The planning for OMM Iceland 2015 started overt 12 month ago with Dave Annandale starting to speak to the relevant organisations and land owners to see what was going to be in the art of the possible. His priority as always was finding the best possible location to allow teams to experience some of the many unique and exciting features of Iceland whilst competing on an OMM. In late November 2014 Dave Annandale and Dave Chapman (OMM UK Race Director) headed over to go and plan the routes. Fortunately both tough, hardy mountain men, the snow covering the ground did nothing to deter them from checking the suitability of the checkpoints needed for the courses for the next event and they certainly had some adventures in the process. This is the first time that we have been able to get a team over to Iceland to set the courses which allowed us to ensure the checkpoints were all printed on the maps prior to the event. Courses set and approved the team headed back to the UK to get on with the planning.
The support team for the event grew this year and we were very lucky to have Joan coming over with us to ensure we ate in the lead up to the event and also as those who came over, provide a well received post event meal. Arriving on Tuesday afternoon to howling winds, driving rain and a balmy 3C still air temperature we headed to the event area and got installed into what was to become home for the week, got kitted up and promptly headed out the hills. One of the great things from an organisational perspective is that it remains light enough to work in daylight for nearly 22 hours a day at that time of year. Getting a little carried away with ourselves getting the checkpoints out we returned to base around midnight with a good chunk of checkpoints out on the event area.
Wednesday morning and the weather had not improved much but as always a day in the hills is never bad! Dave C and I went up into one of the valleys and had some fantastic running whilst Dave A unfortunately had to head back to the meet with the Park Rangers to deliver some maps for them. The weather started to break as the day wore on and as the cloud base lifted we were treated to some amazing views, imposing lava fields, alien landscapes and steaming checkpoints! By the end of the day we had finished placing the checkpoints and were feeling like we were ahead of the game.
As always you have to have some fudge factor incorporated into the timelines and Thursday was spent working around some very important toilet problems. The toilets at the overnight camp site had not yet been connected due to the late winter and the continuing risk of frost, despite having been arranged in October 2014. Several long hours were spent exploring all the options before we decided to head back over to Reykjavik and try to find some caravan toilets to buy. I would like to particularly mention the support we had from Jorunn at All Iceland, the Environment Minister, the Tourism Minister and the Mayor of Grindavik (the local town) who all did everything they could to help. Whilst the final solution was not exactly conventional everyone did comment on the wonderful views from the facilities!
Friday and everything was ready for teams to arrive and we began to welcome people to the event centre, the evening was spent talking tactics, the intricacies of Icelandic terrain and getting to renew friendships whilst meeting new folk. At theIcelandic event, the courses on offer are Score, all the checkpoints are live on both days and all are printed onto the map which is given out 30 minutes prior to each team’s start time. This means that you need to plan your routes for both days as there is no point in revisiting a checkpoint that you have already been to – planning a good route becomes especially important! There was some very strong competition in the fields with a good mix of youth versus experience as well as a number of teams who were coming to their first ever event of this type. I can think of few more dramatic landscapes in which to have this as your first experience.
We saw many of the teams out on the courses and took as many photos as possible (link) on our way to the overnight camp site. James and Rebbecca Bostock arrived in first with some time to spare and had the luxury of choosing the best spot and settled in to enjoy watching the competition unfold. We saw a huge range of emotions with teams crossing the finish line that day, the general consensus was that the weather had been very kind, the views stunning and some truely unique checkpoint locations. I remember discussing with Dominic and Simon how they were convinced they were in the right location of one of the controls and could not find it, until when a gust of wind came through and cleared the steam away, it appeared not a few metres away! There were some very close placings at the end of Day 1, with all the teams in safely but with an event where you are planing for both days, so much can change on Day 2 so it was really interesting to see what routes teams were considering for the second day and how they compared with what we though people would opt for. Ray and Rich told an amazing story about how they could either head up hill and get onto the ridge to get round the side of a lake and avoid the cliffs, but being mildly adventurous and the lake levels being slightly higher than normal, thought they would just head into the water and see if the track reappeared around the corner of the cliffs. Wading 300m or so along the coastline of the lake they discovered they were right and were rewarded with a special run along the beach taking them north to the far corner of the map.
We started the first team at 0600 on Day 2 so that everyone would arrive back at the HQ by 1245 giving us plenty of time to get fed and then head across to the post race relaxation and were once again blessed with the weather, blue sky had started to appear and we were in danger of having to get the suntan lotion out! In Scotland you can get four seasons in one day, inIceland the seasons change by the minute and less than one hour prior to the start the cloud base was down to sea level, the winds were up and visibility down to 15 metres. Once all the teams had headed back out onto the course we headed to the event centre to see who would win overall in what had become a battle of intelligence, strength and fitness, both for the top competing teams and those who had their own personal challenges for the event. All of the teams arrived back in safely and many thanks to the team that was running slightly late for letting us know, once again confirming the exercising sound mountain judgement is the single most important element to any event like this. The final results can be seen here above but I would like to congratulate specifically the competitors who took this on for the first time and all completed the challenge they set themselves.
Following a good feed and prize giving we all headed to the Blue Lagoon for some well earned rest and relaxation, a wonderful way to finish the event. The courses were all taken down in a surprisingly quick time which meant that we had time to head over to recce an area for next years event. The slopes around the Eyjafjallajokul volcano (the one that shut Europe down a few years back) gives us some even more stunning terrain to work with and hopefully we will see you here next year.