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Monday, May 7, 2012

My new favorite sport

 No camping this weekend, instead we took it easy and my son and I participated in an orienteering event just a couple of mile from the house.  This was our first time to participate in a normal orienteering event.  We normally participate in a event that has a bunch of points for anyone to get.  You get the map 30 minutes before the start and plan out your quest for as many points as possible and everyone has to return to the finish at the same time and the team with the most points wins.  This event you sign up for a set course with set markers to find and the team or person that finds the correct points the fastest wins.  We chose the orange course that was 4.8 miles long and considered intermediate in difficulty with 10 control points.
 Since this was our first time to participate in this traditional orienteering event we signed up as a non-competitive team.  Once we were near the starting line it was a good decision to do this as a team because orienteering or map and compass takes alot of practice and constant use.  This is not like riding a bike and you do forget how to do it.  My son had this issue when ten minutes before we started he asked me how to shoot a bearing and then how to orientate the map.  I took him under my wings and once we hit our starting time we took a minute to come up with a plan and how to navigate the land and not run around like a couple of chickens with our heads cut off.  Trust me there was alot of random people running just looking for anything that looked like a control point.
 Here is a picture of the starting line.  You line up to your start time placed on your punch card which ours was :19 which meant we started nineteen minutes after 10:00am.  The starting line works in three phases, first you get on the line, then when the buzzer sounds you progress to the next line which has your clue sheet, then another buzzer sounds and you move to the next line where you get your map and wait for the next buzzer which is your official start.  In the picture you can see a row of people and each starting buzzer is a different course so that adds to the confusion and fun of the event because you are not sure who you are competing against or when they started.
 The finish was great and I had so much fun being the old man at this event.  There were cross country running teams and ROTC teams that were also participating in this.  One thing I have learned from years of participating on other styles of orienteering events is that you never trust that someone else knows what they are doing.  We were asked by a girl on the course where a certain number was and we let her know it was about a quarter mile back up the trail we were come down.  This girl was trucking it on this trail, then when we get to our next control point she comes up to stamp her card as well and that is where we learned she was participating on the same course we were.  Then I mentioned how we can get to the next point and she takes off down the trail and Zaine and I see on the map there is a concrete path that takes us directly to the point.  A few minutes later the girl comes running behind us realizing we were taking a longer but much faster way to the next point.  She of course runs off like lightning and at point 9 of 10 we catch up to her again and about four other teams all trying to find the point.  They are looking at their map and can't find the control point so they all start running around crazy looking everywhere for this next to last point.  My son joins them in this random search in the woods to find the control point and I stop and look at my map and orientate and identify my surroundings.  Everything on the map looked similar to the surroundings just that it was not right and I realized we were actually further away from where the control point was and I let everyone know and they run off and it is exactly where I told them it was.  That is the fun part about orienteering it takes athletic endurance, map and compass skills, and finally the ability to read your surroundings.  I would say this is like running for smart people (I am not a smart person just try to emulate what my wife does, she is smart).
In the end orienteering is an overlooked sport by almost all people, maybe because it is not promoted enough, or maybe just everyone thinks it is some sort of kids game.  This sport is great for runners of any ability and also campers and outdoor enthusiasts.  My son and I jogged alot of the time between points and finished about 20 minutes before the competitive girl because we took time to read the map and plan our route.  She did probably 10 miles not reading the map and sprinting around.  Now I am so hooked and have to find more orienteering events to participate in and brush up my skills at planning my route.

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