The first control was deceptively difficult. The trick was in choosing the right spot to leave the track and venture into the forest. I left too early and was then seduced even further up the hillside by the sight of Alistair and Panda, although it turned out they were headed for a different control. Jonty, on the other hand, entered the forest slightly too late and ran too far down the reentrant before being caught by the track to the south. Eventually, I realised I was too high and ran down the reentrant until I found the control.
From here we left the forest and entered the farmland. The farm land sloped down to the south west and there were great views of farm, forest and beach. I found Control 2 relatively easily and was rewarded with the sight of Guy, who had started two minutes ahead of me, disappearing over the next ridge. Obviously my mucking around at Control 1 hadn't cost me as much time as it could have. I strode off confidently towards Control 3 and promptly screwed up what should have been an easy leg. The best approach, and the one that most people I chatted to later had taken, would have been to use the fence corner as an attack point. Instead I just ran on a bearing until I reached the ridge top and then turned left, expecting to come across the control any moment. I ran several hundred metres down the ridge before it occurred to me that maybe I was headed the wrong way. A slog back up and I found the control only 10 or 20 metres from where I had made my errant left hand turn.
The leg from 3 to 4 involved a steep descent into the valley followed by an equally steep ascent up the opposite hill. I took the time to plan ahead and then, on the equally steep climb out of Control 4, to take on a bit of nutrition and liquids as the day was hot and, even in the white, the sun was beating down fiercely. The fence provided a great handrail to Control 5 and then from there halfway to Control 6. I ran quickly to the small line of hills that contained Control 6, ran up a saddle that I hoped would hold the control and then, when it wasn't there, corrected myself quickly and ran back to the north west to the correct saddle and control. I ran in the open farm land along the northern foot of the hills and picked the right saddle to cross them and descend to Control 7.
By now I was feeling fairly comfortable about my run, despite my early problems and despite the fact that I wasn't nailing the controls as well as I would have liked. I was following the features around to where I thought Control 8 would be when my eye caught sight of something red on the hillside above me. It appeared to be an orienteer lying on the ground so I ran up to investigate. Sure enough, Guy was taking a break having completely run out of energy. He assured me he would be OK and encouraged me to continue. I need to offer a huge apology to you, Guy. You will have noticed that I was running with a bum bag containing my own water, Vitasport and energy bars - just the sort of things that would benefit someone who has run out of energy. I completely forgot that I had them and I failed to offer them. I had retraced my steps and found Control 8 when it occurred to me what I had done. I ran back to where I had left Guy but he had already moved on. I wouldn't see him again and when I got to the finish I discovered that, despite his problems and unthinking clubmate, he still beat me by quarter of an hour.
Things really went to pot on the leg to Control 9. I ended up too far north, crossing into the forest close to the track junction. I followed the tracks and then climbed the hillside to the control, finding it easily but at a slow pace. I also ended up too far north on the next leg crossing the track in the vicinity of the bend and then finding the prominent reentrant and so contouring around the hill and descending to the control. Again, my navigation (other than my initial exit from Control 9) wasn't bad but I wasn't at all confident that I was in touch with the map and I walked most of the way, uncertain of my exact position until the control appeared exactly where it should have been.
The forest opened up considerably once I was across the fence to the east of the control and I broke into something not unlike a jog as I ran up and over the spur and over to Control 11. I could see the control from over 100m away. From here I ran the tracks for a while before venturing back into the forest and up a long steep hillside. All was going well as I came across the track just before the control but at that point I had a complete mental stuff up. Despite the fact that I was confident I knew where I was, I ran up and down the track a couple of times trying to get my bearings when I should just have continued on and up the next hillside. Eventually, from further up the track I decided to run on a compass bearing using the fence as a catching feature. This was a good idea then and it would have been a good idea five minutes earlier. I found the fence and followed it up until I met the track. I now knew exactly where I was so I turned around and ran back down the fence line, finding the control only 20 or 30m beyond where I had originally met the fence. Overall I took over quarter of an hour on this leg and it appears I lost at least seven minutes - and a lot of confidence.
Back up the fence line again, and then more track running took me to the vicinity of Control 13. Later there would be much discussion as to whether the control was in the right place but I found it exactly where I expected it to be. This was followed by a quick run up to Control 14 and I was starting to feel better about the world again. So of course I stuffed up the next three controls.
In fact, I didn't make nay navigational errors to 15 and 16 but I did choose bizarre route choices for both of them. I followed the eastern track and then climbed to Control 15 when I would have been better to take the western track and avoid most of the climb. I then took a western route choice to Control 16 which meant that I was never out of touch with the map but which was probably twice the distance of running straight and using the major track as a catching feature. I did run straight towards Control 17 - the green stripe was annoying but not too difficult to traverse - but when I reached the reentrant I looked left, saw a flash of orange and white and ascended up to a control at the track junction where Simona and family watched me with amusement. I turned and ran back down the reentrant, finding the correct control about an equal distance past my initial arrival point.
From here it was a quick run down the hillside through a bit more green stripe before I reached and crossed the track and then crossed the fence at the corner. Running down the fence line towards Control 18 it soon became obvious that the small marsh on the map had become a much bigger marsh on the ground but as soon as my feet were wet there was no point in trying to go around and I splashed on through to the control. A short bit of track running followed and I finally made it to the finish nearly an hour and a half after starting. Today's run is certainly not going to improve my StatNav ranking or my chances of winning M40 in the Auckland OY competition.