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The Connoisseurs Mountain Marathon

Controllers' Comments

What do controllers do at a mountain marathon? Well it’s rather like at conventional orienteering events – making sure that controls are in the right place, with the right code on them, that the features that are used are fair and that the map can be used with confidence in navigating to them. We don’t have lots of rules to guide or tyrannise us but we have to make sure that the event lives up to what the organiser said on the packet. For instance the D course has to be designed for people who are new to mountain marathons but not new to the mountains and the Elite is what it says.

Martin has received quite a bit of feedback. Competitors seemed to enjoy the weekend and some had thought provoking ideas for improvements. Hopefully the following will answer some of the points but we will take all comments into consideration and mull them over in the coming months. Martin may well take some of them up as he is always looking for ways to make the event better for competitors.

In such a vast area it is impossible for the planner to visit all of the control sites and then the controller visit them when the courses have been devised. Control tagging is shared between the planner and controllers. In early May four of us teamed up to do this - planner Andy Spenceley and several times LAMM planner Angela Mudge and a couple of dogs (plus DC and BJ) stayed at with Tuggy Delap’s house at Achadunan and enjoyed her generous hospitality and Fyne Ales. We visited all the sites, dodgy sites ones were rejected or visited again for a second opinion, descriptions sharpened up and grid references double checked. All this time Andy’s courses were still evolving.

This year saw the new feature of pre-marked control circles on the maps and this presented us with some new challenges. Because of the time of year for the LAMM we need to plan and control the courses in quite a short time period. It is generally not practicable to get out into the area in the winter and properly assess the terrain; this was particularly true this year with prolonged snow cover. Having the controls premarked means we cannot move or add control sites at the last minute, which gave less flexibility for last minute tweaks.

We know that the laminated maps were a bit difficult to mark; the lamination was glossier than usual due to last minute production difficulties. Perhaps can make sure that chinagraph pencils or similar are available for sale as these are much better than felt-tips. Another tip is to rub the area around the circle with wet and dry sandpaper and then it takes an indelible pen better.

Comments on the courses are all very fair but given the constraints we think Andy produced very good courses. As he admits Day 2 of the A course was the difficult one and it showed. We do not necessarily agree with Andy’s comment that we should have deleted the final two controls, as this would have meant it was too short. For reasons stated above the ideal of adding a new control site was no longer an option open to us at the time when we agreed it was preferred! The bad weather only emphasised it was too long. Blame the controllers, as we were the ones pushing him to make it longer and higher.

As always the location of the overnight camp is critical in planning courses and will almost inevitably result in some courses being “better” than others. Sometimes it is hard to get the shorter courses back home other than in a straight line. In other cases such as this year we could not take the A east from the overnight camp as to get to interesting terrain would have been too far, whereas this direction worked well for elite.

The Score class is a new departure for the LAMM and is still finding its feet. It has to cover a wide range of abilities and aspirations. This year’s made sure that it offered more than enough challenges for the top end of the field, but perhaps there was not enough choice for the middle of the field. On Day 2 nobody was tempted to head out towards Ben Lui. In answer to some feedback on the Score we will try to make it clear in future event details that there will be no new map provided for Day 2 and also that the final control on each day will be compulsory. We do not think that the compulsory control caused any problems in practice, as we did not disqualify anyone for missing it (this would not have affected leading results). The only reason for making it compulsory is to ensure everyone approaches the finish from the same direction.

There have also been comments about whether control circles should be numbered and the time taken to plot the map references. We took the decision not to show control numbers as this could make the navigation easier if competitors always knew where they were at any control not on their course. The fact that the circles are all on the map should make it very quick and easy to plot your relevant controls. Even with the Score course with 26 controls it should not take long to plot them all (DC just tried it and it took less than 4 minutes even without a partner to shout out the map references – anyone for the challenge?. BJ recalls it usually took a minimum of about 10 minutes to mark one map and get going on the KIMM score) If it takes you a huge amount of time then this is definitely something worth practising at home.

Perhaps planning the Score and competing in it is a bit of a black art. However, ideas about making it easier to mark up maps (chinagraphs, logical numbering system across map, waterproof paper?), resetting negative points on day 1 to zero, another Score class (longer, shorter?) all deserve consideration.

Sunday turned out to be a long day with a couple of incidents, which are reported elsewhere on the website. If you have not read the reports then it’s well worth doing so. Rob and Martin’s accident was superbly handled by the Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team and the associated emergency services. Rob demonstrated the initiative and self reliance that all mountain marathoners have to use before all the event organisation’s safety monitoring procedures and mountain rescue services get involved.

There were two teams not back by the course closing time of 5pm on Sunday and one of these incidents is described in a link from the website. We will try and emphasize in future that if you think you will not make it round the course to finish by the closing time that you retire early enough to get back by that time (or in extremis to somewhere safe and with communications).

We like the debate about whether control sites and navigation are too easy, especially from the start where a very visible line of teams forms. As orienteers we are very conscious that not all competitors revel in the same skills of micro navigation. Something that is easy one day can become foggily fiendish the following day. The other thing which has attracted a lot of very divided opinion is the change to pre-marked control circles, which some consider a big plus and others a big minus! It just shows we cannot please everybody. We will look carefully at these two issues for the future.

On the non-competition side of things maybe we will delay the timing of the piper on Day 1 as we appreciate many of you arrive late and would like a bit more of a lie-in.

Like everyone who helps on the LAMM we put a lot of hours in but had a great time from the control tagging week, through the finalisation of the courses to putting out the controls and the weekend itself. The enthusiasm of competitors is very motivating.

We look forward to seeing you all next year, whether you found it difficult or not this year!

Dave Coustick
Brian Jackson


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