Event: Epping Forest East, North London

The Mitre, Epping Forest East (CHIG) on XXth November 2003.
221103_epping.jpgI’ve orienteered at Epping Forest several times before. This large, ancient hunting forest in the north-east of London has a reputation for being of the highest technical standard and I wasn’t disappointed last Sunday, when I competed at a CHIG event, the 2003 Mitre.

A half-hour tube journey from London to the parking location at Theydon Bois (a really lovely little village with a strong identity and a charming green) was followed by a 2km walk to the assembly – a bit of a pain but a necessity in this sort of area. Registering for the course was a bit confusing, but once out on the course itself, all pains were forgotten. The weather was ideal for orienteering in November – clear, sunny and dry. Compared with last week’s race at Aldershot, the area was flatter and more pleasant to run in, but much more technical. In fact, I got severely lost, not once but several times. In the worst incident, I ended up taking around 10 times as long between two points on the course as I should have…

221103_1558epping.jpgThis meant any hopes of getting a good result were dashed, but getting lost is preferable than to not getting around the course due to lack of fitness, as brushing up your technical skills is a lot less painful than working out at the gym every day.

Looking at the map, even the first leg proved confusing, as a myriad of small paths combined with the sheer beauty of the forest to slow me down. I made a classic pacing error at No. 4, a bearing mistake at No. 6, another pacing error and speed error at No. 9, the mother of all mistakes at No. 10, a bearing error at No. 12, an unmentionably embarrasing mistake at No. 16… the list goes on. At my level, I really shouldn’t be making any mistakes that cost me more than a minute, but for this race, each of the above cost me many times that.

221103_1551eppingdetail.jpgTake a look at the extract here, the second half of the huge (> 1km) leg between 8 and 9. This is absolutely superb technical terrain – really flat and pleasant, quite open, but with subtle changing forest thickness and tiny earth features – no “handlebars” in sight bar a run up to the road. I took a very long time to get to 9, coming too cautiously up the shallow valley and being confused by the first line of depressions. For some, unfathomable reason, coming out of 9, I headed north, got confused, ran east, got misled by other runners (always fatal) and eventually – after nearly 10 minutes – ended up at… No. 11?! Even then on running back, I wasn’t sure if I had missed 10, or in fact missed 9 instead. And that is how I took 11 minutes to run a 100m leg. At one moment I was completely and totally lost and about to relocate. But this is the sort of terrain that I wish every map around here was made of, because then us Brits might have a lead on the invincible Scandanvians (who have this terrain for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.)

The event was marred by quite a few equipment failures and as such the results analysis is still not posted to the web. I can’t wait for it to be – my speed graph should prove very telling – I’ll post an update to this story when it appears.

Tomorrow I’m doing more orienteering – this time down near Balcombe in the South Downs.

London Prints

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