I recently took part in an O event in Seattle, it was sandwiched between the Scottish Sprint Champs and the first Scottish O League of 2011, which were about 16 hours apart (maps in my archive, probably won’t write a post about them now). ”That’s a pretty quick trip to Seattle and back”, I hear you cry! That was the catch, I didn’t actually go there. There was an American guy at the event in Lincoln Park in Seattle, called Alex, who was the legs of the team. I was sitting at home in Scotland with a map and I was the navigator of the team. He ran around the course with his mobile phone while I talked to him via Skype. I have loved the idea behind this race since I saw an advert for the first iteration of this event a couple of years ago but I was busy when that event and the one last year were on. This was finally my chance to give it a shot and after checking that it didn’t clash with the Scottish Sprints I signed up, paid my $12.50 (which goes to their school league, good idea!) and awaited further information.
On the Thursday before the event was to take place I received two emails; one to myself and Alex introducing us and the other to all the ‘Global Navigators’ with links to the maps. After emailing Alex to say Hi and agree to a call before the event I spent some time scouting out the maps (there were two courses we were to run – loop A and loop B) and also checking the area out on Google Earth. I identified a few questions for Alex (how runnable are the different bits was the main one, I guessed correctly that he would have run there before and if not would be able to see different bits from the start) and was getting quite excited about the event even though some of the controls looked quite hard to find!
I didn’t manage to call Alex before the event, the time difference (Seattle is 8 hours behind the UK) made it quite difficult with all the things I had on. I got home from the Scottish Sprints at about 4pm, tried a quick call then but didn’t get any response so I went away to do some other things. I got back to the computer about 20mins before our start time to find an email from the organiser saying that Alex had got my message and was ready to run. I waited till about 10mins to go then called, we had a brief ‘hi I’m Andrew’, ‘hi I’m Alex’ kind of conversation then he started telling me what the terrain was like, the forest bits weren’t all that runnable but the ‘Scattered Trees’ bits were fine. If in doubt keep to the path… Which was my intention anyway, so good to see we were on the same page. I was getting a bit nervous though, what if we got horribly lost? What if we couldn’t work out how to relocate? What if I run out of credit on my skype account? (I only had £2 on it beforehand so added £20 just in case, only used £0.74 in the end!!) What if this, what if that.. But then it was nearly time to start, so I settled in to my chair, ready to run:
Me waiting for the off at MoboGoGlobo 2011
With a couple of mins to go Alex went away to take his warm kit off and when he came back on the phone… we were off! We set off in an Easterly direction heading for the paved area, a little confusion after passing the paved area and a bit of confidence lost, but then Alex said ‘oh, I see it’ and headed to punch. We then headed North and made our first mistake, I’m not really sure what went wrong but probably Alex running faster than I thought he was going and finding himself way past the control. I think the problem was we weren’t working out what he was actually seeing, more what I thought he should be seeing. We definitely got better at this as the run wore on.
We got into a good rhythm after this small blip even finding the tricky number 12 first time. After leaving 12 it was a pretty simple run back to the start/finish area to begin the 2nd loop. Confidence was pretty high at this point, we had been going well. Loop B started well, no major mistakes through the first bit of green then a bit of a road run followed by another loop at the South end of the map. Then our problem started Number 10 on Course B (26 overall) I had identified from the start as a problem control, no perfect route and all requiring taking the correct paths to end up in the middle of a section of green. My chosen route was safe, a bit longer and hillier but safe. That is, assuming we were both on the same path! I wanted Alex to head directly West out of 9 (on this course), find the bigger path going West, go through the path that looks like a ride on the map (with the orange either side of it) and loop round to the North on that path, cross another major path, take the first right and bang, there’s the control. Right? Wrong! There’s a fork in the path just West of 9, where the main path goes to the South a bit and the ‘right fork’ goes off to the West. I said ‘take the right fork’, what I didn’t know was that the path to the North, on the ground, joined up with the other paths. So Alex headed North. I didn’t tell him the direction, just said ‘it should curve to the right at some point’. If I’d said ‘you should be heading West at the moment’ or something we might have realised, but we didn’t check After a few minute of trying to attack the control in the wrong bit of forest Alex realised the map just wasn’t fitting so he did the right thing, headed back to where he knew I’d know where we were. This was the junction of the path and stream just West of 9. Oops, lots of time lost! Oh well, onwards. 2nd time round we did it perfectly, went straight to the control. Around 4mins lost. Nothing we can do about it so we might as well get to the finish asap! We made one further minor mistake, on 14 (on the 2nd course), where we went too far and had to come back from the main path, another 30secs lost.
I think we were both pleased to finish, only a few minor mistakes and one major one which constituted a pretty good run! We had a chat about what we’d done for our big mistake and were generally but other than that lots of congratulations and ‘well done’ were exchanged. I’d seen earlier that Robert Buraczynski (navigating) and Eric Bone (running) had done around 35mins and I knew we were a bit slower than that, but it turns out we were 2nd! Results are on the Cascade O.C. site. Here’s a picture of Alex, Eric and Chris Whitmyre (3rd with Oyvind Naess navigating) on the ‘podium’:
Alex, Eric and Chris
Looking at Winsplits after the event was interesting, after a few mistakes early on by the winners we were actually leading at halfway, about a minute and a half ahead! It says we were 2nd but there seems to have been a problem with another team (they cleared at halfway? not sure) who come up as first for most of it.
Hopefully Alex can remember where we went enough to update RouteGadget, but I definitely don’t know where we were on occasion so I won’t update it!
I really really loved this event, I was both nervous and excited before the race, and adrenaline took over during - exactly what a race should be! My girlfriend Tara (and her flatmate Anik) was very intrigued by what I was doing and Tara was leaning in while I was talking trying to hear what Alex was saying, if I’d known she’d take such an interest beforehand I’d have set up the cabling to get it on speaker.
I’m very keen to organise something similar in Edinburgh, I think there are so many orienteers in the area that it could prove to be a great fun day and include lots of orienteers from over the world. Perhaps once I have freed myself of some of current orienteering volunteer activities!! It was a bit disappointing to see I was the only foreign based navigator, perhaps Attackpoint (where the event was advertised) isn’t quite that big a deal outside of the US (although its popularity is growing in the UK). I don’t really know why any enthusiastic orienteer wouldn’t want to do this, it’s awesome technical training as you have to communicate very well where you are, just like you have to interpret terrain as you go and work out where you are, I had to ask Alex what he was able to see so I could work it out. It adds an extra layer of complexity that should really help your own navigation, primarily through leg simplification, if I hadn’t simplified the legs I would have ended up having to ask Alex a LOT more about what he could see, and we would have been slower and possibly left more room for error…
This was an awesome event and I love formats like this! I hope I’m able to do it again next year.