I had quite a late start and so spent an hour or so enjoying the sunshine and the atmosphere. I dropped off my Inov8s (that had caused me so much pain in the early OY races last year) to Michael Wood at the MapSport trailer in the hopes that he could recoup some of my investment. It was also an opportunity to get re-acquainted with Philip Herries' wonderful O-Lynx results system which was showing live times from various radio controls in the forest on an entire bank of ten or so big screen TVs. Meanwhile Jonty had an early start and came back in a time of 1 hour 5 minutes some time before I had to set out myself.
Although the forest around the event centre was looking very white and runnable, the start itself was in a patch of very greenish looking forest. Jonty reported that the start triangle was on the edge of this patch but that he had managed to spend too much time looking at his map and not enough time considering his feet and fell heavily before he even reached the triangle. He sat for a minute or so before standing and gingerly resuming his run. I was a bit more circumspect and limited myself to glancing at the map overall and setting my compass for the first control, noting the clearing en route. Once past the start triangle and into the better running forest I was able to give it more attention. The clearing was visible from some distance through the forest and I shaved the south eastern corner before running along the small ridge straight into the control. The other two controls in this part of the forest were also easy to find. I then used the track junction and then the clearing in the forest as waypoints on my way to Control 4.
From here the first tricky leg of the race took us straight through a reasonably featureless forest to Control 5. I'd heard some talk in the event centre about the vague forest and how people lost themselves completely as they crossed the vegetation boundary. With a vegetation boundary featuring halfway down this leg I figured this was it. I made sure I knew exactly where I was as I crossed into the denser forest but still managed to lose myself closer to the control. I stopped to early and too far to the north and wasted a few minutes circling around before eventually relocating along the ridge and into the control.
This mistake, although costing me quite some time, did have a silver lining in the shape of Tove Alexandersson. Yes, the little pocket rocket from Sweden was out in the forest running a course to get used to the New Zealand terrain. She caught me up at this control and headed off in the same direction as me. I slotted in behind her and spent most of leg 6 running with her and admiring her flow through the forest and general overall speed. Those of you who have had the pleasure of running with me in the forest will no doubt be raising an eyebrow or three at this point, wondering how even my renowned speed across the ground could possibly compare to that of Tove. The answer is, of course, that I was running flat out and Tove was running one minute intervals alternating a reasonably paced jog with a walk. As we approached Control 6 I had to reluctantly part company with her as she was obviously heading for some other control. Luckily I had kept enough attention on my map to allow me to find my way through the rougher terrain and into the control on only the second or third attempt. This leg was memorable enough for me to predict that it may well win something when I hand out the awards for 2013. The leg to Control 7 was undertaken at a much slower pace but with greater accuracy.
For the leg to Control 8 I was able to follow the track on the vegetation boundary down to the bigger track. The small area of clearing shown on the other side of this junction turned out to be quite a deep sandy pit. Some people chose to run around in the forest; I went straight down, through and up the other side - although now that I have the chance to examine the map in some detail I can just make out a track around the pit hidden by the purple line. I don't remember it on the ground. Picking the right place to leave the track and head into the control turned out not to be too difficult and I found the control easily. Likewise, I followed my compass to the track junction on the next leg, ran along the track south westwards over the small ridge and then along the bottom of the ridge before crossing the hill and emerging right on the control.
I almost made a big mistake at this point, setting my compass and planning my route to Control 11. Luckily, I caught my error as I crossed back over the track, turned and ran down the track towards Control 10. I joined forces with Paul on this leg, he caught me up due to my error but had made errors of his own and was a good 20 minutes behind me overall. For the long leg to Control 11 I set a compass bearing for the drinks stop and was able to use the clearing as a waypoint. Now well hydrated and having planned ahead while drinking I was feeling pretty good about the rest of the race, a sub one hour time looked eminently doable at this point. I found Control 11 and headed back across the forest to Control 12. Somehow I found myself back on the road past the drink stop with the road junction visible ahead of me. I reset my compass, turned 120 degrees and navigated correctly this time to Control 12. Paul had caught and overtaken me again although I did get back ahead by Control 13.
From Control 13 I headed northwards as fast as I could go in the terrain; this turned out to be quite fast by my usual standards. I came out on the second control just to the west of the obvious green thicket. From here the underfoot conditions deteriorated considerably and I was pleased to see the control ahead of me. It wasn't my control, of course, and I was forced to read my map and continue further into the green stripe to find mine. I was slow but steady on the short leg from 14 to 15.
A glance at my watch showed that sub-60 was still on. I took the shortest route out of the green stripe which involved heading eastwards to the road. From here I planned on running down the road to the junction just to the west of the control but I was seduced by the lovely looking forest and headed in at the gate on the road bend instead. Despite having the clearing as a handrail most of the way to the control, I managed to miss Control 16 and waffled about for a while in the area between 16 and 17. As all the courses were coming together at this point there was no shortage of controls to examine and reject but eventually I relocated off the features in the clearing and found 16. I had lost over three minutes on the leg and had now been out for a tad over 58 minutes. Clearly my one hour dream was over. I found the last two controls easily and sprinted down the finish chute. The chute was down a field of long grass and earlier finishers had trampled down a nice path all the way to the finish. Unfortunately, this path was only one runner wide and running through the longer grass to overtake two slower orienteers also slowed me down. But I was happy with my time (one hour one) and my placing halfway down the M45 field.