2019 Howgills

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Planner’s Comments

 Thank you for supporting the SLMM in what is an interesting area to plan on. Thanks also to Dan and Karen Parker for their constructive input as Controllers. Version 24 of the courses actually went to print, changes having to be made for many and varied reasons, and many hours were spent by the planning/controlling team to get that far and hit the target times for the courses. Clearly, on the Carrock day 1 in particular, I got this wrong and sincerely apologise for those who had an over stressful experience as a result.

Next year, the team will be careful to revisit the reasons, some of which are mentioned in the Controller’s report. By their own admission, on any course, Winner’s rarely choose all of the fastest routes between controls, and it is an interesting exercise to add up all the fastest ‘splits times’ for a course, to see what it could have been done in. If you want to go faster, concentrate less on ultra-lightweight kit (although it helps), but do a little research into the background of some of the leading teams/individuals. It might inspire you. ‘Crocodiles’ are the bane of mountain marathons and are only completely avoidable if each course has its own unique controls. This is logistically impossible and environmentally wouldn’t sit well with a number of interested parties. We used about 70 controls this year, which is right at the top end of what is usually used. However, the Planner can use crocodiles to advantage by luring competitors into the wrong one. This is done by having a cluster of two or three controls relatively close together at the end of a leg, but on different courses. A lack of concentration would result in a costly mistake. The control sites on the main Howgill massif were not very technical so in bad weather competent teams should not have had issues with actually finding their control at the end of a leg. However, it would’ve been quite easy to descend the wrong spur or ridge as there were so many of them. Wild Boar Fell to the east would’ve been much more entertaining !

The area lent itself to a lot of route choice options, especially on the longer courses. Routegadget shows quite a few variations. Discussions at the overnight camp revealed that many chose to avoid the steep climbs and go around, only to walk. However, the basic unwritten rule is:- If you have to walk, walk the shortest route. So, up and over. Those steep climbs, descents and contouring legs caused havoc with feet this year. I trust you can all walk properly now. It was particularly warm on day 1 and those who found themselves on the eastern end of the map had little surface water to drink, because the geology is quite different, and water soon disappears into the limestone bedrock fissures. One team were seen actively defending a little water-filled crevice they had discovered. In hindsight, I should not have sent the Carrock Fell class over there to suffer further, at the end of their day. I look forward to locking horns with some of you next year, on one of the longer courses. I trust I shall be running in horizontal rain and low cloud . . . . and basking in glorious sunshine at the overnight camp. May you all stay injury free.

Andy Creber Planner 2019 SLMM

Controller’s Comments

We hope most competitors enjoyed their sunny weekend in the Howgills. The area offers much potential for route choice and looking at the linear courses on Routegadget we can see that there were significant variations on many legs, so congratulations to Andy for posing some challenging problems. To clear up any confusion, the distances and climbs on the control descriptions were measured on a “sensible” route; they were not necessarily the “best” route which varies from person to person, or even the marked planner’s route. Fairfield also shows a huge variety of routes, even for competitors achieving similar scores.

From a planning point of view, it proved a bit of a challenge to make sure the top competitors were kept busy over the two days and at quite a late stage in the planning process a couple of extra controls were added to make sure no-one would actually get all of them. We estimated that a top elite competitor taking the best route could get 1120 out of the available 1200 points, so congratulations to Tom Gibbs for getting so close to this target. Winning times for the courses were generally close to the targets with the notable exception of Carrock Fell (especially Saturday) where the winning time was about 25% too long and to a lesser extent Scafell. The problem on Carrock Day 1 was that we seriously overestimated the speed that competitors would be able to achieve on the rough but relatively flat western slopes of Wild Boar Fell where it can be hard to run even downhill. This issue also affected the other courses that crossed the road (Kirk Fell and Scafell) but they reached the higher ground on Wild Boar Fell where it is a bit less rough and were therefore slowed down less.

With hindsight, we can see that the Carrock Fell course should have stayed west of the road despite the risk that competitors covered the same ground twice. We sincerely apologise to those who were out much longer than they expected and didn’t enjoy it. We will learn the lesson from this and correct things for next year, so please don’t be put off doing Carrock again. Dan and Karen Parker Controllers 2019 SLMM

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