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Planner's Comments - Mark Hawker

My original idea for planning this year's LAMM was to spend a few days on the area at the beginning of April, trying to get a feel for the ground and the map. I then intended to do some armchair planning before returning at the end of April with Chris, the controller, to stake as many checkpoints as possible. Due to the Foot & Mouth crisis this first visit proved to be impossible but thanks to the support of all of the local estates we were able to get access to the hills during the last week in April.

The most obvious things learnt from this visit was that there would not be as much climb as in previous years, as none of the valleys dropped much below 450m. Normally this would be compensated for by an increase in course distances but after talking to Martin and Chris, it was agreed that due to the lack of training opportunities caused by Foot & Mouth we would keep the lengths the same this year as last year. We expected that this would result in relatively faster times for the winning teams who had managed to maintain their fitness but similar times to last year for the slower teams who had not. This first visit also confirmed what the landowners had been telling us about there being a lot more snow lying on the area than would normally be around at the end of April. With the snow level still being at about 750m during our visit we were only able to look at the low-lying control sites and not at anything higher up.

Chris managed to get a couple of days on the area during May but I did not then return until the Monday before the event. During the week leading up to the LAMM we therefore not only had to place controls at the staked sites but also place and check the higher sites as well. I was therefore very lucky to have a team of reliable helpers in Niall Watson, Angela Mudge and Clive Caffall who were able to assist me with these jobs. Not only is the placing of controls too time consuming for one person but with every site needing independent checking by a second person a good team is a must. Thanks therefore go to the three of you for all of your time and effort.

Apart from a couple of the higher control sites proving to be unsuitable on first being visited, the only problem we had during the lead up to the event was the discovery of several large snowfields still existing in some of the NE facing coires. Two of these in particular proved to be a problem as they were steep and unstable and both were on major route choices of the A and C courses. This resulted in a late night on the Wednesday immediately before the event replanning sections of these courses. Hopefully you didn't notice the difference but these changes did result in potentially more path running than I had originally intended, particularly on the C.

As for the courses themselves, the E, A, B and C were all planned to give you as much route choice as possible, without making the many paths on the area the obvious choice. A comment made to me by several competitors was that day one generally used quite major features as control sites and was easier navigationally than day 2. This is something I would agree with but this tended to be due to a shortage of good sites rather than a conscious decision on my part. Due to the distance from the Corrour Station to the overnight camp there was little I could do with the C course apart from run it almost straight from one to the other, using the features on either side of the valley as checkpoints. The E, A and B left me with more choice allowing these courses to sample the delights of the Ben Alder group, an area well worth a walking trip if you can put up with the long cycle in to the area. Day 2 allowed me to take the E, A, B and C into the more technically challenging area to the south of Ardverikie House. If the mist had been down then the last few legs on all of these courses would have proved to be the hardest of the weekend.

The original intention had been to take all of the courses on the train to Corrour but I quickly realised that with the chosen campsite, the day 1 distances involved would be too great. I then considered moving the camp site closer to the station but unfortunately this then gave much worse courses for the E, A, B and C. With 2 campsites being beyond the manpower of a small event like the LAMM we decided to compromise by having a separate day 1 start but sharing the same camp and day 2 start / finish. My apologies to any D and Novice train spotters! Both of these courses were designed with minimal route choice and technical difficulty, with the Novice generally following line features or just requiring a simple bearing. It is probably worth reminding D competitors that their course is not only shorter than a C course but technically easier as well. This course is designed to give less experienced competitors a staging post as they improve their skills. It is not intended for experienced people who just want an easy day in the hills - it is a Mountain Marathon after all.

Now that the event is over and I have had time to reflect on the results and the comments of the many competitors I spoke to after their run to I am generally happy with the way things went. My desire to give people route choice was definitely met as none of the teams I spoke to could agree on the best route and certainly nobody agreed with me the whole time - each to their own. In retrospect I could have made the E, A, B and C about 10% longer on day 1 and still have hit my target finish times. This would have added about half an hour to the fastest times and an hour to the slowest times on each course. I am however satisfied that I got the day 2 lengths and timings for these courses about right. For the D course I would have had to add an extra 25% to achieve my expected winning times, which would have added about one and three quarter hours to the slower teams on day 1, making their times unacceptably long. Again this brings into question who should be running the D. From looking at the relative times it would appear that most of the top 20 to 30 D teams would be capable of finishing in the top half of the C course, with the winners of the D giving the winners of the C a good race. So D competitors, take up the challenge and move up a course - you have a year to train for it after all. Looking at the Novice the times were fractionally slower than I predicted but generally I was very happy with this course. I was particularly pleased that we had such a high entry for the novice this year and that only one team failed to finish it.

Thank you to the many people who collected in controls for me, meaning that I did not personally have to go out onto the area again after the event was over. A big thank you also to Chris Hall for doing such a fine job as Controller, picking up on my errors and offering constructive advice whenever it was needed.

Finally, would the team who left all of their overnight rubbish under a stone at their first Day 2 control not enter again next year. The people who volunteer to help at the LAMM have far more to do than clean up after you and if you cannot enter into the spirit of an event like this then we would rather that you did not take part!


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Route planning above Loch Duich
The clouds over mid camp
Racing together - the spirit of the event