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Mourne Mountain Marathon 2011 – Race Report

Posted by on 19 September, 2011
This post was filed in Mtn Running, Orienteering, Race Reports and has no comments yet

Myself and Karen always look forward to the Mournes. Its one of our favourite races. This year we were entered in the B class and determined to erase any memories of last years DNF. Karen has been training well of late but I haven’t been able to do a whole pile struggling with achiles tendonites since the Rotterdam marathon earlier this year. I still managed to complete the IMRA Nav Challenges which were great preparation for the Mournes.

Preparation
We have a few Mountain Marathons under our belt and we’ve learned alot each time. As always discussions of what gear to wear, what food to eat and how much to carry started weeks in advance. The weather forecast in the days leading up to the weekend indicated that we would experience some showers and temperatures wouldn’t be too cold. The mandatory kit for the event was pretty small so we had no problem packing everything into my 22ltr Inov8 and Karens OMM rucksack. If I get the chance I will do a follow up post on exactly what we carried for the weekend. We travelled light and in “comfort”. Its hard to get the balance right but we were pretty happy. Our bags were packed the night before as we had an early wakeup call Saurday morning.

Day 1
We left Dublin at 6:50 and headed for Attical, this years event HQ. Breakfast was eatin en route in the jeep. No penalty points for driving and eating bacon butties at the same time bombing down the M1 :) We arrived early, registered and said “hello” to a few friendly faces. Our official start time was 9:33. A small trek to the start before we dibbed, collected route cards, marked up our map and were off! Day 1 was made up of 12 controls including 4 controls in a cluster.

CP 1 was straightforward a path track junction up along Pidgeon Rock river.
Cp 2 was located at a quarry. I took a bearing from the wall but we ended up high and left of the quarry. As we dropped down from above we met 4 or 5 teams struggling to locate the control. We had no such problems and were in and out pretty quick.
Cp 3 was a gully along the ridge heading up Slieve Muck. We crossed the road at the car park and I took a bearing right of the gully. Plan was to follow the ridge and pick up the control but we were too far left and missed it. Quick to realise our mistake we headed back along the ridge to pick up the control.
Cp 4 We continued along the ridge and contoured around Slieve Muck crossing the wall before dropping down to cp 4 which was located between 2 streams.
Cp 5 We climbed to the col before crossing the wall and contouring around Carn Mountain. We then headed straight for the stile below Slieve Loughshannagh where cp 5 ws located.
Cp 6 This was the start of the 4 controk cluster. We took a minute to examine our route choices and decided on an anti clockwise loop taking in what trails were available. We were moving fast at this stage and happy with the pace we kept pushing. The recent rain meant the trails were very wet and mucky as we went around Daon and headed for a crag on the south west side of Ben Crom. The climb to the control was steep but it was easy to spot the control.
Cp 7 Up over Ben Crom we headed for the north west corner of the Reservoir were cp 7 was located between two streams at the shore. We picked up water at the gully along the way. Karen almost lost her water bottle over the edge but I managed to catch it. The descent to the shore line was steep and slippy. We took it easy remembering my rollercoaster ride down Spelga last year. The control was easy to get.
Cp 8 As we exited cp7 and climbed toward cp8 I spotted a team fast approaching cp7 at the shore. A little worried I pointed it out to Karen but she reassured me it was an all male pair. Its always hard to tell when they’ve got 3/4 lenghts on :) It turned out to be Jonathan McCloy and Patrick Higgins who were on the Elite course. Patrick was powering up the hill but “McCloy” as his teammate so affectionatly called him was dieing. After a long tough climb we finally reached the control located at a path on the col between Cove and Slieveamagan.
Cp 9 we headed north contouring around Cove and Slieve Beg before a short climb to the Brandy Pad picking up cp 9 at the gully. The lady at the tent asked us for our team number and course. We were then informed “ye are doing well”. We didn’t inquire any further.
Cp 10 We now faced a long leg to cp 10 which was located in the same place as cp 5. It was all on paths and trails. We kept a good pace the whole way pushing hard back to the stile where cp 10 was located. The trails were extemely mucky and it was energy sapping stuff.
Cp 11 From the stile we blazed our way down passed Ott Mountain toward the road picking up cp 11 at the wall along the way.
Cp 12 Crossing the road we climbed a little before contouring around Slievenamuck. We were a little high but dropped down to pick up the control easily. From there it was a short spint downhill to the finish.

Midcamp @ Spelga Dam

We downloaded for day 1 and to our surprise we were 3rd overall on the B course! Our late start of 9:33 meant not many teams started after us. When all teams on the B course finished we found ourselves in 4th place overall and 2nd mixed behind Ciara Largey and Declan McGrelis who were lying 2nd overall behind Barry Tinnely and Peter who had a great first day. We knew we had a good day but didn’t expect to be so far up the field. Navigation wise it was a great day despite small errors on CP2 and CP3 the rest were clean.

As we expected Declan and Ciara were out of sight but we still had loads to fight for. We were 5mins 30secs up on the 5th place team and 29mins behind 3rd. Maintaining our 4th place standing overall was the priority. After some food and the customary banter we hit the sack for a well deserved nights sleep.

Day 2
It rained alot during the night and we were greated the following morning by a heavy mist on the hills… so we packed up our tent, got the bus back to race HQ and went home :) NO CHANCE!

We dibbed, collected route cards, marked up our map and were off again. This time however the mist was down, it was raining and we needed to warm up fast. Day 2 was made up of 13 controls with no cluster.

CP 1 was a long trek to the summit of Rocky Mountain. The cp was just west of the summit. I followed the tree line and continued along the fence before hitting the path. Following the path to the end I then took a bearing for Rocky Mountain. The mist was heavy so I was very careful and deliberate with the nav. If the conditions had been clear i’d have taken a more direct route. As we climbed Rocky Mountain we had to make a brief pitstop to remove our waterproof bottoms. We both decided on wearing shorts for day 2 to save some weight in the bag. After an easy enough climb we hit the control.
CP 2 We dropped down off the summit heading south in the direction of the forrest for cp 2. There were loads of teams around at this point, a mixture of the B class and C classes meant it was difficult to determine how we were doing. I did spot 2 Barry and Peter coming out of cp 2 with Ciara and Declan in hot persuit and I reckoned we were about 5 minutes down at this point. Cp 2 on the edge of the forrest was a no brainer with so many teams around.
CP 3 leaving the forrest edge we hit the path and maintaining a steady pace picked off some teams. Just before leaving the path on a bearing for cp 3 we caught Richard Campbell and Mark Hanna who little did we know had finished 3rd place ahead of us on Day 1. The lads taught we were doing the Elite class and got a bit of a hop when we told them we were B’s :) I reassured them by saying “don’t worry lads you’ve got nearly 30 minutes on us”. We went into cp 3 together in a heavy mist. CP’s 3,4,5 and 6 were all at streams and with hardly any other features to work off good navigation was required.
CP 4 Despite reassuring Richard and Mark they had 30 minutes on us Karen proceeded to hammer her way up between Shanlieve and Eagle Mountain in the direction of cp 4. This was fun! Crossing the wall at the col we took a bearing down to the stream were the control was located on the corner. I aimed off making sure to hit the stream and finding the control was easy.
CP 5 As we exited cp 4 Barry and Peter were just coming in behind us. They had some problems but we were happy to be in such good company :) I decided to drop down a little and come at cp 5 from below which was located between the source of 2 streams. Too high and we would have missed it. We hit the stream and climbed and the found the control easy.
CP 6 Contouring around and maintaining the height we headed in the direction of cp 6 on the corner of a stream north east of Finlieve. Aiming slightly off we hit the stream and found the control on the corner.
CP 7 We joined the path and contoured around Finlieve before dropping the other side to the path where cp 7 was located. We overshot the path and the alimeter indicated we were too low. We climbed back up to the path and proceeded to the end of it but we found no control. I knew it was the right path even though it extended further than suggested on the map. We met a number of Elite teams who had failed to find the control also. After about 20-30 minutes we decided to abandon the search and move on.
CP 8 We dropped off the path and took a direct line to cp 8 located on a small island between 2 streams. The mist was now gone and it was easy to spot the orienteering flag from distance.
CP 9 We climbed out of cp 8 and joined the Cross Water before reaching cp 9 which was now manned. Both CP 7 and CP 9 had been lifted during the night :(
Cp 10 contouring around before joining Red Moss River we had a short climb to cp 10.
Cp’s 11,12,13 We were now on the home stretch and it was all downhill. The controls were all straightforward and it was alot more about speed now. We descended Slievebug as fast as we could and joined the Sandy Brae for the sprint home. Dibbing at the finish we were shattered but delighted with our days work.

Result
Conditions were very different to what we experienced on day 1. Navigation took priority over speed. The mist didn’t clear until well into the day and there were hardly any paths. Most of the tricky controls were at stream junctions, stream sources and stream bends (cps 3-6). The tricky navigation leveled the playing field and we were able to keep up with some of the faster teams which was great. The legs were ok after Day 1 but the rough open mountain terrain took its toll on Day 2. We were the 2nd team to finish on day 2 but when the time for the missing CP7 was discounted we finished 5th on the day 19 mins behind Ciara and Declan who were winners of Day 2. We were happy considering we hadn’t seen either of them all day! That meant that we maintained our 4th place standing overall in the B class and we were 2nd mixed team. Ciara and Declan’s amazing day 2 performance meant that they were now the overall winners of the B class ahead of Barry and Peter. Mark and Richard were 3rd. We’d raced hard all day against these guys and the lads even commented at the end that Karen seemed hell bent breaking them on Shanlieve :)

With Ciara and Declan awarded with first place overall in the B class we were awarded the prize for the mixed category. Well done to Ciara and Declan, Barry and Peter, Mark and Richard. It was great fun out there. Looking forward to next year!

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