Tonight was a wet night and if I had just being going for a jog I probably wouldn't have. But orienteering is different and so we joined a group of similarly hardy individuals for a run around the suburbs of Parnell and Remuera. And, of course, I really enjoyed it and made a mental note to myself to go running in the rain more often. But I doubt that I will.
Usually when we run on this map the event centre is in the carpark to the north east of Control XJ on tonight's map. This is down at sea level and means that whichever route you choose you are usually climbing, often considerably, to your first control. Tonight, we started on the edge of the Domain instead. For the shorter courses this meant that there was an option to collect the requisite number of controls without committing to too much in the way of elevation change but I was planning on getting 18 (with an option to cut it short to 14 if it got too much half way round) so the 80m drop from Remuera Rd down to the foreshore and then back up was going to be unavoidable.
At the start I was in a sizeable pack heading to XY, all of us following Jonty who was setting a good pace 20m or so ahead of us. By the time we had punched that control and headed across the fields of the Domain towards XG I had left the pack behind and was concentrating on keeping within sight of Jonty who had extended his lead to over 50m. I was able to leave the navigating to him and just concentrate on my running. As we circled around Seagull Hill I started to get an impression that all was not right, just a vague feeling at first, then a more nagging one until finally I decided to stop and look at my map. Yep, Jonty was leading me the wrong way up the road. I turned 180 degrees and ran back 100m or so to XG arriving just after the first group who had been behind me.
I headed to XV next and local knowledge came in useful as I ignored the obvious road route and cut across the Domain, using the (unmarked on this map) track beside the Grandstand up to the traffic lights at the road junction just north of the control. I punched at XV and ran around the corner towards XT. At this point Jonty ran past me, having got up to the next road junction before realising he was heading the wrong way on the earlier leg.
I headed eastwards from XT with my head down planning my route to XP. I ran across the road and through the gap in the buildings, looking up to discover that I had run through an unmapped gap to the next road over. A suitably honest competitor may well have returned and only used the roads shown on the map but with 14 controls still to go I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to shorten my run slightly. As a result I was the first to arrive in the vicinity of XP, which was hard to find on a street of restaurants with no shortage of amused patrons observing first myself, then Jonty, then a group of five or six of us desperately casting around examining the interiors of various planter boxes. An excited cry finally betrayed the control's location, we converged, punched and then diverged as we all chose different routes away.
I chose to cut through the railway station to XS, a route that is marked on the map but is not obvious on the ground unless you know the area well. I wasn't particularly familiar with it but I did have a memory from a couple of years ago of using the track from the opposite direction so I plunged into the station concourse with confidence and emerged at XS a few paces ahead of Jonty who had run the roads and was suitably annoyed that I had beaten him to the control yet again. This would be the last time I saw him tonight. He had been suffering with a cold for the last few days and headed off towards XX as part of his loop to collect 14 controls while I headed uphill towards XN. It was the subject of much debate after the run as to whether XN or XR would have been the best option at this point. I argued vigorously for XN, knowing how much elevation change there was down to XR and not wanting to climb back up but actually I hadn't noticed the track at the end of the road containing XM and maybe XR would have been better.
But I didn't know that at the time so it was the long slog to XN for me. The wind was blowing from the east so this leg and the next one to XM had me running into both the wind and the rain. It was a short steep descent into XM before turning around and climbing back up to Remuera Rd. I managed to run the whole way up without stopping, a feat that I wasn't certain I'd be able to perform as I commenced the climb. Then the descent began again and I enjoyed the run down to XL and beyond.
The climb started again as soon as I turned westwards towards XK. I didn't even try to run this one, choosing to take the time to walk, eat a gel and plan the rest of my run instead. I arrived at XK and at the same time Allan approached from the north west. We ran back north east together to the next road junction before he split off to do the reverse of my loop and I continued on the reverse of his. He reported losing huge amounts of time trying and failing to find the track from the road south of XJ. Luckily, I had already decided to run the roads to XJ so it wouldn't affect me.
By running north east out of XK I had hoped to avoid the climb visible on the north west road but it wasn't to be. At the end of the road where I had to turn west the climb was just as steep but it was a short hill and then I was descending again. XJ was further up the side road than I expected but I had read the control description beforehand - this is not always the case - so I kept running until I found it. The climb to XI was unavoidable and demoralising as I knew that as soon as I had punched the control I had to run back down the same hill before starting the no less steep climb up to XH. My legs were burning by the time I reached XH and I took longer than I really needed to punch the control and read the next control description.
I collected XE easily enough but managed to run right past XD although, noticing the dearth of lamp posts ahead of me, I glanced back and spotted it before I had gone more than about 20m past it. The run down to XC took me down Parnell Rd past yet more well patronised restaurants. The footpath was wet and greasy and I didn't run at full speed for fear of slipping. XC was on one side of the Parnell ridge and XB on the other so there was yet another short sharp climb between them. By now I had been going nearly an hour and I knew that I had no chance of getting back in under 60 minutes. I only had one more control left to get but it was uphill again from here. Jonty had got XB as his last control and chosen to take the underpass under the railway back into the Domain and then run the bush tracks from there, something made more difficult by the state of the batteries in his headlamp. I kept to the roads instead, keeping up a steady jog and slowly increasing my pace as I reached the flatter ground near XA. From there it was a quick dash around the corner and the waiting mug of hot soup. Allan's problems with the track near XJ meant that I managed to win Course A by a seven minute margin, perhaps running in the rain is a good thing after all?