Orienteering Date Night

This past week has been a really busy one for me.  It's looked a little something like this:

(last) Saturday: Dirty Girls mountain bike ride
(last) Sunday: Mountain bike race
Monday: Strength training, 24 mile road bike ride
Tuesday: Run 5K at XC course
Wednesday: 29 mile a.m. road bike ride, 28 mile p.m. road bike ride
Thursday: Run 5K at XC course
Friday: Strength training
Saturday: Road bike race, orienteering meet

A friend may or may not have told me yesterday that I've been a little hyperactive lately, but the reality is just that I've had the opportunity to do things and grabbed it while it was there.  The end of summer is fast appropaching, which means a return to work and schedules and endangered free time.  Taking all those opportunities, though, means spending time away from home and my family.  Since I'm home during the day, I see plenty of my kids.  Not so much the husband.

My big race for this year is the Berryman Adventure (12 hour).  It's a race that includes mountain biking, trekking, canoeing, and navigating to checkpoints using a map and compass.  I've spent the year working on my mountain biking and trail running, and I've canoed in the past, but the whole map/compass thing is a whole new world.  I'm pretty map-impaired.  Luckily, the St. Louis Orienteering Club holds a series of meets where you can compete against others or (more to my needs) practice your skills.  UN-luckily, their next meet was the same night as my bike race...a sure way to try my husband's fraying patience with my repeated absences.

What's a girl to do when she wants to do it all? Turn part of it into a date night. What's a date night? Well, in this circumstance it can be defined as getting to do my race in the morning and still getting to go orienteering by pretending it's not all about me.  Plus, it would give Jeff a chance to meet some of my friends and be a part of some of the things I'm doing.

We met Chuck and Lori for dinner at a restaurant near the park and had a nice, leisurely meal before heading to the park to register.  Orienteering meets can be in different formats (and I'm just repeating the very little that I know, so I may get this semi-wrong).  Sometimes you go out and find all the checkpoints and the fastest time wins.  Sometimes you have a set amount of time and whoever gets the most checkpoints in that time wins (called a score-o).  Last night's meet was a score-o...which if you ask me is a pretty appropriate title for a date night activity.  That's right, last night.  So we were orienteering, for the first time, in the dark.

Registration started at 8, and then we waited around until start time.  While we were hanging out, I saw my friends Melissa and Scott, who I only seem to see at Castlewood. Round one started at 8:45.  You weren't supposed to look at your map until then, and you had 30 minutes to get as many checkpoints as you could.  For every minute that you were late, they penalized you one checkpoint.  Jeff and I competed as a team.  This was good, because I needed his help or I'd have stood there staring at my map for the first 10 minutes.  This was bad, because we only had one map between us, he was holding it, and he pretty much "got it" right away.  Then there's me (you know, the one who's going to have to use the map to make her way through the woods in a race) following along like a little puppy.  Chuck is super fast, so Lori hung out with Jeff and I, and since she'd orienteered before she was way more up on things than I was.  Between the three of us we muddled through pretty well.

Since you're on a time limit, if you want to get many checkpoints, you have to run.  I wasn't sure how this would go since I was sore from the morning's bike race and my husband DOES NOT run.  Well, "run" might be a bit of an exaggerating for what we did last night, but I was really proud of him.  He may not run for running's sake, but he can do it if it's part of a game.  Of the check points we looked for on round one, there was only one we couldn't find, and we made it back in time.

For round two, we had to look for a different series of checkpoints.  We found a couple of easier ones, and then I saw on the map where we could get a bunch of them by following a powerline to a trail.  This is where I can get myself into trouble.  I see the goal, not the rest of the symbols on the map.  Lori, the voice of reason, starts pointing out the parts of the map between us and the checkpoints: this is thick brush, there's a creek, see these contour lines? That's going to be a steep climb.  While those don't necessarily have to be dealbreakers, it was a good reminder to me that I really need to look at the whole picture.

We decided to go after some checkpoints that were closer to where we had to start, so we started jogging back down the road.  We got one near a building and then saw where we could go get one "real quick" off of a trail.  Our lights weren't very good (at least, not mine and Jeff's), which made running up the rooty sections of the trail interesting for sure.  The checkpoint that we were looking for was off the trail a little, and we couldn't see it.  Jeff decided to bushwhack around a little to look for it, but looking at the map, I saw where the next checkpoint should be right on the trail. 

This is where I finally was catching onto the map a little.  Looking at the clue sheet for the checkpoint, I saw a little symbol that I thought was probably a bridge.  Ok, up the trail, over a bridge, right past there I should find it.  And I did. :)  Meanwhile, Jeff had found the other one. Now, I'm sure that wasn't textbook legal since we were a team and should have been together, but we weren't in any kind of contention for a lead.  After punching both our passport at both of the checkpoints, we ran back down the trail.  Coming to a fork in the trail, again the map made sense to me.  I know for any normal person it would've been pretty simple, but I have a hard time with maps, so this was a real accomplishment for me.

We ran the passports back to the finish line, but we were two minutes late, so basically those last two checkpoints didn't count anyway.  Well, they didn't count in our score, but I was there for the experience, so getting them was still valuable to me.  Actually, the whole experience was valuable to me.  Dinner was nice, I had fun running around in the woods and laughing with Jeff and Lori, and Jeff really enjoyed himself, too.  I think he's on board for the next meet, too.  We might be a team again in that one, but after that I bet we'll split up (on the course).  I guarantee that the only way I'll beat him is by running, too, because he could nagivate circles around me.  For now.


Orienteering: the sport of navigating through an unfamiliar area using a map and perhaps a compass.  The object is to make your way through a series of points identified on a map and return to the finish line in as short a time as possible.

Checkpoint (also known as control): an orange and white marker set at a location identified on the map.  Each marker has a unique punch that you use to punch your passport to prove your were at that point.

Passport: the card where you make your punches.  This is turned in at the end.


  1. sounds incredibly fun!! and what a hoot that your hubs had fun too!

    and I'm with you...if I know I've got time now but won't have time later..I'm "going going gone"....you've got to do things you love (or that are new and sound fun) when time to do so presents itself!

  2. Sounds like a lot of fun. I didn't know that a compass doesn't point north until an orienteering friend of mine told me a few years back :-).

    Really cool Jeff went with you and met some of your athlete peeps. I need to find a venue for Cheryl to do the same.

  3. I love your adventure spirit! Sounds like such a blast :) and with Jeff too!!

  4. Love this. Aren't you clever to make date night part of what you needed to do and engineer it so you have such a good time to boot! I would not be great with the map. And my husband totally would too.

    Are we going to hear the story about your mother at the bike race? You piqued my curiosity.

  5. These passport races sound like a lot of fun!

    Thanks for including the Glossary. More blogs should do that.


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