2008 – Planner’s Comments
Planning on the Helvellyn range was always going to be a challenge due to the long, thin nature of the area. Initially I thought I could get around this by having a start / finish in the north and an overnight camp in the south or vice versa, but this proved to be impossible to arrange. We therefore decided to return to the welcoming Fornside Farm for the start / finish and were lucky enough to secure Dowthwaite Head Farm for the overnight camp. Whilst these were ideal spots logistically their proximity to each other meant that most competitors would be crossing similar ground on both days. From the outset of my “armchair planning” I therefore tried mitigate against this by giving as much route choice as possible.
I took the decision not to take the easier courses (Bedafell, Wansfell, Harter Fell) south of Helvellyn as the ground there is both technically and physically harder. The remaining courses all went onto this ground on day one – I hope you liked the challenge in the mist. On day two all of the courses stayed on the more runnable northern fells.
During the week before the race I was carefully monitoring the weather forecasts which were getting steadily worse as the event drew nearer. By the Thursday before the race one of the forecasts was predicting 50 to 60 mile winds on the Saturday, which luckily never materialised. This forecast did however make us do a last minute change to day 1 of the Carrock Fell course, putting in control 139 and removing a couple of controls from the end. This gave all competitors the option of a route avoiding what would have been an interesting descent off Nethermost Pike in gale force winds. Having the flexibility to make last minute changes like this is a very strong argument for not having pre-marked maps!
Generally I was very happy with the way the event itself went. I had been concerned that in clear weather the area around Sticks Pass might seem a bit like Spaghetti Junction with people going through it in all directions. However with the cloud down on both days you had to keep your wits about you to see your own partner let alone a crocodile of other people – ideal mountain marathon weather in my opinion. Had the weather been clear I think there would have been a lot of crocodiles in this area but the challenge would have been following the right one.
I know that Day 1 of the Klets had limited choice in the order you could visit the controls but day 2 had many options, all of which were of similar length, climb and runnability. As well as the ones I came up with some competitors managed to find others which pleased me. Our apologies to the 10 Klets who failed to find control 136 on Sunday, but the reason why is still a mystery. It was definitely there up until about 10:45 in the morning as anybody who took it early found it as expected. It was also there at about 2:30 in the afternoon when the Backpackers Club collected it in, although they did have some difficulty locating it. Had it perhaps been flattened or knocked out of position?
Thanks as always to the many helpers both before and during the event, without whom it would never happen. Thanks also to Chris Lates for his great support and thoroughness as Event Controller. Back in April when we started checking sites we both had some pretty icy days out in the fells and both had to go back to some sites on more than one occasion as they were too full of snow to check.
Finally, as you will see from last year’s comments I have been looking for a replacement to take over from me as course planner / event coordinator. It now looks like we have found somebody to take over this role so please watch this web site for an official announcement later in the year.
See you next year when I hope to be back as a competitor.
2008 – Controller’s Comments
This year’s Saunders was a real test of your skills. It is rare for us to get two successive days of such poor visibility. It is a tribute to competitors’ navigation that most courses were won in times close to, or faster than, our estimated winning times, despite the mist. Possibly more surprising is that in only one class was the slowest time longer than our estimate. (Yes, Mark had calculated that as well!)
We did make two minor changes to courses because the forecast wind speed for the Saturday was 50 to 60mph. These did not alter course lengths, but gave the Carrock Fell class more time in the slower, southern, area.
From my point of view the event went smoothly, any minor hiccups were coped with by the very experienced team, and hopefully not noticed by the competitors.
I should like to finish by thanking:
- Mr & Mrs Hall, Fornside, and Mr Weir, Dowthwaite Head, the farmers for whom nothing was too much trouble.
- United Utilities, The National Trust, Dalemain Estates, The Lake District National Park Authority and Natural England for allowing us to use the land under their management.
- St. John’s Ambulance for providing first aid cover at the overnight camp and finish.
- The Backpackers Club for manning several checkpoints and helping us gather in controls.
- Wilf’s Outdoor Catering for providing all of the food at the assembly area.
- Andrew Leaney from SI for his instant access to any competitor data that we needed to know. (Can you remember back 15 years when we had Tyvek control cards to check?)
- Chris Hall, who has planned and controlled before, and was ever present and ever helpful.
- David Johnstone, the Organiser, and his superb band of helpers.
- Mark Hawker, Planner and Co-ordinator. Mark did a wonderful job, presenting me with a superb set of courses which needed virtually no tweaking apart from changes due to Natural England suggestions. Mark is hoping to compete next year. He will be missed!
- Finally, thank you, the competitors. Your cheerfulness in the lashing rain and howling wind was amazing. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.