Little-Big-Econ Red Course, Nov 2003, Bob Putnam

A Story Of How Those Flags Get Into The Woods - Sometimes.

Start to Control 1
At Barr Street I pack the map into a plastic bag, tape the control descriptions to the wrist, just as if I were competing, then hang 9 controls on the right arm (away from the compass) in order, set the watch and go. Half the fun of O' is NOT looking at the map beforehand, so only on the way to #1 do I look over the course. I see lots of fairly familiar spots, but I know immediately #2 deserves great care and #3 could be a problem because I've never actually seen that 'cultural object'. The #1 knoll is obvious and I don't bother double checking on any nearby features. But I did hang it right on the ground so boaters on the river wouldn't see it.

Control 1 to Control 2
I run trails over toward #2 and jump to the four-cornered ditch junction just south of the footbridge, from which I follow the east-trending ditch toward #2. The ditch takes two distinct bends and it is from the second up-turn just beyond a green blob that I pace off 120 feet north toward the depression. No surprise to find another nearby unmapped depression. So I choose the more distinct one lying closer to my pace count and hang it high to be visible. Just to be sure, I circle briefly, scaring up a family of wild pigs in the process, checking the edge of the nearby marshy area. I decide the marsh edge was not rigorously mapped since it's too far from the depression, but because the ditch reference was good, I leave it there.

Control 2 to Control 3
Now off to #3 via the Grand Avenues of clear floodplain. I run due north around the tip of the green marsh on my right, retaining that handrail on its NNE heading until I hit the ditch where I can hopefully see the break between big green on left and light green on the right. It's there but is narrower than I'd expected. I'm sure I'm right because the boundaries are distinct, as mapped. Now I've got 250m of open floodplain ahead so I can only hold the left green handrail for 150m, then heading due east I would hopefully hit the other green picking up the control location or the distinct veg.boundary. I've been pace counting but not well and I search the canopy for signs of the evident break above the big yellow clearing to the left. I remember Ron saying he once found this black "X" object near 'the big oak tree', so when I encounter the big green I start scouting each big oak. Right where I think it should be, I find a metal framework of some sort, prop it up to look more prominent and hang the flag. Is this right? I don't know. So I pace off to the ditch north and Lo! it is exactly 30 meters and there's a green-blob-looking palm thicket on the way. Assuming I'm probably correct, I head east roughly estimating how far it is to the ditch bend. I hit the yellow clearing instead, but it's within 100m so I tell myself the control was correct. After the event, Ron tells me he believes the control was 100' too far east and that the black 'x' had been a turkey feeder but had now disappeared altogether. Still, my distances felt about right.

Control 3 to Control 4
The 850m leg to #4 passes through an area I've visited before so I move at a good clip with little reference to compass or map and find myself knee deep in the all blue hourglass marsh, slowing me down, but I still nail the yellow tip of marsh from which I can find any one of the three big green blobs in the forest east of the big yellow marsh. Our control is on the S tip of the S blob and its proximity to the big ditch (I loop the blob clockwise to check on this) verifies it as correct, and nicely prominent. I hope everyone found that one by reading these same map features.

Control 4 to Control 5
Heading toward #5 involves an initial route choice - I go back to the yellow marsh edge and pick up (after some confusion and palmetto thrashing) the vague trail that leads me cleanly through the green right to the 'splits' in the horse trail. Ron wants #5 on the east end of a mapped veg. bdy. and I know about where it is but I remember we always are unsure of the mapping details there. So I decide to approach cautiously through the open field. I need not have worried. The field ain't open. I could not have charged un-cautiously across that field if I'd wanted to. It is the first of the "Field Legs" this day. Thick head-high dog fennel with briars underneath and those infernal pine-seedling ditches. I take an extra minute or three to visit all the white dots (palm trees) and black-dot-bordered trees in the area before deciding which is the correct E tip for #5.

Control 5 to Control 6
I know I can find the dot knoll for #6 fairly easily so its only a matter of how to get there. I'm soured already on direct field routes so I take the longer trail segments to the left. I'm getting really tired by this time and have not yet looked at the course length to realize I've already covered over 5 km and have over 1/3 of the course to go. #6 knoll is as expected, so no double checks required. On the way to #6 I carefully inspected the mapped directions of the pine-ditches between #6 and #7 and noticed they should be ideally oriented. I may still cross the field from #6 to #7.

Control 6 to Control 7
Leaving #6 I move to S end of the white trees to where the pine ditches should line up with #7 (at the big live oak which I can see across the field) and begin moving down a ditch, then another, then another, looking for a clean one. No luck. Rats. Even with my shin-guarded socks the briars are too much. Back out to the white tree line/blue ditch and south to the trail, W to the major tree line and then due N to #7. Frustrating, but there is a magically clean little animal trail right up this tree line all the way to #7. All the time I'm thinking of daughter Kate who would not only hate the fields as an orienteering purist, but may well have bailed out from 'field-sickness'. Some of you may feel the same. Ron says he ran the fields on retrieval with no big problems. Maybe that's just the Hasher in him.

Control 7 to Control 8
The angle of the bee-line leg from #7 to #8 invites a dog-leg for me (normally discouraged in course setting, but Ron couldn't believe any of us would wimp out on 6-7 and come up that animal track to begin with) back down the animal track I'd just come up. Stay in the white tree line all the way to the southern trail and follow it W to its entry into the big long finger of yellow field at the end of which goes #8. Pine ditches are in our favor in this yellow finger and they are clear so I run all the way to the S end, looking for that little yellow clearing. I hang #8 in what looks like the spot.

Control 8 to 9
I decide my route choice to #9 will be via the little trail in the woods just to the South. When I find that trail after only 10m, I think: Oops. A review of the white/yellow/black dot vegetation boundary, etc. tells me to re-hang the flag further West. There is a vague little clearing 30m West so I re-hang it. Then I look again at the forest veg boundary mapped to the west, walk to it and encounter a better looking little clearing, so I re-hang it again. The longer I stay there the more candidate almost-clearings I see and the less confident I feel, so I leave. I figure I hung it high enough for everyone to see. Lingering doubts about #8 have me checking the veg boundary of the yellow finger on the way out and that changes my route choice to #9. Now I run all the way around the N side of the big white forest and I notice with delight the ground is dry enough that I can now cut the corner on the trail bend at the W end of the big white forest without getting mired knee deep in muck. #9's dot knoll is right there and I just need to hang the control and sprint (?) to the finish.

Control 9 to Finish
I'm so tired by this time that I plain old jog to the finish.

Final time: My watch says 92 minutes exactly.
That seems long, but I finally check the course length - 7.5 km. And that's without all my circling for control verifications and a few around the fields route choices. I feel better despite feeling miserable.
Oh, yeah! And it's that time of year again, when the stick-tights have matured. I have so many on me I cannot bear to drive the 15 minutes home with my running suit on so I risk arrest for indecent exposure, put the O-suit on the floor and drive verrry carefully home. Next day it took me an hour to pick off what must have been 2000 of them. Some will no doubt sprout beside my driveway next year just like last year's 'crop' did recently.

I had fun, even though I wasn't there competing with you. Hope you all had as much fun running the course.