Ian Butler …
“Don’t what ever you do lose the dibber”
WOT, NO CROSS COUNTRY? LETS GO ORIENTEERING!
The excitement had been building all week and my preparation was spot on. I was in peak condition and ready to go and face the onslaught known as the Harrier League Cross Country. I had even restricted my self to 4 pints of beer whilst at a retirement do on the Friday night. Then as I was waiting to catch the bus home from the black hole known as Durham Bus Station, I got the text. ‘Its Off”.
The question was now what are we going to do as an alternative?
The answer was the October Odyssey Orienteering event held at Dukeshouse Wood at Hexham on Sunday morning. Oh what joy!
I actually quite like orienteering, provided that any course I do allows participants a good opportunity to have a pacey run between control points, similar to our local event at Aykley Heads last year. I don’t mind doing the navigation, but I hate it when it gets too complex as it really ruins my run. Basically, I get really sickened off and quite antisocial, and guess what? I ended up being quite antisocial after this lark.
Firstly we set off from home and myself, Heather, Theresa and Phil and travelled together to Hexham.
The intention was that we would complete the event in teams of 2, Heather & Theresa as Team 1, Phil & I as Team 2. Also, we had to put a time limit on the event, as Phil had booked a post Cross Country Massage for mid afternoon. The fact that there was no cross country to have a massage for was irrelevant, but Phil had to have it.
Both Phil and Theresa are fairly new to the club, and they are both very keen participants in both club runs and running events. They have certainly bought in to the club ethos, and with in their first week got in to buying every piece of clothing that can be bought with the club logo on. Phil in particular is the most purple person I know, and today in the car he was trying out his new club Buff. The problem was he did not really know the best way to wear the buff and so spent the whole journey trying different approaches to meet his preferred style. In fact, does anyone know the best way to wear a buff, without looking like a fool?
Personally I wear a buff around my neck, which I think is fine. Phil tried his on his head, and in various guises looked like a pirate, a Ninja Warrior, or Spock from Star Trek depending whether he had his ears tucked under of over the band he had made with the buff. In the end he was a pirate!
If anyone has any advice on the best way to wear a buff, can you let me know, and I can pass it on to Phil.
Secondly, things started to go wrong when we arrived at the venue. Many participants had prebooked places on the various courses, as this is a very popular event with serious orienteers. Because of the cross country cancellation, we could not pre-book, therefore the only decent run still available when we registered was the Brown Course. This was the longest run at 5.8 miles, with a degree of difficulty of 5 out of 5. The distance does not sound far, but the difficulty of the navigation made this route in to a true expedition of epic proportions.
Next thing was that we had to hire an electronic dibber to record our reaching each of the control points, and we were warned “Don’t what ever you do lose the dibber”
We managed to navigate to the start, which was the easy bit. The hard bit commenced at the start itself. We also gave ourselves a 2-hour time limit so Phil would get back for his massage.
Firstly Team 1 of Heather and Theresa set off, with their map and dibber, followed a minute later by Phil and I as Team 2.
I think it’s safe to say that we both Phil and I wanted to have a good run out, stretch our legs, get out of breath, complete the course, and stuff Heather and Theresa by beating them around the course. The reality would be somewhat different.
Once we were off, we grabbed the map, noted where the first control point was and set off along a path up a small hill. Just over the brow of the hill and about 100m from the start, the difficulties that we would experience became self-evident.
Basically, we were met be the thickest thicket that you have ever seen, made up solely of prickly bushes and brambles. We both headed off in to the bushes and immediately lost each other. It was thick and biting. We decided to split up in order to find the control. Although we could not find the blasted thing, or each other, we met loads of other people aimlessly walking through, under and over bushes, all looking for the same control, and all walking around in different directions. We were all lost together, after only 3 minutes from the start.
Eventually, I found the control, pinged it and shouted across to Phil. I could hardly hear his reply. We regrouped and sought out the second control, which was supposed to be about 20m away. I took a compass bearing from the map and forced my way towards where I thought it should be.
By now, we both realised that our vision of having a good run was gone. We were stuck in navigation and not a running contest. I was starting to get pissed off already and we’d only been out 5 minutes
We came across Team 1 and I politely asked Heather if she had found control 2. At times Heather has the compassion of a water cannon operator, and this was one of those times. You see, she just loves navigating and likes the challenge of finding the controls in the most difficult places. Therefore her stony-faced non-committal response to my polite request was to be expected, as she knew I would hate this type of course, and was rubbing that fact in.
I shouted across to Phil. ‘have you found it?” There was no response. I shouted again, and there was no response. I had lost him already.
I found him hidden under a bush and dragged him out. Eventually, we found the second control. We then needed a machete to work our way to a forest trail to head off to the next control. But because machetes are not approved equipment at orienteering events, we had to crawl on hands and knees and through the bottom of prickly bushes to make some headway. This was getting like hard work.
We then took a series of paths heading off to the next sets of controls, which were fairly easy to navigate. But then we were confronted with a change in vegetation, from prickly thick bushes under a canopy of trees, to thick forests of Rhododendron bushes under a canopy of trees. These were thicker than the thickest thickets experienced earlier, but less prickly.
It was here that tempers were starting to fray a little. Not ours I may add, but an innocent looking old lady who we came across under some bushes, who looked as if butter would not melt in her mouth. What came out of her mouth was not butter, but a series of expletives along the lines of ‘I’m F…ing sick of it! This is ‘F’ ing ridiculous’.
She then stated that she was not going through the ‘F’ ing bushes and was going around them. Considering that we had no choice but to follow our compass bearing to the next control, we set off on hands and knees under the bushes rather than going around. This was getting stupid now, and our progress was hardly running pace and more like baby crawling pace.
The psychology of orienteering certainly brings out the best and worse in people in these circumstances. As members of the ‘Where the hell are we’ tribe, it was noticeable that as a group of people who were having some difficulties with navigation, we all became a collective of stalkers. Aimlessly looking around for the control points, then latching on to someone who looks vaguely as if they know where they were going, only to have that illusion shattered as they were as equally lost as ourselves and were stalking us.
Our next cock up was totally my fault. We moved on to try to find the 7th control, which was hidden in deep jungle. The main problem was that my shoelaces kept undoing owing to being caught on bushes, which meant I had to take my gloves off to lace back up, and so remove my dibber attached on a loop to my finger. It was here that I lost the dibber, and so we couldn’t register our presence at any more control points. Now I was totally p****d off.
I knew we were a little ahead of Team 1, but now we would never be able to record that fact, and were set for a DNF. Total humiliation was now coming our way!
Despite the loss of the dibber, we aimed to continue our expedition and visit the controls in sequence. The next sets of controls were less well hidden than previously and so we were able to do a bit of proper running. Also, when we got to the actual controls, I made a metaphorical ‘bleeping’ sound to simulate the dibber being placed in the control. This action didn’t help us record any points, but made us feel a bit better.
We came across Team 1, who were now behind us in time, but I still gallantly pointed them in the general direction of control No 10, despite their non-verbal communication at a previous control point. We don’t hold grudges, and in any case we were in front of them in the real world, just not in the eyes of the organisers.
After about 1hour and 35 minutes, we found that the next sets of controls were taking us way from the start. Bearing in mind our 2-hour time limit and Phil’s need for a massage, we headed to the finish line.
Phil and I then made our way to the registration point, where I declared the loss of the dibber and a DNF. It was then we found that Phil had ripped the material on his running leggings, clearly whilst negotiating some bushes.
Orienteering can be brutal. It’s not always about having a nice run out, because it can be both frustrating and bloody annoying. In our case we had visited 13 controls out of 30 in 1 hour 45 minutes, covered a distance of 3.2 miles at 28 minute mile pace, lost the dibber for which I paid £20 to the organisers for a replacement, recorded a DNF and Phil had ripped his running leggings at the cost of £40 for a new pair. Finally, we had officially lost to Team 1.
I am pleased to say that Phil made it back in time to have a nice post Cross Country massage. Roll on the sheer joy to be had at the next cross country meeting.
Dougie Nisbet …
“That wasn’t me by the way”
“Just checking. I mean, you do have form.”
Roberta had been chortling along to Ian’s report of the October Odyssey on Sunday. I didn’t know that people still chortled, or even guffawed, but Ian’s report certainly seemed to strike a chord. Roberta once crashed out of some path-side undergrowth at an orienteering event, checked the control id, found out out it wasn’t hers, and with an emphatic FFS, stomped down the path in disgust, pausing only to say Good Morning to a couple of startled dog walkers who were not quite expecting to see what they had just seen.
I’ve had the benefit of reading Ian’s report before deciding to write a few words of my own. I do a lot of orienteering, and as I like to point out, it’s great interval training. Classic Fartlek. And the worse you are, the better the training. I had, for me, a fairly decent run on Sunday. I wasn’t last, and there were a few gaps between last, and me, that I was happy to see. Not a vast number of gaps and I’d always be happy to see them vaster, but it was an ok day.
When I dibbed Control 1, which I thought was indecently tricky for the first control, I thought that I wouldn’t want to have a wobble so early on. Struggling on Control 1 is not a great start and a bad start can set the mood for the day. I still have nightmares about Sand Dunes, so many Sand Dunes. 16 minutes to cover the 100m from the Start to Control 1 in Druridge Bay in 2013 still haunts me.
It was a challenging course and I was happy to get to the end. The navigation
and terrain were difficult. I was fairly happy with my route, although I did make some major wobbles here and there. With three controls to go and looking for a
straightforward control in a ditch junction, I chanced upon the ditch by
standing on a piece of grass that turned out to be a generous expanse of empty
space. Winded and bloodied, I followed it to the control. The bleeding was
quite impressive and the finish marshall did voice some concern, but brambles
do that. It was the three foot drop and loss of breath and dignity that were
much more unsettling.
If you ever decide to give orienteering a bash, and you really should, then, as
a runner, here’s the only thing you need to know. All colour coded courses from
Green and above, are all the same difficulty. Both in navigation and terrain.
They’re all the same. Green is shorter, then there’s blue, then there’s
brown and sometimes black. They only differ in distance. But in terms of
navigational difficulty, they’re all the same.
NATO are one of the orienteering clubs that use Routegadget for post-run analysis. This can be interesting to see how your run has compared to others. It’s a great learning tool and lets you look at the maps and routes for all the courses.