A post on the facebook wall of the Maidstone Harriers really got my interest. It was an invitation to take part in a local night orienteering. I thought it was the perfect occasion to do a good training whilst being pushed mentally and enhance my map reading skills.
It was a cold night and I was not sure what to wear. But one thing I could not miss was the head torch my dad lent me just as I was going back to England. I tested a few eventualities and was not really sure what to expect, if it was cross country or just on roads, how cold it would actually be, if the batteries of the head torch were still alright?! Must be, it was shining bright!.. all these questions were spinning in my mind.
Once I got to the parking of the Old Orchard in Leybourne it was still pretty quite. There were a few people hiding in their cars but I was still not sure if I got to the right place but it soon turned out there were others for the same occasion. I got my chip and tried to get a bit familiar with the area as it was completely new to me and trying to match a few directions with what I have seen on google earth. I decided to stick to my Scott T2 Kinabalu shoes which are incredibly comfortable both on road and trails and are now my favourites!
The format was to find as many (or all) of the 20 posts (all on lampposts) in one hour. You get 1 point for every post found and you lose 1 point for every minute being late.
There were a few moment between getting the map and the start signal. I immediately tried to get some posts in a good order around me so I could find the best way to get out of the neighbourhood. Before I could count to three all of the approximately 60 athletes were running in different directions. I had an idea where I wanted to go and because one guy in particular was sprinting to the same post as me, I was following him. He tried to get rid of as many competitors as quickly as possible which I thought was great for me. The first post was found easily in no time.
I knew the direction I had to go for the next post and was pushing when my mate suddenly stopped and obviously decided to go for an alternate route. I went my way finding the second post, just realizing that I forgot to start my Garmin with all that stress at the start line. I came to the third post which led onto the big road where I could take a closer look on the map. I roughly had my strategy and was pushing about 3:30min/k between the posts.
It went all really well and I was sure I could make it in time except for the fact that the light beam of the head torch got weaker every minute. Reading the map got really difficult but I was under the impression that I was in control.
After 58 minutes I was back and thought it took me longer than I estimated it should take me. My Garmin showed me that I ran 14.6 kilometers so it must have been about 15 kilometers.The guy I followed at the start claimed to have all posts and had just 12.6 kilometers! What the hell went wrong?
When I got the results sheet I had 22 posts, so I went for two of them twice and lost at least eight minutes! I got mixed up by a post that was in the middle of the map so when i folded the map I lost track of it and went for it again on the way back.. The other I got wrong was at the very end so I had to acknowledge that my brain was tired towards the end of the race.
Thinking back of some mountain running, the mental exhaustion towards the end of a (long distance) race can be quite significant! Maybe a good point to work on for this season?
I had great fun challenging myself with the map. I hope I can do some more orienteering very soon.
Cheers for reading :)
Here is my data on strava