In truth, it was what can only be described as 'a piss poor effort'. My first proper route class orienteering race - not sure of the official terms, but my first one where there is a route of check points or 'controls', as I'm told they're called, to follow. It did not go anywhere close to how I thought it would. I was, quite literally a disgrace to all fell runners everywhere. I hang my head in shame. I, in no way, upheld the honour of fell running - I only hope I don't get excommunicated from the fra.
It all started brilliantly - I found the start - but from there it was all downhill. There were multiple courses available on entry ranging from easy (beginner) to rock hard (someone who knows what they're doing) - can you guess which I chose, me being a cocky sod? You'd have thought, being my first time, I'd plump for the easy end of the spectrum, but oh no, not I - nobber.
The blue course (hardest) consisted of twenty one check poi, scratch that, controls. Each control is numbered and you have to make sure you don't stick your dibber - stop it - in the wrong hole - I said, stop it. So it can be confusing when you come across one that isn't on your route. Also, as the difficulty of the course increases the controls are more and more hidden. You almost end up checking under every goddam stone to see if the bloody thing is hiding there.
Anyway, less of all the talk of rules and regulations. Basically my course was 8km long and if I was running a marked route it would have taken me thirty five to forty minutes. Suffice to say, it took me a bloody sight longer. Quoting from the good book of Tony, FFS it took me forty five minutes just to find control number one! Some perspective on that, the winner only took forty one minutes for the entire bloody thing. And with a three hour cut off I almost packed it in on account of having no sodding chance of making it round. But I've never not finished a race I've started and I didn't intend to start then.
Slowly I managed to acclimatise to the stupidly high scale map - I'm used to OS Explorer and the orienteering map is a much higher scale so it puts all your timings out and the contours become much more detailed. What, on the OS map, would be contour-less and flat is filled with bloody millions of tiny contours on the orienteering map. All very confusing to a beginner.
So having eventually got to grips - partially to grips - with the map I started to get into the swing of it. It took me another twenty one minutes to get to control four so it was still looking doubtful I'd get round. But then it kind of all clicked into place. I got into the grove of the distances and timings and I was off. Controls five, six, seven and eight were ticked off in rapid succession. Nine was tricky, hidden amongst a myriad of tiny dimples and bumps. Ten was equally hidden. Mind you, it would help if I knew what all the control symbols meant, as the little icons in the instructions show you the way the control is hidden, ie in a dip, behind vegetation, on a rise, stream crossing etc. Knowing where to look would probably help a little - I'll have to do some homework to find out the meanings of the icons.
Then I was onwards to eleven through nineteen in pretty quick order. Twenty was a bit of a faff as there were bloody hundreds of clumps of gorse - I had learnt the symbol for vegetation from a previous control so knew where to look, clever eh? No, didn't think so. And I got my bearing slightly wrong towards twenty one but didn't lose too much time. From there it was just a short run in to the finish.
In all I took just outside two hours and I ended up clocking 16km instead of the optimum 8km - bonus mileage - toot toot. The most annoying thing though is that I took more time to complete controls one to four than the entire rest of the course. If the course had started at four I might have done well.
So as I write this post and reflect - and despite an extremely poor showing - it was a bloody fun day out. And you can mark my words, 'I'll be back'...