Trail Running
Mountain Biking

Orienteering is the new running

Posted by Nicky Donbavand

Always keen to have a go at different events, when an opportunity came to have a go at an orienteering event, we clapped our hands with glee and headed off to get the credit card.

It was brought to our attention via our next door neighbour and fellow club mate John Baker.  He’d participated in one around Box Hill near Dorking a few months ago and raved about it.  So much so, he constructed two ‘home made’ courses for the running club to have a go at.  And do you know what, they loved it.  One runner said it lit her passion for running again.  That’s pretty big isn’t it?

So with credit card retrieved and Penny already signed up we clicked to confirm and we were in.

The event in Cranleigh is run as a series by Tri Adventure.  The format is simple, checkpoints are placed around the local area and identified as numbers on a map.

You decide which order to visit the checkpoints and how many you think you’re going to get.  Each checkpoint is worth 10 points, the runner with the most points wins.  But there is a catch, for every 30 seconds you return after the cut off you are fined a point.  Getting back late can be very costly indeed.

The event today was a combined run/mountain bike.  All competitors start on foot and then may transition only once from foot to bike.  There were 20 checkpoints, 10 run and 10 MTB and with Winterfold Hill looming on the horizon we knew had the potential to be very lumpy.

Pen and I got there early to enjoy a pre-race cup of tea (available for a small charity donation, a great touch) and go through the route.  Pen was trying out her new varifocal contact lenses.  We were also in an area where we knew the roads reasonably well but off road barely at all.

High above us on Winterfold hill bore the traditional turn around point of the Greensand marathon.  A point I knew well as I marshalled there each year.  Tanners Marathon a couple of years ago also took us along the notoriously difficult to follow Greensand Way.  I’d packed an emergency tenner in case we got lost.

We planned with enthusiasm and optimism and then reigned the plan in to have a more realistic target.  We figured we’d get five (out of ten) on the run, be back in the hour to transition to bike and get another seven (out of ten) before heading back for the two hour cut off.

We totally under estimated the course.

The start was bizarre, with runners heading in all different directions as the horn sounded.  It took seven minutes to get to the first checkpoint which we found with ease.  Following paths and roads we took another eleven minutes to reach checkpoint two and after a slight detour where we missed a bridleway sign a whopping 23 minutes to reach the third.  At this point we made the decision to sacrifice some of the bike checkpoints which we knew would be on hilly and muddy terrain and secured a fourth run checkpoint (we had previously discounted) only 5 minutes from the third.  As we met fellow competitors we received (and gave) cheery waves and hellos.  The relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the event was apparent.

It was confidence boosting to see other runners heading our direction as well as those coming the other way.  One pair popped out of a hedge after taking a ‘short cut’ across the golf course and getting completely lost.  We pointed them in the right direction and headed on our way.

We navigated really well and apart from one point where instinct was telling me left and the compass (and Penny) was telling us right, we didn’t get lost at all (we went right, phew!)

Six checkpoints down, a quick transition including a total re-hash of the cycle targets and out we went with about 38 minutes left on the clock.  We planned to follow a loop passing two checkpoints then head back to the finish for an early cup of tea.

Goodness, our legs were trashed and cycling the first few minutes was really hard.  I took a couple of shot bloks and gradually felt much better.  Reaching the second checkpoint much sooner than we thought we then convinced ourselves we could squeeze in a third.  We ignored the fact the contours hinted at a lot of uphill.

It was uphill of course, but conveniently having a granny ring we found it and kept going, enthused by all the others telling us it wasn’t far.  And really it wasn’t.  After dibbing the dibber (a technical term) we re-mounted and wheeeeeeeee’d our way back to the main road.  We had 12 minutes to get back to the finish.

We didn’t quite make it, but the 1 minute 38 we were over resulted in only 4 penalty points which means the decision to do the extra checkpoint was a good one.

Once done, we dumped the bikes and sat with a cup of tea and flapjack to watch the stragglers coming in.  Everyone looked really happy and relaxed, chatting with friends and comparing results.  We were delighted to hear friend, Rob Hardwick took second place, a superb performance.  We finished 53rd/54th out of 64 and had a fab time.

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