Jonty got started first as it was obvious that he would be much faster than me today (actually I haven't beaten him since February so he would have been faster even if I was well prepared for the event). The first control was a delight, a nice simple short leg to get us into the map and provide encouragement with fast running forest. The second control was similar with just one crucial difference: it was uphill. Count those contours, ten of them, 25m of climb on a leg less than 300m long. I managed to jog the first half of the leg but as I wasn't racing today I was happy to walk for the second half.
Despite my slower pace, I still managed to stuff up Control 3. I followed the small track north west to the bigger track and discovered that, although not mapped, it continued on the other side. As it was heading down in the direction I wanted to go, I followed it all the way down to the major depression just before the control. I left the track and headed down on to the small ridge on the far side of the depression. Easy from there, huh? Just turn right and there it is. I turned left (no, I don't know why). I continued to follow the ridge along the south of the depression and eventually the start area came into sight. This shouted out to me that something was wrong. I ground to a halt, looked at my map and saw quite clearly what I had done. I swung around 180 degrees and ran straight to where the control had been all along, a few metres beyond where I had been originally.
The next leg was the first of several longer legs on the course. I made my way through the green stripe north of Mushroom Rd making use of the network of small tracks. From the road I set my compass and ran through to the open ground. This was slowish as there were a lot of cuttings on the ground but it was still runnable. As I descended to Inland Rd, I was the track ahead and to my right so I diverted down to it to take advantage of the quicker running. The track bend just before the small clearing made a great attack point. Does that small clearing look familiar to you? It did to me. This was the area that I lost nearly half an hour in two or three OYs ago as I made mistake after mistake. I knew from that experience that the small ridge on my right would lead me straight into the control so I navigated confidently into the circle, and out the other side, and 100m or more beyond it without once spotting the control. Not again! I eventually reached the small track that was nicely placed as a catching feature. I circled around anti-clockwise and approached the small ridge again, this time from the back. As I ran over the ridge I identified the clearing, adjusted my angle and ran straight to the control. It was between a couple of knolls and I had run to the east of the controls and missed it by around five metres the first time round. One day I'll have a leg in this area of forest and have a perfect run. One day.
With this, I set my compass again and headed north towards Control 5. I drifted a bit to the left as I ran and after several hundred metres I could see Restall Rd on my left. I ran to it and made the most of the easier running conditions and made sure to positively identify the clearing with the water tank (actually a common or garden variety bathtub) after my problems with mis-identifying these clearings a few months earlier and then ran the track until very close to the control. Jonty had trouble finding this control but I ran straight to it although I did think it was closer to the track than it appeared on the map.
Control 6 was a nice, short, straightforward leg which of course took me three attempts to get right. I missed the clearing the first time and mucked around up on the ridge for a while before spotting that I was near the track. I headed back down and passed the clearing on my left, turning right immediately but not spotting the control. I returned to the clearing and ran in again and this time the control behaved itself and appeared in between the knoll and the small hill. On the leg to the seventh control I mainly followed the tracks although I was aware that this hadn't worked too well for me in this area a few weeks ago. This time, however, I knew which tracks I was on and didn't get confused with similar tracks elsewhere. I found the control without problems.
Another reasonably long leg followed. My time on this leg was not award winning but, rather than being the result of navigational errors, it was due to me taking my time once in the sand dunes to identify the spur leading into the control and walking, rather than running, down it. My confidence in my ability to read the map in this area of the dunes restored, I then had a much better run to Control 9 although I still managed to pass it on my right and had to double back. I knew what was happening as it was happening so I only lost a bit of time to extra distance and none to scratching my head.
With the potentially difficult controls in the sand dunes behind me, I followed the finger of open, and the animal tracks down it, into the forest. I crossed Coast Rd and located Control 10 easily. Now came the longest leg of the race. I set my compass and ran straight through the forest, reaching Inland Rd just before the first of the two water stops. The sun was beating down and the water was in its full glare so I ran on to the second water stop and rehydrated there while planning the rest of this leg and the next couple. I continued down Inland Rd another 300m or so, leaving it with a left hand turn where the track joined from the right. I ran through to the track heading north east and used this to more easily climb the hill before cutting off into the forest and navigating to Control 11. From here I circled the largish hill in an anti-clockwise direction to Control 12 and then took a fairly successful compass bearing to 13.
I was feeling fairly tired by now so I took advantage of the water stop near Control 13 for another bout of hydration before using Inland Rd and the track up to yet another water stop. The water cache I left unmolested but it did provide a very handy attack point for heading into the forest and up the hill to Control 14. All that remained now was a series of short legs in an area of complex contour detail and it was starting to look as though I wouldn't be out for much over two hours.
I set my compass and ran in the general direction of Control 15. I topped the ridge on which it was located without a sight of it but I did catch up to Peter who had made a similar mistake. We both figured it would be to our right and, sure enough, there it was although it was a good 100m along the ridge; my bearing must have been very poor indeed. Controls 16 and 17 were both found easily by counting off the features as I ran.
An unmarked track near to Control 17 was headed in the general direction of 18 so I took advantage of the easier running it provided but tried to keep in touch with the ground features as I passed them, well aware that the track could easily bend subtly and take me well off my course. It didn't though and once I was confident that I was close to the control I veered left over a small rise and there was the control five metres ahead of me.
Controls 19 and 20 were both found easily with a combination of a compass bearing and counting off the features and then I ran on the forest floor at the bottom of the ridge leading to Control 21. Where the ridge turned right I climbed onto it when I really should have stayed down for another 50m or so. At the top I had a good view of the finish and promptly confused the clearing the finish was in with the clearing to the west of Control 21, causing me to stop and try and work out what was wrong. I wanted to run towards the clearing as the control would be just before it but something was telling me this was not correct. I must have stood there for 20 to 30 seconds before the contradiction resolved itself and I was then able to run confidently to the control. I elected to use the track to the finish and discovered that my strategy of not running flat out had paid dividends - for the first time in this year's OY series I had completed Red 1 in less than two hours.
Bring on next week and the Auckland Champs!