When we received Stephen Birkinshaw and Morgan Donnellys entry we thought they should win the elite class as they have been sweeping everything before them this season, However last years winner Tim Lenton had other ideas and with his replacement partner Gary Tompsett, they were ready to pounce should the favourite team slip up. Steve Watts, last years veteran winner had teamed up with Steve Pyke and they were aiming for a top three place having just missed out last year. A gaggle of other good teams including three mixed teams had other intentions.


A fine morning dawned over the Silent Valley and soon teams were gathering to register at the marquee. They soon discovered that the start point was in the woods beside the main car park and the route cards were handed out beside the picturesque pond nearby. The elite class were presented with some rough stuff before they reached the summit of Slievenaglogh, then surprise surprise the next marker was…ehm…Slievenaglogh! This was course planner Steve Linton’s novelty feature for there are two hills of the same name and the second one overlooks the northern foothills of the Mournes. Next came some difficult route choices to a marker on the far side of Slieve Donard then a series of points around the upper end of the Annalong Valley and Chimney Rock Mountain before a long leg towards the Happy Valley camp site, again requiring good route choice to avoid losing time.


The B class route was similar in layout to the Elite (too similar said some, too hard said many, too long said others) and required careful thought to conserve energy and avoid areas of horrendous terrain where legs were jellified and dibbers clocked up time. The C course on the other hand was much more straightforward, heading out onto Slievenagore then over some rough ground to the Ben Crom & Blue Lough area. They had to get around Slieve Bearnagh to cross paths with the other courses on Slievenaglogh (the second) then unlike them they turned for home picking up a few markers along the way on the flanks of Slieve Meelmore.


Before we consider the performances of the top teams let us dwell for a moment on what was to become an epic weekend for the ladies team of Caroline Wilson and Juliet Edwards. Their problems started the preceding evening when their flight from Liverpool was cancelled. There followed the hassle of rebooking a flight for the following morning, cancelling accommodation in NI, reorganizing the car hire, and finding somewhere to stay in Liverpool. Upon arrival in Belfast the following morning they discovered that there were no hire cars available despite having rearranged their booking. Much hassle later and they had a car and made it to the starting line for 11.30. We had to advise them to drop from the B class to C class or they would miss the cut off times (possibly the only good luck they were to enjoy!!) and so it was that after much determination they were up and running a long way behind everybody else.


Ahead of them in the elite, the Birkinshaw/Donnelly and Lenton/Tompsett teams fought a war of attrition all day long with only a few minutes separating them at the different markers. The spoils were shared fairly equally for the first two thirds of the course, then Berkinshaw and Donnolley began to accumulate those extra minutes advantage during the latter part of the day. The long section from the stream junction below Chimney Rock Mountain to the re-entrant on the side of Slieve Meelmore dented a few good performances including that of vets Watts and Pyke who saw a 20 minute advantage whittled down to a mere 5 mins over fourth placers Laney and Beale. Other teams to loose out badly on this section were Scriven and Horton who dropped behind the steady performers Mc Neilly and Mawhirt, as did the leading mixed team of Matthew Davies and Sarah Wingrove who lost two positions to drop to 8th, in so doing highlighting a great local performance by Greg Mc Cann and Ivan Miller in 7th.


The B class was dominated by Roger Knox and Richard Lawes, winners of this years B class in the LAMM, who consistently posted good split times throughout the day to hold an overnight lead of 20 minutes. Local team Steven Cunningham and Keith Annett lost out badly on the first marker and took the rest of the day to recover before finishing the latter part of the course faster than anyone else. David and Christine Currie like the leaders were consistent throughout the day, unlike the fourth placed team of Conor Mc Grath and Peter O’ Farrell who had a torrid time of it. They lost loads of time on marker 4 then followed it with the fastest time to marker 5. More good splits followed before they mispunched the penultimate marker. They discovered their mistake at the finish line and had to return to repeat the final markers in order, which kept them in the competition but was a poor reflection time wise on all their hard running.


The juniors dominated the C class with Patrick Higgins and Seamus O’ Boyle taking a while to get their maps marked but once they got going they set the fastest split times for every marker bar the first one. There nearest rivals were Jonathan Mc Cloy and Paul Weir (also juniors) who ran well but couldn’t match the leaders pace. Third saw father and son Raymond and Rory Finlay coming home just ahead of a large pack of teams with very similar times. Plenty of opportunity for a surge to glory on day two, but for the majority the C class is about the challenge of completing a MM. This year’s course was well received and the majority of teams successfully completed it.


The overnight campsite was situated beside the road at the foot of the Happy Valley (the B class were very happy to reach it). From our point of view it was a good camp, dry firm ground, a good water supply and easily managed and dare I say it but most competitors seemed happy enough to me. Certainly as the camp filled up there was a good hum of conversation amid the hissing of cookers and mixed aromas of hundreds of concoctions cooking. The top teams I believe were tucking into baby rice — yummy, lucky them!


How did Caroline and Juliet get on after all their problems? Thirty sixth place and a good steady run cheered them up until they discovered that in the rush to repack their sacks at the start, a bag of some sort of sticky gue special food had burst and decided to mix it with Caroline’s spare cloths and sleeping bag. Could anything else go wrong?

Well yes, most defiantly and it happened the following morning as they cooked breakfast. No the tent didn’t go on fire, but nearly, as the cooker toppled over sloshing boiling water over Caroline’s bare feet. So as her partner tried desperately to sort out the gear poor Caroline sat in the back of a Transit van, attended by our doctor who immersed her feet in a tank of cold water for half an hour. Despite another major set back Caroline managed to hobble to the start line and was away on time.


For everybody else day two’s racing started with foggy minds being slung straight into route choice decisions as the cluster was inflicted on the E and B courses right from the go. The top three E teams all chose different routes through the cluster. Steve and Morgan were amongst the first to get up and running after filling in their maps, whereas Tim and Gary weighed up many options before getting underway, yet curiously when they reached the exit point (no 7) there was only seconds between them. Third and fourth placed teams chose the same route sequences but variations in their navigation between points resulted in Beale and Laney overcoming an overnight deficit of four and a half minutes to move into 3rd place.

Behind them all sorts of changes were taking place. Generally, teams who chose the same route through the cluster as Tim and Gary out preformed their nearest rivals but of course there is always an exception and they were Greg Mc Cann and Ivan Miller who picked their own unique route for a very good time. Unfortunately they were out run by some of the teams behind them on the second part of the course but still finished a very creditable 9th overall.


The top two teams may have been together coming out of the cluster but from there to the finish line Steve and Morgan gradually extended their lead and no matter what variation of route Tim and Gary tried it was to no avail as the leaders always had the advantage and just had to avoid making any errors. Beal and Laney did the same thing to Watts and Pyke and finished 3rd with a comfortable 15 minutes advantage. Matthew Davis and Sarah Wingrove really motored over the course and moved into 7th overall to win the mixed team prize.


Rodger Knox and Richard Lawes carried on where they left off yesterday and were the quickest through the cluster, five and a half minutes faster then the Cunningham/Annett and Mc Grath/O’ Farrell teams. Their route choice was used by five of the top ten teams with four teams choosing the route of the 3rd placers and top mixed team of David and Christine Currie. Cunningham and Annett were the only top ten team to be different from every body else and as we have noted above they didn’t do too badly. Knox and Lawes may have had a nice cushion following the cluster but the leading chasing teams ate into it over the next few points and indeed Mc Grath/O’ Farrell were less than two minutes behind at one stage but seem to have had problems at marker 9 which scuppered their chances of being first home on day two. They did move into third place overall behind Cunningham and Annett as Christine and David Currie dropped back a place, indeed they had to settle for second fastest mixed team on day two as the experienced Sally and Phil Ward put in a late charge.


On day one Patrick Higgins and Seamus O’ Boyle set the fastest times for virtually all the C course markers but not on day two. The top times were spread between wide selections of teams, but it made no difference to the leaders as they remained the most consistent and won the category easily. Jonathan McCloy and Paul Weir retained second place but the overnight third placed team of Raymond and Rory Finley were demoted as the teams packed in behind them time wise at the overnight camp surged through with Ciaran Young and Paul Smyth grabbing the third place. Surge of surges came courtesy of the vets Brian Cook and Stuart Mair leaping from 11th overnight to forth place while the top mixed team and vets at that were Lorna Masterton and Tom Greg in fifth place. First all ladies team home were Emma Tebbutt and Alice Scriven in 13th place and despite all the disasters which befell them Caroline Wilson and Juliet Edwards won the ladies vet title with a blistering second day run which moved them up to 28th place.


The prize giving was held in sunshine outside the marquee and we were assisted by one of our sponsors, Deon Jackson who handed out the prizes. Lowe had some people to also help with the prize giving but they were having such a good time out on the courses that they missed all the excitement. Many thanks to them for their input into the event and for the excellent range of prizes. Thanks to all the marshals and volunteers who helped out over the weekend and the staff of the Silent Valley Park. I shall conclude by congratulating Steve and Morgan our top team this year and as I was so slow at preparing this report I can add a piece of late news – they won the Karrimore MM in November which means they obtained their hat trick of LAMM, Mourne and KIMM. So congratulations x 3 and here’s hoping to seeing them defend their title next September and to seeing you all tackling those Mountains of Mourne again.