The format for the day involved three courses around a kilometre long with 20 odd controls on each one. We were to do all three courses over a two hour period, choosing when and in what order we did them. The fastest runners in each grade would then lead off on the slightly longer final course before us also rans got a go.
It was a fiercely hot day when we rolled up to Barry Curtis park and the event had already been running for 20 minutes or so. Chatting to people who had started earlier, the word was that Course B was the shortest and Course A the hardest. Most people were choosing to run A then B then C for presumably alphabetically reasons but I chose to take advantage of this local knowledge and run Course B first.
You may also notice that it the map scale is 1:2000, significantly larger than the vast majority of Sprint maps which tend to be 1:4000, 1:3000 or occasionally, 1:2500. This became obvious to me as I headed out from the start. The first control was right in front of me, only 30m or so away and no sooner had I started than I had punched it, changed direction and was sprinting for the second control. Controls 2, 3 and 4 came up in quick succession and then there was the first "longer" leg, a full 100m or so to Control 5. I got to the control, punched and ran off to the next. Only I hadn't been paying enough attention. Although I was unaware of it at this point, I had punched the wrong control. The control I had actually punched was Control 8 on Course A.
There followed two groups of controls, Controls 6 to 8 and Controls 9 to 13. Again, these look fairly straightforward on the map but on the ground the extra controls made punching the correct ones more difficult. Also, the note on the map "contours are omitted for clarity" helps hide the fact that the path that bisects the second group of controls ran along the crest of a 3m high hill; this small but significant climb made running that little bit more difficult.
From here there was another long leg that brought us to the maze. This was a simple construction made of control stands with ribbon connecting them. The rules stated that you could neither cross the ribbon nor reach over it. Interestingly, a number of people were so focussed on the main map that they didn't even notice that there was a zoomed in close up of the maze at the bottom right of the map. I found that the key to the maze was finding the right entrance. This was harder than it first seemed but, providing you got that right, the maze was fairly straight forward. A number of people mentioned that they found it easier to return to the outside of the maze after each control rather than try to plan a route through the middle. This quick route choice decision making is a key element of Sprint Orienteering; it appears the Ultra-Sprint format requires even faster decisions.
Leaving the maze there was a longish leg up to a plot of trees planted in rows. By now I had been running flat out for nearly five minutes and I was feeling the strain but I kept the tempo high. This last group of controls was not as difficult as it could have been as the total number of controls in the area was not high. A few extra decoy controls would not have gone amiss.
Back through the maze one more and then a couple of short legs (the last one slightly uphill!) brought me into the finish. It took some time to recover from the short, fast race. My time of 7:34 was pushed out to 8:04 due to my mispunch.
I rested up for 20 or 30 minutes before attempting Course C.
My biggest mistake on this map came at Control 8. After punching 7 I ran to what I thought was 8 (but was in fact Control 6 on Course B), punched and ran to 9. It was only as I turned to run out of 9 that I realised that my turn was much sharper than it should have been. I realised my mistake, ran back to 8, then 9 again and continued on my way. This cost me about 15 seconds but was still quicker than getting another 30 second mispunch penalty.
After finishing this course, I had another 15 minute break before tackling the third preliminary course, Course A.
There was still one last course to come, Course F. I'm presuming F stood for final and that I didn't miss out on D and E somewhere.
After the top 4 had completed their run, the rest of us were started at 30 second intervals in pairs. I was running against Allan. The first leg was a long one, giving us a good chance to read the map before we reached the first set of controls. This group introduced a new element to the proceedings - the first three controls could be done in any order. I chose C, B, A as did Allan behind me. Yes, behind me. I got a small lead on the first leg and kept it for the whole race. A deviation out to the previously unused east of the map followed before the same elements that we had enjoyed in the first three maps. There was one more group of three controls to get rogaine style in the planted area (I went Z, Y, X which seemed to be the universal choice).
Overall this was a very enjoyable addition to the orienteering calendar. There is a rumour that Martin will be running another Ultra-Sprint in Taupo in January next year as a supporting event to Katoa Po (which in turn is a supporting event to the World Cup / Oceania carnival). This will certainly add to the appeal of a weekend in Taupo and makes it more likely that we will attend but adds to the dilemma of fitting in all the great orienteering available in such a short period of time without overly upsetting the non-orienteering members of the family.