Monday, 30 December 2013

Big 5 O - Day 1

After a frustrating time in Polokwane on Saturday evening and Sunday morning (I'll write a silly story about Avis - or should that be a story about silly Avis? - on my return...), I headed off to Nelspruit with my charges from Polokwane. There's me, Mary (our O dedicated-and-passionate teacher), Juliet (a trainee teacher who will be working at the school next year, and six teenage students - one girl and five boys.

We got into Nelspruit on Sunday afternoon, having driven all of the way in rain and - in parts - thick fog. We're staying at a lovely backpackers on the southern side of town.

Last night we played a few of my O games, in preparation for the first day's event.We started with a cone grid in the parking area of the hostel - to practise map orientation. Complete with paired duels! And then we came indoors - good thing too as it was drizzling again - for a map symbol memory-match-style game. We also spoke about scale and on the map vs on the ground.

And then on to today...

This first event of the Big 5 O five-day was held in the very rocky area just near the town of Kaapsehoop. It's an area crazy with rock features ranging from the size of a regular 'ol rock and a bus. And in sections it is like a maze, where big boulder features tower all around you.

Rocks! A photo by Mary.

A control between rocks - to give you an idea of size. Photo by Mary.
I went into this event knowing that I haven't done many O events this year and certainly not anything technical so I wasn't aiming for heroics but rather to minimise errors and have a good, clean sweep of the course.

I'm delighted to say that I did ;)

I didn't search for controls but hit most spot-on or very near too - knowing all the time where I was and adjusting accordingly.

Orange highlighter shows where I think I ran (drawn a few hours after run) and then I've overlaid my GPS track.
I've pulled off a few to discuss.

Control 2

To decipher this track... I approached from the top left of this block and crossed the little stream. As this was my first time heading into the rocks I was adjusting to the size of the features. I thought I'd counted the massive rock features correctly but I ended up between the next set of rocks - a little too far (not exactly as shown - I wasn't on top of the rocks). So, I did the one thing that should be done but isn't often - I went back to my last point of certainty - the stream-path junction. And then I properly assessed the rocks and hit the control spot on.

I was quite chuffed with myself because this is a navigation-correction point that I always stress with my nav and O students. "Go back to your last point of certainty and try again," I tell them. And, as I'd done just this last night, it was a lesson I made use of successfully. It also gave me a better feeling for the rocks and a building confidence.

Ah... map scale is 1:5000 and the distance between the two 'spikes' that you're looking at here is probably no more than 10 metres.

Controls 5 to 6

Although this looks a little messy, it wasn't really. Coming into 4 I just missed my rock feature and had to loop around other big rocks to get it. No problem.

After 5 I wanted to take the less distinct path around but found it to be more overgrown than indistinct. I got so far and then couldn't get through the vegetation. So, I backtracked and headed cross-country, having to loop around large rocks. As I wasn't quite sure where my control was, I hit the path (top centre of this block) and headed right, to the intersection where I could get a fix on my position and easy access to the control, which it was.

Not necessarily a great route here but still one without navigational uncertainty as I found some great fixed features to use.

Control 10

The squiggle around 10 wasn't created looking for the control but rather deciding how to leave the control to go to 11. I went straight into 10 and from here it was a drop-down into lantana-infested terrain. I don't like going through lantana but as I found it actually wasn't too dense and could be bashed through relatively easily.

I was initially going to go through the more opening looking area but in reality it didn't look very open and was also vegetated. So I returned to the control and dropped down directly from the control, negotiating lantana and rocks to get to the river. I'd seen a path on the map, which I found, and I ended up with a really great route to the control.

A solid outing
I had a solid outing today and while some routes could have been a little more efficient, I'm pleased with my technical negotiation of the terrain. I ranked 10th today - not phenomenal - but a good run nonetheless. Some friends ahead of me probably ran faster and harder but they had some big blunders - what you lose on the slide you gain on the round-about...

As for my students...

My students. Photo by Mary.
Most had successful outings on the Open Short course -  a good one considering the difficulty of the terrain. There's only one young chap who hasn't got the hang of things yet. He punched his first control, then five from other courses (not his) and then he saw a snake and then ran to the start (or finish).

Our young lass did some controls and then came back - saying something about thinking she was out of time (runners has max 2h30 for today's course). 

And our star, Ephraim, on a challenging and technical course did some things really well, others very badly and ended up over time and skipping the last bunch of controls to get back. He was also out there in thick fog, which didn't help things. He's very motivated and eager to learn so I think he'll come back stronger from this tomorrow. We've been over his route - I had him running with a tracker - so we know where the errors were made. I think today will just motivate him further.

And the rest all completed their courses. For sure the stars really are Mary and Juliet. This was Juliet's first O event - last night's cone grid was her first time orientating a map. 

Student teacher Juliet. Photo by Mary.
Mary was immensely pleased with herself. As she says, before she couldn't even find the first control and today she finished the course.

A really superb event today. 

I've got more O games for them tonight - to get them in the groove for tomorrow. An O in the forest tomorrow! Gonna be fabulous - I hope ;)

Me - hangin' out

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