Sunday, 28 June 2009

O Champs - a few lessons from post-race analysis

I've been mulling over the errors I made at Gauteng O Champs last weekend for a week. Something I realised is that even where you're not sure where you are; you actually do know where you are. I'll explain below.

Gauteng O Champs Short Course at Hennops
This is where I made the biggest error of the weekend - going to #3.

My route from #1 to #2 was spot-on. As I approached the control - I was just inside the circle - I saw another control to my right. Yes, I knew it wasn't mine but some little gremlin in my mind, knowing that I'd made bloopses the last two months, toldme to check it anyway, which I did. It wasn't mine. The line that I originally had was so spot-on and if I'd gone just 5-10m more I would have dropped on to the control. Instead I got into the dry ditch and followed it to hit the control.

Coming out of the ditch I was distracted by another orienteer nearby. I took a bearing to #3 - it actually had my original course going more in the direction of #4. I 'felt' that something was off so I crossed the road and headed up hill. I don't remember crossing the ditch (thin brow dotted line) and I evidently wasn't paying much attention to the vegetation. What I was doing was asking myself why I'd been so stupid to even bother checking that previous control that I knew wasn't mine. "What, you been doin' this for a few months instead of 10-years?" I asked the gremlin. Elementary error that, while not serious, does cost time. And I shouldn't be making these errors!

Ok so I headed up the hill and was feeling that something was very off - and I don't think I've even contemplated the distance I'd covered either. So I got to the road and thinking it was the path (yes, yes, I know... silly, silly, silly) I turned left. The picture wasn't fitting but I could see a ditch. I did think it weird that not enough vegetation was around the ditch...

I got to the ditch and really thought something was weird but as my brain had temporarily left me all I could do was stand around for a while. I did see #7 AND I knew it wasn't the right one. What I didn't do was check my list of controls for the control number because that would have told me I was at #7. In terms of spatial orientation I knew that I was near the fence and even more bizarre I read the map perfectly from this postion "where I didn't know where I was" all the way through to #3. So, inherently, I must have known where I was.

To correct, I headed up on to the grassy slope, out of the ditch. I moved downhill, parallel to the ditch with the fence on my right. Hit the road, found the path, found the control. Easy-peasy. I knew exactly how to correct, which means I must have known where I was...?

It should have taken me little over one minute to reach #3 from #2; I think it took me just under six minutes.

Some errors are hard to explain because how they happen is so... so...inexplicable.

Lessons are:

  • Pay attention to the vegetation - if the control should be under trees then you won't find it on a grassy hill...
  • Don't shout at yourself; if you make a mistake, move on because scoldig yourself usually means that you'll mess up the next control
  • If the picture on the map isn't fitting the reality, don't make it fit
  • Even if you feel 'lost', chances are good that you actually do know where you are - trust these instincts.

Gauteng Orienteering Champs Long course at Protea Ridge
So now it is the next morning and the long course - my favourite - is at Protea Ridge in the Krugersdorp-ish area. Nic told me the previous day (he was the planner) that the terrain would be more friendly and runnable - not as rocky and grassy as Saturday's short course.

Overall I had a MUCH better run and I focused on making sure my navigation was clean. With the exception of the two controls below, I did not hunt - not even looking over my shoulder and all around. I walked/ran onto every other control spot-on. Navigationally I was happy; run-wise I didn't push it so I did lose time between controls purely on speed.

OK, clear route coming up the road; and would you believe that I actually was paying attention to choosing the correct path... yes, I got on to the wrong one! The bends weren't exactly matching (problem #1) but I kept going figuring that I'd get to where the path loops. When I started feeling that I'd gone too far I saw a control to my right. It didn't match the description either so I realised i was wrong, without even having to check the control number. I also bumped into Karin there; I think she had done the same thing and was also in the wrong place. Easy to correct and I ran straight to #3.

Leaving #3 I had a good sighting on the ridge. I like hitting junctions instead of just crossing roads so I was very happy with my route.

From the rocky ridge I could see the road below - see where my pink arrow is pointing. OK, OK, OK... this is where I erred. I was mis-reading the contours and although I'd crossed the ridge I thought up was down and down was up. I stopped at the place where the arrow is pointing. I think I thought I'd overshot... and I couldn't figure out why the 'excavations' (for 4x4 driving) weren't on the map. I stayed exactly where I was and realised that I was near the solid black lines (to my left) and that the control was dead-ahead. I'd approached it from a perfect line. Doh!

It was steep down and then up so I opted to take the nearby road.

I really don't know why I was so confused there for a while - enjoying the day and the runnable terrain too much perhaps? After this I got my mind back in its place and had a lovely navigational run.

Even after 10 years of orienteering I still make errors - as do others who have been orienteering for even longer. The object, when you make mistakes - because you always will - is to recognise as soon as possible (like within a few metres) that you've gone wrong. And then to correct there and then without missing a beat.

In orienteering there's no time to think "Man, this is easy" because on the next leg - or event - you'll be knocked down to size again. And because the challenge is always there - against yourself - you'll be back for more. Works for me.

Next event is at Bushtrails next Sunday, 5 July. Focus Lisa. Focus.

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