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:

Monday, 25 February 2013

The National XC championships

I used to denigrate XC. Why run around a field when you could be on the hill? I thought. But when I moved North-East I decided to have a go at it, mainly for fitness purposes. And whilst it's not the most interesting type of racing in which to compete in terms of terrain and views, the balls-out racing is a notch above that seen in all but the shortest fell races and Orienteering relays. In my opinion.

With The National being held as close to my doorstep as it's likely to get, I leapt at the chance to run at Herrington Park in Sunderland. Unfortunately no-one else from Billingham Marsh House was much interested, saving themselves for a 10-miler the next day as part of marathon prep. As it was I headed up with Andy ('The Rev') from Hartlepool Burn Road, and we were made welcome refugees in the Middlesbrough and Cleveland club tent (next to the Highgate rave tent). It's a good job the Teesside running community is so close-knit and welcoming!

Sunderland was about as exciting as I expected, although I did nearly wet myself when overhearing someone on the bus discussing someone's 'pasty getting smashed'.

Smash this pasty?
Anyway, there'd been snow overnight and after 6 months of rain and 9 previous races, by the time 1100 men lined up for the senior race the course was a quagmire. By the second and third laps, it was like the Somme.
Once more unto the breech! (Athletics Weekly)
I didn't take it much seriously. I was very high up at the start, saying hello to the likes of Carl Bell, Harold Wyber and Tom Edwards (all finishing way ahead of me). On the second lap I got talking to someone I vaguely knew from University, before he moved on forward.
What do you mean I'm too dirty to sit down? (Dave Aspin)
I spent most of the time being passed. In fact I don't remember passing anyone until into the last km or so, but I must have done at some point. Tom Bush (Altringham) had come past me at the top of the last hill and pulled about 30m out on me. I'd kept going throughout the race, but not balls-out, and had energy reserves for an effort in the last 800m or so. I like to finish strongly as mentally it makes you feel like you've had a good race. I passed a lot of people on the last bend and finishing straight (including Tom) and held them off for 233rd (not including a few people who will have lost their tag in the gloop!)

Winding Up (Dave Aspin)
My run felt solid but ordinary. I'm quite pleased with the result. I'd wanted to do well, but was mainly using this as a training run and measuring tool. As for the raw figures - about 3mins down on Carl Bell and Midd&Cleve's Greg Jay, 90secs down on the likes of Harold Wyber, Tom Edwards and Duncan Coombs, and 120% of winner Keith Gerrard's time. Pleased with that.

Next up - Black Coombe and some Orienteering at the weekend, then Sedbergh 3 Peaks next Tuesday.

A few maps now that I need to host:
Slaley Forest CSC Qualifier. Navigated to the wrong control, loosing 8mins and lost it a bit after that. Still, the team qualified!

CLOK event on Eston Moor. The day after The National I wasn't really functioning properly so just bimbled around somewhat.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

One area, Two very different races

The New (i.e. amalgamation) and Exciting (i.e. organised as such the best elites probably won't make enough counting races) UK Orienteering League kicked off this weekend with an excellent double header in Sheffield. Tankersley and Hesley woods to the North of the city proved suitably challenging and intricate for the British Night Orienteering Championships on Saturday evening, and a testing middle distance race on Sunday.


The less said about the Night Champs the better. My performance matched City's at Southampton. A lot of big mistakes and major time loss saw me run 140% of the winners time. Suffice to say I didn't adapt very well to the whole reduced vision element of running at night on such a tricky area.

After moping about for a couple of hours I was cured by Chicken Chow Mein, Icy Lemon Fanta and a couple of pints of Farmer's Blonde. 
Sunday arrived with a dusting of damp snow and a renewed confidence in my running an navigating ability. In the middle distance (lots of short legs, fine nav and direction change; winning time of 30-35mins). I still made 4 mistakes, totalling 2-3mins, but at times I actually felt like I was racing, a feeling I have seldom got when orienteering - outside of relays/mass-start events. 114% of the winner's time, very good by my standards!

After a month of feeling pretty stale (maybe due to a lack of racing) I'm feeling ready to get back on the horse!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Robin Hood

Not much going on at the moment. Had a few easier weeks after the heavy miles at the back end of 2012/Jan 2013, including my first stag do (why are people making me feel old!). I'm not racing much on the fells at the moment, just hoping to train well. I've got a lot of Orienteering lined up over the next 2 months, trying to ready myself for the big spring races.
Yesterday I ran at the Midland Champs at Sherwood Forest. I was a bit tired so couldn't get the legs turning over, but the nav was generally good and at a higher standard than last year -although this may have been due to not running very quickly!

Next weekend id the British Night Champs on Tankersley, Sheffield. I'm really looking forward to this, although it'll be very technical and there's plenty of scope for an epic to occur!

Well, that was boring. I really just wanted to host my quickroute somewhere...

Monday, 14 January 2013


Urra Moor in the clag
 Back to Teesside now after a great 'training camp' in the peak district over Christmas - many hilly miles in the bank.
The first weekend of January I was hoping to race at Clay Bank East, but a slight rib injury (after falling over, and aggravated after I was hauled out of the Brown Knoll Bog Monster by the CVFR elite) made me take caution. I took some pictures instead, as the clag rolled on to Urra Moor, turning a nice morning into a canvas of grey by the time the racers reached the high point of the North Yorkshire Moors.

It's time to resurrect my O-stylings. I've done bits and pieces over the back end of 2012, but not much, so I need a few sessions and races to get myself back into the whole nav side of things. First event of the year was a bit of a suffer-fest on Big Moor and The Edges (Froggat and Curbar) down in the peaks on Sunday. The tussocks were rough (and I managed to always pick the most tussocky line) and tired me out for when we went into the detailed slope beneath the edges. The terrain here was also tough courtesy of brashings and bracken. I managed to bonk as well, I was overtaken by an old man on the run-in and had to sit down on the (downhill) plod back to assembly - I must take better care of myself when weekend-warrioring it!
Curbar Edge 'Eliminates' area - including the 'PeaPod' - geograph
Still, you have to take the bad to appreciate the good, and hopefully there'll be a lot of the latter later in the season. The first biggish races of the year are at the beginning of February (Midlands Championships and the British Night Championships (UKCup 1) and another UK cup race) and I've got lots of O planned to hone my 'skills' before the big races of the year (the JK and British champs in all disciplines) at the end of March and through  April. Whilst I mainly O to have fun and catch up with people, it'll be nice if I can improve my nav this year!
Big Moor Quickroute

Onwards and upwards. There's no such word as can't

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


Post Christmas and it was time to put all the protein (turkey, sausage and bacon) and carbohydrates (beer and pastry) I'd shoveled down me to good use - pulling me downhill. I took the long drive up to Ambleside for the Wansfell race. Straight up Wansfell Pike then straight down, I was imagining myself bouncing up the hill with no effort required, before leaving scorched earth on the ground behind me on the way down.
The Route. More uphill than down!
Plenty of people about start - 140+ being a new record turn-out. Speaking to Darren from Chorley AC he says he hasn't seen any big names other than Sam Watson, and that I should be up there. I'm looking for some hiding superstars on the startline, and the Addison cousins provide.
We set off up the road. I'm expecting a fast start, 1500m pace, but we seem to cruise along the road. For a second I debate taking it on, setting the pace from the front, but opt to save myself for when the race really begins once we hit the fell - I'm happy to sit in in 5th place.
As we hit the fell the Addison cousins, Tom and Mark, shoot off the front. I take a slightly longer route through a gate and suddenly from there being not many people around, the hillside is swarming with runners, and I can hear cheers for Sam and Sarah McCormack behind me. I dig in and set a steady pace just behind Penistone's Joe Mann. A few people pass me but I'm still grinding it out and not losing too much ground.
Up we go - courtesy Stephen Graham
Several of us hit the summit cone together and I think I'm 7th at the top, knowing that Tom from Glossopdale is right behind me. A few gulps of air and it's time to start going down. It takes a bit of time to make my first overtake (Joe), but I'm now into my stride and make short work of the Ambleside and Eden runners in 4th and 5th.
I don't know the line down the hill, only that it is down, so I spend a lot of time looking for Sam, who I know will have a descent line, being a bit of a short-race don. Thankfully Sam has a big ginger beacon on top of his head and so is quite easy to spot.
I can't hear anyone behind me, but you can't really hear footsteps on soggy grass, so I keep on pushing just in case. Into the finish and I'm pleased to see only 3 others waiting for me beyond the finish line. My watch says 21:58 and I'm well happy with 4th place and, with Tom in 5th and Joe in 10th, it's a good day out for those of us from the Derbyshire/S. Yorks Pennines.