I pretty much weaselled Jeff into doing the first orienteering meet by branding it as a date night. We took J with us for the second one after convincing him it would be fun ("It's like a treasure hunt! Only you don't get anything."), and he more or less thought it was fun for about the first half (45 minutes). The Turkey-O was a 3-hour meet, so I was a little worried about how J would do, but when Jeff asked what we were going to do with him and I said, "Take him along," J piped up, "Yeah, I want to go!" There was actually a 1.5 hour option, but since the drive was 2 hours each way, it seemed a little silly to do the short course. We were taking a calculated risk, though; the long course would make us over 2 hours late for Thanksgiving, leaving a good possibility that all of the food would be gone.
We got to the park at about 9 a.m., and I had my first experience copying the controls (the markings that tell you where the places are that you need to find) from the master map onto our map.
|Table full of friends|
When start time finally arrived, we took off at a jog. We'd gone about 100 yards when J said, "I'm already tired!" The sad thing was, so was I. I was also having wardrobe issues, as I was trying out some new pants and they kept sliding down onto my hips.
|Maybe it wouldn't have been as awkward if I'd been wearing something as full-coverage as boxers.|
Already dogged by clothing struggles, I next realized that, though we'd decided which control to hit first, we'd neglected to talk about how to get to it from the road. Now I was running (sort of), pulling up my pants, pulling down my shirt, and trying to look at the map. I definitely needed an extra hand (or a belt).
|J leading the way|
|Closer view of map|
Now, I know that ability with navigation and maps and such doesn't require testosterone, because my friend Melissa is a kickass navigator, but if Jeff's and Luke's and Chuck's brains move like the second hand of a clock, my map processing speed is more like the hour hand. I had even just reread my map and compass book on the way to the meet! I knew that I knew how to use the compass to keep us on track, it just took me a while to remember the process. Finally, it clicked, and we hiked almost directly to our next control.
|Punching the passport|
After he was smacked in the face by branches a couple of times, we learned that J couldn't follow closely behind me. I was careful with any branches I pushed aside, but my pack kept catching onto others which would hit him. Our backcountry route wasn't without its rewards, though. We found a cool turtle shell along the way.
|I've never seen one like this. It reminded me a little of all the dead things at the Deuce.|
|He has a big smile on his face, but J wasn't too excited about holding it.|
It seemed like we hiked forever, but eventually we got to control #2, a 50-pointer.
Yeah, we didn't find it, of course.
We must have hiked right past it, or right close to it. When we got to the top of the hill and could see the road, we realized that we had missed it. Unfortunately, right at that time D. called with some questions and issues about the rest of the day that, in my mind, had already been answered to at least two different people. After a somewhat frustrating and annoying conversation, conducted through Jeff whose phone actually had a signal, we were kind of off our game.
This highlights an issue that I need to work on with my navigation. I think I need to get better at paying attention to what the map shows along the way so that we have more clues that we're getting close (or going too far) besides finding/not finding the control. Well, that and maybe keeping track of distance covered. The smart thing to do would've been to backtrack and see if we could pick up the control, but instead we headed onto the road. Because we weren't sure if we'd gotten off track, we weren't completely sure where we were. Rather than wander around aimlessly, we decided to take the road until we knew where we were.
Luckily, as we walked down the road, I spotted a control flag in the woods. Now, we at least knew where we were, but we had less than an hour to get back to the finish line before we started losing points. We chose a route that would allow us to get two more controls on our trip back. We had to take the trail until it crossed a creek, then head off through the woods. I was ahead of my guys, and I loved listening to J tell Jeff what fun he was having and how he was going to bring his kids here some day. :) When we got to the creek, though, we had a difference of opinion about which direction to go. It wasn't a huge difference, but we didn't come across the control (we went Jeff's way).
We didn't look too hard for it, though, because time was slipping away and we saw another racer run through the woods to our left and decided to follow him. Well, follow his direction, anyway, we were way too slow to keep up. Going that way, we came across another control, but it was the second one we were looking for (less points, boo). If we'd had more time, we might have been able to backtrack to the other one, but now we were down to about 25 minutes, a pretty good hike back, and a tired little boy.
We got back onto the trail, which led us to an unpaved vehicle track. This must be where the state park people store all the broken-down stuff, because we saw stacks of pallets and herds of old trash cans, among other things.
|Where picnic tables go to die|
|Yes, we trusted our 8 year old with our map and passport. Briefly. :)|
There was a powerline trail that was pretty much a straight shot to the finish line but promised to be much rougher going than the road. Being familiar with the park, though, we knew the road might be smoother, but it wasn't much flatter, so we opted for the powerline. We took it all the way back to the road near the cave we had visited early on in the meet, and then we ran the rest of the way on the road.
For all that I'm the runner in the family, I was definitely struggling more than I expected to. I don't know if it's the residual effects from last weekend's trail race or just the additional demands of hiking over hills like we did, but that last run was rough. It was so cute, though. J was holding my hand as we ran (which made it waaaay easier, as you can imagine), and he told me, "It's ok, you can do it, hang in there mommy."
I was wondering if I looked as bad as I felt, that my 2nd grader thought I needed the support, but I got my turn to encourage him as we got closer to the end. Still holding hands, we were running across a parking lot when he said, "I'm going to need to walk soon." "Come on," I told him, "Let's just make it to the road. Stay tough...you're doing great." After a brief walk break, he took our passport and ran it in to the finish. We made it back with about two minutes to spare.
|You can see J in the red jacket just about to round the corner.|
It was such a good day, in fact, that it leads to the only "negative" about the whole thing. When we first started doing the meets, I wanted to compete together because Jeff's help was my only chance to figure out where we were on the map. My plan was always that, once I achieved some competence, we'd run the course separately. I can't imagine missing out on that time together, though. I could do it on my own now, but it's totally worth slowing down...at least, until my kid's the one outrunning me on the course.
Which is probably coming sooner than I think.