We’re just back from a great weekend of orienteering at the JK helped along by some fantastic weather. The weekend’s entertainment began with a sprint race around the University of West of England campus on the outskirts of Bristol. Route choice wasn’t particularly tricky with just a scattering of cut-throughs and very few dead-ends. I made only one real mistake, overshooting by one hedgerow on the way to number eight. The pace was fast and furious though and my time of 15:31 for the 2.9km course was decidedly average, particularly when the elites went out later in the day. Ã˜ystein Kvaal Ã˜sterbÃ¸ was the eventual winner in just 12:11, a time I’d be hard pressed to match on the track.
Our accommodation for the weekend was with JOK at Whitemead Forest Park in the heart of the Forest of Dean. This meant we didn’t have far to travel for either of the next two day’s events where I was running M21L. On Saturday I had a long walk to the start on the New Beechenhurst map. I started well enough and by the ninth control was lying in second place. Unfortunately I then proceeded to make my biggest blunder in a long while. It took me over 10 minutes for the 200 metres or so to the next control. The leg was across the top of an old slag heap and the way I read the contours the control should have been just over the edge. With no-one else around to push me I just refused to carry on down the other side to where I eventually found the flag. Having dropped down to 29th place it was all I could do to work my way back up to 11th place come the finish line. That day’s winner, by over six minutes, was Mark Wilkins of Saxons, a name I haven’t come across before.
Sunday’s course ended in New Beechenhurst but we were bussed up to the start on the Pludds map. Here the steep re-entrants provided for some interesting up-down versus round route-choices. Having crossed the road, I came unstuck again on a slag heap wasting time on 12, 13 and 14. I then proceeded to mess up the next control as well, heading off along the wrong ditch. Things improved after that but the distance and heat was taking its toll. Phil Winskill had recovered from his previous day’s run and finished in 86:32, nearly 12 minutes faster than my time. This put me in 8th place and 9th place in the combined results for the two days, a long way off the 2nd that I achieved last time the JK was in the Forest of Dean. We stayed around to spectate and see Jenny and Oli Johnson take the elite trophies.
We were up early this morning as SOC were helping at the relays. These were held on Caerwent, a military training area over the border in Wales. The map was a mass of roads, buildings, bunkers and even disused railway lines. I was running first leg for the club’s JK trophy team. My legs felt sluggish and I set off near the back of the pack. I managed to hold on until control seven where, despite seeing the gaffle open up ahead of me, I proceeded to take the wrong fork. By the time I had recovered my mistake the pack was disappearing in to the distance. This meant that by the time we hit the green slopes I had lost any sort of momentum. I then followed this up with a bad route choice to number 11. Things improved a bit after that as I started to get my head round the map although this didn’t stop me having to scale a 6 foot fence!
When I handed over to Andy Nash we were languishing down in 20th place and over 7 minutes down. Andy had a great run, pulling us back in to 15th. Hedley ran third leg but after two days of M21 the pace was too much and we dropped back to 19th. Youngster Matthew Whipple was on last leg but sadly on download realised he had run straight past one control without punching and the team was disqualified.
We were by no means alone although many of the other teams were blaming Emit for their missing punches. Although I’m sure much of this is due to lack of familiarity, the system didn’t do much to endear itself to your average SportIdent user. On several occasions at the relay I had to go back to controls when I realised from the display my punch hadn’t registered. The touch free system at the sprint race was generally appreciated although the failure to explain its use to many competitors led to much confusion. Technology let an otherwise immaculately organised and planned event down elsewhere. The results system crashed periodically leading to long queues. The waterproof maps stuck together and, when separated, drifted in to the wrong boxes causing competitors to run the wrong course and there were several reports of maps without contours on. I’ll forgive a lot though when the sun is shining!