Orienteering in Moses Lake, WA – Watch out for water on your map!

Well Saturday the 2nd of June was a day to remember in my orienteering sport.  For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s basically a cross country sport involving races of various lengths for different age groups in which you are given a map at the start of the race and sent off at about three minute intervals with nothing but your feet, brain and magnetic compass to guide you to a sequence of points at which you must either punch a hand held card or use an electronic pen-drive to log-in your ID and the time your reached the control.

Well…. the Moses Lake meet had 19 controls and was about 7km long so I set off going through the first four controls with very little problem.  Then I was thirsty and took a swig from my bottle and splashed it on my map which I had not placed in the usual plastic bag — Bad Mistake! Fortunately the water hit mostly in areas that I had already run so as the ink ran I was able to still proceed and headed off for the next control. This one took me longer because I lost my concentration on direction and also had a blotched place on the map that was hard to read.  Finally got there 15 minutes later and by then the map was dry and things seemed to be picking up.  Next two controls easy with only a few minutes between them. Then disaster struck again.  I approached a narrow (5ft) wide stream and seeing that there appeared to be good footing on each side, took a great big step across – oops! Extended foot slipped off into the middle of stream, bottom of channel was over 4 feet deep and I ended up soaked to the chest and you can guess what happened to my map.  So now I am navigating with a wet rag draped over my arm with barely visible control points and fortunately a few key landmarks and the control descriptions still intact!.  It looked like the next control could be reached by circling a couple lakes so I took off.  Well it had rained an ton the day before and the lakes had all swelled to the point of that they filled up areas that would normally be dry. I headed into the swamp with another guy and after five minutes of wading I yelled to him that I couldn’t find a Hippo path and it reminded me of the Okavango.  He cleared out and I turned around a few minutes later – map held overhead  fortunately dry again and headed back. So the time to that control was on the order of 15 minutes plus.  From then on, things went fairly well although I mistook a depression symbol for a knoll and was on top of a hill while others were running down the next arroyo and continuing on. Finally found it and got in to the finish with a total time of 133+ minutes.  I was 18th out of a total of 25, the ones below me either misspunched or did not finish. I suppose for a 68 year old competing against all age groups – 18 – 70, I shouldn’t complain because I at least finished the full course.  From now on I’ll carry my own plastic bag and stay away from the water.  Live and learn.

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