Running 4:31:20  27.39 km (9:54 / km) +1865m 7:23 / km
Mournes Day 1
Had some porridge with raisins, a bagel and some left overs from last night's dinner for breakfast. After watching the end of Australia - Fiji we hit the road and headed for Newcastle.
Once there we picked up the Si etc and ran through an amusing kit check - he told us we needed roll mats because the requirements said "sleeping bags with insulation", and that our torches had to be head torches (also not specified in instructions, because people on the B and Elite class often ended up out there at night. This looked like an issue initially, but once he asked if we'd done it before and we said we'd come 2nd in the elite last year he promptly stopped asking questions and started wishing us the best of luck and in the end I never took anything out of my bag.
A peanut butter & jam sandwich while following the last 15mins of the France - Argentina match and we were pretty much good to go. Wandered down to the start and we started scouring the benches to see if we could see Adrian & Paul who were due to start 8mins before us. Finally spotted them at a bench marking their map, and off they went into the forest (at a slightly weird angle), just as we started.
We didn't want roar & shea (8mins behind) or Conor & Kev (18mins behind) getting any sight of us early, or at any stage really so we always intended on setting off fairly quickly, and as usual marked our controls on the go. We got #1 on, and I got #2 on, and off we went.
#1 was very straightforward, and off up the steeps steps to #2 we marked in a few more and started planning a few routes. Think we had gotten up as far as the control below Meelmore marked in at this stage (#6).
As we got to the stop of the steps lots of people went straight towards #2 but we stayed low on nice running and then climbed the wall and could see Paul & Adrian up ahead.
Got up, punched it fine, and back along the wall we went. We climbed a little after the wall end cos the going looked good and soon enough we were coming down off the spur and could see Paul & Adrian again not too far ahead, good start. We closed it a bit on the downhill, and caught them as we crossed the track heading up to #3. We chatted a bit etc before we knuckled down and I got Mark reading out more controls and I marked them in as far as the sheepfold (#11). I'd drifted a little back from the other 3 while marking them in, but closed it back coming into the control which we found nicely and set off up the hill to #4. happy with our route we started to move away a little along the top and got alright lines down from chimney rock mtn towards the wall. Mark took my map as I crossed the wall and proceeded to run off. Despite me shouting for my map back he headed off happily down the hill, and while I had doubts about direction he was in fact heading the right way and we followed the hoards into it.
As Mark punched I'd decided on straight, maybe hadn't given enough time to the left route, but was fairly happy to just brute out the climbs so off we went. We were moving well and off my few glances I didn't see Paul or Adrian which seemed a good sign. We got up and over alright and I read out the descriptions for mark to catch up on the controls while climbing the river up to Lough Cove (I knew this would mean I would keep up on the climb so was fairly keen to do this now), and I think that meant we had all the controls on our maps at this stage.
I was a little disappointed in the distance as the remainder of the course looked fairly manageable really, and I kind of reckoned the longer the better if we were gonna put time into the others, but we reconciled with this fact and decided it just meant we'd have to push hard to the finish.
Descending down to Ben Crom reservoir was quite slippery and not the fastest (especially in my trail-talons), but the terrain wasn't rough so we got down alright, and punched #5 still fairly unscathed.
We had decided on left to #6, but as we hit the col between Lamagan and Cove (before #5) and we saw the brutal-looking climb up out of the reservoir, and a reasonably nice looking line up to Hare's gap I quickly changed that decision and we opted for the right-hand route. Having previously convinced Mark that getting the climb done early on left would be good and you wouldn't be able to run up to hare's gap, I quickly backtracked and with a little persuasion convinced him that trail up to hare's gap looked like good running, so we went for it.
I was beginning to feel a small bit tired, slightly worrying 2hrs in, but nothing serious so I started cramming some jellies and a sandwich into me. I was filling the water fairly regularly and as we made good progress up round Hare's to the next control I took a slightly longer water break in a river to get a rather rotten gel into me just before we punched #6. I got it but was certainly slowing more than Mark especially on the climbs and he took my water bottle up Meelmore which was a fecking brute. Still, suffered up it but didn't slow too much and maintained enough momentum to get going nicely again towards the next one. Mark was keen on a lower route following the low wall and then contouring but I was not, so we stayed along the Mourne wall to the col, and then climbed a small bit and contoured round most the hill and we could get a fairly decent idea of where the control was so went into it pretty nicely.
While we hadn't even got through the cluster yet, it was obvious we were on the run home, and I got some more food into me and set about trying to hang onto Mark as best as possible. We had picked the Slieve Muck control first in the cluster and had gone for a fairly direct route to Muck, and I hung on fairly alright through all the terrain and boggy stuff, we were still moving well. As we climbed up Muck the gap started to eek open just a little but I was able to run most the climb so didn't get up too far behind the little terrier. He ploughed on and I followed and as I came up onto the South summit he was turning around which was nice to see. So we dived off the side of the hill for the next one. A steep descent but manageable, and we got round to it nicely with no issues.
Cluster complete we set off for the last two navigation controls and moved well across the rough stuff to the sheepfold, and got to use the two Elwoods to come into it cleanly and off we went.
Last wee climb here so I tried to keep working strongly enough and ran bits and pieces, though not enough to hang onto a flying Mark. As he opened the gap I cut the corner at the control and we were back together again on route to the end. A bit of local knowledge helped as I suggested the wall and Mark said there was a trail through the middle if we hit it, and so there was. A nice enough sheep-trail so the running was really quite decent through the rough bogs, and once we hit the wall I knew we were fairly home dry. Almost a slip from mark heading the wrong way on the last path but I caught it and got a little head start down the hill, which really just meant I looked semi-respectably close to him at the finish.
A good day out all in all. Knew we'd pushed hard and we'd been clean, and while I hadn't matched Mark's pace at times, the distance wasn't really an issue, making it a much more successful day than an of my previous mountain marathon day 1s.
We got the tent up, chatted a little and went for a dip in the reservoir and as we were getting out roar & shea, closely followed by conor & kev came into the finish which pretty much confirmed that it had indeed been a good day and we would get the comfort of sleeping with a 35min lead.