Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Compasses, maps, and initials all day long

I'm sure that most athletes who have an almost unhealthy focus on a seasonal sport get into a routine in the off season that can seem a bit mundane at times. We all crave that exercise and competition, or even just something to do until it's time to compete in our respective sports again. For me, I just can't wait to ride bikes, my strategy as such is to book myself up entirely for every weekend until bike season is upon us again, and I have varying success in my endeavors. Last weekend I tried out for the Nordic ski team, but it's a very small, pretty elite race squad, and I'm quite new to the sport, so that was a flop. This weekend however, I had the opportunity to take part in an orienteering race through the snow.

A cool landmark in the race, I wonder how long it's been stuck for? (Brad Jennings Photo)

The concept is simple, one hour before start we are all given maps - this race spanned farm fields, forests, canals, creeks, ponds, swamps, rivers, drumlins, hydrolines, and even a university campus. The race format is teams of two, navigating in our own chosen order to try to make it to all of the 20 checkpoints and back in 3 hours. There are only 2 ways to get penalties - being late (penalty of 10 points per minute past the given 3 hours), and losing your punch card (penalty of 100 points). The 20 checkpoints in the race were worth anything from 20 points to the biggest which was worth 70 points, with their value assigned based on how far from the start finish that they are, how technical the terrain was that they are in, and how hard they are to find. Seems simple, right? Right. 

Measuring distances so that we can count steps and get there precisely

My buddy Kelsey and I were team Gnarvest, and friends Matt and Nichola joined as a co-ed team called Matata Hakuna. The race started off pretty well, and almost all of the teams went to checkpoint number 1 first. Then Kelsey and I deviated from the pack and ran straight down a steep ridge to start searching for checkpoint 3.  After number 3 we were the first to make it to checkpoint 20 (worth the most points) and as such I left a yellow C + K unavoidably close to the checkpoint as a calling card. This was a trend that I somehow managed to uphold for 5 of the 20 checkpoints, though admittedly the initials got smaller and smaller. 

Team Gnarvest - also did I mention that I"m always somehow #31? (Brad Jennings Photo)

We got a bit mixed up and lost in the northern boundary of the map for what seemed like forever, but eventually got our bearings and got up to checkpoint number 5, which was inside a massive cedar tree. This is where things went bad for us
"Hey Chris, pass me the punchcard"
"Dude you had the punchcard"
"You're right, Uh oh."
Now we were on the hunt for a white punchcard in the snow, which could have been anywhere as we had run probably 2km since the last time that we punched it. We gave a solid effort of backtracking and scanning the ground, desperately looking for the punchcard as the other teams kept finding checkpoints and filling in theirs. Eventually we just had to call it and get back on track, we figure that we could just punch the map, and if we went really really fast we may be able to still cover a lot of ground.

We may have screwed things up, but at least our uniform was on point
(Just had to get rid of the turtle necks) (Brad Jennings Photo)

This extra pressure brought Kelsey and I to another level of speed (our fastest km in the 3 hour, 20km race was 4:18 on snow and ice) and focus, using the compass and map to pinpoint our next destination with surprising accuracy.

Teamwork and interpretive dance (Brad Jennings Photo)
With Matata Hakuna, teamwork never looked like so much fun (Brad Jennings Photo)

Teamwork was necessary in a lot of different ways during this race; and we did a great job working together. When the bush got too thick we would leapfrog and point a bearing to a tree if we couldn't keep a straight line, re adjusting as we went. Kelsey even helped me up some of the icy hills (his shoes have carbide spikes in them, where mine do not), these were fun times because we got to hold hands and run up hills together <3.  We crossed over frozen water, through the locks north of Peterborough, over tall barbed wire fences, through thick bush, and back to Trent University to be the second team back, managing to get to all checkpoints with 11 minutes to spare. Being the second team back, we got to cheer our friends in.

Kels and I aren't that cute

After the points were tallied (and our 100 points were deducted), it was quite close, but Kelsey and I came out on top with a 10 point lead over second place. Matata Hakuna explored their way into third place for the day, and we all felt pretty great. We worked hard for it, and it was pretty sweet to get to do such a fun race like this, Sure we got soakers, and it was a bit frustrating sometimes being unable to find the checkpoint or being too far off, but we didn't give up and were the only team to get to every checkpoint. Afterward we had a massive sushi lunch at an all you can eat sushi place in Peterborough, and I can't think of a better ending to any story.

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