This weeks summer series was a doozy! Looking at the map, the striping of 5m contours patterned the sheet and we knew we were in for a leg burning event. A quick scan showed us two main options – stay “high” on the roads, where distance between points was definitely further but faster, and still so many hills. Or take the “low” route down into the creek valley with loads of contours but closer controls (and likely slower going). As I do, my preference pulled me to the trails and I mapped out a route, then reversed it and plotted multiple endings depending on time. Nick planned similar, but added on a substantial out-and-back to a 30 pointer at the start which meant we would likely cross paths a little way in.
After stalling at the start for a few minutes, I headed out and up the first hill – harsh start. Luckily it was then an easy downhill run to nab the first control – 18 – tucked in next to an electricity box. Off again for more easy downhill to control 14 and down further to get 8 as well. Then it was a slight uphill, turn off into a park to grab control 4 before heading heading back up and out (wave to Nick heading into the park), along a little more road before hitting the first bit of trail. It had been easy going to here – the controls were easy to spot and the road running was easy with plenty of downhill.
Onto the trail and down 6 or 7 contour lines towards control 27. I can usually move pretty quickly on the trails, especially with a bit of downhill, but this was steep, rocky, slightly slippery stairs and I had to slow right down. Then it got even worse – spider webs!!! Seriously? This meant that no one else had been along this section yet – not a good sign and made me wish that Nick would hurry and catch up to me so he could get rid of them for me. Down, down, down, then off down a rocky, leaf covered “trail”, that barely deserved the name, to get control 27 at the sewer vent. Scramble back out and then onto a slightly more level trail along the creek towards 26 (and more spiderwebs!).
The trail was barely runnable – narrow with roots and rocks ready to trip you up at every step and branches sticking out over the path. It was slow going. I saw an “almost trail” and headed up it, hopefully towards 26. A few mintues bashing around and I was pretty sure I was in the wrong spot when Nick caught up to me, told me it was too soon and headed off. Turns out the trail up to 26 was very obvious and and the control was a quick find, although more slow, twisty trail and contours were involved. At lest there was someone in front of me now, no more spiderwebs. Continued along the creek trail just behind Nick now towards 12. He disappeared in front of me, only to backtrack asking if we had overshot. Nope – still a bit further, we had just passed a small offshoot trail marked on the map, so not there yet. Then we did overshoot. Luckily another runner passed us and told us we were in the wrong spot.
Nick decided to skip the control and keep moving, while I headed back to get it. Checking my watch I was startled to see how long we had been out, these trails were taking a lot longer than expected and it was almost my “should be heading back” time, but there was no quick return path. So I had to keep moving and accept that I would be getting time penalties this week. It was somewhere around here I was jabbed in the leg by a stick, I noticed it at the time and it hurt, there was blood, but nothing too serious. A little later, I checked my leg and noticed something on where it had been jabbed – a fly? a mozzie? I flicked it off to discover it was a piece of the stick that had broken of into my leg! Ouch – there were splinters to dig out later that night too (and the next night).
Across the creek and onwards to control 19. I passed a mother-daughter team coming along the trail in the other direction who assured me the control was there but a little hidden. I was passing a burnt out area in which control 23 would be hiding and was glad that I had already decided not to get it. Nick had headed into this area and later confirmed it was a bad choice, slow going and lots of sticks out to scratch and trip. I picked up 19 easily – I paused right next to it, looked to my right and there it was.
Then it was up, up the hill and up a little more heading to control 10. And then the stomach cramps hit – just as a hit I runnable section of road. Can not catch a break today! Walking now, pick up control 10, tried jogging again and hoped for clear trails on the final section. My stomach settled itself out shortly before control 11 so I jogged down the road and was glad to see someone coming up out of the bush so I could identify where to head. This section was awful – there was pink tape down a rocky drainage ditch, very slow and precarious going and eventually made my way to control 30. Phew!
Only a little further to go, but I was already at 45 minutes so I was losing points quickly now (it’s 10 point down for every minute, or part thereof, you are over the 45 minute time limit). More pink tape along an ill-defined trail to control 6. I tried to pick up the pace, but there was too much vegetation doing its best to trip me up, so it was still slow. Another runner at control 6 had dropped his SI stick somewhere after the last control he was at, so figuring I was running late anyway, I helped him search, but with no luck. Nick passed me again along here, both of us on our way back and running late. Picked up control 15 before getting back on the roads and, surprise, up another hill to our final control 9.
Just before grabbing 9, I noticed someone looking a bit lost – they were near us at the start and had mentioned they were a beginner – so I stopped and asked how they were going. They admitted to being a bit “navigationally challenged”, so I stopped and helped them out a bit – more time lost, but hey, what’s another minute now? I got them on their way, grabbed control 9 and made a dash to finish. 10 minutes late! A low scoring week, little distance covered and over time.
Both Nick and I agreed that, in hindsight, while we made some wrong route choices, it was a frustrating event with the track being a lot slower and more difficult than expected. Last week the trail was easier, but it had warning of its difficulty while there was no indication this week that care was needed which would have let us know it would be slower going. Live and learn though and we can do better next week. With the results out, we both scored poorly, but even the best runners didn’t score high with only one person getting over 500 and over 80% of people returning late.