The IOC long was a really fun race for me. I thought it
would be cool to write an article about what I was thinking on
each leg and how I planned it, and then what went right or wrong
on the execution.
Some notes on the map. This is moorland/heath on a mountain.
It is covered with either grass or heather, tho the heather
wasn't too bad. The swamps generally are only distinguished
by taller grass, or perhaps wetter feet, but they do tend to
be visible, just less so than we are used to in the States,
where they are often something green on a brown floor.
The overall general visibility on a moor is a mixed
blessing -- to me it can often be too much information to
process, and it doesn't really help too much more than
ultra visible white forest.
The biggest thing about moorland terrain, tho, is
that it tends to be lumpy, meaning it can sometimes be tough
to run really fast thru, but more importantly, it can be
tough to distinguish smaller, significant contour features
from the lumpy visual noise. Also, visibility of smaller
reentrants and other ground hugging features can be tough.
On this map, there is way more rock than is mapped. I don't
blame the mapper; it would be impossible to get it all. But
it can be tough to distinguish between mapped and unmapped
stuff (after the race, a local told me the mapped stuff
tends to be vertical, whilst the unmapped stuff tends to
be angled. Perhaps it would have been helpful to know that
before the race, as I did not eleusis that out). Smaller
streams and swamps also tended to not be mapped.
The hillsides tended to be rocky, with small unmapped,
impossible to run on rock, but there were alot of these
bizarre terraces and also hillside flows with no rock at
all, which I guess are a result of glacial flow cleaning
all the loose rock out. Exploiting them was a key to
success. They tended to not be so obvious from the map;
they are often cases where the lines are farther apart
than the surrounding lines, or where swamps were present
(there were few contour swamps on this moor). Formlines
might have been appropriate to show them better, or might
have cluttered the issue. It was something you learned to
get a sense of.
Notice there are no trails or other linear features on
almost the whole course. And everything out there can look
the same. Relocating could take a month, so obviously
you couldn't lose contact. You could also end up being
penalized pretty severely for being a couple of lines high
or low, given that the bags were hung on short stands and
tough to see even when close, in many cases. Finding
distinct features seemed important.
The map was 1:15000.
Leg 1 plan
I'm pretty overwhelmed when I turn over the map, so my
first thought is to use the green to simplify. I know
I'd be even with the control when I got to the cutout in
the green ENE of the circle, so my plan is to climb up
that reentrant just to the left of the line to get to
the proper height on the hillside, then just watch the
green as I made my way in. I do not want to chance
relying on reading the rock due to how much unmapped stuff
Leg 1 execution
After the first 10 lines or so of climbing, I can't
see the green. So I move to the right so I could. But
the running is horrible, so I bag the read-the-green
plan and move back into the reentrant, figuring to pick
up the stream and the swamp and have the narrow contour
feature lead me to the bag. I am nervous about this, as
it is not obvious that I can execute it, or that I am
even on the correct line on the hillside, but everything
ends up lining up, and I spike the bag.
Leg 2 plan
The risk on this leg looks to be getting too low, and
not being able to see the feature -- a tiny cliff on a
steep, rocky hillside. You have to make sure you get
over the first system of rock and see that system with
the distinct notch. Then you handrail along that cliff,
and should be able to angle up the hillside, past the
next cliff, to the bag.
Leg 2 execution
So I aim right away for that notch, hit it, execute
plan, and spike the bag.
Leg 3 plan
I know what half the leg looks like already, so I am
going to be safe and go back past that notch. I should
then be able to pick up that reentrant, followed by
the flat area, and then make an on the spot judgement
call as to whether to sidehill or go over the spur.
Leg 3 execution
Spike the bag on plan. Go over the spur, as I thought
it would be safer to come down on the bag rather than
up to it. Probably would have been faster to sidehill.
Feeling quite nervous that it is going to be pretty easy
to make a huge mistake out here. Despite 3 spikes, no
Leg 4 plan
This looks like a trivial leg. The swamp will be easy
to find, and I'll either climb over, or go around the
spur with the rockface and into the bag, which will be
Leg 4 execution
Leg is even easier than that, as someone ahead of me
is executing it. 4 for 4.
Leg 5 plan
This is a case of use the terrace (where the lines are
slightly farther apart, it is actually flat). I probably
won't be able to see the cliffs to my right as I go
along, so I will have to track the curvature of the
hillside, and pick of that sort of rectangular-shaped
reentrant on the way in. Then I should see those smaller
contour features and sort it out when I get to the circle.
I should be able to run this pretty fast, as it doesn't
look too risky.
Leg 5 execution
As planned, another spike, tho reading the contours seemed
more challenging than it appears from the map.
Leg 6 plan
The terrace on this one is given away by the swamps, so
going along the swamps to the right seems obvious. The
risks are miscounting the swamps, as I am going to try
to push it hard on this easy leg, and there isn't much
to visually distinguish an uncrossable from a crossable
one. The approach to the bag also looks risky if my last
known point is the end of the last swamp, as that hillside
will be non-descript with unmapped rock. To be honest,
I do not plan past getting to the end of the last swamp,
figuring I'll see what I can recognize when I get there.
Leg 6 execution
Get to the end of the swamp system fine, and the hillside
is a mass of impenetrable rock. Am real nervous about
how I'm going to find this control. Stay in the flat as
long as possible to get as close as possible, and cut up.
Hesitate in the first reentrant, and figure, correctly,
that I have to keep going.
Leg 7 plan
This looks easy, but I can't tell the mapped from the
unmapped rock. It can also be deceptively high penalty,
if you get on the hillside and not spike it, then
where are you? The terrain is lumpy and hard to
read. I figure I should be able to hit the control on
Leg 7 execution
Without a good plan, I boom the control to the right.
Probably only about 20 seconds or so. I wasn't sure what
a good way to force success on this control was, and am
still not, given the nature of the terrain. I'm starting
to feel mentally fatigued, which isn't a good sign this
Leg 8 plan
I see a runnable terrace between the two major cliff
systems to the left of the line, leading to a nice
broad reentrant to the right of the line halfway thru
the leg, followed by some technical orienteering into
the control, which I figure I'll sort out when I get
This route involves going down to the terrace, then
climbing in the reentrant, then dropping lines to
the control. Its more climb than necessary on the
control, but I feel this route is the safest I can find,
and this leg looks very risky for a large penalty if
I try something else.
Leg 8 execution
Things do not look right halfway thru the leg. The
reentrant does not look the right shape, nor can I
find the stream mapped thru it. I stop for a few
seconds. But where else could I be? At least it
is going uphill, as expected, and is runnable, so
I keep going, and am relieved to pick up that small
pond when I get to the top. Unfortunately, the pond
blocks the way, so I have to climb a line to get
around it. I drop down from the pond into a reentrant
to the control, but no control. I panic but quickly
realise I am too high when I see another runner in
the proper reentrant a line or two down.
While I have bobbled the last 3 controls, I am feeling
pretty good about things, being well less than a
minute down so far. I am becoming mentally frazzled,
Leg 9 plan
I cannot determine whether the lines to the left of
the line represent a spur or a reentrant. I should
be able to see the water stop tho, from just about
anywhere, and I need to take a Gu anyway, so I head
for the water stop on bearing.
Leg 9 execution
I climb the couple lines out of 8, and not only see
the water stop, but the bag. Take the Gu at the WS.
Leg 10 plan
This control looks easy, as there are plenty of
distinguishing features to make sure I can find
it. The broad reentrant will lead me to the pond
and swamp, where I can handrail the right distance
from the hillside to the left while I pick up hill
Leg 10 execution
It is easy. I try to push it.
Leg 11 plan
This is a dangerous looking leg. I'm having a good
run, and see this as a run-breaker. I see high
risk, high penalty, no safe route. The straight
route looks pretty imposing, so I plan a sidehill
along to the left, where I should at least be able
to pick up that large reentrant. From there, I
don't really have a plan, and will wing it, reacting
to the terrain. I am not in a comfort zone on this.
Leg 11 execution
I get on some sort of sheep trail, so the sidehilling
isn't too bad. I am very nervous about what is going
to happen here. I see #9 below me as I'm going along, so
I realise I am lower than I want to be, but am still above
that rocky area. I figure if I just climb a
little, and stay straight, I can collect on the spur, and
tho I won't know exactly where I am, I won't be totally
lost, either. As I hit the spur, it starts to flatten
out, and I luck out a bit and hit that small pond.
From there, it is easy to cross the spur and drop a
couple of lines into the bag.
Actually works out pretty much how I would have drawn
it up, tho I might have been a little tighter going
into the control if I felt I could read those cliffs.
I don't like orienteering like this, but I admit to
doing it quite more often than perhaps I should.
Leg 12 plan
Another dangerous looking leg. I feel pretty good about
sidehill, then swamp, then handrail along next hill to
flat area between hills. From there, I see being able
to get into the broad reentrant with the streams, but
it can be really tough to spike a control like this --
easy to be 5 lines too high or too low. I'm going to
hope, when I get to those streams, that I will be able
to read the rock that is mapped. There has to be a
presumption of spikeability here.
Leg 12 execution
I execute on plan to the flat area fine. I then aim
for the big reentrant, figuring to re-position myself
when I get there by using the water stop and the huge
cliff near it, being wary that sometimes the water
stops are not positioned exactly where mapped.
I get in the big reentrant, pick up the water stop,
cliff, and stream. I see someone treasure hunting
on the hillside (I had really seen very few people out
there). I do not feel good about this. I follow the
stream down and pick up what I think is that rock
halfway down. The treasure hunter continues to drop.
I could see myself getting 20 lines too low and
extremely screwed on this. I am not concentrating
very well, as, I think, using the terraces makes
the control pretty easy to find.
I see the treasure hunter find the control before
I have much of a chance to sort out what I am going
to do. I was about 5 lines higher than I thought
I was. In retrospect, I attacked off an unmapped
My plan was ok, and I knew the risk of trying to use
the rock -- I'm just not sure I was thinking clearly
enough to do something better.
Leg 13 plan
I don't see much gain by going around the hill, so it
looks like a painful slog. This is another control
with tons of risk -- a miss here could easily cost
10 minutes, and this is not going to be an easy
control to spike. I know I'm not going to be able
to read rock or contour going down the other side,
so, at the top, I have to make sure exactly where
I am using that reentrant that runs from the top
of the hill to the right of the line, and go on
bearing. I don't like using bearings, especially
on something like this, but I see no other way.
I do note that marsh to the right of the circle
which I have to make sure I hit (or see) as a
safety valve, worst case.
Leg 13 execution
I take time during the slog to plan 14-16. My brain
is too shot to read ahead further. I hit the reentrant
top as planned, and am extremely nervous going down the
hill. I don't pace count, but generally have a pretty
reliable sense of time, and get to a point where I
expect the control. I don't see it, but do see the
marsh, and expect to be at the control based on my
relative positioning to the marsh, and decide to bail.
The marsh I saw was unmapped, but as I get there, I
see the real marsh, and again expect to be at the control
based on relative position. Again I decide to bail, and
see the control 3 meters over. Was tough to see, as well
as read the contours, in the lumpy terrain.
Leg 14 plan
Sidehill into the real rocky area, then start picking off
Leg 14 execution
I get into the rocky area fine, but my concentration is not
there. I boom the control, and bounce off the tiny pond
just to the south east of the circle. I'm still having a
fine run, as I feel I'm moving pretty much as fast as I can,
and no real problems, but realise I really have to knuckle
down. Concentration is in trouble. The mental intensity
of the course is starting to cause mental fatigue.
Leg 15 plan
Sidehill back towards #13, then cut up trying to hit
that biggish reentrant to the northwest of #13 at the
index contour, and then attack straight in.
Leg 15 execution
I execute the first part fine, using the swamp to the
north of #13 to fix my relative position on the hillside
as I go thru that reentrant and beyond. Use a back
bearing off of that swamp to drop into the reentrant, but
drop into the one to the south. Notice the pond at its
mouth, and quickly realise my error. Not a big mistake,
still hanging in there. The water features have been lifesavers.
Leg 16 plan
I see 5 more tough legs, then the easy final part of the
course. I'm pretty happy, but feel I'm getting sloppy.
Physically I feel pretty good. Tell myself to be smart
and execute. Keep concentrating. Not perfect, but only
2 minutes lost so far is not too bad.
On this leg I'm going to make sure I pick up that pond I
saw on my bobble, then handrail along the hillside, then
shoot thru the saddle. Again the control looks extremely
risky, as the attack seems vague, and there isn't a good
way that I see to read precisely into the control. I'm
going to stay high as I go in, as it is easier to see
these things from above rather than below. Have a decent
plan to get close, but nothing decent to force success.
Leg 16 execution
Get into the saddle fine, figure I've got the rock read,
and sidehill along. Rejoice when I see the control 2 lines
down. I am officially mentally finished, and figure it is
all luck at this point. The solution to the control is
obvious now; it just goes to show how you can get mentally
fatigued out there.
Leg 17 plan
Getting to the water stop will be trivial (where I will
take another Gu), then hitting the hill where the circle
is should not be to hard.
Leg 17 execution
Take a Gu. The topography going into the circle seems a
bit funky, but after a brief (5 seconds or so) hesitation,
I pick up the hill, and then the control.
Leg 18 plan
Another dicey control. Anything on one of these vague
hillsides scares me. But I'm almost done the hard part.
I just need to pick of a visual on the water stop, drop
into the broad reentrant, and pick up that rocky outcropping
to the NE of the control, and drop in.
Leg 18 execution
Executed as planned, but very nervous on the approach.
Another runner is attacking the control ahead of me,
but I am still relieved when I see it. Seemed way
farther down the hill, and nothing on the hillside was
readable. Feel a bit lucky.
Leg 19 plan
Still having a near clean run. Rest of the course looks
pretty easy, and I'm feeling pretty good about things.
There is alot of things to help me find this control.
The curvature of the hillside will be obvious, as will
that notch/clearing ride cut in the green below the
control, which I know will be visible. Just contour
along and use the excellent viz and those two things
to find the control. Count streams for good measure.
To top things off, the runner who just found #18 may
be going there as well.
Leg 19 execution
The astute reader may see the flaw in the plan that leads
to the first significant error of the race.
That being, in my weakened mental state, I fail to note
that the control is 5 lines higher, and therefore straight
contouring will not work. Normally, that may work out,
as when I see the notch in the green, I can just climb.
As it played out however, I saw a bag on a cliff on my
contour and happily headed there. The cliff it was
on looked huge, much larger than what I was looking for,
but I checked my clue again, and it said 2m, which seemed
about right. Unfortunately, get there, feel like I'm
in the right place, but wrong code.
Head down the hill, to this big knobby rocky thing that
is even with the notch in the green. Cannot find the
knobby thing on the map. See a bag way up on the hillside
on a cliff. Believe it to be the bag I just found, but
it is clearly even with the clearing in the green, so I
slog there, and to my delight, find my control.
Six minutes lost? Bag I found was probably on the cliff
system to the northwest.
So, I simply did not have the mental stamina to get thru
the entire race.
Leg 20 plan
Get on the terrace and ride it to the control.
Leg 20 execution
Spiked the control, tho it came up way sooner than I
expected it to.
Leg 21 plan
Last difficult control. Get thru this one cleanly, and
the rest is cake. Can still call an extremely difficult
course a decent race. Totally thinking wrong thought,
obviously, as this control could be trouble. Since the
terrain here is so physical, there can be no real plan,
just work towards it any way possible.
Leg 21 execution
Perhaps there was an easy way thru the terrain to the
bag, but I did not find it. Saw it from halfway thru
the leg, tho.
Leg 22 plan
Now the terrain is not so physical, and is easy to move
thru. Only real risk is overrunning it.
Leg 22 execution
Boomed it to the left for 15 seconds. As is obvious, my
planning and thinking are done.
Leg 23 plan
Easy control on the contour and even with the finish in
Leg 23 execution
Indeed it was.
Leg 24 plan
Hard to boom this one.
Leg 24 execution
Not true, hit a rock with a bag 20m to the south first.
Leg 25 plan
This control does look tricky after all. I'm going to
count streams, and hope to see the GO control to position
myself. Even tho the terrain is so open, the bags are
not visible until you are on top of them. Trails are
almost invisible. Not sure what I'm going to do if I
boom this, as my mind is totally shot.
Leg 25 execution
Never see the GO control. Count way more streams than
are mapped. But do see something orange looking on a
rock, that happens to have the correct code. Woohoo!
Leg 26 plan
GO control. Clues say steamered chute, so aim for the
end of the streamers. I do this all the time, and it has
never failed, so long as the clue sheet is accurate.
Leg 26 execution
People standing at the exact end of the streamers, blocking
my view of the control, and I am pissed. Never saw the
GO control on the way to #25 either. Get to the end of
the streamers, no control, just people, who kindly (and
unsolicited), point to the control back up the hill. Ugh.
Lost a minute or two on the GO control. Why there were
streamers from the finish to this random place is not
clear to me. There were barely visible streamers from
the GO control to the finish, but these others were
really visible. Oh well, from a logical point
of view, just because the clue sheet says steamered
route from GO control to finish, that doesn't preclude
other, more prominent streamers to random places.
Just goes to show that I had been getting myself into
bad habits by scouting out the GO/finish layout before
races. I was unable to do that for this race, and it
Well, if someone told me before the race that I was going
to lose less than 10 minutes out there on something so
difficult, I think I would have been thrilled. OTOH, I
can't be happy about how I lost the major time, on two
controls, #19 and the GO control. But I did execute the
hard stuff well, and that is encouraging. The mental
bonk isn't, but OTOH, I've historically done far worse
mentally on class A difficult stuff. Need more practice
at this specific thing, and, typically, we're not
getting it so much in the States.