Sunday, 19 August 2012

Victoria Relays

I join forces with Steve and Liliya and head off to the Victorian Relays in Bendigo, a couple of hours north of Melbourne. We allow plenty of time and arrive early, in fact before most of the event helpers. Nevertheless, all is ready on time, and I take possession of my spangly new Bayside Kangaroos orienteering top, albeit of the Xtra-large variety. Well, normal size is a bit figure-hugging. A sense of urgency overwhelms me as I drag it on.

I'm on first leg, handing over to Killian who will hand over to Liliya. All teams on all courses mass-start together and we trot a lap of the assembly field before we even reach the start triangle. Predictably, all the young guns go storming off, leaving me trailing in their wake, only to come to an abrupt halt as we reach the start. I jostle through the throng and trot by on my intended route. Most are going up the slope to my left and I resist the temptation to follow them. Well, almost, because I come out at control 8, way to the left of where I need to be. I quickly relocate and press on taking a straight line to 2, then go round by the paths to 3.

The route to 4 loses me some time (maybe a minute), as I first follow the red line, then the paths to the west and above control 4. Maybe a lower route might have been better. Similarly, I play safe to control 5 using the westerly path around the top of the valleys. A more direct approach would have been better. That's another minute. It is only after the event that I realise the map has 2.5 metre contours, instead of the more usual 5 metre, and so the ground is not as steep as the map might suggest. Of course, relays always call for a more reserved approach, being mindful of responsibilities to the team.

Control 9 is a spectator control, which I could have done without to be honest, and then two more flags lead me to the fence corner before touring the field for one final lap of the assembly field. I take Killian's map from the board and hand it over the fence to him. Now I can collapse in a heap of quivering jelly but I do recover quickly, especially when I see that I've come back in a close-up fourth place. Now it's up to Killian. And Liliya.

I do not realise that Killian has serious M12 credentials, nor that Liliya is an accomplished orienteer. They return in short time and we find ourselves at the top of the leader board. We are the winners! We receive polite applause at the victory ceremony - nearly everyone has stayed - before packing away the club gazebo and heading for home. The freeway back to Melbourne is straight, fast and quiet. Predictably, I'm asleep before long, which is OK because Steve is driving, and he delivers me home in no time. Thanks, Steve. And also a special thanks to Killian and Liliya.

Monday, 6 August 2012

You Yangs

An hour's drive west out of Melbourne, we come to You Yangs Regional Park. Hills rise up 300 metres from the surrounding plain. Matthew Flinders came up here in 1800 so the highest point bears his name. The car park is already filling up as we arrive. Looks popular.

Pat enters the D course and I opt for the B, 4.1km with 14 controls. Giant boulders are everywhere so it should be interesting. The sun shines down on us as we go our separate ways. I set off from the start and, immediately, the ubiquitous kangaroo hops across my path. I follow the road up the hill towards the first control and then fight through some green stuff to get to the flag. First lesson, stay away from the green! Straight down to 2 and 3, using white woods where possible. Use the compass to steer a course and then out onto the road to the south. I had thought my running was improving, but you'd never know it along this stretch. I'm blowing hard when I turn north through the green, looking for 4. The flags are generously hung, which helps a lot. 

I'd seen the track up to 5 while on the way to 4, so was able to confidently head for it direct. I'd been advised at the start line to avoid the green where possible, and with this ringing in my ears, I decide to approach 6 through the yellow semi-open and it works well. 7 is done straight, using compass and pacing. My route out is conservatively south-west to the road and, trotting past car park and crossroads, I manage to spot the indistinct path into 8. I now decide to go straight to 9, spotting the building before my control through the trees. 

9-10 looks like being a potential crippler, so I head east, round the green and try to follow the indistinct path heading north. I decide, if all else fails, that I can relocate on the forest road junction north of the control. I hear much crashing to left and right of me as I soldier on up, my eyes stinging with sweat. Suddenly, and just in time, the path becomes clearer and I spot the control, breathing a sigh of relief. I trot along the forest road to 11, trying to follow the bends in the road. Suddenly, two enormous rock pillars appear and I spot my flag. Straight down now all the way to the finish. I find 12 by going east along the road to the bend, then back along the road to 13, down the re-entrant to 14 and in to the finish. Pat is waiting for me, obviously having finished her course some time ago.

I put my result on the DIY display and head back to the car for a much needed drink. Later I find that I'm 4th out of 38 on my course. Pat introduces her trainers to Aussie terrain with an easy 6th place. Technically, the course was more generous than I was expecting, with generally good visibility and flags hung high. This is the last event in the MelbushO series, which has been a brilliant introduction to local orienteering, but it now looks like I will have to venture out towards Bendigo and Ballarat to get my weekly orienteering fix.