The OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) is a two day mountain orienteering race where teams of two have to navigate around a course carrying all the required safety, cooking and camping equipment and which is now in its 51st year. The Elite class is longest and hardest which sees competitors running up to 100km over the two days with up to 5000m of ascent. The hardest thing about this event though is the October weather and the terrain. It is hard to explain what going up, down and mostly contouring continually on this terrain and type of grass does to your legs and feet…it’s tough.
For a Tough race I needed a tough companion. Someone who could orienteer and has a big engine, who likes to fuss over kit and would push themselves to breaking point and beyond. It just so happened I had been working and skiing with the perfect person for the past year. Gudmund Snilstveit is Norway’s record holder in Ironman and a handy orienteer, he loves to design and make specialist kit and is always up for an adventure.
I have to be honest and give him all the credit for our sweet gear setup. I provided the standard 2-man 1kg Terra Nova tent and he went to town designing, making and ordering practically everything else, some of his proudest items were:
We even went to the bother of decanting our freeze dried food from its ‘heavy packaging’ into lighter bags.
All these weight saving wonders meant we could pack thicker heavier down jackets and sleeping bags to keep us warm through the night without going over our target of 4.5 kilos each.
However, one thing Gudmund did get wrong was his nutrition. He had planned to eat 1 energy bar per hour for the entire race (around 12 bars for the weekend).
After 3 hours on the first day he was already feeling empty…I had randomly packed as many Clif bars, Clif shot blocs and Clif gels that I thought I would need, half of which I ended up giving to him. I couldn’t complain though, he was nailing the orienteering with only the slightest suggestion from me every now and then, we were flying.
One thing we did have to learn quickly was all the types of grass, bracken, ferns and other crap growing on the mountain. We were the team that at the beginning of the race would randomly run into some grass or bushes to see how easy it was to run through – we must have looked like complete idiots… but it worked and slowly we learnt how to get around the mountains quickly.
By the end of day one we were both tired, day one took us 6 hrs and 30 mins, and we had only managed to get a 2 minute lead on second place! We decided the other teams had more experience than us but as we soon learnt, our potential was larger than theirs.
We got through the night without too much trouble except waking up an hour later than planned because of the clocks changing. Eating, packing up and visiting the toilets we were ready to go for day two and surprisingly both felt our legs actually worked.
Taking the first controls nice and smooth we were disappointed to get caught by the second place team. Running together for a while I felt a shift and Gudmund started to get ultra focused. The next controls we nailed so good we hardly had to run 1m up or 10m out of our way to get the control…not an easy feat with a 1:40,000 map.
We also perfected our method of moving over the mountains. We started to think like sheep. Analysing where they walk and how we could use their little trods to speed us up. By about halfway we had built a decent lead, but Gudmund was starting to bonk again. As we went up a steep climb he asked if I had any ‘rocket fuel’. I pulled out a 100mg double espresso Clif shot and took his bag for him. 5 minutes later we were flying again.
Near perfect orienteering and good teamwork saw us finish with a 25 minute lead on the second place team. We really pulled out another gear on day 2 and everything came together just right!
With over 12 hours of running, 96km covered, 4896m of ascent and not much sleep either… let’s see how that affects me next weekend in Sparta for the Spartan Trifecta World Championships.