> KIMM 'A' 2004: Brecon Beacons - Paul Hainsworth

The last weekend of October, 7:30 in the morning and a boggy 40 minute walk to a disused Welsh quarry heralded the start of the KIMM (Karrimor International Mountain Marathon) 'A' race for David Armstrong and me.

Fig 1. David soon lost his smile. Starts for the 'A', 'B' and 'C' events.

The general venue was announced six weeks previously - Brecon Beacons. The specific area, Y Mynydd Du, or Black Mountains (the western lot as opposed to a second eastern lot on the other side of Brecon) include Carmarthen Fan, known as the 'Lost Mountain'. This is an area of swelling grass moorland rising to 802m (2,632') with a 4 mile Chevron shaped precipitous red escarpment to the east and north, cradling Llyn y Fan Fawr and Llyn Fan Fach (Fig 2).

Fig 2. We did some running - honest!

Immediately to the south and criss-crossed during Day 2 is limestone country with disappearing streams and numerous sink-holes in which the planners delighted in concealing check points (Fig 3).

Fig 3. I couldn't possibly accompany DA to the bottom of this sink-hole and back because I had to get the photo.

Competitors are issued with special laminated orienteering style 1:40,000 Harvey's maps, one for each day marked up with check points, which have to be visited in the correct order. The only drawback, all the spot heights and most names have been removed. GPS is most definitely not allowed (Philip beware) but Altimeters are. We found one to be useful but didn't make as much use of it as we should or would next time.

As relative amateurs we carried moderately heavy packs of over a stone. Our elite colleagues reckon on 10 lbs. On the way down in the car with Steve Birkinshaw and Morgan Donnelly we learnt how this is achieved - including cutting off extraneous bits of webbing from your rucksack. We did take on advice and 'ran wet', i.e. put wet kit back on the next morning - it soon dries. Having run the LAMM 'B' in mid-summer amidst white out conditions, the weather at the KIMM was uncharacteristically mild, 10-13 deg C, allowing warm kit and weight to be ditched before starting.

Food is the one luxury allowed, and we eked out multiple brews, a 4-course supper and porridge breakfast from one 70g gas cylinder encased in tin-foil. David topped proceedings off with a Lagavullin night cap courtesy of two Kodak film canisters.

Fig 4. As the Kenyans say, a half-empty sack of corn won't stand up.

The 'A' course comprised 36.5km/2636m climb on day 1 and 30.6km /1289m climb for day 2, we think, measured as the crow flies. Efficient progress relies not only on mountain fitness but crucially on sensible route planning and good navigation. Both David and I aren't bad at navigation - we stumbled on some difficult (always hidden) check points with resounding success and cocked-up three, wasting 40 minutes in total. We showed we were less good at making sensible route choices on a couple of occasions, costing us time and resulting in needless height gained. With a heavyish pack and wet tussocky conditions, a more circuitous route, contouring round or making use of any paths available seemed to help.

Fig 5. Much of the course was rolling and runnable.

They say,' no pain, no gain'. We worked hard throughout the weekend, but not excessively so and I for one didn't lose any sense of enjoyment throughout. We were ranked 38th at the end of day 1 and 37th at the finish out of 115 starting pairs. Total running time was 14:34:09. At a combined age of 90, although we didn't feel that old even at the end, we were pleased to finish 4th vet, 8th overall on handicap.

We also congratulate our NFR colleagues who put in brilliant performances, in particular Steve Birkinshaw and Morgan Donnelly, second in the Elite having led by a mere 39 seconds at the end of day 1. Maybe we'll be snapping at their heels with a bit more practice.

Fig 6. Now for a 6½ hours drive home.
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