This weekend, my husband and I went to an orienteering meet. This is probably his 100th meet, and my 8th or 9th. What is orienteering, you ask? Good question, I say! The basic premise is this, at least for the standard meets. When you start, you get a map that has a series of control points on it. See, this map has points two and three on it. From the starting point, you have to navigate to each of these points in order. At each point, you will use a special puncher to punch a hole in your score card. Sometimes there are electronic “punches” that record your time electronically. The fastest person to navigate the points wins.

There are different levels of courses from white to blue. Husband and I both ran a brown course, which is advanced in difficultly but rather short in length. Husband ran it because he wanted something of a break from the much longer red course, and I ran it because I wanted an advanced course that was short enough for me to finish.

Along with your map and score card, you are given a clue sheet that looks like this. At first it can be pretty overwhelming, but all of the symbols mean something, and eventually you learn to interpret the signals at a glance. The top of the sheet has the event location, and immediately below this is the course level (brown) and the straight line distance between all of the points in Km (4.420). This means that the length of the lines drawn from the starting point to the first point, then to the second point, then to the third point, etc… is 4.420 Km. In actuality your course is longer than this. Husband ran about 7 km on Saturday, and I ran about 8 km (he took some shorter routes that I avoided). Below that there’s a triangle, which symbolizes the starting point. Then there’s a series of columns. The first column has the number of the point, the second has the actual code that’s written on each control flag. This is so that you can verify you’re at the right point. The next columns describe the point’s location as it relates to the underlying topography. For example, the diagonal dotted line is a trail; the X means an intersection, and an X with a circle around it means a root stock. The last column with symbols on it signifies the location of the control point on the topographical feature. So a dot to the right of the circle means the East side, a dot on top of the circle means the North side. Pretty simple, right? The last point is always the GO point– it’s the point everyone has to get to, and there’s usually a marked path to the finish from this point. The bottom of the page tells you how many meters it is from the GO point to the finish– in this case, 50 meters.

While we’re at it, a control point looks like this. If you see the little orange thing protruding down from the flag, that’s the puncher.

So, you say, a primer on orienteering is all well and good, but how did YOU do? Well, I did OK, I say. In fact (and since we didn’t stay for the awards ceremony, I cannot be 100% sure on this), I won. I beat everyone, including Husband. This comes with a caveat, though. Most people couldn’t find one of the points, because the map was wrong. I found it through blind luck. Husband actually finished an hour ahead of me, but he (and almost everyone else) disqualified for failing to find that point. So while I “won,” I didn’t really WIN. but oh well. It was my first advanced course, and I was proud of myself for doing so well.

As an aside, when I finished the course, my feet looked like this: Ouch. They still hurt, especially the blisters on the back of my heels and the big bruise on the bottom of my foot that I got when I stepped on about 15,000,000 things.

The next competition in our area is at the end of April. Husband wants to run a team course this time. Mayhaps it is because he is afraid I will beat him again? He’ll never admit it. We’ll just make our own assumptions.