Partial recce of Wadsworth Trog fell race

My fell running club has this as a Club Champs race so I thought I’d better go and have a look. I chose a fine wintry day. Fantastic views.

A quick internet search turns up loads of information and race reports, but I was more interested in the cut-offs.

I hit Checkpoint 5 pretty much on the cut-off time of 1:45 but I wasn’t unduly alarmed. The fine views and a steady pace, with a few photo stops, and then, just before the checkpoint, a flock of smiling sheep blocking my path.

The anti-clockwise loop back to Checkpoint 10 took way longer than I expected. In many ways conditions were optimal; crisp bog-free running, but the flip side was ice. Some sections of track were transformed into frozen rivers, and getting from one side to the other was undignified.

I was way over time at Checkpoint 10. A lot of that was due to sightseeing, photos, and icy tracks. But it was firm fast running and it’d be too close for comfort on the day. So I’ll enjoy the recce, but leave the race for the fast guys.

Low Burnhall Maprun Score event fly-by

On Thursday it was sunny but still with fresh snow on the ground. It seemed like a good day to have a play with the action camera on the Low Burnhall Maprun Score event. It was lovely. The snow is gone now but this is how it looked (compressed into about 25 minutes). Details are available (for the time being) in the Northern Navigators website.

Why did the slow worm cross the road?

If you went down to the woods on Friday and tried to drive along the Hamsterley Forest drive, you may have encountered four grown men in a protective huddle around a corner of the asphalt. You may have driven carefully around them (they were not for moving) and wondered why they were standing as they were and where they were.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a slow worm before. And they’re not a worm, they’re a lizard. And they’re kinda gorgeous. So I’m quite pleased that we were there to give it the rolling roadblock it justifiably deserved to get from one side of the road to the other.

Once we’d seen it safely on its way, we continued safely on ours. Out into the forest and up on to the common. Where the sun shown and the flies buzzed. All is well.

an orienteering competition. a real one.

Back to orienteering. CLOK went for it. And it was a hoot. My first real race using maprun went ok. It seemed to start from the car, going to the lavvie, then the registration bit, then off.

‘lap’ 1 seems to be just before me and Roberta stopped for a chat (clock ticking) about what happened next. Then offski.

A few minutes later, on my way from control 3 to the underpass, to get to control 4. I drifted up the bank to get a slightly more direct line. Marginal Gains! And flew close to the sun. Or the finish.

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My Garmin buzzed. Finished! I don’t think so.

Ok, let’s try that again.

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Military League North Orienteering Event, Munster Barracks, Catterick

Wed 6th Nov 2019

If you can get the day of work, or not work at all, the Military League army orienteering events are great for the runner. I usually do not too badly in them, and over the years I’ve seen myself creep up the placings. The navigation is usually not too difficult and nowadays, more often than not, I’m pretty happy with my result.

Wednesday’s event at Catterick, was not one of those days.

Designated Driver

These are army events, and are put on for the army as training events. Most of them are open to civilians, in possession of a passport and a free day. So well suited to the freelancer, the homeworker, the worker on flexitime, and the retired. It’s a wondrous mix.

I was feeling pretty confident as I checked the blank map at the Start. There’s been a couple of occasions recently in orienteering events where I’ve accidentally strayed into Out of Bounds areas so I tend to check the map legend more closely nowadays. And this map had a clear section for Out of Bounds areas. In urban areas this is worth paying attention to. You don’t want to accidentally run through someone’s garden, or across a sensitive bit of parkland, or munitions, or whatever. And I noted, with interest, that Water was Out of Bounds. Well that might make things interesting.

Exhibit A

Do not Cross

The first few controls were in the barracks, then we were ejected out of the gate that had taken so much security to get into, and into the surrounding area. The navigation got a bit fiendish now, especially as the water had been marked as out of bounds. Which, to be frank, I thought was pretty pathetic. I’ve seen beefier becks at Hamsterley and that is (rarely) marked as out of bounds. Who’s going to take a long detour round to the nearest footbridge when a brief paddle will do the job much more quickly.

Still, rules is rules. And from a runner’s point of view, there was a certain switch-of-brain-now satisfaction in a long tempo run along, across, and round, then back along again, but even so, it was a long way round. I mean, look at 17 to 18, and 24 to 25, and so help me God, 22 to 23. I mean, look at it again. 22 to 23, and you’re not allowed to to paddle across! My split was almost 11 minutes, when it should’ve been almost 2. I did look hard at the pipeline crossings; they were not marked out of bounds, but I suspected (rightly) than large amounts of barbed wire might be involved, and they might not be a worthwhile route of investigation.

22 to 23, the long way round

So I ran and ran, and got round. My route was functional, and I got some decent tempo running in. But, really.

So you might be ahead of me here, and can guess the next bit. I got to download, asked who the planner was, and Phill Batts brightly announced that it was he. I complemented him on the fiendishness of the course, the decision to mark water out of bounds, and dryly (I thought, but let’s be frank, probably closer to waspishly) observed that a lot of runners had taken a non-legal direct line.

Phill looked puzzled, and mildly pointed out that the blue out of bounds area, on the out of bounds bit of the map, was a dark blue, with a border, and the beck, on the map, was light blue, and without a border. So the beck was very much not out of bounds.

Bugger. Given that I’d taken the non-scenic route I was happy not to be last, but annoyed at myself for making such a daft mistake. But as I always tell myself, I’m not going to get on the podium, so however the day unfolds, an orienteering event is always a great bit of training.

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October Odyssey

Sun 27 Oct 2019 – Dukeshouse Woods, Hexham

“That wasn’t me by the way”
“Just checking. I mean, you do have form.”

Roberta had been chortling along to Ian’s report of the October Odyssey on Sunday. I didn’t know that people still chortled, or even guffawed, but Ian’s report certainly seemed to strike a chord. Roberta once crashed out of some path-side undergrowth at an orienteering event, checked the control id, found out out it wasn’t hers, and with an emphatic FFS, stomped down the path in disgust, pausing only to say Good Morning to a couple of startled dog walkers who were not quite expecting to see what they had just seen.

I’ve had the benefit of reading Ian’s report before deciding to write a few words of my own. I do a lot of orienteering, and as I like to point out, it’s great interval training. Classic Fartlek. And the worse you are, the better the training. I had, for me, a fairly decent run on Sunday. I wasn’t last, and there were a few gaps between last, and me, that I was happy to see. Not a vast number of gaps and I’d always be happy to see them vaster, but it was an ok day.

When I dibbed Control 1, which I thought was indecently tricky for the first control, I thought that I wouldn’t want to have a wobble so early on. Struggling on Control 1 is not a great start and a bad start can set the mood for the day. I still have nightmares about Sand Dunes, so many Sand Dunes. 16 minutes to cover the 100m from the Start to Control 1 in Druridge Bay in 2013 still haunts me.

It was a challenging course and I was happy to get to the end. The navigation and terrain were difficult. I was fairly happy with my route, although I did make some major wobbles here and there. With three controls to go and looking for a straightforward control in a ditch junction, I chanced upon the ditch by standing on a piece of grass that turned out to be a generous expanse of empty space. Winded and bloodied, I followed it to the control. The bleeding was quite impressive and the finish marshall did voice some concern, but brambles do that. It was the three foot drop and loss of breath and dignity that were much more unsettling.

If you ever decide to give orienteering a bash, and you really should, then, as a runner, here’s the only thing you need to know. All colour coded courses from Green and above, are the same difficulty. Both in navigation and terrain. They’re all the same. Green is shorter, then there’s blue, then there’s brown and sometimes black. They only differ in distance. But in terms of navigational difficulty, they’re all the same.

NATO are one of the orienteering clubs that use Routegadget for post-run analysis. This can be interesting to see how your run has compared to others. It’s a great learning tool and lets you look at the maps and routes for all the courses.

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