I have never been in favor for “micro-navigation” in adventure races. Most often it feels like you are walking around playing “hide and seek” with the course director and it is just pure luck how fast you find the CP. The reason is because of the low detail level of AR maps. More often than not they are extremely suboptimal with boulders, pits and cliffs completely left out, and some times even large trails are left out. So it just becomes a roll of the die if you find trails, or not. I prefer speed, navigation and strategy to be determining factors over luck when it comes to decide who should win a race.
So, I was needless to say, a little bit doubtful signing up for my first Night-O meet, and very questionable of my own micro-navigation skills. On top of that I had been talked into doing the “long advanced” course. While I thought that would be good AR practice for me, it was somewhat intimidating having all these orienteering people on the start line. My friend from OK Linne in Uppsala, Sweden tells me that I orienteer like they did in the 1950’s, which I only can assume means “slow and like a yokster” and not “fast and world class”. So before the start I was trying to remember all tips and tricks he has taught me, which hopefully would make me faster once I got on my way.
My start position was 4th from the end (2 min intervals) – which means I got to see the people ahead of me all disappear into the night in one direction. Once it was my turn I punched into the start and finally got to grab a map. – Man this sucks – It’s so much nicer to be able to pre-plan like we get to do in AR.
Running towards the first CP I’m starting to love this. Every boulder, reentrant and pit is on the map. Instead of guessing – you can actually follow the map the entire time. I increase my speed to the edge of uncomfortableness – and start passing people, who started 2, 4 or 6 minutes ahead. It felt so fun “flying” in the night – and knowing down to a couple of meters where you are. I pressed my running to the limit down hills with very limited vision and for the first time I felt like I needed a real orienteering compass, instead of my “hiker” version.
For those interested – Below is the course + my route choice marked in blue. I marked my mistakes with red circles.
The two “big” mistakes were on the way to CP5 – where I headed to far down and had to go up a little unnecessary vert, and on the way to the finish after punching CP10 – where the lure of the road dragged me to far west. Both of them cost me ~45 sec each (maybe even up to a minute) – all others were sub 30 sec.
Unexpected things happen in life – especially in the world of AR. Sometimes a total orienteering rookie makes no big mistakes. Those nights a total orienteering rookie can go and win the whole thing.
Light and Fast!