I was much more confident on this, my second WHNO. In 2009, I ran two or three controls alone, but running alone in Pawtuckaway in the dark terrified me. I ran into Brendan, Boris, and Kat at a control, and followed them for much of the course. It should be noted that my Garmin didn't start recording until around pt 3.
This year, while the course was much easier, I was alone for much of the time, and found it generally within my abilities. Brendan led the charge out of the start, and I followed. I glanced at my map, but I didn't have a great plan - I meant to run left of the marsh and run on the line I eventually took, but I completely overlooked the trail. When Brendan intrepidly charged into the swamp, I stayed with him, though apparently everyone was deterred by our plunk-plunking through the water. Will remarked to Alex and Ali during the first leg
about our idiotic route choice.
By the time I reached the first control, the leaders had passed far ahead. I started picking off the people in front of me and caught up with Phil Bricker and PG at control 2. I was still adjusting to navigating at night for control 3, and stayed with them. Control 4 was through the "here be dragons" zone, and I didn't have a better plan than to go straight. If I had been alone, I might have tried to bounce off the water features right of the control or the stone wall left of it, but I just followed PG and Phil, and Phil led me right to it after PG got too far ahead of us.
Phil and I parted company at 4, and I ran solo until 7, where I caught up to Ernst and Alar Ruutopold. I was somewhat lucky at 5, but I reasoned that the stone walls would catch me if I missed; I ran using the contours and trying to avoid climbing too much after passing over the hill. Pt 8 was a bit tricky, and I slowed to make sure I hit the boulder cluster. I ran with Ernst and Alar to 9 and punched just ahead of them. I tried to break away on the trivial linear navigation to 10, but the marsh density was much higher before the trail than the map indicates, and I was confused. I led after the trail, but I overshot the boulder and Ernst found it first. We diverged slightly en route to 11, but we converged in the huge reentrant and I punched a few seconds ahead of the two of them. We deviated on the way to 12, and I didn't see them again.
I'm not happy with my route to 12, and I wasn't happy when I made the plan, but I stuck with it. The idea was simple - run along the trail, follow the cliff/marsh line to the eastern tip of Incredible Pond, then stay south of the water features into the control. I ran into the sea of huge boulders on the tip of the Incredible, and drifted south to get around them. I ran into Alex going to 13 at the choke point south of Incredible, but then confused the hilltops and drifted NW. At the boulders N of 12, I beheld a spectacular sight: Will, navigating solo, with a headlamp no brighter than a few candles - perhaps 3-5 lumens. It was remarkable; he ignored me entirely and charged off toward 12. After I relocated on the boulders, I followed him, and punched 15-20 seconds behind him.
I had a confusing adventure leaving 12; I wasn't quite sure where I was until I almost fell off the cliff at the choke point south of Incredible (probably a 5-10 meter fall). I didn't have difficult en route to 13, and I ran with cautious confidence knowing that the stone walls would catch me. I hit the wall junction and went into the control. On the leg to 14, I was feeling very comfortable with Pawtuckaway and navigating respectably. I aimed for the northern tip of the long marsh, missed by perhaps 25-50 meters, and attacked between the two ponds. I passed three or four others who were exploring the edge of the long marsh.
Running from 14, I hit the northern edge of the marsh just south of the control and saw Will. I pushed hard to try to get away from him, and I'm pretty sure I reached the road first. Unfortunately, I stupidly chose to go straight rather than running around on the parking lot, and (de facto blind) Will beat me by about 30 seconds. I was slow - about 30 minutes behind the Childs and Ali, but my race was a big improvement over my past experience in Pawtuckaway at night. I'm also very happy that I was able to push through 4.5 hours of activity in a single day, even though fatigue undoubtedly contributed to my sluggishness during this race. Finishing the Night-O uninjured, even given its numerous easy controls, is itself a victory. My GPS track corresponds to my drawn track pretty well. A hallmark of Pawtuckaway's high map quality is that very few QR points are needed to make the track conform to the map.