This year there was a particularly good field at the top in the Heights of Winter, leaving it wide open. Whoever Chris was going to go with was going to be tough competition, although he was pretty keen to have some stiff competition and encouraged Nick and I to team up. Having raced with Nick at Geraldine, I figured we would have a pretty good shot at doing well, the only worry was that Nick would run too fast for me for the first 5 hours, causing me to suffer and then he would suffer through the last 7 hours…
We arrived with just over an hour to plan but in between toilet stops and other general distractions, we realised with about 20mins to go that we needed to get some pen on paper and a course sorted out. Once done we were pretty happy with what we had, opting to go the opposite to most teams and leave the big hill until the later section of the race. It was pretty cold standing around, listening (or trying to listen) to the race briefing so it was pretty nice to be underway in the rising sun.
We had about 20mins with the rest of the field and then we were pretty much by ourselves for the rest of the morning out by the sea. There was a fresh breeze out by the sea but the fine weather made for a pretty spectacular visit to the coast. It was just us, some sticky mud and a few seals when we stumbled across a very cool area, with lots of orienteering potential. I had to drag Nick away as he was going to be happy enough to run around there all day long! Eventually we saw a few more people when we crossed to the next distinct section of the map.
We guessed we must be about on target at the 4 hour mark for making it halfway around our course by the halfway mark, however to make our route more efficient we made a couple of slight changes to pick up some big points and leave out some hard fought low pointers. Highlight was definitely the control in the river bed… hate to have gone for that one last year as unlike this year with a drought the area was in flood back then!
The next few hours we both went through a rough patch of sorts so a stop was in order and Nick was allowed a sit down break. He was lucky to get away with the 10mins I gave him as it felt like we were bleeding time while waiting to get going again. After the food stop our spirits increased quite a bit and we started to run a bit more…. just not up the steep as hill we had to go to the bottom of to get the control.
By the time darkness fell another stop was in order, this time to also get lights out of course! Unfortunately Nick headlamp batteries appeared to be flat when he pulled his out so it looked like I was going to have a passenger for the next 3 hours in the dark. Luckily though after another quick stop at the next control he was able to switch around some batteries and he got it going again. We had a bit of trouble finding 67 next, and in the end gave up when we must have pretty much been right on it… Anyway on we went down into the next valley with the final monster climb to get up to another Hundred pointer.
At the top, we saw a couple of other guys who suggested that they would see us at the next control, but I suspect they didn’t quite know who they were dealing with and Nick suggested as much with a cheeky reply “will you?” anyway we now had to make sure that we did and lucky for us we were spot on and got away from it as soon as possible. Nick had a bit to learn with navigating on Topomap’s at night and the subtleties that go with the terrain so I kept him on track and out of the ugly vegetation in the bottom of the gully to the next control.
Water was the next big problem, and Nick had been out for a while. so we continued on to the water stop and it was time for another break while Nick got as much water into him as he could. We were both getting a bit weary now and Nick was seemingly quite happy to head back to the finish with an hour to go. However we made a couple of plans to get as many as we could for the next hour, and then picked the most conservative one as Nick wasn’t feeling all that inspired….until he saw another team and how much trouble they were having compared to us… so it was all on again and with a sudden burst of energy I was trailing behind again… We probably could have gone for the lest conservative route after all. Oh well, we were committed to the route we had and sadly only scored 60 points spread over 3 controls in the last push to the finish allowing us to squeeze into 3rd place.
A good day out really, in hindsight a better route with more planning time may have given us a better score or an improvement in the point scoring during the 9th hour would have seen us closer along our intended final loop. Its all learning when it comes to this game, it takes tolerance and patience and most of all experience and we both got plenty of that, and gained ourselves a great result. Watch out next year where we will be fitter, stronger and wiser!
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