After a week of dreary weather, stuffy noses, and lots of indoor workouts, Brent and I took to the woods this morning for the running of the 2012 President’s Cup. Each year, the Delaware Valley Orienteering Association holds a special winter meet to shake out the rust and keep the compasses moving.
Though I’ve never participated in the event before, I woke up this morning eager to run around in the snow and excited to see if my navigational luck would hold. After a delayed start (icy conditions kept the park gates closed), the course designer counted down to zero and a crowd of people took off for the treeline.
Generally, our orienteering meets have staggered starts – courses open at 10 AM and participants can begin anytime before 1:00 – so today’s mass start was a bit frenzied as I tried to stay oriented and remain focused on the map.
After the first couple flags, though, the group running the intermediate course began to thin, and I found myself smoothly making my way from point to point.
True, there were footprints in the snow, and I could always count on someone being nearby if I started to question my route choice, but even with the extra aids, I did my best to keep my eyes on the map and select my own route, ignoring the tracks and crowds.
And you know what?
It was working.
I cruised through the points, never questioning my navigation, always certain where I was. By checkpoint 12, I was running with a small cluster of racers, but I still felt confident with the maps and enjoyed the long stretches through snow-covered cornfields, where I could run with relative abandon.
Since there were three courses running simultaneously, each flag was marked with a unique number so participants could be sure they were punching the correct one.
And for the first 17 of them, I checked and double-checked at each point.
Then came checkpoint 18, just twenty meters from the end. I saw that the point was right on the outside of a treeline, so when I ran into a point just a few meters before the terrain change, I thought that must have been it. Without looking at the number, I quickly punched before sprinting down the last hill into the finish.
I clocked in at 1:01:32.
Fast forward eight hours…
After a near-heart attack during the Patriots game, Brent signed on to the DVOA website to see if the results were posted.
“I finished fifth,” he relayed about his performance on the advanced course.
“What about me? How did I do?”
Brent scrolled down and his face fell.
“You mispunched, Ab.”
“What do you mean I mispunched? I got every single point and I check and rechecked all the numbers.”
“You must have messed one up,” he responded. “It says MP… But on the plus side, it looks like you would have come in third.”
I looked at the screen. First place finished in 1:02:26. Second was ten seconds after that.
“I would have won!” I told him. “I finished in 1:01!”
The website broke down the events by splits, and when we clicked over to my route, it listed the mispunch at CP 18 – the very last one before the finish.
It seems that the advanced and intermediate courses both had flags in the same area – the intermediate just outside the treeline and the advanced just inside – and in my excitement, I punched the wrong one.
“Think of it this way,” Brent said. “You did better than you’ve ever done at DVOA. You had a great meet.”
“I guess,” I responded, feeling more defeated than I had been after my DNF back in November.
“But you still had fun, right?”
“Yeah… but it would have been pretty fun to win, too.”