I seem to fairly regularly screw up the first leg on orienteering courses. Often, the shorter the first leg, the worse the mistake. It’s as if I need a moment or two on a course to “warm up” my navigational abilities, just like I need a moment or two before the start to warm up my muscles.
Sunday (Day 3 of the JK) was a particularly bad example. There were a lot of factors against me – I was late for my start, I had just cycled 12km uphill from the station to the event arena, it was my third really early start in as many days so I was very sleep deprived, it was snowing, windy and very cold, there was no club tent to change in as it was so early, my thumb-compass had developed a large bubble in it, and my left inside knee started hurting a lot while jogging to the start line. This was worrying – I freak out every time my knee hurts, after a long and frustrating recovery from a previous knee injury in 2003.
So, I was not best prepared for what was going to be a 12.7km cold, wet slog over exposed moor and forest. I rushed through the start, without having time to warm up, check the sample map or check the start direction. As I picked up my map, I was relieved to see the first control was a straightforward 200m away. I carelessly charged forward, and completely missed it:
10:15 for a 200m leg. My official split is 13:15 as I was three minutes late off the start. After this rather unfortunate start, and concerned about the knee, I decided to bail – I diverted to the last third of the course, ambled around it, getting even colder in the process, limped back to the finish and now-erected club tent, gratefully accepted an early lift to the station, and spent the rest of the day in the warm and the dry.