Orienteering race (UltraLong) 3:44:57  21.3 km (10:34 / km) +397m 9:40 / km
shoes: Salomon S-LAB FellCross
U.S. UltraLong Orienteering Champs
East Fork State Park, Batavia, OH
The Ultralong race was the main reason for my trip; I was excited about this rare opportunity to do a multi-hour technical navigation race solo on a good map. In the regular Long orienteering race format, we usually get one or two long legs that go much of the way across the map offering a ton of route choice. I love those legs! In the UltraLong format, there is a continual ebb and flow of shorter legs and long legs. So much fun! Adding to the interest, three of us who normally compete in our age group - Peggy, Barb B and I - agreed to compete on the Female Elite course for our own imaginary masters podium. This was great since we all enjoy racing longer courses than our age group allows, and I knew it wouldn't be very informative to compare splits with Alex and Ali. It would definitely be fun to compare with women I normally race against in age group competition.
I felt sorry for the organizers when heavy rain started pelting down in the morning. I'm sure some people elected not to start. I've done a fair bit of racing in similar conditions, e.g. this year's Logs Rocks and Steel, so I knew I'd survive even though it made things tougher. After my warm-up, I changed my layers twice since I was getting hypothermic before I started. Fortunately, it seems that I made the right choice and didn't need to adjust anything during the race.
Like many orienteers, I need glasses to read fine details on the map, and they can get foggy on super rainy days. Lots of us had this problem today, *however*, I was the only
idiot racer who was so bleary-eyed that I read my map upside down at the start. In my defence, the race began with a mass start on a park road, and as the crowd began running, I was alarmed to note that I had neither compass nor SI card. I remembered that in my many layer changes, I'd stuffed them into a jacket pocket. So as we ran down the road, I was pulling out my gear and not looking at my map.
When we reached the start triangle, I was totally confused because it was clear that I needed to head backward to get to the first control but everyone else was going forward. I ran back a short distance. Strange that nobody else was going back with me... Maybe that wasn't really the start triangle; I asked some nearby volunteers and they assured me it was. OK, I went back and looked for my indistinct trail into the woods but things just didn't seem right. I took off the glasses and wiped them well, then had a better look at the map. Oh crap, I had the road oriented backwards. So much for the mass start helping me! Even once I'd headed the correct direction, I needlessly crossed a deep gully, then wiped my glasses again and realized I needed to scramble all the way back. It seemed that I wasted an eternity getting to #1 but it looks like I only lost 7 minutes compared to Raymond.
I ran most of the race alone after that with occasional glimpses of Barb B and Dave Y from #5-9, a quick hello to Raymond around #12, and Mintore sightings at regular intervals over the second half of the course.
It rained hard for the first 45 minutes of the race, complete with a few lightning flashes. In addition to my trouble reading the map details, I wasn't spotting flags until I got close. I ran right past #6, believing I was in the right place but not spotting the flag. It took another 5 minutes of wandering until I saw the road and returned to the ditch for another look. I'm thinking that a brimmed hat would be the best solution for using glasses in heavy rain. I'm usually OK in moderate rain but this was a crazy storm.
On the bright side, it was a great day for people who aren't deterred by the elements. It was so wet that it could be hard to distinguish between trails and creeks. Many of the trails are used by horses so there was goopy mud in addition to the puddles. East Fork State Park is full of steep-sided ditches and ravines, and it took some upper body strength and tenuous balance to haul myself up muddy slopes while clutching at saplings. I did a few major bum slides to get down hills. Jon Torrance talked about making choices about where to climb slopes, and how he'd sometimes climb them two or three times because it was easy to slide down a long way if we lost our footing. I got thinking about artificial mud runs and how much more challenging it is to do the real thing. I'm probably crazy but to me, it was like an adult fun park.
There were some terrific route choice legs, including five legs > 1km, most of them in the second half of the course. The slippery slopes and the evil thorns in some areas made it desirable to avoid both climb and heavy vegetation so I used roads and trails more often than I might have. As a result, I ran almost 7 km longer than the published length of the course! That's 4 km farther than Jon Marsden, one of the top racers today.
The steep hills were a strength workout in these conditions but I finished the race with lots of energy so obviously I should have run harder. My gimpy foot didn't give me any particular trouble but my good foot was sore for a few minutes mid-race. My ankle brace chafed the top of my foot for the first time; it may be time to leave it off and allow my ankle its full range of motion for orienteering.
There was some nasty, thorny honeysuckle, and I pulled down a vine with my face. As I ran for the next 15 minutes, I was pulling thorn pieces out of my face and using water from my Camelbak to wash away the blood periodically. I'm not going to look very good for Christmas party season!
I look forward to using the various tools to review splits and route choices. The big news is that our little "Red Masters" group had a good day. Peggy took the silver medal in F-Elite, and Barb B took the bronze - yay! I finished between them but am not eligible for the U.S. Champs. I'm proud to report that I won exactly one split over Alex, the champion. She bet me that I would get her on #17, which turned out to be my best split. She took a more aggressive route choice through bland terrain and arrived at the wrong gully system, which took 6 minutes longer to sort out. I spent 30 seconds fully stopped to plan that long leg, which is a good lesson for me to remember.
Thanks to OCIN - particularly Mike Minium and Cedarcreek - for a well-organized, challenging, fun weekend of orienteering. Thanks to a slow border crossing on the way home, it took 11 hours to get to Palgrave but I'm still really glad I went. It was great to see the orienteering crowd so soon after NAOC. Lots of good vibes.