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.


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