Snow, mud and brambles

Last weekend we were over in the Forest of Dean for the Southern Championships weekend. The Saturday was a middle distance race on Mallards Pike. Somehow, I’d managed to remember our start block as being from 3:30, not 13:30 and it was only when we were sat having lunch at about half 12 that Christine’s Mum spotted my mistake (her Dad was meant to have already started). Although we weren’t actually all that late once we got there it had been a bit of a rush and I wasn’t really thinking straight when I started off on the Black course in to an area full of ditches. Thankfully (and this was actually part of my plan), I ended up at control three and just had to back-track the short distance to the first control.

When I reached three for the second time I then had a little tow behind Anthony Squire. I couldn’t keep up for long though and by number nine he had disappeared off in to the distance leaving me to trudge up the hill to ten on my own. I made a bit of a dubious route choice 14 to 15 but needed a bit of a break from the forest which the track run provided. I stumbled again at 17, following one of the myriad of unmapped ditches off to the east. Overall I enjoyed myself though and didn’t do too badly in the results. You can see my route on RouteGadget. Perhaps what made the day was the glorious sunshine. Despite the snow on the ground, it really did feel quite warm standing in the clearing by download with just a short-sleeved top on.

It was, however, hard work persuading Christine to go to the event the following day at Lydney Park and in many ways I wish I hadn’t. Due to snow on the parking field they were bussing competitors from an industrial estate in Lydney and that was always going to be a bit of a nightmare with split starts. Christine was off first and, as there was little to do around the car park, I decided to take Emma and Duncan on the bus. It was a bit of a trek from the bus stop to the finish area and Emma didn’t seem too interested in doing the string course by the time we got there. She sat down in the snow eating her snack and complained about having a cold bottom and the bright sunshine reflecting off the snow in to her eyes. When Christine came back she wasn’t exactly filled with glowing praise for the area: steep, muddy and brambly. I was glad to hand Duncan over at this point having been carrying him around for about two hours.

When the time finally came for my run I felt very sluggish climbing up the hill to the first control.  I then managed to overshoot the fourth control due to being too far up the slope (although the control I hit on the knoll beyond must have been further up the hill than shown on the map). By the seventh control I had been out half an hour which might not have been so bad if there weren’t 34 controls on my course. I had already started to think about where I might cut short and concluded that if I hadn’t done half the course in an hour then I’d miss out the last 10 controls. Unfortunately I reached the mid-point at around 61 minutes and decided I should plough on.

I made a bad route choice to 25 and found myself sliding down a steep muddy bank on my bum when I should have crossed to the other side of the valley much earlier. Then on the way to 28 I found myself wading through a mixture of young conifers and brambles in the open area. I was pretty gone by this point having had nothing to eat but a homous sandwich since breakfast about six hours earlier. The next two legs were a complete disaster as shown on RouteGadget. On the way to 29 I was far too far east and found myself staggering through the dark green and had to relocate off the open. Then 30 was just a nightmare. I must have run with three metres of the control (a supposedly large boulder) on my first pass. I then took me around another 20 minutes to find the control which was in a pit in front of the boulder. NGOC are renowned for hiding controls and they had surpassed themselves on this one.

I eventually finished in 2:13, absolutely exhausted and not best pleased at having to wait ages for the return bus. Then I discovered at download that I have a version 5 SportIdent card and I should have picked up a loan card at registration as mine wouldn’t register times for any more than 30 controls. (I’ve ordered a new one now!) At least the results were better for Christine’s family. She won W21S and her brother won my course (which I shall never live down!) We eventually got home about 6:30pm with Duncan having grumbled half the way. Not the best day of orienteering I’ve had.

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