Saturday, September 10, 2016

Orienteering practice

During the week before the rogaine championship there were a couple practice events in Alice Springs.  We were excited for a chance to see a little bit of the Outback, albeit close to town, and to test out our southern compasses.  I missed my thumb compass but made it work with the baseplate, and even used it a couple times to set a more exact bearing.

The first course was a standard orienteering point-by-point route, which turned out to be rather longer than we had anticipated.  Although we did sign up for the "long course" so I'm not sure why we were surprised.  It didn't take long to feel like we were in a remote part of the bush, no sign of town except for an occasional water tower.

The navigation was detailed and interesting, and it took me a couple checkpoints to get comfortable with the map.  Always good to have a shake-out run when you're about to go navigate "for real."

Partway through there was a control high on a ridge, with a fun little downclimb to a neighborhood and then a run along the streets to the other side.  I got one comment from a child, something like how I was "exercising" so that made me laugh.

I missed a small trail up to the next ridge, found the backup trail, got surprised by a large/loud dog inside the fence right next to me, that will wake you up!  More ups and downs, learning a bit about the terrain along the way.

The nav went well except one spot where I dropped slowly down into a system of small weaving creeks.  I lost track of distance, saw another runner going in one direction, decided that wasn't right, tried another direction, reoriented based on the direction of the creeks, hit a small trail and finally figured out where I was.  Not far from the control, as it turned out, so that was nice.

After not losing too much time there, I found the control and returned to the same trail to immediately go running in the wrong direction.  What the heck?  Finally got that straightened out.  No more nav issues to the end of the course, just a bit of running and stringing along the last of the water in my bottle.

John finished well before me and had time to retrieve the camera for a couple shots at the final control.  Waiting for me to arrive:


Up the last little hill:


I made it!


After all that, I still won the women's division for the long course.  Well, there were only two of us, I had a 50/50 shot at it.

The next day was a score-O style race, with a smattering of controls that you could get in any order, each worth 10 points.  We had 3 hours to find as many as we could, OK, go!

This was quite fun, lots of little hills and technical terrain, a bunch of controls around the Telegraph Station park and more in the hills to the east.  Most people started in the Telegraph area, with the densest set of points.  We ran across the Todd River (currently dry and sandy, fun to imagine the Henley-on-Todd race taking place there later), around an aboriginal camp (didn't see anyone), and up an extensive trail network that we'd crisscross for a couple hours.

The park area was great, full of giant rocks and precision nav and one climb to the top of a lookout for fabulous views.  Back across the river and out of the Telegraph area, the controls were further apart but there were still trails to use to get from one to the next.  I rounded a corner and looked up to see a small hill inside the bend.  Looks like the next control, although it seemed a bit quick getting to it - but I had been looking ahead on the map instead of pace counting, as the bend in the trail seemed like it would be obvious.  Sure enough, there was the control on top.

I proceeded cross-country to the east, paying better attention to the pace count, but it didn't take long to get confused.  Creeks, roads, a fence, all crossing in different places but not matching the map.  I kept going back in my mind to where I started at the prior control, but couldn't make sense of it.  I went north on the road until I found an uphill with a fence nearby, OK, I see where that is.  I had missed one control in the meantime but decided to forge ahead.

It turns out that the prior control was put in the wrong location (too far north vs. the circle on the map), so my "starting point" was wrong and everything went downhill from there.  At least I got an explanation later and I wasn't actually crazy.

Continuing on, I wasted a bit of time thrashing around to the next control but got it after a few minutes.  I knew at that point I didn't have time for the farthest couple points, gotta leave them be.  I hurried back to the road, went south and pegged the control I had bypassed when trying to figure out where the heck I was.  So at least that was settled.

Time to run - fun bike trails, curves and intersections, and kangaroos!!  What?  Even with all the people running around, they were still in the area, and was so neat watching them bound away whenever I scared them up.  That was one of the coolest orienteering experiences ever.  Go kangaroos go!

I ran to the furthest eastern part of the map, cut cross-country and along trails, over ridges and down through valleys.  One bike trail didn't really match the map very well, but I stuck with it because the control I wanted was supposedly right next to it.  After rounding a ridge it started looking better, and lo and behold, there was the control next to a cute sculpture (one of several along the bike trails).

The clock was ticking, I had to move.  I felt I might have just enough time to climb one more little plateau and hit a couple controls, and happily that was the case, and happily the nav went great.  Back down to the bottom, one last control off in a reentrant, OK now it really is time to run.

I made it back with a couple minutes to spare, and I think I got all except 2 of the controls (it has been a few weeks since this story actually happened, I'm just excited I remembered as much as I did).  One guy beat me with one more control and a bonus for getting a photo of himself sitting on a toilet at one of the far controls.  Too funny, wish the photo were around so we could all be impressed by it.

John didn't have quite as much time to wait for me this time, but he still managed to grab the camera for my finish:


Very fun events, glad they organized those.

On Friday we drove out toward the rogaine site, with a stop at the practice course for a couple hours of checking out terrain which would be similar to what we'd see that weekend.  We plotted ~4 controls to visit, looking for a short-ish walk while still getting into the more interesting ridge/valley areas.

The first control was up a steep, rocky hillside.  No problem getting up but kind of slow coming back down.  Taking a break during the ascent to get a photo of John:


Lovely wide-open scenery on a gorgeous morning:


Working on getting a sense of scale as we look across to other hills and ridges:


John greatly enjoyed the ridge walk:


That part was fine, but another rockier/cliffier section was less fun for me.  I'm not confident enough in my boulder-hopping sometimes, so I tried going along below the ridge.  With a bit of body contortions to negotiate the rock jumble, I suspect I may have twisted my knee somewhere in there.  It didn't actually hurt at the time, but it became a problem the next morning.  More on that in the next post.

We found a patch of spinifex, verified again that our gaiters and shoe cover system might work for a little while (and motivated John to carry plenty of duct tape during the race), and started back to the car as the morning was heating up.


A very nice pre-race week, and we hadn't even gotten to the event site yet.

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