This was a good weekend. It really was, even though I'm currently stinging from a
Saturday's planned Frostbike MTB ride was cancelled due to icy conditions (even our landscaping was slippery, and the roads were like skating rinks), but the ride had been planned in concert with a Gateway Off-Road Cyclists workday on our local trails. GORC builds and maintains mountain bike trails all over the region, and they apparently work their scheduled days no matter what. I've had it in the back of my head that it would be good to go and "give back", plus I wanted to actually see/experience what goes into making a trail. Between Team Rev and my tri club encouraging members to participate, I guess I finally got enough nudging.
I'd gone back to sleep once the ride was called off, and when the alarm went off at 8, of course the first thing I did was
There was a great turnout for the workday. All told, close to 40 people were out there working to add 1/2 mile of singletrack.
Basically, our job was to rake away the leaf cover ("leaf litter") over our assigned section of the trail, which had been marked out with flagging. It was a chilly morning (temps in the 20's), but I warmed up really quickly once I started working.
|Raking in progress; you can see the rake-y thing we used.|
All told, we put in about 3+ hours of work. I'm clearly not used to manual labor, because I am sore today, but it was actually a lot of fun. I liked meeting and talking to some new people as well as the friends I already knew out there, and I liked contributing to this sport I love more and more. We were even provided lunch and I won a $10 gift certificate to our LBS. Sweet!
Since I didn't get to ride as planned Saturday, no way was I missing Sunday's ride at Castlewood. Well, until the alarm went off at 5:45 and it was cold and dark and if it wasn't for telling Amy that I'd be there I might just have turned off the alarm and gone back to bed. But I didn't, and even though Amy ended up not going because she felt lousy, I had a really good time. My legs felt a little meh about the whole thing on the first climb, but they stopped whining pretty soon. I tried to focus on keeping a little more speed (semi-successful, still lots and lots of braking) and on riding with a little more finesse, especially lifting my front wheel over obstacles, since Patrick recently called me on basically just bulldozing through things (a little more successful than the speed thing). And it was a good thing that I rode this morning, because it ended up being the highlight of my day.
I've been looking forward to this afternoon's orienteering meet for about a month. Our last outing left me feeling cautiously optimistic about my navigational skills. While Jeff did most of the mapwork for our first two meets, I managed the map for November's meet and we did pretty well, especially considering we had an 8 year old in tow. Today was to be my first solo outing because, while Jeff likes orienteering, he loves football and wouldn't have considered skipping the playoffs. I was ok with that. I was looking forward to seeing how I could do on my own.
I got there plenty early since I was coming from the bike ride and just did some reading for one of my classes while the people in charge were setting up. While I was waiting, I did get some helpful hints from Fran, one of the SLOC people helping with registration. I'm going to put it in yellow so that if you couldn't care less about orienteering it's easy for you to skip over.
So Fran showed me some things she does with her passport. First, she writes the control number in the corresponding box. Using the clue sheet in my picture, she'd write the number 150 in the #1 box. That way, when she gets there she doesn't have to go digging for her clue sheet. Also she notes the identifying features. She uses packing tape to cover her passport. On the back of it, she tapes the clue sheet so it's right there if she needs to refer to it. Once both sides are covered with tape, she trims away excess tape and punches a hole in the card. She attaches it to her wrist using a couple of rubber bands. That way it's right there and can't get lost.
**Back to our regular scheduled programming**
I got to see my friends Melissa, Traci, and Todd. And I had to decide which course to
Now, a smart person might say Hmmmm...this is the first time I've done this on my own; maybe I'll start small. I, however, was thinking about my semi-success at Meramec and opted for the green course. I thought about red, after all, I'm a runner. I can certainly handle 6.3K , even if it is off-trail and through rough terrain. Thankfully, my hubris did have limits and I stuck with the shorter course
Like at Meramec, we had to copy the controls from a master map onto our own. I did this carefully, then noted the control numbers on my passport and checked to make sure I knew what all the symbols meant. Then it was time to get in line to take off. Since the courses were point-to-point, you had to get each control in number order. To make it easier to not follow others, start times are staggered.
When it was my time, I jogged out the door...and realized I had no idea where to go from there. This way...no, wait...that way....ummm, no, that's not it... If you picture the way heads turn from side to side in a tennis match, that's pretty much how I looked for the first couple of minutes. I relaxed, really looked at the map, and figured out where I needed to go.
|One down, nine to go...|
I wish I'd taken a little time to savor that second control more, because things went south from there. Having shot a bearing and heading directly towards #3, I came out on a road. The "road" was actually a trail, which made for additional confusion. I thought I knew where I was on the map, but then realized I didn't and went looking for some kind of reference point I could match up to the map. Thinking I knew where I was, I came across some people who kind of looked like they knew what they were doing.
"Do you mind if I ask where you think you are?" I asked. When they told me, I had no idea how I could've gotten that off track. I didn't really think they were right, but I still didn't know where I was, so I kept on going looking for a reference point. Before long, the same people were coming back my way. "Don't listen to us; we were totally off track."
|Finally! A something on the map!|
I was so wrong.
Going strictly by compass again, I did manage to get to the right neighborhood, though again, not when/where I thought I should. Ahhh, hindsight! The map showed #4 in the vicinity of a fenced-in area, and there was a fence. Of course, this was also an area where it would have behooved me to pay closer attention to the course notes: "This is an old map. Deviations exist (e.g. fenced areas near control 4 are not as mapped)." Still, if my compass skills had been better, this wouldn't have been nearly the issue that it was.
I didn't think I was in the right area, but there was the fence. There was the big pond that was on the map. Just to make sure I wasn't in the right area, I went partway around the fence. And then the other way. Finding a road that was on the map, I went back the way I had come. Then decided that couldn't be right. I went back to where I'd started near the fence. Since the clue sheet said re-entrant, I walked along something that was semi-reentrant-ish. No luck. Eventually I came across some ladies who'd already found 4 and told me I'd have to go partway around the fence (again!). I went all the way around, fell coming down a creekside, and ran into another group who pointed the way towards the control. Yeah, that's right, it took me TWO groups of Samaritans before I could find the stupid thing.
I was starting to get really frustrated by this point. I knew what I was supposed to be doing, but it was going SO WRONG. Thinking back to an old post I'd read when my friend Bob had a rough outing and ended up just savoring the day and the park and the scenery, I tried really hard to channel that spirit. It was really hard to keep a good attitude, though. I think that's about the time I started whining on facebook:
Since the whole follow the compass straight to the next point thing wasn't working so well for me, I decided to try something different to get to #5. Rather than go straight there, I shot a bearing to the trail; then I could follow the trail to a good known point, then follow a fence to #5. It worked perfectly...until I left my known point (the end of the campground) in search of the fence. I shot a bearing towards where it should be and walked and walked and walked. I did have one fun moment where I had to climb over a gigantic fallen tree. I had to boost myself up to it, then swing across and sliiiiide until my feet touched the ground again. I was wishing I had a cameraman there to get that shot.
Once again, I wandered all over the place. I finally came across a control, only to check the number and find out it was the wrong one. I think I ended up back at the same campground spot once and tried again with no luck. Somehow I ended up at the other end of the campground and tried a different attack point with no luck. I knew by this time there was no way I was clearing the course. I was already over my 3 hour time limit. I just really, really wanted to find #5 before heading back. I found a trail on the map and tried following that to get me closer; I saw a control flag in the distance. Could this be it?? Was I going to end my day with a minor success?
Nope. It was the same wrong one I'd come across before. That was it for me. I was done. I did run a little on the way back, trying to salvage some kind of benefit from the day; after all, I have a little race I'm supposed to be training for. I think I was the last person in, which is saying something because there were a ton of people there today.
Truly, it was an epic fail. Looking at my Garmin tracks, it's quite clear I didn't have a clue what I was doing.
|The arrows just show a little of my direction of travel|
While I never freaked out in the woods, I was incredibly frustrated, and by the time I got back to the finish (or give-up) line, it was all I could do to turn in my passport and get to my car without crying. I didn't think I'd be good today, but I didn't think I'd be that bad. I felt utterly defeated. I just got in the car and started driving; though I had google maps up with directions to my house, I missed about three different major turns and just kept resetting the directions from my new starting point. I couldn't even find Qdoba when I stopped to grab something for a late lunch. It was bad.
As I drove (and drove and drove), though, I thought. I was so wrong on every point after the second. I was never in the right place. I thought back especially to #4. It doesn't show up on my Garmin map, but there was a huge fenced-in area with a big pool/pond there. I navigated right to the fenced-in area, but I was completely off-base as far as which way I thought I needed to go. In fact, I was completely off-base on my headings for everything after the second point. You probably noticed it on the map above.
As I thought about it, it began to dawn on me that I'd missed one very important step. Here's how you (well, how I...maybe I know even less than I think I do), take a bearing so you know how to get from point to point on your map:
First, line up your compass from the point where you are (in this case, #2) to your destination (#3). You can see the two points at the top edge of the compass.
Next, line up the straight lines in the middle of the black circle with your North/South lines on your map. The red lines should be on the "north" side.
Now you're going to want to orient yourself so that the compass needle stays in the red box like the picture to the left shows.
Hold your compass in front of you. As long as the needle stays in the box, you're going in your chosen direction. You can look ahead of you, find a landmark (maybe a big tree or a rock) in the line you're walking. When you get to it, check your compass, find a new landmark, and go on ahead.
I skipped the second step!! I figured my direction of travel, but I just moved the housing so that the needle was in the red box rather than move it to a north-south orientation. I must've just totally lucked out on the second control, because I used my compass completely wrong all day long. Really, it's a miracle I found anything.
If you look at the picture below, you can see clearly how completely off-track I was every time. It's kind of funny now that I know what happened.
The black shows what I did; clearly going in the wrong direction. The blue shows what I thought I was doing. Sad, sad.
And you know what's ironic? Back in December, Abby posted all about finally learning how to take a bearing on the compass after a couple years of not even knowing you did such a thing. And I commented that, at our last orienteering meet, this had all finally "clicked" for me.
Apparently someone shut the light off this time, but I think this may have been the mistake(s) that cements the knowledge for me.
I hope. Geez.