Wednesday, 12 November 2008

An eventful weekend IV

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Wonderful JK orienteering! You can read up on the annual Jan Kjellström International Festival of Orienteering here or here but it's a great big international orienteering event, one of a small handful taking place annually in the UK. The biggest O event I've been to, by a long way.
JK 2008 took place on four days over Easter at four sites in Surrey and Sussex. Sunday was in the very beautiful Ashdown Forest.
The drive down was a bit horrendous. Snow, tending towards heavy at times; bad visibility. I had unexpectedly to fill the car with oil and water before leaving, so was feeling (quite unnecessarily) anxious about time. And so on.
The last part of the drive was on a tiny narrow road through forest and the whole thing was really very much like a Christmas-card snow scene. Absolutely beautiful but not perfect driving conditions as it was still (very picturesquely) chucking it down.
Got there safely, parked. All very efficient with two shops, two cafes, loos, JK souvenir mugs (yeah I got one), a commentary box with radio controls, a huge collection of club tents, spectator areas, and so on.
Although it was such a big event, it didn't really feel any different once you got going. I don't really know why I'd thought it might: there's no real reason why the people-per-hectare-per-hour count should be any different as long as the course design and starts are working properly. Erm. Is there? I think that's right but I still feel a bit suspicious of my logic. Oh well.
The orienteering was great. It was still quite snowy underfoot, and indeed it snowed a fair bit more while I was running. Very pretty but it does slow me down since I can't see where I'm putting my feet and I don't want to fall over.
I did fall over (of course) but not badly. It was all good challenging interesting stuff and mega-enjoyable despite the dodgy weather.
The very end was hard work. Firstly, I gave up navigating a little prematurely, oops: I could see the finish from about three controls before and there was pretty much a constant line of runners between me and the finish. I did check, roughly, the general direction but, duh, of course that was OK - so I just slotted into the queue. This was a mistake: actually everyone did not have the same penultimate control and mine was a good 50m off the obvious one, for which most people were heading. This threw me a bit but I realized what the problem was in a mere hour or two and was soon on my way to the last control, or rather cluster of controls since all the routes really had united there and it and the finish both had quite a few control boxes so that competitors weren't forced to queue.
From the last control to the finish was a wide taped route, quite a climb over open ground. The earlier steeper part of this felt about the same angle as the side of a house and I was relieved that I wasn't the only one to walk up this bit.
It flattened out a bit as it turned across the hillside in front of the spectator area, towards the finish: like many others I was forced by my pride to run, or at least stumble, along this bit. Strangely, the commentators didn't pick me up. Huh, don't know class when they see it.
Let me explain about radio controls, at least as I understand them. (If you understand more than me, which would not be hard, then please feel free to correct me.) As this was the first event of this size and significance that I'd seen, it was also the first chance that I'd had to see them in use. There were two opportunities for the commentators to pick up individual competitors: one was the finish which I've just described and the other a "spectator control" where on certain courses (not the ones that I do!) a loop of the route is brought back to the assembly area so that the control is under the gaze of the spectators. Thus the competitors dibbing at that control are, like those at the finish, liable - if they are interesting! - to be picked up by the commentators.
The question then arises - how does the commentary box know who's dibbing? Do they know off by heart the appearance of every significant competitor? Well, maybe they do for all I know, but what I do know is that they've certainly got help on hand from the radio controls. As well as recording the competitor's visit in the usual way, these also transmit the details on to the commentary box. Some clever interfacing of systems, I imagine, then tells them all the competitor's details and how they're doing now, and so on. It's all pretty cool.
Having finished I then met my brother David, who wasn't running due to his being ill that weekend, chiz, and we both waited for his daughter Isobel who came storming in like a good 'un. Once I'd dropped some stuff off at my car I went back to meet the group, now augmented by my sister-in-law Amaryllis, and we all went and got lunch from Wilf's Café, one of the two caterers on site. Wilf's is famously good and I've been hearing about it from David for years, so it was great finally to experience it. Wilf's had plain wholesome delicious food in large quantities, nice staff, and ferociously efficient organization, so that the large and initially daunting queue was actually snaking through at an impressive rate. I had delicious chili which was very much just what the doctor ordered.
This was also very nice because we were sitting in their new car, a Toyata Prius (or Pious as Becca's Bad Car Dude friends would cruelly but amusingly have it) and it was good to have a chance to admire (and indeed covet) it.
Eventually it was time for this pleasant interlude to end and for us to go our separate ways - David's family back home and me off to help as I had signed up to do.
My job was to help with relay team entries for the next day. Lots and lots of relay team entries. Many had already been done online but there were amendments to these, as well as late entries and cancellations, so actually there was a huge stack of forms to check and enter.
I must admit that the remainder of the afternoon was not one of the most pleasant of my life. On the positive side, it was very good to be involved and to feel that one was actually helping the JK to happen. There was also a nice sense of cameraderie and teamwork among the helpers, who included several acquaintances from my club, HH. On the negative side - well, everything else really. It was cold and miserable in the tent and when the wind blew it wasn't just a bit blowy, it made you question whether the side of the tent was coming right off. The work itself was OK but the computer system was giving the poor IT people a lot of trouble (hoho, I'm off work today!) and so we had lots of waiting to do. My hands got so cold that they really hurt. It was a great relief when we'd entered and checked everything that could be entered or checked, and were told we could go - so I did. A worthwhile but not pleasurable experience. (I'd do it again, mind you.)
I found my way out, this time avoiding the tiny road which, it turns out, was forbidden to competitors - oops. (Boring discussion deleted.) The Mitsubishi tanked round the M25 like a new car and in no time (crob crob went the mighty chromed twin exhausts etc) I was home and regaling my enchanted family with my dramatic orienteering tales, er, or something.
I ran in the JK! I, me, Vogel, fat'n'fifty, ran in the JK! I am seriously chuffed! Yeah babay.

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