Monday, 8 July 2013

SLMM 2013

I have a new t-shirt.  It is black with white lettering, with Corney Fell reading bottom to top along my left rib cage, and the SLMM logo upper right.  We did it we did it we did it, Team Kingfisher came home, in time (half an hour before the course closed even) all controls properly checked and visited.  Last, but not by anything like as much as the LAMM 2011.

The map is spread out in front of me, with the control points marked in ink now.  How long will the numbers marked on the map conjure the memories stored in the souls of my feet?  After the ignominious defeat on the first day of the LAMM 2012, feet and heart rejoiced together at the modest demands to get to control one on day 1: a gentle wide path along Whitecombe Beck, leading to an unsubtle control at a fence corner. Control 2 was an equally obvious tarn on an old friend - Black Combe - a top we had visited in our training weekend, visited but not seen, the whole then wrapped in frightening thick fog.   

The contour lines lie close on the way to Grassgill Beck - a bracken covered bank too steep, a place of dramatic but well padded tumbles.  Sniff our way out of Crookley Beck, trying to find the path that would start us on our way to Kinmont Beck. We meet our first marsh.  We were to become connoisseurs of squelch, but at that time we were only learning the trade, and troubled ourselves to look around for  drier ground.  In later marshes we would splash directly through with bogged determination.  Sight down to the stream junction where control 5 was sunbathing on the rocks just down there - but separated by a fence.  It is Wicked and a Sin, we had been told, to cross a fence or wall.  We were novices, and obediently walked the half kilometer along the fence to a gate and half a kilometer back.  It became apparent that others didn't.

Six hundred paces to the kilometre, keep counting, there's the control, hiding in a corner.   Contour round to control 7, sounds easy, yes?  Tell my feet that.  Two and a bit kilometres with feet struggling to keep their grip at an ankle wrenching angle, feet sliding in their shoes, scrunched toes screaming.  On to Stanton Pike.  I should be glad of a bit of straightforward ascent after all the sidewise sidling, yes? No.  And fence issues.  There were no gates.  I christened  a convenient stone a stile and hopped over.  

And down, through a maze of rock fields, and then fence issues.  Gently despairing of getting across, we asked a runner running up from halfway camp (clearly had not enough to do to keep him busy) how to handle the fence problem.  "Oh, just climb over."  Ah.  Well, now we know.  It turns out that the Bad Things only happen if you climb walls, and then Really Bad things only happen when you climb walls which are explicitly Verboten (marked in red on the map).  Last control, and in to a thriving tent city with all mod cons; a water hole, a washing hole, portaloos sufficient to the 500 or so in overnight residence.  Tea, in a bright blue mug this time, with milk!

Cramps, cramps and more cramps.  Placating rebelling muscles is as challenging as pacifying a bawling infant.  Hydration problems? Waaa! No.  Glucose? Waaaa! No, or not in and of itself.  Madopar - ah, yes, or perhaps the combination of all three.  Chicken Korma in minutes courtesy of the minute cooker that could, a device weighing nothing and which I can enclose in my hand, which boils water for two while we are putting down a foundation layer of flapjack.  Second course chocolate ReGo followed by a savoury course of supernoodles.  Well tired, well fed, nothing else so well makes a comfy mattress of a lumpy field.  Two contented team mates needed no rocking to sleep that night.

Day 2, and a sense of disquiet and unease.  With an earliest possible start time of 8:05, and course closed time of 16:00, finishing was going to be a challenge, forget about clocking in at all the controls.  The first and third of these were Up, not my favourite direction, and clocking in at the third after a wearying climb, doubts had clouded an otherwise bright morning.  A feeling of utter wastedness, too familiar, too well remember from the dnf'ed LAMM 2012 clouded my spirits.  Well, time would tell.  Either the feeling would pass, or, as last year, it wouldn't.

It passed.  A long level stretch featuring some friendly footing restored spirits and body, control 4 by the fence and wall found and clocked.  A splendid stretch to a control 5, tucked in a sheep fold.  Control 6 was over a featureless fell that would do as a model for eternity.  Happily some with excellent compass skills had laid a trail of flattened herbage that we came to trust; the trails etched on the rising slope by feet proceeding to control  7 confirmed the accuracy of our guides unknown.  Time was with us; two hours to find control 7, one steep downhill and into the event headquarters.

Control 7 was an idyllic trot over close cropped turf, in full sun with a cooling breeze.  Running doesn't get better than this.  Our trail blazers had led us on, down to the col, and then up the little summit which is White Hall Knott.  

The path on top of the Knott sowed the seeds of uncertainty; a narrow knife edge, neither side of which was appealing as a way down felt sinister with even the mild breeze on top.  Oh well, the ridge route down would be less steep, surely, and our friendly guides had beaten the track before us: they were experienced and had justified our trust. Trusting, we followed them and committed ourself to a frightening descent.

Bad call.  By the time we knew it there was no possible retreat. Maybe these mountain goats could do it standing up, but not a coward with two slow planks for legs.  It was, frankly, a bummer.  Many feet had polished the grass into toboggan runs.  Sit down, position yourself carefully. Get going too fast and there would be no stopping until the land levelled 150 metres below.  Seek out catching features - nice friendly patches of scrub gorse.  Inch forward, legs in front, slide, grabbing at gorse bushes (NB the roots don't sting) in passing in an attempt to control the slide, landing in a heap, hopefully at the catching feature. Repeat, and repeat again, six feet or so at a time.  Nice friendly gorse, what wonderful strong roots you have, I forgive you all your prickles.

The bottom, at last, with shaky knees, holes in my Ron Hills through to my knickers, and more thorns in my backside than proverbial fretful porcupine, grateful to be standing up.

A final small stretch of bog to damp down the dust, the final control visited, and home.  Job done.  Overall 16:21:21, age adjusted 15:15:56, last, any way you count it, but happy.  The long ride home provided plenty of time for reflection and analysis in between dozing.  We need to make a list of exactly what we ate and what we carried home, so as not to load ourselves with unnecessary food next time.  We need to analyse where improvements can be made for next time.   Specific training required: cv stuff for me, downhill running for my partner.  Her excellent navigating placed us accurately at every control - not bad for someone who first met navigation at our training weekend a month ago, but there is always more to learn.

Next time is already a mark on the calendar.  Lots can happen between now and then of course.  Improvement for one.  But a Parkinson's disease runner must also know a truth that holds for even the winner of Klets: there is going to be a last.  We pd folk are just more aware of it, and therefore place a value beyond measure on the memories of the present; glorious weather, fantastic trails, splendid and friendly organisation, and most excellent company.  Look on the map and remember.  Look on the map and hope and dream.

No comments:

Post a Comment