Riding on the Southerly Storm

Heading away at Queen’s Birthday Weekend always brings up memories of eventful Queen’s Birthdays of the past, and every few years or so the weather deals up its storm card and a Southerly Rolls through. Fossicking back into my memory bank, I realised it has been 10 years since I had my ‘break through’ orienteering race on a similarly stormy evening (just as here in the Manawatu this weekend). Today’s run was not so successful, probably one of my poorer performances so here is a copy of my first hand account of the Night Race at Queen’s Birthday 2009…

Being part of the Southerly Storm, we felt that tonight we had to step up to uphold the honour of being masters of night navigation in New Zealand. There was a nice friendly Southerly blowing, it was raining solidly, really quite cold. Being later to the start than I would have liked I was all hyped up, well warmed up and all ready to race.

The start was right under a huge cliff and it seemed likely that there was going to be a split in the main pack at the gun. When we started, everyone paused for a moment figuring out the map and gradually making a decision where to go. Most people went to the right and I managed to get myself to the front of the pack with Brent leading. Second control I saw Brent go down the hill and thought he must have gone to a split, so I went to my control straight ahead and got it at the perfect height. it was about here I sunk into some serious mud and slowed up crawling my way up to the control, punching first, waking the control up, only to be engulfed by people coming into my exit direction from the control. I was all hyped and when Tane gets on a sports field he can some times turn into a psycho! So I barged the crowds out of my way, losing traction and falling all over the place, finally getting out of there!

3 was again a mud bath, and on the way to 4 I saw a field mouse scrambling up the bank as us mad orienteers passed by like some kind of lightning storm. Brent realised that 4 was a control (no. 8) from the middle race and let us all know…so we had little trouble finding it again. By the time we had got to no. 5 the main pack had diminished considerably. 6 was a long leg, the sort of leg that Chris Forne would have gone straight on…so thats what I intended on doing. After a bit of track running the pack had strung itself out, so I think it was Brent, Matt, Myself, Mark Lawson and Smithson out in front. I went up the hill at some point not really knowing exactly where I was which was quite silly. Brent went round the hill and after some fluffing about by myself and Matt we arrived at the control around the same time.

7 and 8 were straight forward. Nine I was a bit wayward and started to feel the stitch coming on (note to self: avoid apple juice before a race) by this stage I could sense someone else on our tails, Mark came into view and apparently Smithson was close behind. 10 Brent suggested going round which we were happy to do, while Sneeky Smithson went up the spur and round the top. We got there just before him and nailed the next few controls. At 12 I did a bit of a double back as I realised I couldnt get up a little cliff to get the control and confused Mark slightly I suspect. I punched and ran of with Matt and Brent. Mark punched the control (maybe?) then followed us off round the hill to the next control only to get halfway and question whether or not he had punched 12…so he went back and we never saw him again.

13 I took the lead, smashed it up the hill only to spot a light off to my left which I thought was Matt but it turned out it wasnt as he was right behind me. Further behind was Brent who now seemed to be struggling. I was first to 14 through some nasty blackberry, Matt got ahead of me at 15.

Then came the hill at 16. This was where the race started to heat up. The pack of three, Tane, Brent and Matt where back together again. We struggled up the hill, I punched first and took off fast around the hill cause I was in the lead. Matt was close behind, Brent dropped off the back and it was a two horse race.

I gained a very small lead on Matt out of the hill control, struggled through the worlds most difficult fence, Matt arriving just as I was through. Then it was a flat run. I knew Matt could out run me but the angry Tane came out to play again and I started to wind up the motor and flew across the paddock spotting the control a long way off. I knew I needed to be smooth with the punch and I was. There was a patch of mid green in front of me and the last control, I risked it all and went straight into the middle of it, got through no problem. I could sense Matt behind me, but not as close as before, still to close for comfort. I ran hard down the track to the last control, feeling a little apprehensive when the control didnt come up as soon as I would have liked but still with the gas peddle on…(like Andy J and the rock in the middle of the road we encountered on the way to the Aramiro race) Matt apparently hesitated a bit here, which saved me a bit from being sprinted off. After punching I sprinted hard, there was no way in the world Matt was going to get past me. I finished solidly as I like to do and excitedly went to download.

First Super Series Victory ever for me. I good one to win, Southerly Storm 1st, 2nd, 4th. Maintaining our Night Navigation dominance without Chris, Aaron or Carsten.

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