When I agreed to pair up with Bob on the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon it was late December and it seemed a long time away. Those six months flew by and before I knew it we were making final plans and preparations for the trip.
Katie and Bob were experienced Mountain Marathoners but Sam and myself were total novices and the delights of dehydrated foods, blisters and slit trenches were unknown to us. (In case anyone is eating whilst reading this I won’t go into graphic details on slit trenches but it was one of those experiences you only want once !
The LAMM is a test of endurance, stamina, teamwork, self sufficiency and navigation and this year was slightly different as the location was made known in advance due to the logistics of getting 700 runners across to the Isle of Harris. It also took place on Friday / Saturday to respect Sunday observance which still exits across the Hebrides.
So it was that on a sunny afternoon the Deeside Divas and the Deeside Duo set off from a sunny Deeside to arrive later that evening in an equally sunny Harris. The ferry crossing passed with conversations about which team would finish first and how much Harris gin it would cost the losers … or was it the winners, I never did figure out who was paying.
We quickly registered, checked kit again and were off to bed ready for the early start, myself and Bob under canvas with Katie and Sam enjoying the comforts of the VW.
The campsite was up early to the sound of the pipes giving time for porridge, coffee, more porridge, another check of kit and then a bit more porridge !
Before we knew it we were on the bus and off to the start –both Deeside pairs were doing the B Class category which only added to the rivalry which became apparent when we got off the bus. Bob and myself took a time to enjoy the views and look at the route checkpoints, whilst the Divas were away, gone, showing us a clean pair of heels.
It is fair to say that Harris is stunning and we were blessed with great weather so it was a great feeling setting off on what we knew would be a tough day. Unusually, there had been little rain on the island for a while so it was very dry underfoot, which helped in a lot of ways but I am sure contributed to blisters and foot problems by the end.
Have I really run all that way !
As we approached the end of day one we had made contact with the Divas but with a steep downhill section to the finish they left us ( me in particular) so by the time Bob and I finished a particularly spritely Katie had done a three lap cool down of the campsite, had a swim and a wash and looked ready for day 2.Sam on the other hand was in semi meditative state in what I thought was a yoga pose, a bit like a snow angel but without the snow. She maintained this pose for a good few hours only responding in words of one syllable or less. She only regained a fully conscious state when fed the dehydrated Chocolate Chip Pudding which was a real hit ( I’ve ordered more for the shop Sam )
I made the fatal mistake of sitting down, fatal because I then couldn’t get back up and was periodically Immobilised by muscle cramps and spasms. The 100 metre walk to the beach took me an age and my only thoughts were “How do I do that again tomorrow !”
The evening was spent performing minor surgical procedures on blistered feet, infection control consisted of a safety pin being held in the flame of a gas stove and the final competitive act of the day was who could fit most compeed on their foot.
Day two dawned and again the sound of the pipes told us it was time to get up. To my absolute and utter surprise I could walk unaided so with breakfast eaten it was time to start. Despite everything we had both made the chasing start but the Divas were a few minutes in front of us.
The day went well, we hit check points and had some interesting competition with teams around us and about 5k to go we caught up with the Divas, the competition was alive and well and truly on. At this point I made a bad tactical error. Katie complained of sore feet so I offered a couple of Ibuprofen. She took them and a couple of shot bloks and when they kicked in the Divas were away never to be seen again. It was at this point Bob and I hit the wall, or more graphically more of a near vertical climb up the hillside. As the Divas skipped their way up we sat down, frequently, only making the top after much effort and sweat.
From there it was downhill to the finish and we even managed a limping jog to the finish line. Katie
and Sam were busy sunbathing and were quick to remind us they were first finishers – credit where credit is due they were awesomely strong on those final few kilomtetres.
And so we had done it – completed the LAMM. The Divas finished 15th ( Day 1 6hrs 36 mins / Day 2 7hrs 34 mins with an overall time of 14 hr 10 mins).
The Deeside Duo finished 22nd ( Day 1 6 hrs 43 mins / Day 2 8 hrs with an overall total time of 14 hrs 43 mins)
On day one we covered 28 k with a height gain of 1600 mtrs and day 2 was 30 k with a height gain of 2000 mtrs.
After the prize giving ( which I had to give a miss due to the smell of food from the café making me feel decidedly sick ) we headed off to find a nice cool river in which to was ease aching muscles – anyone watching would have wondered what healing powers were in the water as four apparently incapacitated individuals tried to get in and out of the water.
There then followed a pleasant evening in Tarbet, a couple of beers, a big portion of fish and chips and some great conversation reminiscing on two days on Harris. One of the things that struck me was the friendly, social feeling on the LAMM – chatting to people you knew, chatting to some you vaguely knew and chatting to some who you’d never met before. Like minded people sharing experiences and conversations on a pleasant Hebridean evening.
Would I do it again ? Well Sam and I have an agreement that if either of us utter a sentence containing the words “ Enter Mountain Marathon” there is a permission to hold them and beat some sense into them !
A hobble on Luskentyre beach on Sunday morning before we caught the ferry back was interspersed with eating plenty to make up some of the calories lost. It was a good excuse to eat anything for the rest of the week.
There was a fifth Deesider there as well – Jenny Glass ran with an Edinburgh University colleague and looked glad to have finished but as always, did it with a big smile on her face – well done Jenny. And in the friendly nature of the event it was good to see a good representation from Cosmics including Ian Hamilton who often trains along with us.
It only remains for me to thank my three Deeside colleagues for playing their part in a great weekend, especially Bob for his navigation and support at times when I was struggling. The Divas were worthy winners of our informal competition, well deserved congratulations from me ladies.
The most important part of the day – rehydrating time