It started initially at the Club AGM in December last year when a list of events for 2012 were presented and a request for setters, controllers and coordinators was made. I took the list home and shared it with Jonty who had been at Junior Training Camp that week. At the first Summer Series event of 2012 Jonty signed up to set an A Series forest event and I agreed to be controller for the same event. Selwyn emailed over the latest version of the map and Jonty set to work on OCAD creating trial courses and working with control sites and course combinations. He found this part of the process quite enjoyable and spent hours working on it. My contribution at this stage was to simply gaze over the courses from time to time and offer a few suggestions, mainly about the practicalities of a good event centre and start area. High Dam Rd is quite a small map so Jonty was struggling to put together a really good long Red course. The start and finish area would have a big bearing on this.
A week or two later, I noticed that the date scheduled for the event, 11 March, clashed with Katoa Po. After a flurry of emails around the club and with the forest managers the date was changed to 01 April. This meant we were able to change the aim of the event as it would now be held just a few days before the NZ Championships at Easter and so we decided to focus on providing good training opportunities rather than a stand alone race experience. This in turn meant that we could offer slightly shorter courses with the opportunity to run more than one course if required. It was at this point that the concept of offering some Red courses that were set as if they were a Long Distance event and some set as if they were a Middle Distance event was born.
Jonty returned to OCAD to redo his courses and on the last weekend in January he and I spent a day in the forest visiting control sites. This resulted in a number of fundamental changes to the courses. Firstly, we changed the location of the finish and the event centre after discovering that the clearing we had planned to use, while looking great on the map, was far too boggy and overgrown on the ground. This was the clearing that ended up with control 91, the final control on both the White and the Red 1 Long course. We moved the event centre a couple of hundred metres up a track to the clearing beside the road which turned out to be far more suitable.
We also moved the location of the start by about 100m. This wasn't because there was anything wrong with the original location but rather that the new location, on a track that wasn't on the map at that stage, was far better and more conveniently located for the new event centre. We probably scouted 30 control sites that day, approving most but changing three or four slightly and abandoning a couple completely, including one in the green that was a great control site but just had no easy access in or out due to all the cuttings on the ground. We also documented half a dozen small map changes, including the track at the start, that were close to control sites or obvious route choices.
Then it was back onto the computer with the map changes sent to Selwyn for updating while Jonty updated all his courses again. There was then a bit of a lull for a few weeks until early in March when we had a second day in the forest. This time we visited the control sites we had missed the first time, revisited a few of the more contentious ones and then we ran a few of the courses to see how they looked when running at speed rather than walking between nearby controls that may not be on the same course. Another couple of changes and we had a full set of courses planned.
At this point it is worth looking at the courses Jonty planned and discuss the reasoning behind them. Lets start with the White and Yellow courses.
In order to get the White course to standard we taped a couple of legs, from Control 1 to Control 2 and from Control 4 to Control 5. On the day of the event I also decided to tape from Control 12, not all the way to the finish but until they were unambiguously on the track. This was because the undergrowth had grown in the clearing since our last visit and I was no longer confident that the ubiquitous eight year old boy would be able to see the entrance to the track forty or fifty metres away. I also spent half an hour on the morning of the event raking the track from Control 5 to Control 6 and on halfway to Control 7. The track was marked as indistinct and, although it would have been obvious to any adult or confident youngster, may have caused a few problems for younger kids. The leg from Control 3 to Control 4 may not have strictly adhered to White standards if the requirement for a control at every "turning point" is interpreted strictly but it met the standard if the phrase "decision point" is used instead.
Compare these with the two courses below which were also Red but set as if they were Long Distance events. Here the aim was to provide route choice. The legs tend to be longer and should mostly offer two or more route choice options. There are even a couple of legs that might test Matt's theory that "off the line, you're losing time" is the best approach to Woodhill.
It would be a busy weekend with the AKSS Sprint Finals the day before the event so Saturday was out when it came to putting out controls. Thus Friday afternoon saw us making the most of the last days of Daylight Savings as we headed into the forest once Jonty had finished school, arriving after the loggers had finished work at 5pm. Two hours were spent putting control stands and flags out and we finished in the dark. It is worth noting that we started at the south end of the map and it was the controls at the northern end that were put out in the murkiness of dusk. Back home we also spent some time cutting up control descriptions and testing each of the control boxes to make sure they were all working (they were).
On the morning of the event we were up early and out at the forest gate by 7:30am. Mike was already there with the campomatic so he followed us in, pausing as we dropped Jonty off at the southern end of the map with an arm full of control boxes. At the event centre, time was taken up getting the campomatic in the right place and explaining the start and finish areas and then I was off with a load of control boxes of my own. The idea was that I put the boxes on the stands that Jonty had placed on Friday and he did the same with mine. I found that he had managed to put 54, 55 and 56 out in the wrong order so spent some time correcting this.
Back at the event centre Mike had done a terrific job of putting the start together with an overhead banner separating everyone into queues for the various courses. By a quarter to ten we had the start, finish and registration up and all control boxes out and just had the tapes on the White course to go. I gave Mike the OK to start runners on the Orange and Red courses and asked him to enforce the 10am start time for White and Yellow. Jonty put out one tape and I did the other and then spent half an hour raking the indistinct track. It looked very distinct now. The first White and Yellow runners came through as I was finishing this, all of them confident and looking like they were enjoying themselves.
I got back to the event centre just as the first few finishers were returning. It soon became obvious that we had a problem. None of them were getting a start time recorded. This was potentially drastic. I quickly ran a spare control down to the start and got Mike to get everyone to punch it straight after punching the start control. I then determined that Dwayne had the old set of controls in the boot of his car so got one of the start controls from that and got Mervyn to program it up. I ran that down to the start and replaced the original start box with that one. This worked well for about three starters until Jourdan came along with a newer SportIdent dibber that didn't work in the older controls. I put the original box back up alongside the new start and got him to punch that one.
Meanwhile, back at the finish, Mervyn had managed to get the software to recognise the start box and we were getting results. There was quite a backlog of dibbers to process as he hadn't been able to process the entry sheets while fixing the start box but we slowly caught up. Another trip back down to the start reinstated the original box and I was able to breath a big sigh of relief. But this was not quite the end of the story. The temporary start box that had been in service for 45 minutes or so was programmed exactly an hour earlier than all the other controls (probably due to the change in Daylight Savings and its ability or inability to cope with that). This meant that a lot of people appeared to take over an hour to the first control. This was obvious, however, and we fixed them all up before publishing the real results.
It was gone one o'clock before we finally had a lull in the flood of people finishing and were able to get all entries entered into the computer. Course closure had been officially twelve thirty but a few people were still heading out in dribs and drabs. Mike had the finish completely cleared away by one thirty, leaving just a tray of maps and a set of clear, check and start boxes for anyone who fancied an extra run. I brought in the first controls on the White and Yellow courses and rolled the tapes back up. I then spent a pleasant ten minutes following Hayley and Elsa around the last bit of the Yellow course, removing controls after they'd finished with them. Hayley was instructing Elsa all the way, making much good use of the questioning technique of instruction. She'll make a great teacher one day.
By two fifteen we had a list of seven people who may possibly still be out on the course but we were able to categorically rule out four of them as having been seen leaving by at least one person while two others were ruled out on the basis that their cars were no longer here. That just left . . . Mark, who duly turned up right on time at two twenty five and Roger who had had a late late start (around one forty five) and had promised to abandon his course at two thirty regardless.
There were plenty of willing helpers to collect controls and pack up the event centre and everything was packed up by three thirty. Everything except three control boxes which Scott had collected, left at the water drop, fromwhere I had brought them along with other boxes, stands and flags back to the event centre. I had already got back into my car and was heading off back to the site of the water drop when Mervyn discovered them in his pocket. And then we were ready to leave - except that Roger had lost his keys and Peter had lost his sunglasses. The keys were found, the sunglasses deemed to be somewhere in Peter's car (I hope they were, Peter) and we had left the forest by ten to four. We were home by four thirty, exhausted.
And that still wasn't the end. Mervyn and Roger still had work to do to get the results out, manually removing the errant hour on some courses. Discussion of the courses continued on Facebook for a couple of days - was control 52 in the wrong re-entrant? (Quick Route suggested it wasn't), was control 85 too far across the slope? (this time Quick Route suggested it probably was).
If you are thinking of setting or vetting and event, please don't be put off by the description here of all the work involved. There is nothing so satisfying as working an event from the very start, seeing it all come together and sharing stories with competitors when they finish. I may not have run a course on the day but I was able to run along with lots of people afterwards as they showed me areas they enjoyed, places they stuffed up, routes they took; all of them, regardless of course or grade, intimitely familiar to me.