Sydney Turkey Trot 2018

Whinge Alert!!! I did not enjoy today’s event. At all.

This is our 4th year doing the Sydney Turkey Trot. It’s covered a variety of different areas, from routes through suburbia finding every bit of parkland available to a full bush experience in the Blue Mountains, so we thought we had a good idea of what to expect. This year the start and finish were in Cherrybrook, a leafy suburb with lots of bush parks and edging onto national park and parts of the Great North Walk. We expected a combination of street and bush orienteering, nothing too complex and a fun couple of hours out.

We made our way to the event in good time, checked out how it was set to work and then tried to find some sunshine to stand in and keep warm. I forgot to have a bite of muesli bar on the way out, but otherwise we felt ok and watched as the long course participants headed off at 9am. Then it was our turn to check our names off and grab the list of control locations – hmmm, all of them sounded like full “bush” locations, should probably have worn the trail shoes. No biggie, as long as it wasn’t too wet on course we’d be ok.

In the lead up, we were warned of steep contours and multiple big climbs, silppery creek crossings, it was starting to sound a bit more daunting. An email two days prior had also warned of potential need for gaiters and compass, but we decided not to bother. Then we were off – the speedy people charged out, while we settled towards the back of the pack. First intersection and people split out in three different directions – good setting when there’s no clear “best way” at this point! We headed for one way and Nick sadi it looked a bit messy, so I suggested we take another path, but he was already halway down the slippy slope so I slid down behind him. Then it was a matter of following the path those in front of us had made until we hit the main trail and headed towards the first control.

I already felt like I was struggling. The Turkey Trot seems to attract some very speedy people, so each year the rest of the pack flies off and we’re at the back with usually only one or two other people in sight. I’d forgotten to take my asthma preventer that morning and didn’t have my ventolin on me (I’m still not used to carrying it). Breathing was tough on a chilly morning and it felt like we were pushing the pace more than I should be (we weren’t really pushing at all though). Nick was in front of me, mostly with someone else between us, I wasn’t getting a chance to give my map more than a cursory glance which barely let me find where I was, and I just did my best to put my head down, follow the leader and try to keep up – not my idea of fun.

From the second control we saw a few people decide to cut across through the bush to the number three. We chose to stay on the paths where we could move faster and reached the control only just before the bush bashers. At least this section had some downhill on trail which let us stretch out our legs for a short bit. Going by trail from here was a lot of extra distance (and elevation), so we followed the example of others and headed up the hill through the scrub to the trail above us. Quick and easy, and we were back following trails again to the 4th control. Looping around on some minor trails had us pick up controls 4 and 5, then heading out onto a large, bare rocky area to track down number 6.

It was here that we ended up surrounded by other people – no idea which event they were on, but with several controls close together it seemed like a good area for people to end up milling around a bit. The next few controls definitely would have been a little easier with a compass. We somehow grabbed 6 quickly, then ended up popping out of the rocks at the right trail to head up for the next control. From there we went across country to control 8, but without a compass we headed too low and found a control from another course before heading further up the gully to grab ours.

We took a guess that there had to be a gap in the cliff between 8 and 9, only to find a photographer waiting just below the cliff, capturing people as they made their way through the narrow gap in the rocks and just before finding control 9. Time to flip the map and over then make the steep, treachorous descent to the bottom of the valley, this is where trail shoes would have really come in handy! Again, Nick sped forwared while I tried to keep up and just followed, trying not to slip over on my way down the hill. We made a decent pace along to control 10, headed into the scrub a bit early for 11, which allowed us to be overtaken, and then head a good way along the trails to 12 – our farthest point from the start.

 

 

 

 

 

At this point we were nearly 7km in and 1hr 20m had passed. We still had the full length of the second map to travel before we would pick up the third and final map – who knew what it had in store, but at this rate it was going to be a very long morning! I was knackered, frustrated and everything just felt too hard today. There wasn’t even a quick way back if I wanted to quit! At least that meant it wasn’t an option. I felt that we were so far behind everyone else it was ridiculous. Nothing to be done though but keep on moving. We had no food with us, but luckily Nick had water on him.

My only control photo from the course

From here we had a brief respite from the constant up and down of the trails and popped out onto the roads for a bit. It was very short lived though, one control and back down onto the trails again, almost dropping us right back to the same point we had been just over a kilometre earlier. It was a long hike along the trail to the map swap location with only one more control along the way, right on the track at a water crossing. Then a huge climb up out of the valley before making our way along a cliff line with what I’m sure was stunning views, but I just didn’t care at that point. We dropped off our first maps and picked up the next one and continued on.

Only 3 controls to go. I was getting slower and grumpier, the controls since 13 were all basically right on trail, so it felt like more of a hike than a treasure hunt. The hills were steep and nasty and as we headed back down into the valley it was getting cold again. I tried kicking up into a run again, but started getting twinges in my achilles on both legs – nooo! So walking it was. Another steep hill to head up and then back down again. Another creek to cross, our first real muddy, boggy patch of the day in which my shoe became half slimed. Then it was the home stretch. But not before a final, endless climb up to finish area.

It seemed almost deserted. There was no one hanging around the finish area, a couple dozen people around the front of the scout hall as we checked in and got our results – 18 out of 23 – so not quite last! Two apparently ended up with a “Did Not Finish”, which wasn’t too surprising. There seemed to be a couple in each category of the event which seemed higher than usual, I’m sure if I’d been doing it solo I would have been one of them as well. There were still people coming in from the other courses as well, it had been a tough day all round by the looks of it. One poor person on the long course had grabbed the wrong map at the map swap and picked up the final medium map instead. On getting to the end and finding out their error, they headed all the way back to the map swap, picked up the right map and proceeded to finish the long course – a very long route!

In the end we covered 12.5km (7.7km straight line course, minimum actual distance 12km) and almost 500m of elevation – no wonder my legs hurt!

So what went so wrong and why didn’t I enjoy it – it was a stunning cold winters day, with clear blue skies and no wind.  It was a chance to get out and explore a new area of bush while trotting around tracking down controls.  But nope, I just wasn’t getting into it yesterday.  The first half hour I felt like i was just following Nick, trying to keep up and slowing him down.  He was constantly well in front of me, and I had myself convinced he would be having a much better time on his own, able to go his own pace.  This felt like my view for most of the event:

It wasn’t, of course, but that’s how I felt at the time.  I always seem to feel a lot more pressure with line courses too, knowing you have to get every single control that’s set on your map.  Not like a score course, where you set your route and if you can’t find one you don’t get the points but at least you’re not out of the running.  Miss one on a line course and that’s it, event over.  Not that we often find ourselves unable to track down a control.  But, it makes me anxious.  And it would be even worse if I was doing it solo – I’d be right at the back of the pack, if not last, and constantly worried that I wouldn’t be able to find the next control – it’s just not a fun way to do things.

Yesterday I had myself convinced that there would be no more orienteering for me outside of Summer Series.  Stick to rogaines in winter.  Today, I think I just need to take a different approach.  This course was hard!  I’m completely lacking in confidence for my navigation, so maybe I need to take a step back, start giving the easy courses a go solo and build up my confidence and ability at the shorter courses and work up to the moderate ones again – along with building up my fitness so my lungs and legs don’t give up on me mid-course. So yes, I’ll probably be back for the Turkey Trot next year in one form or another.

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A Change of Pace – Volunteering

Orienteering with a difference last weekend. As part of the social contract of orienteering, there is an expectation that if you attend events regularly, that you will take your turn and volunteer to help out at a couple each year as well. This weekend was our turn. It had been set up so that if you also want to get a run in, you can, but we decided that this time we would just help out and if time allowed, we would take the girls around the mini course at the end.

So we turned up early, helped to get the start area set up – the girls even helped carrying equipment up from the car and then doing a great job of keeping out of the way kicking balls on the oval. We were looking after registration, maps and money while the more experienced members were there to talk to people and help out any newbies when needed. It was a slow but steady stream of people coming through for the hour and a half we were on and the girls behaved beautifully (for the most part), kicking balls, colouring and eating. We could see a couple of the mini course controls from where we were sitting, and sent the girls on “missions” to check them out. They got a bit bored towards the end, so we put them to work passing registration cards over to the computer guy – they were thrilled to help and be part of it all!

Not long after 10am, we were booted out of our seats for the second shift of helpers to take over and we started off on the mini course. The girls had already spotted exactly where to head for the first one – one girl with the SI stick for beeping and the other with the map. They even picked the right direction off the map for the second control and with eagle eyes spotted the controls from quite a distance.

On we went, only needing assistance on spotting a few controls once pointed in the right direction, and half the time Nick and I didn’t even need to walk the full distance. They worked together as a team, encouraging each other on, and despite the heat, still picking up to a run most of the way (even more impressive given our oldest was suffering from tonsillitis…). We all made the final run back across the oval to the finish – the girls completely done in by then – and very proud of themselves. We tracked it all on the Garmin – Nick and I managed 2km, and the girls covering a bit more than that. Nearly 50m of elevation and taking 35 minutes. We came 13 out of 19 groups on the mini course – a fantastic effort from the girls, we’re pretty sure they were the youngest out on the day.

It was fun to head out to an event with zero expectations of running and putting some names to faces that we see at them regularly. The girls got to feel part of it all, help out and have a go themselves – we’ll get them reading maps on their own before we know it!

More Orienteering Sprint Work

Saturday morning was humid and still for our third go at a sprint orienteering event. This time it was at St Ives and I was hoping familiarity with the location would give me a boost. As per previous weekends, I ran first and after taking a few goes to get the start control to recognise my stick, I was off. We were doing the long course again, with approximately 2.5km and 25 controls along the way.

First control and I could picture exactly where it was and how to get there, nearly ran straight into a new handrail on a path, but other than that it was a quick pickup. Then it was out to run the boundary of the ovals and pick up 5 controls along the way. The runner behind me caught up and passed me at the third control. This was the hilliest and bushiest part of the course and my initial enthusiasm had slowed a little by control 6 and I walked for a bit to get my heart rate back down.

Back past the start again and loop around the back of the buildings for the next control – oops, nearly beeped the wrong one! Then up into the primary school for the next several controls – zigging and zagging all over the grounds, getting stuck behind some kids leaving their tennis lesson, but slowly making back some ground on the runner who had overtaken me earlier.

Over to the high school again, a quick loop around before heading back to the primary school and I Was still gaining ground and moving quickly. My familiarity with the location was definitely on my side here. I was running well, no hesitation and could picture the location of most controls reducing my need to reference the map too much. Three controls to go and I was on the heels of the speedy, young guy ahead of me as we headed in separate directions to the final control. Hmmm, that’s a bit odd, keep running and maybe I could beat him to the last control. I got there and he was nowhere to be seen, finally seeing him as I headed off to the finish. A final sprint and I was done!

Just about to pick up my results and the young guy mentioned “I think you missed a control at the end” and I realised just how I had made it ahead of him at the end. I had completely skipped the second last control. Just didn’t see it. Devastated. My results came in and I was recorded as “mispunched”, the equivalent of disqualified.

Time to move on though and focus on what I did right and know that next time I will be a lot more careful (and probably lose some time) making sure I don’t skip a control again. Nick headed off and had a good run – he didn’t miss any controls and both of us were running at a better pace than we did at the previous sprint events.

Results: We both ran around 2.6km in just over 20 minutes. Nick placed 17 out of 55 overall on the Open Long course, while I was at the end having mispunched – along with two others. Based on my placing at my last correct control, I was in 21st place with the second half of my run being much better than the first. In the first half I was placing around 30th for timing between controls, while in the second half I was placing much higher – with even a 7th fastest overall at one! Despite my mistake, I’m still loving the speed of the sprint format and look forward to doing some more later this season.

Suffering Summer Series in Chatswood

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.

Sprint orienteering – First Time!

Sprint orienteering is about as far from our recent 24hr rogaine as you can get in the orienteering world. I’ve noticed sprint events on the calendar over the last couple of years, but they are generally late in the day and just didn’t work for us with two very young kids. This year, however, the Saturday Orienteering Series run by Bold Horizons are focusing on sprint events which has given us the perfect opportunity to try it out and see what it’s actually like. The set up of a sprint event is usually in the format of a line course ie visit the controls in a set order, with a much shorter distance involved. It’s also usually set in a built environment eg school or university campus, so that there are constant route choices to be made in getting from one control to the next.

The first week we made it to Chatswood High, got ourselves signed up and decided to stick to the short line course for our first attempt at a sprint event. I was heading off first, so grabbed a map and had a minute studying it and getting myself oriented before setting off. There were 16 (I think) controls to be picked up in a specific order, but the pace was fast as there was rarely more than 200m between them. Having absolutely no familiarity with the location before today didn’t cause too many issues as the map is marked in great detail, although I made a couple of errors in route choice – one minor one and another that was quite expensive time-wise when I missed a marked solid wall between me and a control!

While it wasn’t a flat course, there weren’t too many hills and only a few sets of stairs. Overall, I finished up in 21:29 for 2.5km and  really enjoyed the format. It was very different to other types of orienteering we have done – the course was busy, with people running in all directions, some doing the same course and others on the long course. Everyone is constantly looking at maps to determine best route and check location while trying to keep moving at speed and not bump into other runners. Nick ran after me and finished two and a half minutes faster, being quicker than me on almost every leg of the course. Not many people ran the short line course with most choosing the long line course and Nick was second in the open division, while I was smack in the middle of the 11 of us that ran this course.

The second week was at Killara High – within walking distance for us. So again, we dragged our girls along for our second go. We had decided to give the long course a shot this time.  Although overall distance wasn’t much more than the previous week, there were a lot more controls in the line up. I ran first again and it was interesting how passing the school regularly and having walked through it once previously increased my confidence in moving around it. The course took me back past the registration area three times, which the girls loved, giving them the chance to wave and cheer me on (and later, Nick). There were a considerable number of steps in this route to keep the legs working hard and paying attention to footing.

I finished in 22:30 this week for 2.6km and again, thoroughly enjoyed the speed and constant decision making required for this format. A lot more competitors in the long line course and I managed a respectable 17th out of 48, while Nick was 13th and 40 seconds faster. This week we seemed to alternate which of us was quicker on any particular leg, with several legs having identical timings. In this particular event, there are no separate categories by gender or age, everyone is thrown into the same result list, with the exception of school age runners who are split into high school and primary school for the result listings.

I’m looking forward to next weeks event at St Ives High School – my old high school. Since the high school and primary school are joined, the course will take in both so distances have the potential to be further with less overlap within the course. It will be interesting to see if greater familiarity (although it’s been a while!) helps me get around any quicker!

Orienteering – For ALL The Family

First weekend in August brought with it an orienteering event we had signed up for in April and was then postponed to the start of August.  Needless to say, with my ankle in the condition it was, I wasn’t running this one.  I was tempted to sit it out completely, but I was walking comfortably so decided to see if it would be ok to transfer my entry to the shortest/easiest course and then try and convince our girls that it would be great fun.

Another gorgeous winter morning greeted us on arrival at the oval and I easily transferred my entry across to the “Very Easy” course.  The girls were surprisingly agreeable, and even excited, to go orienteering with mummy – especially since they would be allowed to carry the “beeping stick”.

We set off 10 minutes before the main events would begin (they were a mass start at 10am) and, with the girls in fancy dress, Doc McStuffins ran for the first control.  I kept up a steady walk behind and in short time we had the first control in hand.  There was some bushwalking coming up and we were already warm, so we dropped jackets off at the car before nabbing the second control in the middle of a bridge.

Doc McStuffins and Super Girl enthusiastically headed up the stairs in the trail, not realising at this point that we hadn’t stopped for the promised blueberries and cookies at any of the controls.  Super Girl had the beeping stick for the next one and had to do a  bit of a stretch to reach it – success!  Time for some fruit and cookies after this one.

Doc McStuffins turn again, and after studying the map and discussing where we should find the next one, she ran ahead, proudly letting us know when it was found.

Back into some very overgrow bush trail for the next section.  About half way down the hill we could hear other runners approaching.  Luckily we came across a small clearing at the same time and stood off to one side while they all came past.  Just as they finished we heard something crashing through the bush towards us.  Curious as to what it might be – dog? oversize rabbit? – we waited until a wallaby burst out of the bushes and sped by only a couple of metres from us!

On down the overgrown trail, needing to watch very carefully where we were stepping, we found the next control before Super Girl took over again and led the way again.  The trail was quite indistinct at this point, but well marked with pink tape and the occasional obstacle to get past on our way back to the bridge.

Back across the bridge and we studied the map again to see which way to go next.  Doc McStuffins set off at a run and made good time to the next control where we needed another break and more snacks.  Only two more controls to go now.

Heading back towards the start/finish area we found the final two controls, then I sent them both off at a run towards the finish line.  Off they ran, and ran, and ran.   They were greeted by three enthusiastic organisers from the event who cheered the girls towards the finish, made sure they made the final beep and encouraged them to head towards the table to record their results while I caught up.

We then hung around the finish area, playing on the swings, having some more to eat and Doc McStuffins running around like crazy while Super Girl had a rest on the grass, waiting for daddy to finish his event.  All up, we probably covered just shy of 2km in around half an hour – a good distance for their age.

This is definitely the most enthusiastic and focused our girls have been while getting them involved in orienteering to date.  Super Girl is still a bit young for the map to mean anything, but she enjoys beeping the stick at the control flags.  Doc McStuffins was more interested in the map than I have seen before, and even picked the right direction to go a couple of times.  As an added bonus, both girls wanted to take the map and printouts of some of the photos in to childcare this week as their “news” day item.

Whale Rock – Bonus numbers post

Because I love my numbers, and it’s so rare I come anywhere near the top few in an event, I grabbed the splits and had a look at how the top four compared.  Each runner has two rows – top row is cumulative time, second row (in bold) is split time.  Split time highlighted in green for quickest between those two controls, yellow for second quickest and orange for third.  First column shows final overall time.

You can see the first two people shared nearly all the fastest splits between them – I managed to nab one!  They also hogged the second fastest splits for the most part, but I managed to get three of those off them.  Then the fourth fastest person was actually much more consistent in getting a good number of third fastest splits.  Luckily for me, my faster splits got me ahead enough as I easily lost 2-4 minutes on the last two splits after hurting my ankle.

I love that all this data is available and shared so readily.  While interesting, it also lets me see where other people had trouble finding controls as well so I can see how my navigation compares and where I need to improve (there’s a LOT of room to improve at this point!).

Whale Rock Orienteering

July was a very quiet month on the running front. Two runs at the start of the month – the Turkey Trot and a very quick treadmill run a couple of days later. I was then hit with a nasty virus which had me knocked out for a week and then the following two to three weeks struggling with breathing courtesy of the combination of respiratory virus, asthma and winter.

Finally, by the last weekend in July, I felt good enough to get outside and made it to a local orienteering event back near our old place. It was a stunning winters morning when Nick dropped me off, then he and the girls headed to an old favourite playground while I ran. I wasn’t planning to do anything too adventurous, so I stuck to the moderate course, which was a nice loop through the bush on familiar tracks with some navigational work on finding the actual controls – none of which were on track and rarely visible from on the tracks either.

This was a line course, so all controls had to be visited in order without missing any. While not overly busy, another competitor had headed out shortly before me and I passed him about half way to the first control – I would end up seeing him several times along the course. Being out again – moving, running – in the fresh air was just glorious! I felt great, the weeks off hadn’t done too much harm and I was feeling strong. The first control was at the end of a trail, over a small drop and hidden between a couple of rocks – good timing had me arriving just as someone else was leaving, so finding it wasn’t an issue.

Back out the small network of trails and along the back of some houses to the next control. I passed a couple of people intently studying maps and looking around trying to find the right spot, but I knew it was a bit further on and found it before anyone else came near. Back on the roads, a couple of puffs on the inhaler as my breathing seemed to be struggling a little more than was warranted before plunging back into the bush again.

Control three was tucked up above some rocks, again, not easily visible from the trail and a little clambering involved. Then it was down, down, down the bush stairs into the valley. Control four stumped me a bit. I went too far along the trail, thinking it may be accessible from below, but I misjudged and went to far. Walking my way back along, I finally caught a glimpse of orange and promptly lost it again! Just as another person showed up and I managed to take them directly to the control…

I trotted off again pretty quickly, it was a longer way between controls along here and I Was hoping to get a bit more distance between me and some of the more mature competitors. I was also pretty familiar with the location of these controls having taken part in another event in the same area and at least one of the locations was re-used from that. Controls five and six were nabbed and then control seven proved tricky again. There were a number of people around here as it was just below the start and few of the different courses crossed paths in the area. I managed to find the one I was after and overtook one person and met another couple from my course on my way out.

Control eight – oh boy! This was the killer for me. Such a small area to find it and it proved so damn hard. Steep ground, 4-5m rock faces and the control was buried somewhere between them all. Of course, once I eventually had it, two other people turned up and nabbed it straight away as I showed them where to head in!

Another decent trot along the valley to control nine via Whale Rock. Up into the bush and I made a beeline straight to it while listening to someone else crash about in the bush having a bit harder time locating it. Then it was up, up, up out of the bush towards the scout hall. I passed another competitor who was searching for a control – same as me – but she was in the wrong area. All I said was “it’s not around here”, and headed a little further up the hill and nabbed it.

Whale Rock

One more to go. A final jog along some roads, with a lovely hill in the middle, and I was nearly there. Overshot the trail onto the rock platform, so angled back towards it and – BAM! Down I went. Searing pain in my ankle – I’d rolled it in a damn bandicoot hole. I was 100 metres from the finish and the final control was around 15 metres in the other direction from where I sat. I didn’t know if I could walk, I sat there and cried for a couple of minutes. The pain was intense, but I also cried because it was my first run after a month off and this meant more time off running, I cried because I did a really bad sprain on the same ankle almost exactly a year ago – and it took me 6 weeks to get back on my feet again. I cried because I had, just that week, signed us up to a 6 hour rogaine and organised accommodation in Canberra for a weekend away.

But crying about it wasn’t going to get me anywhere and from previous experience, if I can keep moving then I have a better chance of making it to the end on my feet. Stopping for too long was the best way to make sure I would end up crawling there instead. And I wasn’t going to miss that last damn control! So up I got, hopped and limped my way towards the final control, wiping the tears off my face and doing my best to just keep moving. On my way back out I passed the person I had overtaken just before the previous control – she made sure I was ok before continuing and shortly overtaking me as she moved smoothly towards the finish. I tried a couple of cautious steps running – hell no! A hobble and a limp along the final stretch to the finish and I was done.

I found a comfy rock to sit on while I waited for Nick and the girls to come back and pick me up. Made it home and the pain was increasing, iced for a while then put on the moon boot from last year – great compression and support and enabled me to move around a little when needed for the rest of the day.

Results: Distance 6km, approximately 100m elevation in just over one hour. Out of 12 people I came in a respectable 3rd place – the speedy people did the longer courses, so it’s not quite as impressive as it sounds. I was less than 10 minutes behind the first two people and another 10 minutes after me to next place, so it would have been a much closer thing if I hadn’t gone down at the end.

The ankle – 10 days later: The bruising was pretty spectacular and I still have a fading multi colour bruise about the size of my hand wrapping around the front and side of my ankle. The swelling wasn’t as bad as I had expected though and after strapping it for a couple of days I’ve just been taking it carefully and after a week was walking without a limp. I can now manage several calf raises and hops on it without pain, although if I get the wrong angle it lets me know all about it. Walking is fine though, so I’m hopeful that if I strap it up that we can last the full day for the rogaine this weekend.

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.

20170208_170342

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.

Numbers

  • 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!