OMM Lite / Bike Spring – Peak District

This year’s Spring OMM Lite was based at Parsley Hay in the western Peak District. Once again, an excellent event put together by OMM, but where to begin? As usual, the food, beer, shop and masseurs were top notch, and the atmosphere inside the event tent was always what you wanted; upbeat and friendly!

It’s not the shop and beer we come for though, but the running. Firstly, it has to be said that the competition is really stiffening up. Kip and myself finally place 3rd in the long score, but only on time difference! Watch this space for Sam Atkinson (one of OMM’s new brand ambassadors), as he’s already someone I worry about seeing out on the course, and only 17! Here’s to hoping he finds beer and girls over the next year…

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For myself though, I thought it was both the toughest OMM Lite I’ve competed in so far, but also the best I’ve run in an OMM Lite. It’s also the OMM Lite which has played least to my strengths. Having been a climber for almost 10 years, sharp uphill walking and off-road terrain is not really a problem, after all it is the bread and butter of a Lakeland climbing career, and as such these conditions often give a chance to gain a slight edge on the competition. The ability to stomp uphill for prolonged periods of time without major issue has left many behind over the past year or so, but it was not to be this spring.

The course this time round was flatter and had proportionately more hard pack trail and road. This meant that we did end up running further than on previous events, but then again, so did everyone else. Inclines were shallow and steady, grinding down endurance, and descents were rarely the picky, skipping, fell-like descents which can be used to great effect.

That is not to say that the course wasn’t fun. Steve can always pull something special out of the bag, and this was no exception. I’m not so au fait with the western Peaks as I am with their eastern counterparts, due to living in Sheffield last year, but views were no less spectacular. Instead of gritstone escarpments jutting out of the hillside at regular intervals, you’re treated to wider open vistas and rolling hills. Of course, these rolling hills prove to be a sapping experience to run over, but that’s what the OMM is all about; if you’re comfortable while you’re out running, you’re not running hard enough.

I’m not going to go into detail about the course, we covered far too much distance for a blow-by-blow account, but I’ll try and summarise as best I can.

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Saturday morning started cold and fresh, with some serious frost on the tents (certainly for April), but as the sun came out it started to heat up. At the start line this resulted in quite a nice temperature, but by noon this had heated up beyond both Kip’s and my own comfort zone. Nevertheless, we pushed on remembering to drink plenty of water, and were comfortably further than half way round our planned circuit by 3 and a half hours. The extra time allowed us to reduce the pace slightly which was critical in the mid day heat, especially as it felt like our water was running low.

Another couple of hours running found us descending towards the A515 and the Tissington Trail with plenty of time to spare. We’d been chasing down a pair of runners for the past couple of miles from Roystone Cottages, and as we dropped onto the A515 we saw them wandering up past the turning we were taking to get home.

“Where are they heading to?” I asked incredulously “Home’s that way… fools”.

Turns out that they weren’t fools, there was a 10 point checkpoint just up the road, and in our excitement we’d missed it through extreme tunnel vision, hell bent on getting back for a sit down and a brew. On the plus side, we had so much time in hand that we almost sauntered back, half considering stopping for an ice cream on the way. Good job we didn’t though, as it was our time in hand by the end of the competition that won us 3rd place. OMM Lites are getting tough!

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Back at the event centre I made sure I was booked in for my customary leg massage. I was, at 5pm, having spoken with Emma yesterday (it’s always who you know), but when the time came I mentioned my foot injury to the masseur and he decided to have a look at that.

It feels like a good job I did mention my foot; after not very long of prodding and pushing he started applying pressure in the area which had been painful previously, and boy did it hurt! I’d like to think that I’m fairly hardy; apparently my face was an absolute picture! In all fairness, my foot did feel a little better afterwards, and it seemed to have some shape back. I was also instructed to find a decent local physio, and as chance had it, Stu’s wife is one of the owners of Smart Fitness here in Newcastle.

Amazing what happens when you just talk to people. I’m off for my first appointment next Thursday which I’m very excited for. It’ll be nice to feel like my legs are working at 100% (or that’s what I hope we’ll achieve), especially with the OMM and the Spine Challenger looming on the horizon.

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Sunday started damp and cold. The circuit this time was mostly to the North and East of the event centre, as opposed to South and West on Saturday. We only had five hours this time round, and with 18 points between us and 3rd place, (we finished 4th on Saturday), there was serious incentive to get cracking!

I always carry an OS 1:25k for the OMM Lite events as it gives finer detail, and by chance the event centre was just over the leaf for most of Sunday’s circuit. Kip was therefore given command for the first ten minutes, but was so excited we ran down the wrong fork of the Tissington Trail initially. Don’t worry Kip, I’ve done much worse (Dark Mountains, ahem…), and credit where credit’s due, he picked up on the mistake very quickly and we backtracked and were back on course in just over 5 minutes.

Sunday was a new world of pain, it always is, and it’s Sunday that really defines the final outcome. Saturday’s 1st place runners found this out to their detriment, struggling to keep pace over the second day having put their all into clearing the course the day before (with a time penalty unfortunately).

Kip also had holey socks; rather than allowing him to walk on water, it meant we had a couple of breaks as we repaired his painful heels. We also saw other runners much more over the 2nd day, everyone chose (almost) the same route until check point 27/28. I sent us to 27, as it looked very slightly more painful than 28, but with the option of doubling back to 28 which wouldn’t have been possible the other way round. This was the leg that really started to test us as well. Back to the rolling grassy hills, back to the leg-sapping gradual inclines, and back to one foot in front of the other.

We finally dropped into Monyash (what an excellent place name by the way), and had a quick discussion. We had exactly an hour to go; Kip was wondering whether we should just head back, but there was a 40 pointer within reach! It would be tight, no doubt about that; 20 minutes per leg left basically no breathing room for anything, but those that dare, win! I convinced Kip we should just blast it out, “come on mate, we can do this”, and off we set at the highest pace of the entire event.

Picking up the 40, we had a long uphill slog up Moor Lane to get over the brow of the hill and start our final descent to the final checkpoint before home. Run, walk, run, walk, run, walk… Are your legs screaming yet? Eventually we were on our way back to the Tissington Trail (yet again), and joining through a gate Kip thankfully spotted right next to the final control!

Right! 22 minutes! Let’s get back!

Off we went, jogging at a fair pace, but my body had decided now was the time to start complaining.

Mother of god! I’d been leading the whole way round, having done a few of these before, but Kip could just turned off the pain and keep shifting. My legs were having none of it, and kept seizing every couple of minutes. We were back to run, walk, run, walk, but on the flat!

“I’m so sorry Kip, I want to keep shifting”

“It doesn’t matter, just keep moving as much as you can, we can do this without a time penalty”

Aside from the first OMM Lite, at the same time last year, these final two miles were probably the most painful I’ve ever completed. The sight of the café on the trail just before the event centre was the best thing I’d seen all weekend, and we dug in as hard as possible to keep moving to the steps down the bridge.

Another pair of runners had reached the steps just before us, and we had two minutes spare! Come on, come on, come on, get shifting. Hitting the bottom of the stairs, it was time for the reserves to be utterly consumed. Sprint past the unwitting couple ahead of us, and into the field.

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There’s nothing better or worse than the feeling of sprinting on empty legs. We made it with two and a half minutes to spare, and I didn’t quite throw up. Bonus.

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Afterwards we repaired to the tent for some excellent scran (thank you to the caterers, cracking job), tea, beer and more cake than your body has room for. Prize giving came and went in its customary fashion, and I annoyed all and sundry by talking at them about nothing for far too long. It was excellent to catch up with some familiar faces from past events, and even Simon, my neighbour from back home in Lancaster was there for the OMM Bike! Excellent times.

All I have left to say is that it was yet again a pleasure and a privilege to compete and meet everyone again, so if you’re an OMM Team member or a competitor and reading this, thank you for an excellent weekend.

If you’re not either of the above, sort yourself out, and we’ll see you in September!

Post by Johan

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