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.