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.