Woodhill forest is a managed sand dune forest on New Zealand's North
Island, less than an hour northwest of Auckland. Someone once said it
was the best O terrain in the world. I've always wanted to go to NZ,
and wanted to get more experience on dunes, having only had one event
on dunes before. So I went to check it out.
It was certainly the hardest terrain I've ever dealt with. Technical,
fast, no visibility, and no mobility. I was certainly in over my head
on this one. (how can something be fast with no mobility -- well, its
hard to explain). The visibility was poor because of pine and the
dunes. You could be within 1m of the bag and not see it, but if you
knew exactly where you were, no problem. Which is good. It
was alot of fun, and a great training experience. The dunes themselves
also made it impossible to see the big picture, in many cases it really
was almost like night O, or what someone once said -- "orienteering
with your feet". I feel I got somewhat a feel for that technique.
Of course, some areas were wide open with excellent viz. As it was managed
forest, each block had different aged pines, thus different viz. I did ok
in the high viz sections. Penalties were huge, I absolutely could not
relocate in this stuff, and being a pure map reader (no pace counting
and only very rough compass), I was a dead duck if I lost it, which was
easy to do. As it turned out, I didn't boom that many bags, but some of
the booms were disasters. In a word, I suck.
Looking at the maps, it doesn't look as hard as it was. But the "white"
was often light or med green -- it was mapped white "for readability"
according to the mappers' notes. One other thing to contend with was
the "cutty grass", often head high grass jungles where the blades of
grass were like paper cuts. I was lucky and only got one such paper
cut, you had to go thru it a certain way, and I got the knack of it,
but the stuff blocked your viz and thru you off course.
Its interesting. The O is definitely harder overseas. Either US
course setting is too easy, or, perhaps, we don't put enough
effort into finding championship class terrain (or we don't have any).
I don't know what it is. I find Harriman much easier, which is
of that class of terrain. So I dunno. I think it comes down to,
for me, that hardwood forest is easier for many reasons, and in
the US, there is a taboo against hanging the bags on the low stands,
which is common overseas. That makes a difference in the type of
low viz, technical terrain at these sorts of races. I've developed
a technique that works ok in high viz, hardwood forest, and/or ridge/valley
terrain. I'm not used to the paradigm of illogical knoll/kettle
dune terrain (I'll write more on semiotic codes relating to O and how
this may apply some other time).
Also, this terrain was just contours (the mappers notes said don't
rely on some of the veg -- the big stuff was ok, but I got into
trouble in the just contour stuff). I think "other stuff", rocks,
veg boundaries, streams, etc. that we have in our forests helps a ton.
Not having this stuff also explains some of my problems, and a
technique that has grown (apparently) to rely on the contrast of
non-contour objects, tho my technique could be called primary
I put up a few map samples, without routes, as I am too embarrassed,
and too pressed for time.
NZ Classic Champs
Here is the NZ classic champs sample
14K thru a cross between Cle Elum and Raven Rock on steroids. These
woods where physical with tons of deadfall. 50% of M21E DNFed, about
12 or 13 people. Winning time a touch under 2 hours. I would have
handled it physically, but the navigation errors kept adding up 'til
I had to walk off the course due to time.
There was a map exchange -- I didn't put up the whole course, just
highlighted an interesting area, and the area where I DNFed. We went
thru here twice -- extremely technical, and the green area is so
thick with pines and up and down that you really had to be on the
ball. #26 was an unbelievably difficult bag, the "rough open" is
actually a felled area, with stumps, head high pines, head high
cutty grass, logging debris, pits, and all the other nastiness of
a felled area. I was proud of myself for finding a way to simplify
the area and find the bag in that trash.
I DNFed on #27. Should be able to hit that from that distance
on a 1-10 map, but could not. Went in three times, walking, reading
the map, no bag. Had to walk off the course as I was over three hours.
I only had about 1300m to go to finish, spike this control, and I
can be somewhat happy. Not sure why I could not find it, always
ended up in the same place that looked right.
NZ Short Champs.
Here is the NZ short champs
A map called "Hobbit Woods". Lots of cool gnarled pines down near the
beach, just like in the movie. Extremely fast. The winning time
on this was about 5min/k or less. I don't know how anyone can read
this stuff at that speed. I believe I was in the 7.5min/k range until
I boomed #4. But #7 was where I got killed. I had no real idea how
I was going to find the control, and that's not good. I could not
run the beach as it was too slow, and could not handrail along the veg
boundary as the nature of the dunes forest made it hard to follow.
No plan to find the control means you ain't gonna find it. From
there it was a disaster -- but still I think a tremendous course
at a tremendous venue.
Here is the NZ ANZAC Day 2
ANZAC day1 was ridge and valley at another venue. Great woods but
nothing remarkable. Day2 was back at Woodhill on a map called
"Spaghetti Soup". Gotta love that name. I decided I was just going
to come out with the easy, 10min/k pace, and have a clean run, and
in particular be more accurate with my compass. It was by far my
best race, only 5mins of booms, which is pretty sad as slowly and
as carefully as I was going. And I'll admit I lucked into a bag
or two. Still, despite the poor result, one of my top 10 runs of
all time, considering the difficulty. Ran about 10min/k or so. I
guess that's what happens when you come out in the 10min/k gear.
Here is the NZ ANZAC Day 3
Decided I should try to run faster. Had a few blowout controls.