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HSX Antarctica at The OMM

Over the weekend Ollie and Chris took part in The Original Mountain Marathon (The OMM) a 2-day mountain event, combining endurance, navigation and mountain survival skills:

This year’s event was held in the Tweedmuir Hills in the Scottish Borders, and began with a torrential downpour, ensuring we were soaked from the start. To ensure that no team has an unfair advantage over fellow competitors, route maps are handed out on the start line, with each team being given a minute to plan their route to the first checkpoint. Competing in the C-Class this year, we had to visit a mix of compulsory checkpoints, before being given free rein to choose a series of optional points to really test our route planning skills. For much of Saturday the terrain under foot was terrible, consisting of shin deep heather, peat hags and ankle deep bogs; none of which are conducive with running!

After covering around 34km, and with darkness rapidly descending, we still had two checkpoints to find. We certainly hadn’t intended to be out for this long, but were happy to find them relatively easily before sprinting into the overnight camp. We were surprised at the number of head torches still out on the hills after-dark and thought that maybe we hadn’t done so bad after all! Having spent well over 10 hours out in the hills, we found ourselves sitting 39th out of 44 finishers; it was a good morale boost to know that 31 teams had already retired. At the overnight camp we soon discovered why two men really shouldn’t share a one-man tent (especially when one of them is over 6ft5!), however, enjoyed being warm and dry and sharing a ‘wee dram’ before bed.

OMM 2

06:00 seemed to roll around far too quickly, even with the extra hour gained from the clock change, and we were woken up in traditional OMM style – with a rendition of “Scotland the Brave” on the bagpipes! Having secured an early start time we were packed up and on the start line by 07:44. Mercifully, day 2 had been slightly shortened by the race organisers; in recognition that day 1 was much longer than it should have been due to land access issues. Starting with stiff legs, the organisers naturally eased us into the course by placing the first checkpoint of the day 250m uphill! We soon warmed up and found ourselves traipsing over an all too familiar mix of heather, peat and bog; just what our battered legs wanted! But before we knew it, we were visiting the penultimate checkpoint, meeting the first proper track of the weekend (thank God for engineering!) and were finally able to move quicker than a slow trudge! On our decent from Glenheurie Rig, we passed Chris Laws and Richard Batstone, who were also representing Team HSX, and successfully crossed the finish line at a jog after a 7 hour day.

One of the key points we took away from the weekend was the importance of accurate navigation. Rather than worrying about pace, good navigation can allow much more time and ground to be made up. For us, this meant we managed to find all of the checkpoints straightaway, whilst lots of other teams, having initially overtaken us, spent ages trying to find the markers and losing significant amounts of time (on day 1 we were 20 minutes out from checkpoint three when we passed one team still looking for the marker – a mistake which was likely to cost them around 30-40 minutes!).

Overall we came 35th out of 39 finishers in C-Class, with a further 5 teams dropping out on day 2. We were both particularly proud of this result, considering that half the field retired. Although enjoyment of the OMM is always retrospective, for now it’s time to rest up and get ready for the Welsh 3,000’s this weekend… No rest for the wicked!

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