Last weekend I attended the almost-famous Pawtuckaway Camping weekend, hosted by the UpNorth Orienteers. My relationship with this place has changed, over the years, mostly toward the good end of the dreading it --> drooling for it spectrum. This probably has to do with the fact that my orienteering skill has improved to the point where I find all those boulders an enjoyable challenge rather than a recipe for hours of confused and abused lostness, but I wouldn't have gotten there without paying my due share of blood to the flies and tears to the house-sized boulders and prayers to the gods of orienteering.
This is a fantastic weekend, because it is such an awesome laid-back atmosphere, with some pretty serious competition hidden in the corners. I started out with the red course, since I'd heard that the largest number of people were running it. The intention was to take it at a race effort, and see what my knee would do in response to running as hard as I could through the woods on an uneven surface. The good news is that there doesn't appear to be any lasting damage from this, so regardless of what the MRI results say, I think I should be ok for the October race weekends. The bad news was that I completely and utterly wilted in the heat. I was basically stumbling through the final controls, and all I could think of was watermelon. Specifically, cold watermelon sitting on ice for even more coldness, like they had at Wapack last weekend. I was going back and forth with Ernst Linder for most of the race, but in the end he had more stamina in the heat, and put 45 seconds into me on one control, that I just couldn't reel back in. He ended up beating me by 15 seconds. So close!
The next activity of the afternoon was the canoe-o, which entailed my teammate Kseniya and I splashing around in the lake and occasionally actually finding a control. A friend had painstakingly explained to us how to maximize our speed and direction in windy conditions, but we completely ignored his advice, more through lack of skill than lack of desire. Luckily, we stayed upright.
After a delicious and copious potluck dinner, it was time for the Wicked Haahd Night-O (WHNO). The trouble with this event is that I'm always way too full from dinner to want to go out into the scary dark woods, but somehow I get persuaded to go out there every time. Given the super hot conditions during the day, I knew I was pretty depleted even before I started, but thankfully I made it through without cramping or otherwise dying. The pack was spreading out already by control 2, and I was near the back of it, resigning myself to just being slow tonight. Not much energy, and lots of sloshing noises coming from my belly, sapped my desire to run hard. But, by control 3 I saw some people running in a variety of directions (none of them to the control), and I sensed my chance to get away. It's tough to make a break in a night-o, because you can see the lights from so far away, but sometimes 45 seconds is enough to get out of sight, so I put a little oomph into my waddling and hit 4-5-6 alone.
Christiane, a visiting German runner, made contact at 6, but she went way left to go around the lake to 8, and I was once again on my own. Once you get over your fear of the dark, night orienteering is actually pretty awesome. You know there are others out there, but you can't see them, and it's definitely fun to nail controls at night. Cresting the hill to 8, I saw Gheorghe, a visiting Moldovan, bent over his leg nursing a cramp. It had been a hot day, and tough to hydrate enough between the day's races and the night-o, so I wasn't surprised by this. He was able to recover enough to trot around the rest of the course with me, but I could tell he was sort of out of it, not doing much navigating on his own anymore. I overshot on 9, not having a clear attackpoint from the trail, but corrected with only 2 minutes lost, and still no lights, so this was good. The humidity of the night and efforts from the day started to catch up with me near the end, unfortunately, and I made two stupid mistakes, 2min on 12, and another 2 min trying to find the finish. D'oh! You can't be slow AND make mistakes, you're only allowed to do one or the other. Luckily, it was enough (barely) to hold off the other ladies, and I was 5th overall. Results - scroll to the bottom for the night-o.
Sunday morning, the focus for me was on training. First exercise was to blast through the shortest advanced course at full speed, and then do it again, to gain more confidence the second time 'round. This accomplished, I set out on a longer course, with my compass in my pocket, to work on reading the map and doing a long terrain run. It was a lovely cool morning, and I had a lot of fun trotting through the woods and enjoying the sights and sounds at a comfortable pace. This meant the time wasn't very good, but since I wasn't racing, I was ok with that. Some days, that's not what it's about.
All in all, a totally successful weekend. Super thanks to Up North Orienteers for putting it together, as always it was super valuable to my training and racing experience. I can't wait to tackle the October race weekends now!
Until next time, Pawtuckaway. Thanks for having some crazy awesome boulders!