It’s Running but not as we know it, Jim
Well, it certainly was a busy August for the cunning running known as Orienteering.
It started off with a week in the Lakes, sharing a cottage with four other friends from HALO – Humberside and Lincolnshire Orienteers – for the Lakes Five Day event. Cottage at Glenridding in the Ullswater valley, safely found on the evening of 27th July and snoring Mary installed in her downstairs cubbyhole – er bedroom – leading off from the lounge and an evening meal, with some alcohol, consumed.
Saturday was very pleasant with my meeting up with a friend and her husband, both of whom I have not seen in the flesh since about 1970. This was followed by a scramble up the rocky hill on the side of which our cottage was built and another meal, with alcohol.
Sunday dawned with strong winds and pouring rain. We drove across to Silver Howe, near Grasmere, and then had a half-hour climb – and I mean climb – up to the starts. Orienteering in summer always takes place on the tops in Scotland, Wales or the Lakes, as the lower slopes are covered in vegetation and brambles. The distance for my course, the F65ultravets, was given in a straight line between controls as always but, up on the tops in a gale and driving rain, going in a straight line was not easy. Going out to the furthest point was into the wind and, every time I lifted my head to see where I was heading, I got a face full of wet and could not see through my glasses. I was the last woman to finish on the course, taking just over three hours – a record even for me – but there were many who retired or mispunched – missed out controls. Back to the cottage for a shower, meal and alcohol.
Monday was little better – not a long drive as was up the steep path to the tops and Angle Tarn. This time it was, well, raining but at least the wind had dropped. Also they were repairing the path and it was strewn with piles of boulders dropped in by helicopter, which meant we had to paddle through the mud at the sides. Even when we got to the top of the slope there was another quarter of an hour’s heave to the start. How the women and men in the 80+ and 85+ classes managed was beyond me, as getting up to the start would be longer than their courses and much more height than would be climbed on them. Again I managed to lose time in places due to the well-known, headless chicken syndrome; this is where you suddenly realise that you have not a clue where you are and the map means less than nothing. I finished in about two and a half hours but not last this time and had then to slither and slide back down the path to Patterdale to find my friend’s car had disappeared with only a note on my backpack to say he would be back at 5 o’clock as they had gone to the pub. Miffed, so set off to walk back to the cottage along the road – it had stopped raining eventually whilst on the tops but now the heavens opened in a cloudburst. Got changed in the pub; saw my friends; had a drink and then back to the cottage for shower, meal and more alcohol.
Tuesday’s weather was better so drove my friend across to near Cockermouth from where a coach took us up to the start in the forest at the top of Whinlatter Pass. It made a change to be in the forest but again managed my compulsory blob and made it back in just over two hours. Was a bit rough above the trees with lots of bracken through which to wade and heather through which to yomp. 104 minutes this time – yippee – and at least three people behind me. Back to the cottage and pre-dinner drinks followed by trip out to Ambleside to meet up with the rest of the HALO gang for a very good meal out and, oh, alcohol.
Wednesday was the rest day so drove across to Furness to see the Cistercian Abbey there – I know, some people are just sad. Then evening urban orienteering event in Ulverston – these are very fast and furious but did much better than previous days.
Thursday brought better weather at last and open fell at Askham Fell – a lovely limestone area with a covering of grass and lots of pits, gullies and depressions but finishing near the assembly area so no long walk back. Really like this sort of orienteering and had my best run of the week in some 93 minutes with ten people behind me on my course. Then back to cottage, shower and Mary’s turn to cook. A friend asked for the recipe but had to tell her there wasn’t one.
Friday brought the wind and rain again. As we were all going elsewhere after the Middle Distance run at Dale Park near Grizedale, we went in our own cars. Whoops – going up Honister Pass was OK but coming down ‘The Struggle’ into Ambleside – 1:3 and single land – car decided did not like going down steeply in the rain and kept cutting out. Fortunately there were passing places and, some 20 minutes later, made it into Ambleside. Even then, it kept repeating the cutting out at intervals all the way to Assembly. Mind not in the right place to orienteer and headless chicken act set in going to first control – taking 20 minutes which should have taken 5 or 6 minutes – and again going from 5 to 6. Ended up taking 79 minutes when should have taken about 50 minutes. Drive home was horrendous but got there in the end – thank goodness for one Rob Wells – saviour of my car.
Abandoned the orienteering training weekend the next weekend but did manage the Lincoln Urban race on Sunday 19th where again did reasonably well. The weekend after was the White Rose weekend over the Bank Holiday and based in Duncombe Park near Helmsley. Camping this time but portaloos quite near the tent and stand pipe next to it so reckoned it was en suite – the marquee and food stall, however, was about half a mile away.
Arrive on the Friday night and put up tent then down to the Night Orienteering – this is usually in the forest but this time was out on an open hillside. As usual did well in this but annoyed to be beaten into first in my class by Sheila Carey – and ex Commonwealth Games medal winner.
Saturday morning was the Middle Distance event in the forest adjacent to the campsite. This was supposed to be about 3 km in a straight line between controls and is fast and furious but this bit of forest was truly grotty with lots of fallen timber and brash and many pits and depressions. Doing fine until going from 4 to 5 when headless chicken struck and lost about ten minutes which you cannot afford to do. In the afternoon was the spring round Helmsley Castle – even faster and furiouser than the Middle Distance but very enjoyable and did reasonably well. Still had a good meal, and some alcohol, with the crowd from Eborienteers; the organizing club.
Sunday brought the Long Distance race starting about a mile from the campsite and Assembly. Although longer this was much more enjoyable and included bits on the high moor as well as in forest. Before doing that, though, I did the Trail-o, which is all on paths and so is accessible to the disabled but involves micro-navigation and is not at all easy. Sunday evening was the BBQ with us all eating in the marquee – again I joined the Ebor lot and eventually lurched to bed after a little more alcohol. Finally I finished on Monday afternoon with a three-hour bike-orienteering round the Rye valley and Rievaulx Abbey – there were a lot of steep slopes where I push the bike but then there were steep slopes down where I go as quickly as I can on it.
My final adventure was the weekend after that – 1st and 2nd September – when my friend Helena and I went down to the British Orienteering Middle Distance and Sprint Championships in Bath and near Wells. As I was camping again I did not bother to pack up the tent but left it in bits – tent, sleeping inner, carpet, footprint – in the back of her car along with her tent – to get away from my snoring – and all our cooking stuff etc.
Saturday brought the Sprint Champs round the Bath University Campus site, which is complex and on different levels. Doing fine on my Ultra Vets course, taking nine minutes to get to control 6 and then – headless chicken struck – and took 23 minutes to get back to number 7, which looked familiar but only when got to finish and downloaded that found I had already been to number 7 55 seconds after leaving number 6 – made another mistake going from 13 to 14 so ended up taking 49 minutes when should have taken about 20 minutes at the most – still, we had a very good meal in the evening with two other friends staying on the same campsite; a cold buffet eaten outside in the warm evening weather and with, you guessed, some alcohol.
Last of all was the Middle Distance on the Sunday which was in a wooded area just north of Wells. This was a complex mined area with depressions, pits and crags to make live interesting but was a great, runnable, deciduous woodland. Doing fine until number 7 and then – disaster – HC strikes again and took 10 minutes to find control number 8 – again costing me a good position.
All in all a very eventful August and have had a few days off but there is the Tough Ten in Lincs next weekend and, of course, the night orienteering league and the ‘pub’ league based at pubs on the north and south banks of the Humber; and our own Winter League and the EYCC League to come.