Saturday, March 14, 2009

Possum Trot

After about 15 years of "yea I would like to try one of those one day" I finally participated in an orienteering meet. I tried to get the family to come out with me and enjoy a nice day in the woods, but no one was interested, so I headed up to Watkins Mills State Park by myself to participate in the Possum Trot Orienteering Cubs March meet.

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


Anonymous said...

You will be blazing thru orange courses in no time, keep it up.
the moment of truth is green and red, indeed. After all that off-road racing you will really like the new perspective. Are you thinking adventure racing?


Chris Locke said...

I would like to do some adventure racing. I have completed in several short (sprint) distance AR events, but not the multi-day ones. I would like to do a 12 hour event if a team would have me :-)

Ben aka "Good Ben" said...

Ah you funny funny man. "After that things started to come a little easier. I started to relax..." That's just it. It takes practice and then the confidence comes to you. Now for some longer stuff with different terrain! There's several 12 hour events waiting for you out here with some fairly basic navigating over a long distance. Fun stuff!

Anonymous said...

Yea, we would still be in those woods,, if I would have listened to you, good job ....your brother........

ScottyD said...

Great job Chris. Orienteering is fun! Though I've never done an official meet all my O is in AR racing. I've nav'd for several teams including a 7th @ Nats a few years back & for a team during a 4 day AR Race. Nav'ng for an AR team is stressful , to me anyway, since your responsible for how the team ultimately does. Wait till you try & find check points in the dark while running!