Well now, it seems another Winter Series is upon us, so why don't we do a little preview? Let's start with a look at the venue lineup, along with a blurb and a grade for each - but no failing grades, because if you're orienteering, you've already got a passing grade in the Game of Lifetm!
1. Magnuson Park. B-. An unremarkable park which is a decent enough place to orienteer but also doesn't really have anything special to offer. Some meadows, some trails, some thickets and swamps. I dunno. Ya know?
2. North Seatac Park. B+. An under-the-radar (no pun intended) solid venue with a weirdly eclectic vibe that includes a northern area of sneaky-tricky yellow/white/green conglomeration, and a southern area of complicated windy trails and quick route choice decisions. Courses here are always enjoyable.
3. St. Edward State Park. C-. Orienteering at this trails-only venue amounts to no more than a minimally disguised trail run, with an uninspired trail system and usually a massive hill climb to boot. Wouldn't be distraught if I never orienteered here again.
4. Bridle Trails State Park. C. Another trails-only venue, though with a much more robust trail network offering some degree of route choice. And no mindless climbs that make you feel like an alien is about to burst out of your chest.
5. Putney Woods. B+. In my mind the most enigmatic of all CascadeOC venues (I've only been here once). 100% wooded, with classic PNW-thick forest, though the one race I ran here did offer surprisingly extensive off-trail running and was quite well-set. Well worth the price of a ferry ticket.
6. Lincoln Tree Farm - A-. One of the three or four best west-slope venues in the club's inventory, though for some reason they keep farming the Lincoln Trees, which is progressively causing the venue to be less and less best, but also is what gives LTF its unique patchwork quality that forces you to change orienteering tactics on the fly. Big bonus points for the fact that nearly the entire venue is PNW-runnable.
7. Fire Mountain Scout Camp - A. Pretty objectively the best west-slope venue we have, as far as I'm concerned. A well-set course here provides a high-level physical and technical orienteering challenge even a typical soft-bellied mollycoddled East Coast orienteer could appreciate.
8(C). Green River CC - B. A venue that does a lot, but does none of it particularly well. Some campus sprint terrain, though of average quality; some forest, though mostly too thick to use; some trails and junk, though not a ton of route choice. But when you mush the pieces together, there's just enough there that it works.
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As far as the manly men's competition goes, it appears to be a Usual Suspects situation - you've got the Bonesaw, the J (reigning champion), Peteris, and myself, though all of us are - in the immortal words of Waters et al. - shorter of breath and one [year] closer to death. There's also the annual question of whether the J can be pried away from his precious trail running to attend enough events (4) to qualify.
So is there anyone who can make The Leap and challenge the top four? The default candidate would be the Jonesaw, who showed in solid form throughout SART. On the other hand, his winter campaign last season left much to be desired - he didn't tally a positive score until the fifth event, and in the end only attended four of the seven, finishing with two MSP and two underwhelming 7th place scores. We shall see.