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