Hampstead Heath LOK District Event, 12th September

Hampstead Heath MapThis was probably the closest orienteering event to me, being based in central London. Hampstead Heath is known as the “green” lung of London and despite its location near the heart of the city, it easily large enough for a District event.

This being my first race of the season, and it being the morning after a late night before, I was planning to run down two classes. I spotted my club captain at the registration tent however and so hastily decided to run just one class down. Unfortuantely he heard me say this and insisted I ran in the top class. 8.4km on the back of no training (the “summer recess”) since Sweden in July. Aargh! I felt very out of fitness and indeed all but gave up half way around, having been part of a back of relatively fast runners, including the aforementioned captain, for several legs. However I perservered and got around in the end. The heath is huge and varied, with open parkland, lakes and dense woodland, with a maze of paths. A bit of a treat to be so nearby, and it can hold its own to many of the other London-centric areas nearby. At 210m, my course managed to pack a lot of climbing in for southern England.

My main mistake was at number 12, where I got confused by the patchwork terrain and myriad paths, the noise of the roads above and the uneven settlement around me. I dropped maybe 6-7 minutes here. 12 is in the extract at the bottom left, I approached along the road to the north of the settlement area, coming around to the right much too late, having curved around to the left too much and going into an intricate “hollow”, just to the south of the extract, too deep.

After my fast start and exhausting middle, it was a battle to get around before the course closed. I made it with seconds to spare in the end, having considerably upped my pace for the last 25%, so much so that I found the hill climb at the end a real killer, and my legs have badly stiffened up the following day. But the weather was fine and it was a nice start to hopefully a long and injury free season. Missing 10 mins/km by a matter of a few seconds was very annoying though.

Brown course, 8.4km, 210m climb, 84:42 (2/3rds down the field.)


More Map Extracts for the Map of Maps project

I’ve added 19 more map extracts to the Map of Maps page. The new extracts are mainly of the areas around Edinburgh and East Lothian, with a few more too in Central Scotland.


Map of Maps Beta

I’ve put online a beta of my “Map of Maps” – an interactive map of orienteering maps in Great Britain. At the moment it contains 120 maps, 40 of which have viewable extracts. This is just a small fraction of the orienteering maps in the country. Soon visitors will be able to add their own maps and hopefully the map will grow into one comprehensively covering the country. For now, the points are mainly from my own maps and are clustered around the main areas I’ve orienteered in – the Edinburgh, London and Oxford/Chiltern areas.

You can zoom into particular parts of the map using the tools at the top, to separate maps close together. Thanks to Map Bureau for the package I’ve used to create the interactive map.

You need the Macromedia Flash plugin to view the map (this is a standard part of most browsers) and a Javascript enabled browser. Additionally the interactive map may not work with certain browser combinations, such as IE/Mac. It should look something like the screenshot below. Please let me know in the comments below if you have issues viewing the page, or you have suggestions for enhancements.

I mentioned this project earlier.

Screenshot of Map of Maps


O-Ringen 2004: Stage 5, Mölndalsetappen (23 Jul)

O-Ringen Day 5The final day of the O-Ringen, and the second day bathed in glorous sunshine. Unfortuantely I had caught a bad cold the previous night, and was feeling pretty dreadful. I ended up just running the first couple of legs, then going for a nice wander and completing and the latter half of the course, the easier section, so that I could get a good feel of the course without aggrevating my cold.

From what I saw it was a nice area, perhaps the most “Scottish” of the five days.

And so, that was it. It was a week with orienteering in a different league to that in England. Sustained technically difficult, varied and intricate areas every day. No wonder the GB national teams tend to be made up of orienteers based in Scandinavia. It just isn’t the same back home.

So overall, in terms of terrain, my favourites were, in order:
Day 3, Day 4, Day 2, Day 5, Day 1.

And in terms of my own performance:
Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 1, Day 5.

An extract of this final day’s map is to follow.

Orienteering Events Log

O-Ringen 2004: Stage 4, Torslandaetappen (22 Jul)

O-Ringen Stage 4Day 4 was the sprint race – less than 4km in length, and rumours of the terrain being very different to the previous days’. The fact that the walk to the start from the assembly area (and finish) was over 3km left the JOKers wondering whether the course would be a straight line back to the finish. In fact, the walk to the start essentially went right around the competition area – three sides of a square.

The terrain certainly was different, and of the several hundred maps I have orienteered on, this one was up there in the unusual stake. The first two-thirds of the course were on open, flat rock, with crevices and gullies abounding, as well as plenty of heather. I launched into the race from the off (it is a sprint after all – every second counts) and proceeded to make the biggest mistake of my whole five days. I spectacularly misjudged the difficulty of the map (just because you can see far doesn’t mean you can see all the controls!) and the scale (1:10000) and took over nine minutes to the first control, whereas I should have done it in under 3 minutes (and the elites in well under 2.) I got confused by the positions of the small lakes and ended up running more than twice the distance needed, beyond the control. In the map extract here, I ended up at the small lake at the top.

O-Ringen Stage 4The rest of the course was OK in general. No. 3 was wedged down a gully about 80cm wide – one way in and out, for most people, except me – I instead jumped directly on the control from the crag above, almost squashing several other runners in the process. I made another big mistake at number 9 (going from SW to NE on the other extract here. Here, it started to rain and I found it quite difficult to see. The control was considerably further to the east than I thought. The nature of a sprint race is that you have to just go for it, so I was running around madly every time I made a mistake – often making it worse.

My time in the end was not unreasonable considering two big mistakes and at least two smaller ones. The area was superb to orienteer on, really unusual and a real test of initiative. Just a shame I didn’t rise to the occasion here. I’d love to do more of this kind of orienteering though. I would call it “Scrambl-O.”

Orienteering Events Log

O-Ringen 2004: Stage 3, Skatåsetappen (21 Jul)

O-Ringen 2004 Day 3Day 3, and the JOKers had the undeniable luxury of essentially staying at a club hut on the map. Considering that we were on the edge of the city though, we were all suprised at the ruggedness and remoteness of some sections of the map. The dominating features were distinct lines of crags, running directly north-south at around 500m intervals. The forest however was almost universally runnable and very fast, making this the most pleasing “conventional” map of the five days and my personal favourite day.

O-Ringen 2004 Day 3I only made one serious error on this course, at Control 14. I made a very bad route choice indeed on the leg from 13 to 14, deciding to go over rather than around a hill, but then at the highest point, deciding do “go around” after all and dropping down in the wrong direction. This exhausting climb probably caused the big error around the control. I was search just 50 metres too far to the west of the control, on as it turns out a parallel reentrant. Only the hefty cliffs further to the west stopped me from going even further away, and in fact provided a useful relocation feature.

Some of the legs were really lovely on this course – long but fast sections, such as leg 9-10 shown here, with muddy paths far away but some nice, firm marshes and broken forest to speed through. The earlier sections however were much more rugged, and the regular lines of cliffs provided some serious obstacles – see the extract here on my way to No. 3.

All in all a really beautiful area and it was the one that reminded me most of the excellent, fast terrain over in Stockholm I experienced at the Varsity Match there in 2001.

O-Ringen 2004 Day 3


Plan for late 2004

A provisional schedule for my orienteering in 2004-5:

5th Sept – SOC District Event & SOC & SCOA Leagues. Farley Mount, Winchester.
12th Sept – LOK District Event. Hampstead Heath, London.
(18th Sept – Moving house.)
25th Sept – DFOK District Event. Lesnes Abbey Wood, SE London.
26th Sept – BKO District Event & SCOA League. Burghfield Common, Nr Mortimer.
3rd Oct – BOK Regional Event, BOK Trot. Moseley Green, Forest of Dean. (maybe)
10th Oct – SO Regional Event. Eartham Wood & Nore Hill, Arundel.
17th Oct – SAX District Event. Vinehall.
(24th Oct – Rest weekend.)
31st Oct – HH District Event. Whippendell & Cassiobury, Watford.
7th Nov – SOC November Classic Regional Event. Burley Lodge, New Forest.
14th Nov – CHIG District Event. Epping East, Epping.
(21st Nov – Rest weekend.)
28th Nov – SO District Event. Tilgate Forest, Crawley.
5th Dec – SAX Regional Event, Saxons Shield. Ightham, Sevenoaks.
12th Dec – SLOW OK Nuts Loop Races. Hankley Common, Milford.

In 2005 I am planning on going to the World Cup spectator races in SE England next April, and the Scottish Six-Day in Royal Deeside, in August.

(In case you are wondering – the remaining writeups of the O-Ringen will appear shortly.)


Unusual first legs

One of the pages on Peter Gagarin’s website has some great examples of unusual first legs.

Orienteering Events Log

O-Ringen 2004: Stage 2, Kungälvsetappen (20 Jul)

O-Ringen Day 2After yesterday’s damp run, the weather was much sunnier today – and indeed I took most of my race photos today. The terrain was wonderfully technical, but not too physical and I had probably the best run of my 5 days, here.

The very beginning of the course was a technical minefield, with the runners being thrust into the confusing and tightly detailed area in the south west of the map. Almost everyone in the JOK made big mistakes going to the first control – a parallel error was common. Thankfully I was one of the few to have a clean run in this early stage. Indeed after yesterday’s nightmare, today I made only two mistakes costing me more than five minutes, although I did make four two-minuters. My time of 96 minutes was still well over 10 mins/km and still in the bottom half of all finishers, but I enjoyed my run and was pleased with quite a few legs here; while many of my (British) contempories were technically disqualified for taking over two hours on this stage.

O-Ringen Day 2Leg 3 to 4 offered the most interesting route choice, being the longest leg and an out-of-bounds (OOB) section blocking the direct route. Glancing at the map, I planned to go in a roughly straight line, bearing left around the OOB – as this would involve the least running and the general rule in these forests is that it’s best to go straight. There are so few paths, and the undergrowth and “green” areas are so sparse, that the traditional British detour is not normally worth it. I ended up going both left and right around the OOB in the end, as I had a bit of a change of plan en route and turned 90 degrees. The normal rule I go by is once I’m committed, go for it. But the terrain was tricky and detailed, and an obvious road that I bizarrely hadn’t seen earlier, offered a tempting, but longer, route. I probably wasted 3-4 minutes having to backstep, but I’m glad I did as thereon the rest of the leg to 4 was fast and easy. The fourth control turned out to be perched in a crevice on a cliff-face, and I turned the wrong way on approaching it, but still this was one of my better controls and I caught up at least one of the other JOK-ers here.

From then on, it was straightforward. A dreadful mistake ensued at No. 10, where I was distracted by the large number of people and controls and stopped concentrating for a moment – fatal in Sweden. No. 14 was my other five-minuter. Being the second last control, I had completely switched off. Instead of going either above or below the cliff, like everyone else, I decided to go through, then up the cliff. Duh. And once again I got distracted. But I’d estimate I didn’t waste more than 20 minutes on mistakes – still a huge amont of time, but I wasted over 30 minutes yesterday.

It was incredibly hot when I got back to the finish and a spot of sunbathing was in order, before retreating back to our hired club hut (picking up that day’s free gift from the event sponsors – toilet paper (!?!?) on the way) from where we didn’t move again today. Doing absolutely nothing after racing hard is so nice…

Orienteering Events Log

O-Ringen 2004: Stage 1, Partilleetappen (19 Jul)

So, on to the real races. I was running H21-2 throughtout the week. H21 was the most popular of all the courses and so was split into H21-1 and H21-2 – almost everyone else on the tour with me was also doing H21-2 (there’s also H21SE, H21E, H21N, H21M and H21K!) This first day was my worst day actually, although not nearly as bad as my highly traumatic first day in France. Indeed, the troubles today were all of my own making. It was also the wettest of the five days.

O-Ringen 2004 Etapp 1Out of just 12 controls on the 7.33km course I managed to stuff up 5 controls, wasting over 5 minutes on four of them. A combination of parallel errors, unfamiliarity with the 1:15000 and sheer recklessness meant I took around 105 minutes to finish the course, well done on most others in JOK, the club I was running with (and a good group to compare with – after all, none of us – Nick Barrable excepted – were ever going to be able to compete with “the Scandies” on level terms.

Annoyingly, the first mistake, to No. 3, was on a 150m leg. I was distracted by the large number of people passing just to the left of the control, and also (I have to say) the map was slightly vague too. The control was hidden in quite dense undergrowth just to the south of where I spent five minutes looking. Even with an obvious line feature just 50m beyond, I still struggled.

I was very pleased with the next couple of legs, and even caught up the fast Jon Marsden. A little too pleased in fact, I comprehensively blew the leg to No. 6, failed to notice a stream was 90 degrees to what it should have been, and got myself in a frightful mess. Even a full scale relocation didn’t help and I only hit an obvious feature that I could follow by luck. The leg is shown the extract here. The next leg again should have been straightforward (this was not a particularly technical area, exccept near the end) and I again veered to the right and wasted a lot of time. I didn’t aim off going to No. 9 and again went right, just missing the control on my left. And No. 10 was just horrendous – I was looking for the control far short of where I should have been. It was near the end of the race and I had lost contact with the map, again being distracted by the large number of people around. I only found the control while on the way to relocate at pylons.

At least the finish was dramatic. The O-Ringen organisers really know how to build one hell of a finish. There were masses of people watching and a huge run-in lane, below a balcony containing commentators, TV cameras and a giant clock.

Overall, not the best start to the five days, it could only get better on the following days and thankfully it did.