What the heck is orienteering you ask? Orienteering is the skill of navigating through an unfamiliar area using a detailed map and perhaps a magnetic compass. It can be either an enjoyable recreational activity for all ages or a competitive sport involving endurance and ingenuity. I have participated in dozens of adventure races that had some orienteering involved, but I usually relied on teammates to do the navigating. Those maps with wavy lines are alien to me. That is probably the reason it took me so long to do an event myself.
So after reading the Beginners Guide to Orienteering and and visiting a few links online I thought I was ready for the challenge. I arrived at the Watkins Mills park just as registration opened. The beginners clinic was not until 10:30am so I had a 1/2 to get ready. Just as I was heading back to the truck a nice older man said he could go ahead go over everything including now if I wanted to. Cool, private lessons. Well, 30 min later I still did not know how to read the map and I was more confused that ever. For what ever reason I just never did get how to use an orienteering compass or map.
My basic understanding was I needed to find the controls (see picture on the left) and punch my score card. Seemed easy enough until you get out in the middle of the woods and everything looks the same...
My start time was 11:15am. The White course was 3K long and included open woods, fire roads, stumps, ditches, steep climbs, mud, fallen trees, fences, water and more mud. I got to the first two controls fairly easy. The map said to follow this old trail straight up the hill to control 3. Lesson #1: one persons easy trail is another persons muddy washed out drainage ditch. About 300 yards up this old drainage ditch littered with fallen trees and leaves I was totally lost. Everything looked the same and I then realized that this was going to be harder that it looked. I quickly tried to use my compass, but was getting really frustrated and wishing Good Ben was here to guide me through this first event. For a few minutes I felt like I was back in North Carolina with my brother Joey. About 10 years ago we spend 5 days in the North Carolina mountains. On one day while out riding, we got really lost and disorientated. We had these visions of the rescuers finding us after a month of being lost....
I eventually found control 3, 4 and 5. After that things started to come a little easier. I started to relax and tried not over over analyze the map. Once on top of the hill I used the ridge to help guide me through the rest of the course. The last mile was all an all out spring has I found all the controls with ease. I just used things like the lake as a reference point and was home free.
I had a really good time at this first event. I will put a few more meets on the calendar this fall for sure and work my way up to the Red courses. We will see how my 19:13 time stands up on the white (sissy) course When I left I was in 1st place :-)
Update: A total of 70 participants were on hand. Official podium results from Saturday....I might have to "Cat UP" to the Yellow course :-)
White - 11 control, 3 Km
1. Chris Locke 19:13
2. John Barrett 32:09
3. Lil' Retts 51:38