair are well known to many people outside of orienteering, but they are both elite athletes, still competing at the top of the sport. Sander, resident in Swansea for the last couple of years, is a former World Students champion who performs well on the British scene,  whilst Timo has had some great results recently, including 2nd in the recent Finnish Long Distance championships behind only King of the Forest Thierry Georgiou. It will be interesting to see how the Boys from the Baltic (highest elevation: 3 Suur Munamagi, 318m) get on!
Alan Cherry - Famous in East Anglia
Ed Catmur/Alan ‘Anal’ Cherry
A-class winners on Dartmoor in 2010, both are good orienteers and runners. Ed has good recent experience of ultra distance racing so may find this too short! Meanwhile Bergen-resident Alan has been testing himself on the steepest hills and roughest forests of Norway over the last couple of months. Both have good experience of the OMM.

Steve Birkenshaw/Kim Collison
'Veteran Mountain Runner' (Berghaus's words, not mine), 7 times OMM Elite champion and current Dragon’s Back champion, Steve Birkenshaw this year teams up with Fell Runner and adventure racer Kim Collison. A strong pairing with a lot of experience of long days on the hills when the going gets tough. 
Nick Barrable/Gustav Bergman
Gustav Bergman, courtesy
Former GB Squad Orienteer (and CompassSport editor) Nick Barrable, 3rd on Elite last year, teams up with Swedish Orienteering Superstar and young-enough-to-be-his-son Gustav Bergmann, Bronze medallist in the middle distance/Silver in the Relay at this year’s World Orienteering Championships, and a former 2xGold medallist at Junior World Champs level. Both are members of the same Swedish Orienteering club (OK Ravinen Nacka), hence the partnership. Needless to say Gustav's super fit and always immaculately coiffed, but how will he cope in a small tent overnight?

Duncan Archer/Jim Mann
Duncan and Jim, with a cheesy Grin
With his regular partner Shane Ohly missing due to illness/injury, Duncan teams up with regular LAMM partner (they won Elite LAMM in 2012, so I suppose they're still reigning champions as there wasn't one this year!) Jim Mann. Watch out for Jim trying to flog Alpaca socks (that's socks made from Alpaca wool, not socks for Alpacas) to you at Mid-camp!
Hugh Aggleton/Gibbs
Lake district mountain man Tom Gibbs teams up with handy MDC runner Hugh Aggleton who, judging by his power of 10 knows the area well.

The Mixed.
Joint British and joint English Fell Running Champion Helen Fines teams up with Bill Johnson. PTL (The bigger, uglier brother of the UTMB) winner Digby Harris teams up with Ultra runner Helen Skelton, whilst the Carnethy pair of Jasmin Paris and Konrad Rawlik are ideally suited to long, rough days in the hills

The Ladies.
Only 2 All-female pairs on the Elite this year, and I'm afraid that I know nothing of the pairings of Heather Dawe/Andrea Priently and Holly Williamson/Catherine Evans.

The A-Class.
Fell superstar Wendy Dodds teams up again with Sarah Rowell - I can only hope they don't pitch up next to the horrendous chat of the Sheffield Uni boys like they did last year! 
I see the battle for the win being contested between NOC's Andy Llewellyn and Rich Robinson, finally running a course that befits them (they pot-hunted the C class in 2011) depending on their injuries and illness respectively, and Sheffield Uni pair The 2 Jonnys - Malley and Crickmore, who won the B and C class respectively last year.

The B-Class.
 There's a lot of names to sift through, but the pairings of Simon Gardner and Jack Wood, Peter Hodkinson and Joseph Fisher and Tim and Jon Street are ones I at least recognise! There are also strong ladies teams of SPOOK's Anwen Darlington and Laura Daniel, Pennine FR's Lucy Harris and Zoe Procter and BOK's Alice Bedwell and Hanne Kinnunen.

Well I'm afraid that's all I can fit in as I need to get some food in me before hitting the town in preparation for tomorrow's XC. Best of luck to all competing in all 8 classes over the weekend, looking forward to partherships I missed making a strong showing!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

End of the Teesside Adventure

So at the end of next week I finish work at Fujifilm and move out of Teesside. I have a week off (during which I'll be taking in the Mountain Trial and a few stages of the Tour of Britain, if time allows) before I start my new job in Keele.

People may question my choice of swapping Teesside for Stoke, but I have two words: Peak District. I'm planning on living within running distance of some hills (Leek hopefully), and already licking my lips with anticipation of the myriad evening races next summer.

I've enjoyed my time in the North East and on the North Yorkshire Moors and may well be back in the future, but at this time I think it's right for a change of scenery. The main groups to thank for making me feel so welcome up here (aside from work colleagues) are Billingham Marsh House Harriers, CLOK and the local running scene (especially Esk Valley Fell Club). I won my most recent EV race at Inclined to Madness and I'm hoping to sign off with a good result next Wednesday at the Classic Roseberry Topping race!

Roseberry Topping - a good training ground
Looking forward to a good winter of training (some of which will be with City of Stoke AC), XC, some orienteering and a few fell races.

As usual a map - from Fylingdales near Whitby. The O season starts here!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Scottish Six Days 2013

Just spent a week in Scotland (Moray coast to be precise) for the Scottish 6 Days of Orienteering. I ran M21E, in which the combined time of all 6 days racing sort out the overall standings. So any mistake is punished, and any control you miss puts you out of the competition (unlike the age-class S/L classes, where a points system is used, and your best 4 of 6 count).
We had 2 middle distance and 1 Classic distance races during the week, as well as 3 'normal' races - saving 17km of classic Scottish forest until day 6 was a bit epic! Generally I got better as the week went on - my British Orienteering ranking points, which I use as a performance barometer, for most days were similar to those I currently have counting to my overall UK ranking which, after a summer not doing much O, I'll take, although I am aware that more consistent orienteering (and maybe even a bit of O-tech training!) could lead to fairly significant improvements. This winter...

Anyway, to the maps (the main reason I'm here again!)

Day 1 Lossie. Not a great start to the week. I'll say I was recovering from Blisco and a 6.5h drive up to Forres/Brodie Castle)

Day 2 Carse of Ardesier Middle Distance. 1 mistake then some great head-to-head racing, fun!
 Days 3 (Culbin) and 4 (Loch of Boath world ranking [WRE] middle distance) aren't available. The former as map not up yet. The latter as no GPS allowed on WRE events as we're all liable to become dirty cheats...
Day 5 Roseisle. My favourite area. Really flagging but overall very clean.

Day 6 Coulmany & Belivat Classic. Aye not too bad but a few issues.
I do love the 6 Days. Had a god week and, although a few people were missing, it was great to catch up with a lot of friends and make a few new ones.

And a few extracts from an O map I'm working on at the moment in Thornaby. A lot of work to do!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Jukola 2013

More about this later. I spent the last weekend in Finland taking part in the biggest Orienteering race in the world - the 7-man Jukola relay. It was really good fun, with lots of Brits having good runs on one of the biggest stages. Just need to pop my map up for now!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

On you Marks, Get Set, GO!

As March arrived so did the start of the Fell Running season. With the amount of National-level Orienteering events picking up as well I'm into the period of the year where I spend most of Friday and Sunday evening driving over the country, ready to Weekend Warrior it. The racing is one of the reasons I spend so much time (and petrol money!) travelling, but the chance to get away from Teesside and meet up with Friends old and new are the main reasons.

March started with an extended training weekend in the Lakes and Howgills. The Black Combe race (11th overall, and new downhill record - feeling fresh but not very racy uphill) was followed by the Northern NightO champs (pretty shambolic) on Great Tower and a night out, with the Tim Watkins LongO (tiring, scrappy and DNF-y) on the Sunday. I somehow squeezed a Three Peaks recce out of my aching legs with club mate Steve on the Monday before enjoying the only warm spring day of the year so far in the Howgills at Sedbergh 3 Peaks (5th) - not quite the recovery my legs were after, but I couldn't say no to the race and 10h + solid effort in 4 days.
A steady recce of the Sedbergh 3 Hills (on Winder. AlfDog stolen borrowed from Adam and Edie)
A week before Edale Skyline I took in Wolf's Pit in the peaks as a sharpener. Again I wasn't feeling overly racy but fairly pleased with 6th place, and chuffed with 1st team for Pennine - deep in Dark Peak territory - alongside Adam and Noel. It was good to compare my time with that from 2010 - 10 minutes quicker - to see how far I've come.
Wolf's Pit (Photo by Stu from Accelerate)
Due to snows and problems getting 550 runners into the valley, Edale Skyline was cancelled. After a good taper and a week psyching myself up for a good race (and picturing a finish-time starting with a 2) I was disappointed it was cancelled, but fully understood and accepted the decision made. Next time!
As it was I had to race that weekend, so did a 10-mile road race (*spit*) in Thirsk. A bit blustery in the last 4 miles or so, with the last 2.5 being a real challenge, but pleased to break the hour in 58:55.
The Pennine vest makes an appearance with a map at the JK Sprint, Reading Whiteknights 
 And so, over Easter weekend, to the JK Orienteering Festival, the biggest annual UK O event with Sprint, Middle, Long and Relay races in the Chiltern Hills near Reading, Newbury and Henley. The Sprint and Long were World Ranking Events, so no GPS allowed for geekery in case I used it for nefarious purposes whilst on the course! However, I didn't need GPS to tell me that I had a pretty poor weekend nav wise. That said, I enjoyed being amongst the wider O community and I've come back hungry for more O, if only to not assuage the feeling of frustration at not performing at the level I know I can. 
JK Relay for CLOK, needless to say approaching the control from the wrong direction... 
And so to April and my big target for the spring, the Three Peaks. I'll also be taking in the British Middle and Sprint O champs and a couple more races and O events by way of preparation, along with plenty of Motorway and A-road miles and several drinking holes I dare say!
JK Middle Distance, Hambledon

JK Relay, Hambledon (again)

and a map to host from a pretty poor O run at Burnbanks, Haweswater: