Since I can’t run on the road at the moment due to my toe injury, I’ve been notching up quite a bit of mileage around Horspath and Shotover. I noticed there was a low-key “level C” orienteering event being organised by the Thames Valley Orienteering Club so I decided to give it a go. I haven’t done any orienteering for about 25 years, and it’s changed a lot in the intervening years: pre-printed route maps and electronic timing being the main differences.
After signing-on and collecting my timing chip (an EMIT), I jogged over to the start area. I’d signed up for a “blue” grade course, based on the amount of climb it suggested, but I didn’t really have any idea how hard (or easy) it might be. In the pre-start area there were little slips of paper with a list of control descriptions – 18 for my course – but I had no idea what the little IOF hieroglyphs meant, so I didn’t bother taking the paper with me, I thought I’d just rely on the map.
I had a pretty good run in the end although I made quite a few route errors. Knowing the area was sometimes a boon, sometimes a handicap – I tended to run along paths I knew well, when there were often quicker alternatives. I had my old Silva compass with me, and that was useful for taking a bearing where controls were on the far side of open land. I remembered about keeping my thumb on the map near my location, and also bearing-off towards a control so I should always know which direction I’m approaching it from.
I still got pretty lost at a couple of controls though, and after having a slow hunt for no. 5, I ran straight past no. 6, looking in the wrong direction, d’oh. If I’d known what those hieroglyphs meant I’d have realised I should’ve been looking down, for a control in a “pit”. I took more notice of the map after that and did better over the second half although I still made a bit of a slow choice for the penultimate control – there was a tarmac path I knew well, but all the faster runners cut down a shorter forest track.
After 65 minutes I ended up 31st out of 60 runners on the blue course, so not too bad a run (http://www.tvoc.org.uk/application/documents/results/Results%202014/Shotover/index.htm). I have much to learn and I can see that the desire to improve your route-finding is addictive. The ability to upload your GPS track to the results map page is a pretty good way to see where you went wrong. That I managed top-10 splits for some of the controls shows I could be much faster. I’ve signed up to do another, more serious “level B” event in Berkshire at the end of January (http://www.bko.org.uk/?q=event/concorde-chase-cold-ash-25-jan-15).