O Log - Woodhill

[15-May-03] 

    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 contour reading.

    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.

    ANZAC Day2.

    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.

    ANZAC Day3.

    Here is the NZ ANZAC Day 3

    Decided I should try to run faster. Had a few blowout controls.

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