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The Connoisseurs Mountain Marathon

LAMM 2003 - Planner's Comments
Andy Creber

I trust you all enjoyed the physical and technical challenge of the courses in that strange, masochistic, Mountain Marathon sort of way. What ever its attraction, the LAMM draws competitors back year after year. This is due to Martin and his team of helpers who work tirelessly to ensure its success. My thanks to them.

The Planner has two major concerns during the course of a competition weekend: Vandalism/misplacement of controls and whether or not the courses are too long/short. I personally have a third: Will it be misty, hopefully. Why this latter concern? I tend to plan it as a long navigational race rather than a tough fell race. Therefore low clagg enhances the need for good navigational skills developed to a high level, if you are to be successful on the weekend. It is rather pleasant to have the sun out at the campsite though!

Well, there was no vandalism, misplacement of controls or mist! However, there was the reversal of control codes 103 (knoll, by lochan) and 124 (dry lochan) This caused the better teams a delay of perhaps ten seconds (long enough to curse the planner/controller) and perhaps fifteen minutes to the middle order and tail enders. The control sites were quite unique and easily identifiable. If you are confident that you are at the feature, stick your 'dibber' in! Incidentally, I heard it said that someone did not punch one of these controls because they feared disqualification, although there was no evidence for this. The beauty of SportIdent is that you can 'dib' every control you visit, just as long as you visit the correct ones for your course in order. The software also allowed our 'Guru' to change the controls around so that on the splits, they were correct. Nevertheless, our checking system should have picked up the discrepancy. It did not, and so my apologies for this.

Courses were planned to give potential winning times of 12, 11, and 10 hours for E, A and B respectively. It is much more difficult with C and D because there is a real uncertainty as to the ability of those who enter. However, somewhere around 9hours for the C and 8 hours for the D was intended. When assessing whether these goals have been achieved one has to look at the total of the best split times for each leg in any one class. The breakdown is: E 12-09 A 10-54 B 9-39 C 8-28 D 6-35 This can be deceptive because, as on Elite Day 1, a team can go off like a bat out of hell producing a very quick set of early splits which are unrealistic as a representation of what could be maintained. Saying that, these all appear pretty good except for the D, where some individuals were rather quick! I am inclined to think that Elite day 2 was a bit long. Bear in mind that times on day one would have been quicker if it had been cooler, but slower in the event of bad weather. We did enquire about using the chairlift but it was not forthcoming nor viable really, just for 100m or so of gain. (Incidentally, during feedback, a suggestion was made that we sent the Elite competitors up in the chair lift only for them to find that their first control was back down across the valley and up a hill opposite! What a superbly evil idea Mr. Keith, I shall remember that one!)

Novice course - What determines a novice? I have assumed that it is a team who are unfit, are new to competition and/or lightweight travel in the mountains. I feel quite strongly that Mountain Marathons are not the place to learn basic navigation skills and so presume people are reasonably competent. I heard nothing amiss and so hope you all went where you intended and had good, if long, days out. That suspension bridge was certainly worth a visit. The distance of the overnight camp from the event centre ensured that a direct route was the only real option but this did not preclude the use of a number of interesting control sites. You also had two legs with good route choice. D course, although perhaps short, also had two good route choice legs on day one.

B,C and Novice course - E and A competitors should get their maps out at this stage and see if they can honestly say they would not have made the same mistake ! I trust not. The first control on B,C and Novice courses was a 'New Plantation corner' at 083722 (Their start was at 088723 approx) I took a degree of sadistic pleasure in seeing the thought processes at work. 'New Plantation' = Trees. Everyone obviously looked up, scanned the near horizon and saw the only trees in sight at 087717. Not only are these trees nearly 80 degrees in the wrong direction, but it is plain to see that they are mature, 35ft high specimens! A careful study of the map will also show that the new plantation will be hidden behind a vague, but discernible ridge/spur, running roughly SSE. I only saw about ten out of some 350 teams, go in the right direction. Due to planning constraints, I had very few options to get you past the Tulaichean massif, other than up it! The control sites were fair, but not really satisfying. . . . . . except that plantation.

Day 2 A, B, C, and D - You just knew you had to go up, didn't you ! Unfortunately visibility appeared good on the way to your prospective first controls. I had hoped however, that as you all piled over the col , there would be some degree of pandemonium at least, with teams going too quickly down the slope with no real plan of action and therefore finding the wrong control. There were actually four carefully selected control sites all within about 350m of each other.

There is a general opinion, with which I tend to agree, that the B course has the highest concentration of mountain-happy, gnarly old goats who can travel at both a reasonable speed in the hills, and in the right direction. However, an incident was relayed to me via Angela the Controller, certainly not a gnarly old goat herself, but certainly quicker than almost all the competitors. It appears that a team in either B or C appeared at the top of the slope to the South of the knoll, 103 (124!) at Lochan Uaine (047796), took one look and decided a descent of this slope was not for them. They then descended the Munro and contoured in from the side. Hmmm!

So, what of that exhausted feeling competitors had at the end of day 1 ? I saw many teams finish and most looked very tired or worse. I also saw three of the first four Elite teams finish. They looked completely trashed, several not moving from the finish control for twenty minutes. Rest assured they suffer at least as much as the rest of us, if not more.

Campsite - This is about as good as it gets really. I've camped in some real grot in the past on MM's. It was good to see competitors making use of the deep water for a swim. I can't help thinking my cup of tea was a little darker by the end of the evening. I attempted to make myself readily available to answer any queries or for general discussion. I am grateful to the competitor who went away convinced that he'd visited a control, only to return later and report that he was mistaken. Thank you.

I hope those of you who entered this year for the first time, whether or not you completed your course, will return next year. You are now part of a rather strange family, some of whom you will see every year, at the LAMM and elsewhere. I hope you took the opportunity to talk to others, learn about kit, training, eating etc or just had a good natter. The LAMM can be very social. Just a word of warning. The Elite competitors are Elite, not elitist, and like to chat on occasion too. You need to chose you moment however. Generally they will be sleeping for some time before doing much apart from eating. Unless you want to be shown a novel use for a compass, best wait for them to emerge! Squatting by them in the latrine is probably not a good time.

I have several memories which spring to mind: The number of competitors carrying antlers, large and small, over the finish line on day two. There were at least two complete skulls, jawbones and assorted ivory littering the outside of the Marquee. I am sure Customs and Exercise (!) will be paying Martin a visit shortly.

My most pleasing memory is of the loud, spontaneous applause when the later Elite competitors finished, running through the campsite on day one. That surely mirrors the true spirit of the LAMM and of hard competition in the hills. Next year, I shall be suffering with the best of you (well, perhaps not the very best). Until then, I look forward to locking horns with some of you in the A (Bowfell) class in the Saunders shortly.

Route planning above Loch Duich

The clouds over mid camp

Racing together - the spirit of the event