Tuesday, 14 November 2017

OMM 2017 - Score Planner's Report

OMM 2017 - Planner’s Report

It’s nearly eighteen months since Dave Chapman phoned me up and asked if I would be interested in planning the OMM!
Ok, but it’s not for this October is it?’  ‘No’ came the reply, ‘ ...certainly not, it takes more than a year!’
Q: ‘So, can I ask where it might be?’  A: ‘Well, er... we wouldn’t be asking you if it wasn’t local to you’.

Me looking manly after helping to rebuild the Gerry Charnley Cairn on Friday before OMM.  Gerry was effectively the founder of the OMM .

It seemed rude not to accept the challenge, and so the long term planning process began, which would take get me out into the far reaches of my home patch. My ‘day job’ is as a mountain guide and tutor and event planner for all manner of events.   I had been a competitor in the infamous Borrowdale 2008 OMM, and competed in several since.  My relationship with the event goes back a fair way; indeed, in my two sabbatical years away from Cumbria I lived near the Karrimor factory and through the local running scene got to know several people working there and became involved with what was the ‘KIMM’ to some and ‘Karrimor’ to others.  I even helped redesigned the iconic ‘KIMM’ sac.  

Planning Process

Early on in the process,  it was decided to split the planner’s role in two, with Dave acting as Controller, Graham planning the linear courses and myself the score.   Naturally there is a lot of crossover and joint working.  The initial draft maps had in excess of 130 possible controls and these were visited and checked for suitability by a small team of committed experts that form the ‘Hill Team’.

Dave Chapman (Event Controller) explains planning process

The linear courses need to take a slight priority on the use of controls, so as to ensure the correct distance and ascent for each class, and most importantly route choice between each control. This is not to say a control can not be used by the Score as well, but we try hard not to overload any one control, not least for environmental reasons and ‘traffic management’ of course.    
Score course planning has it’s own set of unique parameters.

Planning Constraints

‘OOB’ and other natural barriers, such as large lakes or river crossings have an effect on the shape and direct of course, as does the location of the overnight camp.  This is very significant; too close and it’s not meaningful enough, too far and the shorter classes, both score and linear with be very direct, linear and processional.  One of my key objectives was to make sure Short Score Day Two had a worthwhile choice of controls to get them back in a variety of ways.  The distance between Event Centre an Overnight camp is crucial here, plus the topography in between.

Control sites are varied in feature type and technical difficulty. Ideally, the more technical controls would appear on the longer / hard classes; and ‘easier’ controls on the shorter / intro courses.  However, that assumes that the entrant’s navigation ability matches course or class, but it’s not that easy.  Overall, any control should be ‘resolute’ and unambiguous; the real skill issue is the route choice between controls not searching about on a technical treasure hunt!      
Each potential control site is visited a number of times by different members of the ‘Hill Team, on different days in different weather, to check a control’s validity on all aspects.  Naturally, opinions vary amongst the team, and made for some interesting  pre and post dinner discussions!  There will always be one or two controls that become the bane of some teams’ weekend, but I hope not too many.

Weather, Or Not?

The weather played a very significant part on Saturday.  It become a ‘tad’ more windy, wet and certainly claggier than I was expecting, based upon the relevant local forecasts. I suggest the prevailing weather conditions added an hour or so to everyone’s linear course, plus the ground conditions of very saturated turf and greasy rock also slowed everyone down.  Score Classes are self regulating, so the overnight camp becomes ‘home’ early for the Score teams than it does the linear courses. ‘Yes’, there was the option of Shortened Courses, but that option was not available to us once the event had started.

Bit of a random photo - me showing signs of extreme weather after a hot 2012 DBR.
Of course, Shane Ohly won this year's OMM elite with Duncan Archer coping with some fairly extreme
 wet and windy Day One weather

Overall, the feedback I have received regarding the Score courses, both during the event and afterwards by email and social media has been very positive. There are some great threads and comments about certain controls, and route choices, but the overwhelming consensus is that there was plenty of choice throughout.  The apportioning of Control values is the crux issue of Score course planning.  It’s a mix of craft, science and wizardry and the distillation of several different models and theories applied.  It’s certainly very absorbing and the purchase of an A3 printer and a ream of paper helped me greatly, as did the odd medicinal Merlot or Malt late at night!

Navigation and Mountain Skills

Good navigation and mountain skills are required to enjoy and succeed and the OMM and certainly in evidence by many. It’s also great to hear of teams using ‘SMJ’ (sound mountain judgement) by those opting out for safety reasons.
Me in black watching Day One start - photo thanks to Lucy Imber

 Whatever your outcome, I hope you enjoyed the weekend, and I would encourage anyone to review their route choices and navigational strategies as there is always something to learn!   Some places are still available on the ‘Mountain Running Essentials’ training weekend in March 2018, or check out the NAV4.co.uk website for other training and coaching opportunities .  

And Finally,
Some of the core hill team - end of Friday morning
I’d like thank ‘The Hill Team’; Steve, Ian, Colin, John, Geoff, along with fellow planner Graham and Controller, Dave.  

It’s all a Team effort and we are small but crucial part of the wider OMM Event team. I’d also like to thank you, the competitors, for entering and taking part and for all your and smiles and miles run or walked.   

Many thanks - see you next year!

Joe Faulkner
OMM Planner (Score Courses)
NAV4 Adventure

Sunday, 15 October 2017


This time next week you will enjoying the Ullswater Way or Challenge!  Or you may have finished and be enjoying our post event tea, coffee, soup, cake. Don't worry, this is a small friendly challenge event and everyone is welcome, whatever your speed or ambition !

There are no formal cut-off times, and we will support anyone to finish as long as it is safe to do so, regards your health and welfare.  The evenings are drawing in so it maybe dark by 6:30pm.  Pack a head torch if you wish!

Start and Finish

Our event HQ is the village hall in Pooley Bridge - properly known as the Parkin Memorial Hall.  This is just by the mini-roundabout as you come in to the village from Tirril and Eamont Bridge. The postcode is CN10 2NL.

Unfortunately, there is no parking available at the Hall, but alternatives very close by and free shuttle buses from local pick up points - see below.

Registration and Start Times

Registration will be open from 7:30am.  Start times are from 8am through to 10am.
It will be a very simple registration, where you will be given a credit card sized number, route map and written route description.  You may start when you like within the time frame, with the slower walkers going early and the faster runners later.  Please, do adhere to this system as it really helps us provide a great day out for all and makes our marshall planning so much easier and less time consuming.

Safety Checkpoints

There will be a number of Safety checkpoints around the route, staffed by our event team. These will be obvious on your route and detailed on the route description.  Please make sure you check in at these points and the staff record your passage.

Food Checkpoints

Some of the Safety Checkpoints will double up as feed stations as well.  Our main Food checkpint will be the Helvellyn Base Camp in Glenridding, around halfway. Base Camp will have hot and cold drinks and simple snack food - both sweet and savoury.  We will also have cold drinks and food at our Sandwick, Dockray and Watermillock Checkpoints.  You can fill your water bottles at all the checkpoints but will need to take a mug in order to get hot drink.  (We will have some available at the start)

Kit, Clothing, Footwear

I'd rather not insist on a mandatory kit list as gear is a very personal choice and no one list suits all entrants.
Footwear - naturally this will range from skinny off-road running shoes to weatherproof boots.  If you haven't noticed the weather has been rather wet of late so some mud and soggy bits are inevitable. Plus the terrain is very varied underfoot.

Please do take a weatherproof jacket, and spare warm layer. Over trousers, hat a gloves, may well be useful,  together with some cash for additional on the hoof purchases. or the 'Ullswater Steamers' if you choose this as a return option, from Glenridding.  A mobile phone can be useful, although signal is poor in the valley except on the Vodafone network


Naturally, we will be able to transport you back to base by car, if you need to retire at any of our checkpoints, Our Safety Tech team will also be available at key points to deal with any minor emergencies and initiate more serious evacuations.  

Post Event

The finish is back at The Village Hall - far end of the village as you come into Pooley from the bridge, remember!
There will be copious amounts of tea, coffee, soup and cake at the finish and three pubs available for further food and drink should you need it.  There will be a souvenir mug for everyone - but no prizes or other 'bling' - that's simply not our style.


Parking is a headache for any event organiser, and I urge you not to bring cars into the village if at all possible.
We have no specific dedicated 'Event Parking' in Pooley Bridge, although very nearby there is some '£3 All Day' parking.  Space and availibilty depends upon this week's weather and reasonably dry ground conditions.

Other car parks in Pooley are LDNP controlled and will cost you different Pay-and-Display rates.
We have free parking at local village halls, and offer a free shuttle bus from these locations, as well as pick-ups form Penrith Railway station and town centre.  Free village hall parking is available at Dacre Village Hall - ideal if you are coming from Keswick and West on the A66 - and Askham village hall - ideal from the South, M6 via the A6.  Please do use this service - and  'Yes' we will take you back to your cars after the event!

Proposed Shuttle Bus Timetable -

  • 7:15 Askham
  • 7:30 Pooley Bridge
  • 7:45 Dacre
  • 8:00 Pooley Bridge
  • 8:30 Penrith Railway Station
  • 8:45 Askham
  • 9:00 Pooley Bridge
  • 9:15 Dacre
  • 9:30 Pooley Bridge
  • Postcodes Dacre Village hall c. CA11 0HL  Askham Village Hall c. CA10 2PG

In order to gauge demand please drop me an email with a 'Yes' and pick up point /time as soon as you can, and definitely before 8pm . Pickups available along either route are possible, say, Tirril or Yanwath, etc. Bus mobile number 07749364248

Please do make a concerted effort to car share and use our FREE shuttle bus and parking options.

Ok, I think that's about it for now - if you have any questions please check the facebook page or blogpost - before emailing me as it may well be an FAQ that some others need to see.

Many thanks,

and The NAV4 Adventure team / Friends of Ullswater Way

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Ullswater Way & Challenge 2017

All welcome ....

Sunday 22nd October 

Last year saw the inaugural event around the newly established Ullswater Way, with 180 people enjoy some, or all of the 24 mile route.  Everyone had a great time, although some found it a bit tougher than they imagined as not all of it is nice flat lakeside trails, as some of the media photos portray!  Suffice to say, those who choose to get a 'Steamer' back down the Lake were both wise and reward by great views of Ullswater.

2017 Tweaks

This year we are repeating the event, but with a few tweaks and a change of direction.

For 2017, we'll be going clockwise around the lake instead, so if you 'only did the first half .... and it was amazing' last year, now you can do the same again and do the other half, and it's a win-win!

We are also offering two options - Ullswater Way 20 or  Ullswater Challenge 24.  Both routes share the same route to Glenridding at around halfway, and then they split. The UW20 route stays low and uses the 'new NT' lakeside path to Aira Force Cafe. This is by far the easier option as it's flatter and very much parallel with the road and lakeshore.

The UC24 will head up to Greenside and over into Glencoyne, traversing on the higher level fell path to Dockray.   This includes the stunning views down the lake and as well as some 'technical single-track' that many will enjoy.  The UC24 route will continue over Gowbarrow summit, and join the UW20 route at The Old Shoot Lodge.

For an idea of the routes take a look at the excellent FoUW website, which gives you some general maps and information on the heritage and artworks.

The Ullswater Way signage

The start and finish will be in Pooley Bridge. You can start anytime between 8am and 10am, so no mass start, 'elbows out' or traffic worrying malarkey.

The exact start arrangements will be confirmed in the next few weeks as I'm awaiting confirmation as to useage of the Memorial Hall and/or maybe the Sun Inn, as last year, but it will be somewhere in the village.  All will be confirmed in due course, plus you'll get 'Final Details' by email via the entries system of course.  Entries are already open and places are limited, so please don't miss out. If you are undecided on which route is for you, don't worry as you can 'edit your entry' at a later date and change from one to the other.  We will also allow you to do this at the Glenridding CP during the event if needed.

The Ullswater Way route is waymarked with the UW 'roundel' shown above.  We'll be adding a few small orange NAV4 arrows and a few safety tech staff at key points, but it is an easy route to follow. We'll give out carefully written route notes (large text and accurate) and have commissioned a special
UW&C map.  No-one should fear getting lost!

Is it a race?
No, not really, but more of a time trial for those whom speed and time matters.

We take our responsibilities seriously,  so naturally we will time you out and back in again, so everyone will have a 'finisher's time'. And we'll be accounting for you at the various Checkpoints around the routes. Everyone is welcome, walkers, runners, ramblers, as long as you are all tolerant of each other and aim to have a good day out.

Not really typical - UW24 will be going Up this time!

 All we ask is that those who are slowest and want and need more go early soon after 8am, whilst the speedy runners go much later around 10am.

Why? We'll it is logical and spreads everyone out.  It also makes it all a lot easier for us to manage as the finishing 'window' isn't so long, and generally open shorter hours. This means a lot for the volunteers helping you all day.

Our Ethos

We keep things simple, clean and green.  Don't expect unnecessary 'bling, music or a fanfare at the start or finish.  Do expect a great day out, plenty of fun, banter, brews, cake and  ....  

There will be shuttle bus with pick ups from local villages and venues, including Penrith Station and town centre.  We are hoping to resource free parking in Penrith with shuttle bus service to the start.
There will also be secure bike parking at the event venue - ride a few miles from home or your B&B?

Heading to Howtown from The Cockpit ...

Checkpoints are likely to be at Howtown, Side Farm / Patterdale, Glenridding, Dockray and Aira Force, Watermillock or Bennetthead.  Each will supply a minimum of cold drinks, plus some hot drinks and tasty nibbles.    You'll be able to fill your water bottles at each checkpoint and we'll be providing you with special souvenir mug at registration for you to use on route.

A year or so on, the basic route is now well established and the Friends of Ullswater Way, have done a remarkable job of installing eight art structures around the route, with more planned.  We will be donating some money to continue the work and to help with general footpath maintenance, but you can also add optional donations to Fix-the-Fells and National Trust that you can 'tick' when signing up.

Ok, I think that's just about it for now; I'll write updates as and when, and 'Final Details' will be sent to all participants a week before the event.  Check out our facebook event page to share FAQ's, comments, offer lifts or accommodation or whatever.  This is a low-key, community led event so please get involved.

Want to help out?

We do need so volunteers to make the day work smoothly.  Helping at a checkpoint is an excellent way to put something back in to the event. Or, perhaps you can help before with offering a checkpoint venue, minibus or ...whatever.  

If you can please get in touch with me, Joe via email - nav4adventure@gmail.com

Many thanks,

Friday, 19 May 2017

DBR - Why?

Dragons Back Race - Again! Why?

This has been the 'FAQ' that I've been asked frequently over the past few months.  Even today, someone expressed surprise that I was running not working. Perhaps it's because I'm behind the scenes at many races rather than 'racing', or just my increasing bulk and decreasing speed.

It got increasingly worrying when my sanity appear to be in question, and I spent the winter months thinking hard trying to find a good reason not to take part.  I certainly don't want to be the 'fat old git' at the back, arriving late each evening.  But I can cope being the slightly fat chap finishing in the middle of the pack. .

There is a bit of a song and dance about me doing a fourth DBR in twenty five years, but I don't see it as a big deal.  I'm just lucky that I was around in 1992 (just coming into my fell racing prime, actually) and I'm still active now ...and can get fired up for the right occasion.

Last time, in DBR 2015, someone put a camera in front of me as I trundled South on Day Three.
Q: 'What keeps you motivated?' they asked.  My immediate thought was 'wtf' that's a bit of a stupid question and I struggled for a reply.  'er..don't know really..? Somewhere on Youtube there is 27 secs of riveting video.

I trundled on. To be fair, I didn't realise they were filming and I was just in my own enjoyable space and have trouble wasting energy on smiling.

A: But, it is just about keeping moving, and enjoying it.  Walking and running down Wales for five days - what's not to like?  No laptop, no work commitments, no Wifi - no phone signal.  It's not a joke or cliche, I'm looking forward to a holiday.

Q: 'But surely it's a bus men's holiday for you?
A:  Maybe. I'm happy to muck in and help with the event team and I'm not tolerant of prima donnas who expect everything done for them, but first and foremost I going to enjoy some 'TFM' and the j-o-u-r-n-e-y! Eek.

I've also been fortunate to spend some quality hill-time out with fellow Dragoneers recently.  It's been a pleasure and honour to offer my own advice and support to them but it's two-way street and I've reaped support from them, too.  I'm looking forward to spending some quiet time with a few friends, both old and new. but equally so I'm fearful of the hype and egos.

So ,,,,no reason not to do it again - I'm not as old as Facebook thinks I am - and twenty-five years is now't.  I know of two people who are have done events for 30+ years or more, year in year out.  A few years ago, I went to a lecture by a guy who had done every London Marathons. He'd done like 28 at the time, and he was the youngest to do so, so clearly had his sights set on being the 'last man standing'.  Generally people were in awe, but I remember asking him, 'Have you ever thought about choosing NOT to do it?'  The question led to a uneasy pause in the room.

This 4/4 DBR is nothing special.

Steve Redgrave's five consecutive Gold medals is special Katherine Grainger's Olympic record special too.  Casper and Katie's joint BGR is special, and in a DBR context Helene's fourth place in 2012, twenty years on from winning was very impressive along with Jim Mann's run that year.

Q: What changes have you seen over the years?

Not a lot really,  The distance and terrain is much the same.  There are good mountain running performances from well prepared mountain runners. A growth in the event infrastructure, of course. Sadly, in recent years, a greater proportion of people getting out of their depth ... and some high expectations from a demanding race community and media.

A Personal Potted History

1992 - Fit, Young and Ambitious.
Quietly confident but enjoying racing just behind my role models, heroes and leading runners of the day. Sadly, my partner Steve Dubie put his foot down a rabbit hole on the last afternoon and so we lost several hours as he hobbled with severe cruciate ligament damage.  We missed the Saturday morning presentation as we sat in A&E in Cardiff, I remember driving home to Cumbria, non-stop, with a bit of a sulk on.

2102 - Very Fit, Not-so-Young, Tired.
But a bit tired and battered from a week's AR Exped race the week before. Shane's extra special Day One was tough, we dug deep, I nursed my battered body efficiently to the finish,  Overjoyed, yet a little jealous of Helene's 4th place performance, it was an evening of very mixed emotions as we waited for Wendy Dodds to finish late in the evening.   And all a bit of a head mash, as I'd got some tragic news as phoned home, just after the finish line.   A week later another tragedy.

2015 -  Fit Enough, Getting Older and Wiser. Try Again.  
So, this is the last time? Let's get it right and finish on a high, please.  Finished strongly, enjoyed all but five minutes, but perhaps under-achieved. Bugger...!

2017 - Not Dead Yet - let's have fun.

2019 - tbc....fit enough to take part, or working on the event side which is harder?

Have fun, everyone.