Saturday, 3 October 2009

Mourne Mountain Marathon - ideas to take away

There is quite a lot to take from the weekend; some things are specific to mountain racing, some are personal observations, while others could be applied to hiking in general. I truly believe anyone out there interested in getting their pack size/weight down should come along to a race and see how little some mountain racers carry, eye opening it is.

Either way here’s some tips for anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure to experience a mountain marathon.

As far as myself and Alan are concerned, a bit more running and a little less alcohol in the week before the competition would probably have been quite a good idea. You won't be able to win the event on your fitness alone, however it will certainly mean you can enjoy it more and take less regrets home with you.

Getting onto the hills with each other and seeing how fast you can actually go without being useless the next day would certainly have been worthy. Looking back at Saturday’s performance we both recognised that we could have pushed ourselves further and covered the ground with far greater speed. Six hours for Saturday's 20 Km is rather pedestrian to say the least, whereas on Sunday our progress was far closer to the lead until Alan cramped up. Doing a practice run will also give you the chance to see if you’re partner has actually been out training or just sitting around eating chips!

Being able to find the control points is obviously quite important, but the route you take is nearly as, if not more important. Route choice will either make or break your times; deciding whether or not contouring is the best course of action or just going over the peak all has to be taken into consideration. Is it better to run longer on an easy surface/incline, or shorter on a harder/steeper surface (Long easy Vs. Short hard)?

Take it in turns to run in front of each other, this may sound trivial but it will help spur each other on, especially if you're having a low point. Talking of which, keep the sugar/food/water intake up throughout the race not just when you feel you need it, this will help delay any crashes until the end of the race ("by the time you feel hungry/thirsty it’s too late").

Check the weather forecast! If the weather looks like its going to be terrible, re think your kit choices (maybe add a fleece) and dry bag/waterproof anything essential (sleeping bag, warm kit.) Likewise if it’s going to blue skies all the way, you might be able to leave some things behind.

Make sure you both know how to put the tent up and that there is enough room in it for you to have a certain amount of comfort. Check you have all of it with you; getting to the campsite and realising you have left the pole or pegs behind might lead to teddy bears being thrown about.

Actually run in the shoes you are going to be racing in; finding out they are going to give you blisters/aching feet 2 miles into 20 mile race is not going to lead to an enjoyable time. Grippy shoes like inov-8s or Walsh’s are a good call to help stop you from sliding about the place.

Trekking poles, are either a God-send or an inconvenience for people, but I’m a total convert to them and would advise anyone that has the coordination to use them while running to take them and save your knees a bit of a battering. On the long climbs they were worth their wait in gold!

If you want to carry the smallest/lightest sleeping bag while still being warm and don’t want to shell out a ton of money, use a cheap 1 season synthetic bag and add a foil survival bag (which you are going to have to carry as per the rules) to the outside of it.

Bring a spare pair of socks and plastic bags with you. Let your feet air, and if you have to move about the campsite, wrap the bags around your dry socks; this will let you keep dry feet and socks while walking around a possible quagmire of a campsite.

Everyone has there preferences when it comes to carrying water, but I don't see the point in carrying any more than 500 mils as you can usually fill it from streams/rivers while out running. Carrying an empty bladder for the campsite is definitely worth the >50gram weight penalty. However, not bringing one led to some entertainment and acts of ingenuity. I'll let you decide where placing a carrier bag inside another to move water about falls under.

Eat like a king, going lightweight is one thing, but not taking enough food with you is plain stupid in my eyes, take something you've had before and know you will actually enjoy. If you can't cover the ground as quickly as before because there’s an extra pack of sausages in your pack, something is wrong. We all had 2 dinners on the Saturday night, and I know I would have suffered on Sunday without them.

Jelly babies/midget gems/your favourite sugar based delicacy should be kept handy and ate throughout the race to keep sugar/energy levels up. A couple of sachets of rehydration salts, will make it into the kit list next year to keep the chance of cramps at bay, they really did not look like fun!

Remember not to leave your sense of humour in the car, you are there to enjoy it!

If you race hard and aren’t used to it, you will most likely be in bits for the next day or two. Everyone I know that took part was looking for a wheelchair and a stair lift for the couple days after.

That’s about all I can think of right now, if I think of anything else I’ll throw it up.

Both myself and Alan, as well as everyone else I know that competed thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, and hopefully he is stupid enough to compete with me again next year.

Read the full report on the Mourne Mountain Marathon

3 comment(s) so far, add your thoughts -->>here<<--:

Hendrik M said...

Good summing up of your experiences (nice photos as well!). Having not done something similar myself, I still going to comment on two points:

Eat well, treat your body well and keep it energized.

Sleep well and warm. If you're cold and not sleeping well, you won't be able to perform well the next day.

As I said before, I think you two did excellent. I would be curious to try this out sometime in the future, maybe the OMM or some Rab/ Inov-8 race in Scotland?!

sbrt said...


Have you tried the Saunders Lakeland M.M. ?

They sell beer at the overnight camp.

Very civilised.


Keith said...

Beer at the overnight campsite? That sounds brilliant! Liquid dinner all the way!!!

Might have to check that out,
Cheers Steve!