SURF MOUNTAIN MOURNE MOUNTAIN MARATHON 2004.
Things were a bit tight this year as we had a few problems getting all the markers out on time due to the disappearance to Sweden of our course planner to take part in the world orienteering championships, and a family bereavement resulting in the loss of another course setter. Fortunately a number of volunteers stepped forward and after many hours in the hills, all the markers were in position by Friday evening. The weather forecast didn’t look too good with heavy rain and gale force winds forecast, but in the event blustery bright weather dominated most of the weekend and the heavy rain didn’t arrive until Sunday evening.
TESTING ROUTE CHOICES
The elite class saw many changes in the run up to the event as injuries removed some of the top contenders. Previous winners Brian Ervine and Neil Carty pulled out, and another former winner Deon Mc Neilly had to find a new partner. Damian Brannigan had to surrender to injury, resulting in his partner Steve Cunningham dropping down to the B class. Some other teams just didn’t start but those who did were treated to a weekend of testing route choices. Steve Linton may have been away in Sweden but he had put in many hours planning challenging courses and for some reason known only to him confined them to the South Western area, which meant the granite domes which are the dominant and most famous feature of the range played no more than a scenic backdrop to most of the routes. Instead competitors got bogs, peat hags, forests, leg sapping contouring, man eating holes and, oh yes – rough ground.
THE CLUSTER BOMB.
After registration teams were faced with a 30 minute walk to the start line, uphill all the way to get the blood pumping. Both the elite and B classes were presented with two well spaced out markers which took them north to what we referred to as the “Cluster”, a fiendish test of navigation and a break from the markers in strict order routine. The cluster comprised five markers, which could be visited in any order, so teams had to be nimble of thought in choosing the route around them, which they deemed best. The cluster was entered after the second marker and exited at the eight marker and from that point onwards followed markers in order in the traditional way. Just to confuse things further the elite entered the cluster at the exit point for the B course, and the B entered at the elites exit point which meant there were teams running in every direction. A quick analysis of the top ten elite teams showed that 6 different combinations of markers were used to defuse the “Cluster Bomb”, some successful, others, well – bang!!
SHORT C COURSE
The C class were spared such mind contortions with the general consensus that the course was on the short side with no real big climbs, which was true as this years campsite was in the south of the range necessitating a doubling back of all courses thus limiting what was available mountain wise. There were still plenty of route choices to consider so most teams were happy with the challenge.
MC ALINDENS FIELD
The overnight campsite was a field owned by the Mc Alinden farm, a large rolling grassy pasture nibbled short by sheep in preparation for tent city. Vincent Mc Alinden, a regular fell runner and mountain man was competing in the Elite category. Despite having prior knowledge of the campsite the team suffered a catastrophic cock up finding the first marker which knocked them for six, and no, he didn’t camp in his bedroom overnight nor cook on the Aiga.
LENNOX AND LENTON DOMINATE ELITE
The comfortable overnight leaders were Jethro Lennox and Tim Lenton who set a cracking pace that nobody came near to matching. As other teams flagged on the rough ground they kept running. Billy Reid and Gerry Kingston, last years B category winners used the same route through the cluster, in fact their route choices matched the lead team for virtually the whole course yet they were nearly an hour down. Just behind them were Russel Ladkin and Jeff Powell Davies and within three minutes of their time were Deon Mc Neilly and his substitute partner Paul Mawhirt still in the hunt despite some poor early route choices. Owen Keith & Paul Mahon a fancied team and had pulled out after missing a control in the cluster , and the elites only female reprehensive Hanna Shields and partner had also been forced to retire.
DEFUSING THE CLUSTER BOMB
An analysis of route choice through the cluster shows that bar the first placed team who completed it in by far the fastest time 2hrs 11mins, the teams in second, third, fifth, and sixth position overnight all used different routes yet their times to complete the cluster were within four minutes of each other at around 2hrs 40mins.The team in fourth position used the same route as the lead team and they were marginally faster at 2hrs, 34mins, but so did the team in seventh and they were a lot slower. So what was the best route? Initially I thought it was clear cut, the route of the top two teams, but when you start considering the different levels of team fitness and their times in relation to one and other it seems there was very little in it. I guess the course planner is to be congratulated on devising so many potential solutions.
RICHARDSON AND LEWIS LEAD B CLASS
Like the elite class the B class had clear leaders, Simon Richardson and Iestyn Lewis, over half an hour ahead of Rob Bailey and Desmond o Regan who were just ahead of the Coffey brothers and a gaggle of other teams just behind them. Unusually there was a shortage of ladies, mixed and vet teams in the top half of the B category, so in 9th place was the mixed team of Alison Powell and Chris Davies, 19th for the Lake District vets of Paul White and Steve Jeffs, with Wicklow’s Joan Flanagan and Emma Sokell holding 26th place. As mentioned the B class entered the cluster from a different point to the elites and their route choices were as varied. Perhaps the most unusual was that chosen by the brothers Clive and Keith Coffey who cut through the cliffs at the Great Gully for a dodgy short cut. It certainly produced a good time for them, but I suspect local knowledge played an important role.
C CLASS CLOSELY CONTESTED.
The C class was the most closely contested with juniors, vets and mixed vet teams all in the hunt. The overnight leaders were Ivan Park and Steve Curry with a slender seven-minute advantage over Tom Conlon and Derek Conerney. Teams were packed in behind them with only seconds separating some and included the mixed and very experienced veteran team of Andy and Steve Lewsley plus the youthful and very competent junior team of Jonathan Mc Cloy and Paul Weir. As already mentioned the overnight campsite was in a pleasant green field and the weather was kind providing quite a lot of sunshine and a few showers, which only occasionally spilled over from the hills onto the tents. A stiff breeze blew in from the coast causing most teams to seek shelter by the hedges on the lower edges of the field. It did look like they were staying away from the organizers tent which was left in splendid isolation as was the chemical toilet zone, —-any connection?
RED SKY AND STEAMY TENTS
Day two dawned with a red sky and the weatherman on the radio warning of nasty conditions later in the day. No problem for hardy mountain folk who had just enjoyed a decent nights sleep and soon there was the smell of cooking in the air. How is it that there is always the smell of bacon at MM camps? It used to drive me mad as I supped my half cooked bowl of porridge, but now of course we marshals enjoy all the luxuries and even fan the smells out towards the tents just because it gets so steamy in our big tent!!
DAY TWO ROUTES.
The elites were first away running up the track they had finished by yesterday, as we were confined to this access route to the hills. Fifteen minutes later the B class set of and finally at 8.30AM the C class were on their way. The Elites and B classes found that they were heading up north again with a long first leg then turning back over ground they were beginning to know well before the final run into the finish. They may have learnt much about the area but Stephen Linton’s route choices were as testing as ever. The C class had a series of shorter stages that gradually turned them round towards the finish in Rostrevor.
LENNOX AND LENTON WIN COMFORTABLY
The overnight leaders in both the elite and B class continued where they left of on day one, setting a pace that nobody else could match and comfortably won, in the elites case by a whopping hour and a half. Both teams found the courses interesting despite criss crossing ground they were now familiar with. Simon Richardson and Iestyn Lewis mixed things up a bit by surmounting Eagle mountain and Shanlieve, just for the hell of it, then cantered to the finish line to collect their B category prizes.
Second place in the elite went to Dion McNeilly and Paul Mawhirt after they showed their true class to out run the other teams and moved up from fourth place. Billy Reid used all his orienteering skills to get himself and Gerry Kingston to the third prize position helped by their main challengers Ladkin Russel and Jeff Powel Davies slipping of the day two pace. The veterans had a good tussle with MMM stalwarts Wes Kyrelle and Fred Hammond getting the best time on day two but it wasn’t good enough to dislodge overnight leaders Stephen Watts and 1991 elite winner Craig Harwood.
B CLASS WINNERS.
Rob Bailey and Desmond O Regan held onto second place in the B class but third place was snapped up by Richard Parry and Shane Ohly who produced a blistering performance to move themselves up from seventh place with day twos second fastest time. Another good day two performance saw Phillip and Sally Ward win the mixed team category just ahead of overnight leaders Alison Powell and Chris Davies. The vet’s title went to Steve Jeffs and Paul White and the top ladies team was Joan Flannigan and Emma Sokell.
CHANGING FORTUNES IN THE C CLASS.
The leading C class team of Steve Curry and Ivan Park maintained their lead to win by ten minutes but behind them it was all change as the top junior team of Jonathan Mc Cloy and Paul Weir pushed through for second and as with the B class the team in seventh place overnight moved up to third with the second fastest day two time. They were Larnes Mark Mc Mannus and Mervyn Mc Collam. While those around them faltered Andy and Stella Lawsley maintained their form to win the mixed category and forth place overall, while in sixth overall was the first vet team of Brendan and Eddy O Hagan. The ladies title was picked up by the vet team of Mary Abercrombie and Helen Randfield.
After much shuffling of paper and running about, the prize giving was held and Nick Stevenson of our sponsors Surf Mountain Sports shops said all sorts of nice things about the event, then handed out the goodies. The Elite winners Tim Linton and Jethro Lennox had already raced of to the airport so the gathered hoards couldn’t ogle at them, but they cheered on all the other winners with gusto. One other person who should have received a big cheer was Mark Pruzina who took over the computerised timing of the event, the first time we have managed without the guiding hand of Martin Stone and Sport ident. Mark handled it all very competently which is just as well otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to wade my way through columns and rows of data to produce this overview of the event. That’s it for another year; hope you enjoyed it and a final big thank you to all the people who helped out during the weekend. Time I wandered of down to the Mournes in search of next year’s campsite.