Tuesday, 22 April 2014

National Orienteering Training Camp (and Night O adventure)

I spent this long, Easter weekend in the beautiful forests of Kaapsehoop as one of the coaching team for our National Orienteering Training Camp. Here we had 20 orienteers from our Senior, Junior and Youth squads and we took them through a variety of skills activities to prepare them for selection for the World and Junior Orienteering Champs. I was assigned to 'Warm-up activities and Games' and I gave assistance where needed with the various groups.

Pics from Day 1 (Friday)
For the warm-up games I created a couple of new ones, related to the skill being coached in the session. Others were just for silly fun - like Bing-O and the pre-warmup warm-up silly songs. Wearing a different wig/hat each day to set the silliness, we boogied to 'Hokey Pokey', 'The Chicken Song' and 'Head, shoulders, knees and toes'.

I had an extra fun day on Saturday when I filled in as a runner in the forest relay and then ran at night in the Night O.

Pics mostly from Sunday.
For the relay we were put into pairs and I was teamed up with the very fast and capable Junior runner, Timothy. It feels weird calling a young man that I have to look up at a 'Junior'. He's 17 and is in matric this year. Tim shot off first - he ran the first and third legs; I took the second and fourth. I think we ended up in second. Every time I found myself walking uphill I'd think, "Tim is waiting for me!".

My navigation was spot on; I had great direct lines, even though the 'green' sections of map where you can't even see 10-metres ahead.

The Night O stands out as one of the highlights of my 15 years of orienteering. I love navigation. I love running and I love running at night. Can't go wrong really.

From the coaching side of things, Night O isn't just a fun night activity. It forces you to concentrate for extended periods (I was out for about 1h20) - serious concentration. It also eliminates information from your surroundings because it is pitch black out there and you can't see that far ahead. Also, you see little peripherally - only what is illuminated by your headlamp beam. You have to focus on compass work and direct line of travel, on defining what features are important and what are not and you have to be accurate.

On one control I was on the 'wrong' side of a fallen-over tree trunk. I didn't see the control flag. I walked about 10m further and knew I was too far. Turning around I saw another runner who had, by then, come up behind me and he'd hit the right side of the trunk to find the flag. Seeing him definitely helped.

The rest of my controls... I totally rocked it. The kick! The euphoria! The sense of satisfaction! More than once I'd stumble (stumble being the totally correct word) through bushy baby pine trees (double my height) growing below their parents on the forest floor, over rocky, pine-needle covered terrain and straight on to my control. I did whoop a few times.

What made this activity even more rewarding is that this was the first time that I've done technical orienteering navigation in the dark. Night park events, Metrogaine... these are child's play. A forest in the pitch dark... now that really is the ultimate night orienteering fun. An even more challenging forest in Europe... oh my goodness - sign me up!

Another highlight of the weekend for me was the silly warm-up before the Night O. I had the original 'Hokey Pokey' song saved on my mobile and I hooked up my little speaker. So there we were standing in a circle, on a forest road, in the pitch dark, headlamps on. The song started up and we followed the instructions putting arms in, hips out, bums in, legs out... What made this extra fun was that under cover of dark, inhibitions were abandoned, especially by the teens, and everyone totally got into this silly party-classic song.

Photos from Monday morning - mostly from the fun Star Relay.
Our orienteering youngsters are a really good bunch and I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with my friends and fellow coaches, Nic, Zig and Tania too as well as the other helpers Stephanie, Ant, Paul and Glynn. We were spoiled with superb catering by Cally throughout the weekend and you just can't go wrong staying in the sweet town of Kaapsehoop and blessed with four days of perfect weather.

I hope to crack the nod for next year's camp too ;)

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