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Mendon Ponds Orienteering Meet
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[Another orienteering meet account. For a few years I edited the Rochester O Club's newsletter, went to practically every local meet and then wrote about it. So I guess I developed a habit.]

Last week I was in Rochester for the local orienteering meet at Mendon Ponds Park, site of Day 2 of last fall's "A" Meet. Whereas, in October, the beauty of the glaciated terrain had been obscured by gray skies and a cold drizzle, now the weather was warm and the convoluted topography lightly furzed by spring green but still easy to make out. At least that was true the evening before the meet when I hiked around, observing many geese and trail runners, a few deer, and a single fox trotting daintly along a path. The morning of the meet it was cold and drizzling again, although not long-john cold.

The weather wasn't the only similarity to the A Meet. E-punches were used for the Orange, Green and Red courses and there seemed to be at least as much food available in the shelter. A local meet with chili. That's class. (Although I resisted, barely, since it wasn't vegetarian variety). The turnout of well over 100 was probably disappointing, thanks to the weather. It was quite a change from when I'd joined the club in the early nineties. No one had heard of e-punches and everyone was thrilled if 50 runners showed up. There had always been plenty of refreshments however and most of the same friendly people.

I had intended to try some of the pre-meet workshop exercises that had been mentioned on the ROC website but ended up mostly just talking to old friends. For unfathomable reasons, I have never been comfortable with any organized group aside from ROC and so I continue to renew my membership even though I'm nearer (but not very near) a number of other clubs.

Also I had intended to do Green since I am familiar with the park. However, my legs were tired from just the short hike I'd taken the previous evening, I had a long drive afterwards, and, mostly I guess, I thought I needed a decent outing to balance off all the bad efforts I've had since trying to get back into the sport. Lack of confidence in orienteering might be even worse than lack of skills. Not that being familiar with the park guaranteed a successful effort, as evidenced by my horrendous effort on another Orange course at the fall meet. This time was different. I think the course was far easier than the fall Orange, but I was still happy to turn in my first credible effort in years, good for fourth out of twelve. Good by my standards. To be fair, I should be doing Green and probably, at Mendon, Red, but right now I'd have trouble walking that distance.

Mostly I popped on and off the trails which surround what, to me, is an almost unreadable confusion of glacially formed hills and holes.I was prepared to take more direct routes, but in most cases I estimated that the few seconds spent regaining the trail was nothing compared to the time I'd lose trudging up and down hills, even if I avoided getting lost on the way. I felt better when I took a look at Peter Gagarin's map from his much longer course at Mendon last fall. He'd spent a good deal of time on trails also so it was perhaps not a bad choice. Then too, I'd made the same choice in the fall and managed to become lost anyway.

My only egregious error came near the end of the course when I disembarked from a trail early, thinking I might save a few seconds by contouring around a volcanic crater of a depression, rather than proceeding to a dead end path that led directly to my control. Well, I got to visit two other flags before mine, but unfortunately you don't get credit for extra flags.

Afterwards, comparing the splits yielded by e-punch, I saw I'd cost myself "only" about five minutes. (It had seemed like twenty) The splits also revealed that that had been one of the easiest controls on the course, judging by others' results, and that I had been in third place until the error. I was interested to note that Tom Cornell, who finished second, had been ahead of me the whole way. Tom, I'm pretty sure, walks as well, so he had been picking off the controls more cleanly.

I've not been too enthused about e-punching but I can see now it can be interesting so long as one does a reasonable job of orienteering. Seeing that you took at least twice as long as everybody else on every single control is netiher instructive nor fun.

It is necessary to clear the e-punch before a new race. Does that mean the last one is still in there? Maybe I ought to retire the punch while it has a decent effort in it.

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