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Warm Sun, Thick Vegetaion

A beautiful warm early spring day pulled a record number of orienteers out to Swallow Cliff forest preserve on March 23 to participate in the Club's first official event of the 2003 season. The temperatures were in the 70's, the weather was bright sun without a cloud in the sky, and the woods were remarkably open and bug-free.

For a brief while, everyone was jubilent, until they found out that the woods only looked open and friendly: in fact, briars and thorny thickets were just as painful to enter as at any time else. Route choices which failed to skirt the mapped green areas, particularly the medium and dark green areas, resulted in pain, cuts, bleeding....and some wounded egos.

In addition, it had been a long, cold winter, and many were much more out of shape than they had thought. And as time in the woods ticked along, concentration and ability to think clearly seemed to decline. Many of the DNF's (Did Not Finish—resulting from less than all the correct punches on punchcards) resulted from missing the final easy control hanging from the big tree in the field 150 meters from the finish.

The meet attracted many folks new to orienteering because of an article that morning in the Chicago Tribune. Beginner clinics were well-attended, and many started out on the White course. Several found the White course very easy, and obtained a new punch card and clue sheet to go out on the Yellow Course afterward. Indeed, Jeff Porter won the White Course, and then the Yellow Course with some excellent runs; we'd like to encourage Jeff and some others to try the Orange course next time. And on April 27, Rich Gaylord will be setting a Pink Course (as easy as White, but as long as Red) at Poplar Creek to really challenge these long-distance runners.

This was Natalia Babeti's first opportunity to set courses after leaving her native Romania, where she was a coach of the national orienteering teams. Since coming to the U.S., Natalia has proven her orienteering credentials by winning the U.S. 2002 Orienteering Championships for her age group in Quantico, Virginia last fall. So those that were able to complete their Swallow Cliff course can take solace that they have seen some of the best course setting, but not necessarily the easiest.

Winning times on all courses except Red were a bit long, particularly on the Green course. Green runners reported several trails on the Cap Sauers map had disappeared over the winter, and the encroaching vegetation was particularly unfriendly. Thus some ended up lost, trapped in thickets, and exhausted. Nevertheless, since many Red runners traversed the same areas and had many of the same controls, good routes and fast times were possible thoughout the Cap Sauers map.

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