Croom Blue Course 2014, Bob Putnam

I was hoping that, coming two weeks after a nationally sanctioned Class A event in GA, I’d be coasting along on a high tide of fitness. Alas, two weeks of almost solid bronchial something-or-other had limited running to two quick 2 mile interval-runs around the block. So I felt very tentative at the start and after warming up for two minutes I didn’t feel fresh at all.

Gord Hunter was the Course Designer so I knew the courses would be good and interesting, but I was not sure just how kind or cruel he would be on the Blue course. Especially anticipated was the “New” eastern end of the map, previously unusable due to poor mapping. Gord had field checked this area recently and now we could finally make use of it. This is like having a brand new venue to compete on!

Follow along on the accompanying map, where I’ve red-penned in my actual route.

Start to Control 1
Keep it deliberate, legs feel pretty good. Cross the road, hold the SE bearing, look for the reentrant on my left, noticed that I have forgotten to pace count for safety. Still, I nail it dead on.

Control 1 to Control 2
I notice that if I hold a rough south bearing I can cross the big trail near the low spot, but I hit the bike trail unexpectedly. Good, I think; I let it shoot me off at the sharp bend and I cross the big trail, I think I see the low spot to my right, I head due south thinking I’ll simply run into some prominent single distinct tree. After 100m or so I say to myself “They all look distinct to me”. No flag. Keep going. No flag. Wait: now I’m up a hillside. The control isn’t up a hillside – I’ve gone way too far. Head back north looking toward the low spot in the reentrant now and there it is – like, 150m away! Cripe! “Why am I not counting paces?” What with the slow uphill and the long run back, I’ve lost several minutes here. Focus, focus!

Control 2 to Control 3
See the big trail junction half way? Just barrel southeast until you hit that, then make a plan. I hit the junction dead on and see a beautifully curved bike trail as an Attack Point: No matter where I hit it, I’ll know where I am from the trend-of-the-bend. I needn’t have strategized that carefully – when I hit the bike trail I could see the depression and the control.

Control 3 to Control 4
This was a ‘movement’ control used by Gord, and all course setters, to avoid ‘incomer’ ‘from plainly seeing ‘outgoers’ at a sharp turnaround. Just head SSE for 100m or so and hope you stumble on it. I did.

Control 4 to Control 5
I’m still feeling pretty fresh at this point but on a long course like this energy conservation is first in my mind, so without hesitation I head for the big trail off to the left, expecting only to pace count to the big green blob, hoping to see it plainly. It’s at this point that I notice I need to stop & squint to tell the difference, even with my 3.5 magnifiers, between a dot knoll and a depression. (And look: there are also vegetation boundaries that I can see if I squint carefully. Getting old sucks). I hit the bike trail on its way up to the intricate bumps and sinkhole. Pretty area for bikes. And I now know exactly where I am, so; on to the big trail; count 150m; look for the green blob; go around it to the little depression. I overshoot control but save possible lost time only because a woman behind me is punching in. I saw her before I saw the flag. (Pay attention, Put!).

Control 5 to Control 6
Again, no question but to use the big trail on the left again. So go out there and slog – and at this point I am no longer running, just a slow jog, all the while cursing the horses that have churned up the sand enough to make running, or even walking, doubly difficult. After the second big intersection, my plan is to veer right to the long yellow marsh and wherever I hit it, use that to angle into the control. Clean woods funnel me to the east end of the yellow, from which a due NW heading is foolproof; counting paces this time.

Control 6 to Control 7
Back to the old familiar trail – this time via a bike trail going just my way and by bouncing off the big green I hit the bike trail nicely. While on the Big Trail I plan an approach to #7, or more accurately plan to be flexible through the patches of mapped green. At the big trail junction I do not jog right to the next trail, because I see the track of the old trail going straight and it becomes the indistinct trail. “Nice” I think. When I clear into the white woods I head SW expecting to hit the looping bike trail. I do, so “Nice, again” I think to myself. This trail trends as shown and when it starts to run due S, I step off due W about 100m and see the control very quickly.

Control 7 to Control 8
I look at this very easy run down the next bike trail and immediately think ‘movement’ control. Gord is likely setting us up for a real challenge on next leg. I see a prominent trail junction about 1/3 of the way I want to go, so count paces to that point, roughly double that, count again and sure enough: a low spot, plus green stuff, plus control right where it should be. Easy.

Control 8 to Control 9
Now I see what Gord had in mind. An almost featureless, trackless 500m leg, with nothing but very subtle contours to guide us. The very thing I do well (I only wish I could actually ‘run’ right now). Rough compass due W for 200m to 300m before feeling comfortably within the reliable reentrant leading almost to the control. I’m pace counting all the way and at the right time I can see dark green stuff ahead and off to my left should be…..aha, there it is! Sweet!

Control 9 to Control 10
Oh Boy! This is the one Gord had been saving to show Blue Course runners: A solid kilometer, no big parallel trails, mostly green all the way, and subtle contours. I smile, fully intending to congratulate him on this leg design. Without burning up all of my remaining energy I just try to gain some altitude across a few contours up to the longish hilltop, past the green blob, cross the big trail, looking for its distinctive jog (yes, just to my right) then to the next trail, which may very well prove to be my Attack Point (300m from the control? Man!). That works and I see the rise, on which the control will be, coming up, but that depression doesn’t seem to be on my right – that is, until I gain a little (very little) altitude. Now it all fits, and voila! There is the control.

Control 10 to Control 11
A due north leg but very greenish toward the end. And I’ve never been inside this quadrant before, or seen this little lake, so be careful. I try to hold a due north track and check power line poles when I get there, so I know where I am. I step to the winding trail that will loop me through the green. It really winds around so I’m almost regretting not taking a bee line to this control. Still, it’s there where I expect it, so all’s well. Ooh, and what a pretty lake that is, but no time to gawk.

Control 11 to Control 12
I have very little ‘oomph’ left at this point and I do NOT want to bushwhack through the greenish forest, so I easily resolve to follow the bike trails all the way, knowing full well that halfway there I need to jump from a good one to an indistinct one. It works! I nail the ‘jump’ and am well on the way.

Control 12 to Control 13
I begin by thinking I’ll follow the next winding trail around to the right, but quickly lose patience with it being too winding. So I head NW through brush and come out into the white forest right at the point of the trail I’d just left. Cool! WNW heading from here and I spot the control before I even cross the creek.

Control 13 to Finish
All I want to do is run in a westerly direction, but the legs don’t want to move and the brush in my way keeps pushing me back and forth, off my bearing. So I don’t know where I am, really, until I hit the last trail and can see it bending to my left. The final 150m are just sort-of-running and clumsily dodging bushes until I can see the Finish clearing. I finish beat, but still smiling. At least I tried to smile….

Total time on course 1 hr 34 min 43 sec [8.7Km]