Sunday, 1 September 2013

I'm almost too embarrassed to show you my O track...

Well, I had a whopper today at the O event at  Groenkloof today. Yes, laugh all you want, the joke is totally on me.

If there's a take-home message, it is about the importance of keeping your head in the game... your eye on the ball... your finger on the pulse... because when your mind is anywhere but on the map and the terrain, you'll do what I did.

Where was my mind? On lesson plans and the ton of stuff I need to get started on today. Every Thursday evening now I've got teaching prac assessments for this teaching English course. We have to write up lesson plans, design activities, make flashcards and games... Zap. Time gobbler. This coming weekend is my first Saturday in a month that I don't have English class all day; but instead I've got my final orienteering coaching assessment with the British Orienteering Federation assessor who is out here in SA for this. Although I have an idea of what I want to do for my lesson, I haven't started creating courses, modifying maps, writing up plans...

After I reveal my errors from today, take heed of my words when I advise you to "Do as I say, not as I do".

Ready for some howlers?

I entered the BROWN course, my favourite. It's the longest in distance and as difficult technically as BLUE. The course distance measures - straightline - at 12.6km, according to our control description sheet. So, you can be sure that you'll do 16km. For my 16 controls, I covered 10.6km...

Mt track around #4 looks worse than it was. I think standing still (in despair) a few times made the track spike.
First control, awesome. Settled nicely into it and found my friend Tony who'd started ahead of me but was too low down - the result of a more difficult approach. We went to control 2 and 3 together and took slightly different angles to 4.

Control 4
Running faster, Tony was out of sight on the trail ahead of me. Using the corner of the trail as my marker to drop off it, I was looking for the junction of two dry streams. And there they were ahead of me. But no control. Mmmm... Another two orienteers (but not Tony) were in there with me. I found a good path, but knew I needed to be above the path so I ascended the watercourse, accompanied by another guy. And then we hit a main trail. Mmm... I decided to descend again, but coming in from the side. Nope. I hit the lower trail again.

Deep breath. OK, so, I need to be between two trails. Check. One is small and the other is bigger. Check. But the control isn't here. Check. There are no other orienteers to be seen. Check. So, what if the two trails that I'm between are not the trails that I think they are? What if there's another trail above the higher one?

And this is exactly what the case was. And when I found the control it was soooo easy. And, I have a VERY strong feeling that when I first ascended the watercourse and popped out on what was actually the lower trail and not the upper one as I thought, that I may have been able to see the control if I was looking for it.

Oh yes, the light green shading on the map should have been a dead giveaway too. I was indeed whacking through what would be nice green terrain; yet the control was in rough open terrain. Need to pack my magnifying glass for future events...

Bam! Loads of time lost. So silly.

Control 6
Should have been easy. Excellent approach - another 50m further and I'd have tripped over it. Control description says bottom of cliff and that the 'cliff' is only 1m high. Fine. But as I'm nearing where I think it should be, I look across but can't see any rocks. I thought that my angle was off and that I wasn't where I thought I was (especially after my episode at #4). So, best bet being to drop down to the trail, follow it and then head uphill where the bushes/vegetation is thicker and where there is a rocky line. That worked - although I followed the rocks to the left when I should have been a bit to the right. Not a serious error but I'd been so close.

I came in from the bottom left.
#7 was ok (slightly off but close). #8 was a good one. As was #9 and #10.

Control 11
I knew were #12 was as I'd passed it on my route descending to #8. I didn't check the control as I passed but the location was correct so I thought that I must be right.

My approach to #11 from #10 was shocking! I was just so misreading the rocky features. Best bet, stop messing around, go to 12 and take a bearing from there to 11. I did this and it worked nice-nice. I haven't shown my specific tracks here because it looks confusing as I used this nice open terrain (pleasant gradient) to move from 7 to 8 and also for my route home from #16.

Barking antelope
This is probably the funniest of all of the sections...

So, I'd been seeing Alex Wagner all over the place - from Control 6. He'd run fast but in totally the wrong direction. He must have run double the distance by the time I saw him at 12. And off he bolted, trying to keep with Nicholas. So, I hit the tar road and needed to cross the vlei. My map shows a crossing place. Cool. That's something else I did really badly - judging the size of the paths / tracks.

Anyway... I see two wooden posts and there's a trail leading into the vlei, which is dry but has long grass, which is much higher than my head. Having organised the SPUR Adventure events at Groenkloof a few years ago, I've been here when everything is crazy overgrown and not all of the crossing have been mowed. After about 15 metres the trail is no more but there are paths (probably animal) going into the grass. Cool, I'll just work my way through.

And then, something big, rustling in the grass, barked at me. Yes, a fright I did get! I backed out, hoping to loop around the creature and for it to hear me coming. And then I thought, "Maybe it is Alex, playing a trick on me". So I asked the grass, "Are you Alex or an animal?". No reply. Animal probably.

I kept working through the grass and moments later a very large antelope - big like a kudu - runs right in front of me. Woooooooooooaaaaa! I made it out the other side without much difficulty (the ground underfoot is fine - it's just the higher-than-head grass/reeds and no single defined trail) and as I approached the trail leading to #13, I saw a nice, broad, open crossing. Yes, I did laugh out loud. Just to put this into perspective, here's the Google Earth image. Hahahahaha. Go ahead, enjoy it too.

Fortunately #13 and #14 were fine. #15 was easy although my route leaving #14 could have been better. I turned off the dirt road on to a lovely trail, which I realised was the MTB trail. I got re-acquainted with grass as I left the trail to head for the tar road.

Control 16
In fact, looking at my track, my approach was really, really good. I thought I knew where I was - and I was right. My control description said 'cave', so I knew there would need to be some rocks around. On the map I could see two symbols showing pits. OK.

Just to give you an idea of what is happening here...

I approached from the right of the image (exit at the top - heading for home). See there... where I took a left? I could see the path  from here and thought I was being stupid about needing to go to the road and maybe I hadn't gone far enough... Lots of doubt. I walked a bit further and decided that going to the road really was the best decision because then I'd know exactly where I was. Corners are fantastic. After getting the control I headed for home.
I got to where I thought the control should be. In reality, it was less than 10m to my right. I didn't see the rocky features I was expecting which would have indicated that there could be a cave around. So, thinking that I may have overshot and missed, I decided to head for the path - to cross it - and make for the corner of the road from where I could take a bearing. I did waver in my decision but really, it was the right one. I got to the road, knew where I was (close!), took a bearing and found the control (working around rocky terrain as I went). I didn't actually realise I'd been so close until I looked at my track.

Already 2.5hrs in and with the clock approaching noon, I decided to head to the finish as I needed to get home to put in some work this afternoon. Looking at the rest of the controls (25 in total) and where I'd have to go, it was a wise decision. I was out of water and I don't think it would have taken me less than an hour or 90-minutes more to complete the course.

When I got back another O friend, Nico, said he went something like #1, #2, #5, #6 and back - and that took 90-minutes. Pat too confessed to short-coursing himself.

What I will say is that the mistakes were all mine. I haven't been to Groenkloof maybe for two years and I know parts of the reserve in general. But today we went to locations that I've never been near before and it felt very much like I was orienteering on a completely new map. The ROC planners really did a superb job of creating a very challenging course - some navigation sneakies and interesting terrain.

1 comment:

Pieter van der Westhuizen said...

Nice review. I also struggled: 4:11 on the blue track. Got them all though - had water with me and fitness is OK :-)