Sunday, 31 August 2014

MelBushO #7 Plenty Gorge Park, Yarrambat

The MelBushO Series has been a highlight for me this year with a taste of many different areas and a sharp increase in the kangaroo count. I thought I’d been to this part of Plenty Gorge before but I hadn’t. An excellent turnout of 130+ folks joined us on a sunny Sunday morning. Pat and Susi entertained the kids while Mark and I set about our courses, he on the 4km B while I tackled the 6km A.

An uncrossable barbed-wire fence was an initial surprise on the way to my first control, although a kindly tree had fallen across it and I used this to scramble over the jagged wire. The second leg took me down to a river crossing where Russell was on hand to navigate me across the swirling waters. My third control I found buried under a fallen tree after more lost time. Slow going up to now. 

I’d been softened up for my first big mistake. I decided to follow the path to #4 when straight would have been much quicker, as I realised when meeting later starters here. Four long minutes evaporated here. A long slog on a compass bearing to the next, then follow the path to #6, all the while overtaken by younger legs. Now back to the river crossing and over the barbed wire again to #7. I followed the river but kept high to the next control. 9-10 provided the most difficulty, having to go direct through steep and hostile green stuff which proved a lot tougher than expected. Everyone else suffered similarly here. My brains were now cooked and an easy leg to the last control cost me three minutes when I left #13 in completely the wrong direction. So a long 82 minutes should have been an almost-as-long 75 minutes. 

Despite the physicality, I enjoyed a proper orienteering event. Eight MelBushO events this year may be expanded, I hear, for 2015. Let’s hope so!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Pound Bend Park

Pound Bend Park lies on a bend of the Yarra River, notable for the 145 metre-long tunnel which was dug out by 19th Century miners to divert the flow of the river, making the whole of the river bend more accessible for gold panning. Like so many schemes of the time, the pickings barely paid back the expenditure.

The park is quite small and has limited technical challenge, but is made extremely attractive by its location only ten minutes from our house. I hadn't been there before, but I will certainly return. Planner Ruth took the view that it would not sustain a viable orienteering event every year, but since this series is aimed at newcomers (or which there were many) I'm not so sure.

We looked after Claudia and Max while their parents ventured out on their courses. We collected sticks, counted ducks on the fast-flowing river, played hide-and-seek in the bushes, all the while looking out for the parental return. Both came back in three-quarters of an hour, in time for us to change and prepare for our own efforts. I decided on the Big Boys course again and Pat registered for the C course.

I legged it along the path to the first control, overtaking Pat on the way, and pushed it along to the second one. Nice and easy. Later splits examination showed I was barely in the top 30 at this stage. Maybe I will catch up later. Or maybe not. I lose a small amount of time at control 6 when I run past the flag, but find a good route down the steep slope to 8, only to then stagger back up the hill to the next control. This was as good as it got, with another small miss at control 14 before chasing a kangaroo (who clearly had not followed instructions) round the hill. I finished just inside the hour, well down the order, but ahead of some of my contemporaries. Scanning the results, I could see no-one ahead of me of similar vintage, which is my usual rule-of-thumb.

I enjoyed an event which had changes of vegetation, although the climbing was challenging. I calculated 145 metres of climb (most of it late on), with the course – nominally 5.6km – taking me 6.9km. Adjusting for the climb, that's 7.2 minutes/km. At my time of life, I'll settle for that.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Gloomy Sky, Muddy Tracks, Dripping Trees - Nostalgia!

Orienteering continued this Sunday with a convenient 30 minute drive to Plenty Park, in not-so-convenient steady rain. We had arranged to amuse the children while Mark and Susi set off on their courses. We visited some control sites, investigated the dripping roof of the barbie area, fell over with starshapes in the wet grass, collected sticks and stones from all around, and all before ten thirty.

We handed Claudia and Max back to their parents and prepared for our courses. The rain by now was persisting down and threatened to become an important factor in our progress. Gloomy sky, muddy tracks, dripping trees - I was becoming almost nostalgic for the Old Country. Almost. My Big Boys course went well until halfway, when increasing foggy vision through my glasses forced me to regularly dry them on my shirt, itself becoming increasingly sodden.

Of course, this couldn't go on and with only a couple of controls left, I found myself unable to read the map at all. Navigating by guesswork was never going to lead to a happy outcome and so it proved at control 13. Seven minutes inside the control circle, using my patented ever-increasing-circles technique, led me eventually to the elusive flag.

Overall, my result was a good one. My Clever Watch told me that 8.2 muddy kilometres distance with 220 metres of climbing had been covered in 73 minutes. A scan of the results showed several of my contemporaries ahead of me, although not by much, and certainly less than seven minutes! C├ęst la vie. Next time, of course, it will be different. Perhaps the weather will be more considerate.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Chewton Diggings

We paid a return visit to Chewton on Sunday, famous for its largesse during the gold rush era of the 1850's. I was hoping for similar generosity, or even charity. Very easy to get to from Melbourne, about 90 minutes north on the Calder Freeway, although a more generous speed limit than 110km/hr on such a wide, straight and empty dual carriageway would not go amiss.  We parked next to the start/finish area, despite a lazy getup, a late breakfast and a leisurely drive.

My orienteering course promised straight running over rough terrain with hard and stony ground, so I set off with great optimism. Not for long. I scrambled my way through low-visibility scrub to the first control and decided on a simple-but-circuitous north-then-west route to the second. This was a bad idea. Approaching the circle, I turned north too soon and ended up doing walkabout for the next four minutes. Bah! Dithering time was also lost at controls 4 and 5, so not a good start.

A long leg from 7-8 now presented itself. South via the road, or northerly via forest tracks. I'm an orienteer (with a metal hip) though, so tarmac does not appeal if there is a choice. I go north-east and end up approaching 8 from the track beyond. All well and good, but then I dither for a minute due to not reading the control description. I need a knoll, not a pit. John shows me how to do it. We then stay together for the rest of the course. I am grateful to John a second time when I start to head for the finish after control 11. There are still four more controls to do!

I download grumpily and John and I compare notes. He also lost time early on, so I feel slightly better. Then I see the results display and feel better still. I am 11th with only two runners of similar vintage ahead of me. 
I'm feeling better all the time. The on-the-day results (although sadly not the online results) showed ages as well as names and times. What an excellent idea! Can we have these every week, please?

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Eltham Lower Park - Everyone's a Winner

Eltham Lower Park, only ten minutes drive from our house, is already busy as we arrive early for this week's MelBushO orienteering event. Trailered ponies drive in as families wander over to check out the miniature railway. A hive of activity, and it's not yet 10am. Mark and Susi are already here, and we take the children off their hands as they prepare for the challenges of the B course.

We head off to the pony paddock, then the woodland walk (with troll bridge), then the playground (with children's party), then the steam railway, then back to the car. Phew, that's 45 minutes taken care of. Returning to the orienteering, Max and Claudia immediately spot the cakes and biscuits as their parents, all pink and sweaty, return. Which would you rather, cake or Mummy? No contest.

We prepare for our courses, I opt for the A course while Pat chooses the C. I trot across the oval and down into the green stuff, spotting my first flag from some distance. Then leg it south along the path and down to the small bridge. Crossing the Yarra river by the footbridge takes me into Candlebark Park, dodging the mountain bikes on the wiggly trails around the hill. Power lines help a lot with controls 5 and 6, do they need to be on the map?

Heading down to number 8, I recall a previous visit where I lost a lot of time here, so I simplify by using the lakes and all is well. I encounter a young couple, he with map while she, long-faced, follows. I do hope they come again. I bound down the hill from control 9 as kangaroos scatter before me. Over a stile, under the power lines, looking ahead to the 10-11 leg. Is there a route without running on the road? I spot the small path to the east of it and stagger up the hill, sweat-soaked bandana slipping over my eyes.

I am getting tired and the map doesn't fit the ground any more. Nothing seems right as I bumble my way into the finish. Later analysis of my Clever Watch shows that the map is fine and the controls are correctly placed. Must be something else. I haven't lost any substantial time with my navigation and I am pleased with my final time of 56 minutes, well inside the hour for 7.1km actual run with 185 metres of climb. The results show only one competitor (I think) of similar vintage ahead of me. Happy with that. Why can't results show age classes though? Then we can compare ourselves with our peers.

I take more than a passing interest in the organisation and planning, since it's my turn soon. The flags today were hung generously, I must remember that. Pat has returned earlier and is pleased, Mark and Susi enjoyed their course and the kids took a trip on the miniature railway. Everyone's a winner.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

A Cold Wind Gnaws At Our Vitals

We have had a lot of crack-of-dawn starts recently and this week is no exception. We trundle north for a couple of hours to meet fellow club members in the assembly field for the latest State Series event. A cold wind gnaws at our vitals as we check people in at registration. Soon enough we are able to pass on our responsibilities and prepare for our courses as the day starts to show signs of warming up.

I express a desire to change from Course 3 to Course 9, only to be told there is no such wimpy course and I really need to man up. I dig deep into my bag, producing a rarely-worn long sleeved thermal top, before trudging disconsolately up the road to the start. I receive a pleasant surprise on finding that my course is shorter than advertised, 5.1km with 200 metres of climb. At this stage, I'll take anything I can get.

I have resolved to take a leaf from Paul's book this week and follow the red line up and over everything. Nothing can go wrong. I'm not surprised to immediately see a long uphill leg to my first control. The woodland floor is clean, however, and the terrain does not seem as steep as the map suggests, so I make good progress up the slope. Then I realise I am too high and need to drop down to find a small rock step among many others. My detour has cost me a couple of minutes. I continue to follow the red line to each control but veer well left to 4 and need to correct with the compass. Another couple of minutes gone. I am relieved to survive the complex diggings section with no losses, but now there is another long stretch to 7. I go straight but lose track of my position approaching the control and stop short. I lose three long minutes sorting it out. All goes well until the last control when I contour too low among the rocks and have to climb back up. All told, I have amassed 9 minutes of navigation errors, in a total time of 74 minutes.

Several issues become clear after the event. I discover the contour interval on the map is, in fact, 2.5 metres, rather than the usual 5 metres, but there was no hint of this in the pre-event details. It would have been useful to know. With twice as many brown lines on the map, the hills look more challenging than they really are and the map looks cluttered.

This was my first event on this area, and previous knowledge counts for a lot in an experience sport like orienteering. Water channels had been dug by the old gold miners to wash their diggings and these are excellent line features which follow contours across the map. There were several occasions when I could have used them to speed my progress, but didn't. In the deep diggings, around controls 4, 5 and 6, I have learnt it pays to stay high and look down on the contour detail. This bit worked well for me.

The long legs continue to lose me time. Start-1, 3-4, and 6-7 all proved costly in time loss. I adopted a straight line policy which proved fairly quick but which also tends to result in no clear attack point before each control. Disregarding those younger than me on the same course, only Paul and Ron headed me this time. Next time it will be different. Maybe.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

MelBushO - Under The Flightpath

MelBushO season is here again, the first event being a 45 minute trip to the airport and the gentle slopes of Woodlands Park. If you get lost, look up and head for the roar of the jet engines. Sundays seem as busy as ever – is nothing sacred?

We navigate to orienteering registration and then retreat to prepare for action, Pat on the C course, me on the B. Paul tries to shame me onto the A course but I resist. He was right of course. These events are designed to be simple for newcomers and organisers. I will appreciate this in June when it is my turn to produce an event.

A benign area, electronic punching, a colour map and split start times. Proper orienteering at its best. I trot off down the track towards my first control, remembering this same leg from 2006, which was my first orienteering experience on Australian soil. What happened to those eight years? The fence appears on cue and I head up the hill to my second control. Is this getting steeper or am I getting older? Don't answer that. A path appears ahead – not what I was expecting at all. This map/compass/control is wrong. Later analysis of my gps trace shows none of these to be true. After thirty years of practice, I have lost the ability to follow a compass bearing. I turn left and find my control, heading off downhill as parrots overhead hurl vocal abuse.

I hesitate at control 3 in the low visibility but eventually trip over it and press on to 4. A woman walking her dog looks at me in alarm. Do I look that bad? Probably. The route to 5 then 6 follows the fence as the sun smiles down on me. A mob of kangaroos bounces away in alarm as I approach. A sentry hangs back to observe me but I avoid eye contact. It's a bit jungly and slower going near control 6 but soon I head off up the hill, following the red line towards my next challenge. A towering rock keeps me on course as I spot the flag long before my body can get me there. A fox charges across the open on a mazy defensive run. Over the hill and down the other side. I do like downhill finishes.

My watch measures the journey as 5.4km with 70 metres of climb in 40 minutes. The openness of the area means that I am able to redline most of the course. I'll settle for 7.4 mins/km. Now, if only I could run up hills, but I'm not a young man. Paul was right though - I could have done a bit more. Maybe the A course next time. Pat returns from her course in triumph, recent orienteering walkabouts on this area but a distant memory. As we change, we count the planes takeoff and land, then head home for lunch. A great morning out.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Easter Orienteering 2014

A long-awaited trip to New South Wales for Easter weekend means three forest events in three days. Much excitement after a diet of street events through the long hot summer. We arrived at Carwell's Labyrinth on Saturday and prepared to compete. Leg protection and sun protection applied, despite start times before 10am.

I set off with confidence to my first control, checking the compass on the way, only to find myself off-course and needing to relocate on the rocks below. Three minutes lost already! All went well after this to halfway round the course. I decided on taking the direct route between 10 and 11, which proved to be steep, rocky and difficult, culminating in a miss at the termite mound. Another two minutes lost. I normally like these hi-viz termite mounds, we could certainly do with some to aid our navigation in Victoria, although NSW can keep the termites. No more significant errors led to probably my best day of the weekend, with only six minutes of errors. 

Lessons learned? Well, I'm definitely too slow through the rough terrain. My time of 55 mins compares well to the top-10 time of 45mins, but I do need to perfect the technique of run-stop to read map-run. With such rough terrain, it is very difficult to read the map on the run, without tripping headlong. Sticks and stones may break my bones, and it's surprising they haven't.

The highlight of the day was the iced coffee after my run which was most welcome. Reviving and refreshing on a hot day. After coffee time, he headed for some retail therapy in Mudgee, an hour's drive away. We stopped for lunch overlooking the scenic Lake Windamere. It's easy to see how it got it's name, although the spelling gave rise to much discussion. In the supermarket, we saw a man still wearing his orienteering kit, complete with competitor's number. Either he was clutching a shopping list or he still had his map.

Sunday and Monday were essentially the same area so there was little contrast in terrain type, which would have been nice. An definite improvement would be a Friday championship sprint event, rather than the mishmash of elite-centric prologue courses.

very good video of the Monday event at Prosser's Reef, which gives a flavour of the weekend, can be found at

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Never Trust a SatNav

A trip to Beechworth in the far north-east of the state, found us leaving our accommodation at some ungodly hour to make the trip down to the quaintly named town of Eldorado (pop 287) for Yarra Valley OC's event on the Kangaroo Crossing map. My satnav is extremely stupid however, and delivered us to a gated track in the middle of nowhere, such that we were obliged to reverse uphill for several kilometres. I would like to apologise publicly for the abuse which I hurled at the unfortunate navigational device during the next few tense minutes. Eldorado proved to be elusive, and just as we had declared it to be nothing more than a myth, it emerged from the early morning light to pave our way to the event assembly area.

My course, planned by the ever-experienced Ted, provided something of a shock when revealed to me, namely a long first leg diagonally across the map, with no obvious route. Go straight, or maybe round to the left, or round to the right? Hopping from one foot to the other, I eventually plumped for right, using a track and a rock slab to get me to the first control. Twenty minutes later I arrived. A few short legs were a welcome relief and then another long stretch back towards the start point. As before, I headed south-west towards a track but was persuaded by the confident progress of an orienteer ahead to abandon this plan and head up to the top of the spur before control 5. This was a mistake. Hoping to use open areas before my control to lead me into my flag, I became confused here and stopped short. Eventually I decided to go further but several minutes were lost.

6-7 proved to be my downfall. Following a careful bearing across the creek and up the hillside, I somehow got pushed off course and floundered about in low-visibility scrub until my ever-increasing circles technique, perfected over some years, led me to a dried-up gully with a flag in it. It was mine! However, 6 precious minutes had evaporated on what should have been a fairly easy task. How we like to provide problems of our own making!

All went well after, with a long downhill sequence into the finish. 75 minutes for 4.5km seemed profligate, but others suffered similarly and my result looked respectable at the end of the morning. I changed and went to assist the finish team on dibber download, which was a great way to put names to faces. I can report that the best runners all have two arms and legs, just like the rest of us.

A few hours later, we were in the car and heading back to Melbourne. Should you find a satnav in a bin in down-town Eldorado, I don't want it back.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Grand Prix, Rogaining and StreetO - Busy Week!

It's been quite a week. Last weekend saw the first race of the Grand Prix season here in Melbourne, and I was able to attend one of the earlier days in the runup to the race itself. It takes six weeks to transform leafy Albert Park in the heart of the city into a screaming petrolhead mecca. This year, the cars have lost their scream. It sounds more like a high-speed lawnmower race.

However, and more importantly, we were able to get out on Sunday and do a six-hour rogaine. This is a long distance navigation race, named after the three originators of the concept. The map was huge and was immediately folded into four, reducing our area of interest to A3 size. Pat and I walked (quickly) together and garnered 27 controls in 5+ hours. The rest of the time was taken up with hourly drink and snackette sessions, which kept us going. We were treated to cheese toasties and melon slices at the end, which were very welcome. The weather was perfect for such a long event, 20 degrees, cloudy and dry. We had some issues with the map, a colour copy of the Melway street guide failing to indicate a high, 1.5km fence bordering the partly-constructed Regional Rail Link. It was the same for everyone, I suppose. I left my gps watch at home, but a piece of string on the map afterwards measured 27km. We were delighted to discover that we had won the Extremely Old section, which will do doubt encourage us to enter another one.

Tuesday is my favourite day at the moment. We were treated to another of Geoff's splendid park/street events, with colour map, electronic punching and barbie. Some friendly controversy arose afterwards, where splits showed that some reprobates went through the 'uncrossable' fence between 10 and 16. I can claim to be squeaky clean in this respect. I did my usual anticlockwise trundle, starting 19,11,17 and finishing 12,4,15. You join the dots. I managed all controls in 48 minutes, my watch recording 7km. Pleased with that.

All bodes well for the upcoming weekend in Beechworth. Highly technical bush orienteering on both days at Rowdy Flat & Kangaroo Crossing. I suspect a reality check may be somewhat overdue. Anyway, it's good to return to 'proper' orienteering after a long, hot summer. I may not be saying that on Monday.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

If It's A Sweaty Thirty Degrees, It Must Be Tuesday.

If it's a sweaty thirty degrees, it must be Tuesday. We head for Deakin University and Geoff's scouts orienteering event. A one-hour score format on a detailed colour map with split starts and electronic timing on a tricky multilevel area. Looking forward to it. High numbers get more points. To build in extra mileage there are some bonus points available. It pays to do high numbers first, low numbers later. A double circle means go up. A lot to remember.

I don't recall parking in a multi-storey carpark for orienteering before. I set off heading for 17 and run into trouble immediately. There are more levels here than I think and it takes me a moment to realise I can go higher. I'm not the only confused person here. I decide on 14, then overshoot 18, then back to 20, which proves to be tricky from the west. I skirt round by the roads to the north. There is a university freshers function going on here, with distracting music and chatter. I have more trouble at 19 which is not there. I tour the area and find it eventually. 

It is now time to head north across the creek. An anticlockwise loop is obvious and straightforward. Finally, I head back to the uni buildings, overshooting again at 15 before visiting all the small numbers, finishing with 7. It is quite hard to work out what I've done and what remains. I get to the finish after 50 minutes with 6.5km travelled. 8mins/km is pretty good for me on a technical multilevel area. I lose time in several places, but others fare worse, allowing me to finish fairly well up. A final score of 264 out of 270 is a pleasant surprise.

The usual good turnout provides a lively atmosphere around the barbie. My brains and legs are suitably frazzled with the high temperatures and many steps to negotiate. I think I would prefer a line event, though. The score format often leads me into brain meltdown. However, with electronic punching, at least I can't lose my control card again.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Defeat Snatched From the Jaws of Victory

I have quit my job, for the second time. Time to move on, I think. I've been approached by someone else already. We'll see. I may even get the time now to finish my second children's novel, although publishers haven't beaten a path to my door for the first one.

The extreme heat is but a distant memory. Melbourne temperatures have moderated to a mere 20 degrees, vest and shorts de rigeur. My orienteering efforts continue to be enhanced by kinesiology tape. Recommended for all those of a certain age who find that body bits fail or fall off. What I like to refer to as the secret weapon inside my shorts.

Orienteering in Westerfolds Park is warm and welcoming on a Tuesday evening, with a hundred eager folks lined up for Geoff's latest runout. Twenty controls in an hour may be a big ask for an old man, but I make it - just. Eight easy kilometres within the time limit puts me well up the leader board for once.

I have qualified for the Melbourne StreetO Championships at Kensington Banks. Quite a technical area navigationally and I set off in the mass start with confidence. I scamper round my early controls with no mistakes and good routes. I have a feeling that today is going to be my day. How wrong can you be? 

I arrive at my penultimate control to stamp my card, but it is gone! I have dropped it somewhere. I slowly retrace my steps but to no avail. I walk to the finish and report my mishap, receiving universal sympathy. I trudge back to the car to see my main adversaries only then arriving at the finish. C'est la vie. I quote Kipling while punching myself in the face.

If you can dream, and not make dreams your master,
If you can think, and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And, which is more, you'll be a Man, my son! 

Whatever. Defeat snatched once more from the jaws of victory.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Three Orienteering Events in Three Days

Tuesday's orienteering takes us to Blackburn Creeklands, where 120 like-minded souls entertain themselves in the balm of early evening. Geoff has laid out 20 for our amusement, and I plan to only do the fun stuff in the park and leave the streets to the tarmac-treaders. Clockwise is my preferred rotation and I head off towards 15, then follow the trail to its eastern edge before returning along the south bank. A small loop through the school, finishing with control 6, brings me back to the start in about 40 minutes. I do 15 controls in 40 minutes, guesstimating about 5+km. My swanky gps watch would give me an accurate distance - if I had switched it on. No problem's with navigation, just my legs need complete restoration.

Wednesday's street event, on a sticky evening, was a sweaty, spread-out (five minutes between controls) and lonely (for a mass-start) affair. My plan to complete one of these events without a map would certainly have foundered tonight.

Thursday was a five-minute trip up the road - stopping just before Doncaster Shopping Centre. 10-metre contours on the map and a Russell Bulman course mean only one thing - prepare for a world of pain. From here, everywhere looks down. I determined to visit my regular haunt of Ruffey Lake Park to the north, even at the cost of course points efficiency. They always say head from the start to the edge of the map - any edge. So what do I do? Straight up the middle. Up the map and down the hill. 12 is my first, then down to 3, then down again to 10 and into the park. I don't like downhill, I know what it will mean. By now I am totally alone. I bet I'm the only one doing this crazy circuit. I leave out 19, a mistake, but capturing all the others will leave me only four more controls to do. Simples.

I slow to a crawl up the steep contours back towards the start. 9,6,20 and 13, in that order. If I'd visited 19, I wouldn't now be staggering up to 20. The hill steepens as the finish approaches and I hand in my card, trying not to drip sweat all over Russell at the finish table. I am very surprised to find I am the first Old Person back on the C course. Maybe my strategy was a good one after all. To my surprise, Ray informs me I have qualified for the Melbourne Championships in a couple of weeks. Rather ironically, since this is my first time on this map, local knowledge seems to have helped.

We later discover that Pat is also qualified. Who will finish the higher in our respective competitions? Let me tell you, for those who think they know what pressure is, this is pressure.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

The Silva Duo, an orienteering Run-Ride-Run challenge

The Warburton cricket oval, surrounded by the winding Yarra river, looks a picture as we arrive at our assembly area for the Silva Duo, an orienteering Run-Ride-Run challenge. I prefer to keep my feet on the ground, while Peta enjoys the mountain bike form of the sport, so we enter the relay class. I am to start with a 4km scatter course, and then have a rest while Peta does 10km on the bike, and I finish with an easy 2.5km line course.

Thankfully, with soaring temperatures forecast for later in the day and a total fire ban in force, the start has been brought forward to 9.30am, with an expectation that we should be finished by 11am and ready for a paddle in the river shallows.

I have the task of visiting any nine controls from the 14 on the map, returning to the oval as soon as possible. I head west for my first control (14) on the bridge, then up the hill to 3. this proves to be tricky for several of us when we overlook a minor track between the roads. I get back on course by wading up through knee-high tree litter. Lilya overtakes me here. 

I have to finish with 9-7-4, so I look for four more to make up my total. 9-12-2-5 is my eventual choice, the navigation proving to be easy, although the contours regularly slow me to a crawl. Number 9 is not immediately obvious, tucked behind a lower fence which I don't see straight away. I see Lilya again several times as we follow the same choice of controls.

I wheeze hard as we trot along the river bank towards the finish. A rickety bridge slows me to a mincing walk; I hold my breath and all is well. I hand over to Peta who heads off on her bike while I head for the car and a fresh application of Factor 50. A cold drink is welcome and a chance to discard my sweaty top. It looks like I'm first back in the relay class.

It is soon time to anticipate Peta's return, and I wait in the shade; it is heating up now. Peta arrives (in the lead) and I am off again. This is just a simple run along both river banks and two of the bridges. Some lucky folks have already taken to the water as the sun beats down. Tim is just ahead of me and I manage to keep up; he has just done the bike leg while I've been resting. A steady trot soon brings me back to the finish. We are first to finish but an examination of our split times shows that we are one control short. It doesn't matter though, since we have both achieved good performances in steep terrain and hot conditions. 

We head for the river and sit on the bank, trailing hot feet in the cold flow. Brilliant! Every orienteering event should have this. Prizes are presented, sandwiches are eaten, then we head back to Melbourne with the aircon on overdrive. Lovely area, good courses, colour maps, electronic punching and a cold river on a hot day. What's not to like?

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Three Events during the Big Hot week.

It's been the Big Hot this week, with temperatures into the 40's on four consecutive days. I've watched so much air-conditioned TV tennis, my neck aches. A serious attack of cabin fever led us to seek out some StreetO this week.

On Tuesday we arrived at Geoff's Blackburn event in 40+ temperatures, expecting to be the only sad punters, but there were 35 of us. I soaked my bandana in cold water and trotted off down the street, clutching my squashy water bottle. The best bit of the course was round the school – five controls in quick succession, my favourite. Approaching from the south, I did 3, 6, 4, 5, 7 but I did have to squint closely at the map. My running was fine for about 30 minutes, and then weariness hit home. I tipped water on my head, which ran down my face and wrecked my glasses. Tipping my head back was worse, when the water ended up inside my shorts. I returned with 14 controls in 40 minutes, a scarlet face and a damp bottom. Geoff thrust a welcome cup of cold water into my hand. Pat soon returned with a good haul of controls. We had survived our first 40 degree event.

For some reason, we decided to head out again on Wednesday. The courses were shortened, so I was able to cover six controls in 30 minutes, about 5km of park and street in total, on a balmy 37 degree evening.

Thursday was a 44 degree day, so we decided to stay in.

Saturday brought a humid 24 degrees, quite a difference. This proved to be the best event of the week, with 21 controls to visit in Tally Ho Business Park. A mass start long sprint event, another first for me. 3-4 caught me out when I arrived at a tall fence just before the control. 9-10 looked similar but I was ready for it. The athletics track was a hive of activity, with hundreds of youngsters running, jumping and throwing with great enthusiasm. I needed a pitstop before 16 but the toilet block was locked. I gritted my teeth and clutched my map. My brains scrambled towards the end as I meandered my way to the finish where an iced coffee restored some of my faculties. 41 minutes for a measured 5.6km was most satisfactory.

Three events completed during such a week surely proves that we orienteers are either intrepid or barmy. You choose.