2 weeks ago, I ran the Original Mountain Marathon with my friend Joerg Vetter, a top Swiss orienteer and adventure racer. This is a 2-day mountain event which was first held in 1968 in UK and continues today in UK and other countries. Each team must carry their gear, including food and equipment for an overnight camp. The place change every year, and this year it was held in Nobeyama Kogen area, at the foot of Yatsugatake.
I like orienteering and I like running in the mountain, so of course I like a lot this kind of long orienteering event. However, I never did 2 days race. Well, I did once, but we were sleeping in a building. This time it would be in a tent. I was a little anxious about this, because I'm not found of camping, and I have a very bad memory of a cold cold cold night during my military service in France. Anyway, when Joerg proposed me to do it, I didn't hesitate a lot, because it was a good opportunity to try something new.
There are 2 types of course: the straight one, where you have to follow a defined course (but you can't miss any post or you will be disqualified), and the score one, where you have to decide by yourself which post you are going to look for. We were in the long score. You have to find as much posts as possible in less then 7h the first day and 6h the second day (there is a shorter one too). The choice of the posts you are going to look for depends on the posts points and their difficulty. If you finish late, you lose 5 points every minute. It needs a good time management which is interesting (this is the same rules as rogaining).
Unfortunatly Joerg was injured, with a plantar fasciitis in his right foot since few weeks. For sure it was not reasonable to do such a race being injured, but I guess he didn't want to let me down, and he endured bravely the pain during 2 days.
Running on the road especially downhill was the most painful, so we avoided roads and took shortcuts in the forest as much as possible, which was a good choice anyway because thanks to Joerg's orienteering skills, we were always arriving right on the post, except one time on the third post of the first day, where we were not well focused yet and we lost about 10min.
I was reading the map too and I could see the gap between me and an elite orienteer. Sometimes, it was only a mather of details, I would have taken a little different course, I would have entered the forest a little before or a little later, but some other times I was getting quite lost. Well, if I was leading, I would have been more focused and probably less desoriented sometimes, but it would have taken much more time. Joerg seemed to always knowing where he was and was never stopping to check the map.
The first day, we underestimated the time to reach the goal and were 10 min late. We got 350 points but lost 50, so the final score was 300 points and our position was 73th among 312. We did 35.3km with 1500m of elevation gain in 7h10min. Those 50 points were very precious because there were so many teams between 300 and 350pts. Arriving in time is really crucial.
Day #1 - Our course on the map
Then came the tough part for me. The night at the camp. OMG, it was so cold ! The second worst night in my life ! :) First, we had to install the tent. Joerg spread a sheet on the ground to put the tent on. It was such a small peace of sheet, I told him "don't tell me this is the size of the tent !". He answered "I don't know, I didn't check."...This was a good joke, that let me without voice for a moment. But the tent was not so small after all. But not too big neither...Sometime being tall is not favourable. During the night, when I was sleeping on the back, my foot were frozen because they were touching the bottom wall of the tent. When I was on my side, the side against the side wall was cold. So I was always changing position. Each time I was changing position I had to set up again the sleeping bag and the pillow I made with a plastic bag and used clothes.
|Looks nice on this picture from the orginazation|
|But here is inside the tent...|
I think that my sleeping bag was made for ~2°C, but it was probably -5°C that night. I put my sleeping bag into a survival blanket but this blanket was not breathable. It kept the moisture from my perspiration inside, and in the morning my sleeping bag was soaked. Actually, when I fold it later, it was frozen, like every thing which was left outside, such as my shoes...
But we were lucky. It could have rain (well, it would probably have been snow rather than rain). I don't want to imagine if it had rained (which is quite usual weather for this event, especially in UK).
I will pass on the need to go to the toilet in the middle of the night. I'm grateful to my bladder that it happened only once.
OK, now I'm sure you really want to do this event right ? ;) It's OK, it's just me. I'm not an adventurer. I need my little confort. Joerg didn't complain though he didn't even had a mat. I had a good one. An air mattress. I'm not sure I could have survive the night without a mat.
I was so happy when the night was over, especially when we could run again to warm up our frozen bodies.
The second day was beautiful. There was more technical orientation then the previous day. Weather was great, and there were beautiful views of moutains. I couldn't drink for the first 2 hours because the water in the water bag was frozen, but it was OK. Fortunatly I had a 50cl flask half full that I could use if I took off the cap that was frozen too.
This time we were more careful about the time, and we arrived with 8min margin and 330 points. We did 26km and 892m of elevation gain, in 5h52min. Our final rank was 52th among 296 finishers, which is not bad considering that we mainly walk.
Day #2 - Our course on the map:
I like orienteering a lot, and I would like to do more often this type of event, but no more night in tent for me, thanks. I'm very glad I tried it once, but once will be enough :) One day event or night in building would be perfect.
Joerg, thank you very much for inviting me and not giving up despite the pain. I hope you will recover soon. And thanks for the pictures. And of course, a big thank to the organization and the volunteers. Beside my weakness with camping, I liked this event a lot. There is a very good spirit. Everyone is here to have fun and to enjoy. It's more a matter of spending a good weekend with buddies in the mountain than a competition.
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