We had to rush away from our hotel this morning – fortunately without a hangover but with less sleep than one might have liked. The occasion to drag us from our bed? The annual Furrow Hoppers relay organised by Wimborne and, this year, being held at Blandford Army Camp.
We arrived in good time to discuss the optimum running order. Teams are of five (Jon Forster, Peter Smith, Julian Lyne, Christine and myself) and have to run four courses three times between them. Sadly I didn’t have much choice in the matter – I was down for the two light green courses and the score with an orange making up the fourth course. A time handicap based on age meant that we were one of the last teams with some of the others having a seemingly unassailable headstart.
I didn’t get off to a particularly good start with the score choosing to loop round the controls anti-clockwise giving me a long run-in to the final control. The navigation was easy though with most of the control on isolated features clearly visible from a distance.
Given the heat (hovering around thirty degrees) I was glad of a few minutes break before Julian returned with one of the light green maps. The controls were sequentially numbered which saved having to continually unfold and refold the map – a blessing given the additional complication of an SI card attached to one corner which was also to prove my downfall.
Another short break before my third outing (although not quite long enough as I was just coming out of the toilets when Peter came in with the map). Peter was also due to go out again so it would be a race between us to see who would get back first. We both new where we were going as I’d been able to go through the score course with Peter early will waiting and Christine had just taken me through the second light green. Unfortunately her warning about the odd vegetation boundary at the third control didn’t save me wasting time there.
As I entered the finish field I could see Peter approaching the last control from the opposite direction. There was also lots of screaming from Christine and co so a sprint finish had me finishing seconds behind Peter. A Wimborne team had beaten us back but believed they had failed to punch the start at one point. It then transpired they had also mispunched. We had won!
Unfortunately, it just wasn’t meant to be. The distinct features on the score and the sequential numbering of codes had meant I had been sloppy and had also mispunched. The shame of it! I don’t remember when I last mispunched – at least five years ago and, to my memory, never in a team event. In my defence, the only two controls that the planner had chosen to put close to one another (within about 20 metres) were both fifth on their respective courses and hence numbered 545 and 555. The results show that more than half the teams also mispunched. Anyway, let’s hope it’s at least another five years before I mispunch again!