O Log - What Were You Thinking?

[ 3-May-06] 

    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 there was.

    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 real confidence.

    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 behind it.

    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 bearing.

    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 early.

    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 there.

    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, tho.

    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 then 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 rock.

    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 the detail.

    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 benign terrain.

    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 hurt.

    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.