October 3, 2021

Finding Flow: Score-O at the Gold Rush Race Results

When you think of orienteering, what other sports come to mind?  Cross-country running? Adventure racing? A great ocean-crossing sailing race? Summitting a great peak?  Well, after setting controls for the 2021 Gold Rush Score-O, I found that for me, orienteering is more like darts, golf, pool, and bowling. There are moments, if you are lucky, hours, of flow. Flow - being completely absorbed and focused in the task and using your skills to the best of your ability. For me, I find flow when I'm playing pool, but rarely for a full game. It might come after the first couple of shots, or even into the second game. I'll hit shot after shot to the best of my ability (which is average at best, but for those few shots, I am quite pleased with my average self) but eventually, I will get tired or a little over-enthusiastic, and rushed, and lose it. 

Orienteering is that way for me now. It's taken several years to get to the point where I 'sometimes find flow'. It's rarely on the first or second control, and rarely for an entire course, but it is beautiful for that fleeting time. I had it on my course scouting day and for a few of the controls I set on Saturday before the meet. After one confidence-shaking mistake on Saturday and perhaps because I was tired and rushed as I set a few remaining flags on Sunday morning, I lost it completely. Thankfully, my trusty meet Co-Director Katrina was there to get everyone started as I scrambled to correct error after error (and still failing #25). A few people arrived at controls 21, 22, 23, 25 with only green tape flagging. Thanks to Katrina, they were forewarned and forgiving. I even took advantage of running into Andy while setting #21, and asked him to carry #22 up the hill and set it for me. I gave him 5 bonus points for a little route redirection for that request.  

Andy, earning bonus points by adapting his route and carrying #22 up the hill.

I hope many of you found your 'flow' as you ran the course. I'm pretty sure Sergey did. Coming back from Tahoe and preparing for the Masters National course in Minnesota this weekend, I like to think he was peaking as he hit all 29 controls in under an hour and a half. I didn't even come close to creating a course that he could not clean in under 2 hours. 

Sergey's counter-clockwise route to all 29 controls, about 8km and 400m climbing.

As it happens, most competitors (15) opted to spend 2 hours in the forest for the beautiful morning of September 26, 2021. Judging from the smiles and chatter (after a few minutes of recovery), I think that at least a few others also found a bit of flow. I'm glad Christy took a break from her trekking to capture this fun rock and art (one that had also caught my eye).

Photo by Christy Morris.

Only four competitors decided to take more than 2 hours exploring the hills and ditches. Andy's decision to alter his route to carry my flag didn't harm him as he took top marks in that group. I am grateful to Zach and Jennifer that they chose to compete for only 1 hour, in order to save some of their energy to help me pick up controls. Thank you, Ole, for your helping picking up controls as well! I was also happy to see my good friends Mike and Lisa Back coming out for a little map hike on a very difficult map for their first foray into orienteering.

Zach Clayton approaching a control. I assume the photo credit goes to Jennifer Smackey.

Below are all of the results by time category. I also did a quick count of controls visited. The least popular controls (visited by 3-4 people/teams) were 24, 25, 26, 28, 29. The most popular controls (visited by 11-13) were 1, 2, 3, 13, 14. 23 people in total came out for the day which lifts my spirits almost as much as finding flow on an orienteering course!

Hope to see you at Lucky Peak!

Melanie Wright

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