Due to my age, and not my ability or stunning good looks, I was once again representing my country at the Veteran Home Internationals. The venue this year was the Forest of Dean. My only experience of the Forest of Dean was the reference to it in the Harry Potter films. Hermione had been there camping with her parents.
Forest of Dean, Mallard’s Pike
The first day was the individual competition. The parking was near the start and the finish, which is a good thing for me, as I’m never fond of a 2km hike to the start, mind you that does usually mean that it’s downhill from there.
I started slow, to make sure I knew what terrain was around me. I was happy with the first couple of controls and found them pretty much spot on, although I was very slow through the brashings and kept double and triple checking myself with both my map and my compass.
Number five involved a climb and a VERY steep descent so I made a number of checks to ensure I would not have to come back up. The next issue was eight, I was in the right area but too high, a number of runners ran out from beneath my place so I dashed down and found it.
Number nine was a struggle as I was very hot and tired at this stage and also knew I was only half way around. And then the moment arrived when I knew I was lost. I thought I had taken an accurate compass bearing after number ten, but others running around the forest took my eye, and after a lot of head scratching and attempting to relocate using path junctions, I decided to go back to number ten. Miraculously number eleven was then easy. The rest of the course flowed reasonably well. I played it very safe with my route choices, which made my time unbelievably slow, but I found them all where I expected.
Once again I was last in, which is never great for the moral, but a point is a point.
The BOK juniors put on the Saturday meal, and the kids were very polite and polished in their service. I elected to have an early night as I wanted to put my best foot forward for the team.
My Ireland Veterans Orienteering Shirt
Mallards Pike was the forest used for the Relays. We started and finished in an old disused quarry. I was third leg runner and got more and more nervous as runners came back utterly exhausted. I just had to finish. Simple you would think. The start “kite” was up a slope and I had in my head I would jog slowly up it while getting my bearings. Again the day was very warm. My number two runner arrived, and I was off.
In retrospect, nerves got the better of me. That, and the bracken. I wasted valuable time at most controls being in the right area but not seeing the kites as they were in pits surrounded by bracken. The second half of the course went better as I trusted myself more.
I always say never again. But the group of Irish that travel are so dedicated and great fun to be with. I made a huge effort this year to be fitter, which definately helped. But I need to be twice as fit. Better get going so….