The format of the event is a three person relay with the legs being Orange, Short Red and not-quite-so Short Red. Club Captains take note of who has turned up, divide everyone into three groups and then the event organiser publicly and randomly draws the teams. We had enough for four teams and I was allocated to the longer-than-the-short-but-not-long-enough-to-be-labelled-long Red course. Unlike a normal relay I wouldn't be hanging around for Roger to finish his leg and tag me but rather there would be three mass starts five minutes apart. As a result we should all be finished in about an hour with no hanging around for slower teams.
As a third leg runner I had the advantage of seeing all the runners on the first two legs heading off before me. Most headed into the forest ahead of us at varying angles but a few ran down the road to the left instead. Roger disappeared off to my right so, figuring that there would be a split first leg and knowing that Bronwyn had gone straight and Roger right, I was expecting my first leg to take me off to the left, probably through the forest but I'd have to consider the road as a possible route choice.
As we were given the official signal to go I turned my map over and saw that I had guessed correctly. My first control was to the left and I had a route choice of either going straight through the forest or taking the longer route down the road. I chose the latter as I could concentrate on reading the map and getting a good picture of the overall course. Five of us chose this option and I was last turning the corner into the track that would take us almost to the control. By then I had finished with my initial assessment of the map and I picked up a couple of places before we reached the point where we needed to duck into the forest. Kieren was 20m ahead of the rest of us and missed the spot but we weren't tempted into following him and entered the forest bang on the control. A good start.
From here I set a compass bearing to the next control and headed off in a small but steady stream of orienteers all heading in roughly the same direction. The underfoot conditions were not good here, as the green stripe on the map suggests, and I was running slowly and paying a lot of attention to where my feet were going. As we approached the track just before Control 2 other orienteers started appearing, suggesting that we were all headed to the same control. I crossed the track, ran up a slight rise and spotted the control just where I expected it to be. I ran to it and punched - and immediately realised that it wasn't my control. I stopped and reconsidered the map. I was probably too low and too far south. I ran 50m or so north and found a second control, this time with the control number I was expecting. This small error had dropped me to the back of the group of runners heading in the direction of Control 3.
The green stripe wasn't finished with me yet. As I ducked under a fallen tree a protruding branch scraped down my back. I was in immediate agony. The wound was deep enough to bleed profusely for a while and I would have difficulty sleeping for the next couple of nights but I wasn't aware of that yet. I uttered a few gentle exclamations expressing my dissatisfaction and continued on. There was a steady stream of runners returning out of Control 3 so its location was never in any doubt and then a fairly long uphill leg separated us, particularly as the next control was the next split control. I was too far to the right as I approached the circle and again found one of the other controls before I found mine. By now I was definitely amongst the rear of the field although I was not quite the lantern rouge.
I overshot both Control 5 and Control 6 but only lost small amounts of time on both and then had a good fast run to Control 7, managing to add to my list of injuries with an impressive face plant when re-entering the forest from the road near the start. A number of people reported finding the eighth short leg more difficult than it looked but I found the control easily. Another longer, mainly uphill leg through dodgy undergrowth followed and I once again overshot the control before recovering quickly.
I chose to follow the track out of Control 9 and soon found myself in the same patch of forest as Bronwyn and Roger, all three runners on our team being within 20m of each other while heading from and to completely different controls. I ran the ridge to Control 10 and then headed off confidently down to the tracks to Control 11. I read the map and ground well and chose the best spot to leave the track and head down the re-entrant to the control. For some reason that remains inexplicable, I chose to leave the main re-entrant just before the control and head up a side valley to search for it there. I climbed 5m or so and, when I didn't find it I sidled along the hillside investigating other re-entrants. Eventually, I descended back to the main valley and realised that I must have missed it so returned, finding it not far from where I had deviated initially. I was heading north east into the control as Nick exited out of it to the south west.
I then headed south to the track and used the track bend as an attack point to head back into Control 12. A parallel error saw me searching for the control one valley too early but after 30 seconds or so it was obvious what I had done so I headed north to the correct valley and approached the control from the south west just as Nick was reaching it from the north east. He was extremely impressed that I had managed to circumnavigate the entire globe in the brief time he had been running directly between the controls. We climbed the hill out of the control together and were together through controls 13 and 14.
At this point we chose different route choices with Nick staying low and following the fence most of the way to Control 15 while I ran up the ridge. This ended up gaining me about 90 seconds, a lead I was able to keep on the two fairly fast and straight forward legs that followed. I finished the race feeling fairly dissatisfied with my orienteering, I obviously have a lot to work on before the major events in January.
Overall, we (Auckland Club) managed first and third but with the overall trophy based on each clubs best three results and Bronwyn, Roger and I only managing thirteenth place as the third Auckland team, the trophy went to North West once more. Interestingly I notice that the last time we won the trophy in 1995 we also only had four teams out of the twenty odd entered but that day we managed first, second and seventh as our best three placings. Ah well, there is always next year - and our record in the arguably much more prestigious Katoa Po relays has been much better during that period.