Have Dental Floss, Will Travel

Mapping the world, one waxy strand at a time…

A Fresh Set of Eyes

Because I’m not competing in the Cradle of Liberty next weekend, today I had the opportunity to help set the checkpoints for the race.

At 5:45 this morning, Marc, Cradle course director, pulled up in front of my house with a car filled with little orange and white orienteering flags.
We set off for the two-hour drive to Promised Land State Park in northeastern PA, to spend the day hiking through the woods, hanging these babies as close to their pre-plotted homes as we could possible get.
Marc’s regular co-director had to work, and I was happy to stand in.  While I couldn’t help much in the way of navigation, I fulfilled my job as tree-spotter/place-holder/bear-lookout-extraordinaire.
We didn’t end up seeing any bears today, but we did spot a bunny, a hawk, half a dozen snakes, and a lot of unnatural rustling in the brush around us.
And then there were the coyotes.  We didn’t actually encounter any, but we heard them howling and yipping all around us, and we came across fresh coyote scat on more than one occasion.  The half pound of pastrami that Marc was carrying in his pack didn’t do much to allay my concerns.
As I wandered through the woods, carefully negotiating the rocky terrain and keeping an ever-watchful eye out for any potential predators, I enjoyed experiencing the race from a course designer’s perspective.  
Setting an adventure racing checkpoint is far less exacting than I expected.  Rather than finding the precise bluff or the perfect rootstock, we would make our way to a general area and then scout out a suitable tree on which to hang the flag.  Once we were sure that no one would tamper with it before the race, we took out the fancy GPS phone that Marc carried in his mapcase to determine the coordinates.  Once we place all the points, Marc told me, we go back and redraw the map so that it matches the course we set.
Unlike what I imagine it’s like to lay out a marathon, where the course designer bikes or drives around a given area to figure out distances and routes, for a race director prepare for an adventure race, he has to complete the course himself.  If you want competitors to wade through swamps or scramble up a mountain to find a checkpoint, you have to wade through the very same swamps and scramble up the very same mountains to set the flag.
Because at least a few people participating in next weekend’s race will likely find their way to this post, I can’t give away any details.  Suffice it to say, by the end of the day, we had hiked a lot of mile, hung a lot of flags, inhaled a lot of bugs, and pulled off a lot of ticks.  
And I even got to place one of the points!

4 responses to “A Fresh Set of Eyes

  1. N.D. June 20, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Sounds like a pretty happy medium to participating next weekend! 🙂 This is hard core stuff!

  2. Denise June 21, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    That's cool that you were still able to be involved and you got to spend some fun time outdoors!

  3. RunningLaur June 21, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Sounds like a great alternative that gives you the option to still be involved, but to avoid some of the extreme stress and fatigue of actually racing.

  4. I Run for Fun June 22, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    That sounds like a fun way to be involved and cover the course without the stress of participating. And I'm sure you have a better appreciation for the course this way.

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