Thursday, December 15, 2011

I Found Myself

One of my New Year's resolutions for 2011: Learn how to navigate, at least a tiny bit, so I can maybe, on at least one occasion, help Bill navigate in a race.

I'd failed miserably in our adventure races -- I really didn't even try, to be honest. As 2011 began to wind down, though, we found ourselves with a few free weekends.

About a month ago we headed to a small park a few miles from our house for the first orienteering meet I'd done in probably five or six years. My goal was to finish -- I did, slowly and carefully as I picked my way through the course, making some poor route choices along the way.

Last weekend Abby, Brent, Bill and I schlepped to Ridley Creek State Park for another meet. Abby and I both headed out on an intermediate course while Bill headed out on an advanced route and Brent zoomed through something twice as difficult and two times longer than what Abby and I were attempting.

It sucked. I sucked. After taking more than 20 minutes to find the first point (it should have taken 10), I started to get demoralized. I slowly got the hang of things, until the crux of the course about half-way through. Somehow I manged to land on a trail going in the exact opposite direction that I should have been going. Except I didn't realize it until I ran for about 20 minutes (with a nasty fall resulting in a nasty booboo) in the wrong direction. I still didn't realize it until nothing around me looked like it was supposed to look on the map. A woman out on the advanced course took the time to point out to me where I actually was -- about a mile from where I was supposed to be.

I contemplated dropping out (mostly because I felt bad that my buddies would have to wait for me at the finish) but I was pissed off at how much I suck at orienteering, and when I am pissed I get stubborn (usually I am a flexible, free-flowing, relaxed chick ... just ask Bill and my mom) so I stuck it out.

The route should have taken about an hour and 20 minutes. It took me more than twice that, clocking in at a blistering 2:43.

Abby, Bill and Brent had been waiting for me for about an hour.

I was grumpy.

On the ride home Abby and I vowed to head back out the following weekend to make amends with the navigation gods and goddesses during the last orienteering meet of the year.

So, this past Sunday we met up again on a chilly morning in Brandywine State Park (where The Edge was in October) in Delaware. Bill dropped me off bright and early at what we thought would be the start of the meet. After about an hour of hiking around in the cold I realized I was in the wrong spot. After a few phone calls with Brent and a bit of remembering from the adventure race I managed to find the start. Abby and I both initially registered to do the intermediate course solo but at the last minute we decided to attempt to tackle a more difficult course together.

I was sort of convinced we'd get so lost we'd end up in the wrong state, even the wrong country perhaps. But, surprisingly, we didn't.

I am still not sure how we made it work but we had no mis-steps, no wandering, no moments of wondering where the hell we were or how we could possibly get to where we needed to be. Most of the course was off-trail but we still managed to find our way. Abby was better with the map than I was and I was a bit more familiar with the compass, and together we picked off points like we were good at it, sometimes with only three or four minutes between one punch and the next.

We finished 80 minutes faster than I had the week before. And we were on a more difficult course. As an added bonus, I understood where we were, where we were going and how to get there the entire time.

Sort of crazy!


Abby said...

A bit more familiar with the compass? Perhaps a bit of an understatement? :)

Kate said...

That's such a great feeling. Our last orienteering meet was the first time I've felt like I *sort of* knew what I was doing. I'm bummed because there's a conflict this weekend between the last meet of the year and a bike non-race that will definitely make for a good story (and most likely a fantastic time), despite the fact that I'm truly dreading it at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Amazing! If it were me I would have ended in the wrong state... But you did it and very efficiently some how ;-)

Mallory said...

Good job!!! I've never understood how to use a compass.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure I would have given up after getting lost trying to find the start line. Nice recovery!

Julie Arts said...

I'm with Melie. This type of thing is not my strong suit. I'm VERY worried I'm going to get stuck with the geocaching part of my team race this summer. We will lose for sure!