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Back to Camp Ripley

The weekend of the 16th I finally broke my self-imposed hiatus on things orienteering-related, and headed up to Camp Ripley for a weekend of MNOC events. Camp Ripley is a 53,000 acre military reservation jointly managed by the U.S. National Guard and the Minnesota DNR. Because it's so large, been around for so long, has such controlled access, so little development, and lies on the eastern edge of the Alexandria Moraine, it contains some the most pristine glacial kettle terrain in the upper midwest, easily rivaling the Cat's terrain from the 2009 U.S. Champs.

This event was a little more low-key, though. Joe Sackett, Charlie Shabahzian, and Maricel Olaru came up from the Chicago area, and a couple of PTOC and OK folks as well. The rest of the field was filled out by the usual MNOCers. Unfortunately, the entire weekend was cold, drizzly, and rainy, but once we got into the terrain that was the last thing we were thinking about.


Day 1 Middle course. Click to enlarge.

As usual, analysis behind the link.

Splits on Attackpoint.

Routegadget on MNOC.

When I arrived, everything was already set up and I had my choice of two course styles - a middle distance in Long and Short varieties, and a sprint, also in Long and Short varieties. I opted to start with the long middle, so that I didn't go out too fast on the sprint and wear myself out (or run around like an unguided missile.) A measure of caution is required in this kind of terrain.

The first control was straightforward - around the pond and left of the hilltop to drop right into #1. Then things got trickier. I intentionally slowed down a bit to read the map and plan the next leg. Immediately I was able to chain together the three small hilltops and the NE-pointing spur into a decent handrail that took me around the south side of the depression about 100 meters west of the control. I followed right along, and with the good open woods I was able to spot the small hill immediately west of the control. Run just past it, into the depression, there's #2!

For the next control, I basically just took a bearing (something I was focusing on anyway out of every control), ran over the moderate hill and right past the boulder on the magenta line. I skirted the west edge of the depression and did another up-'n-over to the back side of the hill complex. On the way to #4, I again used the handrail principle and followed the chain of small hills ESE until I got past the marshes on the north, then took a left turn and descended into the depression for a spike. So far, so good. #5 was such a short leg that a bearing was sufficient to get me in the vicinity, especially with the hilltop as an attack point.

On the next leg, I tried to stay north out of the green depressions, and noticed here that the green was quite well mapped, and definitely showed areas with a thicker understory. I squeezed around the base of the ridge I had run atop from 3-4 and spotted the marsh, which led me just past it to #6. I did slow down a bit in the circle on this one, though. Then I took another bearing and ran hard, but had to get partway up the slope before I was able to see the two small hills with #7 in the saddle. So far the race was going great. I was feeling good running, reading the map well, and planning routes well. But... there's always a "but".

Something caught up with me on the next leg - I'll call it oxygen deprivation, although others may speculate. I took my usual bearing and headed NW. But now I suddenly had trouble matching up the map and terrain, and slowed a bit and consulted the compass more. What ended up happening, is that I veered to the left and mistook the hilltop WNW and near the 8-9 line for the hilltop NW and near the 7-8 line. It didn't help that just past each hilltop, there was a saddle with marshes on both sides. However, once I got to that saddle I expected to see additional marshes ahead, but since I didn't, I stooped completely and tried to puzzle out the situation. It was one of these situations where the terrain mismatch reaches a critical level, that you know it's not just a discrepancy between your mental model and the mapper's mental model.

At that point, I saw Andrei running up and crossing in front of me from right to left. Although I'd already consulted the compass and figured out what the mistake was, this just verified it. He was obviously on the 8-9 leg. So I took a 90 degree turn to the right, back on bearing, and ran back the way Andrei had come. Things started to match up, but I still went slowly and carefully to be sure. In the end, it was a 3.5 minute mistake on a ourse I ended up finished in a little under 35 minutes. That's a full 10% of the course time.

I was able to make back a little time on the way to #9, since I could bomb the section I'd just run, but I slowed down a bit before spotting the right hills and dropping down to the reentrant on the other side. At this point the course started to go through terrain with slightly larger features, and in my mind that made the navigation a little easier. I headed downhill a bit but leveled out to keep the large depression to my west, dipped into one reentrant, and climbed up to the saddle to catch the trail. I had considered taking a more easterly route, but wanted to stick with strong features for the moment, and avoid running through some of the flatter areas. I was still running up hills pretty well. The trail gave me a short section of fast downhill running, then I struck out from the corner and over into the reentrant, which was a bit deeper then I expected from my read at the time. Then it was a short contour around the hill to #11, and I passed right by the pit. Even the little patch of light green west of the pit was beautifully mapped (they were pine trees.)

The next leg was the longest one of the course, but also went by some of the largest features so far. I headed NNW to the trail and split the difference between the ridge to the left and the depression to the right, staying roughly on the same contour until the hill fell away to the left. In hindsight, I was actually a little east of where I wanted to be, which was west of the boulder, heading over the saddle, and squeaking around the marsh. As it was, my legs kept going and by the time I pulled up, the ground had flattened out. So I had to turn west and head towards the ridge top. I had a little trouble figuring precisely where along the ridge I was, but only lost about 30-40 seconds before coming back south a slight bit and spotting #12. The next leg I just kept the depression on my left, then ran around the right side of the hill complex and down into the depression. 14 was just a GO control, but the run down the spur to the road was wide open and very fast.

I ended up with a time of 34:31 - Maricel was at 28-something, and Justin at 31-something. So without any mistakes (and that's always a big caveat!) I could have had an excellent course time on a technically difficult course, even after being out of practice for several months. It was a great course in great terrain - thanks to the Baird brothers.