Tag Archives: North East night orienteering championships

NE Night Championships, Durham City, Saturday, October 24, 2015

5.0km / 165m (6.7km actual)

Dougie Nisbet

Durham Cathedral.I always think it’s harder on the fast guys. If you’ve never done an orienteering competition before it’s hard to describe that mind-numbing, crippling-frustration that descends when you’re cruising along, in control, then suddenly things aren’t where they’re meant to be. The clock is ticking, and the control must be nearby. Mustn’t it?

For us slower runners it’s bad enough – the vocabulary-expanding exasperation knowing that time is bleeding away while we try and work out why the world has everything in the wrong place. That time draining away should be time spent running. And if you’re a fast runner, then the damage being done, the distance being lost, is correspondingly greater than that for a slow runner.

Tom, in happier times, with Mr Chips. So I didn’t say much when Tom checked in at the Finish, looking stony faced and, probably not in the mood to be met with a merry quip. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve finished an orienteering competition with a severe sense of humour failure, and recognised that this wasn’t the time for a jolly jape. Mind you, Tom had showed up on the Start line armed with a head-torch but no glasses. That was never going to end well.

Joan, on the other hand, had a great run, having responded to my pre-race goading and tried a harder course than she’d originally intended, and finishing third in her class.

Most of us were going for the long course, down as being 5km with 165m climb. Striders made up a noticeable chunk of the entrants and I found myself hovering around the Start with Tom, Paul and Geoff nearby. Tom went off first, picked up his map, then paused, publicly, to look perplexed and bewildered. Tom studying his map as best he can without glasses. First Mistake. I always advocate grabbing the map, sprinting around the nearest corner, then pausing to ponder the map in private. It’s not the best approach, admittedly, as you may have sprinted 180 degrees in the wrong direction, unless of course, you’d watched starters before you to see which direction they headed.

After a suitable gap, Geoff and Paul also disappeared. And then it was my turn. I grabbed my map, looked at the map for the big pointy building with the jaggy bits on top so I could get my bearings, then identified the location of the first control. Right next to the toilets. That’s always handy.

Durham Cathedral is the dramatic backdrop for the Northern Navigators Night Championships I always find Urban orienteering a bit tricky as the navigation tends to be reasonably straightforward, but there are often a lot of controls, and a lot of rapid thinking to be done. You can’t really switch off – you need to be concentrating all the time. On the way to Control 1 I was already looking ahead to Control 2 and working out how to get there. And so on.

My control 8 was a couple of hundred metres south of Prebends Bridge and it’s where I bumped into Kerry and Sue. They were pretty chirpy given that they seemed to have no idea where they were. I looked at their map to point out their location, but discovered they had gone so far off-piste that they were no longer on their map, so I showed them on mine. They were having none of it. They were so adamant that we were not where I insisted we were, that I even began to doubt myself, despite having just checked in at Control 8.

Control 8 on course one - south of Prebends Bridge.

Sue and Kerry had interpreted the rules in an impressively creative manner. Rather than visit the controls in order, as you’re meant to, they had visited them in an order and manner of their choosing. When I pointed out that you had to visit the control in order, they looked at me as if I was mad, insisted that I was joking, insisting so insistently that before long I was unsure myself of whether I was joking. I suggested they get themselves back to Prebends Bridge and review the situation from there. I led them part of the way, being shouted back as I hurtled down the hill, feeling how a pilot boat must feel as it gently leads an uncertain ship in unfamiliar waters out of harbour. Once I was happy they were heading back to Prebends Bridge I dashed off to get back to the business of finding controls on my course.

Back into town and I would see Paul and Geoff occasionally. Paul kept appearing at high speed from increasingly surreal directions and my self-doubt kicked in again. I was pretty sure I was doing ok, and it was the rest of the world that was on the blink, but perhaps they knew something I didn’t. I kept finding myself snipping at Paul’s heels all the way to the Finish, and knowing that he started a few minutes ahead of me, knew that the result would be close.

I had indeed done OK, and now found myself in the rare, no, exceptional, no …, unprecedented situation of finding myself ahead of Tom, Geoff and Paul in the results table of a race. Tom had abandoned, Paul was disqualified, and Geoff was 18 minutes behind me (not that I was paying much attention you understand). I needed that warm glow however as everyone bogged off to the pub, and since it was my orienteering club running the event, I hung back in the cold waiting for all the competitors to arrive back on Palace Green so I could go out again and bring in the controls.

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North-East Night Orienteering Championships, Boltby Forest & Dale Town Moor, Saturday, November 9, 2013

BLUE 6.3 km 70m

Dougie Nisbet

Here be Soup Dragons. It’s a constant source of bafflement to me just quite how rubbish I am at Orienteering. It’s certainly not, as the phrase goes, through want of trying. I could talk to you endlessley and, yes, knowledgeably, of handrails, pacing, relocating, attack points and what have you, and yet, and yet …

So there we were, trundling down the A19, me and 3 fellow Northern Navigators towards Thirsk for the North East Night Orienteering Championships. I had weeks of night orienteering practice under my belt from our regular Thursday night training sessions at Low Burnhall and I’ve orienteered in the dark before, and knew what enormous fun it could be. Oh yes. I asked my fellow faster orienteering travellers what tips they might have for the evening ahead. The answers came quick, fast, and concise. Pacing, Accurate Compass Bearings, and there’d be lots of negative features. Ah yes, negative features. I nodded in what I hoped was an intelligent manner but as it was already dark, my self-conscious nodding was totally wasted on all present. “So, what’s a negative feature, then?”. Well, apparently it’s a hole in the ground. Or a ditch, or a depression, or a pit. Or, a hole.

Soon we were parked, registered, and carrying a large jug of soup and some buns along a track towards the start. 15 minutes later, at the Start, we transferred the soup jug to the Starters and one by one, we made our way into the pitch blackness. I went first, but it wasn’t long before I was being passed by later starters. Sometimes I knew who they were, but only because I recognised their Petzls.

It was really really hard. I tried to tell myself that I was enjoying myself but there was far too much luck and not enough judgement, skill or confidence in my finding of the controls. Out of the forest and onto the moor. What were the choices here? Solid compass bearings and pacing. And when you got to where the control should be, and it wasn’t there, what could you do? Re-locate, identify a new attack point, take a fresh bearing, calculate pacing, and try again. But in the middle of a moor, with the mist down, and no features, where did you relocate to?

I checked the map for control 9. It was in oh guess what, a bloody pit. Who knew? I took a bearing, checked, worked out my pacing, and thought, let’s go for it. I went for it, but it had gone. I stood where Control 9 should be, but it defied me by being somewhere else. In the right place probably. I looked at my watch and realised that there was no way I was going to get round the remainder of course before it closed in an hour’s time. In a sudden flash I realised how I could solve this dilemma.

Once the decision was made it was a simple matter to find a path that took me all the way to the finish. I shrugged off the “Well Done’s” and admitted that I bailed. They said “Well done anyway!”. They were very kind! In orienteering one missed control is an automatic disqualification, so why miss one when you can miss 8, that’s what I say. It was first time I’ve ever given up in an orienteering competition.

Back to the registration area, where hot soup with a swirl of cream was on offer and I was slightly reassured to discover that even the good guys had struggled. Big time. Orienteers far faster and more skilled than me had overshot, relocated and got quite lost. Not as lost as me though. They’d completed the course and finished, including David Aspin who is usually on the other side of a camera taking so many of the great photos that often appear on our website. I heard the organiser ask one competitor whether he’d be back tomorrow to which he replied that he’d be at one of Dave Parry’s races. Clay Bank West. I’d fully intended to be back on Sunday for more orienteering but right now a nice uncomplicated fell race sounded quite attractive.

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Military League North Night Orienteering Championships, Durham, Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blue 5.7Km

Dougie Nisbet

You know those films where some bloke rips up his betting slip and throws it away in disgust after a poor performance. Well, that’s me that is. After crossing the finish, receiving my itemised bill, I gave it a cursory glance already knowing the worst.

“You are currently 35 out of 35 finishers”. I like that faint whiff of optimism in ‘currently’. Despite crossing the Finish 5 minutes after the courses officially closed, there’s still a chance of the EastEnders’ theme tune, or some trailing ellipsis. But I know it’s really just a big fat full stop. Last.

I’ve never done a night orienteering event before and the thought of crashing through the undergrowth of Houghall Woods with a head-torch had a strange appeal. This would, I thought, be home turf. I know these woods well. I had rather overlooked the small but vital fact that it would be dark and all the features that I thought I knew would have gone to bed for the night.

I found myself standing next to Geoff Watson at the start and we both were puzzled by the idea of a ‘butterfly’ control. I’m sure Colin explained it to me once but I needed it explained again. This is where you revisit the same control, several times, during the event, so it effectively counts as several controls.

Within two minutes of starting I realised I’d been a bit naive. This dark thing was a big problem. Normally I can get away with peering through the big magnifier on my compass to read the map, but this was just so not working in the dark. Strange reflections bounced back at me and, thankfully, I’d had the presence of mind to shove some cheap reading glasses in my pocket. They helped, but not much, and then there was the logistical nightmare of trying to wedge reading glasses onto forehead that was already hosting the headtorch. And given that I would be needing the glasses lots and lots and lots of times during the event I predicted some chaotic fumbling over the next couple of hours. I tried to explain all this to Geoff who had started behind me but was already about two controls in front of me, and I couldn’t help think what a lame excuse it sounded. Geoff pointed me helpfully to my next control and I stopped moaning and started orienteering.

Things picked up a little and presently I found myself in the corner of one of the security buildings looking for my next control. It was really close. Unfortunately, when I examined the map more carefully, I realised the control and I were separated by, well, the building. This was unfortunate, I thought, or words along these lines, as I sprinted round the irritatingly long rectangular building to get to the Other Side to find the control languishing patiently in what I can only describe as a mocking manner. I half expected it to light a cigarette and give me a sneer as I checked in and moved on.

About half the controls were around the science buildings and then it was on to the woods. This was going to be fun. I was quite optimistic of making up some time here. I was also hopelessly naive and within seconds of entering the dark woodland I realised that orienteering at night is a completely different art form. There’s no point searching for features that might be obvious during the day unless they are findable at night. You might be standing just a few metres from the biggest most awesomely obvious ditch you’ve ever seen and it might have your control, but unless you point your petzl in exactly the right direction you are very likely to miss it.

At some point on the bottom path I recognised Will Horsley and shouted hello. Will hadn’t recognised me and thought I might just be some passing nutcase flashing a headtorch in his eyes. “Who’s that!” he barked, and after both agreeing that this was all well weird, we both plunged on into our respective glooms.

I found myself getting irrationally irritated by the super-keenos who seemed to have the headlight from an old Ford Escort attached to their foreheads. They looked like some comedy surgeon looking through his magnifying glass and were slightly creepy when they passed on their way to wherever they were going. I was going nowhere fast. Control after control was being doggedly found often with more luck than skill. Eventually I got round the course and found the finish (when Major Spence kindly pointed it out to me), downloaded and got in the car. As if to add insult to injury all the lights in the car park suddenly went out at that precise moment. Everyone’s a critic.

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