OMM 2023 – North Wales – Day 2
I didn’t get any sleep at the OMM camp overnight, but I knew that would be the case and it was no big deal. I was therefore quite happy with Mikes’s idea to see if we could start earlier than planned on Day 2 so as to finish earlier and not have too long a day. Day two was only 4 hours for the short score course anyway, so an 8am start would see us done by midday.
The rain overnight had cleared and the wind had eased too.
We set off promptly at 8am. The first two obvious checkpoints were up the hill somewhat to the west of the small road. Mike wasn’t quite ready for any climbing so early in the day and he rightly pointed out that we’d probably lose time going for them. So we missed these out and took a leisurely stroll along the road down the valley. It felt weird to me walking at a slow pace when in a ‘race’ but we weren’t the only ones missing out on these checkpoints and many others were taking a similarly leisurely approach too.
We passed an amazing example of a Roche Moutonnée just before crossing a bridge over the river. The geologist in me couldn’t help pointing it out and mentioning some of the finer points and distinguishing features of such a geomorphological formation. I don’t think anyone else was interested, not even Mike who I know from university whilst studying for a geology degree. Maybe I’m just too much of a geek, or maybe no one else had the energy to get excited about such things!
Things were warming up a little now and we had a gentle climb ahead of us. Having camped all night and having stood around waiting for the start we still had a few layers on to keep warm so we took these off before crossing the road and starting up an easy track. The gradient was light and I was raring to go but stopped now and then to stay with Mike – the rules do state that you have to stay within close contact and at least line of sight/earshot of them at all times. I’d given Mike my walking pole as well as that helping him out a little.
The first checkpoint of the day for us was just ahead. It was checkpoint AJ(40) and was up a steep incline from the path. I powered up it and waited for Mike at the top where he dibbed the dibber to put 40 points on our scorecard. Some people headed on up the hill from here to get to some other checkpoints. We decided we would contour across the hill and rejoin the path, but I talked Mike into descending straight down to the path and following that instead. The terrain would be easier that way so it would actually be a little quicker. It worked out and we got to the point where we would have joined the path again at the same time as those who had contoured through the bracken and were moving faster than us. We’d maintained time with them rather than losing it which was good.
The next checkpoint on our list was AQ(40) and the plan was to leave the path and head cross-country towards it in a dead straight line regardless of what was in our way. It was going to be relatively flat so shouldn’t be too difficult. This pretty much became my challenge for the day. I’d set my compass directly at the next checkpoint and would see how closely I could follow it to end up where I wanted to be. To be fair it wasn’t too difficult today as the weather was improving all the time, we remained at low elevations and therefore pretty much had a line of sight to where we wanted to be most of the time.
The terrain between us and AQ(40) was one of bog, a couple of small river crossings and then more bog. It was wet but still fairly easy going and our score was soon at 80 points. Not bad as we’d only been going for an hour. Next was checkpoint CG(30), another slog through bog to just behind the base of a small hill that we could see. The actual checkpoint was hidden behind it but we could see where it would be. First, we had a slightly larger river to cross with no option but to wade through. Some people seemed to be up to their thighs whilst wading through it but I managed to pick a spot that was no deeper than calf depth. I did of course get pretty wet feet nonetheless.
The next checkpoint was dibbed at the 2 hour mark. We were halfway through the time for the day and now had 110 points. Once again the next checkpoint was at a similar elevation so there was more bog, another river crossing, yet more bog and finally a slight incline up to BJ(20) and a total of 130 points. The sun was coming out now so it was off with my trousers and into shorts while we decided what to do next.
We had just over 90 minutes left. My idea was to head up over a small hill, down the other side and aim for a final 50-pointer BX(50) before heading back to the finish line. Mike was kind of keen to get back and not so keen on the ‘little hill’ aspect of that plan. But I assured him we could do it even at our steady pace and still get to the finish line with more than half an hour to spare. The first part of it was along an easy path so we’d make good time and the ‘little hill’ really was just that, even if my ‘little hills’ do usually end up being mountains. However, if we headed straight for the finish line from here missing out on the 50-point checkpoint then we’d be there in less than 20 minutes and would be more than an hour early.
Mike agreed and off we went. The little hill was quite steep towards the top but it wasn’t very long. I stopped at the top to wait for Mike and had a chat with a couple of guys doing the Long Course option – they wanted to ask about the shoes I was wearing so we had an in-depth discussion about trail running shoes for a while. With Mike at the top and still in good spirits we continued along in the sunshine, dropped down a steep hillside and through a final bit of bog to the final checkpoint. That added another 50 points to add to our tally. We now had 180 which felt pretty good for us.
All that was left was an easy stroll back to Race HQ and the finish line. Mike clearly couldn’t run even with less than a mile to go so we took it easy and crossed the finish line with an official time of 3:17:53. Plenty of time to spare so we retained all of our points today.
Once again the finish line organisation was amazing. We were handed drinks and top-ups to the drinks along with a banana. Our timing dibber and tracking beacon were removed, we were clapped and congratulated and then ushered into the marquee where we were handed a printout of our times and scores and then directed to the catering area where we were given a hot lamb kofta wrap and a nice cup of tea.
We sat in the marquee for a little while chatting through the weekend and discussing what we’d done well and where we could have improved. Mike bought some OMM kit, including one of their changing robes – which do look nice! We then headed back to the cars, said our goodbyes and vowed once again to make sure we meet up and get out into the hills sometime soon. There was no talk of OMM 2024 but I’d certainly be up for it and I reckon with some training and preparation it would be a ‘yes’ from Mike too. It was a good weekend and considering the fact that Mike only had 3 days notice and didn’t have the perfect kit for it we didn’t do too badly. Something tells me we might be in the Highlands of Scotland this time next year!
On the drive home the heavens opened and it poured with rain almost all the way. Just before it did I needed a wee so was about to pull into the next layby. As I did so there was a slim blonde girl about to get soaked in the rain. She was hitch-hiking to get home. I couldn’t really stop for a wee and then just drive off without her so I pulled in and asked her where she needed to be. She said wanted to go in the direction of Dogellau and actually wanted to get to Corris. I was not only going in that direction but would be going through Corris itself so I told her to jump in and then said “just a sec – I need a wee!”
I’m not really sure what she thought of that. I don’t think I’d get into a car with a strange old man wearing skimpy running shorts who after two days of hiking in the hills and wild camping must have been a little bit fragrant and he was now hiding in the woods having a wee! She seemed unperturbed though and was interesting to talk to on the drive to Corris. She had been walking in the hills herself but hadn’t felt great so left her friends to it and decided to hitch-hike home. She was quite grateful I’d stopped as she had already had one lift that she got straight away and then I pulled in just after she’d got out of that car. There had been no waiting around for her and she had avoided the now torrential rain.
We chatted all the way so the time went really quickly and I soon dropped her off in Corris and was then home at a decent time.
Overall the OMM had been great. It was shame Lawrence couldn’t do it with me as originally planned and it was a little bit too much to ask of Mike without any preparation, but we got around in one piece, gained points on both days, didn’t get lost, didn’t break anything (other than putting holes in our rucksacks) and we had fun. It was good to see Mike again and good to get out in the hills. Doing it in a location that is fairly close to home made it relatively easy for me but I’m not sure that it helped much with the actual event. The checkpoints were pretty much all at locations you wouldn’t go to on a ‘normal’ walk in the hills. No doubt the familiarity did help a little with confidence at times when we may have doubted our navigational skills but other than that it was a test of navigational skills and planning whether or not you already knew the area.
As I’ve said elsewhere, the organisation was as good as it could be and it’s definitely one for your bucket list. If you love the hills and enjoy being cold, wet, miserable and lost all in the name of fun then sign up for OMM 2024!