by Jon Brooke
So, of course the photos that I’ve put up with this report make the event look idyllic, but that’s because I stopped shooting when it started hailing. In fact, although there were hailstorms in parts of the event area the different courses were so spread out that some competitors were unaware of the bad weather elsewhere. Everyone has had a small shower at the overnight with even a couple of flashes of lightning.
As I write it is 8.45 and only one team is still unaccounted for, until a few minutes ago there were two teams missing but then Andrew Marshall and Helen Mort, first timer’s on the D course came into the tent to ask why their result hadn’t been posted. The answer sadly was that they hadn’t punched the finish control at the overnight camp but had simply put up their tent and got on with refuelling, stretching and whatever else LAMMers do. No disgrace of course as I remember writing about another team that did the same thing a couple of years ago and in fact after a bit of interrogation they were given a time and can carry on tomorrow – the LAMM is not just the connoisseur’s mountain marathon, but also the friendly, connoisseur’s mountain marathon.
Once again Heilan Loos, the best loo company in Scotland did the business (fnar fnar) and manged (somehow) to get a trailer full of loos 4 k down the most technically demanding track in LAMM history – and they did it with a smile. It would be fair to say that they seem to relish the challenge of the LAMM as much as some of the competitors.
Alan Cameron has been competing with Mark Naisbitt on the D course and having done 10 LAMMs he decided to step up to the plate when Martin put out an e-mail asking for a piper for the event. This morning he piped everyone awake at the event centre, and even made the effort to don the full regalia – so when asked what he was wearing under his kilt, the answer would have been running shorts. Alan will be doing the honours again tomorrow at 5.45 although by then a few of the leaders will already have had to get up for their chasing starts at 6 a.m. which seems just somehow.
Finally, another of the inevitable regular incidents at the LAMM is the competitor who trashes their shoes on the first day to a state beyond the help of duck tape. With this in mind, Martin Stone and Debbie Thompson have been keeping their old running shoes especially for this purpose (great for anyone with size 6.5 or size 9 feet), but astonishingly it actually paid off when a competitor came into the tent today to retire but was sent off with a pair of serviceable size nines instead.
The sun is out, the midge level has been reduced from critical to severe and the competitors are getting out onto the courses. There are four different start locations, chosen specifically to make life difficult for the photographer, who can only be in one place at once – no, actually, chosen specifically to spread the competitors out into the hills to give everyone a chance to enjoy a proper wilderness experience in the connoisseur’s mountain marathon.
Most of the competitors have been bussed to two start locations off the A835 at the extreme eastern end of the map where they will head south into the hills of Fannich Forest. The score and D course are at one location and the B and C at another. The elites and A’s are actually starting at the far north of the map and will head south around An Teallach, with all the courses heading for an overnight rendezvous at the southwest end of Loch Bhraoin at the site of a well-known bothy called Lochivraon which undoubtedly at least a few of the competitors will have stayed at.
As you might imagine putting on the LAMM is a huge logistical exercise and it only really runs the way it does on the goodwill of all concerned. There are always things that don’t go quite to plan, but impressively things always seem to work out all right in the end (hello to Jason Isaacs). Already this year there have been a couple of things that have highlighted the how the big team effort works. Firstly, the bar was being staffed last night by competitors, but NB, the beer has been supplied this year by An Teallach brewery, with proceeds going to Arrochar Mountain Rescue. But secondly, and even more impressively, the band that was playing an excellent selection of folk tunes last night was only put together at yesterday lunchtime, after a member of the band that was originally booked was unexpectedly taken into hospital (although he is fine). A lesser organisation might have thrown in the towel after losing their band on the day of the event, but not the LAMM. Martin Stone phoned the man who owned the brewery that supplied the beer in 2014, who he knew had a band, and amazingly he managed to find another couple of people on Skye and one from Strathcarron, they all said yes, and arrived on site in the evening ready to play.
Debbie (aka The Boss) hands out the maps
They have to make their own fun in the highlands. Seen in a bothy window on the way to the start.
Competitors planning their attack on the score course. In the background is An Teallach – the elite course skirts around the back of the mountain.
Penny Clay and Rhiannon George on the score course.