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?