The Manx Mountain Marathon 29th Sept

Nearing the top of the first climb
The Manx Mountain Marathon has been on my to do race list for about as long as the Lake District Mountain Trial.  So after finally getting around to doing the LDMT, I looked for another race and thought why not. The race appealed to me as it’s a nice line roughly  going from the North to the South West of the Isle Of Man. Starting in Ramsey and taking a line across the mountains to finish on the cliffs in Port Erin. It is 30 miles and 9,000 feet so it is a tough race. Helping me to commit to doing the race was the day I found a good rate for a foot passenger crossing on the local Heysham Ferry service combined with a 2 night Hotel stay. This was a deal set up with the race organisers, in a vain attempt to encourage more over from mainland UK. It was a small field this year but, a change of date from the April to late September may have, hopefully,  accounted for this, and next year more will make the sea crossing.
The crossing over on the Friday was a little rough and made me feel a touch queasy. I dreaded the return crossing  due to a forecast suggesting good weather if a little windy  for the race, followed by gales on my return day on Sunday. although I needn't have worried. I soon recovered after the rough crossing though and by the evening was o.k. Race day was a 5am start. I forgot to organise a breakfast, and as the Hotel didn’t start serving until 7.30 am  I had to improvise. Therefore my breakfast was a cup of Horlicks and a Cliff energy bar.  Never knew I liked Horlicks! Maybe this drink is eventually discovered with age?  The older you get the more likely you are to have tried it. I digress. anyway... a walk down the promenade followed by a lift from one of the organisers and a chat about the race and its lack of attendance whilst traversing over the mountain road, saw me at the start venue in Ramsey  just as it became light.
After a quick chat with Murphy (met on the FRA forum) we were off down the small Promenade and then the streets then heading in land to the first climb of North Barrule I started off at a steady push and kept this going all the way up the first climb. At the top it was obvious that this was going to be a tough race,  the heavy ground combined with a very strong head wind made forward progress really difficult at times. The ridge was long and connected a nice series of small summits. But now and again the wind even made it difficult to descend steep ground, my glasses nearly blew off my face at one point. The severe wind was still in preference to fog, as I could see the route and the stunning scenery. The lack of a recce opportunity meant that the big challenge of the route for me was navigation. At the start it was a case of follow the leader, but 2 hours into the race it was quite spread out, so it was more difficult to do this. But I was managing to keep, hopefully more initiated runners, in sight.
After about 3 hours of running a speedy Jackie Lee Overtook me and it was obvious she knew the way. I could fairly comfortably keep up with her so decided it would be a good strategy to do so. Whilst on a mildly steep descent across long grass I fell and hurt my shoulder and leg enough to slow me down. I then, on the next climb lost her and after she took some clever lines I reached the summit clip with no idea which way she had gone. This lead to me descending the wrong way, and without a map handy, I faffed about zig zagging across the steep hillside of Carraghan, I think I lost about 10 minutes messing about before finally getting back on track. It was then a quick run through the CP and on up a really awkward climb through the heather strewn hillside of Colden. I got this a bit wrong and ended up being corrected by a runner shouting as he ascended to me. I climbed with him so as not to panic at my errors, I decided it would calm me down, to then pick up the pace again after the ascent.
After a steady climb and a chat with my “guide” I pushed on buoyed by the confidence of seeing a lead train of 4 yellow vested Manx fell runners stretching out over at least a mile ahead. So I pushed on along the undulating ridge overtaking 1 or 2 as I trudged through the muddy trails. The drop down off the ridge was painful as it was a tight trod that weaved through very tall prickly Gorse bushes. After accruing a few leg cuts I followed Mark, who I had now caught up after my errors. We then missed the flagged area through a farm and had to hop a few fences. It was then a flat run along a trail for about 2 miles. I ran through the CP, as I did at most, and ascended start of the next ridge. This was the halfway point and the start of the 2nd leg for the relay runners. I was overtaken by a speedy runner before remembering that they were fresh second leg runners. I then decided to use their  pace to help keep me going strong.
I kept running strong all the way along this boggy ridge, yes they were all boggy, until the route started to feel more like a trail race twisting and turning on tracks then eventually a road section. Here I realised that I was closing in on Simon Halliday and caught him quite quickly. I ran with him chatting and enjoying the scenery as we crested the next hill top to reveal the welcome sight of the coastal cliffs. They looked beautiful in the afternoon sunshine. We ran together for a while before he took off to leave me chasing him up the last two cliff top climbs. We then swung around on off the last top to descend on a nice firm trail, at last, into the finish on a ledge just above Port Erin. The finishing banners were propped against a wall due to the strong onshore wind, so I didn’t even realised that I had finished. I saved a sprint finish but never got to use, never mind I didn’t feel like trying to out sprint Simon anyway, as it never felt like a serious full on race anyway.
I finished in 6 hours 20 minutes and in 12 place. I loved this race, and the whole weekend on the Isle of Man, and will definitely be going back next year.

The scenery and typical heavy ground conditions

Mark Murphy met on the FRA Forum
Me Just past Half-way

9th Sept The Lake District Mountain Trial

This was my first try at the Lake district mountain trial. It is different to any other race I have done as it is a totally undisclosed course  and it is in a time trial format. You set off at intervals then run about 750 meters before picking up a map. It is then a case of navigating your way around the 8 or so checkpoints across the lakes mountains. Th headquarters for the race, and thus the start point, are disclosed about a week prior to the start. This year it was Stair in the newlands valley.

So slightly daunted I stood on the start line ready to  dib and set off. I ran off fairly conservative 800m up the road, picked up the map then headed off for the first CP near High spy. I made reasonable lines and did not make any errors as we traversed from High spy to a point just above Honister pass. Then we made a strange traverse across to the flat boggy top of High Scawdel before having the first big decision to make. Which way to go to get to a point just below High Snab Bank . I decided on a traverse around Dale head then onto Hindscarth edge then drop over Hindscarth into the valley and along to the CP. Then it was an aggressively steep climb up and over the edge and on to skirt around Robinson on a severely off camber traverse. This seemed to go on forever before a climb then a flat crossing of Buttermere moss. It was energy sapping and my next choice after the CP above Buttermere moss proved just as sapping. If only I had taken the steeper but less taxing climb of Knott Rig. As  i descended from Buttermere moss I could see a few runners on the traverse around Knott rig into the Sail beck valley I decided to follow. At first it was a good track but this just petered out and became heavy going through tussocks and heather. Until finally reaching the track that leads to Sail pass, a familiar track to me as it is the Lakeland 100 route.  Even though going over Knot Rig would be a tough climb it was on better ground and required little decent on the far side, I wish I had gone that way as the valley seemed to sap my energy to a level that I didn’t quite recover from. On the tracked climb to Sail Pass I got chatting to a guy that had run the Lakeland 50. As we topped the pass to skirt around Sail, he carried straight on as if on the Lakeland 100 route, in my tired state I thought that he must have been doing the medium course and let him go. I had followed him for a few hundred yards whilst checking the map, to make sure i was right and he was wrong, and decided to cut down the steep grass to start the traverse. Unfortunately I was now too low and made it a tiring contour to the CP. I struggled on the out and back to the CP then trudged up to the CP on the small knoll AKA Stile End. I thought that the next CP was on top of Causey Pike, so I was glad to find on closer inspection of the map, it was actually about 400 feet below the summit. Cramp was starting to tighten my legs up as I descended then ascended to the next CP on the side  Causey Pike. I had to stop a few times to stretch the cramp out of my legs. Eventually after dibbing I made my way down the last descent. I was slightly rejuvenated, to know all the hard effort was done, so made good progress off Causey Pike. But my decision to put the map away bit me, as I missed the last CP just above the road. I descended to the road and had to run along it and was warned by marshals (thanks) to. re-ascend about 6o feet; which felt like 600 feet; up to the CP. then it really was all downhill to the finish. I was pleased to finish my first time trial style race.

I finished in the top half of the field, just, and it took me 4 hours 48 mins.  But I enjoyed it and will be back for another go. Hopefully next time I won't get the cramp which probably cost me about 20 minutes or more.