RouteGadget is up if you want to review the maps: Routegadget 2
Orienteering events seem to follow a similar pattern for me at the moment. The first few controls go wrong because I am not used to the terrain, then I over-compensate and choose conservative routes, then things start coming together as I start reading the terrain until, towards the end, my exhausted brain makes a major error. I am hoping this is because most venues are still new to me and not, as I fear, that this is just what happens!
The November Classic on Sunday was no exception. On the 2km hike to the start, it was clear that this was going to be a navigation challenge, with wide expanses of open heather-clad heathland. The only similar orienteering I have done was on a part of Dartmoor I know really well so it was with some trepidation that I set off from the start.
Looking back at my route (you can see it in all its glory on Routegadget 2), I was actually on the right bearing to control 1 before letting the vegetation pull me away but I can still feel the rising sense of panic I felt when I stopped running to compare the seemingly featureless open nothingness with the equally all yellow featureless map before spotting the top of the control on a bush not too far away…
Control 2 was worse - I was never really on the line and I missed the (now obvious) contour feature on the map above the control site. I realised my error and corrected, but I lost a few minutes.
Now came the conservative route choice stage - trying to find line features to follow and other features to use for navigation. But, I did start noticing the terrain more and, whilst my fine navigation near the control sites took longer to click, I had a bit more confidence on the longer legs. I was even 2nd fastest to control 8, albeit with a tow.
Control 9 was one of several controls where I was a lot more cautious on approach. The planners had been given a lot of additional out of bounds areas before the event, and I was keen to avoid personally putting the future of orienteering at stake by over-shooting and straying into one of these areas.
Control 19 to 20. Urgh. Weary of all the tussocks and heather, my weary brain gave up on this leg. I had no plan, and lazy compass work and map reading put me very offline and ultimately put me on a path I thought was somewhere else, taking me further off course. I then started navigating to 21 before thankfully realising my mistake and adjusting. Apparently, I only lost a few minutes - but I was pretty grumpy for the next few controls.
Despite having been running for 2 hours covering 15.5km across difficult terrain, I still managed to find something left for a sprint finish!
The course was a lot of fun and, whilst there are a lot of things I can look to improve on, I am happy with the result.
Next up … Dartmoor…