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The Connoisseurs Mountain Marathon

Controller's Report - Ken Daly

I never really volunteered to be the LAMM Controller however; I did express a vague interest. A few weeks later I started to bump in to people who were asking me, “where is the LAMM” and I became very suspicious. Unknown to me, my appointment had been confirmed on the LAMM Web site. If I ever catch Miss Mudge there will be trouble.

As a competitor, one of the beauties of the LAMM is the surprise element of not knowing the venue until the day before you travel. I believe this adds to the sense of adventure and excitement. I can also confirm that this sense of excitement applies to the Planner and Controller when it is necessary to revert to the reserve venue with only three and a half months to go.

Our time frame was tighter than normal due to difficulties experienced securing permissions for the first choice area. Eventually we all agreed to revert to the reserve area and I am sure you will agree that it was as good as they come.

The hills above Glen Carron are BIG, remote, wild, beautiful and therefore made for a truly splendid adventure. I hope you all agree and enjoyed the weekend. I certainly enjoyed checking the control sites.

I must confess that a tight-time frame is necessary to help ensure that the location of the event does not become common knowledge through leakage over a long lead in period. A disadvantage is that it also reduces the time available for planning, controlling and identification of desired map corrections. Our three and a half months was just enough although, we would have preferred more time for correcting the map.

Our worries escalated when Angela and I both acquired knee injuries before we had even stepped foot on the terrain. Fortunately we were able to make some use of our first week at Glen Carron by undertaking short trips in to the area in order to identify and eliminate sections that were unusable due to deer fences, deer calving areas, uncrossable rivers, etc. If you thought the river crossings that you made were bad, you should see the River Ling.

This early visit also helped us to agree the location of the B to Novice course start and a reserve elite and A course start. The actual elite and A course start was confirmed by Martin, once he had donned his anorak and watched the trains. I think he also had a notebook with him for writing down the numbers.

After the first one week site visit Angela knuckled down to many hours of armchair planning and after several more trips to the area, the courses were finalised. The quality of course planning normally reflects the time and thought applied. I know that Angela dedicated a huge amount of time and effort and I think the results were excellent. I hope you agree.

Useful barometers of quality planning are that each leg of the course should have a purpose and that the course as a whole should provide a variety of challenges. For some legs, the purpose may be to turn the competitors or steer them past an “out of bounds” area. Most of the other legs should test route choice, fine navigation, the ability to traverse different types of terrain, etc. I thought that Angela succeeded in achieving these objectives and that the resultant course legs were interesting, varied, taxing and challenging.

Most of the short legs that Angela planned required careful navigation and subtle route choice decisions. Most of the longer legs provided fabulous route choices that demanded consideration of the type of terrain, distance and height climb involved. You would also have been wise to consider the effect the weather would have if you chose a high route or steep ground.

I believe some of the best long route choice legs were those that crossed Carn Gorm (B, C & D), Maoile Lunndaidh (E, A, B & C), Beinn Tharsuinn/ Bidein a Choire Cheasgaich (E, A & B) and Creag Dhubh Mhor/ Carn Geuradainn (E, A, B, C & D). I recommend that you look at a few of these legs on the planner’s/competitor’s maps displayed on the other web pages and ponder at the options.

On day two, all of the courses visited controls somewhere along the Creag a Chaorinn to Creag Dhubh Mhor ridge. This broad ridge was festooned with Lochans, small hills and re-entrants. It offered a wonderful navigational challenge. It also offered fabulous views over Loch Carron. If you missed them, perhaps due to the weather, I recommend that you return to the area.

Unfortunately the ridge also contained a number of unmapped features and others that were mapped but did not exist on the ground. Angela and I tried to ensure that the courses avoided most of these problems and hope you were not overly confused by any you passed.

My first foray on to this ridge was on a cold, wet, ‘pea souper’ of a day. If anyone found it easy, could they kindly let me know where I was?

Unfortunately the bad weather returned on day one of the race. This turn for the worse caught out a lot of people. I can confess to being worried when the weather deteriorated that Saturday however, one of the most pleasing aspect of the event for me, was realising that so many of you had the courage to make the right decision for you and retire. It is a difficult decision for a team to make, but an important one. We hear so much in the media, about hill walkers getting caught out by bad weather and not knowing when to turn back. You came up trumps. Well done.

I also tried to ensure that the courses were the correct distance, climb and target winning time. Due to the amount of climb on day one of the elite course, we shortened it however, in retrospect that extra distance should have stood, because the winning time was approximately one hour fast.

The A, B and D courses appeared to be correct however the C was marginally long, perhaps due to the bad weather and a desire to retain the long leg over Maoile Lunndaidh on day one. I hope you enjoyed the challenge despite the extra hour.

Perhaps our biggest concern is how to cater for the novice competitors. We want to attract these people and provide them with an enjoyable day. Indeed we tried to. Unfortunately they appeared to be considerably effected on day one by the bad weather and single large climb up Moruisg. A further problem was that their day two course had to be too long because we could not locate our campsite sufficiently close to the finish. The straight-line distance was approximately three kilometres or one hour too far, but we had no choice in this matter. Hopefully we will be able to learn from these problems and make future novice courses more appropriate.

The feedback at the overnight camp suggested that quite a few teams found control 115 problematic. This control was checked by, both Angela and myself before the race and by a third party afterwards. We all thought it was correct however if it was marginally wrong, or perhaps not well mapped relative to the surrounding features I apologise.

I do not know of any other real problems with the courses but welcome any constructive feedback if I have any serious blind spots.

On the organisational front we were fortunate to have an experienced and dedicated team of helpers. They may have been small in number but they worked tirelessly for your benefit. After a hard week hanging controls, I was somewhat jaded and therefore relieved to see them running the show so smooth and independently. Many of them also went the extra mile, by collecting controls. They were all superb. I offer my thanks to them.

I would also like to publicly thank Dave Coustick who helped hang controls and continued to help all weekend. Dave was invaluable. Thank you Dave.

Finally, I need to thank Martin Stone and Debbie. Martin’s events are always the best and I feel fortunate to have been part of one. I witnessed first hand a little of what they do and it is a lot. Well done and thank you to them both.

I cannot finish without commiserating with the elite team that crossed the finish line first. They were Ifor Powell and John Hunt. Unfortunately they missed a control and would surely still have won had they realised and covered the slightly extra distance required. Their performance was very impressive despite this.

Congratulations to everyone who competed, whether you won a prize, simply finished or retired. I hope you had a great weekend and will return next year.

I can certainly say that it was interesting, enjoyable and rewarding being the Controller. If any of you get the chance to plan or control this wonderful event I thoroughly recommend that you accept. My one tip is that you will have to make a lot of time available.

Route planning above Loch Duich

The clouds over mid camp

Racing together - the spirit of the event