Summer Series – Belrose

Last weeks orienteering effort had looked to be an interesting run, with a good bit more on trail than usual.  There was a mid-week break in the hot weather and although rain was threatening, it never eventuated.  Having a rough idea of the location we put the trail shoes on expecting to see a bit of work in the dirt and even more mud out there after the heavy rains earlier.  There was a fair bit more of the course on the road than we expected, but we were still glad to have the trail shoes on anyway.

After a quick look over the course, we both went with my suggestion to hit the trails first.  It was more of a set loop and would then leave us with the roads at the end and plenty of options for altering our plan on the run depending on time.  Started off at a good pace, picking up the first couple of points quickly.  Nick was ahead of me, letting me track down a couple of controls a bit quicker than I otherwise would have following the glimpses of his red shirt through the bush.  One of the speedy men’s runners flew through at this point too.  Due to a couple of wrong turns and misreads of the map on Nicks part, I saw him a couple more times while on the trails.  He is fitter, stronger and faster than me, so I feel pretty good when I can show up ahead of him through some better map reading.  It wasn’t pristine bush running as we ran behind a power station, and some of the control locations had descriptions I hadn’t come across before, such as “car wreck”!  Speedy guy, having picked up several extra trail controls I had skipped, went past again as I took the below photo.  I was happy with my progress along the trails, my hip was handling it all well and the terrain was a lot less hilly than expected.


Then it was back on the roads to work out what I could fit in the time remaining.  I followed my initial plan, although one ten point control I should have left out – too much up and down to be worth it – speedy guy passed by again here.  Then with 15 minutes still to go, I thought I could cover more than I had originally planned.  This was a tough one, the last few times I tried this it was a disaster, so I was tempted to stay with my original line up, but this had the potential to add a good few points and I thought I could still make it back in time.  No time for thinking too much, so off I went, nabbed my extra thirty pointer (there goes speedy guy again!) and then made the haul back towards the start hoping to pick up another seventy points on the way.  Another thirty points and I was getting low on time, dammit, I wasn’t going to make it to those other 40 points and I was starting to get tired. Push, push, push, less than one minute to go, push a bit harder and reached the finish with 15 seconds to spare!

Post run, I reassessed my route choice.  Yes, I could have made some better decisions, but in the end it would have only seen me ten or maybe twenty points better off.  At this point, I’m ok with that.  As I said to my uncle before the run, this is my first season orienteering on my own and it’s all a learning game at the moment.  And speedy guy?  He came first in his age category – was interesting to see another person on the course so many times, it doesn’t often happen that way.


  • Distance: 5.6km
  • Elevation: 76m
  • Time: 44:43

Saturday Orienteering

I’ve eyed this series of events off before, but had been under the impression that they were for school kids and their families.  We recently realised they were open to everyone, so when one came up that we could make it to we decided to check it out.

This one was only 15 minutes away and we arranged with the in-laws to come out and have some fun with the girls while we ran.  There were three course options – a 45 minute score course similar to Summer Series; a short line course; and a long line course.  Our original plan was to run different courses, but on arrival we decided to do the long line course together, potentially splitting up if I needed to walk too much.

My Garmin took aaaaages to lock on to gps, over 5 minutes!  Then we were given our maps, beeped our starts, had our first look at our maps and headed off.  Skirted around some construction fencing, then along a nice clear track towards the first marker – which was at the far end of our map from the start…  We started seeing controls from the get go and made sure we checked if they matched up with controls we had to get later – this ended up saving us loads of time later on and making some good gains on faster runners.

Within 100m we hit the first descent – gulp!  This was actually a sign of things to come, the map scale might have been only 1:5000 on an A4 sheet, but the contours were 5m, and there were a LOT of them.  It was a slow walk, skid, scramble, clamber as we went down, down, down to the creek.  Then our first route choice which ended up being a good call.  Slightly more up, but then some road which made for good traveling. The first control was near a creek crossing and, as most controls were, was obviously placed.  The second control was back towards the start, but along the alternate route – much slower.  Several creek crossings, lots of mud, parts of the path fallen away and trees to climb over.  Lots of fun, but pretty tight when we met people coming the other way.

I said "wait", he thought I said "wet", result - a blur!

I said “wait”, he thought I said “wet”, result – a blur!

All the way back to the first creek we hit and a different crossing – very glad there hadn’t been any more rain or we would have been wading across.  Control 3 was across the other side of the map again, after being more used to score courses where we can pick up controls in any order we like, it felt terribly wrong to be passing controls that we would have to come back and get later on.  Some beautiful running along some very pretty trails, then some steps and some more steps.  A little worse for wear after recent storms too which made for slow going.  Past three more controls that we would have to get later on and we were finally at control 3 and almost half an hour in!  This was definitely going to be a lot slower than we had expected.

Then some lovely fast gently downhill firetrail and we overshot our turnoff, wasting a lot of time.  Back up we went, then found the right side trail.  A little way in a large stick tried to trip me up. And again, and again.  Damn thing was at least two metres long and had somehow twisted itself into my shoelaces and had me madly hopped along trying not to fall over.  I won the battle and disentangled myself from the branch, making sure it ended up well off the trail.  More trees to climb over and we were finally at control 4.

Control 5 was an easy find and not too far off.  Control 6 we definitely took the hard way!  We headed down to the trail we thought we needed to get to.  But the only way down was clambering down what was basically a cliff face.  With fallen trees.  And slippery.  Not our best effort, but we got there in the end and realised how easy it actually should have been.

Controls 7 and 8 we had already spotted, it was just a matter of retracing our steps and making our way down four contours we had previously climbed, then back up again and back down again.  The down was fun, but running the same track four times was definitely my least favourite thing to do!

Control 9 was a gentle run back along a previous trail and keeping an eye out for the marker we had previously spotted – having noted this one previously actually let us get ahead of a couple of runners that had overtaken us earlier.  On to Control 10 which was at yet another creek crossing, again, one we had noted earlier and proved no problem. Not far to control 11 and then it was the climb back up our original downhill from the start.  Oh boy that was slow!  Eight contours (40m of up in less than 200m) of elevation before we could finally move a bit faster than a crawl to make our way to control 12.

Next was possibly the hardest part of the entire thing.  Run past the finish to do a wide loop through the bush around the oval and pick up the final three controls.  This was all straightforward, easy running, our legs were getting tired, but we still found the energy to pick up the pace a little and then finally, finally, reach the finish.

Wow!  That took SO long.  Much tougher than we had expected with the terrain and the navigation was tricky partly because we’ve never worked on a map at that scale before, so kept overshooting our goals.  It was slow, slow, slow.  But on the good side – I had no issues with breathing, no pain, no tightness or pulling in my calves.  It was also my first test run with my new compression socks which I’d picked up on sale during the week.  They were awesome!  So comfortable and this was the first run since January that my calf and achilles haven’t given me any problems at all.  Big, big win!

Sexy new socks

Sexy new socks

So given that massive report, this must have been a BIG run – right?!  Well, here are the stats to show just how slowly we went.

  • Distance: 6.4km
  • Time: 1:24
  • Elevation: 100m

My garmin also had a spectacular fail, recording this run as over 140 hours long.  No idea what happened, but that’s definitely a best effort yet!  Added bonus – finding a leech on the way home.  At least it was on the outside of my shoe and was still a skinny thing, having failed to find a way through my new socks!

Goat Race Anyone?

This weekends event was a goat race.  An interesting orienteering format that is basically a line race – go to all controls in the specified order – but with a few twists.  There was a “box” with four controls that you can visit in any order before moving on again, there are forks where you have to decide which option to take and which control to visit, and finally you can skip a control completely.

Last year we ran this, we picked the long course and I after the first couple of k’s I did NOT enjoy it.  This year I chose the medium course in the hopes that we would be able to keep some momentum throughout.  My head was not in the right space at all today though and we got off to a very, very rocky start.  I think we were a very definite last by the first control!

A few more controls in hand, we had passed a couple at the tail end of things, but we never really got back in the midst of it.  Another run where you can’t look at the map until time has started and it took about 20 minutes before I really got my head in the map.  I need a LOT more practice at this!  Once I was in, my navigation was pretty good, even guiding us through the box pretty neatly.  This was a really tricky one this year.  Last years box was in a small open area, easy to move around and find the controls.  This year was in a rabbits warren of trails in dense scrub.  We came across loads of people here, wandering around, checking and rechecking maps.  Several we passed a few times and we were out before they finished.

The last part of the race was much faster – quite a bit of it on road with in and outs to the last couple of controls.  The final control was in hand and we made the last dash to the finish – a headlong, reckless downhill dash along a twisty, but open, trail.  That was the most fun I had on the entire thing.

We finished in over an hour, taking around 6.6km to do the 5.3km course.  Results are already up and we finished 25/26th out of 34 doing the medium course in a time of 1hr 8min, nearly 27 minutes after the fastest person.  According to Garmin our moving time was closer to 50 minutes…

Not a great event, but it was nice to be outside once I could actually stretch my legs a bit and run.  Looking forward to getting out for a no pressure run on the local trails soon.

More Orienteering?

So I’ve been bad and haven’t been for a run this week.  Every evening, I plan to head out the next day, then I get caught up in other things, or people post a photo of a red bellied black snake sunbathing on my local trail… Probably just as well we have an orienteering event today or I would talk my way out of another run.

Actually, I was scrolling through eventor again the other day and it’s been updated with several more orienteering events over the next couple of months.  So just as we thought we had a month off and might finally get back along to Parkrun again, I’ve managed to find two more weekends with something to go to.

Looks like we can take the girls along too for a couple of them which will be a lot of fun – out first chance to introduce them to orienteering.  Not too sure what the 2yr old will think of it, but our 3yr old is going to love the chance to run with mummy or daddy and use a map as well!

Now just to make sure I take advantage of the opportunity to go for a decent run this week!

Post MetrO

Overall, we didn’t do too badly for our first visit to a MetrOLeague event.  Nick came in 18th and I was 21st in a field of 39.  The winner finished in 30 mins, the longest person was in 1hr 22min.  Admittedly, I think I would have been a fair bit longer and struggled a bit more on my own.

I think next time I will let Nick run Div 4 on his own and I’ll drop back to Div 5 and work on my map reading a bit more.  See how we both go solo!  It’s a while before there’s another one we can get to, but the aim this year is to only get to a couple and see what it’s all about.

While running and cranky, I felt bad for Nick, it can’t be too much fun running with someone who’s a bit snippy and grumpy.  I did apologise and his response was perfect.  He was outside, running trails, map in hand, with me beside him – this was his happy place.  He just wished I was enjoying it more.  Just what I needed to hear, and I should enjoy it more in the future knowing what a little more what to expect, although my plan has us running separately!  Ah well, can’t have everything.

Blue Mountains Meanderings

I’ve been poking around in the orienteering calendar for random events we might be able to get to over winter.  Somehow I’ve ended up picking four events in four weeks..   Moonlight Madness was the first one and yesterday we headed out to Glenbrook for a local event.

We had no idea what to expect, just that there was a range of course lengths and difficulties and we would ask once we got there.  All the courses were a line course.  We were always going to go the long course, just the decision to go easy or moderate.  We met a chatty bloke at the start who ran us through it all and in the end decided that a Moderate course would provide a bit more of a challenge rather than just a nice run in the bush.

We finally headed off around 11am, starting on the streets for the first control on our way to the bush.  The weather was mild and sunny – a perfect autumn day!  The tracks were clearly marked, the map was easy to follow and it started surprisingly level for most of the first half.  The difference between the easy and moderate courses was that for the easy course the controls would be on the path, while for the moderate course the controls were off trail, so the navigation component became much more important.

We found it!

We found it!

The next few controls passed by fairly easily.  The trails were fun and we passed many mountain bikers out enjoying the day.  I may have charged down a hill or two with my arms out and making aeroplane noises, much to the amusement of my husband.  About half way through it started getting a little trickier and we had to start really paying attention to the map and trusting in our ability to know exactly where we were.  The hills started kicking in here too!

There;s a control in there somewhere...

There;s a control in there somewhere…

Up out of the gully and back onto some streets, then things got tricky.  A couple of controls in scrub, no paths.  A little searching and we found those two ok.  Then it was up and over a hill and clambering over some rocks tot the next one and off for the final control.  This was probably the trickiest yet as we pushed through the bush, slipped over ricks in a creek and found the final control in a clearing!  An easy enough walk out of the bush and back on to a short section of road to the finish.

Now that's a hill!

Now that’s a hill!

It ended up being a lot longer than we expected – both in time and distance.  We had expected to start earlier, so hadn’t planned to eat beforehand, but by the time we finished we were starving.  Luckily I had put a couple of bananas in the car, but we really hadn’t fuelled well at all.  My legs had hheld up well until the final stretch of road when my left calf started pulling.  It sorted itself out quickly once we stopped, but then my right calf knotted up.

More of an effort than we had been expecting, but a gorgeous day to be out in the bush!

The numbers:

  • Distance: 7.9km
  • Time: 1:29:29 (approx 1hr moving time according to strava!)
  • Elevation: 139m

Moonlight Madness

A last minute decision to go to the first Moonlight Madness of the year – a 45 minute orienteering run similar in style to the Summer Series.  Last minute being relative of course, with 2 young kids, there is no real last minute.  In this case, it meant I decided two days prior.  The main difference between this one and Summer Series, with daylight savings all done and winter approaching, is running in the dark.  Headlamps or torches are a must – we picked up cheap Energizer ones from Bunnings last year – and pace inevitably slows down when running in the dark in new locations.

Tonight the starting point was Pymble and I was reasonably familiar with the surrounding hilly streets, but it all depended on whether the map was mainly north or south of the start.  I was utterly delighted when I got my hands on the map to see that it was mostly in St Ives!  My home for over 10 years and the map area covered my old street, friends places and old haunts.  For once, picking a route was fairly easy, while there were some big hills, I was able to plan the rest to minimise the ups and downs, a couple of options if we needed to cut things short or extend at the end, and we were off with little delay.

2016-04-21 19.23.58

A duck and weave into state forest at the start, avoiding trails in the dark and sticking to roads as much as possible.  Then it was off for the big loop around familiar streets.  I was feeling strong and positive, running was done at a decent pace and walking the steeper hills to save energy and check the map.  So much fun running past places I hadn’t seen for close to 20 years – there have been a lot of changes in that time, but plenty still remained the same.

A couple of minor errors in navigation (things look different in the dark), but nothing major, a push along part of my old “walk to school” path, a loop around for an additional 40 points and past my old house.  A creek crossing, so civilised with a bridge now, and heading back for the final hill to the finish.

A couple of minutes over time, by our numbers our final tally for the night was 350 (320 after time penalty) and 6km covered.  Scoring is old school for these events, you have to carry a scorecard and pencil as well as the map and note down the code at each checkpoint.  The whole run felt great. I pushed harder than usual and did it easily, my legs gave me almost no trouble, a slight twinge in my calf towards the end, but not enough to slow me down.

My only complaint is my Garmin got confused and thinks that I ran this activity on 31 May 2016 – some six weeks in the future.  So it’s not syncing with Strava and all my other goodies like RunDownUnder and Running Heroes.

The numbers:

  • Distance: 6km
  • Elevation: 80m
  • Time: 47:29