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.

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