Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Wattle Park Adventure

We have been away on our holidays for the last ten days - a good dose of in-the-wild kangaroos, koalas and dolphins down the Great Ocean Road - so we arrive at Wattle Park refreshed and ready to go. A warm and sunny evening greets us, as Pat registers for the score course, while I plump for the line event. My course is a nominal 4.3km, but I know I'll need a route of 5-6km to visit all 21 controls.

I equip myself with an electronic finger and set my compass for the first control, down the slope and through the trees. I can't make the veg boundaries fit the map, however, and find myself on the track beyond the control. Backtrack to the bench but not a promising start. Never mind, let it go. This is one area I've now been to a few times, so I feel comfortable for the next few controls. I go in too early at number 5 (a consistent failing of mine) but soon find myself toiling up the hill to 7, which is an old restored tram sited next to a busy playground. If I had read the control description, I would have realised that the punch was inside the passenger compartment. The people enjoying a barbeque party here distract me, which might explain why I now visit the wrong control – 19 instead of 8. I don't realise my error until later at download, clearly failing to grasp that there are other controls out there, not just mine.

I lose concentration again between 10 and 11, wandering off line, then leave 11 in totally the wrong direction. I soon regain my composure and this helps me through to the end. Apart from my error at control 8, I calculate about 2 minutes lost at the first control and another couple of minutes around control 11. My watch says 5.3km in 40 minutes = 7.5 mins/km with a rather poor 10% of errors. Nevertheless, a good run around 21 controls in a very pleasant area. OK, not necessarily the right controls, but, to use one of the words of 2013, whatever.

We collect in a few controls afterwards and then change to go round to Geoff's house for food and drinks, managing to put the world to rights before the year is out. All orienteering should be like this.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

This Week's Secret Weapon

This must be the right time to experiment, I think, as we head for our Tuesday orienteering fix around the leafy parks and streets of East Melbourne. A trip to Chemist Warehouse last week had resulted in a new purchase, one of the few items on their well-stocked shelves which had previously evaded my credit card. "Kinesiology Sportstape" said the label on the box, with a promise that all my aches and pains would disappear at a stroke. Bargain. I fixed some to my troublesome hamstrings and set course for Blackburn.

Geoff has a torn achilles, so it is remarkable that we have any event at all. Folks have rallied round to help so that our weekly fun can continue uninterrupted. Twenty controls in the hour is my target as I initiate the electronic timing and set off in a southerly direction.

Control 11 first is the plan, then clockwise around the area. Let's see how it works out. No twinges from down below - this is promising. The parkland between 10 and 4 proves to be pleasant running. Control 4 proves to be missing, there is only one canopy and it isn't there. Don't waste time, move on.

Normally, my hip begins to ache at about halfway, but not tonight. There are lots of people out on a pleasant summer evening, all doing their own thing. Tennis, dogs, playing with the kids, walking, jogging, no-one gives me a second glance. Time is accelerating as the final loop nears and in my sweaty confusion, I decide to visit control 11 again. This is unfortunate, as now little time is left for the last few. I decide to do them all and bear the consequences. Eventually I come home in 62 minutes and my pathetic bleating about Control 4 has no effect. "The computer is heartless", I'm told. Reminds me of a parking ticket man I met yesterday. But that's another story.

My gps watch did not co-operate on this occasion and said I had run 0.0km. Measurements later suggest my route was 7.4km in a straight line, which sounds very flattering. I'll take what I can get. The Kinesiology Tape does what it says on the box, though, and I will certainly use it again. A useful secret weapon inside my shorts.

Monday, 16 December 2013

There's Gold In Them There Hills

Summer holidays beckon and we head for the Victorian Goldfields, dusting off the camping equipment as the weather promises sun and no rain. Castlemaine is central to our plans, and we are soon established at a very smart campsite next to the botanical gardens and the town swimmimg pool. Looks promising!

A recent family meeting has declared that my spangly metal detector needs to earn its keep, if it is not to be consigned to the growing pile of Boys Toys in my Man-Cave, soon to be listed on Ebay. Victoria, of course, is world renowned for it's goldfields where, in the 1850's and 60's, two tons of the yellow stuff were dug up by you and me every week and sold for millions of dollars (or pounds, as they had then). Some of the miner's earnings were spent on beer and women but the rest was often just wasted.

I plan a tour of suitable gold digging sites, skilfully avoiding discussion on the number of gold prospectors who may have preceded us. It is very likely that some gold will be left scattered around the bushland just waiting for me to trip over it. We drive out to a suitable spot and I fiddle with the complex settings on my gold-seeking gadget. It bleats and whines relentlessly as we dig up bullets and other itinerant bits of metal, but no yellow. We have learnt (the hard way) that flies are late risers around here, and that early mornings are pleasantly critter-free. Hats are essential under the relentless summer sun, the forest canopy providing little real shade. 

After several hours of poking about, we have seen no-one. Even the birds seem to have flown. I disturb a rather grumpy frog under a pile of leaves. We agree to go our separate ways. My pocket is filling up with ironmongery of uncertain vintage, and we decide a snack is in order. We slap on our anti-fly cream, which the local fly population seems to rather like. 

After some deliberation, we head back into town for an iced chocolate drink and a wedge of cheesecake. I think I'm becoming addicted to both. Can you have two addictions? A session of air-conditioned retail therapy follows which makes us feel a whole lot better about ourselves.

Several days in a row follow a similar pattern, out in the bush in the morning, then scuttle back to civilisation as the day warms up. No success to report on the gold nugget front, sad to say, but we do enjoy the solitary quiet out in the diggings. It is hard to imagine how the early prospectors coped with the harsh conditions. No iced chocolate for them. I suppose a bag of gold nuggets sure helped.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Victorian M65 Sprint Champion!

Having spent the last few days in Ballarat, Sunday sees us looking forward to the Victorian Sprint Orienteering Championships, to be held at Ballarat Grammar School. Start times are between 10 and 10.40am, before the day heats up too much. Having packed away all our camping gear, we arrive at the venue early, changing into running gear at a leisurely pace for once.

Two sprint events the previous day had taken their toll on my supply of bandanas, the only one left being the Union Jack one. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Despite the heat, I need my compression longs, with my leg playing up after yesterday. The events had gone fairly well, except for a two minute hiatus at one stage, where my legs had run well ahead of my brain and had to stop to let it catch up.

Sunday, though, is The Big One, the Victorian Sprint Championships. This event is the culmination of the brilliant Sprint into Spring series, with 8 sprints in 8 weeks. There aren't many of us in M65, but everyone has credentials. Starting at 10.06, I set my compass and trot off with two hands on the map. It's worth having a good look at the map while I can. The map has many thick black lines (uncrossable) and will try to trip me up at some stage, no doubt.

The early controls pass uneventfully with the long leg from 7-8 looking important. I head south and follow the fence down to the opening, which is concealed behind a skip. Time for two hands on the map again. I realise only at the last moment that 9-10 means going around past 8 again. All goes well enough, but a tricky fence looms up at 11 and I need to concentrate hard to find the way in.

My brains are cooked by now, and I have no plan to control 12. Round to the left or the right? I hop from one foot to the other with indecision. Eventually, I go right, but 30 long seconds have evaporated. I discover later that Peter, who started two minutes behind me, will match my time exactly to 12. I leg it across the lawn to the tree by the tennis courts, then on to the boulder, around the buildings, across the carpark and into the finish. My bandana is soaked in sweat, but my eyes remain sting-free, despite only 16 minutes having elapsed since I started. To be accurate, 16mins 26secs for 2.1km (straight line) with 16 controls. Not bad for a bloke with a metal hip.

Peter crosses the line soon after and we compare splits. He is only 11 seconds behind me, but it looks like I may have done enough to win! Soon, all the M65's are in and it is confirmed. I'm the Victorian M65 Sprint Champion at my first attempt! Added to this, for my efforts in the Sprint Series, I get a free entry voucher for the Park/Street series, worth about $70, and a polka dot shirt worth, well, I'll let you be the judge of that . . . . . .