Team Stories – Swampseekers

April 19, 2003

Swampseekers (I.Folkins, B.Kliem)
3300 points
1/9 teams in PC-8

Standing on the start line with a mixture of excitement and anticipation. Anticipating partly the pain the last hour always brings, and because I have always made mistakes in this condition. Am I in good enough shape? I keep a basic fitness by walking to work and playing ground hockey twice a week. Over the past two months I have been running 25 miles a week, but not very consistently. This is less than I’ve done in the past for these events. Will I slow down my partner? Bodil is an experienced orienteerer from Denmark. She also claims to be in not very good shape and wants to walk the course, but you never know with Scandinavians.

Start-243: The race starts and we start shuffling up the hill. Halfway up, its clear there is a running group and a walking group with us half way in between. At the first control we see people coming out of the alders. To save on water, I take off my shirt and soak it in the ditch, while Bodil goes in and punches. It is a beautiful day. Dry and sunny, but not too hot.

243-245: The road leaves the power line about 500m from 243. We continue straight under the power line. Gets a bit marshy but seem to save a few minutes. About 1.5 km from the control, see some teams staring at their maps and realize we missed a trail we should have taken. Instead of going back, we continue on the power line. But the path soon disappears and we end up in thick conifers. Leave the power line and start cutting directly toward the control. Luckily, we come across a logged area. The footing is bad, but the visibility is good, and its not too slow. Hit the lake south of the trail and go along the shore. Its thick. Hit the path we should have taken and keep going toward the stream. Stream seems a bit farther than on the map, and there are two of them with the control on the second. Not a bad control, though we probably lost 5 minutes by missing the trail.

245-244: Head up the hill on the trail, find the junction and start heading north. Trail ends about 0.5 km from the control, so we take a bearing. End up drifting to the right following some tracks; starts to get thicker and thicker. Angle to the left and see the lake through the trees. Big relief. Have to double back about 25 m to punch.

244-202: Straight north and take a bearing from the junction. The first part is nice but it soon starts to get very thick – seems about 10-year-old growth from logging. No visibility and pushing your way through bushes. Can occasionally see the hill in the distance but it looks far away. Gets better as we get higher up, but no control. Split up a bit and see it on a little knoll.

202-249: Another bearing. Angle down the hill. Realize Bodil is very good at staying on a rough bearing, and taking advantages of any breaks in the terrain. Go along a ridge, exactly where we should be. Seems slow though. Finally come across an indistinct trail that says we are about two thirds there. Look about 30 m to our right and see the small cove. Good that we were able to hit close to direct without overshooting and having to double back.

249-232: Picking up the trail is a bit tricky. Disappears and reappears. Hit the lake and go around the north side. Thick. My knee hurts since it is getting scraped where my tights are ripped. Stop to put some bandages on. Provides relief for the next 2 hours. (How is that guy running in shorts surviving?). Rather than continuing on the trail, decide to head directly through the woods toward the lake. Luckily encounter a recently logged area that is good walking. Walk to a hill, and realize we have to talk a logging road to the left, and then head north along the lake.

232-224: In the planning had considered attempting to do 248. Can see the top of the hill. But since we are behind schedule (about 3 hours in already) decide to skip it since there will be easier 200 pt controls to get later. Direct bearing over the hill to 224 and down the other side. Hit the lake a bit to the south to be safe. Logged area is tough – lots of branches, very poor footing. Getting draining.

224-204: North to the stream/trail junction. Find some trails we try to take advantage off. Get down to the stream/swamp and see a mess of ATV trails. Where is the trail we want? Meander north along the swamp and pick up on something that looks promising; turns out to be the right path. Feel like we dodged a bullet. Failing to pick up the trail would have meant a tough slog. Head north after the intersection. Where to go from the road? Contours don’t match the terrain, and don’t give much help. Would have been good to practice the old fashioned art of pace counting. Stream intersection is in the middle of a flat area – so probably all swampy with a complex network of streams, and no real intersection. That, plus not knowing where to go in makes us nervous about this one. Head in early and work north. Very tough getting to the stream. Branches covering the ground, always falling through dead ones. Probably the worst fight of the course. This vegetation really fights back. Reach the stream and head north. As it broadens into a swamp, pick our way along the side. Start to get very nervous. There is definitely an animal moving in the bushes. Did it take the control? Should we go back? Finally see it. Fall in the stream after punching, but have prepared for this by having the map between my teeth so it doesn’t get too wet. Again feel like we dodged a bullet.

204-215: Back to the road across some thick vegetation. Eat our sandwiches. Realize we are already at 4 hours and will be forced to miss controls on the way back. Miss the trail before the power line even though looking carefully for it. Head down the power line toward the lake. Going south along the stream, feel like I have gone to far. Did we miss it? Double back to the trail, and then proceed back down the stream again. Finally see it, only about 30 m past where I had been earlier. Bummer. Lose about 8 minutes.

215-209. Back up the power line and over a steep hill. Decide to take a bearing as the road starts veering right. A gamble. Luckily find a path that is going in roughly the right direction though drifting left. Then comes across a nice newly logged area, so we made a good decision. Keep heading on a bearing. Map suggests a stream but have to cross about 200 m of marsh to reach the control. Luckily it’s not too wet or too thick.

209-236: Head south toward the path across the logged area. Running downhill toward 236 on the road see what looks like a gravel pit up ahead. Look to our left and see what looks like the cove. It turns out to be snow, but Bodil sees the control anyway.

236-229: Decide to just go along the lake. This is probably less tiring than the significantly longer road route but probably slower. The first third is nice, but then gets thicker. Try to take advantage of trails, but end up doing some meandering. Finally reach the control after about 40 minutes.

229-finish: Forced to realize that with only about 70 min left the best we can do is try to pick up 220 and 201. I am losing energy fast. After the scout camp miss the bridge and end up on the left road instead of the right one which has 220. Other confused people wondering what road they are on. Do some backtracking to check out possibilities, but time pressures make me nervous. Here some weird bird noises in the woods, sounds like owls. As the road starts curving downhill to the left Bodil realizes we are on the wrong road. Also realize the road with big rocks in front was the connecting road. Maybe could have gone back taken it gotten 201 and finished in time but will never know. Passed by some very fit looking runners, who suggest we take time to pick off a few more controls, but lack of time and energy make it impossible to take up their suggestion. Push all the way and have 5 minutes to spare.

Basically feel happy about how we ran the course: made about half an hour of errors and feel stupid about missing 300 pts on the way back that should have been easy. But also feel like we caught a few breaks along the way. Am exhausted, and feel very close to being on the wrong side of 40, now only months away. Those 24-hour people are nuts! Have a coffee and hot chocolate at the fire hall, and have never before experienced so strongly the transformative power of caffeine. The food at the hall is delicious, and I have two big plates.