Saturday, April 30, 2011

Orienteering at Lake Elmo Park Reserve

Great day for the meet at Lake Elmo: steady driving rain and fortunately not too cold. It seemed like getting into a cold pool or lake before a swim workout: the initial moments were chill but when the blood started pumping through my veins it felt not bad at all.

Tom and I left at around the same time, Tom doing orange and I did the red. As usual, I needed to warm up my brain rather than my body: I overshot CP1 in spite of some clear vegetation boundaries that should have been easy to pick up and follow. I muddled around, backtracked and need 8+ minutes for a distance that should have taken me no more than 2-3'. The split analysis confirms it: finishing 15th overall, my split for the first control was second to last. Reminder to self: WALK to the first couple of CPs (or to more technical CPs) after getting to the attack point. I hit the attack point right on and did not take the time to move to fine orienteering. I am making this mistake all the time, especially early on a course.

I think I made the wrong choice at CP3, going  the long way around the pond. But I am not sure, since I would have had to go through a rough area the shorter way.

CP4 to CP9 were easy. There are not many places with this type of open land. I appreciated the fact that the flags were not visible from afar, but picking a beacon in the distance for a bearing was never difficult and the grass had not yet grown to be a hindrance.

CP9 required a weighty decision: "dry" (by now there wasn't a dry spot left on my body) detour around the north end of Eagle Point Lake or wading through a "Crossable: deepest point 2.5 ft" strait, promising a slightly more direct route. I think I made the correct decision by picking the northern route, which seemed just barely longer. Gregg, a much stronger runner and orienteerer (he passed me at CP12) than me asked me after the race if I had swum.  I didn't get it right away, I thought he was making a joke on the weather but he meant the strait, which he had crossed wading with water up to his waist. His split for the leg was 7:23 (12th) to my 8:35 (14th). Not sure how much of this can be attributed to his overall higher speed or the wet shortcut.

On the leg between CP9 and and CP10 I ran into Tom, who had overshot one of his CPs. It does not happen very often to meet a friend who is doing a different course, though I had met my colleague Bryan  at Lake Elmo a couple years back. Maybe due to the open terrain?

CP11 was less than good, I should have done a better job taking a bearing instead of using the wetland to my NE as a handrail. I was too far E from the pond and consequently had to make a short correction W to get to the CP. CP12 was OK, but I second-guessed myself on the footpath I took from the roundabout parking area, losing a minute or two. My problem was again the transition from rough to fine orienteering. The short loop sequence of CP12 to CP16 was straightforward, helped by the contours an open terrain. I could have probably done better from CP17 to the finish, remaining on the trail instead of bushwhacking it.

In the end, I finished 15th out of 39 starters, see results here.

Some gear notes:
  • I continue to be impressed with the responsiveness of my Sportident SI-9 e-punch stick. Much faster then the loaners from the club. Ian programmed it after today's meet. 
  • On this wet day my Inov-8 Mudclaw 330 gave me a blister on the left heel, after a few races without any trouble, including the snowy Arctic Commando Trail Run last fall and the Tamarack Nature Center O-meet this spring. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Orienteering at Tamarack Nature Center, White Bear Township, MN

My first orienteering event this year. I am feeling a little rusty, but then, making a lot of avoidable mistakes, last season was definitely not very productive for me. Tamarack Nature Center is a small park in White Bear Township (~169 ha or 417 acres) sporting a few ponds, some wetlands and open and wooded hilly terrain. It should be quite difficult to not go straight for the controls in such an environment. Well let’s see. My first error was on CP3, a combination of underestimating the distance and not reading the contours. I started looking for the CP too early and lost about 3 minutes. Approaching CP10, I veered off too far to the east and ended up on a trail that led almost knee-deep through ice water. I am putting this down for another 3 minutes. My worst mistake was getting to CP12. I ran along the path following the edge of the park. Easy running and definitely an area where I should have made up some time. When approaching the control, instead of relying on the clearly defined small pond near the CP, I took off too early and started looking for the CP BEFORE the pond. That cost me probably 6 minutes. In the Results, not making these three mistakes would have brought me down to about 1 hour and up from 13th (out of 26) to 7th place.

  • I must work on counting steps
  • Take time to read map in confusing areas, especially when relying on trails
  • Trust the map when obvious features are in play

Other than that it was a beautiful afternoon out, with the signs of early spring all around: spring peepers, receding snow pack, even some open water and lots of mucky places. I was certainly glad for the delay in the arrival of bad weather.