Saturday, 30 June 2012


Warrandyte Park is just outside Melbourne, famous for being the site of the first gold find in Victoria, and the start of the 1851 gold rush. Today is the third MelBushO event, a series which attempts to bring orienteering closer to the 4 million people who live in the city.

It is a cold morning (about 10 degrees) and the roads are quiet as Pat and I drive north. There is a threat of rain but we may be lucky. The satnav sends me wrong a couple of times, but we still get there in half an hour. We arrive early and are parked right next to registration. I choose the 3.6km 'B' course and get changed ready to run. Pat settles down with the Sunday paper and I set off into the wood. Clear paths, clear contours, clear vegetation, visibility a bit low in places, but the controls pop up on cue.

I take 4 - 5 straight and begin to regret it. The going is a bit slow in places and the hills seem steeper now. I get there but it takes a while. I take the paths from 5 - 6 and this seems a sound choice. Another runner goes straight but he ends up behind me. A couple of kangaroos cross the path in front of me and bound away effortlessly and silently. It is now raining gently and my glasses are foggy.

9 - 10 is steep and jungly but I stagger up to the pit, carefully inspecting the bottom for gold nuggets. I follow a woman to 11, and this is where things begin to go pear-shaped. I go down the wrong re-entrant and thrash about in swampy jungly stuff for quite a while before returning to the track and starting again. Easy this time, but I estimate a whopping 7 minutes are lost. On to 12. Visibility is low and, again, headless-chicken mode takes over until I relocate on the path and try again. Easy this time. Another 4 minutes. 

The rain is heavier now and I'm grateful I have avoided most of it. Pat greets me at the finish and helps me fill in my DIY results slip. I would like to blame my errors on itinerant kangaroos or foggy glasses, but the truth is I allowed myself to follow someone. When will I ever learn?

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Wattle Park street event

There is no Sunday event this week, so I head off to nearby Wattle Park, just 6 minutes from my front door, to dip my orienteering toe in the very popular Saturday afternoon Melbourne Metro street series of events. These events are held round the city on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, the weekdays events being after dark.

The event is a Score event of 20 controls with time limits of 60, 50 or 40 minutes. I decide to opt for the 50 minute class. High control numbers score well, lower numbers are not worth going far for. I guess that I can reach about half the controls in the time allowed, so plan a course via 18, 19, 17 and 20 to maximise my points score.

We set off on the mass start signal and almost immediately I find a boggy path and my shoes get wet. A loud squeak develops in my left heel, although it is silenced when I raise a trot. Walk and the squeak returns. Only one thing for it, I suppose. I head out into the streets around the park, using the grass verges to protect my hip replacement. The streets are very quiet. Most folks are huddled indoors in the 12 degrees of a Melbourne winter.

The control sites are easy to find and I punch my card carefully at each one. After 20 minutes, I turn and head for home. It looks like I will reach the controls I'm after. I punch the finish flag with a few minutes to spare and my score adds up to a satisfactory 44 points.  An excellent training run of about 6.5km with 100 metres of climb. Turn up with 20 minutes to go, pay $4, and away you go. This brilliant scheme brings orienteering to where the people are. Hopefully, in time, some will want to travel to more challenging events further afield. I can't wait for the next one!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Porcupine Ridge

We take the Calder Freeway north towards Bendigo, through heavy rain showers, as kangaroos graze in fields alongside. Several unscheduled diversions make us about an hour late, but no worries. We drive deep into the forest south of Castlemaine, seeing neither cars nor people for almost an hour. By now, the rain has been left behind and the sun is out. The tarmac ends and a dusty, rutted track takes us to the event assembly.

I pay up, change and walk to the nearby start. A kind lady comments on this blog. I'd better make it good. I start and head off on a direct route for my first control. The forest floor is littered with dead wood and pitted with the work of gold miners from 150 years ago. I run (and stumble) straight for the first couple of controls, but take a helpful path to the north to help me on the long leg between 2 and 3. The contour lines steepen and slow me to a walk. Direct routes work for me most of the time.

Over the second half of the course, I encounter deep gold mining gullies which have to be crossed. Difficult. I'm a little disappointed to find no gold nuggets littering the forest floor. Someone's had them all. I lose a minute here, a minute there, but nothing major goes wrong. I'm happy with my time but know that good runners will beat that easily.

We return to Melbourne and meet the rain halfway home. Rainbows greet us and we drive towards the foot of a particularly vivid one, but no gold for us today.

Sunday, 3 June 2012


A short ten minute drive from the house brings me to Eaglemont Tennis Club, the parking venue for this week's MelBushO event. This may be the shortest distance I have ever travelled to an orienteering event.

After the modest success of last week, I decide to opt for the B course, the second longest of the four on offer. Eaglemont Park edges the banks of a winding section of the River Yarra, wide and deep at this point. I set off from the start, after waiting for a brief shower to abate. Crossing the river by the footbridge, I decide not to look down into the watery depths below. On the 1:7500 map, the white is very runnable and the green patches help navigation. The high and noisy dual carriageway is ever-present. In fact, I pass under it no less than six times.

No exotic fauna to report this week, except for many mountain bikers, runners and walkers. The park is busy today. I lose time at control 15 when an unmarked path catches me out. Otherwise, no real navigational dramas. Physically, it's a bit of a struggle. My legs feel quite heavy and wobbly. Quite a reasonable result though. I manage 3.9km in 39 minutes+, about 10 mins/km. Fastest I've done for a while - about 10 years, in fact.

Next week, I will head for Daylesford and my first State Series event. Glenluce was used for the World Masters Championships some years ago, so it will be challenging. Should be fun!