Have Dental Floss, Will Travel

Mapping the world, one waxy strand at a time…

Things that go bump in the night…

With eight days left until the start of the Untamed, time is running out for last minute shopping, gear tweaking, and skills training.  There’s been race food to buy, tow systems to test, derailers to adjust, and bins to scrub.

But most importantly, there’s been night navigation to practice.

This year’s Untamed New England – the three-day adventure race that I’ll be competing in next week – will feature a night-time orienteering relay, a section where each team member must complete a short course of map-and-compass navigation, with only headlamps and the New England sky to light to way.  The course will range from “short and easy” to “long and hard,” so it becomes a question of skill and speed in determining who does which leg.

Generally, adventure racing is a team sport, and only one team member needs to be a solid navigator for the team to have a shot at doing well.  Brent and Jon are the GOALS navigators extraordinaire, and so other than a handful of short weekend o-meets (with varying results), I’ve never really had to man the maps during a race situation.

And so it was that Brent and I found ourselves at Tyler State Park in Bucks County, PA, last night at 11:00 PM.  We had spent the evening testing out paddle gear and eating pizza with GOALS captain Bruce and his wife, and neither of us was looking forward to running around in the woods in the middle of the night.  But I needed to get some night nav under my belt, and this was the last opportunity before heading to New England on Saturday for a short pre-race visit with Brent’s family.

Brent used an old orienteering map of the park to lay out a short course of off-trail checkpoints, likely far more technical than the points that I will encounter on the “easy” courses during the race.

I fumbled a bit as I carefully picked my way through the woods, weaving on and off trails, through thick vegetation, along steep cliffs, and around monster spiderwebs.  There was the small rock face five meters above a river bank, the rootstock on the northeast corner of a lake (which, in the midst of an oppressive mid-Atlantic summer, turned out to be little more than a dry depression), and the knoll set above a maze of trails.

I made a few errors – some more “fatal” than others – but I learned how to correct myself, and found each point (with a little bit of help from my lawfully wedded coach).

Throughout our hour and a half outing, in the safety of the suburban state park, I enjoyed spying the glowing green eyes of the raccoons and deer that call those woods home.  Of course, I have a hunch that those eyes will feel a little bit more ominous next week – when I’m alone… in the dark… in the northern New England wilderness.

I guess this is the stuff that puts the “adventure” in adventure racing!


3 responses to “Things that go bump in the night…

  1. Nobel4Lit August 4, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Definitely always an adventure, but glad your "coach" saw you through!

  2. Amanda - RunToTheFinish August 4, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    so cool that you share all of this with those of us who are too whimpy to do it!

  3. Denise August 5, 2010 at 11:01 am

    i just got the chills. i think i'd be freaked out!!

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