Friday, February 26, 2010

11. Warralong - Yallambie

The most notable point about this map is the lack of river crossing at the south end. There were only 3 controls on the eastern side, but I thought they were worth getting first and then worrying about coming back home along the west side.

I started off the run very flat. I had trouble deciding whether to get the slightly out of the way #1 first before heading over the river, and decided not to. Then I lost track of my location heading through the thick vegetation towards #8. Then a lonely run heading north towards 20 -- 12. Trying to work out which 8 controls to get on the way home, I just couldn't seem to find a good route. Controls 4 -- 16 -- 7 -- 2 were too tempting being along the river in relatively flat conditions, but in order to get the other 4 controls, I would have to head up to the road and back in between.

I didn't want to venture too far into the streets as I wanted to avoid as much uphill section as possible, so after #16, headed up to #15 before heading back to the river and 7 -- 2. That left 3 controls to get and I still tossed up which ones to get. At this point I was practically back to the start and having to find a small loop.

I considered 6 -- 17 -- 1 but went instead for 13 -- 6 -- 1. At this point each of the 3 remaining controls required a degree of double-backing, which wasn't ideal. I also wished I had taken #1 at the start so I could finish directly from #6. This would've saved me about 400m as it turns out.

I have since noticed the two bridges directly south & north of # 16 that may have saved some distance and enable me to get an extra control on the leg heading north. However, the route to get there from #20 is a bit of a detour as it is, so I was probably right to take the long way to #12. My route took in a total of 6.5km and 50 minutes, a slightly slower effort than recent runs.

I certainly didn't run as well as I have in recent weeks, mostly because I wasn't confident with my route choice. Results for the event aren't available yet, probably due to the absence of the organiser all week, but I certainly don't think I was near the top of competitors for C-course.

I expect the Brunswick course to be quite flat next week, although it looks like there are more cut-through reserves than last week's Fairfield map.

Friday, February 19, 2010

10. Westgarth - Fairfield

A flat course and accomodating weather was a nice change from recent weeks.  The course offered more busy roads than normal - usually there's no more than one major road, most have none. The Westgarth map is set in a fairly built up area and the start/finish area was located right at the train station. There would need to be some decisions about how to cross the railway line also. There were 6 crossings in total, but really only 4 in play, one of which was a pedestrian overpass at the station.

At first, the route seemed quite simple. I decided to cross the track immediately and head to the north-east part of the course. There were 4 controls there and I could get them all in a nice loop heading down towards the track again. After I did, I worked out the rest of the route to take in 7 more controls. They very much jumped out at me. It was quite obvious which controls to get, so it was just a matter of concentrating on running. In order to avoid crossing across the track and back another time, I would need to get 7 -- 19, but they didn't lead well into the finish, so the pair of 20 -- 2 was the best option.

The flat course help me run pretty much the whole way, with a couple of stops to regain bearings and plan the next section, but I can see improvement in my stamina. Looking at the map now, I can see I could've possibly done #2 at the beginning and finished with 20, but I'm not sure it would've made much difference. I finished 3rd for the C-course, but at least 3 minutes behind the first two runners.

Looking at the map, route selection didn't seem to be an issue for any of the courses, with clear options for everyone. I do appreciate the effort the course-setters go to in planning each event and it's clearly not an easy job all the time. Maybe combined with the flat terrain, this made the event not one of the most challenging one, but still, everyone still has the chance to make it as competitive as they like.

Yallambie next week. There's bound to be more off-road running with the proximity to Plenty River. And only a month of events to finish up the summer series.

9. Eley Park - Blackburn South

A score event tonight and I wanted us to walk for longer than the 40 minutes limit set for the E-course. So I suggest we try the Power Walkers sections. That would give us an hour of walking where we could get probably 6 controls rather than just 3-4 that the shorter format would offer. That was received well. There was about 200 competitors tonight, so by the time all the runners left, we'd been waiting around a while.

Of course, with a Score event, we're looking for the higher numbered controls to get. We started with a plan to take in the area directly north & east of the start/finish. That would take in 1 -- 20 -- 14 -- 19 -- 13 -- 6. By the time we'd crossed into #20 in the school, I thought we may not make it back in time if we headed out to #14 at this point. So I suggested heading west towards 15 -- 18 -- 12. That way, there was more chance to see whether we could get one more on the way home based on the time. Ideally, we could take the detour to #17, but #8 was a final option also.

By the time we got down to the road heading home, we debated whether it was worth getting #17 based on how many points we'd gain vs potentially losing points for being late. We decided to get #8 instead, which was a shorter detour. I left the decision to Scott as to whether we make the detour or not. We probably would've returned within the time limit had we headed straight home, but he decided to do the extra walk anyway. He figured we'd only be a couple of minutes late and we were enjoying the walk, so he was happy with losing the point. It turned out to be 5 minutes late, but he wasn't concerned.

In hindsight, we probably should've taken our initial route heading east, and be back in time. I'll try to give Scott more autonomy in the decision making process and try to act as a chaperone more.

During the course, we were asked no less than 3 times by locals what everyone was doing running around with maps. So three times, I was able to explain a little about Street Orienteering and that it runs 4 nights per week. I was eager to continue walking, but I probably could've kept 'selling' it if we weren't on a time limit. Maybe a blog in the future will include some thoughts about marketing to passsers-by at the actual event.

Friday, February 12, 2010

8. White's Corner - Doncaster

Well, that was an experience. Thunderstorms in Melbourne during the afternoon persisted throughout the evening. They stopped for brief periods, but it was hard to notice. Greensborough was light drizzle compared to the conditions tonight. Not surprisingly, a relatively small turnout of just 43, and only 5 runners doing the C-course. It also kept the streets free from annoying obstacles like non-orienteering walkers and associated animals.

From seeing the map, I decided a route starting in the south-west corner would be best as this would give me options of how to finish once I worked out the rest. It was really good to see 3 controls out there and all providing a good route heading out to the north. With only 9 controls to find, that took care of 1/3 or the course. And #12 was a logical 4th control to get.

By this point, I’m completely soaked and not able to do a thing about it. The rain came down heavier and in order to finish with 11 – 6 – 10, I had to decide which other two controls to get. I contemplated 2 – 20, but thought it best to stay clear of the park as it would be mostly off-path running and completely waterlogged. Plus the path from 20 – 4 wasn’t direct before heading home. So I headed east straight to #4 and then #17. This was probably the hilliest part of the course, having to run across contour rather than along, and by this point there were very few sightings of other runners.

It’s generally around this midway point where I begin to doubt my progress. I start to more walking, mainly on uphill sections and I don’t take out a watch so have lost track of how long I’ve been running for. At this point, I was a little annoyed at not getting #2 earlier as it meant I could skip #10 at the end. Finishing with #11 would’ve been a natural finish with it being so close and accessible, and I had to run further away to get both #6 & 10. It probably didn’t add too much distance, if any, as I would’ve had to find another one to replace #6 with. I’m always conscious of spending too much time plotting a future course and so hadn’t fully planned the final controls until it was too late. The stretch from #10 – home seemed to be longer than indicated, and although I was determined to finish this section without walking, I didn’t manage it. The run took 40 minutes, but seemed longer than normal. I ran 5.9km at a faster speed than normal. The flatter conditions obviously help there.

I was pleasantly surprised to find very few people finish before me that were running any of the courses. It could have been that the rain had sent those finishing to the protection of their cars, but I soon realised that everyone had found the conditions tough. It even took until close to 8:00 before the majority of A & B-course runners returned, so they probably found it even tougher with having to enter the park. I finished in my best position of 2nd, although there was a smaller number competing. There are a couple of competitors who could overtake me in the standings if they manage to run 6 events during the series. I'm happy with the progress so far.

Usually, there are descriptive clues to the exact location of controls. Tonight, the clues were in the form of photos. As the dots on the map are very accurate anyway, I didn’t really have a use for the photos, plus being on the back made it difficult to easily reference them anyway, particularly in the wet conditions. I know there is a lot of effort in setting the courses each week. There’s clearly a lot of skill and planning involved and so it’s easy to see the effort in the final result.

I’m hoping for condition to be more pleasant next week. The Westgarth map looks like it will be mainly streets and very little parkland or reserves. This means very little shortcuts and careful route planning.

I'd love comments on how others found the course, and the decisions they made in planning a route.

7. Studley Park - Fairfield

Another visit with my son to the Wednesday night event. The course was based around Studley Park and Yarra Bend and was pretty flat as far as the shortest course goes. I can see from the map there would be hillier sections of the course, particularly south of the Yarra if running a longer course, but conditions were good for us. There was heavy rain in Melbourne during the afternoon, but this had stopped by the start of the event.

There was a large turnout to the event, almost 200. This was inflated by the presence of a couple of school teams from Scotch and Camberwell Grammar that apparently compete occasionally.

The E-course consisted of 6 controls. We could have headed south over the Yarra and gone to the four controls there before finishing with #3 & #5. That area was steeper though and Scott wanted to cross over the Eastern Freeway (for novelty value) so we headed east to the river for #3 then north towards the freeway, picking up 5 – 13 – 19 on the way. Then under the freeway to #12, back over the freeway to finish with #1 and home. It took about an hour as his pace was quite slow, but it was an educational walk.

He got to work out whether it was worthwhile to follow paths or cut through open land, particularly when we had sports ovals to cross. He got to see a storm water outlet into the river, the underneath of the freeway, and cars travelling along the freeway from high above, things he wouldn’t normally experience. We got to see the city buildings from unique angles in great lighting conditions that wouldn’t be seen without walking around different areas of Melbourne. So from that point of view, it’s becoming of great benefit. I’m not sure whether I should submit and let him bring a camera in future as I’d like him to focus more on the navigation, but perhaps for now, I will let him take in the ‘being outdoors’ experience.

It would have been an enjoyable course to run, I think. For the 12-control C-course, the best course would probably be 5 – 13 – 19 – 12 – 14 – 17 – 4 – 18 – 8 – 10 – 15 – 1. Although I may have been hasty in the beginning and headed to #3, and then leave out #8 or #15 on the run home.

We should make the Blackburn South event next week. I was looking forward to the following week at Camelot Rise as I spent 20 years growing up around those streets and going to primary school there. Looks like we’ve got a school information night that clashes so will have to miss it this time.

Friday, February 5, 2010

6. Greensborough

Completely different conditions for running last night. Despite a hot week, it had rained for most of the day. By the start of the race, another shower had taken hold and steady rain fell. Thankfully, the temperature was not cold, so it wasn’t uncomfortable to run in. And a plasic pocket to put the map in helps it stay dry. These are provided by the organisers.

Being close to home, I anticipated the hilly conditions. With the course split in two by the Greensborough Bypass, I expected the northern section to be flatter than the southern section. I also knew I would have to take some controls over the bypass, so decided to start there to get a few close by and then work around the north. I also planned to use the run along the river as a stretch of flat tracks as I knew heading away from the river would provide climbing.

After my initial count of controls, I planned only to get #4 & #10 over the bypass and then complete all the northern section. Once I’d gotten #4, however, I noticed I could use more of the river, by heading down from there and I was easily able to work in 1 – 12 – 19 – 5 before heading to #10. As this detour was all downhill, I felt good about my progress. I did lose concentration for a short time and missed #5 while running along the street and only realised as I turned towards the overpass. I probably spent too long deciding whether to head back for it or skip it and grab an extra one on the way home. At this point, I hadn’t decided which 6 control to get in the north, so I went back along the track to get it. I ran an extra 350 metres because of it.

After getting #10 and jumping down a small cliff to get back to street level, I read the map slightly wrong and headed off the main road before heading down the right path after the round-about to #2. I was still feeling pleased with my progress as I ran along the flat track to #11, even knowing the uphill sections to come.

The climb back up to the road was close to vertical, and slippery from the rain. It seemed to go on forever and after #20, I had real trouble continuing directly up the hill towards #7. At this point, I felt I’d lost too much time to feature well in the placings.

Again, out of #7, I took a little time to regain my bearings in order to get through the school and out towards #6 & #15, which had been placed nicely together and would be my final two controls. From #15, I ran well to complete the route. I’m happy with the way I’m finishing at the moment.

The route took in 5.65km, but was by far the most hilly event to date. Again, I finished in 45 minutes but with obviously a little slower overall pace than normal.

Knowing the slopes around the course, I can’t think of a better route I could’ve run in the end. I maybe could’ve taken in #8 at the start, then instead of #20, gone back up to the road from #2 to 9 – 14 – 20 – 3 to complete the course.

It turns out I finished third in C-course. I’m surprised by this, but it indicates I’m at the right level. I’m not ready to run the 8km B-course yet, though. Perhaps by next season, I will be. Overall, I’m in first place, but only two runners have raced all four events. Once we get to the second half of the season where only the best six events are counted, I’ll probably find myself drop back to 3rd or 4th.

Next week is back to Doncaster and a much flatter course - I hope.