Orienteering Myself

Senior Games, first event: orienteering.

This is the first year for this activity. No one knew what to expect. I drove over to the park, getting lost only twice. Please remember, I have lived in this area for 35+ years and have been to the park as recently as one month ago. This getting lost business is relevant, I think, when you remember I am planning to do an event that relies on me reading a map and interpreting terrain in order to arrive at designated points. Let’s just say that orienteering doesn’t play to my strengths, but I’m going to do it anyway.

I made it to the park and followed the signs to the picnic pavilion where the event was organizing itself.

Senior games sign small 5-16

About thirty of us were assembled. Most had no experience of the sport at all. But – that had been provided for – an explanation and demonstration was given. I was pleased to find myself a relative veteran.

Group explanation 5-16 NFP small

I got my map, went to the start, and I was the second one off onto the course. It was cloudy and cool, with a little bit of rain falling every now and then. The course consisted of eleven controls – I needed to hit each one in order while being aware of the time. The course was pretty straightforward, as the organizers wanted to make sure the first-year event was something people could find interesting while also being successful.

This park has a history. Norristown Farm Park, as it is called, used to be the farm attached to Norristown State Hospital, a mental institution. In the past, patients worked on the farm in various capacities as they were able. The hospital depended on the farm for food and for therapy. This arrangement was common before the era of medication – it was thought that the patients would be helped by being outdoors and occupying their minds. Patients also worked in other areas,  such as the kitchen, sewing, wood shop, etc. The hospital functioned as a somewhat self-sustaining community, in an era when people went into the hospital for extended periods of time rather than the limited stays of today. Changes to this treatment philosophy occurred with the advent of drugs and other therapies, with the different way mental patients came to be viewed, and in how funding for treatment was allocated.

Today the hospital still exists but the farm is a park. Crops are still grown on the grounds and the agricultural buildings are scattered around. There is even the remains of a fish hatchery, but we didn’t go in that area today.

Here is the park office of today. One of the controls was set near this area.

Park office area NFP 5-16 small

Much of the course went through fields waiting to be planted. It was also quite hilly. Most of it could be done on the farm roads.

NFP hill 5-16 small

At the end, I took a course across this field rather than taking the road.

field NFP 5-16 small

Here’s the finish area, back at the picnic pavilion.

finish NFP 5-16 small

I think this course played to my strengths. I am a good runner and with the unambiguous course I could make time. I also realized that while I am pretty good at reading a map, I am not good at translating it to the actual ground, something I’ve known in other contexts, such as trail running, and getting to the park today! For example, when I went through the field, I was not exactly where I thought I was, though I did realize it later and make adjustments. But, I didn’t get all the advantage I could have by taking that route. I plan to focus on this map/ground relationship next time I try an event.

Still, I have good news. I did the course in 38.02 minutes and I won my age group. Yes, there were two of us in it, so it was not by default! And I got my T-shirt.

Tshirt small 5-16

Tomorrow, I’ll be running on the track at Gwynedd-Mercy University. Until then…


About Claudia McGill

A person who does art and writes poetry. That's me!

12 responses to “Orienteering Myself

  1. Martha Bush

    Thanks! I enjoyed the views and your experience.

    • You’re welcome. It really is a lot of fun to do orienteering. There are many ways to find satisfaction and achievement – being fast or winning is only a little bit of it, I think, and for most, never going to happen. I like the challenge of finding the spots – it’s like a real sized puzzle.

  2. Congratulations! I love that you know your strengths and weaknesses and how to use the former to mitigate against the latter. You should be really proud of yourself for meeting a challenge and rocking it.

    • Thank you. I have always been poor at recognizing and orienting myself in the real world but on a map I figure it out fast. Funny how the two now intersect in this sport. I will be improving my navigation skills, I am sure. I also like it because there is a challenge to it in more than one way, you don’t have to be fast or crawl through the woods on your stomach to be good at it and enjoy it.

  3. Good for you Claudia, thanks for the report on you journey!

  4. Impressive! I love a map and the practice of reading it.

    • Yes. I have always been poor at orienting myself in the real world (think taking the wrong turn on a trail run and ending up in someone’s back yard covered in scratches from forcing myself through the bushes and yet never thinking I’d left the trail and you’ll see what I mean). But I am a good map reader, so I bail myself out. It’s a seesaw kind of thing, I’m fine, I’m lost, fine, lost, over and over!. I like the challenge and being outside.

      • It was hilarious that you got lost on the way to the orienteering course too…

        • Yes, I just don’t recognize places no matter how many times I see them. I have learned recently that this inability might be related to an inability to recognize faces, which I also have to a medium degree (if I see you often enough I will eventually recognize you, but I will never know you from five minutes ago if I just met you). My family is used to the latter problem and are always prompting me as to the fact that I know a person and what their name is and so on. I have many stories I could tell you! So you can see orienteering has its challenges for me! I like the neat little package it presents for me to do something I’m poor at (the actual features) at the same time as something I am good at (the map) – and see who wins!

  5. Pingback: Re-Orienting Myself | Sometimes You Get So Confused

  6. Pingback: Let’s Get Better Acquainted | Sometimes You Get So Confused

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