It has been a busy year so far and all my great intentions about keeping this blog up to date have come to nothing as eight months have come and gone without any postings. I gave up even trying months ago but finally I've got to a place where work and other commitments allow me to spend some time on here again. Rather than going back and trying to dredge up ancient memories of past events I've decided to draw a line in the sand and start from the present, with the more measured pace of events at this time of the year allowing me to hopefully keep up to date.
In the interim, there has been some fantastic events come and go. The year began with Oceania and the World Cup with some memorable events - both as a competitor and a spectator. This was immediately followed by Sprint the Bay where I managed a third place (and first Kiwi) in my grade despite the high quality international field. I was particularly pleased with my run in the mass start, extremely hilly fifth stage at The Slip where I came second. I used a head cam on all six stages and the resulting 11 minute highlights video entitled "One Less Canoe" (for reasons that will be obvious if you watch it) can be found on YouTube here.
The year continued with the usual smorgasbord of Summer Series park events, Schools Sprint series and various forest events. The NZ Champs in Canterbury at Easter gave us some new quality maps with the Relay map at Kura Tawhiti being most peoples favourite. My best result at the Nationals was a 2nd in the Sprint to go with my 1st place last year and 2nd the year before. Around this time a new website appeared on the scene, www.statnav.co.nz, providing a ranking system for all New Zealand orienteers competing at events of OY standard and above. It is surprisingly addictive with its monthly updates examined closely to see how I've improved (or not). Suddenly, Queens Birthday and the OY series, which I would previously have treated as a bit of fun, become incredibly serious and I find myself re-motivated to get jogging and get fit in an attempt to get the few extra points that might see my ranking (currently hovering around 105 - 110) jump up into the top 100. We'll see.
And so we arrive at August and the third event in this year's OY series, hosted by North West club on the Whites Line map. It wasn't an auspicious start. Jonty used the tailgate of the van to get changed, putting his SI dibber down next to him as he did so. He forgot it was there, closed the hatch and heard an ominous crunch. End result? He had to use his old SI-6 card while the flash new SI-11, only six months old, awaits an appointment with some superglue.
With that going on, it was no surprise that I would also forget something important. For me, the moment of realisation came as I ran up the tape from the start towards the triangle. I could see the van parked on the road parallel to my route when it dawned on me that I'd left my bum bag with my Vitasport and Boosta bar in the boot. I briefly considered diverting to get it but decided I'd just have to make do with the water on the course instead. As I ran to and past the start triangle I scanned the map to see where the water drop was. You guessed it, there wasn't any. Oh well, I'd just have to run faster so I could get to the water at the finish faster.
I followed the track as far as I could on the way to the first control. The sharp right hand bend was an obvious feature and I followed a compass bearing from there, keeping the ridge on my right for much of the way and then slowing down to read the smaller point features in the circle. I deliberately went left of the line on my way to Control 2 to avoid the small hill and then used the depression at the bottom of the ridge line to find the control. For the leg to Control 3 I was able to use a track most of the way again.
For the first long leg down to Control 4 I decided to run out to Mission Rd and then cut back into the green stripe at the obvious clearing. This was not a popular choice - I didn't speak to anyone else who ended up taking this route choice - and at first glance my 27th place on the leg would seem to suggest that it wasn't a good choice either. However, look a little more closely at the end of the leg. You'll see that I found an old overgrown track leading in from the clearing that took me very close to the control. Unfortunately I didn't glance to my right at the right time and I overran, wasting two and a half minutes while I tried to figure out exactly where I was and where I should be going. Without this mistake I still wouldn't have been anywhere near the fastest time for the leg (Jonty in 7 minutes going as straight as a die) but I would have been well within the top 10 times.
The green stripe area that contained controls 4 to 8 has a long history of slowing me down and catching me out. We've run in it in a major event every year for the last four or five years. The underfoot conditions have been slowly improving and it is no longer the slow fight through and over thick slippery cuttings that it was a couple of seasons ago but travel through this block is still slow and frustrating. I was pleased with my legs to 5 and 6 but didn't do well to 7. I intended to cut straight out to the track and take advantage of the better running conditions there but ended up drifting right and joining the track much later than I expected. I was then tempted by what appeared to be easy running conditions back in the block (but wasn't) and left the track earlier than I had originally intended. The end result was I probably spent as much time crashing through the cuttings as if I had just run straight to begin with. Not my best leg.
After the shorter leg to 8 I was glad to be out of that block and back into the much faster running open forest. You'll see from the map that I almost made a parallel error to begin with when I spied a control that I interpreted as being at the end of the smaller track that I intended to follow. As soon as I had hooned past it and discovered there was no track I realised that only wishful thinking could ever have seen it that way and so I reoriented, circled round and rejoined the correct track. I left the track at the broad reentrant and then ran down the side of the hill complex but cut up the hill a bit early and had to slow right down to read the features correctly and find the control.
I followed a bearing on the next leg and once more found myself drifting off to the right. I had to make a deviation to the left to avoid climbing the hill but I knew that if I ran around the base I would intercept the track. I followed the track up and then ran through a large patch of unmapped cutty grass to Control 10. I stayed high on the leg to 11 with the only surprise being that the control, in a middle reentrant - the fifth control in a row with that description - didn't appear to be in a reentrant at all. It was right in the middle of the circle so I ran to it to check. Scott joined me at that point. He had seen the control from the top of the ridge behind it and ignored it as it wasn't in a reentrant, only coming down to look when he saw me punch it.
We ran mostly parallel on the way to 12, Scott ran straighter while I deliberately veered right in an attempt to run more around the hill rather than over it. In the end we both reached the track just before the control at the same time. Scott overran the control and almost dragged me along with him but when I felt we were running too far along the steep hillside, I paused, looked behind me and ran back to the control. I was slow heading to 13 as the terrain didn't seem to match the map but the control appeared in the right place at the right time.
The leg to 14 allowed for a long track run and I was able to plan out my route for the rest of the race. The bend in the hill complex made for a great attack point after running down the spur from the track and I was able to climb up onto the ridge and nail the control. From here I kept the drop down to the flat forest floor on my right and kept an eye out for Control 15 on my left. Down to the track, I was able to use the sharp bend as a feature to leave the track and run quickly across to the next one. The hill beyond that track was a little confusing and I wasted a bit of time casting around for the right reentrant but once I'd found it it was a flat out run to the road, reaching it slightly to the right of the last control and then around the corner to the finish.
I was happy with my time but on checking the results discovered that I'd come at the back of a fairly large group of runners who were 2 - 5 minutes ahead of me and a couple of less errors would have seen me finish a lot further up the list.