Thursday, 17 February 2011

Orienteering with breast Cancer! Some early articles I wrote.

This  article was written several years ago when I not quite completed my last mountain marathon.  I had been in remission for at least 10 years by then.  The event is called the OMM hence the title

A cOMMody of Errors       by Anita Kingdon.

Finding the right partner for the OMM can be as difficult as the thing itself.  David, (husband of long standing and much suffering) vowed never to do it with me again after the last time.  Apparently – and only according to him of course – I did nothing but disagree with every navigational decision he made, dragged my feet and complained about the steepness of the hills, the weight of my bag, and where we should pitch for the night.  None of it true of course.

As neither daughter was available to pair up with either of us – Sarah (oldest daughter) now has a life long OMM partner-cum-fiancée and amazingly traded her parents in for this younger, smarter version.  Youngest daughter was in Australia, doing adventurous things there.  As all previous none family partners, had found other partners, the choice was do it together or not at all.  

So differences set aside, we set about training hard.  Well rather I started training hard as I knew I would be much slower than David and wanted to show him just how fit I could be.  After several 10 mile runs (and some even staggering up hills with a pack full of canned beans) I thought myself ready for the challenge. 

We had booked in at a Travelodge in Carlisle and as both of us had Friday off, we travelled up late morning.  As daughter Sarah and future son-in-law were also doing the event, but travelling up later by train and also staying at the Travelodge, Dave agreed to pick them up from Carlisle station, just before midnight. 

We were all packed and sorted out before getting to sleep at about 1 a.m. setting the alarm for 5.15.

Error number 1:  if you want to do well in the OMM, get an early night.   

The journey to Dunisdeer, a small settlement at the foot of the Lowther Hills, we estimated would take an hour from Carlisle leaving at 6 in the morning.  We left at a quarter past 6 and the journey took one hour 20 minutes.

Error number 2:  over estimate your journey time when travelling down tiny country lanes and likely to be stuck behind tractor traffic. (Clearly there was a tractor convention on the morning of the OMM and all were going to a winter ploughing match at Dunisdeer!!!).

Arriving at the event centre with less than an hour to go before our start time – and knowing there was a half hour walk to the start, we parked and started running, doing up shoes and bags as we went.  Sarah and Tim had lots of time. They were starting half an hour after us.  There were two Portaloos in the car park field and Tim had managed to get to the front of the queue almost before I had done up my shoe laces.  I did think about pulling rank, (especially as I will soon be the Mother-in-Law), suggesting he should go to the back of the queue and I take his place, but he looked fairly desperate and I thought there would be lots more toilets near registration.

Error number 3:  always play the mother-in-law card if it means you get to your start on time.

The route to registration was longer than we thought.  We weren’t too worried.  Sport Ident was being used, so there would be a punching start – wouldn’t there?  Registration was in a farm building.  The farm yard held a small scattering of Portaloos, behind which stood an enormous line of people as far as the eye could see all doing pretend stretching and stepping exercises.  Clearly they had been there for ages and were getting somewhat desperate for a pee.  Knowing this was a 25 minute loo queue, we were keen to get our start times changed.  “Not a hope!” we were told by a dour lady at registration.

Error number 4:  do not have high fibre breakfast and several cups of tea before an OMM. 

I stood in said queue for 25 minutes before finally getting to the front.  By this time we were two minutes into race time.  Maybe we could run really fast to the start (up a great big hill) and only lose 20 minutes or so.  With this in mind I left the loo and started running towards David waiting across the farm yard looking somewhat angry.

Error number 5:  never run towards an angry husband. 

In my haste I slipped in the farm yard slurry (or was it just mud)   and was quickly covered from head to foot in brown gooey liquid.  Husband looked on, whilst kind and sympathetic OMMers came to my rescue, picking me up, brushing me down and wishing me well.  We covered the said half hour route in a mere 35 minutes arriving at the start puffing like a steam train, hot and sweaty, even in the cold dank morning weather.  We were greeted by a cheery start official who looked at my muddy attire and joked “what, no time to wash last year’s kit then?”   I assured him, it was my pre-race ritual – mud rolling – to improve my aerodynamics. 

Starting about 40 minutes late!!!!! we were handed the Lowther Hill map, day one course. Twenty-five controls were scattered over the map, many of them a long way from the start.  I suggested that perhaps we should not be too adventurous in our route choice, as we were starting so late.  David felt we should pretend we had started on time to see how many controls we would have visited in 6 hours anyway.  I begged to disagree, but felt I should save our first argument till out of earshot of officials.  

Error number 6:  always disagree with partner, if agreeing means you will come last! 

We chose a straight forward first control which involved an uphill path run above a stream valley, then dropping down to the stream to follow it to a bend just before its source.  The terrain was tussocky and boggy in parts so none too good for week ankles.  We had only just started and already I was feeling the training was paying dividends as I stormed up the hill.  Those that know me well know I have a bit of a hearing problem.  I never wear hearing aids when running as all I hear is my own heavy breathing – definitely a sound not worth listening to – so I completely missed various expletives and agonising cries from husband someway behind me.  When I finally turned around to check that he was keeping up with this super fit me, he was nowhere in sight…… until I looked down the hill.  Dave had fallen several feet downwards as his ankles seem to give way over tussocks. He had gone over on one ankle and carried on going over the hill side for some considerable distance.

Error number 7:   chose a partner with strong ankles. 

This problem was to dog us for the whole event, forcing us both to walk most of the way around the course.    Dave tried breaking into a run again, only to continually fall over (ankles resembling something like the bendy men from a favourite children’s television programme many years ago).   I also started having problems thinking that a blister plaster had worked its way off and was sticking painfully to the sole of my foot.  As time went on, the plaster had seemingly split into little pieces and was causing lots of little stabbing pains on my soles.  Whenever, I thought about undoing shoes and socks, the problem lessened and I could never quite be bothered to stop for a long time in the rain and fog. We soldiered bravely on attempting 8 more controls up hill and down dale.  Our progress and motivation continually hampered by Dave’s bendy ankles and my blister plaster problem.  We finally arrived some eighty two minutes after our allocated 6 hour time period, losing 164 points.  As we had only scored 155 points, we were in negative equity, achieving a grand total of 0 for day 1.   

We put on a brave face and pitched tent in a dryish area of an already rather crowed camping field.  Sarah and Tim were not back yet either – clearly they had a few problems as well.  Dave had used our flimsy very light weight and very tiny tent a year before, but had by now forgotten how to pitch it.

Error number 8:  always pitch your tent in favourable weather conditions at home, before attempting to put it up in force 10 gale situations. 

Finally the tent was pitched with me muttering something about the impossibility of either of us being able to sleep comfortably in a tent with a floor space the size of a gnome’s handkerchief.  Once inside the tent, Dave fell swiftly to sleep leaving me to collect water and make the evening meal. (So what’s new?).  Eventually I decided to take off soggy shoes and socks and investigate the problem of the blister plaster.  As I removed my socks I realised the cause of the stabbing pains 

Error number 9:  never, never wear stick-on fake toe nails to an OMM event. 

In an attempt to create a little glamour to my OMM outfit and to disguise the nasty bald toe nails (runners toenail has always been a bit of a problem with me) I had stuck on and decorated fake toenails from Superdrug – very glam and ideal for summer beach hols.  Not so sensible when they come unstuck and start sticking into the soles of your feet.  As I removed both socks 10 tiny red and perfectly formed fake toe nails came unstuck from the soles of my feet, bringing instant relief.  The blister plaster was still firmly in place!

After a six course meal, all cooked in one pot and somewhat exhausted, we both slept soundly through the night to awaken to tales of woe from other happy campers.  Tents had blown over in the very windy overnight conditions and some poor folk were forced to sleep in the Portaloos, brewing up warm drinks in the safety of the urinals!  Others had walked back to their cars (The overnight camp was not that far from where he had started, some four miles further down the road).  Clearly we could do the sleeping bit of the OMM together without major disasters.

Sarah and Tim had done reasonably well. Despite acquiring a few penalty points, they had covered much more ground than us and so did not have to start day two with nil points.

Our start for day two was some half hour again before Sarah and Tim.  At least this time we started on time – just.  We chose a first control – like many others that was steeply up for miles (well miles may be a slight exaggeration).  Dave continued to struggle, falling over every so often and refusing to pull me along on the bungie we brought but never used!  (A bungie is an elastic cord which you tie to the weaker member of the team, who is pulled along by the fittest of the team.  Although it doesn’t work terribly well, if one member of the team is always falling over.)  Needless to say Sarah and Tim caught us up before we reached the top.

Having bagged the first control and enjoying the sunshine – complete change of weather situation from day 1 which was miserable, windy and foggy – we decided just to do the minimum number of  controls, enjoy the walk and get back early for a Wilf’s lunch before it all ran out.  We in fact arrived back at the finish with almost two hours in hand and having gained only 85 points. 

Error number 10: ensure at least one member of the team has a little motivation left for day 2 to avoid coming last.

So that was the complete Omm experience over and done with for another year.  The results indicated that we were indeed somewhere down the points table, but at least we were not disqualified. As we packed up to leave , looking forward to the ten hour car journey in traffic queues along Britain’s best loved motorways on a sunny Sunday afternoon, we had the joy of knowing that only a tiny percentage of people in our age group are fit enough to spend a week-end on a Scottish mountain side in gale force winds, torrential rain and fog, carrying their tent and provisions on their back to spend a cramped night in a tiny tent, when they could be at home enjoying the extra hour in bed that the winter solstice brings at this time of year.  

Error number 11:  we’ve already started thinking about doing it again next year!                            

No comments:

Post a Comment