Monday, June 28, 2010

OY2 - South Woodhill

OY2 didn't come at a good time for me. I had a lot going on, hadn't really eaten or slept nearly enough and my head was all over the place so it was never going to be a good race but at least I got out in the forest which is one of the places I feel the most at home.

Anyway, I started off okay trying to concentrate on reading the map (I know, this sounds like a really obvious thing but you'd be surprised how many of us don't do it enough). I found the first 3 controls okay although I was a little shaky on #1 which is quite normal for me as I get into the flow of the map. But when I reached the maze (the open bit that we have named The Maze...if you saw it you'd understand) I knew it was not my race. I had heaps of trouble bashing around in there and managed to get a nasty big scar across my thigh after running into a dead branch and in hindsight there was a much better route that would have made finding the control more successful...I just didn't see it until I'd finally found it! #5 was okay but #6 didn't go well again...but then again even Marquita, who was out there with me, had trouble and if she has trouble then it's gotta be hard!

Once back in the forest again things improved a little bit but I was just so tired. Most of the controls weren't too bad apart from #17 where I thought I was in the right area but I hadn't gone nearly far enough. I can't believe it took me so long to work out! By then I was ready to finish but there wasn't any point cutting back early since I was about as far away as you could be and the rest of the course pretty much was the quickest way back! It was just a matter of dragging onwards to the end. Disappointing.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Queens Birthday Day 3 - Long Distance (Plantation Forest)

I've run on this map 3 times now and only managed 1 clean(ish) run so I was hoping this race would be different...but it was not to be.

I started off nice and slow...the first control was pretty easy (a spur not too far up off the track) but it was clear it was going to be a steep, slippery course. The route to #2 showed just how steep it was going to be and just trying to sidle round the side of the hill was pretty difficult. But navigationally it wasn't too bad. Neither was #3 but it was a little unnerving getting down to the control. Unfortunately #4 was where it all came unstuck...

I sidled round and got down to the river, crossing that, then debated going round the bottom of the next ridge but decided I'd go up and over...bad mistake number 1. So up and over I went, crossing over the track and what I thought was the next stream. I climbed up the next hill but couldn't find it anywhere and nothing was quite adding up. I spent so long (embarrassingly long) fluffing around wondering what was going on before finally ending up heading down to the bottom and stumbling over the track again which totally threw me and I wondered what on earth I'd done. Turns out I'd done a 90 degree error and crossed the wrong stream (turns out I wasn't the only one who did that either as one of the other girls never worked out what happened and ended up dnfing). I found the control fairly easily after that but it was terribly demoralising as I'd lost HEAPS of time. I stumbled through the next few...fairly easy navigation but the hills and slippery terrain were getting to me (the climb out from #5 was awful).

I passed Mum out there on my way to #11 and she said she was having a really good least someone in our family was! I then proceeded to take the wrong track at the junction...silly me! But I realised pretty quickly and was able to bash up the hill to the correct one. #12 was a spectator control and I felt like bailing since it was right by the finish but that isn't me. The loop after this was pretty cruel with more steep, slippery climb. I'm not sure I've ever been so relieved to finish an orienteering race in my life (or had such a bad control)!

After the first two days which had gone pretty well for me I was pretty upset to finish the weekend on such a bad race but I guess that's just how things go sometimes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Queens Birthday Day 2 - Double Middle with Chasing Start (Whites Line)

Quite a few years ago we used to have these orienteering events called Short-Os which were 2 short races back-to-back with a chasing start in the afternoon where your time in the morning race affected what time you would start in the afternoon. The winner of the afternoon race (the first runner to finish) won the whole day. Anyway, we haven't really had races like this in years...until this weekend. Sunday was 2 middle-distance races back-to-back with a chasing start in the afternoon. Basically starts related to your results in the morning...if you took 29 minutes and 34 seconds then you started at 1:29:34pm. First running back wins the grade. Make sense?

This event was again held out at Woodhill Forest. Woodhill is a pine forest grown on sanddunes out on the West Coast North of Auckland city. It covers roughly 12,400 hectares. The morning race started out fairly averagely really. I would get to roughly the control circle but be about 100 metres out from the control and kind of fluff around a bit before finding it each time. Tessa caught me at #5 where we both got ourselves confused. I thought I'd come down the depression on the right. Turns out I'd come down the one on the left and Tessa had followed me. Then the control felt further over than it looks on the map.

We ran together from then, catching up to Frances around #7. We all mucked around too much at #9, finding another control first with Frances mispunching (she thought it was the correct one and kept going). It was pretty physical as we were all pushing quite hard especially when we were running as a group. I was quite happy with my pace but not so happy about my orienteering.

Most of the W21E times were quite close together (although not as close as the men's elites) and we were all pretty revved up for the afternoon although standing around for a couple of hours in the cold took its toll. I was pretty nervous. There was quite a gap behind me so I was pretty sure I wouldn't be caught up but I was feeling quite determined to beat Mace, the Aussie Bushranger starting 24 seconds in front of me!

We had to write our start times on the back of our hands then line up in order (all grades mixed up together). They would count us down then when it got to your time (for example, mine was 1:29:54pm) you punched the start control, ran to the box with your course maps in it (double-checking you got the correct course) and followed the tape up over the bank to the start control and then you were off.

I caught Mace fairly quickly but I was so determined to get ahead of her that I made heaps of stupid mistakes. I slowed down and switched my brain onto orienteering mode after running straight past #5 but by then Mace had got ahead. Oh well. I just concentrated on having a clean run from there which went pretty well. Obviously heaps of the girls stuffed up somewhere too as I saw Kate and another Aussie near me and Angela raced past (despite having started a few minutes before me). Other than #9 (where I saw a few elite men standing on the tops of the ridges looking a bit confused!) the rest of the race was good. Just frustrating about the first half! I can run faster in this terrain than Mace so I should have beaten her if I'd be concentrating properly. Oh well, hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Queens Birthday Day 1 - Night Relay (Muriwai Golf Course)

On the Saturday night we had a fun night relay at the Muriwai Golf Course before the social. It reminded me a bit of last year's Halloween score event on the golf course which was truly hilarious and an awesome event despite the fact that I am literally terrified of the dark (I'm trying to conquer this by making myself do these night events whether I want to or not). The relay format was pretty simple. You were in teams of 2 (I was in a team with my mate Michael who I did TWALK with) and either started on Leg A or Leg B. The first runner in the team would head out and do their leg then hand their map to the other team mate. Then once they'd come in the first runner would head out on the second leg then hand the map to the second runner to do. Make sense?

We were on Leg B first and I made Michael run first. He was racing against his mate Matt which was quite funny. You could see the trail of lights out on the course as you waited around, freezing cold, at the finish. They came in together, much quicker than I expected and I was off before I knew it. Lara (Matt's relay partner) started just ahead of me and she had awesome reflective strips on the back of her tights so if I wasn't totally sure I was going right I could just look up and see where she was!

A couple of Aussie girls started a few seconds behind us so were chasing us the whole way and we formed a little train (we must have all been Leg B starters) which grew in numbers as we went along (picking up other runners who'd started before us). It was actually really fun but we were going incredibly fast and I was pretty knackered by the time I got back to the finish to tag Michael.

Loop A - our second leg

I was hoping the second leg might be a bit longer not 'cause I felt like running for longer but more because I really wanted a bit of a rest before having to run again but Michael finished it in no time. Lara had already set out (turns out Matt forgot the last control so mispunched on the second leg hence coming in a little bit before Michael) so I was on my own and I stumbled on the first control despite one of my mates saying to take it easy 'cause it was a tricky one. I did exactly what he'd done! After that it was pretty simple and basically just a matter of keeping my legs moving as fast as I could! It's such a weird experience running off road in the dark especially on this golf course map...the terrain is really bouncy. I can't really describe it but your foot never lands quite how or where you think it's going to.

Anyway, turns out we were the first New Zealand team (beaten by a couple of Aussie teams...they took it pretty seriously though whereas we were all out to have fun). Awesome!

Queens Birthday Day 1 - Long Distance (Telephone Track)

It seems that all my long weekends are taken up with orienteering and Queens Birthday Weekend this year was no exception. No travel required this time since all the events were taking place in the Auckland region with the first 2 days on my local stomping ground, Woodhill.

I've been getting quite nervous before events since moving up to W21E. I'm guessing this will slowly pass as I get used to this grade which would be good because nerves make me panic and make stupid route choices. The first race was a long distance race at Woodhill on the Saturday morning. Long distance is probably the event I like the most. Anyway, it's your lucky day 'cause Dad was standing at the start taking photos of me...

Nervously waiting at the start box with about a minute to go.

And we're off...trying not to trip up whilst attempting to locate the first control on the map.

I actually found the first control fairly okay which is always a good way to start. Things were going mostly okay (abet a little slow and cautious) until #15. From #14 I bashed out of the sanddunes as quickly as possible because it's crappy terrain and difficult to work out exactly where you are. I thought I could relocate once I was back in the forest but it felt like a bit of a dead zone and nothing was fitting. I ended up nearly at the road before I worked out vaguely where I was.

I then promptly stuffed up #16 as well. I got up to the depression to the left of the control which I knew was wrong so I went right into the next depression but it didn't look how I imagined it would (it was much broader). I fluffed around for a bit too long before nearly stumbling on the control! Frustrating. The rest was okay and I came in with an alright time especially considering the field...I even beat one of the Aussie bushrangers! Yeah!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

TWALK 2010

TWALK is basically a 24-hour orienteering race split into 5 legs and is held at a mystery location in Canterbury every year by the Canterbury University Tramping Club. Oh, and you get to dress up in ridiculous least at the start before they become too annoying and you have to ditch them. This year the race started at the Cave Stream carpark just down from Craigieburn with the Hash House (like base camp I guess) at the Flock Hill Lodge. Basically leg 1 is about getting from the start to the Hash House and all the other legs are based from there. Leg 1 is the only compulsory leg (obviously). Make sense? Good.

At the uni carpark wondering what on earth I'd got myself into but terribly excited all the same.

I was in a team with a couple of Christchurch-based orienteers, Michael and Tane. Tane and I were rocking the Mr and Ms Claus thing and Michael, well he decided to wear a netball skirt and suit that fitted with our theme I have no idea but there you go...!

Michael, me and Tane at the start...exciting!

Michael was our trusty team leader having done this race something like 10 times before. Tane had done it about 4 times. I figured that if people had done it that many times and were still keen to come back and do it again the following year then it couldn't be too bad!

A control is somewhere up there amongst good old Matt and Garry (a TWALK term for the thorny matagari bush).

We set off at a fairly reasonable, cruisey pace with the idea that there were many hours ahead of us. It actually wasn't nearly as cold as I had thought and we were all stripping off layers (and bits of our costumes) fairly soon into it. The river crossings were another story though. At least my shoes were super fast draining so the cold water didn't stick around. Navigation wasn't very hard (although Michael will perhaps never live down leading us up the wrong spur to the wrong clearing especially since we all said we trusted he was correct). Once at the control circle though it's a different story.

One of the big elements about TWALK is that the controls are hard to find and the clues are terribly cryptic. They may not even be quite in the control circle on the map let alone in the centre as they are for traditional orienteering. For example, there were clues like 'break me off a piece of that chocolate' which translated as a broken tree branch lying on the ground in a patch of beech trees where there were lots of broken tree branches all over the ground! I was quite proud of finding the control at the top of Helicopter Hill and then fooling other teams around us into looking further down. Brilliant!

This photo reminds me of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe for some reason...all that is required here is a lamppost.

Anyway, we finished Leg 1 in fairly reasonable time (roughly 5 and a half hours - I think we arrived at the Hash House in 4th place which was quite amusing considering we were just cruising compared to a couple of teams who raced past us near the end...clearly speed doesn't necessarily win you the race in TWALK).

Trudging up Helicopter Hill

Leg 2 looked like it was going to be tough...just how tough we were about to find out. It was getting dark by the time we left the hash house (we had a fairly leisurely transition) so we had our headlights on in preparation right from the start. There was a hell of a lot of uphill along a road (looking for controls along the way) and it didn't take long before we were into the snow.

Somewhere along the river I managed to slip over and twist my left index finger back in such a way that it hurt like hell (we now suspect I actually cracked a bone). Luckily it was cold so my hands were feeling a bit numb! Then as we climbed our way out of the river a bit later I managed to stab my left eye (clearly the left side wasn't lucky) with a protruding branch and lost a contact. Guess it didn't matter too much that I was a bit blind after that since it was dark but it did affect my balance!

Yep, it got dark and cold

We could see various trails of lights along the hillside to our right so we figured that was where we were heading. With a bit of luck we managed to find all of the controls up there (turns out that a lot of teams didn't find them...clearly we had the skills or something!).

We had decided fairly early on that we wanted to tackle the controls on the top of Broken Hill which turned out to be a mistake but it certainly led to an adventure. Most teams were turning back by #11 with the idea of trying to get all of leg 3 instead (which looked easy but apparently the clues were ridiculously hard and most teams got very few points despite being out there several hours). Climbing up from #11 we encountered a thick bush of young pine trees we had to bash through for ages which weren't shown on the map before finally getting out into the open and by then we were soaked right through our waterproof gear. Not good.

Somewhere along the ridgeline of Broken Hill before I began to freeze

Once on the top of Broken Hill the snow was getting pretty deep in places (I managed to sink up to my waist once) and the weather felt like it was packing in...rain, sleet, snow and wind were making things very unpleasant. We managed to keep our spirits up for awhile but finding the controls on the ridgeline were proving to be pretty tough and it was too cold to search for long. Somewhere along the ridge I started to get extremely cold and was having trouble moving so the boys pulled out more warm gear from their packs and helped get me into it. They were worried I was getting close to hyperthermic.

But not long after, we all started to freeze. The control on the saddle was nowhere in sight, the weather sucked and our morale was going downhill. Michael made an executive decision that we needed to get off the ridge and down off the mountain as soon as possible. Tane led the way, working out the safest route down through the snow and rocks. I was having trouble even walking as I got colder and colder. Things were not good. And then we hit the scrub. I could see the valley below and it seemed miles away (Michael optimistically reckoned it wasn't too far but then he was saying that the whole time...anything to make sure I kept moving). Tane bashed ahead while Michael helped me down. I spent way too much time on my arse but I couldn't keep myself on my feet...not helped by snow and thick scrub. I've never been so happy to reach the bottom of a hill in my life!

We decided that we were just going to curl up in our sleeping bags once we were back at the Hash House and call it a day. Good move since it was already 4am by then. I would have liked to have been out for the full 24 hours but in reality it wasn't going to happen after Broken Hill. If we hadn't gone over the tops I'm pretty sure we would have been keen for more. It was a bad decision but at least we had quite an adventure and it certainly makes a good story!

Oh dear! What a terrible after photo (and this was the best of the bunch). We are attempting to get warm again in the Hash House.

Once back at the Hash House I was so cold that I couldn't move my limbs enough to get into dry clothes so I had to be helped. Not good. I barely managed any sleep and nothing seemed to warm me up but at least I was beginning to feel a little more defrosted. It wasn't until the trip home on the bus that I finally managed to fall asleep...

Drifting off while waiting for the bus to arrive to take us back home again.

I keep getting asked if I'd do this race again considering the conditions we ended up in. Maybe I'm completely mad but I can't wait until next year. Bring it on!