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First time I’ve been back here for years. Map’s been extended and we now have a nice venue – the visitor centre, where local people sat and chatted in the sun while we went about our business, and a very nice lady provided us with water. And we needed water – the temperature was in the high 30’s and I made sure I had enough in my tank before embarking on my 5 km.

I can’t say I remembered much about the area, apart from the canals, the engine house and the football pitch, but it served its purpose well (i.e. providing a local alternative to the Scottish 6 Days) and the locals, young and old, were friendly, including, I guess, the (tipsy?) pranksters who kept moving control 15.

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Time: 44:54. Sweat: loads.

Results

As far as I’m aware, although there’s always* been a map of Perry Hall, there’s never been one of Perry Park, so we finally put this right this year. Alison Sloman has produced maps of both at 1:5000 and a combined map at 1:7500. Once upon a time I’d envisaged combining the two areas by means of the subway under the Walsall Road, but when this was filled in, Alison came up with the excellent alternative suggestion of using the canal towpath. Unfortunately the path from Sandringham Road to the canal has now been gated, so Wednesday’s dual-park event may have been the first and the last!

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I couldn’t run this event on my own so I was very  grateful to Ruth Lockley (who lives just off the map) for agreeing to be the Perry Hall starter, and she made contact with the Friends of the park and put on a little simultaneous extra score event for them too.

Meanwhile, back across the A34, thanks to Stuart Paul, ex-Harlequin and now major-domo at Birchfield Harriers, for allowing us to use their facilities (in between two major events) and for dusting off his dibber and having a go himself. 🙂

Results

*Some people have claimed that the map of Perry Hall that was found on the Dead Sea Scrolls is in fact an early OCAD version of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but I’m far from convinced.

In the spirit of a previous double-header of a few years ago, I decided to do both Andy Hemsted’s Fibbersley event and Action Heart’s Baggeridge trail run last night. Google Maps assured me it was only 20 minutes between the two…

Unfortunately the rain had turned Fibbersley into a big green sponge so I got soaked very quickly. That, plus a few small mistakes, and the 3.7 km took me 50 minutes and it was 6.37 pm when I set off for my 7 pm start at Baggeridge. I have to say I would’ve made it if someone had been around in the car park to show me where to pick up my bib number. As it was, I had the unusual experience of cresting the brow of the hill to watch the start of my own race…

So maybe you should take 30 seconds off my time of 29:20. On the other hand, maybe I wouldn’t have run so fast if I hadn’t started at the back and had lots of people to catch up with. I’m also sure I’d have lost time if I’d had time to change out of my O shoes into my trainers. The O shoes were great for running down the muddy and slippy hills. (29 minutes isn’t great for 5 km, but there were a lot of climbs, and it’s better than the 33 minutes I managed at Clent.)

At Pelsall Common and at Warwick University, two similar occurrences…

Arriving at Pelsall Common by car, Catherine shouted “There’s David!” (David Williams) as we drove past a control situated by the road. A few minutes later we parked, got changed and made the long walk to the Start. On the way, who ran across our path but… David. He kindly stopped to shake Kobe’s hand – he’s one of Catherine’s friends, and we’d brought him along for his first go at orienteering.

Now, checking the map and splits I can see that David was on his way to controls 15 and 22 when we saw him, and it was 15 minutes between sightings. Hence 15 minutes equals one David (1 Dd).

At Warwick University on Wednesday night, I’d just run back onto the map* when Yvonne Feasey jumped out of her car to ask the way to Registration. According to my splits I’d been going for about 37 minutes at that point. After 62 minutes I saw her again, parked and paid and out on her course. So 25 minutes equals one Yvonne (1 Yn).

Now scientists are at work to find out why 5 Dd = 3 Yn.

 

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* This was an excellent map-memory event, with 13 legs on a part of campus that wasn’t on the map. I made an error on the first map-memory leg, but learnt from that and did well on the rest of that section. After that, the section around the north west part of the campus was a bit of a slog, but I suppose it did make you think about route choice. At the end there was a nasty trick: there were controls on either side of a high wall, and it was quite a long way round if you went to the wrong side first…

In an attempt to keep up the momentum, I went to the LEI event at Snibston and the HOC one at Hilltop. Considering I still feel tired from last week, my back still aches and it’s an effort to walk to the shops, I seem to manage quite well once I put the O shoes on. Similarly enthused by the Welsh experience, Catherine came with me both times and was rewarded by making new friends both times. At Snibston, she persuaded me to go to the post-race pubbage and I was rewarded with free pie. 🙂

I haven’t run at Hilltop for 15 years and I didn’t remember it at all. John Bennison’s been updating the map and put on a good event in the recently rediscovered summer sunshine. 🙂 As for the racing, Hilltop is probably the better area, though it’s fair to say thay Snibston has an interesting variety of terrain…

The latest of my biannual Queslett events is coming up on Sunday week, the 25th. Start times 4.30-5.30 pm. This one is designed mainly for kids and beginners but there’ll be a cobbled-together course for the old hands (about 4km). For a change we’ll be using the Asda car park and all the money (£3/£1.50) will be going to Children in Need.

Meanwhile (cue fanfare) Community O arrives in the West Midlands this week with the launch of the Wednesday night sessions in Sutton Coldfield. Dave Ellis and co will be running these at Clifton Road Youth Centre (between Wyndley Leisure Centre and Town Gate) between 6 and 7.30, and your first two visits are free.

Above is my and Dave’s little bit on the back cover of the September issue of Families Birmingham and Solihull, which I think I did well to arrange. 🙂 (Thanks, Wendy!) Thousands of copies of each issue are distributed free via schools, libraries, etc.

Alan Halliday was printing the leaflets for the Birmingham parks events so I went to collect them at OD’s Memorial Park event. Not an especially exciting venue if you’re a Droober, I’m sure, but it was my and Catherine’s first visit, and it was a lovely evening to boot. Stupidly I forgot to check the map scale and mucked up the first control… The other mistake I made was the map’s fault though. (Really!) Meanwhile, Amy Kirk very kindly escorted Catherine round the Yellow course.

Results

I went to the SEE in the Lickeys yesterday evening and I won the Green. 🙂 Although I’ve been tootling around some Orange courses with Catherine lately, this was my first proper run out since I injured my ankle, and it seems to have held up okay. 🙂

So, that’s the good news out of the way. A closer look at the results suggests that my performance was hardly impressive. Firstly, I’m younger than almost everyone who ran Green. Secondly, 58 minutes for 4.2 km is slow. Could it even be the slowest winning time this year on a Green course? Thirdly, I got lost twice, the second time so badly that I stood still in bafflement for over a minute. (It was quite a shock on the way to #15 to come out on a path and the compass said I was looking south-west…)

The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between these two assessments. John, the planner, had clearly done his job well and devised a tricky course in area that most of us should know pretty well. Apart from a couple of the guys on Blue, everyone found it tough. (Which goes to prove one of my old orienteering maxims: if you’re finding it hard, so’s everybody else, so don’t give up!) The results 3 years ago were pretty similar, though that night Colin Spears edged me out by 10 seconds. The youngsters will be here in November for the qualifying round of the Yvette Baker Cup and it’ll be interesting to see whether the Lickeys have the same disorienting effect on young brains!

Finally, I hope he doesn’t mind, but a word about David Hemmings. I caught David up at the second control, and I realise the same thing happened at Kingsford in ’08. That night I blasted round in 42 minutes (but didn’t win!) while he had a few problems. Last night was a different story – it was nip and tuck between us all the way round and in the end I was lucky to beat him. Good to see that some of us are improving!

More, and better, here.

Off to junction 12 of the M40 with Andy W and Barry M. Itchington Holt is a lovely little wood and it’s a lot drier underfoot today than it was the last time I was here. I set off first on the 4.7 km course but I made a mistake straight away and Andy caught me up at the 2nd control! I didn’t think I’d see him again, so I was surprised to catch him back up at #5, and again at #13. He’s definitely got the legs though, not me, so I could never keep ahead of him and his time for the course was about 47 minutes compared to my 49.

One problem we both had was the 2-dimensional control markers OD use for these events. Andy ran past #5, we both ran past #6, and I didn’t see #14 despite spiking the feature!

Results