May 4, 2015

True Tales of Rabbits, Rattlesnakes, and Wild Horses

Wild horses on the courses!  Photo:  Bill Pilcher
In its 12th year Rabbit Creek greeted us generously with fine weather, spectacular wildlife, and rocky ups and downs.  Aside from the expected verticality in the terrain all around, that included a few inevitable learning experiences by both director and orienteer alike.  It is worth noting that this was quite probably a record attendance given the tremendous turnout from the Riverstone Orienteering team led by Ben Brock who arrived complete with their own custom shirts!  For most it was their first time at Rabbit Creek.
Riverstone Orienteering Team!
Four classic courses were offered this year.  On the White course, the difficulty level was juuuust right as seen from the smiling finishers.  Winslow Brock and Robyn eagerly took the circuit around the ranch and finished with a spectacular kick to take first place.  The Thomson family, newly minted CTOC members, took a more relaxed pace and spotted the very approachable fish hanging out in the pond.

Winslow and Robyn finish fast.
The Thomson family punch the first control.

As for the Yellow course...intended to be an advanced beginner course, included an extra challenge from a meet director blooper.  Despite my noble intentions of providing matching controls codes, and my codirector Dondi reminding the novices especially to check such codes, I goofed in correcting those codes on the smaller map format from the master.  This led to considerable confusion amidst many of the newcomers out there.

Nancy and David Emerson came back after the second control puzzled why the code did not match the sheet.  This was my red flag!  I quickly realized my mistake and hand copied the correct codes for their map and sent them back out again, after which they finished the course still with smiles on their faces.  They plan to be back but tackling courses independently for maximum learning next time!
Nancy and David Emerson among others around yellow control #2.
Riverstone students Alden, Avery, and Max steadfastly persisted through the course independently without any control corrections, sometimes finding other intermediate and advanced controls in their periphery to make up for it.  To their credit they made their best crack at finishing instead of bailing out early, even after encountering a rattlesnake lurking by the water hole on control 6!  Such persistence will undoubtedly serve to their advantage as they visit future maps, assuming I have not discouraged them too much.

Audrey Thomson (of the Thomson family above) finished the course with the benefit of the director catching up to her and scribbling the right codes on her map.  She did acquire a generous helping of cheatgrass in the socks as she searched for the tricky control 5 in the reentrant beyond the pond.  I think she will be back.
Audrey Thomson closes the Yellow loop.
Results for Yellow are shown in order of starts (instead of completed finishes) given the control confusion.  Congratulations to all for finishing and making the best of the day.

The Intermediate course proved to be plenty challenging.  (Next time on this map I may dial this difficulty back one notch as well.)  Kerry and Carrie took first place, even while admiring the plentiful diffusion of colorful and varied wildflowers on different slopes of the course out there.  Zach Curtis patiently and quietly took on the intermediate course with his family and finished cleanly.  Jerry Stewart, who we seem to have hooked since he renewed his membership before even starting, took advantage of his earlier starting time to completely finish the course even if a tad over 3 hours.
Jerry Stewart rounds a boulder cluster.  Photo:  Greg Davidson
A majority of the field did not quite finish the course for a variety of reasons but I think gleaned some good experience from their time out there.  Mikayla and Chris could not find control #7, an intentionally tricky control shared with advanced not visible from the trail, but called it a run and put on some miles for the return trek.  Ken Karcher and Natalie also struggled with #7; Ken ended up hitching a ride back on an ATV, which was perhaps the best insurance that he made it back before the clock ran out!  Ben and Agnes made a real go of it, even going back to punch the correct first control after returning to the ranch (this unfortunately is a DQ, but it turned out they also substituted a nearby white control near the end.)  Their enthusiasm was steadfast.
Ben and Agnes cruising downhill to the finish.
For the two Murray pairs, they just reached a point of fatigue (one I think almost all of us have experienced) and decided to call it at their respective corners of the course.  Katrina Wright felt the same way and came back after the halfway point, and Melanie went out to get as many others as she could.  Jeremy and Lori chose to take another way around the course with their dog and arguably made the course climb even more challenging while still collecting some of the harder controls!  Nevertheless they enjoyed the search.

If any of you readers are still with me on this ultra-long O report, the Advanced course proved to be remarkably competitive with Sergey getting a run for his money from the Riverstone crowd.  Sergey took first as expected, but with all the climb he worked for a living.  He had a few comments on my control placement for #7 (too high relative to the mapped cliff) and #17.  Admittedly I realized the night before #17 was going to be a little tough given the map detailing there, and there turned out to be a bit of luck involved in how easily it was found.  Hot on Sergey's heels was Levi Schmitt, who came in only four minutes behind and not looking nearly as fatigued.  Then came coach Ben Brock, pleased I think to be shown up by his student.  
The Riverstone shirt comes completely personalized.
Zach Clayton was next, followed closely by Greg Davidson (who took a few remarkable photos out there for me - see the last photo), and then Michael Bading who began with grand optimism for tracking Sergey as well as he did last month!  The long tough course took its toll.  Ole was only one minute after Michael, complaining with a big grin on his face about the lack of orienteering and brutal up/down to the far reaches of #11.  But I think he liked it.  Riverstone Regan Zhang came in next (his first foray on this map), followed by Bill Leahy who was just a little wet and boggled at the speeds displayed out there.  Jay Morgan strolled in after wondering if he could make the 3 hour cutoff, but with his Icebug shoes still looking new.  
Bill Pilcher wraps his fence and sign at the finish.
Bill Pilcher, who has provided us with the ranch hospitality and the self made map we all ran on, finally got to run a course and arrived with a smile on his face with Apple, who was ready for another go round.  Melanie Schuster arrived just as Greg was getting worried, but she too got them all.  Of special note is Jan Eichhorn, a Riverstone student who is so new at this he hasn't actually run a course with he never knew to punch!  While I take his (and Ben's) word for it he did find them all, next time I hope to check his results so I can include him in the ranking!  And I will remember to ping even the advanced runners to punch their map.  Brian Bohme also made it out and wanted badly to run all the hills, but was not feeling well shortly after starting so made the smart decision to wait until next time to run his race.

Watching for new arrivals on the course.  Photo:  Greg Davidson
More photos here on yahoogroups!

This was a big meet and a long race report.  Thank you as always to Bill Pilcher for loaning us his ranch for the day, creating the map, and feeding the masses afterward.  Special thanks goes to Bill Leahy who arrived with me the day before to assist with transport and making it a notch easier and safer for me to set up controls.  And for fine company while we admired the boulders and birds in the yard.  Bill (L.), Ole, Jerry, Greg, and Melanie (S.) were exceptionally generous in sticking around for another couple hours and made quick, efficient work of the nearly 30 controls scattered all over the map.  I thank you for saving my legs for more enjoyable running miles in the future which I hope to navigate well.  My wife Dondi served as my most able and calm co-director.  She not only gave a little tutorial to Nancy and David, started and finished all the orienteers while I tried to keep maps and corrections and cash straight, but even made gingersnaps which luckily for me stayed hidden inside and mostly came back home for me to savor.

Next up will be a special event on new LiDAR basemap in Idaho City on May 23.  I will leave the details to race director John Murray to present.  Stay healthy and I hope to see you at our Western State Champs meet in June!

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