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…or perseverance pays off (sometimes).

Twice this week I’ve been out orienteering for about two hours in non-standard races, and twice I’ve beaten the odds and come second. 🙂

On Thursday it was the BIMM: the Bewdley International Mountain Marathon. In fact it was the Return of the BIMM, since the format had been retired by its originator, the inimitable Russ Fauset. Although my knees don’t like street running that much, this kind of event favours me: I like puzzles. The race was in two parts: first, 2.5 km navigating around the centre of Bewdley using a bad copy of a Victorian ordnance survey map. Second, a route of indeterminate length on a roughly drawn street map. Unlike normal orienteering, where you see the entire route at the start, in Russ-O you have to get to each checkpoint before you find out where the next one is.

Does the event have the right to call itself an International Mountain Marathon? I should coco: we had a competitor from Sweden (or from Wordsley, if you want to make it sound more exotic); we had mountains, as this route profile shows…

bewdley

(Note the genius of the Tour-de-France-style planning – the first 8k was a relatively flat warm-up for the hors-category climbs in the final third of the race.) and although 8.5 miles isn’t literally a marathon, it is a freaking long way on a freezing Thursday night.

This must be the first orienteering event when I’ve been out for an hour and three quarters and still come second!

And then yesterday I eclipsed that by coming second after a two-hour run. Radio orienteering is an acquired taste and I’m a complete ham, but, as at Bewdley, I proved that persistence in difficult conditions can bear fruit. Cademan Woods is a tricky area (as competitors in the British Night Championsips there can testify) with its rocky outcrops, maze of paths and acres of brambles but at least it’s an area I’m familiar with. And it was a cold morning flecked with snow.

I set off west, convinced that transmitter 2 was over there (you can do them in any order), but 45 minutes later I eventually found it virtually in the centre of the map, having slowly drifted northwards across the road. (I’d actually gone virtually straight past number 1 without realising it.) A crap start which included slipping and falling on my back while clambering down some rocks. But finding the first control gave me confidence that I knew what I was doing (!) and I proceeded to find the other 4 transmitters and by some miracle get back within the 2-hour time limit – just. Checking the results, I was shocked to see that I was one of only two people who managed this feat!

cademan-route

Back to lovely Highgate Common for the club championships. Since Barry H has adopted it as his area it almost seems like visiting him in his (large and overgrown) back garden. 🙂 Perfect running weather, and considering that I’d forgotten my bramble bashers, the area seemed mercifully free of the stuff that tears my legs in most Midlands woods.

And I had a near-perfect run, something which is as elusive in 2016 as it was in 1996, despite 20 years of practice! I got 24 controls in the hour (well, 60:00:30), which I’m sure must be the most I’ve ever managed at a club champs.

I hardly used my watch at all, just three times I think, which I think is a good strategy. On the way to #53 I checked and saw I had about 12 minutes left, and knew more or less that if I had a clean run home I could get six more, and I nearly did. (I also notice that I did 12 from the front and 12 from the back, and turned the map over almost exactly on 30 minutes, but that’s a fluke.)

Afterwards there was the club Christmas social, and considering the club has been doing some soul-searching of late because of the slide in membership, it was as ever one of the most joyous occasions of the year.

I hadn’t had much sleep so it probably wasn’t too surprising that when I opened the bag I saw it was Catherine’s shoes… Still, luckily I did have some trainers with me. Not ideal though when it’s muddy and a bit icy too.

But the shoe thing wasn’t my biggest mistake of the day. As I ran up the road towards the first control I realised I wasn’t carrying a compass. Now, that doesn’t make things impossible – I’ve tried it a couple of times before, at park and urban events, where it probably made me concentrate a bit more, and I probably saved some time by not looking at it – but on Highgate Common?? in the dark???

Sure enough, the first control, a 400-metre leg, took me 10 minutes. Thinking about it now, I must’ve run past it after about 5 minutes, but I wasn’t at all sure where I was (!), and I’m pleased that I somehow managed to slowly work out the pattern of slopes, paths and trees IN THE DARK and gradually home in on my prey. (If you look at the map, you can see that the contours show that the slope upwards is generally towards the northwest, so this info can be used to substitute for the lack of compass.)

After that, I didn’t really have much trouble. I went 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-14-15-16-18 for 12 controls in the hour allowed. To be honest, if I hadn’t been wearing my new headtorch I wouldn’t have risked this madcap compassless adventure. I got it off eBay for a tenner, and though it’s probably not as bright as the EIGHTEEN HUNDRED LUMENS advertised, it is pretty damn bright, and made me feel a lot more confident out there than I sometimes have been with my old headlamps.

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.

bumb route

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!

Image8858Image8862

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.)

LEASOWES

Pictures etc. to follow 🙂

Sprint races are fun, but are they fair? This is the perennial question. (Of course you can ask whether forest races are fair either, but that’s another topic…) In any sprint event (and I include urban events here)  there will be many route-choice legs, and part of the challenge is to assess, asap, which way to go. Often it comes down to a straight choice: left or right? Sometimes you should be able to notice that the difference is negligible, sometimes you’re best to “go with the flow”, and sometimes you have to work out that a combination of uncrossable features or greater climb will make one route a better choice.

On course 2 at Ludlow on Sunday, it was a mistake to go over rather than round to control 15, and it saved time to notice that control 12 was at the top of the ramp. On legs 4 and 5 the difference between routes appears to have been negligible, so it would’ve been a mistake to take too long to decide.

These things appear reasonably clear given time to reflect (although there’s still the problem of traffic), so they’re a reasonable challenge of the orienteer’s ability to think on their feet. But sometimes I feel it’s impossible to make a rational decision unless you knew the area beforehand. Usually this applies to areas where there’s a mixture of terrain. A street is, by and large, a street, but when the map shows a field or open forest, how fast will it actually be? A good example is the third leg from today’s NORT women’s race in Oslo. The southern route is much more direct but there is a longer forest section and a much more concentrated ascent. Tessa Hill (TH) left control 2 just before Ida Bobach (IB), but 2’20” later, as Ida is punching at #3, Tess is still over 20 seconds away fom the control. Is it possible for the runner to look at their map and discern this?

nort1 thill

Lots of local orienteering competitions coming up soon:
Walsall Arboretum Sun 12 May
New Hall, Sutton Sun 19 May
Sandwell Valley Wed 22 May (afternoon)
Hillfields, Solihull (evening)
Sutton Park Wed 29 May
Pooley Fields, Polesworth Wed 5 June
Elmdon, Solihull Wed 12 June
Leasowes, Halesowen Sat 15 June
Clent Hills Thu 20 June
Fibbersley, Willenhall Thu 27 June
Perry Park, Birmingham Wed 3 July
Come along and have a run/walk! Adrian 07505 381666
http://www.harlequins.org.uk/fixtures.html

http://www.coboc.org.uk/futureevents2011.htm

http://www.octavian-droobers.org/index.php/events/

 

I got to last Sunday’s West Midlands League event before 10 but didn’t get to run till 12.20. Just saying; I don’t mind. Orienteering wouldn’t be as good as it is without a hefty dose of volunteering. But I was beginning to suffer slightly after 90 minutes standing by the B4096 and I was glad to get my coat, jumper and outer trousers off and get running. Cool rain is great conditions for running (as long as you can still see through your glasses!) and my body didn’t take too long to unseize itself.

I know the area pretty well so I avoided the kind of bad misses I suffered the weekend before and came a respectable 4th on Green out of 45. My time was a dead heat with John Pearson and, continuing last week’s run-in theme, it was my run-in that saved me. I was a bit sluggish through the last few controls, allowing John to overtake me, but I beat him by 8 seconds on the run-in and got back level. 🙂

And, yes, it was VERY muddy!

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