News - Wed 10th Aug 2016 - Marmot24™ 2016 - Race Planner's Report - Marmot 24

Marmot24™ 2016 - Race Planner's Report

10th Aug 2016

Marmot 24- Copyright Steve Ashworth-22

Gary Tompsett (right) ponders Kenny Leitch's planning before the start of Marmot24™ 2016 © Steve Ashworth

Marmot24™ 2016 - Race Planner's Report - by Gary Tompsett

There were 3 moments where I could see that the checkpoint layout was living up to planning expectations:

  1. Shortly after issuing the maps at 9am, when participants were first studying the map and planning their routes and strategies.
  2. Shortly after midday on the Saturday, when I could see (using the GPS tracking screen) that the checkpoints (locations and values) were suitably diverse enough to cause a fantastic starburst. Watch the Tracking Replay.
  3. When I could see distant or awkward 10 point value checkpoints being missed by the fastest runners, in a bid to get around most of the map. This confirmed that it was going to be extremely unlikely that the course would be clearable. (Other factors being tough and unpredictable runnability and the worsening weather).

In planning such an event, there needs to be a layout that suits all-abilities and not just the 12 and 24hr courses. For this year’s edition of the event, having a variety of checkpoint values - that were not biased to highest values on the periphery of the map - was always going to rattle the planning brains of even the seasoned score format runner. Certainly, I wanted 24hr clearance seemingly possible, but not truly achievable. Having been on all the ground, I knew that the vegetation was getting deeper into August, that about a third of the checkpoints would be tricky to locate in the dark, and that traversing the forests would tax most runners that entered them!

The map, despite being an OS 1:25 000 base, was prepared by Harvey Maps. We made sure that it was legible, and that saturating certain colours and creating greater contrasts would enhance the map further.

Marmot 24- Copyright Steve Ashworth-202

The 4-person tag teams were able to watch their team mates' progress live from the event centre © Steve Ashworth

The results and GPS tracks on the Open Tracking page speak for themselves, and I hope you get the chance to peruse them. The task to analyse and comment on the participant tracks is vast, so I’ll refrain (well, some short observations below). Instead, I’ll just say that I hope you see the value and stimulation in such GPS tracking functionality – hopefully you did have friends and family following you online, and they did understand what they were seeing! The waiting Relay team pairs certainly kept busy watching Tracker TV! Also, the tracking provides excellent information for safety planning and response.

Your achievements within this event are phenomenal: 12 and 24hrs of running in that terrain and that weather is a feat that many cannot imagine, let alone undertake. I trust that your efforts are suitably rewarded with the pride of being able to reliably get through such unknown territory.

It is not entirely valid to wager an optimal route for an event like this, especially one with such a deliberately disruptive checkpoint matrix! There is no magical route that you have missed. You could take your actual time and pace, and play this out on another route. But what of the runnability, the checkpoint technicality from your approach, and the light conditions? Instead let me mention some observations that I would have hoped to have made, should I have been competing in this event, not knowing the area. I think I would have:

  1. Avoided darkness for the checkpoints that are west of the Witchie Knowe road. Some of those looked tricky to locate!
  2. Avoided darkness for the southern forest. The two sides of the forest did not have a fluent connection evident. (In planning I had got to know this forest and passed through it comfortably, even on an MTB and through forest rides with wind-blow (fallen trees). I know that there were some misadventures to be had in the forests, but this map was always going to stop short of mapping vegetation states, and I frequently venture through forests, risking some difficult sections. I think this is a valid adventure, in the nature of this event, and is good for developing your skill-set, technically and emotionally!)
  3. Avoid checkpoints that were 10 points in value, that were in isolated places that did not flow into a route easily. Such as 11, 23, 29 and 40.
  4. I would have left the 25 pointer cluster till later – in the closing hours I would have calculated backwards, and departed outlying areas in order to return and visit most of these. 
  5. I would have made use of some road running, to jump across the map, and access to better water supplies and possible even the event base briefly, for food and water.

Marmot 24- Copyright Steve Ashworth-200

Route choices through the forest sections proved challenging for many competitors especially at night © Steve Ashworth

I can’t see my route idea represented in any of the participants’ tracks. So broadly speaking, for the 24-hr course:

216, 226, 222 then Bowhill. Southern loop, but dropping 240. Running downstream on road from Deloraine to 236, then all back to 237, but dropping 229. Then all eastwards and down to the road and run west on road for 224, 219 and 220. I.e. dropping 223. Back through the event base. Up to 214 then east through all then up eventually to 205. West through all, except dropping 211, and then sweeping round towards all the 25 pointers. This route would not have won the event, but I think I’d have been happy with this plan.

Out of Bounds: I was able to study adherence on this matter, both live and after the event; whether rivers, roads, fields or crossing points through walls and fences. I’m reasonably happy with adherence, as I do understand that the map is not without its limitations. With the nature of this area, there is more lenience than the more tightly regulated lands and mapping of England and Wales.

Cattle and Electric Fences: Hopefully, although you might have had a few startling moments, there is nothing too concerning to report. 
The Tour o’ the Borders Sportive: Any comments on conflicts or any other observations? Please let us know. 

Camping and Bivvying: We know a few people enjoyed some time-out with this aspect of the event. We could also see your GPS trackers snoozing.
Pubs: Both pubs in the area were visited for cheeky drinks and food. Perfect planning!

I hope you enjoyed the challenge and will be looking forward to Marmot24 in 2017, and perhaps see you for some shorter n’ sweeter hill days at the Rab Mountain Marathon in late September?

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