Re-Orienting Myself

It’s early May, and that means that the Montgomery County Senior Games have rolled around again.

You may remember that last year I competed in several days of this week-long event. I did orienteering, running, and speed-walking. I wrote a whole series of posts about my experiences:

Let the Games Begin

Orienteering Myself

I Run as Fast as I Can on a Track

Walk This Way

In my introductory post for last year, I wrote about how I had set the goal of competing to help me start back into regaining my former fitness levels – I was a good runner and swimmer and loved doing those things, but my various illness, surgeries, bad antibiotic reactions, stress fracture in my foot – all of these had slowly stripped away my strength and almost all of my ability to pick myself up and try.

I wrote about how I hoped the event would be the beginning of returning to my old ways. Well, it wasn’t. I experienced more eye issues later in the year and then, when my husband had his accident in December, 2016, for the next four months I pretty much gave up – exercise came near the end of the list.

All right. Here we are today and I am saying the same thing – I hope that the Senior Games mark the beginning of returning to normality as far as my athletic activities.

This year, I decided to do just the orienteering and walking events. My motto was to be: Complete, not compete, meaning – finish the event, not try to bust a gut winning it.

With that in mind, I arrived at the Norristown Farm Park this morning, site of the orienteering event. My husband accompanied me – his new office is very close, and so this year he was able to attend. That was nice, to have his support. We had an absolutely gorgeous sunny day, a bit chilly, but just perfect for this event. Compare it to last year’s day and you’ll see why all of us at the event were thrilled. Here is 2016:

And now, 2017:

Last year I was a green newbie at orienteering, but I liked what I had experienced of it. If you don’t know much about it, you run around the countryside from point to point (called “controls”) following a detailed map, and you are timed. I am not really able to do trail running anymore because of my eyesight, so this sport really appealed to me as a substitute.

This year I am a slightly less green newbie, and I am game. Let’s go, I said. We got signed up at the pavilion and received the all-important T-shirt.

After some explanatory remarks, we headed over to the start. Now, how this works is simple. You get the map when you start, you take off looking for your controls, and you just keep going to the end. You have to go in order, but you can get from place to place any way you want to. You have a small device that you insert into a reader at each control – it keeps your time. The race starts for you when you click in at the start control.

In larger events, there are courses laid out for different difficulty levels over the same plot of ground. Competitors choose the level desired and get the map for that course. So, the people you see as you traverse your course may be doing a different course altogether – you don’t assume their control is one you want for your course.

This event, though, has only one course. So it’s possible to follow another competitor and get to the controls without orienting yourself on your own. Remember this point – it matters in my story!

Here I am at the start point:

And looking over my map, having just clicked the start. You can’t review it beforehand.

And, running off down the path.

The trick to this sport is to stay focused and continue to adjust and re-orient yourself as you go along. Watch your map closely. I try to plan out what next landmark or location I need to hit in a series of moves to get to a control point. A straight line is not always the best route!

Well, I was zipping along. And very quickly I realized that another woman near me was, well, she was watching my moves. Plain and simple. And given how the course was set up, I could do nothing about it. Several times it was clear to me that she would not have found the control if I had not led her there.

Well, complete, not compete, went out the window. I guess I wasn’t surprised. I’m pretty competitive. Yes. So I got a little aggravated and that put some speed into my feet. Down paved roads, dirt trails, crawling up a trackless hill – we did it all. She was ahead of me at the last control but just a little; that cranked up the aggravation level and I took off for the finish. Hard. And I got there first.

I’m the tiny black speck. I don’t know who that man is who was caught up in our drama.

Well, I’ll tell you, it’s a small thing, but I felt as if I had done something big. I didn’t give up and I didn’t back down. Makes me feel that I am really on my way in this new start.

Thanks for reading. And Happy Orienteering, if you try it.


About Claudia McGill

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

12 responses to “Re-Orienting Myself

  1. Go go go! I’m really glad orienteering is back for another year and you enjoyed it. Looks like a gorgeous day for it.

    As for the woman who shadowed you — c’mon, what’s the point?? Navigating and finding the controls yourself is the most fun part of it all, I think. Congratulations to you.

  2. Good for you! Well done. (K)

    • Thank you. I had to talk myself into signing up, but when I got there I met up with acquaintances from the orienteering group we joined last year, heard about new events, revived my enthusiasm. Doing the actual run was like a return to regular life. Even the aggravated part felt familiar. In a good way. Glad I went.

  3. Ha! I love how your competitive psychology kicked in when that stalker appeared. I’m glad you’ve found a new pursuit to enjoy. I do wonder what sense of accomplishment the stalker lady gets out of it if she’s not challenging herself. People are strange.

    • I do get fired up in a competition. Yes, I do. As for my opponent, she is new to it and I think she lost sight of it being a competition and not cooperative. Or it’s also possible she hadn’t framed it in her mind as the same kind of challenge for herself as I had. I can’t quite see it but everyone has their perspective, I guess. I do take my athletic endeavors seriously.

  4. Hahha, I’m chuckling here. Complete with the compete, I see. 😀 In any case, well done. I wonder if those marathon people are also just sticking to the person in front… 😉

    • I have run a lot of 5K’s and so on, usually they are on well-marked courses so you can’t get lost. But I’ve also done trail runs that were in the woods and kind of vague as to directions sometimes, so I was glad someone was in front of me (never have I ever been the FIRST person, it’s always some teenage boy). But the point of orienteering is discovering the controls points yourself, so following someone is kind of…against the spirit plus being kind of unfair to the person who is figuring it out.

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