Upon reaching the event centre, the first thing we noticed was the length of the courses. Red 1 was 11.4km, Red 2 advertised 9.0km and even Red 3 was no shorter than 7.0km. I chose to stick with Red 1 but Jonty decided to run down on Red 2 instead. Add to these distances the fact that it was 600m to the start.
The first control took me straight into the worst of the cutty grass. At least this meant that my speed was down and so it was easy to keep in touch with the map, struggle over the first ridge and onto the second, cresting out virtually on top of the control. The next leg was more of the same. From Control 2 I dropped off the ridge and ran up the side of it, hoping to benefit from being in the white rather than the green stripe. It was a great theory but it didn't seem to make much difference. Once I reached the track I stuck to it until I was as close to the third control as I could get. I was able to follow the line of small knolls into the control; Jonty, on the other hand, had real problems finding this control. I forced my way out to the track and over into the re-entrant for Control 4.
I had decided on a long track run for the next leg. As I entered the first clearing I could see Jonty heading out of it up the north east trending track. I took the track that went north west. The tracks were wide, open and fairly fast. Heading out of the second clearing the surrounding forest was open and cutty grass-free so I took the opportunity to cut the corner rather than follow the track through the small clearing. The rough open depression then came into view ahead and I skirted around its southern slopes. As I came around the corner of the hill with the control just out of sight ahead of me I became aware that I was accompanied by a very strong and somewhat unpleasant odour. Once over the spur and heading to the control I could see the source of this smell to my right - a dead, bloated cow lying on her right with her left legs up in the air. I was thankful that she had eaten most of the cutty grass from this area before dying. I reached the control just as Jonty was approaching from the south. "Did you see the dead cow?" I asked him as he raced past. "No" was his reply which, given that he had run within about 10m of it, speaks volumes for either his concentration or his eyesight.
Jonty shared the same controls with me from there to Control 8. To begin with, on the legs to 6 and 7, he pulled slowly but steadily ahead of me so that he was almost out of sight by the time I punched Control 7. However, he descended too low too quickly when exiting 7 and found himself up against the deep erosion gully just past the track and was forced to climb above it. I got back in front of him at this point. I chose to run the longer route to pick up the small track leading into Control 8, all the more so as this particular valley, filled with native bush and confusing contour detail, has always been my undoing on this map in the past. I made the most of the small track while I could but lost it soon after entering the valley and relied on following the chain of small depressions instead. Behind me I could hear Jonty from quite a distance as he told everyone within hearing range (hopefully, just me) exactly what he thought of native bush and cutty grass. I suspect this was the natural reaction of a teenager who discovers his father has just overtaken him, particularly as he said later that he had enjoyed his run immensely after this control.
I found Control 8 without having to do the grid search I usually end up with in this valley, said farewell to Jonty who was heading south on a long leg and pushed my way to the north with the initial aim of climbing out of the valley as soon as possible.This was slow going but I emerged onto the plateau above to find the best area of forest yet. Yes, there was cutty grass but it was smaller and less frequent than other areas of the forest and it was a joy to be able to run at pace again. I found the three controls in this small loop easily, with just a slight question over the placing of Control 11 which appeared to be in a small depression at the top of the hill rather than in a re-entrant on its side, and then considered the route choice offered on the leg to Control 12. The shortest route would have been to traverse the native-filled valley past Control 8 again but I was certain that the fastest way was to run clockwise around the out of bounds area. The first part of this leg was on tracks and I took the opportunity to have a good look at the next long leg as my record on these is not great. I was so absorbed in planning that leg that I forgot to keep in touch with where I was and suddenly looked up realising I should be leaving the track somewhere around here and hoping that I hadn't run completely off the map. I was able to identify the corner of the green and left the track to run the hillside around to the control. The control was in a shallow re-entrant. i saw a re-entrant at about the required distance into the run and checked it out but it didn't contain a control. It did, however, possess a clean line of sight to the control from its upper portion.
With my route planning completed on the previous leg, I had no hesitation setting my compass and joining the small track just before it crossed the fence and descended down to the 4WD track. I turned right here and ran all the way down to the road. A short way along the road I ran to the fence corner and then contoured around and over the small hill, aiming to pick up the track going in the direction I was headed. I never did find the track although I was conscious the whole way that it was probably on my left somewhere and, once I had bashed through the cutty grass to the cross-track, I discovered that this was in fact the case. I followed the track to the small clearing and then ran across to the next small ridge and found the control. From here I ran out to the road and a much appreciated drinks stop.
The cutty grass in the block of forest to the south of the road was particularly vicious and it was a slow plod through to the track. Once I reached the track I made the mistake of selectively viewing the terrain such that it appeared to match the map and I left the track too early. I was then faced with a left v right decision and, having no real evidence to base a decision on seeing I wasn't where I thought I was, I guessed wrong and turned left. It didn't take long for me to realise that the terrain just wasn't co-operating with the map so I retraced my steps and, as I figured out where I was, ran into the control fairly easily. Nonetheless, I lost quite a bit of time on this leg. From 14 to 15 I could see two route choices. I could either run to the left, staying in the white and avoiding the cutty grass, or I could go back to the track and attack off the track junction. I chose the latter and returned into the forest just in time to be caught up and passed by Tom who had taken the third option, straight through the green stripe at speed. I hung on behind him long enough to be led into the control but he was already out of sight by the time I got back to the track.
Control 16 was easy to find in a small area of forest and then it was back to the road and the drinks stop again before heading back into Control 17. The ridge that this control sat on top of was clearly visible from the road so I waited until I could see the re-entrant just before the control and then plunged into the cutty grass at that point. Back to the road again and a side track allowed me to get beyond the ridge and head up the large re-entrant to the south of Control 18. To my left I could see a couple of low points in the ridge and ran up to the second of them. I started to have a few doubts as to whether I was in the correct small re-entrant so climbed slightly onto the spur between them. This was a good decision as the control turned out to be in the first one not the second one. I descended back to the road and was looking forward to having some better running on the next few legs as the course left the green stripe area and headed into the white.
This side of the road had slightly less cutty grass and was definitely faster. I tried to stay on the flatter area on the way to 20 rather than follow the ridge and this worked fairly well but identifying the end of the ridge as it slowly petered out was quite challenging. The control had the impression of being out on its own on the plateau but was next to something that might charitably be referred to as a knoll. From here I set off at speed to cross the track and head up the re-entrant. In fact, when I reached the track I did so very close to its intersection with the road and for some reason I decided to change my route and run up the road instead. Quite why I did this, I cannot say, I added quite a bit of distance without gaining anything in the way of runnability or certainty of position. When I did leave the road and began heading up the hill it was obvious that cattle had been in this section of the forest quite recently as all the cutty grass had been eaten down to ankle level. I reached the top of the hill to discover that "quite recently" meant "right now" and that a herd of them were currently grazing all around Control 21. All of them except the ones who were following Tony, of course. He seemed quite spooked by the whole experience.
I had now been running for just under an hour and a half and I was quietly confident that my two hour target would be beaten. I remained confident on the next leg as I ran the tracks back to the area of the forest that contained Control 22. I picked the correct spot to leave the track and promptly went to sleep. I bashed through the cutty grass on a compass bearing and realised a minute or so later that I hadn't been checking off terrain features as I ran. I tried to relate the ground where I was to my map but it didn't seem to fit. As it happened I was on course and just one ridge short of the control but I convinced myself that I had gone too far and ran back. Eventually this didn't work either so I retraced my steps and then noticed a control on the far side of the valley. This was obviously not my control but it looked like it might be Control 23 so I ran over to it to check. It wasn't 23 but rather Control 3. At least I knew where I was now. I set a compass bearing for 22 and ran back and over the ridge expecting to see the control. It wasn't there. I was getting quite frustrated but I knew that it must be in the vicinity so I checked my map carefully and decided I must be a little too far south. I headed north and found the control, hiding amongst the cutty grass. I had lost six or seven minutes and my two hours was now out the window.
The cutty grass was particularly bad in this area of the forest. I wasn't able to travel at much more than a walk as I headed north to Control 23 but at least this meant I kept in contact with the map. A number of logs in the vicinity of the control slowed me even further and I was pleased to eventually make it out to the clearing and settle in for a short period of track running. From Control 24 I chose to take a much longer route that allowed me to use a track again and, although the cutty grass was nowhere near as fierce in this block, it was still a pleasure to not have to deal with it at all.
Control 26 was the same as 22 but, as I had already been there once, I didn't have the same problems the second time through. One last traverse through the cutty grass and I was back out onto the track. The last three controls would be in another area that had been blessed by the presence of cattle with a taste for cutty grass. I ran into Control 27 and had initially intended to return directly to the track but the forest was open and clear so I ran cross-country instead. I nearly ran past Control 28 after discovering that the clearings were not as easy to read as I had hoped but it caught my eye as I scanned left and right. From there I crossed the track and contoured round to Control 29 before sprinting (where sprinting is a relative term after two hours hard running) down to the finish and the very welcome Auckland Orienteering Club shared cake and catch up. I was disappointed not to break two hours but my two hours and three minutes was good enough for fifth (out of ten) on the course.