Original Mountain Marathon - Day 2

At the start we could see that it was likely we would have a steep uphill beginning from all of the competitors ahead. There were quite a few teams though deciding against it and going along the valley instead. Although this was tempting when we got our maps we decided to go with the majority and head up hill to control CA which was worth 25 points. It was very steep and involved about 250 metres of climb. Up the first half of the slope I was leaving Steve behind again, which I have to say I was slightly annoyed about as I was feeling good and wanted to push on. Having said that we did overtake quite a few teams on the way up. The control itself was fairly straight forward and we hatched a plan to control DA in the north east.
As we descended down to a col I was again leaving Steve behind, but this time on the downhill which worried me even more. The one bit of enjoyment I got though was that I could perform a bum slide down the hill which was fun. I must have descended 50 metres in the matter of about 10 seconds which was exciting!! It was just after this that Steve began to find his legs as we found a small sheep track and contoured around to the control. It got to the point where it was me that was struggling and as it turned out it was like this for the remainder of the day. I always felt I could keep up, but at the same time found the pace quick (almost certainly quicker than had I done the course myself). I always felt strong though and chipped in where I could up the steep hills where I was traditionally better.

The weather was loads better than the day before and although there were cold sections where it became windy on the hill tops, on the whole it was very pleasant. Visibility was also very good throughout the day. Perfect! From DA we went to AQ which involved more contouring in the first part - as Steve was running well and is better at contouring I let him take the lead and I was just happy to follow just behind. We then had a brutal slog up a steep hill to a crag about three quarters of the way up the mountain.

We hit the control without a hitch and moved on to continue the final part of the climb. At the top we had a long debate as to whether we should go for CN on the other side of the valley as it was only a few hundred metres away involving a descent followed by a 200 metre reascent. We decided to go for it, but we were also trying to plan ahead what we could do with our remaining three and a half hours. We then changed our minds, before deciding we would do it after all. Finally when we were about to make the turn off we saw the control in the valley and decided against it. In the end we felt there were enough controls for us, and although we could bag 25 points we felt we would probably lose that much by not being able to have the time to get at least one of the controls near the finish.

We decided to go to AR which involved climbing to the peak of the mountain where the Lowther Hills gets it name from, namely Lowther Hill at 725 metres. At the top of the mountain are several masts with a large golf ball shaped one dominating the landscape. We followed a well maintained track to the top before curving round and following the Southern Upland Way for a distance and then contour to the control. As it happened we found a nice sheep track whilst contouring so we were really able to motor. We found the control easily enough, the only question remaining was whether such a detour was the correct route choice as there was still a fair bit of climb early on in the leg. If I am brutally honest I suspect it wasn't the quickest route, however we did manage to avoid most of the extra climb so in turn save our legs for later.

At this stage we were really going at quite a pace and we often found good sheep tracks. The next control to DX involved more contouring so I just let Steve take on the lead again and he really went at quite a pace, so much that at times I struggled to follow him. We must have run the 1.5km to the control in less than 15 minutes. We did make a small error in that we thought the control was the fence when it turned out to be the stream, but we only lost a couple of minutes.

Following the control we decided we had plenty of time left to continue eastwards to CK. We followed a couple of tracks down before following a field boundary and then a diagonal ascent and lastly some more contouring into the control. Again our progress was swift.

We were mindful that our next control was just a case of running down to the road which didn't take more than a few minutes before following a flattish track for 3km and another control at the end of it. We ran the most of it, just occasionally walking quickly at steeper sections. We got to the end of the track after 3hrs in total, so still had 2hrs remaining. It looked like we would have plenty of time to complete the remaining controls before the finish. At no time did it ever look like we were in danger of time penalties. After the track we had a steepish ascent, but again we were lucky in finding a good track to the col before contouring around to the control in the distance. Over the course of the day the contouring really destroyed my already weak ankles (this is why I'm crap at contouring as I have to be more careful), and I favoured the more direct approach onto a track created by other competitors into the control. In the end I just went along with Steve and contoured round. Steve went a little too low when looking for the control and I pointed out that we need to be slightly higher and we dropped onto the control without any problem. We now had one and a half hours to the finish.

On the way back down we now decided to take the direct approach as it was definitely quicker this way back down and I took on the lead. We then had a surprisingly sharp climb onto Black Hill where the next control was. Again I took the lead for most of this control as I was back on ground that didn't involve contouring and Steve followed close behind. I decided to navigate to the trig point and then take a bearing from this for the final 200 metres.

Our penultimate control involved a bit of contouring around Black Hill which I let Steve take the lead on once more. I was really swearing like a trouper as the sheep track became really muddy from loads of other competitors and I was sliding all over the place. This was partly because I am crap at contouring but also because my fell shoes have nowhere near enough the sort of grip on muddy terrain. Once the contouring was over it was a series of mainly descents followed by short climbs and I again took the lead on these to the control.

We only had one control left to the finish but still had best part of 40 minutes remaining. My only concern now was that we had too much time remaining. I was slightly tempted at a contouring option to BM which was worth 10 points but at the same time knew that really we didn't have enough time for it. It was now just a case of the final descent off the hill onto a track following the river to the last control into the entrance of the finishing field and the final sprint to home.

In the end we finished with 26 minutes remaining which is more than I would have liked, but at the same time there was nowhere near enough time to get any other controls by the finish area. There is a question as to whether we should have gone for CN early on (the one we debated about for a while), but we both feel that a) it would have taken longer than 26 minutes to do and b) it would have taken the legs out of us for later on in the course which would have cost time. In the end we were very satisfied with our run. The first hour was slow but I knew the remaining four hours were done at an extremely fast pace. I just knew that we would probably gain a few positions today as long as our control choices were sound. In the end we finished 24th on the day, again out of 250 which was enough to pull us from 44th after Day 1 to 29th Overall. It was also good enough for us to qualify for the 'Gold' standard where we scored more than 75% of the top team's total.

I think it is fair to say that we were both well satisfied with our weekend, especially the second day which was near perfect. The only downer was a missed 20 pointer, but hey that's minor in comparison. There was also the possible missed opportunity on the second day to continue north east from Lowther Hill for some big points which other teams splits suggest we would have had time for, but hey thats hill racing for you.

Me on left :)
All that was left to do was to have our photo taken by the finish photographer, get our free meal, get changed and start the 9hr journey back home. I got home at 11pm ready for a shower and a 7am alarm call for work the next day...

In the aftermath I actually feel pretty good with my legs not at all stiff. I honestly feel that I would be good enough had there been a third day. I do have one swollen ankle from the contouring and that's about it. I'll now rest until the weekend to let the body recuperate.


  1. Sounds pretty grim on day 1. I'm not sure I'd enjoy the drinking out of streams malarky either on these kind of events. Anything in the rules stopping you from taking a litre of water for emergencies (other than the obvious weight disadvantage?)

    Still, sounds like you did very well!

  2. You can pretty much take what you like at the event (though your gps is against the rules...) as long as you are prepared to carry it.

    Most people will take their daily water with them at the start - for me it was lucozade. Some others will use a mix of water and streams and a few will only use streams that they come across.

    Overnight, you can boil your water if you are worried for the second day so there isnt much weight penalty other than the extra gas. Most just tend to risk the stream, whilst others will use purifying tablets of some sort or another.

    Yeah, was pleased with the performance though have a niggling foot injury on the bone that I dont want to risk so am resting again all this week until the race this Sat.

  3. Well done, Lloyd, great result! I have only had time to skim your posts so far but look forward to reading them properly later!


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