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.