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