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Reflections on "Bramble Ramble —Extreme"

Pete Curtis, Minnesota O Club
(original article with photos)

"Bramble Ramble - Extreme" was the nickname for a national A-meet held by the Chicago Area Orienteering Club on the weekend of April 26-27, 2002, and the name would prove apt. A number of MNOC members took time off to head down there and we all enjoyed the event. In fact, it was the very first A-meet for me.

It was held in Palos North, a large triangular area of heavily wooded forest preserve southwest of Chicago. Palos North is moderately hilly, with few open areas, a small number of lakes and marshes, and many parallel stream-cut ravines. The understory vegetation was well on its way to leafing out, and there were some areas with very dense, prickly vegetation. A good route choice turned out to be important for comfort as well as for time.

We drove down early Friday to take part in the model event that after-noon. This event was held at Cap Sauers Holding, a smaller nearby wooded area that proved to have some pretty vicious brambles. Ian later remarked that the light green areas on this map should have been mapped as fight—the brambles would let you in, but not let you out!

Friday evening we decided to drive into Chicago for a little sightseeing. Richard was our impromptu tour guide, since he used to live in Chicago many years ago. He took us down Lake Shore Drive, past Soldier Field, Buckingham Fountain, and Navy Pier. We got off near Lincoln Park Zoo and walked around the Lincoln Park area, unfortunately looking like some out-of-town tourists who stumbled into the middle of a happening nightlife scene.

Saturday started out cool and cloudy. On this day, we were all regis-tered for the Red course, so it was going to be a head-to-head comp-etition. We found our way down to Palos Hills, and since we had a pretty large MNOC representation, we set out our big club banner next to the shelter to act as a meeting place.

Ian and I were the first to start, and immediately afterwards, the rain started to come down. The heavy downpour left standing water on the trails and made the leaf-covered slopes muddy and slick. Most of us took at least one awkward tumble, and no doubt got up hoping no one had seen. Those of us with glasses were particularly affected by the rain. I had to run a good portion of the course without my glasses on, and Ian had a tough time of it as well.

The Day 1 Red course was 15 controls and 7.8 km. Ian and I had an exciting finish, as we bumped into each other looking for the 14th control. We had a dead run to the finish, but Ian got a clean punch on the 15th control and came in ahead by about six feet. Richard and Julia had the latest start times, and there was another exciting finish as they both emerged from the woods at about the same time and ran for the last control.

Carl Sack and Roberto Cattaneo were both on Red as well, so we stayed nearby to cheer them on and snap a few photos. Since we were all tired, cold, and wet, going back to the hotel to dry off was a priority. As usual, everyone checked their route and analyzed the mistakes they made on their runs.

The next morning, the rain had stopped but a gusty northwest wind had picked up. It wasn't wet, but still just as cold as the day before. It turns out that we had it better off then the folks back here in the Twin Cities—at least it didn't snow on us! But there was standing water on the ground from the previous day's rain, and the trails were churned into a sloppy, muddy mess.

The Day 2 Red course was 17 controls and only 7.4 km, and with the improved weather, everyone finished with significantly better times than the day before. However, I joined Owen to brave the 10.9 km, 21 control Blue course. Because the Blue and Red courses were set mostly in the same area, but in opposite directions, runners on each course got to see people on the other course coming straight at them. It made things a little more exciting than the typical run, where you can go for several controls without seeing another person.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to put our collective feet up on this second day, since we had a 7-hour drive ahead of us. We made a brief stop at the hotel to get cleaned up, and left Chicago right away.

Altogether, "Bramble Ramble" was a fast and exhilarating weekend. Thanks to everyone who came down and made it a great time. Next time, I hope we can convince more folks to come with us, to travel, socialize and "ramble" through the woods, wherever they might be.

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