Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

October 9, 2012

Rab Mountain Marathon, 6-7 Oct 2012

Sarah and I are back together again for the 2012 Rab Mountain Marathon.  After all, we did win the Elite class last year (although we actually aren't that fast).  Not that we were gunning for it again...our summer activities had been pretty energetic and we had agreed that walking might be a more fun way to see the area.  However, we had still entered the "Elite" class, only because the extra hour each day of competition meant that we had less time to be cold in camp.  (Rab, if you are reading this, please rename the Elite category as Long, instead.  After all, it's just the same course over 13 hours instead of 11 over the two days).  Perhaps then more people would enter this category and we would have some, errr...competition.  Yup... newsflash... we won our class again this year, but this time because we were the only entries.  Bummer.

Anyway, this year's Rab MM was up in the Cheviots, near the border of Scotland.   This would be a first visit to the area for me, and I was prepped for it by friends with horror stories of the bogs, which must be running full given the large amounts of rain falling this year!   But the weather forecast was good, actually great...my fingers were crossed the whole week that the sunshine would actually stick around.  The stars were out for the drive up, which went fast as Sarah, Tony and Paul kept me awake and entertained. 

The Rab is a score event, meaning that each control is assigned a point value, and the more controls you can reach in the time limit, the more points you finish with.  The challenge is to choose a route which nets lots of high value controls while still reaching the finish within the time limit.   Unfortunately the highest value controls are also some of the hardest to reach, for example a hilltop, a boggy valley, a steep climb, or just tough, nasty tussocky ground. 

We managed to get lost trying to find our first checkpoint.  Yep the very first one.  I guess we weren't mentally switched on to our navigation yet.  In any case it took the first hour to get to any points to our name, which was quite pathetic.  We picked it up a little after that, making good progress towards the highest point in the area, known as The Cheviot.   Very original.   However, our progress bogged down (literally), when we hit the steep climb to Hedgehope Hill, and then the peat hags that followed after.  It was several hours of slogging through terrain that was sometimes boggy, often very bumpy, and covered with heather or dead ferns.  Tough going.   Hours of tough going.  I managed to faceplant myself at least 3 times, luckily always when I was carrying the camera so Sarah couldn't record my indignities.  She did laugh...and then always gave me a hand back up!

Finally we reached the Pennine Way on top of the Cheviot at about 800 meters.  We felt rediculously speedy running on the sections of large paving stones, which somehow hadn't sunk into the bogs below them (yet).   The control with the highest value of the day would have required us to leave the nice stones and take off back into the bogs.  Luckily for our feet, we were running out of time and couldn't get to it.  Instead we picked up a couple of easier points, and made it into midcamp with just 3 minutes to spare.

It was a nice evening in camp, with my tiny alcohol stove cooking away (it really isn't meant to cook meals for 2 hungry people, as it took about an hour of constantly cooking water to get us both warm and fed.)  Well, fed anyway.  By the time the sun went away, we were wearing all of our clothing and starting to get chilled despite the hot chocolate. Paul was especially cold as he had forgetten any spare socks!  We were happy to climb into our tents for the night at the late old time of 6 pm.  Yes, we went to bed at 6 pm...and happy to be there.   We hadn't gotten much sleep the night before so being horizontal felt great.   Although my Klymit sleeping mat had developed a slow leak, so I slept basically on the grass with no padding...that wasn't so nice. 
Last year's prize kept us warm overnight!
12 hours later, we forced ourselves to crawl out of the warm (but wet) tent and start packing up.  It was still dark, as the later date this year for the Rab meant that we had a full HOUR more of darkness than last year.  Yup, we are losing 4 Minutes of daylight every day in October here.  The tent, soaked from dew and our own breathing, had made our sleeping bags damp as well.  It's hard to stay away from the fabric walls with two people inside a tent really sized for one.  As soon as we were out of the tent, the wetness cooled quickly, and as I was taking it down, it all suddenly flashed into ice.  It was cold.  The grass was frosty and my fingers were freezing.  Good motivation to get going and warm up out on the course. 

Despite the cold, we knew it was going to be another beautiful day of sunshine.  As we ran, the layers started coming off one by one until we were down to just a shirt and tights.  A few more degrees and we would have been wishing for shorts, with no wind and the sun actually adding warmth to the day.  We had learned a little from our route on Day 1, and chose controls on Day 2 which would keep us to known tracks and roads as much as possible.  As we went back east to the finish, the lumps and bumps (translation: hills and peat hags) got smaller and smaller.  Our traveling speed actually got faster on the level terrain, despite the tiredness in our legs, and we picked up more points on the second day than on the first.  With an hour less of racing.  Yay.  It was nice to finish but I could have stayed out in the sunshine a lot longer, given that we don't actually see that much of it here. 

Rab put on a great race as usual.  I'm sure they order up good weather months in advance for this!

Results are HERE

(Several photos courtesy of Dark & White) 
At the finish

Paul, Tony and I relaxing in camp

4 Border Collies waiting patiently for their farmer!

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