The second stage of Sprint the Bay 2012 was held in Napier Central, usually a bustling town centre but today, a holiday weekend Saturday afternoon, not so much. The event centre was on the beach and the start was on a traffic island nearby. After the rush of this morning's mass start the usual STB start order applied: one minute start intervals with start position determined by your overall placing in your grade and the leader starting last. I'd come fifth this morning so I would be the fifth to last M40 to startt this afternoon although, as a whole, we M40s were early starters as we were followed by the entire Senior Boys and Womens Elite grades on Course 2.
My first impression on picking up my map at the start was that it had the look of a European Urban Sprint map with large blocks of buildings to navigate around and that both long route choice and fine navigation through interpretation of the features within the circle would be important. As I raced off down the street quickly trying to pick the best route to the first control it was obvious I had to look for the narrow lane that would lead me into it. This turned out to be extremely easy as a crowd of onlookers had gathered near its entrance, calling out "Its over here, Bro". I thanked them, resisted the temptation to try and bribe them into moving 30m further down the street for the next four competitors and sprinted to the control. Immediately I faced a problem. The number on the control didn't match the number on my control description sheet. I'd obviously come to the wrong control. Well, fairly obviously, anyway. As I glanced at my map to figure out where I should be I noticed that the number on the control descriptions on the map DID match the control I was at. Yep, I'd picked up a Course 1 control description sheet by mistake and would have to rely on the one on the map for the rest of the race.
The next few controls were fast and straight forward - I took a south about route on all the route choice legs to Controls 2, 4 and 6 with only Control 4 causing any problems as I navigated to the circle, looked around and failed to spot the control. A quick glance at the control description, a two metre dash and there it was in all its glory. A special mention must go to Control 6. This control held no terrors for me or for most competitiors but somehow John Robertson, who took the northern route choice, managed to miss the building corner and run off the map. Actually his reasoning was that the road at the top of the map must be Marine Parade and so he ran to Marine Parade and then the map didn't match reality. This mistake cost him a couple of minutes.
The first long leg was the leg to 9, I followed the western route choice here. It was the next two controls that would cause me the most trouble. Firstly I exited out of 9 back the way I had come in, completely missing the narrow alleyway to the south that would have been the best route choice. I spotted it on the map as I ran but, in sprint orienteering if you make a mistake you don't change your route, you just run faster. Despite having picked that up too late, I still managed to miss the obvious gap in the buildings directly in front of me and so ran a dog leg out to the north east to get to control 10. This appears to have lost me about 20 seconds. Then I took the easterly route to control 11 but when I reached the control circle there was no sign of the control. Thinking it was on the other side of the fence I continued on but it wasn't there either. I stopped and looked carefully and, sure enough, it was right where it should be, on an inside building corner that I had ignored. Mucking about here cost me another 30 seconds and I was conscious that Hugh Furlong-Ford would be breathing down my neck any second. Time to run faster, again.
Luckily the next couple of controls were straight forward and I was then able to use the long leg to 14 to plan the rest of my course. Control 14 took a bit of finding. If you look at the control description it says "Inside building corner" and if you look at the circle you will see an obvious inside building corner. But the control wasn't there. I ran on and it wasn't around the next corner either so I turned round and ran back, eventually finding it in an alcove that actually is mapped (click on the map above to get a large copy and see for yourself) but appears to be mapped as about a 2x2 pixel grey. Trouble with this control was universal, with Hugh actually running completely around the building to make sure he had the right one.
From there it was flat out to the finish with the only bit of interest being the route choice from 18 to 19. I had automatically gone west and then south around the building out of 18 but other runners later told me that the route down the very narrow alley to the east was passable. Comparing times, it didn't seem to save them much, if anything at all.
It had been one of the fastest sprint races I had ever run and I was pleased to hear Duncan announce my time as the fastest in M40 as I punched at the finish although I didn't expect that state of affairs to remain as the next four runners came in. But each of them came in with a separate tale of woe and it became obvious that, in fact, I had had the best run and had won the grade. I was elated! As I had pulled back more than two seconds on Hugh I moved from fifth to fourth overall but the time gap wasn't enough for me to overtake Brent, Rob and John yet. Four races to go.
Jonty also had a good run but I managed to beat him by five seconds! To put that into context, he only managed ninth place in Senior Boys so eight school kids were faster than me. My time would also have been good enough for 15th place in Womens Elite, ahead of such legends as Tessa Ramsden, Cosette Saville and Belinda Lawford. Steve 2 Jonty 0.