It was a fine morning as we drove out and the views were spectacular. I let Jonty get the first start and intended following him out onto the course just a few minutes behind but by the time I had finished chatting to Linda, Wendy and Simona over 20 minutes had passed. Never mind, I'd just have to run faster to try and make up some of the deficit. The start was on the track at the edge of the forest block. There is little to no undergrowth in this forest and the sand underfoot makes for great running. The trees were now a year older and easier to run beneath making this a small but enjoyable block. The first two controls were in the forest and it was easy to follow the terrain features to them.
The first big challenge came on the leg to the third control. You'll notice that outside the small forest block the rest of the map is all open but is mapped in two different colours. The bright orange indicates paddocks that are actively managed as farmland with cattle present in some of them and conditions underfoot firm and fast. The more dull browny orange paddocks are not grazed and are covered in some kind of tussock grass that reaches above knee height and is impossible to run through. The best strategy in this area is to find some sort of track heading in roughly the direction you want to go and stick to it. The next best strategy is a continuous series of exagerrated leaps that will quickly wear you out but will eventually get you across the area. The third leg included a long traverse, the first of seven in this area, across the tussock grass to the farmland beyond. I crossed the fence on the forest boundary and quickly picked up the marked track heading south west. I followed this down to where it intersected with the wandering fence and then cut across country from there to the farmland, taking the shortest route and minimising my distance in this terrain rather than aiming directly for the control.
The visibility was good on the leg from Control 3 to Control 4 and I was able to spy a number of controls in the distance and tentatively identify them as controls that I would visit in loops to come. I completed this loop around the farmland through Controls 5 and 6 and then faced my second traverse of the tussock grass. Again, I was able to make some use of the track in the middle of this area but this traverse was much longer and got less benefit from the track. The energy required to cross this area was sapping my strength and there was still 24 controls to go! An uphill crossing of a paddock well populated with cattle led to another smaller area of ungrazed paddock but Control 7 was just over a small hill and was easily found.
The first loop was completed with a control just inside the south western corner of the forest block but we didn't linger, instead heading straight off for the third traverse of the tussock. This time there was to be no obvious track to follow and so I chose to aim for the fence in the middle of the area, thinking that there may be a well worn track in its vicinity. It appeared a lot of people had this idea as I was in a positive crowd as we bashed our way through the tussock but we weren't leaving tracks behind and there was no sign of any that earlier starters may have created. Eventually I found myself crossing the boundary fence back into the farm paddocks and the better running they provided. The best line appeared to be to the right and I ran up the sand dune near Control 19 before cutting back left across the bigger sand drift to find the control.
From here I chose to avoid more tussock running by taking the track that ran along the northern boundary of the map. This was a good plan but I spoiled it somewhat when I got to the old abandoned house marked on the map just below the contour interval information when I decided to leave the track and head right, contouring around to meet the vehicle track rather than following the track I was on down to it. This saved me ten or fifteen metres of descent and climb but cost me a lot of time as I crossed back into a tussock area and had to fight rather than run across. Once back on the vehicle track I followed it around to Control 10, nipped into the forest briefly to spike the control, and then returned to the track to run back up through the car park and start area on my way to Control 11.
This time around, there were three controls in the forest block with only Control 13 causing any problems - and even this was just a minor issue of running up the wrong side of a spur. After this we faced a visit to the eastern tussock block, with four controls in this area. Runnability in this area was somewhat better than in the western tussock block but this is relative and it was still difficult and energy sapping to cross. Control 14 was at the bottom of a fairly large slope and, although it didn't come into view until the last minute, the contour features were clear enough to reassure me that I was going the right way throughout the leg.
From here another track made for good running in the direction of Control15 with the trick being to leave the track at the right spot to minimise the struggling through undergrowth and climbing of the sand dune between the track and the control. I got this pretty much right; Jonty, not so much. By now I was half way round the course, at least when you measure by controls. The leg to Control 16 was probably one of the hardest, if not the hardest, legs on the course, physically. It started with a long slog up the hill to the plateau at the top. By crossing the fence on my left I was able to get into slightly easier terrain but with the sun beating down I was fairly tired by the time I got to the top. A series of elephant tracks then tempted me across the plateau, each one fading out just as it was looking promising, only for another to appear a few metres ahead or to one side. Eventually, they lead me out onto the open sandstone in the vicintiy of Control 16 and the control was found at the second attempt. A last foray into the tussock around a small hill to Control 17 and then it was time to leave this patch of tussock behind and head off on a long leg back into the farmland on the far side of the map.
I maximised my use of farmland by passing along the southern boundary of the forest block and then crossed the western tussock block using roughly the same route I had employed on the ninth leg. This leg took longer than I would have liked due to my lack of energy by this stage of the race but Controls 18 and 19 came and went quickly as both had been spied at a distance on an earlier loop of this part of the farm. I headed off to the map change, exchanging greetings with Allan as I passed him and hoping that the time he was reporting was either exaggerated or not indicative of the time I had left to run. As I crossed the northern part of the tussock I passed within 20m of Jonty who was now well into his second map but, bizarrely, he didn't see me at all.
The map change at Control 20 coincided with a water drop and I took a long break here to rehydrate well and consider the last 10 controls still to come.
This left four controls in the farm to find. The first two were uphill most of the way but the contour features were clear and neither caused any problems. I was following James into and out of Control 26 but he was well clear by the time I had navigated across to Control 27. The leg to 28 was mostly downhill and I enjoyed one last burst of speed before the last tussock crossing back into the forest. I was searching the map intently trying to identify some crossing of this area that might have previously escaped me but in the end decided that there wasn't any better way than the reverse of what I had done on legs nine and eighteen. I was plodding along slowly but surely until the last small climb before the forest when suddenly first my right and then my left leg cramped up. I was reduced to crawling for a while and was in absolute agony. The fence into the forest eventually appeared and I crossed it with great relief knowing that the end was in sight.
By the time I had walked to Control 29 I had recovered somewhat and so I set off with renewed confidence to the last control. i was pleased to be jogging again and I was navigating well, so I thought. I got to what I thought was the vicinity of the control and, sure enough, saw a flag. I ran up to it and was about to punch when I noticed that it was control number 34 and I was looking for control number 30. I ran out to the track and relocated off the track bend. Back to pesky number 34 again. I looped around in the forest, keeping the obvious escarpment on my right and coming up a reentrant and over the spur to where 30 should be - once again, I found myself at control number 34. Was it possible, I asked myself, that they had got the control number wrong? As a last resort I glanced again at my control descriptions and the truth finally penetrated my consciousness - this was my 30th control but the control number was 34. I had visited the correct control three times without realising it. At least my faith in my navigation, even after over two hours of exhausting running, was restored. All that remained was a short sharp sprint downhill to the finish.
And here the awful truth was revealed. My time was only one minute slower than Jonty and I had wasted at least twice that unneccesarily on the last control. It would have been my first victory over him since February.
Links and Results
This was the last OY of the season for 2012. I came second in M40 and Jonty won M18. Other than Jonty, Auckland Club had to rely on the Greenwood family to provide us with champions with Jeff beating me in M40 and Matthew and Rebecca taking out M10 and W10 respectively. The points table can be found on the AOA OY website here.